Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. The Covenant, the Covenant, and the Covenant: Understanding Christian Theology in Context


Sometimes we think theology is supposed to answer the questions Who or what is G-d, and how can we have a happy afterlife? That’s actually not all that Biblical. The questions we should be asking if we’re going to do specifically Biblical theology are more along the lines of What has G-d done, what has He promised, and how will those promises be kept?

This is part of the reason Christian theology is so often misunderstood. Take this idea: If you do a lot of good in this life, you can have a happy afterlife! It seems a reasonable enough idea on its face. It shows up in Greek philosophy, but it’s not actually in the Bible.


Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. One Thing Is Clear: It’s Time to Shut China’s Wet Markets


The world must demand that China shut down its wildlife farms and wet markets. Now.

With the emergence of SARS in 2003 from a wet market in China, it was recognized that these farms and markets were perfect breeding grounds for coronaviruses and we were warned that future pandemics would come from these sources. I traveled extensively in China post-SARS and, when asking about the farms and markets, was told the government felt it would cause too much social disruption to close them. Seventeen years later, the world is paying the price for that decision. And COVID-19, however bad it turns out to be, is not nearly as horrible as the worst-case coronavirus that could emerge from China.


Contributor Post Created with Sketch. The Duration: The ‘I Am Legend’ Afternoon



No. No, it doesn’t. I know, I know, flatten the curve, but I am very careful. Believe me, I don’t like it, but downtown is deserted. Except where it’s not! The pharmacy is open, and there are people who are still working, or who live downtown, queued up to buy something. Cigarettes. Fungus cream. Bandaids. You still get paper cuts in a pandemic.


Contributor Post Created with Sketch. The Quarantine Police


Recently, a friend wrote about his experience with coronavirus online. I eagerly read it, because I knew that he had been exposed to it recently, and the story I’m familiar with isn’t the complete one, but what I know is fascinating. I read his piece with interest, but discovered he never mentioned the fact that he had been exposed, nor that he had spent the resulting two weeks in self-quarantine. I asked him why he didn’t mention what was, in my mind, the “best” part of the story (it’s only the best part because he didn’t end up contracting the virus). He told me, “I was worried about mentioning the exposure since I was out and about for a few days after the exposure but before I knew about it.”

I thought he was being overly sensitive and cautious, but just days later, with the news that Senator Rand Paul tested positive, he turned out to be exactly right.


Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. What Is Facing Our Leaders


January 28, 2014, was Atlanta’s “snowpocalypse,” a day when snow and ice accumulated faster and worse than predicted. The entire metro area ground to a halt with cars abandoned on the freeway. It looked like a movie about the end of the world.

It took my wife an hour to drive the kids home from school two miles away. I was fortunate. I was at a meeting close to home. After it was canceled it “only” took 45 minutes to travel a mile. Many people never made it home, sleeping with friends, or worse, stuck in cars. It was a day that burned itself into the memory of the citizens of Atlanta.


Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Coronavirus Overreaction


Out of over 367,000 COVID-19 cases reported as of noon March 23, 2020, 16,000 people have died, a rough increase of about 9,500 from the past week. China has contributed about 3,500, a figure that is holding relatively stable — if we are to believe the reporting coming out of the People’s Republic of China — as is Iran’s total of 1,812 deaths (another potentially dubious total). In Spain, the death toll is 2,206. Italy has taken the lead with 6,077 deaths, 85 percent of which are of people over 70, which stems, it appears, from a conscious decision not to supply ventilators to anyone over 60. These four nations make up close to 13,000 deaths or about 82 percent of the total. Taken together, these four countries account for over 13,595 of the 16,097 deaths. The good news here is that the growth rates in both Italy and Spain have turned downward in the past 48 hours.

In my column last week, I predicted that the world would eventually see about 50,000 deaths from the novel coronavirus, and the United States about 500. These two numbers are clearly not in sync. If the first number holds, the total US deaths should be about 4 to 5 percent of that total, or about 2,000–2,500 deaths. The current numbers are getting larger, so it is possible both figures will move up in a rough proportion from even that revised estimate. Indeed, the recent run-ups in Italy and perhaps Spain suggest that those countries have yet to turn the corner.


Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. At Last! I Can Help!


Hello, my friends! My stepdaughter, the ICU nurse, texted this morning to ask whether I’d be willing to make her some DIY surgical masks, because these are in seriously short supply in her state. Naturally, I’m springing into action!

Want to join me? I looked it up, and there are YouTube videos on how to do it. Very simple materials and sewing — even I can manage this:


Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Government Cheese


During the early ’80s, part of my cheese business was cutting and packaging government-owned 40-pound cheddar blocks in 5-pound pieces. We also processed 500-pound cheddar cheese barrels into 5-pound American cheese loaves. There was a huge glut of these products in storage and it was getting larger. The Federal government gave it to the states for free distribution. Each state did it differently but the cheese ended up in many households. It was a good product and many people loved it.

Although I am long retired, I sort of keep up with the industry. The Government now has 1.5 billion pounds of cheese in storage again. That’s enough to give 5 pounds to every man, woman, and child in America. Although it disrupts normal supply channels it may be time for the COVID-19 cheese giveaway. What say you, Ricochet?


Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Christians Being Defiantly Normal


Our Church is very committed, very loving, very devoted to our co-parishioners. I was hoping that our pastor would find a way to have services on Sunday, and he did. We assembled in the parking lot, made a circle of cars and either sat in our cars or stood beside them. Thirty-three cars eventually joined our circle, thus about 50 parishioners.


Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Coronavirus Calculations: The Perils of Projections


There’s a saying that I learned back in the 1980s while studying probability, statistics, and mathematical modeling: “Torture numbers enough and they’ll confess to anything.” It was right up there with “correlation does not imply causation” and “GIGO.” (GIGO stands for garbage in, garbage out.)

As most of you know by now, I’ve been skeptical of the catastrophic projections of the expected progression of the WuFlu. I do not think that the figures presented are an intentional “hoax,” though I suspect that some people and institutions, particularly the major media, have an ideological reason to exaggerate the danger. But I suspect that the bigger problem is the limited amount of information presently available, even to the most sophisticated modelers.


We are being responsible and maintaining our distance this week as Toby and James say the unsayable and wonder if shutting down the global economy will be worth it in terms of lives saved.

Also, the Stasi-like tendencies of the Twitter social isolation police, Boris’s handling of the crisis and whether the pandemic will mean the end of man hugs. Toby hopes it will, James hopes it won’t. Plus we salute the frontline troops – the men and women in medical service, not just in the NHS, but around the world.


Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. I Was Right All Along


There are lots of arguments here about whether we really are exponential, or in a best-case or worst-case scenario. Passions are high. And in a month, everyone on this site will be exclaiming how they were right all along. I know, because I am quite sure I will be one of them. Just wanted to get that out there. Indeed, I want it on record that I am the first to announce that I was right. So there.

Every so often we have an argument between dark-age religious fanatics and enlightened atheists, in which the enlightened explain that humanism and love of life do not require any religious text, that principles of decent society are in fact essentially obvious to any decent person.


Lots of parents now have kids at home, in need of schooling. A friend of Jay’s asked him, “Could you put together a little program for my kids?” Here it is: Bach, Mozart, Brahms, Chopin, and worthy others. A neat, balanced smattering. For “kids” of all ages.

Tracks played:


Contributor Post Created with Sketch. The Duration: Altoids as a Contributing Factor


I stopped in the Walgreens to see if they had flour. They did not have flour. Would’ve turned around and left, but I am almost out of Altoids and they had peanuts on sale – so now I’m committed. You can either bolt when they don’t have the item you came for, or roll the dice and make something of the trip into the covadian miasma.

There was a woman in line wearing a face mask, which made the rest of us uneasy: what does she know? Nothing we don’t. There was a snuggly-toothed guy redolent of cigarettes walking up and down asking for a ride, because he’d missed his bus. Sorry. I eyeballed the rack of Hostess snack cakes and powdered donuts, and thought: I want to inhale all of those, but the womenfolk back home would be appalled. They have their exercise bands and mats and videos and the treadmill and they will be hanged if they come out of this thicker. 


Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Quaran-gesima


For us Catholics, Lent is supposed to be a time of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. Its length of forty days leads to its Latin name “Quadragesima.”

During this time of coronavirus, I have been quarantining at home since even before the executive order in New York State and the bishops’ decree there be no public sacraments in churches. It is difficult to say what I think about the bishops’ decision. Part of me agrees with it and part of me is horrified, so mostly I try not to think about it but instead to pray for relief and grace and protection.


Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Of Monuments and Men (revised)


AmericaRegardless of whether the coronavirus itself is a national crisis, Americans suddenly find themselves sinking waist-deep into recessional quicksand as quarantine and shelter-in-place orders pop up in cities across the country when only weeks ago we were treading on rock-solid ground. The fog of the pandemic war is closing in from all sides. Fear is crippling the economy with each tumble of the stock market, each business that closes, and every American that enters unemployment. We are constantly bombarded with statistics predicting doomsday – and many of those come from people thirsting for a disaster to lay at the feet of the Trump administration.

Americans with a healthy skepticism of our impending doom at the hands of the WuFlu are branded science deniers or even of being responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths. But after wailing about World War III with Iran and North Korea, the destruction of the internet over net neutrality, or the end of American democracy at the hands of Russia, then Ukraine, then Russia why should anyone blindly believe a news media or editorial board who time and again acts like the Boy Who Cried Wolf? Or who all but guaranteed a Hillary Clinton presidency? And pardons to those who think the federal government is the answer to our problems. But to borrow a phrase: the government is the problem. I’m a little suspicious when the biggest entity currently left running is the entity that runs things the worst.


Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. QOTD: Further Language from Truthful James


I have taken life-long satisfaction in the writings of L. M. Montgomery, a Canadian author most well known for Anne of Green Gables. Re-reading one of her collections of short stories the other day (Chronicles of Avonlea*), I came across the following quote:

Do I sleep, do I dream, do I wonder and doubt?
Is things what they seem, or is visions about?


Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. A Boy Falls into the Sea


In the last few days, this Coronavirus thing has awakened in my mind the image of a horse scratching its behind on a tree. After a few days of wondering why I had connected, in some part of my subconscious, a scratching horse with a pandemic, I went to Google and typed in “horse scratching his rear end.”

Nothing. At least nothing more than a bunch of articles on how to stop your horse from constantly scratching his rear end on fences and poles. All good advice, no doubt, but not to my purpose.


Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Quote of the Day, March 21: A Sign of the Times…Job Posting


The Department of Feminist Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara, invites applications for a tenure-track position at the rank of assistant professor in queer migrations. Research may focus on trans/queer geographies, racialization, decoloniality, and flows of people, ideas, and objects across borders. Of special interest to us are innovative methodological approaches to gender and sexual citizenship, discourses of belonging, and human rights in the context of state and social violence against LGBTQ communities in historical or contemporary national and transnational frames.

Residents of California, may I present your tax dollars at work.


Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Two American Heroes, One American Story


[Everything I write here is dross. If you ain’t got the time, go to the link at the end. ‘Murica.]

Tired of bad ‘n blue news and data churning. Time for something inspirational.


Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Death Is a Trailing Indicator


Every time I see one of these apocalyptic exponential projections based on a “doubling of the death rate every two days,” or whatever the current numbers suggest, I want to slap someone. At the moment, and for the next week or so at least, the death count is a trailing indicator of contagion.

It appears to take, on average, from about ten days to two weeks between infection with the Wuhan virus and subsequent death. That suggests that today’s death figures are a proxy for the rate of infection ten days to two weeks ago.


Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Pelosi Returns from Vacation to Scuttle Coronavirus Relief Bill


Leaders from the White House and both parties of the Senate spent days negotiating a $1.4 trillion “Phase Three” stimulus package to alleviate the economic effects of the Coronavirus pandemic. Then House Speaker Nancy Pelosi flew in from her vacation to scuttle the entire agreement Sunday.

“The build-up to this is that we had a high level of bipartisanship over the last 48 hours,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said. “And then, all of a sudden, the Democratic leader and the speaker of the House shows up … and we’re back to square one,” he said, referring to Schumer and Pelosi.


Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Quote of the Day: Amazing Grace


During a British conference on comparative religions, experts from around the world were discussing whether any one belief was unique to the Christian faith. They began eliminating possibilities. Incarnation? Other religions had different versions of gods appearing in human form. Resurrection? Again, other religions had accounts of return from death. The debate went on for some time until C. S. Lewis wandered into the room. “What’s the rumpus about?” he asked, and heard in reply that his colleagues were discussing Christianity’s unique contribution among world religions. In his forthright manner Lewis responded, “Oh, that’s easy. It’s grace.”–From Christianity Today

This post isn’t a theological disquisition on grace, and whether it is solely dispositive of, or required for, one’s excellent and non-horribly-thermal, prospects in the afterlife. Or about whether or not “works” count even more than faith or grace, or if they count as much, or if they count not at all. I have neither the scholarly chops, nor the temerity to expound on those subjects, beyond a rather insistent gut hunch that, in accepting Christ as my savior, I’m bound to give His precepts on how to live a Christian life at least a pretty good college try, and that many of those precepts involve living a certain way, and doing certain things (and not doing certain other things). He may not be all about the old quid pro quo, but I guess I am, somewhat anyway, and I do my very imperfect best from day-to-day to try to hold up my end of the deal. He may have infinite patience, but I have deeply-ingrained ideas about things like fairness, and I just don’t think it’s right or proper to try His patience too far.


Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Coronavirus by Country: March 21 Update


I have a new chart today and an update of a prior chart. As before, I’m reporting on South Korea, Italy, Germany, France, Spain, the US, and the UK. Here is a bar chart of the average daily growth rate of reported WuFlu cases, by country, in five-day increments.