How to Add NPR or CBC’s Headlines Back Onto Your Twitter Timeline

Do you miss NPR’s news on your Twitter feed? Simply follow @NPRbrief on Twitter to get the headlines.

You may have heard that National Public Radio (NPR) decided to stop posting to Twitter last week, after the Musk-owned social media company started labeling the NPR account, at first, “State affiliated media,” changed within 48 hours to “Government-funded.” The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) also made a similar announcement on April 17th 2023.

If you’re interested in re-adding either NPR or CBC’s news headlines to your news feed, I’ve just released bots which tweet out new NPR and CBC stories: @NPRbrief and @CBCbrief respectively.

It’s up and running, and simply watches NPR stories and tweets them out.

NPRbrief grabs news from the NPR’s website across all eight top-level categories: National, World, Science, Health, Climate, Business, Race, and Politics. It updates every 15 minutes, tweeting a maximum of 100 stories per day. It’s fully automated and is hosted on Microsoft Azure.


Though I’m personally rather critical of NPR’s recent swing leftward, I think it’s extremely important to follow news sources from multiple political lenses. It’s about our only shot right now at knowing what is true. You don’t have to believe the stories coming from any given news source, but it’s useful to see them, and not have them filtered from your life.

I wrote about this in Internet Consensus is not Truth.

As some ideological outlets decide to “depart” Twitter in protest, this trend only accelerates the filter-bubbling of our lives, and I think it’s useful to push back against that “taking our marbles and going elsewhere” move. There are many forces at work to wall people into silos. If other companies think they can just “take their content elsewhere,” that seems to go against a key goal of the Internet’s public square.


Just click the “Follow” buttons above. It’s free. Please consider sharing this with NPR and/or CBC-loving friends.

Circling Back to “Don’t Discount Lab Leak Hypothesis”, Part II

Part II of “Circling Back to Lab Leak Hypothesis”

I’ve moved on from Facebook, but wanted to archive for posterity a few long-form posts I made there. This is Part II, a follow-on to Circling Back to a “Don’t Discount the Lab Leak” Post of January 2020 (Part I).

The essence of learning is to be able to update our prior assumptions as new evidence comes in. I got a few things wrong here, and absorbed what I could of information coming out at the time. In particular, you’ll see my initial credulous assumption that the highly flawed “Proximal Origins” paper had to have some credibility. In truth, that paper — the most cited scientific paper that year — was fraudulent; this fact became evident to me a few weeks later.

April 15 2020

full text below

I know that nuance is still in hibernation in America, but I’m going to ask us once again to try to hold multiple competing thoughts in our mind at the same time:

1) It’s important to know how this whole global pandemic started. In terms of deaths and pauses to our lives and economic toll, it’s the greatest global calamity of most of our lifetimes.

Let’s try to keep it that way. In order to do so, we need to know how to prevent future such outbreaks, and particularly, if there are lessons to be learned here.

2) Just as Chernobyl and Three Mile Island warranted (actually, demanded) forensic investigation, so too does the COVID-19 outbreak.

3) Just as in Chernobyl and Three Mile Island, there should not be any assumption of malicious intent. But this is not the same as saying we should ignore the question of how it began, nor shut down those who wish to respectfully, scientifically, forensically pursue that important question. But like a post-crash NTSB investigation, if we do not know the cause, we have no chance of minimizing such events in the future. And as with Chernobyl and Three Mile Island, let’s hold to account the governments and officials who were involved in any coverup or put people in knowing additional danger because of their actions, assuming they exist (and it already appears they do.)

4) It IS racist to “blame”, say, Chinese Americans, or the billion-plus Chinese citizens who are clearly NOT associated with this in any way. Even if incontrovertible proof were found showing an accidental lab leak scenario, they had NOTHING to do with it. Nothing.

And it IS racist and dangerous to expand criticism or action in any way to various Asian communities. We should NOT do that, and protections and kindness should be foremost. In fact extra kindness is called for.

But that also doesn’t mean avoiding forensic, respectful inquiry.

I am an American-Canadian citizen. I had nothing to do with Three Mile Island. It would be wrong to blame me for Three Mile Island. I would find that very unfair. Yet I definitely am glad we pursued the investigation aggressively as to its origin. Doing so made every nuclear power plant safer.

Just as nearly every single Chinese citizen (and all Chinese Americans) had nothing to do with this outbreak — AND many, many have been working hard to control it. And Chinese heroes have died trying to spread the word — we should know and celebrate them.

5) We should do our best to respect, protect and reach out with kindness to our Chinese American and Asian American friends, because unfortunately, we live in an era where terrible people may wish to exploit this, and already are. But this does not mean that we should stifle forensic investigation.

6) The concepts of “engineered in a lab” and “accidentally leaked from a lab” are two entirely different concepts. One does not imply or require the other. Disproving one does not disprove the other. It is entirely plausible that there was an industrial accident from an academic research effort of a discovered, naturally created, naturally mutated virus with NO malicious intent whatsoever, perhaps through multiple steps in a chain of possession (e.g., academic research injecting it into an animal, followed by discarded animal specimen, not properly secured, then picked up and re-sold or consumed or in some way by some other unrelated, unknowing person, with the virus jumping zoonotically) that spiraled into a huge global catastrophe.

In fact I am among those who believe this is one of the most plausible and probable scenarios, which meets Occam’s Razor, which is not contravened by any known evidence, and is supported by a lot of various pieces of circumstantial evidence that we do know (e.g., lab proximity, prior warnings from science community about lab safety at these labs, the fact that the lab 300 yards away just happened to be researching bat caronaviruses that are found to be 90%+ of the DNA of COVID-19, job postings for bat virus researchers at that very same lab verified on the Internet in November 2019, the fact that the virus shares 90%+ DNA came from hundreds of miles away and are not naturally occurring in the city of Wuhan, the fact that the wet market in question never sold pangolins or bats, the fact that the leading bat researcher actually had publicly stated she wondered to herself whether the virus came from her lab, the fact that the Chinese government initially said this emerged from the sea via seafood (and the DNA shows it did not), internal urgent governmental directives discussing lab safety in early January, destruction of samples and suppression of information, etc. — actually several more circumstantial pieces of evidence here, but you get the idea. It’s starting to sound very plausible.)

In no way do I think the virus was engineered, nor have I ever felt that way. And DNA evidence certainly points away from it. And no, I also do not think there was any malicious intent by any individual involved — just like Chernobyl and Three Mile Island, where no malicious intent caused the accident.

When humans are involved, accidents happen, even major ones with huge global ramifications. Did it happen here? I think so, and have felt it plausible since January, but don’t know for sure.

It’s not only a very valid but a very IMPORTANT question to pursue.

An accident is just one plausible scenario, and I could certainly be wrong. But we do no favors to science, nor hopes of preventing future such calamities, to rule it out or even decry it as racist or to a lesser degree, employing the cheap “what are you really saying?” innuendo at this stage. The totality of all evidence that I’m aware of, though yes, circumstantial, fairly strongly suggests this might have accidentally leaked from a lab. No evidence that I’m aware of currently contravenes that likelihood. Perhaps it was an accident, a calamitous accident of truly epic proportions. And if so, lab safety MUST be transparently investigated and tightened.


7) All of the above can (and should) happen regardless of one’s views about who should be elected president in 2020.

June 25, 2021

From an opinion piece in the NYT today.

Amazing that three of the very signers of the famous Lancet letter declaring near certainty of natural origin are now not only walking it back but reversing their stance.

Perhaps more important, just a few months ago, Facebook was banning these very statements/stances, and Twitter was slapping them with all kinds of warnings, in large part because they took the Lancet letter speculation as the “definitive” view.

You or I would have run the risk of a permanent ban from social media for saying what these three virologists are now stating on record, such as: “a lab leak is more likely than spontaneous natural origin.”

Note that very little brand new information has come to the fore (at least publicly) since then.

All that’s really changed is that it’s now deemed an acceptable view. And these authors were part of the reason why social media teams determined it WASN’T an acceptable view just months ago.

I hope we can pause a moment and think about that.

January 5, 2021

“It has been a full year, 80 million people have been infected, and, surprisingly, no public investigation has taken place. We still know very little about the origins of this disease.”

Huh. New York Magazine, of all publications, is running this piece today under their banner. This piece goes far further than I would (or do) in speculation about origin.

But is it OK to talk about this now, when just months ago, the possibility that this might have been an accidental lab leak (not even engineered, and certainly not intentional) was treated as an atrocious thing to say?

Yes, it’s a sensitive topic. And we could certainly continue to sweep it under the rug. But there are major benefits to determining the specific origins of the greatest world health and economic crisis in our lifetime.

Just as NTSB exists to make flight safer for all. And in that process, it must consider matters of fault-finding (e.g., pilot error, mechanical process, manufacturing defect, etc.) The process isn’t undertaken with a goal of prosecution or retribution, but to make things safer in the future.

We need to give ourselves the permission to discuss it. It’s not a conspiracy theory, it’s just a theory. And we are not only incurious about it, we actively shout down those who want to respectfully consider the possibility. That’s not enlightened. That’s stupid. I applaud publications like New York Magazine for finally starting to allow the discussion to take place within their brand. I wonder though if we would have been even better served to have such an attitude when the evidence was more fresh.

Regardless, I still think the first time we will likely actually talk about this in depth is when the inevitable Hollywood movie comes out in a few years. Only then, when someone else in pop culture has opened the door, can we have the honest and full conversation that’s needed.

Circling Back to a “Don’t Discount the Lab Leak” Post of January 2020

In January 2020, I posted my view that the outbreak of what was to be called COVID quite possibly came by way of lab accident. It generated over 100 comments and ended at least one friendship. I popped by Facebook yesterday to circle back on that thread.

I stopped posting to FB in late 2021 but returned briefly to circle back to an old post.

Hi friends,

Just a brief return to Facebook. I feel compelled to share some thoughts now that our federal government leans ever closer to “lab origin,” which some of you may recall is an issue I’ve talked at length about here in the past.

Dusting off Facebook’s search feature (hey, nice new icons and web refresh, FB!), I see that on January 26th, 2020, weeks before the first American was definitively known to have died due to the virus, I posted my strong suspicion, linked post below, that the outbreak of that was to be called COVID was likely due to a lab accident.

It’s interesting to review some of the discussion which took place then, and in subsequent posts on the topic.

As we sit here today (March 1, 2023), three years later, the lab-leak hypothesis isn’t some crackpot idea. It’s a majority-held American viewpoint, now publicly endorsed by the FBI (moderate confidence) and the Department of Energy (low confidence), and by more than 70% of Americans. A shrinking minority of Americans (~25% and shrinking) think “natural spillover” was the genesis of the greatest health crisis in our lifetime.

Three years ago, I did not post my own view lightly, nor cavalierly. The president at the time was out calling the virus the “Wuhan virus” and creating an atmosphere of xenophobia. The overall public temperature seemed to suggest it an offensive stance to take. I certainly knew that it’s not something to be flip about.

In fact, my own confidence was actually stronger than I wrote at the time. And it wasn’t a casual observation.

Editorial note: Even in January 2020, there was ample evidence that WIV was doing research on bat-borne coronaviruses. There was evidence the facility was rather new, that officials had previously expressed safety concerns about it, and that lab leaks elsewhere had happened with alarming frequency. 

It was clear a major debate had raged in the scientific community about the risks and potential benefits of "gain of function" research from 2011-2014. Dr. Anthony Fauci was adamantly and quite publicly on the "pro" side, even writing in the Washington Post that generating potentially harmful viruses is "a risk worth taking." 

This was all knowable in January 2020. I had read all these pieces and more by that time. 

Further, as an applied math major, I was pretty familiar with basic Bayesian math. The chances that a lab studying bat-borne viruses and an outbreak of a novel coronavirus whose closest cousin was a bat-borne virus were independent things seemed extremely low. There isn't just geographic coincidence, as Jon Stewart was to humorously noted more than a year later, but temporal coincidence. There's also species coincidence and genetic coincidence. 

Bayesian math isn't that complicated. It's common sense. In shorthand, assume the lab and outbreak are entirely unrelated (i.e., assume natural spillover.) So, of all the cities in the world, why did the outbreak happen in Wuhan? And of all the years that humans have contacted coronaviruses, why 2019? Is it just a coincidence that a "natural" outbreak occurred near a lab which officials expressed safety concerns just a few months prior? It's a coincidence that an outbreak occurred just a few years after research was known to have been initiated? OK. Then, of all the species, why bats? Of all the SARS coronaviruses, why is this one the only one with a furin-cleavage site? Is it just a coincidence that this matches a proposal put forth involving the lab in 2018? Etc. 

The odds of all of these "independent coincidences" happening and the bat coronavirus lab in central Wuhan NOT being related in any way are infinitesimal. 

Next, add in just how well-optimized it seemed for human replication right out of the gate. That is unusual. And if it were from a host animal, wouldn’t this highly contagious outbreak have started in some more remote village(s) first?

Then, add in all the adverse inference you can and should draw by China's and NIH's actions. China did not allow independent inspectors in when they had every possible incentive to prove natural zoonoses. They proceeded to wipe the lab(s) clean without independent monitors to collect evidence, etc. Then add in, per recent Congressional testimony from former CDC director Redfield that in fall of 2019 (a) the virus database was taken offline, (b) a new HVAC system was bid-out, and (c) lab oversight was changed from civilian to military. 

If you believe natural spillover more likely, you're saying that all these things -- all of them -- are coincidental. And since these events would normally be independent, you've got to multiply the probabilities of each of these "coincidences" together, since they all occurred. 

All tolled, natural spillover versus research-related outbreak are not equal-probability hypotheses; the math skews very strongly in one direction.

I worried a bit about Facebook booting me off the platform, and offending friends/family (though it shouldn’t offend!), so I walked up to the edge of it, and simply cautioned people from throwing that in the tin-foil hat bin.

But I believed it then, and I believe it today. There is basically no concrete evidence supporting the “natural spillover” origin theory, and an enormous amount of evidence — circumstantial and otherwise — pointing in the direction of lab accident. And if lab accident is the origin, that means our government failed us, that all this that we lived through these past three years, didn’t have to happen.

Over the past three years, I’ve watched as people who shared my view on this were vilified, ostracized, deplatformed from social media, misrepresented, distorted, and more.

Sure, staying silent was an option open to me. Why didn’t I?

Well, the best analogy I can think of is an earworm. Some of you may get an “earworm” when you hear a song that sticks with you. For me, for about 3 years, I’ve occasionally thought to myself:


It has been overwhelming at times — millions of people’s lives ended prematurely. More than 60x the number of people killed in the first nuclear explosion. Sons and daughters not being able to say goodbye to their loved ones in person. Suffocation on ventilators. Learning loss. Addiction. Trillions of dollars of capital vaporized. Mandatory masking. Mandatory vaccination. Political tribalism. Friendships destroyed. Businesses and dreams destroyed. And so much more.

And I’ve watched as institutions we should trust — academia, the news media, the CDC, politicians and more — have drifted so far afield in their roles. Some responded well to the crisis — particularly the health agencies of Western Europe. Too many others, including our own, did poorly. Too many politicians took “Never let a crisis go to waste” and opted for the corollary, “Preserve the crisis.”

So many Americans assumed that one’s public stance on COVID origin MUST imply one’s stance about politics, or even one’s inherent “goodness.” I’ve never believed that. These issues are, or should be, entirely separate. But for some reason, people have allowed these issues to be fused.

To so many people, it’s better to be wrong for the right reasons than right for the wrong reasons. I’m sorry, I reject that bargain.

As 2020, 2021 and 2022 progressed, I continued to respectfully share my viewpoint, which ran against most progressives’ viewpoint on it. And many (most?) of my friends are progressive, or at least were.

But nevertheless, I felt compelled to stick to what I thought then and still think today was grounded in more significant evidence. I also thought, and still think, the magnitude of this issue — the greatest health, education, lifestyle and economic disruption in our lifetime — was important to talk about, and to process some of those ideas.

But these sentiments were and I think still are a mismatch with social networking. And they’re certainly not ideal for Facebook and interleaved with friendly catch-up notes, as my wife rightly pointed out privately to me in increasing fashion. I departed Facebook at the end of 2021 (and it’s been a good decision, and one I’ll soon return to.)

But I wanted to return to FB momentarily to say that I appreciate that all of you — my many friends and family members — did NOT do what a lot of other people did to those who felt that lab origin was the most likely source of the greatest health crisis of our lifetime. You did NOT take my contrarian viewpoint on this as any kind of statement about me, or who I am. You did not (for the most part, at least) assume that this implied which team jersey I was sporting, or even if I owned one at all. You may have believed in natural spillover. No doubt some of you may even still believe that today, and that’s OK. (If you are at all interested, I’d be happy to patiently walk through the copious evidence suggesting otherwise, but I’ll leave that for a face to face chat if you’d like.)

A few points:

  1. Forgiveness is powerful. As we move closer and closer to consensus of lab origin, there will be many people who want to move onto the retribution phase. But all the evidence suggests that it was accidental, and that we in the US are culpable here too, as this research likely would not have happened were it not for our misguided, impossibly tragic proactive enablement of it.
  2. Please try not to let politics or tribal affiliation keep you from what you think to be true. Break out of your tribe — there are many forces pushing people to choose team A or B. Neither owns the truth. The media has become ever more interested in AFFIRMING, not INFORMING. It’s about engagement now, and nothing engages more than affirmation and outrage. It’s up to you to be your own news editor. Do you have enough respectful dissent in your information diet?
  3. Accidents happen, even catastrophic ones. Never once have I ever implied, nor do I believe, this catastrophe was intentional. I think the research was well-intentioned, but safety precautions lax. SARS, for instance, has leaked from labs multiple times, and from a lab-safety standpoint, this is no different. Chernobyl, Deepwater Horizon, Exxon Valdez and Three Mile Island were all unintentional. I could EASILY envision myself as an earnest medical researcher in a lab in China, unknowingly infected, visiting a market on my commute home. There will be a time to review the legacies of Anthony Fauci, Francis Collins and others, who likely were quite proximal in funding and later obfuscating the research which went on.
  4. What do we do with the knowledge that it’s likely of lab origin? It’s absolutely gob-smacking to basically know, with high probability, that none of this needed to happen. None of it. The deaths, the trillions of dollars of capital vaporized. The Zooms. The masking. The vax mandates. The inflation. The arguments and fissures in our very social fabric.
  5. Do you realize we are STILL funding EcoHealth Alliance with our tax dollars? (And many of the scientists enlisted to debunk the lab leak hypothesis have been granted millions of dollars from NIH. And Fauci’s personally designated successor now heads USAIAD. And. and. and.)

But we can take sensible action.

For one, if there’s ever been a role for Congressional oversight, the premature death of millions certainly calls for it. Second, on a practical level, maybe let’s not locate BSL facilities in major metropolitan areas. There are in fact hundreds of these labs around the world, and we need to consider their existential risk. Third, let’s please determine out how this research WAS funded and approved despite a clear presidential moratorium that was in effect at the time (2014-2017.) The evidence strongly suggests that the presidential moratorium caused federal advocates to look to a third-party packager to continue this research abroad, in what turned out to be much more loosely supervised settings. We need limits on how this new technology that’s been unlocked (ACE2 mice, etc.) stays in responsible hands.

We clearly need to overhaul institutions that failed us (NIH, CDC in particular, but also, it’s been tremendously disappointing to see medical organizations and even medical schools being captured by ideologues.) The role of public health should be to help navigate the path of least overall harm. It failed to do so.

We need Congressional oversight, and it will continue to be political. But let’s try to stick to the science and probabilities about it.

Anyway, it’s been a crazy three years.

Some of you may find issues like Climate Change existential and all-consuming, because you are good people, and you care. For me, to be quite frank, I think this issue has much greater probability to be of existential risk in the next 250 years if we do nothing. It mattered to know how Chernobyl and Deepwater Horizon happened, and how and why planes crash. We have the NTSB for a reason.

I appreciate that nearly all of you are still my friends & family. You may not think Facebook is the right forum for this, and, well, you are right. But I did want to circle back to you and close the loop on this thread, since it’s now not just in the Overton Window, it is a majority-held American view.

The essence of learning is to be able to update one’s own prior assumptions as new evidence comes in. We should not let political tribalism prevent us from doing so.

As we have seen time and time again with COVID — whether it’s relative risk for the young vs. old, the cost/benefit of remote schooling, the strength of natural immunity, how much vax mandates work or don’t, whether mandates or informed consent are superior — the stakes are pretty enormous, and what we are told may not be precisely what is true.

To see just how insane it’s all become, try this counterfactual: Imagine if Trump, a germaphobe, had forced a full nationwide lockdown in 2020, remote schooling, mask mandate, mandated shots, etc. as harshly as he could, and was -adamant- it was natural spillover (“bat soup” has always been more racist to me, than well-intentioned lab worker gets infected, as any of us might.) What would the Democrat position be today?

I am quite well, luckily, and though the above might sound like the rantings of a madman, I’m fine and happy. The past three years have taken a toll on everyone, but far lighter than it could on me. I’m extremely optimistic for what’s ahead.

Love to you all. Stay well,


#TwitterFiles: The Complete List

An index of all the Twitter Files threads, including summaries.

Twitter Files: The Complete List

The Twitter Files are a set of Twitter threads based on internal Twitter Inc. documents that were made public starting in December 2022. Here’s a complete list as of this writing. I offer up my own subjective summary of each, but I urge you visit the thread and form your own opinion. I’ll attempt to keep this index up-to-date as new ones come in.

At the end of this index, you’ll see some “meta” reporting, including Congressional testimony, interviews with authors and more.

Nomenclature: I refer to the pre-Musk era at the company as Twitter 1.0. That runs from the founding of Twitter through late October, 2022.

1. Twitter and the Hunter Biden Laptop Story, Dec 2 2022

Summary: Twitter blocked the New York Post from sharing a bombshell October 2020 story about Hunter Biden’s laptop contents, just prior to the 2020 US presidential election. It also suppressed people re-sharing this story, including the Press Secretary of the United States. Twitter attempted to justify this under its “hacked materials” policy, even though there was considerable debate about whether it legitimately applied.

1a. Twitter Files Supplemental

Summary: The Twitter Files 1 thread was delayed, based upon the surprising revelation that then-employee Jim Baker, former FBI General Counsel and current Twitter Deputy Counsel had been reviewing all materials before handing them to the journalists Musk invited to Twitter HQ. (Musk let Baker go.) Bari Weiss uncovers the Baker story.

Discussion: (#TwitterFiles)

2. Twitter’s Secret Blacklists: Shadow Banning and “Visibility Filtering” of users, Dec 8, 2022

Summary: Was Twitter 1.0 “shadow-banning?” Twitter executives Jack Dorsey and Vijaya Gadde have frequently claimed that Twitter does not shadow-ban, but multiple tools exist within Twitter to limit the tweet distribution and visibility of a given account. “Do Not Amplify” settings exist, as do several settings around propagation of tweets to others.

Discussion: (#TwitterFiles2)
3. The Removal of Donald Trump Part One: Oct 2020-Jan 6 2021, Dec 9, 2022

Summary: On January 7th 2021, Twitter summarily banned the 45th President of the United States from its platform. What led up to their decision, and what were some of the internal conversations surrounding it? Part 1 of 3.

Discussion: (#TwitterFiles3)
4. United States Capitol Attack January 6th 2021, Dec 10 2022

Summary: The ban of Donald Trump from Twitter stemmed directly from the January 6th 2021 attack on the United States Capitol by supporters/protestors/rioters. The stunning event led Twitter executives to finally make the call they had long discussed. Part 2 of 3

Discussion: (#TwitterFiles4)
5. The Removal of Trump from Twitter, January 8th 2021: Dec 12, 2022

Summary: Trump was banned from Twitter on January 8th, 2021. Though Twitter 1.0 was always adjusting discussion rules on the platform, it’s notable that on January 7th, Twitter staff adjusted several key rules to allow for and justify the banning of the then-President. Part 3 of 3

Discussion: (#TwitterFiles5)
6. FBI & Hunter Biden Laptop, Dec 16, 2022

Summary: The FBI attempted to discredit factual information about Hunter Biden’s foreign business activities both after and even before the NY Post revealed the contents of his laptop. Why would the FBI be doing this? And what channels existed between the FBI and Twitter 1.0?

Discussion: (#TwitterFiles6)
7. Twitter, The FBI Subsidiary, Dec 19, 2022

Summary: Twitter’s contact with the FBI was constant, both social and professional, and pervasive. A surprising number of communications from the FBI included requests to take action on election misinformation, even involving joke tweets from low-follower and satirical accounts. FBI asked Twitter to look at certain accounts, suggesting that they “may potentially constitute violations of Terms of Service.”

Discussion: (#TwitterFiles7)
8. How Twitter Quietly Aided the Pentagon’s Covert Online PsyOp Campaign, Dec 20, 2022

Summary: While they made public assurances suggesting they would detect and thwart government-based manipulation, behind the scenes Twitter 1.0 gave approval and special protection to a branch of the US military related to psychological influence operations in certain instances.

Discussion: (#TwitterFiles8)
9. Twitter and “Other Government Agencies”, Dec 24 2022

Summary: The FBI responds to Twitter Files 7, vigorously disputing some of the framing and reporting. Taibbi responds to FBI communication and press releases, and further shares internal documents related to FBI and “other government agency” correspondence.

Discussion: (#TwitterFiles9)
10. How Twitter Rigged the COVID Debate, Dec 26, 2022

Summary: David Zweig illustrates how Twitter 1.0 reduced the visibility of true but perhaps inconvenient COVID information, and discredited doctors and other experts who disagreed.

Discussion: (#TwitterFiles10)
11 and 12.

How Twitter Let the Intelligence Community In, Jan 3, 2023

Summary: Twitter 1.0 responds to governmental inquiry regarding some Russian-linked accounts, attempting to keep the governmental and press focus on rival Facebook.

Twitter and the FBI “Belly Button”, Jan 3 2023

Summary: Twitter 1.0 works diligently to resist acting on State Department moderation requests. In the end, it allowed the State Department to reach them via the FBI, which FBI agent Chan calls “the belly button” of the United States government.

Discussion: (#TwitterFiles11)
13. Twitter and Suppression of COVID Vaccine Debate, Jan 9 2023

Summary: Scott Gottleib, a Pfizer board member, used his influence to suppress debate on COVID vaccines, including from the head of the FDA. Twitter 1.0 frets about the damage the effectiveness of natural immunity might have on vaccine uptake, and Twitter slaps a label on a key tweet former FDA commissioner Brett Giroir’s tweet touting the strength of natural immunity.

Discussion: (#TwitterFiles13)
14. The Russiagate Lies One: The Fake Tale of Russian Bots and the #ReleaseTheMemo Hashtag, Jan 12 2023

Summary: On January 18th 2018, Republican Congressman Devin Nunes submitted a classified memo to the House Intelligence Committee listing abuses at the FBI in getting surveillance approval of Trump-connected figures. His memo also called into question the veracity and reliability of the Steele “Dossier.” #ReleaseTheMemo started trending, but Democrats attempted to discredit this by saying it was all being amplified by Russian bots and trolls, referencing Hamilton 68, a dashboard powered by the Twitter API (See Twitter Files #15, next in the series.) Though Nunes’ assertions would eventually be basically fully verified in a report by the Justice Department, a significant PR campaign was launched to discredit the memo, labeling it a “joke.” This TwitterFiles thread discusses Democrats’ desire to discredit the #ReleaseTheMemo hashtag as being of Russian origin/amplification, and Twitter’s compliance with those requests. Note that there is heavy reliance on the “Hamilton 68 Dashboard” in many of these discussions, which is the subject of Twitter Files 15. The important bit: Twitter executives knew it was fraudulent from about 2017 onward, yet did nothing to discredit it in the media, allowing this DNC-message-benefitting sham to continue.

Discussion: (#TwitterFiles14)
15. Move Over, Jason Blair: Twitter Files Expose Next Great Media Fraud (Hamilton 68 Dashboard), Jan 27 2023

Summary: This thread delves into the Hamilton 68 dashboard referenced in TwitterFiles 14 above. Twitter knew as early as October 2017 that it was simply pulling tweets from a curated list of about 650 accounts, and also knew that very few of those accounts were actually Russian. They knew that the media and Democrat officials were citing Hamilton 68 Dashboard as somehow credible. Though Twitter executive Yoel Roth tried several times to raise internal concern about the integrity of this tool, he was overruled within Twitter, and Twitter 1.0 never directly discredited this tool or explained how it worked.

Discussion: (#TwitterFiles15)
16. Comic Interlude: A Media Experiment

Summary: Matt Taibbi notes how little mainstream media coverage there is of TwitterFiles revelations when they are damaging to the Democrats, but published numerous stories on Trump’s request to get Chrissy Tiegen removed from the platform. New revelations are shown about Maine Senator Angus King (D) calling for suspension of a slew of accounts for spurious reasons, and Representative Adam Smith (D)’s staff request to stop “any and all search results” related to certain keywords. Taibbi notes how the mainstream media has utterly ignored the Schiff requests and what it says about the First Amendment risks presented by government-big-tech cooperation.

Discussion: (#TwitterFiles16)
17. New Knowledge, the Global Engagement Center, and State-Sponsored Blacklists

Summary: Taibbi reports on an effort by “DFRLab,” an entity funded by the “Global Engagement Center”, a shadowy part of the US federal government, to deplatform a bunch of people. The list of 40,000+ people the GEC/DFRLab attempted to get deplatformed under the guise that they were “paid employees or possibly volunteers” of India’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), but the list included lots of everyday Americans. Taibbi characterizes these requests as “State Sponsored Blacklists,” and from the data shared, it’s rather hard to challenge that provocative label. GEC denies it uses US tax dollars to try to get US citizens deplatformed, but the list clearly included Americans. Taibbi explores the requests in detail, some internal discussion which resulted, and lets the reader ponder what these requests suggest about government stances toward free speech, and the “weaponization” of the word “disinformation” for political aims. (For me, I continue to ask — would we know any of this had Elon Musk not purchased Twitter?)

Discussion: (#TwitterFiles17)
18. Statement to Congress

Summary: On March 9 2023, Matt Taibbi and Michael Shellenberger testified before Congress about the network of third parties the federal government has been involved in paying, which in turn were serving up blacklist requests to Twitter.

Michael Shellenberger details it in this 68-page testimony to Congress.

Discussion: (#TwitterFiles18)
19. The Great COVID-19 Lie Machine

Summary: The Stanford Virality Project (VP) was involved in the flagging and push-to-censor several threads and accounts writing “true but inconvenient to the narrative” stories surrounding COVID-19, such as the strength of natural immunity, the fact that the vaccination does not stop the spread, or the existence actual, true adverse vaccination side-effects. It appeared to have the full support from within the US government. Taibbi documents how the narrative became more important than what the facts were saying at the time, how the Stanford Virality Project seemed more interested in narrative enforcement and speech suppression than in the principles of the first amendment.

Discussion: (#TwitterFiles19)
Complete List of “Twitter Files” Threads


MT: Matt Taibbi, Racket News: @mtaibbi

MS: Michael Shellenberger, Michael Shellenberger on Substack: @shellenbergermd

BW: Bari Weiss, The Free Press, @bariweiss

LF: Lee Fang, The Intercept, @lhfang

AB: Alex Berenson, Alex Berenson on Substack, @alexberenson

DZ: David Zweig, The New Yorker, New York Times, Wired, @davidzweig

Congressional Hearings

March 9, 2023: Primary subject – federal involvement in censorship
February 8, 2023: Primary subject – former employee testimony, Hunter Biden laptop

Meta-Story: Behind the Scenes, In the Authors’ Words

Our Reporting at Twitter, Bari Weiss, The Free Press, December 15 2022

Interview with Matt Taibbi, Russell Brand:

Wait, Twitter Knew The “Russian Bot” Narrative Was Fake… For Five Years?

In the most explosive Twitter Files yet, Matt Taibbi uncovers the agitprop-laundering fraud engineered by a neoliberal think-tank.

It’s been a little more than three months since Elon Musk burst into the Twitter headquarters in San Francisco, bathroom sink in tow, wryly captioning his tweeted photo “Let That Sink In.” In the time since (has it really only been fourteen weeks?), Musk has slashed staff and made many internal changes. In a type of “Sunshine Committee” initiative, he’s invited a team of independent journalists to Twitter’s HQ to rifle through internal communications. Musk is letting them uncover what they may. His only proviso is that these journalists must first publish what they discover about the Twitter 1.0 era… on Twitter itself.

And thus, the #TwitterFiles were born. We’re now up to thread Number 15, one of the most interesting ones yet.

In #TwitterFiles 15 published on January 27th 2023, journalist Matt Taibbi documents how an ostensibly bipartisan Washington DC political organization leveraged Twitter to disseminate a mysterious dashboard purporting to reveal the big online narratives that “Russian bots” were amplifying. The dashboard was called “Hamilton 68”, and its name stems from Federalist Paper 68, a treatise warning against foreign influence in elections authored by Alexander Hamilton in 1788. Alexander Hamilton supplied the name, and a thin veneer of high-tech and well-credentialed advisors supplied gravitas.

The organization behind this media tool has one of those “Who Can Possibly Be Against This?” institute names: The Alliance for Securing Democracy (ASD.) Its Advisory Board includes ex-FBI and Homeland Security staffers (Michael Chertoff, Mike Rogers), Obama Administration and DNC officials (Michael McFaul, John Podesta, Nicole Wong), academics and European officials and formerly conservative pundits (Bill Kristol.) Taken as a whole, the ASD is comprised largely of officials affiliated with the Democratic party and this nation’s security apparatus. The Hamilton 68 Dashboard project was led by former FBI counterintelligence official and current MSNBC contributor Clint Watts.

From 2017 up until about one week ago, the Hamilton 68 Dashboard was highly regarded, and cited by numerous mainstream media outlets, from The Washington Post to MSNBC to Politifact to Mother Jones to Business Insider to Fast Company. It was the genesis for countless news stories from 2017 through 2022. Maybe you read Politico’s The Russian Bots are Coming. Or the Washington Post’s Russia-linked accounts are tweeting their support of embattled Fox News host Laura Ingraham.

Or maybe you watched one of CNN’s many stories on the growing threat of Russian bots, such as this one:

Or maybe you watched this piece on The PBS News Hour, warning about how “Russians” are amplifying hashtags like #ReleaseTheMemo:

Or maybe you caught MSNBC’s Stephanie Ruhle casually asserting that “Russians are amplifying this hashtag”, an assertion which came from Hamilton 68 output:

No matter where we heard it, millions of us heard it. And read it. “The Russians are amplifying these terms on Twitter!”

Before we go further, let’s put one thing to bed: Is Russian bot activity, at least to some extent, real? Yes, it is.

Clearly, disinformation efforts have been underway since the dawn of communications, through journalism, radio, television, the Cold War, computer networking, and then, greatly accelerated during the era of social media. Foreign troll and bot activity has been documented first-hand. For that matter, we in the US are no doubt sending and amplifying messages their way too.

But the fraudulent “Hamilton 68” project by ASD deceptively leveraged public desire for bipartisan monitoring, with only the thinnest of high-tech patinas for partisan political gain.

How so? Here’s the shocker: The only thing behind the vaunted “Hamilton 68” Dashboard was… a list. No, not some algorithmically curated list looking at, say, the IP addresses of tweeters. Nor was it a list of known Russian agents, nor even frequent robotic re-tweeters of Kremlin agitprop.

No, the list was simply a bunch of accounts on Twitter that Hamilton 68 staffers hand-picked, and then summarily declared to be Russian bots or Russian-affiliated. The Hamilton 68 Dashboard was simply a list of these 648 Twitter accounts, right-leaning Twitter accounts for sure, but in no way provably Russian “bots.” While there were a handful of Russian accounts sprinkled in that 648, Russian accounts didn’t even represent the majority. The majority of accounts were merely conservative-leaning US, UK or Canadian citizens. You could just as easily have curated your own 648-person list yourself. Had Hamilton68 staffer selected a list of teens, their rigorous “analysis” would have implied “The Russians are amplifying the #TidePodChallenge on Twitter.”

Get that? Quite a racket. Assemble a heavyweight panel of credentialed experts. Build a list of accounts who tend to favoring the messages of your political opponents. Label it “Russian Disinformation,” and add a veneer of high-tech and state-apparatus gravitas. Critically, keep the methodology secret. Then, feed this “advanced dashboard” to the media, and boom — endless “news” pieces about — wouldn’t you know it? — Russian bots preferring GOP-aligned messaging. Opposition research PR has never been so easy.

According to the Wayback Machine, ASD has been trumpeting the Hamilton 68 Dashboard thusly:

These accounts were selected for their relationship to Russian-sponsored influence and disinformation campaigns, and not because of any domestic political content.

We have monitored these datasets for months in order to verify their relevance to Russian disinformation programs targeting the United States.

…this will provide a resource for journalists to appropriately identify Russian-sponsored information campaigns.

ASD Website, Hamilton 68 Dashboard, 2017-2022 (now updated)

What the ASD primed the media to run with as “Russian disinformation” were nothing more than the thoughts of a group of largely pro-Trump accounts on Twitter, hand-picked by them, a neoliberal think-tank. There was no algorithm, no science, nothing behind it other than subjective judgement.

Worse, Twitter knew about Hamilton 68’s utter lack of legitimacy for five years, and never bothered to directly expose the sham or cut off Hamilton 68’s access to their API. In 2017, Twitter executive Yoel Roth reverse-engineered what the Hamilton 68 Dashboard was doing by looking at it’s Twitter Application Programming Interface (API) calls. He pulled back the curtain, and learned that it was nothing more than a curated list of 648 accounts. On October 3, 2017, Roth wrote “It’s so weird and self-selecting, and they’re unwilling to be transparent and defend their selection. I think we need to just call out this bullshit for what it is.” Three months later, he wrote that “the Hamilton dashboard falsely accuses a bunch of right-leaning accounts of being Russian bots.”

On October 3 2017, Roth writes to his colleagues:

The selection of accounts is… bizarre, and seemingly quite arbitrary. They appear to strongly preference pro-Trump accounts, which they use to assert that Russia is expressing a preference for Trump even though there’s not good evidence that any of the accounts they selected are or are not actually Russian.

Yoel Roth to colleagues, internal email, October 3 2017

And later, Roth writes “Real people need to know they’ve been unilaterally labeled Russian stooges without evidence or recourse.”

Russian bots were blamed for hyping the #ParklandShooting hashtag, #FireMcMaster, #SchumerShutdown, #WalkAway, #ReleaseTheMemo and more. If you remember any of those episodes, you can probably recall that somewhere in your media diet, someone probably nudged that the Russians were amplifying this. It was all based upon this phoney list.

Taibbi shared a sample of just some of the stories this dashboard ultimately fed:


Ironically-named “Politifact” used it as the basis for several stories, including this one. Note that Hamilton 68 is cited as a source:


Like the piece above, basically none of these publications seem to be correcting their stories, or explaining clearly to their readers that the Hamilton 68 Dashboard upon which they generated oodles of pieces was essentially a sham.

By October 2017, Twitter executive Yoel Roth noticed that a lot of media stories were springing off this disinformation, and internally urged that Twitter make this clear. Yet Twitter executives demurred. Taibbi puts it this way: “Twitter didn’t have the guts to call out Hamilton 68 publicly, but did try to speak to reporters off the record. ‘Reportings are chafing,’ said Twitter communications executive Emily Horne. ‘It’s like shouting into a void.'”

Emily Horne, a Twitter communications VP who was among those putting the damper on exposing the sham, would soon become Biden White House and NSC spokesperson.

Yoel Roth comes across as sincere and heroic in his efforts to raise alarm bells from within Twitter in 2017 and early 2018. But Twitter executives like Emily Horne as well as presumably chief content officer Vijaya Gadde shut him down.

As a result, “journalists” in publications ranging from The Washington Post to Politifact to the New York Times continued to amplify the fake alarm that the ASD dashboard generated. Fake news begat fake news, until we even got to the point that the White House found it imperative to create appoint a new “Disinformation Czar,” led by the memorable (and meme-able) Nina Jankowicz.

Yoel Roth is a fascinating, complex character. He was eventually to become Twitter’s head of “Trust and Safety Council” by 2020, which made a lot of questionable decisions regarding deplatforming people re-sharing the Hunter Biden laptop story, which included the Press Secretary of the United States. Roth was even involved in Twitter’s decision to permanently boot the president of the United States. Musk at first considered Roth trustworthy (though with different political viewpoints), but by late November 2022, Roth was fired. Roth’s character-arc would be a very interesting one to profile for the inevitable “Inside Twitter” documentary.

If you’re looking for the news outlets which were earnestly duped and actually want to be honest and fulsome with their readers, check to see if they’re reporting on the Hamilton 68 scandal. Are they explaining to their readers the times they relied upon this now-discredited dashboard. Thus far, it’s not encouraging. Neither CNN nor Washington Post has any mentions of “Hamilton 68” this year so far.

A parting thought: Whether you like Musk or not, we wouldn’t have known any of this successful effort to deceive the American public had Musk not purchased Twitter and let journalists look behind the curtain. Had Musk not shelled out $44 billion, we very likely would still be watching and reading breathless stories amplifying how “the Russians are coming, and they sure do like these GOP hashtags” on Twitter. These claims would be based on a lie. Twitter leadership would know, ASD’s advisory board would presumably know. And no one would say a word about it. Let that sink in.

Read Taibbi’s full thread on Twitter here, complete with screenshots and source material: The Hamilton 68 Scandal.

Sifting Through the FTX Rubble

The sudden collapse of the world’s second biggest cryptocurrency exchange in November 2022 shocked the crypto world and left more than a million creditors hanging, with the 50 biggest being owed a staggering $3.1 billion.

Update, December 12 2022: Bankman-Fried Arrested

2022 has been quite a year for the co-founder of crypto exchange FTX, Sam Bankman-Fried.

In February, Bankman-Fried and 99 million other Americans watched Curb Your Enthusiasm and Seinfeld comedian Larry David stump for FTX during the Super Bowl. During the spring and summer, Bankman-Fried deployed approximately $5 billion in a series of buyouts: crypto player Liquid Global in February. Video game maker Storybook Brawl in March. Canadian crypto exchange Bitvo in June. Crypto exchange Blockfolio in August. Alameda even deployed about $11 million to a tiny rural bank here in Washington State, with aims to help it bootstrap a crypto bank on American soil.

By August 2022, SBF was being hailed by Bloomberg and CNBC’s Jim Cramer as “the JP Morgan of this generation,” a reference to when JP Morgan helped stabilize America’s economy during the panics of 1893 and 1907.

The NFL’s Tom Brady, modeling’s Giselle Bundchen and Shark Tank’s Kevin O’Leary were all singing his praises. The FTX brand was everywhere. It was emblazoned on the enormous Miami Heat stadium, after FTX secured 19-year naming rights in 2021. Major League Baseball Umpires even wore an FTX patch on their uniforms (two patches, actually) all season long.

A Fortune Magazine piece likened SBF to value investor Warren Buffett, something Buffett, a famous crypto-disbeliever, no doubt disagrees with.

And Bankman-Fried himself was popular for another reason: social change. He was an evangelist for the philosophy of “effective altruism“, which posits that the most effective way to do best for people is to spend one’s productive years amassing a huge sum of wealth, and then give as much of it away as possible. The cargo-shorts wearing, Toyota Corolla-driving Bankman-Fried played the part well.

Video blogger Nas Daily flew to the Bahamas to hail him as the “World’s Most Generous Billionaire”:

Bankman-Fried wasn’t about to wait until his retirement years to start spreading the millions around. He dolled out $42 million to Democrats during the 2022 midterms, as its second largest donor.

Sam Bankman-Fried. Image via Inside Bitcoins

Entering into the fourth quarter of 2022, SBF was riding high. He was worth more than $10 billion on paper, and the exchange he created was valued at more than $32 billion. FTX had over 5 million active users, and on average, its daily trading volume in 2021 exceeded $12.5 billion. According to Bankless, it was on track to reach $1.1 billion in revenue for 2022.

It all collapsed in less than one week. The sudden collapse of the world’s second biggest cryptocurrency exchange in November 2022 shocked the crypto world, and left more than one million creditors reeling. According to bankruptcy filings, the 50 biggest creditors alone are owed a staggering $3.1 billion.

As Bankman-Fried put it to the crowd of movers and shakers gathered in NYC at November’s NYT “Dealbook” conference, he has “had a bad month.” FTX and its sister company Alameda Research declared bankruptcy on November 11, 2022, and SBF is at serious risk of federal prosecution that could send him behind bars for a very long time.

Now worth $0, Bankman-Fried is going before any audience he can find, ignoring his attorneys’ advice otherwise, because, well, he wants us to know that he is sorry. That he “fucked up.” That he didn’t pay near enough attention to proper accounting or risk management. But even though he messed up, he will tell any audience who will listen, “I want to work to make this right,” and “I didn’t ever try to commit fraud.”

Bankman-Fried’s implicit message at the moment has been, more or less, that he did not possess mens rea (a “guilty mind”.) To him, he didn’t knowingly co-mingle customer funds with those of his own hedge fund. He didn’t intentionally mislead investors about where their money was going. He didn’t deliberately cause more than $30 billion of paper wealth (and more than $3 billion of actual creditor dollars) to evaporate.

Whether Bankman-Fried commited fraud or not in one of the decade’s biggest corporate collapses so far should be the subject of fierce federal investigation. And while that may well be occurring, there aren’t many visible signs that the feds are on this collapse with the furvor they had for, say, Bernie Madoff or Enron. Bankman-Fried was politely invited to testify before Rep. Maxine Waters’ House Financial Services Committee, and at first demurred.

One can hope this is underway, but it’s been a month, and not much word from federal lawmakers yet.

Tomorrow Sam Bankman-Fried will appear before the House Financial Services Committee. Joining him will be John J. Ray III, whom FTX’s board appointed as CEO to oversee the post-bankruptcy process.

Cynics speculate that the questioning might be fairly light-handed from Representative Maxine Waters (D, CA). Waters appeared with him in photos just a few months ago, and appeared to blow kisses his way at their last appearance in Washington DC.

Happier times: Bankman-Fried and Rep. Maxine Waters in Washington DC (Twitter)

As mentioned earlier, Bankman-Fried was the second largest donor to the Democratic National Committee for the 2022 midterms, at more than $40 million donated. And another senior FTX executive, co-founder Ryan Salame, donated $24 million to the Republicans. They may have bought themselves a bit more time.

Ray’s prepared remarks to the Committee are brutal: “Never in my career have I seen such an utter failure of corporate controls at every level of an organization, from the lack of financial statements to a complete failure of any internal controls or governance whatsoever.”

UPDATE: Sam Bankman-Fried has been arrested in the Bahamas after US Prosecutors filed charges.

FTX and Alameda Research

The world of cryptocurrency is awash in buzzwords which can complicate understanding.

So here is the collapse in its simplest terms. The allegation is that a handful of FTX executives knowingly co-mingled billions of dollars of FTX end-customer funds with its own closely-held hedge fund, run by sister company called Alameda Research. Compounding matters, Alameda made a staggeringly bad set of leveraged bets with those funds, whose downside results were greatly compounded by a crypto-crash in the Spring of 2022.

Through a series of transactions between FTX and Alameda, Alameda amassed a gigantic position in FTX’s own token (called “FTT”), a cryptocurrency which was highly correlated with FTX’s own market value. (In the non-crypto world, you might liken this to shares of its own stock, since it moved in a very correlated fashion to FTX’s own perceived value.) This “worked” for a short while, as FTX’s private market gain and apparent momentum appeared to convey some value in FTT.

But FTT was highly illiquid. Only a little bit of it traded every day. FTT was risky, far riskier than its mere stock price chart showed at the time. That’s because due to illiquidity, the stock price could be sent rapidly down by a big seller dumping it.

On November 2nd 2022, journalists at crypto trade publication Coindesk published a blockbuster piece: Divisions in Sam Bankman-Fried’s Crypto Empire Blur on His Trading Titan Alameda’s Balance Sheet. Somehow, Coindesk had come across internal documents of Alameda and FTX which detailed Alameda holdings, and what these documents revealed sent shockwaves through the crypto market.

Coindesk reporters noted that of the nominal $14.6 billion that Alameda had amassed on its balance sheet, more than half of it was in FTT/FTX-related currency.

Why is that bad? Not only is a concentrated position in one asset a large risk factor for any hedge fund, but the asset Alameda owned in gobs and gobs was also highly correlated to FTX’s own company value. While FTT was trading between $25-52 throughout most of 2022, it had pretty low trading volume. Not many people wanted to buy it up. A massive unloading of this currency would therefore send its value plummeting. And if that happened, Alameda would get “margin called” by lenders on its substantial loans and have to liquidate some securities to pay them off.

Any sizable drop in value of FTT would put enormous financial pressure on FTX’s solvency.

The Coindesk report revealed the extent to which FTX and Alameda were intertwined. It caught the attention of Changpeng Zhao (CZ), who owned a very large position of FTT. On November 6th, CZ tweeted “As part of Binance’s exit from FTX equity last year, Binance received roughly $2.1 billion USD equivalent in cash (BUSD and FTT). Due to recent revelations that have came to light, we have decided to liquidate any remaining FTT on our books.”

He signaled his intent to sell, and proceded to dump a large volume of FTT into a pretty illiquid market, far more than Alameda or FTX could attempt to buy back.

FTX traders and FTT holders alike noticed this, which triggered a “run on the bank,” i.e., causing customers (fearing FTX’s bankruptcy) to say “I want my money back!” FTX was at first able to process the first billion dollars or so of redemption requests, but the downward spiral accelerated, taking down the whole house of cards within a 72 hour period.

By November 11th 2022, FTX was filing for bankruptcy protection.

The entire company lasted just five years. Alameda Research was Bankman-Fried’s first venture; he founded it in November 2017. It began with a fairly simple (and legal) business model, making arbitrage trades of Bitcoin between domestic and Asian markets. Bankman-Fried had noticed that the price of Bitcoin would generally be cheaper in the US than in, say, South Korea. So Alameda made a tidy profit for a while automatically buying Bitcoin on the cheap and then reselling those same coins on Asian markets.

By May 2019, Bankman-Fried’s ambitions grew larger, and he decided to create a crypto-trading exchange. He hired a new CEO, Caroline Ellison, a former colleague of his from his brief time at Wall Street’s quant firm Jane Street Research, to run Alameda Research.

He also convinced Changpeng Zhao (CZ), the founder and CEO of the world’s largest crypto exchange (Binance) to invest in his new venture. SBF had come to know CZ through his arbitrage trades with Alameda.

What’s a Crypto Exchange? A centrally-controlled crypto exchange like FTX is a place where end-users can go to buy and sell crypto currency, and do trades between “fiat currencies” (like the US dollar or British pound) and various crypto coins. If you were an FTX customer, you’d wire in funds to your account, and then trade those funds with other buyers or sellers of cryptocurrency. FTX would benefit from trading fees.

That’s how an exchange is supposed to work.

But it appears that FTX and Alameda co-mingled customer funds; a fact confirmed by current CEO Ray in his prepared remarks to Congress. For the end customer, their balance might display as owning, say, $100 worth of US currency or $100 worth of some crypto coin (minus trading fees), but the big allegation here is that Alameda was taking some or all of those funds, and betting elsewhere at various times.

Making Alameda’s own JENGA-tower shakier, Alameda appears to have had significant positions in Luna Terra, a “stable coin” which utterly collapsed between May 7-12 2022. Needing to cover losses somehow, there’s speculation on Crypto Twitter that Alameda became quite tempted to dip into customer funds.

It appears as though Bankman-Fried’s two business entities blurred several lines, treating customer funds as their own to bet with. Bankman-Fried often points to a second customer agreement allowing for margin trading between accounts, but it’s quite unclear what fraction of customers opted into this type of agreement. End-user deposits which many customers reasonably thought were isolated were instead deployed for risky bets unrelated to what end-users wanted to do with their own funds.

This not only violates their Terms of Service with customers, it would be a pretty clear violation of traditional securities and exchange laws. As FTX’s own terms of service describe:

  • “You control the Digital Assets held in your Account,” says Section 8.2 of the terms.
  • “Title to your Digital Assets shall at all times remain with you and shall not transfer to FTX Trading.”
  • “None of the Digital Assets in your Account are the property of, or shall or may be loaned to, FTX Trading; FTX Trading does not represent or treat Digital Assets in User’s Accounts as belonging to FTX Trading.”

So, Bankman-Fried’s life will be pretty interesting in 2023, just not in the same way that 2022 was. He remains ensconsed in the Bahamas, not yet indicted, on a virtual press tour of all press tours. He’s spoken with the New York Times, Good Morning America, George Stephanaplous, numerous Twitter Spaces and podcasts. Anywhere there’s a microphone, he’s out telling his story.

Tomorrow, he’ll be telling his story (or taking the Fifth) before the House Financial Services Committee. And we’re sure to hear that whatever he did, he didn’t mean it.

Financial Systems Come for Your Free Expression: Don’t let them.

I’ve been a PayPal customer for more than a decade, but closed my account last week. 2022 has shown glimpses of what a social credit system might look like in America. Decentralized, yet singular in ideology.

My local bagel store, barbershop and dry cleaner now only accept cashless transactions. Ubiquitous touchscreen displays and tap-to-pay checkouts now happily whisk customers through the line. Cashless transactions have been a boon for customer, employee (more tips!) and retailer alike. Mostly, I love it.

But with it has come unprecedented information flow on who we are, and increased temptation by platform providers to start monitoring who can be in their club and who cannot be.

While there isn’t yet any grand centralized design of a social credit system along the lines of what the Chinese Communist Party operates, I cannot help but worry that we are assembling the ideal toolset for ideological enforcement, monitoring and control should someone, some day, wish to network it all together.

Does that sound alarmist? Consider the overall trajectory of these recent stories:

October, 2022: PayPal Attempts to Fine Customers for What it Deems “Harmful” Ideas

On October 7th 2022, PayPal published amendments to its Acceptable Use Policy (AUP), which would have granted the payment provider legal authority to seize $2,500 from customers’ bank accounts for every single violation of what it deemed the spreading of “harmful” or “objectionable” information.

The determination of whether something is “harmful”, misleading or “objectionable” would come at PayPal’s sole discretion. These changes were set to go into effect on November 3rd, 2022, but were quietly retracted. PayPal only explained their policy reversal via emails to a few news outlets on October 8th; remarkably, you still cannot find any commentary about this episode on their Twitter feed.

What is harmful misinformation? Well, that’s subjective. We might all agree that businesses that explicitly promote murder shouldn’t be on the platform. But then it starts to get trickier. What if you believe the path of least overall harm was to reopen schools sooner? Or let vaccination be an informed choice, and not a mandate? Is being pro-choice or pro-life more “harmful?” Depends on who is answering the question.

Anything deemed harmful or objectionable by PayPal would be subject to such a fine.

Let’s review several recent statements which were authoritatively deemed “harmful misinformation”:

  • “Prolonged school closure is a mistake. Learning loss will happen, suicide rates might increase. We need to reopen schools urgently.” (Misinformation in 2020, True today.)
  • “Vaccination does not in fact significantly slow spread of COVID-19 to others.” (Misinformation in 2020, True today.)
  • “Naturally-acquired immunity is as strong as immunity acquired through vaccination, if not stronger.” (Misinformation in 2020, True today.)
  • “COVID-19, the most significant public health crisis in our lifetime, might well have emerged from a lab accident.” (Misinformation in 2020, officially declared at least equally plausible by the US government today.)
  • “Hunter Biden’s laptop contained clear and troubling signs of influence peddling.” (Declared misinformation in 2020, yet now verified by New York Times, Washington Post and others.)
  • “For younger males, the risk of myocarditis from vaccination may actually exceed the hospitalization risk of COVID itself.” (Declared misinformation in 2020, yet backed by empirical evidence today.)

Within a brief span of just thirty months, each of these statements has gone from “misinformation” or “harmful-information” as vehemently declared by authorities and name-brand “fact checkers” to now-majority American and empirically-validated viewpoints.

Further, who is paying attention to these stealth changes to terms and conditions? It wasn’t the New York Times, The Verge, nor the Washington Post that brought this major policy change of PayPal’s to America’s attention. It came from the right, who have become the most vocal critics of a creeping state-corporate symbiosis which they call the “Blue Stack.” The Blue Stack includes progressive technocrats, corporate media, and ostensibly independent big tech firms which work to enforce an ideology that inevitably tilts leftward.

The blue stack presents America’s elite with something they’ve always craved but has been out of reach in a liberal democracy: the power to swiftly crush ideological opponents by silencing them and destroying their livelihoods. Typically, American cultural, business, and communication systems have been too decentralized and too diffuse to allow one ideological faction to express power in that way. American elites, unlike their Chinese counterparts, have never had the ability to imprison people for wrong-think or derank undesirables in a social credit system.

Zaid Jilani, The Blue Stack Strikes Back, Tablet

Were it not for Ben Zeisloft, writer for the right-wing website Daily Wire, the public would likely not have known about PayPal’s major policy shift. But once Zeisloft’s piece hit (New PayPal Policy Lets Company Pull $2,500 From Users’ Accounts If They Promote ‘Misinformation’ | The Daily Wire), it caught fire on social media. And PayPal was forced into crisis-response mode, as the unwelcome press and cancellations started pouring in.

This wasn’t misinformation. PayPal’s new policy stated precisely as Zeisloft had identified. #CancelPayPal quickly started trending on Twitter, TikTok and Instagram. The proposed AUP changes are now gone from PayPal’s website, but here’s what it said on the web archive for October 27, 2022:

And here’s what it said after being as of November 11, 2022:

The company’s former CEO, David Marcus, blasted PayPal on Twitter, saying “It’s hard for me to openly criticize a company I used to love and gave so much to. But @PayPal’s new AUP goes against everything I believe in. A private company now gets to decide to take your money if you say something they disagree with.”, he wrote on Saturday.

PayPal handled this PR crisis very poorly. While they walked it back, they only did so via private emails to publications like Snopes, which dutifully penned “No, PayPal Isn’t Planning to Fine Users $2.5K for Posting Misinfo.” Snopes fails to clearly state that yes, PayPal indeed had.

And PayPal executives have yet to clearly explain to customers how this AUP change even arose. It all gives one the impression that the only “error” with this policy rollout is that someone skeptical noticed it. Their main Twitter handle, @paypal, was and still is silent on the rollout and stealthy walk-back. They reached out one-on-one with a few media organizations to state that it was an error, but they didn’t apprise the public. They didn’t explain how such an “error” could make it onto their corporate website.

October, 2022: JP Morgan Chase Summarily Closes Kanye West’s Accounts

I’ve never been a fan of Kanye “Ye” West’s music, erratic persona, nor many of his MAGA-political views. And his recent clearly antisemitic statements, deserve condemnation. I think they’re abhorrent.

Yet I’m also unsettled by JP Morgan Chase, Inc. summarily indicating they are closing his bank accounts based on his recent speech.

On the plus side, they’ve given him thirty days’ notice.

I admit on this I’m conflicted — I’m fine with this specific decision, but not what it says about the age we are now it. It is in effect a major bank saying you need to not only be a customer in good standing, but not stray from what its executives think are the norms of good speech. Are they saying it’s not just the bank’s services that set their brand, it’s the collective words and deeds of its customers?

Something feels new here.

Have corporate banking giants been arbiters of what we can and cannot say in our private lives? Do we want them to be? They’re private companies, after all, but who expected investment banks of all entities to be the enforcers of what they perceive to be social acceptability?

It feels absurd for bankers, of all people, to be America’s moral compass. Do you consider bankers to be America’s new home for ethicists, who will be able to determine what is and is not societally righteous?

February, 2022: GoFundMe Deplatforms “My Body, My Choice” Truckers

GoFundMe is the #1 marketplace and payment processor for fundraisers. As you may recall, the Canadian truckers who objected to that nation’s vaccine mandate headed en masse to Ottawa to protest the government’s mandate via what they termed a “Freedom Convoy.”

After raising over $10 million through GoFundMe, from people around Canada and the rest of the world, on February 4th 2022, executives at GoFundMe unilaterally decided to lock the truckers’ fundraising account. Further, in their initial statement, GoFundMe signaled they would distribute those funds to charities of their own choosing. “Given how this situation has evolved, no further funds will be distributed directly to the organizers of Freedom Convoy,” GoFundMe wrote about the decision. “We will work with the organizers to send all remaining funds to trusted and established charities verified by GoFundMe.”

After massive outcry, GoFundMe provided an update and said that they would instead refund donations. Many noticed their initial action and found it indicative of who they are. #BoycottGoFundMe made the rounds on social media for weeks.

Critics are right to point out that GoFundMe has hosted numerous fundraisers for Antifa, CHOP/CHAZ and other protest groups — even those around whom violence has occasionally happened — without cancelation or threats of unilateral fund-seizure. You can see just a few of them by searching PayPal’s site.

[Editorial note: I have stated my own views on vaccination: — I’m in favor of it personally and for most older demographics especially, but believe it to be a personal choice. It is now clear that vaccination does not measurably nor durably reduce spread (one such study here, others corroborate), I think vaccination should be an informed choice. I am firmly opposed to COVID vax mandates.]

PayPal, GoFundMe and JP Morgan Chase are each private companies, and have every legal right to set their own terms and conditions of use. But look also what’s happening at the governmental level.

August, 2022: Massive Increase to IRS budget, Considering Lowering Reporting Threshold to $600

In 1972, the Bank Secrecy Act started requiring banks to report deposits of $10,000 or more (in 1970 dollars.) Together with adjustments made by The Patriot Act in 2002, banks need to report to state and local authorities all deposits or withdrawals of $10,000 or more. (Even multiple transactions broken up into smaller pieces are tracked, and known as “structured transactions,” and that in and of itself is illegal.)

More recently, in 2021, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and others started advocating for lowering the threshold to $600. This hasn’t yet been adopted, but it’s being strongly advocated. With inflation, $600 is the new $500, so essentially most critical expenditures, like rent, furniture, car purchases, healthcare, travel and more are on the radar.

We often hear about “87,000 IRS Agents” authorized by the so-called Inflation Reduction Act, but really what the Act includes is a massive $79 billion budgetary expansion of the Internal Revenue Service. The IRS has every incentive and desire to start wiring in end-to-end tracking of cashless transactions.

Should the US want to pursue a social credit system along the lines of the Chinese state, all that really will be needed is the “right” lawmakers to authorize it doing so.

Republican Rep. Jefferson Van Drew has introduced HR 5475, known as the Banking Privacy Act, to stop the Biden Administration’s proposal, which has been referred to the House Financial Services Committee. Should the Republicans win control of the House, it’s possible this will be taken-up.

Of course, as the old saw goes, if you’re not doing anything illegal, you have nothing to worry about. After seeing the way COVID was and is handled, and the creeping power of what writer Zaid Jilani calls the Blue Stack, do you still have that confidence?


Fast-forward the videotape, and it is plain that without new regulation, we are fast headed to ideological groupthink being enforced by the financial world, who are of course also susceptible to the whims of government leaders. Consolidation and a pandemic-accelerated move to a cashless society are making a social credit system much easier to snap-in some day.

True, these actions are mostly the work of free enterprise. Companies aren’t state-controlled in America the way they are in China, and they are free to devise their own legal terms and conditions. We consumers are free to opt in or opt out. No one has to use PayPal, GoFundMe, JP Morgan Chase, Twitter or Facebook for that matter. I’m not aware of any of these activities being illegal.

But we need to pause a moment and recognize how a cashless society with higher concentrations of information flow and money are extremely tempting components for regulators and authoritarians on America’s political flanks. It’s a far cry from the local savings account that was largely agnostic to your speech.

Increasingly, outside groups, state and local governments and employees from within are pressuring banks, big technology companies and other corporations to take manifestly political/ideological stances, and expel people for wrongthink. Our massive migration toward a cashless society makes this easier.

That’s all fine, you might say, “I support Canada’s vax mandate for truckers, I think Kanye West is reprehensible that JP Morgan has every right to de-bank him from their system, and I think think the IRS’s investment in tracking every $600 will inure to much greater revenue to US coffers.”

But recognize that these monitoring tools and platforms themselves are entirely agnostic tools; their application merely depends upon who is in power. And that can change at any election.

So it’s an important exercise to take a moment to imagine the power which you may now applaud in the hands of your worst ideological foe. Are you still comfortable with how this is all trending?

For me, though I love technology and the convenience it offers, these trends to include speech and behavior in whether people can participate in a platform start to fill me with unease, especially when they are phrased in such a subjective way. After more than two decades as a customer, I closed my PayPal account last week. If you’d like to close your account, you can do it in a few clicks as I explain on Twitter.

And while I’m still fine with debit and credit cards, I’m beginning to suspect this sense of ease might not last forever. It only takes VISA or Mastercard to say “we will fine our customers for harmful misinformation.” For these and other reasons, this long-time advocate of technology is now becoming reacquainted with check-writing. I’m not ready to switch back to paper just yet, but it can’t hurt to re-learn how it worked in the 70’s.

Medicine Should Be About Care, Not Self-Righteousness

On the unwillingness of University of Michigan medical school students to hear views that might conflict with their own.

I am not, nor ever have been, a medical professional. I am also among the 61% of Americans that do not consider ourselves “pro-life.”

But there was something profoundly unsettling about the walk-out of incoming med school students at University of Michigan’s medical school convocation last week:

Dr. Collier is one of the most popular professors at University of Michigan Medical School. That’s why she was selected, by a combination of students and faculty, to be the keynote speaker for the “white coat” ceremony, in which incoming med school students get their symbolic professional jacket.

Why the walkout? It’s because Dr. Collier also happens to be among the 39% of Americans who define themselves to be “pro-life.” OK. That’s a rational, quite common viewpoint on a complex issue.

Now, she didn’t even speak to abortion at all. Her keynote address was far more general, and inspiring. It was that physicians should do everything possible to keep from being a machine. They should not perceive themselves as “task-completers,” but rather a physician, a human who cares. That they should be grateful. Appreciate a team.

She chose not to delve into abortion as a topic at all. But what if she had? What if she had decided to mention (gasp) her own perspective of a pro-life medical professional? Is that so appalling that it must be shunned? Is there no learning that’s possible by hearing that viewpoint out?

As it happened, dozens of students didn’t hear that message, because they preemptively walked out, before her address. Call me old-fashioned, but I believe that medical care should begin with empathy, and empathy begins with listening. We can, and must, tolerate and listen to perspectives other than our own.

More than any generation I can remember, far too many young adults that we are raising seem to be interested in hearing out viewpoints other than their own. They even think it’s noble to shut out those views.

39% of Americans — more than one out of every three — declare that they are “pro-life.”

Recession: What’s in a Name?

The White House kicks off its effort to change the most commonly accepted criterion of recession: two or more successive quarters of negative GDP growth.

In a clear sign that the Administration is anxious about Thursday’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) report from the Commerce Department, the White House is making an all-out push this week around what constitutes a “recession.”

While it’s true there is no single steadfast criterion for a recession, by far the most common indicator used for recession has been two or more consecutive quarters of negative growth in Gross Domestic Product (GDP.) That’s the accepted shorthand criterion that MBA students like me were taught in our macroeconomics classes. You’ll find it in many economic textbooks, investment dictionaries, and nightly news segments.

And there’s the rub, because the US GDP declined in the first quarter by 1.6%, and signs are pointing to a decline again in the second quarter:

Source: US Bureau of Economic Analysis

No politician wants to go into midterms in a recession.

Beyond purely political motivations, naming the beast can plausibly make it worse. That’s because when consumers feel anxious about future employment or wage prospects, they may postpone durable goods orders and cut down spending to the bare essentials. Ditto for corporate boards: as soon as they decide a contraction is here, many will rationally postpone investment and cut back hiring. Chief Executives of Bank of America and Goldman Sachs have each decided that a recession is likely here.

On Thursday, the White House began an effort to get out in front of the Thursday report, releasing How Do Economists Determine Whether the Economy is In a Recession? on the official White House blog. They note that the official recession scorekeeper is the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), which defines it as “a significant decline in economic activity that is spread across the economy and lasts more than a few months.” But there appears to be no statutory language that officially makes NBER the umpire. It’s a subjective term which has a long-accepted criterion, and the White House is arguing for a softer definition.

Clearly, Democrats do not wish to head into the midterm elections in an official “recession.” To that end, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen was dispatched to Sunday news shows and downplayed the risk of recession, arguing that consumer spending is growing, that the economy has added an estimated 400,000 jobs, and still has a relatively low unemployment rate of just 3.6%.

Congress? They use the 2-Quarter Definition.

Interestingly, a definition of recession actually does exist in statutory code passed by Congress, in the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings Act of 1985. It adopts the two-consecutive quarter definition:

Source: 2 USC 904, via @PhilWMagness

Warning Signs

Regardless of what we call it when, there are several economic warning signs.

Inflation, of course, is the metric that everyone feels every time they visit the grocery store. Inflation rose 9.1% year over year in June, which is the highest year over year increase in 40 years. Seattle-area prices are on an even bigger tear, jumping 10.1% since last year.

To try to get a handle on inflation, the Federal Reserve has been steadily hiking interest rates, which tends to slow demand. The slowing of demand typically relieves upward price pressure. But the Fed wants to hit the brakes without slowing it so much that it turns the economy into full-blown recession.

This is extremely challenging, because soaring inflation isn’t solely due to Fed actions, but also to factors out of their control, like disrupted supply chains which have caused scarcity of some key goods, the war in Ukraine, energy and particularly refinery constraints and capacity reductions, the trillions poured into the economy through the American Rescue Plan, and more. Inflation, in short, has many fathers.

The Federal Open Market Committee continues to raise interest rates, and the Federal Reserve is tightening access to money, signaling that still more is likely ahead. This does tend to put the brakes on growth, as money itself becomes more expensive to borrow or acquire.

The White House is leaning on “strong labor market” as its main justification as to why we’re not really in a recession.

Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre tackled this question today, again emphasizing the “strength” of the labor market:

But specifically on the hiring front, it’s a very interesting and mixed picture. The topline number of employment looks good at first glance. But while labor shortages exist in many essential roles (often lower-wage), the precise opposite appears to be true at the higher end of the wage spectrum.

Seattle presently has critical staff shortages in essential workers, particularly in public safety (police, firefighters, healthcare workers), and also ferry workers, teachers and more. But growth in high-wage, high-tech knowledge-worker hiring is seeing a significant slowdown. In the past three months, tech firms like Microsoft and Google have announced slower hirings. Layoffs at startups appear to be growing. Apple, Meta, Uber and Amazon have also joined the list. Venture funding of early-stage startups (Series A and B rounds) was down about 22% year over year in the second quarter, according to Pitchbook.

Yellen and Jean-Pierre remind us that the nation’s overall unemployment rate is low, as can be seen in this chart from the St. Louis Federal Reserve:

Source: St. Louis Federal Reserve

But the “low unemployment rate” masks a lot. The picture is far more complex, and less rosy than such a chart might initially suggest. That’s because overall unemployment measures the percentage of people in the workforce or seeking to be in the workforce who are unemployed, but the labor force participation rate (i.e., the percentage of all Americans who are in the workforce) must also be considered to get a true picture of America’s current workforce trends.

Looking at the labor force participation rate, notice that the pandemic brought a “Great Resignation,” and many Americans — particularly those in essential jobs (e.g., healthcare hospital workers, firefighters, teachers, warehouse workers, retail) still haven’t rejoined the workforce:

Source: St. Louis Federal Reserve

The noticeable decline in workforce participation rate suggests that people have been living off of household savings. And indeed, that appears to be the case:

These charts tell a story: many opted out of the workforce and have been living off of savings and/or asset appreciation. But these savings are usually tied to assets (stocks, bonds, home valuation etc.) which are likely to deflate as the economy contracts. One of the key risks that doesn’t get enough attention is that it may be very challenging for millions of Americans to try to re-enter the workforce during an economic downturn once they hit the end of their savings.

Is the “let’s talk about the definition of recession” simply a good-faith effort to introduce nuance back into the American political conversation, and curtail an even worse downturn by not naming it? Or is it a cynical attempt to sweep a major political liability under the rug by redefining a long-accepted word? I’ll let you decide.

I’ll be sticking to the colloquial definition of recession — two or more consecutive quarters of negative GDP. But we should recognize that this is likely to be a recession with very unique characteristics, and won’t be easily mapped to recent ones.

Washingtonians, How’s your State of Emergency Going?

Governor Jay Inslee of Washington was the first to declare a State of Emergency, and he may be the last one to rescind it. “Never let a crisis go to waste” has a corollary, and that is: “Preserve the crisis.”

It’s April 12th, 2022. Governor Jay Inslee has had State of Emergency powers for 772 days. He issued his emergency proclamation on February 29th, 2020, more than two years ago. He was the first governor in the nation to do so, making Washington State’s COVID emergency longer than any other.

Come Saturday, we are again completely alone in the Pacific Northwest in our heightened condition. Oregon rescinded its emergency powers declaration on April 1st, 2022. Idaho’s Governor Brad Little is ending their State of Emergency this Friday. Governor Dunleavy ended Alaska’s State of Emergency a year ago. Montana ended its State of Emergency last June.

We are significant outliers not just in the Pacific Northwest, but when compared with the nation as a whole. According to the National Academy for State Health Policy, only Washington State and West Virginia remain in an indefinite State of Emergency. Thirty-seven states either had no state of emergency or those declarations have already expired (lightest green.) Eleven more are set to expire later this month (slightly darker green.) One is set to expire in May (Illinois), and one in June (California.) In West Virginia, the Governor signaled in March that he’d end the State of Emergency soon but hasn’t done so yet. Local West Virginia news suggests that potential loss of federal health insurance money have likely driven him to delay.

Data from National Academy for State Health Policy, updated to reflect April 12th 2022

The question which matters most is: are we in an emergency?

No matter how you evaluate it, the resounding answer is no. Statewide, just 2.04 people per 100,000 are hospitalized with COVID, not even necessarily due to COVID. In our entire state of 7,710,000 people, just 157 of us are hospitalized for any reason with a COVID-positive test, not even because we have COVID. Remember: most hospitals routinely test all patients upon admission in an abundance of caution. Therefore, patients hospitalized due to, say, highway accidents who then also test positive for mild, asymptomatic COVID will be counted in that 157 tally.

Even erroneously counting every single one of these hospitalizations as being caused by COVID, that’s a current hospitalization rate of 0.002% of our population. Are we in any imminent danger of “overwhelming” hospitals? No.

If this is an emergency, then everything is.

Inslee’s emergency declaration included eight “WHEREAS” justification statements. None of them seem timely or relevant at the moment. Better still, in terms of vaccination, we seem among the most prepared states for future waves, be they minor or major. According to the Washington State Department of Health dashboard, fully 81.5% of Washington’s population over 5 years old have received at least one vaccination dose, and 74% are fully vaccinated. Vaccination will be ongoing and at people’s discretion, with many starting to get their second booster shot. Thankfully, that groundwork for optional self-protection for those most at risk has been laid.

How’s hospitalization trending? I tried to get an accurate hospitalization trend chart from the State of Washington Department of Health dashboard, but was greeted by this:

In what kind of Emergency do we shut down reporting of detailed hospitalization trends?

If you look at deaths with COVID (again, not necessarily due to COVID), the folks at 91-DIVOC have a helpful chart. Does this say “emergency” to you?

Deaths with COVID-19, not necessarily due to COVID-19, out of 7.71 million Washingtonians

Even if you look just at case rates, there’s no need for alarm. Omicron is a milder variant, which results in lower severity of outcome:

COVID Case Rates, Washington State
COVID case rate, Washington State, per State Department of Health

Why is this continuing?

The Governor said the quiet part out loud in his response to KOMO’s Keith Eldridge on Monday: “We want to make sure that federal money keeps coming, so it’s important to keep this in place right now.”

I’m sorry, Governor, but how is that not fraud? I know, that’s a pretty bold accusation, but let’s open the dictionary. Fraud is defined as “wrongful deception intended to result in financial gain.” This is clearly deception. There’s no COVID emergency currently in our state, and there hasn’t been for months.

Or, we can put aside the dictionary, and simply look to legalese. How does Washington State Law define an “emergency?”

The Revised Code of Washington (RCW) 38.52.010 states:

Emergency or disaster‘ as used in all sections of this chapter except RCW 38.52.430 means an event or set of circumstances which: (i) Demands immediate action to preserve public health, protect life, protect public property, or to provide relief to any stricken community overtaken by such occurrences; or (ii) reaches such a dimension or degree of destructiveness as to warrant the governor proclaiming a state of emergency pursuant to RCW 43.06.010.”

Do these conditions still exist?

Every Washingtonian knows that the conditions since 2020 have dramatically changed. We are no longer in lockdown. We are no longer required to wear masks. Kids have been back in school in every district in our state for months. County cases and hospitalizations are low and have been for months.

Bit by bit, the various mandates which were imposed during the State of Emergency are being rescinded. Inslee’s decided that drivers license renewal and learner permit extensions can now expire (proclamation April 1st 2022). He’s decided a mask mandate isn’t necessary; that ended March 12th 2022. Even Seattle’s City Council let the long-lasting eviction moratorium imposed during COVID finally expire.

Adding to the absurdity, both Inslee and his Lt. Governor went on vacation recently. I have no problem with them taking time off, but how can one possibly take a vacation during a state of emergency?

Former White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emmanuel had a famous quip: “Never let a crisis go to waste.” For Inslee, this appears to have a corollary: Preserve the crisis.