March 26, 2020
Author: Chilton Williamson

1.

Overnight, two of the most commonly used words in the English language are “distance” and “distancing.” As in “distance learning,” which people seem to imagine is a wholly new human invention inspired by the coronavirus pandemic and one that is made possible only by the digital technology from which Skype was developed. The truth is, civilization has practiced distance learning for millennia. Whether the format is gathered papyrus in ancient Egypt, or manuscripts copied out  in medieval monasteries, or volumes run off on Gutenberg’s press and its modern industrial successors, the name for this medium is books; a single one of which is worth a few hundred university lectures delivered by university “doctors,” the vast majority of them second- and third-rate, whether in class before thirty or forty bored sophomores or by transmission to hundreds online. Moreover, the distance traversed  is not one of miles only but of years, decades, and centuries–about as long as “distance learning” has been going on .

 

2. The Pandemic Relief Bill passed by the Senate has many very bad provisions to answer for. One of them is the boost it gives, courtesy of Speaker Pelosi, to the Democratic labor unions, if only for the next two years. Another is the financial relief it offers the airlines, which have been gouging the public for years now by tacking on extra charges for everything under the sun while offering fewer and worse services in return and cramming us into their aluminum tubes like animals awaiting the slaughter, secure in the knowledge that so long as all of them hang together, their customers have no alternative to submission. Their outrageous practices amount to the best case on behalf of federal regulation that it is possible to make. If they should go broke before regulation is imposed on them, so much the better. A plague on their house!