Category Archives: science

Meme Time Again

These photos and memes were captured from Twitter and Facebook. They present in images and a few words the essence of important messages for these times.

In closing, I want to note that Ukraine was never a threat to Russia. Putin’s claims otherwise are pretextual. His rationale of needing a bulwark against NATO likewise fails because, if he takes Ukraine, his new border will line up against multiple other current  NATO members. Then what? Will he stop there or is Ukraine Putin’s Sudetenland? If you’re not familiar with Sudetenland’s place in history, read this: https://bit.ly/3sqaddo 

We must not make that mistake again.

The Triumph of Hope Over Experience?

Once again, the rush is on to drop mask mandates and “get back to normal.” Because, Freedumb. This past Presidents Day weekend we visited Wilmington and places along the way. Masks were already the marked exception, even for restaurant staff. Signs referring to masks were mostly gone or disregarded. In our 10-story hotel, one of the two elevators was out of service, many people were perfectly content to, maskless, get on the elevator with you.

As a society we have asked, nay, demanded of our health care workers in hospitals and elsewhere an extraordinary degree of commitment and sacrifice, not to mention life-threatening risk. Small wonder that so many have quit in exhaustion & despair. For a while we made celebrated their sacrifice as we would have for soldiers in time of war (Vietnam excepted)., but that time has passed, it seems.

There are other phrases for what we’re doing now. “Whistling by the graveyard” comes to mind. Dr. Chris Beyrer, professor of epidemiology at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, summed it up nicely: “… this does look like the beginning of a next phase and let’s hope it lasts.” https://bit.ly/3smMxqk  Indeed, let’s hope. Experience suggests otherwise but we’ll see. I will be quite happy to be wrong about my skepticism.

The over-privileged whiny babies seem to have carried the day with their relentless complaining, arrogant ignorance about the science of the virus and violence. Their hatred and fear of the federal government, their obeisance to the Liar King Trump and other factors have led them to a degree of self-indulgence and dangerous behavior to themselves and others that defies understanding. They must have their seat at the bar, their time at the gym, whatever, and many will simply not accept anything else. Freedumb.

Now, we are on the verge of a shooting war with Russia, a nuclear-equipped country dominated by a former and ruthless KGB operative now essentially Russia’s president for life. Republicans around the country and in Congress have now progressed from the Big Lie of Donald Trump to overt support for a country with which the United States may be at war soon. Their traitorous conduct in supporting, perhaps even planning and certainly defending, the January 6 coup attempt has moved on to more adventurous treasons. Here are their names:

Rep. Elise Stefanik

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene

Rep. Lauren Boebert

Rep. Paul Gosar

Rep. Matt Gaetz

Rep. Andy Biggs

Rep. Jim Jordan

Rep. Greg Steube

Rep. Byron Donalds

Rep. Jody Hice

Rep. Thomas Massie

Rep. Kat Cammack

Rep. Jim Banks

Rep. Lee Zeldin

Rep. Bill Johnson

Rep. Dan Crenshaw

Sen. Ted Cruz

Sen. Tom Cotton

Sen. Ron Johnson

Sen. Marsha Blackburn

Sen. Tim Scott

Sen. Rick Scott

Sen. Marco Rubio

Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith

Sen. Cynthia Lummis

Sen. Lindsey Graham

GOP Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel

GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy

GOP Candidate Ronny Jackson

All Republicans.

There was a time when American politicians would not criticize an American president when we was conducting the nation’s business overseas. And while they reserve the right to oppose U.S. engagement in armed conflict or declarations of war/authorization for the use of force, it was rare that they would overtly side with the enemy in an armed conflict.

No so, today’s Republicans. Given their statements and conduct, it does not challenge the imagination to think they would support Russia’s declaring that all of Europe was Russian territory. Recall Hitler. “The troops massing on your border are just a military exercise. Don’t be alarmed. Our territorial ambitions are quite limited. Believe me.”

But that is a subject for another day. In this post, I want to remind everyone, and hope they share it with others I can’t reach, how Donald Trump, in his official capacity as President of the United States, deliberately and repeatedly lied to the American people for over two years about the COVID-19 virus. In his constant lying, he persuaded his gullible followers that the virus was no threat, that masks were evil, that even the vaccine he claimed to have inspired was not to be trusted, and more. He admitted to having deliberately downplayed the threat in his interview with Bob Woodward. Of course, to deny that he downplayed it would have been another blatant lie because the record of his lies is clear and unflinching.

As a result, Donald Trump is personally responsible for the avoidable deaths of, most likely, hundreds of thousands of Americans. If you think that number is too large, remember that, as of February 22, 2022, the U.S. death total attributable to COVID is 932,894. It seems clear we will come near to or exceed a million dead before this is “over,” if it ever is.

Trump is responsible for many of those that could have been, and still could be, avoided if public health advice had been fully respected. Instead, acts of violence are perpetrated every week in airports and on aircraft, in restaurants and elsewhere – all in the name of Freedumb, encouraged by Trump and his cabal of traitors and incompetents.

It’s tempting, of course, to point fingers at the tens of thousands, or millions, of Americans who have fallen prey to Trump’s siren song. And they are worthy of profound disdain, particularly those who followed his call to storm the Capitol on January 6 and steal the election. Many Americans have proved themselves unworthy of the designation, “American.” They are soft, entitled, and unbending in their disrespect of the needs of others.

And, yet, here we are again, making political decisions about medical issues in our rush to deflect the anger of the self-absorbed cry babies who refuse to wear masks, reject vaccines, and generally behave in a way that assures the pandemic will remain with us longer, perhaps forever. Mostly, if not entirely, in the service of the lies told by Donald Trump and the sycophants who continue to surround him and do his bidding to unlawfully reinstall him as president. It’s a pathetic display of ignorance, arrogance, and insolence. It will not end well.

Here is a chronology of Trump’s lies and deflections about COVID-19. I don’t expect you to read all of the detail, but it may be useful in the coming elections. You may want to just skim through it to get the gist of just how many lies and deflections Trump said just in 2020.

The Year 2020 [italics & bolding added]

January 22:  “We have it totally under control. It’s one person coming in from China, and we have it under control. It’s going to be just fine,”

January 30: World Health Organization declares a public health emergency of international concern.

January 30: We think we have it very well under control. We have very little problem in this country at this moment — five — and those people are all recuperating successfully. But we’re working very closely with China and other countries, and we think it’s going to have a very good ending for us … that I can assure you.”

January 31: The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services declares a public health emergency for the U.S.

January 31: HHS Secretary Alex Azar announces travel restrictions, effective February 2, prohibiting non-U.S. citizens, other than permanent residents and the immediate family of both citizens and permanent residents, who have traveled to China within the prior two weeks from entering the U.S. No consideration is apparently given to people coming to the U.S. from Europe who had been in China or in contact with Chinese people.

February 7: Trump Interview with Woodward: “It goes through air, Bob. That’s always tougher than the touch … You just breathe the air and that’s how it’s passed. And, so that’s a very tricky one. … It’s also more deadly than your – you know, your, even your strenuous flus. … This is more deadly. This is 5, you know, this is 5% versus 1% and less than 1%. You know, so, this is deadly stuff.

February 10: You know, a lot of people think that goes away in April with the heat — as the heat comes in. Typically, that will go away in April.

February 24: Trump in a tweet: The Coronavirus is very much under control in the USA. We are in contact with everyone and all relevant countries. CDC & World Health have been working hard and very smart. Stock Market starting to look very good to me!

February 25: China is working very, very hard. I have spoken to President Xi, and they’re working very hard. And if you know anything about him, I think he’ll be in pretty good shape. They’re — they’ve had a rough patch, and I think right now they have it — it looks like they’re getting it under control more and more. They’re getting it more and more under control. So I think that’s a problem that’s going to go away

February 26: …when you have 15 people, and the 15 within a couple of days is going to be down to close to zero, that’s a pretty good job we’ve done.

February 27: It’s going to disappear. One day — it’s like a miracle — it will disappear. And from our shores, we — you know, it could get worse before it gets better. It could maybe go away. We’ll see what happens. Nobody really knows.

March 2 — 5 average daily new cases

March 6 — 32 average daily new cases – increase of 5.4 x over 4 days

I don’t think people are panicking. I said last night — we did an interview on Fox last night, a town hall. I think it was very good. And I said, ‘Calm. You have to be calm.’ It’ll go away. 

March 10 — 102 average daily new cases – increase of 2.2 x over 4 days

We’re prepared, and we’re doing a great job with it. And it will go away. Just stay calm. It will go away.  

March 12201 average daily new cases – increase of 2x over 2 days

You know, we need a little a separation until such time as this goes away. It’s going to go away. It’s going to go away. 

March 29 — 15,514 average daily new cases – increase of 76 x over 17 days prior

March 3O: Stay calm. It will go away. You know it — you know it is going away, and it will go away. And we’re going to have a great victory

March 31 — 19,337   average daily new cases – increase of 24 % over two days

It’s going to go away, hopefully at the end of the month. And, if not, hopefully it will be soon after that.

April 3 — 26,081   average daily new cases – increase of 35 % in 3 days

It is going to go away. It is going away. 

April 731,238 average daily new cases – increase of 20 % over 4 days

It did go — it will go away.

April 2828,568 average daily new cases – decrease of 8 % over 21 days

But a lot of movement and a lot of progress has been made in a vaccine. But I think what happens is it’s going to go awayThis is going to go away. And whether it comes back in a modified form in the fall, we’ll be able to handle it.

April 29 — 28,171 average daily new cases – decrease of 1 % over 1 day

It’s going to go. It’s going to leave. It’s going to be gone. It’s going to be eradicated. And it might take longer. It might be in smaller sections. It’ll be — it won’t be what we had. And we also learned a lot.

May 527,134 average daily new cases – decrease of 4 % over 7 days

And I think we’re doing very well on the vaccines but, with or without a vaccine, it’s going to pass, and we’re going to be back to normal.

May 6 — 26.830 average daily new cases – decrease of 1 % over 1 day

Because, you know, this virus is going to disappear. It’s a question of when. Will it come back in a small way? Will it come back in a fairly large way? But we know how to deal with it now much better. You know, nobody knew anything about it, initially. Now we know we can put out fires.

May 8 — 25.475 average daily new cases – decrease of 5 % over 2 days

Well, I feel about vaccines like I feel about tests. This is going to go away without a vaccine. It’s going to go away, and it’s — we’re not going to see it again, hopefully, after a period of time. You may have some — some flare-ups and I guess, you know, I would expect that. Sometime in the fall, you’ll have flare-ups maybe. Maybe not. But according to what a lot of people say, you probably will. We’ll be able to put them out. You may have some flare-ups next year, but eventually, it’s going to be gone. I mean, it’s going to be gone. 

 May 15 — 22.337 average daily new cases – decrease of 12 % over 7 days

We think we’re going to have a vaccine in the pretty near future. And if we do, we’re going to you had a problem come in, it’ll go away — at some point, it’ll go away. It may flare up, and it may not flare up. We’ll have to see what happens.

May 19: “When we have a lot of cases, I don’t look at that as a bad thing,” the president said. “I look at that in a certain respect as being a good thing, because it means our testing is much better. So, if we were testing a million people instead of 14 million people, we would have far few cases, right?

“So, I view it as a badge of honor. Really, it’s a badge of honor,” he added. “It’s a great tribute to the testing and all of the work that a lot of professionals have done.”

Days later, the U.S. recorded 100,000 known deaths from COVID-19. 

June 15 — 21.987 average daily new cases – decrease of 2 % over 31 days

So I think that’s — but even without that [a vaccine or therapeutics], you know, at some point this stuff goes away and it’s going away. 

 June 16 — 22,613 average daily new cases – increase of 3 % over 1 day

I always say, even without it [a vaccine], it goes away. 

June 17 — 23,380 average daily new cases – increase of 3 % over 1 day

…if you look, the numbers are very minuscule compared to what it was. It’s dying out.

But I will tell you, we’re very close to a vaccine, and we’re very close to therapeutics, really good therapeutics. And — but even without that — I don’t even like to talk about that, because it’s fading away. It’s going to fade away. 

June 18 — 24,195 average daily new cases – increase of 3 % in over 1 day

And it is dying out. The numbers are starting to get very good.

July 1 — 44,875 average daily new cases – increase of 85 % over 13 days

And I think we are going to be very good with the coronavirus. I think that, at some point, that’s going to sort of just disappear, I hope.

July 19 — 64,754 average daily new cases – increase of 44 % over 18 days

I’ll be right eventually. I will be right eventually. You know I said, ‘It’s going to disappear.’ I’ll say it again. It’s going to disappear, and I’ll be right. 

NPR: July 19: Trump Interview:   “Many of those cases are young people that would heal in a day,” “They have the sniffles, and we put it down as a test.” He added that many of those sick “are going to get better very quickly.”

At the time of Trump’s interview, more than 3.7 million coronavirus cases had been confirmed in the United States, and more than 140,000 Americans had died.

July 21 — 65,073 average daily new cases – increase of .5 % over 2 days

Well, the virus will disappear. It will disappear.

July 22 — 65,321 average daily new cases – increase of .4 % over 1 day

We’re gonna beat it, yeah. We’re going to beat it. And with time, you’re going to be it — time. You know, I say, it’s going to disappear. And they say, ‘Oh, that’s terrible.’ He said — well, it’s true. I mean, it’s going to disappear. Before it disappears, I think we can knock it out before it disappears. 

August 5 — 56,585 average daily new cases – decrease of 13 % over 14 days

This thing’s going away. It will go away like things go away… 

 It’s going away. No, it’ll go away like things go away. Absolutely. No question in my mind. It will go away. Hopefully sooner rather than later.

August 7 — 54,756 average daily new cases – decrease of 3 % over 2 days

And we’re getting them [manufacturing jobs] even in a pandemic — which is disappearing; it’s going to disappear.

August 13 — 56,371 average daily new cases – increase of 3 % over 6 days

Think of it, we’re almost back to where we were [stock market], and we’re still in the pandemic, which will be going away, as I say, it’ll be going away. And they scream, how you can you say that? I said, because it’s gonna be going away.

August 17 — 51,244 average daily new cases – decrease of 9 % over 4 days

And as soon as the plague is gone — we have vaccines coming, we have therapeutics coming, and it’s going to be gone. And it’s gonna be gone soon.

And the China Plague will fade.

August 24 — 42,123 average daily new cases – decrease of 18 % over 7 days

It’s all coming back so fast and you’ll see it, and the pandemic goes away. The vaccines are going to be, I believe, announced very soon.

August 31 — 41,719 average daily new cases – decrease of 1 % over 7 days

Well, once you get to a certain number — you know, we use the word herd, right. Once you get to a certain number, it’s going to go away. 

September 15 — 38,922   average daily new cases – decrease of 7 % over 16 days

It is gonna disappear. It’s gonna disappear. I still say it.

NPR: September 21: Interview:   “It affects elderly people, elderly people with heart problems, if they have other problems, that’s what it really affects, that’s it. In some states thousands of people — nobody young — below the age of 18, like nobody — they have a strong immune system — who knows?” Trump said.

“Take your hat off to the young because they have a hell of an immune system. It affects virtually nobody,” he added. “It’s an amazing thing — by the way, open your schools!”

October 10 — 47,466 average daily new cases – increase of 22 % over 25 days

But it’s going to disappear. It is disappearing. And vaccines are going to help, and the therapeutics are going to help a lot.

October 15 — 53,152 average daily new cases – increase of 12 % over 5 days

The vaccine will end the pandemic. But it’s ending anyway. I mean, they go crazy when I say it. It’s going to peter out and it’s going to end. But we’re going to help the end and we’re gonna make it a lot faster with the vaccine and with the therapeutics and frankly with the cures.

October 16 — 55,144 average daily new cases – increase of 4 % over 1 day

Even without the vaccine, the pandemic’s going to end. It’s gonna run its course. It’s gonna end. They’ll go crazy. He said ‘without the vaccine’ — watch, it’ll be a headline tomorrow. These people are crazy. No, it’s running its course.

All of the foregoing occurred in 2020. Through Oct. 19, 2020 more than 220,000 people had died from Covid-19 in the US.  Well over a year after Trump’s last quoted remark above, the pandemic death toll in the U.S. is approaching 1,000,000 human beings of all ages and stages of life and health. We will never know precisely how many deaths and other long term/permanent devastating health impacts could have been avoided if Trump had not consistently and repeatedly misled his devoted followers, but it not unreasonable to believe that the pandemic would have entered the endemic stages long ago. Instead, the death and destruction continue. And Trump, well, Trump has moved on. His sole concern is with being restored to the presidency by whatever means – lying, cheating, stealing – will work.

Sources:

NPR: https://n.pr/35rwzSW

Factcheck.org: https://bit.ly/35x0SYd

Guardian: https://bit.ly/3HvJMrm

Vox.com: https://bit.ly/3t4ZJ2c

CNN: https://cnn.it/3M7wvsv

 

Terrorism in the Air – Ban the Perps

This blog has twice addressed what the media and airlines continue to call “unruly” passengers who refuse to follow flight crew instructions: Time for Strong Action Against Unruly Air Travelers  https://bit.ly/3uyZn6w and An Anti-Masker Walked into a Bar …  https://bit.ly/3Jj9xMP

I have noted that the term “unruly” fails to describe the violent conduct of these, mostly, anti-maskers accurately and fully. The current of today’s post describes their behavior as terrorism. That, I submit, is closer to the truth. Bear in mind that these people are almost certainly among those who are fond of telling Black people to “just comply” with police instructions and, in effect, blaming them when they are killed. These events usually occur at traffic stops but there are many other examples. Yet, when these people board aircraft, knowing what the mask rules are, they chose not only to refuse compliance, but they physically assault flight attendants and other passengers.

I have advocated that the situation presents immediate grave dangers that should be addressed with aggressive, immediate and automatic enforcement of the law and common sense.

It is now widely reported that Delta Air Lines has written the Department of Justice to request government creation of a no-fly list for these terrorists. It’s about time.

The main reasons I believe that airlines have been hesitant to simply exchange the names and agree to ban these nuts from flying is the antitrust laws. Someone would no doubt accuse the airlines of conspiring to limit competition. While I don’t believe such a claim has merit, it would be expensive to defend and pointless in the end. The better solution is the one Delta has finally requested. It remains remarkable only that the entire industry has not joined immediately in this request.

I haven’t found the letter yet but continue to believe that a government-approved no-fly list is an excellent idea, although the same outcome could be achieved by DOJ issuing a Business Review Letter, a common technique permitting firms to propose courses of conduct that might raise issues and to ask DOJ to clear them in advance. This is not a subject on which competition is materially involved or that could possibly be jeopardized. It’s a problem of safety about which there should be no “competition.”

As for the administrative difficulties of managing such a list, remember that airlines have always been able to manage connecting flights involving not only their own flights, but also their flights in conjunction with other carriers’ operations. A no-fly list would be a piece of cake compared to that.

So, come on, DOJ, let’s not turn this into another endless investigation. Take the action Delta requests. As for the terrorists, it’s simple: just comply.

 

A Picture is Worth ….

Are you offended by the Featured Meme above? If yes, you’re probably a Republican. Kind of a litmus test, you might say. It’s art, but it’s art with a message.

Of course, there are reasons to be offended by it. It involves a child. It’s about violence done to children. It also relates, in a manner of speaking, to religion. Yet, it’s not about religion exactly. It simply says that people who are prepared to sacrifice children to school shootings to continue having unlimited access to guns for anyone and everyone while also claiming to be a Christian following the teachings of Jesus is a **** ing hypocrite. Politest way to put it. I’m having a hard time being polite these days, what with anti-vaxxers prolonging the pandemic and Trumpers still believing in phantasmagorical conspiracy  theories. The suffering conitnues, and for the anti-vaxxers, anti-mandaters and other aggrieved haters, I have no more f***s to give.

Meanwhile, here is the latest collection of memes/photos/call-them-what-you-will. These items say much about our society and the issues we face now. I provide them for those of you wise enough to stay off Twitter and Facebook from which they have been purloined. But some are very clever and, I think, worthy of wider distribution, a picture being worth a thousand words and all.

WARNING: This is political art. Some of it is harsh. It’s art meant to convey a point of view, not merely an interesting array of shapes, colors and so on.  As such, it has jagged edges and sharp points. Our democracy and thus our country, in my opinion, are under extreme threat.  If you’re concerned about the jagged edges and sharp points, please stop now and await my next kinder, gentler post. 

 

Wondering in the Third Winter of Our Discontent

We are in the third winter of COVID-19. No let-up in sight, although there are some predictions that the peak of Omicron is imminent. Those predictions say that, after the peak, a precipitous drop will occur. We may then, yet again, be out of the woods, they predict/suggest/speculate/hope.

I don’t know. No one does. But we do know some things, and the things we know raise some questions. Knowing things always leads to more questions because we never know everything. As soon as we know some things, we want to know the others. What comes next, for example. Despite not knowing everything, we have progressed as a species from the muck of the Stone Age to now. As a species, we’ve done many foolish things. But here we are, stumbling along.

Thus, I have some questions. I understand the anti-vaxxers are coming to Washington, my home, to “protest” against vaccination against COVID.

I gather they don’t want to be “forced” to vaccinate and don’t think it’s right that they be penalized in any way for their “choice.” Among other things, they claim this is a matter of fundamental personal freedom – the right to do with their bodies what they, and they alone, decide. They appear to believe there are bad things in the vaccines that will, variously, distort their thinking (really), prevent pregnancy, give them heart attacks, and do other unknown but harmful things to their bodies and minds.

Thus, I have some questions. Here in the third winter of our discontent.

  • Do you anti-vaxxers smoke, drink alcoholic beverages, eat processed meat? If you do one more more of those, do you know, really know, what’s in them?
  • When a doctor says, “go home and take two of at night before bed, do anti-vaxxers say, “no thanks, doc. I don’t know what that could do to me, so I’ll take my chances on a heart attack.”
  • Do anti-vaxxers who do take medicines, either prescription or over-the-counter, ever read the labels/prescribing information on those drugs? You know almost all of them say something to this effect: “if you take this drug, you may experience catastrophic side effects including possible death.” And you take them anyway, don’t you?
  • How many global conspirators do you anti-vaxxers believe are involved in the effort to poison/drug/kill/murder people and/or publish falsified information about the infections, deaths and damage done by COVID?  50,000 doctors, nurses, epidemiologists, EMTs? 100,000? A million? Must be at least a million globally, right?
  • Do you anti-vaxxers really believe that medical professionals are falsifying the data on infections, hospitalizations, deaths from COVID? It seems so. Why do they suppose all these professionals who have spent years/decades/entire lives working to help people have suddenly decided to attack the population with a deadly virus and/or falsify the information about the damage it’s doing?
  • If indeed there is a global conspiracy, where do you anti-vaxxers think all the people who have disappeared due to claimed deaths by COVID are being held? Have they actually been murdered and, if so, by whom? If so, how is it that with more than 870,000 Americans having died allegedly by COVID, no one has come forward with a single shred/scintilla of evidence that those people are (1) being held incommunicado in the dessert out west (that many people would require a lot of space, not to mention places to sleep, food, restroom facilities, etc etc to keep them alive) AND what happens when they are released, or is the government/medical profession going to keep them locked up forever? OR (2) buried somewhere, OR (3) cremated somewhere and their ashes disposed of secretly? Is that even possible?
  • Has there ever been a global conspiracy, or even one confined to the United States, in which hundreds of thousands (or millions) of conspirators were involved and not even one came forward to reveal the truth and receive the accolades (and no doubt, a lot of money) of a grateful world?
  • Finally, for now, do you have any concerns about the counter-factual? That’s the one where you’ve been wrong about the vaccine and in reality almost all the deaths are among the unvaccinated with a much smaller number of dead being vulnerable people who were infected by unvaccinated people or denied medical care because COVID-infected unvaccinated patients were occupying all the beds and attention of medical staff? Any concerns about that at all?

So, anti-vaxxers, I have these questions. And more, actually, but those will suffice for now.

So, while you’re in town, maybe you could do a few interviews and answer these questions. Then, well, then we can talk about the next round of questions.

If I don’t see you, well, RIP.

Failure to Communicate

What we’ve got here is failure to communicate. Some men you just can’t reach. So you get what we had here last week, which is the way he wants it. Well, he gets it.

If you don’t recognize those famous lines, they are from the movie, Cool Hand Luke. A young Paul Newman plays Luke, a prisoner on a chain gang. Luke is unable to submit to the authorities that now control his life, even if the inevitable, foreseeable outcome is his death.

The setting is simple enough: the Captain (the warden) warns Luke:

You gonna get used to wearing them chains after a while, Luke. Don’t you never stop listening to them clinking, ’cause they gonna remind you what I been saying for your own good.

Never one to pass up a chance to resist authority, Luke responds with,

I wish you’d stop being so good to me, Cap’n.

After a moment’s pause, this retort unleashes Captain’s fury – “Don’t you ever talk that way to me,” then lashing Luke with a baton, knocking him into a ditch. Captain then delivers the iconic lines: “What we’ve got here is failure to communicate. Some men you just can’t reach.”

That, it appears, is where this country is with the anti-vaxxer, anti-mask crowd. They have chosen – yes, chosen, because belief is a choice, not a biological imperative – chosen to believe false prophets whose statements are resulting in thousands more avoidable COVID deaths. Arguing with these people about the science, the data, the facts is just like trying to tell Cool Hand Luke that he needs to shape up and make his life easier on himself and those around him. Luke can’t hear it and neither can the anti-vaxxers.

It is, therefore, time to change tactics. Beating the anti-vaxxers, while tempting, is not an acceptable solution. But thus far, with one or two notable exceptions, the government’s health authorities have proceeded by burying everyone in obscure and largely irrelevant information. If you don’t believe me, look at the CDC’s COVID Data Tracker website:  https://covid.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#datatracker-home

This information is picked up by media and reported, more or less, in op-eds and other articles in the hope that the anti-vaxxers may read and be persuaded. There are other websites — CDC, New York Times and others – displaying vast quantities of COVID data, often in complex diagrams and charts that are difficult, if not impossible, for ordinary people to digest. The very complexity of the information makes many people leery of what the data says and, more importantly, often leads to inaccurate conclusions. Statistical skills in the general population are not a strong point.

The standard approach is not working, and it’s time for another approach. I recommend what I will call RealCOVID.

Here’s what I think should be done.

  1. COVID data should be reduced to its simplest essence, showing the most important information. At this time that is a comparison of deaths of vaccinated versus unvaccinated patients. Another useful analysis would be to add a simple presentation of the number of COVID infected survivors who continue to suffer adverse health effects and what the top ten or twelve such effects are. Keep it simple.
  2. The government should obtain, by whatever means necessary, prime-time space to display the latest death-data comparisons, as defined above, AND video from hospitals in which real doctors, real nurses, real EMTs briefly state what they have just experienced.
  3. Example: “I’m doctor LifeSaver and I work in the ICU. I just got off for the evening. I was attending to 12 COVID patients. Three, all unvaccinated, died during my shift. No vaccinated patients died. One of the other doctors and two nurses, all near physical and emotional collapse, had to leave the ICU early. That’s where we are.”
  4. The video should show, behind the doctor, a patient being intubated or perhaps even being prepped following death. In other words, show what is happening in the hospitals – give heft and bite to the statistics. Show the reality of COVID as it is happening. RealCOVID.
  5. The government, in cooperation with hospitals and clinics around the country, should have a daily COVID Report on prime-time cable and networks explaining what is happening and what is required to change the course of the pandemic.

I cite as an example the daily briefings that former Governor Cuomo conducted in New York during the peak of the pandemic in 2020. Those reports were seen all over the country. Whatever you may now think of Cuomo as a leader or whatever, the fact is that those briefings were authentic and, I believe, changed for the better the understanding and behavior of many, perhaps millions, of Americans. And they were a source of hope during the worst of the initial pandemic in New York, the then-epicenter.

These reports should not be presented by politicians nor by Dr. Fauci, but by in-the-trenches medical personnel who are qualified to speak in plain terms about the data and the proper defensive tools. We are blessed with many experts in epidemiology and other relevant fields of expertise regarding pandemics. Let’s use them.

No doubt many anti-vaxxers will remain unpersuaded. They have, for whatever reasons, become convinced beyond all reason that vaccines are evil and/or that government attempts to regulate behavior are an assault on freedom. We’re not likely to change their minds but instead of debating them, let’s just show them – every day, in every way. Maybe, just maybe, seeing the devastation will have an effect that complicated multi-page data/charts/diagrams will not.

What do we have to lose?

 

Good, Bad, Ugly and … Bad

My last post at, or as close as my reflexes allowed, the stroke of midnight, when last year became this year, was a record of brevity. Nevertheless, last year had some moments and I am sharing them now. Some are good, some are bad, some are ugly, and some are just plain bad. The narrative will help sort them out, but you will, as always, be the judge.

Looking ahead, and backward as well (2021 will not go away that easily), we have much to look forward to, even as many of us crave the justice that so far has failed to materialize regarding, among many other things, the attempt by Donald Trump to overturn the results of the 2020 election. Trump’s attempt was supported by, and likely planned by, many Republicans in Congress who remain in their positions, enjoying the extraordinary privileges and comforts accorded to nationally elected representatives of the people. The same is true of members of Trump’s Cabinet who, from some compelling indications, were complicit and indeed actively engaged in the coup attempt.

Those of us who retain our rational faculties even after the Trump presidency and a year of non-stop Republican-led terror and fantasizing are not going to be satisfied with letting bygones be. As the clock ticks down toward the 2022 mid-term elections, and many experts predict a traditional outcome in which the “out” party resumes control of Congress, the omens for the future of our democratic republic appear dark indeed. But it doesn’t have to be that way. We outnumber them – our future is in our own hands, not theirs, unless our indifference lets them have the victory they do not deserve.

With that in mind, and given the dual personality of this post, here are some of the planned topics you can look forward to in 2022:

Fahrenheit 2021 – the crypt has opened and the book-burners walk among us

Life Under Republican Rule – do you want leaders who believe in magic?

States – What Good Are They? – how states promote tribalism

Anti-Vaxxers Must Take No Medications – if they read the labels ….

Books, Truth and Elections – truth is not infinitely malleable

Voice Bots – how to remove the human element from humanity

The Fear Equation – what is everyone so afraid of?

Communicating with the Voter – ya think?

Cliches of the Day – substituting slogans for thought

… and others in a seemingly infinite list. Meanwhile, back at the launchpad, here are some things to ponder and, hopefully, enjoy in a perverse 2022 kind of way.

Cloudy skies as seen from the roof:

In the Yikes Department, these cars were, according to reports, parked on leaves that had been deposited in the curb and a hot catalytic converter did its thing. I don’t know whether that’s really what happened, but Yikes.

On Christmas Day, we visited the National Mall to get some fresh air and see what was going on. Generally, it was a normal-looking day, as these photos show. Many visited the military memorials.

Some walked along the Reflecting Pool.

One person visited with himself. We’re pretty sure he enjoyed the experience.

A few days later we drove into the Virginia countryside to introduce my stepdaughter to the wonders of Hill High Orchard and pie place extraordinaire, about which I have previously written. The plan was to eat lunch outside at a restaurant in Bluemont, VA. When we arrived, however, we saw these “signs” hanging from a building on the property:

We returned to the car and went elsewhere. We will NEVER eat at a place owned by people who believe Trump won the election. Not now, NOT EVER.

Which brings us to Meme Time. Someone wise once said that a picture was worth a thousand words. I think that’s mostly true. These memes/photos were copied from tweets and Facebook posts. Where they originated, I have no idea but kudos to the people who created them. They speak volumes about the challenges we face. There is no doubt the country has made many mistakes. In that sense it is “normal.” But we also aspire to higher ideals, and it is those that we say “define America.” So, with a smile on our faces, let us confront our ghosts and move ahead as a people dedicated to the principles stated in the Declaration of Independence:

We hold these truths to be self-evident ….

 

 

An American Team No More

Americans once believed that when push came to shove, we would unite against common adversaries. A generalization, to be sure, but I believe it was accurate overall. It was true despite our ongoing differences about things like balanced budgets, the size and role of government and many others arising from America as the Melting Pot. Differences in the Pot were inevitable and, in some cases, resulted in sharp divisions. But, still, we believed that, faced with an outside adversary, Americans would come together as one nation to fight back.

World War II was a good example in “modern” times. Men and women went to war, more women worked in factories doing the necessary, and often dangerous, work that men had performed before going off to fight the Nazis and the Japanese. It was a terrible time. Many were grievously wounded, physically and mentally, and many died, leaving behind others ill-equipped to go it alone. People did without many luxuries. Ration stamps were used to allocate food, among other things. It was a a terrible time.

The idea of Americans united against outside adversaries found expression in movies involving alien invaders. Some of those movies showed the entire world coming together to fight the aliens. Faced with an outside threat, often with more advanced technologies, “we” prevailed with grit, ingenuity and a sense of common purpose. That was, of course, a fantasy but “we” always won in the end.

No more. We have a new common enemy that is attacking the entire world from within. This enemy is invisible and highly adaptable. We have seen its like before and always, always came together, solved the puzzle and prevailed. And yes, I know there were always outliers, but they were the exceptions. In 1918, the closest modern parallel to COVID-19,

It is estimated that about 500 million people or one-third of the world’s population became infected with this virus. The number of deaths was estimated to be at least 50 million worldwide with about 675,000 occurring in the United States. Mortality was high in people younger than 5 years old, 20-40 years old, and 65 years and older. The high mortality in healthy people, including those in the 20-40 year age group, was a unique feature of this pandemic. [https://bit.ly/3ql2V8v]

You likely know that the United States blew past that 675,000 death figure some time ago. As of two days ago, December 22, U.S. COVID deaths had reached 805,112 and climbing – almost 1,400 deaths on that one day and a 7-day moving average approaching 1,200 and rising.

The numbers are so large that our minds balk at acceptance and comprehension. But the numbers are real. The sickness and death are real. We are not even counting the cases of Long Covid, the condition in which the debilitating effects on the heart, lungs and brain (among others) last beyond the initial illness for … no one knows how long.

Our inability to comprehend is part, but only part, of the reason that so many – in the millions – people deny that COVID is real. Some are so deep in denial that, even when hospitalized in critical or worse condition, they continue to claim their disease is something else, that the doctors and nurses are lying to them when they say, “you have COVID.”

Whatever the roots and reasons that tens of millions refuse to get vaccinated, those people appear to be lost to the team – to Team America. The huge number of unvaccinated Americans – two years into the pandemic – are a breeding ground for the virus to mutate. And mutate it does. All viruses do. The anti-vaxxers are responsible for the prolongation of the pandemic and the personal and economic destruction that the virus has inflicted. Omicron has swept across the globe in weeks, displacing the Delta variant. There is no end in sight. And the next variant may not be as “mild” as Omicron.

The best we can hope for is that, slowly and at huge unnecessary cost, we will reach the point of so-called “herd immunity” when there are an insufficient number of vulnerable hosts that the virus cannot continue its deadly passage through the population. And, of course, medical science is delivering more effective treatments, the latest of which (in pill form) was just announced. Maybe we’ll reach the point where COVID is “just another flu.” Maybe.

Meanwhile, millions more will suffer. According to every credible source, COVID deaths in the United States are expected to exceed 1,000,000 in the near future. Eventually, maybe, we will win again. But it won’t be because of Team America, the coming together of citizens to fight and vanquish a common and deadly enemy. It seems we’re past that. Tens of millions of our fellow citizens are content to have others suffer and die under the name of mindless slogans. Freedom! My body, my choice! Nobody tells me what to put in my body! And on and on.

Instead of a united front against this deadly enemy, we have tens of millions reciting slogans to justify and explain why they are no longer members of the team. The price for their ignorant intransigence has been/will be very steep indeed.

This problem is, of course, only one manifestation of a mental state that afflicts our society. We can conclude that because there is a powerful identity among the anti-vaxxers and the evangelicals/Trumpists/Republicans. Their delusional state of mind regarding the pandemic is closely aligned with their willingness to believe many other unbelievable ideas. Chief among them is the idea that the January 6 assault/attempted coup was not Trump supporters but was engineered, rather like the pandemic, by a global elite of BLM, antifa, liberal/progressive Democrats and others of like mind, aided, if not led, by the federal government (you know, the Deep State lying in wait to destroy the country).

People who hold such beliefs do not comprehend the logical absurdity that those “elites” would have tried to stop the certification of President Biden’s victory (the candidate they favored) in order to continue the presidency of Donald Trump (the candidate they fervently opposed). If they can’t see that, they can’t see the point of joining with other Americans, and other peoples around the world, to stop the pandemic with the only tools that work. They are lost to our team, probably forever. Donald Trump didn’t create these people, but he surely inspired them.

Going forward, then, policy makers must understand the full extent to which our “team” has been broken, perhaps permanently. That means, among other things, that there is no longer anything like “politics as usual.” The aliens have arrived, and they are among us. If we’re not careful, they may kill us all.

What If There is No End to the Pandemic?

We are all naturally inclined to think about important events as having relatively clear beginnings and ends. Especially when the subject is troublesome, our innate desire for clarity and safety often leads to unrealistic expectations. This is likely part of our psychological conditioning throughout life.

Summer, like the other seasons, starts and ends. Bad weather can be terrible, but it comes and then ends. We get comfort from knowing that it will.

We also know that illnesses “recycle.” We know we can catch colds and the flu. So, most normal people bundle up against the elements, take cold medicines (mostly to relieve symptoms until the body’s systems kill the cold virus), get flu shots. Other illnesses are different. Cancer, emphysema, kidney failure and many others do not just go away after a simple medical intervention. No one is immune to them.

We also know that the weather is changing, driven by climate change. Storms in many places are more frequent and more severe. A few people, some never heard from again, decide to “hunker down” and “ride out” such storms. Most run when told to evacuate and live to run another day. We don’t want the bad weather to return but we know that it will. We want it to go as soon as possible. Many people thus drive their cars immediately after a bad snowstorm, apparently just because they think they can. I suspect it’s their way of reassuring themselves that the bad news ends.

This phenomenon is present in the response to COVID. We desperately want it to “end” and to have life return to “normal.” For most of us, the year 2020 will be the worst in our lives, one we desperately don’t want to repeat. Unfortunately, the evidence indicates that may be an illusion when it comes to the COVID pandemic.

It is now reported, https://n.pr/3c0G5fF, that the COVID virus is present in the nation’s vast and widely dispersed white-tailed deer population (estimated 30 million in US alone, equivalent to about 10 percent of the US human population). The story is getting relatively little attention in mainstream media, compared, for example, to the “gripping” story of NFL quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ lying about his vaccination, then contracting COVID, then being forced to sit out a game that his team lost – oh, yes, the story was extensively reported. Even Forbes covered it. An entranced nation awaits Rodgers’ return.

Meanwhile, back in the world where human lives and the national/global economy is under threat, and as reported by NPR:

A recent survey of white-tailed deer in the Northeast and Midwest found that 40% of them had antibodies against SARS-CoV-2. Now veterinarians at The Pennsylvania State University have found active SARS-CoV-2 infections in at least 30% of deer tested across Iowa during 2020. The study, published online last week, suggests that white-tailed deer could become what’s known as a reservoir for SARS-CoV-2. That is, the animals could carry the virus indefinitely and spread it back to humans periodically….

During April to December of last year, about 30% of the deer that they tested were positive for SARS-CoV-2 by a PCR test. And then during the winter surge in Iowa, from Nov. 23, 2020 to Jan. 10, about 80% of the deer that they tested were infected. At the peak of the surge … the prevalence of the virus in deer was effectively about 50 to 100 times the prevalence in Iowa residents at the time.

The COVID variants in the deer matched those in humans.

The deer species in question is native to North American, Central America and the northern part of South America. Their capacity to move into and thrive in new habitats is well known.

The NPR article notes that the important questions raised include whether COVID can be transmitted from the deer back to humans or to other animal categories such as livestock. And, of course, the presence of COVID virus in such a large population creates the conditions for further mutations, as has been found in the Netherlands and Poland.

The article does not mention what seems an equally or more important question. Deer are apparently not sickened and do not die from COVID-19 infection. WHY NOT? That issue surely ranks as a critical subject to study. Is there something unique about the deer immune systems that mutes the devastating effects the virus has had on millions of humans? If so, that understanding could be the source of new vaccines to combat what seems like the inevitable persistence of COVID-19 for the foreseeable and perhaps indefinite future.  No matter how much we may wish it were otherwise.

 

Draining the Swamp

Everyone by now has heard this phrase popularized most recently by Donald Trump when running for president. This post is not about Trump, however. It’s about that swamp. The “swamp” that so many Americans, out of ignorance, love to hate.

You likely wouldn’t recognize the denizens of the swamp if you passed them on the street. With very few exceptions, they’re not Hollywood material and don’t appear in movies or television. But if you’re alive and reading this, it’s likely due to their work, the work that goes largely unrecognized outside the government itself.

Unknown most likely to most of the country, the extraordinary work of federal employees is recognized annually by the Partnership for Public Service with the presentation of the Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medals. Mr. Heyman was the founder of the Partnership. In keeping with America’s attachment to award presentations, the “Sammies” are delivered in a black-tie award dinner every year in Washington (virtually during pandemics), much like the Oscars – with award announcements by notable presenters, acceptance speeches and all the rest. But, thankfully, there are no musical numbers or unpleasant comedians running the show.

No, the Sammy awards are serious business, although the dinner, rightly so, can be something of an extravaganza. https://servicetoamericamedals.org/about/ For the most part, it’s an inside-the-Beltway thing, but it shouldn’t be. The contributions these people make to the country and the world deserve national public recognition far more than the “award” shows watched by millions and scorned annually by many. The Sammies are cut from different cloth and it’s a shame that they are not recognized for the ways these people contribute to the progress of our lives.

I was moved to produce this post by the 2021 award for Federal Employee of the Year, shared by two swamp workers to whom you likely owe your life and that of your loved ones, at least if you are vaccinated. The awards went to Kizzmekia S. Corbett, Ph.D. And Barney S. Graham, M.D., Ph.D. As explained in more detail in the video at https://bit.ly/3Dekht8, they essentially created the COVID-19 vaccine that has, literally, saved millions of lives around the world.

For the full list of current and past winners/finalists, see https://bit.ly/3FgoDAm. Pay particular attention to the Finalists.  Their contributions to public life are beyond exceptional in fields so rich with talent and desire to serve that they were recognized but did not “win.” The real winners, of course, are the American public and in many cases people and ecosystems around the world.

So, the next time you hear someone put down those “federal bureaucrats,” remember the Sammies and the people who earned them. You owe them much more than clichéd derogatory labels.