I am aware of the fact that this is August, and not November. That means I really should put some qualifiers on what I write, thus demonstrating to all interested parties that I am a mellow sort of man, with a sweet disposition, and entirely approachable. But there do come times—in the course of human events—when however mellow a public commentator might be, he still has a solemn obligation to roll up his sleeves, spit on his hands, throw his necktie (if he is wearing one) over his shoulder, and to hop around while he types. This, in the technical parlance of the professional writing guild, is called a rant. That is what you all are about to get.
That is, if you give me permission. In these troubled times, I think it only good manners to check first. Do you mind if I rant? I promise to reel it in if it starts to get awkward.
A Giant Meteor and Other Random Analogies
Suppose a giant meteor landed dead center on the CDC headquarters. I mean, plumb spang on the top of it. Suppose a number of the personnel there died and went to the bad place. If such a thing were to happen, I am starting to think that after about six months, a bunch of them would be kicked out of Hell for lying.
Hey, everybody! Autumn is coming! That means flu season! That means we must all pull ourselves together and get ready! We need a master and commander! Someone to lead us! Someone decisive! Where’s Dr. Fauci? Oh, he’s upstairs, changing his mind.
We have truly inspired the rising students of this next generation. If they apply themselves, if they work hard, if they remain suitably docile and learn to avoid asking too many awkward questions, then perhaps they can become the national public health officer for the Dufflepuds, the press conferences of which would be things of beauty.
If any sensible person looks at the facts as they are, and does so with a steely gaze and clear mind, he knows what to do with those basic facts. He can just put them in a line, and arrange them nicely, putting them into an order that mystics and alchemists used to call “an argument.” But give those same facts to our kennel-fed public health professionals, and they look like somebody handed a musket to the cow.
No, that’s not it. This is more like it. They have the same expression as the pig did when you assigned her the task of folding the linen.
But there is a sweet spot for them in all of this, and some of them are up to the challenge. It is not as though they have no comebacks when medical laymen like me rant. They do have people who can come out on the teevee and say stuff when it is their turn to talk, and these people do have a rare talent. They have to be stupid enough to believe the narrative, and clever enough to defend it. There is a delicate equilibrium to be maintained there. And one of the defenses that they would be sure to mount is that they are trained professionals and I am just a ranting yahoo.
But what over-specialized trained professionals often do not understand is the concept of disciplines overlapping. Areas of expertise can have certain things in common, like that shared space in a Venn diagram. So suppose they were to come out and say that through the magic of modern medical research, they have discovered that the Delta variant has turned my front lawn pink. I would say something like huh, and go out to check. I would then come back with the (admittedly lay) opinion that my front lawn was, in fact, decidedly not pink. Would it be to the point for them to then reply that I am not a trained medical professional? No, it would not. And would I become a bit more cautious in my squawking because there were rumors that The Experts (all rise!) were about to predict that a far more virulent Epsilon Variant was about to turn the sky a lurid orange with white stripes? No, probably not. I could just reason inductively from the earlier pink lawn failure.
And the fact that every new crisis needs to be solved by granting them expansive new powers is another thing that makes students of political science go hmmmm.
Then, if someone informed me that Merriam Webster had just included a new definition of pink in their dictionary, one that lines up with these shenanigans, and American Heritage was about to do the same with orange, the precedent for such monkeyshines having been set with the redefinition of vaccine, instead of sitting down quietly to muse on the mysteries of science and lexicography (that were all over my head anyway), I would probably be more inclined to put on a Guy Fawkes mask, climb the barricades, and hoist the Jolly Roger.
Occam’s razor teaches us that the simplest explanation is most likely to be the true one. And the simplest explanation is that this whole thing is just one long, sustained, massive power grab. So I am going with that.
But few are aware of Occam’s rope, which says that sometimes a convoluted explanation, one that gets tangled up in multiple knots, like what your extension cord does to itself in the garage over the winter, can be politically expedient for liars in the short term. But when political officials and hacks resort to those knots and tangles too many times, climbing up into the attic of lame excuses to fetch it down (again), they sometimes trip and fall down the stairs of truth into the ball of rope they are carrying, and wind up hanging themselves with Occam’s noose. That’s the thumping and kicking sound you are hearing right now.
I know, I know. It is an overheated metaphor. Write your own blog post.
A Carnival of Fatuous Pronouncements
So cluster round, children. We would like you to gather in so that you may observe this chart. We want you to look at the SPIKE (spike! spike! run!!!) in recent COVID deaths. There, in the graph to the right, on the far right, can’t you see it? The reason mommy and daddy are showing this to you is so that you will understand why the two of us are going to go down into the basement, put on three masks each, and then ask you kids to roll us up in those spare carpets that we have down there. Then you can put a cinder block on the loose part at each end. Just to be sure. We must be kept safe from the DEADLY DELTA STRAIN. Be brave, my children.
And the Pentagon, headquarters of our warrior caste, otherwise known as the brave, brave Sir Robin contingent, has once again mandated the wearing of masks indoors—and yes, that includes all of you vaccinated goobers. Here is an NPR article on that particular shambolic mess. NPR! Here is the last sentence of that article, and I hope that after you read it, you have to sit down and fan yourself.
“Fewer than 30 service members have died from the virus out of an active duty and reserve force totaling more than 2 million.” Fewer than thirty! Thirty! Out of two million! And I never use exclamation marks! If you can read that without wanting to throw a few things, without wanting to lie on your back in order to drum the floor with your heels, then this is because you are saintly. Virtuous. Upright. Seraphic. Beatific. Angelic. And more than a little gullible.
In the meantime, the rest of us earthlings are apparently being governed by a ramshackle coalition of rogues, congressmen, mountebanks, and banjo-players.
What are we running from exactly? First it was deaths. Then it was hospitalizations in over-crowded hospitals, which would lead to deaths, which is why we all pitched in to flatten the curve. Then it was just hospitalizations. Then it was simply the cases. Then it was asymptomatic cases. Then it was cases as determined by PCR tests which, if you set the gain in a way that guaranteed the answers you needed politically, could find COVID viruses on the moon. You are being scammed. In the meantime, fewer than thirty deaths in the armed forces, out of two million.
By the way, last year, our local Christian school was able to stay open through this last year, with masks not required, and our absentee rates due to sickness were normal or better than normal. And you thought the age of miracles was past.
Hey! Where did the flu go? Last week, reports were circulating online that the CDC was withdrawing its request for emergency authorization from the FDA for one particular COVID test, and that this must mean that the test was turning up results that counted the flu as though it were COVID. Thus far the rumor. Now keep in mind the fact that we are living through an era where gunshot wounds and motorcycle crashes were getting attributed to COVID, and so naturally some folks out there were starting to get suspicious.
The AP had an answer for the rumor. But remember what I said earlier about being dumb enough to buy the narrative and clever enough to defend it. Here is an example of the kind of explanation that fits the bill. They carefully explain to us rubes and cornpones that the authorization for that test was being withdrawn “not because that test is inaccurate, but because it can only detect coronavirus.” Right. Isn’t that what a coronavirus test is supposed to do?
“No, no, look—newer tests, you chump, can simultaneously check for COVID and for influenza.”
Yeah, but in the meantime, while this old test was being used, flu cases all but disappeared. Where did the flu go? And what good is a new-fangled test that can detect both COVID and the flu when we have clearly eradicated the flu? Why, the flu is a thing of the past! In other words, as I would patiently explain to the AP, my lawn is not pink.
Allow me to instruct you a little further in the ways of Occam’s razor. Suppose my neighbor and I both had ponds in our back yards, which both routinely filled up in the spring. We went out to check the levels one day, and we discovered that his pond was twice the depth it usually was this time of year, and my pond was empty. One of the first things we would think of to check is whether his pond was at a lower level than mine, and whether something had happened underground to cause my pond to empty into his. That would be a straightforward and sensible hypothesis, would it not?
And if I suggested that hypothesis and my neighbor called me a conspiracy nut, and tried to get me fired from my job, my hypothesis would shift from some sort of underground fluke to the idea that my neighbor was stealing my water.
Now if you will only deign to call my pond the Flu Pond, and my neighbor’s pond the COVID Pond, the meaning of my dark parable will become a bit more clear.
In the course of writing this thing, during a break I happened to work through my latest issue of National Review. On page 8, they had a few spicy words to say about the kind of people who say the kind of things I have been saying above. As a faithful reader of NR for some decades now, it is distressing to be called a “medically and mathematically challenged charlatan,” but one must take a few roughs with the smooths. NR also noted that there were some 99 million Americans who are eligible for the shots but who have so far declined to get any.
I don’t know, but maybe dismissing them as morons is part of the problem. Maybe the specter of vaccine passports made it seem like far more of a creepy power play than a public health measure. Maybe the fact that a lot of people are resisting the vaccine even though their jobs are on the line means that they have thought about it more than NR editorial writers have. Maybe the year of house arrest for no-good reason has made the people who wanted to keep their small business alive a little bit jumpy. I grant that it was just a small business, but they liked it, and their livelihood kind of depended on it. Maybe they are still suspicious of that wrecking crew called Officialdom.
Maybe 99 million people, excluding NR editorial writers, actually noticed when our ruling class disgraced and beclowned and discredited themselves in multiple ways.
Instead of calling them names, perhaps it might be better to allow for the possibility that these patriots have perhaps noticed that the pronouncements of the people managing the PR for this pandemic campaign have been, shall we say, stochastic. That means that their edicts have been randomly determined, being distributed ad libitum, kind of like the chimp poo on the floor of the monkey house at the Cincinnati Zoo.
The good folks at National Review want us to put our trust in the people who have been telling us manifest whoppers for a year and a half now. Say they told us ten lies in a row, and NR wants us to believe them on this eleventh round because that is what a public-spirited conservative in 1958 would have done. These are well-meaning bow-tie conservatives who recall the halcyon days of yore when public health pronouncements were not a partisan football.
They are appealing to a center that doesn’t exist anymore. What do you do when you are the kind of conservative who wants to meet in the center, the place of shared values, but that place is long gone? You try to pretend it is still there, at least for a little while you pretend. But then the camp guard comes by and tells you its lights out. And that’s what I am trying to tell you right now—its lights out right now. The threat of the virus is a real thing, fine. The mosquito buzzing around you is going to give you malaria. But government despotism is an F5 tornado headed at you from the west, a tsunami headed toward your town from the east, a forest fire bearing down on you from the north, and the only way to run is south. But you are hesitant because of bunch of respected Evangelical Voices are concerned that heading “south” might remind some of our black brothers of the legacy of slavery. So fine. Kill the mosquito if you want, before heading south.
Wanting to live in a society where the public health authorities have not shot their authority all to blazes and actually living in such a society are not the same thing.
The Actual Danger
It is very, very difficult for the government to protect you from a virus like this one. It is impossible for them to do so if the virus, in addition to giving you respiratory trouble, is also delivering them a lot more power. The government can’t guarantee your health. That is not something they are capable of doing. The government can, however, take away your liberties.
That is their wheelhouse. It is what they do. It is what they are doing right now. With the docile cooperation of a boatload of Christians, I might add.