The Bed-Wetter Awards: Best Performance By A Media Organization

In our last episode, we nominated best performance by a politician for the First Annual Bed-Wetter Awards. This time we’re moving on to best performance by a media organization. Spoiler alert: I’ve already picked the winner.

There’s no shortage of bed-wetters among the media, of course. Most media types have been dutifully supporting the view of The Anointed that by gosh, we can’t get back to normal gatherings UNTIL IT’S SAFE! Well, that is … uh … unless people are crowding together for purposes that meet with their approval. Then the idea that crowds will spread the coronavirus just kind of vanishes. There’s a strange lack of embarrassment among news organizations that put out articles like these on the same day:

So there you have it. Large gatherings are extraordinarily dangerous, but only if you don’t like who’s gathering. Got it.

The Bed-Wetter nominees were by no means limited to American news organizations. Here’s a superb bed-wetter performance by a BBC host:

Lord Sumption, her guest, points out that coronavirus is mostly killing people who are old and have multiple health conditions. Somehow the BBC reporter interprets that as it’s killing people who would have been with us for many years.

Uh, no. It’s mostly killing people who already have one foot in the door marked EXIT. I’ll give you a close-to-home, somewhat painful example: when I spoke to my mom back in April, she told me she was very worried she would catch coronavirus and die. Had she caught the virus in her fragile condition, it may indeed have killed her, in which case she would have been counted as a COVID death. But she didn’t catch the virus. She died from a hemorrhagic stroke instead.

She was almost 84 and her brain health was deteriorating. I’m sorry she died and I’ll miss her, but I accepted more than a year ago that she was headed for the door marked EXIT. It was only a question of exactly when she’d be gone.

When Lord Sumption pointed that we will never live in a risk-free world, and that people who are afraid of the virus can self-isolate, the reporter immediately responded with But what if you’re a carrier of the virus and go to the theater and infect the person next to you! Perfect bed-wetter sentiment … which Lord Sumption dismissed by explaining the obvious: the person next to him at the theater would be there voluntarily, and could just as easily be a carrier of the virus.

I could go up and down the list and find articles and newscasts warning that WE CAN’T RETURN TO NORMAL UNTIL IT’S SAFE! from nearly every major news organization. No surprise there. Besides largely being mouthpieces for The Anointed, news reporters aren’t losing their jobs because of the lockdowns. In fact, the lockdowns have simply granted many reporters the luxury of doing their jobs from home. (Same for me: no bothersome commute since March.) If lockdowns were causing massive layoffs in the news business, I suspect the narrative would be different.

Since there are simply too many bed-wetters to choose from in the major media, I’ve selected a dark-horse winner: PsyPost.org, which describes itself as a psychology and neuroscience news website dedicated to reporting the latest research on human behavior, cognition, and society.

The winning performance was an article titled Psychopathic traits linked to non-compliance with social distancing guidelines amid the coronavirus pandemic. Let’s take a look:

New research provides some initial evidence that certain antagonistic personality traits are associated with ignoring preventative measures meant to halt the spread of the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2. The study has been peer reviewed and accepted for publication in the journal Social Psychology and Personality Science.

Ah, well, as we know, peer-review in psychology is a rock-solid guarantee that we’re looking at valid research … so rock-solid that most experiments can’t be replicated.

Anyway, here’s a quote from the study’s author:

“It was clear from reports in the media very early in the COVID-19 pandemic that some people were rejecting advice to socially distance and engage in increased hygiene. There can be many reasons for this, and I thought that personality may play at least a small role in it.”

And what would those personality traits be, oh wise one?

“I knew that traits from the so-called Dark Triad (narcissism, Machiavellianism, and psychopathy) as well as the traits subsumed within psychopathy are linked to health risk behavior and health problems, and I expected them to be implicated in health behaviors during the pandemic.”

Goodness. People who ignore orders to stay off the beach exhibit traits subsumed within psychopathy? Can you explain how you reached that conclusion?

“People high on the Dark Triad traits may knowingly and even deliberately put other people’s health at risk, e.g., by engaging in risky sexual behavior and not telling their partner about having HIV or STIs.”

Hmmm … seems like a rather giant case of bait-and-switch to me. I’m no psychologist, but I’m pretty sure engaging in sex without telling your partner you have the HIV virus isn’t quite the same as ignoring a governor’s orders to stay off the beach.  That’s like putting people who have two glasses of wine in a restaurant and then drive home into the same category as people who chug a fifth of gin and then pilot a commercial airliner.

“Early in the pandemic, and in subsequent months, there were numerous reports of individuals purposefully coughing, spitting, or even licking door handles in public, either as a way to intimidate others or as a way to rebel against the emerging new norms of social distancing and hygiene.”

Again, I’m no psychologist, but I’m pretty sure people who spit on fruit and lick door handles in public during a virus outbreak do indeed have issues. I’m also pretty sure people who spit on fruit and lick door handles in public when there’s no outbreak of any disease whatsoever have those same issues. I’m also pretty sure people who spit on fruit and lick door handles in public don’t belong in the same category as people who ignore orders to stay off the beach. But the article goes to great lengths to link them:

People who scored higher on the psychopathic subtraits of meanness and disinhibition tended to show less interest in social distancing and hygiene. Meanness and disinhibition also predicted the endorsement of behavior that puts others at risk of infection, such as touching or sneezing on high-use surfaces in public.

Ah yes, the old A is linked to B and B is linked to C, so A must produce C nonsense. Yes, I’m sure mean, disinhibited, psychotic people are less compliant with social distancing … and I’m sure mean, disinhibited, psychotic people are more likely to spit on fruit and lick door handles and otherwise intentionally put others are risk. That doesn’t mean people who go the beach, get together with more than four friends, or otherwise resist social distancing are mean, disinhibited and psychotic.

Here’s an analogy: Compared to the rest of the population, criminals on average are less intelligent, less trusting, less emotionally stable, more violent, more psychotic, and more likely to be drug and alcohol abusers. Criminals are also far more likely to vote for Democrats than Republicans. Therefore, we conclude that supporting the positions of the Democrat party is linked to being less intelligent, less trusting, less emotionally stable, more violent, more psychotic, and more likely to abuse alcohol and drugs.

Stupid conclusion, right? Sure is … but it’s pretty much the same (ahem) “logic” used by the study’s author. In fact, the study reminds me very much of the (ahem) “studies” that conclude libertarians and conservatives suffer from a form of mental illness. If you don’t agree that The Anointed should tell you how to run your life or your business, you might be mentally ill!

If you’ve ever read up on how those studies are designed … well, let’s just say they make Walter Willett‘s nutrition studies look like solid science by comparison. The perfessers simply design the study to produce results that confirm their own political views. Something like this:

“Jenkins, I have an idea for a study. Let’s conduct a survey to see if there’s any correlation between political preferences and traits such as paranoia, mental inflexibility, and callousness towards others.”

“Excellent idea, sir!”

“Now, we need to think of some questions for the survey. How shall we determine callousness towards others?”

“How about something like, I believe people who want to become American citizens should go through the legal naturalization process instead of sneaking into the country.

“Not bad, Jenkins. But it’s a little verbose. Let’s tighten that up to I am opposed to open borders.

“Very good, sir.”

“Indeed. How shall we define mental inflexibility?”

“Hmmm, that’s a tough one. Maybe something like, I believe what is or is not constitutional should be determined by what’s written in The Constitution.”

“Outstanding, Jenkins! You’re really getting the hang of psychological research. Finally, how would we define paranoia?”

“I’ve got it: I worry that the people running our government are secret Russian assets.”

“Jenkins!”

“Sorry, I meant, I worry that some Middle Eastern immigrants might be secret members of terrorist cells.

“Much better, Jenkins. Now get out there and make some phone calls.”

(47 minutes later)

“Well, Jenkins, what did you find?”

“Well sir, according to our completely objective data, political conservatives are far more paranoid, mentally inflexible, and callous then political liberals. “

“Good work, Jenkins! Let’s write it up and send it out for publication.”

Yes, that’s an exaggeration … but not by much. Point is, these “studies” are basically meaningless. They’re designed to give the answer the researcher wants.

This particular researcher wanted to link people who ignore orders to stay off the beach to people with psychotic traits who actually enjoy putting other people in harm’s way. And so, with a little A is linked to B and B is linked to C so A is linked to C magic, he did.

When I commented on the study on Twitter, I received a few replies along the lines of But bruh! If you ignore social distancing, you’re going to spread the disease and kill muh grandmuh! That’s callous, bruh!

That’s roughly as logical as saying that if I’m sexually promiscuous, I’m going to spread STDs and then you might catch one from your wife. If that happens, I didn’t infect you. Your wife did. If you’re afraid grandma will catch coronavirus, tell grandma to stay inside, observe strict social distancing, and refuse to let anyone in her house who hasn’t also observed strict social distancing. If you pick up the virus somewhere and then pass it on to your grandmother, I didn’t infect her. You did. So if you’re that worried, stay away from grandma UNTIL IT’S SAFE!

Does that sound a bit callous? Maybe. But if I were designing a study to determine who’s heartless and callous now that coronavirus is here, I’d start with this agree/disagree question:

I haven’t lost my job or experienced a reduction in my income during the mandatory social distancing that has bankrupted countless businesses and put millions of people on unemployment, and I support ongoing mandatory social distancing if there’s a teeny, tiny, itsy-bitsy chance it will prevent me from ever being exposed to the coronavirus.

A bed-wetter would agree. Clearly, so did our winner of Best Bed-Wetter Performance by a Media Organization.

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The First Annual Bed-Wetter Awards

The Bed-Wetter Awards!

Hollywood gives out Oscars every year to celebrate the most politically correc— uh, I mean the highest achievements in filmmaking. The music business gives out Grammys to celebrate achievements in songwriting and performing. The Tonys, the Pulitzers, the Emmys … heck, the list goes on and on.

Since COVID-19 has exerted a more profound effect on society this year than movies, music, theatre, television, etc., I believe we need an award similar to the Oscars and the Grammys. Therefore, I’m announcing the First Annual Bed-Wetter Awards, given to those who have demonstrated the highest achievements in whining, panic-spreading, and generally scaring the piss out people over the horrible (and imaginary) things will happen if we return to normal instead of hiding forever from a virus that’s about as deadly as the flu.

I’ll pick the nominees, and you can vote for the winner. Today’s category is best performance by a bed-wetter politician.

I was tempted to nominate Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York. This is the brilliant leader who decided old people who tested positive for COVID-19 should be returned to nursing homes, where they promptly infected the most vulnerable population. Meanwhile, Cuomo was determined to protect the group that least needs protecting – school-age kids. Here’s the distribution of coronavirus deaths by age:

Yup, kids below the age of 15 have accounted for one of every 10,000 coronavirus deaths. Seasonal flu has been deadlier for kids. In fact, kids are more likely to die being driven to school than from COVID-19. Toss in the 15-to-24 group – which would take us through the college years – and we’re still talking about 12 of every 10,000 deaths. Only an accomplished bed-wetter could look at those numbers and conclude that kids are at risk. So let’s enjoy the performance that nearly got Cuomo nominated for a Bed-Wetter award.

Impressive. But after thinking about it, I decided Cuomo doesn’t deserve a nomination. New York was the epicenter of COVID-19. Scaring the New York population under those circumstances simply wasn’t a difficult enough achievement to be honored with an award.

So our first actual nominee is Governor Gavin Newsome of California. Newsome runs a state with a population of more than 40 million people, but only saw 4,000 COVID-19 deaths. By contrast, New York has a population of 19 million, but saw 24,000 COVID deaths. In other words, the COVID death rate in California is less than one-tenth the death rate in New York. Most of the COVID deaths in California (as elsewhere) were among people who were old and sick. In fact, 42 percent of those deaths occurred in nursing homes and assisted living facilities.

And yet Newsome ordered businesses to close all over the state, including rural counties that had no reported cases of COVID-19. He also closed the beaches, apparently believing they’d be swamped by 80-year-olds planning a mid-day plunge in the ocean. And when some youngsters defied the order and went to the beaches anyway, Newsome had some words for them. Let’s take a moment to admire his performance:

Stunning. Newsome talked about the need for herd immunity, then young chided people for going to the beaches where they might be exposed to the virus … which would help achieve herd immunity. Then Newsome talked about a glorious future when everyone has been vaccinated against the coronavirus … never mind that an effective vaccine may never be developed.

Newsome is also one of many governors planning to hire a brigade of “contact tracers” – because what would possibly go wrong with giving governments the power to track where you go and who you’re with?

Our second nominee is Governor Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan. Whitmer demonstrated real imagination by deciding liquor stores and dispensers of lottery tickets are “essential,” while banning the sale of garden seeds. Whitmer further demonstrated her bed-wetter chops by banning people from traveling to their own vacation homes … because as any scientist will tell you, leaving a crowded city to go live in a cabin in a secluded area is how you catch coronavirus.

Whitmer has finally lifted some restrictions on businesses, but is still very concerned that Michigan citizens may be traveling across the border to Ohio to get their hair and nails done. Since that means hair and nail salons are open in Ohio, a logical leader would check with Ohio officials to see if there’s been a sudden spike in deaths among Ohioans with coifed hair and shiny nails. But no, Whitmer instead warned that people in Michigan who travel to Ohio may be spreading death. Here’s part of her performance:

Our final nominee is the governor of my former home state, JB Pritzker of Illinois. Pritzker twice extended the lockdown in Illinois even after neighboring states opened up without any resulting spikes in COVID-19 deaths. A representative from downstate Illinois took the matter to court, and a judge ruled that Pritzker had exceed his authority by extending the lockdown.

That prompted Pritzker to put on the performance that won him a nomination:

A fine performance, but you can’t appreciate just how fine it was unless you also know this: while ordering people in Illinois to stay home – to keep everyone safe, ya know – Pritzker and his family traveled to their vacation horse farm in Wisconsin. His wife and daughter also traveled to a vacation home in Florida. But Pritzker’s real claim to being a bed-wetter is this:

Illinois construction workers traveling to Wisconsin to work on Pritzker’s farm amid stay-at-home order

FOX 32 News watched Thursday as construction workers from Illinois crossed the border to work on the governor’s farm. Pritzker, though, says there is no double standard because construction workers are exempt.

FOX 32 wandered over the Wisconsin border into Kenosha County and found more than 20 construction workers — nearly all from Illinois — helping build a massive new home and several outbuildings on Pritzker’s horse farm.

Pritzker decided it was “essential” for construction workers to travel across state lines to build a new home on his Wisconsin property … but if you ventured out for a haircut, he wanted you arrested. You could spread the virus, doncha know.

Those are my nominees. Cast your votes.

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Leaving BizarroWorld

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While I was taking a grief break, a handful of states – including my state of Tennessee – decided to leave BizarroWorld and begin opening back up for business. This sparked outrage among people who’ve spent three years screaming that Trump is a fascist dictator, but now want him to act like a fascist dictator instead of allowing governors to decide what’s best for their states. The term the perpetually-outraged crowd kept tossing around was putting the burden on the states.

Ohhhh, I see. Freedom to make your own decisions is a burden now. Well, no worries … there are plenty of politicians who will gladly lift that burden from you.

As soon as Georgia, Tennessee, Texas and a few other states announced they were phasing out the lockdowns, The Twitter universe exploded. The perpetually-outraged crowd tweeted their usual pearls of wisdom … you know, stuff like Well of course, these Republican governors don’t mind sacrificing people’s lives just so businesses can get back to making money! and This just proves southerners are stupid!

Nothing amuses me quite like stupid people calling intelligent people stupid. That’s why my all-time favorite Twitter exchange is this one:

Him: Your stupid.
Me: I believe you mean “you’re stupid.”
Him: No I’m not! YOUR STUPID.

The satirical news site The Babylon Bee captured the Twitter reaction quite nicely:

Satire, sure, but pretty close to what I saw online. For example, this tweet could certainly pass for satire, but it wasn’t – it was a real, honest-to-god tweet by one of the enlightened, blue-checkmark journalists on Twitter:

Boy, that held up well. The blue-check journalist made this bold prediction on April 20, nearly four weeks ago. The Georgia bloodbath failed to materialize. This shouldn’t surprise anyone, because the apocalyptic predictions were based on assumptions we know aren’t true. Namely …

1. COVID-19 is an especially deadly virus
2. Only a small fraction of the population has been exposed, thanks to the lockdown

The second incorrect assumption prompted the first incorrect assumption. If you count the number of deaths and then assume the only people who’ve been exposed are those who show up in hospitals needing treatment, the death rate will appear high. But the enlightened, blue-check journalists seem to have missed the news about the actual exposure rate. This article, for example:

A team at the University of Bonn has tested a randomized sample of 1,000 residents of the town of Gangelt in the north-west of the country, one of the epicenters of the outbreak in Germany. The study found that two percent of the population currently had the virus and that 14 percent were carrying antibodies suggesting that they had already been infected — whether or not they experienced any symptoms. Eliminating an overlap between the two groups, the team concluded that 15 percent of the town have been infected with the virus.

Other studies have found even higher exposure rates:

Nearly one third of 200 Chelsea residents who gave a drop of blood to researchers on the street this week tested positive for antibodies linked to COVID-19, a startling indication of how widespread infections have been in the densely populated city.

The Mass. General researchers ― who excluded anyone who had tested positive for the virus in the standard nasal swab test ― found that 32 percent of participants have had COVID-19, and many didn’t know it.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, we’re tanking the economy, bankrupting businesses, and putting people out of work to protect ourselves from a virus that’s sooooo deadly, people can have the antibodies in their systems and be totally unaware they were ever exposed.

Dr. John Ioannidis – one of the voices of sanity from the beginning – also conducted a study to see how many people in a California county had already been exposed. Based on those results, he calculated the death rate. Are you ready?

Wait for it … the death rate among people exposed to coronavirus appears to around 0.1% — which is pretty close to the death rate for seasonal flu. And yet the bed-wetters want to stay locked down as if the Super Flu from Stephen King’s novel The Stand is out there waiting to pounce on anyone who goes outdoors.

To be clear, I’m not saying going into lockdown in March was a mistake. We didn’t know how deadly or widespread the virus was at the time, and the fear of overwhelming the medical system was legitimate. We’re past that now, and yet many people – including politicians — seem to have forgotten why we went into lockdown mode in the first place. A professor from Stanford recently summed up the situation nicely:

Policymakers and the public have not received several key messages that are critical to alleviate fear and guide a safe reopening of society. That has led to a gross failure in policy at the state level:

There has been a failure to remind everyone that the stated goal of the policy – total lockdown and whole-population isolation – has been accomplished in most of the United States, including the epicenter of New York. Specifically, two curves, hospitalizations per day and deaths per day, have flattened. The goal was to prevent hospital overcrowding and, aside from a few in the New York area, hospitals were not overcrowded. Today, most hospitals stand under-filled, necessitating layoffs of personnel. More importantly, it was never a policy goal to eliminate all cases of COVID-19. That is impossible, unnecessary and illogical, when 99 percent of infected people have no significant illness from it.

There has been a failure to reassure everyone that we fully anticipate more cases will occur, whether we test or not, with continuing relaxation of today’s isolation. Since millions of people have the highly contagious infection, and half are entirely asymptomatic, that spread is fully expected. Even though we will see headlines sensationalizing the next projection, the models are already set to adjust upward for less strict isolation.

There has been a failure to educate the public that the overall fatality rate is not only far lower than previously thought but is extremely low in almost everyone other than the elderly… While somehow escaping attention, updated infection fatality rates (IFR) are less than or equal to seasonal flu for those under 60 in France, Spain and the Netherlands. Less than 1 percent of deaths occur in the absence of underlying conditions. Of the exceptionally rare deaths in children in New York City, only one tragic case out of 15,756 COVID-19 deaths – 0.006 percent – was a child without a known underlying condition.

The medical system was successfully saved from being overwhelmed, but in the meantime, the bed-wetters moved the goalposts. They no longer talk about flattening the curve. Now they want us to stay locked down UNTIL IT’S SAFE!

Say what? Until it’s safe?! They apparently believe if we just stay inside long enough, the virus will disappear, and then we can all come out to play again. They haven’t the grasped the fact – and it is a fact – that the virus is here, it’s not going away, and it will spread. I’ll say that again for the slow-witted: the virus is going to spread. And one more time: THE VIRUS IS GOING TO SPREAD. Most of us will be exposed at some point, just as most of us are exposed to cold and flu viruses every year. And just like every year, the vast majority of us will be fine.

When I’ve bothered to debate the issue online, I’ve noticed a curious psychology at work: despite the increasingly good news, some people are very, very wedded to the idea that everything is awful and we’re in the middle of an unprecedented disaster. You simply cannot get these people to accept any good news.

For example, I posted a picture The Older Brother snapped of the ER waiting room at the hospital in Illinois where they took my mom. Here’s your “overwhelmed” hospital:

No line whatsoever at the emergency room. That’s good news, right? But a guy on Facebook jumped through mental hoops so he could continue believing the hospital was, in fact, overwhelmed with COVID-19 cases.

They don’t take Covid cases into ER. Most hospitals take Covid cases into different area to avoid spreading the infection. At my local hospital there are huge signs outside saying “Don’t enter if you suspect you have Covid”. Arrow direct you to a different area of the hospital.

Good grief. I’d finally had enough of his doomsday attitude, so I got a bit nasty in my reply:

Ahh, I see! The hospital where my mom was taken is, in fact, overwhelmed with COVID cases, but we’re just not seeing it in the picture because those people entered by a different door. Whew! Thanks for figuring that out. For a moment there, I was afraid we actually had a hospital in the U.S. that isn’t swamped with COVID cases. That would blow our entire world-view, and we can’t have that.

Nice try. My brother has been following the situation in Springfield. The hospitals are not overwhelmed with COVID cases, period. People are not dying for lack of treatment. The entire county of nearly 200,000 people has had 53 cases total, and four deaths — two women in their 70s and two men in their 90s.

Sorry, I can see you really, really, really don’t want to accept that there are many areas in no danger of being overwhelmed, but I’m afraid the good news is what it is. Sometimes we just have to take our lumps and accept the good news, no matter how emotionally attached we are to believing it’s all disastrous everywhere. Keep your chin up … maybe some really, truly, horrible disaster will come along eventually to confirm your world-view and brighten your day.

I’m especially amused by the brave souls who’ve been telling us since 2017 that they’re members of something called #TheResistance – equating themselves with people who risked their lives to sabotage fascist military operations. Now we have politicians actually behaving like fascists … issuing orders to arrest and fine people for daring to be outside without a mask, encouraging citizens to snitch on each other, etc. The mayor of Los Angeles even announced the city will cut off water and electricity to any “non-essential” businesses operating without the city’s blessing.

As far as I can tell, members of #TheResistance don’t see a problem with all this authoritarian overreach. In fact, they’re outraged that people are actually resisting the authoritarian overreach. Those danged protestors want to kill people, doncha know.

All of this was, of course, entirely predictable. As I’ve written in several posts and explained in my Diet, Health and the Wisdom of Crowds speech, The Anointed always follow the same pattern:

To solve a problem, they come up with a Grand Plan, which nearly always involves spending more of other people’s money and restricting more of other people’s freedoms. Check.

Because they are so supremely confident in their own intelligence, The Anointed don’t feel the need to provide evidence the theory behind the plan is correct, and will happily dismiss any evidence the theory is wrong. Check.

Once The Anointed come up with a Grand Plan, the plan is now The Good, so people who oppose the plan aren’t just opposing a plan … no, they’re opposing The Good itself, and they would only do that for one of two reasons: 1) they’re stupid, or 2) they’re evil. Check.

This just proves southerners are stupid … these Republican governors don’t mind sacrificing people’s lives just so businesses can get back to making money.

I began using the term The Anointed after reading Thomas Sowell’s terrific book The Vision of The Anointed. Although I don’t talk about it as often, he also spelled out the alternative vision in the book. He calls it The Tragic Vision. That may sound like an oh, life is awful philosophy, but it’s not. In fact, I’ve found that people who share The Tragic Vision are generally happier than those who share the attitudes of The Anointed.

That’s because while The Anointed are forever dissatisfied and constantly trying to force their version of The Good on us (often making things worse in the process), The Tragic Vision accepts that life on earth will always be imperfect. Those with The Tragic Vision understand that our choices in life are rarely between The Good vs. The Bad; our choices are usually between alternatives that are neither all good nor all bad. That’s just how life is. If you accept and embrace that, you’ll be happier. You may even find yourself engaging in what author/philosopher Joseph Campbell called joyful participation in the sorrows of the world.

The coronavirus is here, it will spread, and it will kill people. That’s bad. However, that doesn’t mean staying in lockdown is The Good. Life has to go on. We’ve faced worse pandemics without panicking and trashing our economy. A nasty flu killed perhaps 80,000 Americans in 2017-2018, but we didn’t shut down the world. In 1969, a flu came along that killed somewhere between a million and four million people worldwide, including more than 100,000 Americans – and that was when our population was only 205 million. The same death rate today would translate to 160,000 dead Americans. But life went on.

Much as The Anointed and the bed-wetters would like to believe the lockdown is about The Good (savings lives!) vs. The Bad (opening up society again just so some greedy business owners can make money), the issue isn’t so childishly simple. Yes, when we start mingling with each other again, more people will become infected and a small fraction of those people will die – and that will happen whether we end the lockdown today or two years from now. It sucks.

But if you really want to see a spike in deaths, just wait until we social-distance ourselves into a worldwide economic meltdown. And unlike COVID-19, which is mostly killing people who are already old or frail, an economic meltdown will end up killing people of all ages.

If you’re afraid the coronavirus will pounce on you and kill you the moment you step outside, here’s the solution: stay home. Lock yourself in your mom’s basement UNTIL IT’S SAFE! (But don’t forget to tweet about how you’re a brave member of #TheResistance. )

Meanwhile, don’t expect the rest of us to stay locked down, and don’t whine about how stupid and evil we are for calling for life to return to normal. It’s time to leave BizarroWorld. Some of us have already left … and despite the predictions of those genius blue-check journalists, we lived to tell the tale.

I’ll close with a quote from the Stanford professor:

The total lockdown may have been justified at the start of this pandemic, but it must now end — smartly, without irrational, unnecessary requirements contrary to medical science, common sense and logic. The goal of the strict isolation was accomplished in the overwhelming majority of places … It’s time to stop the cycle of becoming frantic as we see what are totally expected changes in hypothetical projections. Instead, let’s use empirical evidence and established medical science.

The time of failed leadership must end, or we are committing national suicide.

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Grief Break Over The Marvelous Teacher

Sorry to say, I need another grief break. My mom, Shirley J. Naughton, passed away on Sunday at the age of 83. It wasn’t a total shock because she’d been having brain-shrinkage issues and was obviously declining mentally. The Older Brother, who’d been taking her to a neurologist in St. Louis, told me a year ago if I wanted to visit Mom while she was still all there, I’d best not wait. We made a trip to Illinois soon after, and were planning another trip this spring. Social distancing canceled that trip. We figured we’d make a trip to see her this summer once the lockdown is over.

Just over a week ago, she suffered a hemorrhagic stroke. There was nothing doctors could do except recommend comfort care. The Older Brother and Younger Sister took her home. When I woke on Sunday, Chareva told me my nephew Grant had called to say Mom had passed.

Like a lot of women in her generation, Mom married young. She was 19 when she and my dad tied the knot. She was only 21 when The Older Brother was born, and 23 when I was born. For many years, she was just Mom to us, a housewife and mother. But she always had a lively mind, so in her late thirties, she enrolled in college classes. She ended up earning a master’s degree in English literature and went on to teach composition and literature in local high schools.  I met some of her former students when I was college. They couldn’t say enough about what a marvelous teacher she was and how much they enjoyed her classes.

Even after she officially retired, she was always busy. As her obituary explains, she was involved with the local symphony, the local arts council, the Abraham Lincoln Museum, a gourmet cooking club, activities with her grandkids, etc., etc. I used to tell her she needed to retire from being retired. She didn’t slow down until the brain issues forced it on her.

I called her a few days before the stroke to check in. She was mostly coherent and told me she’d found a box of letters I’d written to her over the years. She told me she loved re-reading those letters they were well-written and funny. She told me the one about “mom school” in particular made her laugh out loud while bringing a tear to her eye. I wasn’t sure which letter she meant.

I didn’t know it was the last conversation we’d ever have, but in retrospect, it was a fitting goodbye. I dug through my files (I’ve long been a fanatic about backing up my work) and found that “mom school” letter from nearly 20 years ago. I’ve posted it below because I think it says as much about Mom as anything I could write now.

I’ll thank you in advance for your condolences, then I’m taking some time off.

Dear Mom,

You’ve said more than once that you hope to discover your purpose in life someday. Since you’ve read rather a lot on spiritual topics, you probably know that people who have near-death experiences are often told to return to their lives, and to remember that the purpose of living is to love, to learn, and to teach.  If that’s true, and I like to think it is, then you’ve already been living your purpose, even if you’re unaware of it.

When I was attending Illinois State, I met some of your former students, and they all thought you were a marvelous teacher. I could’ve told them that. I’ve been attending the Shirley Naughton School of Moms for four decades. Here’s just some of what I’ve learned:

Preschool: Moms are warm and they kiss you and they love you a lot. They don’t like it if you draw on the bricks. They still love you, though.  When you grow up, you’ll probably marry Mom.

Kindergarten: Moms know how to make buttered toast with cinnamon and sugar and hot milk poured on top. This is quite possibly the best breakfast ever invented.

First Grade: If you don’t wear your scarf and hat, you’ll get an earache. Moms warn you about these things because they love you.

Second Grade: If you get an earache, it’s okay to wake up Mom in the middle of the night and tell her about it. She’ll hug you and kiss you so you’ll feel better. The next day, she’ll take you to the doctor. He’ll put oily stuff in your ears. And you should’ve worn your hat and scarf.

Third Grade: Moms know how to take an ordinary can of Spaghetti-Os and turn them into the best lunch ever invented. They do this by mixing in pieces of hot dogs. It’s a lot of work, but they do it anyway because they love you.

Fourth Grade: Really good Moms become den mothers for a bunch of Cub Scouts. They teach you techniques for creating modern art, such as gluing split peas to a jelly glass and spray-painting the whole thing gold. You can give these masterpieces to your grandparents.

Fifth Grade: Moms don’t like slugs. If you find a slug on the sidewalk, you definitely should not put it on the kitchen counter shortly before Mom walks in to cook. Hearing your mother scream isn’t as much fun as you might think. If you do put a slug on the kitchen counter, Mom will still love you.

Sixth Grade: If you learn a new song at school, Mom would like to hear you sing it. If you sing really well, your Mom will say so. If you don’t sing really well, she’ll say you do anyway. You probably shouldn’t judge your talents based on what Mom says.

Seventh Grade: If they are surprised, Moms can forget what their own kids look like. If you forget your homework, you definitely should not let yourself into the house through the garage door and surprise Mom coming out of the bathroom. In this situation, Moms often mistake their kids for axe murderers. If you do grow up and become an axe murderer, your Mom will still love you and tell people you’re just confused.

Eighth Grade: Moms love dogs. They also love hamsters and guinea pigs. If you want any of these animals, you should go straight to Mom.

Ninth Grade: If you make a Mom angry enough, she’ll spank you. This isn’t a great concern, however, because it doesn’t hurt and you’ll both end up laughing. Also, it will probably only happen two or three times in your entire life.

Tenth Grade: Good Moms love your friends and feed them better meals than they get at home. They also talk to your friends as if they have brains, which is true almost all the time. This means your friends will want to spend a lot of time at your house.

Eleventh Grade: Moms are smart. They can go to college and learn about English literature and philosophy and start correcting your Dad’s grammar. This is really cool because it gives you someone to talk to if you’ve also been reading philosophy and literature and enjoying it. The bad news is that sometimes you’ll end up talking until 2:00 in the morning and spend the next day feeling tired and not all that philosophical.

Twelfth Grade: If you’re studying literature in school, you should raid Mom’s library and see if she’s already read whatever book you’re supposed to read next. If she has, you could almost write a term paper on what you glean from the notes scribbled in the margins. At the very least, you’ll have some interesting points to raise in class and impress the teacher.

College, First Year: Moms love you and don’t care what you plan to do for a living as long as you’re happy.

College, Second Year: Moms don’t mind if your band practices in the basement. They like hearing the same song fifty or sixty times in one week.

College, Third Year: Moms love you and don’t care what you plan to do for a living as long as you’re happy.

College, Fourth Year: When you come home for weekends and holidays, Moms celebrate by making Beef Bourguignonne. This is the best dinner ever invented and only takes a couple of days to whip together.

College, Fifth Year: Moms love you and don’t care what you plan to do for a living as long as you’re happy.

Early Twenties: If your best friend gets married, Moms make moussaka for the rehearsal party. This is the second-best dinner ever invented and only takes a couple of days to whip together. The next morning, it’s also the best breakfast ever invented.

Later Twenties: If you write a play, Moms will be reasonably sure you’ve established yourself as a literary genius.

Thirty: Moms don’t care if you don’t do anything for a living as long as you’re not completely miserable. Moms will assure you that if you follow your dreams, something good will happen.

Early Thirties: Moms are good to your girlfriends and can even miss them when you decide you didn’t actually mean to get engaged. Some girlfriends will tell you they wish they’d had your Mom instead of theirs.

Mid Thirties: Moms make excellent comedic material. If you can’t make people laugh by talking about your Mom, you’d better find another career to pursue.

Later Thirties: Great Moms make great Grandmas, too. Contrary to popular belief, they don’t necessarily live in little houses that smell bad, and it can make you feel warm and fuzzy to see how much your nephews like going to grandma’s house.

Forties: Little boys don’t actually grow up and marry their Moms. But the lucky ones grow up and get married and are almost ridiculously happy – because they learned how to love and be loved from their Moms.

Thanks, Mom. You really are a marvelous teacher.

I love you,
Tom

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We Need To Leave BizarroWorld

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Here’s how bizarre BizarroWorld has become: in some California counties, you can be fined $1,000 for being out in public without wearing a mask. In Michigan, the governor decided seeds and hardware supplies are non-essential and people can’t go out to buy them … but alcohol and lottery tickets are essential, so it’s okay to go buy those. Meanwhile, people all over the nation are calling the police to rat out fellow citizens who fail to observe mandated social distancing. Sig Heil.

This is nuts. People are acting as if the coronavirus is airborne HIV or the Super Flu from the Stephen King novel The Stand. By gosh, if someone doesn’t properly social distance himself, he’ll spread the disease to all of us and we’ll all die. Honey, that man is playing basketball in a public park with his friends! Call the police before he kills us all!

The insanity is continuing even though the death toll is a mere fraction of what various governments and experts predicted. Dr. Fauci, the head of the coronavirus task force, initially suggested COVID-19 could kill as many as 240,000 Americans. Now he’s downgraded that prediction to 60,000. As I write this post, the reported number of deaths in the U.S. is around 33,000. Yes, that’s a lot of deaths. But keep in mind, the CDC estimates at least 60,000 and perhaps 80,000 Americans died from influenza during the 2017-2018 flu season.

And there’s a good chance the number of COVID-19 deaths has been exaggerated. Here’s a quote from a Fox News article:

The federal government is classifying the deaths of patients infected with the coronavirus as COVID-19 deaths, regardless of any underlying health issues that could have contributed to the loss of someone’s life.

Dr. Deborah Birx, the response coordinator for the White House coronavirus task force, said the federal government is continuing to count the suspected COVID-19 deaths, despite other nations doing the opposite.

“There are other countries that if you had a pre-existing condition, and let’s say the virus caused you to go to the ICU [intensive care unit] and then have a heart or kidney problem,” she said during a Tuesday news briefing at the White House. “Some countries are recording that as a heart issue or a kidney issue and not a COVID-19 death.

“The intent is … if someone dies with COVID-19 we are counting that,” she added.

A Minnesota senator who also happens to be a doctor reported that he received a seven-page document from the MN Department of Health advising him to fill out death certificates with a diagnosis of COVID-19 whether the person actually died from COVID-19 or not. It’s almost as if governments are so heavily invested in convincing us the coronavirus is especially deadly, they’ll fudge the numbers if necessary.

It’s not just the death toll that’s been far lower than originally predicted. The number of hospital beds, ventilators, etc., we were told we’d need was way off as well. New York, which originally said it was desperately short of the ventilators it would need, is now apparently shipping excess ventilators to other states.

Well, that just proves social distancing worked!

Uh … no. Here’s a quote from an article in National Review:

There is no shortage of government spin, regurgitated by media commentators, assuring us that the drastic reductions in the projections over just a few days powerfully illustrate how well social distancing and the substantial shuttering of the economy is working. Nonsense. As Alex Berenson points out on Twitter, with an accompanying screenshot data updated by IHME on April 1, the original April 2 model explicitly “assum[ed] full social distancing through May 2020.”

The model on which the government is relying is simply unreliable. It is not that social distancing has changed the equation; it is that the equation’s fundamental assumptions are so dead wrong, they cannot remain reasonably stable for just 72 hours.

It simply doesn’t make sense that the drastically reduced death toll is all because of social distancing. Let’s not forget what flattening the curve means. Better yet, let’s start by explaining what the theory behind social distancing doesn’t mean. It doesn’t mean “we avoid contact with each other, and therefore most people are never exposed to the virus, and far fewer people die.”

The virus is going to spread through population eventually. Social distancing was mandated to slow down the rate at which it would spread. The fear was that if too many people became sick within a short span, there wouldn’t be enough hospital beds and ventilators to save people who could be saved with medical intervention. Flatten the curve means we slow down the rate of exposure so the medical system isn’t overwhelmed. That’s all it means. Dr. Malcolm Kendrick made that point in a recent post.

It may well seem that all this suffering was…well, for what, exactly? To simply prevent a surge of cases. This government, all governments, must be honest about this and admit that in the longer term we cannot prevent almost everybody getting infected and acknowledge that a proportion of those infected will die.

When lockdown restrictions are lifted this does not mean that the virus has gone. It does not mean that people cannot infect each other. It does not mean we can simply carry on as before. It means that we have kept the first surge under control.

The big social-distancing lockdown was never about stopping the spread the of virus. That’s not possible. So unless you believe more than 100,000 Americans were saved from death because medical intervention was available thanks to social distancing, the logical conclusion is that the lethality of the virus was wildly overestimated.

So how deadly is the virus? We still don’t know exactly, because we don’t know how many people have been exposed to it. We won’t know until antibody tests are available and given to large, random samples of the population in different areas. But there’s growing evidence that the virus has already spread more than government officials first believed. Here’s a quote from Chicago City Wire:

A phlebotomist working at Roseland Community Hospital said Thursday that 30% to 50% of patients tested for the coronavirus have antibodies while only around 10% to 20% of those tested have the active virus.

Sumaya Owaynat, a phlebotomy technician, said she tests between 400 and 600 patients on an average day in the parking lot at Roseland Community Hospital. Owaynat said the number of patients coming through the testing center who appear to have already had coronavirus and gotten over it is far greater than those who currently have the disease.

Here are some quotes from an article in The Los Angeles Times:

A man found dead in his house in early March. A woman who fell sick in mid-February and later died.

These early COVID-19 deaths in the San Francisco Bay Area suggest that the novel coronavirus had established itself in the community long before health officials started looking for it. The lag time has had dire consequences, allowing the virus to spread unchecked before social distancing rules went into effect.

I disagree with that last sentence. The virus is going to spread. Social distancing only slows down the spread. So if San Francisco’s hospitals weren’t overwhelmed, it’s good news that the virus has already spread more than officials estimated. More on that later. Back to the article:

“The virus was freewheeling in our community and probably has been here for quite some time,” Dr. Jeff Smith, a physician who is the chief executive of Santa Clara County government, told county leaders in a recent briefing.

How long? A study out of Stanford suggests a dramatic viral surge in February.

But Smith on Friday said data collected by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, local health departments and others suggest it was “a lot longer than we first believed” — most likely since “back in December.”

“This wasn’t recognized because we were having a severe flu season,” Smith said in an interview. “Symptoms are very much like the flu. If you got a mild case of COVID, you didn’t really notice. You didn’t even go to the doctor. The doctor maybe didn’t even do it because they presumed it was the flu.”

The virus that has people ratting out fellow citizens for playing basketball in a park is sooo freakin’ deadly, by gosh, millions of people may have already been exposed and failed to notice.

Even the CDC’s own data suggests coronavirus was here far earlier than we thought:

CDC Data supports theory of much earlier COVID infection than has been reported. Data shows a dramatic spike in “Influenza Like Illness” in certain states as early as November of 2019. A number of states appear to have already experienced an ILI and made it through to a more stable ILI footing for this time of year.

The US Military participated in the 2019 Military World Games in Wuhan, China between October 18 and October 27 of 2019. Their chartered flights arrive and depart from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. Washington is one of the earliest states to show a spike in ILI, corresponding with the incubation period should the virus have been introduced as the military traveled through Washington to other destinations.

If the virus has been around longer than officials originally believed, and if tests eventually show far more of us have been exposed than originally believed, that’s very, very good news. Two infectious disease researchers I saw interviewed in YouTube videos both made the same point: a virus like this spreads until it runs out of new, vulnerable hosts. If millions of us have already been exposed, the virus is running out of those hosts. One of the researchers, in fact, said that social distancing may just ensure a second wave of deaths, because new hosts are being held in reserve.

An article in The Economist quotes researchers who believe the virus is about as deadly as the flu:

Despite initially being warned about deaths in the “millions” if Americans didn’t subject themselves to business killing closures and “social distancing,” the coronavirus, while it has spread faster than normal viruses do has actually been less deadly, according to the Economist, citing a new study.

Last Saturday, the Economist said that it is actually somewhat of a blessing that the coronavirus’ spread across the United States as it did, in fact calling it “good news.”

“If millions of people were infected weeks ago without dying, the virus must be less deadly than official data suggest,” the magazine reported, while utilizing graphs that suggest the faster the disease spreads and hits its peak, in fact the fewer people that will die from it.

Citing a new study by Justin Silverman and Alex Washburne, the Economist says that data shows the coronavirus is currently widespread in America, which is quite obvious.

In a somewhat surprising conclusion, the two researchers found that the mortality rate of coronavirus could be as low as 0.1 percent, or similar to the mortality rate of the flu.

Okay, any mortality figure is a best-guess until we really and truly know how many people have already been exposed. But considering how many people have tested positive and never felt sick (ABC’s George Stephanopoulos being a recent example), I find it difficult to believe that this virus is soooo deadly, we all have to avoid each other and kill the economy in the process.

Yes, the virus is deadly for a small subset of vulnerable people. The vast majority of us aren’t in that subset.  As this study put it:

People <65 years old have very small risks of COVID-19 death even in the hotbeds of the pandemic and deaths for people <65 years without underlying predisposing conditions are remarkably uncommon. Strategies focusing specifically on protecting high-risk elderly individuals should be considered in managing the pandemic.

Most of the people who’ve died from COVID-19 died were elderly and had existing health problems. I suspect many of them would have died from ordinary influenza if COVID-19 hadn’t gotten them first. After all, influenza kills more than 30,000 Americans in a typical year, and (at the risk of repeating myself) killed perhaps 80,000 Americans in 2017-2018.  If the death toll from that flu had been the lead story every night on the news, people would have been just as scared.

I think it’s time we start operating on what Lierre Keith called adult knowledge in her wonderful book The Vegetarian Myth. She was referring to vegans who want to believe nothing dies to put food on their plates. Adult knowledge of how food is grown and harvested says otherwise. As adults, we simply have to accept that things aren’t always as nice and pretty as we’d like.

Adult knowledge says the coronavirus will spread … and the most social distancing can do is slow the spread. Adult knowledge says the virus will kill people – just like the flu kills people — whether we shut down the economy or not. Adult knowledge says we’re not going to save millions of lives by sheltering at home for months on end – but we will bankrupt thousands of businesses and put millions of people in debt.

I agree with Dr. Malcolm Kendrick:

So, what is the exit strategy? The answer is that we don’t have one. We have a strategy of delay and mitigation which will continue until… when? Until everyone has been infected? Until we have an effective treatment? Until we have an effective vaccine? Until enough people have been infected that we have achieved herd immunity?

The Government must tell us the truth and be clear about what end point they are seeking to achieve. Only then can we have an exit strategy. One thing for sure is that this lockdown is not a way to defeat the virus.

BizarroWorld has been kind to me. I’m still employed, my expenses have gone down, I get to spend more time with my daughters because they’re not in school, and I get to work from home every day, which I prefer. But we need to leave BizarroWorld behind.

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The (BizarroWorld) Farm Report: Easter-Weekend Work

I hope you all had a good Easter/Passover/Whatever week. It was, of course, an unusual Easter weekend because of this:

Chareva usually puts together an Easter-egg hunt on the property and invites friends and relatives. She didn’t bother this year, of course. There are rules about gatherings, you know. Some healthy kid might breathe in a coronavirus out there in the fresh air and die within minutes. Or something like that. Turned out the weather wouldn’t have allowed for an Easter-egg anyway, but we’ll come back to that.

On Saturday, we got several steps closer to having one of the old chicken yards secured. The yard is surrounded by good fencing too thick for a raccoon to chew through, but thanks to our hilly, uneven terrain, there are places where the fence doesn’t quite meet the ground. I don’t know if you can see the gap in the picture below, but trust me, a raccoon wouldn’t miss it.

Even where the fence does meet the ground, we need to keep Rocky Raccoon from burrowing under. We learned from experience that a double-layer of pavers does the trick. If there’s a raccoon strong enough move those, I should probably just get out of his way and let him have the chickens … or least use a higher-caliber rifle to kill him.

I sleep later than Chareva, so by the time I woke up on Saturday, the pavers had already been delivered. There are 168 of them in that stack.

I’m all in favor of getting some exercise doing farm work, but carrying those things one at a time to where we needed them seemed a bit ridiculous. I elected to move a stack at a time with the hand truck, then we placed them along the outer fence.

The yard we’re securing shares an inner fence with the other old chicken yard. There’s nothing at this point to keep Rocky Raccoon from waltzing right into that other yard, which means he could scurry under the shared fence and help himself to a chicken dinner. So we put down a layer of pavers along the shared fence as well.

I certainly got in some exercise pulling a hand truck loaded with pavers across the hill and down to the entryway to that yard.

In some spots along the shard fence, the ground dips enough that it took three pavers to cover the gap.

The pavers aren’t fancy or pretty, but they do the job. If we ever redesign or move the chicken yards, the pavers are at least portable.

We ended up using all 168 of them. In fact, we’re probably going to order two more stacks of 168 soon. Chareva wants to secure the chicken run as well so the chickens can have access to it after dark without risking becoming a main course for a raccoon.

We have one more task to accomplish before moving the existing flock into that yard: we need to get out some twine and fix a few holes in the net. I don’t know if a hawk would try to swoop down through the holes, and I don’t know if a raccoon would try climbing through them, but we’re not taking any chances.

I’m sure the chickens will be happy after the move. Their soon-to-be new home has plenty of vegetation and will certainly have plenty of bugs to peck.

Their current yard, by contrast, has been pecked down to the dirt.

As I mentioned, Sunday wouldn’t have been a good day for an Easter-egg hunt even without social-distancing orders. It rained sheets for a good part of the day. When we get heavy rains, all that water eventually runs down the hills that surround our property.

Our creek usually looks like this — I took this photo a couple of weeks ago, in fact:

After the rains finally stopped on Sunday around 5:00 PM, it looked this:

Here are some shots from different angles.

That’s why my bridge over the creek is chained to a big ol’ tree. As you may recall, when I built the bridge, I figured it was too heavy to be washed away by rain. That theory lasted until the next heavy rain, when I had to go retrieve the thing from rather far away.  I’m all for outdoor exercise, but I can do without having to lift and drag that beast again.

Stay healthy, my friends.

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