Are Face Masks Biblical? 

Leviticus 13:45

The third book of the law, Leviticus, contains the instruction that a person diagnosed with leprosy should cover his upper lip:

  • “And the leper in whom the plague is, his clothes shall be rent, and his head bare, and he shall put a covering upon his upper lip, and shall cry, Unclean, unclean.”
  • (Leviticus 13:45).

Jesus Christ Pantocrator

What could be meant by covering the upper lip? Would a strip of linen pasted in place suffice, if such could be made to stay on? How was the instruction understood, when the law of Moses was a living law code? Evidently, that the covering was to reach up as far as the upper lip, covering also the mouth and the lower part of the face. According to Edersheim, lepers were instructed "to bear the appearance of mourners:"

"As the leper passed by, his clothes rent, his hair dishevelled, and the lower part of his face and his upper lip covered, it was as one going to death who reads his own burial-service, while the mournful words, 'Unclean! Unclean!' which he uttered, proclaimed that his was both living and moral death." (Alfred Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, Chapter XV, Kindle location 9848).

The leper, both mourner and decedent in his own unending funeral procession, was "wrapped in mourner's garb." (Edersheim, Kindle 9900). The face covering, according to Edersheim, covered the lower part of the face up to the upper lip. The translators of the Septuagint, the Greek version of the Old Testament, take a similar tack in reading Leviticus 13:45:

"And the leper in whom the plague is, let his garments be ungirt, and his head uncovered; and let him have a covering put upon [περιβαλεσθω] his mouth [στομα], and he shall be called unclean." (Leviticus 13:45, Brenton Septuagint).

They seem to be visualizing something like a scarf flung around or wrapped around the mouth. Something like a face mask, perhaps. Jerome follows suit in the Vulgate, "...his mouth covered with a cloth [os veste contectum]..."

Not only Edersheim, but many interpreters perceive a likeness to the mourning custom mentioned in Ezekiel: "And ye shall do as I have done: ye shall not cover your lips, nor eat the bread of men." (Ezekiel 24:22). Ezekiel describes the mourning custom as involving both upper and lower lips:

"Forbear to cry, make no mourning for the dead, bind the tire of thine head upon thee, and put on thy shoes upon thy feet, and cover not thy lips, and eat not the bread of men." (Ezekiel 24:17).

Ezekiel is being commanded not to observe the normal rituals of mourning. This would involve covering both lips: "Cover not thy lips — Mourners covered the under part of the face, from the nose to the bottom of the chin." (Adam Clarke, Commentary on Ezekiel 24:17). Covering the lips, perhaps, expresses that the mourner is struck dumb by his sudden loss. Micah also implies mourning in the shame of prophetic futility, "Then shall the seers be ashamed, and the diviners confounded: yea, they shall all cover their lips; for there is no answer of God." (Micah 3:7). The word is again sapham, from saphah meaning lip in the sense of margin or terminus. The intended meaning of these 'mourning' verses seems to be a covering of both lips, upper and lower. To anchor such a covering, it might be helpful to involve the nose and chin.

The analogy between the leper's face covering and the mourner's is so strong the Rabbis of the Talmud discuss them together, as if the regulations were the same: "A mourner must wrap up his head, for the Merciful One directed Ezekiel [Ezek. xxiv. 17]: 'And cover not thyself to thy upper lip.' Hence, others must cover. How is it, however, with one who is under the ban? Said R. Joseph: Come and hear (Taanith): 'And they wrapped up their heads and sat as if they were under the ban, or mourners, until they were commiserated by Heaven.'. . .What is the law in regard to a leper? Come and hear: It is written [Lev. xiii. 45]: 'And he shall cover himself up to his upper lip.' Hence we see that wrapping up is necessary." (The Babylonian Talmud, translated by Michael L. Rodkinson, Tract Ebel Rabbathi (Great Mourning), or Sema'Hoth (Joys), Chapter V, Kindle location 33124).

But notice there is more. The likeness is not only to a mourner but to the dead man himself: ". . .and he was to have a covering upon his upper lip, his jaws being tied up with a linen cloth, after the same manner in which the Jews bind up the dead, which custom is still observed among the Jews in Barbary on funeral occasions: a custom which, from Ezekiel 24:17, we learn had prevailed very anciently among the Jews in Palestine." (Adam Clarke, Adam's Clarke's Commentary on the Bible, Leviticus 13:45). According to Josephus, lepers were in effect already dead: "And for the lepers, he suffered them not to come into the city at all, nor to live with any others, as if they were in effect dead persons;. . ." (Flavius Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, Book III, Chapter 11, Section 3). Thus we come to the deceased Lazarus, ". . .and his face was bound about with a napkin." (John 11:44). Thus would the leper's face have been bound, and what we have here is a face mask. Leprosy is like death in life, as Aaron pleads when Miriam is struck, for a brief moment, by this condition: "Let her not be as one dead, of whom the flesh is half consumed when he cometh out of his mother's womb." (Numbers 12:12). Not only is leprosy social death, but, like a dead body, the leper defiles those who touch him: "The life of a leper is as of one dead, for as a corpse makes unclean all that comes in contact with it, so too the leper.'" (Louis Ginsburg, Legends of the Jews, Volume 3, Kindle location 2964).


What For?

What could be the reason for the requirement that a leper wear a cloth over his mouth? Is it just to express mourning, or set forth a likeness to death in life, or is there more? Aben Ezra, an eleventh century Jewish commentator, thought he espied a public health agenda, as John Gill quotes him as explaining:

  • and he shall put a covering upon his upper lip; as a mourner, see Ezekiel 24:17. Jarchi interprets it of both lips, upper and under, which were covered with a linen cloth or vail thrown over the shoulder, and with which the mouth was covered; and this was done, as Aben Ezra says, that the leper might not hurt any with the breath of his mouth:
  • and shall cry, Unclean, unclean; as he passed along in any public place, that everyone might avoid him, and not be polluted by him: the Targum of Jonathan is, 'a herald shall proclaim and say, Depart, depart from the unclean.'”
  • (John Gill, Exposition of the Old and New Testaments, Leviticus 13:45).

Unlike some of us, God can multi-task; the covering of both lips might serve both a public health function, and also be emblematic of mourning, leprosy being a kind of social death. God is commanding, in short, that the leper wear a face mask, in order to protect the public.

John Wesley describes the double function of this requirement: "A covering on his upper lip — Partly as another badge of his sorrow and shame, and partly for the preservation of others from his breath or touch." (John Wesley, Notes on the Old Testament, p. 402, Leviticus 13:45). The Geneva Bible commentators also see it, in spite of writing long before Louis Pasteur ever proved the germ theory of disease: "Either in token of mourning, or for fear of infecting others." (Geneva Bible Translation Notes).

Not to suggest that the modern theonomist Rousas Rushdoony is in any sense a reliable commentator on the Hebrew law, even he cannot fail but recognize the mask's function in Leviticus 13:45:

"Again, in Leviticus 13:45, the leper, a term which may refer to a contagious disease or diseases now unknown to us, had to rend his garments, shave his head, and wear a mask over his upper lip, to avoid contagion by breathing." (Rousas J. Rushdoony, The Institutes of Biblical Law, Volume 2, The Inheritance of Life, Kindle location 4448).

Was this Biblical face mask the same as the ones proposed for use today? In one sense, no. Its sole purpose was to protect the community from the contagion, not the sick man himself, who already had the disease. It was for source control, not protection of the wearer. Did it look like ours? It may have. The art of the seamstress utilizes the same subdivision of architecture as the tent-maker. To 'stand up,' her creations must be hung, must depend from some point of support, because stretchy fabrics like spandex did not exist back then. To cover the chest, a tunic must hang from the shoulders, a level beam of attachment. To cover both lips, as is specified in the Biblical instructions for this face mask, without falling off or moving around, the nose presents the obvious point of structural support.

The intent of measures of this sort is not to be unkind to unfortunate people suffering from illness. The intent is to stamp out the illness, so that no one need ever suffer in this way. If the provisions were scrupulously observed, this would have been the result; instead, they are followed fitfully and imperfectly, and the disease lingers on as a baleful companion of humanity. Should the disease ever be extirpated, with what weapon will God then smite His enemies? He will improvise; He has generously offered humanity the key to eliminating this scourge.

Given that COVID-19 did not exist until 2019, it is not mentioned in the Bible. The law of Moses is not imposed on the church as a civil code. Yet, to the believer, it represents a treasure -house, filled with good things, including still-valid principles of public health. It is surprising that so many people who claim to take an interest in the Bible do not actually care what the Bible says about face masks. This medical appliance was invented by God Himself, and so degrading it as a 'face diaper' is a poor idea.


Hansen's Disease

What is leprosy, in the Bible? What exactly does this category include, and what does it exclude? It is evidently a far more comprehensive category than our disease category, because it includes 'sick building syndrome'-type conditions, like mold and mildew. Perhaps a better translation would be 'corruption,' or 'the creeping crud.' God has His categories, just as we have ours; He forms them, I would imagine, by placing together things which remind Him of each other, as we do, and so mildew ends up in a category with human skin disease. Instead of complaining that this category is ill-formed, we should try to ascertain what is in it and what is out. God made the world and what is in it, so He knows the inward likenesses and congruences better than do we. Some interpreters do not even think that Hansen's disease is intended to be included in the Biblical diagnosis of leprosy, because there is no mention of the horrific consequences of infection with this pathogen. But a sensible compromise might understand the category to consist of Hansen's disease plus other disfiguring conditions: "Ancient and medieval leprosy was a more inclusive diagnosis than modern ideas of the spectrum caused by M. leprae (also known today as Hansen's disease) but it included these conditions." (Helen Bynum, Spitting Blood, p. 33). Settling on this compromise understanding, how is this disease spread?:

  • “How do people get Hansen's disease?
  • “It is not known exactly how Hansen's disease spreads between people. Scientists currently think it may happen when a person with Hansen's disease coughs or sneezes.”
  • (Centers for Disease Control website, listing for Hansen's Disease (Leprosy)).

Plague DoctorThe law of Moses encapsulates a great deal of useful information about how to control contagious diseases, some of which was successfully decoded by the rabbis, some not so much. They did share our modern liking for a stay-at-home policy in time of pandemic, though hopefully without the ham-handed coercion of our modern governors:

"Our Rabbis taught: When there is an epidemic in the town keep your feet inside [the house], as it says, And none of you shall go out at the door of his house until the morning [Exo. 12:22], and it further says, Come, my people, enter thou into thy chambers and shut thy doors about thee [Isaiah 26:20]; and it is again said: The sword without, the terror within shall destroy. . .In the time of an epidemic Raba used to keep the windows shut, as it is written, For death is come up into our windows [Jeremiah 9:20]." (Babylonian Talmud, Baba Kamma, 60b).

Though there is not any detailed discussion of disease transmission, Jeremiah 9:21 suggests the idea of airborne spread, mentioning a pestilence which comes in through the window: "Teach your daughters a lament and one another a dirge, for Death has climbed through our windows; it has entered our fortresses, cutting off children from the streets, young men from the squares." (Jeremiah 9:21, HCSB). In antiquity windows were usually not glazed, because the technology for producing large flat panes of glass was not yet developed. An epidemic illness which would enter through the windows would likely be airborne.

The principle of quarantine is Biblical, though the Biblical prescription centers around segregating the sick, whether diagnosed or plausibly suspected, from the healthy. There is no provision in the Bible that would lock up the 40 million inhabitants of the State of California, the overwhelming majority of whose health was not in dispute; it is somewhat misleading to call that a 'quarantine.' The rabbis are sometimes accused of diagnosing every case of eczema as leprosy, but this is unfair. They realized that this is a specific disease which is not found in every time and place.

It is difficult to diagnose diseases of the past; what, exactly, was the epidemic disease described by Thucydides, which swept Pericles and many other Athenians away? Some say typhoid fever, some smallpox, some measles. It's not precisely, in detail, like any modern disease. That does not mean it was described incorrectly; pathogens are mutable. Perhaps it is a disease which no longer exists. Medieval Bible readers perceived leprosy looming larger, as it was coming toward them. Though present previously, or at least some condition described as such, the Crusaders brought a particularly virulent form of leprosy back from the Holy Land to Great Britain in 1230 A.D., which then raged as an epidemic for several centuries, before disappearing. But was even that Biblical leprosy? The Rabbis themselves say that leprosy does not occur in Babylon:

  • "R. Johanan stated: Why are there no lepers in Babylon? — Because they eat beet, drink beer, and bathe in the waters of the Euphrates."
  • (Babylonian Talmud, Kethuboth, 77b).

How can Moses have known that leprosy was spread by saliva droplets broadcast through the air? He cannot; Louis Pasteur would not enunciate the germ theory of disease for several millennia, nor had Carl Flugge, the German hygienist, yet discovered that these droplets are ejected even by a subject who is not coughing or sneezing. How can Moses have intuited that hand-washing can make a sick man harmless to others?: "And whomever the one who has the discharge touches, and has not rinsed his hands in water, he shall wash his clothes and bathe in water, and be unclean until evening." (Leviticus 15:11). Why would rinsing his hands make any difference on the man's 'infectivity'? Uncleanness is a complex category running from the highest spirituality to the lowliest of material circumstances, but there is plainly a public health link.

It took centuries until Ignaz Semmelweis urged his fellow doctors to wash their hands before doing pelvic exams of pregnant women. So how did Moses know hand-washing was a sound practice? He should not have, he had not done the research, but he did know. Under the theory of divine authorship of the Mosaic legislation, there is no problem. There is a point of similarity here. While our modern-day health authorities devote obsessive attention to hand-washing, environmental contamination accounts for only, reportedly, 6% of infections with COVID-19. Most people who get it, get it from breathing in the exhalations of infected persons. Like leprosy.

Do face masks actually work, or was God counselling futility in suggesting that lepers should wear them? It seems they do work, though they are not a silver bullet for stopping all infection in its tracks. If they were that good, then the 1918 Spanish Flu epidemic would be no more than a footnote to the history books, because they were extensively used at that time in various American cities. But they seem to do some good, both as source control and for protecting the wearer.

The Asian health authorities have done a great job in persuading the Asian public to wear face masks while out on the street. And what business do infected people have being out on the street? Many of them do not know or suspect their antibody status! In the town of Vo, Italy, where they did the right thing and tested everybody, it turns out that a full 3% of the population were infected with coronavirus before the first symptomatic case turned up. Research in Germany and the Netherlands has shown that many infectious people have either very mild symptoms or no symptoms at all. Telling sick people to stay home does not touch this group. If everyone is wearing a mask, these individuals are masked, and society is protected.

As with the leper's cloth mask, the disposable surgical mask was invented largely to prevent the wearer from spreading contagion. The earliest ones used a gauze band wound round the wearer's mouth and nose. It also offers some protection for the wearer against infectious agents broadcast by others. The Daily Mail Online published an article entitled, "How One Man Spread Coronavirus to NINE Other People on His Bus in China," which tracked which passengers on a long distance bus ride did, and which did not, become infected, by their infectious fellow passenger, and found, "None of the people who wore a face mask on the bus ride were diagnosed with COVID-19, indicating that those taking extra precaution on public transport are protected." (By Vanessa Chalmers, March 10, 2020).

The Daily Mail does not say how many of these prudent folk there were on the bus, so I cannot tell you if this result is statistically significant. But it's also hard to see how it could do much harm, and given the experience of Asian populations, there seems to be a benefit. Those sailors who self-reported as wearing masks fared better during the COVID-19 outbreak on the aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt: "A test group of sailors assigned to the stricken aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt reported lower infection rates among those who wore face masks, avoided common areas when possible and practiced social distancing, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study released Tuesday." ('CDC Study: Lower COVID-19 Infection Rate for TR Sailors,' Geoff Ziezulewicz, Navy Times, June 9, 2020). I personally became an early adopter of masks after reading about the Navy's experience. To me, it always seemed like an engineering problem. Human beings can survive the cold and vacuum of outer space; it's all in the costuming. So is filtering out pathogens.

More recently, two hair stylists employed at Great Clips of Missouri were diagnosed with COVID-19 in May. They wore face masks and "appeared not to infect a single customer." (Daily Mail Online, 'Missouri health officials study how two hairdressers with coronavirus served 140 people while they had symptoms — but NO CUSTOMERS fell ill,' by Frances Mulraney, June 11, 2020). Going beyond anecdotal evidence, a meta-analysis published in the Lancet concluded, "Across 29 unadjusted studies and ten adjusted studies. . .the use of both N95 or similar respirators or face masks (e.g., disposable surgical masks or similar reusable 12–16-layer cotton masks) by those exposed to infected individuals was associated with a large reduction in risk of infection. . .Indeed, the association with protection from infection was more pronounced with N95 or similar respirators. . .compared with other masks. . ." (The Lancet, 'Physical distancing, face masks, and eye protection to prevent person-to-person transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19: a systematic review and meta-analysis,' Derek K. Chu, Elie A. Akl, Stephanie Duda, Karla Solo, Sally Yaacoub, Holger J. Schünemann, Lancet 2020; 395: 1973–87, published online June 1, 2020).

More recently a large Danish study cast shade on the idea of face masks as personal protection. This study, properly of the effect of instructions to wear face masks (because compliance was in question), showed only a small benefit to the masked cohort, not deemed statistically significant. Perhaps there is less of a conflict here than appears. It has been observed those wearing face masks are more likely, if they do become infected with the coronavirus, to be asymptomatic. Vaccination involves priming the immune system by introducing a weakened or disabled form of the pathogen, so that the immune system can 'learn' to recognize it, without the organism suffering lethal consequences while ascending the learning curve. Perhaps introducing a reduced quantity of the virus, as can be achieved by masking, serves as a poor man's inoculation, and accomplishes the same goal.

But universal testing, self-testing in the case of the Danish study, puts symptomatic and asymptomatic cases on the same plane, whereas retrospective, observational studies tend to overlook the asymptomatic cases. However, from the standpoint of the individual, asymptomatic is a good thing; it is indistinguishable from health. It would be discouraging if, like the Biblical leper, we are left with only source control as a motive for wearing face masks. In the current mind-set of the American public, suffering inconvenience for the greater good is an alien concept, and so this is the same as saying face masks are useless. But they are not useless; they demonstrably reduce disease spread.

This is encouraging news. If we can sequester people as effectively from the coronavirus by masking as by incarcerating them in their homes, which policy is more respectful to individual rights? Just imagine: if you can make yourself invisible to the pathogen, by stealth, and keep at it, can you effectively reduce the percentage of the population that needs to be infected to achieve herd immunity? Although perhaps true herd immunity awaits a vaccine.

Some American neighborhoods seem already to have come near to achieving herd immunity, though the outcome is very lumpy: "Some neighborhoods like Corona in Queens, were so hard hit during the peak of the coronavirus epidemic that they might now have herd immunity. At a clinic in Corona, a working-class neighborhood in Queens, more than 68 percent of people tested positive for antibodies to the new coronavirus. At another clinic in Jackson Heights, Queens, that number was 56 percent. But at a clinic in Cobble Hill, a mostly white and wealthy neighborhood in Brooklyn, only 13 percent of people tested positive for antibodies." (New York Times, '68% Have Antibodies in This Clinic,' by Joseph Goldstein, published July 9, 2020.)

The New York City outbreak has quieted down quite a bit from its peak. This is not a triumph of public health engineering; rather, in low information neighborhoods, the disease ravaged the population unchecked, did its worst, and then went away, just as did the Black Death of the 14th century. Fortunately it is a far more merciful illness. It is difficult to see where the raw material for a second wave could be found in some of these burned-over districts. It is the disease which triumphed, not those fighting it. The untouched neighborhoods were likely protected by the absence of their residents, who went to the Hamptons.

This pattern does not bode well for the rest of the nation; taking measures to make yourself invisible to the pathogen is by far the more prudent course. Ultimately the disease will go away when most of those who can get it will have gotten it; this has been the optimistic news on epidemics ever since Neolithic times. But we can perhaps do a bit better, even if no vaccine appears in a timely fashion. Some of the things they used to do to prevent tuberculosis, another air-borne illness, before that disease was cured,— like ventilation: keeping fresh air circulating through high-ceilinged rooms,— would likely be helpful here as well. Tuberculosis was never cured until the advent of antibiotics, but it was kept in check by these measures; a lesson to be emulated.



One of the surprising developments of the COVID-19 pandemic has been the rise of a vocal and organized opposition. The virus, it would seem, has its own lobbyists. Some people claim that Christians should not wear face masks in church: "Nobody can be told they must come into the throne room of God wearing a secular burka. No free Christian should obey an order from the civil magistrate to put on their servility badge as he or she offers the worship of a free Christian. And so what should Christian worship look like? It must not look like they are trying to make it look. . . Cover your face to interrupt the Spirit-wrought transformation from glory to glory? Why in Heaven's name would we do that? Why on earth would we comply?" (Douglas Wilson, 7 Reasons for Unmasking the Masks, July 8, 2020, Blog and Mablog). This 'pastor,' who describes COVID-19 as a "shamdemic," then goes on to quote 2 Corinthians 3:18, "But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord."

Personally I think it is good for the government to offer sound counsel in the health field, like advising people to quit smoking and lose weight, but coercion does raise constitutional concerns. However, whether the government should be mandating mask-wearing or not, telling people to take off their masks is unquestionably bad advice. Jesus healed on the Sabbath because life is worth more than ritual observance. Is there really a Biblical injunction against face masks? If so, then the church edifice, with its pop-up coloring books laid out on the table, is the throne room of a lesser God than we were entitled to visualize, because, Biblically, it is the inner man who is renewed in the image of God:

They will also sometimes quote 1 Corinthians 11:4, an odd choice given that it is immediately followed by, "But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head..." (1 Corinthians 11:5). According to Paul, one half of humanity ought to wear a head covering while prophesying in church. How to derive a general rule outlawing any face covering from this is obscure. As a rule, these complaining churches simply do not observe 1 Corinthians 11:5.

Advice which sounds pious but leaves needless deaths in its wake is bad advice. Pastors should give good advice, even if, of necessity, it is the same as advice the state is coercively mandating, contrary to constitutional norms. Could there come a time when the hireling pastors who gave bad advice during this pandemic will be sued for the harm they caused to individuals and families? Under U.S. constitutional law, a church cannot be sued for harm caused by specifically religious claims, because the government is incompetent to decide the truth or falsity of religious claims.

But the advice Douglas Wilson and his like-minded colleagues are giving is entirely secular: it's just wrong! They are doing epidemiology, they are just doing it badly and incompetently, and harming people in the process. People walking in to a church during this crisis are entitled to see face masks and social distancing. If these are absent, and especially if they are absent because the pastor preaches conspiracy theories and pseudo-science, the public has been wronged. While in charismatic churches these matters intersect with bona-fide religious doctrine, gung-ho Calvinist churches, like Douglas Wilson's or John MacArthur's megachurch, are anti-charismatic. They are cessationists! Their opposition to these measures is not founded on doctrine, but on make-believe science. Incidentally, Douglas Wilson was offering his own made-up medical advice on AIDS and HIV long before this new disease came along. Evidently doing non-evidence-based 'medicine' is a hard habit to break.

Some of the good advice is indeed reminiscent of Muslim practice, as the critics point out. Could there an historical reason for this? When the Muslim Arabs inherited a blasted and degraded earth, at the close of the period of classical antiquity, it was in part because they had the skills to survive in what used to be a garden, but had been made a desert. The ancients used to cut down trees and drain swamps and wetlands like there was no tomorrow, with the net result that they created a minimalist 'Mediterranean landscape.' Arabs, the children of the desert, could survive there. People of olden times could tell of a land of milk and honey, which no longer was.

Disease was rampant; the plague of Justinian killed millions. Although disease prevention is not the reason the Muslims adopted the women's veil,— they borrowed that like they borrowed so much else, from the Greeks and others,— that custom, along with their habit of imposing a 'safer at home' order on one half of humanity, probably did contribute to differential survival rates for Muslims in very sick places, like Mesopotamia, and thus contributed to their success. From having been an out-of-the-way, backward population group, they became world rulers. You've got to do what works in time of plague, and face masks work. Other odd historical wardrobe choices may have a similar pedigree. The Elizabethan ruff reminds the viewer of our pets' cone of shame, and likely catches more than a few Flugge droplets of their way out and down. Those who wore this garment would not have had means of determining this, but they might have noticed that places which happened to pioneer this fashion were healthier than the norm, and consequently perceived the style as clean and wholesome.

Specific arguments offered by Wilson's Moscow, Idaho church against face masks include the familiar 'mosquito in front of a chain link fence' meme. Viruses are very small, that much of the analogy is on target. But unlike mosquitos, who identify obstacles and take evasive action, viruses surfing the air currents on their little galleon of spit are not trying to get anywhere nor trying to avoid anything. Some will splatter on the chain link fence, especially if there are multiple chain link fences stacked against each other. Viruses are very small, but there is no natural process that ejects bare, naked virus particles from the body. If there were, would a completely desiccated virus even be infective? They are ejected in gobs of spit, some of them so large as to be visible to the naked eye. Not to deny many incoming particles make it through the mask; but according to an article in the New York Times, these escapees are less likely to be the very small aerosols, which follow a zig-zag path reminiscent of Brownian movement, because their small mass leaves them prey to random natural forces at the very small-scale level. These crash into fabric tendrils. Medium-sized particles stand the best chance of going with the flow and making it through.

The quality of home-made cloth masks varies from all but worthless to very good; I understand the blue shop cloths sold at auto supply stores make very efficient filters. If people are concerned about the low quality of some home-made face masks, why not produce better ones, or purchase a box of the blue disposable ones, which have been available for some time? Some doctors point out that, when there is universal masking as on the French aircraft carrier Charles DeGaulle, infection still occurs, but with a very high ratio of asymptomatic cases: it may be that masks, by reducing the viral dose considerably but not down to zero, are a cheap, make-shift vaccine. In any case, there can be no doubt they have a positive effect. Besides their concern about the chain-link fence, the anti-maskers quote anti-mask statements made by people working for the government when they were discouraging mask use, before they were encouraging it. If you will recall, these statements, which were frequent enough at the time, revolved around the idea that, 'face masks are totally useless, and if the nurses cannot get them, they will all die!'

Face masks do not prevent infection, in either direction, to the tune of 100 percent. Does that mean there is no point in wearing them? There's an unfortunate tendency for the best to become an enemy to the good. Some people reason, 'Wearing a seat belt will not protect you if an eighteen-wheeler crosses the center line and rams you head-on at 70 miles an hour.' This is certainly true, you will be squished like a bug. It's also certain that seat belts save many lives.

Demanding 100 percent protection, and settling for zero percent, is a fool's bargain. Let's say a sadistic pasha held you prisoner, but promised to release you if you agreed to play Russian roulette. The alternative is continued torture to the point of death. You are presented with two guns, one of which, you ascertain, contains one bullet and the other two. Which gun do you choose? If you're like some internet savants, you exclaim, 'Aha! You won't fool me! A revolver with only one round in the chamber can kill you just as dead as the revolver with two!' This is true, but beside the point; you double your chances of surviving by picking up one rather than the other.

If you could have the best protection against dangerous elements in the environment possible,— let's say, if you could be done up like a seventeenth century plague doctor, with his long leather beak stuffed with filtering leaves, or if you could carry around one of those inflatable suits they use in the Level 4 virus labs,— that would be nice. Certainly N-99 masks for all would be ideal. But if the best is not available, even an improvised barrier, like a tightly-woven scarf wrapped around several times, is better than nothing. When this all started, I used to be the only person done up that way in my very occasional forays to the grocery store. I wondered, don't those people know there's a pandemic on? This is no longer the case, praise God! But somehow it has gotten all jumbled up with concerns about government overreach and politics.

Lately Douglas Wilson's 'kirk,' as he so preciously phrases it, Christ Church of Moscow, Idaho, has taken to conducting hymn sings in the public streets, craving video of unmasked congregants being hauled off by the police for failure to practice social distancing (Moscow, Idaho has a mask ordinance). Worshipping God should be an end in itself, not a means; if singing psalms becomes a way to stick an extended middle finger in the face of municipal authorities disliked by church leadership, the project has gone off the rails. They are endangering the public to no good purpose. If the sidewalk-traversing public of Moscow, Idaho has not consented to breathe in their poisoned breath, it is not super-abundantly ethical to force them to do so. Political rallies held in the open air are better than ones held indoors, but disease transmission can still take place.

An anti-government protest held on August 15th, the 75th anniversary of the end of colonial rule, in Seoul, South Korea, led to disease transmission: "The demonstration may have been a 'catalyst' for the nationwide outbreak, as churchgoers chartered buses to the capital from their homes across the country. . .Sixty infections, including 33 from the church, have been linked to the anti-government rallies in Seoul, which drew thousands of people." (New York Post, August 20, 2020, 'South Korea COVID-19 infections 'in full swing ' after protest outbreak.') Certainly outdoor demonstrations are better than indoor rallies, and churches generally might do well to take a second look at the old 'brush arbor' model of church service, but transmission is still possible. And what about singing? The example of the Skagit Valley community chorale, whose choir practice in Washington state was attended by 61 persons, of whom 52 were infected and two, tragically, died, shows that singing is not necessarily a community-friendly activity. According to the CDC, "Transmission was likely facilitated by close proximity (within 6 feet) during practice and augmented by the act of singing." (CDC, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, May 15, 2020, Lea Hamner et al). Deliberately creating a worst-case scenario on the streets is not being a good neighbor.

No doubt the church has discovered empirically, by meeting without mask wearing or social distancing without consequence, that Russian Roulette can not hurt you, but it could be that the law of averages will catch up with them in the end. Why God would intervene miraculously to protect a cult that disrespects its neighbors and teaches bad doctrine about antebellum slavery is not obvious to the objective onlooker. To be sure, the public health authorities are hypocrites when they teach that right-wing rallies transmit disease, while left-wing ones cannot ever do so. And they did start by urging the public not to wear face masks: but didn't it invite suspicion when they said, 'Face masks are useless, and if you do not back away from the warehouse filled with useless face masks for our personal use, the guard will level his Uzi at you and blow your legs off.' Just as soon as I heard the government advising people not to wear face masks, I hopped on the internet and purchased an N99, though you never really know what you're getting when you buy things off the internet.

While I'm by no means opposed to learning from experience, it could be that experience is a bad teacher when it comes to evaluating the likelihood of harm from low-incidence events. When the volcano Mt. Pelee buried the town of St. Pierre, Martinque, cremating 30,000 inhabitants, the authorities, who had counselled calm, could quite honestly say, 'that never happened before.' As the nuclear submarine Thresher imploded, can it be that the crew's final thoughts were, 'perhaps there is a better way to test maximum depth than to try it and see what happens.' When the Challenger shuttle took off in cold weather, its frozen O-rings too rigid to block hot gases, the ground crew might console themselves with, 'at least now we know how cold is too cold.' All you need is one infected person showing up at these events to have a super-spreader event, and the chance of that is not zero. They should reconsider and look for ways to protect the public health, not endanger it. The disease does not have human perceptions or emotions, but if it did, would it look at those counties in the U.S., and they are many, which have had few cases as places covered by a protective bubble, from which its entry is barred, or as a bonanza? Like the mosquito said at the nudist colony, 'so much to be done, and so little time.'

There is no inherent link between the utility of face masks and the effectiveness of the vaccines which have so wonderfully been rolled out in recent months, giving hope for a speedy end to all this unpleasantness. It might be that face masks are worthless, but the vaccines are excellent; or it might be that face masks work very well, whereas vaccines are indeed, as some people say, the means by which Bill Gates intends to kill us all. Yet you'll generally find the same people who are anti-maskers are, by and large, also anti-vaxxers. There is no rationality to this. The newspaper-reader is familiar with virus denialism from the recent experience of the Third World; there are many people in Africa who deny that Ebola is a real disease, or HIV/AIDs. As a consequence, they refuse to take the recommended precautions. The ingredients for this phenomenon seem to be an ingrained distrust of government plus a lack of familiarity with the methods of modern science. Many Third World governments deserve to be mistrusted, their functionaries always having their hand out for a bribe. But modern medicine employs fairly reliable methods of quality control. Do they not know this? It's one thing for a country like Tanzania to have a COVID-denialist for president, who, incidentally, died of the disease himself. But this is the country that put a man on the moon! What can they be thinking?

As noted, virus denialism has a long and distressing history in the third world. Tragically, for this disease cycle, virus denialism hit the United States big-time. One might have suspected that an industrialized, First World economic powerhouse like the U.S. would be stony ground for transplanting virus denialism, but it seems as though a segment of the church was waiting for it. This view ranges from the extreme of denialists like Denis Rancourt of Canada, who denies there is any such thing as COVID-19, to pandemic-denialists ('no worse than the flu'), to anti-maskers and anti-vaxxers, who deny the safety or efficacy of those measures. It is fervently to be hoped that this viewpoint does not prevail, because it will mean that COVID-19 will never go away, it will simply become naturalized into the disease biome and come back every fall. Hopefully the vaccines may give us a tool capable of vanquishing the disease and driving it out, if only they are used. Denying that there is a problem is not a step on the road to solving it.


For the Other Side

Naysayers like John MacArthur say that government science cannot be trusted. John MacArthur famously stood before a crowd of people and announced "there is no pandemic." What is his thinking based on? According to the Grace Community website, there is some amount of thought that went into this, incompetent as it may be:

"The death rate from COVID is nowhere near the original dire predictions. In early 2020, most policy makers were citing predictions from a researcher named Neil Ferguson, a professor at Imperial College London. Ferguson confidently predicted that more than 2.2 million people in the United States would die from COVID within three months’ time. Even though that prediction quickly proved to be grossly overblown, government officials continued to cite the Ferguson model as justification for prolonging the lockdowns. Rather than acknowledging that COVID-19 is not the doomsday pandemic so many had foretold, they claimed the diminished numbers were proof that the lockdowns were working.

"To put the facts in perspective: Ferguson’s model predicted that more than 81 percent of Americans would be infected with the virus, and at least 1 percent of those infected would die. It was a colossal overestimate of the virus’s severity. More than eighteen months later, cumulative statistics for the state of California showed that fewer than 12 percent had tested positive for the virus, and the death rate among infected people was only about one-tenth of what Ferguson’s model predicted." (, "Facing COVID-19 Without Fear").

As Yogi Berra said, "It's tough to make predictions, espcially about the future." Is this purportedly blown prediction an instance of that general rule? Not really, because they do not even state the prediction accurately. The 2.2 million death figure was the figure for the United States if no mitigation was attempted by the government and populace — no contact tracing, no quarantining the sick, no social distancing, no school closures, etc. And of course no vaccine was in view. This estimate assumes the virus is allowed to barrel through and exits as quickly as it came. The case under consideration is the 'do-nothing' case. It was not the 'come-hell-or-high-water' case, as is being misleadingly represented.

But this is, of course, not what happened, nor what the authors anticipated would happen. Up to this date, 1.1 million Americans have died of COVID-19. This early prediction strictly speaking is not falsifiable: the state of affairs it envisions, that no mitigation efforts would be attempted, does not obtain. It is a conditional contrary to fact. The study authors proceed to run through the predicted effects of adding in various mitigation efforts, reducing the anticipated casualty count for the UK quite dramatically with these additions. One can argue about whether these particular mitigation efforts were in fact as successful as advertised; but the authors plainly anticipate that they will be, and if it is the study authors' prediction which is under review, not a joint compromise project between the epidemiologists and their critics.

1.1 million is not an order of magnitude less than 2.2 million in the first place. Nor is the Imperial College estimate, one of many made at the time, a wild over-estimate for the ultimate casualty figures for a COVID pandemic. With mitigation efforts in place, as in fact happened, the authors anticipated a much lower total than 2.2 million. It's not even a blown prediction, much less does it set the scene for their ominous conspiracy scenarios. The death rate for COVID-19 is not one-tenth of one percent, as suggested here, and as of this date substantially more than 12% of the population already have been infected. Yet this particular piece of misinformation has gotten 'fossilized' into the COVID-denialists' account, and they repeat it over and over. Meanwhile it's their conception of a mild, almost harmless, outbreak,— 'it's just a cold,'— which has no grounding in reality.

At no time has the government of the United States represented COVID-19 as a doomsday disease which is likely to kill most of those who contract it. In March of 202, the World Health Organization gave an estimate of this new illness's case fatality rate, CFR, of 3.4%, higher than the 2.3% previously believed. China, where the disease originally appeared, early adopted a very restrictive definition of the disease, such that a patient had to show the ground-glass opacity in the lungs in order to be diagnosed with the condition. Since you had to already be in serious medical trouble to get a diagnosis, it is no wonder the CFR was at first reported somewhat high. Even accepting this high of a number leaves the overwhelming majority of those who contract the disease recovering from it.

It was widely stated at the time that the infection fatality rate, IFR, must be much lower, especially given that many cases of COVID-19 are asymptomatic. Do you know who denied that some cases of COVID-19 are asymptomatic? The COVID-denialists, like James White, who said that never happens. Because the CDC bungled the roll-out of the diagnostic test, tests were initially in short supply, and had, of course, to be reserved for the sickest people, so that the test results could guide treatment. It was understood the case fatality rate would decline as more and more people were tested, and it did. As the immunity wall was constructed by vaccination, it declined further, and as treatments improved as well, until at this point it is very low. It has never been as low as these people represent it, though. Do the math: if 1.1 million Americans have already died of this disease, that's 1.1 mllion out of a population of 330 million. 1,100,000 divided by 330,000,000 times 100 equals 0.33%. A higher proportion of the entire population has already died than they claim is the case fatality rate!

Meanwhile, what did John MacArthur tell the people who attend his church was the infection fatality rate for COVID-19? His estimates are not imperfect, as arguably are those of others, but well to the south side of absurd. He explained that your chance of dying of COVID-19, if you live in the state of California, are 1 in 19.1 million:

"Look, Todd, here's the latest statistic. This came out in court Friday. If you're living in California, here's the chance you're going to die from COVID. This was presented to the court. One chance in 19.1 million. That's the chance you're going to die from COVID in California currently." (John MacArthur on the Todd Starnes show, 9/21/20, also at Protestia).

If they are selling such totally bogus, made-up numbers to the suckers who sit in the pews, one wonders why don't they also sell them fictitious insurance, which will serve just fine until you submit a claim, or underwater real estate. They must think these people are utter fools. As they seem to be, given their willingness to sit there are listen to made-up numbers.

Another of their appeals is 'We have something better.' What is the miracle cure? According to Alex Jones, it's colloidal silver, which he was selling on his website as a cure for COVID-19 until the government made him stop. According to these people, it's hydroxychloroquine and horse de-wormer:

"Large pharmaceutical companies, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the World Health organization (WHO), and various influencers in government and media have actively tried to suppress discussion about the usefulness of drugs like Ivermectin, chloroquine, and hydroxychloroquine as early treatments for COVID-19—even though many physicians report using those compounds successfully. It is widely understood that the debate over these medications (more precisely: the lack of any open exchange of information about them) is largely driven by economic and political concerns, not scientific studies. In fact, the WHO halted their studies of hydroxychloroquine, and the FDA revoked their Emergency Use Authorization for the drug just days after President Trump announced it had been successfully used to treat him for COVID." ('Facing COVID-19 Without Fear,' Grace Community Church website).

It's true that the economics of the pharmaceutical industry incentivizes development of new and expensive medicines over cheap existing ones. It would be helpful if the suggested cheap existing medicines actually worked, as these do not.


As the reader will have noticed, this page has not been regularly updated since early in the pandemic. It's an undeniable fact that some countries did very well in dealing with the disease, like Japan and South Korea, and others, like Brazil and India, did poorly. Unfortunately, for the country that landed a man on the moon, we seem to be gravitating nowadays more in the direction of the Third World than toward the company we used to keep. Unfortunately, COVID-19 is still with us; it would appear that while we are done with COVID, it is not done with us. I leave this page up with the thought that the history of this period might be of interest to future explorers.

Surgeon General

When COVID-19 was first rumored, the populace in places like Hong Kong and Japan spontaneously and voluntarily masked up: "Even though the new Chinese government in Hong Kong didn’t begin its own response quickly and was not widely trusted, most people began wearing masks—without a mandate—by the end of January." (Andy Slavitt, Preventable (p. 31).) A glance at the health statistics for these Asian democracies will show the wisdom of this practice. Ultimately in the United States, face masks became nearly ubiquitous, except in those benighted regions angling for a future status as sinks of this vicious disease. But put your mind back, dear reader, to the beginning. Masks were not only not common, they were not recommended. Right from the start, this was strange. When you looked at news photos of countries which had been successful in 'bending the curve' of the coronavirus pandemic, like Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore, you noticed one commonality: the people on the street are wearing face masks.

When you looked at photos of public places in the United States, you'll notice they were not. Why not? Are Americans unwilling to wear face masks? They did during the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic. At that time some municipalities even made wearing them mandatory:

"In Tucson, Arizona, the board of health issued  a ruling that 'no person shall appear in any street, park, or place where any business is transacted, or in any other public place within the city of Tucson, without wearing a mask consisting of at least four thicknesses of butter cloth or at least seven thicknesses of ordinary gauze, covering both the nose and the mouth.'" (Gina Kolata, Flu: The Story of the Great Influenza Pandemic of 1918, p. 22).

So why weren't the people masked up? For one thing, because this time they were under orders not to. On February 29th, the Surgeon General of the United States tweeted,

"Seriously people — STOP BUYING MASKS!
"They are NOT effective in preventing general public from catching #Coronavirus, but if healthcare providers can't get them to care for sick patients, it puts them and our communities at risk!" (tweet from Jerome Adams, U.S. Surgeon General, quoted from CNN news site.)

He doubled down on this warning in the days following, actually claiming that wearing face masks would put the public more at risk of catching the virus, because they would be more likely to touch their face. Follow the logic here: Face masks are useless, and if the nurses cannot get them, they're all going to die! Could there be a more transparent attempt to deceive? Perceiving a fixed, limited supply of face masks, the health authorities wanted to save some people (health care workers) at the expense of others (the general public). But the supply of face masks is not fixed by any natural limit, rather a rising tide of demand swamping and overwhelming supply will, given enough time, correct itself, under a free market. The price will rise, and more vendors will start making them. Then we will not be managing scarcity, but parcelling out abundance.

If every sewing machine in America were humming away, making face masks, there would be more face masks than anyone would know what to do with. But they want to shame you into not buying one. That's like saying, 'How dare you buy food, you are taking it out of the mouth of that hungry child over there!' You are not taking anything away from anyone when you buy goods on the open market; they can make more. People will do what they always do when left free: improvise, substitute, and meet the demand. I don't know if there has ever been a more irresponsible deception practiced upon an unwary public in the public health field.

Those observing the disease graph for this country looked for a long while in vain for any visible deflection of the rising curve, despite draconian and undoubtedly unconstitutional restrictions on personal freedom put into place by numerous governors, amounting to placing virtually their entire population under house arrest. At long last the numbers began to drift downward. Was it because the season was changing? Perhaps at first, the disease having been seeded in many households, locking the people in left it room to run, though in the nature of things, that will run out when the entire household comes down with it. Dramatically, overnight, this downward trend was reversed and replaced by a sharp upward trend. This second spike is now in its turn receding.

Public pressure gradually wrested control away from the political class, so hopefully this new spike will not be met by mandatory lockdowns, only advisories. It's really a shame that messaging did not start with all speaking in one voice. Had Americans been given to understand it is virtuous and patriotic to wear face masks, they would have worn them, and lives would have been saved, in the process doing no damage to the fourth, fifth, first, or fourteenth amendments. But now there is confusion and uncertainty. People cannot get it straight: were they lying then, or are they lying now?

Liberty and disease control are not necessarily and invariably enemies; ideally, both goods can be conserved. People can walk around in the cold, dark vacuum of outer space; it's all in wearing the right garment. Dressing everyone in inflatable moon suits is the twenty-first century equivalent of the stone age expedient of 'sheltering in place.' If you want to take people off the table, to make them invisible to the disease, you can do it one way or the other. Unfortunately, with 'sheltering in place,' they must inevitably return to public life at some time before famine intervenes, and you are right back where you started. Lockdowns do not defeat the disease, they just put off the inevitable reckoning. Wearing masks can be continued indefinitely, as the disease runs its course in time. When doing the cost-benefit calculation, why not include civil liberty as a good to be conserved?

Inventor Spin
Dominion Founding Fathers
Lost Liberty Madalyn Murray O'Hair
Encroachment Breach the Wall
Looming Threats Essential Church
Nay-Sayers Smith Act  
Pearls Before Swine

Lockdowns can do little more than push the 'pause' button on the epidemic, yet they have been promoted as a lasting cure or solution. We have tried, and seen, what repression can accomplish, and that is little enough; why not try freedom? What have we got to lose? Is there any form of government worse than an ineffective police state, which sacrifices liberty for the sake, it is claimed, of attaining goals which are not then realized? When, if ever, will the curve be flattened to the satisfaction of Governors Whitmer and Mills? 'No, we must continue these measures.' Why? 'Because they are not working; therefore we cannot afford to abandon them.' Some people in our government did not like masks, because it is a way of giving power to the people.

One thing is for sure, though: the fact that the governmental response to this pandemic amounted to unconstitutional over-reach does not mean that the disease is fake. There's no 'therefore' there. It's a bad disease. The Pollyannas, with their 99.99% recovery rate, are doing no one any good.

Unfortunately our Surgeon General was not alone in pushing misinformation on the public. One journal widely quoted by people who dislike masks is the New England Journal of Medicine, which pontificated on April 1, 2020, at "We know that wearing a mask outside health care facilities offers little, if any, protection from infection." (Universal Masking in Hospitals in the Covid-29 Era, Michael Klompas, M.D., M.P.H., Charles A. Morris, M.D., M.P.H., Julia Sinclair, M.B.A., Madelyn Pearson, D.N.P., R.N., et al.) Who will preserve us from learned fools? The same distorted thinking is visible in this article as in the Surgeon General's analysis: different measures, if taken by the public, will cannibalize one another, their effect will not be additive but subtractive: if they are told to wash their hands, they will not practice social distancing, if told to mask, they will not stay home. Back then they were speaking with one voice, for sure. They all believed the public to be 'puer robustus sed malitiosus,' not to be entrusted with information.

This underlying political orientation must be expected to breed distrust, nor is it apparent how it will help if the politicians throw more money at the speakers. Some people call it a 'noble lie,' but it enhances brevity if you leave off the 'noble.' Their penchant for deceit demonstrates that they are horrible human beings and no more. It does not prove that face masks are useless. It does not prove that face masks are useful. If face masks are useless, why would they have bothered to fabricate stories to conserve their supply? Then they are mystified when they are not believed, for instance when they explain that rioting is healthful. Ask the boy who cried wolf. A reputation for truth-telling is priceless and irreplaceable, and the way to lose it is by not telling the truth.

The COVID-denialists themselves actually realize the government was lying when it cautioned against the use of face masks:

“The public has repeatedly been force-fed misinformation from the media and government officials—not only about COVID, but about other matters as well. In March 2020, Dr. Anthony Fauci, Chief Medical Advisor to the White House, famously said on '60 Minutes' that masking the general populace would not help slow the spread of the virus and could even be detrimental to the wearer. “There’s no reason to be walking around with a mask,” he said. “Often there are unintended consequences—people keep fiddling with the mask and they keep touching their face.” When Fauci reversed himself a few months later, he explained that he had discouraged the wearing of masks because he didn’t want to say anything that might diminish the supply of masks for medical workers. In an interview with InStyle magazine, he said, “We were told in our task force meetings that we have a serious problem with the lack of PPEs and masks for the health providers.” He indicated that his task force had met and agreed to be less than candid with the public. In Fauci’s words, concerns about a shortage of masks “led all of us, not just me but also [U.S. Surgeon General] Jerome Adams, to say, ‘Right now we really need to save the masks for the people who need them most.’” That is an admission that truth was not health officials’ first concern; public policy was.” (Facing COVID-19 Wihtout Fear,' Grace Commuity Church website).

Follow the COVID-denialists' logic here, if you can: the man who said not to wear face-masks later said that he was lying.  Therefore, you should not wear face masks. This is the point where John MacArthur's church got into trouble with the State of California, not earlier. When all the the churches were closed and shuttered, so was theirs. Later, when the churches reopened, they were advised to recommend face masks and social distancing. This church, instead, mocked people who showed up wearing face masks. How many people did they endanger, indeed perhaps kill, by giving out their worthless advice? We will never know, but God knows; each and every one is listed on His roster. The people who say that COVID is fake, it is a hoax, are killing people. There is no way around this. And yes, there are people saying this. The people who insist upon doing this will find hell very hot, because murderers are not on board the gospel train, even if they say they are the engineers.

When it is pointed out to them that the alarmists' 'exaggerated' fears have by and large come true, with 1.1 million Americans now dead of this novel virus, the COVID-denialists will generally explain that few, if any, of those 1.1 million actually died of COVID or COVID-related causes. From time to time in your local paper you'll find a story about a physician who bilked Medicare by inputting fake payment codes. You hear about these folks when they are prosecuted, because Medicare fraud is illegal. But they do exist. According to the COVID-denialists, essentially all physicians do this, and the people listed as having died of COVID are actually people who died of other causes but were miscategorized owing to the greed and cupidity of those caring for them. Fortunately, we can check this.

If COVID-related deaths are miscategorized, we would not expect to see any great deflection one way or the other in the number of deaths reported year by year; rather, the same deaths that would have occurred anyway are still occurring, just being falsely labelled. So during the course of the pandemic, have deaths gone rolling on, like Old Man River? Or have they jumped? Deaths surged, to the extent that life expectancy in the U.S. has actually declined for two straight years: "NEW YORK – U.S. life expectancy dropped for the second consecutive year in 2021, falling by nearly a year from 2020, according to a government report being released Wednesday. In the first two years of the COVID-19 pandemic, the estimated American lifespan has shortened by nearly three years. The last comparable decrease happened in the early 1940s, during the height of World War II.

"Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials blamed COVID-19 for about half the decline in 2021, a year when vaccinations became widely available but new coronavirus variants caused waves of hospitalizations and deaths." (USA Today, 'US life expectancy plunges for a second consecutive year,' by Mike Stobbe, August 31, 2022). There is no possible way of reclassifying deaths that will fix the problem. John MacArthur was wrong; there is a pandemic.

What keeps the COVID-denialist gravy train rolling is the profit motive. They've done studies of where all this viral misinformation comes from, and the ultimate origin of most of it is with a handful of natureopaths who, wonder of wonders, have merchandise for sale. The difference between the nostrums big pharma will sell you and what the quacks will sell you is that big pharma's products have been tested for safety and efficacy. They actually work! The same cannot be said for what these folks are offering. Years ago, it was the hippies who were touting the achievements of the natureopaths. How anyone became convinced that quackery is a solidly conservative product I couldn't say, but if you want to waste your money and stay sick when you get sick, then by all means give these good folks a hearing. If you want to get better, then dip your toe into the world of evidence-based medicine.



Praise God, this glaring omission was later rectified and the public health establishment began recommending face masks. As a matter of fact, they went overboard the other way; they were requiring them. Has anyone even examined whether face masks cause distress to asthmatics and people with COPD? Why is there no middle ground between foolishly and disingenuously discouraging people from protecting themselves and others, and coercing people into doing what the 'experts' momentarily think best? Our current public health strategy, forged during the George W. Bush administration, assumes that the government is rational, the people are not rational.

Why is the electorate which elected the government presumed to be rational, while a church gathered in assembly is assumed to be incapable of reaching the correct verdict on protecting the public and itself? The government is staffed by what manner of creatures, if not by human beings? Why do they suddenly become rational, having formed themselves into a government, when they were not before? And if they are rational, why must the government lead them by the hand? Unfortunately, there are people who delight in setting up hoops for the sheer joy of watching others jump through them, and many of those folks, not necessarily themselves in the upper percentile of the rationality metric, gravitate toward government work.

This mentality has been building for years. Who has not read the dystopic fantasy novels, telling how an electromagnetic pulse disables the electric grid, and as a consequence the people of the United States revert to. . .what? Using kerosene lanterns for illumination and wood stoves for heat? No, they will revert to cannibalism. Um, was that the status quo ante before there was an electric grid? Was the pretty and trim New England country-side of the early nineteenth century traversed by roving gangs of cannibals? History does not so record.

What the planners expect is not what is seen during disasters, not during the London Blitz, not during the San Francisco earthquake: "'Remarkable as it may seem, Wednesday night while the whole city crashed and roared into ruin, was a quiet night. There were no crowds. There was no shouting and yelling. There was no hysteria, no disorder. I passed Wednesday night in the path of the advancing flames, and in all those terrible hours I saw not one woman who wept, not one man who was excited, not one person who was in the slightest degree panic-stricken. The most perfect courtesy obtained.'" (Jack London, quoted p. 29, A Paradise Built in Hell, Rebecca Solnit). No cannibals. Might we simply omit those from future plans?

The current policy was drafted during the George W. Bush administration, and it seems some people at that time lost faith in democracy, if indeed they ever had it. They decided that torture was an excellent investigative tool, and it is, if what you seek to prove is that elderly women practice witchcraft. World War I ended with which world leaders running for their lives: the militarist Kaiser? The autocratic Tsar? Or the leaders of the victorious democracies? They think fascism is robust, resilient, and capable of dealing with adversity, but history teaches the exact opposite: fascist regimes are brittle, fragile, and one uprising away from overthrow. It was Mussolini who ended up hung on a lamp-post, not Franklin D. Roosevelt. You wonder why we have to go through this again, to prove the same point. Why not develop policies in consultation with the people, with their consent and not over their heads?

The people have every right to protect themselves from infection, whether by donning face masks and goggles, or by popping Vitamin D supplements, as more people ought to do as well, especially since involuntary confinement has likely left them pallid. (Not wanting to present Vitamin D as a panacea, but if some folks would try it, might it not be discovered to be a specific against White Supremacy?) For the government to take away the most basic of human freedoms, such as the right to leave one's home, in order to 'protect' people from themselves, is deeply problematical. Where such a power, of universal house arrest, jumbling sick and healthy promiscuously together, is granted in the U.S. Constitution, is wholly opaque to me, nor does Justice Chase in Ex Parte Milligan confirm that the Constitution is suspended during an emergency: "The guaranty of trial by jury contained in the Constitution was intended for a state of war, as well as a state of peace. . ."

Our Constitution applies in war and peace, in sickness and in health, and it disallows depriving people of liberty without due process of law. If indeed the government can exercise extraordinary powers in the face of a tsunami, volcano, wildfire, or bombing blitz, the resemblance between our current dilemma and that situation does not leap out at the viewer. Far from being more rational than the plebs, the government that crafted this plan was not rational at all, because they invented a mechanism which parlays a severe disease outbreak into total economic collapse, an outcome many an unpretentious citizen would have counselled avoiding.

'But it saves lives.' How does it save lives? 'By dragging the whole thing out as long as possible.' Ummm. . . 'No, it's true! If we can drag this out for years, people will die of old age first!' There is a species of magical thinking at work, whereby people imagine that postponing an event is the same as making it not happen. If not slowed, rising cases might overwhelm the health care system, leading to substandard care and needless deaths. . .or they might not. A deus ex machina might appear in the interim: a vaccine, a cure. It could happen! For that matter a malaria vaccine, an HIV vaccine, a Zika vaccine, might magically appear, though they have not as yet deigned to put in an appearance. But maybe not: "Measures to flatten the curve might have an effect, but a lockdown only pushes the severe cases into the future — it will not prevent them." (The Lancet, The invisible pandemic, by Johan Giesecke, May 5, 2020). We have already seen plenty enough of the kind of rationality the government has to offer: the callous stupidity of an Andrew Cuomo, whose health department compelled nursing homes to admit known COVID-19 cases, even though they could not offer the level of infection control to protect the vulnerable and as yet uninfected elderly who lived in the same home. The result was a holocaust. The people, slowly regaining control of their lives, could hardly do worse.

Students of the 1918 Spanish Flu epidemic could tell you that, if on Monday you establish a mask mandate, on Tuesday the Anti-Mask Society will rent quarters, pen a charter, and start agitating against it. Mandates create opposition where none had previously existed. People resent being told what to do; insisting on handling the situation by limiting individual liberty motivates anti-mask propagandists to set up shop and start churning out material, so now you have to spend even more money to educate the public, by defeating those who seek to mis-educate them. Coercion is a counter-productive policy.

Whether they are effective or not, are the lockdowns right or wrong? Is it ethical to imprison the innocent, not otherwise susceptible to punishment, if doing so will save another's life?:


Evolution of a Curve

Early on in the public discussion of policy alternatives in fighting the coronavirus, there was a little picture which became ubiquitous. This showed the daily record of cases, or may it be hospitalizations, or deaths, plotted against date. Or rather, there were two such hypothetical bell curves, presented for comparison:

Flattening the Curve

A pandemic is so miserable, why would anyone want to drag it out longer than necessary? Well, the claim was made that doing so will save lives. How so? Because otherwise, the hospitals might be overwhelmed and be unable to offer optimal care. Here is a pretty, animated version, to make the point clear:

Flatten the Curve

What are you trying to accomplish? The epidemic, as it unfolds in time, is represented as a bell curve. The unmitigated short, steep curve is mercifully brief, but mercilessly rough: the hospitals might be overwhelmed, and the patients not receive the customary level of care to which they are entitled. 'Flattening the curve' intends to slow down disease spread,— not stop it, it's too late for that,— but to slow it to the point where the hospitals can process their patients efficiently. When all is said and done: both disease curves end with the achievement of herd immunity, not before,— the shallower curve, it is believed, will reflect a lower total death toll, because the hospitals were never operating dangerously over capacity. As we've seen, the real curve is bewilderingly multi-peaked; but such was the theory.

This made sense, and many people bought into the idea. One can quibble with the details of this ever-present, unavoidable cartoon. The capacity of the health care system should not have been represented by an unvarying horizontal line. If there is a demand for ventilators, there will be increasing supply. The graph assumes nobody ever calls the Army Corps of Engineers to set up a tent hospital. While trained doctors cannot be willed into existence in a week, the circumstance that almost all of your patients have the same diagnosis and the same incurable condition puts less of a premium on expertise. The underlying assumption is that modern medicine can work wonders, and sometimes it can. But not always with this disease. Uncrowded hospitals are assumed to save many lives. In China, 86% of the very sickest patients who were put on ventilators died, only 14% survived. American medicine of course did much better: only 80% died.

Nevertheless, as to many others, to me this sounded like a good idea. I would have much preferred to see it implemented voluntarily. After centuries of progress toward freedom, going back to the Magna Carta, how did we turn it all around so decisively and with no little fuss or murmur, to the point now where an all-powerful police state forbids you even to leave your home without permission? I can't explain it to you. There's a slight uptick in compliance when you enforce a stay-home advisory with the police power of the state, but only of a few percentage points; is it really worth trading away our inherited freedom for such a meager gain in compliance?

Since this government has discovered its limitless capacity to print money, perhaps they could have offered their twelve hundred dollars as compensation for those willing to stay home. On the honor system, of course; let me share a secret with you, dear reader: edicts which require the entire population to do what they otherwise might not wish to do are on the honor system in any case. Nor did I think cratering the economy was such a good idea. Who was it that decided the economy was a frill, easily dispensed with? Once they've dragged this country down to third world standards, our life expectancy will decline to third world levels. But 'flattening the curve,' in and of itself, did sound like a plausible policy.

But did it work? Well, not exactly. The catch-phrase 'flatten the curve' does not tell you where you are on your traverse of the bell curve, though it has come to mean that, among other things. Rather, the policy steps back and makes a global comparison of two rival bell curves. The electorate can choose the curve behind Door No. 1, tall and skinny, or Door No. 2, short and squat. When the policy was adopted the disease was on the upswing, no doubt about it. And if you take the proponents of the policy at their word, implementing the policy should make it take longer to reach the apex of the curve, much less to descend down the far side; the apex, however, should be lower.

It is a way to stretch the epidemic out, not bring it to a speedy end. When the policy first begins back in mid-March, it starts to look like the cumulative curve wants to bend over. But that turns out to be a false alarm: it immediately reverts to the arm of a parabola, as it started. Ultimately it bends down to an S-shaped curve, but not quite in sync with the introduction of any new measures, nor any plausible incubation period thereafter. Perhaps it's the warmer weather kicking in, because the Southern Hemisphere, where it is winter, showed an uptick in activity at about the same time. The coronavirus seems sensitive to temperature, even hyper-sensitive; it likes the environment of a meat-packing plant, over and above other manufacturing facilities, which is refrigerated of necessity.

What might have one expected to see if the policy had worked? An inflection point, perhaps, where the curve bends away from its initial trajectory, leaning toward a shallower one? That's not there. There's no point where it does that, either immediately or after a week or two. There is no dramatic, visible evidence that the policy even works at all. And then we learned that the policy had to be continued indefinitely, because it had not worked! Can it be we traded our freedom away, not for safety, but for nothing? Now, unfortunately, post-'Memorial Day' (what else happened that day?), the gradual drift downwards has been displaced by a rapid surge upward. The inflection points for this pandemic, it seems to me, are most likely to be holidays: the Lunar New Year in China, and repeatedly, Thanksgiving and Christmas in the U.S. Take the populace, toss them in a mixing bowl, and hit 'blend.' When are we going to notice?

Red Curve

If the lockdown policy produced no notable nudge to the curve when it was implemented, how can this be? Doesn't the policy have to work? How can shutting everything down not slow the spread? But they did not shut everything down, only the 'non-essential.' Perhaps this monumental experiment in social engineering had no more effect than cutting the deck and reshuffling the cards. Not permitted to spread through shuttered workplaces, the virus happily raced instead through newly cozy and inescapable households. The family unit is quite an efficient spreader.

Having been generously seeded throughout the population, during the phase when the authorities kept assuring us there were no more than a handful of cases, it still had room to expand under the new regime, moving through the family channels still allotted to it. The deck is cut and reshuffled, and the family is laid open as the next avenue of attack. However, once household members have been exposed and those susceptible have come down with it, the pathogen hits a brick wall: somebody will have to go outside and infect the next family over for disease spread to continue. So there is a delayed reaction: after a while, the lockdowns do bite into transmission. What is the verdict of experience on the shut-down strategy? If you compare the actual case curve with some of the more exuberant projections, then the mitigation strategy was at least a temporary success. However for some of these projections to pan out would require the United States, already an outlier, to have an experience with the virus quite unlike that of any other place on earth. I suppose this question will be argued for years, though unfortunately, our recent experience with salubrious riots leaves one with little confidence in the honesty of the public health establishment. I suspect on the whole it does work, to some extent, but that is a worse outcome than if it didn't. While a totalitarian society like China can imprison its citizens, innocent of any crime, a constitutional republic cannot.

The New York Times recently wondered, "Why is the U.S. enduring a far more severe virus outbreak than any other rich country?" (New York Times, The Morning, July 29, 2020, by David Leonhardt). In answer, they intoned, "There are multiple causes, but one of them is the size and strength of right-wing media organizations that frequently broadcast falsehoods. The result is confusion among many Americans about scientific facts that are widely accepted, across the political spectrum, in other countries." (New York Times, The Morning, July 29, 2020, by David Leonhardt). What a multitude of sins lays hid beneath that "multiple causes," including their own wildly irresponsible cheerleading on of the riots. One must concede to them that there is a strain of conspiratorial thinking that does no one any good, in some cases effectively denying that there is any disease and actively discouraging promising approaches to combat it, like wearing face masks. They are right to point out that the COVID-denialists are killing people.

But let us look closely at how the U.S. is the same as other nations that have faced this challenge, and how it is different. Has any other nation had to endure an outbreak of rioting in the midst of the pandemic? Why is it assumed by these people that rioting is nothing but good? Past epidemics have sparked outbreaks of rioting as well, for example, the black death of the mid-fourteenth century provoked scape-goating attacks by the indigenous European population against the Jews. These people had noticed that the death rate among Jews seemed lower than their own, and concluded the only possible reason for this is that the Jews had poisoned the wells and thus caused the plague. So they surrounded the synagogues and burnt them down, with the people inside.

But this was too hasty. Instead of leaping from the perceived lower mortality rate in the Jewish quarter to conspiratorial conclusions, suppose they had inquired of their Jewish neighbors, 'Why are you doing better than we?' Their helpful suggestions in response might have revolved around various features of the Mosaic law: 'Your sewage flows down the middle of the street. Moses does not allow that. Ever wonder why you have so many rats running through your neighborhood? The plumbers have saved more lives than the doctors, you know.' The response ought to have been, 'Thanks! We'll try that!' But it wasn't. The public response was to blame certain people for a public health problem. Is this so unprecedented?

One might object, but the riots are concerned with police brutality, not COVID-19. This, it is claimed, is a problem which is rampant, reaching even to genocidal proportions. Known cases are just the tip of an immense, invisible iceberg: "We had Trayvon Martin, which, of course, was just the tip of an iceberg. Michael Brown is just the tip of an iceberg." (Freedom is a Constant Struggle, Angela Y. Davis, p. 15). But realize, the explanation offered by those who commend rioting, by the New York Times for instance, is the same in both cases. Police brutality and the disparate mortality rates from COVID-19 are, they allege, two different fruits from the same poisoned tree: white supremacy. It must be the white people who have poisoned the wells: what else could it be? Why does the New York Times not include some blame for themselves, in encouraging mass gatherings when they are not a good idea? To be sure, it is better that they are outside rather than inside, if collecting the loot does not necessitate going inside. The churches ought to take the lesson and revive the old brush arbor. And when you get down to cases, a large part of the confusion about face masks stems from the history that the U.S. Government was discouraging their use, before it encouraged them.

Lockdowns are a novel feature in public health practice. Mass incarceration of the entire populace, both sick and healthy, is a new thing. Did they work? Did they deliver the promised benefits? Did they 'save lives'? Did we sell our inherited liberty for a mean price, or for no price at all? The witch doctor who performs his sunrise dance every morning, on his secluded island, beams with pride over the success of his art. Doesn't the sun rise every morning? It works!

Some things, though, are just going to happen no matter what anyone does. Epidemics explode, then recede. The sun rises, reliably, every morning, whether the witch doctor sleeps in or not. To hear Governor Mills of Maine tell the story, the only reason the case count of COVID-19 would ever diminish is owing to the success of her policies. Something more is required, I would think, to establish this case. Looking to the instance of the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic provides a sobering precedent. You can prove almost anything by knitting together a couplet of cities who either pursued, or did not pursue, a particular policy. Did they mandate face masks? Did they cancel parades? The thing is, you can prove the opposite also, by choosing cities carefully. The trick is, did the city in question get hit by the first wave or the second? The first wave of the Spanish flu was not terribly lethal. People who were infected in the first wave were immune to the next, far more lethal, appearance of the illness. The cities are randomly sorted for this variable. Those cities who were immunized by the first wave could do nothing wrong, those cities who remained immunologically naive before the second wave could do nothing right.

The investment house J.P. Morgan did a post mortem on the apparent failure of the lockdown and made note of the fact that while the FDA will not let you sell a drug in America that has not been proven safe and effective, the government can freely impose a totally unproven and perhaps ultimately unsuccessful nostrum, the lockdown, with no testing, no rigorous examination, nor public discussion: "'Unlike rigorous testing of potential new drugs, lockdowns were administered with little consideration that they might not only cause economic devastation but potentially more deaths than COVID-19 itself,' author Marko Kolanovic, a trained physicist and a strategist for J.P. Morgan, said." ('Many US states have seen LOWER infection rates after ending lockdowns,' Tim Stickings, May 22, 2020, Daily Mail). But wait: did the lockdown fail, or did it succeed? 'Experts' line up in both camps. 'Experts' are prone to do this, leading some to mistrust the tribe! Others, less cautious, are eager to deliver all political power into the hands of that profession. Some seem to think that the coronavirus gets only one bite of the apple: those who did not succumb at first onset are not the bait inviting the next wave, they are saved forevermore. In that case delay really does mean deliverance. But it wasn't long till the first rise and fall was followed by a second onset. Will there be a third wave? A fourth, a fifth? In all these perplexities, time will tell.

What remains impossible to deny is that, while there is no end to the tendency of lockdown advocates to produce backward-looking projections claiming the lockdowns saved lives, and to predict dire consequences if they are lifted, the dire consequences were not immediately seen: "'While we often hear that lockdowns are driven by scientific models, and that there is an exact relationship between the level of economic activity and the spread of [the] virus — this is not supported by the data,' the report says. 'Indeed, virtually everywhere infection rates have declined after re-opening even after allowing for an appropriate measurement lag.'. .'The fact that re-opening did not change the course of the pandemic is consistent with studies showing that initiation of full lockdowns did not alter the course of the pandemic either,' it says." ('Many US states have seen LOWER infection rates after ending lockdowns,' Tim Stickings, May 22, 2020, Daily Mail).

U.S. states began re-opening for business on May 1, then in mid-May, finally at the end of the month. But then the trend reversed, suddenly and dramatically. The first week of June saw a dramatic upsurge. So they told us it's because the states opened too soon. But why was there no wavering in the downward trend when they started re-opening? Why the delayed reaction? Then they said it was Memorial Day. Hmmm. . .what else happened round about then? Strange that Fourth of July, a much bigger holiday than Memorial Day, continued the then-ongoing upward trajectory without producing any dramatic change in direction. Labor Day, according to the AAA statistics on holiday travel, generally on the same plane with Memorial Day, has proven to be another take-off point, but in that case autumn weather and young people returning to college contributed also.

So where is the missing accelerant? Why was 'Memorial Day' such a game-changer? In case you've forgotten, George Floyd was murdered on that day. Then they explained, while people laying on a beach blanket enjoying the stiff breeze of fresh sea air off the ocean are endangering themselves and others, looting, burning and pillaging are healthful activities which cannot spread disease. It is not hard to see why some people don't believe much of what they hear from this quarter any more. It is simply not possible that right-wing political rallies spread disease while left-wing ones do not. They demand we believe the impossible.

Like Yogi Berra said, if indeed he said it, it is hard to make predictions, especially about the future, and the free-flow projections we have seen are more of an art form, like interpretive dance, than disciplined science. Their look backwards does not ask the question, 'did the lockdowns save lives,' rather the guaranteed success of this strategy is their starting point, assumed as inviolable truth. This new concept of science is not like the old, heroic model, because it revolves around an orthodoxy that cannot be challenged, guarded by a priesthood who cannot be questioned. Modern liberals aspire to admire science, the will is there, but they don't quite get what it is. If we follow empiric principles, we cannot keep championing a failed and futile policy, that incidentally shreds the Constitution.

Still, at the time it seemed plausible. After getting the public on board with the 'flatten the curve' strategy, then the strangest thing happened. 'Flattening the curve' turned out to mean something completely different from its initial definition. First, we switch curves. Let us substitute the cumulative case curve for the bell curve depicting the epidemic's total progress. This curve does not turn over at the top and then plummet downwards; how could it? The cumulative number of cases will never grow smaller, it can only grow larger. Instead of rumbling down the reverse side on a toboggan, as we would traversing the bell curve of current cases, or deaths, or hospitalizations, the cumulative case curve comes to the end of the road when it becomes flat, because there are no new cases. In other words, in this new definition, 'flattening the curve' means the outbreak has ended, it is over. Here's an example of the new definition from the AP news service:

Cumulative Curve

The first time I noticed this, I thought, Oh, isn't that funny, a reporter, and he doesn't even know what 'flatten the curve' means! But it's quite consistent. Not only was this one reporter 'unaware' of the original meaning, they all are. It's bait and switch; the meaning of the phrase changed after most people assented to it. Some people want this lockdown to last for years. Only once the disease outbreak is entirely over, with no new cases reported, can any of the onerous and draconian restrictions on citizens' freedom be lifted. Are these restrictions an end in themselves; are they perhaps the whole point? Why did the definition change, with no one ever 'correcting' it back to the original?

The two bell curves do not come to any different outcome ultimately. Both bell curves dwindle down for the same reason. They arrive at different times at the end of the line, but stop at the same way-station: only when herd immunity is achieved is the outbreak at an end. Delaying the inevitable does not in and of itself save lives. Exactly when this point will be reached for this illness has not yet become clear. Is everyone susceptible? There are so many unknowns. Say, perhaps, when 60-80% of the population have either gotten the disease and recovered or been vaccinated, the outbreak will be at an end. A disease outbreak has to crash, for the same reason a Ponzi scheme has to collapse. You can't keep up a geometric progression forever; you will come to a point where you've exhausted the entire population of the earth!

Don't believe it? Let's propose a Ponzi scheme where each investor recruits ten new investors, each of whom gives him $10. How much profit has he made on his own ten dollar investment? Ninety dollars! Wow! But then our ten new investors, to experience a similar rate of return, must each recruit ten new investors of their own: 100 new investors, on our third round. And then each of those 100 must recruit ten apiece: 1,000 on round 4. Then 10,000. Then 100,000. Then 1,000,000. Uh-oh. This is the math of an exponential increase, and it can't be sustained. The disease runs out of uninfected victims, and goes out for the same reason a forest fire must move on or die: it has burned up all the available fuel. While Governor Cuomo is free to pat himself on the back for diminishing the exponential increase of a curve that otherwise would have continued on its upward trajectory forever, in fact it is impossible for it to have gone on forever. The first, skinny, unchosen bell curve retains the attractive property that it ends sooner than the 'flattened' or 'bent' version. The public policy decision was made to drag it out, not to end it as promptly as possible. Why is it controversial to remind people of that? This has become the magic policy that both shortens the pandemic, and also drags it out. It is all things for all people.

The plateau upon which we became stuck, drifting lazily downward, beckoned as a false reprieve, resulting perhaps from the warmer weather. As winter sets in for the southern hemisphere, coronavirus heats up in places like Brazil, while it began waning generally in countries of the Northern hemisphere, regardless of what policies they implemented or when they implemented them. Does the virus interpret the universal air conditioning of the sunbelt as a new season? Presumably the virus' hypersensitivity to heat and cold means it will be back in the fall. The political class claim credit, however, for the fact that the case-load was for a time trending downwards. To hear them talk, you would think it would never otherwise have done so; as if the case curve must remain an ascending parabola forever, even long past the point where we have exhausted the population of the earth. Recall, the policy was advertised in the first instance as pushing forward in time, not backward, the date when the bell curve would turn over at the top.

It seemed likely in any case to be more of a seasonal lull than a true turning-point. Then, suddenly, the trend reversed. Some states have yet to rescind the lockdown. When will the restrictions be lifted? Like maybe never? What are they hoping to accomplish? That if they turn COVID-19 from a pandemic into an endemic disease, this can go on and on forever? Not only had the phrase 'flatten the curve' come to be defined by reference to a different curve than at the beginning, it also had come to be understood that the policy intends to shorten the time span of the outbreak, not stretch it out as originally represented, and also that the policy in and of itself saves lives, not by preventing hospital overload, but it just does, all by its very successful self.

Gretchen Whitmer, one of the governors who delights in setting up hoops for the sheer joy of watching people jump through them, assures her constituents she does it all for them: "This is about the public health and whether you're a Democrat or a Republican, if you live in the state of Michigan everything I'm doing is about trying to save your life and keep you and your family safe and help us make sure that we can shorten the amount of time that we have to deal with the economic stress because of the public health crisis." (Governor Gretchen Whitmer, quoted in the Daily Mail, "Michigan Gov. Whitmer reveals she lost a 'dear friend' to coronavirus," by Rachel Sharp, 5/15/20). How can one and the same policy both lengthen the life span of the epidemic, and also cut it short? If the policy isn't all about dragging out the epidemic, as originally advertised, then just how exactly is it going to 'save lives'?

The voices that warned ominously of a predicted 'spike' in cases if lockdowns are ended 'prematurely' turned out to be prophetic, even if they jumped the gun a bit. Personally, I thought at the time, no doubt this spike will be the mirror image of the dramatic trough in infections produced by the lockdowns when they first went into effect. Surely you remember that, dear reader: the decline in new infections, as dramatic as the void left in a patient's brain when the ice pick of the lobotomist goes in. You didn't notice? Funny, neither did I. So, I thought, we may safely predict the exact same phenomenon, in reverse.

Was I wrong! The beginning of June saw a substantial reversal of the trend and accelerated spread. We can rest assured, however, that this upsurge can have had nothing to do with the outbreak of looting, arson, and mayhem seen in the nation's cities, because our medical establishment has ascertained that these activities can never be implicated in disease spread, no matter how closely packed the participants. It is a striking fact that if you draw a line on the case curve for May 25, it is clearly a date when something happened. The case load does not continue its downward trend, but starts to even out. Then it begins to rise. Clearly, something happened on May 25th. What was it that happened? George Floyd was murdered. But that cannot be of any consequence. Experts agree. Move along, citizen, there's nothing to see here.

With lockdowns, you can achieve no more than to postpone the day of reckoning, if you even achieve that. It's a good thing if we get a 'do-over,' so that what should have been done at the start, like testing, can now at last be done. We get another chance to do it right. Meanwhile the strange circumstance that it wasn't done right the first time goes unmentioned and unexplained, unless it can be blamed on Mr. Trump. Personally, I did not vote for Mr. Trump in 2016 and have no great loyalty to his cause, though I do expect to vote for him in 2020. Hearing the chants at his 2016 rallies, 'Build the Wall,' I wondered, what, they don't have ladders in Mexico?

But I cannot fathom the motivation of the talking heads of the mainstream media, who do not care one way or another whether a hundred thousand of their countrymen die, provided only they can find ammunition in their demise against a politician they hate. They do not care that the CDC failed. They do not care that the governors forced COVID-19 patients on unwilling nursing homes. They literally do not care to say anything to the world but 'Orange Man Bad.' That's the story, whatever happened. The now-canonical approach to fighting epidemics cannot be said to have succeeded, and not because it wasn't tried. A failed and hopeless policy, the policy of the ostrich, must be abandoned at some point, and let us hope society will abandon it without giving the responsible parties accolades.

The lockdown policy was an untried experiment, having no track record to demonstrate its efficacy, because it's never been tried. What could possibly go wrong? Say, hypothetically, that immunity to COVID-19 is time-limited: "Immunity to COVID-29 might be lost within months according to research." (Immunity to COVID-29 may be lost in just a few months' by Colin Fernandez, July 13, 2020, Daily Mail online). If true, this raises the specter that, having exhausted its initial onslaught on an immunologically naive population, the virus will keep coming back, an endemic disease now, not any fleeting epidemic, because immunity acquired need not be immunity kept. We'll never be rid of it. In that case, the policy of slowing it down will have been a disaster, and we will all wish we had let nature take its course.

We will be reminded of that old adage, 'First, do no harm.' The fact that the school that 'discovered' this new fact is a repetitive mill churning out alarmist scenarios might recommend caution. A contemporary author coined this new adage: "Know how to rank beliefs not according to their plausibility but by the harm they may cause." (Nassim Nicholas Taleb, The Black Swan, p. 266). Whatever the basis for that gnomic pronouncement, its application in this case would have led to the conclusion that the lockdown strategy was a dangerous novelty with the potential to do harm.

The simultaneous change in definition of 'flatten the curve,' achieved with all the precision of a marching band, continues to astonish me. Personally I'm the least given of people to credit conspiracy theories; I'm likely one of the few left who still thinks Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone. For that matter I think Marinus van der Lubbe acted alone. But how did they manage to change the definitions and gain unanimity with the new ones, all without attracting attention or comment? Usually conspiracy theories suffer from a complete lack of affirmative evidence, but not here. A lockdown expected to last a few weeks extended itself into months, with some zealots threatening to lengthen it out until there's a cure. If ever there's a cure!

It seems that there was something disingenuous from the start in the program of '15 days to flatten the curve.' Those pushing the policy did not believe 15 days would accomplish much of anything, except to lock the government into a policy it could not abandon until something positive happened. Failure of the policy would not be reason enough to discontinue it. But if the government is not truthful, there can be no democracy. And what about the media who went along with it? Did they think they were helping to publicize a 'noble lie'? There is no noble lie! Shame on them!

A policy that hasn't worked has turned out to be a policy you can't get rid of. So one of the hurdles conspiracy thinking has never been able to surmount, in my mind,— how does the 'elite,' whoever they are, manage to communicate to the news media their talking points?— here presents a case study. Why did everybody pivot, at the same moment, on the meaning of the catch-phrase 'flatten the curve'? Who put them on notice? Who enforced the redefinition? I have no answer. Perhaps just group-think combined with a sincere hope that the people in charge know what they are doing.  Not that watching this case study unfold has pushed me into the conspiracy camp, but if the media is pushing inherently implausible information, like, say, that rioting never, never, ever contributes to disease spread, then the listener should pause to reflect that this is implausible information being pushed by a disreputable source.

The U.S. used to be universally conceded to be a democracy; the people were understood to be sovereign. In the eyes of one major political party, they are no longer:

"Ensure that public health decisions are made by public health professionals and not politicians, and officials engaged in the response do not fear retribution or public disparagement for performing their jobs."
 (Biden for President web-site, retrieved 05/16/20).

In a democracy, decisions about public policy are made by the people through their representatives. Believe it or not! You have to wonder why basics like this should be in dispute. Dissenters should be able to determine, even through their own trusted sources, that dictatorship by the doctors is no better and no worse than any other form of dictatorship:

"A scientific body to which had been confided the government of society would soon end by devoting itself no longer to science at all, but to quite another affair, and the affair, as in the case of all established powers, would be its own eternal perpetuation by rendering the society confided to its care ever more stupid and consequently more in need of its government and direct." (Mikhail Bakunin, God and the State, Kindle location 364).

They even carry this to the point where they insist that citizens must say nothing on these topics but to repeat what the W.H.O. has already said. Actually this regimen retains some freedom, because the W.H.O. has changed its position on so many crucial points that the citizens remain free to take a wide variety of differing positions, citing the W.H.O as authority.

Update: since the spring and summer, the situation has, in a sense, brightened: it looks like we will be saved by the bell, from our own proliferating conspiracy theories and selfish disregard for our neighbor's well-being, by development of a vaccine, of which there are now three promising candidates. God has been merciful, and has dealt with us not as our folly deserved, but as His kindness suggested. This dark chapter in American life will come to a close, and what lessons will have been learned? That we must get back to a concept of solidarity, of sacrifice for the common good? Until then, however, a dark winter looms.



Chivalry is the idea that the strong should sacrifice for the weak. It was popular in the middle ages. We prefer it the other way around. What is the end game? When does the dying stop? For both bell curves, the ending is the same: herd immunity is achieved, with about 60-80 percent of the population immune to the virus, whether because they have recovered from it or by the intervention of a deus ex machina, when a vaccine or an effective cure arrives on the scene. So who make up the lucky 20-40 percent of the population, who escape unscathed, without having to contract the illness? The young and healthy. And who are the unlucky ones, who pay with their lives? The elderly. That's how we roll. We are building our herd immunity with the building blocks of the surviving elderly. Did we plan this, and if we had planned, would we have done it this way?

Chivalry is the concept behind the Birkenhead Drill. If there are too few places on the lifeboats for everyone to get one, who wins this competition? The strong? The aggressive? No, women and children first. It is an antique idea that you almost could not explain to modern people. Their lifetime expected earnings are probably less than that of the men so callously discarded. But if we had explained to the men standing at attention on the deck of the Birkenhead that we intended to manage a disease outbreak by concentrating disease spread to nursing home residents, they would have looked at us with horrified incomprehension. 'But nobody intended this.' This pandemic is not a natural, wild river splashing up over its banks; it is the most minutely managed disease outbreak in history, mining down into police state resources that no one even knew a constitutional republic like the United States possessed. The consequences of actions that can readily be predicted are not unintended. 'But this is what would have happened anyway.' No, if the schools had not been closed and businesses shuttered, more young people would have contracted the disease and recovered. It flows where it is channelled.

There is a holocaust of the elderly going on. They address it by closing the schools, but the elderly do not attend school. They address it by putting a stop to business activity, to save, they claim, a group which is predominantly retired. Far from setting up a firewall between the vulnerable elderly and the rest of society, they make the wall as permeable as possible, by requiring the nursing homes to accept people already ill with COVID-19. Something doesn't add up. Then they encourage riots and mass protests which cannot be doing anything other than spreading disease. What is going on here? Cities like Houston and Los Angeles had massive protests, then outbreaks. Even though these activities are very likely to spread illness, and among the most vulnerable population at that, some don't want the facts ever to become known: "In New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio has instructed contact tracers not to ask if infected people attended protests." (The New York Times, 'Are Protests Unsafe?" by Michael Powell, July 6, 2020).

How did we get to where we are at? At first, when containment was still in reach, the Centers for Disease Control neglected to roll out a usable test, and so that possibility was lost. Next they devolved to mitigation, trying to slow the spread of the illness, not stop it, because it is so thoroughly seeded throughout the population it can't be stopped. It's not up to us how it will end: it will end with the achievement of herd immunity. What is up to us is who will make up the 60-80% who have had it and gotten over it, and who will comprise the 20-40% who remained in good health throughout. Tough luck for the elderly in nursing homes. Young people should have stepped forward to say, 'If anyone must bear the brunt of this, it should be us.' Instead they were instructed to cower at home. Meanwhile the nursing homes were left with no testing, no protection, and under state orders to admit known COVID-19 patients whether they wanted to or not. Chivalry is dead. The frail, vulnerable elderly pay the price for society's immunity; they are at the tip of the spear.

Andrew Cuomo, Governor of the State of New York

The good news is that the survivors, the nursing home residents who did not die, are building up our societal stock of acquired immunity. We are achieving herd immunity, one nursing home at a time! Our frail and immuno-compromised seniors are at the tip of the spear. Because after all, when all is said and done, and the population has had to be released from imprisonment by the carceral state at some time before famine rears its head, we are right back to square one: a large number of uninfected people present a target painted on their backside to a virus that's not done yet. This man, his eyes darting around like a wary, alert or angry bird, is the governor of the State of New York, Andrew Cuomo. Implausibly enough, the mainstream media hope to make him a rising star. However he has blood on his hands, as one desperate constituent took note:

New York Nursing Homes

There are two kinds of people in the world: people who make things, and do things for others, and charge for their services, and people like the Cuomos, who despise any who would do such things, and base their own sense of moral superiority on their very different function in life: they regulate. That's why they're morally superior to you and me. The nursing home industry is very tightly regulated, and the more liberal the state, the tighter the regulation. When the nursing home operators protested that they could not accept COVID-19 patients, neither their own residents returning from the hospital with a nosocomial infection, nor new patients, he did not care, because the state has an adversarial relationship with the nursing homes even in the best of times. The result was a holocaust:

"The coronavirus has likely already killed more than 5 percent of the state's nursing-home population, according to the latest figures from New York's Health Department.
"As of the start of Sunday, there were 2,598 confirmed COVID-19 deaths in the facilities statewide, the DOH [Department of Health] said. There also were 2,646 fatal presumed coronavirus cases in New York nursing homes, in which the deceased weren't officially tested but displayed telltale symptoms of the contagion.
"Both figures total 5,244 deaths, or nearly 5.2 percent of the state's nursing-home population of 101,518.
"And that percentage doesn't even include the nursing-home residents who were transferred to other facilities, such as hospitals, and died from COVID-19." (New York Post, Coronavirus has likely killed over 5 percent of NY nursing home residents, by Aaron Feis, May 10, 2020).

That "more than" covers a multitude of sins, because nursing home residents in the United States still often end their days in a hospital bed, unlike in France. The social workers have not succeeded in pressuring all of them to sign Do Not Resuscitate advance directives. Cuomo's reaction? "Whatever we're doing has worked." (New York Post, Coronavirus has likely killed over 5 percent of NY nursing home residents, by Aaron Feis, May 10, 2020). If that's what you're aiming for, sure. But who let this monster loose? Why did they stop counting fatalities of nursing home residents who died in the hospital? It's true that in other states, like New Jersey, half or more of the fatalities from COVID-19 have been in nursing homes. Nor is New York the only state to accelerate the flames by pouring gasoline on them, and mandating the homes accept contagious persons. A handful of states followed this ruinous policy, with the same disastrous results. Their nursing homes became killing fields. But instead of reflecting on where it all went wrong, Governor Cuomo writes a book lauding his own leadership skills and offering to share his pearls of wisdom with the rest of us.

Quarantine is an ancient practice that seeks to protect the uninfected from potential harm. The last big epidemic to blow through, HIV/AIDs, was handled in just the opposite way from what we are doing now. The whole matter was viewed from the perspective of those already infected, who did not want their lives interfered with. Instead of quarantine being understood as a self-evidently good policy, people winced at the cruelty and bigotry of sequestering sick people to protect those still healthy. It was suggested to mark them with a tattoo, so that only those who need to know could access the information, but even that's enough to make modern health services start back in horror. The present crop of disease control experts made their reputations in the AIDs era, so these are the very people who oversaw the replacement of the notion of social responsibility with unimpeded autonomy for the ill.

Yet these same people feign astonishment when it's mentioned that a large segment of the population in urban areas refuse to cooperate with contact tracers, or if they even will talk with them, insist they have had no personal contacts in the past week. This is a dynamic situation. It used to be thought the uninfected portion of the community had some rights to exercise, over against those already infected; recall, Typhoid Mary lost her court appeal. The pendulum then swung entirely in the opposite direction. When COVID-19 came along, many in the public health sector feigned astonishment to discover that the pendulum had swung at all, even though they are the very people who pushed it. Public health is a field which has long been in the habit of tacking with the winds of political correctness.

The principle of protecting the uninfected has lately been rediscovered, but some state health authorities were caught in a time warp, protesting that nursing homes must not be allowed to 'discriminate' against contagious people by refusing to house them in with the healthy. So a holocaust ensued. The problem is not that the states were unable to keep it from happening, but that the states forced it to happen. At the outset, too, the public health authorities assured the nursing homes that asymptomatic workers cannot spread the disease, which is simply untrue. One wonders if our current system of private investing in for-profit nursing homes can survive this disaster. A flood of law-suits is to come; but will whatever replaces the current system be an improvement? Unfortunately the states can't be sued, no matter how many people their public health departments kill.

It's not a handful of sick people that Governor Cuomo forced into the nursing home, but thousands: "More than 4,500 recovering coronavirus patients were sent to New York's already vulnerable nursing homes under a controversial state directive that was ultimately scrapped amid criticisms it was accelerating the nation's deadliest outbreaks, according to a count by the Associated Press." ('AP count: over 4,500 virus patients sent to NY nursing homes,' by Bernard Condon, Jennifer Peltz and Jim Mustian, May 21, 2020, AP). It took Governor Cuomo's handlers quite some time to explain to him why people were upset that so many helpless elderly nursing home residents died for no reason. He ultimately did reverse the policy. But according to the AP article, he is still defending it: "But he continued to defend it this week. . ." It seems that neither he nor his celebrity brother has the capacity to formulate the question, 'Did I do something wrong? Could I have done better?'. . .or to answer with anything but an unconcerned shrug of the shoulders. They cannot ask, 'Have we harmed others, intentionally or through ignorance?' because when it comes right down to it, they really don't care whether the answer is 'yes' or 'no.' These are the people the media see as our future leaders.

Some things in America are undoubtedly on the way out owing to this pandemic. Many affluent New Yorkers have already fled New York City, in search of less contaminated pastures. Perhaps all the big cities will go the way of Detroit as their tax base erodes with these desertions. Though it was known early on that facilities like the Life Care Center of Kirkland, Washington were vulnerable, the elderly were left to be the canary in the coal mine alerting the community to coronavirus spread, otherwise indectectible, owing to the failure of the Centers for Disease Control to roll out a functional test. The politicians responsible for this die-off must be made to pay a price. One marvels at the chutzpah of the mainstream media, who think they can turn the man who presided over the biggest death toll of any state into the hero of the day.

He it was who demanded the endangered nursing homes admit patients known to be infectious. He it was who did not bother to share protective equipment with them. They are profit-making businesses, he is in government, so he thinks highly of himself and very little of them. Their desperation to preserve the lives of the people in their care did not move him. As a direct consequence of his arrogance and inflated self-estimation, helpless people died. Yet we are expected to giggle at this man's cutsie-poo banter with his celebrity brother. After all, isn't spectacular failure almost the same thing as success? It is fervently to be hoped that these little Stalins,— the Cuomos, the Gretchen Witmers, the Janet Mills,— will be returned by the electorate to the obscurity they so richly deserve at the next electoral opportunity.

Have governments always responded to epidemic illness by imprisoning their healthy citizens? No, not at all. Where did this policy come from? Partly through emulation of the Chinese Communists, who have no qualms about welding the front door of the apartment building shut, with or without consent of the fire marshal. But partly it was taken down off the shelf; this mass imprisonment model has been the standard disease-fighting policy of the U.S. government since the George W. Bush administration. The New York Times wrote an interesting article on the genesis of the policy called "The Untold Story of the Birth of Social Distancing," April 22, 2020, by Eric Lipton and Jennifer Steinhauer. This policy originated during the George W. Bush administration, whose finger-prints are all over it.

The lack of concern for civil liberties comes from the administration which decided that torture is legal, and the lackadaisical indifference to plunging the country into depression comes from the apocalyptic terror with which that administration viewed any and all threats. The ground-breaking medical research which informed the policy was carried out by a fourteen-year-old girl for her science project. This young lady's great insight was that school-children are the focal point for infectious disease, and thus closing the schools will cause disease outbreaks to fizzle out. The fact that this is totally untrue for the coronavirus,— when you browse down the list of super-spreader events, none of them took place on school playgrounds, few lives were saved directly by closing the schools,— did not strike them as any reason to modify the policy. Perhaps the young lady believed, as young folk are prone to, that her parents and their peers had no friends, because only the young belong to social networks.

This is a disease with a very sharp age gradient. To the young and healthy, it is not much worse than any seasonal flu; but let it hit the nursing home, and body bags pile up in the back room. So what did they do? They confined the young and healthy to their homes, unless they were 'essential' workers, and let her rip through the nursing homes; indeed, they insisted the nursing homes admit known cases of COVID-19. Chivalry would put the young and healthy, who are better able to withstand the disease, on the front lines, but they put them well to the rear, where they were protected by a solid phalanx of the old and frail.

These tragic events were accompanied by an oddly misplaced narration, courtesy of the mainstream media. Even before the events unfolded, the narrative describing it was already in place. How can this be? The mainstream media and their political backers already knew that it was all Mr. Trump's fault. Hadn't the white-coated heroes warned him of the disaster to come? Certainly Mr. Trump did not demonstrate prescience or foresight. And since at long last, looking backwards, their projections are corrected to work out right, they can point this out. He pooh-poohed the whole thing, they say. Was it because he was being fed worthless information like this?:

"From January 21 through February 23, 2020, a total of 14 cases of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) were diagnosed in six U.S. states, including 12 cases in travelers arriving from China and two in household contacts of persons with confirmed infections. An additional 39 cases were identified in persons repatriated from affected areas outside the United States." (Anne Schuchat, M.D.; Public Health Response to the Initiation and Spread of Pandemic COVID-219 in the United States, February 24-April 21, 2020, May 1, 2020).

Mr. Trump, reportedly a germaphobe, is unfortunately so mesmerized by the people in white coats that he swallows whatever they see fit to feed him, including the idea that there were all of 14 cases of COVID-19 in the United States as of February 23, 2020. This was orders of magnitude off. The CDC's performance at its assigned task, to develop and roll out a test for coronavirus, was fumbled at such a level of criminal negligence as to leave policy-makers blind to reality. But they are not expected to pay a political price for failing to do their job. No one has been fired, to encourage the rest. To the contrary, these are the people scheduled to be played by Brad Pitt. Why on earth? Since when have we rewarded incompetents for fumbling the ball so badly? They failed to execute.

But the mainstream media ask only one question: can Mr. Trump be blamed? If the answer is no, because the people who failed are career government bureaucrats, they have no further interest in the matter. How many lives were lost because they discouraged wearing face masks? How many lives were lost while they erroneously implied that hand-washing would prevent most transmission? Why was there a protracted debate between proponents of aerosols versus droplets? The seating chart for the rehearsal of the Skagit Valley community chorale cannot be drawn, situating every infected person within six feet of the source, so that idea should have been scrapped from the start. How much bad advice can people listen to without catching on?

Early on in the pandemic their protocol for testing called for administering a test for COVID-19 if the patient had been to China, and not otherwise. Is it a surprise they did not discover community spread? Can it come as a surprise if the only people found to have COVID-19 had been to China? None others were tested! Meanwhile the virus was ricocheting from coast to coast. These unelected bureaucrats did not do their job. They were giving out false and misleading information that cost human lives. But no matter how badly they fail, the morality play the media has scripted calls for the people in white coats to be the heroes, those politicians who dislike imprisoning their constituents the villains. Politicians who, after all, hope to be re-elected, have some motive to care about people's dreams of freedom and democracy, while the public health technicians can order the imprisonment of whomever they will for as long as they will, whether conducive to public health or not, without fear of consequences.

In matters of public health, democracy is out, rule by experts is in, and don't think you are still free to criticize: "Ensure that public health decisions are made by public health professionals and not politicians, and officials engaged in the response do not fear retribution or public disparagement for performing their jobs." (Biden for President web-site, retrieved 05/16/20). The laity is not even to complain: no "public disparagement"! What are these people going to do when they discover some "public health professionals," like Knut Wittkowski, disagree with other "public health professionals"? Discredit and ostracize the non-conforming experts? 'Cancel culture' is the thing that will rescue us? The reader may recall that Knut Wittkowski was an early advocate for acquiring herd immunity the hard but fast way, by experience. This approach was widely criticized at the time; people multiplied the case fatality rate, as then understood, by the U.S. population, and reported the results in shocked tones. But the man was an epidemiologist; checking credentials cannot resolve the dispute he sparked. Incidentally, now that most Americans have contracted, and recovered from, COVID-19, we must agree mass infection was, after all, the route we chose.

"[R]etribution," it is to be hoped, will come at the ballot box. The 'herd immunity' approach was deservedly and understandably controversial; some thought it another name for herd thinning: "There is another, more accurate name for herd immunity that its proponents didn’t dare use: herd thinning." (Slavitt, Andy. Preventable (p. 226).) However, realizing that as of the date of this update, most Americans have contracted, and recovered from, COVID-19, the dream of a different exit-ramp from the pandemic has faded, and indeed the public health establishment no longer dreams of any exit at all, considering the disease endemic. Government by experts, it turns out, requires not only the availability of experts, but some mechanism for periodic witch-hunts to uncover the unreliable ones.

Just as Exxon-Mobil for years funded contrarian climate research, the COVID-skeptics built up their own brand of minimizing experts. These folks were not as alarming as the wild-eyed conspiracy theorists, who explained that George Soros, or Bill Gates, or whomever, intended to reduce the population by means of vaccination. Efforts after the fact to lionize these people as prophets and oracles who saw further than the public health establishment fall flat. Dr. Jay Bhattacharya, one of the revisionists' favorites, offered this pearl of wisdom: ". . .a 20,000-40,000 death epidemic is a far less severe problem than one that kills two million." (Dr. Jay Bhattacharya quoted at Science-Based Medicine, article by Jonathan Howard, January 28, 2022). If that was a stab at a prediction, it was laughably off; if it was not a prediction, what was its relevance? But the fact that, unlike credentials, true expertise is not evenly distributed should not be taken as a licence to silence either dissenting experts or non-expert opinion.

The people, no longer sovereign, are to watch and admire, while the 'experts' govern them. There is no suggestion that 'experts' in other fields are to be consulted; no economist is tasked to run a cost-benefit analysis, to discover whether the goods pursued are worth the trade-offs demanded for them; no civil liberties lawyer is consulted to determine whether any of this is constitutional (it isn't). This long-suffering world has seen rule by 'experts' before; the Soviet Union groaned under this form of mismanagement for a full seventy years. Scientific expertise was revered by these folks. The political/managerial class were known as the 'nomenclatura.' Theirs were the five-year plans. Would it astonish you, dear reader, to learn that members of the nomenclatura enjoyed a standard of living higher than did the remainder of the populace? They became a self-perpetuating, self-congratulating and self-enriching private club, devoted to feathering their own nest and ensuring that their children inherited their places. Meanwhile the country collapsed into bankruptcy.

When the coronavirus first swept the land, the CDC was a blind sentinel, a toothless watchdog. Though it was their job to sound the alert, they were too busy reassuring everyone that there were no more than a handful of cases in the U.S., to do their job. This was not true. It was not even within orders of magnitude of the reality of the swift onslaught of this new contagion. We should learn from experience. The lesson the Democratic Party seems to have learned: that we should rescind democracy and cede all power to the unelected bureaucrats who failed, is lunacy. If anything these people need more oversight, not less, from elected officials.

They call this 'following the science.' To the loyalists, 'science,' or rather 'the science,' is a monolith, like the stone slab in the movie 2001. There are not competing viewpoints in science, at least not the way they think it should be done, where all depends upon 'peer review.' Imagine Copernicus abandoned to the 'review' of his peers, who were all astronomers committed to the Ptolemaic system, their life's study; or Galileo, left to the tender mercies of his fellow physicists, generally at that time committed to Aristotlean physics, not the new science. Where did 'peer review' come from anyway? Perhaps it was brought in from Talmudic legal studies, which assign all authority to the majority, but not the majority of the people; that would be democracy. Certainly the heroic age of science is over, if we accept these ideas, that no one is allowed to dissent from the prevailing consensus, and that 'science' is all about silencing and ostracizing outliers. They perceive 'following the science' to mean bowing down to a white-coated priesthood who will relieve us of the necessity of thinking.

But science is not a priesthood, it is a methodology, which incorporates radical doubt, not blind trust. One issue that has come to the fore during the pandemic is the large number of people called by their detractors 'anti-science.' I've never heard anyone say 'I hate science and prefer anti-scientific policy solutions,' have you? And yet I've heard plenty of absurd statistics, like that 99.99% of people who contract COVID-19 recover just fine (this is not true, BTW). John MacArthur of Grace Community Church came up with that one, and it's entirely fictitious. Pseudo-science is, I suppose, the offering of praise and respect anti-scientists must leave upon the altar of science; they do not say, 'we hate science,' they say, 'we have better science.' So people who are formally anti-science are hard to find, but people who defend their policy preferences with made-up statistics are depressingly easy to find. And to its shame, the Christian church burdened the world with more than a few of these fakers.

Usually, if you sit down and talk with them, the global warming deniers and anti-vaxxers cite a pile of studies that they allege validate their views. They present elaborate systems dressed up to look like science, which perhaps can succeed in looking all right if you don't look too closely at their underpinnings. Replication has become an issue in modern science, and some of the studies skeptics cite are theirs by right. But others are a stretch and must be subtly, or grossly, distorted to fit the bill. And they are up for it. A good example is the study oft cited by anti-maskers, "A cluster randomized trial of cloth masks compared with medical masks in healthcare workers," C. Raina MacIntyre, Holly Seale, et al, from the National Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology, Hanoi, Vietnam, and Australian universities, which compared cloth masks with medical masks in Vietnamese health care workers. The stated results were "The rates of all infection outcomes were highest in the cloth mask arm, with the rate of ILI [influenza-like illness] statistically significantly higher in the cloth mask arm. . .Cloth masks also had significantly higher rates of ILI compared with the control arm." This sets the reader back, until, reading down further, it is discovered that the "control arm" does not, as one would expect, consist in medical workers wearing no masks, because the study organizers deemed that unethical: "Standard practice was used as control because the IRB [institutional review board] deemed it unethical to ask participants to not wear a mask." These controls were asked to carry on as usual: "The control group was asked to continue with their normal practices, which may or may not have included mask wearing."

As it turns out, this meant that most of them were masked: ". . .most participants in the control arm used a mask during the trial period. . ." Reading further to discover how many is "most," "In the control arm, 170/458 (37%) used medical masks, 38/458 (8%) used cloth masks, and 245/458 (53%) used a combination of both medical and cloth masks during the study period. The remaining 1% either reported using a N95 respirator (n=3) or did not use any masks (n=2)." So less than one percent of participants did not use any mask at all! The 'shock value' of the quoted outcome comes from the reader's assumption that the control group would consist of unmasked people, implying that cloth masks are actually worse than nothing. James White, of Apologia Church, a conspiracy theorist and anti-masker, warns ominously on Twitter: "Oh, if I were you, I would download and save that article now. It is 2020, Big Brother is here, he has come out of the shadows, and that article could disappear." (Tweet, July 9, 2020).

They are certain it helps their cause, no, that it establishes their cause. Why on earth? The blue surgical masks which emerge victorious from this two-way (not three-way) competition are widely available to the American public at the present time. Since the control group was comprised of people who used both medical masks and cloth masks, they unsurprising came out in the middle between the two other groups. And this is the way it goes. Perhaps the reader is expected to infer that masks do not work if any of these people got sick at all, never mind if they contracted the influenza-like illness from their children at the breakfast table. Healthcare workers are not people who live on another planet; they have neighbors, friends, relatives, too. Even if face masks were 100% efficient, which no one claims, there would still be disease in this group. The actual result of the Hanoi, Vietnam study is that medical masks were proven to be a very effective way of preventing infection with respiratory illnesses. By this point, James White has massaged this study into this form:

"Remember, I've mentioned to you before the pre-COVID study that not only demonstrated 97% penetration of cotton masks by the viruses, but a 40% increase in infection, when you compare three groups, n95 respirator, medical grade, very difficult to breathe through, cotton masks, and no masks at all. Which group had the highest infection rate? The people wearing the masks. . .Biggest study done to that point. I've never seen a refutation of it. Not once."
 (James White, The Dividing Line, A Little Covid Madness, 10/7/20 11:147-12:02).

No doubt it gets better with each retelling. Incidentally, the only people in the real-world study wearing n95 respirators were a fraction of one percent of the control group, in fact a fraction of the same one percent who were wearing no masks! Check it out for yourself at www. _compared_with_medical_masks_in_healthcare_workers. Then read how James White has 'improved' the material, and you will understand what's going on here. This particular internet personality rails against face masks in the context of fear-mongering about how Christians are about to be marched off to the Gulag, probably around the middle of next week. According to him, the election of 2020 was the last free election America will see. This hysterical, paranoid tone characterizes a lot of denialist publicity.

There is a three-tier hierarchy of efficacy with face masks: n95's are better than surgical masks which are better than cloth masks. There is little controversy about this. Many of the anti-maskers make an argument in this form: n95's are better than surgical masks which are better than cloth masks, therefore no mask works. This is a non-sequitur! It is amazing to see this argument win converts on social media, when simply stating it baldly shows its falsity. You might think that somebody like James White, of Apologia Church, is arguing that his congregation should take the trouble to obtain n95 face masks, as these are best, but he is not; he is arguing against all face masks. Again, the best becomes the enemy of the good.

The anti-maskers like comparative studies, which conclude that one thing is better than another: in this case, that surgical masks are better than cloth masks. No one suggested otherwise, although the filtering quality of cloth masks varies greatly, depending on the material, design and layering. I'm told the blue shop cloths sold in auto supply stores make very capable filters. They then take the next step, saying 'what is less good is worthless.' They are applying the principle, 'the best is the enemy of the good,' as if by saying, 'a Maserati is better than your econo-car, therefore you should walk.' One might say the anti's are doing 'critical science,' paralleling the contrast between 'critical race theory' and ordinary, non-critical, economic or sociological study: they upend the presumptions.

Still, they are doing science, not anti-science. Which is not to suggest their 'science' is legitimate, but it's not helpful to describe them as 'anti-science,' because there is nobody home who answers to that door-bell. To say they are 'anti-science' implies they would be unwilling to accept validly done scientific work in refutation of their views, which they insist is not the case. Instead of offering relevant, targeted refutation, those promoting lockdown now, lockdown in the future, lockdown forever, prefer to 'bundle' these people all together with others they consider similar, and address them all by explaining that science is a good thing. No parties to this discussion deny that science is a good thing. This is empty posturing at best, at worst the redefinition of 'science' as 'power to a closed priesthood,' which is three steps away from the decadence and decline of science as previously known. Personally I agree with the conventional wisdom, or what is conventional wisdom at the present moment (it didn't used to be ), that masks are an effective tool in diminishing disease spread. I do not agree that therefore they should be mandated. To this day cigarette smoking is legal, though it is known to cause more deaths per year to the American public than have as yet been caused by the coronavirus. Free men and women are not children to be led around by those wiser than they.

It's an old strategy of polemicists, to 'bundle' viewpoints together for their own convenience: 'I hear you support free love, world government and progressive taxation.' 'What? I said I support progressive taxation!' 'Aha! You have proved my point! You support free love, world government, and progressive taxation!' They have bundled together different viewpoints they dislike, and alleged they are united by a common refusal to submit to 'the science.' Even people who respect the right to life, they claim, are anti-science, though it's hard to see how that works. And so Mr. Trump must be anti-science. Certainly he is in the habit of saying disruptive, outside of the box things; he has at various times suggested nuking hurricanes, purchasing Greenland, and ingesting bleach. He gives evidence of having a restless and active, but undisciplined, mind. But it's hard to see the outlines of a movement taking shape here.

Are there actually people huffing Lysol while sitting out in the sunshine? Is this a thing? The thought has occurred before, but has been swatted down: "'Inner disinfection is impossible,' declared scientists at an 1882 Congress of Internal Medicine in Germany." (Anatomy of an Epidemic, Robert Whitaker, p. 40). The marvel of antibiotics was that they attacked the disease without harming the host. Sadly, disease turned out to be a counter-puncher. And the idea of internal illumination, radium fueled, has been promoted before: "Or, as it was better understood by its less enlightened audience, the device worked by 'lighting up dark recesses of the body.'" (Quackery, by Lydia Kang and Nate Pedersen, p. 71). It's a shame that public health got politicized in the first place, and doubly a shame it did so at a time when irrational conspiracy thinking ran rampant.

Growing up, Mr. Trump's family attended the Marble Collegiate Church, with the Reverend Norman Vincent Peale presiding. This worthy's 'power of positive thinking' can be caricatured as denial of reality, and sometimes it does shade over into that. Nevertheless it is true that people who go in for surgery expecting to die are far more likely to die that those who go into the hospital expecting to recover and thrive. There is a complex interplay between what we expect to happen and what actually does happen. Reality is not chugging along independently and inexorably on some separate track from the one our minds are fixed upon; what actually does happen is impacted, to an extent, by what we expect to happen. We are not spectators.

This is a separate issue from the power of petitionary prayer: the saint who prays to be lifted out of his gloomy dungeon can have the most dire, and most entirely realistic, perception of how bad his present circumstances are. Mr. Trump, who is not a religious person, does seem to have internalized this mindset. Demanding that he acknowledge the sky to show unrelieved gloom is to demand that he go against a powerful set of instructions from his childhood. These people do not think they are denying reality, they think they are making a new reality. It is a waste of time for the media to keep insisting he drop this mindset; it is probably what has brought him thus far in life. It is his lived experience that he would become president when no one else thought so, so persuading him the entire paradigm is in error is probably not possible. The fact that he is always looking for the silver lining to every cloud, that he is always cheer-leading, is what he was taught to do as a child by his spiritual guides. That he displays this mindset infuriates the media, many of whom go in for the opposite viewpoint, that everything is awful.

But to make his odd notions into any sort of principled opposition to science, and to drag other constituencies onto the scene of the crime as well, is overblown. They even want to pretend pro-life people are 'anti-science!' Since this 'anti-science' meme does not describe any particular person's views in language they would themselves use, it generates more heat than light. The crackdown enthusiasts' vision of 'science,' unfortunately, whereby the common man must prostrate his mind and obediently shuffle off to do what the 'scientists' tell him to do, is incompatible with democracy. The news media are here, it would seem, smoothing over relations between Mr. Trump and his mostly right-wing constituency. When COVID-19 first surfaced, the right wing reaction, as exemplified by people like Rush Limbaugh, was a reflexive denial: the disease was fake. This view persists, even to the point where dying people deny that they can be dying of what is killing them!:

"In neighboring South Dakota, ER nurse Jodi Doering told CNN many of her patients are still in denial about the pandemic. They 'don't want to believe that Covid is real,' she told the network. 'Their last dying words are, "This can't be happening. It's not real."'" (Daily Mail, 'US COVID-19 Hospitalizations Surpass April Peak,' by Natalie Rahhal, et al, November 17, 2020).

Evidently this 'denial' approach worked so well for them with climate change that it is their go-to policy now. In some cases this denialism gets attached to elaborate conspiracy theories purporting to explain why the government insists on pretending there is a disease when there is no disease. After hundreds of thousands of deaths (but they deny this), it is fruitless to claim the disease is fake. So, even though federal policy is not now, nor ever was, based on virus denialism, they play up throw-away lines Mr. Trump contributes to social media as 'proof' that he really does subscribe to denialism. Meanwhile Mr. Trump lauds his own administration for saving hundreds of thousands of lives, indeed millions, a boast that makes no sense under denialism. He seems to believe there would have been two-to-three million casualities, had his policies not been implemented. Who are these people, the missing dead? I can't guess. The travel bans we enacted closed the barn door after the horse was gone. Nevertheless, Mr. Trump is blamed for minimizing a disease, which he apparently expected to be much worse than the Spanish Flu epidemic of 1918. But then when he addresses his supporters assembled in rallies, supporters who evidently are getting their information from virus deniers and conspiracy theorists, he decides it's no big deal. Certainly he does pander to this constituency, if he does not share their views. Mr. Trump is a disrupter, not cut to the cloth of any existing political paradigm. The narrative the mainstream media is always pushing, that Mr. Trump is reliably a right-wing conservative, is much neater and cleaner than reality. Certainly the mainstream media hate this man with a white-hot passion, but they hate him because them make him to be what they hate. Going by his interviews with Bob Woodward, he subscribes to the antiquated idea that, in times of trouble, the people will panic; they are like children, who need to be told soothing fables. Disaster sociologists have been chipping away at this for years: it is not the lesson learned in actual disasters, like the London Blitz.

The news media's preferred narrative, while it appeals to the Democratic constituency, turns out strangely ill-suited to events. How can the course of a disease which may itself be iatrogenic find its place in the heroic annals of medicine, keeping pace with Robert Koch striding across Africa wearing a pith helmet? What if it did take its root in an accidental release from the Wuhan Institute of Virology? The disease is incurable; the doctors have not as yet beaten it back. It is not guaranteed when they will. Since there is a live possibility that the opportunity for this disease to leap from bats to humans was provided by a white-coated researcher whose competence did not match her good intentions, valorizing the folks in white coats may be as misplaced as making a biopic of Bruce Edward Ivins, renowned anthrax researcher. Just imagine: what if she had applied for a job with the CDC instead? With her competence level, she would have fit right in! And history would have been different. Perhaps they should let the narrative arise naturally, of itself, from the events as they unfold, rather than ramming an alien one down our throats. New York was not the only state forcing nursing homes to accept COVID-19 patients, even knowing that the disease spread like fire in dry grass once it was introduced. This is not something that just happened. These arrogant murderers made it happen. This should not be forgotten.

Why is this disease so lethal to elders? It is suggested that the immune system just doesn't work as well in seniors. This is true generally of our physical plant, as those of us in the age group can testify. Still, it isn't uniformly characteristic of infectious disease to be far more lethal to the elderly than to the young, as is the case with this disease, and as might be expected if the immune system in elderly folk just generally falls down on the job. Having ransacked the database in my lay brain, all I can think of to finger as cause is the former popularity of the tonsillectomy. This also explains why the disease hits 'advanced' countries hard. Once upon a time, the doctors used to routinely remove the tonsils from otherwise healthy children. The tonsils were a useless, vestigial organ, they explained. But then they discovered what the tonsils do: they are a functioning part of our immune system. Danish research has shown that people whose tonsils were removed back when this procedure was the bread-and-butter of pediatric surgery are three times more likely to develop respiratory infections, if something is going round. Stand up a group of the elderly and a group of youngsters: what is the difference between the two groups? For one thing, the elders are far more likely to be missing their tonsils, on account of the former popularity of elective tonsillectomy. It's a thought, anyway.

Accelerating the damage done to the nursing home population of New York and New Jersey by inserting into these populations patients released from the hospital with nosocomial infections of COVID-19, was the widespread practice nowadays of social workers pressuring elders to sign 'Do Not Resuscitate' or 'Do Not Intubate' orders. Reportedly this was a big factor in the outsize death rate at nursing homes in Europe as well, where they often did not even bother to pressure the elderly to sign away their rightful expectation of medical treatment, but simply did not bother sending ambulances to the nursing homes to pick them up when they were in their death throes. Is it a shocking outcome, that COVID-19 patients whom the medical establishment did not bother to treat, died in great number? What is shocking is our preference for leaving our elders out on the ice floe, when this used to be assumed to be what uncivilized people did. The mortality rate for COVID-19 amongst the elderly is dire indeed. If they had been making the effort to treat these people, might it have improved? See if you can follow the logic: the medical establishment admonishes the young and healthy, 'We are taking away your right to leave your home in order to save the vulnerable elderly.' Youngsters: 'OK, but are you doing all you can to save their lives?' Medical establishment: 'No, it is our established policy to do little or nothing to save them from a medical emergency. It's been that way for years, you didn't know?' To sum up the attitude of the medical authorities: 'The health of the elderly is very, very important to us. So important we are willing to imprison the young and deprive the greater number of their liberty, in order to secure it. Not so important, however, that we are willing to invest time, cash, or energy in healing their diseases; 'Do Not Resuscitate' says, and means, that in your time of greatest need, you are on your own.' This was the policy also in places like France and Belgium, with appalling results. They just let them die without making any effort to save them. The death rate of many diseases would look alarming if the same protocol were followed.

When the crackdown policies were first implemented, they were accompanied by a great deal of hand-wringing and accusations that those who disliked the policy did not care about the frail elderly. It turns out that, after that initial brief interlude of lip service, the crackdown artists did not care at all. We have fought COVID-19 with nursing home residents stationed at the front line. Our policy is ethically indefensible. There is much about this situation that we don't get to choose, but we are free to choose, as a general principle, who will comprise the 20-40% of the population who remain uninfected. We chose wrong. It is magical thinking to believe that, if the entire population hides long enough from a disease, it will go away; someone must come out from hiding. It will go away when conditions no longer allow its spread; although one must concede to the magical thinkers like Governor Newsom that, historically, diseases can do strange things. Some of them do indeed mutate and go away. The out-of-the-box thinkers who invented this policy for the Bush administration were greatly impressed with those medievals who dealt with the Black Death by retreating to their castle and pulling up the gang-plank. What would happen if everybody did that? If everybody did that, the disease will never go away, and besides we will all starve.

Let's do a thought experiment. Suppose, instead of building on the insights of the fourteen-year-old girl who invented our disease-fighting paradigm, we had responded the way this country responded to the Hong Kong flu outbreak of 1968-69. Let's suppose that, instead of shutting the country down, we had refrained from closing the schools, sending college-age kids home, or prohibiting working-age adults from going to work. Let's say we had left it all wide open, even allowing Woodstock-scale mass gatherings and Apollo launches to take place. Suppose we had issued very strong advisories for the elderly and people with co-morbidities to shelter in place. Suppose we had made a meaningful effort to protect the nursing homes, even though these are for-profit businesses and will thus everlastingly earn the withering scorn of the Cuomos, the Whitmers, and the Mills, whose 'compassion' is death. We would be looking back now at a waning epidemic whose brunt had been borne by the young, most of whom can recover. We would not have placed the burden of getting to herd immunity on the frail shoulders of the elderly. There would have been fewer deaths in total. That is a bad thing? Realize that only recoveries get you to your goal of herd immunity, deaths are simply wasted; this is another argument for prioritizing the young. The way we did it led to the worst possible outcome: mass death among the elderly, with still no end in sight to mass imprisonment of the young and healthy.

Suppose we work our accounting thus: you want to get as many immune survivors as possible, at the lowest cost of deaths. Channel the virus among young people, and you get immune survivors with few or no deaths. Working up to middle age people, you will start getting a few deaths per social unit of immunity. Reopen the schools. Channeling the disease onto the nursing homes, as the Governor of New York State preferred to do,— he'll even seed the homes with patients,— gives you a few immune survivors at the expense of numerous deaths. Why did they want it that way? Why should any of these people have a future in politics? According to New York Magazine, the case fatality rates (which, counting only confirmed cases, overstates the real infection fatality rate) run as follows: "For those under the age of 45, COVID-19 has a case fatality rate of about 0.1 percent — roughly the all-ages fatality rate of the seasonal flu (though, as a novel virus, it is considerably more infectious). For those 75 to 84, it's about 4 percent, which puts it in the neighborhood of whooping cough and makes it about twice as lethal as the all-ages fatality rate for the Spanish flu of 1918. For those 85 and above, it's north of 10 percent." (COVID-19 Targets the Elderly. Why Don't Our Prevention Efforts? May 13, 2020, David Wallace-Wells, New York Magazine).

Let's use these numbers, because at least they are known. So, our goal of 60% of the population of the U.S., 328.2 million, is 196,920,000. These are how many people we need to infect to achieve herd immunity, in the present absence of a vaccine or effective treatment. Recall that the people need to be infected and then also survive to be of use to the herd. If we did it on the backs of the under-45 contingent, we'd accumulate 196,920 deaths. Sad, isn't it? Some people wonder why so much attention is paid to this new disease, as opposed, say, to deaths due to drug overdose, deaths due to smoking, or deaths due to medical error, which in some ways of accounting comes out to the third leading cause of death. But even in the best case scenario, which is not the one unfolding, COVID-19 is a killer. Let's try a new approach: if we achieve herd immunity on the backs of the 75 to 84 year old set, that number soars to 7,876,800. And that's how we're doing it! God forbid we should join to them the over-90 crowd, but we must to have any hope of getting near 60%. They are in there as members of the preferred target class, along with the rest of the nursing home residents. Who made this choice and why did they make it? Same result,— 60% infected and recovered and now immune,— but it is far more lethal doing it one way rather than the other. Let's call this metric 'Deaths per unit of immune survivors.' We have set things up to maximize that number, not minimize it.

I'm not suggesting anyone should deliberately try to contract the disease; God forbid you should be one in a thousand. But why would we steer the disease in the direction of those most likely to die? And that's the way we are doing it! Paradoxically, there is a benefit to those most vulnerable when healthy people get, and beat, the disease. Instead of treating each and every infection as an unmitigated disaster, of equal magnitude, to be avoided at all costs, government policy should reflect the reality that widespread infection spreads a protective blanket over the population, even its weakest members. But the actual policy in some of the hardest-hit states was to funnel the disease into the very places where it could find its most helpless victims, maximizing the harm. Governor Cuomo is not the only amoral person in the lot. Chivalry is dead. Noticing some evidence that immunity to this disease wanes with time, we may eventually come to regret slowing down its progression and wishing instead we had gotten it over with, quick and dirty. Perhaps we have achieved no more than to discover a way to transform an epidemic disease into a endemic one. Some people say that, at least in some instances, immunity lasts no longer than four months. If this is so, the prudent course would have been, not to drag it out as long as possible, but to confine its course to within four months. The rule in medicine used to be, 'First, do no harm,' and the public should carefully monitor developments to see whether the politicians' course has followed that rule or violated it.


Vitamin D

COVID-19 is not an equal opportunity killer. For some people, it is little more than the flu; to some, it's death on a pale horse. One of the endangered categories is African-Americans. Why?

Some people say, it's white supremacy. There is a long history of inequitable allocation of resources in health care. But as sole cause, this is not really an evidence-based theory. Some say, it's obesity and its sequelae, like diabetes and hypertension. Some say it's behavioral: African-Americans are less likely to credit and obey authority figures. To some, the only answer admissible is racism: "Third, diversifying clinical research can aid in investigating how racism harms people's health. Scientists need a political, not a biological, definition of race to accomplish this. If race is treated accurately as a social category, there is nothing wrong with recruiting members of a particular racial group to investigate the causes of illness in the group and the best ways to eliminate them." (Dorothy Roberts, Fatal Invention, p. 107). The fallacy here is that anyone following this protocol is 'investigating' the causes of illness or anything else. The cause has been proclaimed ex cathedra and no dissent is permitted. Investigators who do not agree that 'racism' is the sole cause of racial health disparities, are thus discovered to be racist.

But wait a minute. If 'white supremacy' is the diagnosis, why does the differential persist in societies with differing histories. The current black population of Great Britain are either themselves or are descended from willing immigrants from Commonwealth countries seeking economic opportunity. Though they do not share a common history with African-Americans, they share their poor outcomes with COVID-19. If the phenomenon is invariant across different socio-political landscapes, how can a political definition be helpful? The members of the black ski club who vacationed at Sun Valley, Idaho, were not afflicted with poverty, though their reunion blossomed into a super-spreader event. What gives? Given the anecdotal evidence one hears from African-Americans, that the doctors sometimes do not listen carefully and respectfully to their recounting of their medical history and give short shrift to their expressed concerns, racism is likely one cause of racial health disparities. But to make it the single cause of everything without adequate investigation, as they are doing, might be obscuring the real physiological cause.

It's a known fact that persons of African descent tend to test out as deficient in Vitamin D. "Vitamin D insufficiency is more prevalent among African Americans (blacks) than other Americans and, in North America, most young, healthy blacks do not achieve optimal 25-hydroxyvitamin D. . .concentrations at any time of year." (Vitamin D and African Americans, Susan S. Harris, April 2006, Vitamin D plays a role in regulating the immune system, and healthy levels of it may help prevent some of the cascading series of events that result in poor outcomes with COVID-19, such as the cytokine storm suspected to be implicated in adverse events leading to respiratory distress. Research suggests those who die of the illness have lower levels of this vitamin, which can be boosted with diet and supplements.

So why not suggest that? Well, don't bother entering the suggestion into com boxes at the end of news stories. Nor bother with social media; it'll never see the light of day. I speak from experience. They are imposing levels of censorship never before seen except in Stalinist Russia. I can only speculate as to why. First, you must be 'woke' to participate in social media, and the 'woke' explanation for disproportionate death rates among African-Americans is white supremacy: "'People of color right now are more likely to be infected, and we're more likely to die. What we're seeing here is the direct result of racism,' said Camara Phyllis Jones, an epidemiologist who recently served as president of the American Public Health Association. 'That's the thing that is slapping us in the face.'" (STAT News "'The direct result of racism': Covid-19 lays bare how discrimination drives health disparities among Black people, by Meghana Keshavan, June 9, 2020). I suppose there is 'peer-reviewed' research proving that these disparities are the direct result of racism? No, of course not. But it can't be anything else, to the 'woke,' because race itself is a social construct: "The paper drove home a crucial point: Racism, not race, affects health, and race shouldn't be used to explain away disparities caused by racism. 'People think of race as a biological factor in health outcomes, when it is not'. . ." (STAT News "'The direct result of racism': Covid-19 lays bare how discrimination drives health disparities among Black people, by Meghana Keshavan, June 9, 2020). Since race is a social construct, not an underlying biological fact, this means that racism is real, while race is not. They are perfectly willing to march over dead bodies in pursuit of 'wokeness.' If you say it's Vitamin D, you are saying that "'the Black body is flawed'" (STAT News "'The direct result of racism': Covid-19 lays bare how discrimination drives health disparities among Black people, by Meghana Keshavan, June 9, 2020). Come to think of it, whenever you are saying anybody's sick, you are implying that there is room for improvement. Sickness is a flaw!

Secondly, everyone is obliged to repeat what is said by the World Health Organization and only that,— this is what 'following the science' means,— and they do not say anything about Vitamin D. Even doctors on the front line are not allowed to express an opinion contrary to the ruling consensus, without being hounded off YouTube. Unapproved information disappears. Thirdly, admittedly, you get what you pay for, and we lay-people are not generally a reliable source of health information. The gate-keepers of the internet reason thus: 'Quackery is dangerous. People read on the internet someone saying, "Get plenty of rest, it will boost your immune system." So they stop social distancing.' Maybe for that matter they stop eating and breathing air. Fourthly, dark-skinned people produce less Vitamin D for inherent biological reasons, inducing cognitive dissonance with the idea that race is a social construct. Fifthly, forcing everyone to stay indoors in the name of lockdowns reduces everyone's supply of Vitamin D, yet another of the unintended consequences of current failed policy, alongside global economic depression and the holocaust of the elderly, and pointing out that their policy of mass incarceration of the healthy and non-criminal is counter-productive is not something they want to hear.

Making the wrong diagnosis and writing the wrong prescription is not harmless, it can have lasting and heart-breaking consequences. Instead of resolving the medical problem, they make it impossible to solve. By misleading everyone as to what the problem even is, they block a cure. There used to be a population they called the "toxiphagi," a group of villagers in Styria, Austria. These people went out of their way to ingest arsenic, which they mistook for an elixir. They displayed phenomena similar to those seen with addiction:

"Oddly enough, the toxiphagi seemed to become addicted to their chosen poison. If they stopped taking it, they'd suffer the effects of withdrawal, including appetite loss, anxiety, vomiting, excessive salivation, constipation, and breathing problems. Death occurred, too, unless the toxiphagi resumed their diet." (Quackery: A Brief History, Lydia Kang, p. 48).

Arsenic unfortunately is highly toxic. It had at the time, and retains, medical uses, though always entered in a race to see if it can kill the disease before it kills the host. Though it gave these folks the bloom of health, by breaking small facial capillaries, it also killed its share. They thought they were curing their ills but they were not. Quack remedies make the problem worse, not better. In our case, empowering ambitious politicians who want to talk about 'white supremacy' is not going to help a single sufferer from COVID-19. It can only do harm, by delaying the search for a real cure.

The politics of this disease outbreak are weird in any case. Have you noticed the same people who will not tolerate the mass imprisonment of African-Americans who have committed anti-social, if minor, crimes, have no problem at all with the mass incarceration of healthy, uninfected people who have committed no crime whatsoever? Perhaps the terms of the debate should be shifted, and the people who support mass incarceration, if there are any such and this is not a phenomenon on the level of an unintended consequence, should confine themselves to saying, 'They might have a virus. How do you know they don't?' Because then, you see, mass incarceration is no problem at all.

And people who cannot tolerate a 'return-to-work' demonstration in the state capital, even if conducted by rolling automobiles, on grounds it will spread disease, insist that no amount of rioting can possibly spread disease? You might almost suspect special pleading. It is tragic that the African-American community seems to be in the grip of a death wish: realizing they are infected disproportionately with this disease, they nevertheless take every opportunity to pool it so that no community member escapes unscathed. That's what protest does, never mind its unacknowledged love child, rioting. Why? And what kind of 'allies' would encourage mass suicide? What society owes the suicidal individual is to try to talk them out of it.  Instead of hollering 'jump' at the hesitant ledge walker, the mob ought to yell 'don't jump!' To encourage them onward, much less to offer to do it for them, as is done in contemporary elder care, is not suicide but murder.

The murder of George Floyd reopened old wounds connected with police brutality, but part of the rage driving these riots, one can only surmise, is driven by the realization that blacks suffer twice the death rate from COVID-19 as do whites. This is a new situation, but is cast by in familiar form: being told the reason is 'white supremacy,' they react with long pent-up rage: ". . .contemporary sociologists see disasters as moments when subterranean conflicts emerge into the open." (A Paradise Built in Hell, Rebecca Solnit, p. 152). The academic fad of grievance studies fosters the myth that rioting accomplishes things. Change things it certainly does: it reduces viable communities to burnt-out shells, food deserts with none of the amenities that make urban life tolerable. Yet they are taught that, by rioting, they are doing something exemplary, making the world a better place. But massing in groups to loot and riot can only spread the illness which is decimating the community. They are angry because they are dying, in numbers greater than other groups. Unfortunately their reaction will inevitably itself cause more deaths than would otherwise have occurred. Clawing for the surface leaves more drowning than at first onslaught, as their 'allies' urge them on to another Jonestown. What else is the strategy of deliberately and intentionally massing together in time of pandemic?

Do any find consolation through this mass immolation in the thought that, in decimating their own community, they are also dragging down others with them?. . .because things spread. However the first consideration in choosing a bioweapon is that blowback will not cause more casualties to your side than to the adversary. It helps to have the antidote in your knapsack, not to be even more susceptible than the enemy. Rioting surely does nothing to save lives or reduce the toll, either of COVID-19 or of police brutality. This is a mass attack which is guaranteed to cause more deaths among friendlies than of the enemy. To what can one liken it? Perhaps to the Jim Jones mass immolation in Guyana:

Back years ago when the Jonestown mass suicide took place, it dominated news coverage for days. Not this time. Not that the events are undisclosed, riot videos are all over YouTube, but the talking heads do not connect the dots. Why not? Perhaps because we rely on the opposition to draw attention to political excesses of one side or the other, and the opposition, Trump loyalists, are mesmerized by the idea that the disease is a fake that kills hardly anyone. But in reality it kills lots of people, many of them African-American. Mr. Trump himself is so captivated by the idea that testing drives the numbers up that he could hardly even see the second spike. Those on the other side of the aisle are preening in front of the mirror admiring how virtuous they are, to encourage other people to riot.

What is certain is that youthful African-Americans massed in the streets throughout America for the greater part of a month, pooling whatever infectious material they might be carrying in the process. What followed immediately thereafter was a second spike of the infection, appearing even taller than the first, though that is likely an optical illusion brought on by increased testing. Europe never had a summer spike, though they are joining us for their second, our third, upswing in the fall. Why here and not there? The death count of the summer upsurge did not keep pace with the first wave, though it was mentioned that this time around, the disease sufferers were younger. We know that post hoc does not mean propter hoc, but it's hard not to notice that drawing a line at May 25 neatly divides the declining first wave from the rising second wave. It is therefore hard to believe it is not a consequential date. That was the day George Floyd was murdered. It might be consequential because of Memorial Day observances, many cancelled or delayed; or perhaps because it was a date that brought a lot of people out into the streets, and into closed and gated private businesses for that matter. But don't worry, they broke all the windows, thus insuring good ventilation. Ventilation is a good, and because it asks little of attendees, perhaps the best preventative against COVID-19. But can you be sure they didn't neglect to break one or two?

This self-defeating character, unfortunately, characterizes many of the strategies employed by African-Americans over the years to better their lot. Whenever success swims into view, it is immediately swamped by a radicalizing fervor that will accept nothing short of the Revolution; this is what happened to the Civil Rights movement. Because worthless activities, like rioting, are endlessly valorized by succeeding generations of radicals, the illusion comes to be widely accepted in the community, that these approaches actually work and accomplish worthwhile goals. How many young rioters have you seen on TV, explaining to the reporter that it was necessary to riot to put an end to police brutality? But why would anyone think rioting diminishes police brutality? There is no natural connection there. Brute racism forges a link: the small business owners whose establishments they are burning down are mostly white. And the police are mostly white. There! Isn't it obvious, we punish one white person (that one nearest to hand) for the misdeeds of another? What is this but the reasoning of a lynch mob?

Meanwhile some of the ideologues that govern the big cities are over the moon when they see looting and property destruction. Why? To the radical intelligentsia, riots look like the Paris Commune; they are breathless with excitement. The Black community remain economic underachievers, I suspect, for the same reason as does the Third World: a commitment to leftist ideology that survives all empirical disconfirmation. It is heart-breaking to watch this tragedy unfold,— and to have seen it really before, because the riots that put an end to the civil rights era back in the 1960s accomplished the same amount of world betterment,— but to be unable to do anything to stop it.

What is the motive to go out in a mass Gotterdammerung? COVID-19 is twice as lethal to this group as to the majority. I can't explain this mass self-sabotage, and I can't explain why witnesses can look right at it and not see it. It's as if the coroners had been bussed to Jim Jones' Jonestown and reported, 'natural causes.' Public health seems to be a field that goes in for 'just-so' stories lacking meaningful verification. Their refutation is to point out that New York did not follow up its riots with a renewed outbreak.  But New York is the burned-over district for this disease, with the hard-hit neighborhoods already perhaps approaching herd immunity. New York did not, other places did. You should not reason in such instances, 'it did not happen on one occasion, therefore it cannot happen.'

Here in Maine we have recently had a super-spreader event at a wedding reception. How many weddings were held which did not spread the virus? Political rallies elsewhere in the world spark infections: "Sixty infections, including 33 from the church, have been linked to the anti-government rallies in Seoul, which drew thousands of people." (New York Post, August 20, 2020, Reuters, 'South Korea COVID-19 infections "in full swing" after protest outbreak.') Why do political rallies outside the United States prove a breeding ground for outbreaks, when no amount of rioting, even nightly rioting, can cause even one case in the United States? What magical formula do we concoct here that makes even looting and burning safe? Political correctness, which protects no one's health, but just refrains from pointing out the obvious consequences.

Early on in the COVID-19 pandemic, the death rate attracted much discussion, because it tended at first, when only the sickest people were coming to the attention of the health authorities, to be overstated. In reality, for healthy young white people, it isn't much worse than the seasonal flu, though for the elderly, diabetics, the morbidly obese, and people with other health problems it's death on a pale horse. For African-Americans, the death rate is easily twice what it is for whites! And this is the very group that the chattering classes are encouraging to go out in a blaze of glory. Their argument goes, they must riot in order to end police brutality. But it would be putting it mildly to point out there is no observational evidence that rioting reduces police brutality; the riots that ended the 1960's resulted in Richard Nixon's 'benign neglect' and 'law and order.'

The folks aiming to exonerate the rioters probably do have a case, though, that over-crowded bars are no benefit to public health either. However in European countries like Switzerland where the bars and restaurants reopened, but without riots, there has been no resurgence of cases. Some people say it's the air conditioning: "Inadequate air-conditioning systems may be one of the primary catalysts causing an uptick in cases across Southern US states." ('Stocks Filtering Out COVID-19,' Daniel Laboe, July 14, 2o2o). It seems to have disappeared into the memory hole that there ever were riots; 'protesting' is the preferred term, and it is pointed out that 'protesting' is an outdoor activity; rioting and looting, however, occur indoors, though perhaps they feel that once the windows of the Target or Wal-mart are broken, there is enough air circulation to make it a healthful exercise. Ventilation, to be sure, is always a good thing; air drawn down from Mother Nature's mixing bowl in the sky is not virus-laden. Or do they think the fires provide benefit by fumigating? Since no mechanism can be conceived by which a virus can discern the political orientation of demonstrators, it strains credulity to accept that right-wing statehouse demonstrations spread disease, while left-wing riots constitute a healthy, aerobic workout. That young people are heavily represented in the new wave surging since May 25th is consistent with the observed profile of rioters that you see on YouTube. Perhaps this is why the death rate lags the surge in cases.

Not wanting to be part of the problem rather than part of the solution of the new birth of quackery brought forth by this disease, midwifed by the internet, nevertheless I wonder if the Vitamin D connection, if any, isn't being investigated vigorously because of the economics of the pharmaceutical industry. Take as an example the case of tobacco, which from the time of its introduction into Europe from the New World was often touted as offering health benefits: "Members of Columbus's crew observed the indigenous Taino people of present-day Cuba and Haiti burning tobacco leaves in torches to ward off diseases and disinfect homes and ritual places." (Quackery, Lydia Kang and Nate Pedersen, p. 113). Certainly many Europeans condemned this novel weed as a filthy and disgusting habit. But it had been used by native people in medicinal settings: "Columbus's crew had observed the Taino people of Cuba using burning tobacco leaves to disinfect homes where people had been sick, and its reputation as a disinfectant migrated with the plant to Europe. During a plague outbreak in London in 1665, schoolchildren were actually told to smoke in their classrooms as a way to ward off the disease." (Quackery, Lydia Kang and Nate Pedersen, p. 122). Reportedly, 4,000 compounds have been isolated from tobacco smoke; is it possible that one or several does in fact have anti-bacterial properties? "In 1889, an anonymous author writing in the British Medical Journal mentioned that the compound pyridine, present in tobacco smoke, kills germs and in turn appears to lower the risk of tobacco smokers to infectious diseases such as diphtheria and typhus." (Quackery, Lydia Kang and Nate Pedersen, p. 233). Might tobacco, or some derivative like nicotine, have some niche role to play in disease control?

Since the U.S. Surgeon General ascertained that smoking leads to lung cancer, this has not been an avenue much pursued. Intriguingly, hospital records from China and France, both countries which still have a large population of smokers, seem to show that smokers die from COVID-19 in numbers less than their actual percentage in the population. Now this could mean no more than that people, suspected of engaging in a socially condemned and medically dangerous practice like smoking, lie like a rug when interrogated, believing they will be shunted to the end of the line if the doctors become aware their lungs are already blackened and scarred and thus perhaps less responsive to treatment. In fact, given the failure to replicate these findings, that seems likely. Or it could mean that nicotine or some other ingredient of cigarette smoke has anti-viral properties. Nicotine has already been found to have a protective effect against Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease. But the thing is, nicotine is already widely sold, in cigarettes, gum, and patches, and so no one who discovered that it 'works' against COVID-19, or anything else, could profit from it. Our current system, with its requirement for very costly testing before marketing a new drug, but holding out the potential reward of monopoly pricing for a period of years, incentivizes synthesizing new compounds, not discovering remarkable properties of common household items.

Vitamin D is likely to fall victim to this curse of ordinariness as well, even if it really is the reason for the differential between African-Americans and others. Dietary supplements do not need to be tested for safety and efficacy, and many of the popular ones might be extremely dangerous for all anyone knows. Consequently large amounts of capital are not needed to launch them out into the marketplace, but neither can big pharma find a means of profiting from substances that are generic from the get-go. Hopefully the establishment will look into any potential connection with Vitamin D deficiency, as well as other possible physical causes like the possession of sickle cell trait, instead of simply announcing that, because race is a fiction, there can be no conceivable cause for a correlation between group membership and illness other than white supremacy. Somehow I am not optimistic. Thus they end up making a fantasy diagnosis for an all-too-real physical condition. Real phenomena ought to be assigned real causes, not fictitious ones.

(Update: Vitamin D has indeed been tried as a prophylactic against COVID-19, and it doesn't work! So I profoundly apologize for suggesting a nostrum that, apparently, works no better than the hydroxychloroquine and Ivermectin the COVID-denialists persist in offering as specifics against this disease. I'm embarrassed to find myself in such company. I would remove the suggestion, were it not for fear of being accused of 'scrubbing.')