Unmasking

As of today (Saturday) about 15+ states have significantly lowered their Wuflu restrictions or eliminated them altogether. One CNBC story I found had as part of its headline “…despite warnings” and in the opening graf noted that the Biden administration had asked those states to slow down. I giggled at that. It’s not going to happen. We have reached the one-year anniversary of “two weeks to flatten the curve.” In my purely anecdotal scanning of Facebook, I noticed that the “wear your mask!” scolds had died out. BUT…as soon as the news started coming out that states were lifting mask mandates, the wailing and gnashing of teeth began anew.

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Avoiding the subject

A few days ago, Sarah Hoyt wrote a post called “Operation Swamp Fox.” In it she talked about tactics to push back, fight back, against the gaslighting and propaganda coming from the left; the media, Democrat Party, and their followers/supporters (which includes those who are going along in the hopes of being left alone, and Never Trumpers who are delusional they’re going to come out on top). I agree with Sarah’s sentiment and I resolved to start engaging in my own Swamp Fox tactics (go read her post for ideas).

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Chaos, contradiction, and tigers

Several things have wandered through my field of vision this week and each one has simultaneously surprised me and confirmed my already high levels of cynicism. The first was a second lockdown and restrictions. In Philadelphia, our (incompetent) mayor has decided to do our (incompetent) governor one better and shut down all indoor dining and gyms and gatherings. Additionally saying we shouldn’t celebrate Thanksgiving. And to top it off, the PA secretary of health, Rachel Levine is saying that we all need to wear masks indoors. Yeah. Not happening. This is planned to last until January. Other governors are doing similar things…Newsom (or Noisesome) in California has instituted travel restrictions (immediately violated by him and several members of the state assembly and senate…they traveled to HI for a conference), and gathering restrictions (immediately violated by him as he traveled to Napa for a birthday dinner for a lobbyist at the French Laundry…inside). But he presumes to tell people not to celebrate Thanksgiving. As does Cuomo.

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Fear again

I wrote about fear back in May (wow, it’s been that long?) and wrote several times since about Karens and fear, masks and fear, and fear itself again. It seems like the spring, summer, and now fall has been one long battle against fear. For some of my friends, fear is winning. They are afraid to go out as they once did because Wuhan Flu. They’re afraid we’re turning into a fascist/authoritarian/dystopian state…or Russia. They’re afraid of the changes they see around them…whether those changes may be for good or ill.

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Panic and control

Get people to panic. Then tell them you can fix what’s causing the panic, if they’ll simply follow your lead. Then tell them that your solutions are the only ones that will prevent the cause of the panic from returning. Rinse and repeat. Now you’re in control. This is what our political class has been doing to us. Gaslighting is the word you’re looking for. It comes from a story and movie starring Ingrid Bergman as a woman who’s husband is deliberately trying to drive her crazy. One way he does it is to have the gas lamps in their home go high and low. When she comments on it, he says nothing happened. He also has the servants in on it. So, she thinks she’s the only one who can see the lamps going up and down. Combined with other despicable acts by the husband, like telling her that whatever else she’s seeing and experiencing is in her head, she begins to believe she’s crazy. Her husband has gaslighted her.

The end goal is not elimination of the virus. That’s not going to happen. Even with a vaccine, it will be back. The flu comes back every year and we have flu shots. A coronavirus is what a common cold is. This will be back. Bear in mind, though, it is most emphatically not lying in wait for you to walk out of your front door without a mask (despite what you’ve been allowed to assume). Nor will you get infected by walking past somebody on the sidewalk. About the only consistent, and apparently reliable, data we have access to points to age and underlying medical conditions, in combination, as the highest risk factors for death due to COVID-19. Does that mean somebody who does not hit those markers cannot get infected, and cannot succumb to this illness? Of course not. What that means is that is is HIGHLY UNLIKELY they will. There are always outliers. Always. Look at it this way…a product/drug/whatever, claims that 99% of those using it have found relief. That means that 1% did not. When you hear those stats rattled off in TV ads…suicidal thoughts, nerve damage, blindness, cancer…that means that in the trials of that drug THOSE THINGS HAPPENED TO SOME PEOPLE. That’s how they know!

Yes, we’ve had approximately 150,000 deaths in the US from this virus (that’s .04% of the total population). But something like 80% of those deaths were people over the age of 75. You can thank Andrew Cuomo and Tom Wolf for their policies of requiring nursing homes and assisted living facilities to readmit residents who had tested positive or had symptoms of COVID-19. They stuck all those sick individuals back into homes with the rest of the most vulnerable population and then locked them all in. Here in PA immediately prior to issuing that order, the PA Secretary of Health, Rachel Levine, pulled her mother out of her assisted living facility and put her in a hotel. It’s almost as if she knew her mother would be in danger is she stayed in the facility…hmmmmm.

The entire “response” to the virus has become an exercise in inducing continued panic while presenting greater and greater controls. It has gone well beyond actually having anything to do with slowing the virus. I don’t buy into conspiracy theories, but this is certainly one of those times when the political class (and I am excluding POTUS, which if you can control the frothing OrangeManBad!! actually makes sense…states are responsible for state policies and those states with the highest death rates are…wait for it…blue states!) follows Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals and never lets a good crisis go to waste. Need more evidence? Look at the ever changing demands of BLM leaders, teacher’s unions, state level policy makers, etc. Once the virus itself was as controlled as it’s ever going to get, they’ve started backing and forthing on everything that went before. Open up and get new cases? Yes, that will happen. What we’re not getting is how many of those new cases are 1) NOT the result of false positives (just search for “false positive tests” and see how many stories come up), and 2) how many of those new cases actually get sick. We’re told that large numbers of people are wandering around with the virus but are asymptomatic. What’s yet to be clarified (and likely won’t because it makes all these lockdowns and other mandates useless) is how frequently those asymptomatic cases are actually contagious.

In the end, if large numbers of us are asymptomatic, then the point of wearing masks, social distancing, etc. is gone. And when those are gone, control is gone. When control is gone, well, we go back to doing what we all do best…living our lives and taking care of our families.

Keep going. Do what you feel most comfortable doing. But don’t expect me to copy you. I don’t expect you to copy me.

In the end, we win and they lose.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Don’t Be A Jerk

Earlier today I posted a meme thing on FB that basically said there are many reasons why somebody wears a mask and many why they don’t wear one – no matter which side you fall on, don’t be a jerk. I immediately got blow back from people wanting to know why certain things were and were not on the two lists. Seriously? If that’s your biggest problem with that meme, then you have been a jerk at some point and now you’re having to think about it in those terms.

We never like to be called out on bad behavior. It’s embarrassing to admit you’ve been a jerk. And when it comes to something that you know is personal…wearing a mask, you get even more uncomfortable. Regardless of their effectiveness masks have become a signal. Wearing it, a signal of your virtue. Not wearing one, a signal of your resistance to seemingly arbitrary rules handed down by governors without support from legislators. What does it mean if you wear one sometimes and not others? I’m not sure. Practical?

Full disclosure, I don’t wear a mask when I’m walking around outside. I do wear one when I go into the store. The stores are just trying to stay in business (yes, even the Target and Wegmans) and to stay in business they have to follow the current rules. I don’t want them to get in trouble and I need to go grocery shopping. I do not live in a state where I have options if I decide not to give a store my business because they require a mask. I can’t go anywhere else. But, believe me, I wear it as little as possible. After about an hour, I start to get eczema outbreaks on my face. I’m also slightly claustrophobic so wearing it for any length of time becomes very stressful. This means that the microsecond I get out of a store, the mask comes off.

At the same time, hell yeah, I laugh and comment – in my head – when I see people with their mask on their chin pull it up as they get near me. And I laugh at the sideways looks. But I’m wearing reflective sunglasses so they can’t see my eyes (which may explain why they don’t say anything…hard to when you’re not actually looking at somebody’s eyes). But…all of that is in my head, and I smile at everyone I pass on our walks. I do my damnedest to not be a jerk. At least not out loud to strangers. I try…emphasis on try.

When my husband and I go for our daily walk we do not wear masks. We have gotten some sideways looks, but nobody has said anything directly to us (not counting the Parks & Recs people today who offered us masks). In college a friend told me that I have a look that says “Fuck with me and I’ll bite your legs off”. I guess I still do. If anybody were to ever say anything to me, depending on what they said and their attitude, oh, they’d get a response.

It bothers me that many of my friends seem to feel that it’s required of them to make nasty, arrogant, and condescending remarks about wearing a mask. To go into “mansplaining” mode (both men and women do this), to let us hoi polloi know that we are so very, very wrong in our opinions and any data we bring to the table is clearly flawed. Many claim to want a clear and thoughtful discussion, but the minute you try to provide any counter-argument they balk. I know that nobody has ever won an argument on Facebook. But, c’mon. We can still have a civil discussion. Right? We can, if people remember that being a jerk is, as my dad would say, bad form.

Don’t be a jerk. Call out people when they’re being jerks. Don’t let them slide.

Image by rickey123 from Pixabay

Masking

To mask or not to mask, that is the question. Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outraged Karens, or to use research against a sea of shaming and by opposing end it? With profuse apologies to Shakespeare, this is where I find my brain wandering off to these days. I’ve had conversations and read numerous comments regarding the wearing of masks. I fall on the side of masks have become a symbol of compliance rather than a useful tool in the (endless and perhaps foolish) fight to stop the spread of COVID-19 or the Wuhan flu or CCP flu (pick your favorite name). I do not wear a mask when I’m out for a walk or otherwise simply mucking about. I will put it on in stores that require one as I don’t want to get them in trouble, but otherwise no.

Here’s the thing. The stated reason behind the wearing of masks is for the greater good. That greater good is based on the assumption that everybody is a potential carrier of Wuhan flu and everybody is a spreader as well. I have said for a long time now that the more realistic response to this virus was to isolate the sick and protect the vulnerable (elderly, immuno-compromised) people. People who show no symptoms should not have to curtail or end their daily lives. Yes, but, I’m told, you are contagious before you show symptoms. Yes, this is true. It is also true for a number of other viruses, including the corona viruses we know as the common cold and other strains of the flu. So why do we treat this thing so differently?

For one, the world received bad information from the Chinese government. They had their own reasons for not being upfront about things, primary among those was the desire to maintain the facade that the CCP is totally in control and does not make mistakes. This attitude has cost millions upon millions of lives throughout history. I also think that there were those in Europe and the US who saw this as a political opportunity. It is not an exaggeration to say that there are those who despise Trump so deeply that there are few if any limits to the depths to which they will go to ensure he is not re-elected in the fall.

But, beyond the geopolitical implications, fear is playing the largest role in keeping people from going outside and when they do venture out, fear makes them wear a mask. Also, and this is a strong reason as well, they don’t want people to think they don’t care, and wearing a mask, in their minds, shows they care. Right now, as states reopen, cases are rising…because testing is rising. But deaths appear to be flat and even lowering. If you look at the CDC numbers you can see this. But the fear engendered by the rising cases is bringing renewed panic. This is not a disease that kills on contact like Ebola. It is not waiting in the air for you to step out of your house so it can attack you. This fear is being drummed up.

None of this is to say that the Wuhan flu is not a matter of concern. It is, especially if you or someone in your family falls into one of the vulnerable groups. But, and here’s the big part, for a large majority of us, that is not the case. As with the regular flu strains (which cause something like 20,000 deaths in the US annually), the usual precautions can be taken and have a good effect: wash your hands, sneeze/cough into your elbow, don’t touch your face, and if you’re sick, stay away from people.

Back to masking…sorry, that was a bit of a detour. No, I don’t like to wear a mask and I do not wear one whenever possible. I have eczema which is aggravated by a mask, especially in hot, humid weather. I also get claustrophobic if I have one on for too long. I have not yet been yelled at by a Karen, although I’ve received some sideways glances (all of which I’ve ignored). I don’t think states, cities, or other municipalities should be making rules regarding wearing a mask. Especially when doctors writing in NEJM suggest that mask wearing is not effective outside of a hospital setting and is indeed a reflection of fear and anxiety over the pandemic:

We know that wearing a mask outside health care facilities offers little, if any, protection from infection. Public health authorities define a significant exposure to Covid-19 as face-to-face contact within 6 feet with a patient with symptomatic Covid-19 that is sustained for at least a few minutes (and some say more than 10 minutes or even 30 minutes). The chance of catching Covid-19 from a passing interaction in a public spaces therefore minimal. In many cases, the desire for widespread masking is a reflexive reaction to anxiety over the pandemic.

Klompas et al, “Universal Masking in Hospitals in the COVID-19 Era”, NEJM, 5/21/20

This should be your guide to mask vs. no mask along with other general information, easily found, covering other strains of flu. Not fear of social ostracization.

Image by Elliot Alderson from Pixabay

Freedom vs. killer diseases

Lately I’ve seen a lot of snark towards people who dare to express concerns regarding the rapid erosion of our civil liberties and freedoms during the Wuhan flu* lockdown. A college friend even started a Facebook post the other day with “but muh muh freedoms” and then proceeded to rant that people concerned with freedoms obviously wanted to kill of a third to half of the US population in exchange for those freedoms. I was appalled. No disease mitigation is worth the loss of our fundamental freedoms.

This is not about trading lives for freedom. It’s about maintaining our freedoms so that government overreach does NOT result in the clusterfuck we’re seeing here and now. Our privacy, our ability to provide for ourselves and our families, our ability to learn and grow…all of these things are in jeopardy from the current level of restrictions and overreach practiced by many states and counties. I’m not really sure if those individuals inveighing against the respect for and restoration of our freedoms have given any thought to how the country will move forward and recover without these freedoms.

Where do they expect to get basic necessities like toilet paper or food if manufacturers and farmers are subject to random, yet mandatory shut downs? How do they expect to educate their children? And, yes, how do they expect to take care of their ill and/or elderly family members when governments (see PA and NY for example) are requiring that assisted living facilities and nursing homes admit residents who have tested positive for Wuhan flu? Roughly 70% of all cases in the US (massively tilted by NYC) are in nursing homes and assisted living facilities. So, please tell me, how is locking the rest of us up helping when your government is locking up healthy elderly with those who are ill? And then depriving us of the means to support ourselves and take care of those ill/elderly relatives? That’s also part of your freedoms…information. And that has been severely restricted by state governments…all in the name of keeping us safe.

The government cannot and more importantly should not take care of everything for us. I don’t know about you but being infantilized by politicians is guaranteed to make me angry and act in a most contrarian manner. And, being told by useful idiots that “it’s for our own good” and that we should support every authoritarian whim of politicians as long as they claim it’s for safety reasons, is guaranteed to piss me off even more. I’m capable of discovering the dangers for myself. And, if you’re going to tell me that there are people out there who “don’t know” well, that’s on them. Or, if you’re so concerned, go tell them yourself. Governments function best when they acknowledge they are governing adults, when those adults take responsibility for their own actions, and when the rest of you don’t expect or allow the government to do everything. In my intro American politics classes I’ve always asked my students what happens if you allow the government to give you something? The answer is, it can, and often does, take it away.

Right now, we are experiencing a loss of freedoms and there is a fairly large chunk of our population that is OK with that for some strange reason. They seem to feel that since the “experts” are putting these ideas out there, those ideas must be perfect. It’s already been revealed that the “expert” model created by Neil Ferguson, MD in the UK, for example, is deeply flawed and relies on ancient FORTRAN code (seriously? Even I know that FORTRAN is the computer code equivalent of stone tablets). Ask any techie friend you have what is meant by spaghetti code. That’s what the “experts” are relying on and expecting you to take at face value. Don’t give up your ability to question everything.

Take the precautions you feel most comfortable with. Don’t let others, family or friends or experts, panic you into doing something or not doing something that your rational mind knows is not rational. Remember, fear and panic crowd out rational thinking. And, note that fear and panic are what’s being encouraged. To borrow from Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy…Don’t Panic.

Demand that your government recognize and respect your natural rights and freedoms. We are better than this.

*Yes, I’m using Wuhan flu to describe this thing. It’s not racist to name a disease after the city where it was first identified. Lyme Disease anyone?

Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

Life is risky

As the memes and cliches say…no-one gets out alive. Life is risky and we’re all gonna die (unlike in the movie “Cocoon” where Wilfred Brimley says “you won’t ever get sick and you won’t ever die” when they find the aliens). Stay on Earth and you will die. Where we seem to be having an argument is over how and when we die and what risks we are all willing to take *before* we die.

Slowly but surely (and I’m very happy about it) the country is opening back up. There are stories from all over about states moving at their own speed and counties within states defying governors and moving at their own pace. Even Cuomo has had to allow some counties in New York to open up faster than, oh, say, NYC. But, with the reopening, some people have reverted or turned to a greater level of fear. It’s hard to tell if they’re afraid of catching the Wuhan flu and dying, or if they are pretty sure Wuhan flu won’t kill them, but will leave them scarred for life. Or, if they even know what they’re arguing for.

Now, people who were pragmatic and skeptical about the lockdown and the reasons behind it, are freaking out at the talk of reopening. I was puzzled at first, but I think I may have figured it out (note, I said *may*. I will not presume to be telepathic). Many of these people were happy to play the devil’s advocate regarding lockdown, but now that the reopening is actually happening, they’re reacting as if their biggest bluff has been called. They were comfortable when they and everybody else was restricted in movement. But, now, with things opening back up and people chafing to get out and back to some semblance of a normal life, they feel like they’re the only ones left who are worried. And, nobody likes being the only one on one side of an argument. So they’re bringing out the big guns to try to get people back into the fold.

The problem with this is that now they’re doing what they’ve railed against previously. They are trying to tell the rest of us that *we* have to adhere to *their* rules because they don’t want to be the only ones following those rules. I’m not sure why the sudden panic about disease when that has not been a primary concern prior to about yesterday. Like I said, the only thing I can figure is that suddenly they’re the last ones left and they never saw everybody else leave. So, they’re mad at the rest of us and getting defensive.

You may ask, how am I arriving at these conclusions? Well, my data source is the purely biased, anecdotal data from Facebook. I kinda sorta monitor my feed for these sorts of things. The kerfuffle over how to reopen has dissolved into a giant kerfuffle into whether each individual action within each step is wise. There’s really nothing overall to fight against. After all, they want to reopen things as well. Again, based on my own personal anecdotal evidence (which does not mean it’s wrong), they seem to like the idea of opening in the abstract, but are extremely fearful in the actual.

I’m still puzzled by all this fear. I guess the media has done a good job in stoking it. But, I am constantly amazed at how easy it is to drive out the ability to think clearly. I mean, any semi-rational individual can see that the information we’ve been getting changes rapidly. The rules/guidelines/regulations are less than useful after about two days (and that’s being generous). So, why can’t people follow that? I’m not sure, but I think it may have to do with several factors. The ability to take care of yourself, if you can work from home, that means you can easily avoid others (leaving out that your grocery delivery person is risking their health for you), and you can just hunker down.

All of this completely ignores those who cannot work from home. They’re the ones who need/want to go back to work. So, why do people not see that? How blindered are they?

I’m not sure. All I know is what I said before. Protect the vulnerable populations, wash your hands, sneeze into your elbow, and fucking stay home if you’re sick. I will wash my hands before I come visit you. If you wish me to wear a mask I will do so and sit or stand 6 feet away from you. But you cannot expect me to do the same with every other person. Your requests are not theirs. We are more risk-acceptant than you. Deal.

We need to just open back up and let the Karens fall where they may. Life is risky. Don’t expect me to adjust to your acceptable level of risk and I won’t expect the same of you. We’re all gonna die. Just have a ton of fun between now and then.

Image by Oleksandr Pyrohov from Pixabay