Milestone note:  This is my 3000th blog post. That calls for something serious, but not depressing.  Here you go:

Fairy tales ... are not responsible for producing in children fear, or any of the shapes of fear; fairy tales do not give the child the idea of the evil or the ugly; that is in the child already, because it is in the world already. Fairy tales do not give the child his first idea of bogey. What fairy tales give the child is his first clear idea of the possible defeat of bogey. The baby has known the dragon intimately ever since he had an imagination. What the fairy tale provides for him is a St. George to kill the dragon. — G. K. Chesterton, 1909 ("The Red Angel")

Since it is so likely that [children] will meet cruel enemies, let them at least have heard of brave knights and heroic courage. ... Let there be wicked kings and beheadings, battles and dungeons, giants and dragons, and let the villains be soundly killed at the end of the book. — C. S. Lewis, 1952 ("On Three Ways of Writing for Children") 

I write stories for courageous kids who know that dragons are real, that they are evil, and that they must be defeated. I don’t do that because I want to hurt children, but because children do and will face hurts every day. I don’t want to expose them to evil, I want to help them become people for whom evil is an enemy to be exposed. I want to tell them dangerous stories so that they themselves will become dangerous—dangerous to the darkness. — S. D. Smith, 2022 ("My Blood for Yours")

Smith's essay in video form (three minutes).

P.S. There's a new Green Ember book to be released soon, Prince Lander and the Dragon War. Time to reread the previous books in preparation!

Posted by sursumcorda on Sunday, February 27, 2022 at 3:20 pm | Edit
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I woke up this morning at 4:00, troubled by the news Porter had delivered when he came to bed about midnight last night. Life has been emotionally exhausting on so many fronts in the last two years that it can be a struggle to remind myself that we are among the most blessed and least troubled people in the world. Pain works that way.

Arising, I went in search of news, and was greeted by this instead. It was livestreamed at midnight, and is from the church we visited when we were in Chicago. (Mea culpa—I know I have yet to write about that wonderful trip.)

It is not likely to be a prayer tradition of many of my readers. But it was infinitely better for my mental and spiritual health than a news report—full of fear and adrenaline and necessarily of limited accuracy—would have been.

Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, February 24, 2022 at 6:33 pm | Edit
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I know many of you think I have better things to do than follow the protests in Ottawa, and you're right. You can blame my 10th grade World Cultures teacher. You can also blame him that I graduated from high school with near-zero knowledge of world history. But he was one of my favorite teachers.

Instead of giving us a broad general knowledge of the world, Mr. Balk chose to lead us deeper into a few limited areas of particular importance in the late 1960's: Southeast Asia, the Middle East, and the American civil rights movement. He also encouraged us to follow the unfolding of current events, in particular the Prague Spring. That's a lesson I never forgot.

Plus I love David-and-Goliath freedom stories.

Will this really come to be seen by future eyes as an important historical event? Time alone will tell what impact the Ottawa protests will have on the restoration of the rights of Canadian citizens. But watching the cross-cultural camaraderie of this diversity of Canadians who, despite the seriousness of their grievances, maintained for three weeks the peace and joy of their protest, has done my battered and cynical heart much good. If we had not put in the time to watch hours and hours of live, boots-on-the-ground coverage, and relied simply on general news stories, we would never have known the truth.

I have loved Canada since I was a child. Where I lived in upstate New York, crossing the border was not exceptional, and stores both accepted and gave out Canadian change.  (The two currencies were closer to par back then.)  At one point I could sing the Canadian national anthem in both English and French, along with most of the other songs on my record of Canadian folk music. Canada and Switzerland were the two places I had declared myself willing to live if I had to live somewhere other than the United States.  Sadly, as time went on Canada's social and political policies, like those of my long-beloved home state of New York, convinced even this life-long Democrat that it would take a major change to make me willing to live there.

Whether or not they turn out to be historically significant, the past three weeks have restored my hope for our northern neighbors.  True, the governmental responses, plus the realization that their Constitutional rights are not nearly as robust as ours, makes me even less inclined to move there.  (That and the weather.)  But if the strength, love, joy, and unity demonstrated by these protesters is infectious, I have hope.  Despite the genuinely outrageous actions taken by Prime Minister Trudeau and other leaders, I'm actually more optimistic in general than I have been in over a year.

(But really, even those peaceful people sure could learn to clean up their language.)

Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, February 21, 2022 at 9:13 am | Edit
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It's nearly an hour long, but if you want to know the truth behind the origins, organizers, goals, and strategies of Freedom Convoy 2022, this Viva Frei interview with Ben Dichter is well worth your time, even if you don't watch it all. No rants, no anger, just a calm, informative interview with a well-spoken official representative of the Convoy.

Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, February 19, 2022 at 8:51 am | Edit
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If my memory serves me correctly, I have been to an emergency care facility twice in my life. Unlike my brother, who apparently volunteered at some point to take on the major injuries, up to and including appendicitis, for our family.

The first time was my freshman year in college, when in chem lab I splashed potassium dichromate in my eye. The second was last Saturday.

I keep my kitchen knives sharp. I mean really sharp. They don't get put away without a touch-up honing. This is mostly a great thing, but let me just say that I take issue with the conventional wisdom that you're more likely to cut yourself with a dull knife than a sharp one. Brief encounters with a blade, which would never have broken the skin in my pre-knife-sharpening-obsession days, easily draw blood. They quickly heal and never hurt more than a paper cut, but it's annoying to try to keep the blood out of the vegetables. I mean, there goes any hope of getting approval by the Vegan Authorities.

Back to the story.

As I said, any cuts I get are almost always very minor. Almost. But even great chefs make the occasional mistake. Blame my new glasses, blame my distractable brain that had just received some nasty news on the financial front—but on Saturday when I was cutting up vegetables for a stew, just for a moment I lost the ability to distinguish between a carrot and my thumb.

I knew immediately that it wasn't serious, but neither was it a wrap-it-in-a-paper-towel-and-forget-it affair. I had made a nice, circular slice that very nearly lifted the top off my thumb. It was not deep, but "deep enough." I'm familiar with skin flap wounds, and know they don't tend to heal well on their own; mostly they dry up and fall off. I judged this to be a little too much for that to be desirable.

Wouldn't you know, Porter had moments before detailed to me his agenda for the afternoon. I wrapped up my thumb to staunch the blood, turned off the two stove burners where pans were cheerfully sizzling with the start of dinner, walked into his office and began, "I'm sorry to derail your afternoon plans, but...."

Let me just say this about my husband. He can get bizarrely upset about the littlest things, like a traffic light turning red, or a dice roll going against him in a board game. But give him a real emergency and he suddenly becomes calm, cool, and focussed.

Having had his own encounter with finger wounds, for which a doctor later admonished him, "You should have had stitches for this," he never questioned the need for emergency care. It didn't seem the right thing to go to our primary care doctor for, and there's no way I wanted to spend all day in a hospital emergency room after being subjected to a COVID test. Instead, he phoned our local doc-in-a-box CentraCare facility and (having been placed on hold) started driving. I have no idea where we were in the queue, because we were still on hold when we arrived and walked up to the receptionist.

Other than the phone call, I have to say that from beginning to end our treatment at CentraCare could not have been better. The waiting room was not crowded, and even so I jumped to the head of the line. Apparently blood, even when you've cleaned up and stopped the bleeding with a neatly-wrapped bandage before leaving home, gets people's attention.

The nurse (?) who attended me was great, and knew how to put me at ease. We had a great conversation because she's an EMT and studying to become a paramedic, and of course I had to talk about the EMT's and doctors in our family. Having determined that my wound did, indeed, need stitches, she then went off to inform the doctor.

Thus began the longest wait, which only makes sense because there was no longer an emergency. And I have no complaints, because when the doctor finally arrived, he gave me the (no doubt erroneous) impression that he had all the time in the world to attend to my needs. That's a precious gift, and rare from a doctor.

Turns out I didn't get stitches after all. After soaking my thumb in a "surgeon's soap" solution while he went to check on someone else, he told me that the cut was so neat that trying to stitch it would do more harm than good. (Did I mention that my knife was really sharp?) Instead, he just glued the flap in place with some specialized medical skin glue, and gave me a splint to wear.

That little device is brilliant. For one thing, it makes the wound look so much more impressive, and more worthy of having received medical attention. But mostly, it is great at keeping me from re-injuring the thumb. Without it there to protect against bumps and other stresses on the healing skin, and to remind me pay attendion, I would probably have re-opened the wound dozens of times in the course of daily life. The biggest frustration is not being able to get the thumb wet for seven days, which means I have to miss our water aerobics classes. And have you ever tried to wash just one hand? I have a friend whose neice was born with but one arm, and apparently has always managed beautifully. (When she was a small child, her younger sister was heard to exclaim, "I wish I only had one arm, so I could tie my shoes, too!") Let's just say I'm more impressed than ever. I also have a gut-level appreciation for what we were taught in high school biology class: the value of our opposable thumbs.

On Wednesday I went back to CentraCare to be told that everything is going great. (But I still can't get it wet till Saturday.) I made a point of telling them how impressed I was with their service, from the receptionist to the doctor and everyone in between.

That doesn't change the fact that I'm willing to wait another 50 years for my next visit.

P.S. Our initial stay was short enough that the food left on the stove was still safe when we returned home. Porter took over the cutting of the vegetables, and the stew was great.

Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, February 17, 2022 at 1:51 pm | Edit
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I fully intended to post something lighter today, but history has no pause button.

Anyone receiving a cancer diagnosis, or answering the phone to learn of a loved one's fatal auto accident, or having his home and belongings destroyed by fire, flood, or storm, knows how suddenly the world as he's always known it can be obliterated.

In the past two years, much of the world has experienced a lesser version of this lesson. Here in Florida, we have been greatly blessed by a less-heavy-than-most governmental hand on our pandemic response, but we've still suffered business closures, job loss, postponement of essential medical procedures, educational disruption, supply chain problems, and a whole host of mental health issues. It's been a disaster that took everyone by surprise, though other states and other countries have suffered much more. 

In the blink of an eye, a simple executive order at any level of government can take away your job; close your school; shut your church doors; kill your business; deny you access to health care, public buildings, restaurants, and stores; forbid family gatherings; lock you in your home; stop you from singing; and force you and your children to submit to medical procedures against your will.

It astonishes me how many people are okay with this. At one point I was even one of them.

Canada has now taken this to a higher level.

It is clear from watching about 20 hours of livestream reports from Ottawa (there's a lot more if you have the endurance to watch), that the anti-vaccine-passport protest called Freedom Convoy 2022 is most notable for its peaceful unity-in-diversity—along with keeping the streets open for emergency vehicles, allowing normal traffic to move in areas away from the small immediate protest site, keeping the streets clean of trash and clear of snow, complying when the court ordered them to cease their loud horn blowing, and having a happy, block-party-like atmosphere.

Elsewhere, the unrelated-except-in-spirit protest at the Ambassador Bridge border crossing in Windsor, Ontario had already been ended peacefully by court order and the bridge reopened.

Why, at that point, did Prime Minister Justin Trudeau decide he needed to invoke, for the first time ever, Canada's Emergencies Act, designed to give the government heightened powers in the case of natural disasters or other situations of extraordinary and immediate danger? Here are some quotes from a BBC article about it

[Trudeau] said the police would be given "more tools" to imprison or fine protesters and protect critical infrastructure.

Just what this means is not detailed, but the following is crystal clear. Bold emphasis is mine.

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland said at Monday's news conference that banks would be able freeze personal accounts of anyone linked with the protests without any need for a court order.

Vehicle insurance of anyone involved with the demonstrations can also be suspended, she added.

Ms Freeland said they were broadening Canada's "Terrorist Financing" rules to cover cryptocurrencies and crowdfunding platforms, as part of the effort.

You can hear Freeland's speech here—if you can stomach it.

Let that sink in.

As someone said, "Justin Trudeau does not sound like Adolph Hitler in 1936. But he sounds an awful lot like Adolph Hitler in 1933." Nazi Germany did not get to extermination camps in one step.

I have funds in a local bank that is based in Canada. I have written positively about the Freedom Convoy. Does that mean Canada now thinks it has a right to my money? Can they reach into Florida and grab it, much as Amazon can, if it wishes, reach into my Kindle and yank an e-book I have purchased? We've made an inquiry with the bank's lawyers, but have yet to hear back.

Also from the BBC article:

The Emergencies Act, passed in 1988, requires a high legal bar to be invoked. It may only be used in an "urgent and critical situation" that "seriously endangers the lives, health or safety of Canadians". Lawful protests do not qualify.

And finally,

Critics have noted that the prime minister voiced support for farmers in India who blocked major highways to New Delhi for a year in 2021, saying at the time: "Canada will always be there to defend the right of peaceful protest."

Hypocrites much?

Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, February 15, 2022 at 9:44 pm | Edit
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Charitable giving is a tricky thing. It's not enough to be generous; it's also important to be sure your money is going where you intend it, and is doing actual good instead of lining the pockets of drug pushers, thieves, and/or tin-pot dictators.

As a society, we're not all that good at giving to recognized, established charities, but let some new cause or tragic event take our fancy, and we pour out money like water, generously and carelessly. Recent events have been an object lesson in why it's not only foreign dictators who stop charitable gifts from getting to the intended recipients.

I had, of course, heard of the organization GoFundMe, which is used to organize fundraising campaigns for various causes. I have never had any dealings with them, myself—and now I think I never will. Trust, once broken, is very difficult to recover.

A GoFundMe project was set up to support the Freedom Convoy 2022, and quickly raised over 10 million dollars (Canadian). After releasing about a tenth of that, however, GoFundMe pulled the plug, claiming the organizers had violent intentions and as such violated their Terms of Service. (Never mind that after watching some 20 hours of unscripted, unedited livestream video from the protests, I've seen no evidence at all for such a claim; indeed all the evidence points to the contrary.)

You know those Terms of Service that we never read? It turns out they matter. GoFundMe, apparently, can pull the plug at their own discretion, without recourse.

[With my propensity for word play, it is SO tempting to switch out two of the letters in GoFundMe. But I will refrain. Obviously I have been listening to too much Gordon Ramsay. Besides, I know I'm not the only person to have thought of that one.]

Initially, GoFundMe said that donors had 14 days to request a refund (or until the 14th, I'm not certain anymore, and the site has changed since I first read it); otherwise all the money donated would be given to a "recognized charity" acceptable to both GoFundMe and the organizers of the blocked account. After an uproar, however, they changed that to automatically refunding all donations. So that's as good as we can expect, I guess. But it leaves me with zero faith that I can trust GoFundMe with my money.

Next chapter: Enter GiveSendGo.

I'd never heard of GiveSendGo, but they are an established fundraising platform that offered to step into the breach.

Viva Frei, my much-mentioned favorite Canadian lawyer, spent some time looking into GiveSendGo and gave it this review.

 

Almost immediately, the Freedom Convoy campaign on GiveSendGo garnered even more money than they had raised on GoFundMe.

From this point on, the story gets fuzzy, as rumors fly, and I'm not sure what to believe, but this is what I can make of it:

The Canadian government obtained a court order to freeze the campaign's assets. GiveSendGo is an American company and did not take kindly to that action, responding that the Canadian court lacks proper jurisdiction.

GiveSendGo was then hit by a Denial of Service attack, but still managed to continue to take in funds for the work of the truckers.

This was followed by an attack by hackers who redirected the GiveSendGo URL to a bogus site, and allegedly stole donors' personal information.

Then a Canadian bank (TD Bank), which was holding some of the money that had been released, froze the account.

And that's all I know so far.

Not true. I do know one more thing—lawyers are going to win big, whoever loses.

I've heard some complaints that there is a lot of "foreign money" in those accounts. While that may conjure up images of shadowy Russian or Chinese espionage, my impression is that the foreign supporters are much closer to home: cheerleaders from the United States, New Zealand, Australia, the United Kingdom, and Europe supporting their Canadian brothers and sisters in a campaign close to their own hearts.

Charitable giving is a tricky thing. That's no reason not to give, but it is sobering to know that even in a Western, democratic, and supposedly civilized society, governments, governmental agencies, and large private corporations are misappropriating our gifts.

Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, February 14, 2022 at 8:48 pm | Edit
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Our Culture of Fear could be the title of a post on the last two pandemic years, but not this time. As much as COVID hysteria has scarred our children, school hysteria may be even worse. What have we done to the psyches of this captive, vulnerable population?

Yesterday our local high school students experienced a "Code Red lockdown." Why? Because some students reported the presence on campus of an "unidentified adult."

Word of caution: Very little information has been forthcoming from any news reports I have been able to access, so it's likely that there are factors I know nothing about. However, had the person been carrying a weapon or been in any other way particularly dangerous, I'm sure it would not only have been in the news, but in the headlines.

Here's an e-mail that was sent out to parents, redacted to protect the guilty. (Click to enlarge)

I know this school. Our children attended there, and we put in thousands of hours of volunteer time. There are over 2500 students on a very large campus. How anyone could have picked out an "unidentified adult" is beyond me. When I was there, more than 90% of the students and most of the teachers could not have identified me. I would park my car, walk into the school, wave to the teachers, say hi to the students, and get on with my work. No fuss, no guards, no need to sign in, just a friendly neighbor welcomed into the school community.

How things have changed! If I were to do that today, apparently I would be detained, searched, and taken into custody. 

Before you lecture me that "It's not the 90's anymore; life is much more dangerous now," remember that the 90's were the peak of violent crime in the last half century. You can see that in this graph, from statista.com. (Click to enlarge)

Crime is 'way down, and fear is 'way up. School parents have reported that their children were absolutely terrified. I'm not sure I wouldn't have been myself, because a "lockdown" is a "lock in" and students can't get out. I'm not fond of being trapped, particularly when I have no idea that there isn't something really terrible going on.

Just as in our present pandemic situation, we are not paying nearly enough attention to the relative danger posed by extremely rare events that endanger children, and the damage a culture of fear does to their mental health.

Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, February 11, 2022 at 11:54 am | Edit
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Just yesterday I encountered the idea of how our primitive behavioral immune system fuels the bizarre fear, disgust, loathing, and anger that accompanies the COVID-19 vaccine debate, which I wrote about in my review of Norman Doidge's excellent article on the subject.

Today I ran headlong into a prime, and terrifying, example of just that, in a New York Times opinion piece by Paul Krugman, entitled "What to Do With Our Pandemic Anger." In my innocence, I assumed the article would be about the mental health crisis that has arisen from nearly two years of restrictions on normal human interaction.

I couldn't have been more wrong.

You may or may not be able to access the article—with the Times I find no rhyme nor reason as to when I can, and when I can't—so I'll quote a bit of it below and you can get the idea.

First, a reminder of what Doidge said about how the behavioral immune system [BIS] has hijacked our reason.

Many people’s mental set for the pandemic was formed early on, when the BIS was on fire, and they were schooled by a master narrative that promised there would only be one type of person who would not pose danger—the vaccinated person. Stuck in that mindset when confronted by unvaccinated people, about half of whom are immune, they respond with BIS-generated fear, hostility, and loathing. Some take it further, and seem almost addicted to being scared, or remain caught in a kind of post-traumatic lockdown nostalgia—demanding that all the previous protections go on indefinitely, never factoring in the costs, and triggering ever more distrust. Their minds are hijacked by a primal, archaic, cognitively rigid brain circuit, and will not rest until every last person is vaccinated. To some, it has started to seem like this is the mindset not only of a certain cohort of their fellow citizens, but of the government itself.

And now for a taste of what Krugman has to say.

A great majority of [New York City's] residents are vaccinated, and they generally follow rules about wearing masks in public spaces, showing proof of vaccination before dining indoors, and so on. In other words, New Yorkers have been behaving fairly responsibly by U.S. standards. Unfortunately, U.S. standards are pretty bad. America has done a very poor job of dealing with Covid. ... Why? Because so many Americans haven’t behaved responsibly. ...

I know I’m not alone in feeling angry about this irresponsibility.... There are surely many Americans feeling a simmering rage against the minority that has placed the rest of us at risk and degraded the quality of our nation’s life. There has been remarkably little polling on how Americans who are acting responsibly view those who aren’t ... but the available surveys suggest that during the Delta wave a majority of vaccinated Americans were frustrated or angry with the unvaccinated. I wouldn’t be surprised if those numbers grew under Omicron, so that Americans fed up with their compatriots who won’t do the right thing are now a silent majority. ...

I don’t claim any special expertise in the science, but there seems to be clear evidence that wearing masks in certain settings has helped limit the spread of the coronavirus. Vaccines also probably reduce spread, largely because the vaccinated are less likely to become infected, even though they can be. More crucially, failing to get vaccinated greatly increases your risk of becoming seriously ill, and hence placing stress on overburdened hospitals. ... You don’t have to have 100 percent faith in the experts to accept that flying without a mask or dining indoors while unvaccinated might well endanger other people—and for what? I know that some people in red America imagine that blue cities have become places of joyless tyranny, but the truth is that at this point New Yorkers with vaccine cards in their wallets and masks in their pockets can do pretty much whatever they want, at the cost of only slight inconvenience. ...

Those who refuse to take basic Covid precautions are, at best, being selfish—ignoring the welfare and comfort of their fellow citizens. At worst, they’re engaged in deliberate aggression—putting others at risk to make a point. And the fact that some of the people around us are deliberately putting others at risk takes its own psychological toll. Tell me that it doesn’t bother you when the person sitting across the aisle or standing behind you in the checkout line ostentatiously goes maskless or keeps his or her mask pulled down. ... Many Americans are angry at the bad behavior that has helped keep this pandemic going. This quiet rage of the responsible should be a political force to be reckoned with.

For someone who admits being no expert, Krugman is far from reluctant to make pronouncements based on questionable data. To his credit, he attempts to direct this "simmering rage" to political action, but the tone of the article is straight from, and speaks directly to, the behavioral immune system's primitive response of fear, disgust, and loathing. That cannot end well.

Believe it or not, I have left out the most vitriolic statements, which I deemed unnecessarily distracting.

Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, February 9, 2022 at 5:09 pm | Edit
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Are you tired of extremism and party politics surrounding talk about COVID-19 vaccination?

Me, too. I think you will love an article that recently came to my attention, and which is billed as,

... an attempt by a physician and neuroscience writer and someone who got vaccinated, early and voluntarily, to understand those who have not made this choice. This essay is not about COVID-deniers or anti-vaxxers, who oppose vaccines on ideological grounds. Nor is it about the activists or political figures who feed off and benefit from the corrosive discourse around vaccines. It is instead about the vaccine hesitant—those who are concerned and anxious about COVID but also anxious about these new vaccines. These are the people who are not yet vaccinated for reasons that the majority may not understand—and which are often more anchored in history and experience than the majority would suspect.

The article is called "Needle Points: Why so many are hesitant to get the COVID vaccine, and what we can do about it," by Norman Doidge. That link will take you to Part 1, from which you can click onward to Parts 2, 3, and 4. Or you can download a free, printable pdf of the whole thing. I found it fair, informative, and very important.

The only thing I know about Norman Doidge is that he wrote the fantastic book, The Brain that Changes Itself, which I read, reviewed, and loved back in 2010. I didn't even know he was the author of this article until after I'd read and appreciated it.

I have to warn you that it's a long article: 38 pages. It might be helpful to think of it as a very short book. I know many of my readers are turned off even by long quotation sections in my posts; how much more so by an article of this size? But it's worth it, really.

How do you eat an elephant?

I was hesitant to include quotations from the article, as it is an excellent whole that snippets cannot possibly do justice. But perhaps a few will whet some appetites.

Part 1 How vaccination is an approach to medicine that works with nature rather than seeking to conquer nature; How our primitive behavioral immune system contributes to the fear, disgust, and loathing that accompanies the vaccine debate; How the tyranny of the majority destroys democracy and impedes progress.

At times modern science and modern medicine seem based on a fantasy that imagines the role of medicine is to conquer nature, as though we can wage a war against all microbes with “antimicrobials” to create a world where we will no longer suffer from infectious disease. Vaccination is not based on that sterile vision but its opposite; it works with our educable immune system, which evolved millions of years ago to deal with the fact that we must always coexist with microbes; it helps us to use our own resources to protect ourselves. Doing so is in accord with the essential insight of Hippocrates, who understood that the major part of healing comes from within, that it is best to work with nature and not against it.

In humans (and other animals), any infection can trigger an archaic brain circuit in most of us called the behavioral immune system (BIS). It’s a circuit that is triggered when we sense we may be near a potential carrier of disease, causing disgust, fear, and avoidance. It is involuntary, and not easy to shut off once it’s been turned on.

The BIS is best understood in contrast to the regular immune system. The “regular immune system” consists of antibodies and T-cells and so on, and it evolved to protect us once a problematic microbe gets inside us. The BIS is different; it evolved to prevent us from getting infected in the first place, by making us hypersensitive to hygiene, hints of disease in other people, even signs that they are from another tribe.... We developed a system whereby anything or anyone that seems like it might bear significant illness can trigger an ancient brain circuit of fear, disgust, and avoidance. ... We see it firing every day now, when someone drives alone wearing a mask, or goes for a walk by themselves in an empty forest masked, or when someone—say with good health and no previous known adverse reactions to vaccines—hears that a vaccine can in one in 500,000 cases cause death, but can’t take any comfort that they have a 99.999% chance of it not happening because it potentially can. Before advanced brain areas are turned on and probabilities are factored in, the BIS is off and running. ... [It] is turned on in people on both sides of the debate. Those who favor vaccination are focused on the danger of the virus, and that triggers their system. Those who don’t are focused on the fact that the vaccines inject into them a virus or a virus surrogate or even a chemical they think may be poisonous, and that turns on their system. Thus both sides are firing alarms (including many false-positive alarms) that put them in a state of panic, fear, loathing, and disgust of the other.

[Alexis de Tocqueville noted that] in democracies, as long as there is not yet a majority opinion, a range of views can be expressed, and it appears there is a great “liberty of opinion,” to use his phrase. But once a majority opinion forms, it acquires a sudden social power, and it brings with it pressure to end dissent. A powerful new kind of censorship and coercion begins in everyday life (at work, school, choir, church, hospitals, in all institutions) as the majority turns on the minority, demanding it comply. Tocqueville, like James Madison, was concerned about this “the tyranny of the majority,” which he saw as the Achilles’ heel of democracy. It isn’t only because divisiveness created a minority faction steeped in lingering resentment; it’s also because minorities can sometimes be more right than majorities (indeed, emerging ideas are, by definition, minority ideas to start with). The majority overtaking the minority could mean stamping out thoughts and actions that would otherwise generate progress and forward movement.

Part 2 The long and complicated history of vaccination; How the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act saved the vaccine supply while giving pharmaceutical companies incentives to take dangerous shortcuts with respect to vaccine safety; Stories of corruption, collusion, and deceit among government, academia, and pharmaceutical companies that could make any reasonable person begin to doubt everything that comes from public health authorities.

The kernel idea of exposing a person to a weakened form of a pathogen or toxin, known colloquially as “like to treat like,” long preceded modern medicine, and came in stages and through observation. ... The heal-harm paradox is a deep archetype in the human psyche. And it came not from Big Pharma but from everyday, often rural observations—one might even call them “frontline” observations about how nature works, and how the immune system behaves.

Because companies were indemnified [by the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act] from any harm their vaccines might cause, they no longer had a powerful financial incentive to rectify existing safety problems, or even improve safety as time passed. Arguably, they were financially disincentivized from doing so. The solution shifted liability for the costs of safety problems from the makers onto the taxpayers, the pool that included those who were arguably harmed.

For a regular medication, a physician needs and has the ability to convince one patient at a time to take a particular drug. This is why pharmaceutical companies have huge marketing budgets to sway individual physicians and patients alike. In the case of vaccines, companies need to convince only a few key officials and committees, who then buy their product and market it for them to an entire population. For companies producing vaccines, mass marketing is replaced almost entirely by political lobbying.

The FDA bills Big Pharma $800 million a year, which in turn helps pay FDA salaries. Regulators also often get jobs in the pharmaceutical industry shortly after leaving the FDA or similar bodies; there is a huge incentive to impress, and certainly not to cross, a potential future employer. ...

This same compromised regulatory system allows Big Pharma to pay for, and play a key role in performing, the very studies that lead to the authorization of its own products. For decades, it was not just common for authors of studies to receive payments from the very companies making the medicines being tested; it was also systematically hidden. Drug companies secretly ghostwrote studies of their own drugs; Goldacre shows how they conscripted academics to pretend they had authored them. The papers were then submitted to mainstream journals, whose imprimatur would give the studies credibility, allowing these drugs to become the “standard of practice.”

In 2018, The New York Times’ pro-vaccine science writer, Melinda Wenner Moyer, noted with shock that she learned it was not uncommon among vaccine researchers to take the attitude that censoring bad news about their research was necessary.... "I’ve noticed that the cloud of fear surrounding vaccines is having another nefarious effect: It is eroding the integrity of vaccine science. ... When I tried to report on unexpected or controversial aspects of vaccine efficacy or safety, scientists often didn’t want to talk with me. When I did get them on the phone, a worrying theme emerged: Scientists are so terrified of the public’s vaccine hesitancy that they are censoring themselves, playing down undesirable findings and perhaps even avoiding undertaking studies that could show unwanted effects. Those who break these unwritten rules are criticized." ... If scientists play down their undesirable findings in potentially mandated medicines, as Moyer found them to be doing, they are not just missing opportunities for good science; they are potentially generating anti-scientific misinformation. “Vaccine scientists will earn a lot more public trust, and overcome a lot more unfounded fear, if they choose transparency over censorship,” she wrote.

As of a September 2019 Gallup poll, only a few months before the COVID-19 pandemic, Big Pharma was the least trusted of America’s 25 top industry sectors, No. 25 of 25. In the eyes of ordinary Americans, it had both the highest negatives and the lowest positives of all industries. At No. 24 was the federal government, and at No. 23 was the health care industry. ... At No. 22 was the advertising and public relations industry, which facilitates the work of the other three. Those inside the troika often characterize the vaccine hesitant as broadly fringe and paranoid. But there are plenty of industries and sectors that Americans do trust. Of the top 25 U.S. industry sectors .. only pharma, government, health care, and PR are seen as net negative: precisely the sectors involved in the rollout of the COVID vaccines. This set the conditions, in a way, for a perfect storm.

Part 3 This is by far the largest section of the paper (20 pages) and jam-packed with information on the debacle that was our response to the pandemic, from before the beginning ("gain of function" research) to shortly before the omicron variant appeared (the article was published in October 2021). No decent number of quotations can begin to do it justice. I'll put in a few; just be aware that there's so much more.

There were also disputes about lockdowns: Initially introduced as temporary to flatten the curve, they were later extended to become a new way of life, in order to save lives. But then some states like Florida, which didn’t impose long and severe lockdowns, had lower age-adjusted mortality than states like New York, which did. [emphasis mine]

Various observers argued that there was reason to consider that COVID may have leaked from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, and perhaps even may have been engineered by gain-of-function (GoF) research, in which a natural virus is made more contagious and lethal, ostensibly to see if the scientists can “get ahead” of nature, and to study how it operates in order to make new vaccines or medications, or for biological warfare. GoF is so controversial that in 2014 President Barack Obama put a moratorium on it. In 2017, Drs. Fauci and Francis Collins, then director of the NIH, who had opposed the moratorium, succeeded in having it lifted. But Fauci asserted that the scientists who were in a position to judge the COVID situation concluded that its origin was natural. The media followed suit, and called those who thought otherwise “conspiracy theorists.”

If you asked researchers or most physicians in the spring of 2020 how long it normally takes to produce a vaccine safe enough to administer to patients, many would have pointed out that the average fast vaccine takes 7-10 years, and that the first vaccine might just be one of several required to end a given crisis—because often the first is not the best.

Indemnification for vaccines was, as discussed above, not unique; what was new was that the companies producing them were indemnified before the vaccine was even made and fully assessed—knowing it would all be done faster than ever before.

AstraZeneca, Pfizer, and Moderna had each withheld their study protocols from outside scientists and the public. Withholding protocols guarantees that outside researchers can’t know how participants are selected or monitored, and how effectiveness or safety are defined, so they can’t really know what exactly is being studied. ... This is part of a kind of “traditional secrecy” in the field. Delaying protocol release conveniently means that it is a company’s press releases, not the verified science, that dominate the public’s all-important initial impression of its product. ... That the government’s regulatory agencies go along with all this—it is, in fact, standard practice—doesn’t assuage the public; for many, it makes the whole process appear corrupt. ...

The essence of the scientific method is conducting experiments that everyone can objectively see and verify; transparency is the bedrock of experimental science, and the means to ultimately dispel doubt. Moreover, in terms of the scale of public involvement, the experience of the summer and fall of 2020 was unlike any other in the history of medicine. Never before had studies of this size and consequence been run so quickly, or a medicine been produced so quickly to be given to hundreds of millions of people. ... How long were the patients followed ... after their second dose, to assess safety and efficacy? Two months. On that basis the vaccines were given to over a hundred million people. [emphasis mine]

What we shouldn’t do, if we want to maintain public trust and cohesion, is act as though there is no chance that any legitimate concern could ever possibly emerge, or that we know more than we really do after only two months of study. With complex biological systems, we simply can’t presume that just because we have a fantastic idea for a treatment, the safety we hope for and see at the start will necessarily hold over time.

“Efficacious” is the term used to describe how effective a treatment is in the artificial situation of a clinical trial with volunteer patients, a group not always representative of the wider population; “effective” is the term used to describe how a treatment works in the real world. The media quickly assumed the two were the same. To them, hearing that a vaccine was “95% efficacious” meant it was practically perfect, which the press repeated over and over.

After the protocols were released, Peter Doshi, an associate editor at the British Medical Journal who does research into drug approval processes and how results are communicated to the public, tried to sound an alarm: “None of the trials currently underway are designed to detect a reduction in any serious outcome such as hospital admissions, use of intensive care, or deaths,” he said. Only one of the studies, of the Oxford AstraZeneca, looked at whether vaccinated individuals were less likely to transmit virus.... So what were these clinical trial studies that showed 95% and 94% efficacy looking at, if not saving lives and viral transmission?

Though it would fall to the FDA to officially approve the vaccines, the advice to enact vaccine mandates would come from a small network, and would be based on studies that were authored in some instances by people who are employees of the companies themselves, which were testing their own products. And when a remarkably trusting public and a few scientists requested a look at the raw data, they got stiffed.

One can only imagine how enriched our knowledge would be if it were otherwise—if, to take just one example, the raw data were available and verified by the hive mind of world scientists, who, drilling down, could see for whom the vaccine was most effective, and who was most at risk of serious side effects, in order to follow them longer than two months and to protect those groups of people in the future.

In April, during a White House press briefing barely four months after distribution of the first vaccine doses began, Walensky announced that the “CDC recommends that pregnant people receive the COVID-19 vaccine.” But if you checked the CDC website that day—as many pregnant women and their physicians of course did—you would have found something different: “If you are pregnant, you may choose to receive a COVID-19 vaccine,” but “there are currently limited data on the safety of COVID-19 vaccines in pregnant people.”

The mainstream media in the United States also often downplayed potential problems, and even demonized those who took them seriously—portraying white Christian Republicans as the last redoubt of COVID vaccine skepticism in America. But if white Americans in red states have had high rates of hesitancy, African Americans and Latinos have too. As we’ve seen in the case of African Americans, hesitancy is based at least in part on well-earned distrust. In the U.K., in March 2021, vaccination rates were very high in the “white British” group (91.3%), and British Christians had the least hesitancy, whereas vaccination rates were lower in the Black African and Black Caribbean communities (58.8% and 68.7% respectively), and among Muslims, Buddhists, Sikhs, and Hindus. ...

Given the WHO’s own definition of the “vaccine hesitant”—people who delay or are reluctant to take a vaccine—one could say that 52% of frontline U.S. health care workers were vaccine hesitant at the beginning of the year. It was hard to argue that these were people who got all their information from a few rancid conspiracy websites. ...

We are told that the hesitant are only those with the least education. But a Carnegie-Mellon and University of Pittsburgh study showed that “by May [2021] PhDs were the most hesitant group.”

On June 3, three scientists from an FDA advisory committee—Dr. Aaron Kesselheim, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, Joel Perlmutter, M.D., a neurologist at Washington University in St. Louis, and David Knopman, M.D., a neurologist at the Mayo Clinic—resigned because of the way an Alzheimer’s drug, Aduhelm, was approved. In a letter, Kesselheim claimed that the authorization of Aduhelm—a monthly intravenous infusion that Biogen has priced at $56,000 per year, which some worry could bankrupt Medicare—was wrong “because of so many different factors, starting from the fact that there’s no good evidence that the drug works,” that it was “probably the worst drug approval decision in recent U.S. history,” and that this “debacle … highlights problems” with the FDA advisory committee relationship.

The Pfizer study [of booster shots] was surprisingly tiny: Only 306 people were given the booster. As vaccine researcher David Wiseman (who did trials for rival Johnson & Johnson) pointed out at the FDA meeting, “there was no randomized control” in the Pfizer study. The subjects were younger (18-55) than the people who are most at risk of COVID death or serious illness, and were followed only for a month, so we didn’t actually know how long the booster would last, or if adverse events might show up after the 30 days. They were not followed clinically, so there was no information on infections, hospitalizations, or deaths. ... The study was too small, and the FDA panel held two votes on approval. In the first, it voted overwhelmingly (16 to 2) against approving Pfizer boosters for all ages; in the second vote, the panel supported boosters only for people over 65 or special at-risk groups. And yet, in mid-August, Biden began publicly supporting boosters for all. 

Along with the widespread attacks on scientists who had criticisms of the simplified master narrative (including ones from major universities like Harvard, Yale, Stanford, Rockefeller, Oxford, and UCLA), many average Americans learned that certain major stories weren’t as widely known as they might have been, thanks in part to censorship by Big Tech. In May, Facebook announced that it would no longer censor stories about the lab leak theory, which was how many people found out that it was in fact a viable scientific theory in the first place. (Facebook’s idea of transparency is telling you when it’s stopped censoring something; the same goes for YouTube.)

Meanwhile, three U.S. medical boards—the American Board of Family Medicine, the American Board of Internal Medicine, and the American Board of Pediatrics—went beyond censorship by threatening to revoke licenses from physicians who question the current but shifting line of COVID thinking and protocols. This forced doctors who had any doubts about the master narrative to choose between their patients and their livelihoods.

Things got so bad globally that Amnesty International eventually issued a report on this crisis: “Across the world, journalists, political activists, medical professionals, whistle-blowers and human rights defenders who expressed critical opinions of their governments’ response to the crisis have been censored, harassed, attacked and criminalized,” it noted. The typical tactic, the report’s authors say, is “Target one, intimidate a thousand,” whereby censors justify these actions as simply banning “misinformation” and “prevent[ing] panic.” The report goes on: “Evidence has shown that harsh measures to suppress the free flow of information, such as censorship or the criminalization of ‘fake news,’ can lead to increased mistrust in the authorities, promote space for conspiracy theories to grow, and the suppression of legitimate debate and concerns.”

Science, as the Nobel Prize winning physicist Richard Feynman pointed out, requires questioning assertions: "Learn from science that you must doubt the experts … When someone says science teaches such and such, he is using the word incorrectly. Science doesn’t teach it; experience teaches it. If they say to you science has shown such and such, you might ask, “How does science show it—how did the scientists find out—how, what, where?” Not science has shown, but this experiment, this effect, has shown. And you have as much right as anyone else, upon hearing about the experiments (but we must listen to all the evidence), to judge whether a reusable conclusion has been arrived at."

Note how emphatic Feynman is that it’s not just the few who conduct the experiments, or even just “the experts,” who have a right to discuss and judge the matter. This is especially true in public health, because the field is so broad and composed of many disciplines, from those that deal narrowly with viruses to those that deal with mass behavioral changes.

When public health and allied medical and educational organizations censor scientists and health care professionals for debating scientific controversies—thus giving the public the false impression that there are no legitimate controversies—they misrepresent and grievously harm science, medicine, and the public by removing the only justification public health has for asking citizens to undergo various privations: that these requests are based on a full, unhampered, and open scientific process. Those who censor or block this process undermine their own claim to speak in the name of science, or public safety. [emphasis mine]

If we didn’t get to have a properly open scientific process, what did we get instead? Government enmeshment with legally indemnified corporations, public health officials misleading Congress, multiple honest regulators leaving the FDA because of inappropriate approvals, FDA heads taking Big Pharma jobs directly related to products they had just been involved in approving, a possible lab leak that couldn’t be discussed as such for more than a year so that it couldn’t be clearly disconfirmed, faceless social media platforms admitting that they control what we see and don’t see, and institutional censorship of many kinds.

Throughout the pandemic, Israel had extensive lockdowns. In contrast, Sweden became famous for never having locked down. Israel and Sweden have about the same size population (9 million and 10 million, respectively), and have almost identical rates of double-vaccinated people, if you take in all ages including children (63% Israel, 67% Sweden). If anything, Israel has the edge over Sweden because 43% of Israelis are also triple vaccinated. Yet the difference in the number of hospitalized patients is staggering. For the week of Sept. 12, 2021, Israel had 1,386 COVID hospitalizations, which was four times that of Sweden (340). Israel had a rolling seven-day average of 2.89 deaths per million, compared to the much lower number of deaths in Sweden (0.15).

What can account for this? Many argue that because Sweden (where public health works on a voluntary, participatory basis) never locked down, many more people there were exposed and got natural immunity. The Swedes had hoped to protect the most vulnerable in nursing homes, which they failed to do because of poorly trained staff—but in this they were no different from most Western nations that did lock down. Sweden also suffered more deaths per 100,000 than Israel overall. But through the summer of 2021 Sweden dropped to about 1.5 deaths a day from COVID. Its hospitals were never overwhelmed, suggesting that, once Sweden’s natural herd immunity was established, combined with its vaccines, it was now more protective than Israel’s largely vaccine-based immunity.

This wasn’t what the master narrative had promised. 

The FDA had originally said that a vaccine less than 50% effective (defined as reducing the risk of having to see a doctor) would not be approved by regulators. Now something that appeared to the public to be significantly less effective was being not just approved but mandated. [emphasis mine]

U.S. government officials and the media chose to assert, soon on a daily basis, that the country was now in “a pandemic of the unvaccinated,” even though it was now clear that the vaccinated could get infected and transmit the virus. ...

Headlines about waning vaccines expressed despair that this pandemic might never end. ... Instead of addressing how this disappointment might affect people, U.S. public health talking heads and Twitter-certified human nature experts turned now to behavioral psychology, a very American form of psychology, to deal with the crisis—treating their fellow citizens like children or lab rats to be given rewards when “good” and punishments when “bad.” Some seemed to relish telling people that if they didn’t just do what the experts told them to do, they’d lose their jobs, their place in school, or some other basic need, like mobility.

On Aug. 23, FDA approval of the Pfizer vaccine came through. It was based on the same patients who were in the study that previously included only two months of follow-up, but which now had six months of follow-up. With the approval, Pfizer officially stopped the randomized control trials and informed the controls they never got the vaccine. Now that they know they are not vaccinated, the controls may well choose (or be mandated) to get vaccinated, so we won’t be able to follow them as a control group any more. That means the only randomized control trials we have of these vaccines are just six months long. Should some independent party—not a drug company—want to do a new RCT of the vaccine, they will find it almost impossible to do so, because it will be hard if not impossible to find people who were not vaccinated, or not already exposed to COVID. ... This is especially important because we don’t yet—we can’t yet—have any good randomized control trial data to rule out long-term effects. [emphasis mine] ...

We could use good studies comparing the COVID-induced myocarditis rates and vaccine-induced myocarditis rates by age and sex. Which is why it’s so unfortunate that the RCTs were not much larger, and that they didn’t go on longer. Had they continued, and if their data ever became transparent, it could really help us in assessing long-term safety in a more reassuring way—that’s what RCTs are good at. One can more persuasively demonstrate that a vaccine doesn’t have these effects if there is a proper vaccine-free, COVID-free control group. But if vaccines continue to be pushed as the one and only answer, we will never know if certain health problems emerge, because there will be no “normal” vaccine-free group left for comparison. It’s a development that is quite disconcerting, for it suggests a wish not to know.

When the pandemic first broke, many were certain that the developing countries—with their inability to afford vaccines, malnutrition, crowded cities, and lower numbers of health care workers—would be universally devastated. But that prediction turned out not to be true. The population of Ethiopia is about 119 million—just over one-third of the United States. COVID vaccination rates are very low there: 2.7% have had at least one shot, 0.9% have had two. As of Sept. 28, 2021, the country recorded only 5,439 COVID deaths over the course of the entire pandemic. If the United States had such a death rate per capita, it would have lost just over 16,000 people, rather than over 700,000.

The very fact that we frame the threat debate between the “vaccinated” and the “unvaccinated” has always been peculiar; some epidemiologists point out that the categories we should be thinking of instead are the “immune” and those who are “not immune.” The European Union has a Digital Covid Certificate, which is not limited to proof of vaccination. You can get one and travel if you have been vaccinated or if you have “recovered from COVID-19.” This allows travel among all EU member states. American officials always proclaim they are “following the science,” but obviously, if the science gave clear orders, then European scientists would have received them too.

Vaccination is a tool, a means to an end: immunity. But the American government has made the means, vaccination, the new end. This strange substitution, or reversal, reveals the master narrative to be the expression not of science, but of a new kind of scientistic ideology, which we might call “vaccinism.” But vaccinism is not a treatment; it’s a mindset, one that takes a wonderful invention—which, if used properly and carefully, can be outstandingly productive—and makes it the only tool worth having, until it becomes, at times, counterproductive. It makes no exceptions; indeed, it is insulted by the idea of any exemptions. In its all-or-nothing approach, it is the ideological mirror of anti-vaxxism. [emphasis mine]

Part 4 Returning to the concept of the behavioral immune system (BIS); Why herd immunity through vaccination is not an achievable goal with this virus; The critical importance of natural immunity (i.e. getting COVID and recovering from it); The disastrous consequences of vaccine mandates and vaccine passports; and Some ideas for restoring trust in our public health system.

Many people’s mental set for the pandemic was formed early on, when the BIS was on fire, and they were schooled by a master narrative that promised there would only be one type of person who would not pose danger—the vaccinated person. Stuck in that mindset when confronted by unvaccinated people, about half of whom are immune, they respond with BIS-generated fear, hostility, and loathing. Some take it further, and seem almost addicted to being scared, or remain caught in a kind of post-traumatic lockdown nostalgia—demanding that all the previous protections go on indefinitely, never factoring in the costs, and triggering ever more distrust. Their minds are hijacked by a primal, archaic, cognitively rigid brain circuit, and will not rest until every last person is vaccinated. To some, it has started to seem like this is the mindset not only of a certain cohort of their fellow citizens, but of the government itself.

For many, trust was broken by the lockdowns, which devastated small businesses and their employees, even when they complied with safety rules, such that an estimated one-third of these businesses that were open in January of 2020 were closed in April of 2021, even as we kept open huge corporate box stores, where people crowded together. These policies were arguably the biggest assault on the working classes—many of whom protected the rest of us by keeping society going in the worst of the pandemic—in decades. That these policies also enriched the already incredibly wealthy (the combined wealth of the world’s 10 richest men—the likes of Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, and Larry Page—is estimated to have risen by $540 billion in the first 10 months of the pandemic), and that various politicians who instituted lockdowns were regularly caught skirting their own regulations, solidified this distrust.

And yet, it is the unvaccinated whom many leading officials still portray as recklessly endangering the rest of the country. “We’re going to protect vaccinated workers from unvaccinated coworkers,” President Biden has said. The unvaccinated are now presented as the sole source of future variants, prolonging the pain for the rest of us. For those in favor of mandates, the vaccine is the only way out of this crisis. To them, the vaccine hesitant are merely ignorant, and defy science. We tried to use a voluntary approach, they believe, but these people are Neanderthals who must now be coerced into treatment, or be punished. Among the punishments called for is not just loss of employment, but also of unemployment insurance, health care, access to ICU beds, even the ability to go to grocery stores.

So, if it’s correct that we can’t eradicate the virus, and we can’t get a lasting vaccine-induced herd immunity, what is our goal? It would be, to use Monica Gandhi’s phrase, “to get back to normal.” It would mean accepting some natural herd immunity and putting more focus on saving lives by other means alongside vaccines—including better outpatient medications to catch COVID early and keep people out of the hospital; lowering our individual risk factors; and speeding delivery of vaccines to the highly vulnerable when an outbreak occurs, and prioritizing them over people who are already immune.

“Right now with these vaccine mandates, and vaccine passports, this coercive thing is turning a lot of people away from vaccines, and not trusting them for very understandable reasons,” [says Harvard’s Martin Kulldorf, a leading epidemiologist and expert in vaccine safety]. “Those who are pushing these vaccine mandates and vaccine passports—vaccine fanatics I would call them—to me they have done much more damage during this one year than the anti-vaxxers have done in two decades. [emphasis mine] ...

In tackling the trust problem generally, we can return to the two kinds of public health systems, the coercive and the participatory. The United States has all sorts of mandates, but also continues to have significantly high rates of vaccine hesitancy and vaccine avoidance. In contrast, Sweden is the leading example of a participatory public health model. “Sweden has one of the highest vaccination rates in the world, and the highest confidence in vaccines in the world. But there’s absolutely no mandate,” Kulldorff notes. “If you want to have high confidence in vaccines, it has to be voluntary.... If you force something on people, if you coerce somebody to do something, that can backfire. Public health has to be based on trust. If public health officials want the public to trust them, public health officials also have to trust the public.” Just as pharma’s indemnification removed its incentive to improve safety, so do mandates remove public health’s incentive to have better, more consistent communication—to listen, understand, educate, and persuade—which is what builds trust.

And finally, let's return, as the author does, to Alexis de Tocqueville, and a quotation I'm certain I will pull out in other contexts:

Protection, therefore, against the tyranny of the magistrate is not enough: there needs protection also against the tyranny of the prevailing opinion and feeling; against the tendency of society to impose, by other means than civil penalties, its own ideas and practices as rules of conduct on those who dissent from them; to fetter the development, and, if possible, prevent the formation, of any individuality not in harmony with its ways, and compel all characters to fashion themselves upon the model of its own. There is a limit to the legitimate interference of collective opinion with individual independence: and to find that limit, and maintain it against encroachment, is as indispensable to a good condition of human affairs, as protection against political despotism.

As usual, that was more than "a few" snippets from the article. I hope they encourage you to read the whole thing, rather than giving you the impression you know all that's important in it. It is the clearest, most comprehensive, and most reasonable explanation I have yet encountered for what has been happening to the world in the last two years. Once again, here's the article link.

Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, February 8, 2022 at 12:00 pm | Edit
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Only a few times in my life have I felt this close to history-in-the-making. The Apollo 11 moon landing. The fall of the Berlin Wall. Those were great events.  Others were both great and heatbreaking, like the Prague Spring of 1968. I sure hope the Freedom Convoy 2022 ends better than that did.

We're finding Viva Frei's live broadcasts from Ottawa both fascinating and fun. And incredibly encouraging. The only sad part is how much misinformation is out there in the ordinary news media, giving a negative impression of the protest. But we have watched a lot of Viva's unscripted, unedited, livestream from the streets of Ottawa, and I've never seen such a happy, peaceful, clean, friendly, and respectful protest. These people are angry, right enough, but the anger does not show in their behavior or their attitudes. Well, except for the "F-Trudeau" signs, which is literally the only objectionable thing I have seen in all our hours of watching. 

Most wonderful to see is the people from all over Canada, of multiple races, ethnic origins, religions, socio-economic groups, and occupations interacting so happily together. I've observed more hugs than in a week of visiting our grandchildren. I absolutely loved the report of some Québécois who declared, "We were Separatists, but after this we are no longer!"

Personally, I would go absolutely crazy from all the noise, but even so they have a good deal of support from local Ottawans, with reports of people bringing the truckers not only verbal encouragement but fuel, food, water, and offers of hot showers.

Social media, news media, and reading public comments on about anything can bring me to the brink of despair for society. This has been an amazing antidote. 

Here's yesterday's 3+ hour stream.  He's planning another livestream today, this time with his family.  I'll post that link when I see it; you can also check out his YouTube channel to see when it goes live.

And here's a much shorter 13-minute video including interviews with a couple of Indigenous protesters.

The world is watching. A Kiwi who currently can't go home because of coronavirus restrictions reported that even New Zealanders are feeling that they've been pushed too far. They're watching Canada, they're supporting the protest, and hoping it spreads around the world.

It was 20 years after the Prague Spring before Czechoslovakia was free again. It has been over 30 years since the Tiananmen Square massacre, and the Chinese people still live under tyranny. Canada, you can do better.

Stay strong, stay peaceful, and remember to vote when you get the chance!

UPDATE: Here's the 2/5 stream.

Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, February 5, 2022 at 9:40 am | Edit
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We interrupt all the troubles of the world for a feel-good story that occurred just hours after we left Chicago.

Pepper the dog is alive and well, thanks to the efforts of Chicago firefighters—who happened to be nearby, practicing underwater ice dives—when he slipped his leash and fell into icy Lake Michigan.

[Fire Deputy District Chief Jason Lach] said standard dive rescue procedure calls for a truck full of divers, a police squad, a battalion chief, a field officer, a fire truck, a fire engine, two ambulances and a helicopter. Officials in the helicopter spotted Pepper on an ice chunk about 500 feet out. ...

Veteran firefighters Chris Iverson and Emerson Branch dove in to bring back Pepper. The dive team tethered lines and laid out two 15-foot ladders to make a subtle decline above icy rocks so Iverson and Branch could safely slide into the water. Iverson, dressed in a full-body thermal suit, swam to Pepper in less than five minutes. Pepper got nervous and growled, then slipped off the ice chunk and into the cold water. But Pepper got up, and Iverson snapped a snare to capture the dog in a safety sling. Pepper snuggled up to his rescuer.

Branch swam out with a Rapid Deployment Craft.... Branch helped Iverson and Pepper into the craft and guided them back toward shore. The entire rescue took about 15 minutes.

It's a bit more extreme than the standard trope of firemen rescuing a cat from a tree, but it's the same heroic impulse. And no doubt it made their "underwater ice dive" practice considerably more interesting.

Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, February 4, 2022 at 12:01 pm | Edit
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Category Everyday Life: [first] [previous] [newest]

You will hear soon about our wonderful trip to Chicago, but current events are taking precedence today.

I hate crowds. All my senses are hyper-sensitive, and I'd go crazy in one of those cultures where people like to be close to your face and touch you frequently. So—not a good candidate for the thrill of the crowd. Times Square on New Year's Eve is not for me.

More than that, I have a healthy fear of the mob mentality. People do stupid things in groups that they would never do without the urging and peer pressure of the mob. You will not be surprised that I am very leery of participating in any kind of political demonstration, child of the sixties though I may be.

Actually, I'd brave the crowds to show my support for a good cause, and I have done so once or twice, but even the most peaceful demonstrations these days are vulnerable to infiltration by those whose goal is to cause trouble. Whether from fringe "friends" of the cause, enemies determined to discredit the demonstrators, or mere opportunistic looters, things can go bad quickly, and the risk of getting caught up in them is real.

All that said, part of me would really like to be standing in Ottawa with Canada's truckers and their Freedom Convoy.

It started in British Columbia, sparked by Canada's new rule that any truckers crossing the border from the United States must show proof of COVID-19 vaccination.

You really shouldn't mess with the people who transport food and other essential goods, especially when your country is already having supply chain issues.

The fed-up truckers started a convoy from British Columbia, across most of Canada to the capital city of Ottawa. Along the way the convoy grew, as more and more truckers, and other supporters, joined. It turns out that truckers aren't the only ones who are "mad as hell and not gonna take this anymore" (3.5 minutes, language warning).

Despite that appropriate clip (from a movie I know nothing about), these "mad as hell" protesters are incredibly friendly and peaceful. I don't know what you may have heard about the Freedom Convoy, but the reaction of the media has been ... interesting. First they ignored the protest, and when it finally got so large they couldn't ignore it, they tried to demonize it, calling the participants "racist, misogynist, white-supremacist, insignificant radical fringe elements," and accusing them of all sorts of objectionable behaviors.

So on Monday, David Freiheit (Viva Frei) drove from Montreal to Ottawa to see for himself, and document his experience in a livestream. Yesterday, I made it through 2.5 hours of video, to the point where his camera gave out. Then I went to bed, figuring to write this post in the morning.

I awoke to another three hours of video, because his camera had merely run into a brief issue that was soon fixed. That was more than I could handle, but I did watch the beginning, the end, and several samples in between.

It's a livestream, unscripted, unedited, simply showing his experiences as he walked the streets of the city and interacted with the people. He specifically sought out evidence of the negative reports. According to the news, there had been Confederate flags (in Canada?) and swastikas, along with desecrations of memorials.

Freiheit found no such thing, nor had any of the people he interviewed seen them. He did find one person who said someone had let the air out of her tires, and a report of a window accidentally broken by someone's waving flag. And one of the memorials spoken of had had some flowers put at the base, and a bouquet of flowers put in the statue's hand. The only objectionable thing I saw was a number of signs expressing a rude sentiment all too familiar in demonstrations when Donald Trump was president, with Prime Minister Trudeau's name substituted for Trump's. I did see a rather clever twist on the "Let's go Brandon" theme: Let's go Brandeau.

Speaking of signs, here's my favorite.

It shows how young Freiheit is—he was born in 1979—because he said he didn't understand it. None of us who were adults in the 1980's can forget the atrocities of Romania's infamous dictator, Nicolae Ceaușescu. These are, no doubt, the sentiments of a Romanian refugee shocked by the situation in "free, democratic" Canada.

It's also my favorite sign because someone noticed and corrected "then" to "than."

As far as I could tell, people may be angry about the government's policies, but they mostly seemed thrilled to get together with like-minded citizens and express their opinions. It could have been a block party. Smiles, hugs, excitement. Mutual respect between the demonstrators and the police. No litter on the street—the protesters made an effort to keep it clean. And they also shovelled the sidewalks! No rioting, no looting, no violence, no evidence of the bitter hatred so prevalent in recent protests south of the Canadian border. I knew there was a reason I've always liked Canada. They deserve better politicians, and certainly better policies.

You don't have to take my word for it; you can sample the streams yourself.

Part 1 (2.5 hours)

Part 2 (3 hours)

I found it exciting to watch, to be a part of it if only virtually, and to know that the event has been nothing like the news reports have portrayed it. May it stay the happy, if determined, protest that it is, as time goes on and people get more tired, cold, and frustrated.

If I had to live or work near Parliament Hill in Ottawa, I would quickly get tired of the sound of blaring truck horns, which sliced through my head even on the video. And no one can be happy about the traffic jams, even though long lines of trucks have been blocked from entering the city, in order to keep roads open for emergency vehicles.

I hope Canada's politicians quickly come to the realization that these people are also Canadian citizens they are sworn to serve, and learn to listen with respect. It's time to let the truckers—and everyone else—get on with their business.

Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, February 1, 2022 at 10:08 pm | Edit
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