Anti-mask Absurdity Strikes Again

Over the past several months, I've posted a few blogs about the silliness of the anti-maskers who have remained steadfast in their ignorance of basic science. (See Just Shut Up and Wear the Darn Mask and Numbers Never Lie for two examples.) Thankfully, most of these intellectually-challenged, anti-mask simpletons went silent on the topic of mask wearing when the election came to town, because they needed to devote all of their time and efforts to promote one candidate or other. (Although, to be honest - it was generally just one of the candidates; but that's a different discussion for a different day.)

Anyway, the anti-maskers' silence had lulled me into a false sense of complacency, wherein I thought that all of their anti-mask foolishness had finally gone the way of the dodo bird. Alas, that was too much to hope for; and so it was with a sorrowful heart that I read the following article that one of the unwavering anti-maskers that I know posted to Social Media:

CDC Accidentally Admits Masks Won't Protect You From Coronavirus

Really? Are we still having this argument? Have all of the weak-minded anti-maskers learned nothing this year? Apparently not, I'm afraid. And with that in mind, let's examine this latest claim.

First of all, no - the CDC did not "accidentally admit" to anything. The CDC has said many, many times that:

"Masks offer some protection to you and are also meant to protect those around you, in case you are unknowingly infected with the virus that causes COVID-19. A mask is NOT a substitute for social distancing. Masks should still be worn in addition to staying at least 6 feet apart."
(See https://bit.ly/3oeUdGf)

Masks are not 100% effective, and no one ever claimed that they were. Masks are just one of several deterrents that people should be using; e.g. masks, social distancing, washing hands, quarantining people who are infected, etc. In other words, if you're wearing a mask and you let someone with COVID19 lick your face, then you're probably going to catch their disease. However, if you happen to meet someone who was infected and you were wearing a mask, and they were wearing a mask, and you stayed six feet apart, and you washed your hands after you met them, then you probably aren't going to catch their disease. That's the same message that has been circulating for months: masks serve a purpose, but they are not a magic cure.

With that in mind, I have a public service announcement for all of the anti-maskers out there: please, please, please - for the love of God and all that is holy - please stop posting ridiculous anti-mask propaganda. The only thing that you achieve by promoting anti-scientific drivel is that you reduce everyone else's estimation of your grasp on common sense, and you help reinforce the Darwinian theory that pandemics are randomly introduced by nature to thin the herd of its weak-minded members.

The Downside of Kickstarter Part II

A little over two years ago I wrote a blog post titled The Downside of Kickstarter, wherein I described a Kickstarter campaign that was a deliberate ruse to scam investors. I won't go into all the details, because you can read that post in its entirety if you're curious, but here's the summary: it's pretty easy for a swindler to create a Kickstarter campaign for a startup company with no intention of providing any reward for his/her investors. (To this day I fail to realize why these hucksters are not guilty of mail fraud, wire fraud, and/or conspiracy to commit fraud.) But there is one thing that I should repeat from my previous post about the way that Kickstarter works for investors:

"Participation on Kickstarter is simple: you pick a project you think looks appealing, and then you choose the level of your pledge to help bring that project to life. Depending on how much you give, you generally get something in return - which is typically the completed product before it is released to market."

Having said that, here are the details for another situation that took place recently. A few years ago I pledged to a campaign that was seeking to create a new type of mirror for bicyclists (see Sehen for the details). As an avid cyclist who has nearly been killed on several occasions by careless motorists, I was intrigued by this company's mirror design. In the interests of full disclosure - I received my "backer reward" a long time ago, and I must admit - the Sehen mirror was a much better design than other mirrors that I had tried. However, I received my reward so long ago that I thought the campaign had ended successfully, and I wasn't aware that I was one of the minority of investors who received a reward.

With that in mind, I was somewhat shocked when I saw the following video on YouTube from Arkady Borys, who founded the startup company that created the cycling mirror.

Despite the fact that Arkady's video was the most-detailed explanation that I have seen for any Kickstarter campaign of where the money went and what went wrong, several of his backers were still screaming for "refunds" and calling this a "scam." With that in mind, I wanted to offer some additional perspectives about what it means to back a Kickstarter campaign.

As I have explained elsewhere, Kickstarter is not a product catalog - it is a business investment. When you are pledging for a campaign, you are not buying a product - you are investing in a startup company that is attempting to bring a new product to market. Each startup offers several rewards to their backers/investors, with the understanding that each backer/investor will receive their rewards ONLY if the company succeeds. When backers submit pledges for a campaign, they agree in the terms and conditions that they might not receive a backer reward if the company fails, and if so - the manufacturer is only required to provide an explanation of what happened.

Think of it this way: let's say that you were walking by a new restaurant that was still being built, and you decided to stop by for a few minutes and give the new owners $50 to help them get started after they promised that they would try to serve you a free lunch some day in the future. However, their business folded before they could make good on their promise, and they sent you a text message to let you know why they wouldn't be able to honor their part of the deal. That sort of situation would essentially be the same thing as backing a Kickstarter campaign for a legitimate startup company that fails to bring their product to market despite their best efforts.

In the specific case of the Sehen campaign, backers weren't buying a product from Arkady; backers were helping Arkady launch a company. He tried, and he failed. Unfortunately, that happens every day with small startups.

For what it's worth, I have invested in several Kickstarter campaigns, and a few haven't come to fruition - that happens from time to time. In a few of those situations, the startup provided some sort of cheesy "We ran out of money" explanation, and that's all that the backers will ever see of their investment. On the contrary, the explanation that Arkady provided in his video was extremely detailed, and he takes full ownership for every bad decision that he made. In addition, he provides a great deal of behind the scenes information about the percentages of funds that were absorbed by Kickstarter and the other companies that were involved with launching in his campaign; that information was extremely useful for me to consider when I am deciding whether to back other campaigns in the future. Arkady's backers should be thankful that he took the time to provide them with as much information as he did, because it was far more information than he was required to give, and his video was a great deal more informative than other failed campaigns.

As I read the comments that were posted to Kickstarter after Arkady posted his video to YouTube, there were a few backers who were demanding that Arkady should refund any pledge funds that weren't used. Those people obviously didn't pay attention to the video; Arkady very clearly explained that 50% of the pledge funds were consumed by companies that were associated with launching the campaign (think of those as startup fees). After Kickstarter and the other campaign-related companies took their cuts, Arkady's company was given the remaining 50%, which was quickly spent on production costs for the product. Once Arkady's company ran out of money, they took a loan to keep going. Then another loan. Then another loan. In the end, there were was no money left to return to investors; all of the pledge money was spent a long time ago. With that in mind, my advice to backers who are still demanding that any unspent funds be returned to investors would be for them to spend 30 minutes of their time to watch Arkady's video and pay close attention to the details that he provides, because he explains everything.

In closing, I truly feel sorry for any backers/investors who did nor receive their rewards; and I don't mean to sound patronizing since I received mine. However, I think Arkady went above and beyond with regard to letting his backers/investors know exactly why they may never receive their rewards. It is unfortunate that this situation happened, but that is one of the risks that backers must be willing to take when investing in a startup business, and the losses that Arkady encountered are part of the risks that entrepreneurs must be willing to take when starting a new business.


POSTSCRIPT:

There is a sad epilogue to the story that that I told in my original Downside of Kickstarter post: after all of the public outcry that took place in the wake of that scam, it appears that the person who was behind the fraud, Brent Morgan, took his life. That news was extremely sad for me to hear. I will admit, I wanted "justice," but only in the sense that I wanted Mr. Morgan to face criminal charges in a court of law for defrauding his investors. However, it appears that his guilt was overwhelming for him, and I truly feel sorry for his family.

Taco Bell Isn't What It Used to Be - And They Don't Care

In recent years, Taco Bell has removed several tried-and-true items from their menu that I have ordered for decades, and they have replaced those menu items with - crap.

Taco-Hell

Believe it or not, I sent Taco Bell a letter asking if they bother checking with their customer base before making unilateral decisions that impact millions of loyal customers. And believe it or not, Taco Bell replied back - with the exact sort of dismissive, marketing rhetoric that one would expect. ("We test all of our menu items ... blah, blah, blah.")

In the end, I think Taco Bell has someone at the helm who is trying to shake things up and attract new customers, which is a good thing - but only so long as you don't piss off your original customer base. With that in mind, it's pretty obvious to most people who used to love Taco Bell that they suck now; but what's worse is - they really do not appear to care.

 

Sniff, sniff... I miss the Enchirito...

(... and Steak Baja Gorditas... and Volcano Burritos... and Double-Decker Tacos... and Pintos & Cheese... and Caramel Apple Empanadas... etc.)

Crying face

A Higher Purpose for Higher Education

A friend of mine just posted the following article to social media:

University of California System can't use SAT and ACT tests for admissions, judge rules

Well, all I can say is - it's about time.

SAT and ACT scores are unfair, because they reinforce centuries-old stereotypes of "smart students," which must - by definition - infer that there are "dumb students," which is a horrible label to adhere to someone.

Next, we need to abolish the A thru F grading system, since grades are an entirely subjective method of assigning values to students, and we all know that someone's inherent potential cannot be measured by something as prosaic and outdated as a comprehensive "test" that covers what someone had an entire semester to learn. And how unfair are "grades" to the student who couldn't study due to their active social schedule? Why should some introvert who spends all their time buried in books have a higher value to society?

We could, of course, replace the A thru F grading system with a system of simple pass/fail scores; but that, too, is unfair - because NO ONE is a "failure." With that in mind, we need to do away with grades entirely.

Next, we need to seriously reconsider requiring students to attend classes. With the increasing invasion of smart phones, tablets, and laptop computers in the classroom, most students only retain 5% of what is covered during a class lecture anyway. Couldn't that time be better spent?

For example, here in Tucson at the University of Arizona, dozens of students gather daily to shout well-deserved insults at the narrow-minded bigot who has the audacity to stand on a stump near the student union building and proclaim that "Jesus is the only way to God." Just think, if students didn't have to attend classes (which are nothing more than a form of academic slavery), we could increase the multitudes yelling at that close-minded "Christian" into the hundreds - perhaps thousands.

A "Christian" is not entitled to an opinion, anyway, because "Free Speech" doesn't extend to someone who says something that someone else might not want to hear, and it is far more effective for students to learn the lesson that an opposing viewpoint is nothing but "violence."

Students should be allowed to learn how to prevent the possibility of civil discussions with people they perceive as opponents while they're young, and before they enter the workplace, where a "boss" will expect them to actually "show up to work" and "do their jobs," and therefore they'll have no more time to vociferously express their important views about these @#$% fascists with opposing points of view who are taking over America.

So in the end, everyone who wants a college diploma should just get one, without any effort or standards, because those concepts are part of a historically oppressive, patriarchal, fascist, elitist, misogynistic, and racist educational system that has only existed to squash the spirit of youth across the globe.

Common Sense is Violence!!!

Educators are Fascists!!!

Fight Global Learning!!!

Just Shut Up and Wear the Darn Mask

I've been trying to refute a great deal of bogus information that I've been seeing in social media about wearing masks in public, and I'd like to consolidate some of my responses from a few different posts into a single, standalone narrative.

I see a lot of people complaining about having to wear a mask, which is actually a pretty easy thing for people to do. But the point of wearing a mask these days has less to do with preventing people from catching the disease if they don't wear a mask; it's more about preventing people who are asymptomatic from spreading diseases to others. Quite often people with COVID-19 do not show any symptoms until long after they have acquired the disease, but they are still highly contagious. With that in mind, wearing a mask demonstrates your concern for other people's health, rather than a concern for your personal health. (And conversely, failing to wear a mask demonstrates your lack of concern for other people's health, rather than a lack of concern for your personal health.)

Think of it this way: when surgeons put on masks before entering an operating room, it's not because they're afraid of catching something from the patient - it's because they're afraid of of passing something to the patient. It's the same thing when you wear a mask; you may not be protecting yourself, but you're protecting everyone around you. Since most people do not show symptoms for over a week, you could infect an untold number of people before you even realize that you're the problem. So, out of courtesy for your fellow humans, you should wear a mask when you're around other people.

If you don't want to take my word for it, here's the CDC's latest verbiage from their website at https://bit.ly/3fAp0Jo:

"CDC continues to study the spread and effects of the novel coronavirus across the United States. We now know from recent studies that a significant portion of individuals with coronavirus lack symptoms ('asymptomatic') and that even those who eventually develop symptoms ('pre-symptomatic') can transmit the virus to others before showing symptoms. This means that the virus can spread between people interacting in close proximity - for example, speaking, coughing, or sneezing - even if those people are not exhibiting symptoms. In light of this new evidence, CDC recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies) especially in areas of significant community-based transmission."

And one more thing: people tend to post images they find that reinforce their personal opinions without checking for accuracy. But don't be so quick to believe an image that fits a narrative that you want to hear; you should treat everything with skepticism and always check for accuracy before posting. For example, one of the following images was posted to social media, and all it took was five minutes in Photoshop to completely alter the meaning and create the counterfeit image.

FAUX-MASK-WARNING

It's not perfect, of course, but the results would convince most people. If I bothered to spend another ten minutes editing, I could have made the alterations fool-proof. So don't believe something you see just because you want it to be true, because it's far too easy to create a false 'reality' these days.

Yeah, well, that’s just like your opinion, man

I have mentioned in several previous blogs that I love conspiracy theories; and as I have said before, I do not believe any of them. But still - it is a never-ending source of amusement for me to see what others are gullible enough to believe.

However, I should explain how I typically respond to conspiracy-related information that I know is bogus when it is posted to public forums:

  • If I see that someone has posted something inaccurate that is based on their mistaken beliefs and is clearly harmless to anyone, I usually have a quick laugh and move on.
  • If I see that someone has posted something inaccurate that is an urban legend or a hoax, I often point them to a fact-checking website like www.factcheck.org in order to stop the spread of false information.
  • If I see that someone is posting information that is deliberately misleading and harmful to society, I will also point them to a fact-checking website like www.factcheck.org, but I will also ask them to stop posting information that will harm others.

I freely admit that I am not the "Internet Police." It is not my job to point out every instance where someone has posted bogus information. And - to be honest - that job would take far too much time. However, people's reactions to correction vary widely; some people are thankful to discover that they were posting something that wasn't true, while others are deeply offended that anyone would question their judgment. This latter group of people has recently become very, very dangerous. The world is struggling with the mounting death toll of a global pandemic, and the last thing that we need is people posting bogus information about it.

I have made it abundantly clear in previous blogs how I feel about anti-vaxxers. Several of the anti-vaxxers that I know are well-meaning people, even though they mistakenly believe something that is fundamentally wrong. What many of these anti-vaxxers believe has been refuted time and again, but they ignore all of the evidence to the contrary, and they cling to their inaccuracies with a passion that resembles radical religious zealotry. I continuously see incorrect information strewn about by these anti-vaxxers, which stirs up a great deal of unnecessary fear of science. As a direct result of that fear, other people have been avoiding medical treatment that will save lives. (Even though people in developing nations are crying out to receive that same medical treatment.)

As I have pointed out in the past, our nation - the United States - has been blessed with amazing health care. Decades of successful vaccination programs have eradicated some diseases, and rendered others nearly moot - at least within our shores. This has resulted in domestic complacency with regard to immunology, while countries around the world are still grappling with infectious diseases and clamoring for treatments that we take for granted.

All of this discussion leads me to a conversation that I had earlier today with an anti-vaxxer who was claiming that the USA's Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) was a corrupt company that was only in the business of selling vaccinations for profit. If you'll refer to my second point above, you'll see how I initially reacted. I pointed out the errors that the ill-informed anti-vaxxer was posting, (for example the fact that the CDC is actually a government agency that is funded by tax dollars), and I referred this anti-vaxxer to the www.factcheck.org website to correct the other misleading information that was posted.

As you might imagine, this did not sit well with the anti-vaxxer. As I mentioned earlier, this person was deeply offended that anyone would question their judgment. And in reply to the facts that were presented to refute the inaccuracies that this anti-vaxxer had posted, I was told something to the effect that I was entitled to my own opinion.

yeah-well-thats-just-like-your-opinion-man

The problem with that argument is that people are entitled to their 'opinions' when they are discussing something trivial, like whether the Pittsburgh Steelers are more important in the history of football than the Patriots. (Hint: they are.) But when it comes to actual science, opinions do not matter - facts matter. And facts do not care about your opinions.

When this anti-vaxxer continued to push the issue and post messages that were ultimately going to lead people astray, I shifted from the second point in my list of responses to conspiracy theorists to the third point. At our current stage in world history, the fear of life-saving immunology that anti-vaxxers continue to promote is intolerable; it is anti-science, anti-reason, and anti-facts.

As far as the CDC is concerned, a basic study of its duties and responsibilities show that its collection of scientists are fully-employed in trying to investigate and find treatments for thousands of diseases; such as HIV/AIDS, Cancer, Tuberculosis, Alzheimer's, Hepatitis, Diabetes, etc. They are also responsible for researching and preventing a host of occupational and public health issues. Their workforce of more than 15,000 employees has over 50% with advanced degrees; many of them doctors who are specialists in their respective fields of virology, pathology, microbiology, immunology, epidemiology, etc. These specialists will often have at least a decade of formal education in their fields, then another 10 to 30 years of experience within their chosen specialty.

With all of that in mind, it takes a special kind of hubris for an anti-vaxxer to assume that they know more than these thousands of well-educated and brilliant minds because he or she read a blog that agreed with their pre-existing opinion, even though their pre-existing opinion is baseless and easily-refutable nonsense.

The following video sums this up nicely.

In the end, of course, nothing that I said could convince this anti-vaxxer that he or she was wrong. This person continued to cling to the mistaken opinion that vaccines are the evil by-products of a world-wide plot involving the CDC, the WHO, and a host of other organizations and individuals. I realized that there was nothing that I could do, so I left this anti-vaxxer to his or her delusions, although I wished that neither this pandemic nor the next would claim the life of someone in his or her family.

But, you know, that's just like my opinion, man.


UPDATE: I had originally meant to add the following video from PBS to this post. It's from a few years ago, yet it explains some of what is happening in today's world quite well.

Condoning the Present to Condemn the Past

I belong to a few veteran's forums that focus on different parts of my years in the military; e.g. one of the forums is for soldiers stationed in Germany during the 1980s, another forum is for soldiers who served in the 11th Armored Calvary Regiment, etc. Since I spent eight years as an Army linguist, another of the forums to which I belong is reserved for former military linguists, where the topics of discussion focus on general interest subjects that are centered around learning languages and using languages.

It is with that general spirit in mind that someone posted the following article, which describes how the People's Republic of China has been trying to destroy the native Tibetan language since it conquered Tibet in the 1950s:

Killing a language: China won't let Tibetans study in their own language

This behavior is nothing new for Communists. Lest we forget, the Soviet Union launched these same sorts of language purging campaigns in all of their republics during the USSR's reign of terror. When I was in language school, I knew several teachers from Uzbekistan, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, etc., all of whom were forced to learn Russian in school as their primary language. Some were given the option to learn a second language, with their options being English or their native language. (And all of them opted for English, because the "West was cool.") The goal behind suppressing native languages is to remake the culture of conquered territories resemble the culture of the conquering nation. With that in mind, China is simply following the decades-old Communist playbook by killing the local language of Tibet in order to force its citizens to sound more like they're Chinese. As the article that was posted suggests, this is a horrible human rights violation.

However, any topic with possible political ramifications in this day and age will attract any number of Internet trolls, and the forum thread in this particular situation was not immune to infiltration. The thread hijacker in this instance attempted to steer the conversation away from a discussion on China's present-day transgressions to accuse the United States of having suppressed the native languages of conquered indigenous peoples from a century ago. While English has undoubtedly been a required language in schools across the nation in the centuries since its inception, (to include schools on Native American reservations), the United States has also taken bold steps in its efforts to preserve indigenous languages through legislation like the Native American Languages Act of 1990.

However, as with most misguided social justice warriors in today's "react first / research later" generation, none of that mattered. Nor did China's transgressions. All that mattered was that the United States should be ashamed of itself, because: America = Bad. Bad. Bad.

Needless to say, I took exception to this troll's ill-informed and self-righteous attitude. I wholeheartedly believe that there is nothing wrong with saying "This or that bad thing happened in the past," just as there is nothing wrong with saying "This or that bad thing is happening right now." However, I also steadfastly believe that there is something wrong when someone tries to prevent people from discussing something bad that's happening right now by shutting down conversations and accusing people's ancestors of wrongdoing.

For the record, my Irish American ancestors had nothing to do with the moral crimes of the past that this knee-jerk troll seemed hell bent on pushing as the prominent issue. My ancestors arrived far too recently and settled nowhere near the affected areas, so I feel no personal responsibility to apologize for the sins and stupidity of unrelated strangers. However, I seriously resent the accusation that I am guilty of some sort of moral failure or hypocritical behavior when I look at an atrocity that is taking place in the present and correctly label that behavior as "atrocity" without simultaneously calling out every other similar atrocity across the history of humanity.

Let me be clear, the United States has done many, many things wrong during in its sordid past. I have not forgotten the faults of our nation's founding fathers, but even if I had, that should not prevent my ability to call out evil when I see it. When someone's myopic gaze is so laser focused on the past sins of others that they cannot or will not see what is happening today, then they are just as guilty of subjective hypocrisy as those who would forget or ignore the past.

Antivaxxers versus Bill Gates

Several years ago, Bill Gates delivered a great TED talk that he called "The next outbreak? We’re not ready." In his presentation, Gates described how the world would not be prepared for the next global pandemic, and you can watch the video his full, 8-minute talk below.

Of course, our planet is now gripped by a global pandemic, and we can now see how few people bothered to pay attention to what Gates was saying. As of today, more than 3 million people have been infected world wide, with around a quarter of a million deaths. (See https://www.bing.com/covid/ for details.)

Because of the relevance of Gates' TED talk to today's situation, there are many people who believe that Gates has the power to see the future. That is, of course, ludicrous; as Gates said in his presentation, a global pandemic was a statistical certain certainty. Then there are a lot of people who ignore Gates, because they believe that he is not an expert in the field; those people have no idea what they're talking about. Gates has spent the past couple decades spending billions of dollars of his personal wealth on a quest to rid the world of disease, and he has actually evolved into something of an expert the field. (Which I will discuss later.)

However, there have also been a great number of conspiracy theorists who believe that Gates is somehow behind all of this, and he is using this situation to either get richer, or to have everyone implanted with microchips. (e.g. People seem to think that Gates is the antichrist.) Even though such rumors have been debunked several times, there are people who still cling to the false belief that Bill Gates is evil and should be killed.

After another round of what seemed to be an endless stream of fools spewing hatred against Gates on various social media platforms, I grew tired of all the paranoia and stupidity, and I posted the following message:

Smallpox used to be one of the most devastating threats to humanity, taking the lives of untold millions of people over several millennia (see https://bit.ly/2SNANeD). Yet when a vaccine was invented that would prevent the spread of the disease, (thereby saving millions of lives), the uneducated and ignorant masses fought it for decades, until widespread adoption of vaccinations finally brought an end to that infestation in the 1980s.

Now we have Bill Gates, whom many people love to hate simply because his business acumen allowed him to amass a personal fortune. Rather than sitting back and keeping his money to himself (like Jeff Bezos and Steve Jobs), Gates and his wife have poured billions of dollars into trying to rid the world of several devastating diseases: polio, measles, malaria, tuberculosis, etc. (see https://bit.ly/2VXIFMs).

I would have loved to think that our society had moved beyond the superstitious naysayers who preferred death by smallpox over its cure, but it seems that I was far too optimistic in my expectations. Every day I seem to see a never-ending stream of vitriol emanating from the uneducated and ignorant who seem to think that ridding the world of infectious disease has some sort of nefarious motivation.

Let me be blunt - if you hate Bill Gates because you think that Windows 8 was a clunker of an operating system, then so be it. If you hate Bill Gates because you hate rich people, then you're probably just jealous that your life never amounted to anything, and it's easier to blame others than to accept the fact that your current situation is the sum total of all your life's bad decisions. However, if you hate ANYONE who is giving away billions of dollars of their personal wealth to fight disease, promote education, and provide clean water for developing nations, etc., then I'm afraid that you're little more than a small-minded, superstitious Luddite.

Secret Origins of the COVID19 Coronavirus - Part II

Fast on the heels of my recent Secret Origins of the COVID19 Coronavirus post, it's time for Part II of this series. (Which wasn't meant to be a series, but I couldn't resist.)

I'm so thankful that in these trying times, Communist governments that spent months lying to the world about the existence of a possible pandemic-level outbreak can still find a way to use social media personalities to blame their negligence on - well, it's better if you see it yourself. Watch the following video and get ready for a truly mind altering twist on everything that you thought you knew.

Yes, those same wonderful Communists who imprisoned (or killed) their own doctors for trying to warn the world that something awful was coming, those same wonderful Communists who enforced "isolation" by using their military to round up ordinary citizens at gunpoint and haul them off to military gulags, have managed to find a new scapegoat on the world's stage. (Spoiler alert - it's the United States.) With that in mind, I'd like to remind everyone who didn't think that it was racist to label a viral outbreak from China as a "Chinese Virus" just how silly they look. This is obviously an "American Virus," and you're nothing but sheeple.


POSTSCRIPT:

All sarcasm aside, it's pretty scary when Bill Maher stops sounding like an idiot and starts to make sense in NSFW videos like the following.

Food for Thought During this Pandemic - Part II

In the wake of yesterday's post about the COVID-19 pandemic, several believers of various conspiracy theories crawled out of the woodwork, and they have proposed all sorts of silly ideas about why this pandemic is happening. As I have mentioned in other blogs, I love a good conspiracy theory. I don't believe any of the conspiracies that I read, but I am ceaselessly amazed to learn what others are willing to believe.

One of the hallmarks of a great conspiracy theory is the way that it harkens back to the days of the Gnostic Cults, where people believed that there was a dark mystery that was hiding behind everything. And if you searched hard enough in obscure places, you would eventually discover "The Truth." Today's conspiracy theorists are no different; they scour the Internet looking for tidbits of information that they can cobble together in the name of "truth." Of course, the "truth" varies widely depending on which conspiracy theorist you're speaking to. Nevertheless, they believe that "Knowledge Is Power," and that somehow, if they read enough blogs and ignore everything that is said by academics, scientists, and subject matter experts, they will finally discover that dark mystery that is hiding behind everything.

With that in mind, I grew tired of the utter ridiculousness of some of the theories that I was reading, so I wrote the following response.

Knowledge Is Power

The conspiracy theorists are correct - knowledge is power. However, there is a great deal of misinformation circulating around the Internet these days, which is what led to yesterday's post. As you might have noticed, I only used CDC data for what I reported, and I did my best to avoid any editorializing on what the data represented; I simply expressed the numbers as they exist.

And the conspiracy theorists are also correct that official "news" outlets have unfortunately proven themselves as unreliable sources of information, which is - once again - why I only used data from the CDC. Not all of the reporting from mainstream news sources is unreliable, of course - you just have to be careful what you read. For example, I get a lot of my news from the Associated Press (AP) these days; they tend to be a little more accurate and less sensational. The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) is often a good source, too.

The trouble with most people's "investigations" is that they are not in search of the "truth," they are in search of information that supports an existing opinion. For example, if hospitals are misreporting their numbers, there are a couple of possible causes:

  • Option #1: As some people have alluded to, hospitals might be over-reporting or under-reporting the numbers of COVID-19 deaths because these hospitals have COVID-19 patients who die because of complications due to pre-existing conditions like heart disease, COPD, cancer, etc. With that in mind, it is a judgment call as to whether that is counted as a COVID-19 death. For example: perhaps a COPD patient might not have died had it not been for their COVID-19 infection, so is the cause of death COVID-19 or COPD?
  • Option #2: Hospitals are lining their pockets with cash from greedy corporate cabals and evil pharmaceutical companies who are demanding fatality numbers to support their cash cow cures.

Of those two options, I whole-heartedly believe the first option, while the second option is a paranoid delusion that is easily refuted by facts, common sense, and very little research. However, there are a great number of people who believe the second option, which warrants a brief discussion of why you should not be one of them.

Misinformation and Echo Chambers

Mark Twain once said, "If you don't read the newspaper, you're uninformed. If you read the newspaper, you're misinformed." That holds true for today as well. If you ignore all of the mainstream news sources and only believe what you find from unreliable and/or unconfirmed sources, then as I said earlier - you are only reinforcing your existing position. If you want to believe in conspiracies, there are plenty of them to be found.

I recently posted a blog that was titled Secret Origins of the COVID-19 Coronavirus. Here's the spoiler - I proposed a plausible theory that was backed up by actual facts, but I made up everything that existed beyond the facts that I presented. The point of my blog was that people want so much to believe that there is something underhanded, heinous, and evil going on, so they're willing to find pieces of information that support their point of view, while ignoring everything else, and that is dangerous. Especially in times such as these.

Here is a perfect example: many people have been posting videos of Dr. V.A. Shiva Ayyadurai as he "exposes the truth" behind what is going on in the world. But as I have said elsewhere, Shiva is an opportunistic fraud with delusions of grandeur, with a long history of deceit going back several years. Shiva's intellectual dishonesty is so pervasive that I am surprised his credentials have not been revoked. I have been familiar with this imposter for many years, and Shiva recently found himself on the wrong side of academia when he claimed that he could cure COVID-19 with a hair dryer and other ridiculous proposals, all of which have also been debunked as complete nonsense. (I'm surprised that MIT didn't rescind his credentials after that debacle alone.) To show you an additional example of his depravity, Shiva has fraudulently claimed to have invented email when he was in High School - a claim which has been debunked time and again. (The military and a host of other academics created email years before he came along.)

All of that being said, Shiva is a complete fraud who is out for profit by deceiving as many people as he can. And despite the fact that his ridiculous theories are likely to get a lot of people killed, he has become the darling of conspiracy theorists who continue to debate vaccines and big phrama and the deep state and pandemic profiteering. However, I highly recommend that you should not be one of the sheep that follows this false shepherd into the slaughterhouse.

Conspiracies and Common Sense

Circling back to my opening statements, yes - knowledge is power. But so is common sense. Most of the conspiracy theories that are circulating are simply not plausible. We live in a society where there is too much information, which is both a blessing and a curse.

  • Our connected society is a blessing because if any of the conspiracies had any truth to them, then there would be thousands of places to find legitimate pieces of information to condemn the perpetrators.
  • However, our connected society is a curse because there are also thousands of places to find unreliable pieces of information that have no basis in reality.

Here is a case in point: I recently saw that someone had posted a picture of tanks being shipped on railroad cars through Tucson. This photo was immediately pounced on by conspiracy theorists who believe that our government is evil and is going to use the military to take over all of our lives. I found all of the paranoid drivel by these conspiracy theorists endlessly amusing, but at the end of the day, a little common sense would dispel these rumors. For example:

  • First of all, why were the tanks on that train?

    The tanks were being shipped by railroad car because: tanks eat up the highways, tanks don't travel fast enough on an Interstate to keep up with traffic, and it costs a fortune to drive tanks cross country.

  • Second, where were the tanks going?

    I don't know for sure, but if I had to guess, I would say Fort Irwin, California. There is a military base there where the military trains personnel for desert warfare, and here's the way the process worked when I was in the Army: each month a unit is sent to Fort Irwin for training, and they bring all of their equipment with them. They train for a month, and then they go home. So tanks will be on rail cars getting there, and will be on rail cars going home. (PS - I spent a month training in Fort Irwin, and I hated it. But that's another story.)

  • Third, do you want to know why the military is NOT going to take over the country?

    BECAUSE. THEY'RE. AMERICANS.

    I served in the US Army for 8 years, and if the orders came down that we were going to take over the country, NO ONE WOULD HAVE OBEYED THOSE ORDERS. We do not live in Communist China, nor do we live in the former Soviet Union. Our military is staffed by 100% volunteers, who have wives, husbands, kids, parents, siblings, cousins, friends, acquaintances, etc., scattered all over the country. No one in the military would want to bring harm to anyone in America because - as I said earlier - our military is made up of Americans. Who love other Americans. And America itself. Our military undoubtedly loves our country more than anyone else on the planet.

So the whole idea that the military is going to take over the country is ludicrous, and yet there are tens of thousands of people who likely believe that the military is evil and cannot be trusted. You may not fall into that category, but take this general message to heart: people will tend to believe what they want to believe, despite an abundance of information to the contrary.

Summary

In closing, you need to be aware that misinformation is happening all around you, so you need to be objective when you are considering your sources. If something seems too good to be true, it probably isn't. If something seems too sensational, it's probably false. And just because something seems to support what you already believe, that doesn't make it true, either.