The Numbers Don’t Lie

People are the ones who lie. With or without numbers. People also ignore the numbers or fail to understand what they mean. I was trained as an economist and worked for a short time as an industrial economist, and I have a pretty good idea of all the ways the numbers can be manipulated.

As far as COVID numbers go, they’re not lying. People are misrepresenting them or arguing against them on non-scientific grounds. The initial testing of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines showed an initial effectiveness of 93-95%. The researchers also noted that the vaccines did not provoke as strong an immune response in older individuals or those who were immuno-compromised. The numbers also showed a minuscule risk of severe side-effects from any of the major vaccines. Those numbers and facts remain accurate so far, even considering the greater infectiousness and severity of the Delta variant.

Statistics also show, historically and practically, that a high degree of vaccination/infection-and-recovery is necessary [roughly in the 70% range] to stop an epidemic.

What are we seeing? That the cases in hospitals are overwhelmingly of the unvaccinated with a small percentage of older vaccinated or immuno-compromised individuals, just as the trials predicted. The statistics also show that well over 10% of individuals hospitalized for COVID who survive suffer long-term and possibly permanent health damage, and in some studies that number approaches 40%.

Until a greater percentage of unvaccinated individuals get vaccinated, or catch COVID, those numbers will continue, and they will include unvaccinated children.

All the political crap about “it’s my right” not to get vaccinated isn’t going to change the numbers.

I live in an area where only 36% of those able to be vaccinated are, and the death toll hit the highest number ever last week. I’m not exactly a spring chicken, as the saying goes, and even after being fully vaccinated, I’m likely still at risk. So is my wife, who is also vaccinated and slightly immuno-comprised, but still teaching. Her students have been understanding, and all of them are either vaccinated or wear masks in class.

This is not so for the rest of the community, which is why we don’t go to restaurants or any crowded venues… and shop with care. Our life – and that of millions of others – is restricted because of the baseless fears of the ignorant and their unwillingness to follow time-tested and working procedures for dealing with an epidemic.

Just why do so many people ignore all the obvious – and verified – facts? Except that’s not really the question. In a public health crisis the question is what the government should do. Getting out the facts isn’t sufficient. Too many people are either too ignorant, too distrusting, too lazy, or too invested in self-centered “personal freedom” to get vaccinated.

So the choice is pretty basic – either require vaccinations or see a lot more people die and become permanently disabled. And if you don’t get vaccinated, you’re saying through your inaction that your “freedom” is worth more than the lives of other people.

Republicans = Exponential Hypocrisy

In the wake of the resurgence of COVID in the form of the Delta variant, the majority of Republican governors in the states hardest hit by COVID, with ICUs and hospitals at capacity or beyond capacity, continue to oppose vaccination requirements and mask mandates. Their cry is “personal freedom” or “it’s my right to choose.”

Those Republicans, including the clearly hypocritical governor of Texas, would have people die rather than give in to governmental public health mandates.

While I obviously disagree with their “principle,” they aren’t even consistent in its application. In fact, there’s extreme hypocrisy in this stance, especially in the case of Governor Abbott, because the governor wants personal choice in the case of COVID public health requirements, insisting that individuals have control over their own bodies, yet he and the Texas Taliban, i.e., the Republicans in the Texas State Legislature, have legislated to deny women the choice to control their own bodies, by effectively eliminating the vast majority of abortions in Texas and even creating a potentially nationwide vigilante system for denying that choice.

But then, it’s become increasingly clear that all too many Republicans have little interest in consistent principles, effective public health measures, or equal legal treatment for all Americans, regardless of income.

What’s even sadder is that most rank-and-file Republicans don’t see this, and, if they do, don’t care that they’re well on their way to becoming the American Taliban, in attempting to make one set of self-contradicting and repressive religious beliefs the law of the land.

Sacred Hypocrisy

The entire “Right-to-Life” movement in the United States is based on the idea that human life is “sacred.” Except that’s not true. In both practice and ideal, the movement insists that only unborn life is sacred.

The life of a woman who will die from a pregnancy isn’t sacred. The lives of tens of thousands of unwanted children born to women who cannot support them aren’t sacred. The so-called Right-to-Lifers make no provisions for the needs of unwanted or ill-fed children. Nor do most of them support legislation or provisions to aid poor mothers. At a time when minimum wage jobs won’t support an individual in most U.S. cities, let alone a family, what do Right-To-Lifers think is going to happen to all the unwanted children who will be born if abortion is banned? Not only that, but how many more unwanted pregnancies will occur because birth control counseling and means have been restricted or banned.

We already have too many homeless in our cities and streets… and the anti-abortion crowd thinks that banning abortion won’t create more?

Like it or not, human beings will have sex. Puritans, strict Catholics, and many, if not most, Evangelicals insist that abstinence is the only “approved” form of birth control, and, given restricted or banned abortion, and without access to knowledgeable and available birth control, there will be even more unwanted children and mothers who either cannot physically support those children… or who will not. Moral proscriptions and moralizing won’t change that.

Nor will moralizing and laws change the fact that most poor women don’t have the resources to raise children in ways that won’t leave many, if not most, of those children without the skills and resources to be productive members of society, particularly at a time when decent paying, low-skilled jobs have all but vanished. But the majority of the Right-To-Life crew doesn’t want to pay to provide that support.

In addition to that, the Right-to-Lifers won’t acknowledge that a significant number of unwanted pregnancies are the result of men forcing themselves on women. Given that, in most cases, men are stronger than women, the Right-to-Life position is essentially condoning the subjugation of women to the will of men, both in forcing women to have sex and then forcing them to bear unwanted children.

So Right-to-Lifers want to force women to have children they can’t support, and that Right-to-Lifers won’t. I don’t see any deity swooping down to provide manna for food or angels constructing lodging… and while some charities do the best they can, it’s not enough, and it never will be.

What the Right-to-Lifers are doing, however well-intentioned they think they are about the sacredness of life, is trying to require unwanted children to be born and then denying support to that unwanted life once it is born, because apparently those children aren’t all that sacred once they’re born and suffering, with the result that the massive costs of inadequate government benefits for those mothers and children are dumped on everyone else. And on top of that, most of these right-wingers then complain about the burden those children and their mothers place on society.

And the only terms for that are religious hypocrisy, ignorance… or stupidity, if not all three. Take your pick.

The Law As Ass

One of Dickens’ characters, Mr. Bumble, as I recall, said something to the effect that if the law established some ridiculous provision then the law was “a ass.”

Usually, the law isn’t quite that bad, but that was before Texas passed its recent anti-abortion legislation. Regardless of one’s position on abortion, this legislation is worse than an abortion of rights or a miscarriage of justice [both of which it is], and the U.S. Supreme Court’s failure to stop its implementation suggests that those justices in the High Court’s majority are also asses – in legal terms.

Apparently, in order to avoid making the state of Texas the enforcement body, the law enables anyone to file a civil lawsuit in any jurisdiction against anyone who performs an abortion of any fetus from Texas where the heartbeat can be detected [usually around six weeks] as well as against anyone who enables/assists in obtaining such an abortion. The statute also mandates a judgement/payment to the plaintiff of up to $10,000 and possibly more.

The historic legal requirement for obtaining damages is that someone has suffered an injury of some sort, yet under the Texas law anyone can file such a lawsuit, even if they cannot prove that they personally suffered such an injury. The “beauty” of this approach is that even if the complainant/plaintiff receives no damages, the defendant is saddled with enormous legal costs and bills, while the plaintiff and the Republican legislators who passed the legislation get off scot-free.

Furthermore, the language around what constitutes an enabler is vague enough that anyone who transports a woman seeking an abortion to where an abortion takes place might well be subject to the legislation. That could conceivably even involve airlines or other transportation.

The Texas Right to Life movement is already reputedly establishing a hot line to receive tips about women seeking abortions. Perhaps, in that light, the organization should change its name to the “Texas Taliban.”

The fact that the U.S. Supreme Court didn’t just strike down the law as a gross infringement on personal privacy suggests worse may be yet to come.

So… three cheers, or rather raspberries, for all those legal asses.

Biden Was Right

I’ve always been annoyed by back-seat drivers and Monday morning quarterbacks, who always KNOW how they could have “done it better” than someone who was under pressure and didn’t meet their standards, whether that someone was a quarterback or a politician. Very occasionally, the armchair strategists are right, but mostly they couldn’t have done it better… or even as well, with the possible exception of doing it better than Trump.

Hindsight’s a great predictor after the fact.

Getting out of Afghanistan would ALWAYS have turned into a scramble. The basic structural system was a recipe for disaster. Take a partly semi-modernized capital, propped up and supported almost entirely by the United States, with a “government” that was often governing in name only and only in places where Afghan troops, with American backing, could hold back the Taliban. Add a culture that, outside of Kabul and a handful of other places, hadn’t changed significantly in at least a thousand years, and a “country” that has no truly “national” identity and is split into tribal factions based on brutal fundamentalist versions of faith. Outside of Kabul, there’s essentially no modern infrastructure except that supplied and maintained by American and other allied military.

What was holding the entity named Afghanistan together was the military and associated contractor presence spearheaded by American soldiers and technocrats, a presence resented by the majority of the population outside Kabul, and even by many within the city.

When you start removing those soldiers and technocrats, the areas they leave lapse back into previous patterns – except for Kabul, which lapsed into chaos, because a significant percentage of the population there doesn’t want to return to the culture of a thousand years previous, but can’t escape.

The only way to stave off what happened would have been to continually increase the U.S. military presence there. Those who argue that maintaining a small U.S. presence in Afghanistan would have stabilized the situation can’t or won’t read maps. As the U.S. military presence receded, the areas controlled by the Taliban increased.

To get out of Afghanistan required reducing the U.S. and allied presence… and the Taliban moved in. Even if the withdrawal had started earlier or lasted longer, the results would have been similar because neither the U.S. nor its allies would have been able politically to remove and assimilate the hundreds of thousands of Afghans and their families who are vulnerable to Taliban abuse and possible atrocities. There are already difficulties in dealing with a “mere” hundred thousand or so.

Blaming Biden for the mess is just a simplistic response to twenty years of wasting huge amounts of money and thousands of American lives, and it also ignores the fact that he was opposed to remaining in Afghanistan in the beginning.

But it’s so much more satisfying to blame someone who’s stopped the years of bleeding money and lives, if not perfectly, than to admit that it was a misguided mess all along.