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May 12, 2022·edited May 12, 2022

Politics has become (or maybe it's just intensified) about self-expression for many (most?) people. It's not about numbers or facts or figures. It's about who you think you are and how you want the world to see you. People don't generally care about other people dying in all kinds of terrible circumstances all the time all over the world because it doesn't usually have anything do with them personally.

Stalin was somewhat right and somewhat wrong to say that the death of a person is a tragedy, but the death of a million people is a statistic. The true part is that we hear staggering amounts of numbers of horrible suffering all the time and go right back to whatever we're doing.

But the profoundly untrue part is if it happens to your wonderful, promising 24 year old niece who can't wait to be a nurse, it's just like the journalism that you're talking about. It humanizes it. Puts a face on it. It's now a million tiny tragedies.

People sure do tend to feel most emotionally connected to is themselves. And Americans definitely like to be individualistic, follow the beat of their own drummer, etc.

Some people didn't want to take CV seriously because they wanted to flaunt their disregard for the nanny state telling them to mask up and stay indoors and what's more, they could show anyone who wanted to know that they weren't some knock-kneed weakling who is scared of "the sniffles" as Trump and others called it.

The other part of it, which relates back to my first example, is that when the word got out that people with co-morbidities were the ones who were ran the most risk lots of people (no less a sage than Kid Rock recently said exactly this to Tucker Carlson) proudly assumed that it wasn't their problem, so who cares, why shouldn't I get on with the rest of my life?

It's a way of asserting agency and identity in a world that often feels out of control, confusing, and scary. So people double down on their defensiveness: I did my own research, I don't think it makes any sense anyway, it's a conspiracy, it won't happen to me, and it's fascism or the nanny state haranguing me or it's just a problem for losers and weaklings.

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We are in the midst of going about our lives.

All of a sudden we are in a nightmare.

There is this plague on the loose.

It's got tentacles.

Spikes that go down into our lungs

and we suffocate!

They will put us on oxygen machines

Then into caskets.

See the trucks full of caskets!!!!

This is madness.

The horror! The horror!

But we can't wake up!

Please somebody do something

so we can wake up.

Please make this nightmare go away!

Nobody makes it go away.

We are all on our own.

So we each find a way

to make it go sway.

Some of us rage

Some of us rebel

Some of us close our eyes

Some of us close our hearts

Some of us go superior

Some of us go cynical

A million of us will never wake up

The rest of us are still trying.

Why don't we grieve?

We would rather believe

this IS all just a nightmare

If we realize it's real

If we realize those were one million

precious loving beautiful human beings

mothers fathers grandpas and grandmas

who wanted to live and breathe and love

just as much as we do

our hearts would break

our hearts would break

But maybe now

maybe now

we can let our tears begin to flow

gently gently

Maybe now

we can say goodbye sweet people

goodbye

we are sorry we did not care enough

we are sorry

we were too busy fighting

and blaming

to hold you in our arms

Please let us bring mercy

and comfort

now

wherever we can

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No longer confused about this stuff at all. We're humans. Worse yet, we're American humans, drunk on freedom and individual liberty to the near exclusion of any sense of right and wrong, common sense or any sense of the common good. Sadly, it's just what we do these days, and like any good drunk we do it to excess.

And why should we be surprised by this? Happy Hour's been in full swing for near 7 decades now, the elbow bending on the F&L Boilermakers only occasionally pausing for a briefly unifying insult du jour such as September 11th. A fleeting nod to patriotism, and it's Bartender, another round!

The problem is, we're not a bunch of happy drunks. We damn well should be, but we're not. Might have been in the not-too-distant past, but now, for the most part, we've become a bunch of 6-foot-tall bullet proof brawlers lookin' for a fight with the house band because we don't like the tune it's playin', or maybe a couple of 'those people' out there in the parking lot. Such is often the effect of powerful intoxicants when consumed irresponsibly with disregard for their potency. And the closer it gets to last call, the harder we pound 'em down, hangovers be damned.

Sorry. Guess my slip of cynicism is showing just a bit below the hemline of my patriotic skirt. Give me a sec and I'll see if I can get that adjusted. Maybe another drink would help. Hey...Bartender!

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It’s not whistling past the graveyard to take our mind off the way life has been altered. It’s just garden variety whistling past the graveyard period, writ massive and global. My uncle died at 79 a few years back after contracting a post-hernia surgery infection. The guy was born at what was arguably the optimal time and in the optimal place in all of human history. He grew up in a loving family, served his country as an Air Force pilot, married and raised a family, built a successful business, and retired quite comfortably. By any definition, this man had “won life”. He even outlived the national life expectancy of the time, by a bit. So, what was the prevailing sentiment at his funeral? “What a tragedy”. “He died far too soon.” I couldn’t believe it. Should we be sad? Sure. A bit lost? Absolutely. But, to look at that life and think “tragic” or “unfair” for even one second was outrageous and, quite frankly, insulting to the billions of people who have walked this earth since the dawn of man under far less ideal circumstances. That story, I’m afraid, is not an isolated one in our Irene Cara-esque, “I’m Gonna Live Forever” culture and explains a lot about how we’ve all differently, on some level, processed COVID. The life expectancy in this country is roughly 77. COVID, particularly in the early days, disproportionately killed people within range (slightly below or above)of that number. There are a number of us who look at each of those deaths and say “what a tragedy”. There are others, and God help me as I am among them, who look at those deaths and say, “this is life”. Should we take precautions to prevent unnecessary deaths? Of course. Should we trust the science on vaccines and inoculate accordingly? I, for one, believe so. But to truly look at the COVID mortality demographics and say “tragic”, is to whistle past the graveyard in an almost literal sense. Not one of us gets out of here alive and the folks bumping up against that LE number are, sad to say, directly in the crosshairs. If terrestrial immortality was an option, I’d be squarely in the “this is b.s.!” camp, as well. It’s not, though, so don’t let’s be silly about this element of the covid discussion.

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"The guy was born at what was arguably the optimal time and in the optimal place in all of human history... By any definition, this man had 'won life'. He even outlived the national life expectancy of the time, by a bit. So, what was the prevailing sentiment at his funeral? 'What a tragedy'. 'He died far too soon.' I couldn’t believe it... to look at that life and think 'tragic' or 'unfair' for even one second was outrageous and, quite frankly, insulting to the billions of people who have walked this earth since the dawn of man under far less ideal circumstances."

I am third-generation never-should-have-survived-childhood. By historical standards, that's three generations lucky, three generations that survived to reproduce when they wouldn't have throughout most of human history. Does it feel lucky?

Honestly, no. What would have killed us in childhood, asthma, is something the majority of those with enough affluence and diligence can control these days. Throughout childhood, people reassured me, "You'll grow out of asthma." It's true many childhood asthmatics do. I didn't. I also fall into the ever-shrinking minority of patients who don't achieve good asthma control even with good compliance, especially during pregnancy. Twice, I've failed to achieve what I was told to expect.

When I think of my place in world history, I acknowledge how unlikely it is for me to even be alive. I'm happy for the world that more and more people have resources to achieve what I still haven't, good asthma control. But when I think of the expectations placed on me, I don't feel so lucky. People have higher expectations of asthmatics these days, precisely because of our technological mastery, and I feel like a disappointment for not meeting them.

Feeling like a disappointment is... disappointing. It doesn't feel "lucky".

We aren't entitled to the rise in both life expectancy and quality we're used to experiencing. We are merely used to it. But merely being used to it is enough to change expectations, so that we sense loss when those expectations aren't met.

An individual's life expectancy at a given age isn't the population average. It's conditional on the state the individual is in. If your uncle was in good enough condition before the surgery, his life expectancy may have been several more years, so that dying of a post-surgical infection really is an unexpected, "unlucky" — even "tragic" — outcome, despite the overall blessedness of his life.

People aren't wrong to expect what they've been trained to expect, merely rational.

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I hear everything you're saying, Matt. And your Irene Cara-line made me laugh. But I'd also submit - and I'm sure some here would take issue with the numbers - but it has been reported that there we lost 1.8 years off our collective life-expectancy due to COVID. Which was the biggest drop in US life expectancy since WW II. Link: https://www.pbs.org/newshour/health/covid-helped-cause-the-biggest-drop-in-u-s-life-expectancy-since-wwii There has to be a lot of death to take us down that far, that fast. So it wasn't merely a matter of, "oh well, that's life." It is, of course, life, to meet our end in death. How soon we meet it is another matter. Especially when plenty of it was preventable.

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I don’t dispute any of those numbers and would agree that it is a startling decrease after decades of watching that figure only climb. I would, however, submit that those data points, in raw form, are like a blank canvas on which to craft a narrative. Throughout covid, we were bombarded with heartstring-tugging anecdotes about lives lost and families broken. I wouldn’t begin to dispute the veracity of those tales or diminish the crushing sadness felt by the survivors, but would suggest that seeing covid strictly through the lens of that particular type of loss is to take/or more cynically, create, an incomplete view of the landscape. More than 200,000 covid deaths in the US have occurred in nursing home facilities. This is the point in the argument when I’ll ask you to think back on that relative/family friend you had who ended life in such a place. Did they like it there? Was it the cherry on top of a life well lived? Did they voluntarily go down to the cafeteria to make crafts on Tuesday? No. I’m guessing it was an often humiliating, sometimes frightening, and endlessly depressing horror show just as it was for both of my grandmothers. Using MY anecdote, rather than the equally accurate “mother of two cut down by covid in her prime” angle might allow us the perspective to concede that some meaningful chunk of that decrease in life expectancy likely came from people living shorter than usual lives under miserable conditions. While he’s no Irene Cara, my fellow Hoosier John Mellencamp pretty well nailed it. “Oh yeah, life goes on, long after the thrill of livin’ is gone”. There are many truths in this sad era we’ve all just experienced. As with so many issues, it is important to acknowledge and accept the facts we detest as much as we embrace the ones that bring us comfort.

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For me, I don’t want to be deciding which life is worth more than another. Yes, it has to be done in circumstances like war or deciding who gets the replacement kidney. But, it seems like a dark place to dwell if the tools exist so you don’t have to.

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Apr 15, 2022·edited Apr 15, 2022Author

Well far be it from me to contradict the Hoosier philosopher. I quote that line myself quite often. Along with another from the same song. The part about running off behind a shady tree, dribbling off those Bobby Brooks, and doing what I please. (Shockingly, there's not a lot of appropriate usage opportunities for that one.) And yes, you are correct that nearly 200,000 of those deaths were in nursing homes. Though, we should recognize that total also includes staff, who trend younger (Not sure how many. The CDC seemed to just throw them all in together - though I might've missed the breakout.) But your point is taken. At one point, nursing homes accounted for half of all COVID deaths. But once vaccinations became mandatory for staff and available for residents, better safety protocols were followed, and Andrew Cuomo stopped ordering them to their deaths, they dropped all the way down to a quarter of the total, after getting that early headstart. Still, this quality-of-life rationale makes me squeamish. Sounds like we might as well say, "Well, gramps is on his way out, his memory isn't what it used to be, and he doesn't even get Apple TV in the dayroom, so maybe we should just euthanize him with COVID." I'm being glib, of course. I know that's not your argument. But there has been a cavalier screw-it attitude toward our old folks throughout the pandemic. And I've known a lot of old people - some of them very miserable due to health travails, even if they're not in nursing homes. All of them, however, wanted to continue living. It's encoded in our genetic make-up. Even the ones who said they were ready for death, still fought to go on living. So even if they did disproportionately die, did that exonerate the rest of us from doing our part, especially in the pre-vax days when they were afforded no extra protection? Our grandfathers stormed the beaches of Normandy and kicked Nazi ass, making the world (mostly) safe for freedom. And we acted like we were doing forced labor at a gulag if someone asked us to put a mask on at Food Lion. A lot of my conservative brethren spent decades, prior to COVID, talking about duty/honor/country - unlike those soft commie libs. Then when they were asked to do their part, they cried like schoolgirls after finding out their favorite boy-band went down in a plane crash. There was a lot of ungallant behavior. And it didn't come from our oldsters.

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Sucking on chili dogs and dribbling off slacks. Those were the days. John humbly noted previously on “Ain’t Even Done With the Night”, that he didn’t even know if he was doing the latter correctly, and damn if that didn’t spookily resonate with a hedonistic, bumbling teenage boy. How in the hell had he become aware of my private struggles? If only I was dealing with Bobbie Brooks. Child’s play. Try dribbling off the infernal 501s of the time. It would’ve been easier to give up the effort altogether and join a monastery. Nevertheless, he persisted. Perhaps if the good folks at Disney had been a bit more progressive back in ‘80 and had backed some sort of sensible elementary school pants dribbling curriculum, much of that initial awkwardness later in the decade could have been avoided. Thankfully, it all worked out. Sadly, John Mellencamp turned into a miserable, self-loathing (at least as it pertains to his early work) crank who now spends his time chain smoking, making George W. quality artwork, and taking money from devoted concertgoers who are pretty damned sure he’s going to play “I Need a Lover” this time. Spoiler alert, he’s not. You’re getting a steady diet of “The Ghost Brothers of Darkland County” and long ride home from Bloomington wondering why everything has to be so crappy now. That last bit pertains specifically to me. Some of the other disappointed people presumably lived much closer to the venue.

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Late stage capitalism and the rise of the authoritarian conspiratorial right; takes any available wedge and has no concern for collateral damage. They’ll let go of the hegemony, petulance, and gutter snark when you pry it out of their intubated hand. I tried to be concise.

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Apr 15, 2022·edited Apr 15, 2022

One in 329…..over two years. A death rate of .15 pct annually . Those are the odds a 25 year old male faces (death from any cause) each and every year. Oh my! I mean, if in any year you filled Giants stadium with 25 year old males, the same number would be dead next year as in Matt’s example.

https://www.ssa.gov/oact/STATS/table4c6.html

And as I noted , the age adjusted mortality in 2020 was lower than it was in 2003, and 2002, and 2001 and in every prior year in the US. Was 2003 a crisis year? In many other developed countries the age adjusted mortality in 2020 was equivalent to the average of 2000-2020. The US was a bit of an outlier because we had a large population of very frail elderly folks, higher incidence of obesity, diabetes, alcoholism, murder, drug abuse etc than most other wealthy countries. The media and politicians thrive on panic and most of them are completely illiterate when it comes to statistics. I am not a Covid denier - I had Covid almost before it was a thing (Feb 2020), I am triple vaxxed and one of my kids was hospitalized with double Covid pneumonia. I am also a professional forecaster and statistical analyst and was employed by a couple of foreign governments and one US state government to help forecast Covid deaths, hospitalizations, etc. The US environment was particularly bad because it was so politicized.

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Treeamigo "And as I noted , the age adjusted mortality in 2020 was lower than it was in 2003, and 2002, and 2001 and in every prior year in the US. Was 2003 a crisis year?"

2003 was not a crisis year because the age adjusted death rate has been going down every year for the last several hundred years and you would have to go back to 1917-18 to see as dramatic a rise as we did 2019-2020 of about 15% increase in mortality.

What you are saying is that the 600,000 deaths is trivial because in 2003 there would have been that number of deaths, as if every medical advancement of 17 years didn't matter.

The significant year to compare mortality is 2019 as that would be the expected death rate based on the medical treatments available today, not 20 years ago, and as stated this is the most dramatic increase since the Flu epidemic of 1918

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I hesitate to get into a statistics tussle with a professional statistical analyst, Treeamigo - because there's no way that ends well for me. But if you say my stadium example carries the same odds of any stadium full of people dying from any cause, perhaps so. But in my example, we're just talking about one cause of death. Not all the other things that might take someone. Meaning you would have to add it on to all the other causes. And however you want to cut it statistically, a million people still died (domestically) of a cause that didn't exist a little over two years ago. That's a helluva lot of people. It's basically like losing the entire state of Rhode Island. (Roughly.) Or if you'd prefer to lose a western state, approximately two Wyomings.

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So, to put it in Louis CK terms… the Holocaust was like losing 6 Rhode Islands. Or 12 Wyomings. And COVID was like 333.333 9/11s. Or 0.0118 World War II's. Hey, math is fun!

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Hey- if people weren’t captivated by big numbers without caring much about context, nobody would play the Powerball.

And the Covid numbers are pretty big, even when you sensibly look at “excess deaths” and age-adjusted mortality figures or haircut the figures to estimate deaths where Covid was overwhelmingly the primary cause. How do you feel about a China or possibly NIH funded scientists eliminating Rhode Island?

Note that in my stadium example I used 25 year old males (where you’d expect 1 out of 329 to be dead in 2 years). If the stadium were filled with 80 year old males the dead would be stacked 30 times higher after 2 years….without Covid. And Covid is not purely an additive risk (as mostly it is for a 25 year old) for an 80 year old but more of a substitute risk. The 80 year old who perishes from Covid won’t be dying of cancer or heart disease or Alzheimer’s.

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Oh, I don't feel good about China at all helping eliminate Rhode Island. And I do hold them plenty responsible for acting irresponsibly. The world should be sticking them up for reparations checks. I'll even take mine in Yuan. As to the rest, I don't buy for a second that it's "substitute risk." By that logic, it's a substitute risk for everyone - even the 25 year-old. Because he might die of heart failure when he's 75, so COVID is just sparing him that fate. It's just easier to justify with the former since there's less sand in the hour glass to consider. That's what the COVID minimizers always seize on: well, old people were going to die anyway. Well yeah, we all are. They just weren't going to die this minute. This minute , in hundreds of thousands of cases, was brought to you by COVID. I just hope if another pandemic breaks out when I'm old, people don't say, "Screw it gramps, you're on your way out anyway." In my family, we have two sets of parents, all four over the age of 78. Average life expectancy in the US dropped to 77 in 2020. But I wouldn't say, 'See ya, pops," if my dad fell to COVID now.

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I have written here of my front line experiences at the VA. I am still confused.

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Those are great questions Matt, and everybody here has provided fantastic answers. All I can say is that perhaps our collective emotional exhaustion has led to callousness, or simply a desire to move on (harsh as it may sound), as some sort of coping strategy.

But boy, I'm glad I took the time to read these comments. Thanks everyone.

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Admirable precision.

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Politicians, local to national, left or right, are not in their positions to serve us. It is all about their individual “self-actualization.” No unifying creed at every level of government. Jerry H

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The number is too big. Our brains can't wrap around it. May be why so many decided it wasn't real.

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This will be like 9/11…

https://youtu.be/zZcZ6eJoxeE

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founding

Okay, so I admit upfront this is under the influence of a tequila beverage, but I firmly believe that the next step of human experience will put all of this in the rear view mirror. We will transition from our mortal limitations and find ourselves connected across all dimensions, obliterating all boundaries.

We will shed our corporeal concerns and our impossibly limited apertures and find orgasmic joy in letting go of our egoistic claims and picayune grievances and connecting with all the universe offers.

It will be brief and sublime before we become absorbed into the infinite. Which is where we absolutely will want to be.

Which reminds me of the Buddhist who asked the hot dog vendor to make him one with everything.

I'm looking forward to it.

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This was pretty good, Doc. Crazy as hell, but pretty darned good. Have another drink.

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founding

Creation Theology by Jose Morales

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You forgot the second part of the joke. The Buddhist gives the hot dog vendor a $20 and waits for a minute, then asks “where’s my change.” Hot dog vendor : “change comes only from within.”

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founding

That is transcendent.

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Wow. I gotta start drinking more tequila.

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founding
Apr 14, 2022Liked by Matt Labash

I recommend it.

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Not an expert but I'll venture a guess regarding "forgot the actual human toll":

We are inundated these days with death; on t.v., on social media, on newsites, etc. I think in many ways we've been desensitized to death. Unless it is within one's immediate social circle or family it doesn't register. I base this on my own experience.

I've been in healthcare for almost 20 years. I've seen alot of death. At first, it devastated me when we lost a patient. But over the years I've become used to it. I still get sad, but the tears don't come like they used to.

If I project that out to the population at large it makes sense. The portrayals of death in the last 30 years have become ubiquitous online. School shootings, plane crashes, earthquakes, tornadoes, fires....the affects of those events are there for all to see and browse on the internet.

In sum, I don't think we've forgotten the real, human toll of this pandemic. I just feel we're used to death by now.

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I also work in healthcare. When I consider the floor I used to work on had 36 beds and what it would be like if every day, every patient died....and what that would feel like it is pretty overwhelming. One job I worked as an oncology nurse and we lost 5 patients over one weekend and it was devastating and heart-breaking. Yes, a couple were palliative/hospice care type patients but that didn't make their deaths any easier.

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It might also be that many of us don't know anyone that died from Covid.

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That is a fair point. I personally had a few friend's parents succumb to it. But in surveying my friends and colleagues it is pretty common to hear that they don't know anybody who died from Covid.

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Though as I've pointed out elsewhere, a lot of of people assume because they don't personally know someone who has succumbed, or hardly anyone, that the numbers are goosed. To which I say, heart disease kills nearly 697,000 people a year. Cancer kills 602,000 more. Both, more than COVID. Yet how many people do you personally know who died of cancer or a heart attack in the last year? Most people would say none, or only a couple.

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Yes. That's makes perfect sense. We all have a lot of bad-news antibody build-up.

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Matt, are you still confused? I’ve read all the comments, from the moderately intelligent to the outright brilliant and it’s an all-you-can-eat of good answers. I have nothing to add.

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I agree, Dennis. I'm always encouraged by these outpourings, even when people disagree with me, because the quality of their answers shows that wickedly thoughtful people are reading here. In fact, many if not most of them are noticeably smarter than me. I should probably outsource some hosting duties, so I could get more fishing in.

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Might want to offer that gig to Doc Susan, along with a bottle of her favorite brand of blue agave juice, it being stipulated that she make use of it while employed in that endeavor.

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The science of virology, immunology and epidemiology are very complicated and esoteric disciplines. Where there is no understanding, rumors and denial and false premises take their place. People need to feel they have some sort of control, so they seek it at a level they can understand, even if that happens to be totally misinformed and even dangerous. The first mistake was that no one at the top - government, CDC or news media - really took the time to teach the American public some of the basics of viral infection, how the immune system works, how vaccines work and so on. Then came the mistrust of the actual medical experts generated by the president out of jealousy that one of these experts - Fauci - was becoming a more popular hero than himself. That's when it spiraled downward into political circus.

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Hold on, Mary. Are you implying that Trump is a narcissist, and not a hero? Did you not hear about his recent hole-in-one? And are you also implying that we should know a little something about what we're talking about - perhaps even educating ourselves - before we talk about it? Sheezus, Mary. You are a demanding taskmistress.

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It still blows my mind. I think if Trump had taken Covid seriously, he could have been a hero. We Americans go to ''WAR'' on everything: poverty, cancer. drugs etc. Trump had something that could have been beaten and he the hero and yet he couldn't do it.

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Absolutely, Brian, and he would still be president. He is the one person that could have brought his constituents on board. Instead, he headed them the other way and split the whole country up.

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Why didn’t COVID unite us? Unfortunately, I don’t see a damn thing that can unite us. We’ve become the most tribalized (if that is even a word) as we have ever been in history. We have tribes within tribes within tribes. We hate each because of politics, athletic teams, the type of cars we drive, the cities we live in, the stores where we shop, religion, the color of our skin, and the gender we identify. We literally hate each other for stupid shit that I thought merely 10 years ago we had over come. We will cancel each other in the hopes of destroying lives and livelihoods at the drop of a dime. So why in the world would a nation that has increasingly found our neighbors to be our enemy care about the death of another person unknown to us? For many that person is probably dead from COVID because they are an vaccinated, unvaccinated, obese, old, stupid, Democrat, Republican, elitist, poor, selfish prick who deserved to die because they are a fool that only watches FOX or CNN. And the blame lies squarely on We the People.

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Am starting to get the idea, Mike, that you don't think the healing has begun........

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No but if Elon Musk buys Twitter we will all be saved…🙄

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We didn't see this epidemic. We are used to seeing what is happening. There are more photos of the war and more pulls on our heartstrings for the war in the Ukraine than for Covid deaths. We didn't see the overflowing Emergency Rooms, we saw lines for tests. We didn't see the bodies overflowing the morgue, we saw trucks parked in parking lots. We didn't see the funerals, they were all on Zoom. I think that made it easy to keep the pain and suffering at a distance, to ignore it.

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True enough, I used to think it has to be visual....until Americans see people dying in the street...but even that wouldn't be enough because enough step around sleeping mentally ill homeless people and feel no sense of urgency to have them treated and housed. (ironically, they will pick up a stray cat or dog and bring them to the vet and find them a home though).

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I can't put it as well as my girlfriend who wrote a piece on how lots of the division is a coping mechanism for the horrors around us. I can't put it as well as she did, so I'll link her work instead: https://meghanboilard.substack.com/p/coronavirus-conspiracy-and-coping

I think that thinking of all of this through the angle of coping is an under-discussed lens through which a lot of the goings on make more sense.

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WTF, Ben? How dare you plug your girlfriend's Substack on my Substack? Do I get a kickback or something? Only kidding. That was a smart piece on a tricky subject. Nicely done. Sneering at people's deaths is really wrong, no matter how wrong they were before arriving at death. Turning people's lives into polemics is bad juju. On either side of the ball. And yet, I'm sure I've done it, too. Because I am an imperfect human. Though in fairness to me, I have a lot of company.

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Early on we knew the groups that were highly vulnerable to Covid 19: particularly elderly with underlying conditions; people with diabetes, obesity, heart and/or lung disease, and those undergoing chemo; anyone with compromised immune systems. But we did not put our emphasis on protecting these vulnerable people. We threw a wide net which diluted our efforts to protect the vulnerable. No laser focus. We wasted so much time, effort and money to protect everyone. Instead of the 1 in 329 stat you quote, we tried (in some cases forced) everyone to comply with fiats that may have hurt more people than they helped. Studies will probably be done for decades to decide how much damage we did, unnecessarily, to people who were not vulnerable, particularly children. Personally, I tried to follow the “numbers” throughout the pandemic, but it was very difficult to find accurate figures, because somedays media highlighted cases, other days hospitalizations and somedays the deaths. No breakdowns on ages or health status. This will all come, eventually and we should pay attention.

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The strategy it sounds like you wish we tried is AIER's "focused protection" strategy as put forth in the Great Barrington Declaration. The problem with that strategy — a strategy I would have wanted to succeed, too, if possible — is that its powerful proponents showed no evidence of interest in implementing it.

Doing "focused protection" well would still mean isolating many households. All those vulnerable people live somewhere. Indeed, the conservative ideal is typically for vulnerable people to live with healthier loved ones so that the vulnerable are less of a burden to the public. A real effort at "focused protection" might temporarily break up this arrangement — having vulnerable people move to safe houses served by contactless delivery, reliable teleservices, and limited, cautious in-person service. Or, since many vulnerable, especially the elderly, are too frail to adapt well to moving, moving the healthy people out.

I suppose AIER could attribute its lack of a plan for "focused protection" to its libertarian ethos: people should plan for themselves. But that would not be honest. Take any other DIY project besides "focused protection" and odds are you can find plenty of information published on how to do it. If AIER were serious about "focused protection", it should at the very least have offered itself as a clearinghouse for information on "focused protection", both DIY techniques and info on which volunteers to turn to if, like many vulnerable, you can't realistically do it all yourself. Right on the Great Barrington Declaration itself, there should have been links, "Interested in Focused Protection? Here's how you do it. Here's who can help."

There never were.

No wonder so many, including the vulnerable themselves, doubted "focused protection" was ever a serious strategy, rather than an excuse to not take precautions at all.

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Thank you for your comment. It seems you have good advice for how to cope with a future pandemic that targets vulnerable populations. I hope you reach the people that could do the necessary planning for such an event. We should take many lessons away from this pandemic experience.

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Thanks for your kind reply, but I don't think of my advice as particularly good, just the bare minimum anyone serious about implementing "focused protection" would have to think through.

Speaking as someone fairly libertarian myself, American libertarians have a credibility problem, one not necessitated by libertarian philosophy, but pervasive enough it's no wonder regular folks don't trust libertarians to be serious. Libertarians are easily caricatured as either unreflectively immature about politics ("Weed sounds good, queers don't sound bad, but taxes do kind suck — whee, I'm libertarian!") or closet reactionaries who get off on the strong prospering at expense of the weak:

https://merionwest.com/2019/05/26/conflating-classical-liberals-and-the-alt-right/

A libertarian organization advocating "focused protection" in the abstract, but then appearing not to lift a finger to help the vulnerable who supposedly need that focused protection, not even with DIY tips or referrals to other voluntary organizations, is effectively demanding that the strong prosper at the expense of the weak, even if that's not its intention. The effect can be quite alienating to those who believe someone in their family needs focused protection. Where will these people turn for information instead?

Vox did a better job giving tips for focused protection than AIER did. Effin' Vox. Heck, there were more antifa COVID casserole brigades than there were AIER COVID casserole brigades (not hard since I'm pretty sure there were zero of the latter). Churches can — and should be — great nexuses for mutual aid. But many Americans aren't connected to a church, and many (often for understandable reasons) wouldn't be comfortable making the connection.

Ever since the Great Barrington Declaration, I've periodically checked the AIER website and its affiliates for mutual-aid information: I never found any. Antifa punks beat AIER at the focused-protection ground game. That's pretty sad. Worse, I'm unsure that anyone affiliated with AIER would listen to feedback regarding, you know, actually doing mutual aid.

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I have to disagree, we tried to protect the elderly but in order to do that you have to hit the general public. In my state, the elderly in elder housing died when the staff come to work with Covid. A lot of the staff were unwilling to vaccinate unless forced and many were still fighting it. Many people were unwilling to sacrifice for their neighbor.

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Pretty much all the healthcare workers I know who didn't want to get vaccinated GOT Covid from being a healthcare worker. They followed the science with respect to the studies on natural immunity but were still compelled to vaccinate or lose their jobs. Yet another reason the CDC lost credibility, ignoring natural immunity.

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I know a number of healthcare workers who became reinfected with Covid multiple times, before and after vaccinations were available.

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I bet their reinfections were mild too, ie no matter if it’s vaccination or previous infection, subsequent infection will be mild and not result in hospitalization or death.

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Well, a couple of them were very sick for a few weeks but not enough to be hospitalized but it was no picnic. The infection gets very bad overnight and one of my colleagues said she was sure she was going to die but she did not desaturate however, she had fevers, malaise, muscle aches, headaches and loss of sense of smell for all three of her infections. The current variant appears to make most feel very sick for just a couple days and then better.

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As a disclaimer, what I am about to write will sounds callous, but it should be interpreted as my compassion has been beaten out of me - and not just by Covid. Yesterday, I went to get my second Covid booster. I was offered my CHOICE of three highly effective vaccines. If you have read anything about the decreasing efficacy of the Chinese vaccines in the face of Covid mutations, you will realize how incredibly lucky we are! This otherworldly choice is yet another example of "American Exceptionalism". The big machines of Government and Industry mobilized to solve an incredibly difficult problem in a ridiculously short amount of time. And yet, our death rate from Covid is the highest among our "peer" countries. And no it is not because we are older- Japan and Italy are both older. It is because another aspect of American Exceptionalism is that we are not going to force people who are bad at logical thinking and probability to get the vaccine. Low vaccination rates lead to higher deaths, all else being equal. My point is that being a citizen of this great country allows us the OPTION of access to mind bending great things, WITHOUT compelling us to accept them. Individual liberty, to be real, MUST allow for people to make very bad choices. Since we are actually individuals, there will always be a number of our fellow apes who will make bad decisions. All I can do is model "good behavior" and hope my fellow citizens observe me and take the good bits of strategy and leave the rest.

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Apr 15, 2022·edited Apr 15, 2022

Grump, I didn't get the vaccine because I had Covid (Alpha, circa Nov '20) and still tested positive for antibodies a year later. I've been called selfish, been denied service many places and generally treated as a second class citizen. I appreciate you supporting my option to just say no.

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Liberty means liberty in all things that are not illegal or harmful to others. It is the second half of the sentence that creates "the rub".

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I have read quite a few of your comments...love your definition of liberty, but please enlighten us. You really are not old , are? 58 year old here

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Thank you for your kind words. I am old in the sense that my "reality model" is becoming more and more entrenched. I would like to think that it is because I find arguments to alter it less and less compelling. However, I cannot rule out that I am just a grumpy old guy, standing on my lawn, threatening to "turn the hose on ya!" for your errant thrown ball.

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I don't see the "rub" when it comes to this vaccine since it does not prevent transmission. You take this vaccine to protect yourself, not others. Hence, no rub. Also, you don't force others to take any risk if they're already protected (via natural immunity) and to deny there's zero risk in taking the vaccine is false. I don't know anyone whose died from Covid but I know a 21 year old young man who got transverse myelitis two weeks post vaccine. He couldn't use his legs for a month. He's off work for 6 months. It's been a terrifying experience for him.

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With all due respect, I am surprised by the assertion that vaccinated people do NOT have a lower ability to transmit the disease. Is this what you meant to say? In regards to your other point, Can I imagine a specific person, in a country of 325 million people who is better off NOT getting vaccinated? Of course I can. However, I hang my hat on the 95% plus vaccination rates among doctors. I would believe they have the best information, the best ability to evaluate the probabilities, and have chosen vaccination as the best course of action. That does not mean that for a small minority of people, no vaccination is the better play. However, with the unvaccinated being about 35%, I cannot believe this is the best bet for all these people. Again, they are free not to get vaccinated. But, this is NOT costless for the rest of us. I think CATO's proposal was the best. No vaccination - you pay 100% of your Covid treatment costs. You get vaccinated, your insurance applies. I am sure this policy would NOT move the needle AT ALL. But, at least I wouldn't have to pay for those with bad analytical skills.

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Yes, as one of those docs the number was 96% by AMA survey in June of 2021 with half saying they were getting it so about 98% likely. And thank you for the novel idea that people who have been doing this for a living might actually know something about this as opposed to a sports coach from Peoria with an internet connection. I mean I don't usually second guess my electrician.

I think requiring the unvaccinated to pay a supplemental fee for whatever the actuarial true cost of not vaccinating would move the needle. Talk is cheap but a bill in the mail gets some peoples attention.

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I’d be more than happy to pay for my own treatment out of pocket if society will agree to not mandate I be vaccinated or masked. 😀

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With all due respect, if there is a vaccine mandate, how did you manage to avoid this mandate? There is still choice. All choices have consequences. We could debate whether the consequences are "fair" or "just". Our great country allows us almost unlimited choices. However, it would be unworkable to expect that ALL choices are without consequences.

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Apr 16, 2022·edited Apr 16, 2022

Follow the science, previously infected had better protection than vaccinated individuals. Also I’m married to a physician who was infected at work (ENT) and he fully supports my decision to remain unvaccinated after infection. He was coerced to get vaccinated. He’s had one JNJ and will not get another. His employer was smart not to mandate boosters. They lost too many workers from mandating the vaccine the first go around. Most workers who refused were previously infected. The refusal of public health agencies to recognize natural immunity has weakened their credibility. https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2021.06.01.21258176v2

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Scroll to the interpretation at the very bottom. https://www.thelancet.com/journals/laninf/article/PIIS1473-3099(21)00648-4/fulltext

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Thanks for sending me this. The interpretation:"Vaccination reduces the risk of delta variant infection and accelerates viral clearance. Nonetheless, fully vaccinated individuals with breakthrough infections have peak viral load similar to unvaccinated cases and can efficiently transmit infection in household settings, including to fully vaccinated contacts. Host–virus interactions early in infection may shape the entire viral trajectory." I do not think this disputes my assertion that the net result of vaccination is less transmission.

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Boom. Fantastic comment! Spot on Grump.

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Yes, the mostly-best thing about America is that it's still not against the law to be stupid. I've personally benefitted from that on occasion.

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I have nightmares about the scenario in which everybody is smart. I have to compete with Einstein and Planck for a job at the Bagel store. No thanks!

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I hear you. I suggest that 1) I do not discern direct causality between Covid development being responsible totally for a 30% increase in health insurance premiums. 2) Have you met your fellow Americans? Are we really all going to lose 50 pounds? This seems like a much less robust solution. I am happy to be convinced on both these points.

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deletedApr 15, 2022·edited Apr 15, 2022
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Thank you for your thoughtful response. I am here because I want to learn of my blind spots - not win arguments with people I have never met. I want to reiterate my main point was that WE collectively have the best of all possible Covid worlds in this country. I am not asserting that the burdens of Covid fall equally upon all of us. I will assert that whatever one's situation in this country, if we transported to another country in the same part in the hierarchy, income distribution, whatever, we are all better off here. Your other points interest me as well. 1) I think the wording the insurance company used is the clue to this puzzle. The wording is "costs associated with to <with?> Covid". I am not medical accountant, but my intuition tells me that costs of treating Covid would at least be on par with the costs for vaccinations. If the average cost of a Covid induced ICU visit is $400K, it seems testing and vaccination is more cost effective. In fact, it seems to me these costs are probably orders of magnitude above the costs of prevention. 2) Not to put words in your mouth, but your assertion was that it was "a better idea" to address Covid if we all lost weight. Losing weight, for the vast majority of us, is almost always a good idea. I still struggle to reach the conclusion that it is a better way of blunting the impact of Covid than getting vaccinated. Maybe my analytical abilities are bad, but I sort of hang my hat on the high percentage of doctors who are vaccinated as a guide to what people who know much more than me have concluded. Having said all of that, it is certainly true that there exist individual people who have done the analysis and CORRECTLY concluded that NOT getting vaccinated is the higher probability play for THEM. I assert this is a small minority.

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Apr 15, 2022·edited Apr 15, 2022

The figures I can find suggest that getting vaccinated decreases one's risk of being hospitalized for COVID considerably more than excess adiposity increases it. That many hospitalized for COVID right now have high BMIs does not surprise me. It's what I would expect. But from what I understand, being unvaccinated is still the greater risk factor for hospitalization than overweight is.

It is not fat-shaming to tell people the truth. But it also makes sense for those who don't have one risk-factor under control to compensate with other precautions. People who haven't already lost the weight may be more vigilant about vaccination and masking, for example. Negative judgments toward fatties who vaccinate, or who mask for longer than might make sense for slim, healthy people does strike me as fat shaming, as belittling people for taking compensatory precautions simply because they have another embarrassingly visible risk factor.

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People with obesity know they are overweight, it is not news to them. Most have tried to lose but it is very difficult as it becomes an inflammatory condition. Additionally, there are medications and some medical problems that make them weight-loss resistant. It is why there is a billion dollar weight loss industry.

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For me the problem was the absolute fact that no one knew what to do at the onset of Covid. Not the medical institutions, the government, no one. Then, people in power started to do stuff, and report bits and pieces of things. I guess to stop mass hysteria and make themselves sound like they are on top of the problem. Many people in power also clearly were using the pandemic to get more power or hurt their enemies.

So many of these concepts, policies, etc. that were put in place later became clearly not true, overkill, or some sort of combination. Then of course we had the crazies come out in full force with a social media platform available to them and no shortage of ideas and opinions.

Now we have a big problem, the government doesn’t know what to do and feels it has to do something (again a lot is wrong and a lot is overkill). There is money being thrown around, lives are being lost and lives are financially being ruined. You basically can’t find the truth, but you can substantiate your opinions by just looking at your phone or computer which is feeding you based on your profile.

Talk about a messed up deal! I am surprised we made it this far! I really think when we look back on this in 20+ years we may truly be able to understand our mistakes!

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A problem from the outset was that this thing was spreading all over the world and nobody knew how it was transmitted or how best to protect themselves (hand sanitizer!). During that time the government was trying to calm the panic and give the impression that a vaccine was in rushed development. In the meantime CDC recommended one thing, then another or both. The data about who was getting infected and who was dying was scattershot and unreliable. But time was the key factor. The government didn’t have the luxury of saying “give us a year or two to figure this out and do the best that you can in the meantime.” Now it’s been two years and the virus has mutated a few times.

COVID will probably never go away or be “cured.” Just as flu shots are rejiggered each year for the anticipated strains of the season, and that despite the ready availability of flu shots many choose not to get them, it appears that an annual flu/COVID shot is in our futures. Or just hope you’re lucky.

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I’ve lost just one elderly relative over in Europe but no one here. We’ve had lots of extended and immediate family division over vaccines and masking though.

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So have we! But if you can't fight with your family......A little bit of fighting with family is good practice for having to tolerate people you're not related to.

My condolences on losing your relative.

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That’s a really good point and thank you!

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Apr 14, 2022·edited Apr 14, 2022

I think part of the problem is that the deaths are so unequally distributed. According to a recent article in the Atlantic (https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2022/03/covid-us-death-rate/626972/), only 3% of Americans have lost a close family member to COVID. I am one of the 97% who hasn’t, so for me it is an abstract number, not a lived reality. Far more real are the lockdowns, the mask mandates, the vaccines, and the ongoing supply and labor disruptions. And, indeed, these are where you see most of the attention going.

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Yes, Aaron. Good point. And the not-knowing-people, it seems, has contributed to the sense of this not being real for many people. Though as I always point out to them, hundreds of thousands of people are killed by heart disease and cancer every year - more, even, than COVID. How many of them do you know personally who died of it in the last year? I think I know one cancer victim, and one heart-disease victim. That's it. But it doesn't mean I don't think heart disease and cancer aren't two of the biggest killers in America.

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Right, but for me heart disease and cancer are things I donate money to, and then forget about unless someone I know has it. There's just not much else I can do about it. Likewise, I do a lot around COVID - I get vaccinated, wear a mask, tolerate as best I can the myriad disruptions, donate to local relief efforts - but the numbers beyond a certain point are just "a really big problem." One million feels the same as five hundred thousand. I think that's why the milestone is not attracting as much attention as it might otherwise.

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Thought provoking questions you've posed. Interesting that almost none of the comments below address these questions and, instead, are arguing about who messed up and is to blame (the CDC, Fauci, China, the media, Trump, all of the above?) Which I think is edifying. We need an enemy to blame for the bad stuff that happens. And if there isn't a clear one, then we create one. Everything you and others have compared to (9/11, Vietnam, WW II, etc.) had a clear enemy we could be mad at and people could unite around. How can you be mad at a virus? We needed a surrogate to vent at. (okay Matt who liked English... I should have said "at which to vent." Sorry.) Sadly, we picked different surrogates based mostly on our political leanings. Is this a normal human coping behavior as in "whistling past the graveyard"? Maybe. Is it way more polarizing and obvious in today's connected, online world? Absolutely. So that's my expert psychological analysis. Please leave your 5 cents on the table as the doctor is now out.

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My biggest issue is that so many people expected a perfect answer to a new problem that was constantly changing and even as data or the virus mutated they got mad when the answer changed. Maybe because of the activities I engage in my framework was all about ''Risk Management''. Nothing is totally save but drive carefully and put on a seatbelt, and you are probably going to be fine. i.e. Mask, social distant, vacinate and spend a lot more time outdoors. problem solved ;-)

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Apr 15, 2022·edited Apr 15, 2022

I agree with your assessment. We were dealing with lots of uncertainty but I also think the CDC and Fauci shot themselves in the foot repeatedly and the media backed them up even after the science became much clearer that they were wrong (see cloth masks, natural immunity, Wuhan Lab leak dismissal, shutdowns that didn't work, one size fits all approaches, etc.). I don't think Americans expected perfection but they did expect honesty and a willingness to change their position once the science became clearer. Instead, they dug in with the help of censorship as if they were more concerned about saving face than getting it right. So, yes, vaccines, the CORRECT mask and social distancing when appropriate all made sense but the communication in an admittedly difficult job was horrible. That gave everyone plenty of ammunition to choose a side.

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My one cent: it’s o.k. to end a sentence with a preposition.

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You answered the questions, Tom. And not that you need a grade from me, but it was a good one.

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Why should we expect public health policy to be immune (no pun intended) from the polarization that has afflicted all other aspects of public discourse? As with every other wedge that has been driven between segments of our society, there is plenty of political power/money to be made driving those wedges. What's several hundred thousand lives to those who are so far removed from the real-world consequences of what they espouse? Not that I'm cynical or anything...

The anti-vaxxers moved at warp speed from posing somewhat reasonable questions about the possibility of unknown long-term effects, to disregarding minimal, common sense precautions in a perverse red badge of courage sort of way. The denial of the smoke obviously emanating from the Wuhan lab only served as further justification for those wanting to see vaccinations as part of a larger conspiracy.

On the other end of the spectrum (the anti-anti-vaxxers?), voices with bullhorns demanded that the science be followed even when it turned out that the science could be a rapidly moving target, and some of the loudest voices didn't seem to think that setting a good personal example was all that important. Some of the more Draconian measures taken regarding mass quarantines seemed to go well beyond anything justified by science and data, and created their own long-term problems.

In an alternative universe of responsible government and an educated citizenry, we would have had bipartisan efforts to develop and deploy the vaccine (with plenty of accolades to go around), the avoidance of one person becoming the public face of the scientific/health community, a quarantine effort focused more on the elderly and other medically at risk groups, and an allowance for low risk groups to have something closer to a normal life.

For all the sadness, we were treated to a few moments of dark comedy: The Speaker of the House declaring that Chinatown was open for business-until it wasn't, the President seeming to suggest that bleach injections could be useful to slow the spread, and Bill Maher becoming the lead voice of opposition to the most progressive government in US history.

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Haven’t been reading you as much lately though I really liked some of your articles back in the Iraq/Afghan/Syria/Racial-Social Justice era. The time you tried to wear the Google Glass was particularly funny and your review as well for “How to Live Like a Liberal” (approx title, I admit to forgetting about this book but I remember the review/longform thing). It seems to me you are analogizing the 9/11 plane attacks to the 2020-Forever COVID hubbub. I think that is not worth engaging even if the messiah himself asked me to. It would still be good if you received a more actionable response on that theme from someone else, and I hope that is forthcoming. Best.

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I'll remember this quote until my dying day: Kurt Tucholsky in an essay "The war? "I cannot find it to be so bad! The death of one man: this is a catastrophe. Hundreds of thousands of deaths: that is a statistic!"

Generally misquoted as Stalin saying "The death of one man is a tragedy; the death of one million is a statistic."

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Why do you think it was an event that should have united us? Americans don't think in "lock-step." We knew very early on who was at risk from Covid but we had "one size fits all" policies. The Great Barrington Declaration authors had solutions that would have been much less harmful to our young people but they were denounced. It was as if the public health authorities could not never admit they were wrong. That continues to this day exemplified by the CDC extending the mask mandates for planes and trains. There's no scientific reason for doing so. Pandemics happen. People die. That's life on planet Earth. We never know when our number will be called.

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Yes, Biker Chick. Old people are more at risk. So are those who have underlying conditions, such as the obese or those with high blood pressure. Which describes about half of America these days. Probably more. So there were plenty of people who thought they weren't at risk, who were at risk. Just read all the stories doctors tell of the people who were on ventilators who never thought they would be. But I don't dispute that everyone dies eventually. Last time I checked the numbers, the mortality rate was still hovering around 100 percent.

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Apr 14, 2022·edited Apr 14, 2022

Aren't you at all curious why you didn't hear public health authorities screaming at the top of their lungs for people to lose weight if they wanted to reduce their chance of death from Covid? Nothing about living a healthier lifestyle. It was all about the vaccines. Every adult in the US was able to be fully vaccinated by summer 2021 but the restrictions continued, and continued, and continued.

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All my life health authorities have been telling people to lose weight, stop smoking, and get more exercise and yet Americans are fater than ever. Why do you think that would have worked now? I don't smoke, run about 40 miles a week, and my body fat is about 14.9 %,, but I still masked, social distanced, and got vaccinated. Why? Well, I didn't want to kill anyone. I care about my friends, parents, and even strangers. My grandfather was drafted and fought in WW2, so I think masking, social distancing, and getting a shot doesn't really compare to jumping on a beach in Normandy under fire. ;-)

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Newsflash...you can still contract and transmit Covid.

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Absolutely, they limit your chances but they don't prevent them 100%. Nothing is 100%. In my mind, it is all about ''risk managment'', I spendt the Covid years with friends outdoors: hiking, kayaking etc. and none of us got Covid that way. Most of my friends got Covid from people that weren't vacinated (those that could be indentified) and none of them got really sick. Which is the real purpose of the vaccine, to slow down infection rates and prevent hospitalizations. The biggest problem we had in my area was the non-vacinnated clogging up ER and ICU beds which made it harder to treat car accidents, strokes, and the normal non-Covid health risks.

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I think it's weird to "blame" people for unknowingly spreading a respiratory disease.

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Well, we did have a first lady who tried to talk about healthier foods for kids and she was mocked mercilessly for it. I can't imagine the public outcry if anyone in authority had suggested someone put down the sugary drink or go for a walk.

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That would've worked out swell wouldn't it? People were screaming bloody murder when asked to wear a mask at a grocery store for ten minutes. How do you think it would have gone over if Dr. Fauci had told them to put down their Twinkies and to work out more?

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Apr 14, 2022·edited Apr 14, 2022

That's the role of public health agencies. All I heard from mine was mask, vax and keep your distance. That worked out swell, didn't it?

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Oh, I'm not saying they shouldn't have said it. I'm just saying it would've gone over like a lead balloon. People would've whined even more than they already did, and they whined a lot. What you also have to consider when clocking the mask-vax-keep-your-distance approach is how much worse it would've been with none of that. We'd have hit one million a lot sooner.

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I think we would have had a better outcome for all if we have adopted the GBD, more focused protection for those at risk. Suicides and overdoses have skyrocketed. I consider those Covid lockdown deaths and they resulted in so many years of life lost. There needed to be some risk/benefit analysis to the restrictions. Also, there was no creativity in the response. For instance, let college kids go to class and have the at risk prof appear remotely.

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It was politized from the "get go", Everyone listened to the "great Leader" blame China and then brag about he being the one who gave us the vaccines. All research, comments about the state of Covid in our nation should have been left to the medical community. If you went to your doctor for a checkup and he told you that you have a heart condition, would you want your senator or representative to advise you how to take care of your heart condition? I know you would not. I had a recent conversation with a friend who had all the "answers" about how to cure Covid. From Ivermectin to Hydrochrodox, it cured Trump, when I told her that he got the vaccination, she was shocked. In this environment, we can expect more "snake oil" salesmen to take center stage telling us they can cure, you name it. One of them is now running for the US senate in PA.

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Not only would I not want senators advising me on a heart condition, I wouldn't want most senators advising me on the Senate.

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Agreed.

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At some point the horrible becomes the normal. It is a human coping method that allows one to get on with their life. A psychologist could probably describe it at length but I draw upon my experiences in Vietnam. (please don't thank me or condemn me for my service)

Thanks largely to Donald Trump and social media, polarization would have occurred with or without COVID. Think CRT, illegal immigration, abortion, stolen elections and all of the other cultural warfare battles.

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Thank you for your service, Anthony.

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Where to start? Vaccinated early and boosted and mask wearing and social distancing - still. Also, 75 years old and covid free. The attitude that it is not a worry, it is an old farts death sentence after all must soon be followed by "Let it burn, its an old folks home. They are all on deaths door anyway and this building is on valuable prlperty". You can easily imagine any number more of these cases. When a population begins identifying itself as other than simply human with shared needs throughout life, it becomes callous to those needs if those needs are not immediately their own. Identifying as a political devotee puts the rules and views of that devotion above all else including personal experience (dead wife from covid), science, advice of experts, etc. Yes experts. These folks are expert because they can admit they were wrong, change course, rethink and get the information right. This may happen again and again as an unknown problem is sorted out. Unlike politicians who never change - all the way to prison or the grave yard. So, the pandemic since vaccines has been a pandemic among Republicans and most virulent in Republican strongholds. All the way to the grave yard.

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There is no one size fits all, but the fracture started years ago. The polarization was probably simmering for some time but most people, including politicians, kept it from boiling over. That ended when Trump became President. Any other President, Republican or Democrat, would have united us in the face of a new deadly virus. But for Trump it was another opportunity to chum the waters. He politicized the virus into Blue states/Red states. He encouraged people to go after elected officials who had mandates in place. He demeaned and invalidated scientists. He fanned the flames for violence. We were told the virus was either a hoax or would be gone by Easter. Trump was so successful with the divisive propaganda that by the time he said get the vaccine, he was booed. The tail now wags the dog. And we are left with people who can't acknowledge 1,000,000 dead, don't believe it or don't care.

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Apr 14, 2022·edited Apr 14, 2022

We can’t use American stats because the CDC ensures they are worthless, but the UK’s ONS keeps a good record of age-adjusted mortality. In the UK, the 2020 pre-vaccination Covid plague year was certainly an outlier in terms of age-adjusted mortality in comparison to the record low mortality in the years just prior. On the other hand, age-adjusted mortality in 2020 was LOWER than it was in 2006 and in each and every year prior to 2006. In other words, 2020 was a fairly normal year for age-adjusted mortality looking at the 21st century overall.

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This is not true.

Death rates in 2020 were the highest since 1946 and were 16% higher than 2018 and 2019 which were very close to each other. Specifically the age adjusted death rate rose from 715/100K to 829/100k we saw the biggest decrease in life expectancy from 78.8 in 2019 to 77.3 in 2020. In fact if you use the attributable death method of evaluating the impact of Covid being to take the average age/population adjusted deaths in the pruior years compared to say 2020 you get about 30% more deaths.

I dont know where you get your figures since you are writing off the CDC as worthless, and they aggregate death certificates from all our health departments across the country. Do you have an alternative source? Calvin and Hobbes?

I have spent 30 years as a physician and the idea that health departments all across the country are fabricating data as part of a grand conspiracy is absurd. I have worked with these people all my life and they just do their job like we all do. The conspiratorialists believe that all us MDs are just political shills with an agenda ready to falsify the data. I know no doctor that would falsify a death certificate and have done hundreds. It is also to be noted that the state with the highest death rates in the country Mississippi, Alabama, West Virginia, are not known to be overun by some liberal cabal. You are the one who are putting your politics into play. If I have a patient who dies at home and I do the death certificate and they were not tested for COvid they dont get that diagnosis. Your conspiracies are predicated on 1000s of people regularly lying, and sorry, that is not the world, whether people are conservative or liberal, most are honest.

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Also- the age adjusted mortality rate in the US - per the CDC - was lower in 2003 and in every year prior to 2003 than it was in 2020. Do you know how to read a simple graph ?

https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data-visualization/mortality-trends/index.htm

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Apr 14, 2022·edited Apr 14, 2022

Perhaps take time to read before responding. UK. ONS. 2020. Age-adjusted mortality. Do you understand these simple terms? So glad I have more doctors whom are more careful and less impulsive and sloppy than you!

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I have not done a deep dive into UK data but this being an article talking about US deaths. and being a US physician I cant imagine that the virus is somehow different in UK.

You start off by making a claim that CDC data is useless, and that is just false. CDC aggregates data from all county public health departments and is no different than anywhere else. I don't know what the premise is, that the US is some backwater scientifically as opposed to the UK.

UK death rates total pandemic are slightly lower than the US at 246/100k vs 297/100K mostly attributable to higher vaccinations.

Being that this is a discussion of mostly people in the US discussing US deaths I dont see why UK would be an exception.

And they arent. Here is a source UK Office of National statistics that states and I quote "In 2020, there were 607,922 deaths registered in England and Wales; an increase of 14.5% compared with 2019 (530,841 deaths)." The US saw a rise of 16% so not that different. Source: https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/birthsdeathsandmarriages/deaths/bulletins/deathsregistrationsummarytables/2020

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If anything, the excess mortality numbers seem to show the death count from COVID is low.

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Low is a relative term. Is 1.3M deaths low? that is about 30 Vietnams. That is the highest death rate since 1946. Here is another way to look at it. There are 25,000 homicide deaths in the US. How would you react if that went up by 20x. What we are actually seeing is a rise of about 40% in 2020 and 5% in 2021, which has an enormous amount of people rightly concerned and a leading political issue. To get to Covid numbers, that would need to go up 2000%

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Good article Matt.

The metric that I like to use is Vietnam because people have such a strong reaction to that war. 50,000 US soldiers died in action in Vietnam roughly 1/20th of US Covid deaths to date. And that was over a period of 20 years with the peak annual deaths in 1968 at 17K compared to a peak Covid year of 2021 with 415K dead about 25x peak Vietnam deaths.

Now some writers here note that Covid deaths are disproportionally the elderly which is true, median death age is 78, but 1/3 of all deaths some 300,000 + deaths were under 65 years old, people with life expectancies of 20-30 years.

As a 72 year old I prefer to not think that I am expendable and need to hang around to see if we abandon Constitutional democracy or go back to watching baseball.

One other thing to note, although the "what me worry" Covid crew love to figure out conspiracies where doctors and hospitals are colluding to raise the number, in actuality if you use the attributable death method, which is to take the total number of deaths which did not change much between 2018 and 2019 and then the deaths in 2020, and attribute that to Covid ( annual deaths rarely change a lot year to year) deaths runs about 30% higher, so suspect Covid is running about 1.3M. Now that includes deaths due to say hospitals being overun that might not be Covid, but also the fact that I am well aware of being a doctor and having done a lot of death certificates, that we dont Covid test elderly people post mortem that die at home or en route to the ER and though there are reasons for both over and undercounts , the undercount is much more likely and is borne out by the attributable death method.

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Apr 14, 2022·edited Apr 15, 2022

"As a 72 year old I prefer to not think that I am expendable"

And, if you were one of the 72 year olds who did consider your life expendable, and you would have preferred to be around those taking more risks in hopes of enjoying life more, I would have understood that, too.

I had a conversation with an older guy, empty-nester, confident his wife would survive financially if she were widowed. (Same guy I had the Kavanaugh conversation with.) Comparing his age to my relatively-high-risk-factor youth, he and I might have been facing about the same chances of COVID injury, but we valued the chances very differently:

For me, death or disability from COVID would mean abandoning very young kids, who need a live, functioning mom. I know for other reasons that, when I consider just myself, I'm more indifferent than average to living or dying. But I don't have just myself to consider anymore. And I have very good reasons to be "allergic" to further health burdens, especially if I suspect I would be blamed or dismissed for them.

After vaccination, I haven't worried much about COVID, specifically. (Unfortunately, COVID also revealed information suggesting I should worry more about respiratory infections generally.) My emotional reaction to vaccination was, "Haha, they can't blame the likes of me for shutting down society anymore!" That's a pretty low-trust reaction.

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Totally agree with your analysis, Dr. Jack. And you could take the military parallel even further. We've now lost nearly 400,000 more people to COVID than we did during the Civil War, our nation's bloodiest, where we were trying as hard as we could to kill each other. Come to think of it, COVID kind of resembled a second civil war in more ways than one.

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There is a lot of bashing in general. Somewhere over the past … decade? 20 years? 50 years? … (I’m not sure when it happened, and I’m not sure it matters, as here we are) being rude/nasty/obnoxious/oppositional to those we disagree with became acceptable. Not only did it become acceptable, but it also became nearly necessary, if you wanted to be heard above the ruckus.

Masks and vaccines are not, in and of themselves, political. But in the current environment, when, if you disagree with something, you simply state your “opinion” louder than everyone else, apparently they are. You don’t even have to listen all that closely to hear several someones tell you how gargling vinegar, barrel proof bourbon, or Drano (or maybe a mixture of all three - I wasn’t paying attention) cured their Covid symptoms.

Honestly, it’s exhausting. As is listening to people lament, “THIS ISN’T WHO WE ARE!” I’m sorry - the data states otherwise. This is, most definitely and for better or (mostly) worse, who we are.

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Well said Robert and Matt, and the question is how do we get back.. It is telling that as a physician working in a conservative southern mill town most of my career, I never had a political bone to pick with anybody, loved my patients, and the county went solid for Trump and I am a conservative Democrat.. Now I find people are so distrusting and angry when you talk about Covid or anything similar,. and they have something that they read on the internet that they value over my opinion.

It has been said that anti institutionalism once the view of the left in the 60s has now become the right's modus. I don't minimize left biases being a Bill Maher type of Dem. but people thinking that the entire scientific community, CDC, is some sort of political organization is beyond me.

Sure, people like Fauci can be overly cautious, you expect an infectious disease guy to be on the cautious side just like your DDS is big on toothbrushing. and people take his data to push policy that I disagree with eg school lockdowns, but he is an expert in his field and served Reagan and Bush and suddenly becomes this evil person and he is not the one who decides any public policy, just an advisor. And oddly he was picked by Trump which makes the whole thing like some Celebrity Apprentice episode. If everybody Trump picks is then demonized by his minions - Tillerson, Bolton, Scaramucci, Barr et c. etc., what does that say of his employment skills

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Sadly, I agree with you and the data. I tried that bourbon cure, by the way, when I had COVID. Didn't work, but I minded less.

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Apr 14, 2022·edited Apr 14, 2022

"How did something that should’ve united us become the most polarizing event of the last several already-polarized decades?"

COVID risk was one of Shiri's scissors. As were the Kavanaugh hearings.

COVID risk hit a real sour spot in risk assessment. It was never "just the flu", but it was close enough to "just the flu" in prominent populations to divide rather than unite.

Returning to the Kavanaugh hearings, I saw enough of Ivy-bound youth culture to know that the behavior like what Blasey Ford described was common enough, and wouldn't necessarily be remembered by guys who might think of it as just a lark, and may have been blackout drunk in any case. I didn't consider my background knowledge anywhere near enough to justify punishing anyone so long after the fact, even with the comparatively mild punishment of denying a high office. But I remember taking flak for conservative peers simply for believing that something like what Blasey Ford had described could well have happened, even if it didn't justify long-after-the-fact punishment.

I got in a particularly heated argument with one guy. Since we're both fairly math-literate, I asked, wait, can we put numbers on the likelihood that Blasey Ford's testimony described an event that really happened? When we compared estimates, our estimates disagreed by 10%. I cannot stress how *small* a disagreement that is in this context. And yet we had seemed bitterly "on opposite sides" anyhow.

"Shiri's scissors" come from this tech-fiction story by Scott Alexander:

https://slatestarcodex.com/2018/10/30/sort-by-controversial/

"Any predictive network doubles as a generative network. If you teach a neural net to recognize dogs, you can run it in reverse to get dog pictures. If you train a network to predict Reddit upvotes, you can run it in reverse to generate titles it predicts will be highly upvoted...

"Reddit has a feature where you can sort posts by controversial. You can see the algorithm here, but tl;dr it multiplies magnitude of total votes (upvotes + downvotes) by balance (upvote:downvote ratio or vice versa, whichever is smaller) to highlight posts that provoke disagreement. Controversy sells, so we trained our network to predict this too..."

The conceit of the story is that internet ad agencies are generating winning stories in the "controversial wars" to sell ad copy. That may be only a somewhat anthropomorphized, simplified version of what's really happening.

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I understand nothing about math but like the way you write.

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From now on, Midge, I'm coming to you for my math needs. I was more of a P.E./English guy.

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I'm flattered! Often distracted right now by the baffling logic of raising small children, but flattered!

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I find it so difficult to get perspective, mostly because I trust almost no one to tell me how to think about this.

Yes, there is a lot of journalist-bashing these days. Couldn't happen to more deserving people, most of the time. I'm supposed to trust their take?

Or Fauci, the CDC, the mask police? Have ANY of them acknowledged errors, or shown any humility?

One million dead. Compare that with those dead in the same period of time from heart disease, cancer, strokes, car accidents. Much better than the last global flu. It's a statistic.

But. Harvey died.

"The mayor" they called him, in the assisted living residence where my wife works. He won't be reading in the Stations of the Cross service tomorrow.

I miss Harvey.

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"I find it so difficult to get perspective, mostly because I trust almost no one to tell me how to think about this."

I on the other hand trust most people in a kind of Will Rogers, cowboy philosopher " I never met a man I didn't like." sense. There are evil people in the world, mostly people are decent and honest and they do their jobs. That doesn't mean I dont need to do due diligence to parse out the truth, there has always been controversies in medicine, and research typically does come to different conclusions because every experiment and study has different parameters. Over time things get sorted out. Much of the public does not understand that. They think that if at first people said to mask and then not to mask it means that they were lying, where I see it as how knowledge evolves. We once though estrogen reduced heart disease and learned that it didnt. With Covid we learned that early mechanical ventilation was harmful. We practice medicine differently than we did 50 or 5 years ago. That is not because we are duplicitous but nothing is written in stone.

What I feel the lay public or more specifically the distrustful conspiratorial public gets wrong is that medicine is infallible and when anything changes it is proof that we were making things up. No, we use our best judgement at the time to try to keep people from harm. People act like there is some conspiracy to eg hide that hydroxychloroquine is the answer just seems insane to me. It is at the same time when we realized that dexamethasone does work and it was after for example in the NYC epidemic in early 2020 they routinely tried Hydroxychloroquine but found out it didnt work. How people cam to conclude that the medical community was trying to hide some miracle cure seems insane when at the same time in hospital mortality from Covid was reduced from 5% to under 2%. Ultimately, why I dont believe conspiracies is they have no logic. Doctors spend all this time trying to keep you alive, but in this one case they are really trying to kill you?

There is a distinction between scientists and politicians and I might disagree with some of the public policy, am not a hard lockdowner, but the scientists and doctors are doing what they have always done, business as usual, testing hypothesis, doing studies, trying to figure out problems to help people.

They have reduced in hospital mortality for Covid from about 5% initially now down to 1-2%, they came up with vaccines that have likely saved 100s of thousands of lives. Yes, I trust these people because I have worked with them for my entire career and the idea that they are some malevolent conspiratorial cabal seems no more likely than that the auto mechanics are secretly trying to make cars run worse ( there was the Volkswagen scandal come to think of it).

Actually scientists have admitted errors, they have changed policies, they have learned what works and what doesn't. As humans they are not immune to hubris but what the conspiratorialists dont understand is the system in which science works always changes, evolves and improves.

1 million dead is not a statistic. It is real people- grandparents, parents, children. Human life has value. It is not quite as bad as 1918 or the black plaque but that is hardly a case for adapting "what me worry" as one's motto.

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Apr 14, 2022·edited Apr 14, 2022Author

Except, I'd add, that heart disease and cancer have been around forever. This disease came out of the blue - or a lab in Wuhan - and became our third leading killer overnight. And heart disease and cancer aren't contagious. Were the public health types the only ones politicizing? Or were they taking stabs in the dark, and sometimes turned out to be wrong, when we were all unsure about a novel virus? And what about all the times they turned out to be right? As in the projected death toll? Would the people who were absolutely certain that nothing worked (masks, vaccines, etc.) have been more uncertain if the public health types expressed more humility?

And sorry about Harvey.

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I agree with a lot of what KAM says here. There was very little, if any, acknowledgement of errors, and very little humility. And Matt, you mention the lab leak. How long was it until we were allowed to really say that out loud? When that theory first came out, you were a horrible person if you talked about it. But now we know more and it looks pretty likely, or at least possible, that it came from a lab. The CDC made a lot of mistakes at the beginning of the pandemic. Have they addressed those mistakes? Humility is key here. We didn't know a lot about this virus, we know more now. But I don't know how well we do with uncertainty. I think we prefer to be experts over learners.

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Bingo - the experts over learners business. That's been the rub all along.

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Thank you.

As I say, it's hard to get perspective.

The politicization happened on all sides, true enough. People close to me refused to get vaxxed. Other people wished death on them.

Here's where I have to push back, and say again: I saw little-to-no humility among the health authorities and their progressive enforcers.

Everyone makes mistakes. But do these people believe that?

The mortality rate is 100%. Have they accepted that? Yes, work hard to push it farther out, to postpone it. But don't live in denial. We are a generation living in denial.

I complied, got vaxxed and boosted and did pretty much all I was asked to do. But I'm much less willing to give them the benefit of the doubt now.

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I wouldn't dispute they made some iffy calls. I still think the early mask reversal (they do help/they don't help) is among the iffiest. (I err on the side of they do help in crowded indoor situations when there's plenty of virus prevalent.) And better transparency might have helped. Along with them not pretending they were certain about things that they turned out to amend. (Some suggesting you couldn't catch the virus if vaccinated.) But on balance, I'd say the public health skeptics were wrong a lot more often. I remember doing battle with one in an online debate for the Spectator mag, who claimed we'd never reach World War I levels of deaths. This was around May of 2020. The US lost a little under 117,000 people in WW I. So he was only off by 900,000 or so. And we're still not done losing people......

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I agree that the skeptics were wrong more often.

Of course, they aren't authorities, or even professionals. (I can't remember the last time I paid Mike at the liquor store for a consultation.)

And nobody knows much.

https://www.npr.org/sections/coronavirus-live-updates/2020/03/29/823517467/fauci-estimates-that-100-000-to-200-000-americans-could-die-from-the-coronavirus

Then this:

https://www.statnews.com/2021/09/20/covid-19-set-to-overtake-1918-spanish-flu-as-deadliest-disease-in-american-history/

...which mentions that our population is now more than three times as large as in 1918... in the tenth paragraph.

Changing the subject somewhat: The least acknowledged casualties in all this may be the teens we locked away with just their Insta accounts to keep them warm.

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Apr 14, 2022·edited Apr 14, 2022Author

Yeah, but that Spanish Flu comparison still isn't wrong. It's just wrong to say that it's deadlier proportionally than the Spanish Flu, since our population was smaller then. But a larger total number of people have died in our country during COVID. And they don't care about proportions, they just care that they're dead. Or used to care, when they were still able to.

As for the teens, yes. There was a lot of messiness there. There was a lot of messiness everywhere - these things happen during worldwide pandemics. There were a lot of similar societal strains during the Spanish Flu. I'm sure the Bubonic Plague was no picnic either. Though do you know any teens? I do. A lot of them would've been locked away in their Insta-cocoons anyway.

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I don't know many teens any more, my kids being in their 30's now, and the ones I do strike me as exceptional. So that's just my mediated impression.

For the rest, yes, that's all part of the challenge of perspective, and the reason for my vague reference to Stalin's observation. ("The death of one man is a tragedy. The death of millions is a statistic.")

Loved your Louis C.K. bit. How do we compare? We don't, can't—not and do it justice. We understand it best, maybe, when we remember the names and faces of the people WE knew and loved and lost, personally.

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founding

At the risk of over-simplifying, it is mostly older people, who were going to die anyway (just like everyone else ever born, of course). If it were mostly children, it would be ranked the greatest tragedy ever to befall the U.S. There is a reason why the illness charities use “poster children”.

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Apr 14, 2022·edited Apr 14, 2022

And, besides older people, younger people with risk factors, many of which are perceived (sometimes with better, sometimes with worse, justification) as self-inflicted. (It's also tempting to write off younger people whose risk factors clearly aren't self-inflicted as, "Hopeless cases anyhow — anything coulda gotten to 'em.")

Death isn't the only hazard, and may not prove the most costly hazard. Evidence keeps mounting that, for an unlucky minority, postviral malaise is real, and not cured with a good attitude and exercise routine. I've seen actuarial reports passed around by libertarian economists (so, not the big-government sympathy-sisters who want everyone to feel like a "victim" and be on disability, if such sympathy-sisters exist in more than the right-wing imagination) estimating the disability burden of COVID: it is extensive.

Key words? "Unlucky" and "minority" — it's so easy to suppose that "anything" might've gotten the unlucky if "this" didn't.

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I knew 2 people who died. MAGA anti-vaxxers, proud of their free-dumb up to the point they got ventilated.

Oh well.

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I lost 2 people: A cousin and a cousin in-law. One early in the pandemic before vaccines, and one unvaccinated during the Delta wave in 2021.

I wish I knew where we went so wrong that their deaths would matter so little to so many.

I think that people in general are so self-centered and selfish they only really care when something affects them directly. It was easy to drum up caring over something like 9/11, it was a discrete event with someone obvious to blame. Pandemics and sickness aren’t like that.

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I will postulate that the country has de-Christianized so rapidly that our moral bearings are very much in flux, and this has thrown us into confusion and conflict. Everything seems up for grabs and there is a clerical power vacuum with a fierce conflict over who will assume the guardian of morality role. Social trust under these circumstances is exceedingly low…

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Apr 14, 2022·edited Apr 14, 2022

It's not just de-Christianization, though, or at least not de-Christianization as it's commonly understood. For example, the prosperity gospel ought to properly be classified as heresy in orthodox Christianity, but is the gospel of many American Christians.

Increasing knowledge and technology make suffering less socially acceptable. On the one hand, the Christian God came to humanity as a blameless man who nonetheless suffered: Christians aren't supposed to be afraid to suffer. On the other hand, "He who does not work, neither shall he eat,": if you aren't doing work you *could* be doing to avoid suffering that harms your productivity, you're sinning — and we are supposed to fear sinning.

We now know more than ever and can do more than ever to address suffering that harms people's productivity, causing them to burden others more than they otherwise might. Indeed, we are so good at this that any residual suffering seems suspect, not an inevitable aspect of the human condition, but a sign of sin — that you weren't good enough or hardworking enough or smart enough to avoid it. The prosperity gospel formalizes this suspicion, rendering *any* sign of suffering a sign of insufficient faith. But even those rejecting the prosperity gospel are tempted to "blame the victim". And with some good reason! The more knowledge we have to control suffering, the more likely suffering is to signal some defect in self-control. There is a sense in which increasing technological mastery means we *should* blame victims more.

And then there is the scandal of Christ on the cross. Do we dare blame omnipotent God, the innocent Christ, for suffering?

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Good point, it is both. Far fewer people identify as Christians or attend services, and at the same time a lot of the Christianity we do have left is flat awful. It is part of the reason that while I fear the trends on religious identification and practice, I can’t help but cheer them on!

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founding

The worst advertisment for Christianity has come from people who claim to be followers of Christ. Mostly they seem to me to be Judgy McJudgefaces. Thieir pride in being God's date to the prom is tiresome. It's chased a lot of us away.

Plus, Fox.

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Yeah, although even as a soft atheist I would encourage people not to let those factors influence your own beliefs. You’ll find Judgy McJudgefaces in your NPR tote bag crowd too - that’s a humanity thing that can be supercharged by religion, whether that religion is Christianity or Wokeianity or whatever.

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Good counterpoint, Counterpoint! Someone named you well.

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founding

Oh, so true. Guilty as charged of judging the Judgy McJudgefaces.

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I'm a believer, so I'm judging you right now, Susan. (Wink emoji.) Sadly, you raise an uncomfortable point - way too many churches not only haven't acquitted themselves well, but have been among the worst behavior problems of the bunch. Truly awful, in some cases. Good thing we pray to God, and not man.

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This is past, regardless how awful,

I’m busy thinking about the future, how the Republican Party has totally gone off the rails yet all predict them to take back house and senate - and then maybe the presidency!!??

( Mitch McConnell just sitting there licking his lips, waiting. Argh!)

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Yep, it's historical the party in power loses house and/ or senate first mid term election. I am not for history to change this year. Now, I was hoping for the party in power to deserve to change history. Not the case

It seems that the fringe elements of both parties, McConnell included, make each of them inconsistent with what the majority of informed, thoughtful Americans believe is best for our country.

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Tortoises have lips?

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One in 329. That may be an explanatory factor in why we were able to politicize a health emergency. I read somewhere that the average American has personal contact with at most 150 people, even counting social media. That suggest that the majority of us have no immediate family or friend who died of COVID. We know OF someone who died but we didn't know them. And since a higher proportion of the victims where the poor and the elderly, it was even easier to use COVID in this ongoing cultural and political battle that we are fighting.

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9/11 only consisted of ONE 9/11.

Solid perspective from the gherkin-jerkin’ sage.

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You wanna punish him more? Hasn't he beaten himself enough?

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Nah. I kind of want to rub it in.

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Great, I'm all out of masturbation jokes. You'd think I could've tossed more off.

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Could be choking 'cuz you've chickened out.

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Dammit! Bested again! I'm now smacking hairy palm to forehead.

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No wonder it's all the rage to bash journalists if they're storing that anatomy on their forehead.

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What machine or force desensitized us to the point where the culture war of the moment is all that matters? Is it the saturation of news via cable TV or other platforms? Is it that plus the social media outlet of your preference. Things may be too fargone at this point that only a crisis of unspeakable proportion could unite us. And even then, I'm not so sure.

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Man am I ever envious of folks who can take their minds off all of those people we’ve lost and those we will likely lose. I think about it every day. Hoping your very smart readers have a suggestion on how to more effectively put my lips together and blow.

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My answer to "What happened to us?" Without the full-throated dis-information industry making a national health emergency into a political tribe issue, there would have been many fewer deaths and a faster full recovery.

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Well Matt, as I see things from my tiny corner what we are seeing is human nature coming loose at the seams.

Many churches are no longer concerned about people’s salvation but about political, sexual and worldly opinions.

There is no love, mercy or grace. Just an attitude of I’m right and your wrong.

I want to keep this simple so will stop right here with my plea. God grands love, mercy and grace to those who acknowledge Him and obey. We in turn must extend this love, mercy and grace to others. We don’t have to like everyone but we Christ followers are commanded to love, even our enemies.

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Amen, Loren.

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I can't do it this time Matt. I have lots of opnions on the subject, but I just want to move on. My wife wants to go to some concerts and I said that I'm not going if they're wearing masks. I just want it to end and I want to be left alone to make my own stupid decisions. I'm done even blaming China. Maybe we should adopt a medieval attitude: they use to blame a skeleton walking about with a scythe. I do feel sad for those injured or who have died. I pray for them daily. Best I can do.

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