The Survivor

A rude tale of COVID.

I stumbled into a dragon's lair
And fought the beast that wasn't there.
My shield and armor peasants mocked
Served well and vile fire blocked.
And now I've stumbled out again
To warn you of the dragon's den.
Although I'm weary and still coughin'
You won't soon find me in a coffin.

The more you live, the less you should fear death, but you should be prepared for it nevertheless. I’m talking about COVID of course, but since I’m feeling a bit snarky today, I think it’s the perfect time to ask a rude racial question.

How many White Supremacists do the Wokies expect to die because of their undying hatred of the mask-mandating Democrats that Negroes elected? In other words, isn’t COVID a blessing that will displace predominately White Republicans by literally killing them? Oh wait. It’s rude but not a big enough deal. Only 721,000 Americans have died. Even though that’s 700x the amount killed by cops in a year, I’m sure its lack of racial intentionality will make it a dismissible figure despite its disparate impact. We’ll don’t say I didn’t try.

While we’re dealing with morbid subjects, I should hasten to add that part of my own Stoic journey has resulted in something of a darker sense of humor than I ever had before. Consequentially I’m able to joke about uncomfortable subjects ‘too soon’. I must admit this gives me pleasure for which I bear no guilty feelings. At the very least it has given a new lease on my personal password security regime. It’s almost trivial to add your own signature rude phrase to your current weak ass hacker bait passwords and buffing them to nearly industrial strength by adding simple phrases. Might I suggest a few to prefix, infix or postfix:

  • YeahRight!

  • asIFIn2020

  • ZeroFucksAnyway

  • IDGAF (just put it in the middle of something)

  • &whippedHaitians

  • LetsGoBrandon

My Policy
OK enough fooling around. Let’s get down to the hard questions.

  1. Should there be vaccine mandates in workplaces? Schools?

  2. Should there be mask mandates in workplaces? Schools?

  3. Are such mandates "fascist" or "totalitarian" in any way?

COVID has killed 721k Americans. Everything the CDC has said has the most significant property of being inconsistent, not of being draconian. Neither president has made a simple, clear declarative statement of what can be done and what can be enforced. This is a consequence of politicians having a relationship of convenience to the scientific community and the world of facts and reason. If reason polls poorly, politicians will not apply it to the detriment of all. People want consistency. It’s too late for that. People want a date when it ends. That will never be predicted. So as with Katrina, we are on our own in the midst of a crisis - a crisis not quite deadly enough to get people off their asses. It should be noted that all the talk about FEMA camps have not materialized into anything affecting anyone. We are still capable of being entirely distracted by fake news of mounted cavalry whipping at the border.

If I were president, this is what I would do. I would give a clear order referring to the rules given to our armed services and declare it as the Federal standard. I will release that standard and all of its rules and regulations to the public with the understanding that the Federal government will not enforce this law upon the public. It is the best thing we do to keep our services in war fighting condition. You can do what the troops do, or you can fuck off and die. That is your freedom. If you don’t like it, it is your right. But we’re not going to pay for your funeral or give you any special benefits whatsoever. We urge you to do what we know works best. You can never say that we gave any special advice or privileges to anyone.

The aim here is to be like a one way door. You can go out, but you can’t get in. The analogy would be the federal ‘decriminalization’ of marijuana. We won’t shut you down, but we’ll still do drug testing if you want a federal job. We won’t help the states busting dealers, but we won’t bank them. It is passive. It’s bad government but it’s easily consistent and it allows individuals to make life or death decisions without compulsion. In my presidency, the good of the nation starts by not compelling people to do what we believe to be right. So like with drugs, freedom includes the right to destroy your own health. And yet we’ll still be ‘elitist’ by saying “not in my house”. Yet to be clear, my federal government will mandate one thing.

So to answer the questions:

1. The standard 2 shot should be mandated. This requires the FDA to end its emergency authorization. This applies to every citizen everywhere, period.

1a. Issue a new Federal ID. Sunset it in 3 years.

1c. The states may purchase foreign vaccines from an approved FDA list of those which qualify. 

2. Masking is up to the states, every citizens everywhere. States may police as they choose. California tried to recall Newsom, it didn’t happen.

3. Mandates are what they are. If you think they are unconstitutional, make your case. You will not gain any reward if you win. It’s not as if the virus cares about democracy.

When I contracted COVID it had been about 3 months since I was vaccinated and 15 since I adopted all of the social distancing mana which I took seriously. I had a reasonable suspicion that the lab leak hypothesis was true, and was convinced that the virus was weak outdoors and on surfaces, but powerful indoors. I had my own stash of gloves and masks and balaclavas and essentially went out looking tacticool to the supermarket for most of 2020.

I got the Moderna shots in April. Mine was one of the first breakthrough cases of the ‘Delta Variant’. My uber healthy daughter, the week prior, came home with the sniffles. Then my other daughter tested positive. My wife’s health condition put her in all of the red categories for elevated susceptibility. All of us work from home. Within days we all, with only the slightest symptoms went to go get tested, several of us for the nth time. Our results were positive. My son who lives a couple miles away, refused the shots but regularly tested negative.

In retrospect, the only thing I am really sure about was that the vaccine was effective. I was ill for basically 2 days, but I was lightly coughing and spitting on my daily runs for about 5 weeks thereafter. I had a doctor deign to physically see me and check my lungs which were declared clear. Yet I knew that I had what I would call a very high upper-respiratory niggle. I had about 5% more snot in me at all times. That’s pretty much gone, and now my Apple watch tells me that my VO2 Max is rising again. It had gone down several percentage points.

The amount of confusion I experienced over the difference of being contagious and testing positive caused me the greatest amount of grief. As a mildly symptomatic patient (I never had a fever) I was informed that 10 days of isolation would suffice. I found myself coughing uncontrollably in short bursts on the Friday two days after that period at the dinner table in a restaurant with some old friends. That same day I hung out with my 85 year old father. The next day I went to get tested again and was found positive. I was mortified at the prospect of having infected everyone. It was profoundly worse than being sick.

It took an entire day of suffering the agony of intense guilt for me to get myself together, trace back all of my steps and compose emails to all of the parties. I followed up in every case with phone calls. In the end it was this page at MIT that restored my sanity as well as some casual advice from sniffle daughter, who had been cleared back for work as a fitness instructor.

Over time, I got mixed results from subsequent inquiries. The County of Los Angeles had someone personally contact me by phone during my original quarantine period. She had the sniffles too. The facility that tested me gave me two tests since I was breakthrough, but HIPAA prevented them from knowing if I was actually infected by delta. They sent the second sample to Quest Diagnostics. The Quest result came back negative 3 weeks later. Huh?

It is trivially easy for me to trust MIT over the White House and its functionaries. But I couldn’t have done that if it were not for my deeper understanding of how we come to knowledge by keeping in touch with rational debate. The mixed results in testing made me consider the rationality of leaning toward a false positive being preferable to a false negative. I am oversharing now because it’s part of my smartass personality but also because being open to criticism is always useful. I have compared several doctors’ opinions and followed many links on my Saturday of Tribulation to the CDC, WHO, Johns Hopkins and academic papers. I settled on the MIT link for its clarity and comprehensiveness, but I was most impressed by the study that showed the viability of the virus after 14 days was not even good enough to replicate on its own in a petri dish. I seem to recall something on the order of 2300 test subjects.

The Ethics of Pandemic Life
It’s difficult for me to estimate how robust American society is. I like to count myself among the anti-fragile even though, like Sgt Murtaugh, I’m too old for this shit. Yet I know we sustain a population of numbskulls who are intent on sustainability. Thanks to David Deutsch I know consider ‘sustainability’ to be a bad word, as in “We need to sustain our lifestyles and therefore resist that which would alter the current conditions on the planet.” If you don’t experience problems, you are not likely to use your creativity to solve problems. But even if you do, the worse thing to do is to cower in fear of them by loathing their ‘inevitable’ consequences. In the case of COVID, saying that you will never wear a mask can be considered ‘sustaining freedom’. The current conditions of bad government, social dysfunction and deadly pathogens in the wild make for a triple threat of problems. Holding fast and doubling down is not a winning strategy. You must be prepared for new knowledge that changes what you now believe to be inevitable. (I’m talking to you Paul Ehrlich)

I prefer instructions to authority. So I will follow good instructions and resist authority. There are people who are loyal to a fault who will do the opposite. But we should remember that instructions tend to evolve and improve much faster than we are capable of booting bosses.

The germs are still out there incubating in a million lungs around the world. As well there are sick people with sick minds who will cough without conscience. Even in my neighborhood, the courtesy of wearing the flimsiest tissue of a mask is not much of a sacrifice to me. We’re all still vulnerable in ways the authorities cannot prophesy. The laws of physics are indifferent to intent, so we must inevitably deal with what is allowable by them. Remember that God allows evil to reside in the hearts of men. Heaven only knows (but won’t intervene) what voters might vote for next. So we’re going to get dirty and we will have to use our imaginations to figure out how to get clean. Those instructions are in the process of being written, and when they converge in your daughter, your doctor, the CDC and MIT, that will be all the clues you get. So you have to be listening, not to authority, but for the consistency of reason.

Strong reasons make strong actions. Let us go.
If you say ay, the king will not say no.
— Shakespeare