Masks follow up

Neal Priest is unable to offer a scientifically valid counterargument to my hypothesis that masks may enhance the spread of Covid. In place of one, we are treated to the old logical fallacy of appealing to authority. He cites a number of dubious scientific “studies” and proceeds to quote some of the more opaque but scientific sounding lingo — e.g. “Bayesian hierarchical model” — in order to mesmerize the reader into accepting his premise. 

Has he read any of these studies himself? I doubt it. They are among the most embarrassing pieces of non-science published in our lifetimes. 

You can instantly see the problem with these studies in just one word: model. All the studies showing “masks work” are based on models or deploy a model to “interpret” cherry-picked empirical data. Models are easily manipulated to yield the answer the author wants and cannot be trusted. When applied to what has, oddly enough, become a partisan issue, they should definitely be ignored. 

Yes, masks “stop particles” and in that sense they “work” mechanistically. But mechanistic function does not necessarily equate to goal achievement. A sponge absorbs water but it won’t stop your basement from flooding. Mechanical functionality is a necessary but not sufficient component in preventing infection. Masks become saturated with moisture, dirt, and particles. They are easily bypassed when not fitted properly (spoiler: they are almost never fitted properly). They allow some particles through, and if you tighten the porosity to prevent that, you only enhance the bypass effect. 

The irony is that the only mask that would actually work is a respirator, but how about that: those were specifically forbidden in all the mandates. And since we don’t know the viral load needed to infect someone there is no rationale, objective way to assert effectiveness. The “experts” are literally just guessing. 

When we return to the real world from the fantasy world of models, we find the data shows zero effect on community infection rates. Japan, the poster child for “masks work,” has 99% compliance but a case rate through the roof since January (see below). 

This phenomenon can be replicated across the world, again and again. “It would have been worse without them” is not an answer, because it simply asserts the very thing that needs to be proven.  Meanwhile, in Sweden the only people wearing masks are deluded American tourists, and there have been no ill effects.

The null hypothesis puts the burden of proof on the mask proponents. If there is even one instance showing masks “don’t work” then the entire hypothesis must be discarded. Science is not a game in which each side scores points and the winner is whoever is currently ahead. The hypothesis is either true or it is not. 

Priest can cite however many model based studies that he wants, but I need only to point to a single study showing no effect from masks. But my side doesn’t have just one study. We have countless thousands. Every chart comparing locales with and without a mask mandate only underscores their total lack of utility. 

If masks “worked,” it should be easy to look at the charts of various countries and determine when large-scale masking, or mask mandates, must have been introduced. But the results are instead entirely random. In Austria, Spain, Belgium, the UK, Germany, Italy, and so on, if I showed you the charts of their Covid results you would have no way of figuring out when mask mandates began in each country. But if masks are worth arguing about, shouldn’t their effects be so clear that we can easily determine when they started being used on a large scale?

No matter how much Neil may wish it were otherwise, most people agree with me. Just visit any airport or sporting event now that the mask mandates are gone. The ratio of mask-free to masked is easily a hundred and often a thousand to one. People are smart and see through the dissembling of the mask nags. Witness “our democracy” in action every day as people vote with their faces. 

Masks incubate Covid, but no one seems to notice

It’s taken some time, but it’s nice to keep being proven right years later. I made a prediction 

https://porcupine-musings.org/2020/10/19/postscript-to-unmasked-10-19-2020/

based on the material and chemical characteristics of masks and Covid particles, masks would enhance the spread of Covid. It seems some researchers have unwittingly provided evidence that supports this hypothesis, albeit indirectly. Once you, dear reader, read the article cited below the obvious insight should dawn on you: masks are great incubators for Covid virus particles. Thus the longer they (the particles) stay active and infectious the more likely the effect I hypothesize will occur. In other words, the absolute worst thing you can do is mask someone with Covid, it’s only going to concentrate and then disperse that concentrated stream of particles from their saturated mask. 

My tweet storm:



Researchers demonstrated that the humidity differential between the throat/mouth and the outside air upon exhalation of SARS-CoV-2 particles results in a reduction of infectiousness by 50% within seconds and by 90% within 20 minutes. It was also reported that the virus survives longer at lower pH, thus upon exhalation its survival time will be further negatively impacted. This is due to the fact that the rapid decrease in partial pressure of CO2 in any expelled aerosol results in a rapid increase in pH (CO2 drives pH downward, thus its removal drives pH upward.)

Where would we be more likely to find a humid environment with a higher than average level of CO2? Perhaps within the confines of a mask? Indeed, masks are the PERFECT incubation device for extending the useful life of externalized SARS-CoV-2 particles. As they build and build and build within the balmy CO2 rich environs they eventually reach a critical mass on the interior of any mask at which point, like a vacuum cleaner bag that can hold no more, they will start leaking through the other side in a constant steady stream of active virus. Now one might argue the mask has merely delayed the exhalation event and that emission from a mask is no different than from one’s mouth. However the critical difference is that the particles have been concentrated within the mask, so now each breath pushes out a much higher concentration than was originally emitted from ones mouth. This effect is augmented by the moral hazard of people believing they are protected while donning a mask so they will tend to stand closely together thinking they are “safe.” 

You are much safer to stand together unmasked where (a) the concentration of SARS-CoV-2 particles is lower upon exhalation in comparison to a fully saturated mask and (b) any that do exit the non-masked mouth will rapidly decline in infectiousness.

On “Russian propaganda”

Last week’s column seems to have raised the ire of some folks. They seem to lack the ability to distinguish between a rationale and a justification. This is not a new problem, particularly when it comes to military action. This same sort of allegation was made by Rudy Giuliani against Ron Paul in 2008. Giuliani claimed that Paul’s assertion of US meddling in the Middle East leading to the attacks of 9/11 was somehow “blaming America.” This is of course ridiculous. As Stephen M. Walt of Harvard University (international affairs) explains, “‘strategic empathy’ isn’t about agreeing with an adversary’s position. It is about understanding it so you can fashion an appropriate response.”

 There is no path to peace until you understand what motivates your adversary. It has been suggested that Russian concerns over the eastward expansion of NATO is mere wartime propaganda – an invented pretext to justify the invasion and reintegration of Ukraine into the former Soviet empire. Perhaps. But this is a mighty long con if it is. NATO expansion was understood to be extremely antagonistic toward Russia by multiple senior US defense officials over 12 years ago. The current CIA Director, William Burns, stated in 2008 in a memo to Condoleezza Rice that, “Ukrainian entry into NATO is the brightest of all red lines for the Russian elite (not just Putin). In more than two and a half years of conversations with key Russian payers…I have yet to find anyone who view Ukraine in NATO as anything other than a direct challenge to Russian interests.”  He further stated that offering Ukraine NATO membership would “create fertile soil for Russian meddling in Crimea and eastern Ukraine.” This man literally predicted Russian actions over the next 12 years. If that is not understanding your adversary I don’t know what is.

The idea of Ukrainian NATO membership as a provocation is not some Russian propaganda invented 5 minutes ago. The seeds were planted 30 years ago. On February 9, 1990 President George H.W. Bush promised Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev that if the Soviets would withdraw their troops and allow German reunification they would not expand NATO “one inch eastward.” Some claim such a meeting or agreement never took place, or that it did but because it was an oral agreement and not written it “doesn’t count” but this is both absurd and untrue. Written minutes of this meeting were found just last month (February 2022) in the British National Archives.             

In closing, to be unequivocally clear – Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the murdering of innocent civilians is wholly unjustified. Even if we accept at face value that NATO membership of Ukraine is the proximate issue for Russian aggression, there are a multitude of other routes by which this could have been addressed. That being said, the US and her NATO allies are not without blame. If you think your adversary might be crazy or irrational, it’s unwise to provoke them. Of course it’s a lot easier to be provocative when you know you won’t personally bear any of the consequences of your actions. 

Democracy in Action

Democracy is held as the apotheosis of governance, the pinnacle of societal organization that replaced a long succession of failed predecessors (monarchy, oligarchies, dictatorships, etc). Its sine qua non is the peaceful exercise of power and authority. But that peaceful guise is an illusion. Those who submit to the majority’s wishes do so not out of a noble love for democracy, but rather out of fear of its enforcement. Democracy, after you strip away all the slogans and grade-school platitudes, is a proxy for violence. 

            When a country wages war against another (Russia vs Ukraine) this is democratic enforcement in action. Consider: Russia aggressively occupying Ukraine is no different than a newly elected political regime imposing its intentions upon resistant members of a populace who did not vote for them or who didn’t vote at all (a null vote being a vote against all candidates). Happens all the time. Don’t pay your taxes, sell products that are “illegal”, fail to close your business when ordered to do so – in comes the fully armed SWAT team, guns drawn. Those decrying Russia’s actions in Ukraine would nod approvingly had there been an election in Ukraine and Russia and the losing side just happened to be everyone in Ukraine (not too dissimilar to every US presidential election). Internalized violence against one’s own citizens (no offense Canada) is laudatory under democratic regimes. Externalized violence against another country’s citizens is condemned vociferously. There is no difference other than the existence of imaginary lines.

            To be clear, the point here is not to suggest that one country invading another is “ok”. Quite the contrary. Aggression is reprehensible. Just as reprehensible as the mob rule otherwise known as “democracy.” Democracy is the veneer of civility that conceals the sociopath’s instinct to rule (libido dominandi). When the ruled resist, the veneer cracks, and the aggressive nature of the presumptive rulers is revealed. 

            Should we then, as outsiders, get involved in the Russia-Ukraine conflict? Quite simply, “no.” Not because it’s tolerable for bullies to get away with naked aggression, but rather because there is no “we” here. There is no United States. There is no Germany. There is no Canada. Only people. To say that “we” should intervene on behalf of Ukraine is to say that if your neighbor gets involved in a bar fight you should order your children to intercede. This is absurd. If YOU want to help then YOU are free to get on a plane and take up arms in Ukraine. Likewise you are free to welcome Ukrainian refugees into your home. However, you have no moral authority to compel anyone else to engage in these actions. This applies to sanctions as well. Sanctions are not “peaceful”. They are an act of war, and a stupid one at that. They never harm the leaders. They only harm third parties on both sides (to whit: Italy and Belgium are asking that proposed Russian sanctions not include luxury goods as it would harm their respective economies). US sanctions killed a million Iraqi children in the 1990s. Former Secretary of State Madeline Albright thought it was “worth it.” Tell me how that is not an act of war (and a hideous one at that)? Sanctions presuppose a paternalistic mindset on the part of a country’s rulers, as though harming citizens is like harming their children. They are not their children. They do not care. Sanctions always miss the mark. They punish the individual who has no power or culpability while those responsible easily work around it with their connections.

            So what should be done? A good start would be dismantling NATO. The impending admission of Ukraine into NATO is Putin’s issue. This should not be surprising given the repeated broken promises of Bush, Clinton, Bush, and Obama to halt the eastward expansion of NATO. Had Soviet leaders promised stop the expansion of the Warsaw Pact in South America but instead allowed it to slowly creep over the decades up through Latin America and today Mexico was poised to join, does anyone honestly believe American leaders would not feel a demilitarization of Mexico was warranted? 

            NATO is an anachronism that serves no purpose other than to antagonize Russia and increase the odds of pulling the world into WWWIII (given NATO’s WWI-style defense pact wherein an attack on one member is considered an attack on all). Its entire mission is bellicose, in contrast to the UN (of which Russia is a member) whose mandate is one of only peace. Dissolving NATO or at a minimum renouncing any possibility of Ukrainian membership would undermine any pretext Putin has for continuing this current conflict. Or perhaps reconsider what a newly elected Putin suggested back in 2000 – Russia joins NATO. #DefundNATO

Pet Project

When we think of extreme regulatory overreach what typically comes to mind? Healthcare, energy, transportation, finance, right? It would probably surprise most to learn that the contents of your fish tank are also a compelling state interest. The government is not only quite concerned with what you put in your aquarium but is equally fixated on the verbiage and layout of associated product labels. California, for example, imposes labeling standards related to the size, location and format of the content designation, that just like their automotive emission standards, invariably get imposed on every one else (manufacturers do not want to have multiple variants of the same product for different states). Next we have the various state agricultural agencies that rather obtusely extend their regulatory standards for farming into one’s ornamental aquarium. This is often done under the guise of “consumer protection” but mostly it is just folks that don’t seem to understand there is a difference between a cornfield and Nemo’s artificial domicile. Under the law products that help maintain freshwater aquarium plants are technically fertilizers. Products that nutritionally benefit non-plant species are considered feeds. This lack of nuance in the regulations then exposes manufacturers to a panoply of inane rules governing the formulation products, how the product may be described on its label and in sales literature, and even the precise layout and format of the content description. 

And that is just the state governments. The Federal government’s effects fall into the seen/unseen category (stress on the “unseen” part). The EPA and FDA regulate pesticides and medicinal products respectively. The regulatory apparatus there is so onerous that most companies simply throw their hands up and avoid those categories entirely. As a manufacturer I can tell you that there are a number of products in those categories that could be introduced that would benefit the hobbyist, but, they will never see the light of day as it simply not worth spending hundreds of thousands if not millions to gain approval for a product that sells for under $10. 

Unfortunately the Federal government is poised to introduce even greater regulatory burdens not only on the aquarium hobby, but on the entire pet care segment (fish, bird, reptile, small mammal) as well. The US House has just approved the COMPETES Act of 2022 (H.R. 4521). This act includes modification to the infamous Lacey Act that would drastically decrease species variety present in your local pet store by empowering the US Fish and Wildlife Service to impose even greater regulatory burdens (beyond those that already exist) on interstate transport of what some view as “problematic” species (previously they could only regulate importation into the US). Why they would need oversight of interstate transport of species that can’t even be imported into the US is unclear. This seems to be more of a pretext for expanding their authority for its own sake. Even more shockingly the existing ban on importation would be flipped from a blacklist to a whitelist method wherein ALL species would be banned for importation unless specifically whitelisted. The process of whitelisting would no doubt be lengthy, bureaucratic, and expensive. This is then effectively a near total ban on everything except goldfish and guppies. And it’s not solely for fish that are affected. This includes birds and reptiles as well. If this bill becomes law (the Senate is gearing up to vote on it as is, or reconcile it to their S.626 version introduced last summer) it would have a similar effect on the pet hobby that one might observe were we to ban all sports except tennis, or, ban all cars except the Ford Focus. With the loss of biodiversity and variety the pet hobby will whither and die and in a few years people will wonder why the only thing fish you can buy at Petsmart is a goldfish.

If you feel compelled to tell Congress “no” on these modifications of the Lacey Act (excise or modify Section 71102) please see this page for more details and simple contact form for your state’s Senators. 

Variant of Hope

Fauci has seen his shadow – and so we are on course for another 6 weeks of ineffective overreactions on account of the latest “variant of concern.” The media is gleefully reporting that this Omicron variant of Covid-19 is poised to wreak havoc. These same media nags are also happy to inform us that the blame for all new variants rests squarely with the unvaccinated. As usual the truth is the exact opposite.

            Evolution is not driven only by mutations. It also requires selective pressure to work its magic. Emergence of dominant variants will occur more quickly in the vaccinated than the unvaccinated because of selective pressure. Here’s why. The vaccines we have do not prevent transmission (no sterilizing immunity).  Any transmission that does occur will necessarily be enriched in variants not recognized by vaccine-derived antibodies. 

            To be clear, variants can arise in both vaccinated and unvaccinated hosts. The difference is that artificially applied selective pressure (vaccine-derived antibodies) will immediately favor any non-targeted variants. Such variants aren’t necessarily less lethal, rather merely unrecognized. However, in the unvaccinated only natural selection is active. Natural selection when applied to pathogens tends to weaken them. Viruses that give their host the sniffles pass on their genes. Viruses that kill their host don’t. Upshot: natural selection favors non-lethal variants, artificial selection does not.

            The counter-narrative suggests that the unvaccinated are a cauldron of variants spilling onto their otherwise variant-free vaccinated brethren. When these variants hop to a vaccinated host, then the vaccine antibodies act as a sieve, blocking the original variant and allowing the newer ones to pass on. This is just wrong. The only difference between a vaccinated and unvaccinated host is that a vaccinated host will block the alpha strain. That’s it. They will both foster an equivalent degree of variants. Those suggesting otherwise believe fear and shame are a cudgel to manipulate the masses into compliance with the fantasy of “zero Covid.” 

            Another common myth is that the Omicron variant arose in largely unvaccinated South Africa. This idea is a case study in logical fallacies. First, correlation is not causation. Second, observation bias is not reality. If ants invade your home and you discover them in the bathroom that doesn’t mean that’s where they entered. Nobody was looking for “omicron”. Then someone happened to discover it first. Now everyone is looking for it — and lo and behold it’s everywhere! The only way to justify travel bans and renewed lockdown measures is to pretend that Omicron is “spreading quickly” because it is being discovered everywhere. Funny how governments always choose the interpretation of reality that maximizes their power.

            Although intuition suggests what is good for the individual must also be good for the group, this is not always the case. For example, antibiotics benefit an individual with an infection, however mandating them as a universal prophylaxis would be catastrophically bad. This is also true of mask mandates where moral hazard effects overwhelm whatever tiny benefits a mask may provide to an individual. With the Covid-19 vaccinations we see the same individual vs. the collective bifurcation. Evolution’s effects lie dormant for the individual but are emergent within a collective.

            With a non-sterilizing vaccine the proper strategy is to give it only to the very small subset of at-risk individuals (however so defined). These will be a tiny minority of the population so any individualized selection toward some variant will not come to dominate.

            The political establishment is plowing forward without any regard for the unseen future consequences of their policy of universal vaccination. This is the danger of letting politicians rule the world: their bias is to favor short-term solutions that are “seen” while ignoring long-term consequences that are “unseen”. Short-term actions get them re-elected. Long-term consequences are a problem for future Homer. The only silver lining is that variants such as Omicron represent a new hope – an end to Covid as it evolves into the common cold. 

Competing Interests

Last week the head of a large US corporation met with his peers from other leading firms in the same industry. Although the stated goals of the meeting were a direct violation of federal anti-trust law, they nevertheless held the meeting with fanfare and total impunity. These powerful CEO’s set the ground rules for a price-fixing scheme. They believed it was in the best interests of their industry to establish a price floor for their services. Competition, they feared, would result in a “race to the bottom,” possibly bankrupting many of them. 

            It’s hard to fathom how such an event could have taken place with zero outrage from the political and media class. Indeed, this meeting was celebrated widely. So who were these shameless captains of industry and how did they avoid prosecution? It’s easy to get away with breaking the rules when you’re the one making and enforcing them. The meeting in question was the annual G20 summit. One of the primary outcomes of this meeting was a conspiracy to set a global 15% minimum tax rate on “big business” (whatever that means). The participating governments constitute a literal cartel: “an association … with the purpose of maintaining prices at a high level and restricting competition”. 

            It is a peculiar irony that governments pay lip service to the ideas of “free and fair competition” and “monopolies bad” but then exempt themselves from this very ethos. They have a literal monopoly on violence (law enforcement) and theft (tax collection) within their borders. Competing mail delivery, police, courts, and schools are either prohibited outright or de facto through the crowding out effect of direct taxation for these “services.” The one recourse people have to escape these monopolies is jurisdictional competition. Move to where the policies and taxes are better. States and counties often vie with one another to attract businesses and citizens through more favorable tax treatment. But it seems that option must now be circumscribed, at least at the national level. These governments (mainly the US) are afraid that their onerous policies and taxes will drive businesses into the open arms of the competition – that is, other states/governments. But a price fixing cartel will stop that right in its tracks. This is a desperation ploy, pure and simple. Attempts to tax unrealized gains or this “taxexit” short-circuit only signal the ruling elite are running out of revenue options to offset their decades of profligate spending.

            If the left were intellectually honest they should oppose these supranational agreements. Why? Because it directly nullifies that which they profess hold most dear: democracy. Citizens voted in their representatives. Those reps are tasked with deciding what they think is best for THEIR country (not others). But now those representatives’ voices will be ignored in favor of the wishes of the ruling class oligopoly. Are these democracy worshipers truly indifferent to the idea of the US undermining democracy in foreign lands with their heavy-handed tactics? If China had leverage to influence US domestic policy they would not be so apathetic?

            The US’s globally dominant market position should be used to lead the way toward economic prosperity. It reflects poorly on the US regime that they would use this influence instead as a bludgeon to threaten and coerce others into submission. Were the US to eliminate all corporate taxes it would spark a renaissance of investment and growth as companies expanded and hired workers. We had just a tiny taste of this with the Trump corporate tax cuts. Imagine the impact if those taxes were eliminated entirely! The massive increase in productivity would improve the standard of living for everyone worldwide as other countries followed suit. Every dollar taxed is a dollar that can’t be used to hire a worker, build a new facility, or invest in new equipment. The more you tax the less you can have of all three. Taxes are truly a zero sum game.

Imagine

The lesson of September 11, 2001 is an uncomfortable one. Facing the truth of that lesson may be avoided, but doing so only prolongs and expands the harm that is to come. Removing the bulb behind the “check engine” light does not fix the engine. The cold hard reality is that our government, whether through malice, indifference, or ineptitude, has and will continue to sacrifice the lives of innocent Americans on their quest toward peace via worldwide domination. It is a fool’s errand. 

The lives lost on that fateful day were a direct consequence and culmination of over forty years of American (and allied) meddling in the affairs of the Middle East. This is not “blaming America” – but it is however blaming those in government who supported these incursions. It is blaming those individuals who formulated and enacted these policies. A patriotic reflex will compel most to reject such claims outright. The error in that reaction is in equating the concept of a nation with the actions of its governing body. “America” is not its leaders. 

The Afghanistan withdrawal is the first glimmer of hope. However, that hope is tempered by the reality that 20 years of manufacturing enemies through countless bombings will only serve to ensure that more innocent American lives will be sacrificed in the coming blowback. It is not a question of “if”, but rather “when”. And on that day Bush, Cheney, Obama, Trump, Biden – all, will be as culpable as anyone pulling a trigger. 

In order to achieve peace one must be open to empathy with their adversary. Empathy unlocks the path to understanding. Peace is achievable once you understand what motivates your adversary. If those in power had heeded the words of Ron Paul so many years ago, then we would be much closer to a lasting peace today: 

“Imagine for a moment that somewhere in the middle of Texas there was a large foreign military base, say Chinese or Russian. Imagine that thousands of armed foreign troops were constantly patrolling American streets in military vehicles. Imagine they were here under the auspices of “keeping us safe” or “promoting democracy” or “protecting their strategic interests.”

Imagine that they operated outside of US law, and that the Constitution did not apply to them. Imagine that every now and then they made mistakes or acted on bad information and accidentally killed or terrorized innocent Americans, including women and children, most of the time with little to no repercussions or consequences. Imagine that they set up checkpoints on our soil and routinely searched and ransacked entire neighborhoods of homes. Imagine if Americans were fearful of these foreign troops, and overwhelmingly thought America would be better off without their presence.

Imagine if some Americans were so angry about them being in Texas that they actually joined together to fight them off, in defense of our soil and sovereignty, because leadership in government refused or were unable to do so. Imagine that those Americans were labeled terrorists or insurgents for their defensive actions, and routinely killed, or captured and tortured by the foreign troops on our land. Imagine that the occupiers’ attitude was that if they just killed enough Americans, the resistance would stop, but instead, for every American killed, ten more would take up arms against them, resulting in perpetual bloodshed. 

The reality is that our military presence on foreign soil is as offensive to the people that live there as armed Chinese troops would be if they were stationed in Texas. 

Shutting down military bases and ceasing to deal with other nations with threats and violence is not isolationism. It is the opposite. Opening ourselves up to friendship, honest trade and diplomacy is the foreign policy of peace and prosperity. It is the only foreign policy that will not bankrupt us in short order, as our current actions most definitely will. The sad thing is, our foreign policy WILL change eventually, as Rome’s did, when all budgetary and monetary tricks to fund it are exhausted.”

Ron Paul, 2011

2012 Ad based on this speech

The shape of things to come…

The ultimate test for any scientific hypothesis is its power of prediction. Correctly predicting future events demonstrate one has a true understanding of the subject. An objective analysis of the lessons of history and the impact of a state-centric societal structure can reveal some obvious patterns as well (e.g. fear, rather than reason, as a driver of policy, groupthink pushing out minority opinions resulting in a monoculture of thought, etc.). I am willing to make some predictions based on these patterns:

By January 1, 2032 the following listed items will be generally accepted as true. To be clear I do not merely mean some obscure source will publish supporting information. I make the stronger claim that these predictions will become the dominant mainstream narrative. Just as everyone who was originally cheering for the Iraq invasion now acknowledges it was a colossal mistake, so too will opinion flip on Covid-19 over a similar time frame (8-10 years)

1) Long term studies and comparative statistical analysis will reveal that Covid-19 was not the apocalyptic threat we were led to believe initially. Differential analysis of a variety of non-pharmaceutical interventions will show that these measures had no impact on the course of the virus. In other words, cases soared and plummeted exactly as they always have in prior pandemics with no mitigation measures (see Hope-Simpson, 1981)1. It was always going to be a 0.05% global death rate no matter what. 

2) It will be proven that masks actually enhanced the spread of the virus. The mechanism will be shown to be an aerosolization of concentrated viral particles by those wearing masks for extended periods. Pundits will navel gaze and suggest “in the future” we should never assume our intuition is correct and that it is important to analyze trade-offs before implementing policy. There is a 10% chance this claim will not bear out because it will be revealed that masks were entirely superfluous because the dominant infection vector was a fecal-aerosol route (in layman’s terms, it was in the farts)2.

3) The Covid-19 spike protein will be proven to be the toxic agent for certain individuals with a particular set of biological markers that can be tested for. It is only after giving the spike-protein laden vaccine to 3 billion people does a pattern of oddly consistent cardiac issues emerge and it is realized other parts of the virus would have been safer targets for triggering an immune response. Oops. Guess that is what happens when you rush a vaccine to market without really understanding the target pathogen.

4) The DTAP vaccine will be shown to be the primary reason those under age 24 were nearly universally immune to any serious consequences from Covid (as all children must get DTAP for school). Following this revelation the various Covid vaccines will be pulled from the market and a general (and safer) DTAP vaccination is used for anyone concerned about Covid.

5) Additional longer-term studies will demonstrate that Hydroxychloroquine and Ivermectin are effective agents in attenuating symptoms of Covid and preventing death when given at the proper stage of infection. No one will apologize to Trump.

6) The driver’s license/state ID will emerge as a de facto “Vaccine Passport” as impositions by the federal government (TSA) for proof of vaccination will merge vaccination status into the REAL ID system. Driver licenses will henceforth require annual renewals, as it will be necessary to show proof of your annual Covid and flu shots. Since a driver’s license/state ID is already required for a myriad of activities (work, banking, loans, leases, travel, but not voting, that would be racist) it will be trivial for the Federal (or state) governments to push onto the citizenry new annual vaccines. Politicians can then innocently claim this is not a “vaccine passport”, rather an “enhanced drivers license.” Once politicians discover they can mandate behavior by making one’s ability to interact in the world contingent on compliance with their dicta, then there will be no end of the items that will henceforth be linked to one’s drivers license (“to renew your license this year requires a minimum Social Credit Score of 80”). 

7) The “lab release” theory on the origin of Covid will transition from fringe conspiracy theory to generally accepted as a reasonable hypothesis and eventually proven as definitely true. Whoops! This one is happening in real time. 

My only caveat to these predictions is that I may be overestimating the time frame. I originally predicted on these pages in February 2019 that Jussie Smollet would be shown to be a liar within 6 months; the actual time frame? 6 days. So it would not surprise me if most of these come to pass within 4 years or sooner. We shall see. In the meantime see if you can beat the Covid quiz at: www.covidchartsquiz.com

The Capitol Gains

Most people may have no idea what capital gains are, but they’re darn sure they need to be taxed more. Biden’s rhetoric on that topic is straight from the populist playbook: “Why, it is so unfair that the rich pay lower rates on capital gains when you, dear sir, must pay a much higher percentage on your paycheck!” 

            First, he tells us that “the rich” are not paying their “fair share,” whatever that is supposed to mean. But in fact, the top 1% of earners pay nearly 40% of all income taxes. Their average tax rate is two to three times higher than all other tax-paying groups. They pay more in taxes than do the bottom 90% of all taxpayers combined. Even though their share of total income is 21%, they pay almost double that as a share in taxes (40%). Exactly how much would be enough to qualify as a “fair share”?            

            Capital gains tax rates of 15% and 20% (we’ll ignore the Obamacare NIT 3.8% surtax for now) are said to amount to some kind of “loophole” or “giveaway” to the wealthy. But crucial context is missing here, namely the historical reasoning behind these rates, which are based on two factors: risk, and double taxation.

            Let’s tackle risk first. Wage income is risk-free. As long as an employee does his job he will always receive his paycheck. Employers do not withhold wages or discount them based on the performance of the business that week. They do not lower them if the product that the employee helped to produce fails to sell as expected. Capital gains, however, are derived entirely from investments that are 100% at risk. What would be the incentive to risk one’s savings in useful investments only to have the government (as proposed) take up to 50% (including state taxes)?

            Note that the government itself risks nothing, yet reaps a reward (in the form of capital gains taxes) from every winner while leaving every loser hanging out to dry (if all of your investments lose money the government doesn’t give you a tax refund). From the government’s perspective capital gains taxation is literally a game of “heads I win, tails you lose.”

            The second fact that the “loophole” claim ignores is that capital gains are already diminished due to prior taxation on the source of the invested funds. Wage income is taxed once (until subject to a sales tax, but this only lends support to the idea of abolishing one or the other). However, capital gains come already diminished by previous taxation. Suppose a worker earns $100 in wages. After taxes (federal, state, FICA, etc.) she now has $60. She invests that $60 in some speculative venture (stocks, real estate, etc.). After a few years that $60 investment grows to $120, so she sells it in order to enjoy those gains. But had the original $100 not been taxed she would have been able to invest the full $100 and thereby seen it grow all the way to $200. So the original taxation has already diminished her returns on that investment by $80. 

            To offset this tax burden somewhat (and thereby to encourage investment) the capital gains rate has historically been set lower than taxes on wage rates. In our example, in which a $60 investment turns into $120, a 20% capital gains tax on the $60 gain means $12 in taxes, for an after tax gain of $48. But the Democrats are proposing to DOUBLE the capital gains rate, from 20% to 40%. This would reduce that current system’s $48 gain to a mere $36. 

            Here’s what that means. The entire $60 she invested was at risk of falling to $0. Some investments don’t pan out. Sometimes you lose everything. If people are at risk of losing $60 and stand to gain a mere $36, people will be less likely to engage in such investment in the first place, which decreases everyone’s standard of living. The tax both reduces the investor’s effective return and, to the extent it does not dry up the investment market entirely, tends to shift future investments into far riskier (higher return) ventures to compensate investors for the higher capital gains taxes. A market dominated by primarily riskier ventures is a much more volatile and wasteful one, since higher risk generally means more failures. Junk bonds will become the new standard investment

            If the Democrats were politically savvy and not devoted to ideology above all else they would propose eliminating all taxes on capital gains and setting the corporate tax rate to 0%. We would see an explosion in domestic investment and job creation as companies from all over the globe came to the US to set up shop and expand. This happened to an extent with Trump’s corporate tax cuts, though not as much as we might have hoped. Why? Because no one trusts the US government on taxes anymore. No matter how “permanent” the rates are claimed to be, we all know that just like Lucy with the football, whatever tax regime we have today will likely be different tomorrow. And the Democrats are just proving them right by fiddling with taxes not even three years later.

             Sleepy Uncle Joe is just wrong when he says “fairness” demands that capital gains be taxed the same as wage income. He is either being deliberately deceitful or wholly ignorant. Neither is a good option.