Category Archives: Masks

Hydroxychloriquine vs. The Mask”: a herd divided…

It has taken quite a while, but famous 2nd — or 3rd — iteration Fleetwood Mac lead singer, Stevie Nicks, has finally opined on the coronavirus crisis, and the 72 year old songstress of note imploringly had this to say, in a paraphrase:  If I get this, I’ll never sing again!  This was from a People magazine article appearing on Yahoo! on August 11.  In a direct quote, Nicks says this:  “Put me on a ventilator and I will be hoarse for the rest of my life — I don’t have much time…”

The “crystal vision,” or moral, of the Nicks story is later revealed when the septuagenarian rock singer admonishes her listeners to “…wear a mask and follow the rules.”  Who, or what, “rules”?  Who knows. and who cares:  freaking (-out!) Stevie Nicks could have her singing career cancelled forever by an improbable contact with an unmasked fan, and this is a thing that you, dear reader, should be utmost concerned about!  Indeed, there is no masking this situation;  Stevie Nicks is the latest in a long line of celebrity endorsements of the horrors — both real and imagined — of this novel coronavirus…

Of course, this entire pandemic has the feel of a horror movie script about it.  First, there were reports of a vicious new flu coming from China, Iran, Italy and Spain. However, these are far off places that are Communist, Islamist, and quasi-Socialist, so maybe there’s not too much to worry about if, for example, you’re not an absolute hypochondriac.  So America keeps on partying, and being mildly riveted by an over-hyped impeachment show-trial of the embattled President of “Amity Island” in this developing production of Jaws:  The Virus.  After the entirely predictable exoneration of alleged “Russian asset” Donald Trump, which leaves true-“blue” conspiracy theorists gasping for more airs on both coasts, there is an ominous lull, a disturbing pause…Now it’s February, or “Black History Month,” but instead of “Black History” the term “Coronavirus” quietly appears on my Yahoo! browser.  Still, no cause for alarm:  maybe it’s just a browserly hiccup — although I have noticed that al-Jazeera English has been leading with the coronavirus story for well over a month, as if that were the lead story on the planet…

So March marches in, a lion — or shark — in lamb’s clothing, as we all know now, but things were still pretty hunky-dory back then in the States, as the DNC was busy finalizing its plot to hang a Bernie Sanders campaign once again:  in effigy, perhaps, for its well-publicized failure to remove Donald Donaldovitch from the Oval Office, although this unlikely President more often pretends to rule from Mar-a-Lago, his Florida resort…But then, sharply, the plot quickens, as Wall St catches a cold, and stocks plummet, threatening the end of financialization as we know it.  What to do, what to do?

Swiftly, a National State of Emergency is called by a slumpy, sulky Trump, and “lockdown” is almost as suddenly the mot du jour from “sea to shining” — flatscreen. We, or the Mass Media, which prefers to see things for us, have shockingly discovered the “foreign” virus amongst us.  We are all forthwith instructed to “flatten the curve,” which in no way refers to eating a healthier diet.  Anthony Fauci emerges from the Infectious Disease shadows to become a national hero, the “good doctor” foil to the hopelessly evil — or at least, banal — President Trump.  No mandatory mask dictates, yet; just “social distancing,” wash your hands more frequently than usual, and “Don’t touch your face!” are the orders of the day, to make the COVID go away…

Then, as horror movie scriptural fate would have it, the virus-denying President suffers an epiphany, and declares hydroxychloriquine a miracle cure for the novel coronavirus, as if some all-powerful French genie of Medicine had spoken to him through a Kentucky Fried Chicken bucket like it was a burning bush in Old Testament times.  Lo and behold, but Trump even manages to pronounce the multi-syllabic therapeutic’s name not-too-badly;  Will miracles never cease! Nevertheless, well within camera shot, the tremendously esteemed Dr Fauci, Trump’s expert-antipode, is seen burying his whole face into his whole hand, leaving Fauci fans to ponder:  Was the heroic doctor awkwardly hand-signaling the mask mandate soon to be issued?  Whatever the case, even his legion of cheerleaders, which primarily consists of mainstream media news presenters and late night comic show hosts, had to have a poke of fun at this public gaffe.  Well, folks, Dr Fauci’s a lovably fallible human after all — expert-idiot though he most infallibly is!  “Praise Doc Fauci always, and un-worship Trump; also, no longer speak of Bernie Sanders, and a Health Care free-for-all, which is a load of Commie-bull!”

Such is the state of the COVID-19 horror movie narrative as it stands today, more or less.  As with most horror film franchises, it is difficult to know which part of the series or sequel you’re in; each strained strand seems so very much like all the others.  The virtuous Blue-tocrats are still running a zombie against what any reasonable person still in possession of their sanity had already presumed was a zombie, however bizarre and delinquent from a central casting perspective.  A great White shark has been re-animated off a B-movie set, and smells graying orange-red meat in the water and — spoiler alert! — he’ll be wearing a “Mask”…Indeed, “Where’s the fresh blood?” seems to be the most frequently asked question from both Major Parties — tongues-a-flickering and all-too-eager to continue slurping from the trough of the Public Dime of an increasingly anemic nation — these practically uncontested vampires, and the unelected Corporations their hollow fangs represent.  Which is not to say that the American Public’s been bled dry — at least not yet.  “We the People” are still the host, and a herd to be harvested…

Meanwhile, later on that same pandemic…

Masks suddenly become mandatory, not too long after the House-impeached Trump’s hydroxychloriquine awakening (April 5, 2020; although technically a “recommendation,” most States and localities in America make mask-wearing a public ordinance, despite the invisibly-lit President’s continued intransigence on the subject…).  In all fairness, the American Health Triumvirate of Collins-Redfield-Fauci — a Cerberus if ever there was one, or three — had to react, as cases of COVID-19 skyrocketed across the country, but especially in sacred New York City, which became the World’s most celebrated “hot spot” of the disease for any number of reasons that boggle the mind.  Even CNN’s “Fredo” Cuomo, the Governor’s brother, got it, which in turn caused an epidemic of Cable News Anchors crying on set, sad to report;  things had gone from merely morose to truly lachrymose…

Cuomo recovered, of course, as most COVID-sufferers do.  Nevertheless, the virus — and the viral narrative that Ubers it, so to speak — rages on, despite an epidemic of mask-wearing in America.  Here in St Louis, which is admittedly more “Blue-ish” than most of the rest of a very “Red” state, but obviously nowhere close to NYC, which is probably more “conservative” than it’s made out to be, people have been wearing masks — or “facial coverings” — like crazy all Summer.  Crazy fact:  I see solo-drivers, every day, wearing masks inside their cars, as if you could catch the dreaded COVID from your steering wheel, or just listening to NPR.  And yet, with most Americans — and certainly most people in my populous locale — obeying their “marching-masking” orders, the COVID threat is apparently greater than it’s ever been, with local “authorities” constantly revising restriction guidelines as if they were fiddling with a gizmo they don’t know how to work.  Come to think of it:  that about mirrors the Federal response, or lack thereof.

As a citizen and human being (full disclosure!), trying to figure out this nonsensical policy approach is like reading instructions written by illiterates; unfortunately, the illiterates are in charge…In other words:  Although the local herd has overwhelmingly complied with the masking order, and various other varying restrictions, there has not been a corresponding drop in the perceived threat of the virus; instead, every new case is reported quite breathlessly as if we have all been suddenly thrust to within a single, “socially distanced” inch of our collective grave…

Peering down the precipitous abyss of our “collective grave,” as thus I have been thrust, I will go out on a figurative limb to suggest — and merely suggest, mind you; I’m a scientist, not a religionist:  I leave all that “religionism” up to the “New Atheists” — that hydroxychloriquine, which is a WHO-listed “essential medicine” patented for everyday use if prescribed in 1955, is every bit as COVID-preventive as the once-dismissed but now-mandated facial mask.  Further:  Maybe a reasonably sound immune system is anyone’s best defense against this seemingly ubiquitous coronavirus or, indeed, against any other virus currently circulating? How now:  is this an “ancient Chinese secret?”

As to the looming — like a Sword of Damocles! — 2020 American presidential election:  Who knows, and who cares?  Pick a card, any card…However, I’ve heard some Rumours:  “You can go your own way…”

The Logic of Mask Wearing

[T]he hard but just rule [of science] is that if the ideas didn’t work, you must throw them away.

— Carl Sagan1

Astrophysicist Carl Sagan puts into plain language the principle of falsification propounded by the philosopher of science Karl Popper. Rigorous science demands that a theory must be capable of being tested and disproven; when disproven, the theory must be discarded.2 Popper posited a modus tollens (“If P, then Q. Not Q. Therefore, not P.” This is also known as denying the consequent). If a hypothesis can have the modus tollens logic applied, then it is a science, if not it is a pseudoscience.

In evaluating scientific knowledge within health care, the gold standard is the randomized control trial (RCT).3

Physicist Denis Rancourt has examined the scientific literature on what RCTs reveal about the prophylaxis of masks and respirators against respiratory viruses. His conclusion is that masks don’t work.4 While Rancourt relies on the gold standard of scientific results, those results fly in the face of what the broad swath of mass media and the Establishment proclaim.5

This topical dissension sparked a recent debate between Denis Rancourt and philosopher David Kyle Johnson on the efficacy of wearing face masks to protect against transmission of respiratory viruses. The debate over mask wearing has taken greater significance now that some jurisdictions worldwide are punishing non-compliance with mask wearing impositions.

Johnson began the debate by downplaying Rancourt’s credentials pointing out that Rancourt is “a physicist who specialized in metals and no longer works in academia.”

This smacks of academic snobbery. Johnson’s logic seemingly posits that only people working in a specific profession can possess the expertise to speak on certain topics. If so, then one wonders why have a debate at all given that the ability of non-experts to discern factual accuracy and logic is in question. To Rancourt’s credit, he says of people: “I trust their ability to judge for themselves whether they be scientists, laypersons, and so on…”

Johnson is not a professional scientist, but he sought to accredit his expertise to participate in the debate because one area of his study includes pseudoscience, which he accuses Rancourt of promoting. In fact, Johnson claims greater expertise than Rancourt:

Although I am not an epidemiologist either, I am a logician who teaches entire courses on argumentation and medical pseudoscience. So, unlike with Rancourt, my writing of this article falls squarely within my area of expertise.6

While promoting one’s bona fides gives insight to the level of knowledge expected of a source, it is the factual accuracy and the logic of an argument that is important and not the source of the argument. To think otherwise is the logical fallacy of argumentum ex cathedra. During his summation, Johnson will correct this faux pas, although it appears he did so without realizing that he had committed such an error.

The non-scientist begins his ad hominem by denigrating the expertise of a man who was a tenured full-professor of physics — which is by most anyone’s understanding, a hard science.

Johnson focuses, not on whether masks work, but on the mechanism of how masks work, and he adamantly states that masks do work. He says evidence supports the filtration effectiveness of masks. The problem with the studies that Johnson cites are that they are correlational, non-control studies. Correlation does not lead itself to ascribing causation because not all variables are controlled. For example, if one were testing the effectiveness of mask wearing at reducing contraction of COVID-19 while other preventative measures were simultaneously being carried out, then how should one ascertain with certainty what was the cause? If mask wearing is accompanied by hand washing, social distancing, fomite disinfection, etc and a statistically significant reduction in becoming infected by a viral pathogen was found, then a question arises: was it solely due to the wearing of face masks? Or did the face masks have a nugatory effect and the significant finding was due to one or more of the other variables? Rancourt points to this in his paper: “no study exists that shows a benefit from a broad policy to wear masks in public. There is good reason for this. It would be impossible to obtain unambiguous and bias-free results.”4

Johnson accuses Rancourt of a confirmation bias through cherry-picking studies. Yet Rancourt examined all 14 RCTs7 that survive the quality barrier to be included in most systematic reviews (7 RCTs in the initial paper4 ). RCTs remove experimenter bias and allow for causal attribution. When RCTs have been carried out, what is the logic of preferring results from inferior science methodologies? Nonetheless, Johnson gives short shrift to the primacy of RCTs and relies on less rigorous observational and comparative studies to affirm the efficacy of mask wearing.

In choosing Rancourt’s number one egregious mistake, Johnson says Rancourt “quote-mined” bin-Reza et al. (2012). The quotation in question is:

There were 17 eligible studies. … None of the studies established a conclusive relationship between mask/respirator use and protection against influenza infection.8

In his blog, Johnson refines his argument against the bin-Reza quotation from the debate. It has importance because he told Rancourt,

Given that it appears in the section of his paper where he is arguing that masks don’t work, his quoting of this line from the study implies that the authors intended this statement to mean there is no benefit to wearing masks. In reality, however, the slash in the “mask/respirator” phrase is meant to indicate a comparison between the two types of facial coverings. The study is not lumping them together and declaring them both ineffective; the study actually concludes that masks and respirators are equally effective. Several of the sentences before and after the one he quotes demonstrate this. For example,
“Eight of nine retrospective observational studies found that mask and ⁄ or respirator use was independently associated with a reduced risk of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS).”6

First, what Johnson means by “it appears in the section of his paper where he is arguing that masks don’t work” is puzzling because Rancourt’s entire paper from the title to the conclusion argues that masks don’t work.

Second, it seems Johnson has a non-mainstream grammar take on the slash/virgue. A virgule is used “between two words indicating that whichever is appropriate may be chosen to complete the sense of the text in which they occur.” Applying the typical grammar usage of a virgule to “None of the studies established a conclusive relationship between mask/respirator use and protection against influenza infection,” two renderings are possible: (1) None of the studies established a conclusive relationship between mask use and protection against influenza infection. (2) None of the studies established a conclusive relationship between respirator use and protection against influenza infection. After reading the bin-Reza et al. paper left to right, right to left, upside down, downside up, I fail to see how this is the big mistake of Rancourt. I invite readers to do so for themselves.8

Third, Johnson’s cited example is a red herring. Why inject less rigorous observational studies into the debate? Rancourt confined himself to the gold standard: RCTs. Bin-Reza et al. did not find statistical significance for a RCT investigating the effectiveness of wearing face masks; in fact, the results for all of the studies were non-significant.

Johnson does catch a mistake in Rancourt’s article wherein he stated that Jacobs et al. (2009) studied N95 wearing.9 Although Jacobs et al. did not find any statistical significant finding in support of wearing face masks, the sample size was too small to reach a definitive conclusion.

Johnson appealed to Cowling et al.’s (2010) summary wherein it was stated:

There is some evidence to support the wearing of masks or respirators during illness to protect others, and public health emphasis on mask wearing during illness may help to reduce influenza virus transmission.10

However, this summary belies what Rancourt pointed to in Cowling et al.:

None of the studies reviewed showed a benefit from wearing a mask, in either HCW or community members in households (H). See summary Tables 1 and 2 therein.11

Interested readers can go to the Cowling et al. article and see the results. What is important is the results of a study. The results speak for themselves. The numbers don’t lie or twist perceptions as is possible with words in a discussion or conclusion. This is what Rancourt pointed out during the debate.

Johnson’s twisting of language to rebut Rancourt’s article is evident:

The article is now widely cited by the “anti-mask” movement as proof that masks don’t work and thus laws requiring citizens to wear masks are ineffectual. But, to put it mildly, Rancourt’s argument is fraught with pseudoscience and logical mistakes, and it fails entirely to even provide evidence for (much less proof of) his thesis.6

The use of the wording “anti-mask” is pejorative and tendentious. Rancourt could characterize Johnson’s argument of compulsory mask wearing as anti-freedom. Laypersons may mistakenly refer to an experiment as proving something, but scientists should never make that mistake. Science disproves the alternative hypothesis (the principle of falsification); science, however, proves nothing. Johnson is not a scientist, but given that he claims expertise in the philosophy of science, he should not make such a mistake.

Characterizing Rancourt’s literature review, as any good researcher would do when doing a meta-analysis, as having “scoured the literature” is further evidence of injecting animus into the debate.

Johnson states that Rancourt’s position is that “COVID spreads solely via aerosols.” It is a mischaracterization, as Rancourt does not state this.

Although inconsequential to Rancourt’s meta-analysis of the RCT mask literature on protection against respiratory viral contraction, Johnson next takes aim at Rancourt’s positing a connection between humidity and transmission of SARS-CoV-2. Johnson refutes such a hypothesis by pointing to the spread of COVID-19 during the humid summer in Texas and Florida. What Johnson has seemingly overlooked is that COVID-19 is likelier to be contracted indoors. During the hot summer, air conditioners are in widespread use, especially in shopping malls and other places of business. AC dries out the air, thus mitigating humidity indoors. However, the current state of knowledge regarding transmission of SARS-CoV-2 is still developing.

Adding to his litany of ad hominem against Rancourt, Johnson states that Rancourt does not understand the mechanism of the N95 mask.

Johnson also takes aim at those who share the position of Rancourt regarding the paucity of data supporting mask prophylaxis (disparaged as Rancourt’s “echo chamber” and ideologues averse to scientific evidence), and says such people cannot be expected to be persuaded by his argument since “you can’t reason someone out of a position they didn’t reason themselves into.” Negative aspersions aside, this is easily refuted sophistry. For example, many people grew up as Christians (and other religious faiths) and accepted it as the truth because that was what the community and a wide segment of society believed (aka the appeal to ancient wisdom fallacy), but some people would later scrutinize the words of the religion and the archaeological evidence. Many came to the conclusion that the evidence is underwhelming and became apostates.

Johnson, who has accused Rancourt of falling prey to the all-or-nothing fallacy, finishes off with, “What I have presented is enough to persuade any fair and open-minded person that, yes indeed, public-mask mandates exist in curbing the spread of COVID-19…” Thus, Johnson can be accused of succumbing to the all-or-nothing fallacy — either one is fair and open-minded and is persuaded by Johnson’s argument or that person is unfair and close-minded and refuses his argument.

Johnson says that masks work and “the burden of proof is on Rancourt to prove otherwise.” Again, this is not how science works. Science disproves, not proves phenomena.

Later in the debate, Johnson introduces a bizarre analogy, a faulty analogy.

It’s like putting a cast on your broken leg, and your friend says “There could be asbestos in that cast, I wouldn’t do that.” [You respond] “Yeah, I guess, but until I actually have good reason to think there is an actual risk, and the risk outweighs the benefit, I’m going to stick with what has been proven to work.”

Rancourt posits two things:
    1) the RCT evidence shows masks do not work
    2) mask wearing is known to cause harm

Johnson’s analogy posits:
    1) casts are known to help heal broken bones (he does not directly posit this, but assuredly he agrees with the premise)
    2) there might be asbestos in the cast, and asbestos might be harmful

Comparing the two:
    1) Rancourt points to something not working and Johnson points to something known to work (these are mirror opposites)
    2) Rancourt points to known harms; Johnson points to potential harm

Perhaps the most egregious of Johnson’s arguments is that RCTs can not be done and would be unethical. Yet, the fact is, as Rancourt stated, several RCTs have been done. As for the ethical prohibition against such a RCT, that is premised on the assumption that masks are known to work and that masks are safe to be worn. In other words, the results were in before the science was carried out. That is not science.

Johnson sees no need for RCTs because observational studies are sufficient in his estimation. Johnson apparently lacks understanding in experimental design and methodology. As Rancourt argued, “RCTs are designed to remove bias … and, while not perfect, are the best way to get at the truth.”

Rancourt adds that since there is no evidence yet that masks are effective, this points to the conclusion that even if there is an effect, that “effect is too small to have been detected.”

In the follow-up, Johnson appeared flustered and referred to a collection of bad studies that find no evidence for masks working, what he calls an appeal to ignorance, aka absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. The philosopher argues that because the studies “were unable to detect any difference… that doesn’t prove they [masks] don’t work.” Sagan points out the absurdity of such an argument: “There is no compelling evidence that UFOs are not visiting the Earth; therefore UFOs exist.”12 Another problem with such an argument is that it attempts to shift the burden of proof. Yet, the onus must be on a person making a claim to support that claim.

Johnson wields ad hominem to support his case; he says Rancourt doesn’t understand, misrepresents, is a conspiracy theorist, and then attempts to paint him as a Nazi because his article was posted at a Nazi website — in other words the fallacy of guilt by association.

In the end, Johnson argues against ad hominem; he says an “argument should stand or fall based on evidence.”

To be fair, Rancourt is not pristine during the debate. He does give back later in debate. He says to Johnson, “You wouldn’t even know how to measure it [a minimally infectious dose].” He dismisses a “broad nonsensical question,” talks of “spinning and misrepresenting” and “cherry-picking.” At one point, he says to Johnson: “You’re nuts.”

And Rancourt talks about proof as well.13

Watch the video below, read the papers, and judge for yourself what is scientific, factual, and logical.

  1. The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark (Headline Book Publishing, 1997): 34.
  2. See Karl Popper, The Logic of Scientific Discovery (New York: Routledge Classics, 2005).
  3. Lars Bondemark and Sabine Ruf, “Randomized controlled trial: the gold standard or an unobtainable fallacy?,” European Journal of Orthodontics, 37(5), October 2015: 457–461, https://doi.org/10.1093/ejo/cjv046
  4. Denis Rancourt, “Masks Don’t Work: A review of science relevant to COVID-19 social policy,” Technical Report · April 2020. See interview, “Do Masks and Respirators Prevent Viral Respiratory Illnesses?” 8 May 2020.
  5. Today one newspaper article tells us the number of people testing positive for COVID-19 is falling “a development experts credit partly to increased wearing of masks– even as the outbreak continues to claim nearly 1,000 lives in the U.S. each day.” in “New virus cases fall in the U.S. and experts credit masks,” Times-Colonist, 26 August 2020: A9.
  6. David Kyle Johnson, “A (Complete) Debunking of Denis Rancourt’s Argument That ‘Masks Don’t Work,’” 28 July 2020.
  7. Quoted is a 2020 CDC published paper, “Although mechanistic studies support the potential effect of hand hygiene or face masks, evidence from 14 randomized controlled trials of these measures did not support a substantial effect on transmission of laboratory-confirmed influenza.” See Todd McGreevy, “Still No Conclusive Evidence Justifying Mandatory Masks,” River Cities’ Reader, August 2020.
  8. Faisal bin‐Reza, Vicente Lopez Chavarrias, Angus Nicoll, & Mary E. Chamberland, “The use of masks and respirators to prevent transmission of influenza: a systematic review of the scientific evidence,” Influenza and Other Respiratory Viruses, 6(4), July 2012: 257-267.
  9. Jacobs JL, Ohde S, Takahashi O, Tokuda Y, Omata F, Fukui T. “Use of surgical face masks to reduce the incidence of the common cold among health care workers in Japan: a randomized controlled trial,” Am J Infect Control. 2009;37(5):417-419. doi:10.1016/j.ajic.2008.11.002
  10. Cowling, B., Zhou, Y., Ip, D., Leung, G., & Aiello, A. (2010). “Face masks to prevent transmission of influenza virus: A systematic review,” Epidemiology and Infection, 138(4): 449-456. doi:10.1017/S0950268809991658
  11. Denis Rancourt, “Masks Don’t Work: A review of science relevant to COVID-19 social policy,” Technical Report · April 2020: 2
  12. Sagan, p 199.
  13. “We prove that the ‘COVID-peak’ feature that is present in the all-cause mortality data of certain mid-latitude Northern hemisphere jurisdictions, including France, cannot be a natural epidemiological event occurring in the absence of a large non-pathogenic perturbation.” [italics added] See Denis Rancourt, Marine Baudin & Jérémie Mercier, Abstract in “Evaluation of the virulence of SARS-CoV-2 in France, from all-cause mortality 1946-2020,” Research Gate, August 2020. This report, while likely contentious, deserves closer examination.

Slavery of Fear

Photo by Nathan O’Nions

Flee, Flight or Freeze

In the natural world, there are two kinds of responses to imminent threats: either flee or fight. Most of the time, in order to maximize chances of survival, the decision has to be made by individuals or groups in less than a split second. On one hand, the option to flee is motivated by this immediate assessment. It has, of course, an important fear factor. On the other hand, the option to fight seems brave on the surface, but intense momentary fear perhaps had to be overcome by a massive adrenaline rush. Fear is a primal and powerful emotion that is essential for survival, but it can also be used as a tool to control people through mental, emotional and even physical paralysis.

Photo by The Malt

There is a third behavioral option when fear completely paralyzes the individual or a group: it is the freeze option, similar to the imaginary sense of the impossibility to act or react for someone going through a deep clinical depression. As a collective or a nation, this freeze or depressed state when facing danger is also possible. Eighty years ago, with the exception of General Charles de Gaulle and a few men who decided to flee to carry on the fight, France capitulated to the German enemy. France froze and became trapped in the ignominy of a collective depression that was the collaboration by the Vichy government.

Photo by Torbak Hopper

In human society, during the barbaric lunacy that has been called the art of war, many substances have been used in history to make soldiers less fearful before combat. Drinking alcohol is an obvious one in Europe; chewing coca leaves for South American native tribes; smoking or eating hashish in the Middle-East and Asia — this concentrated form of cannabis is the etymological origin of the word assassin; more recently, during World War II’s spectacular German Blietzkrieg 1940 attack on France, German troops were given the powerful methamphetamine Pervitin. Naturally, the notion of the fearless master-race Nazi soldiers was nothing but a mythology! The intrepid soldiers of the Reich and their beloved Furher, Adolf Hitler, had the fearlessness of crystal-meth addicts. Pervitin kept Nazi troops awake and fighting for days and nights, and increased their aggressive behavior.

Photo by Kyle Pearce

Of course, one cannot reduce the apparent fearless madness of the entire German nation during World War II to the massive consumption of Pervitin. What was probably the most sophisticated propaganda machine of the time had been put together by the Nazis; it had been brainwashing the minds of Germans, young and old, for almost a decade. Hitler and Co. spent about 10 years molding a sophisticated and cultured society into their ideological monstrosity with the mythology of the purity of blood, master race, and crucially the invention of Jews as evil, depraved and subhuman personified. If this was possible in an advanced society like Germany circa 1930, one must consider that such a gruesome turn of events is possible anywhere at any time, as madness can be a contagious disease.

Photo by Mark Rain

Fear of other cultures is a crucial component of racial hatred. Once a group of people like the Jews in Nazi Germany or the Africans during the slave trade to the Americas have been thoroughly dehumanized, it becomes easy, almost trivial, to torture and kill them. All propagandists are psychologists. Therefore they understand that their manipulation of fear gives birth to powerful dark impulses. A fear of abandonment as a child can later bring about morbid jealousy and various sociopathic behaviors. A fear of destitution drives the compulsion to greed. Collectively, fear can be a giant web of invisible chains that enslave a society in a psychological straight jacket. In this regard, September 11, 2001 and its aftermath was a turning point, and to some extent the Western world has been conditioned to live in fear ever since.

Photo by Hartwig HKD

The war of terror

Putting aside the inside-job narrative, what matters is how crises are used. The net benefit of 9/11 for some was to create a constant sense of uncertainty for the population, and cynically a jackpot for the military-industrial complex. It was the notion that the enemy could be lurking anywhere. The war on terror was, and still is, a conceptual war: an absurd Orwellian war without end because it is supposed to fight diffuse groups of people called terrorists whose only common ground is the use of fear as a weapon. Because fear breeds more fear, the 20-year conceptual war made people, almost worldwide, believe security was more important than personal liberty. The war on terror made people slaves of fear, and they were told it was for their own good.

Photo by Duncan C

Do not blame only Donald Trump for the current authoritarian police state in the US. The Department of Homeland Security was a fascist invention of George W. Bush, using 9/11 as a pretext, and it was maintained by Barack Obama, every time with the complicity of Congress. On one hand, the war on terror wrecked several countries: killed or displaced millions at a cost of several trillion dollars. Everyone knew it was not winnable. On the other hand, what worked for the US and its Western allies was the almost 20-year old war of terror that slowly victimized their own populations with the jackboot of a police-military apparatus constantly on their throats. When fear overcomes an entire society it can be beaten to submission. Where fear rules, servitude becomes acceptable.

Photo by Terence Faircloth

Strategy of fear and the COVID-19 pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has given an entirely new dimension to the slavery of fear initiated on 9/11. There have been almost two decades, which is one generation, of a war of terror on the collective psyche. There could not have been a better introduction to the global fear of a pandemic. A diffuse Muslim fundamentalist enemy who could be anywhere has morphed to an invisible virus that is everywhere. The quantum leap was easily made, because it is intrinsically the same mechanism. It went a lot further than 9/11, because governments managed to convince their populations to submit themselves to various level of lockdown. Imagine this! Almost all complied worldwide, with little resistance and absolutely no organized rebellion.

Photo by Hartwig HKD

Just like the post 9/11 world infringed on human rights and privacy with various invasive policies, the post COVID-19 world has adopted its own arbitrary rules. They have in common that they fuel a fear of everyone and everything and engender agoraphobia, obsessive-compulsive disorders, Stockholm syndrome, and depression. The panoply of mandatory social distancing measures and mask wearing decrees have made people hostile, fearful, and paranoid. Authorities worldwide have been on a joy killing mission. Populations have been successfully infantilized and traumatized by forbidding the most essential human behaviors: the joy to see a smile or the surprise of a flaring nostril; the smell of a ripe fruit at a market; the fortitude of what seems to be a time gone when you could dance with a stranger and perhaps steal a kiss.

More than two hundred years ago, Haitian slaves managed to free themselves, and in the process they defeated the world’s three largest empires: respectively, the French, British, and Spanish. Have we all become such pathetic shadows of our former selves? Are we so weak and cowardly today that we cannot free ourselves from the billionaire class and the fear it is imposing on us?

State of Pandemic Disaster: Melbourne Moves to Stage Four

MelbourneBeing in control of a sinking ship is not enviable.  Regulations previously passed have a museum feel to them, distinctly obsolete.  Directions, once dictated with confidence, lack timbre.  Coronavirus is serving as that most wily and cheeky of agents, with the most appropriate of accomplices: Homo sapiens.  Human beings are fed up, munching on conspiracy tales, wondering when a vaccine will arrive, and generally fatigued.

Globally, people are exhausted, disgusted, deluded and dying.  Somewhere in that cocktail of ill-taste are those who think they are doing their best and abide by regulations with understanding obedience.  They are told about a science that is altering. They are told that they must stay home and avoid going to work.  If they are infected, they must undertake measures of self-quarantine, irrespective of whether they have support or income.  Stiff fines and penalties follow in cases of transgression, including the shaming howls of social media junkies.

The language of political authorities in a state of desperation is ominous, paternal, judgmental.  For Daniel Andrews, premier of the Australian state of Victoria, this is starting to seem natural.  “Where you slept last night is where you’ll need to stay for the next six weeks,” he revealed in his statement on Sunday.  Modest dispensation is permitted for those “partners who live apart and for work”.  A curfew operating from 8 in the evening to 5 in the morning is now in place for six weeks.  “The only reasons to leave home during these hours will be work, medical care and caregiving.”  Exercise is confined to an hour a day within five kilometres.  People, at most, can move about as couples.

Like locusts, purchasers have been swarming the aisles, trolleys heavy, and emptying them of meat, vegetables and fruit.  The obsession with lavatory paper does not seem as pronounced this time (purchase limits have been maintained), but people are stocking up on certain food items knowing that their access is stifled by both time and geography.

What is in place is similar to the elimination regime used in New Zealand, though it is not articulated as such.  It might best be described as suppression with an eliminating spirit, a somewhat more brutal approach.  The Melbourne model is even more onerous: no curfew was imposed in New Zealand, or the compulsory wearing of face masks between March 26 and April 27, or a time limit on exercise.  But the view from across the Tasman is that merely applying such a regime to Melbourne is not sufficient.  Valuable time, suggests University of Auckland academic Siouxsie Wiles, has been lost.  The less restrictive Stage 3 level that came into force on July 8, applying only to Melbourne and the Mitchell Shire “provided too many opportunities for the virus to spread.”  From this less oppressive environment bloomed 7,000 active cases of coronavirus, 2,000 of whom are still a mystery to contact tracers.  Wiles’ suggestion?  Imposing Stage 4 restrictions across the entire state, thereby giving “Victoria the best chance of success, rather than setting it up to play an endless game of COVID-19 whack-a-mole.”

Pandemic politics is also proving to be a nasty business. On the state opposition benches, Victorian Liberal MP Tim Smith continues to hyperventilate and fantasise about the ultimate demise of the Labor premier.  “These ministers and Daniel Andrews have blood on their hands,” he spluttered on Sydney radio station 2GB.  “They have so monumentally failed the people of Victoria.”  Smith sees the crisis as an opportunity for political harvesting. “We are so sick of this man… we’re so utterly sick of him.  In the name of God, would he just go!”  On Radio 3AW, he was truculent.  “We can’t suspend democracy, accountability and the basics of a free society just because we’re dealing with a global pandemic.”

Smith’s demagogy is proving rather rich fare, even for those on his side of politics. The federal treasurer Josh Frydenberg preferred giving his party colleague a wide berth. “They’re not words that I would use,” he admitted to radio host Neil Mitchell.  “Daniel Andrews is obviously operating in a very difficult environment.”  For the moment, grievance and disagreement had to be put aside.  “My message would be, to Tim and to everybody else, let’s work together towards that one single objective, namely to reduce the number of cases and to get the virus under control.”

Frydenberg might well think so, but other party members do not.  Craig Kelly, a federal Liberal MP who can always be counted upon to dynamite the waters of moderate contentment, has mounted his own quixotic crusade against the Victorian premier.  His particular pet project of late is praising the merits of the antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine, and sniping at those who disapprove and ban its use in treating coronavirus cases.  Should that disposition, he asked over the weekend, mean that Andrews face 25 years in jail?  This drew criticism from shadow health minister Chris Bowen as being positively Trumpian, but a clumsy sidestep from Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who refused to “get into what people talk about on Facebook on a day like this”.  This, from a leader keen to take Facebook to task for content extreme and extremist in nature.

The clock has been reset; the gains of the last three weeks regarding the coronavirus annulled.  Many businesses were already on the road to ruin during the previous phase of lockdowns. Many more will now assuredly perish.  Mental health will atrophy.  The death toll will continue to rise.  Other states are monitoring and adjusting their responses.  The measure of grief and concern just went up.

GloboCap Über Alles

So, how are you enjoying the “New Normal” so far? Is it paranoid and totalitarian enough for you? If not … well, hold on, because it’s just getting started. There is plenty more totalitarianism and paranoia still to come.

I know, it feels like forever already, but, in fact, it has only been a few months since GloboCap started rolling out the new official narrative. We’re still in the early stages of it. The phase we’re in now is kind of like where we were back in February of 2002, a few months after the 9/11 attacks, when everyone was still in shock, the Patriot Act was just a few months old, and the Department of Homeland Security hadn’t even been created yet.

You remember how it was back then, when GloboCap was introducing the official “War on Terror” narrative, don’t you?

OK, maybe you do and maybe you don’t. Maybe you’re too young to remember, or you were caught up in the excitement of the moment and weren’t paying attention to the details. But some of us remember it clearly. We remember watching (and futilely protesting) as GloboCap prepared to invade, destabilize, and restructure the entire Middle East, as countries throughout the global capitalist empire implemented “emergency security measures” (which, 18 years later, are still in effect), as the corporate media bombarded us with official propaganda, jacked up The Fear, and otherwise prepared us for the previous “New Normal” … some of us remember all that clearly.

Personally, I remember listening to a liberal academic on NPR calmly speculating that, just hypothetically, at some point in the not-too-distant future, we might need to sacrifice our principles a bit, and torture some people, to “keep America safe.” I recounted this to other Americans at the time, among my many other concerns about where the post-9/11 mass hysteria was heading. Most of them told me I was just being paranoid, or that they didn’t really care, because we needed to do whatever was “necessary” to protect Americans, and, in any event, “the terrorists deserved it.” Shortly thereafter, I started making plans to get the hell out of the country.

I mention that, not to signal my virtue — leaving the U.S.A. didn’t achieve anything, except for improving my standard of living — but to jog your memory, and maybe prompt you to compare that period to the one we are in now. The parallels are overwhelming. The “state of emergency.” The propaganda. The mass hysteria. The mob mentality. The exaggeration of the actual threat. The police-state atmosphere. The suppression of dissent. The constant repetition of the new official narrative. The exhortative catchphrases and meaningless slogans. The confusion. The chaos. The existential fear. And so on. It is all so very familiar.

I’m referring to the simulated pandemic, of course, but also to the racialized civil unrest and identitarian polarization that GloboCap has fomented throughout the United States, and, to varying degrees, the rest of the empire. I’ve been covering the War on Populism and GloboCap’s “Trump-is-literally-Hitler” propaganda since 2016, so the civil unrest isn’t terribly surprising. But, I confess, I did not see the fake plague coming. Running the two psy-ops together was brilliant. The effect on people has been devastating. Everyone is either depressed or enraged, or in some stage of paranoid paralysis. Some have been so thoroughly terrorized that they are literally refusing to leave their houses. Others are lining up at gun shops. White people are getting down on their knees and publicly washing Black people’s feet in “symbolic demonstrations of forgiveness.” Condiments are changing their names. It’s like we’re all trapped in a gratuitously didactic Netflix zombie-apocalypse series set in the world of The Handmaid’s Tale, written, directed, and produced by Spike Lee.

The official propaganda could not be more Orwellian, nor could people’s willingness to go along with it. It doesn’t even have to appear to make sense. Doublethink has taken over. For example, most of the developed world has been in some form of totalitarian lockdown, and subjected to other police-state measures (like being beaten and arrested for not wearing a mask), for no justifiable reason whatsoever, for going on the last five months, but, according to the corporate media (and the millions of people they have apparently brainwashed), it’s only now that Trump has sent his Homeland Security goons into Portland that, suddenly, “democracy is under attack!”

But wait … no, I take it back. The Orwellianism gets even more Orwellian. According to GloboCap and its sanctimonious minions, that sentence I just wrote about Portland is racist, because nearly everything you can imagine is racist, or is a potential threat to the public health. Calling riots “riots” is racist. Silence is racist. Free speech is racist. Refusing to wear a mask is racist. The BLM protesters are immune to the virus, but other large gatherings (which, it goes without saying, are probably racist) all have to be banned. Normality, as Americans knew it, is over, and it is never, ever, coming back, because white supremacy caused the pandemic. Sweden, Norway, Denmark, and Finland (where life has been going on without mass hysteria) do not exist. They have never existed (and, if they ever did, they were probably racist). Talking on public transportation is deadly. Interacting with children is potentially deadly, as are most other forms of human interaction … unless you’re tearing down a racist statue, or burning down a local family business, while wearing a designer anti-racism mask.

Seriously, though, just like in 2002, when GloboCap was still rolling out the “War on Terror” narrative, the facts are all available for anyone who cares. The falsification of Covid statistics and hospital capacity figures, the unreliability of the tests, and so on … it has all been repeatedly documented. Anyone with a positive test result who later dies of any cause (including a fatal motorcycle accident) is counted as a “Covid death.” Anyone admitted to a hospital for anything who tests positive for the virus is a “Covid hospitalization.” And, I’m sorry to disappoint my liberal friends (assuming I have any left at this point), but systematic racism and police brutality did not suddenly begin in 2016.

What suddenly began in 2016 was a concerted effort on the part of GloboCap to put down a growing populist backlash against global capitalism and its soulless ideology. Yes, most of that backlash is neo-nationalist in character, but it also includes a significant number of old-fashioned lefty-types like myself, and a lot of other un-woke folks who aren’t quite ready to embrace their new identities as interchangeable human commodities.

We are experiencing the culmination of that effort (or what they hope is the culmination of that effort) to put down this motley populist insurgency, and ensure that it never happens again. GloboCap is teaching us a lesson. The lesson is:

This is what you get when you fuck around with GloboCap. This is what voting for Trump, Brexit, and all the rest of that ‘populist’ nonsense gets you … global pandemics, civil race wars, riots, lockdowns, economic depression, societal collapse, chaos, fear. Go ahead, fuck around with us some more. We will make you wear ridiculous face masks forever. We will paint little arrows and boxes on the floor to show you where to walk and stand. We will bankrupt your businesses, shut down your schools, psychologically torture your children. We’ll inject them with any fucking thing we want. There is nothing you can do about it. We will make you get down on your knees and apologize for fucking with us, or we will stigmatize you as a ‘racist,’ sic our mobs of fanatics on you, and ‘cancel’ you and your entire family.

This, essentially, is the message that GloboCap is delivering to disobedient populists (left or right, it makes no difference; GloboCap doesn’t care which political labels we cling to or slap on each other). It is our final warning to quit playing grab-ass, get with the global capitalist program, and start behaving and thinking as we’re told … unless we want to get locked down again, and ordered to wear things on our faces, and be otherwise ritually humiliated.

See, the so-called “New Normal” (i.e., the new ideological narrative that GloboCap is rolling out) is actually not that new at all … or, OK, the pathologization part is (and I’ll be paying close attention to that aspect of it), but, basically, it’s just plain old totalitarianism. It isn’t state-totalitarianism, because our world isn’t ruled by nation-states. It is ruled by global capitalism. We are being reminded of that fact at the moment … and being shown what happens if we start to forget it.

Where we go from here is anyone’s guess. My hunch is, it is only going to get worse until they can get Trump out of office, which Americans are liable to help them do, simply to make the whole nightmare stop. Once he’s gone, they’ll probably retire the fake pandemic, call off the riots, and stage some sort of international celebration of the Rebirth of Democracy, after which they can get finally back to the business of ruthlessly destabilizing, restructuring, and privatizing the planet, sanitizing history, curing humanity of racism, hate, and other pathologies, and otherwise enforcing rigid conformity to global capitalist ideology.

Maybe they could get the Hamilton composer to write them a hip hop Deutschlandlied to use as a supranational anthem. They could call it GloboCap Über Alles … it kind of has a ring to it, doesn’t it?

All Confusion and Contradictions in Trump’s Apocalyptic America

In front of White House

Americans are angry. I suspected they would be, but I got confirmation that they are, all over the place: in Miami, Washington D.C., Baltimore, Minneapolis, New York, and Boston. Basically, everywhere I went, while “taking pulse and temperature” of this country where I used to live, cumulatively, for more than a decade, I felt frustration and bewilderment.

“What is your job?” Shouted an African-American lady, right in the middle of the Union Station in the nation’s capital. Obviously, it was a rhetorical question, as she almost immediately answered her own query: “There are no jobs!”

Mr. Floyd got murdered by perverse, sadistic police officers. The economy is collapsing, at least for the poor and the middle class. The COVID-19 pandemic is like a rollercoaster, up and down, up and down, with no end in sight.

People are confused, while the government is increasingly aggressive. Much of the so-called “progressive media” is suddenly not behaving progressively at all. Racism is sometimes fought against with brand new types of racism. Anti-racist movements get periodically infiltrated by the extreme right-wing groups, as I witnessed in Minneapolis.

The U.S. government is basically confronting countries like China, Venezuela, Russia and Iran. Not just verbally, but militarily. And the reason why our world is not in the middle of WWIII, yet, is because of tremendous restrain and wisdom of the U.S. adversaries.

*****

At home, no jobs, no coherent policy on how to fight against the COVID-19; no national unity in the moment of disaster.

What I have been witnessing so far were some jerky, inconsistent moves on the part of the governments (the federal and the state ones), as well as the ensuing confusion, complimented by half-hearted, and patchy solutions. Quite the opposite of what I experienced in Asia, be it in socialist China and Vietnam, but also in the far from the socialist nations such as Thailand, South Korea, the Philippines.

Just a quick reality check, and it becomes clear that the U.S. system already failed, squarely and patently: 30 million people out of jobs since the pandemic began. Three million infected, and probably, by now, much more. Over 130.000 U.S. citizens lost their lives. Of course, it all depends on how the total number of victims is calculated. Still, no matter how it is done, even if the lowest numbers are correct, the United States is the most affected country on Earth, which is an absolute shame, considering that it is still one of the richest.

The Trump Administration is, of course, aware of all this, and just a few months before the Presidential elections, it is desperately searching for someone else to blame for this enormous national disaster. The President and his men are frantically pointing fingers in all directions: from China (P.R.C.) to the World Health Organization (WHO). From the Communist Party of China, from President Maduro to the U.S. state governors and those very few “disobedient” members of the mass media who still dare, at least occasionally, to challenge the official narrative.

Conspiracy theories are abundant. Demonstrations and protests are taking place all over the nation. In New York City, the murder rate is up. Sirens are howling. People are uttering clichés. “Follow the money,” I hear everywhere.

Who is to blame? Inept regime? Monstrous outdated capitalism? Corporatism? Shitty education system? People don’t now. While ‘false prophets’ are thriving.

Government, mass media, as well as a great majority of the so-called ‘progressive’ media (do not confuse it with left-wing media, which hardly exists in the United States, anymore), are blaming socialist China, as they are blaming Russia, Iran, and other independent-minded countries.

*****

This is clearly a political fight. The pandemic is there, of course, but for the White House, it is nothing else other than background noise and stench. On all fronts, the U.S. regime is fighting for its survival. Trump is clashing with various foreign countries, those which have a real, left-wing ideology.

Much is at stake. The survival of the entire repulsive system is now in question. If this terrible scheme collapsed, the whole world would rejoice; it would benefit. But the majority of North Americans would lose. Even those who like to paint themselves as ‘progressives’ or ‘different’ or “also victims”. And so, there are thousands of conspiracies aimed at discrediting the fury which followed the killing of Mr. Floyd. There are countless theories about the origins of the pandemic, as well as its management, or, more precisely, mismanagement.

For both the Trump and his Democratic Party opponents, it is now absolutely essential to discredit morally and socially much more successful countries like China, Russia, even Cuba.

Monstrous propaganda tsunami has been unleashed in the United States, but also the U.K. It is unprecedented and overwhelming. Alternative voices are silenced. Censorship, even amongst the so-called ‘alternative’ Western publications, is becoming bulletproof. And it all happened literally overnight. While my essays used to be reprinted just 2-3 months ago by at least 20 major outlets in the United States and Canada, now it is at most five which dare to publish me. My internationalist, unconditionally left-wing angle did not change at all. But true colors of the U.S. and Canadian “progressive” and “independent” media got exposed. Simultaneously, my work has been gaining great support in non-Western countries. This says a lot about the situation!

Back to Trump. He is attacking foreign countries, horrified that people could notice how optimistic and compassionate some other nations are. And how nihilist, over-rated, empty and depressing is the United States.

He is also antagonizing those who are now bringing down statues of Western bigots, genocidal cadres, slave owners, and conquerors.

He is clearly soiling his pants.

In the same breath he is smearing the health officials, who dare to paint bleak (read: realistic) picture, and urging him to put people’s interests above those of the economy, particularly the private sector.

On July 8, 2020, even pro-regime CNN reported:

Five months into a still-raging pandemic that has killed more than 130,000 Americans, the long-simmering tensions between President Donald Trump and the health experts who staff his government have escalated from private griping to shrugging disagreement to now open dispute.

The result, people at those agencies say, is a new sense of demoralization as they continue their attempts to fight a once-in-a-generation health crisis while simultaneously navigating the whims of a President who has shown little interest or understanding of their work.

That Trump does not trust nor follow the advice of experts such as Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease specialist, is hardly new. The President has not attended a meeting of his coronavirus task force in months, and recently its sessions have been held outside the White House, including on Wednesday at the headquarters of the Department of Education. Fauci was told to participate in the meeting remotely by videoconference, preventing him from participating in a midday task force press briefing…

Precisely, nothing new. Except that even CNN, one of the mouthpieces of the empire, is finally noticing!

*****

It is all about spreading nihilism, on both domestic and foreign fronts.

China is getting attacked in the most extreme, unreasonable, and even bizarre fashion by both President Trump and his team, but also by their adversaries. After winning the fight against the COVID-19, the P.R.C. has been blamed for virtually everything, from withholding data, negatively influencing the WHO, and even for the manufacturing of the virus in one of its laboratories based in Wuhan, and then spreading it to all corners of the world. “Chinese Virus,” the White House has been calling it, while no one knows yet for certain, where it actually really originated. Naturally, Beijing and entire China have been indignant.

None of the U.S. government accusations have been proven. Allegations after allegations have been ridiculed by the U.S. medical, scientific community, and often by the academia. But the administration already went too far, and it is clearly unable to stop its own attacks anymore. Trump ignores ridicule, hoping that his macho, vulgar and provincial rhetoric would appeal to certain group of uneducated, extremist part of the population, and win him the second term.

Even some individuals related to the U.S. diplomatic community in China, such as Tzu-i Chuang Mullinax and Roseanne Freese, are voicing disagreement with the official White House narrative.

Analyzing the uprising which followed the murder of Mr. George Floyd (who happened to be COVID-19 positive), I spoke to dozens of Americans of all races and social standings. The majority of them have been outraged by the government’s handling of the epidemy and the unrest. Not one person that I spoke to actually blamed China or any other foreign country, directly, for the dire situation in the United States.

Minneappolis burning

Anti-Chinese rhetoric is clearly a political football played by both Republicans and Democrats. The same goes for the anti-Russian sentiments, including belittlement of the Russian foreign aid sent to the United States, at the very beginning of the pandemic.

The strategy of the U.S. government is simple; some would say primitive: “Whatever terrible is happening inside the country, just counterattack and blame everything on the political opponents, and if you can’t, attack the foreign countries; China, Russia, even Iran or Venezuela. Or smear the United Nations agencies, like WHO.  Guide insults to all corners of the world, but also don’t forget to send the battleships.”

There is much that is going wrong in the U.S., very, very wrong. Tents with homeless people could now be spotted all around the downtown Washington D.C. The White House has been converted into a fortress. And while millions of American people are marching, protesting against the endemic racism and discrimination, the K.K.K. and its affiliates like Proud Boys, are burning cities and infiltrating legitimate anti-racist demonstrations (something that I will soon be addressing in my essays).

Images are apocalyptic. The situation is explosive.

This is one of the most dangerous moments in world history. But, shockingly, not much is being written about the urgency and threat which our planet is facing!

• Originally published by NEO – New Eastern Outlook (a journal of the Russian Academy of Sciences)

Lessons from the pandemic not yet learned

As the coronavirus, once again, surges out of control in the United States, it is safe to say that even those few lessons learned have been cast aside by those who place profits before people. Greed and ignorance, not public health policy, is deciding the fate of tens of thousands in our nation who are likely to die and many times that who will suffer from COVID-19 as we stumble from one surge to another. As other nations succeed, the US continues to fail under incompetent political leadership and a privatized health care system unprepared to handle a domestic epidemic, let alone a global pandemic. This analysis brings together in one place the reasons for this failure and posits remedies the nation could embrace.

Virus control, absent a vaccine, is entirely dependent on the ability of a society to prevent its spread from its point of origin. The new coronavirus, as we have painfully learned, is not an exception. This is the context for the lessons noted here. Scientists studying the transmission of the coronavirus estimate that without any travel or social distancing restrictions, one infected person on average transmits the virus to 2.5 others daily. Roughly estimated, this means if there were 10 cases on day one, in seven days about 10,000 people could be infected.

However, this depends on the individual’s activities. In April, an outbreak in Minnesota occurred in which one person infected 14 others at a house party attended by dozens of people. This outbreak was quickly contained, but had it not, those 14 infected could have increased to hundreds in a few days. In the US, the inability to prevent transmission meant that infections climbed exponentially from 710 confirmed cases on March 14, one day after the national emergency was declared, to 20,000 just 14 days later on March 28.

Social distancing guidelines aim to bring the transmission rate below 1.0, a rate at which any infected persons on average would only infect only one other person per day. At this rate, the virus spread plateaus. Yet, to successfully quarantine the virus, instead of the virus quarantining society, requires pushing the rate down to 0.30, the point at which three infected people on average would only pass the virus on to one other person. Put another way, dramatically reducing the rate of infection entails preventing transmission about 60­–70 percent of the time. At these rates the virus can be managed, perhaps even extinguished over time.

As a nation, we have been reluctant to accept what the virus requires of us in order to put it in check. Deaths and infections, though less than that at the peak, continue at about one thousand deaths and nearly 20,000 new cases daily. At this rate, estimates show at least 100,000 more people will die by Election Day. The director of the Harvard Global Health Institute, Ashish K. Jha, called this stark trajectory “unconscionable.” Jha said, “It’s stunning to me that we have just decided that it’s okay for tens of thousands of Americans to die and we aren’t going to do what we know we can do to prevent those deaths.”

The following lessons speak for themselves. However, the nation’s institutions and political and corporate leaders are still reluctant to heed them. Americans must demand they do their jobs. If, as predicted, the virus persists and reasserts itself during the upcoming flu season fall the nation must be prepared. Americans should accept no excuses.

Lesson number one

For decades political and corporate forces plotted to cut health care budgets, downsize health facilities, and privatize hospitals and health care systems to make a profit. In this pandemic Americans are reaping the deadly consequences of their scheming. The result is a fragmented US corporate health care system, comprised of a myriad of private for profit hospitals and other medical delivery systems, that was unprepared, under-resourced and under-staffed to effectively respond to the virus.

Correcting this will require bringing all major health care providers into the public domain and replacing the inefficient private insurance system with national health insurance – Medicare for All. We need a system where all are insured in a seamless, efficient, service-focused public health care program. This is lesson number one and requires a systemic solution. The critique and lessons that follow are specific to the shortcomings and failures of the past five months.

Delaying quarantine actions was costly

The US was slow to identify the New York City (NYC) area as an epicenter of the infection. The evidence was in sight but was overlooked or ignored. A study released in early April from the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in NYC found that the high traffic volume from Europe and, to a lesser but still significant extent, travel directly between the US and China imported the virus to NYC. As the infection began to rage in Italy by mid-February, typical volumes of passengers were arriving at NY-area airports until the federal government blocked most travel from Europe on March 11. By then the damage had already been done, seeding as many as 10,000 cases before the first person tested positive for COVID-19 in NYC.

Even as deaths mounted in NYC, New York political leaders rejected adopting quarantine-level travel restrictions in and out of the NYC region. Instead, travel continued, and tens of thousands of New Yorkers traveled out of the city, spreading the virus further into the region and nationally.

A recent Yale University genetic epidemiological study confirmed this. Within the US, the coronavirus traveled largely from the NYC region to other parts of the country. A smaller portion traveled from Washington State, where the virus arrived with travelers directly from China, seeding infections in California and Oregon and a few other locales. Surprisingly, the study showed an estimated 50 percent of the California cases resulted from travelers transiting through or arriving from NYC.

Restricting travel in or out of the NYC area, except for essential goods, may still have been effective had a quarantine action been taken when Italy locked down its infected northern cities on March 8, an action restricting the movement of 16 million people.

On March 22, when Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo issued the stay-at-home order for NYC, tens of thousands of passengers had already returned from Italy and Spain and other EU countries. Between these two dates, thousands more were infected in the NYC region and beyond. According to media accounts, few passengers were screened upon arrival. Yet, passengers reported they were only asked if they had been to China, Iran, or South Korea, not France, Italy or Spain.

A Columbia University study showed that had tighter nationwide control been put in place on March 8, fewer than 4,300 would have died by May 3. Instead the tally rose to 21,800. A little arithmetic would lead to conclude, then, that instead of 1,000 dying daily today in May it could be under 100. Restricting unnecessary domestic travel to and from NYC on March 8 in conjunction with enforcing strict quarantine rules and contact tracing for those returning from Europe would also have limited the spread of the virus to uninfected areas. In Minnesota, where I live, 72 percent of the virus cases were transited from the NYC area, while just 15 percent were transmitted from the West Coast. Passengers arriving in Minnesota were screened if they transited from China or Europe but not domestic travelers from New York airports. A costly omission.

A point of origin quarantine model proved effective in Wuhan, China, even once the virus had spread in small numbers to other cities. A modified version of China’s lockdown regime was adopted by France, Spain, and Italy, after other measures failed. By March 1, Italy banned travel in and out of infected areas with the aid of law enforcement and succeeded in minimizing the virus spreading to southern Italy.

The difference between US results by late May and those of Italy is astonishing. In Italy, new daily infections dropped from a high of 6,000 to 1,000 over a period of just one month, an 80 percent decline. In sharp contrast, in mid-May, 115 days into the pandemic, US daily infections fell just 33 percent, from about 30,000 to 20,000. With the virus still not under control states began to open their economies. The result: 50,000 plus cases a day by late June. Until these lessons are heeded disastrous consequences lie ahead.

In recent weeks, new daily cases in Italy, France, and Spain have averaged under 500. The total population of the three countries is 172 million, roughly one-half of the US. A little math shows that if the US had deployed a national coordinated response following these nations’ protocols, new daily US cases would now average just 1,000, not 50,000. What we are witnessing is a national failure. Neglect, denial and unpreparedness has cost tens of thousands of lives, several million to be needlessly infected and incalculable economic suffering. US scientists predicted in March that if the virus is allowed to rule as many as a million may die. Countless others are likely to have scarred lungs and damaged organs after recovering. Learning from these lessons is the only means to avoid such consequences.

Testing, contact tracing and a quarantine regime

Robust contact tracing regimes must be in place, not invented on the fly. Five months after the virus first appeared in the US, we are still implementing a program of testing and isolation. South Korea had such a program in place and quickly implemented it and contained the virus. Those individuals testing positive who could not safely quarantine at home were provided lodging for 14 days. Tracing and health monitoring were done via cell phones. Americans may be reluctant to be monitored like this, but the alternative is to let the virus monitor us. So long as such a regime is not in place, the virus will rule.

Isolating hot spots

In Minnesota and elsewhere, we have heard a lot about hot spots in meat processing plants. In April, a lack of foresight and the capacity to respond caused the virus to travel from a Smithfield plant in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, to the JBS plant in Worthington, Minnesota. Since the plants are only an hour’s drive apart, workers employed at one plant often have relatives and friends working at the other. The virus was identified at the Smithfield plant the second week in April and two weeks later at the Worthington JBS plant. Could this have been avoided or at least minimized? If a quarantine practice were in place, travel between the two areas would have been prohibited immediately after the Smithfield report (even proactively in March). JBS would have been shut down for cleaning and for testing of workers. JBS workers had earlier expressed concern among themselves the virus would spread from Smithfield. They were not heard.

Nursing homes: again a quarantine regime is needed

Testing residents does not solve the problem unless all staff are deemed virus-free and remain virus-free. Once staff leave a COVID-free workplace, they are susceptible to contracting the disease during their daily activities. Extraordinary precautions are the only means to prevent a virus that has a high mortality rate among the elderly. How might this be possible? Medical and all other staff need to be isolated from public interactions. One trip to the grocery store could infect residents the next day. One option is to rent hotel rooms paid for by COVID-allocated funds. Staff who are mothers with infants should be paid to stay at home. Food and other essential needs for quarantined workers should be delivered.

These measures would not only protect residents but also the health care workers’ families and coworkers. Given what we see unfolding daily, it appears that if dramatic steps are not taken, we can expect more infections and a steady stream of deaths arising from nursing homes and assisted living facilities month after month.

Testing failure

Clearly, the US was unprepared to implement a testing regime. Wholly inadequate supplies of fast and reliable testing made effective contact tracing out of reach until recently and even now cannot meet demand. The federal health administrative system and pharmaceutical firms lacked stores of reagents, testing swabs, and equipment. This was inexcusable negligence at the outset and five months later is still causing illness, death, and economic hardship. So long as we cannot test, track, and isolate, we will be forced to stay at home or, as we are now doing, opening the economy facing high rates of infection and deaths.

Public mandate to wear face masks

The failure to immediately mandate wearing face masks in public spaces and for front-line workers clearly increased the spread of the virus. For yet inadequately explained reasons, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and scientists on the president’s coronavirus task force delayed recommending this preventive measure until April 3rd, weeks after the national emergency was declared. The effectiveness of mask wearing to prevent spread is well established. Asian nations with experience managing epidemics immediately require anyone in public or providing a public service to wear a mask. Why such a logical, well-established preventive measure was not immediately mandated here demands an investigation. Come fall and winter, quality masks for everyone will be needed to prevent the spread of both the coronavirus and new strains of the flu. According to infectious disease control officials in Taiwan, if everyone wears the proper mask, the spread of infection could be reduced by as much as 99 percent.

Are we prepared for fall?

Clearly, not yet. In an interview in May, Dr. Michael Osterholm, the director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, suggested we are lagging behind the virus. “We have to stop promising people everything will be okay, because that’s not going to be the case,” he said. In other words, so long as the virus dictates our future, we are all in jeopardy.

Five months after the pandemic began, production of personal protective equipment (PPE) still lags behind the need. Firms are still unable to provide frontl-ine medical personnel with adequate PPE, unable to produce tens of millions of high-quality masks for public use and unable to produce sufficient materials needed for mass testing. By fall they must be ready. They dare not fail again.

Collective action is the only remedy we have until a vaccine is available. Any institution, business, and governmental entity impeding taking effective action must be forced to measure up to the challenge. State and federal political leaders found wanting and beholden to profiteers, beginning with the current president, need to be swept out of office. If the top management of private health systems and pharmaceutical firms cannot meet the nation’s needs, they should be replaced. Profit is irrelevant; we need performance. We need cooperation between firms, not competition. The lessons described here require collective cooperation and effective leadership. If one or the other falls short, the virus will prevail.

Total Masking: Victoria’s Coronavirus Response

Melbourne — The Victorian Premier turned up for his weekend delivery of coronavirus infections, gruffly delivering the news.  It has become grim if compelling viewing: the announcement about the next spike in coronavirus infections, the next gruesome statistical spread on transmission.  On Sunday, Daniel Andrews had a pose that has become legend, a cross between plasticine figure and instructive despair.  Stern, humourless, with little to be humour filled about, his role of late is telling people what to do.  With stern command he had a message: All those in the state of Victoria, had to wear face masks.  “Most of us wouldn’t leave home without our keys, we wouldn’t leave your home without our mobile phone – you won’t be able to leave home without your mask.”

The evidentiary account did not quite square with the urgency of the message.  The largest transmissions were taking place in workplaces, not outdoor places of recreation.  But it did not matter.  This was the sledgehammer of public health, being taken to the public for a quarantine system that failed with abysmal effect.  Anyone leaving their home in the Metropolitan Melbourne and Mitchell Shire from Thursday without a mask risk fines of $200.  Not complying with such measures will also encourage the government to take further intrusive measures: limitations on shopping; confinement of exercising to a person’s local postcode.

The measure is indiscriminate, but all absolutism comes with its carved exceptions.  According to the Victorian health minister Jenny Mikakos, surgical masks, reusable cloth masks purchased or made, can be used. “Or if you don’t have one, you can use a scarf or bandana to cover your nose and mouth. Wash your hands before putting it on and after taking it off.”  Those with disabilities who struggle with putting on such face wear and those with breathing difficulties will also be spared the fining wrath of the state.

The catch-all measure casts aside criticism and critics about masking protocol.  Putting on such wear comes with its canonical tips and tried methods.  Avoiding them, and you risk doing greater harm to yourself than otherwise.  Brett Mitchell, professor of nursing at the University of Newcastle, is distinctly apocalyptic in describing the consequences for the sloppy mask wearer, and others.  “The front of the mask will ‘catch’ pathogens.  Every time you adjust or touch your masks, your hands could become contaminated.  Everything you then touch could become contaminated.”

The focus on the face mask remains problematic. It arises from a discipline that was never quite sure about its effective use in coping with pandemic transmissions.  Positions have been upended, adjusted, revised.  On June 9, the Australian deputy chief medical officer Nick Coatsworth explained that vulnerable people who had to use public transport might well use masks, but did not “think that general, healthy members of the community need to be considering wearing masks in that context.”  On June 22, Coatsworth reiterated the point in a press conference, despite “an increase in the absolute number of cases in Victoria”.  In instances of “very low levels of community transmission the value of face masks in the community is limited, and that recommendation has not changed.”

Victoria’s Chief Health Officer Professor Brett Sutton has now come around to the idea of total masking, suggesting that recent evidence showed that wearing a mask “makes a practical difference”.  Those “who wear masks and the settings in which masks are worn has shown that there’s a really significant – two thirds or more – reduction in transmission.”

Sutton would be placing much stock in such studies as those made in the journal Infectious Disease Modelling.  The authors, using model simulations based on data from the US states of New York and Washington, found that “broad adoption of even relatively ineffective face masks may meaningfully reduce community transmission of COVID-19 and decrease peak hospitalizations and deaths.”  Masks were also “found to be useful with respect to both preventing illness in healthy persons and preventing asymptomatic transmission.”

The shifting sands in the advice on face masks can also be found in the assessments of such epidemiologists as UC San Francisco’s George Rutherford and infectious disease specialist Peter Chin-Hong.  For Chin-Hong, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reversed its initial advice in insisting people mask up because of accumulating evidence.  Initially, the CDC was “preaching that the juice isn’t really worth the squeeze to have the whole population wear masks in the beginning – but that was really a reflection of not having enough testing anyway.”  This led to a “false sense of security.”  Rutherford takes a harder line.  “We should have told people to wear cloth masks right off the bat.”

In June, the World Health Organization also reversed its position on face coverings, premised on the basis that encouraging such wear would deprive health workers of essential safety equipment while encouraging a false sense of security.  As the body’s director-general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus observed, “in light of evolving evidence, the WHO advises that governments should encourage the general public to wear masks where there is widespread transmission and physical distancing is difficult, such as on public transport, in shops or in other confined or crowded environments.”

The trend towards recommending and even mandating masks despite an initial opposition to that policy was already taking place in April.  France’s Académie Nationale de Médecine (Academy of Medicine) took the position that donning such facial wear should be compulsory for outings during and after the lockdown.  Physician turned television personality Marina Carrère d’Encausse did her little bit to sabotage trust in public health expertise by suggesting that the official line against masks was a “lie” initially told “for a good cause”: ensuring that health care workers had adequate supply.

In all of this, it is hard to avoid the feeling that millions of people have become part of an enormous, live experiment in public health, a trial-by-error approach that has already proven to be very costly.  Science is marked by the operation of the falsifiable hypothesis; but with each falsification, notably in the field of epidemiology and disease, can come staggering loss.  The “we are all in this together” message is starting to look a bit tatty.

Masked, Homeless, and Desolate

Personality is persona, a mask…The mask is magic…Larva means mask; or ghost…it also means mad, a case of demoniacal possession.

– Norman O. Brown, Love’s Body, 1966

Walk the streets in the United States and many countries these days and you will see streaming crowds of people possessed by demons, masked and anonymous, whose eyes look like vacuums, staring into space or out of empty sockets like the dead, afraid of their own ghosts.  Fear and obedience oozes from them.  Death walks the streets with people on leashes in lockstep.

That they have been the victims of a long-planned propaganda campaign to use an invisible virus to cower them into submission and shut down the world’s economy for the global elites is beyond their ken.  This is so even when the facts are there to prove otherwise.  It is a clear case, as Peter Koenig tells Michel Chossudovsky in this must-see interview, that is not a conspiracy theory but a blatant factual plan spelled out in the 2010 Rockefeller Report, the October 18, 2019 Event 201, and Agenda 21, among other places.

Who can wake the sleepwalkers up in this cowardly new world where culture and politics collude to create and exploit ignorance?

Fifty-five years ago on this date, August 20, 1965, Bob Dylan released his song “Like a Rolling Stone.” It arrived like a rocking jolt into the placid pop musical culture of the day. It was not about wanting to hold someone’s hand or cry in the chapel. It wasn’t mumbo-jumbo like “Wooly Bully,” the number one hit. It wasn’t like the pop pap that dominates today’s music scene.  It wasn’t Woody Guthrie in slow time.

It beat you up.  It attacked.  It confronted you. Maybe, if you were alive then, you thought Dylan was kidding you. You thought wrong.  Bitching about his going electric was a dodge.  He was addressing all of us, including himself.

Still is. But who wants to hear his recent “Murder Most Foul” and read Dylan’s scathing lyrics about the assassination of JFK, the killing that started the slow decay that has resulted in such masked madness.  “And please, Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood,” he tells us in capital letters for emphasis.  Exactly what all the mainstream media have done, of course, and not by accident.

There are no alibis.  “How does it feel/To be on your own/with no direction home/A complete unknown/Like a rolling stone?”

It was in the mid-1960s when confidence in knowing where home was and how to get there disappeared into thin air.  If you left mommy and daddy, could you ever get back from where you were going?  Who had the directions?  Absolutes were melting and relativity was widespread.  Life was wild and the CIA was planning to make it wilder and more confusing with the introduction of LSD on a vast scale. MKUltra was expanding its scope. Operation Mockingbird was singing so many tunes that heads were spinning, as planned. The national security state killers were in the saddle, having already murdered President Kennedy and Malcolm X as they sharpened their knives for many more to come.  The peace candidate, Lyndon Baines Johnson, had been elected nine months earlier with 61.1% of the popular vote and went immediately to work secretly expanding the war against Vietnam.  War as an invisible virus.  Who knew?  Who, but a small anti-war contingent, wanted to know?  War takes different forms, and the will to ignorance and historical amnesia endure. War is a disease.  In 1968 Richard Nixon was elected on a “secret plan” to end the Vietnam War and then ramped it up to monstrous proportions, only to be reelected in 1972 by carrying 49 out of 50 states.

Who wants to know now?  The historian Howard Zinn once said correctly that this country’s greatest problem wasn’t disobedience but obedience.

What’s behind the masks?  The lockstep?

On the same day that Dylan released “Like a Rolling Stone,” Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, just back from a “fact-finding” trip to Vietnam, recommended to LBJ that U.S. troop levels in Vietnam be increased to 175,000 and that the U.S. should increase its bombing of North Vietnam dramatically.  This was the same McNamara who, in October 1963, had agreed with JFK when he signed NSAM 263 calling for the withdrawal of 1,000 military personnel from Vietnam by the end of 1963 and the remainder by the end of 1965.  One of the moves that got Kennedy’s head blown open.

Poor McNamara, the fog of war must have clouded his conscience, confused the poor boy, just like Secretary of State Colin Powell holding up that vile vial of “anthrax” at the United Nations on February 5, 2003 and lying to the world about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

Powell recently said, “I knew I didn’t have any choice.  He’s the President.”  How “painful,” to use his word,  it must have been for the poor guy, lying so that so many Iraqis could be slaughtered.  Of course, he had no choice.  These war criminals all wear masks. And have no choice.

Masks, or demonic possession, or both.  You?

It’s tough being on your own.  It hurts to think too much.  Or think for yourself, at least.  To obey an authority higher than your bosses.  “I was tricked” is some sort of mantra, is it not?

You never turned around to see the frowns on the jugglers and the clowns

When they all did tricks for you

Dylan was lost and disgusted when he wrote the song. His own music sickened him, which, for an artist, means he sickened himself. He had just returned from a tour of England and was sick of people telling him how much they loved his music when he didn’t.  He needed to change.

What else is the point of art but change?  If you’re dead, or afraid of getting dead, you aren’t going to change.  You’re stuck.  Stuck is dead.  Why wear a mask if you know who you are?

Knowledge, or more accurately, pseudo-knowledge or mainstream media lies, is a tomb “the mystery tramp” sold to us, a place to hide to avoid pain and guilt.

I have read more books than anyone I know.  It sickens me.

I know too much.  That sickens me.

I sicken myself. All the news sickens me.

I know so much no one believes me.

As Francesco Serpico once told me: “It’s all lies.”

Of course.  Dylan and Serpico are blood brothers.

Only art tells the truth.  Real art.

Not bullshit pop art.  Some say “Like a Rolling Stone” is about Edie Sedgwick, “the girl of the year” in 1965 and one of Andy Warhol’s superstars. Perhaps to a degree it is, but it’s far more than that.  It’s about us.

Poor Edie was poisoned by her wealthy family at a young age and barely had a chance.  She was an extreme example of a rather common American story. People poisoned in the cradle.  Thinking of her got me thinking of Andy Warhol, the death obsessed hoarder, the guy who called his studio “The Factory” in a conscious or unconscious revelation of his art and persona, his wigs and masks and the hold he has had on American culture all these years.  Isn’t he the ultimate celebrity?

Warhol once took my photo on a deserted street.  His and my secret but this is the truth.  West 47th Street on an early Sunday morning, 1980.  I guess he thought he was doing art or collecting images for his museum of dead heads.  When I asked him why, he said I had an interesting face.  I told him he did too, rather transparent and creepy, but I didn’t want to capture him.  He was a ghost with a camera, a face like a death mask, trying to capture a bit of life.  I told him I didn’t give him permission to shoot me, but he turned and walked away into the morning mist.  The shooters always just walk away in pseudo-innocence.

I then went down the street to the Gotham Book Mart that was my destination and asked James Joyce why he had written “The Dead,” and Joyce, secretive as ever, quoted himself, “Ed,” he said, “Think you’re escaping and run into yourself.  Longest way round is the shortest way home.”  Now that was direction.

Only those who know how to play and be guided by intuition are able to escape the living tomb of so-called knowledge; what Dylan called, lifelessness.  But that was from “Desolation Row,” released as the closing track of Highway 61 Revisited on August 30, 1965.  The only acoustic song on the album.  Slow it down to make the point another way.  “Like a Rolling Stone” was the opening track.

Do you feel all alone or part of a masked gang roaming the streets incognito? Miss and Mr. Lonely, does that mask help?  How do you feel?

Desolation means very lonely. From Latin, de, completely, solare, lonely.

Does that mask help?  Do you feel alone together now, one of the crowd?

Do you really want to know about desolation row?  It’s here. It was here in 1965, too.  Only the true lonely know how it feels to really be all alone.

The Umbrella People, those who some call the deep state or secret government under whose protection all the politicians work, say they want to protect us all from death and disease.  They are lying bastards who’ve gotten so many to imitate their masked ways.  They can only sing a mockingbird’s song.

Listen to real singers. Dylan has arched the years, as true artists do. Who has paid close attention to what he said this year about the assassination of President Kennedy in his song, “Murder Most Foul”?  Or were many caught up in the propaganda surrounding corona virus, and rather than contemplating his indictment of the U.S. government and its media accomplices, were they contemplating their navels to see if a virus had secreted itself in there. Viruses lurk everywhere, they say, and the corporate media made certain to circulate a vaccine about the truth in Dylan’s song.  This is normal operating procedure.

We are on still on Desolation Row.

“Take Off the Masks.”  That was the title of a book by Rev. Malcolm Boyd that I reviewed long ago.  He was a gay priest who decided that his mask was a lie.  He came out into the light of truth.  He had guts.

It is time for everyone to take off the masks.  Escape from Desolation Row.

Listen to Dylan, long ago – today:

At midnight all the agents
And the superhuman crew
Come out and round up everyone
That knows more than they do

And they bring them to the factory
Where their heart attack machine
Is strapped across their shoulders
And then the kerosene

Is brought down from the castles
By insurance men who go
Check to see that nobody is escaping
To Desolation Row

Praise be to Nero’s Neptune
The Titanic sails at dawn
Everybody’s shouting
“Which side are you on?”