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It’s Going to End Badly

May 12, 2020

We’re keeping track of COVID-19 pseudoscience, snake oil, fake cures, and more at CFI’s Coronavirus Resource Center. Separate fact from fiction and inoculate yourself from misinformation at centerforinquiry.org/coronavirus.


Worse and Worser

Good morning, sunbeams! Let’s start the day with a look at how the COVID-19 pandemic is going to make so many other things so much worse! Sigal Samuel at Vox steels us for the collateral damage within the outbreak’s blast radius, such as an overall drop in vaccination rates, folks avoiding being treated for their other ailments, lots of hunger and poverty, a kick in the gut to medical research in other areas, and my favorite, a bacterial pandemic:

“Even though Covid-19 is a viral illness not affected by antibiotics,” Wired reports, “early data from hospitals shows that very high proportions of patients — more than 90 percent in some cohorts — are being treated with those drugs to cure or protect against secondary infections during respiratory illnesses or hospitalization.” In addition, many people are taking antibiotics on their own in a misguided effort to protect against the coronavirus.

This overuse could worsen antibiotic resistance, which is when bacteria evolve and adapt so that our antibiotics can no longer kill them. It’s already a huge crisis: One person in the US dies every 15 minutes because of an infection that antibiotics can no longer treat effectively. Globally, this accounts for about 700,000 deaths per year. If we’re not careful now, that number will mount.

Michelle Goldberg shows how Trump’s ignorance of and disdain for science is ruining everything:

Until recently, it seemed as if Trump’s sabotage of efforts to combat climate change would be the most destructive legacy of his disregard for science. But the coronavirus has presented the country with an emergency that only sound science can solve. That means that the Trump administration’s disdain for expertise, its elevation of slavish loyalty over technical competence, has become a more immediate threat. …

… Any progress America makes in fighting Covid-19 will be in spite of its federal government, not because of it.

States are going to reopen, whether it’s a good idea or not. Donald G. McNeil Jr. at the Times reports:

Most have not met even minimal criteria for doing so safely, and some are reopening even as coronavirus cases rise, inviting disaster. The much-feared “second wave” of infection may not wait until fall, many scientists say, and instead may become a storm of wavelets breaking unpredictably across the country. The reopenings will proceed nonetheless. …

… “We’re not reopening based on science,” said Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, a former director of the C.D.C. in the Obama administration. “We’re reopening based on politics, ideology and public pressure. And I think it’s going to end badly.”

Dr. Fauci will even tell the Senate today that this is a bad idea:

“If we skip over the checkpoints in the guidelines to: ‘Open America Again,’ then we risk the danger of multiple outbreaks throughout the country. This will not only result in needless suffering and death, but would actually set us back on our quest to return to normal.”

I assume he’s already cleaned out his desk.

Elon Musk can’t wait another minute, and defies California’s shelter-in-place orders by reopening his car factory. He says, “If anyone is arrested, I ask that it only be me.” That’s fine by me.

A federal judge rejects a suit from a Maine church, Calvary Chapel Bangor, that wanted to hold Sunday services in defiance of the governor’s stay-at-home orders. The Portland Press-Herald reports on the decision by U.S. District Judge Nancy Torresen:

“The State is managing an extraordinary array of issues, and it has responded to the challenges raised by COVID-19 by establishing uniform standards and restrictions based on evolving scientific evidence,” Torresen said in a 23-page ruling issued Saturday.

She concluded: “Upsetting the careful balance being drawn by Maine’s Governor at this time would have an adverse effect on the public interest.” …

… “The harm to the State that would come from an order requiring it to exempt religious institutions from gathering restrictions is profound,” she wrote. “If the prevalence of COVID-19 pulses up in a community, it puts lives, and particularly the lives of our most vulnerable citizens and the health care workers trying to save them, at risk. It also threatens the precarious steps we are making toward reopening.”

It’s not just the U.S. going crazy, since Brazil’s president is determined to out-crazy us all. The Atlantic reports on how bad things are going to be:

Inadequate testing means that Brazil’s official case count, which is already well over 100,000, could actually be as much as 10 times higher, according to Azevedo, who is also a professor of critical care and emergency medicine at the University of São Paulo, which runs a public hospital, and the head of education at Hospital Sírio-Libanês, a private facility. Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, one of the world’s leading coronavirus deniers, is pushing to ease social-distancing restrictions and reopen the economy, which could accelerate the spread of the virus. “We are only at the beginning,” Azevedo said.


Please Don’t Bring That in Here

A factory in Pennsylvania (swing state!) that has done incredible work to make personal protective equipment like masks, with employees living in the factory for 28 days to ensure there could be no contamination of the products, doesn’t want the president and his maskless maw coming over and screwing it all up:

White House officials pressed to hold an event at the Braskem factory, initially scheduled for last Friday. But after extensive back and forth, factory officials ultimately asked to postpone, worried that a visit from Trump could jeopardize both the safety of the workers and the plant’s ability to produce special material for masks and other medical gear, according to two people familiar with the decision and documents reviewed by The Post.

KQRE reports that the big UFO Festival in Roswell, New Mexico has been canceled this year because of the pandemic, which I think gives away the whole game because WHY WOULD THE ALIENS BE AFRAID OF GETTING THE CORONAVIRUS UNLESS THEY’RE THE ONES THAT MADE IT???


Hey Man, Why Even Have Laws, Right?

The Supreme Court heard arguments in the “ministerial exception” case, in which religious schools wants to be able to fire teachers for whatever reason they like by claiming said teachers fall under the category of “ministers.” Adap Liptak at the Times reports back from what I am sure was a thrilling conference call:

Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. urged the court to focus on the “very specific case” before it. “The function of teaching a religion to new generations is central,” he said, suggesting that the teachers before the court were covered by the exception.

Central to whom? The churches, I assume, but not to, you know, for example, me. Gorsuch, meanwhile, was all, hey guys, let’s not even get into it:

Justice Neil M. Gorsuch said he was wary of judicial entanglement in religious affairs. “Why can’t we just simply say that a sincerely held religious belief about who is a minister should control?” he asked.

Sotomayor and Ginsburg were, as you can imagine, smarter about it:

But Justice Sonia Sotomayor said the schools were making a sweeping argument, one that applied to all sorts of laws governing the workplace. “You’re asking for something broader than giving the schools the power to hire or fire certain kinds of people because of how they teach religion,” she told Mr. Rassbach.

Justice Ginsburg said that “the breadth of the exemption is staggering.”

“To take a sharp example, suppose a teacher who does everything the two teachers in these cases do, as a faith leader, also reports a student’s complaint of sexual harassment by a priest and is terminated, has no remedy?” she asked.


Anoint This

A Pew survey shows that Americans can see the obvious, which is that Trump has done more for evangelicals than any other religious group, and about half of Americans recognize that he has hurt Muslims.

Paul Djupe and Ryan Burge show us that the belief that Trump was “anointed by God” is going up, and not just with white evangelicals:

… white Protestants are NOT distinctive in their beliefs in Trump’s anointing. In the top two attendance categories, the level of belief is effectively identical between the two groups. This is a phenomenon that is sweeping American religion.

Why? An obvious candidate is that people are hearing these arguments made by elites. In our previous post, we noted some high profile figures suggesting a special religious mandate for Trump, but it may go much deeper than talking heads on Fox News.

The Freethought Trail, which is being experienced almost entirely digitally these days, for obvious reasons, has just added its 150th site:

The page marks the location of a Baptist Church in Peterboro, New York, that was demolished in the 1870s. It was the site of the first day of a two-day anti-slavery convention held on August 21–22, 1850. The convention was organized by Peterboro activist and philanthropist Gerrit Smith. Famed anti-slavery activist Frederick Douglass gave an oration lasting approximately 90 minutes.

White House spiritual adviser and Coordinator of Satanic Miscarriages, Paula White, is, um, dancing like a queen bee to get other bees, um, “aroused.” In the name of Jesus. Good lord, I don’t know.


Lysol in Retrograde

New Zealand’s The Daily Maverick cites CFI and Quackwatch in a piece warning about the plague of fake cures and dangerous misinformation around the coronavirus:

Quackwatch, a pro-science US organisation self-described as “a network of websites and mailing lists maintained by the Center for Inquiry (CFI)”, that hopes to be, among other things, “investigating questionable claims; answering inquiries about products and services and advising quackery victims”, explains that one can recognise a quack because they usually “exude self-confidence and enthusiasm”; they “often refer to their methods as ‘alternatives’ … Its promoters wear the cloak of science. They use scientific terms and quote (or misquote) scientific references. Talk show hosts may refer to them as experts or as ‘scientists ahead of their time’.” In short, it’s easy to fall for their lies.

One would think that the coming of a global pandemic that affects the lives of every soul on this planet, sickening and killing millions, would, you know, show up on an astrological chart. It didn’t! Does that mean astrology is over? OF COURSE NOT. Hayley Phelan at the Times reports:

Horoscopes appear to be more popular than ever. Amid the flurry of questions that loom over our daily lives — How long will this last? Will things ever go back to normal? Can we trust the people in charge? — other, more celestially-based questions, began emerging again: Is Mercury in retrograde? When was the last time Saturn and Pluto were conjunct (as they were in January)?

Tell you what: I’ll go to Saturn and find out. See you in a few decades.


Linking to a story or webpage does not imply endorsement by Paul or CFI. Not every use of quotation marks is ironic or sarcastic, but it often is.



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