Confutatis Maledictis … Voca me

Blondie and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

In case you are not fluent in Latin, that is what the title means. Once the accursed have been destroyed… call me.

The last time I worshiped in a church was at age 7, almost three-quarters of a century ago.  That is a long time, but not when comparing it to eternity, which is what I was thinking about at the time.  I had been honored to be selected as an altar boy from amongst my grade school classmates in Austria.  I was chosen probably because my father was the only chess partner with whom the local priest could play an advanced game of chess.  They would spend days literally on one game, often deep into the night.  My father’s religious background was somewhat dubious, although he and the priest had vehement discussions about God and philosophy. Ironically my father had just converted to Catholicism as he needed those credentials to further his claims of Teutonic origins.  The constant risk of being taken off to Auschwitz by the Nazis was ever-present. Although, it would have more likely been Mauthausen, which was only 130 km from our village.  My father, the town doctor, was not all that happy with my recent appointment; he thought it was inappropriate, given our family’s circumstances, something I did not comprehend until I was much older. I, on the other hand, was thrilled! I especially loved the long flowing robes they gave me.  My job was carrying the censer.  Those of you who are not Catholic will likely not know what that is. It is the metal container for burning incense.  My job was to bring it down the aisle of the church already lit and emanating the holy smoke.  I was not to disburse it but hand it to the priest who did that.  But I could not resist, a little unnoticed subtle swinging of the censer on its chains actually produced a lot of smoke (the carcinogenicity of which has never, to this day, been tested) that I could waft through the church. 

My father felt it necessary to talk about philosophy and ethics with me.  As a consequence, my stint as an altar boy did not last very much longer.  And as life progressed through school, college, and medical school, it became increasingly difficult for me to reconcile my earlier philosophy that I learned in altar boy school, with the biblical God who did not, or could not stop the evil of the world.  How was it that God could allow such evil and cruelty to permeate our lives?  It started with the flood which drowned all of humanity, including the unborn save for Noah and family.  God allowed the Holocaust, the Holodomor, the Armenian Genocide, and all those genocides in Africa.  Free will didn’t do it for me, besides it did not consider the free will of all those murdered people who, I am sure, had different visions for themselves, which did not take into account their free will.

Nevertheless, I am not aspiritual.  I consider myself very spiritual, and  I have a fervent belief that there is more to our existence than is apparent, and that our lives have a purpose beyond our comprehension. My journey eventually led me to medicine and a life of service to the sick and injured, in principle, not all that different from priesthood. Even everlasting life is possible in my construct of the universe, although with a different twist involving double helixes of DNA.

There is more of my early years that stayed with me than just the smell of incense, and my secret inner spiritual life.  It was music.  In European churches and cathedrals, music often accompanied the services. In large churches or cathedrals, it was frequently a full orchestra.  This was a good thing because it did make the services, which were all read in Latin in my time, much more tolerable.  The liturgical music was often, if not almost always, composed by Mozart, who, by the way, was Austrian.  One particular piece of music that affected me more than others was the Mozart Requiem in D Minor, particularly the “Confutatis.” It begins in D Minor but modulates to F Major with very rhythmic commanding male voices that have an almost infernal sound.  Confutatis Maledictis  – Once the Accursed have been destroyed – Flammis acribus addictis – and given over to the bitter flames – Voca me con benedictis – call me with the blessed, now sung by a gentle melodic heavenly female choir in hushed angelic tones.  If you have never heard it, you must before you die.  In fact that is what I want for my funeral whenever that happens, hopefully, later than sooner.  It was also what Chopin ordered to be played at his, which was quite an achievement because women were not allowed to sing in the churches of Paris.  It took a special proclamation by the Archbishop to allow it.  It is surprising that Chopin chose the Mozart requiem for his funeral, as Chopin had written the penultimate iconic masterpiece of all funeral marches himself, which you would recognize instantly, as it was played in many movies and served the funerals of many heads of state including JFK, Stalin, Brezhnev, and others. It is universally recognized and linked to death and mourning.  

You will assume that all  I listen to is Classical Music.  That is simply not so!  The Confutatis brings forth the theme of summoning you, in Mozart’s case, to Heaven.   There is another piece of music from my later youth that was not classical, that also is summoning you.  It evokes many pleasant memories from when I was young and much better looking than now. This is another melody you should listen to before you die, this one with a completely different style and meaning. While the Requiem is calling you to Heaven, Blondie is calling you for a much more earthly and earthy activity compared to the Requiem!

Call me (call me) on the line
Call me, call me any, anytime
Call me (call me). I’ll arrive

You can call me any day or night
Call me

Cover me with kisses, baby
Cover me with love
Roll me in designer sheets
I’ll never get enough!

The call is quite transparently a bit more sanguine than the Requiem call. Music is the universal language that can and does evoke all flavors of human emotions.

WHAT DOES WHO SAY?

For that matter, what does WHO know that we don’t know for sure?  WHO knows, and what do they know, and when did they know it? I don’t know!  Reminds me of the old Abbot and Costello baseball joke, “Who is on first, What is on second, and I don’t know is on third.” Who wears a mask, and what does it do, and why does nobody know? Are you confused about what to do?

WHO (World Health Organization) sticks by its original advice not to wear masks unless you are sick or caring for someone who is sick. The CDC (Centers for Disease Control) has made a 180̊   policy switch from don’t bother with masks, to everyone should wear a mask.

The United Kingdom recommends masks for health care workers but not for the general public. Germany likewise did not feel masks are useful, but just switched to the other side, making masks mandatory.

Our Surgeon General tweeted, “Stop buying masks!”

Fifty countries now require masks in public, including France, Poland, Israel, Austria, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Bosnia, Cuba, Columbia, Vietnam, Venezuela, Argentina, and another thirty-six. 

So what are we, who do not have a coughing , sneezing, talking, or breathing laboratory, to do? It’s all conflicting advice and conflicting data!  It is interesting that all the other public health measures that are being touted have no controversy around them.  Should I have 6 feet of separation?  Where are the double-blind studies that prove that? Do we really need to wash our hands 20 seconds? Has anybody tried to do it for only 15 seconds? Let me answer that.  Nobody! What about all the studies that made surgeons scrub their hands for a full minute , but in the good old days, it was 10 minutes for the first scrub of the day. Is more than a ten people group proven to be the caldron of bacterial and viral contagion?  Somehow the masks have captured our attention, and the fight is on.  Both Dr. Fauci and Dr. Brix are wearing masks, but President Trump is not.

What do we know?  If you have ever seen the saliva spray from just talking ( the picture above as well as https://bgr.com/2020/04/19/coronavirus-face-mask-spit-particles-video-social-distancing/) they are very impressive.  They demonstrate unequivocally that masks do decrease the droplet spay from those activities.  If you doubt if that spay containing virus would not infect you, I have a bridge in Arizona, the Brooklyn Bridge, I can sell you for a real bargain. 

The recent unintentional experiment in Mount Vernon, Washington, is very telling.  A minister strongly believing in first Amendment rights, did not wish to stop choir practice, and had a two-hour session of singing where social distancing was practiced, and no one was visibly sick. Of the 60 singers, 40 got the virus, and a few even died. But thank God they did not let anyone violate their constitutional rights!

It appears to me that the double-blind controlled study that requires a large number of test subjects with masks, and without masks that proves once and for all that wearing masks reduces the spread of COVID-19 will never be done.  We may have to rely on common sense and anecdotal evidence.   I used to be annoyed by people wearing masks when I was a non-mask wearer.  Now I am annoyed by the non-mask wearer.  Are they arrogant?  Do they know something I don’t know? Are they smarter than me or dumber? Or are they just impolite and socially handicapped?

I take the tack that wearing a mask shows that I care about the people around me whether it helps or not.  It certainly does no harm, and it possibly helps, according to some.  I do not want people to think I am somehow superior to them.  These are uncertain times.  There comes a time when we must accept less than certainty, and the mask is a great social equalizer even if their effect is uncertain!

REMEMBERING MY MOTHER

My mother was born on October 30, 1910, in Czernowitz, Austro-Hungary.  She was born, as they say, with a silver spoon in her mouth.  Her father was among the über-rich with oil wells in Ploiesti north of Bucharest, and large cattle farms which served to export beef to England, in the south of what now is Romania. She had one brother, Polka, who was the heir to the fortune when Stephen Dowhanczuk, her father, died prematurely at age 50 of Diabetes, refusing the second leg amputation due to gangrene.  Polka was not that lucky either.  The Russians shot him execution-style in the street in front of his villa for the sin of being rich. 

My father had humble beginnings, which most likely was the reason the Russians left my mother alone.  His mother was widowed, and supported him going to medical school by cleaning houses for the likes of Stephen Dowhanczuk.  My father’s biological father was long gone, a portrait painter from Moldavia on the way to emigrate to Jerusalem to make his fame and fortune.  So the silver spoon did not last long.  All she had left of her parents’ wealth was the jewelry she had accumulated growing up.  It was a sizable collection.  When my father realized he had to get out of Communist Romania to save his life, he and my mother packed up one suitcase each and started to run, disguised with forged passports. Secret housing changed every night on the way, to special trains that moved refugee populations.  The jewelry was tossed out the train window when the risk of being discovered as a rich bourgeoise became a sudden issue when heavily armed Russian military wandered through the trains looking for the rich parasites escaping the clutches of Stalin’s justice.  

From the frying pan into the fire, my Catholic mother wound up in Nazi Germany, married to a Jew who hid his credentials, and carried documents proving his German ancestry, even converting to my mother’s faith to further prove his Aryan origins.  They lived in a small town in what was Austria, but annexed to Germany in the Anschluss around 1939.  It was an idyllic place in a valley where a sparkling blue-green river full of rainbow trout ran through it.  The Alps cradled the valley, as if to shield it, which in fact it did during the Allied bombing of B 24 runs to decimate the German panzer factories.  Thus I was born in the middle of World War II, 1943. My mother was a self-taught consummate cook.  She knew the Slavic kitchen from her childhood, haluschke, stuffed cabbage rolls, gogoshar charcoaled red peppers in a marinade of oil, vinegar, and onions, Borscht (red beet soup) etc.  But added the Austrian palate of Knödel, Zwetchken Kuchen, Sauerkraut, and the like to her repertoire.  I learned it all from her.  She never measured anything.  It was a pinch of this and a handful of that.  I do wish I would have paid more attention, though, and written it down. 

After the war, my father lost his job as the town doctor because Austrians wanted to put their own doctors to work, and as is common in most wars, doctors survive better than front line soldiers.  Luckily he got a job with the US Army, and through that, we were able to come to the Promised Land.  The trip to La Guardia in New York was exciting.  An emergency landing in Iceland due to one of the four engines of our TWA plane catching fire delayed us a bit, but we made it alive.  To come to this country, you must have a sponsor, at least that is how it was in 1954.  Our sponsor was Anna Tolstoy, the daughter of the famous Russian author of War and Peace fame.  Her motivation was not entirely benevolent.  She had a large farm in upstate New York that she ran with basically slave labor of people she sponsored.  You had to give her a year of labor to repay her services as a sponsor.  She had sent two Ukrainian “thugs” to escort us to our new home.  With great skill and cunning, we managed to escape from them by hiding in toilets and doing a lot of running.

From the Alps to the slums of Chicago, a real culture shock for us.  My father did not make enough income the first year to support my mother, nor me, and my sister.  My mother had to join the labor force.  She got a job making and loading shoelaces in the Florsheim shoe factory.  My sister, age eight, and I, age eleven, were on our own, finding our way, ten blocks or so through the back streets of Northside Chicago.  It was a Polish, Jewish, Puerto Rican neighborhood with the occasional robbery and shooting, even then.  After my father finished his mandatory internship, which he was required to do even though he had been a doctor for a quarter of a century, we moved to Peoria, Illinois where he got a job in the largest insane asylum in the mid-west.  We lived on the grounds of the hospital that had about 200 acres at its disposal with multiple buildings and even a farm where the inmates could grow vegetables and fruits. We lived there for ten years.  

Then luckily, my father got a job working for the Veteran’s Administration in Los Angeles.  Who would not want to live in Southern California?  My parents finally had achieved a level of lifestyle which, although not opulent, was similar to their early life.  I emulated my father and became a doctor while my sister became a teacher.  My mother was happy! Despite a very hectic life, losing all possession twice, once running away from the Russians and the second time leaving Austria, my mother adapted and never complained.  In fact her favorite saying was, “You must adjust!” It certainly was what she did.

When my father retired from the VA at age 70, they lived in Santa Monica.  After I had fulfilled my military obligation, I practiced in Santa Paula, CA, and convinced them to move up with me.  They sold their house and bought a house in Santa Paula, which allowed my father to have an artist’s studio where he painted to his heart’s content and allowed my mother to spend time with her children and her grandchildren.  When my father died at age 80, she moved into a small guest-house on my Citrus and Avocado ranch.  She cooked her favorite dishes and drove her little Ford until age 96.  She was in good health until 86 when she developed a B cell Lymphoma.  With modern treatment, she beat that and remained active for 10 more years.  The last 3 years were not so easy for her though.  I had just come home from a medical meeting in Chicago, our original home in the US.  She asked me if I had visited our 1st home in the US.  I spent several hours with her reminiscing about that time in our lives.  Later that afternoon, her caretaker called me that she had chest pain.  I went to see her and recognized that she had had a heart attack from her thready irregular pulse and low blood pressure.  I have always had a supply of essential medications and found some Morphine that gave her immediate relief of her pain.  Her caretaker was appalled with me that I did not call an ambulance.  She was 99 years old.  She did not wish to go to the hospital.  Knowing that I could get in trouble by being accused of “elder abuse,” I called a friend, an internist, to come and see her for at least a second opinion to appease the caretaker.  He came, and we agreed, no hospital, just comfort measures.  That evening I felt I  should stay the night with her.  I slept in the adjoining bedroom.  It was October, and even though we were in California, it was cold outside.  The house was shut, windows down.  Even the heat was on.  At 2AM, a cold wind woke me.  I got up to check on my mother. She breathed her last breath, then no more.  

THE BARD WRITES A MODERN SOLILOQUY

“To open or not to open, that is the question? Whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows and risk COVOD-19, or to stay at home, to sleep and perchance to dream.  Ay there is the rub.  Should we herd on the beaches toe to elbow, should we hit the malls four abreast, should we take off our masks and crowd into congress and state houses, waving flags and claim our rights of birth? Or grunt and sweat under a weary life?  Should we follow science or the constitution?  There is the respect that makes calamity of so long a life. For who would bear the whips and scorn of ICU care? It is us who would dare?”

How about should we practice common sense? There is no easy answer; both hardcore choices offer death and destruction.  Opening will create the same scenario as in 1918 of Philadelphia vs. St. Louis, double the death rate. Not opening will increase unemployment, increase the suicide rate, increase domestic violence, child abuse, depression, increase poverty, destroy the market, and produce its own set of evils. 

The answer, of course, is to do both with forethought and caution. It all depends on the community. is it urban? Is it rural? What is the population density? What jobs can function well from home?  What jobs require actual physical presence? What jobs are essential? What jobs are optional?  How well can people learn to practice social distancing? Which masks work best?  Are there medications that decrease the risk of infection like Pepcid, Vitamin D, Remdesivir, and who should be taking them?  Certainly, the low-risk drugs should be liberally distributed, where the high-risk drugs (like Hydroxychloroquine) that can cause Torsade de Pointes (freely translated -death), also renal and liver toxicity  could be doled out only to those that are healthy, but at high risk, who have normal Q-T intervals (normal EKG’s for non-doctors).  Testing for both active virus and antibodies would also help in deciding whom to isolate and who is relatively safe to walk among us.  Simple testing such as temperature screening should be practiced widely and regularly.

The message should be crystal clear and delivered not just from the governmental authorities but a consortium of elected officials, law enforcement, scientists, physicians, and spiritual leaders of the community.  This will strengthen the message and allow stringent enforcement of the decisions that are uniformly adopted. Social distancing will be with us for a long time to come.  Just look at the continuing increase in cases and the death rate.  And, yes, uniform enforcement must be dealt out to all.  Just like Typhoid Mary was put behind bars for not obeying the law, and because of that careless act killed people with typhoid fever.  That will not work for us, the jails are already full, but some disincentives for civil disobedience will need to be meted out, a fine, for example, and civic service for repeat offenders. Nowhere in the Constitution does it give anyone the right to infect others at their whim. Just as people wielding weapons need to be constrained to protect society, so do people who would spread disease wantonly. No one is above the law!

What should we do?  We should do what common sense dictates.  Do the best for the most, as the power of the people dictates us to do! 

“STINKO” DE MAYO

Execution by firing squad of Emperor Maximilian I of Mexico

I do not celebrate Cinco de Mayo.  I doubt that many Mexicans know the real story surrounding that date. If they knew what a vicious, murderous, and petty character President Benito Pablo Juarez Garcia really was, they should not either. 

On May 5, 1862, the Mexican Army defeated the French Army in the First Battle of Puebla.  Benito ran the country into the ground financially, as liberals often tend to run out of your money, and Mexico fell heavily into debt to Spain, England, and France.  Britain and Spain were less anxious, but the French sent troops to Mexico to encourage repayment of the debt. A year later, the French defeated the Mexicans in the Second Battle of Puebla and also took Mexico City. The first battle was a morale boost for Mexico, even though it was a minor victory of little military consequence.  The second battle allowed France to install Emperor Maximilian as the leader of the Mexican Government.  Maximilian was appointed by the Emperor of France, Napoleon III, the nephew of Napoleon I.  Maximilian was a Habsburg, the younger brother of Franz Joseph, Emperor of Austria.   Napoleon I had divorced Josephine and moved into the Palace of Schönbrun in Vienna and married an Austrian Princess with whom he had a son. It was this that created the French/Austrian connection from then on.   Maximilian was an enlightened leader.

Maximilian, as Emperor of Mexico, introduced land reform in Mexico, giving property to the people to grow crops and develop.  He took assets from the very wealthy Catholic Church and created religious freedom for everyone. Maximillian brought Austrian culture and even Austrian music to Mexico. The classical “Umpapa” music heard in the usual Mexican folk music is heavily laced with strains of accordion sounds, an instrument popularized in Berlin and  Vienna around 1830.  Maximillian gets no credit for that musical gift to Mexico.

Other than ruining Mexico’s economy, Juarez didn’t do much for the people.  Benito Juarez, President of Mexico, had to escape when Maximilian was crowned.  Juarez, the head of the liberal factions, was in conflict with his own country’s conservative branch, who, in fact, supported Maximilian over him. Maximilian offered Juarez amnesty and even offered him the position of prime minister.  Juarez had conservative members of the Government rounded up and had them murdered without trial, just shot, which was the original  “Black Decree,” according to historians.  He later accused Maximilian of that heinous act and used it as justification for having Maximilian executed.  Although Maximilian did execute some hardcore military, he did so after a military court-martial and pardoned many of them.

Abraham Lincoln refused to support Juarez, nor did the US House and Senate, and it was only because Andrew Johnson, who took over after the Lincoln assassination, could not get Congressional support for Mexico, and pulled the Reagan/ Iran Contra Affair trick, by privately and secretly seeing to it that Juarez got some much needed presumably “lost” weapons of US Army stock near the Mexican border for his fight against Maximilian. After all, he wanted to follow the Monroe Doctrine of no European influence in the Americas.

When the French abandoned Maximilian,  he was arrested.  He had the chance to escape but did not want to leave his supporters, and never assumed that Benito, whom he liked and with whom he had an amicable relationship, would kill him. Every crowned head of Europe including Queen Victoria, the Czar of Russia, the Kaisers of Austria, and Germany, the King of Spain who was a Habsburg, Garibaldi of Italy and the famous author, Victor Hugo of France, as well as Pope Pious IX petitioned Juarez to give amnesty to Maximilian, but Juarez felt he needed to prove himself to the Europeans.  He needed to show his superiority to those aristocrats that he was in charge, and he was more powerful, he was the leader of Mexico now.   But to me, that just proved his small-mindedness and provincial attitude, as well as a loss of respect in Europe!

Maximilian, when facing his executioners, gave each of them a gold coin, asking them not to shoot him in the face so that his mother could recognize his body. On June 19, 1867, Maximilian was executed by a firing squad.  His last words were “Viva Mexico!”

I was born in Austria, and my parents were Austrians.  I have respect for my place of birth and its history.  And I resent the fact that a self-impressed bureaucrat who wanted to call attention to himself by murdering an Austrian Emperor gets any credit at all, instead of condemnation, even if this was over 160 years ago. So I don’t think you will hold it against me if a call it “Stinko de Mayo!” and don’t share my Guacamole or beer with anyone as a celebration of a petty president.   Besides, it wasn’t until the 1980s that the day got more attention because of the American Beer Industry who looked for a date to celebrate, and it now rivals the Super Bowl in beer revenue and avocado sales, except this year because of the Corona pandemic.

WE ARE AT WAR! (This Time with a Virus!)

It pains me to see the bitter divisiveness our country is undergoing, specifically understanding the current ad hominem attacks on President Trump. Ad hominem attacks, rather than attacking the substance of a position, attack the person’s character, his motives, or other personal attributes of the individual, and make the argument that because of these traits, his position is also wrong. It was Aristotle who first pointed out that such arguments are illogical and unsound. These attackers focus on Trump’s stupidity, his narcissism, his self-aggrandizement, his lack of humor, his small hands (and we all know what that is supposed to mean) etc. etc. Is this helpful?  Does this add anything to the discussion? Will this change anything? Almost none of these tirades focus on meaningful critique as to what he should do differently. This makes me think the critics either don’t know what he should do differently or they are afraid to voice any opinion because they very well may be wrong. 

Former Vice-President Biden was very critical of Trump about shutting down travel from China.  He called him hysterical, xenophobic, and fearmongering.  The spinmeisters claim those labels did not specifically relate to him closing travel from China, even though those critical remarks came right after the travel restrictions.  If that is so to what did it refer? Ah! I know. He named the virus “the Chinese virus,” which called forth another straw man, the race card.  Trump is a racist! But is that realistic? The fact that the epidemic started in Wuhan, China, ostensibly from Chinese bat soup, makes it relatively easy to call it a Chinese virus, just as the 1918 pandemic was called the Spanish Flu with much lesser justification. The first case of the 1918 Flu was actually in Kansas. 

Biden’s fearmongering critique demonstrates how being critical too soon can backfire.   The newest Biden critique complains the opposite, that Trump acted too slowly.  Trump tends to be positive about opening up the country, about medications that may help, about the stock market coming back, about fewer deaths than the models predicted.  He often puts the better spin on the message given by his consultant doctors; nevertheless, he does what they say to do. I might add that doctors are trained to hang black crepe.  It is in their nature. I know, I am one. Trump does not want to be the fearmonger that Biden claims him to be.  He wants to be reassuring but has not acted on that positivity, and sticks closely to what Dr. Anthony Fauci recommends. I am sure the President would like to be a cheerleader, and we certainly need one!  

In a few months, we will have the chance to elect a new president.  That will be the time to exercise your opinion, your rights as a citizen, and your wisdom.  The word Democracy comes from two Greek words, Demos (the people) and Cratos (the power). We shall see what our Democracy will do, and then I shall support what the people decide, as our Founding Fathers envisioned, and I hope the rest of the country will also do as I do. In the meantime, I believe for the current COVID war, our Democracy has already spoken twice. For almost 250 years we have had certain rules for electing the President, and those rules have not changed. It is appropriate to go with the lawfully elected President, given our time of uncertainty and combat against an unseen enemy.

Ad hominem attacks lack style and put the attacker into a lesser class.  If you can’t argue intelligently with facts and figures, don’t succumb to name-calling.  It does not make you look classy. Donald Trump is no Ronald Reagan, but he is our President, whether you like it or not. We are in a war, even though this enemy is a virus, and war demands we act on a war mentality that traditionally requires unity and civility.   I plead that we keep our cool and act with style, intelligence, and wisdom, and listen to Aristotle!   

7th book going to the printer

My 7th book went off to the printer today.  It will be available in a few weeks at Amazon.com or directly from me through my website.  It will be under my name and the name of the book, “What I Forgot to Say.”  It follows the format of my previous book, “What I Still Want to Say.” And it is likewise an anthology of essays. Many of the essays have the theme of our current pandemic, COVID-19.  But there are a variety of subjects from the St. Francis Dam disaster that swept through my home valley, the most extensive civil engineering failure in history, to what you have always wanted to know about physics but were ashamed to ask, like what entropy and entanglement are for example, and where we came from and where we are going.  Some essays are strictly historical about men and women who have contributed to why we the way we are, while others are controversial issues about impeaching presidents and conspiracies.  Amazon requires the price to be $38 to cover printing and shipping costs, but through my website, it will be available for $25, including tax and shipping.  On my website under Books, click on the title, which will bring up the Online Store where you can use most credit cards or purchase it through PayPal. I guarantee you will not be bored and will like it or hate it.  Either way, it’s worth 25 bucks.

THERE IS NOTHING NEW UNDER THE SUN

It has been a month now that the government edict to stay at home has been proclaimed.  Many have lost jobs, and there is a natural resistance that is evolving among the restless among us.  The question of individual rights and freedoms is raised.  Is it not my right to control where I go and what I do? This philosophy has evolved into a political movement of Libertarianism that emphasizes freedom of choice, voluntary association, and holding the individual’s judgment as the holy grail of how we should live. There are right-leaning and left-leaning Libertarians. But both pit governmental authority against individual opinion. Why should I wear a mask when I am not sick, why should I vaccinate my children when vaccination has some risk and has in some cases shown not to be completely protective?  Why should I stay at home when I need to get back to work?  There are only two certainties, death and taxes. People die all the time, how is that different from this virus?  The country’s and my personal economic condition is deteriorating while I sit at home bored out of my mind.  It is my decision to risk my life if I deem it necessary?  We live in a democracy.  How can the government tell me what to do?

Those are the arguments I hear from friends, the radio, talk show hosts, and sometimes I even have these thoughts myself.  There is, however, an overriding principle.  Humans live in social groups.   Only hermits can act out their fantasies. Our actions impact others. We have social responsibilities that go beyond our personal being.  When our freedom impacts society adversely, society has a right to regulate what we do.  Willie Sutten, when he was caught, was asked why he robs banks?  His answer, “Because that is where the money is.” I have always wanted to be rich, but I can’t go to banks, like Willie, and take what I want.  My right to be rich is infringed upon by other’s rights not to have their wealth stolen. My right to refuse vaccinations interferes with the population’s rights not to have a carrier of disease spread the plague and shorten their life span.

Mary Mallon was born in County Tyrone in Northern Ireland. She came to New York and was a  cook working in restaurants, and also for a number of families that hired her to cook for them.  Everywhere she went, people got sick with fever and diarrhea; some even died.  The disease that caused this illness was determined to be from a bacteria, Salmonella Typhi.  She was not ill and appeared perfectly healthy.  At least 50 deaths from Typhoid fever were attributed to her.   

She was held in quarantine from 1907 to 1910.  But when released, she went back to her old job of cooking.  This time she moved on, when people got sick, to the next cooking job.  Authorities failed to catch her until 1915.  She spent the rest of her life in jail and died in 1938 of pneumonia. History assigned the name “Typhoid Mary” to her.

It was Rudolph Virchow, a German pathologist of the 19th century, who gave us the word “zoonosis,” a disease that originates in animals and then is transmitted to humans.  In its more aggressive form, it can then spread from human to human. There are many zoonoses, Swine Flu, Avian Flu, Ebola, Malaria, Anthrax, Trichinosis, Rabies, Plague, COVID-19, etc. Our close association with animals started with the domestication of animals, going back to the late Pleistocene, beginning 129,000 to 11,700 years ago during the last ice age.  The Middle Ages brought humans and animals together even closer, when farmers brought their animals into their houses for warmth and to guard them.  Because we lived in close proximity to animals, their bacterial, viral, and protozoan diseases could now jump to us quite easily.

When our freedom interferes with the freedom of others, a compromise must be negotiated.  We can only exercise our freedom if it does not take away the freedom of others.  That principle is what allows the imposition of shelter in place dictates, immunization mandates, social distancing rules, and the wearing of face masks. South Dakota resisted implementing social isolation for much too long in the name of freedom of choice, with many unnecessary deaths. This recent pandemic has been a new experience for us, but it is not unprecedented.  1918 gave us the Spanish Flu, named because of a misunderstanding.  Spain was neutral in World War I.  The first case of that Flu was actually March 11, 1918, in Kansas.  Because there was censorship, as not to reduce the morale of the troops, it was not reported.  Spain, on the other hand, was not bound by that censorship and reported all the gory details, including that their king, Alfonso XIII, came down with a severe case of it.  That cinched it.  From then on, it was “The Spanish Flu.”     Quarantine and masks were the order of the day. There is nothing new under the sun!

THE RETROSPECTOSCOPE

It is always easier to look back and find the things we should have done differently but didn’t. In my job as a surgeon, I used an instrument, the sigmoidoscope, that allowed me to look up the rectum to find lethal diseases lurking up there. 

It is that instrument that inspired the development of another scope, the retrospectoscope, that allows one to look back to the past to see what could have been done better. This scope, which is still in research and is not yet fully developed, is also able to predict the future with a small modification, the proper training, and if used correctly.

Just as the Greeks had the Oracle of Delphi, who apparently had an ancient version of this tool, and the Oracle of Omaha, Warren Buffet, who has a newer version that can be turned to the future.  So far, he is the only one who is licensed for that use.

I wish I had the fully developed model of the retrospectoscope and could turn it toward the future also.  I would have done exactly what several of the Senators did and sell my stocks rather than lose 25% of my retirement assets. Although the Senators had insider information which they are apparently vaccinated against and allows them to do so with impunity and immunity to consequences.  I would not want to spend two years in jail, as Martha Steward did for that crime. 

I would have bought more toilet paper.  I would have gotten masks, and worn them much sooner than I did. I would have stocked up on a lot more canned foods, so I would not have to go to the grocery store and stand in line to find out that they are out of dairy products, garlic, hand sanitizer, and wine. Especially wine, since Dr. Anthony Fauci recommended using alcohol to cleanse surfaces, I could have sterilized my gut surface much better than I was able to do. 

I see so many of my friends and acquaintances now criticizing what was done and the flaws in the way things proceeded.  This pandemic is new to us, that is what novel means –it comes from “novo,” Latin for “new.”  The last major world pandemic was in 1918-1919.  None of us were here  101 years ago, or at least very few, and those that were, don’t remember.  We are too harsh on ourselves and those that lead us.  We are learning things we didn’t know just a few weeks ago, and are adjusting accordingly, just like all hominids have learned to do in the last four million years since we came down from the trees and started walking upright in the savannas of Africa. Overall I think we are doing much better than I would have predicted.  The curve is flattening and even turning down in some parts of the country.  It is looking like we have fewer infected people and fewer deaths than predicted, precisely because we have practiced social distancing, hand washing, and wearing masks, although not as much as we should have.  There are still too many people out on the roads, some attending houses of worship looking for answers from heaven.  These answers have been beamed down already, but a few people won’t listen.  This reminds me of the joke about the guy who refused to leave his home as the water was rising in an epic storm. “The Lord will provide!” he said when people tried to get him out of his house.  A boat came by and told him to get in.  He again refused, saying, “The Lord will provide.”  He continued to pray.  Soon he was forced to the roof to avoid drowning.  A helicopter hovered above and sent down a rope.  The man still refused and still was waiting for the Lord to rescue him.  Naturally, he drowned.  Up at the pearly gates, he was angry.  “I prayed and waited for the Lord to save me. What happened?” St. Peter answered, “What more did you want? We sent a boat and then a helicopter, and you refused to take them!” 

Despite the stalwarts who congregate, students who go to spring break beach parties, and those who refuse to wear masks, there are enough people who have listened to God’s message to socially keep distance, which is the only means to slow the spread of this scourge. Even Chicago’s death rate is slowing down, not because of fewer Corona deaths but because of fewer gunshot deaths. Obviously, social distancing works in mysterious ways that are new to us as well.

As soon as the retrospectoscope has been FDA approved, I will be in line to buy mine and turn it to the future, so I will know with certainty what to do!

CORONA CONSPIRACIES

I am not a conspiracy fanatic. I refer you to an essay I wrote six years ago: http://cuttingedgepublishing.net/essays/conspiracy-theories-2/. I generally do not believe in them as they are usually fictitious, not true, made up, and patently false. Also, those theories are generally accusatory towards groups that they, the conspiracy groupies, have already tried and convicted as guilty for their own reasons in their minds, with little concrete evidence. They are not exactly impartial.  I have acquaintances like that! But once in a while, the conspiracists have hit on something.  The problem becomes in sorting out at which conspiracy theories we should take a closer look.

Humans are prone to look for patterns.  This trait has led us to discover some spectacular associations.  It allowed Ernest Rutherford to describe the current model of the atom with a central nucleus and a cloud of electrons orbiting around the nucleus.  A new branch of physics evolved with new laws and new theories and became quantum physics. Dimitri Mendeleev, the Russian physicist, recognized the pattern of the elements.  He created the Periodic Table listing them in relation to each other.  He even left spaces for elements that had not yet been discovered, recognizing the pattern demanded there be an element in a particular spot even though that element had not been found or created. Sure enough, with time, it was.

Looking for patterns has also created some horrendous idiocies.  We looked for and have found unfortunate humans afflicted with diseases of the mind and called them witches, whom we then burned on the stake.    

Here is a conspiracy theory that you at least should take a look at. I am just saying…!

Virology and bacteriology are sciences that can be used for good or evil.  The biological weapons that have been created by man are based on that science.  Anthrax, Smallpox, Measles, Yersinia pestis, Syphilis, Typhoid, Yellow Fever, and others have been used in the past to reduce the enemy in strength and number. Envelopes of the white powdered Anthrax have been sent to members of Congress and the White House.  Saturated blankets with Smallpox pus were distributed to Indians in the 1700 and 1800s as a supposed friendly gesture, but actually to kill. More of the indigenous South and North American population was wiped out by disease than gunpowder.  In the Middle Ages, the bodies of plague victims were catapulted over castle walls to break a siege. Biologic weapons are potentially more lethal than nuclear weapons. 

We have all heard Trump call it “the Chinese Virus,” for which he was roundly criticized as racist.  But the fact is that the Corona Virus did come from China, specifically from a Wuhan wild animal market with bats, turtles, snakes, ferrets, etc.  I have actually been to that market just a few days before 9/11. 

Wuhan “wet market”

Chinese people have eaten wild animals for thousands of years. Supposedly 14,000,000 people are involved in that business, with an annual market value of 76 Billion dollars. China has apparently shut down that business.  Good luck to them, shutting down an activity that has been in existence for several millennia is likely to fail. 

“Gain of Function” research dates back to 2012 with H5N1 Avian flu virus to enhance virulence and transmissibility, allowing a better understanding of transmission and control of the disease. In 1914 Barack Obama shut down the experimental program of GOF (Gain of Function). The aim of these programs has been with benevolent intent, but the opposite could be true. Obama did not stop the program but held their funding. His reasoning presumably was the danger in that pursuit. They were back in business again in 2017.  The purpose is to study and to gain an understanding of disease-causing agents, and develop medical countermeasures on the benefit side or how to weaponize viruses and bacteria on the evil side.  It so happens that 300 yards from the Wuhan wild animal market is a level IV virology lab that studies exactly those issues with guess what, Corona Virus. The level IV lab is approved to deal with the most dangerous pathogens that can be aerosolized.    Their work is freely published in journals of virology and can be accessed in those journals and the internet.

Bat Woman, as she is known, Shi Zhengli, the lead virologist at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, was reported to say, “Could that be our Corona Virus?” when she was urgently recalled from Shanghai to Wuhan at the beginning of the outbreak.

According to the New York Times and The Atlantic monthly, China has now started its own disinformation campaign of conspiracy theories. China now blames the US Army for bringing the epidemic to Wuhan to answer the criticism that they were slow to contain virus in the early days by muzzling physicians and whistleblowers who attempted to warn fellow citizens and us. They are evicting reporters, including the Wall Street Journal, who report on this new tactic. These actions have not been helpful and are reminiscent of old cold war tactics. China, in fact, has a documented history of handling other viruses with less than full protocol to prevent a breach such as the SARS Virus in 2003 where 1814 citzens of Bejing were infected with 79 deaths as a consequence.

Another strange story has emerged.  One of the Chinese scientists was recently tried and convicted to 12 years in jail for selling lab animals to markets for human consumption.  It is rather odd to have the Virus originate just yards from where CoronaVirus research is going on.   It is possible the Virus leaving the confines of the lab, could have occurred accidentally without ill intent. At this point, does it matter how the Virus came to infect humans, as we know it has?  Will it change anything if we know? Or is this all mental self-stimulating cud-chewing of the conspiracists?