You Have No Right to Kill My Parents

immage of coffin at funeral

NOTE: This is an email I set to the Kankakee Daily Journal in response to an article they ran titled “Observations from my foxhole.” I’m posting it here because it will either be routed to the bit bucket or dramatically shredded there.

Let me be upfront and say that I don’t subscribe to the “GOP Propaganda Tabloid Daily (which doesn’t print daily)” — my parents do. Whenever I’m back home taking a good Trump and voting at least twice, sometimes it is the only thing around to read. If this was the olden days with outdoor plumbing, I guess I could also put the paper to good use. Otherwise it is mostly a waste of trees, save for the couple of pages of local news. The only thing worthwhile they ever published from a syndicated point of view was Malcolm Burko. Sadly, he is no longer on the sunny side of the daisies.

I debated quite a while about responding to your “Observations From My Foxhole” article. Some people are just gullible enough to watch the Fox Fiction Network and they simply can’t be helped.

What finally forced this tipping point was Trump suggesting people inject or ingest disinfectant to cure the virus. This was not a sarcastic comment, despite his later attempts to backpedal. This was the Imbecile-in-Chief being the Imbecile-in-Chief. I say that as a Republican. I was also deeply saddened to hear about the spikes in poison hotline calls resulting from that inexcusable suggestion.

Contrary to what the White House claims, we don’t have enough testing. I have no medical license or degree. I’m just a traveling IT consultant and author who has worked on some medical devices and been in a few lab situations. Viewing this strictly from the “coverage testing” point of view (an IT term for measuring the amount of code testing procedures being exercised), we need the following to have “enough” testing.

  • Enough tests to test every single person in the United States once per month.
  • Enough tests so that every nursing home and healthcare worker can be tested at the start of each shift.
  • Enough to test every patient entering a medical facility.

That’s the minimum for enough. The healthcare workers need a 10- to 15-minute turn around on those tests. No, just having enough cotton swabs to do it isn’t enough; you need all of the chemical agents and testing devices.

Having groups of people gathering together in protest without wearing masks and standing way closer than six feet apart, e.g., that Jones character in various videos and photos, shows extreme disrespect for our currently overworked healthcare workers. It’s the equivalent of spitting on a veteran returning from a war. You can be against the war all you want, but you can’t spit on the veterans. They went where they were ordered to go. These same people disregarding the social distancing and shelter-at-home orders will be the ones demanding they get the best care when they fall victim. Part of me believes it is sad that medical facilities cannot refuse them, saying “stupidity isn’t curable.”

Shelter in place sucks. Being back on the family farm, I can at least help with planting and mowing. In a tractor cab out in a field, I’m about as socially isolated as one can get. Someone living in a half a closet, which New York City calls a “studio” apartment has got to be going insane. Still, it’s the only weapon we have. Sheltering at home, washing hands often, and disinfecting surfaces is currently our only real defense. Soon we will all have to wear some kind of mask if we go out in public. It will suck, but it must be done.

Mass re-opening will just be throwing more dry leaves on a fire before it’s gone out. You will set off a blaze that will spread death to my and many other people’s parents. You don’t have that right.

Meat packing plants have had to shut down. Despite precautions and protections in place, the number of infected got too high. Hopefully you watched “60 Minutes” last weekend and saw the story of how the Detroit auto plants now making medical devices require everyone to wear a wristwatch device that buzzes when you get closer than six feet to another person. It not only buzzes, but records who you came into contact with. That’s scary, but will be the new norm for quite some time. Scarier still is Google and Apple teaming up to track people’s phones and how far apart they are. Rent the 1984 version of “1984” while you are trapped indoors.

I’m really tired of people regurgitating the baseless conspiracy theory that COVID-19 came out of a lab in Wuhan. I’m also deeply saddened that current testing capabilities cannot test when a person was exposed or to which strain. The people who study the genome of viruses long ago debunked the Wuhan conspiracy theory, and still it keeps being regurgitated. Yes, the Chinese government has a deep-seated culture of “don’t tell anyone I shat my pants.” Yes, they try to cover up every catastrophic failure they have — just like our current Imbecile-in-Chief continually declares truth “fake news.” The two really aren’t any different.

Here is a bit of reality that will take a few years and much better testing capabilities to prove. Coronavirus has been in America since November 2018 and possibly earlier. Not the current deadly strain — one of the precursors. Feel free to go look up the current symptom list for COVID-19.

While a fever is the most common symptom of Coronavirus (Covid-19), about two-thirds (67.7%) of patients get a cough — specifically a dry cough, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

“A dry cough is what we call a non-productive cough, because no phlegm is brought up,” Javaid tells The Post. It is usually characterized by a scratchy throat.

During November 2018 there were people staying home sick, then coming into work saying “it wasn’t really the flu, just a really bad cough and I felt icky.” I heard the same things during flu season in 2019.

I’m an IT consultant who has had to do a lot of analysis in his 30+ year career. Viruses, like weeds and some humans, evolve. This thing has been here a while, hopping from host to host, finding the weakest host to gain a foothold, then learning how to be a more efficient killing machine.

On some level, all creatures are parasites. When the parasites live in harmony, it is called an ecosystem. Putting it in the simplest of terms: cows eat grass and drink water; they poop and pee on the pasture, providing nutrients for the grass. As long as they never eat more grass than the pasture can produce, it’s a circle. Yes, weather plays a part. I said I was using the simplest of terms.

I really kind of hate it when a family of diseases is given a name. HIV (AIDS) is one name, and in the minds of many it is a single disease. In reality it is many different strains. It is also one disease we have never defeated. You may have seen commercials for a “prep” drug to help prevent getting HIV. Despite all of the money and research thrown at that disease early on, that’s as close as we have to a vaccine. The “manage it” drugs have reportedly gotten better, but there still is not a bottle of something you can take to get rid of it. Take a moment and think just how long ago it was that Rock Hudson was in the news for AIDS.

We finally have a vaccine for 2009 Influenza A/H1N1, also called “swine flu.”

When the Spanish Flu (another H1N1) hit in 1918, it was a novel virus. In this case, “novel” means it was too new for anyone to have developed immunity.

Covid-19 is a novel virus. I just don’t think it is quite as novel as researchers currently believe. Again, I’m making a non-medical observation based on something going around for at least two flu seasons where quite a few people stayed home with a bad dry cough, feeling icky for days.

One thing that bothers me are the images on some news broadcasts about victims in mass graves. From the images, it looked like they were just using some kind of white body bag. It’s not so much an issue with mass graves as much as not having heard any research on how long the virus can live in a human body after death. I always fear the mass burial vs. cremation solution when the deaths are from a pandemic. Yes, mass graves are easier and cheaper, but . . . it could be like toxic waste, leaching out and coming back to get us later.

COVID-19 isn’t the first of its kind to go on a killing spree. You may remember Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). COVID-19 is actually SARS-CoV-2 — or as some may call it, “the little brother.” SARS is listed as having run from November 16, 2002 (discovery) through some time in 2004, so hopes of COVID-19 going away in a couple of months seems to be mere wishful thinking. There is a distinct possibility we could still be dealing with this when the next flu season rolls around. Dealing with a new wave while still trying to crest this wave.

There is a lot of talk about “2nd wave” going on now. My personal belief is that we are currently on at least our third wave. The first two were those “really bad coughs and icky feelings” nobody thought much about over the past few years. To quote Londo Mollari from “Babylon 5”:

“Big concerns grow from small concerns. You plant them, water them with tears, fertilize them with unconcern. If you ignore them, they grow.”

The first two (possibly more) attempts at gaining a foothold in the human species didn’t work out well for Coronavirus. People got over it and we ignored it. It learned. It adapted. This time it was a lit match in dry grass. All of this talk about a “vaccine soon” has me pointing to HIV. I remember hearing that same phrase when HIV was making headlines and raging through the human species, contaminating the blood supply, causing widespread panic and homophobia. To date, as far as I know, we don’t have a cure or a vaccine. I won’t hold my breath for a COVID-19 vaccine that actually works showing up any time soon. I’m also a bit leery of the SARS vaccine that was never sold.

I’m not anti-vaccine. I just want those “burdensome regulations” put to good use via lengthy clinical trial so we can really measure the downside. I also want a vaccine to be north of 80% effective, instead of the 30% the flu vaccine was one year. That year did more to stop people from getting the flu shot than any conspiracy theory ever could. That was an epic fail. If you really can’t understand why I, and most thinking individuals, like those “burdensome regulations” and lengthy clinical trials, read up on Zantac and cancer. That trial process was obviously too short.

SARS got a foothold in China and got out. The never-admit-you-shat-your-pants Chinese government tried to hush it up. Once it was worldwide, they couldn’t hide it anymore. No different than Russia trying to cover up Chernobyl. Yeah, like radioactive waste that high in the atmosphere wasn’t going to be picked up by sensors in other countries. Even the cheap sensors can detect truckloads. On the plus side, those countries now know the sensors actually work.

China will be, for the foreseeable future, where these pandemics originate. It has a third-world culture in many areas despite having an industrial and technology base. Many Chinese make enough money to travel and send their kids to college in America and other countries. Adding insult to injury is this fetish that CEOs have for off-shoring factory jobs to China, which leads to a massive amount of shipping coming back.

Yes, I heard the story about the NIH funding Coronavirus research in Wuhan. It’s no conspiracy theory. You have a high-tech lab not far from a third-world culture (wet markets); not too far from a lot of bats. Given what happened with SARS, it also makes sense to have “boots on the ground” so intelligence can get a heads up when another pandemic has taken root.

I haven’t worked in a lab setting in a long time. What I remember from what training I had years ago is that you typically look for either a common weak strain or a common weakness. Common weak strains can be grown in large quantities and used as a vaccine to train the human body. Scan through the history books for a time when we used cowpox to vaccinate against smallpox. A common weakness is flaws in the DNA or required nutrients one can exploit to wipe out 80+% of the most deadly strains.

Theoretically, if an entity has only one food source and you eliminate the food source, you can starve the entity to death. I say theoretically, because that approach didn’t work out so well for HIV.

Read up on the discovery of CRISPR. Our antibodies actually “snip” a portion of viral DNA and add it to themselves. This appears to be how it both remembers and kills more efficiently next time.

Nobody should eat a bat.

Having said that, we do need to fund research on bats. Wuhan is a good place to do it. It has a lot of wild bats —enough that people catch and eat them. When you read up on just how many diseases deadly to humans can be carried by bats, you realize there is no way anyone could eat a bat safely without charring it to a lump of ash.

We need to intensely study bats — not because they are the only mammals that fly, but because they have developed a physiology that can carry all of these diseases without any obvious impact on them. Putting this in “War of the Worlds” terms, bats are the humans and we are the Martians. If you remember, weapons didn’t kill the Martians. It was the common cold.

So, not far from a lab in Wuhan is a geographic region with lots of bats and basically a third-world culture (wet markets). When you combine that with a don’t-tell-anyone-I-shat-my-pants government philosophy, you get pandemics. This we know. This we can defend against if we have boots on the ground in labs and hospitals to give us a heads up. In fact, we did know this.

The boots on the ground passed this information back. Not only a SARS-like, but a SARS-based virus had lit the pile of dried leaves and grass on fire in China. The fact that this happens to be the best location to research such things also provides us an early warning system. Sadly, you have to have an actual President instead of a Twitter Tantrum-in-Chief busily grubbing money from everywhere to build a wall that falls over in a stiff wind.

Not to mention a wall that a $100 hardware store saw quickly cuts through.

Where was he getting that money from? Was it the money that was supposed to expand the stockpile of ventilators? Was it just the money for someone to test and maintain the medical equipment? There is no good explanation for why 170 ventilators shipped from the national stockpile to California arrived in non-working order.

As an IT worker, given what I heard on a news report about flashing the firmware fixing them, I’m guessing they have a decade problem in the firmware. Not a big issue. People are supposed to test and maintain medical devices at regular intervals. Some have to be re-certified periodically. The firmware was reportedly on the vendor site and just had to be flashed. I didn’t hear the entire report so I would not take that as gospel. Embedded devices having a decade problem is nothing new, nor is it of any real concern. These things are supposed to undergo periodic maintenance.

I had a client with a decade problem in a critical factory system. It was no big deal. They had a regularly schedule assignment. Around November of a year ending in nine, a programmer was dispatched to make a one-line change to a FORTRAN program, recompile it, and install. There was a written procedure on how to do this. It took longer to drive to the factory than it did to make this program “good for another decade.”

Statistically, when you pallet up 170 of something, put them in the back of a truck, and bounce them down our well-maintained Interstate and highways, you expect a few to arrive in non-working condition. If flashing the firmware fixes it, then the problem wasn’t shipping — it was neglect. Was the neglect due to all of the maintenance money being routed to a worthless wall? I don’t know, but sure sounds plausible.

Yes, it was the federal government’s responsibility to maintain the national stockpile, no matter what the son-in-law claims on television. That’s the national stockpile. After SARS we knew there would be another SARS-like event. The national stockpile didn’t have enough to back up one metropolis, let alone multiples.

COVID-19 is a biological entity that can evolve faster than humans. It isn’t evil. We are cattle in a feed lot to it. Something to be consumed whenever it wishes. It doesn’t care that it will kill the host. By that time some of its offspring will have moved on to other hosts. Keep in mind that a high fever was how COVID-19 was being identified prior to the current tests. By the time you have the fever, you have already infected others if you haven’t been practicing social distancing.

In one respect it is much like humans. When an oil well runs dry, we drill another hole in the ground. Sometimes we frack to get every last drop of oil or natural gas out of it. When a coal vein plays out or becomes too difficult to mine, we find a new vein and dig a new hole. All the time we are causing climate change, giving the planet a fever. Yet another truth the Imbecile-in-Chief declares “fake news.”

I’m old enough to remember when Illinois actually had winters. Farmers had to put four-foot bury hydrants where they actually had to have water year round; they could use the cheaper three-foot bury hydrants where it was more convenience than necessity. I remember the old farmers asking each other: “How many hydrants you still got working?” during the winter. If you had some froze up, the next question was “Is that a three-foot or four-foot bury hydrant?”

This is how we measured the frost line. We didn’t care how deep it was until the hydrants started to freeze. When the first three-footer froze, that is when we went into action, putting bails of straw around all the rest. In later years we got electrical heat tape. If all of your hydrants froze, that was a hard time because the livestock still had to be watered.

Pandemics are going to become more deadly and occur more often. Assuming we get out of shelter in place, before the next cold and flu season, we are going to be right back into it. COVID-19 is going to be a seasonal thing, just like the rest of the viruses we simply call “the flu.” This one was allowed to evolve too far.

There are only a few things to keep such things in check.

  • Have long hard winters
  • Get rid of squalor
  • Ban international air travel

Hard winters kill such things off. Even if the winter cannot kill the virus, it can kill off the sickly weaker mammals that host it, allowing it to evolve. Hard winters also kill off many tics, mosquitoes, and other disease-carrying insects. Climate change has stopped Illinois and much of the Midwest from having traditional long hard winters.

Don’t confuse a few feet of snow at once and a few days with below-zero temperatures as a long hard winter. You measure it via the hydrants. It isn’t a long hard winter until the three-foot bury hydrants freeze. At that point you know winter killed most of the outdoor things that could kill you.

Banning all international air travel isn’t just some freakish Armadillo-hat-wearing concept. For decades, we’ve had the travel and tourist industry telling people they absolutely must “spend a week in” insert-tourist-trap-here. The culture of only getting two weeks of vacation per year has helped re-enforce this concept.

We con people into spending money to be crammed into an aluminum can along with screaming, squalling Petri dishes of the CDC’s 100 most deadly diseases (some people call them children) and breath recycled air for hours. Parents are the worst. They planned for this trip, saved for it, booked months in advance to get the best deal. So it doesn’t matter what the kids have — they are getting on the plane. Look back to the measles outbreak a few years ago. People got off the plane not just having been exposed but visibly showing measles.

If people want to travel to foreign countries, they need to take a boat and they need to go for a month or longer. We need to restrict speeds so that it takes 14 days for that passenger ship to cross the ocean. By then we should know if anyone on board is carrying anything and if it is safe to let them off. Our current travel industry leaves them on the plane long enough to infect everyone and then dumps them out into the general population. This has to stop. People are getting across the ocean far too fast and these deadly diseases spread pretty fast.

Before you write that off, consider just how rare a regional pandemic is these days. Ebola was somewhat contained. SARS much less so. COVID-19 seems to have gotten an all-access pass. It’s global. This is because we allow and encourage too much international travel.

As far as your comments about Trump Derangement Syndrome, I do hope they find a cure for a derangement syndrome that has people backing the worst President in the history of the country. At any rate, after this election when he is voted out of office, he will be arrested, he will be tried, and he will go to prison. I wrote about it in a blog post back on February 27, 2020.

Actually, I pointed out how he committed the same crime as Blagojevich, and we put Blagojevich in prison for it. Then came the OP-ED and the completely inexcusable editorial (surprisingly not you) which tried to justify it. Yeah, the Daily Journal is just a tabloid. Nobody with ethics could try to spin that comment.

I was basically born a Republican. I didn’t fully embrace it until as a kid I watched the Nixon impeachment. That’s when it hit me. Despite all of the drinking, whoring, and cocaine snorting of the Good Time Charlie days, these people had ethics and integrity. All of the fantastic things Nixon did for the country didn’t matter when it came to the impeachment. He tried to cover it up and lied about it. That was a crime too far. Both Clinton and Trump did the same thing and got away with it. The GOP told Nixon they were going to impeach him and he resigned. Big donors could pull the strings to get Trump off the impeachment hook, but they cannot get him out of a criminal trial once he is out of office. No, it won’t be double jeopardy.

Consider for a moment all of the things Nixon did for America as President.

  • Created the EPA – this is why people are going to prison over Flint, Michigan’s drinking water and why we have drinking water standards
  • Ended the draft
  • National Cancer Act on the 23rd of December 1971 – most of us know someone who is still alive because of this
  • Cut the deficit by 70%
  • First president to fight for Guaranteed Health Care – he lost, but he fought for it and his plan was much like Obamacare
  • Guaranteed income – he lost but he fought for it knowing it was probably political suicide.
  • Lowering the voting age with the 26th Amendment – few remember that there was a time when a teenager could drive a car, have their own place, and be sent to war, yet not have the right to vote. That time ended with the 26th Amendment.
  • First example of affirmative action in U.S. history with the Philadelphia Plan
  • Title IX gender equality
  • Desegregation

What we currently have in Washington representing the GOP are quite simply an embarrassment to the human species.

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