Anti-vaxxers have come to this

They aren’t just refusing to get vaccinated themselves, they aim to waste vaccines so others can’t get them.

A disturbing post has been circulating on Facebook which encourages anti-vaxxers to book Covid-19 vaccination appointments and not show up in a bid to ‘waste’ supply.

The Facebook user has screenshot a Geelong Advertiser article about hundreds of vaccine no-shows in Victoria and written “How to play their game” over the image.

Comments on the post, which is captioned “do it!”, include “great idea”, “just made a booking” and “maybe we should flood their phones with fake bookings and fake names and phone numbers.”

First of all, fuck Facebook.

But secondly, what slime-filled dark cave are these people crawling out of? How have we ended up with a significant fraction of the people denying the efficacy of modern medicine (not even that modern, actually), and why can’t they just die already?

Really, world, I can’t afford much of a drop in life expectancy

The COVID-19 pandemic — you know, the one right-wingers tried to claim didn’t exist, was nothing worse than the flu, and could be treated with horse paste — caused the largest drop in American life expectancy since WWII. Did anyone not take the casualties in WWII seriously?

Of the 29 countries studied by researchers from the University of Oxford, just Denmark and Norway did not see a drop in life expectancy in 2020, according to demographic data.

The U.S. recorded the biggest losses in both men and women—2.2 years and 1.65 years compared to 2019 levels, respectively—something Ridhi Kashyap, co-lead author of the study, said could be partly explained by the “notable increase in” deaths among working aged people due to Covid-19.

USA! USA! Number ONE! We got the biggest numbers. Oh, wait, is this like golf, where the lowest score wins? Whoops.

So what went wrong, America?

The countries that successfully avoided drops in life expectancy (which partly included Finland, which staved off a decline in women only) implemented “early non-pharmaceutical interventions” and had strong healthcare systems. The researchers said these factors likely contributed towards the countries’ successes. The U.S. suffering the biggest drop in life expectancy is unsurprising. It has suffered more Covid-19 deaths than any other country, a burden that has, as many health issues, disproportionately fallen on people of color. Earlier studies have shown the U.S. to have experienced a far worse drop in life expectancy than other high income nations like the U.K. and Sweden. Despite an abundant vaccine supply, every adult (and many children) having been eligible for months and having a head start over much of the world, many in the U.S. remain unvaccinated and the country is facing a huge surge of hospitalizations and deaths.

To make it short, we’re world leaders in capitalism, racism, and stupidity. Yay! Number one again! If only we were playing football rather than scoring deaths.

I had that dream again

I’m going to blame Rebecca Watson’s latest video, where she talks about how some smart people must appreciate astrology as “just stupid fun”. I’ve been there, only it was palmistry, not astrology. And I regret it so much. I sometimes have this dream, and it makes me ache inside, except it’s not exactly a dream, more of a vivid memory that rises up to disrupt my sleep. It’s the time I hurt my father with pseudoscience.

In my teens, I was soaking in fringe nonsense. I had relatives who subscribed to Fate magazine, and those dreadful men’s magazines like Saga and Argosy, and somehow we ended up with how-to books about tarot cards and palmistry. I devoured them because I devoured every book I came across. I found them fascinating, but don’t worry — I never fell for any of that nonsense, it was more of an exercise in training myself to examine claims critically. I remember throwing myself deeply into these magazines (I can’t bring myself to call them “the literature”) and reading up on reincarnation, and ghosts, and NDEs, and Bigfoot, and UFOS, only to come away shaking my head at how pathetic the evidence was, and how grandiose the claims of the believers were.

I wasn’t doing this for the usual ego reasons I encountered among the skeptics — I wasn’t debunking stuff to show off how much cleverer I was than other people, because I didn’t talk to anyone else about it. I was curious, I wanted to evaluate these amazing stories, but out of a sense of honest enquiry about how the world worked. I didn’t read a copy of Fate magazing and then berate my Uncle Ed about how idiotic this rag was, and how nobody should believe any of it. I’d set it aside and move on to the next strange claim, for my own personal satisfaction. For all I know, my family might have thought I was a true believer, because I read all that crap and didn’t bother to say anything negative about it.

Yes, I was a nerd from an early age.

So, about my palmistry phase…I must have been about 15 years old. I was getting into it. Palmistry is wonderfully specific: every bump and wrinkle on your hand has a name and a meaning, and the length of a line or whether it was single, double, or trilple or the size of the bump had an interpretation, or rather an excuse, that you could point to while doing a reading. The specificity was appealing, but what I was not sufficiently aware of was that they were often contradictory, and that what the palmist was supposed to do was selectively piece together the various pieces to build a nice cold or hot reading of the person. That’s why it was so complicated and detailed in a piece-wise fashion — it was a vehicle to assemble stories to tell. Stories that didn’t really have any foundation in evidence or reality, for that matter.

I haven’t gotten to my dream yet. This is all background.

Oh, but I’m not done with the background yet! I have to say a bit about my father.

What my dad loved was the outdoors, fishing especially, and art. He liked to draw and paint. My grandmother had quite a few of his watercolors framed and hanging around her house (I think my brother has some of them now). There were nights when all of us kids and Dad would sit at a table and draw stuff, which I remember fondly, although I myself wasn’t much of an artist. I think if he could have lived the life he wanted he’d have been living in a cabin in the mountains where he’d paint and fish every day.

He did not live the life he wanted.

He had six kids and a high school diploma. He worked as a manual laborer, basically. He often worked two jobs, was frequently laid off (Seattle, Boeing, that up-and-down economy), and when work stabilized, he was a diesel mechanic.

OK, now I can tell you about my dream/memory, and why it hurts.

I am sitting on the steps of the back porch, reading a slim book on palmistry. Skimming, more like — it is a series of labeled diagrams of hands, more of a reference text. I’m flipping through it when Dad comes out and sits down next to me.

“What are you reading?”

Sometimes Dad would encourage me to read my comic books to him. He was a fan of Turok, Son of Stone and Burne Hogarth and adventure stories, but he’d settle for Batman or Spider-Man. I am about to deliver disappointment to my father.

“It’s a manual on how to read palms.”

My doom arrives. He offers me his hand.

Dad has awesome hands. Strong hands. Broad hands. Thick fingers. Scarred and blistered. Decades worth of grease and grime is ground into every line, every whorl. It is an intimidating hand for a soft-skinned nerdy teenager. I open up the goddamned stupid palmistry manual, and right there is a diagram of the spectrum of types of hands.

On the left, a long, slim-fingered hand, labeled an “artist’s hand”. On the right, a stubby-fingered paw, labeled a “laborer’s hand”. As a literal-minded student of the palmists’ art, I point to the latter image and say, “Well, Dad, you have spade-shaped hands.” Stupid, stupid, stupid. I cringe even now at my insensitivity. I was also ignoring the golden rule of this kind of psychic game: always tell the client what they want to hear.

Dad looks like I’d sucker-punched him. I’d stuck a knife into his self-image and twisted it hard, without even trying. I want to take it it back. I want to say, “I didn’t mean it.” Dad just looks at his hands for a minute, gets up and doesn’t say anything, and goes back in the house. I think I really hurt him.

In years to come, he’d occasionally remind me of that moment, usually with a chuckle and some self-deprecation, but he never forgot it, so I know it hit him hard. “Spade-shaped,” he’d say, and waggle those fingers at me. Or I’d try to describe my Ph.D. program, and he’d stop me by reminding me that he had spade-shaped hands.

“I love your hands,” I want to say, “those are the strongest hands I’ve ever seen, those are a good father’s hands, those are hands that worked hard for a family, those are heroic hands.” I never do, I never did, and now he’s gone. We weren’t an emotionally demonstrative family, or at least, I wasn’t, and my opportunity passed me by.

All I have left is regrets. And sometimes that memory rises up in the night and haunts me, and churns around in my brain and refuses to let me sleep. Then I have to confess my sin, with no one to absolve me.

“Forgive me, father, for I was young and thoughtless, and now I grow old and torture myself for the harm I did. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. Please let me sleep.”

She made her choice

Kristen Lowery, 40 year old mother of four, anti-vaccine fanatic, chose poorly.

She’s dead of COVID-19, leaving behind a GoFundMe to pay for her funeral expenses.

Meanwhile, here in Stevens County, MN, we’re having a little spike, with 63 new cases reported yesterday.

There are only 10,000 people in the county, so this is a fairly substantial number. I’ll also note that this surge hasn’t made an appearance on campus yet — we don’t have good testing and reporting requirements, but we do have a vaccine requirement, and none of our dedicated quarantine spaces are currently in use.

That spike is just among the townies, I think — all those people who are running around maskless, going to church, going grocery shopping, hanging out in the bars, dropping by the pharmacy to pick up cold remedies…acting like plague lice. It sure is hard to be sympathetic anymore.

Yet another of those stories

Dusty and Tristan Graham were a couple of Alabama eBay resellers, who made videos of their collecting trips which were interspersed with denunciations of vaccines and pandemic responses and all the usual ridiculous complaints by the gullible victims of rightwing ideology. Can you guess what happened a few weeks after they put out a video insisting that they weren’t never gonna get no vaccine? Of course you can. If it weren’t so deadly, it would be a joke.

According to a GoFundMe page set up by their children, Dusty died Thursday after battling COVID-19 for three weeks. His wife had “passed suddenly in her sleep” weeks earlier due to coronavirus complications on Aug. 25.

“Unfortunately Dusty and Tristan have both passed away,” the couple’s daughter, Windsor Graham, said. “Thank you for all the kind words and helping us during this difficult time. We will be using the money to pay for funeral expenses.” The announcement of their deaths follows an announcement from Dusty weeks earlier that he was in the ICU “battling it [COVID-19] out.”

Look, people. I’ve got two choices for you:

  1. Stop declaring to the world how useless the vaccine is and you aren’t going to take it. Pride goeth before the fall and all that. It’s just going to make you a target for derision if you do come down with it, and you’ll have enough anguish to deal with without the libs poking at your corpse.

The worst part of it is that they’ve left behind a couple of kids (maybe adult children, at least) who have to deal with all of this grief and chaos.

For the love of god, get vaccinated. These stories are terrible and completely unnecessary. You don’t have to tell anyone, just go in and get the shot in secret, and take your loved ones in to get it too.