The Dark at the End of the Tunnel

I’m beginning to see the dark at the end of the tunnel. Life is not returning to normal. We will never eat out again without observing how crowded the room is. We will never get on a bus without a mask. Every sniffle or scratchy throat will prompt us to find a rapid test for Covid. A positive test will send us into isolation, a negative test will comfort us only until we reach for the rapid test again in a few days.

Our lingering winter weather has kept us from some of our normal springtime outings. I’m sure that’s affecting my mood. A tour of the shops of one of our nearby tourist towns is a frequent February treat. Not this year. Yes, the buds are swelling on trees in our next door park, but we haven’t walked past them as often as usual. But it’s March now. Time to get out and about. I think we can. I think we can. I think we must!

Meanwhile, a new publication from Cochrane, a highly regarded research  firm in the UK, assures us that masking to prevent the spread of Covid is useless. They say this even though two studies specifically related to Covid show a positive effect of masking. Other studies occurred prior to Covid and were crappy studies. 

Furthermore: I have proof that masks work. Yes, I do. And here it is: I live in a retirement community of nearly 500 residents. We have 200 staff people who come and go each day. Due to low rates of Covid, residents dropped their masks many weeks ago. Employees were required to continue wearing masks at work. All employees. All day. Every day. Residents could or could not wear masks, up to the individual. Activities had returned to normal, meaning lots of in-person meetings – instead of Zoom – in large rooms and small. 

Guess what happened? We slowly began to see cases of Covid, most contracted outside in the real world. Our Covid trackers didn’t see much passing from resident to resident. Until the Super Bowl. Can you imagine a more perfect setting for spreading Covid than Super Bowl parties. Bunching up on sofas, eating, cheering, spreading germs with abandon. We had grown so lax that our neighbors had parties here, or went out to party with family. And then we had an explosion of Covid cases within our community. But guess what. Staff were immune to all this. Yes, we had a handful of staff who tested positive, but just a fraction of what was happening with residents. How could this be. My guess is that masks work.

Fortunately, most of our neighbors have had mild cases of Covid, but at least four have been sent to the hospital. No deaths yet from this current outbreak, but it’s early days. It often takes a while to die from Covid. 

My advice. Continue to mask up in stores; avoid eating out with crowds; test early if you have symptoms so you can call your doc and get Paxlovid. Good luck.

Buying Books in the Age of Amazon

I’m working on a review of the book Woke Antisemitism: How Progressive Ideology Harms Jews by David L. Bernstein. It has answers to many questions I get asked about Wokeness, and I recommend that people read it. No matter what words I string together, my answers never seem to satisfy anyone.

But there’s a problem: The book is only available via Amazon. I admit that that is only a problem for a handful of Amazon resisters such as myself. But I do wonder why it isn’t more widely available. Granted, it might be aimed at a fairly narrow audience, though it deserves the attention of anyone who cares about the narrow confines of acceptable dialogue these days. 

Before I caved in and created an Amazon account just to buy this one book, I searched for it via the websites of several bookstores in my area, both indies, Barnes and Noble, and the University Bookstore. The only place I could even order it was Barnes and Noble and the price plus postage made me pause. It’s the sort of book I might buy as an ebook, though I usually buy ebooks through Apple, just to avoid dealing with Amazon. Nope. No ebook through Apple Books. Grrr.

Why do I even care where I buy a book? A question that deserves an answer: I simply don’t want Amazon to have total control of which books are made available to the world. Once I caved, created an Amazon account, and bought the Kindle version of the book, I could see that it has an actual publisher behind it: Post Hill Press. But when I went to their website, and then to the division behind this title,, and then to the title, I learned that it supposedly is available through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Google Play, Nook, and Kobo. Funny how those other options didn’t show up when I searched (via DuckDuckGo) for information. And, again, why is Apple absent from the list?

I would have bought a hard copy if I could have obtained one locally, but it didn’t show up in searches on my favorite indie websites either as an ebook, or in paper, even to order. Nor does our public library have a copy. If I were the author and actually wanted to sell some copies of this book, I’d be talking to the publisher to find out what the heck is going on. 

Back to my concern about Amazon. If there is any industry where I don’t want to see a monopoly, it’s the publishing industry. And there’s simply no doubt that Amazon has monopoly power over book publishing. If Amazon decides that Abigail Shrier’s book Irreversible Damage is likely to garner the ire of trans activists, it can refuse to sell it (fortunately there was enough resistance that that tactic didn’t work), or it can make sure that the title won’t show up in ads (that did work). We simply need multiple ways to get ideas out there into the “marketplace of ideas” so they can be read, digested, commented upon, and subjected to fierce battles. Without being contested, ideas won’t get refined and improved so the best ones float to the top. 

Fortunately, the seemingly lost cause of free speech has a serious new advocate as of 2022. When the ACLU decided that some speech didn’t merit its support, FIRE, the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression, took over the vacant advocacy territory. FIRE used to focus entirely on campus free speech issues, but expanded its efforts to include many more arenas in which ideas can be censored. It has hired new staff and is learning the hard way that defending our First Amendment is a very big job. I’m confident they are up to the task – and I hope they will keep an eye on the publishing industry for me. Yes, I know that publishers are not the government. 

If you, like most Americans, already buy everything at Amazon, look for Woke Antisemitism. I’ll be writing more about it soon.  

I Am in Awe of the JWST

Folks, if you are discouraged about the state of humanity, I have a fix for you. I finally got my act together last week and did whatever was required to get PBS streaming programs on my TV. I’ve been paying a monthly contribution to PBS for quite a while, but hadn’t set up the app for streaming. Finally did it, and the first thing I treated myself to was the Nova program from last July about the James Webb Space Telescope.

Humans are amazing when they can cooperate to reach a goal, that’s all I can say. We are so accustomed to the daily news about crime, wars, health care chaos, traffic rudeness, and other misbehavior, that I had settled into a very dark narrative about the human condition. Yet after I watched this program detailing the decades of work of over 20,000 scientists and engineers who developed new materials, new mechanical details, new schemes to complete this marvel of technology, fold it into a rocket, blast it into space, then watch it unfold and get itself into operational mode without a flaw, I was stunned. Everything that happened after the launch had to occur without any tweaking by developers here on Earth.

Now it is a million miles from home. Far too far away for any tinkering by earthlings such as our astronauts did by putting a pair of glasses on the also amazing Hubble telescope. JWST had to work its way through more than 300 points in its deployment; failure of any one of which could have ruined the whole thing. Imagine the testing and revising and retesting that happened before it was folded and packed into its rocket.

Best bet for curing your despair over human nature: watch the PBS video. If, for some reason, you can’t stream it, borrow it from a library. Nova, July 2022:

Second best:

The NASA website is great, but the video really tells the story, and you’ll get caught up in the anxiety in the room as each bit of the deployment unfolds (literally) a million miles beyond our ability to fix anything.

Whose Lives Matter?

While walking past a bus stop yesterday, I saw a person with a red T-shirt and a jacket. The jacket covered some of the letters of the message on the shirt, but I could read … Lives Matter. The first word was not “Black,” so I paused and asked about the missing word. Turned out to be “Deplorable.” I smiled, because I really liked the sentiment, but I also smiled because the person was a middling aged and middling sized black man who was also wearing a MAGA hat. 

We chatted briefly, agreeing that “Deplorable” is a wretched word for a huge section of our voting population. His words: “It’s so disrespectful.” Yes, I said, and we wished each other a good day and parted company. 

If you heard Hillary refer to the small “basket of deplorables” back in 2016, you will know that she was referring to a small group of people who were engineering Trump’s campaign. She was trying to convey that millions of his supporters were being duped, that they were being seriously misled. I happen to believe that she was right about that.

But I also believe that neither the Republicans nor the Democrats have paid sufficient attention to our struggling working class. Thus when the Republicans seized the opportunity to push the narrative that Hillary considered all of Trump’s followers to be deplorable, it was too easy for millions to believe it. 

A couple of years ago, I wrote a post about my fear that the word “deplorable” could bring about the end of the Enlightenment. Since then, one thing has led to another, and here we are facing an election that could actually bring about the end of the Enlightenment. What’s odd is that I would wear a T-shirt proclaiming, “Deplorable Lives Matter” today. I am that concerned about the disrespect that is heaped on people who are not on board with the furthest reaches of the progressive Democrats. 

I’m a centrist who believes in incremental reform based on what we’ve learned from past reforms. I’m not on board with the extreme left or the extreme right. Millions of people are like me, but we don’t control the media. So we struggle to be heard. To progressives, I’m deplorable. To the extreme right, I’m unprincipled, never mind the fact that the far right has no principles at all today. 

I no longer consider myself a Democrat. Yet I want the Dems to hold the House and win a couple more Senate seats, and I want moderate Dems to be in the majority of their caucuses, and I want the progressives to rethink everything. And I desperately want the Dems to find a way to win over the deplorables who think the Dems disrespect them all. 

I urge you to read any and all things written by Ruy Teixeira on his substack: The Liberal Patriot

If you can’t spend an entire weekend reading his articles, read at least this one: The Democrats’ Common Sense Problem.

A DEI Altenative

This post is just a plug for a four day online conference put together by Counterweight Support. Counterweight was created to fill a need for support for people trapped in schools or workplaces where rigid social justice jargon is enforced. It offers videos and resources (including real humans) to help people who have other points of view survive in these difficult situations.

Find the Conference information here:

Lots of good speakers. For just $50 (I think) you can get a pass that enables you to access all of the speakers programs for a year after the event. Given that the schedule emanates from the UK, (i.e. 4:00 a.m. on the west coast!) I don’t expect to hear them all live!