Mask mandates didn't work? A lot of us are not surprised. A reminder: Question everything.
By Gary Abernathy
Mask mandates useless, which doesn’t shock a lot of us
Allow me to direct your attention to a great article in the New York Times by columnist Bret Stephens, headlined, “The Mask Mandates Did Nothing; Will Any Lessons Be Learned?”
The most rigorous and comprehensive analysis of scientific studies conducted on the efficacy of masks for reducing the spread of respiratory illnesses — including Covid-19 — was published late last month. Its conclusions, said Tom Jefferson, the Oxford epidemiologist who is its lead author, were unambiguous.
“There is just no evidence that they” — masks — “make any difference,” he told the journalist Maryanne Demasi. “Full stop.”
These observations don’t come from just anywhere. Jefferson and 11 colleagues conducted the study for Cochrane, a British nonprofit that is widely considered the gold standard for its reviews of health care data. The conclusions were based on 78 randomized controlled trials, six of them during the Covid pandemic, with a total of 610,872 participants in multiple countries. And they track what has been widely observed in the United States: States with mask mandates fared no better against Covid than those without. …
…when it comes to the population-level benefits of masking, the verdict is in: Mask mandates were a bust. Those skeptics who were furiously mocked as cranks and occasionally censored as “misinformers” for opposing mandates were right. The mainstream experts and pundits who supported mandates were wrong. In a better world, it would behoove the latter group to acknowledge their error, along with its considerable physical, psychological, pedagogical and political costs.
In the early stages of covid, those — like me — who complained about masks and doubted their efficacy were often accused of being heartless and responsible for people dying.
Back in September of 2020, I noted that “since the onset of the virus, the act of even considering any path contrary to the advice espoused by either the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or the World Health Organization has been stigmatized and scorned… In the United States, our freedom of thought and speech even includes questioning science, especially on something as new and evolving as the coronavirus. Belittling those who form divergent opinions is dangerously contrary to another important responsibility endorsed by diverse thinkers ranging from Albert Einstein to George Carlin: Question everything.”
I reiterate: Question everything.
More concessions for the perpetually offended
From the “This Is Why We Say Things Have Gotten Ridiculous” file, word comes that the publisher of books by author Roald Dahl is making changes so as to offend fewer people.
As reported by the Associated Press, the publisher “removed colorful language from works such as ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’ and ‘Matilda’ to make them more acceptable to modern readers.”
We can be pretty sure that the vast majority of “modern readers” weren’t complaining. No, the changes are being made, as usual, to please a very vocal minority.
Examples of changes, from the AP story:
Augustus Gloop, Charlie’s gluttonous antagonist in “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” which originally was published in 1964, is no longer “enormously fat,” just “enormous.” In the new edition of “Witches,” a supernatural female posing as an ordinary woman may be working as a “top scientist or running a business” instead of as a “cashier in a supermarket or typing letters for a businessman.”
Is there any hope that the runaway PC trend will be reversed anytime soon? Fat — er, enormous — chance.
Again offering ‘A View From the Other Side’ at GDS
For the fifth time in the last six years (there was a covid interruption) I was honored this week to take part in a program at Georgetown Day School in Washington D.C. called “A View From the Other Side,” where high school students who come from predominantly liberal families get to hear from conservatives — and even Trump supporters.
Since its inception in 2017, I’ve participated in person, usually anchoring all three days of the event as others cycle in and out. This year, due to other obligations, I couldn’t make it and was limited to a Zoom session. But it’s always great interacting with the students — and with Juan Williams from Fox News, who has also been there every year and was on hand to help moderate my Zoom appearance.
As I’ve noted previously, GDS is known for its progressive curriculum. Back in 2017, then-Associate Head of School Kevin Barr decided it would benefit students to hear from people from across the political spectrum — right, left and middle. Kevin retired, but the tradition has been carried on by Susan Ikenberry, a GDS history teacher who has been with the school for 30 years, and Lisa Rauschart, also a history teacher who’s been there since 1991. A wide range of authors, columnists, reporters and politicos fill out each year’s event.
These students are beyond bright, and very attuned to political events. They ask great questions, and while most of them are on the opposite end of the political spectrum from me (there are usually one or two conservatives in the mix somewhere) they’re respectful and engaging, and seem sincerely interested in hearing ideas and philosophies they don’t hear very often.
Thanks again for the invite, Sue and Lisa. Hope we can do it again next year and that I can be there in person.
Pondering the next Republican presidential nominee
My latest columns in the Washington Post were a two-part look at what would happen if former president Donald J. Trump does indeed win the GOP nomination again (part one) and who would be the ideal candidate for Republicans to nominate (part two).
In the first column I noted:
I never was and never will be a member of the “Never Trump” brigade — a collection of entitled Republicans angry since 2016 that their party was wrested from them by a Trump-led grass-roots movement (which I cheered on). But Trump’s refusal to accept his 2020 election loss and the events of Jan. 6, 2021, led me to conclude he had disqualified himself from seeking office again and to declare that the GOP should break with him.
Imperfect political choices often conflict with high-minded ideals, however. When talking lately with other disenchanted former Trump supporters, the question arises, “What if he wins the nomination?” A deafening silence usually ensues. “The only patriotic thing to do,” many will insist, “would be to vote for Biden.” But it’s hardly so simple.
I stridently oppose the big-government vision Biden has somewhat surprisingly championed as president and reiterated in his State of the Union address. I chafe at Biden’s war on affordable fossil fuel while the government props up “clean” alternatives with subsidies and tax incentives. I cannot vote for a candidate who wants to infringe further on the Second Amendment and thinks abortion rights should be codified. While I support making legal immigration easier, I consider Biden’s lax approach a dangerous dereliction of his duty to secure U.S. borders.
Then, in part two, I discussed the kind of nominee the Republican Party should probably choose to have a shot at winning a general election.
One popular notion holds that appealing to swing voters requires a moderate or “centrist” contender. First, such a candidate would never survive the Republican primaries. Second, most candidates labeled “moderates” are just less vociferous liberals. A 2019 voter analysis in FiveThirtyEight found that “moderates are more likely to be Democrats. The average moderate … is solidly center-left on both economic and immigration issues,” adding that “for decades Democrats ran away from the ‘liberal’ label, leaving ‘moderate’ as the only self-identification refuge for many Democrats.”
A competing notion — one that I initially embraced — is that the ideal 2024 GOP nominee will be much like Trump in style without actually being Trump. But now, reminding myself that swing voters are nothing like me — I know what I believe in; they apparently decide such things election by election — I think that’s wrong. I like Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis a lot, which probably means he should not be the nominee. Like Trump, DeSantis delights in picking fights. He achieves victory through the brute force of GOP supermajorities in the Florida legislature.
As I began writing this column, former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley announced her candidacy for the GOP presidential nomination. I listened to her speech and thought to myself that Haley is plenty “MAGA” enough for most Republican primary voters, but with enough empathy to attract independents and other swing voters in the general election. Maybe — just maybe — it’s finally time for a woman’s touch, sans the toxic masculinity of too many male politicians.
Some on the left will call that a sexist remark, while many on the right will complain that it’s a surrender to “woke” ideology. Whichever side you’re on — and in the spirit of setting an example for my ideal future president — let’s agree not to belittle each other over it. Feels better already, right?
‘80 for Brady’ is a surprisingly enjoyable film
Lora and I recently decided to see “80 for Brady,” after perusing the listings for the latest movies, none of which seemed particularly appealing. We both figured we would be in for a couple of hours of typical “older women make lewd remarks about younger men,” which seemed predictable and annoying. But I had read a couple of positive reviews, so we gave it a shot.
We were pleasantly surprised. The film won’t win any Oscars — I doubt it, anyway — but it’s a fun way to kill some time. The movie, set in 2017, is about four women all around 80 years of age who are longtime fans of Tom Brady and the New England Patriots and who decide to attend the Super Bowl to cheer their team on in person. All the lead actresses — Jane Fonda, Sally Field, Lilly Tomlin and Rita Moreno — are very good, and Brady and a couple of other players are featured in some humorous scenes — including during the end credits.
The movie is funny and sweet. Check it out sometime.
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