Reflections on an Era Recently Passed: The Pandemic Crisis and the 2020 Election
A PLAGUE UPON OUR HOUSE: My Fight at the Trump White House to Stop COVID from Destroying America by Scott W. Atlas, M.D. (Liberatio Protocol, 2021, 332 pages)
RIGGED! How the Media, Big Tech, and the Democrats Seized Our Elections by Mollie Hemingway (Regnery, 2021, 432 pages)
“There are lies, damn lies, and data.” — My twist on a quote you’ve probably heard/read thousands of times
If the urge to “cancel” and deplatform could be traced to a root cause, it wouldn’t be difficult to believe that it would turn out to be the desire for special protections for the most harebrained in America, so that they may be free to force their idiotic ideas upon everyone else under the guise of “public policy.”
The late Covid-19 pandemic and the attendant hysteria is a prime example from our recent experience, an era now (at least mostly) passed into the mists of history thanks to the mass media’s insistence that we must now consider the Russo-Ukrainian War as the constant focus of our daily collective attention — nope, sorry, my bad, it’s all about Roe v. Wade now — no, that was five minutes ago, actually — it’s guns now. And there are few more effective methods by which America’s elites, who, being the most harebrained among us — in keeping with Hayek’s observation that it’s always the very worst who manage to claw their way to the very top of the ladder of state power—push their subjectively preferred lunacies onto society, with the aid of their harebrained cheerleaders in the media and all the impotent cretins that one finds scattered throughout any society who wish to vicariously experience the feeling of elite rule, than by the manipulation of data sets.
Data — how it was examined, interpreted, and used to design and promote Covid-19 policy in the U.S. — is one major focus of Dr. Scott Atlas’ A Plague Upon Our House. Atlas had been convinced fairly early in the pandemic that the continuation of the maximum lockdown policy enacted by the majority of states to stop the spread of Covid-19 in the allegedly freedom-loving USA was profoundly misguided, that it would ultimately prove to be far more destructive than beneficial. He was particularly disturbed by the school closures. His public expression of this view appears to be what led to his appointment to Donald Trump’s White House Covid-19 task force in the summer of 2020, several months deep into the crisis, as Trump himself was reported to be skeptical of the mass shuttering policy as well. The reader should be reminded that Trump took absolutely no action to stop it, however. Though Atlas describes his working relationship with Trump as having been quite amiable, it is therefore fitting that in several passages he is just as critical of Trump’s failures in dealing with the worst elements of the Federal public health apparatus as he is of Drs. Anthony Fauci and Deborah Birx, the leading public advocates of the lockdown policy.
It is clear that Dr. Atlas had already developed a healthy disdain for Washington politics long before he had arrived for his temporary job in the White House. His initial skepticism would prove to be not only well founded, but almost naive and childlike when compared to the actual extent of the manipulation, deceit, and backstabbing that he had experienced by the end of his brief tenure on the Covid-19 task force.
The superficial infatuation of certain Federal Covid-19 policy makers with mere numbers is revealed early on when Atlas first encounters Vice President Mike Pence (whom, to no one’s surprise, of course, is implicated in the book as an Establishment’s man through-and-through). Pence quite happily showed Atlas a print-out he had just received reporting the daily increases in PCR testing. As Atlas notes, at six months into the pandemic, it had become obvious that merely increasing testing overall didn’t matter so much as who was tested, and when. Frequently testing people who by every appearance were perfectly healthy and showed no symptoms at all — particularly the young, who overwhelmingly survived Covid-19 with very few to no long term health consequences to begin with — made absolutely no sense, and worse, was incredibly wasteful, and most likely cost many of the lives of Covid’s most vulnerable victims.
Atlas insists, quite sensibly, that testing should have been strictly reserved for the groups most susceptible to the virus, who were, as we all know, the elderly, and anyone who had been suffering from a chronic illness. The caretakers for those groups — such as nursing home and hospital staff, for example — should have been the only other groups singled out for regular testing.
Another early anecdote relayed by Atlas that revealed the vast ramparts of scientific ignorance that he would be confronted with— the ignorance of career scientists, no less — relates to the so-called “hair salon study,” which Dr. Birx claimed clearly demonstrated the need for perpetual masking in public places. Atlas was surprised by Birx’s apparent lack of knowledge regarding the study’s many shortcomings. It had been the butt of frequent jokes among the epidemiologists with whom Atlas had regularly conferred.
Early in the pandemic, two hair stylists working in the same salon had become infected with Covid-19 and continued working in the salon for several days after. Their clients wore face masks and that, presumably, was what kept most of them from being infected. The study states, however, that half of the patrons at that time were in the salon for no more than fifteen minutes, and none of them were in the salon for more than forty-five minutes. Half of the study’s subjects, therefore, barely met the CDC’s minimal criteria for what was considered to be exposure to Covid-19.
Further, the contact tracing for the study was shoddy. More than a quarter of the salon’s patrons during that period were not contacted to be asked if they even had any symptoms. Half of the patrons were never tested for infection. One infected stylist’s at-home contacts had contracted the virus while those of the other infected stylist had not — potentially significant when attempting to draw any hard conclusions. Several other stylists at the salon — who had all been working unmasked — never developed any symptoms and they were never tested. These facts taken together make any conclusions one way or another highly presumptuous.
That Dr. Birx appeared to be completely unaware of these methodological holes and took the study’s data at face value with barely any critical scrutiny at all is astonishing considering her years of experience as a physician, including a stint or two at Walter Reed, and her extensive work in HIV research. It is, in fact, rather embarrassing. Surely someone of her depth of knowledge would consider the obvious questions any scientist should ask when examining the claims made by any study. But she apparently did not. And yet she was the Federal official tasked with conveying Federal Covid recommendations to the fifty states, which consisted of, in addition to perpetual masking in public, huge swathes of the population — “non-essential” workers and schoolchildren alike — locking themselves up in their homes as much as possible.
Atlas quotes Birx as proclaiming, “I’m all about the data!” But data alone tells one nothing. One must be aware of the context, compare the data to baselines that make sense, and examine the methods by which the data was collected — at the very least. The only discernible reason why one would avoid making such efforts is that one’s mind has already been made up as to which conclusion should be reached. Perhaps this is why Dr. Birx was so highly defensive whenever any of her claims were even remotely questioned during White House meetings, as Atlas recounts. He had pointed out time and again that reports from all over the world clearly indicated that the virus followed a similar trajectory, whether there were any forced lockdowns and mandatory masking or not. The dips in cases that would always eventually occur were, in Atlas’ view, far more likely due to the spreading of immunity to the virus and seasonal factors. But Birx’s mind was apparently impermeable to any interpretation of the data that contradicted her own thesis.
Perhaps the one thing that she was always reliably capable of discerning was when she was in imminent danger of being exposed as scientifically shallow, at best.
Atlas claims that the insanely sledgehammer-like approach taken by U.S. authorities, derived from their highly subjective interpretation of the data — which Atlas describes as “crude” and “rudimentary” — cost many more lives than it saved. In addition to the massive harm done by people neglecting to visit the doctor out of fear of overwhelming the health care system — allowing cancerous tumors and other maladies to go undetected in their early stages, creating health problems for many for years to come — he is also alarmed by the impacts on the millions of children who were deprived of in-person instruction during the pandemic period, particularly minority children. Millions of children of poorer circumstances were deprived of school lunches, and were also subjected to neglect and abuse that went unobserved and therefore unreported.
The emotional blackmail (my characterization, not Atlas’) perpetrated by teachers’ unions that sending children back to school for in-person learning would result in biologically-induced killing fields and scores of dead schoolteachers was founded on utter nonsense. Unlike the flu, it is actually quite rare for infected children to transmit the virus to adults. Atlas briefly mentions in the book that one Swiss study showed that schools were the source of barely 0.3% of all Covid-19 infections.
One of the most eye-opening insights Atlas shares with the reader is how the news media is so deeply embedded in the U.S. ruling apparatus. The extent of truly independent critical analysis of U.S. authorities and their policies really is virtually nil. If you are not yet convinced at this point in time that CNN, MSNBC, et. al., are in fact the Pravda or TASS of America’s ruling establishment, then you have been woefully inattentive.
One such instance demonstrating this incestuous relationship occurred after Atlas had a private meeting with Dr. Fauci to explore any common ground the two may have had with regards as to how to mitigate the spread of the virus. To Atlas’ surprise, Fauci asked him if he advocated for any kind of mitigation measures at all. Atlas was astonished by this question as he had repeatedly stated in public that such basic measures as social distancing, frequent handwashing, and avoiding large gatherings were sound approaches to a spreading virus; it was the forced lockdowns that he had objected to on the grounds that they were so destructive. Following a discussion on the topic of school closures, during which Atlas cited international literature on their lack of efficacy and their dire consequences, Fauci simply replied, “Well, what if we aren’t totally sure?” This, says Atlas, was hardly the response he was expecting from a public health expert.
Before the end of that very day, Atlas discovered that there were news reports of his meeting with Fauci. It seems that the good and noble Dr. Fauci had previously alerted the media that he was meeting with Dr. Atlas. “What kind of a person would give a heads-up [to the news media] that he was going to speak with me?” asks Atlas in the book. The question answers itself: It would be the kind of person who feels that his control over certain bureaucratic territory that he had held for decades is threatened by the credibility of an opposing viewpoint.
Several days later, following another meeting in which Atlas questioned an assertion made by Fauci that Americans needed to be made even more fearful of the virus than they already were, headlines were blaring from CNN and The Washington Post citing “anonymous sources” that dishonestly claimed that Atlas was an advocate of simply letting the virus run amok throughout the population unchecked, a “herd immunity” strategy, in spite of all of Atlas’ public pronouncements in favor of certain mitigation measures. Measures that, of course, significantly differed from those that had already been pushed on to the population in that they were far more focused and sensible.
But this was, of course, an election year, and the main goal was not merely to smear Atlas, but by extension politically damage Donald Trump.
And scientific truth be damned in the process, apparently.
And it wasn’t just Atlas who was smeared for daring to offer an opposing view to the one propagated by the corporate-public health-media complex. Drs. Sunetra Gupta, Martin Kulldorf, and Jay Bhattacharya — a theoretical epidemiologist, a professor of medicine at Harvard, and a professor of medicine at Stanford — had been accused of advocating for unethical policies and “age-based apartheid” when they published their “Great Barrington Declaration.” The Declaration, signed by nearly 16,000 medical and public health scientists and 47,000 medical practitioners, cited many of the same criticisms of the official Covid policies as Atlas, and they also called for a program of focused protection. The response they got from fellow medical experts who were the official policies’ defenders was baseless accusations and smears rather than reasoned arguments.
Or, as Dr. Rupert Beale of the Francis Crick Institute in London had declared, their claims were crudely characterized as “f***ing stupid.” That will certainly go down in history as one of the most intelligent and persuasive scientific arguments of all time, to be sure.
One final note on Atlas: Many people, both pro- and anti-vaccine alike, may jump to the conclusion that, based on Atlas’ contrarian positions on lockdowns and masking, he is anti-vaccine as well. He makes it clear, however, that, though he himself was not involved in “Operation: Warp Speed,” he is quite proud of having been part of an administration that managed the production and distribution of the Covid-19 vaccines in record time, and right in the thick of an ongoing pandemic, no less. He believes that it was a singular historic achievement that everyone involved should be quite proud of.
Atlas has also made it quite clear, such as in this interview, that he’s unequivocally opposed to coercing or intimidating people into getting vaccinated. He is convinced that vaccine mandates are clearly unethical and that they violate the Hippocratic oath. He is also of the scientific opinion that, while the vaccines are highly effective and generally safe, natural immunity is superior to that acquired through a vaccine.
Covid contrarians and conformists alike will make of that what they will.
***************************************************************** Mollie Hemingway’s Rigged! gives the reader the lowdown on the drastic changes that were made in the way Americans elect their president during the 2020 election cycle, on a state-by-state basis, and with scant fanfare or media attention as those changes were being made.
One hell of a hullabaloo of an announcement was made once it was all over, however. It was rather loudly and proudly proclaimed that there was indeed a “conspiracy” related to the 2020 U.S. presidential election that had “unfold[ed] behind the scenes.” It was even a “shadow effort.” But this conspiracy — a term that is typically maligned by the progressive left — was a noble one, carried out to defend the integrity of the democratic process from the depredations of that most vile of authoritarians, Donald J. Trump, and his loyal army of minions.
And if you cast any suspicion whatsoever on the righteousness of that particular conspiracy, if you even remotely suggest that it was more likely to have been a seizure of the mechanics of the electoral process by Democrats, anti-Trump Republicans, and their assorted allies in the media, the corporate world, and the labor unions, all for their own political benefit, then you’re obviously an extremist paranoid right-wing nutjob who is simply too dumb or racist or fascist to see how good and noble that conspiracy was.
Just like those fools who stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6th, 2021.
While Mollie Hemingway’s deeply researched and thoroughly footnoted book does not offer any definitive “smoking gun,” as they say, that proves beyond any reasonable doubt that the Democratic Party or the Biden campaign “stole” the 2020 election outright, she does give the reader more than ample reason to believe that liberal Democrat activists — with an assist from their fellow travelers in the anti-Trump wing of the GOP and the mainstream media —took control of much of the national electoral apparatus, often by ethically and legally questionable methods, for the express purpose of insuring a national Democratic victory. The Democrats’ maneuvering may have very well created numerous opportunities for voter fraud, particularly with regards to the massive number of votes that were mailed in, which may have forced the minimal margin the Biden-Harris ticket needed for an Electoral College victory.
And while that should concern any American not fully on board with the Democratic Party’s progressive agenda, one has, nonetheless, the nagging feeling while reading this book — which is indeed compellingly argued — that someone more intelligent than Donald Trump, and less selfish and egocentric, could still have triumphed over the Democrats in 2020, regardless of any shenanigans that they managed to pull off, or perhaps could have even thwarted the shenanigans in the first place.
That Joe Biden won more votes for president than any other candidate in U.S. history is a fact that Democrats and their partisans like to bandy about whenever anyone criticizes how the 2020 presidential election was managed. But, alas, U.S. presidents are not elected by winning the largest total vote count, are they? What puts a candidate in the White House is having a majority of the electoral votes — which are cast in the Electoral College. And the fact is that Joe Biden carried the Electoral College in 2020 by a margin similar to that of Donald Trump’s victory in 2016. Even somewhat thinner, in fact. It was 78,000 votes that narrowly clinched Trump’s Electoral College victory in 2016, and it was just 43,000 votes that carried Joe Biden to electoral victory in 2020. The marginal difference between Trump’s and Biden’s victories by the only count that actually matters is statistically insignificant.
And though Trump lost in ’20, he improved on his 2016 tally by some 11 million votes. Those who are impressed by nationwide vote totals should be likewise impressed that a president who was incessantly pilloried by just about every single major news outlet throughout every single day and night for his entire term — which included what now appears to have been a highly coordinated conspiracy to convince the public that he was a traitor to his country, even though there was no evidence whatsoever to support the charge — still very nearly managed to win a second term with a 17% increase in his share of the total popular vote, losing the Electoral College by just a hair even thinner than the margin that nudged him over the top four years before.
Democrats claimed Trump’s thin margin of victory was made possible by Russian interference. Four years later, the Republicans’ Trumpist wing claimed that Biden’s even thinner margin was accomplished through the fabrication of votes. Again, there is absolutely no evidence for the Democrats’ claim. But there is one crucial fact worth scrutinizing that does potentially support the Trumpist charge, which is that the number of mail-in votes in the 2020 election was unprecedented in U.S. history. 43% of participating voters mailed in their ballots in 2020, compared to 21% in 2016. In straight numbers, the total number of voters who mailed in their ballots increased from about 27 million in 2016 to nearly 67 million in 2020. That’s a 148% increase.
As Hemingway points out, mail-in voting had been generally regarded with a great deal of caution and outright suspicion in previous years. The 2005 report of the Carter-Baker Commission, which was formed to make recommendations on election reforms following the controversial 2000 presidential election, stated that “[v]ote by mail is…likely to increase the risks of fraud and of contested elections in other states, where the population is more mobile, where there is some history of troubled elections, or where the safeguards for ballot integrity are weaker.”
The reason for the staggering increase in mail-in voting was, of course, Covid-19. It was widely promoted as a safe alternative to traveling to one’s polling station in person, which would supposedly put voters at risk of getting infected by the virus. Setting aside the realistic likelihood of someone contracting the virus in the process of voting, in light of mail-in voting’s well known sensitivity to fraud one would expect extraordinary safeguards to be put in place, regardless of the circumstances. As Hemingway reports, such safeguards were flimsy at best, and yes, there really is ample reason to suspect that some amount of fraudulent mail-in voting likely occurred in 2020. Anyone who really believes that there was a 0% chance of any mischief having taken place with regards to those 67 million mail-in votes, or that any mischief that may have occurred was far too insignificant to determine the outcome of such a hotly contested race, is betting on some fairly fantastical odds.
As one example, Hemingway relates a sweeping chronicle of the highly questionable election practices of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, just one of the many Democrat-dominated urban centers in the U.S. that is located in a crucial swing state. Philadelphia has a particularly long and sordid history of election fraud. The likely “ballot harvesting” that Hemingway illustrates, not to mention the influx of millions of dollars in “Zuck Bucks” to help the city manage the 2020 election, is fairly astonishing to read. Even more astonishing is that the Democrats were able to block GOP pollwatchers on election day, an obstruction that was backed up by Pennsylvania courts.
In case you don’t know what “Zuck Bucks” were in the context of the 2020 election, that was the common term for the $419 million that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, donated to non-profit groups and governmental entities for the supposed purpose of safeguarding election integrity and combating related misinformation. The bulk of those funds was doled out through Zuckerberg and Chan’s Center for Tech and Civic Life (CTCL), which was headed by three Democratic activists. Another organization heavily funded by Zuckerberg and Chan was the Center for Election Innovation and Research, which was headed by a former senior attorney for the liberal activist group People for the American Way. The Zuckerberg organizations were particularly active in the heavily Democratic regions and districts of crucial electoral battleground states.
A good portion of Philadelphia’s “Zuck Bucks” was spent on satellite offices where voters could show up in person before election day and request a “mail-in” ballot, fill it out, and then cast their vote — even though early voting was not legal in Pennsylvania at the time. There were 17 such offices set up in Philadelphia just for the 2020 election.
On election day, out of approximately 365,000 mail-in ballots in Philadelphia, around 3,000 were set aside for not complying with state election law. Either the envelope wasn’t signed, or the required voter’s declaration was not signed and/or dated, or the printed name was completely illegible, etc. The city’s election commissioners decided to accept and count all of them. The Trump campaign appealed the decision and they lost.
A decision of the predominantly liberal Pennsylvania Supreme Court effectively ruled — in overturning a lower state court decision on a case involving a state senate race — that Democrat-heavy districts could essentially count however many ballots disqualified by law that they wanted, while Republican-majority districts were granted no such discretion. Their decision was not stated quite so explicitly, of course, but that’s what it ultimately implied for actual practice.
The dispute was eventually presented to the U.S. Supreme Court, which declined to hear the case. Associate Justice Clarence Thomas — that legendary bane of all progressive sensitivities — wrote a dissenting opinion on the high court’s dismissal, pointing out that it may have passed up a rare opportunity to potentially correct an issue that could very well end up becoming a catastrophic Constitutional crisis some day. For — even setting aside the massive damage to perceptions of a particular election’s legitimacy — if a state court is effectively rewriting state election law in the midst of an ongoing election, are they not violating the U.S. Constitution’s prescription that state legislatures, not state courts, are to decide the legal process for that state’s selection of electors for a presidential race?
Biden ended up being declared the victor in Pennsylvania by about 80,000 votes, a margin of just over 1%.
And then there’s Georgia, another key state that can make or break a presidential candidate during the momentous hour of electoral decision. Security video footage taken on election night at Atlanta’s State Farm Arena, while Fulton County ballots were being counted there, had revealed to the Georgia state senate’s Judiciary Committee that four county staff had pulled out trunks full of ballots from beneath a covered table and proceeded to run those ballots through the vote counting machines — after dozens of other ballot counters, GOP observers, and media people left the site for the evening. A top county voter registration official claimed that he had to suddenly leave the site in order to tend to a personal emergency, hence a premature shuttering of the night’s vote counting was supposedly necessary. The on-site camera footage, however, showed that this official had stuck around for the ballot counting long after he was supposed to have departed for the alleged emergency.
Biden carried Georgia by a margin of just 12,000 votes. That is a margin of about 0.2%.
Hemingway gives multiple other examples of highly suspicious and legally questionable activities on the part of Democrats and their partisans in Wisconsin and Michigan as well. The Zuckerberg organization’s people had involved themselves so deeply in Wisconsin’s election operations that at one point the election clerks no longer had any idea what their own job duties entailed anymore.
But the Democratic Party’s greatest ally in its narrow 2020 presidential victory may have been Donald Trump himself, albeit inadvertently, of course. First, his massive voter gains compared to 2016 notwithstanding, Ann Coulter explains here that he lost much of a key component of his base: white males. Yes, the supposed candidate of white supremacy did not do quite as well with white men as he had previously. One need not necessarily agree with Coulter’s politics to grasp the soundness of her logic in her explanation of Trump’s defeat. If he had managed to hold on to his base, would that have been enough to overcome all of the Democratic Party’s behind-the-scenes machinations?
And then there is the man’s own stupendously huge ego and refusal to heed the counsel of more experienced hands around him. In Pennsylvania, for example, the GOP and the Trump campaign had a very competent litigator in their corner, Linda Kerns, who had particularly extensive knowledge of, and experience with, the rather byzantine election practices of the city of Philadelphia. She was ideally suited to challenging suspiciously cast ballots and highly questionable procedures that skirted the edges of the state’s election laws. She was on the receiving end of a number of death threats and all sorts of offensive epithets on social media once the word got out that she was the Trump team’s legal representative in the Keystone State.
But the Trump team, of course, in their infinite wisdom, ended up muscling the very capable Kerns out of the arena in favor of the hapless Rudolph Giuliani and Sidney Powell, and their completely unsupported claims of vast swathes of votes being fabricated by electronic voting machines. Those claims completely ignored all of the quite obvious irregularities, inconsistencies, and blatant rule-bending in regards to the mail-in and absentee ballots. To characterize the Giuliani-Powell crusade as a clown show would be a gross understatement.
Anyone who has ever been in any way inclined to support Donald Trump, whatever their reasons, need to finally face the reality of the man’s nature, which is completely unsuited for a task so monumental as challenging status-quo Federal policies and bureaucracies that have been entrenched for decades. The congressional hearings on the Jan 6th, 2021 Capitol Hill skirmishes have furnished many examples of Donald Trump’s bufoonish decision-making process, boorish tactics, and stubborn refusal to heed common sense. Is he guilty of violating any Federal laws? Perhaps. But he is unquestionably guilty of being a self-obsessed cretin, the consequences of his choices having resulted in the deaths of three people on that fateful day, and landed hundreds of others behind bars and in solitary confinement.
All of which tracks closely with how completely undisciplined and unreliable he was throughout his term, as evidenced by his total lack of action in regards to the systematic crippling of the U.S. economy in the name of combating a virus. Dr. Scott Atlas gives us sufficient reason to believe that Trump had grave misgivings about what most of the states were doing, and the extensive damage they were inflicting upon millions of people, particularly the young and, most ironically, the elderly. And yet President Donald Trump did absolutely nothing to stop it or put an end to it. And so it was with the 2020 election. There were a remarkable number of warning lights flashing red when it came to the dramatic increase in mail-in and absentee voting, and yet Trump ultimately concurred with the baseless claims of his most clownish friends and confidantes that millions of electronic votes had been faked. That’s yet another example of a legitimate national concern — election integrity — sacrificed on the altar of The Donald’s ego.
There is no question that Donald Trump was unfairly treated by the media throughout his two presidential campaigns, and that he was the constant target of some very powerful and deeply entrenched interests throughout his term. Though he was essentially nothing more than a 1990s-era Democrat, America’s ruling elites had obviously decided from the get-go that he must be destroyed at all costs.
But he’s still a cretin. It should be hoped that his time in the political arena is very nearly at an end, so that, at long last, a much more competent candidate may finally give America’s corrupt ruling elites something to really worry about.