August 27, 2021

And another work week comes to an end. One more until I get a much needed break. My last time off was in early May, a time of optimism with vaccine being jabbed into willing arms and rapidly falling case loads. I made the mistake of coming back from that break, the drive cross country to Seattle and back, and setting up what I thought would be a pretty sure bet vacation in which I could recuperate from all of the stresses and strains of the past year. I set it for September, early enough for good weather, but late enough to avoid the crowds. More fool I having no idea of what was to come over the summer. I knew that the Delta variant was going to be a risk. I had no idea that half the country would refuse the vaccine and spend the latter part of the summer eating horse deworming paste. I’m still planning to leave after Labor Day but I am clear eyed enough to know that anything is possible over the next ten days and who knows whether I will get to enjoy a little R and R or be stuck with yet another staycation with the cats.

Things aren’t looking a lot better since the last time I ran the numbers. Birmingham and UAB are still holding steady at around 175 inpatients with Covid. The number of new cases statewide are now up over 5,000 daily which is the highest they’ve ever been Those will translate into hospitalizations in mid September and deaths at the end of that month. The lackadaisical attitude toward masking in local school districts has led to up to 20% of the students being out with Covid in some places. The teachers and staff are also getting sick leading to interrupted instruction, lack of supervision, and a rapid movement of the educators of my generation towards retirement. The morgue trailers are rolling into the Southern part of the state while the governor refuses to exercise any of her powers and the state board of education spends its time trying to protect impressionable young minds from critical race theory, taught only in PhD programs and law schools.

I think the theme of the evening is parasites. According to my dictionary, a parasite is an organism that lives in or on another organism and gets its sustenance from or at the expense of its host. There’s a lot of that going on in society at the moment. One sees that throughout the economic and political system – various and sundry types of people who do little to actually improve the world but who gather their riches from it all the same. There are those who might say the whole capitalist enterprise is parasitical in nature, with its emphasis on creating wealth from public resources and the labor of others and certainly the Marxists among us would have a lot to say about the parasitical nature of the bourgeoisie vis a vis the proletariat. But I am not a trained economist so I’m not going to belabor those points.

To start with the most basic of parasites, the biological kind. Ivermectin has been all over the Covid headlines in recent weeks. It’s been touted in alternative medicine circles as a cheap and effective treatment for Covid for some time, since nearly the beginning of the pandemic. Ivermectin is an antiparasitical drug that’s been around for decades, mainly to treat enteric worms in both animals and humans. I learned about it in med school in association with strongyloidiasis, ascariasis, filariasis and various other worm related diseases you’ve never heard of. Early on in the pandemic, when research labs around the world were trying various drugs off the shelf to see if anything would work in vitro to inhibit coronavirus replication, ivermectin was noted to work. This finding was rushed to publication and soon picked up by the lay press. What was not made clear by the initial reporting was that in order to attain the concentrations of drug in a living human that were possible in the test tube, you would have to give doses about a hundred times the fatal dose and that the results had yet to be replicated in vivo. (In vitro means in the lab/cell culture/test tube and in vivo means in a living organism for those not wise in the ways of science). Lots of studies all over the world were done with ivermectin with results all over the map. Some show efficacy. Some don’t. There have been significant charges of data manipulation and plagiarism with some studies causing them to be withdrawn. Let us just say that the jury is very much out so the FDA is not about to approve it as a treatment.

America’s Frontline Doctors, an alternative medicine group pretty much frowned upon by most physicians and medical organizations. (One of their leaders, Dr. Stella Immanuel, is the one going around stating ovarian cysts are caused by incubi and demon semen), picked up on Ivermectin and began promoting it, bringing it to the attention of the portion of the population conditioned to react badly to expert consensus and what they view as the elites. The Frontline group then partnered with an online pharmacy to begin writing prescriptions to pretty much anyone who asked and with the help of social media, demand escalated quickly, overwhelming the ability of the group to meet it. This caused a less sophisticated population with rural roots to realize that ivermectin was the active ingredient in a number of agricultural products available at your local Tractor Supply and there you have it. The thing that interests me most about this whole story is the economics. It takes a certain amount of cash to get the word out, set up partnerships with pharmacies and all the rest of it. Who fronted the dollars and who is making a killing on the back end?

Now on to Afghanistan and the ignominious end of the twenty years of misadventure there. It’s hardly the longest war in history. Both the thirty years war and the hundred years war in Europe far exceeded it but some of our current boots on the ground there weren’t born when it began. Why did we stay so long past all common sense and a decade after the stated objective of removing Osama Bin Laden was achieved? Again, I believe the answer is parasites. These parasites are contractors within the military industrial complex who scooped up more than their share of the two and a half trillion dollars expended over the last few decades. Ending things would have endangered their cash flow so lots of lobbying in DC to protect the status quo which continued until the previous administration set up the withdrawal on the worst possible terms. I feel very sorry for the young people of urban Afghanistan. All those under thirty who lived in population centers grew up under a relatively permissive society where they could start to realize their potentials. The Taliban is likely to extinguish this rapidly, but it’s not likely to be as easy for them this time around and I expect we will see a good deal of civil war for a very long time.

My last thought on parasites brings us back to Covid and some very dangerous rhetoric that is becoming more and more common from powerful voices. The governors of Texas and Florida, in particular, but they are not alone, have been blaming the spread of Covid in their states on illegal immigration across the southern border. This is easily debunked. If immigration were the cause the highest rates would be in border towns such as El Paso and McAllen and it’s not. Nor would it explain how it leaps hundreds of miles to Florida which has no Southern land border and I think we’d hear about it if thousands of boatloads of immigrants were descending on the beaches nightly. The problem is that the language regarding immigrants is changing and becoming more metaphorical. That they are diseased. That they are vermin. That they are parasites endangering the American citizenry. This language of dehumanization, which equates society with the body and the other as the disease invading the body is one of the necessary steps towards mass murder and genocide. It’s been well studied. If you look up the ten steps of genocide, it’s step four. We may like to think it can’t happen here, but I don’t think the people of Sarajevo at the time of their Olympiad imagined Srebenica was just over a decade in their future either. My antennae are up, especially if there is any movement towards organized paramilitaries aimed at ‘defense’ against ‘invasion’. That’s step five…

Enough negative thoughts for tonight. I’m going to pour myself another glass of wine and find a mental comfort food film, something like a cheesy 70s disaster flick or an 80s team comedy. I’m sure there’s something new out there, but nothing I’ve heard of has really spoken to me for a few weeks. And I’m trying to isolate some outside of work so I don’t get a breakthrough infection just as I’m trying to leave on vacation.

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