The Lockdown Christmas

My desk overlooks an intersection. Looking out on it, Christmas Eve was gloomy and depressing. No lights, no people, virtually no cars. Just dark and cold and rain. I have no greater expectations for New Year’s Eve.

The morning after I saw a fat grey squirrel racing up the tall holly at the corner of my front lawn, picking up in its mouth huge dried leaves blown there from the sycamore tree, scampering across the gutter on the garage and disappearing from my view. I stepped out to see where the nest was being built, and there it was, a huge house of sycamore leaves in the crotch of an even taller holly tree, high above the house. (Both hollies had long been stripped of berries -- first by blue jays, then by robins and chickadees and finally by squirrels. The trees, once covered in red,  have not a single berry on them.) The nest builder knows somehow that a cold winter is coming and is preparing to keep her family warm and safe. We will have to do the same.

Nashville Bombing

It’s early yet and we’ve no idea who bombed Nashville or why. I hope that, unlike the 58 murders by Stephen Paddock in Las Vegas, the FBI will have some answers about motivation this time. It’s early yet and it’s always a good idea to wait a couple of days, ignoring so many speculative articles -- often pointing fingers at whoever the writer dislikes most. Still, one tweeter, Alex Little, a former federal prosecutor, has provided a thoughtful analysis.

In a series of posts, he explains the various possible motives and perpetrators of the bombing. He finds the timing and location of the bombing suggest most strongly the bomber had  some political/terror motivations. Doing this on Christmas morning was sure to garner a great deal of coverage and the location -- a major artery of AT&T’s communication  network -- means it was a “massive infrastructure attack”; it “took down phone and internet communications for millions.” In his words, ”we have an attacker who has detonated a large bomb, who took steps to avoid casualties, who chose a location notable only for its impact on our communications network and who has [not] (at least not yet) claimed responsibility.”

Roger L. Simon, who lives in Nashville and was dining in the area not long before the blast, has his theory: He thinks it marks the beginning of a civil war against government surveillance. 

Back in October 2016, Anthony Cuthbertson wrote in Newsweek under the title “AT&T Spying Program is ‘Worse Than Snowden Revelations’”:

“A for-profit surveillance program carried out by telecommunications giant AT&T was more serious than the 2013 NSA spying revelations, according to digital rights advocates.

“AT&T’s Project Atmosphere was unveiled Tuesday by the Daily Beast to be secretly selling customer data to law enforcement agencies for the purpose of investigating everything from murder to medical fraud.

“Digital rights group Fight for the Future says that making customer data available to local police departments without a warrant goes beyond the government-level surveillance revealed by former NSA contract worker Edward Snowden

For more The Intercept has an article -- “The Wiretap Rooms -- The NSA Has Hidden Spy Hubs in Eight Cities” that includes the following:

“‘The NSA considers AT&T to be one of its most trusted partners and has lauded the company’s ‘extreme willingness to help.’ It is a collaboration that dates back decades. Little known, however, is that its scope is not restricted to AT&T’s customers.

Civil War?

So back to whodunit…

Even with the warning, considerable collateral damage to businesses on Second Street and close by was inevitable, as if they all hadn’t had enough already.

Nevertheless, the person or persons who did this act -- likely experienced with explosives in some way -- ignored that potential destruction.

They clearly wanted to send a message he, she or they believed was of too much importance.

At this point anyway, that message appears to be that we live in a surveillance state from the likes of AT&T and our government and that that must end for the survival of our republic as it was conceived.

Is it the beginning of a civil war as Simon suggests, or a horrible attack by an outside state as Little suggests may be yet another possibility? There are plenty of clues in the surveillance tape and the remnants of the RV to begin the investigation. Let’s see how the FBI does with this one.

Vaccination Time

Statewide lockdowns aren’t working. Masks are inefficacious. So are plastic shields. Therapies are now in place and use of them is keeping deaths down. The  COVID-19 vaccines have been shipped by the millions and are being administered. My 101-year-old mother is scheduled to get hers on Monday. Yes, I hesitated briefly before granting permission, as she is a bit more fragile than most, but not very physically fragile considering her age. I was concerned that the ordinary after-effects like nausea and fever and discomfort might not be the best idea, but as she is in a small intensive care unit with registered nurses on duty 24/7 who have been trained to watch for and treat any negative reactions, I consented. I did so in the hope that if all the residents are staff do get vaccinated, the lockdown restrictions will be eased. While we provide for the physical health of the elderly by quarantines and lockdowns of these most vulnerable, we can’t ignore the mental trauma of seeing loved ones only on FaceTime chats. My hope is that we will soon be able to return to normal in-person visitations.

So my anger at the backstroking Dr. Fauci only grew when I read his latest legerdemain. I share with Professor Eugene Volokh my distrust of anything Fauci says.

From the New York Times (Donald G. McNeil Jr.):

At what point does a country achieve herd immunity? What portion of the population must acquire resistance to the coronavirus, either through infection or vaccination, for the disease to fade away…?

In the pandemic's early days, Dr. Fauci tended to cite the same 60 to 70 percent estimate that most experts did. About a month ago, he began saying "70, 75 percent" in television interviews. And last week, in an interview with CNBC News, he said "75, 80, 85 percent" and "75 to 80-plus percent."

In a telephone interview the next day, Dr. Fauci acknowledged that he had slowly but deliberately been moving the goal posts. He is doing so, he said, partly based on new science, and partly on his gut feeling that the country is finally ready to hear what he really thinks… [H]e believes that it may take close to 90 percent immunity to bring the virus to a halt…

Dr. Fauci said that weeks ago, he had hesitated to publicly raise his estimate because many Americans seemed unsure about vaccines… Now that some polls are showing that many more Americans are ready, even eager, for vaccines, he said he felt he could deliver the tough message that the return to normal might take longer than anticipated.

"When polls said only about half of all Americans would take a vaccine, I was saying herd immunity would take 70 to 75 percent," Dr. Fauci said. "Then, when newer surveys said 60 percent or more would take it, I thought, 'I can nudge this up a bit,' so I went to 80, 85."

I believe this virus will be with us forever, like colds or seasonal flus. The best we can hope for, in my view, is to practice good personal hygiene to limit transmission, improve and utilize workable therapies and cut the nonsense about ending reasonable living in the deluded hope we can kill it off. We can’t. Using the very political Fauci with his goal-moving yardstick of inconsistent and often nonsensical pronouncements (i.e., Cuomo did it right) he will rule our lives until one way or the other he’s out of office.