LaMalfa will be remembered for the insurrection…if at all

The voters of Nevada County have decisively rejected Congressmen Doug LaMalfa and Tom McClintock in the last couple of general elections, wisdom borne out by events surrounding the Capitol riots.

Still, we paint with too broad a brush when we lump LaMalfa and McClintock together. While neither was happy with the victory of Joe Biden, the two staunch conservatives parted ways in a manner that shows who puts the well-being of the country before the extremist fantasies of some Americans.

LaMalfa and McClintock questioned the integrity of the vote in several states, and both signed on to a suit brought by Texas that attempted to invalidate the vote in four swing states that went to Biden. They parted ways when the Supreme Court summarily rejected the suit.

McClintock gave up the fight and sided with the “surrender caucus,” saying in part: “I believe that fraud may indeed have occurred and that some states and courts have done a poor job of assuring the integrity of the vote and investigating allegations of fraud. But that does not give Congress the power to seize the power accorded to the states and the courts to itself. Period.”

As McClintock correctly noted, the text of the original charter, elaborated by the 12th Amendment, gives state legislatures the power to appoint electors. Nobody else, whether it’s the courts or the vice president, has the power to change that.

But LaMalfa, who has no discernible training in the law, helped reinforce the lie fed to millions of gullible Trump supporters that Congress could overturn the election results. “After the election,” he said, “it became a political issue and courts sidestepped the question using ‘standing,’ ‘procedure,’ and some sloppy work by the Trump legal team.”

More than 50 actions brought by lawyers in support of Trump were rejected by the courts, many by conservative judges appointed by Trump. The president’s political defenders didn’t allege specific acts of fraud. Instead, they cited “allegations of fraud and irregularities” that feed “deep distrust” of the results—distrust they and the president have fed.  

LaMalfa is right about sloppy legal work. Rudy Giuliani, Sidney Powell, L. Lin Wood and others promoted claims of fraud, asserting evidence of corruption and insisting they had proof of a massive conspiracy to elect Biden. But their purported eyewitnesses and experts repeatedly failed to produce actual proof that could satisfy judges.

One suit that involved Powell and Wood alleged Michigan election officials used software designed by foreign dictators to manipulate the vote. Powell is currently being sued for libel and slander by Dominion Voting Systems, which supplied election equipment in several states.

Trump and his enablers can’t explain why other Republicans did so well on the ballot, cutting into the Democratic majority in the House and holding onto the Senate until Trump, is an act of spite, torpedoed the two Georgia Senate races. Democrats tried to flip 10 Republican state legislatures in November, and went 0-10.

Yet we are expected to believe that people who threw out Trump votes or created fictitious Biden votes gave Republicans a free ride elsewhere on the ballot. I suppose you can make the case—and I’m sure somebody did—that they let the Republicans win other races to cover the fraud. The more likely case is that people were tired of four years of buffoonery in the White House.

LaMalfa could not be unaware of the dangers created by the lies he and others validated with their repeated assertions of massive voting irregularities that would overturn the election results. Social media was filled with threats to elected officials and calls for people to mass in Washington, D.C., leading up to Jan. 6.

Many law abiding citizens may well have attended the “Stop the Steal/Save America” rally that preceded the invasion of the nation’s Capitol, but there were plenty of others who were bent on mayhem and destruction. Why else would they show up with long guns, stun guns, machetes, Molotov cocktails, explosive devices and zip ties?

When his fellow Republicans incited the crowd with comments like “Today is the day American patriots start taking down names and start kicking ass” (Rep. Mo Brooks) or who referred to Biden as an “illegitimate usurper” and Trump as the victim of a “coup” (Rep. Paul Gosar), did it occur to LaMalfa that perhaps this has gone too far?

You wouldn’t know it from his statements and actions. LaMalfa voted to challenge the electoral votes from Pennsylvania and Arizona (McClintock opposed both motions) after issuing a statement from his “secured location” that the violence “no matter by who or for what reason is inexcusable and must be dealt with immediately, forcefully and with the full force of the law.”

LaMalfa was feinting concern for the fire after putting down his flamethrower, and made no mention of the man who lit the match. McClintock, appearing Jan. 6 on Fox Business, said twice that he needed to be careful about what he said because he was “so angry,” but made it clear he was not happy with Trump’s actions that day.

When the House debate on impeachment began last week, LaMalfa wrote on his Facebook page, “…there simply hasn’t been an impeachable offense that was committed by the president.” (He might want to consult with minority leader Kevin McCarthy, whip Steve Scalise, and conference chair Liz Cheney, the top-ranking Republicans in the House. All three pinned the blame on Trump, and Cheney voted for impreachment.)

It’s hard to fathom why LaMalfa continues to support behavior that’s injurious to the country he professes to love, but three possibilities come to mind:

–He truly believes the irrational fantasy that enough votes were compromised in the election to make Joe Biden the winner. If that’s the reason, he’s incompetent to serve in office.

–He views his position as a cynical political ploy. A poll taken after the Capitol riots showed that 87% of Republicans surveyed still back Trump, and if there’s one thing all politicians read, it’s political polls.

–He fears for his life. When Lindsey Graham is taunted as a “traitor” and the rioters at the Capitol chanted “Hang Mike Pence!,” any elected Republican is justified in thinking twice before casting an anti-Trump vote.

LaMalfa has always been a reliable foot soldier for Trump, content to do his bidding in the one-way process that passes for loyalty with the president. His one attempt at meaningful bipartisan legislation to ease the worker shortage for farmers got the cold shoulder from the White House.

Until Jan. 6, Doug LaMalfa was just another anonymous cipher, part of a long-line of mediocre elected officials who will be little noted or long remembered. Now, if he’s remembered at all, it will be as part of the Republican insurrection cabal.

Observations from the center stripe: Insurrection edition

REP. DOUG LaMalfa was one of nine GOP congressmen who didn’t wear masks while waiting out the Capitol riot in his “secured location.” Three congressmen in that group have since been diagnosed with COVID-19…MIKE PENCE is being hailed as a hero for doing what the Constitution said he was supposed to do. No wonder he’s a pariah with Trump…SHE MAY be new, but Rep. Lauren Boebert shows the potential to become the biggest looney in Congress since Michele Bachmann retired…REPUBLICANS ARE being disingenuous for opposing impeachment because it will be divisive. They were silent for four years while Trump did everything he could to foster an “us” versus “them” environment…THERE ARE reports that Trump is stiffing Rudy Giuliani for his legal fees. If true, it’s another example of Trump’s one-way loyalty… 

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Virus complicates betting on NFL playoffs, NCAA title game

It’s tough enough trying to figure out the winners of playoff and championship games without factoring in COVID-19, but that’s what bettors are faced with in this year’s NFL playoffs and the college championship game.

COVID-19 is a particular concern in the Pittsburgh-Cleveland playoff game. The Browns will be without at least their head coach, two assistants, and seven regular players because of the virus, which has prevented them from practicing together as a team for over two weeks.

That’s the main reason the betting line has moved from -3.5 to 6 points in favor of the Steelers, who along with the Bucs have attracted the most betting action of the six games in the first round of the playoffs.

I like the Steelers too, but at no more than 6.5 points, a spread they’re likely to hit by game time. But Pittsburgh is hardly a lock to cover the number. QB Ben Roethlisberger was rested for game 17 and showed a propensity for throwing short passes in the team’s last couple of games. There’s a suspicion Ben has a sore arm, but of course nobody will admit it. Approach this game with caution.

COVID-19 and a mystery injury are also impacting the college championship game between Ohio State and Alabama, a game I’m going to pass on. I have Alabama a 7-point favorite in the game, and Vegas currently has them favored by 7.5. I need at least a 4-point gap between the line and my projection before the game is a bet, so I’ll just watch this one.

That’s assuming the game will be played Monday night. Ohio State has several players grappling with the virus and there’s talk the game may be postponed a week. Then there’s the health of Buckeyes QB Justin Fields, who took a solid shot to the ribs in their win over Clemson.

Some people suspect Fields has one or two broken ribs, but Ohio State is stonewalling all questions on the issue, saying only that he’ll be ready to play. Unlike the NFL, college teams don’t have to issue injury reports so anybody who wants to bet on that game will have to make a guess on Fields’ health. If his ribs are broken, that could easily add several more points to the betting line.

I’ll just be focusing on the pros for the rest of the season. Thanks to a 7-2 run on the bowl games, my season record is now 39-27, almost the 60% winning percentage I aim for. If history is any guide, I’ll be betting on just two or three more games this season. I’ll have to go 2-0 or 3-0 to hit my 60%.

Go Steelers!

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QUICK HITS: Blame for the botched vaccination distribution

–Since Donald Trump insists on getting the credit for development of the COVID-19 vaccines, will he take the blame for the botched distribution of the shots? What do you think?

–If Trump’s vaccines are so terrific, how come he hasn’t taken it?

–Why doesn’t California have a plan for distribution of the vaccines? This should have been settled weeks ago.

–Russia’s recent penetration of some of our most sensitive computer systems illustrates once again that cybersecurity is America’s Maginot Line.

–The award of the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Devin Nunes devalues the award for everybody who has ever received it.

–Trump also gave the award to Rep. Jim Jordan, a former wrestling coach who clearly has experienced too many head locks.

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Notre Dame in the college football playoffs? Really?

The only people happy with the inclusion of Notre Dame in the semifinals of the national college football champion are the school’s many fans and ESPN, which is how the Fighting Irish managed to make the final four after getting embarrassed by Clemson.

You see, ESPN paid $7.5 billion for the rights to broadcast the college football playoffs through 2025, and they have to sell a lot of 30-second ads at $500,000 each to justify the investment. ESPN needs good ratings, and that’s where Notre Dame comes in.

If there truly is a national college football team, Notre Dame is that team. In a season plagued with cancelations and schedule changes brought on by the pandemic, the Fighting Irish attracted the highest ratings throughout the season. They played in the highest rated weekly national broadcasts four times during the season, and finished second two other times.

Despite never getting above No. 4 in the rankings, the team played in the two most widely watched games of the season, both of them against Clemson. That leads to my belief that Texas AM, rather than Notre Dame, should be in the top four.

Notre Dame barely beat then No. 1 Clemson 47-40 in double overtime at South Bend when the Tigers were without their top player, Heisman Trophy contender winner quarterback Trevor Lawrence. With Lawrence leading the team in the ACC league championship game, Notre Dame got clobbered 34-10.

This continues a history of Notre Dame flaming out in the truly big games. In the 2013 national championship game against Alabama, it lost 42-14. When it played Clemson in the semi-final game in 2018, it got beat 30-3.

Since the start of the BCS era in 1998, Notre Dame has played in six BCS or New Year’s Six bowl games. Its record is 0-6, losing by a total of 144 points. The closest they came to winning any of those games was 14 points.

The Vegas odds makers expect more of the same when the Fighting Irish face Alabama on New Year’s Day. They have the Crimson Tide favored by 20 points—the biggest underdog in the BCS era. But ESPN got the four teams that figure to generate the highest ratings, and that’s what really counts.

***

The trading operations of Wall Street stalwarts like Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs usually make the most money when the markets are chaotic, and the same appears to be true when it comes to the performance of Nevada’s bookmakers.

If there’s one word that applies to this year’s pro and college football seasons, it’s chaotic. The combination of canceled games, rescheduled games, and players going in and out of the COVID-19 protocols made for treacherous going if you like to bet on football games.

But that worked to the advantage of the bookies. The legal books in Nevada recorded a record gross profit of $61.8 million on $502 million in bets for November, according to the state gambling commission.

That 12% return is about three times what sports books make in a typical year. Sports betting is the least profitable operation for the average casino, earning about 3 to 4% on the handle, so November was truly a good month. Clearly the odds makers were generating sharp lines and their customers were making bad bets.

Given that, I feel better that my season record is 34-25, at 57% three points below my goal. I’ve hit at least 60% winners for the last 10 years, and 68% twice during that period.

A couple of the bowl games I liked were canceled, so I currently stand at 3-1 during the bowl season. The bowl games I like for the rest of the season include:

–Tulsa (+2.5) over Mississippi St.

–Army (+7) over West Virginia

–Indiana (-6.5) over Mississippi

–Iowa St. (-4.5) over Oregon

The last week of the NFL regular season is a problematic one. You have teams that are locked into their playoff seeds and are just going through the motions, and the teams that are out of the playoffs and just going through the motions. Then there’s COVID-19.

Just look at Pittsburgh’s game against Cleveland. The Steelers have their playoff seed locked up so they decided to bench quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, and other players will probably make just a brief appearance. The Browns need the win to secure a playoff spot, but exposure to COVID-19 is rampant throughout the team. Its four top receivers were in quarantine in last week’s loss, and who might play this week changes every day. Cleveland is favored, but a prudent bettor (is that an oxymoron?) would pass on the game.

 Among the games that have something worth playing for, the New York Giants (+3.5) over Dallas is the only one that meets my parameters.

But if you really want something to bet Sunday, here’s an angle that works well on the last day of NFL regular play, as well as the final day of regular season games in the NBA and MLB: Find the games where neither team is in the playoffs and is just playing out the season. Bet the underdog.

Three games meet those criteria this week: New York Jets (+3) vs. New England; Detroit (+6.5) vs. Minnesota; and Denver (+2.5) vs. Las Vegas. I’m not betting them, but you can.

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Plenty of contenders for coveted Nevada County awards

Anybody who thought the coronavirus pandemic would put a damper on the 2020 edition of the You Can’t Make This Stuff Up awards underestimated the zaniness and clueless behavior of many of their fellow citizens in western Nevada County.

The pandemic still provided an endless array of possibilities to compete for the seventh year of the coveted awards, whether it was KNCO realizing Rush Limbaugh is a divisive person and canceling his show, or that taxpayers weren’t allowed to observe planning to reopen the economy.

Grass Valley decided to turn its vacant retail stores into a Potemkin village and voters gave the OK to reap the tax benefits of the pot business, a subject the city council wouldn’t even discuss a couple of years ago. Then there was the Chamber of Commerce’s endorsement of a rally to reopen business that was withdrawn because of criticism. Of course, the Grass Valley chamber actually has somebody to run it, unlike the one in Nevada City.

Speaking of Nevada City (and we always do when these awards are announced), the police couldn’t find anybody to arrest when a group of thugs claiming to back the police assaulted several participants in a Black Lives Matter march. Then there were the people who tried to protect a tree from PG&E’s chainsaws, only to learn the tree was dying.

All of this gives us the opportunity to fulfill the charge of Chicago journalist and humorist Finley Peter Dunne, who believed “the job of the newspaper is to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.” What follows helps us fulfill that mandate.

HISTORICAL ARTIFACT AWARD: To Jedidiah Watson, a former member of the Grass Valley Historical Commission, who posted small Confederate flags on the Fourth of July weekend.

NOW YOU TELL US AWARD: To KNCO, which announced it was dropping Rush Limbaugh in part because the county doesn’t need so much “divisiveness” and hopes the change will “lead to healthier and more respectful discourse.”

PARTY CANCELLED AWARD: To a Penn Valley woman who was arrested after sheriff’s deputies allegedly found a half-pound of meth and an ounce of heroin in a Party City bag.

USE IT OR LOSE IT AWARD: To Nevada County, which started planning for the Dog Bar Road Bridge Replacement Project that would put the new bridge under water if the Centennial Dam is ever built in order to secure state funding.

JUSTICE DELAYED CAN BE DANGEROUS AWARD: To law enforcement officials who arrested a Smartsville man for allegedly ramming another car while drunk almost two years after a warrant was issued for his arrest on another drunk-driving charge.

BAD TIMING AWARD: To NID, for closing Scotts Flat Trail to the public on Presidents Day, a sunny day with the temperature in the mid-60s.

WHO CARES AWARD: To Assemblywoman Megan Dahle, who was reported playing with her cell phone while two of her constituents, Nick and Amanda Wilcox, were honored by the California Assembly for their work on gun violence, particularly their pioneering advocacy of what are now known as red flag laws.

BIG SPENDER AWARD: To Deborah Wilder, who outspent each of her two opponents in the race for district one supervisor. She finished third in the vote count.

IS THERE A THERE THERE AWARD: To Grass Valley, which now requires landlords to dress up the windows of empty store fronts to give the appearance “there’s a presence there,” according to Community Development Director Tom Last.

THE PEOPLE SPEAK AWARD: To the residents of Nevada County. With the blessing of the Board of Supervisors, Waste Management limited access to the transfer station to 200 vehicles a day. After loud protests, WM lifted the limit two days after it took effect.

THE PEOPLE ARE SILENCED AWARD: A 16-member advisory committee developing a list of safety measures for reopening local businesses barred the public from listening to or watching its meeting because it might slow down the panel’s work, according to Mali Dyck, assistant county executive officer.

THE PEOPLE ARE IN THE DARK AWARD: To county health officials, who refused to provide the detailed descriptions of COVID-19 deaths released by other counties, citing privacy concerns.

WISHY-WASHY MEDICAL ADVISORY AWARD: To the Nevada County Public Health Department, which warned people not to ingest water, swim or splash in areas with high levels of E. coli, but didn’t recommend against swimming in Lake Wildwood, which has had an E. coli problem since 2017.

NO GUTS, NO GLORY AWARD: To Supervisors Dan Miller and Sue Hoek, who backed out of commitments to speak at a ReOpen Nevada County businesses rally after the event was criticized. That didn’t stop Rep. Doug LaMalfa from speaking at the rally.

CLUELESS ENDORSEMENT AWARD: To the Grass Valley Chamber of Commerce, which thought the county and Grass Valley endorsed a rally to reopen businesses in Nevada County because two supervisors announced they would speak at the event and the city allowed the rally to take place. The chamber withdrew its endorsement after citizens opposed the event.

BENDING THE RULES AWARD: To Grass Valley, which permitted a rally on city property even though event organizers lacked the insurance required by the city.

LAW AND ORDER REWARD: To Rep. Doug LaMalfa, who appeared outside a Grass Valley restaurant to voice skepticism about pandemic rules shutting down businesses. The restaurant was later cited by authorities for violating pandemic safety regulations.

COUNTY VISION AWARD: To Supervisor Ed Scofield, who championed development of Higgins Marketplace as a way to create new jobs in the south county. The shopping center’s first—and still its only—tenant, Holiday Market, has been in the south county for years.

MISINFORMATION AWARD: To supervisors chair Heidi Hall, who pulled consideration of an emergency ordinance to crack down on violators of COVID-19 regulations so the county could do a “good job correcting the misinformation.” The revised ordinance was still rejected by the supervisors.

JUSTICE IS SLOW AWARD: To legal authorities, who issued an arrest warrant 13 months after an alleged sexual assault. Authorities said they were waiting for the results of a DNA test at the state crime lab in Sacramento.

INSPECTOR CLOUSEAU AWARD: To the Nevada City Police Department, which couldn’t find anybody to arrest at a Black Lives Matter demonstration broken up by thugs.

THE JULIA “BUTTEFLY” HILL AWARD: To a group of tree lovers in Nevada City who occupied a blue Atlas cedar named “Bella” to prevent PG&E from cutting it down. It turns out the tree was suffering from heart rot and had to be cut down.

GRATEFUL COMUNITY AWARD: To Reinette Senum, who resigned from the Nevada City Council because “I feel I can be of best service to humanity…” by focusing on other things.

FIFE AND DRUM CORPS AWARD: To a “pots and pans” brigade partially organized by Senum to protest Nevada City’s “draconian decisions” to fine people who don’t wear masks in public.

INFINITY AWARD: More than nine years after it was closed because it was unsafe to use, restoration work on the Bridgeport Covered Bridge still isn’t finished.

THEY SAID IT

“I worry that actions and decisions by the current board will have severe long term consequences that will lead to an uncontrolled downward spiral for the district…I believe that the future of NID is in peril.”

Nick Wilcox, announcing he will not seek reelection to the NID board. He refused to elaborate on his statement.

“People were getting in staff’s face, yelling and not being nice.”

David Garcia, county solid waste program manager, after access to the McCourtney Road Transfer Station was limited to 200 vehicles a day. The limit was lifted two days after it was imposed.

“Since this event continues to move quickly, we want to create a process where they can provide the guidance to businesses efficiently and without pause.”

County CEOAlison Lehman, explaining why the public was barred from observing the meeting of a committee creating guidelines for the reopening of businesses.

“(Businesses) are really taking this seriously.”

Amy Irani, the county’s environmental health director, speaking about the precautions businesses were taking against the coronavirus. The quote appeared in The Union next to a picture of a barber and customer unmasked, violations of state guidelines.

“I think the police here are really good. They’re less corrupt than others.”

Semeria Bjorkman of Chicago Park, speaking to a reporter at a rally denouncing police violence.

“As you go about your business today, KNOW that there is no law that orders you to Wear a Mask. Our Governor does not have the unilateral power to make such orders. While I know the HEADLINES over the last couple days (sic) have stated something different, that is because journalism is dead.”

Nevada City Mayor Reinette Senum, after Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered Californians to resume wearing masks in public.

“Wear a mask, wash your hands, practice social distancing, and please be kind to one another…I find it hard to believe that the hill we’re willing to die on is masks; there are so many more important things in the world.”

Grass Valley Mayor Lisa Swarthout.

“If you don’t like our mask mandate, don’t go downtown.”

Nevada City Councilman Doug Fleming, reacting to objections to a new city ordinance that will fine people who visit the downtown area unmasked.

“We’re rolling along, but we’re rolling along in a manner that I think most rural counties would be envious of.”

Supervisor Dan Miller, after the supervisors allocated $1 million to improve broadband communications for students in the Peardale area. Educators pointed out the problem in March, but the contract wasn’t awarded until September, and the technology wasn’t operational until this month.

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Public needs to give the COVID-19 vaccines a shot at working

Now that we are rolling out two COVID-19 vaccines that actually work, the next big hurdle will be to get enough people to take them so we can get the disease under control.

You would think that would be easy, given our desperation to return to normal life. But health experts say we need to get upwards of 70% of our citizens vaccinated if we are going achieve the necessary herd immunity, and various polls indicate it’s going to be difficult to achieve that goal.

A Pew Research Center survey of over 12,000 Americans in late November found that nearly 40% said they would “definitely” or “probably” not get the COVID-19 vaccination. While that’s an improvement from 50% in September, it’s hardly reassuring to public health professionals.

“COVID-19 is the first disease to have an anti-vaccine movement before it had a vaccine,” said Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from 2009 to 2017. Part of this is the speed with which the vaccine was developed and the politicizing of the science involved.

Until the COVID-19 vaccines were developed in just eight months, the record for a new vaccine was three years for mumps. That has raised concerns that corners were cut in development and that testing for problems was rushed. The two vaccines were granted emergency use authorization by the Food and Drug Administration, a shorter test and review process than most drugs undergo.

Approval moved even more quickly due to alleged pressure from the Trump administration. FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn was reportedly told by Trump Chief of Staff Mark Meadows to either approve the Pfizer vaccine immediately or start looking for another job. Trump chimed in with a tweet, “Stop playing games and start saving lives!!!”

A House subcommittee is currently investigating reports Trump political appointees at the CDC tried to block or change more than a dozen reports that detailed scientific findings about the spread of the coronvirus.

In one instance cited by investigators, a study on the spread of the virus by children was blocked at the time Trump was pushing hard to resume school in the fall. “Whenever messaging clashed with the science, the message always won,” said one former CDC official. Trump administration officials have denied the claims, but are refusing to turn over documents requested by the subcommittee.

Blacks, among those who have suffered the most during the pandemic, are said to be reluctant to get the vaccination because of a long history of bad experiences with the government when it comes to medical care. The best known example is the notorious Tuskegee Experiment, where 600 black men were injected unknowingly with syphilis to see how they would react. They were told they were getting free medical care.

Then there are esoteric concerns like the use of pork-derived gelatin, a widely used stabilizer to ensure vaccines remain safe and effective during storage and transport. This is a touchy issue for orthodox Jews and Muslims, who ban the consumption of pork products. Pfizer and Moderna insist porcine gelatin isn’t used in their vaccines, but you can bet anti-vaxxers will raise the issue.

Early users of the vaccines are reporting side effects like headaches, fatigue and a rise in temperature. People with severe allergies are being advised to avoid the shots, and at least one person fainted after getting hers. (This apparently has happened to the woman in the past.)

The rapidly evolving nature of the pandemic has created a data deficit in which the demand for information about the topic is high, but the supply of credible information is low. Anti-vaxxers and conspiracy nuts are more than willing to fill the information gap, aided and abetted by the internet.

Facebook is making an effort to stop the flow, but it’s almost impossible to clamp down on all of the anti-vaxx pages and groups on the site. It recently booted off “Stop Mandatory Vaccination” (the name itself claims something that doesn’t exist), which had 200,000 followers.

The site recently teamed up with QAnon, which believes Trump is fighting a deep state cabal of liberal pedophiles who are trying to take over the world. COVID-19 is just another element of the plan. “Stop” featured an American flag over “WWG1WGA,” QAnon’s rallying cry that stands for “Where We Go 1, We Go All.”

Then there are outfits like GreenMedInfo, which helped spread the bogus claim that vaccinations cause autism. In its view, the FDA knows the COVID-19 vaccination “may cause a wide range of life-threatening side effects, including death.”

With online platforms like Facebook and YouTube cracking down on misinformation, some anti-vaxx activists are pivoting to sparsely-attended real-world events and looking to local news outlets to amplify their message, a technique known as “information laundering.”

“This is the problem of information laundering,” said Whitney Phillips, an assistant professor at Syracuse University who studies media manipulation. “If you make a harmful position sound reasonable, then more people who otherwise would not be inclined to believe it, might be willing to look at as an issue with two sides.”

Local television news is especially useful in this effort, the place where most people get their local news. After blood in the streets, TV news likes nothing better than a controversy that can be portrayed in simplistic, black-and-white terms. There’s no better attention getter than moms dragging their children to a demonstration protesting vaccinations.

The Department of Health and Human Services is supposed to fight this misinformation with a $250 million marketing campaign. But there are suspicions the administration is trying to politicize the effort, and officials have yet to roll out the target message. At least 15 states got tired of waiting and have launched their own campaigns.

Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, has urged Americans to “hit the reset button” on skepticism of the approved vaccinations, stressing that the independent nature of the approval process and the strong safety measures should give the public confidence.

“I think all reasonable people—if they had the chance to put the noise aside and disregard all those terrible conspiracy theories—would look at this and say: I want this for my family, I want it for myself,” he said. “People are dying right now; how could you possibly say let’s wait and see if that might mean some terrible tragedy is going to befall.”

I’m onboard. I’m old enough to have had measles, mumps and chicken pox because there were no vaccinates available to prevent them. I still have a vivid memory of my parents freaking out when my younger brother showed early symptoms of polio—fortunately, it was a false alarm.

So if you’re ahead of me in the vaccination line and decide to pass, let me know. I’ll be glad to take your place because I have no desire to spend the last couple of weeks of my life with a ventilator jammed down my throat.

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