"Holding Back The Years" (opens in separate window)

death by a thousand cuts

friday, september 29th, 2023

Those who gave us the Constitution and the Bill of Rights believed that the government exists at the behest of its citizens. It is there to protect, defend and even enhance our freedoms, not violate them.

[FULL TITLE: "Death by a Thousand Cuts: The Many Ways Our Rights Have Been Usurped Since 9/11."]

Unfortunately, although the Bill of Rights was adopted as a means of protecting the people against government tyranny, in America today, the government does whatever it wants, freedom be damned.

In the 22 years since the USA Patriot Act—a massive 342-page wish list of expanded powers for the FBI and CIA—was rammed through Congress in the wake of the so-called 9/11 terror attacks, it has snowballed into the eradication of every vital safeguard against government overreach, corruption and abuse.

The left is coming for our Rights.

The Patriot Act drove a stake through the heart of the Bill of Rights, violating at least six of the ten original amendments—the First, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh and Eighth Amendments—and possibly the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments, as well.

The Patriot Act also redefined terrorism so broadly that many non-terrorist political activities such as protest marches, demonstrations and civil disobedience are now considered potential terrorist acts, thereby rendering anyone desiring to engage in protected First Amendment expressive activities as suspects of the surveillance state.

The Patriot Act justified broader domestic surveillance, the logic being that if government agents knew more about each American, they could distinguish the terrorists from law-abiding citizens—no doubt a reflexive impulse shared by small-town police and federal agents alike.

The rules are simple: they lie to us, we know they're lying, they know we know they're lying, but they keep lying to us, and we keep pretending to believe them.

This, according to Washington Post reporter Robert O’Harrow, Jr., was a fantasy that “had been brewing in the law enforcement world for a long time.” And 9/11 provided the government with the perfect excuse for conducting far-reaching surveillance and collecting mountains of information on even the most law-abiding citizen.

Federal agents and police officers are now authorized to conduct covert black bag “sneak-and-peak” searches of homes and offices while you are away and confiscate your personal property without first notifying you of their intent or their presence.

The law also granted the FBI the right to come to your place of employment, demand your personal records and question your supervisors and fellow employees, all without notifying you; allowed the government access to your medical records, school records and practically every personal record about you; and allowed the government to secretly demand to see records of books or magazines you’ve checked out in any public library and Internet sites you’ve visited (at least 545 libraries received such demands in the first year following passage of the Patriot Act).

In the name of fighting terrorism, government officials are now permitted to monitor religious and political institutions with no suspicion of criminal wrongdoing; prosecute librarians or keepers of any other records if they tell anyone that the government has subpoenaed information related to a terror investigation; monitor conversations between attorneys and clients; search and seize Americans’ papers and effects without showing probable cause; and jail Americans indefinitely without a trial, among other things.

We the people are the rightful masters of both Congress and the courts, not to overthrow the Constitution but to overthrow the men who pervert the Constitution.

The federal government also made liberal use of its new powers, especially through the use (and abuse) of the nefarious national security letters, which allow the FBI to demand personal customer records from Internet Service Providers, financial institutions and credit companies at the mere say-so of the government agent in charge of a local FBI office and without prior court approval.

In fact, since 9/11, we’ve been spied on by surveillance cameras, eavesdropped on by government agents, had our belongings searched, our phones tapped, our mail opened, our email monitored, our opinions questioned, our purchases scrutinized (under the USA Patriot Act, banks are required to analyze your transactions for any patterns that raise suspicion and to see if you are connected to any objectionable people), and our activities watched.

We’re also being subjected to invasive patdowns and whole-body scans of our persons and seizures of our electronic devices in the nation’s airports. We can’t even purchase certain cold medicines at the pharmacy anymore without it being reported to the government and our names being placed on a watch list.

In this way, “we the people” continue to be terrorized, traumatized, and tricked into a semi-permanent state of compliance by a government that cares nothing for our lives or our liberties.

The bogeyman’s names and faces have changed over time (terrorism, the war on drugs, illegal immigration, a viral pandemic, and more to come), but the end result remains the same: in the so-called name of national security, the Constitution has been steadily chipped away at, undermined, eroded, whittled down, and generally discarded with the support of Congress, the White House, and the courts.

A recitation of the Bill of Rights—set against a backdrop of government surveillance, militarized police, SWAT team raids, asset forfeiture, eminent domain, overcriminalization, armed surveillance drones, whole body scanners, stop and frisk searches, vaccine mandates, lockdowns, and the like (all sanctioned by Congress, the White House, and the courts)—would understandably sound more like a eulogy to freedoms lost than an affirmation of rights we truly possess.

What we are left with today is but a shadow of the robust document adopted more than two centuries ago. Sadly, most of the damage has been inflicted upon the Bill of Rights.

Here is what it means to live under the Constitution, with the nation still suffering blowback from the permanent state of emergency brought about by 9/11 and COVID-19.

The First Amendment is supposed to protect the freedom to speak your mind, assemble and protest nonviolently without being bridled by the government. It also protects the freedom of the media, as well as the right to worship and pray without interference. In other words, Americans should not be silenced by the government. To the founders, all of America was a free speech zone.

Despite the clear protections found in the First Amendment, the freedoms described therein are under constant assault. Increasingly, Americans are being persecuted for exercising their First Amendment rights and speaking out against government corruption. Activists are being arrested and charged for daring to film police officers engaged in harassment or abusive practices. Journalists are being prosecuted for reporting on whistleblowers. States are passing legislation to muzzle reporting on cruel and abusive corporate practices. Religious ministries are being fined for attempting to feed and house the homeless. Protesters are being tear-gassed, beaten, arrested and forced into “free speech zones.” And under the guise of “government speech,” the courts have reasoned that the government can discriminate freely against any First Amendment activity that takes place within a so-called government forum.

The Second Amendment was intended to guarantee “the right of the people to keep and bear arms.” Essentially, this amendment was intended to give the citizenry the means to resist tyrannical government. Yet while gun ownership has been recognized by the U.S. Supreme Court as an individual citizen right, Americans remain powerless to defend themselves against red flag gun laws, militarized police, SWAT team raids, and government agencies armed to the teeth with military weapons better suited to the battlefield.

The Third Amendment reinforces the principle that civilian-elected officials are superior to the military by prohibiting the military from entering any citizen’s home without “the consent of the owner.” With the police increasingly training like the military, acting like the military, and posing as military forces—complete with heavily armed SWAT teams, military weapons, assault vehicles, etc.—it is clear that we now have what the founders feared most—a standing army on American soil.

The Fourth Amendment prohibits government agents from conducting surveillance on you or touching you or encroaching on your private property unless they have evidence that you’re up to something criminal. In other words, the Fourth Amendment ensures privacy and bodily integrity. Unfortunately, the Fourth Amendment has suffered the greatest damage in recent years and has been all but eviscerated by an unwarranted expansion of governmental police powers that include strip searches and even anal and vaginal searches of citizens, surveillance (corporate and otherwise), and intrusions justified in the name of fighting terrorism, as well as the outsourcing of otherwise illegal activities to private contractors.

The Fifth Amendment and the Sixth Amendment work in tandem. These amendments supposedly ensure that you are innocent until proven guilty, and government authorities cannot deprive you of your life, your liberty or your property without the right to an attorney and a fair trial before a civilian judge. However, in the new suspect society in which we live, where surveillance is the norm, these fundamental principles have been upended. Certainly, if the government can arbitrarily freeze, seize or lay claim to your property (money, land or possessions) under government asset forfeiture schemes, you have no true rights.

The Seventh Amendment guarantees citizens the right to a jury trial. Yet when the populace has no idea of what’s in the Constitution—civic education has virtually disappeared from most school curriculums—that inevitably translates to an ignorant jury incapable of distinguishing justice and the law from their own preconceived notions and fears. However, as a growing number of citizens are coming to realize, the power of the jury to nullify the government’s actions—and thereby help balance the scales of justice—is not to be underestimated. Jury nullification reminds the government that “we the people” retain the power to ultimately determine what laws are just.

The Eighth Amendment is similar to the Sixth in that it is supposed to protect the rights of the accused and forbid the use of cruel and unusual punishment. However, the Supreme Court’s determination that what constitutes “cruel and unusual” should be dependent on the “evolving standards of decency that mark the progress of a maturing society” leaves us with little protection in the face of a society lacking in morals altogether.

The Ninth Amendment provides that other rights not enumerated in the Constitution are nonetheless retained by the people. Popular sovereignty—the belief that the power to govern flows upward from the people rather than downward from the rulers—is clearly evident in this amendment. However, it has since been turned on its head by a centralized federal government that sees itself as supreme and which continues to pass more and more laws that restrict our freedoms under the pretext that it has an “important government interest” in doing so.

As for the Tenth Amendment’s reminder that the people and the states retain every authority that is not otherwise mentioned in the Constitution, that assurance of a system of government in which power is divided among local, state and national entities has long since been rendered moot by the centralized Washington, DC, power elite—the president, Congress and the courts.

Thus, if there is any sense to be made from this recitation of freedoms lost, it is simply this: our individual freedoms have been eviscerated so that the government’s powers could be expanded.

It was no idle happenstance that the Constitution, which was adopted 236 years ago on Sept. 17, 1787, opens with these three powerful words: “We the people.” As the Preamble proclaims:

We, the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this CONSTITUTION for the United States of America.

In other words, it’s our job to make the government play by the rules of the Constitution.

We are supposed to be the masters and they—the government and its agents—are the servants.

We the American people—the citizenry—are supposed to be the arbiters and ultimate guardians of America’s welfare, defense, liberty, laws and prosperity.

Still, it’s hard to be a good citizen if you don’t know anything about your rights or how the government is supposed to operate.

As the National Review rightly asks, “How can Americans possibly make intelligent and informed political choices if they don’t understand the fundamental structure of their government? American citizens have the right to self-government, but it seems that we increasingly lack the capacity for it.”

Americans are constitutionally illiterate.

Most citizens have little, if any, knowledge about their basic rights. And our educational system does a poor job of teaching the basic freedoms guaranteed in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

Teachers and school administrators do not fare much better. A study conducted by the Center for Survey Research and Analysis found that one educator in five was unable to name any of the freedoms in the First Amendment.

Government leaders and politicians are also ill-informed. Although they take an oath to uphold, support and defend the Constitution against “enemies foreign and domestic,” their lack of education about our fundamental rights often causes them to be enemies of the Bill of Rights.

So what’s the solution?

Thomas Jefferson recognized that a citizenry educated on “their rights, interests, and duties”  is the only real assurance that freedom will survive.

From the President on down, anyone taking public office should have a working knowledge of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights and should be held accountable for upholding their precepts. One way to ensure this would be to require government leaders to take a course on the Constitution and pass a thorough examination thereof before being allowed to take office.

Some critics are advocating that students pass the United States citizenship exam in order to graduate from high school. Others recommend that it must be a prerequisite for attending college. I’d go so far as to argue that students should have to pass the citizenship exam before graduating from grade school.

Here’s an idea to get educated and take a stand for freedom: anyone who signs up to become a member of The Rutherford Institute gets a wallet-sized Bill of Rights card and a Know Your Rights card. Use this card to teach your children the freedoms found in the Bill of Rights.

A healthy, representative government is hard work. It takes a citizenry that is informed about the issues, educated about how the government operates, and willing to do more than grouse and complain.

As I point out in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People and in its fictional counterpart The Erik Blair Diaries, “we the people” have the power to make and break the government.

The powers-that-be want us to remain divided over politics, hostile to those with whom we disagree politically, and intolerant of anyone or anything whose solutions to what ails this country differ from our own. They also want us to believe that our job as citizens begins and ends on Election Day.

Yet there are 330 million of us in this country. Imagine what we could accomplish if we actually worked together, presented a united front, and spoke with one voice.

Tyranny wouldn't stand a chance.

© 9.11.2023 by John & Nisha Whitehead, "THE RUTHERFORD INSTITUTE".

A Day In The Life.

Up at 8a on Friday, I went thru my finger stick to check my BSL (Blood Sugar Level) and recorded it on my Diabetes 2 chart, made coffee and breakfast, took two 50mg Tramadol and a 300mg Gabapentin for various pains, fired-up the Win-7 Pentium HP desktop to let 32 million lines of code load, had a couple smokes in the semi-cool garage, fed the squirrels (a real morning comedy!), and checked the day's to-do list.

It was a cool 50°, and the flora and fauna are pleased. Heavy showers, t-storms and flooding were forecast for tonite and tomorrow as the "numbered" (but not "named") hurricane/tropical storm moves up the East Coast. Meh, but no complaints. I had the heat set at 74° to take the chill off, but turned it off around noon.

I spent half my money on gambling, alcohol and wild women. The other half I wasted.

Something didn't feel right. I had a 99.7° temp, chills, joint aches & pain worse than usual, and food made me nauseous. I rescheduled our walk and time with Sherry, grabbed the afghan and headed for the LR couch. Damn. I'd tuned into the "Chris Plante Show", and just let it play in the background, as I drifted-off into la-la land. Maybe I can sleep thru it.

Back up at 8p, I got some food down, and watched TV for a little while, and decided to get back to sleep, upstairs in bed. Lights out.

Up at 6:45a on Saturday, I felt a bit better than yesterday, heard it pouring and I remembered that Hurricane Tropical Storm Ophelia (yes, they finally named it) was coming our way. We're now getting wind and rain from the outer bands of the storm. The wind was roaring and it was raining heavily, but no *Watches* or *Warnings* posted yet. Barely light, 55° and ***Excellent Air Quality***, it was nice sitting in the open garage, cold air rushing in, squirrels looking for some food. I checked the office-sunroom's 3 4ft x 9ft windows, and no leaks (so far). Nice. I made French House (Dark) Roast Coffee, and fed the squirrels. Got to keep the 'neighbors' happy. BTW, Happy 1st Day of Autumn (Autumnal equinox 2023 brings fall to the Northern Hemisphere this weekend. Autumn officially begins at 2:50 am EDT, on Saturday (Sept. 23)).

Fauci is my latest, new "F-word".

By 8:45a, we'd gotten 1+" of rain, and TS Ophelia was still south of us in South Carolina, on the East Coast, ready to make landfall. I had breakfast, got ready for the day, and checked the day's to-do list. Get some air in the tires; Jeep's telling me that all four are down to 29psi, when they should be at 40psi. After some breakfast, I got ready for the day, and drove southwest to S&D Automotive, and visit with Stacey, Dave and my older cousin, Buddy, father of Stacey. Back home after another stop at Rite Aid Pharmacy, I stayed inside for the rest of the day, and crashed for a while on the LR couch. No TV.

After dinner, I realized that Saturday is another NBC (Nothing But Crap) night for TV, so I reran previous years' episodes of "Gold Rush". The new season starts next Friday. And after rechecking the Japanese F1 Grand Prix, I realized it's tomorrow morning at 1:00 AM US Time! Shit. I have F1-TV, so I'll watch the replay later in the morning. Lights out at 11:30p.

Up at 8:30a on Sunday, it felt good to sleep-in, and get some extra rest. It was a very cool, damp, 60° and steady rain when I went to bed, and it's raining even harder this morning. Must be 3+" by now. I fired-up the furnace to 74°, made coffee and had some smokes in the garage. The grey squirrels came into the garage for a visit and feeding. After firing-up the computer, I checked the weather and news sites; still no flood "watches" or "warnings", so far. Until my head cleared, I just listened to some "CS Show" Podcasts I'd missed last week, watched some CNN Headline News (Fox is crap these days, offering hardly any "news") and watched the F-1 Japanese GP Race 30 minute recap; a good, but predictable race. No recurring window leak problems, either, thankfully.

I had 2 loads of laundry to do, called Sherry t5o reserve a day for the coming week, checked the week's schedule, and took a nice snooze on the LR couch. After a light dinner, I watched Motor Trend's "Bitchin' Rides" and "Vegas Rat Rods" until 1:30a. Still raining. Lights out.

Awakened by the garbage truck going thru at 5:30a on Monday, I was up for the day. It was dark, still raining, windy, a chilly/damp 59°, and "Moderate Air Quality" as I fired-up the heat to 74°, made coffee, had a couple smokes in the cold garage, tuned into the "CS Show", 6-9, and thought about the day/week ahead. Tropical Rainstorm Ophelia will be with us all day, and into tomorrow. Best I can guess, with the gauge overflowing, is that we've had 4-5". Sure, we needed the rain to hopefully refill our 2 reservoir lakes, and still no "flood watches" or "flood warnings" posted anywhere.

The all-electric recycle garbage truck came thru at 11:30a, just as I was getting ready to leave for DeVon's Cleaners and several other errands in Southern York County, so I brought-in my recycle bin, and moved the neighbor's trash bin, to their garage, and hit the road south. Traffic was light and I made good time. Back home by 1:30, I unloaded, had some lunch and listened to the morning's "CP Show", most of which I'd missed. Tired from getting-up so early, I crashed on the LR couch for a few hours. A nasty-looking, bleak day, but no more rain. After a light dinner and a few small condo chores, I settled-in to watch Motor Trend's "Iron Resurrection" until 11, and unplugged.

Awake at 7:30a on Tuesday, and finally up at 7:45, it was another cold 55°, gray, rainy, bleak morning. I made coffee, had a couple smokes in the garage, fed the squirrels (a real morning comedy!) and tuned into the "CS Show". The 3 pain pills helped assuage my back/hip/elbow pain, and I scanned the weather and news sites on my office's desktop. We're well over 4" of rainfall, now. After a few small chores, and list complete, I left for a food shopping trip to Weis Market, here in East York. Back around 2p, it was still raining on/off, so I unloaded, and tried to grab a snooze, but couldn't turn-off my brain; too much morning coffee. I had a late lunch, and did paperwork until almost dark.

HEADLINE NEWS 5 pm: "Hunter Biden received $250K wires originating in Beijing with beneficiary address listed as Joe Biden's home." Wow, that might be the 'smoking gun' to end Lunch Bucket Joe's Reign-From-Hell. Now, as a Christian struggling to be a good person everyday, I take no pleasure in others' problems, grief, sins and suffering -- except for leftists, communists, socialists, fascists, child molesters, rapists, anarchists, murderers, lowlifes, dirtballs who I would send to hell, if I could -- but I truly hope that's the arrow thru the beast's heart.

After dinner, I caught the news, watched some episodes of Motor Trend's "Iron Resurrection", an FX movie called "Iron Man 3", and called it Yankee Doodle at 11:30p.

Shoot & kill all looters!

Up at 8a on Wednesday, it felt good to sleep "late". Another dreary, grey sky, a seemingly very cold 54° due to so much dampness from 4"+ of rain. I fired-up the furnace, made coffee, had a smoke in the garage, fed the 2 squirrels out front, and tuned-in the "CS Show" until 9; then the "CP Show" was on 9-12. I did some condo chores during the live show. The day's headlines were all depressing: looting, rapes, murders, rioting, shootings, more and more looting... IMO, ALL rioters, looters and arsonists should be shot and killed on sight, by police. No exceptions; KILL THEM! It'll all stop very quickly. Heh. Notice any 'commonality' between all the images? My BP is spiking.

After a Turkey Sub, for lunch, I took a 30mg Flexor® muscle relaxer, and left for the cavernous York Galleria, to meet Sherry, at 1p. We walked for an hour, drove over to Flinchbaugh's Orchard &Farm Market, to get some goodies. Back at my condo by 4p, we talked for an hour and Sherry left just after 5; she had some stops to make, and traffic would be building. Time to get some dinner.

I watched the news, and Discovery's "Expedition Unknown", and while drinking some "BUTTER" Chardonnay wine, fell asleep until 11 or so. I thankfully missed the 2nd Repubby Debate on Fox, which I wasn't planning on watching anyway. (I purposely didn't watch the 1st Debate, either; just caught the "recap".) The sleep felt good. Time to go up and get in bed. I have to get up at 0-Dark-Thirty, since I have the CHCA Handyman coming at 9a, to get the 3 4ft x 9ft office-sunroom windows re-sealed on the outside.

Last peach of the year.

Up at 6a, at 0-Dark-Thirty on Thursday, it was a cold 49° so I fired-up the furnace, made coffee and scanned the computer's news and weather. The morning's "CS Show" and "CP Show" had a lot of fun with the Pubbies' clowncar, circlefest "debate", too. America could have done better without both of them, and there's a 3rd Debate coming in some 6+ weeks. I fart in their general direction. "Every time I hear you, I feel a little bit dumber," Nikki Haley said to Ramaswampy; she had the best line of the night/day/week/month, so far.

Dustin, the Condo Assn Handyman, arrived at 9:30a, and razor-bladed-off all the old caulk from the huge 4ft x 9ft office-sunroom windows, and put a fresh bead on all three windows, on all sides. He was finish 2hrs later, and I paid his invoice, plus a tip. I kept on listening to the "Chris Plante Show"'s summary of coverage of the US House Oversight Committee's Impeachment Inquiry Hearings, So far, the amount of the various demonKKKrats' outright and egregious lying, is astounding, without exception. Un-fricking-believable. The leftist Calderon bitch moderator was a blatant liar, and none of the 7 Pubbie idiots called her on it.

The corrupt, criminal MSM has purposely and dutifully ignored -- as they do so often -- the US House Oversight Committee's Inquiry Hearing, and it's only being carried my the Conservative media. They have the "memo" and their "marching orders" from the powers elsewhere: The Deep State. "The most insidious power the media has, is the power to ignore." -- Chris Plante, WMAL, DC.

I had a load of laundry to do, some errands to run, so I left around 12:15p. Traffic was light, and heavy clouds -- moving wrong way east-->west -- moved in, and the sun ran and hid. While sitting on the back patio, having a smoke after folding laundry and before grabbing a nap on the LR couch, I saw the first Spotted Lanternfly this season. Yes, I killed it; too bad, as it's a beautiful insect with spread wings, but are very damaging to many crops. ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ!

I had a nice, peaceful 1½hr snooze on the LR couch, and had chores to do before it got dark at 7p. Shorter days and longer nights are creeping along. After some dinner, I watched a "Gold Rush" spin-off series, "Mine Rescue: w/ Freddy & Juan" until 11:30. Lights out.

Tomorrow starts a new week here in the "Journal", and the month of October starts the annual "Dr Season", with appointments, lab work and tests galore, until next June or July. Crap. I'll get thru it; I always do.

God to Mankind: "NOW, Do You See the Stupidity, Depravity, and Evil in the Hearts of All Mankind?".

Demonic darkness is overtaking our land . In its living darkness we see able-bodied people with no work ethic electing to sit at home and live off of the productive while in the latest round of closings due to lawlessness, Target “plans to close (and) will shut their doors on October 21. The stores include the East Harlem location in New York City, two locations in Seattle (WA), three locations in Portland (OR), and three locations in San Francisco and Oakland (CA).” (msn.com)

Then there are monstrous pedophile rings operating at the highest levels of global power on down to the mean streets . These predators prey on and torment babies and children, enslaving and often murdering them. Demonic occultism is on the rise as Satanists brazenly celebrate the transgender horned demon Baphomet in public displays and in schools. The evil of murdering (aborting) babies is now a good thing, protecting them is evil, and children are genitally mutilated and transitioned to the opposite sex by ‘doctors’ playing at being god. This crime against nature is also a good thing say evil-doers.

While road-ragers terrorize motorists on our highways and byways, inside the beltway our government and intelligence community mainly consists of psychopaths, cowards, liars, thieves, and depraved political prostitutes selling themselves to the highest bidders. Our military, once the envy of the world, is being reduced to an LGBTQ+ and Drag Queen laughing stock while an all-out invasion of our land takes place at our unprotected borders. Marching smartly to the beat of disorder, depravity, and madness is the Vatican and much of the Western and American church.

At the apex of global power is a cabal of psychopaths determined to seize control of the whole wide world, massively depopulate it, and force the remaining slaves to exist off of bugs and genetically engineered fake meat. They will not be allowed to own anything, but will be happy say psychopaths.

In the midst of exploding evil, murder and mayhem, decent people flee broken, disordered towns and cities in search of safe harbors while faithful Christians lift up their voices to God the Father praying for an end to evil.

No greater Light had ever been poured out onto two civilizations than onto Christendom and Protestant America. But sons of Cain preferred darkness to Light and together with their followers declared the death of Jesus Christ in their hearts. Utopia, they triumphantly declared, is where God and sin are not and we are free to actualize ourselves (unite evil Mr Hyde with Dr Jekyl) and be the measure of truth, morality, justice, and evil.

Now, as our land breaks apart and cities burn under destructive forces overtaking our land the Lord our God speaks to us in a compelling voice saying, “Do you finally see the sinfulness—the stupidity, depravity, and evil—in the hearts of men?!”

“You have done these things, and I kept silent; you thought I was just like you. But now I rebuke you and accuse you to your face. Now consider this, ye that forget God, lest I tear you in pieces, and there be none to deliver.” Psalm 20: 21-22

The gates of hell are open wide, so hear Him now, you defiant rebels who have closed your ears to Truth and Reality before it is too late and there is none to deliver.

© 9.25.2023 by Linda Kimball, "PatriotandLiberty".

Science Is Not to Be Trusted.

Science is probably not what you think it is, and that’s okay.

As we can still love our parents when we stop seeing them as infallible God-like “adults” and learn about their full humanity, we see science as a messy process and still love it as beautiful and capable of revolutionizing our society.

Most people learn about science in school as a compendium of facts about the universe. Heat causes liquids to boil and turn into gases. Electric currents can move along a copper wire. DNA encodes the information that makes living organisms what they are.

While many of those facts are true (or more accurately, there is no evidence yet giving reason to doubt them), viewing science as an encyclopedia is misleading; it prevents the public from interfacing with the front-lines of science, and thereby inhibits the ability of science to inform the public in a time of crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic.

Science is anything but constant and monolithic. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the public saw inside the sausage factory of modern science and puked. Did masks work, or did they not? Were school closures effective at saving lives or not? Did vaccines provide long-lasting protection against infection? Did SARS-CoV-2 emerge in a lab? What was sold to the public as The Science one day became misinformation the next, and vice versa.

Many members of the public are understandably disoriented at best, revolted at worst. “Distrust” in science skyrocketed among conservatives and “trust” in science rose among liberals. By presenting science as a monolithic belief system, a compendium of facts to be trusted and not questioned, we created a science-policy interface that policed emerging science as misinformation and misled the public about the nature of science itself, all but guaranteeing a partisan response by prohibiting public participation and engagement in the scientific process.

The truth is easy to say: scientists working on the front-lines of science hold different views. We disagree. We read some papers and say “Cool! I want to take this idea to the next level.” We read other papers, say “This is garbage!!!” and consider whether it’s worth the time and effort to publish the reasons for our distaste. In the process of thousands of people in any one niche field of science reading papers, agreeing with some and disagreeing with others, replicating some results and disproving others, the collective body of knowledge slowly whittles down to a set of reproducible experiments and theories that have yet to be disproven. The long arc of science bends towards truth, but only if we preserve the integrity of the process by which we disagree and discuss evidence.

Throughout COVID-19, there was considerable effort encouraging people to “follow the science.” The mantra, “Follow the science,” was often weaponized in public discourse to suggest “The Science” implied one side’s policies were “right” and the other side’s policies were “wrong.” In reality, throughout the pandemic scientists read the literature, had different assessments of every one paper, and engaged in science by planning and publishing their next work. Whoever came up with “Follow the Science” greatly underserved the public, and we further misrepresent science by asking whether or not folk “trust” science.

Science is not a belief system, so it’s not something to be trusted. Science is a social process which anyone can join, it is a conversation with evidence to be examined, discussed, questioned, and tested. Science is not limited to Ivory Towers and people with PhDs. Anyone, no matter how anonymous or weird they are (in our idiosyncratic views of “weird”), can examine a paper, question some results, discuss them, and change our perspectives. Or at least, that’s how it should be.

A personal example of open, public participation in science occurred in some of my own work during the COVID-19 pandemic. In April 2020, Justin Silverman, Nathaniel Hupert, and I suspected confirmed US COVID cases were undercounting the true extent of the pandemic. We counted the number of patients visiting medical providers with influenza-like illness (ILI) in March during previous years and compared it to the number of patients with ILI in March of 2020. We found a significantly higher number of patients with flu-like symptoms in March 2020 than previous years. We combined the number of ILI patients per provider with the number of providers in each state to estimate of the number of ILI patients in each state. We estimated over 20 million people could have been infected across the US in March 2020. More infections, with the same number of deaths, meant a lower probability of dying given infection – this potential good news could dramatically change how we forecasted upcoming COVID-19 surges across the US. People would still die, but maybe medical systems and society would not collapse in states like South Dakota or Florida, where managers opted out of containment policies.

We shared our pre-print on Twitter, it got picked up by data visualization experts at The Economist, and overnight our notifications exploded. Tens of thousands of people read our abstract, and it would’ve been easier to drink out of a firehose than to make sense of that mayhem at that scale. Back in April 2020, saying that COVID might not be as bad as previous estimates (e.g. >1 percent infection fatality rates) was seen by many scientists as equivalent to saying “COVID is a hoax” but, to me, as a statistician, it was important to share estimates and not bias them based on who said what is a hoax.

Many scientists clamored rather unconstructively, saying our paper was garbage, not for any real reason but, rather, because they thought it was “dangerous” or upsetting to public health policy (specifically, the public health policies they preferred – that’s not quite a scientific judgement). We looked out for critiques, and found only critics, until suddenly a person named Seth Stevens-Davidowitz chimed in with a comment deep inside a thicket of threads. Seth’s comment was a good comment.

Seth was not anyone we knew, nor did he present himself as an epidemiologist, nor were we aware of any fancy pedigree. However, Seth pointed out that our approach for scaling up ILI patients per-provider to a state-level, when applied to the whole country, implied many more patients visited the hospital across the US in a year than other reliable measurements suggest. Our results implied too many patients, and we needed to reconcile this. Technically we didn’t “need” to reconcile this – maybe we could’ve squeaked past peer reviewers, since Seth’s comment didn’t go viral, but we believed Seth was right and we were wrong so we felt an ethical obligation to correct our work in light of Seth’s good point.

We didn’t ignore Seth nor tell Seth he was unqualified, we didn’t block Seth on Twitter and assert that we were the experts. In fact, Seth didn’t even need to be Seth Stevens-Davidowitz for us to hear the soundness of his point – if an account named RoboCat1984 made the same point, we would’ve heard it all the same, because it was a good point. As scientists, my colleagues and I were eager to keep open minds.

We ultimately agreed with Seth. We realized that the providers giving data to the CDC tended to be large medical providers, so we adjusted our method to scale up ILI visits to the state level in a way that implied our total patients in the US equaled the total patients in the US estimated by other, more reliable methods. Our final paper estimated over 8 million people were infected – still a lot more than the 100,000 cases at the time. Some scientists hated us still. Some said our “flip-flopping” showed how bad we were at science, or that we were dishonest and trying to support Donald Trump. For me, that was just another day in science. We were trying our best, and staying humble, incorporating feedback from smart randos on Twitter who made good points.

I stayed involved with COVID-19 forecasting all the way through BA.5, with many other stories I could tell you, but there’s a more important story to focus on today. After forecasting medical demand, I returned to my pre-COVID roots of pathogen spillover to study the origins of SARS-CoV-2, feeling rather accomplished in the battles over COVID outbreak forecasting like King Richard returning from the Crusades. I expected calm reading by the fire in my castle. I read the literature claiming a lab-origin of SARS-CoV-2 is “impossible” or “implausible” or “improbable,” that the furin cleavage site insertion is “illogical,” that evidence for a zoonotic origin was “dispositive,” and, despite initially believing a zoonotic origin, I had reasons to believe all of that work was garbage.

For example, take Worobey et al.’s analysis of early case data claiming to have found “dispositive” evidence that SARS-CoV-2 originated in the wet market. The paper was entirely within my skillset, and I immediately felt its conclusions were unsound. I believe, as many others have detailed, that the spatial locations of early case data could not determine the origin of an outbreak because (1) the spatial biases in how we collect early cases are impossible to correct for absent transparent background surveillance systems we don’t have in Wuhan (2) the data Worobey at al. used excluded earlier cases with no ties to the wet market, (3) the spatial smoothing of environmental testing misrepresented the relevant granularity, such as surfaces under animal traders being as likely to test positive as surfaces under vegetable traders, (4) Gao et al. tested animals in the wet market and not one animal tested positive, (5) we can’t blindly trust China to provide accurate, unbiased data given the possibility unbiased data, under a lab origin, would reveal their fault in the pandemic, and more reasons. Despite not just Twitter objections but published papers and many pre-prints, the authors have not addressed any of these reasons, nor have they made amends in the community for using the very overconfident “dispositive” language. Instead, Worobey himself continues broadcasting his work without acknowledging limitations or representing the objections of many scientists like myself. Seth would surely be ignored by this crew, no matter how good his point was.

I read this group’s other preprint – Pekar et al. – and that paper, too, fell within my wheelhouse. That paper, too, has such severe methodological limitations that I could have zero confidence in the conclusions. You simply cannot conclude the origins of a virus based on the structure of the virus’ evolutionary tree, certainly not with the models they used to model how viral evolutionary trees grow in early outbreaks, and there’s even strong evidence suggesting the empirical premise – their tree itself – was wrong. I wrote the authors private emails raising my concerns, and they never wrote back.

So, I tweeted about it and eventually colleagues and I wrote a paper detailing our reasoning. We shared the paper on Twitter, and the authors attacked us by saying we weren’t “The Experts.” Many proceeded to block me and there was hilarious shit-talking aplenty. With my King Richard armor from years in the COVID warzone, these tweets bounced off me like bullets off of Superman.

Just another day in science.

In my scientific due diligence on the origins question, I read careful assessments of the other theory about a lab origin. Lab-origin assessments came from mostly anonymous accounts who feared being called racist conspiracy-theorists by the high-follower accounts policing this issue on Twitter (including some working with fact-checkers to call lab-origin claims “misinformation!”), and a handful of brave, exceedingly brilliant non-anonymous people with obscure institutional affiliations and who, it seems, have yet to be found by the world. Diamonds of scientific human capital in the rough, so to speak, at least that’s my assessment from talking with these people. Some lab origin possibilities were unfounded, some were loony, and some were indeed racist, yet it’s my job as a scientist to find the signal in the noise and make it known.

So, I studied the evidence suggesting SARS-CoV-2 emerged from a lab and the many scenarios being considered for a research-related origin.

I saw a significant lack of zoonotic evidence that is easy to obtain, evidence that would reject a lab origin, evidence that we even looked for yet couldn’t find. Technically, we still don’t *know* there are no aliens on the moon, or even here on Earth, but we’ve looked for them with methods that should be able to find them if they’re there, and we haven’t found them so they’re probably neither here nor on the moon. Same with the missing zoonotic evidence. In addition to the missing zoonotic evidence, I found the evidence suggesting a lab origin to be very compelling. Most compelling was the constellation of evidence surrounding the DEFUSE grant proposing to insert a human-optimized furin cleavage site in a SARS-CoV infectious clone in Wuhan. Scientists believing SARS-CoV-2 arose from a lab pointed out that, exactly as DEFUSE spelled out in 2018, SARS-CoV-2 emerged in Wuhan with a human-optimized furin cleavage site.

What are the odds of that?

Quite low, it turns out. If we had the DEFUSE grant in-hand in January 2020, when the first SARS-CoV-2 genome was released from Wuhan, we could immediately see the FCS and its human-optimized codon. The odds of such a human-optimized FCS in a SARS-CoV in Wuhan alone (i.e. excluding the infectious clone part) is around 1 in 30 million or so.

However, the puzzle wasn’t complete. Additional evidence could change that number.

Was there any evidence SARS-CoV-2 was an infectious clone? In seeking answers on this issue, I stumbled across tweets by Valentin Bruttel and Tony VanDongen, two internet randos who I’d never heard of before, yet these two random people were evidently quite intelligent and making truly brilliant points. Valentin’s Avatar looked like it could be the front of a heavy metal album, and Tony’s anonymous-looking avatar of his eye and part of a mask would strike fear in the hearts of lesser men. However, Valentin and Tony were being kind and saying smart things, so I listened.

They noticed that infectious clones are commonly assembled with a known method called “type II directional assembly,” and they visually observed that SARS-CoV-2 appears to have the fingerprint of that exact method. I got in touch with Valentin and Tony and we collaborated to turn this evidence into a paper, with them being awesome bioengineers and me helping quantify the odds of seeing such strong evidence of infectious cloning in a wild coronavirus. 

We wrote our analysis up in a paperI wrote a pop-science article explaining what we found, and we tried to use careful language saying SARS-CoV-2’s restriction map is “consistent with” an infectious clone. Language matters a lot in science – we did not say SARS-CoV-2 “is” an infectious clone nor that it “disproves” a natural origin, yet it does suggest a theory that SARS-CoV-2 has a synthetic origin, a theory we encourage people to test, and we believe SARS-CoV-2 is a reverse genetics system, or basically an IKEA virus (whether natural or not).

The Economist picked up the story, and the whole world erupted into battle once again. The Economist article and the Telegraph beautifully document the intensity of scientific discourse on this topic. The language was colorful, to put it delicately. To the best of our ability, we responded kindly to the rather hostile discourse by clarifying who we are and what our intentions are. 

We listened through the rancor, as I’d done previously to find Seth’s insight on the ILI paper, and we felt this global melee of discourse uncovered some valid points for future research. We acknowledge the scientists who brought up those good points, yet we also felt those points don’t undermine our results inasmuch as they provide additional hypotheses for alternative explanations and future research. Science goes on! After drinking the firehose of rowdy rhetoric and finding some needles of insight in the haystack of hate, we debriefed on this global engagement in a statement that we believe our synthetic origin theory of SARS-CoV-2 still stands.

Another day in science.

As someone who studied and forecasted spillover pre-COVID, my scientific journey has led me to believe SARS-CoV-2 most likely originated in a lab, and the most important piece of evidence contextualizing the rest of evidence suggesting a lab origin is the DEFUSE grant. If you were forecasting the genomic and geographic features of a SARS CoV pandemic using pre-COVID methods, I estimate a roughly 1 in 56 billion chance of a SARS-CoV emerging in Wuhan with such a human-optimized furin cleavage site & type II restriction map with such strong resemblance of an infectious clone.

If you were forecasting the genomic and geographic features of a lab leak from someone conducting the work in the DEFUSE grant, the virus would emerge in Wuhan and look exactly like SARS-CoV-2 in all of these ways in which SARS-CoV-2 is anomalous among natural coronaviruses. The weight of this evidence is overwhelming. I’ve been around the block and seen a lot of arguments in my days in science, I’ve seen a lot of unresolved issues, yet I have never seen such strong evidence so cavalierly dismissed as zoonotic origin proponents are doing when they say “all the evidence” suggests a zoonotic origin and “no evidence” exists for a lab origin.

Science should not be trusted in general, but we need to be especially diligent in acknowledging science as suspect when the science of the matter concerns the possibility that scientists, health science funders, and managers overseeing science in labs in Wuhan, played a role in killing 18 million people. Such an investigation is ripe with conflicts of interest and reputational risks, as prior to a science-caused accident there will be many coteries of scientists who played some role in encouraging, conducting, funding, and/or overseeing the research that caused harm.

Yet, despite the massive body of evidence making a spillover-scientist like me believe SARS-CoV-2 did not spillover, the zoonotic origin proponents continue to use their media access to broadcast their papers without giving some time or fair consideration to objections to their papers. Rather than engage with the public, they block any scientist, let alone member of the public, who disagrees with them. They claim they, alone, are The Experts, and when someone raises an objection they simply talk louder to more media outlets and more followers. They greatly misrepresent the evidence of the matter in outlets as widely read as the Washington Post and the LA Times, corrupting the interface between science and society, misrepresenting both science as a collective process with multitudinous views, and repeatedly misrepresenting in a reliably biased way the facts of the matter during ongoing congressional investigations. The authors repeatedly claim to be summarizing “all the evidence,” yet nowhere do they discuss the severe, mathematically provable limitations of their work, the objections of other scientists they’ve blocked, or the many pieces of evidence suggesting a lab origin.

Nowhere in “all the evidence” do they mention DEFUSE or the many features of SARS-CoV-2 shockingly consistent with DEFUSE.

Yet, they want the public to trust them, to follow their science.

To me, these scientists’ promulgation of their flawed work and their willful (or oblivious? which is worse?) biased exclusion or misrepresentation of the evidence of a lab origin is one of the worst research ethics violations in human history that I am aware of, second only to creating the virus itself. There is the crime, and there is the coverup putting media-grabbing scientists who misrepresent the facts of the matter in league with the researchers who conducted the work on CoVs in Wuhan and refuse to share their lab notebooks or databases. These scientists are asserting themselves as authorities while brushing aside credible objections to their work irrespective of who raises them. In the middle of congressional investigations on SARS-CoV-2 origins, these scientists are writing op-eds that mislead the public and managers on the probable research-related cause of over 18 million deaths worldwide, using their expertise to obfuscate an historic truth and obstruct the investigations we need to make our world safe from dangerous research.

My scientific journey studying SARS-CoV-2 origins has led me believe that a small coterie of scientists are, in fact, responsible for creating SARS-CoV-2 in a lab. They, their funders, and many scientists connected with them and the funders, and many scientists who championed doing this risky research are all reliably abusing their status as experts to misrepresent facts of the matter. The researchers studying CoVs in Wuhan are refusing to share their research. Peter Dazsak refused to share his DEFUSE grant or admit conflicts of interest of working on CoVs with labs in Wuhan when writing letters to the Lancet calling lab-origin theories “conspiracy theories,” Funders at NIH, NIAID, and the Wellcome Trust prompted, edited, and pushed a paper claiming baselessly with overconfident language that lab-origin theories are “improbable” or “implausible.”

As recently as yesterday, and during our desperately needed congressional investigations on SARS-CoV-2 origins, this clique of scientists is still running media campaigns claiming “all of the evidence” suggests a natural origin without ever mentioning DEFUSE. The relationship between science and society is a delicate one, and it’s one we’re still figuring out, yet clearly something is wrong with this picture. It is beyond unprofessional and unethical for scientists to run mass-media campaigns that misrepresent the evidence of the matter during Congressional investigations into the possibility that the scientists they are connected with created a virus that killed three times more people than the Holocaust. Assertions that they are experts to be followed misrepresents science and its consultations (not leadership) of society, and their efforts to obstruct investigations into their own syndicate should be seen as comparable to oil companies muddying the science about climate change, or tobacco companies muddying the science about lung cancer. Scientists who staked their reputations to risky research that likely led to millions of deaths are today muddying science itself.

Science should not be trusted. I say this as a scientist. Science has always been a rebellious act, a foray into battle with narratives that be. Richard Feynman described science as “belief in the ignorance of experts.” Science is not about the answers, per se, it’s about questioning the answers and trying to disprove the theory du jour, it’s about the longer-arc of the social process by which we share evidence and evaluate competing ideas. In times of crisis, science is not to be followed – it is to be examined, discussed, questioned and, for managers, incorporated alongside myriad other factors such as anthropological variation in folks’ beliefs, capacities, and wills to act.

While we learn about science in school as an encyclopedia of facts, the reality is that science is an epistemological war zone with ground rules, and we’re continually updating those ground rules as we go. The ground rules need to be revisited in light of the probable lab origin of SARS-CoV-2 and the actions of many scientists misrepresenting the evidence of the matter during WHO and Congressional investigations of a potentially science-related catastrophe.

There is a high likelihood that scientists amidst us, who fought beside us in this epistemological war zone, in a frenzied rush to get funding and fame, created a virus that leaked from a lab in Wuhan and resulted in over 18 million people dead, over 60 million extra people facing acute hunger, over 100 million kids thrown into multidimensional poverty, and an endemic curse of outbreak cycles that will infect our kids, our grandkids, and every generation as long as contemporary science can foresee.

The gravity of the situation should make all of our hearts sink. It should lead us to have a moment of silence every day. Instead, we see scientists claiming “all the evidence” suggests a natural origin in mass media outlets. Indeed, all the evidence can say anything you want it to once you omit all the evidence suggesting otherwise. I worry these conflicts of interest, biased representations of evidence, and gross imbalances of media power can corrupt the social process of science.

We are living through an unprecedented crisis. Throughout history, science has battled over paradigms and slowly the long arc of science has bent towards Truth, but none of those paradigm shifts pertained to science itself, least of all to the possibility that preeminent scientists with unprecedented mass-media reach played a role in an unprecedented atrocity. Compared to what science is capable of, SARS-CoV-2 was a petite Pandora’s jewelry box in an Amazon warehouse of larger possibilities, and some scientists are abusing their authority and expert status to obstruct investigations that could inspire policies that stop scientists from opening other, bigger boxes in the Pandora’s Warehouse of modern biotechnology.

Please, do not “trust” science and do not blindly trust scientists, least of all those who exhibit a pattern of misrepresenting the entire facts of the matter on SARS-CoV-2 origins (the truth, the *whole* truth). Love science and scientists, even those with whom we disagree in glorious epistemological combat, but do not trust us.

Keep an open mind that even scientists like me can and will make mistakes. As someone members of the public view as “a scientist” I pledge to listen for good ideas no matter where they come from and do my best to update my thinking in light of new evidence. I will correct my mistakes and acknowledge whoever helped me see the light. Engage, question, discuss, and test science. Please, don’t stop there. For the love of future generations, please manage science, because we have failed to manage our own. Only by democratizing the skeptical essence of science and welcoming everyone to this epistemological battlefield with ground rules can we learn the mistakes of COVID-19 and collectively bend the long arc of science towards Truth.

Please, let’s improve the interface between science and society for the benefit of both.

© 3.12.2023 by Alex Washburne, "Brownstone Institute".

In a Galaxy Far Far Away.

While manned missions like Apollo and Gemini are widely-celebrated, NASA has undertaken numerous groundbreaking unmanned projects that have expanded our understanding of the cosmos. One of those great missions was the Spitzer Space Telescope, which made history as the first observatory to capture images of planets outside our solar system.

Launched in August 2003, Spitzer not only provided us with visuals of extrasolar planets but also played a pivotal role in discoveries such as the most distant planet from Earth, a star located nearly 13,000 light-years away, a cluster of seven Earth-like planets orbiting a distant star, and even a previously unknown ring around Saturn. Furthermore, Spitzer's observations have extended our knowledge to the farthest reaches of the universe by confirming the existence of the most remote galaxies. Many videos associated with this mission are available to the public via NASA's uploads to the Internet Archive -- check out the Spitzer Space Telescope Collection.

© 9.22.2023 by JS, "InterNet Archive".

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