All posts by John Of Late

Go to Your Room

Later, Comma was attacked by a Russian bot between February 12 and March 4 of this year. Although I do not know what other damage it may have done, the bot flooded the subscriber list. In effect, during that time period, the bot attempted to (or did, in fact) subscribe to Later, Comma 734 times.

In the first ten minutes of the attack, there were a dozen subscription attempts. Much as I might like to think that my writings on Later, Comma are so compelling, I have to admit that only a bot could be moved to subscribe more than once a minute. And I know the bot was Russian because embedded in the fake subscription data was the Internet country code for the top-level web domain of the Russian Federation.

Why did the bot attack Later, Comma? I suppose it did it because it could.

I imagine that the author of the bot was an adolescent Russian who did not know—or care—what website his bot would attack. Let’s call him Sergey. It seems obvious to me that Sergey is a guy with too much idle time on his hands.

I recall when I was a teenager or younger and my mother would find me hanging around the house doing apparently nothing, she would offer her standard parental admonition: “Find something constructive to do!” she would say.

I never knew quite what to make of my mother’s directive that I should be doing “something constructive” instead of whatever it was that I was doing at the time. Honestly, “something constructive” is a bit vague. I suspect that my mother didn’t have anything specifically constructive in mind for me to do. It just annoyed her that I was not doing it.

I don’t know whether Sergey’s mom gave him similar advice (although I am curious what “something constructive” would sound like in Russian), but if she did, Sergey must have had his headphones on.

It is possible that Sergey doesn’t annoy his mamochka because he is always up in his room doing something with computers that she doesn’t understand. She probably thinks it must be something constructive. It is likely that my mother wouldn’t have been annoyed with me as much if she saw that I was doing something on my computer—except that the personal computer and the Internet had not been invented yet.

So as it was, I had no computer to keep me from annoying my mother, and because I annoyed her, I received the life-changing benefit of her advice to find something constructive to do. That advice probably made me the man I am today.

In a way, you have to feel sorry for Sergey and other young people like him. You might blame the technology that has allowed the illusion of worthwhile activity to flourish.  It is to their enduring misfortune that their mothers were not sufficiently annoyed and that they themselves were never made to confront the question whether what they do is constructive or not.

I am sure that Sergey did not pause to ask himself whether launching an Internet bot would be a constructive thing to do. I do not blame his mother. Mothers everywhere have more than enough to annoy them. The bot was Sergey’s own doing.

I am retired now and have loads of idle time on my hands, but I have found something constructive to do at least. My mother would be proud, I think, or at least not annoyed with me.

Later, Comma—now in its eighth year and with an archive of more than 150 postings (not including translations in Spanish)—has been a constructive project, and it will continue to be unless Sergey’s bot finds a way to wreck it.

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The Refusers

Our failure to meet the July 4th goal that 70 percent of all adults would have received at least one dose of Covid-19 vaccine is frequently put down to “vaccine hesitancy” or “vaccine skepticism.” But for too many, the refusal to use the vaccine is not about being hesitant or skeptical. They have made up their minds. They actively oppose Covid vaccination as though it were a devilish plot of the deep state.

But the effectiveness and safety of the Covid-19 vaccines should by now be obvious to all. In the US, 337,000,000 doses have been administered, and serious side-effects such as an allergic reaction are extremely rare. More than 99 percent of Covid deaths these days are among people who have not been vaccinated. The message here is: if you don’t want this virus to kill you or anyone you know, get the vaccine.

It is impossible to know for certain why the refusers refuse an injection that effectively prevents hospitalization and death from Covid-19. Still, a large number of people refuse to be vaccinated, mindless of their own health and of the continuing spread and mutation of the virus, which could very well be stopped in its tracks if more of us were vaccinated. Even Mitch McConnell is “totally perplexed” by the refusal of some people to be vaccinated.

Polling by the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) divides the unvaccinated into two groups: people who say that they want to “wait and see” and people who say they will “definitely not” get vaccinated. Twelve percent of adults are in the “wait and see” group; more, thirteen percent, are in the “definitely not” group. Most people in the “definitely not” group are White (70% of the group) Republicans (67% identify as Republican or Republican-leaning).

As bizarre as it sounds, the refusers don’t believe that Covid-19 is much of a health threat. KFF has found that 88% of adults in the “definitely not” group say they aren’t worried about getting sick from the virus. They believe this, despite the current covid death count of 606,190 in the US.

One explanation for the refusers’ belief that Covid is no big deal may be a dangerous reliance on the “natural ability” of Lord Butternuts, who assured them a year ago of his medical expertise: “I like this stuff. I really get it.” He repeatedly compared Covid-19 to a seasonal flu that would simply go away when the weather got warmer. He proclaimed: “This is a flu. This is like a flu. It’s a little like a regular flu that we have flu shots for.” The refusers must have missed that last part.

More than a third of unvaccinated adults believe, or at least suspect, that the vaccine causes Covid. Republicans in general seem to have an unhealthy interest in human reproduction, and 31 percent of them believe that the vaccine could make them infertile. A similar proportion of unvaccinated adults believe that the vaccines change your DNA.

Perhaps what is driving the refusers is as simple as fear of needles, otherwise known as trypanophobia. Some 25% of adults experience trypanophobia to a degree and avoid vaccination because of it. The good news is that there are easy coping techniques to help you overcome the fear and get vaccinated. The other good news is that refusers who have an aversion to needles probably won’t be injecting disinfectant to treat their Covid-19.

There are more than 209 million adults (age 18 and over) in the US. More than 27 million adults are refusers (based on the KFF survey) who say that they definitely will not get vaccinated. Another 25 million are resisting vaccination while they “wait and see” (how long and for what?). All these refusers and resisters handicap the race against Covid-19 and our prospects for achieving anything close to “herd immunity.”

Some have suggested that the refusers could be persuaded if only Lord Butternuts would claim credit for creating the vaccines and urge his followers to get vaccinated. It’s not going to happen, of course. Besides, Butternuts does not deserve such credit. The credit is owed, rather, to the vaccine researchers at Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson and other labs—you know, people who actually believe in science—who developed the Covid vaccines now in use.

LB himself has been vaccinated, and he has, in fact, urged followers to get the shot. This has made no difference. Having set an example that there is empowerment in denial of the factual, he caters to his base more than he leads it. Born of a stream of outrageous lies and fantasies, the revelation that refusal can be an expression of power and freedom is especially compelling for those whose life experience has made them feel disrespected and threatened.

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