[Author’s Note: A draft of this article was originally written in early 2020 before the world knew about the coming fever storm, when wearing masks was something people in polluted Chinese cities did, when a prophecy about an imminent pandemic capable of shutting down whole societies and economies would have been dismissed as madness.]
“May you live in interesting times”—contrary to the common view this menacing malediction probably did not originate in China. No matter—we know what it means, know it’s a curse, not a blessing.
We are definitely living in “interesting times.” Indeed, the times are so overwhelmingly “interesting” that it’s easy to forget how “interesting” pre-pandemic times were. Which is why it’s important to remind ourselves—all the old problems are still with us. They may have gone into sudden eclipse but they have not gone away. A sampling of major-media headlines on the eve of the SARS-CoV-2 (a.k.a., COVID-19; a.k.a., “2019 novel coronavirus”) will suffice to illustrate the point.
ANTARCTICA JUST HIT 65 DEGREES, IT’S WARMEST TEMPERATURE EVER RECORDED
This interesting news item appeared in The Washington Post (02/10/2020): “The Antarctic Peninsula . . . one of the fastest-warming regions. . . past 50 years, temperatures surged a staggering 5 degrees . . . swiftly warming climate. . . . 87 percent of glaciers along the peninsula’s west coast have retreated . . . accelerated pace since 2008.” Four days later the news from Antarctica was even more interesting — a new record high approaching 70 degrees. Very interesting.
PLAYING ON KANSAS CITY RADIO: RUSSIAN PROPAGANDA
Fake fact? Nope. I know it’s true. (Full disclosure: I live in the Kansas City.) During the Cold War, Russian anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist, anti-Western propaganda was a fountainhead of fake facts. I had firsthand experience there, too (it’s a long story). What’s interesting is 1) Russia’s state-owned Radio Sputnik (call sign KCXL) operates the station located in Liberty(!), MO; 2) KCXL is FCC-licensed; and 3) it uses the same frequency as a low-power jazz station in Kansas City. How interesting!
SECRET SERVICE HAS PAID RATES AS HIGH AS $650 A NIGHT FOR ROOMS AT TRUMP PROPERTIES
Some people think the emoluments clause in the Constitution is relevant here. The same people often say unkind and untrue things about President Trump, a bunch of socialists who want to make a good man look bad. They also believe the fake news in The New York Times and The Washington Post and don’t believe anything Sean Hannity says. What’s interesting about this story, of course, is that it’s part of the relentless liberal media’s “witch hunt” against the Trump administration.
Remember Watergate? Deep throat? All the fake news not fit to print. Nixon resigned. No more witch hunts!
WHAT’S BETTER THAN PLANTING A TRILLION TREES?
In his State of the Union speech, President Trump announced that the U.S. would join the One Trillion Trees Initiative, “an ambitious effort to bring together government and the private sector to plant new trees in America and around the world.“
The New York Times reporter Margaret Renke was skeptical. “You’ll forgive me for thinking there’s no way it could be true,” she wrote darkly and suggested “this administration’s hostility to environmental protections is a result of its commitment to promoting the fossil fuel industry.” Examples: drilling in Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and other public lands; offshore oil drilling; Dakota Access Pipeline construction; and gutting the Endangered Species Act.
Her suggestion: Save existing trees from clear-cutting and deforestation. Poppycock! Since when does public policy have anything to do with common sense?
PRESIDENT TRUMP MADE 16,241 FALSE OR MISLEADING CLAIMS IN HIS FIRST THREE YEARS
Another WaPo whopper. If you get on the Google and put “Trump 16,241 lies” into a search engine you can read this mother of all whoppers for yourself. How do I know it ‘s not true? Simple: Nobody can tell that many whoppers in three years. Not even a VERY STABLE GENIUS like Donald Trump.
THE ENVIRONMENTAL BURDEN OF GENERATION Z
I found this headline especially interesting because a “friend” had just written a comment about Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old Swedish environmental activist, on my Facebook page shortly before this story appeared in The Washington Post Magazine. The subhead asserted that “Kids are terrified, anxious and depressed about climate change” and asked, “Whose fault is that?”
My “friend” had an answer that left me, uh, cold: Parents who talk to their kids about climate change are engaging in “a form of child abuse.” WTF?!! Hell, that’s even more interesting than the news about Antarctica.
Cool it Bill McKibben!
HALF OF US FACE OBESITY, DIRE PROJECTIONS SHOW
On the same day as the interesting weather was reported in Antarctica, I saw this interesting headline in The New York Times. The interesting subhead said it all: “By 2030, nearly one in two adults will be obese, and nearly one in four will be severely obese.”
Back in early 2017 when a twittering Trump called the press “the enemy of the American People!” it was just the beginning of a feverish nonstop POTUS tweet storm—all insults and self-pity. More spoiled child than statesman.
It’s getting harder and harder to imagine more interesting times.
Then came the mother of all contagions and the times suddenly got more “interesting” than anyone not steeped in the science of epidemiology ever imagined. All the world’s pre-existing problems are no less existential than they were a few months ago—in actuality, the opposite is true—but the pandemic has effectively pushed everything else off the front pages.
As of this writing, SARS-CoV-2 calamity has infected 4.5 million people worldwide. The death toll stands at 308,131. No fewer than 177 countries.
Science is our best hope of defeating this contagion. So much uncertainty. No proven treatments available. No vaccine on the horizon. Only a fool would be so cavalier or callous as to pretend to know…