Saturday, June 27, 2020

Is America Headed For Civil War Or Collapse?

Perhaps we are, according to a mathematical model by Professor Jack Goldstone.  Based on trends in inequality, selfish elites, and political polarization that began since the 1980s, the conditions for civil violence are the worst they have been since the 19th century.  In fact, this same model accurately predicts the (first) American Civil War, and if it is correct this time around, we are dangerously close to the precipice of another one very soon.  If so, it will make the pandemic look like a walk in the park by comparison, and the past three months look quaint.

The powder keg has been building for decades now, and recent events have been both a consequence (our national failure to mount anything close to an effective response to COVID-19 before it was too late) and a spark (recent civil unrest from pent-up rage over both persistent racial injustice and increasing police-state authoritarianism, along with the toxic effects of the lockdowns).  Throw in record levels of unemployment and economic anxiety followed by the cliff that results from the impending and abrupt ending of the extra $600 per week in unemployment benefits come July 31 (unless extended further).

But the biggest flashpoint of all is yet to come in a few months from now:  the 2020 presidential election.  Whichever side wins, the other side loses, and plenty of people on the losing side will be very, very angry.

It is probably not too late to stop a full-blown civil war and/or collapse before the Rubicon is crossed, but that window is closing very, very fast indeed.

So what do we need to do to save the Republic (again) before it is too late?  I mean, we really don't want to give the reich-wing accelerationists like the Boogaloo movement the satisfaction, right?  For starters:
  • Immediately implement Universal Basic Income (UBI) for all, no strings attached, via federal or central bank money creation.  Start it at $2000 per month for everyone over 18 and $1000 for everyone under 18, for three months, then drop it to half that amount ($1000 and $500, respectively) indefinitely. 
  • Immediately implement single-payer Medicare For All.  Yesterday.  And along with that, increase much-needed funding for hospitals and healthcare providers across the board.
  • For both above items, include anyone with a SSN or ITIN, regardless of citizenship or immigration status.  No means test, no discrimination, no perverse incentives.  And no bank account required--use debit cards whenever needed.
  • Free college (and trade school) for all, thus improving stagnant economic mobility.
  • Implement the rest of Rodger Malcolm Mitchell's Ten Steps to Prosperity as well.  That includes, among other things, progressively taxing the very rich 0.1% very heavily to reduce inequality.
  • Implement the Green New Deal, including a federal job creation program. 
  • Implement much-needed and long-overdue reforms to police nationwide, rooting out structural racism and abuses of power.  Yesterday.  What are we waiting for? 
  • Extend any moratoriums on evictions and foreclosures for an additional 30 days or until the aforementioned UBI payments reach everyone, whichever is longer.
  • It should go without saying, but DO NOT LOCK DOWN EVER AGAIN!  Even in the worst COVID-19 hotspots, mandatory mask requirements and bans on very large gatherings are sufficient to prevent a worst case scenario at this point.
  • And of course, we must go back to actually being a Constitutional Republic rather than an unconstitutional empire.  No more over-bloated military and unnecessary wars of choice to make the rich richer.
As the saying goes, "all models are wrong, but some are useful".  The TSAP sure hopes that this model is very wrong, but there is no denying that this one is highly useful.  The evidence is all around us.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Lockdowns Don't Work. But Masks Do.

NOTE:  As of August 14, 2020, the TSAP's positions taken in this article are hereby superseded by those in a newer post.  Also, since the article was posted, the study that formed the primary basis for this article has apparently been recommended by over 40 scientists to be withdrawn due to its apparent flaws.

That is essentially the conclusion of a new study that looks at the (former) COVID-19 hotspots of Wuhan, NYC, and northern Italy.  Based on the relative timing of when social distancing measures, stay-home orders (i.e. lockdowns), and mandatory mask rules were first imposed, the researchers found a strong inverse correlation with COVID-19 cases and mask requirements, while barely any correlation with social distancing and stay-home orders.

(And not the only study either.  Though other studies do find some degree of effectiveness for social distancing as well.)

Unfortunately, the study authors kinda shoot themselves in the foot by effectively conflating as "airborne" both larger ballistic droplet as well as small aerosol droplet transmission.  The strong inverse correlation with mask wearing would if anything make even more sense for catching larger droplets than smaller ones.

Either way, while correlation does not prove causation, this is nonetheless a pretty strong correlation.  Thus, there is no good reason not to reopen the economy at this point, and quite frankly, yesterday is not soon enough.  During the reopening process, state governors (Ducey of Arizona, I'm looking at you!) really ought to require masks to be worn in public, particularly indoors (which is far riskier than outdoors) and during the most critical and riskier phases of the reopening process.

And of course, We the People really need to wear them, yesterday.  At least in indoor public spaces and public transit, or any other crowded area where sufficient physical distance is difficult or impossible.  Even if it is just for the next few weeks or so, it will still make a big difference, especially in reducing the overshoot beyond the herd immunity threshold in places that are at or approaching that threshold.  In fact, as source control, when a large enough percentage of the population wears masks, it can effectively simulate herd immunity, and the virus will thus quickly run out of momentum and die out.  And all without wrecking the economy and society at large, and with minimal effect on individual rights.

That said, the TSAP should clarify that we support mask mandates that are nuanced and temporary, not absolute or permanent.  Absolute (i.e. without nuance) ones should not last more than two weeks in any case, and the much lower risk of outdoor transmission should be taken into account by mandates lasting longer than that.

It is worth noting that the states with mandatory mask requirements have seen decreases in COVID-19 cases, while the states without (including California, who only very recently implemented such a requirement, thus the effects haven't kicked in yet), have seen significant increases.  And that is true even though all 50 states and DC have reopened to one degree or another at some point.  It is hard to find a correlation stronger than that.

So even if there is a surge in cases, resist the impulse to lock down again.  Simply require masks to be worn in public, particularly indoors, and tighten limits on building occupancy and large gatherings.  That's it.  Add some temperature checks and you're golden.  Maintain such policies until case numbers drop to a statistically and practicallly negligible level, then repeat as necessary.  As for a vaccine or cure, don't hold your breath, since a vaccine is likely years away, while anything resembling a (belated) cure would most likely not be much of a game-changer compared to existing treatments (remdesivir, steroids, etc.).

As for contact tracing, they really need to step it up.  And any supposed shortage of testing capacity (even after having many months to prepare!) is no excuse not to do it, as Japan was able to do retrospective contact tracing successfully with very little testing (2000 tests per day, equivalent to about 5000 per day in the USA), focusing on the larger clusters and thus the "superspreaders" that account for the vast, vast majority of virus transmission in the community.

And perhaps COVID-sniffing dogs will soon become a thing as well.  Apparently they exist.  Regardless, all of these aforementioned alternatives are far better than a return to lockdown.  So what are we waiting for?

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Latest Pro-Lockdown Studies Are Far Less Than Meets The Eye

The latest two studies that claim that lockdowns somehow prevented millions of COVID-19 cases from occurring are getting a lot of attention right now.  But upon closer examination, we see that there is less here than meets the eye:
  • Only six countries are included in the first study:  China, South Korea, Iran, Italy, France, and the USA.  Conspicuously absent are the UK, Belgium, Spain, Germany, Sweden, Iceland, Taiwan, Japan, and Belarus, which clearly skewed the results.
  • The other study, done by the same Professor Neil Ferguson known for his buggy and discredited model back in March among others included 11 European countries (including many left out of the other study) and did a "simplistic counterfactual" compared to no intervention.
  • Teasing out the precise effects of each specific type of intervention is not easy.
  • The researchers in the second study assume an R value of 3.8 and a doubling time of two days at the beginning of the epidemic, before any intervention, and that it would have remained that high in the absence of such interventions.  In contrast, most other researchers put the basic R value at between 2 and 3, with a doubling time of 3 days--and that makes a very big difference.
  • Epidemics do not keep growing exponentially forever, rather, they famously follow a sigmoidal Gompertz curve even without intervention.
  • There is evidence that the R values in many countries plummeted well before any lockdowns went into effect (Germany's dropped below 1 just days before their lockdown, and Sweden's also did without ever doing a lockdown).  This was due to voluntary behavior changes as well as more modest policy measures.
  • Failing that, the R value will plummet and drop below 1 when the herd immunity threshold is reached regardless.
  • There is evidence that the herd immunity threshold is lower than the naive assumption would put it, and that it would be reached sooner than believed even in an unmitigated scenario.  Also, a LOT more people were infected than the number of confirmed cases, by at least a factor of 10 if not a factor of 80 or 100.
  • The first study only looked at confirmed cases, not hospitalization or death rates.  And confirmed cases are probably the most biased measure of true infection rates that there is.
  • And now the real kicker:  flattening the curve does not actually change the number of cases or deaths, only delays and staggers them.  Except to the extent that it prevents hospitals from being overwhelmed and collapsing, but that generally did not materialize anywhere outside of Lombardy, Italy and some localities of Spain, not even in Sweden.  Moderate social distancing appears to be sufficient to prevent such a collapse, while belated lockdowns utterly failed to prevent it in the very few rare and exceptional cases where it happened.  Thus, the case for lockdowns, well, collapses.
And the best empirical evidence does not pan out in favor of lockdowns:  non-lockdown countries are generally outperforming lockdown countries on average, and within the USA, non-lockdown states have also been outperforming lockdown states in terms of coronavirus case and death rates per capita.

The supposed effectiveness of lockdowns (compared to far less extreme restrictions) in terms of slowing or stopping the spread of coronavirus has been called into serious question lately by other recent studies.
Such studies have found there is at best no correlation, and perhaps a perverse effect between the two defining features of hard lockdowns (stay-home orders and closures of all non-essential businesses) and COVID-19 cases and deaths per capita after other factors such as less-extreme policies are accounted for.  The benefits are thus nothing more than a statistical mirage that does not stand up to scrutiny--much like the supposed benefits of the 21 drinking age vis-a-vis DUI deaths in the long run.

Meanwhile, the collateral damage (economic depression, inequality, poverty, alcohol and other drug abuse, domestic violence, child abuse, loneliness, poor mental health, delayed medical treatment, etc.), which also kills people too by the way, continues to mount with each passing week of lockdown, making an utter mockery of practically all progressive and even basic humanitarian priorities.  And that's to say nothing of the civil rights and liberties, as well as community cohesion, that progressives generally support.  It seems that the "cure" is quickly becoming far worse than the disease as time goes on.

(And that's just for the affluent countries.  For poorer countries, the collateral damage will most likely be at least an order of magnitude worse and deadlier.)

Furthermore, all may not be what it seems in terms of death rates.  In many countries, deaths with COVID and from COVID are conflated, and even non-COVID deaths saw increases during at least the first few weeks of lockdown.  Excess all-cause mortality in so many countries shows a rather suspicious pattern that is strongly suggestive that the government response of lockdowns (along with closely related policies such as artificial restrictions of healthcare and monumentally screwing up with nursing homes) likely caused far more deaths than the virus itself.  In fact, despite the fact that the virus was already circulating much earlier, excess all-cause mortality did not exceed statistical norms in any country until after such lockdowns were imposed.

If that is the case, then that is nothing short of mass murder!  And those are just the short-term effects, with longer-term effects coming down the pike.

Thus, the latest Nature studies should be taken with at least a grain of salt, if not a whole pound.

Monday, June 8, 2020

Just How Old Is COVID-19 Really?

Along with Zsa Zsa Gabor and the universe itself, there are several things whose real age have long been a mystery.   We can now add COVID-19 to this list as well.  The now-pandemic viral disease was first thought to have originated in December 2019 in a "wet market" (live animal market) in Wuhan, China.  Then, it was found that there were older cases not linked to that infamous "wet market" cluster, implying a different origin from that, and November 17 was then given as the date for the first known case.

But now there is increasing (albeit circumstantial) evidence that it may be even older still.  Satellite data from China, particularly Wuhan, suggest that hospitals saw unusually high traffic and unusually full parking lots in the fall of 2019, as far back as mid-September.  Internet search trends in Wuhan also show a spike for searches for "cough" and "diarrhea", two now-known key symptoms of COVID-19, the latter of which is generally not found in seasonal flu.  And those upward trends actually began in late summer.

Thus, it was very likely that travelers had brought it to the USA and Europe far earlier than originally believed.  Take this YouTube video from 10 months ago (August)--it discusses outbreaks of a mysterious respiratory illness in nursing homes in Fairfax County, Virginia.  While some antibody survey testing results were a bit underwhelming in several countries, we should keep in mind that, as Oxford Professor Sunetra Gupta notes, other facets of the immune system (such as T-cells) may have fought off the infection before the body had a chance to make antibodies to the virus, and indeed mild infections may not generate detectable levels of antibodies right away if at all.  There seems to be at least partial cross-immunity with exposure to related coronaviruses (i.e. common cold viruses).  So the percentage of positive antibody test results should really be seen as a lower bound for the percentage of the population that was already infected at some point. 

Thus, herd immunity is closer than you think, if we are not already there yet.  And it is that, and not the (belated) lockdowns, that is what really caused COVID-19 peak and then decline in so many places.

JULY UPDATE:  The plot thickens even more, it seems.  An analysis of old, frozen sewage samples from Spain finds that the virus was already circulating since at least as far back as January 15, 2020.  For the virus to be detectable in sewage, it must have been quite prevalent indeed!  That dovetails nicely with the positive test result of the reanalyzed old blood sample from a patient in France back in December 2019.  Moreover, the Spanish researchers subsequent analyzed old sewage samples from January 2018 through December 2019, finding all were negative except for March 12, 2019 (i.e. more than a year ago!), which was found to be weakly positive for the virus.  This means that either the test is more prone to false positives than we thought, or the virus is in fact a LOT older than anyone imagined, more than a full year old.  And just like its cousin SARS, it does not seem to be aging very well either in terms of its genetic material, and may very well be losing its "mojo".

AUGUST UPDATE:  There seems to be a growing scientific consensus lately that the COVID-19 virus likely originated in a lab (the Wuhan Institute of Virology) rather than in nature.  Basically, researchers would do reckless "gain of function" experiments (which is illegal on most countries) on various bat coronavirusues to make them more contagious, more deadly, and/or more likely to jump species barriers, in order to study such phenomena. And perhaps one of these novel genetically modified (GMO) viruses "accidentally" escaped the lab and got into the population, and the rest is history.  If so, the institute and the government of China (and also the Trump regime who lifted Obama's moratorium on such research) really have a LOT of blood on their hands!  And the very best way to avenge the deaths of COVID-19 victims is to permanently ban such reckless experiments worldwide, no exceptions.

The latest theory is that that the virus actually originated in 2012 (leading some to call it COVID-12 instead) when a group of six miners in southwest China contracted pneumonia from it, which they likely got from exposure to bat guano in the mine shaft.  The Wuhan Institute of Virology then kept samples of this virus, which they perhaps tweaked even further using their so-called "gain of function" research.  The virus then escaped from the lab sometime in 2019, and as they say, the rest is history.

Another possible route is a genetically modified bat coronavirus from 2015, one deliberately engineered to make use of the human ACE2 receptor to enter our cells, which we now know that SARS-CoV-2 (aka COVID-19) does as well.  This "gain-of-function" research was apparently done in a collaboration between the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the Wuhan Institute of Virology.  Again, all it would taken was for it to "accidentally" escape from the lab in order to easily cause a pandemic.

And now the plot thickens even further as a Chinese virologist turned whistleblower finally gets the chance to tell her story....

JANUARY 2021 UPDATE:  A genetic investigation into the origins of COVID-19 in China apparently puts it at October 2019 (if not earlier), which means the virus had been spreading months before Chinese authorities belatedly alerted the world.  Also, a new Bayesian analysis finds that, statistically speaking, the probability that the virus originated in a lab is practically certain.

Maybe even earlier than that, who knows? 

And while it turns out that only some pockets of herd immunity prevailed after the first wave in Europe and the USA, hence the second wave in several countries and states, the fact that the virus is now in retreat despite it being the middle of winter strongly suggests that we are at or very close to full herd immunity nearly everywhere now.  This is evident even before the vaccine would have had any effect, by the way.  The first wave, even in Sweden, apparently produced just enough immunity for seasonality to naturally suppress the virus temporarily in the summer, only to be followed by a fall/winter wave.  But Sweden's second wave was still not as bad as either their own first wave or the second waves of most other European countries.  And future major surges are unlikely in nearly every county going forward, even with new strains of the virus emerging.

Thursday, June 4, 2020

How Japan Beat COVID-19

One country that the lockdown enthusiasts seem to conspicuously avoid talking about is Japan.  Sweden is their favorite punching bag, as is Florida, but Japan?  It's as if they don't even exist.  And yet, they managed to beat the COVID-19 virus by doing everything "wrong".  And by "wrong", we actually mean RIGHT for the most part.

Despite being in the original geographical danger zone for the pandemic, and being one of the earliest countries to be infected that was not named China, their per capita death rate (the most important indicator) remains so low that it barely even gets on the chart relative to the rest of the world.  So how did they do it?

They did not impose a compulsory lockdown, opting instead for what they called a "soft lockdown" that did not even have the force of law (as their constitution, that they actually take seriously, strictly forbids doing such a thing), and even that was fairly brief and quite belated.  Nor did they close their borders either, opting instead for health checks at ports of entry and fairly modest visa restrictions early on.

What they did do, rather famously, is habitually wear face masks in public, as they did even before the pandemic began during flu season as well as allergy season.  Not everyone, but apparently enough to make a difference. And they are generally very good about hygiene overall there as well.  But less famously, and yet likely contributed even more to their success, was their virtually unique strategy of contact tracing despite doing relatively few tests for the virus.  Instead of going high-volume, labor-intensive, and prospectively, they quietly went after the larger clusters and traced contacts retrospectively, working backwards.  And that strategy really seemed to out-ninja this rather stealthy virus, since the spread pattern is highly skewed and heterogeneous, overwhelmingly driven by a fairly small number of "superspreaders" (10-20% of infected people), while about 70% of infected people statistically don't pass the virus on at all to anyone.  So this pattern lends itself more to that kind of contact tracing paradigm.  And best of all, they did it with excellent timing, unlike so many other countries that squandered and missed their chances to do so before it was too late.

Some cynics may think that Japan deliberately did as few tests as possible so as to make their numbers look good to the outside world, in the hopes of hosting the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo (which nevertheless got postponed to July 2021), thus sweeping it under the rug.  While that may or may not have been part of the motivation for running a low number of tests, their death numbers don't lie, and they seemed to have outsmarted the virus in any case.

And last but not least, despite having the oldest population in the world, they apparently protected the elderly quite well, and apparently did NOT screw up with their nursing homes like so many other countries (especially the UK and New York) unfortunately did royally.  That alone is worth its weight in gold, and the proof is in the numbers.

Now THAT is a shining city on a hill!

(The Wall Street Journal has another great article about Japan's success story here.)

OCTOBER UPDATE: While Japan still seems to have quite a lot of "cases" (positive tests), their per capita death rates are still very low and barely even get on the chart. Another good article can be found here.

The Nuanced Truth About Sweden

Sweden is one of those countries that, in our polarized world, you either love them or hate them.  Being the most famous of the non-lockdown countries, the anti-lockdown side loves them while the pro-lockdown side just loves to hate them.

In truth, however, they are neither a shining city on a hill, nor are they an unmitigated disaster in terms of how they handled the COVID-19 pandemic.  They are in fact...about average by European standards, at least in terms of per capita death rates for now.  Worse than their Nordic neighbors and Germany and Austria, but better than the UK, Belgium, Spain and Italy.  Worse than the USA as a whole, but better than the seven worst US states, especially New York.  Which is nothing to brag about, of course, but hardly a ringing endorsement for lockdowns either.  Especially since they avoided completely annihilating their economy (albeit still suffering) and inflicting other collateral damage that the lockdowns in other countries (especially the UK) did, while still being able to "flatten the curve" and thus keep hospitals from being overwhelmed and collapsing Lombardy-style.

The architect of the Swedish mitigation strategy of moderate social distancing, Anders Tegnell, admits that Sweden could and should have done more.  And yes, they did screw up in several major ways, at least in the beginning.  But he still does not endorse a full lockdown.  So what could they have done differently, short of a lockdown?  Here are the things that come to mind that they should have done but didn't, or should have done earlier but did too late:
  • They kept their borders wide open with no hard restrictions on international travel or even any health screenings at ports of entry.  Even Japan and Belarus didn't make that mistake.  In hindsight, that was really quite foolish.
  • They did not declare a state of emergency.  Even the Donald did that, albeit belatedly.
  • Their gatherings limit of 500 people, first imposed on March 11, should have been cut down to 50 people or some other double-digit threshold much sooner, ideally on that same day or the very next day, rather than waiting until early April to finally do so.
  • They should have made virus testing available much sooner.  Instead, until very recently, you literally had to be sick enough to go to the hospital in order to get a test as per their test rationing policy that began in March.  Their testing is basically a national joke.
  • Contact tracing?  What's that?  (Though even with very little testing, they could still have done it the Japanese way.)
  • Like most countries, they should have done a better job protecting nursing homes. In Sweden's case, they should have banned or severely restricted visits to nursing homes much, much sooner, instead of being loosey-goosey about it until finally doing so on March 31.  And they should have made sure early on that the staff had (and used) adequate masks and PPE, which they failed to do.  Even Florida did better than they did, though New York was far worse.
  • Their triage protocols for nursing home patients being (not) sent to the hospital turned out to be wholly unnecessary and counterproductive.
  • And like most countries also failed at, they should have kept colleges open even if they canceled classes temporarily.  Sending students home to infect their parents and grandparents was probably not the wisest idea in the world.
  • And last but not least, they generally eschewed masks on the mistaken belief that they create a false sense of security.  Spoiler alert:  Um, NOPE!
Aside from those flaws, there is still much to admire about Sweden.  But ultimately they are paying a rather heavy price for their errors, even after belatedly correcting such mistakes.  They likely will reach the holy grail of "herd immunity" sooner or later, if they are not already there, but unfortunately due their missteps, the journey turned out to be much more dangerous than the destination.  Thus, we hereby give them a gentleman's C for effort.

In other words, we can certainly learn a lot from Sweden--both what to do as well as what not to do.

JULY UPDATE:   It looks like not only is Sweden's COVID epidemic all but oven now as per Worldometer death rates, and their death curve did turn out to be much more bell-shaped after all, but that Sweden is now quite vindicated indeed compared to even some of their neighbors in terms of cumulative all-cause mortality through the first 24 weeks (roughly the first half) of 2020.  Though worse than Norway, Sweden nevertheless fell very close to and just between Denmark and Finland, and fared far better than Scotland.  So it looks like the lockdown zealot vultures will need to find a new punching bag now.

Additionally, it looks like the Swedish city of Malmo is in fact doing a particularly good job overall.  They followed the Swedish strategy minus the screwups, basically, and as we can see now, it's really paying off. 

A Report Card For The Pandemic

It is June now, and we at the TSAP think it is time to issue tentative grades for each country on how they handled the pandemic.  These will be updated over time.  Grades are based on a mixture of per-capita death rates, economic damage, and policy measures.  All grades are on a curve, normalized with the European average set at C.  Here is the current list:

Taiwan:  A+
Hong Kong:  A
Iceland:  A
Belarus:  A
Norway:  A
Finland: A
Denmark: A
Japan:  A-
New Zealand:  A-
Germany:  A-
Austria: A-
Russian Federation:  B+
Portugal:  B+
Australia:  B+
Canada:  B
Singapore:  B-
Switzerland:  C+
Netherlands:  C
Sweden: C
USA: C (overall, varies by state)
Brazil:  D
France:  D
Italy:  F
Spain: F
UK:  F
Belgium:  F
China:  F (though they really deserve a Z, for infecting the whole world!)

Countries that avoided a full lockdown and still got good results automatically get higher grades than those who achieved the same results with a full lockdown.

For US states, a partial list of states' grades:

Washington State:  A
Iowa:  A
Wyoming:  A
Hawaii:  A-
South Dakota:  A-
Arkansas:  A-
North Dakota:  A-
Oregon:  A-
California:  B+
Florida:  B+
Georgia:  B+
South Carolina:  B
North Carolina:  B
Texas:  B-
Arizona:  C+
DC:  C
Maryland:  C
Virginia:  C
Wisconsin:  C
Connecticut:  C-
Massachusetts:  C-
Louisiana:  D
Illinois: D
Michigan:  D-
Pennsylvania:  D-
New Jersey:  F
New York:  F

If you remove the seven worst states, the USA has one of the mildest outbreaks in the world.  Only a very few states are worse than the European average as far as per capita death rates.  And non-lockdown states outperform most non-lockdown states.

All of these grades are of course subject to change in the coming weeks and months.

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

America Is Literally Burning. Stop Fighting Fire With Gasoline!

In the wake of the state-sanctioned murder of George Floyd by three cops while a fourth cowardly bystander did nothing, protests have fully understandably erupted across the nation.  Racism (especially structural racism) and widespread police brutality are nothing new in America, and remain persistent problems that are clearly not going away on their own, so the protestors' anger is fully justified.  The murderers and all of their accomplices must be brought to justice, and structural reforms absolutely must be made, yesterday.

(The problem is actually twofold, involving an intersection of both 1) institutional racism and the resulting gross racial disparities at all levels of the criminal "justice" system, as well as 2) a more general overcriminalization of people for victimless "crimes" and gross overmilitarization of police, along with a general lack of accountability for rogue cops.  And both need to be tackled simultaneously.  Yesterday.)

But when protestors foolishly play into the hands of outside agents provocateur (everyone from extremists to recreational troublemakers to false flags and even undercover cops) infiltrating the otherwise peaceful protests to turn them violent and destructive, then it becomes something far different and highly toxic, and counterproductive to the cause.  And by taking the bait of Trump and his buddies--the ultimate master baiters (pun intended)--who are also pouring gasoline on the fire, that is like cutting off one's nose to spite one's face.  So please don't fall for it.

The last thing America needs right now is a full-blown civil war.  Which is where we are unfortunately heading if this continues to escalate much longer.  And it is what the "alt-right", white supremacists, and other right-wing extremists like the Boogaloo movement seem to really want to happen, hence their sending outside agitators to infiltrate protests.

(Hear that?  That's the sound of Putin having a good belly laugh at America's expense.)

And while we really hate to be a wet blanket, please remember that while the right to peacefully protest is sacrosanct in what is supposed to be free society, the COVID-19 pandemic is still going on, and you still need to take precautions nonetheless since the virus doesn't care about your or anyone's politics.  Wear a mask, carry hand sanitizer, stick to smaller groups, and try to keep as much physical distance as possible out there.  Don't deliberately get in anyone's face either.  And if you have any sort of questionable symptoms at all in the least, please sit this one out and stay home protesting virtually.  In other words, please use common sense.  That advice applies to both the George Floyd / Black Lives Matter protestors as well as any anti-lockdown protestors, by the way.

To quote Rodney King himself during the 1992 LA riots:  "Can we all just get along?"