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On uncivil disobedience

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An abbreviated history of the seat belt:

  • 1922 – Barney Oldfield installs the first three-point restraining harness in his Indy 500 car.
  • 1959: Nils Bohlin invents the three-point seat belt/shoulder harness for Volvo. To encourage automobile safety Volvo gives the design away free to all automobile manufacturers.
  • 1968: Lyndon Johnson signs mandate that all new cars must be equipped with the three-point safety harness into law.
  • 1973: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) mandates new cars must have a seatbelt interlock mechanism installed, preventing cars from starting unless the seat belt is engaged.
  • 1974: Congress repeals the mandatory seat belt interlock law.
  • 1984: New York State passes law requiring all drivers to wear their seat belts. Between then and now all states except Hew Hampshire have passed similar laws, extended beyond drivers to all passengers.
  • 2000: Nils Bohlin dies. Volvo estimates his invention had saved in excess of 1 million lives.
  • 2021: Some drivers still refuse to wear seat belts because “You can’t make me.” Many Americans refuse to receive COVID-19 vaccinations for the same reason.

Imagine you’re enough of a libertarian to oppose the “nanny state” on principle whether it is nannying about seatbelts or vaccinations.

Also imagine you accept the by-now-overwhelming evidence that the major COVID-19 vaccines are, like seatbelts, safe and effective.

Further imagine you accept that wearing seatbelts mitigates the harm from car crashes, making them less lethal or crippling, just as COVID-19 vaccinations reduce the morbidity and lethality of an infection. But unlike seatbelts, which don’t reduce the odds of being in an accident, vaccines do reduce the odds of becoming infected.

Next: Read or review Henry David Thoreau’s Civil Disobedience and use it to justify the proposition that even though using seatbelts can save you from death and severe injury, the political point you’ll make is worth the risk. With some ingenuity you can probably manage this, as when you refuse to wear a seatbelt you only endanger yourself … assuming, of course, you have no family that needs you alive and healthy.

Now try to justify the parallel proposition about vaccines.

With FDA approval of the Pfizer vaccine for general use, we can expect an increasing number of employers mandating vaccination, following the advice given here a few weeks ago (admittedly, most of them didn’t know I’d given it, but I’ll take credit for it anyway). And with the current surge we can also anticipate a return to mask plus social-distancing mandates.

“You can’t make me!” isn’t much of a moral proposition. It isn’t what you’d call thoughtful. “Childish” seems like the more appropriate adjective.

Bob’s last word: In Horsefeathers, Groucho sang:

Your proposition may be good

But let’s have one thing understood:

Whatever it is, I’m against it

And even when you’ve changed it or condensed it

I’m against it.

For those who miss the point, the song is supposed to be satire.

Bob’s sales pitch: CIO.com just published another essay from yours truly. I think you’ll like it. But you’ll never know if you don’t read it. You’ll find it here, in “The three IT processes CIOs need most.”

Comments (19)

  • You are spot on!

  • I thought about ignoring this but……
    Food for thought:

    Will we ever be rid of the COVID-19? It appears well established in mammals.

    Wild U.S. deer found with coronavirus antibodies

    Are the COVID vaccines heading towards ADE? Maybe, maybe not. We should know in a few months. We should hope ADE is not coming.

    Infection-enhancing anti-SARS-C0V-2 antibodies recognize both the original Wuhan/D614G strain and Delta variants. A potential risks for mass vaccination?

    Antibody-dependent enhancement of virus infection and disease

    The unvaccinated would seem to be only risking their own lives.


  • I have learned one thing about satire, you have to tell people. Nowadays, I’ve found you also have to define satire as well.

  • There is evidence that vaccines help. I would not call it overwhelming else why would there also be so much bulloney being used to convince people.

    1.9million EXTRA people died from the shutdown over what the covid itself killed. Again aided by total bullstuff used by loonie liberals whose goal in life is to control people because they suffer from a massive case of Dunning-Kruger.

    Masks are not clear either as the data is far less convincing for them; and there are bad effects proven to be caused by wearing masks.

    Now consider that perfection is not possible and that one size fits nobody.
    If we do not have freedom to choose what we do with our bodies then why did God give us free will.

    The liberal loonies would have better results if they invoked Jesus and tried to convince people that they should get the vaccine because of His teachings.

    OTOH why did fibbing Fauci make it so easy for any country to do gain of function research at all.
    He neutered the group that was supposed to be setting standards so that China could have a free hand and also provided them with funding.

    If the lefties really believed the hype they spew then they would want the freedom lovers to all die off so they would win every election in the future without it even being close. But they clearly do not witness all the commie politicians who violate all the restrictions put in place – From yobamamama to the wicked witch of the west and many other lesser pols caught doing what they tell us not to do.

    And if they believed all the crapola they claim about global warming they would call for a ban on having new people not try to destroy the world’s economy.



  • Hi Bob,

    In my view, your seatbelt analogy falls flat when trying to compare it to whether people choose to take the *covid* vaccines because “the by-now-overwhelming evidence that the major COVID-19 vaccines are, like seatbelts, safe and effective.” But let’s run with it… the time frame between when Barney Oldfield installs the harness and Lyndon Johnson signs a mandate for all new cars is 46 years. The time when the vaccines were developed and to when people start calling for forced injections, sorry, mandates, is about 18 months. Let’s even take Nils Bohlin (cause I can just see the attempted rebuttals) and that time frame is 9 years. Now, you can take a seatbelt off once you exit the car but as I mentioned in a previous post, you cannot uninstall a vaccine so the consequences of what safe and effective means is very different in my opinion between the two – otherwise imagine wearing a seatbelt, eating, sleeping, showering with it 24 hours a day, 365 days a year…

    I suspect many, many people have succumbed to a mass psychosis (mentacide) where they would believe almost anything being told to them by their government or whatever news/social media they consume. I would suggest that, if you have about 20 mins to spare, you checkout this video which demonstrates a killing of the mind…. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=09maaUaRT4M – something far worse than not wearing seatbelts… Or look up Edward Bernays (related to Signmund Freud) who pioneered group psychology and how to manipulate the masses. Fyi, UK government has a Behaviourl Insights Team (from around 2010) and admitted to using behavioural psychology to manipulate their citizens in 2015. I’m quite sure the same is applicable to US and most other governments.

    My reason for telling you the above Bob is that you may need to take a hard, objective view of yourself and why you seem to be so pro covid-vaccines and pro mandates. Being told this by the very same people who are corrupt and lie constantly. How quick some seem to forget, the media and governments were full of 90-95% effective “against” infection, it is SO MUCH BETTER than your own immune system… then it became, oh ok, maybe you will be a bit infected…. then it became ok, you will be infected AND spread it so get your masks back on, then it became ok, the vaccine efficacy is waning so we’re gonna need booster shots and I bet in 9 months time, we now need more booster shots and so on…. Did you know one Pfizer dose costs $18 so multiply that by the hundreds of millions of doses administered in US and across the world and maybe, just maybe, it would be in their interests to keep it going or ensure vaccines are the ONLY solution? Is that maybe not why you have all the negative and dismissiveness about other therapeutics? Or has government and pharma shown themselves to be such ethical and upright institutions? J&J must be kicking themselves cause they only did one jab. But wait, there are reports that they are going to be recommending a booster does as well so there’s that…

    To close, as I was reading your article I was waiting for the punchline of “it is the anti-vaxxers fault” but it never really came. I applaud you for not going there but is it not interesting that it is pro-mandate people who on social media are saying how glad they are unvaccinated have died, the media saying it is all unvaccinated people that are problematic, the US President saying this is a pandemic of the unvaccinated. I’ve never heard anyone who was against taking this saying we should force people NOT TO take it. If people are pitted against one another, forced into tribal groups be it political, racial, ideological divisions, and fight amongst each other because of that, they are much easier to conquer. Cheers.

    • Why am I so pro vaccine? Because they work, and especially because vaccination reduces the likelihood of infecting others.

      What does get lost in the debate is what “they work” means. Unlike, say, the measles vaccine, the COVID vaccines don’t completely protect the vaccinated from infection. They’re akin to flu vaccines, which reduce the likelihood, severity, and level of contagion of an infection.

      For whatever it’s worth, I’m against mandated seatbelt wearing, on the grounds that if someone wants to be an idiot and doesn’t endanger anyone else, they should be free to go to hell in whatever fashion suits them best.

      But I still wear my seatbelt because … well, duh.

      • Hi Bob,

        I specifically asked why you are pro *covid* vaccine, not vaccines in general. There are many people, myself included, who understand the benefits of and have taken various vaccines but question these specific ones. Again, the tribalism and loss of critical thinking in many lead them to mislabel and generalize those critical or questioning the covid vaccine as “anti-vaxxers” – once you are able to generalize or box a person into a particular category, it is much easier to mentally justify dismissing them without even trying to engage with them. Your previous articles on the loss of physical “connectedness” amongst groups or people in general was spot-on and sadly I fear, the rise of social media in its place has led to isolated, siloed individuals who more and more tune out differences of opinion and retreat into their “safe spaces” of echo chambers, fuelled by algorithms feeding them more and more dopamine garbage. Sigh…

        To be honest, the question on whether to take the vaccine or not should be a non-topic, it really should not matter but the way in which it is being pushed is what is causing it to matter. Admit it or not, there are much bigger things at play than just a pandemic – corruption, greed, thirst for more power, totalitarinism. The severity of the threat does not justify the response. Some examples being Oregon governor instituting mask mandates for ALL (outdoors?!?) regardless of vaccine status, France and Germany’s brtual attacks by police on citizens marching against mandates, US and UK pushing to have kids, the *least affected*, inject themselves with something that has no long term studies on their health, and New Zealand and Australia’s draconian lockdown policies for ALL, regardless of vaccine status, in their insane “zero-covid” strategy. You know who is fast approaching zero covid deaths per day? Sweden, the country who has had no lockdown and no mask mandates. Compare that to a place like Israel, mostly fully-vaccinated and booster doses well underway as well as the mental and soci-econmic fallout we are seeing due to literally authoritarian policies. But you don’t hear about Sweden’s success story because it is not the fear-porn being peddled by main stream media and governments. Again, I remind you of behavioural psychology and its effects – dial up fear to 11 for 18 months and you will get previously normal people to accept unethical and immoral decisions. As CS Lewis aptly put it… “When the whole world is running towards a cliff, he who is running in the opposite direction appears to have lost his mind.” Cheers.

      • And I specifically answered in terms of the COVID vaccines, not just vaccines in general.

        You mention Sweden. You’re correct that its current numbers look promising, but you’re ignoring the rest of the picture: Over the life of the pandemic, Sweden’s COVID-19 mortality is 34th worst in the world – 1,428 per million (https://www.statista.com/statistics/1104709/coronavirus-deaths-worldwide-per-million-inhabitants/ ). Clearly, its current positive trends need to be researched. It’s possible it’s reaching some version of herd immunity, but at a cost. I’m not sure “success story” is an accurate depiction.

        Israel, which for some reason you seem to be painting as a disaster, is 62nd worst in the world in mortality – 778 per million, or around half Sweden’s mortality. Thanks to its early and vigorous vaccination program we know more about how vaccine effectiveness declines over time. That doesn’t make its program worse than Sweden’s. Quite the opposite in my estimation.

        Oh, and as you brought up socio-economic fallout: In 2020 Israel’s economy contracted by 2.5%, better than Sweden’s 2.82%.

        Finally, as for your statement that “The severity of the threat does not justify the response,” my own values say that the number of U.S. deaths – more than 635,000, a significant fraction of which were preventable … make this a very severe threat.

      • Hi Bob,

        Point taken about my awkward comparison between Sweden and Israel. My intention was not really to link my soci-econmic comment to Israel specifically but more to economies across the globe who employed drastic lockdowns. Alas, no edit feature after posting so can’t cry over spilt milk, now can I? We could go back and forth with various stats and views but I’m not likely to ever agree with your stance on covid vaccines and mandates, nor do I think you would change yours. So, I will leave with a quote by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn from The Gulag Archipelago (vol 1) – “We didn’t love freedom enough. And even more – we had no awareness of the real situation. We spent ourselves in one unrestrained outburst in 1917 and then we hurried to submit. We submitted with pleasure!… We purely and simply deserved everything that happened afterward”. Let history be the judge of our views and accordingly let us both get what we deserve from our choices and actions. Cheers.

    • Sadly, there are some who are are close to forcing others not to take the vaccine – the most obvious of course being parents forbidding their teenagers; and the school administrator who wouldn’t hire anyone who had been vaccinated, and some other similar stories.

      • Hi Allison,

        Parents telling children not to do something because they, the parent, know better is what is called being a parent. Would it be okay for a parent to allow their non-adult children to drink booze, take cocaine, smoke weed, etc.? And if one would answer yes to any of those, then I fear for the future adults that those decisions would be creating.

        I would put the school administrator who would only hire unvaccinated people in the same camp as those advocating to only hire vaccinated individuals – illogical and deepening the divide between people when in fact we should be advocating to come together, to discuss and debate differences of opinion and find common ground.

  • I read a story about a funeral director in a town with a large population of COVID deniers – he reported that about 50% of the time, the family didn’t want COVID mentioned in the obituary…and some even wanted the death certificate changed. Another story from the classroom – a teacher, thinking she was just dealing with allergies infects half her class, who then infect siblings, parents and friends. Seatbelts, live vaccines, not only save lives, but reduce serious injuries.

  • Seat belts only protect the wearer? Not necessarily … Way back in the dark ages when I was in high school and had a freshly minted drivers license, I somehow convinced my mom to let me have the car to see a Saturday evening show. The road to/from the venue was unfamiliar. Up to that time, I didn’t wear seat belts much. Back then, the move to mandate them was just getting underway. Exactly what caused me to put buckle up for that trip home is still a bit of a mystery, but I did. Driving that unfamiliar road in the dark, I came to a curve for which I was going a bit too fast. I managed to keep the car on the road, but felt my backside sliding right. (Did I mention that this was in the days when most cars had bench seats in the front and my mom’s car seats had vinyl covering?) The seatbelt stopped my slide and held me in place behind the steering wheel. To this day I remain convinced that I would have slid too far from the steering wheel to maintain a good grip on it and would have crashed the car without the restraint. If another car had been close to me, I could have taken them out as well. Possibly a few of us would have died, if it wasn’t for the fact that I had my seatbelt on. I’ve worn them ever since.

  • In a previous column, Bob mentioned a book by Michael Lewis, “The Premonition”. I took some information from that book, and from a Hunan, China study, (“Transmission heterogeneities, kinetics, and controllability of SARS-CoV-2”) for considering taking the COVID 19 vaccine. The quoted material is from one of these two sources. It’s long but if helps to keep even 1 person from getting covid it was worth sharing…:

    1. How does this pandemic work? It’s an epidemic of a communicable disease, a coronavirus.
    “Imagine a computer screen filled with green dots moving around , apparently randomly. Then, imagine you noticed that a few of the dots were not green but red — and when a red dot bumped into a green dot , the green dot turned red . This is called an ‘agent – based model’, which describes how a communicable disease spreads, with the red dots infecting the green dots. One of the things this model showed, that in a pandemic, there was no difference between giving a person a vaccine and removing him or her from the social network : in each case, a person lost the ability to infect others.”

    2. What do we need to know about a coronavirus?
    A. How it spreads – It spreads through tiny droplets containing this virus coming from the throat or mouth of an infectious person.
    “The perfect pathogen has a very long infectious period and a very long incubation period — because the longer it takes for the pathogen to declare itself , the harder it is to track…
    One reason measles was so wildly transmissible was that a person with it was infectious for four days before he knew he had it “
    B. How it mutates “Viruses mutate when they make errors in their genetic code when they replicate . Different viruses make errors at different rates . A perfectly stable virus — that is , a virus that does not mutate — would be impossible to track.
    For instance, herpes mutates so slowly it’s hard to divine how it has traveled from the genetic code alone . At the other extreme, when a virus mutates too quickly its movements are equally impossible to follow. The viruses that cause the common cold, for example. They mutate so rapidly that, inside of a single human being, they replace their entire genome, and escape the defenses created by any vaccine. A fast – mutating virus is as untraceable…”
    C. How it survives -Viruses use a “so – called reservoir species — the animal harboring the virus before the virus jumped into humans — that is completely unharmed by the virus, but allows the virus to grow and prosper.” Asymptomatic humans, may be the reservoir species for COVID19.
    D. How do we wipe it out? By achieving herd immunity – “the number of infections required to achieve herd immunity can be calculated , as it is a simple function of the reproductive rate”. The formula is 1 ? 1 / R0 , where R0 was the reproduction number . Therefore, herd immunity (HI) is HI? = (R0 – 1)/R0 = 2/3, where 2/3 = 67% immunity is needed for herd immunity to the original covid virus, the alpha variant; but HI? = (R0 -1)/R0 = 7/8 = 88% immunity is needed for herd immunity to the delta variant.]

    3. What do we need to know about SARS-CoV-2 or just covid, virus, in particular?

    A. – Rate of reproduction (called R naught) – It mutates , very reliably , every one or two times it transmits from person to person .
    “… [she] had figured out that each person who got the virus was infecting two to three others . Out of caution , you had to assume a reproductive rate of 3. Every week, the number of infections triples.” [Dr. Robert Wachter MD, Ph.D of UCSF confirmed this on 8/5/21. Also note, that the delta variant has a reproductive rate of 7 to 8 compare to 3 for the original virus, i.e., the alpha variant referred to here [R. Wachter UCSF 8/4/21] “They looked at COVID tested people, most with high loads of the virus [in the nose and back of the throat] though many had no symptoms to get those numbers.” [Note that the delta variant creates viral loads approximately 100 times the size of the viral load of the original virus, i.e., the alpha variant referred to here R. Wachter UCSF 8/4/21]

    B – Infection rate – varies according to how physically close, and how long, a person is with someone who can infect (transmit) through “shedding” the covid virus. Note that Hunan was completely shutdown during the period of that study.
    “Transmission risk scales positively with the duration of exposure and the closeness of social interactions and is modulated by demographic and clinical factors. The lockdown period increases transmission risk in the family and households, while isolation and quarantine reduce risks across all types of contacts. The reconstructed infectiousness profile of a typical SARS-CoV-2 patient peaks just before symptom presentation
    We estimate that 63.4% (95% CI, 60.2% to 67.2%) of all transmission events occur before symptom onset, which is comparable with findings from other studies (6–8, 10–13, 18, 30, 31). However, these estimates are impacted by the intensity of interventions; in Hunan, isolation and quarantine were in place throughout the epidemic.”

    Further, “we find that household contacts pose the highest risk of transmission, followed by extended family, social and community contacts, in agreement with a prior study (12). Healthcare contacts have the lowest risk, suggesting that adequate protective measures were adopted by patients and healthcare staff in Hunan.”

    Also when the flu pandemic of 1918 was studied, “…: isolating the ill ; quarantining entire households when they had a sick person in them ; socially distancing adults ; giving people antiviral drugs; and so on. Each of the crude strategies had some slight effect, but none by itself made much of a dent, and certainly none had the ability to halt the pandemic by driving the disease’s reproductive rate below 1. One intervention was not like the others , however : when you closed schools and put social distance between kids , the flu – like disease fell off a cliff.”
    C – the rate at which it sent people to the hospital. – I was unable to find anything definitive for the U.S.
    D- its infection fatality rate – I was unable to find anything definitive for the U.S.
    E – how much , if any , time passed between the moment they became infectious and the onset of symptoms – see above.

    In sum, “The enemy was a virus. The enemy’s chief weapon was rapid and random mutation”

  • Bob,
    I really like your analogy. There are still people today that won’t wear seatbelts. They are willing to take that risk. Likewise, people are willing to do the same with vaccines. Many look to their probability/risk of dying as part of their decision making. For seatbelts they may decide that if they are driving in light traffic a slower speeds then they are willing to take the risk and not wear a seatbelt. For Covid what are the numbers? They are always changing. What I heard once was that 10% are hospitalized and 10% of those hospitalized die. That equals a 1% chance of dying from Covid.

    What I don’t understand is why is it a push for the vaccine and not for having the antibodies? If someone had Covid and their body now has the antibodies they why do they need the vaccine? If as a child you had chicken pocks should you now have to receive the chicken pocks vaccine? To me this is where resistance comes. The messages from government and businesses is not on having the antibodies, but on having the vaccine.

    I don’t put my full trust in government. They have shown too many failures over the years. What’s happening in the middle east is an example as well as Obamacare. If the government is not willing to have the same medical coverage as veterans or Obamacare than why should I? I need a government that is willing to lead as an example and not as a dictatorship.

    This is still a great country and I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else, but sometimes we seem to get stuck with rules instead of using principles. I’m thinking of the Agile Manifesto. I prefer people to have the antibodies than to receive vaccines. Vaccines are good, but antibodies are better.

    If we have mandates on Covid vaccination what will be next? Will everyone be required to receive the flu shot every year? Remember, the only reason the admendment for federal tax was past was because it was only suppose to tax the top 5%. What % is not taxed today? Social Security was a forced saving that many fear they won’t receive.
    What went wrong? Is it any wonder people are skeptical?

    I wouldn’t have received the vaccine and would have accepted the 1% risk, but my wife told me I was getting it. She is a smart woman and I trust her more than I trust the government.

    So since I have been vaccinated why should I care if someone else is vaccinated or not? Back to your seatbelt example, if I am wearing my seatbelt what does it matter if other people are not wearing theirs?

    • Do some reading to verify this: My understanding is that with COVID, due to details I don’t pretend to fully understand, the natural immunity conferred from an infection is weaker and briefer than the immunity conferred from the vaccines. Which in turn don’t last as long as we’d hoped, hence the need for a booster.

      Which gets to the answer of another of your questions: The vaccines don’t work the way the smallpox and polio vaccines work, providing a lengthy immunity to the illness. The COVID vaccines work more the way the annual flue vaccination works, providing some protection against infection and more protection against the most severe symptoms.

      So being vaccinated reduces but doesn’t eliminate the odds of getting an infection and, if you do get infected, reduces but doesn’t eliminate the odds of infecting someone else.

    • Addressing your example of chicken pox: The virus that causes it is also the cause of shingles, decades later. Shingles can recur multiple times. Because I had chicken pox as a child, I asked my doctor about getting the shingles vaccine. He said that the current recommendation was for those over sixty. Two months later I had shingles. While that my outbreak was unpleasant, it fortunately didn’t produce the serious effects that some experience. A couple months after it cleared up I was vaccinated, and will probably need another later.

  • I expect the whole vax/don’t vax discussion will be moot by Halloween, maybe Thanksgiving, certainly Christmas. Delta is so transmissible that by then everyone will be vax’d, sick, or both, and we’ll achieve herd immunity. Until some later variant that you don’t have antibodies for boomerangs back from Africa or Asia — or maybe Mississippi — and causes another spike.

    There’s plenty of scientific evidence that vaccination reduces the impact — and by now it’s truly obvious from hospital records that this is now a pandemic of the unvax’d. So the choice you’re making is to get a little sick or a lot sick. Or you can believe it doesn’t make a difference. Either way, Christmas is coming, make your own choice, and I hope you don’t regret your choice.

    I feel most sorry for the medical people who have to deal with the “a lot sick” option.

    And yes, the advice keeps changing as the virus and the evidence keeps changing. Scientific findings are ALWAYS provisional, always open to challenge and revision. If you’re expecting the recommendations to remain unchanged in the face of new evidence, you don’t get that fundamental nature of science. And as much as you may want to trust your own direct experience, the plural of “anecdote” is not “data.”

    Neither Fauci or any other reputable source ever claimed the vaccines would be 100% effective, nor that the protection they give would be forever. I’m looking forward to getting a booster for that very reason. I’ve got grandchildren under 12 and friends over 65, so I’m happy to bet that getting vax’d will improve the odds — not make any guarantees — for any of them.

    FInally, I’m looking forward to the day, not far in the future, when people who refused the vax and got lucky will still claim it was all a sham. Sad, but a statistical certainty. Don’t try to convince them otherwise, it’s a waste of time.

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