The Wuhan Lab and the Virus of Our Implicit Biases

I have been seeing more buzz lately on the theory that COVID-19 leaked from the lab in Wuhan. Six months ago, the voices who promoted that concern were labeled conspiracy theorists. An article in the NY Times today (See Good morning. The lab-leak theory is everywhere. We have an explainer, by David Leonhardt, NY Times, may 27, 2021) poses the question: what changed?

A cynic like me (and partisan Republicans) will say the change is that we have a new party in control of the White House. The lab-leak theory is no longer a conspiracy theory because that narrative has lost its expediency and usefulness with the change in political control.

As the article points out, the origin of the virus was unclear from the beginning. Some scientists, politicians and journalists urged consideration of the Wuhan lab. Those voices were drowned out, however, by louder voices.

Now, things have changed. The Times article reports:

“Two weeks ago, 18 scientists wrote a letter to the journal Science calling for a new investigation and describing both the animal-to-human theory and the lab-leak theory as ‘viable.’ And three scientists who last year dismissed the lab-leak explanation as a conspiracy theory have told The Wall Street Journal that they now consider it plausible.”

Francis Collins, the director of the National Institutes of Health, now says, “We cannot exclude the possibility of some kind of a lab accident”, though he maintains it more likely that the virus developed naturally. Over a year ago, a couple of Chinese researchers wrote a paper concluding the virus “probably originated from a laboratory in Wuhan”, but not many people were willing to jump on the bandwagon.

The Times article is refreshingly candid in its assessment that the dismissal of this lab-leak theory “appears to be a classic example of groupthink, exacerbated by partisan polarization”.  I could turn this statement into a weapon for a particular political ideology, but I won’t. I also believe a lab-leak is less likely than natural causes based on my understanding of the facts that are known to date.

Regardless of what is more likely than not, the lab-leak appears to be more plausible than the scientific (and political) consensus would allow just six months ago. The political din has subsided long enough now for the disparate voices of scientists to be heard who maintain we should not rule out the lab at Wuhan as a potential source from which COVID arose.

This shift in the “consensus” can be attributed more directly to political ideation and political polarization, than science. This seems to be the indictment of the article.

We are so divided along partisan lines in our country (and world) that we can’t think straight; we can’t even get our facts straight. Our filter for determining fact from fiction and credible theory from conspiracy theory is so tainted by the dirty film of political dross that reality seems to be obscured to a large segment of our society by it.  

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Never Trump Fatigue and the No Man’s Land in between Enemy Lines

As we careen toward Election Day in a world that might rival Alice in Wonderland for its oddities, I have been thinking about the effect of the criticisms of Trump in the press and on social media. Actually, I have been thinking about it since before the last election, but my thoughts are gaining traction now.

Prior to the last election, the press latched onto everything (so it seems) Trump said and did. It didn’t matter that 14 Republicans were in the running at one point; the press couldn’t get enough of Trump. He was a novelty, a media circus. What seemed like a side show to begin with became the spectacle in the center ring..

I assume that Trump was good for the news and media businesses. They like train wrecks and that sort of thing. It sells.

I was thinking as I watched the Republican primary lurch and stutter that the media gave Trump all the fuel he needed to become the front runner. He couldn’t have possibly asked for or gotten more press than he did. I assume that someone like Trump likes any press is good press. Without shame, the more the merrier.

I was aggravated at all the press coverage during the primary because, it seemed to me, the media was ignoring more solid candidates and handing Trump the Republican nomination. As the Primary was settled and the presidential campaigning shifted into high gear, the media attention turned increasingly more judgmental, but it didn’t matter. It was all fuel to the fire.

It was a kind of symbiotic relationship. Trump was propelled along by the inertia of press coverage, and, let’s face it, Donald Trump sold the news.  They played virus and host to each other in the truest of symbiotic dances.

I will never forget the looks of chagrin on the faces of the media pundits as the numbers came in on election night. They couldn’t believe what they were seeing, but I could. They created this Frankenstein and shouldn’t have been wondering at the power they gave him.

By the time Trump became the Republican frontrunner, the press was decidedly weighing against him. He wasn’t just an amusement anymore. Many of the stories carried their own moral weight, but those in the press who were aghast didn’t trust the public, the common people, to judge rightly what they were seeing. Facts, themselves, are apparently no longer sufficient to carry their own weight.

People are smarter than the average bear (to mix another metaphor). They know condescension when they see it. Americans, in particular, don’t like to be told what to think or do. We love our freedoms. We boast about them. Americans are nothing, if not free, right?

Another element at play was the unending, unceasing, constant and continual criticism of Trump by all the Clinton supporters and Trump haters (who were not necessarily the same people). Trump couldn’t do anything or tweet anything or say anything that wasn’t immediately denounced, condemned and decried. Not that they had any lack of ammunition.  

The Trump critics have proven to have the stamina of a racehorse and marathon runner combined. They don’t stop. They never stopped.

For over four years now, going back well before the last election, and continuing to the present time, the Never Trumpers have carried their torches boldly and loudly and often, posting unceasingly to all the world everything Trump says and does wrong on a daily basis. Not that they have lacked for material.

As the next Election Day approaches, it seems to me that Never Trump Fatigue set in somewhere along the line. I have been seeing it for awhile. People are tired of hearing it. People seem to have begun wondering, perhaps, whether the Trump critics doth protest too much.

I am not talking about the Trump supporters, who have been emboldened as the constant drone of criticism has continued to whine and increase. People on both sides of the divide have become more vocal as people in the middle, looking for some common ground or reprieve or sense of “can’t we all get along”, seem to be left, abandoned in the no man’s land in between.

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Political Morality and Tilting at Windmills

I recently watched a video a friend posted of women who are Trump supporters talking about the decade old tape that has caused a firestorm of passionate debate. One friend who identified herself as “not a Trump supporter” observed that we seem to choose when we want to respond to these things with outrage.  Political morality always has a point, and the point isn’t morality.

How true that is!

Anyone who was an adult in the 1990’s remembers the Monica Lewinsky matter and subsequent allegations from other woman about Bill Clinton’s indiscretions that all took place when he was serving in public office in different capacities. There was outrage then, but the bulk of it came from a different quarter.

That is politics. Continue reading

Ramblings About Trump, Clinton, Politics and Change

The issues that face society today are bigger than Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, but these are the two combatants in the political arena amidst the maelstrom of swirling societal currents. Hillary Clinton could become the first women elected President in US history, while Donald Trump represents a clear and present desire to buck the inbred political system that seems to have taken a wrong turn on the way to representation of, by and for the people.

For some reason, a recent article about an “inside view of [the\] Trump pageant controversy” in the local newspaper got me thinking about the present election battle in the context of these larger societal issues. Continue reading

Better than That

I spend a lot of time reading and communicating with people on disparate ends of the political spectrum. I have voted Democrat, Independent and Republican in my life. I know where I stand on many (not all) positions, but my views have evolved over the years. No one party or generalization ever has represented where I stand. And that seems to be increasingly the case as time goes on.

I know that I am not alone in that.

But, we all have leanings, and we all tend to identify with one “side” or the other.  Actually, we tend to think in terms of sides, but the reality is that we all identify with certain ways of thinking, and those ways of thinking, which are varied, tend to fall on one side or the other of the political divide.

We tend to think that all the people who fall on “our side” think like we do…. But, they don’t. And we tend to think that all people who disagree with us are uninformed, lacking in intelligence and/or just plain “evil”.

I’m constantly amazed at the ways of thinking of the people who tend to “side” with me on some issue or another, but they don’t think anything like me!

For all of the communication channels that we have today with social media, I don’t think we understand each other very well. Continue reading

Gruber Exposes What is Wrong with Politics

Uncle Sam Sick in BedJonathan Gruber, a previously little known MIT professor, has stumbled into the national limelight with statements about “stupid voters” and the intentional use of non-transparency in drafting and promoting the Affordable Care Act (ACA) so that voters would not realize what was in it.

Gruber candidly admitted the promoters of the law determined it would not have passed but for the non-transparency, quickly adding that it was important to keep the truth from the voters because the law was too important to risk not passing it.

Regardless of one’s view of “Obamacare”, our nation should be up in arms over the revelation that non-transparency was employed by design in the drafting of the law and in getting it passed. We should be outraged and offended at the notion that we are too stupid to understand and not to be entrusted with the a clear explanation. American citizens should be taking action to ensure that our nation’s law, which require transparency in government, are enforced at the highest levels.

One MSNBC blogger, however, called the “Jonathan Gruber mess” much to do about nothing. (MSNBC)

Champions of the ACA are scrambling to minimize the damage and downplay Jonathan Gruber’s role in writing the law and getting it passed.  Nancy Pelosi says she does not know who Jonathan Gruber is. (Washington Post) Nancy Pelosi responded soon after his remarks leaked out to the public that Jonathan Gruber was not involved in the drafting of the Affordable Care Act. Unfortunately for Pelosi, the Washington Post found a 2009 video in which she specifically cites Gruber’s work associated with the Act. (Washington Post) Sarah Kliff of left-leaning, now says Gruber was “merely a number-cruncher”, though she previously said Jonathan Gruber “pretty much wrote Obamacare.” (the

Unsurprisingly, the real politicians are not as apt to be candid, as Jonathan Gruber was, about the facts.

Ironically, Nancy Pelosi’s 2009 comment cites Jonathan Gruber for the point that the ACA bill (then) will bring down the spiraling costs of health care. (Washington Post) Jonathan Gruber, himself, however, says that the ACA was never intended to bring the costs of health care down. In fact, he pointedly said it would not bring the costs of health care down; they just had to spin it that way because that is what the voters wanted to hear. (See the video of Gruber’s statement in the Washington Examiner) This is another variation on the “stupid voters” statement that has put Gruber in the public and Congressional cross-hairs.

The post remarks spin on Gruber is disingenuous and underscores the lack of honesty and transparency in our government at the highest level. Nothing is more disheartening to me than this utter lack of forthrightness in our federal government that appears to be fueled and justified by an elitist notion that “they know what is best for us” (so it does not matter how oblique they are with the American voters).

An article at shows just how disingenuous the backpedaling is. “These reactions from Obama and others were, for the most part, technically true—but nonetheless misleading about Gruber’s influence on the law. At a minimum, they were not fully transparent about his role.” This article lays out how intimately and completely Gruber was involved in both the drafting of the law and in selling it to the public.

The elitist idea that politicians know best and, therefore, are justified in obfuscating the facts in order to pass a law is dangerous thinking! It is fundamentally un-American. It is the primary reason that people are so skeptical and do not trust politicians; indeed, “politics” is a dirty word for reasons like the Gruber remarks.

It is not the remarks, per se, but what they reveal. The Gruber remarks epitomize all that is wrong with politics. He said in one of the videos that has been circulating around, “Lack of transparency is a huge political advantage.” The remark reveals an attitude that anything goes as long as we succeed. Succeeding in politics means advancing the party’s platform and (most importantly) staying in office at all costs. Transparency should be the unequivocal benchmark that is protected with non-partisan diligence, but it turns out it is merely a partisan tool to be discarded for a more expedient device.

In the congressional hearings, Gruber seems to be using “the stupid defense” to explain the statements that he made. ( (He says they were glib and inappropriate; he says he was trying to make himself look smart on subjects (politics) about which he is ignorant.) I am disposed to believe he is just being dumb like a fox. It seems completely disingenuous.

On the other hand, maybe there is something different about Gruber (from professional politicians). Maybe there is some semblance of sincerity in his obsequious explanation for the “glib” and “inappropriate” remarks when he says, that he was not as smart as he thought he was and should not have tried to wade into the politics of the Act. Politicians would not be so glib (think candid). They are more practiced in the art of making appropriate remarks (think spin and cover up). Gruber’s forthright (albeit arrogant) admissions of the game plan for Obamacare would not come out of a practiced politician’s mouth.

In the same congressional hearing, Jonathan Gruber stated under oath that he was not the “architect” of Obamacare. (Fox News) Calling him the “architect” may or may not be an accurate description, but he was most certainly involved. Gruber may not have been “the” architect of Obamacare, but he spoke at length on the “detail we considered when we wrote the Law” at a presentation in 2012. (January 18, 2012 Speech) During the recent congressional hearing, Gruber refused to disclose how much money he made from his work on Obamacare. ( (unofficial estimates are between $2 million and $5.9 million))

It appears that Gruber has learned a thing or two about politics since he made the candid remarks that got him trouble, and that is not a good thing.

I am afraid that the real problem with politics in this country will be lost in the partisan scramble to make hay out of the Gruber debacle. People will forget the exposure of the ugly underbelly of politics for all of the furor over health care issues. They will miss the forest for the trees. Health care is an important issue in this country, as Gruber even pointed out. We need to fix health care, but Gruber exposes a more fundamental, farther-reaching and indemic problem, and that is politics itself!

I am afraid that problem will be swept under the rug, by both sides. Gruber’s forthright statements about non-transparency are fodder for Republican opportunists, but they may only be useful for partisan purposes. They will be used to advance the conservative cause, but they are much too dangerous to be used for any other purpose. If Congress took the time to focus on the what is wrong with politics, they would all have to play dumb.