Fighting real misinformation from…the government

The U.S. surgeon general sent a message to all 50 states asking for examples of misinformation on COVID during the pandemic. Here was what the surgeon general was expecting: long lists of local social media posts from deplorable people who dared to question the official government narrative.

In the case of at least one brilliant attorney general from the state of Indiana, however, what the surgeon general got was a long list of the misinformation and disinformation peddled by the U.S. federal government. Collaborating with Dr. Jay Bhattacharya, Professor at Stanford University School of Medicine and Dr. Martin Kulldorff, Senior Research Fellow at the Brownstone Institute and former Professor at Harvard University School of Medicine, Indiana Atty General Todd Rokita detailed a few of the most egregious examples of misinformation from the government.

(It might be worth pointing out that M* has discussed many of these issues since the beginning of the pandemic, so it is nice to see our perspective corroborated).

1 Overcounting COVID-19: The official CDC numbers for COVID-19 deaths and hospitalizations are inaccurate. The official tallies include many people who have died with rather than from COVID-19. CDC has not distinguished deaths where COVID-19 was the primary cause of death, where COVID-19 was a contributing cause of death, or where the death was entirely unrelated to COVID-19, but they incidentally
tested positive. There are three reasons for this problem. (i) The counting of COVID-19 cases and deaths is unlike the way that public health counts the incidence and mortality caused by other diseases; physicians have been
advised to fill out death certificates to privilege COVID-19 as a proximal cause, even when the medical facts suggest otherwise. (ii) The population-wide testing to identify asymptomatic individuals infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus is unprecedented in human history. (iii) Although it would have been easy, CDC has not conducted random national surveys of medical charts to determine what proportion of reported
COVID-19 deaths were truly due to COVID-19. Ex-post audits of death certificates and medical records in Santa Clara County and Alameda County, California, for instance, found that in ~25% of death certificates in which COVID-19 was labeled as the primary cause of death, other causes of death were more likely.

2 Questioning Natural Immunity: There has been consistent questioning and denying of natural immunity after COVID-19 recovery. Using seriously flawed studies, CDC falsely claimed that natural immunity is worse than vaccine acquired immunity.
In October 2020, the CDC director published a “memorandum” in The Lancet, questioning natural immunity. Most critically, by mandating vaccination
for people who have recovered from COVID-19, the government, corporations, and universities de facto deny natural immunity. For scientists, this has been the most surprising disinformation. We have known about natural immunity
since the Athenian Plague in 430 BC; other coronaviruses generate natural immunity; and throughout the pandemic, we knew that the COVID-19 recovered have good natural immunity if and when they get exposed the next time.

3 COVID-19 Vaccines Prevent Transmission: The CDC director and other health officials falsely claimed that the COVID-19 vaccine prevents the transmission of COVID-19 to others. This was also the rationale for vaccine mandates and passports — to prevent the spread of the virus to others.

4 School Closures Were Effective and Costless: In the United States, most schools were closed for in person teaching for some time, and many schools were closed for over a year. This decision was based on false claims that it would protect children, teachers, and the community at large. Already in the early summer of 2020, we knew this was false. Sweden was the only major Western country to keep schools
open throughout spring 2020 without masks, social distancing, or testing. Among these 1.8 million children ages 1 to 15, there were zero COVID-19 deaths, only a few hospitalizations, and teachers did not have a higher COVID-19 risk than the average of other professions.

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The LDS martial artist on The Ultimate Fighter

It seems like we encounter references to members or former members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints everywhere we look in popular culture these days. There is an HBO Max series called “Tokyo Vice,” and lo and behold one of the primary characters is a fictionalized former sister missionary who decides to leave the Church and stay in Japan where she works in the…ahem…female entertainment industry. Then there is the “Under the Banner of Heaven” TV series, which is all about Church members, who are mostly portrayed in a negative light.

Lindon Utah native Kaytlin Neil gets a much more positive portrayal on “The Ultimate Fighter,” which is airing every Tuesday on ESPN.

Kaytlin describes herself as the “black sheep” in her LDS family. Her two sisters are married with children, and Kaytlin likes to fight in a cage. We see images of Kaytlin training with teammates in Las Vegas and we see her in a Zoom video with her large Utah family. It’s almost as if Kaytlin went on a mission, but in this case the mission is to knock out or submit other young women.

The Ultimate Fighter pits eight flyweight (125 pound) women — and eight heavyweight men — against each other in weekly fights. If you win the first round, you go to the semi-finals, and if you win the semi-finals you get to compete on air at a UFC event to determine “The Ultimate Fighter” and win a guaranteed UFC contract. I am happy to say that women compete against other women, and men against other men. It is worth pointing out that many people who lose fights still eventually compete in the UFC, so we may see Kaytlin at UFC events even if she does not become The Ultimate Fighter.

Kaytlin’s father, who left the home because of intense addiction problems, died the week before her first fight. Kaytlin was obviously devasted, but she pulled through to win her fight by split decision against a tough fighter from Iowa. This means Kaytlin will advance to the semi-finals, which will be shown in the coming weeks on the show.

What many readers may not know is that US professional martial artists are a very diverse group. A surprising number, perhaps up to half of them, are born again Christians who credit Jesus after winning a fight. And of course there are a lot of people who are avowed secularists. Most martial artists are covered in tattoos, which is not the case with Kaytlin. She talks just like a returned missionary, which is definitely strange — but not unheard of — in the world of martial arts. Watch this video here:

I have been following professional martial arts for more the a decade, and I have gotten to know dozens of martial artists personally, and I have never met an LDS martial artist before. So I will be rooting for Katylin.

Thoughtful Faith Podcast

I came across the Thoughtful Faith Podcast this last week and have listened to a few of the episodes. And then as algorithms go, I discovered our own Jacob Hess was a guest on a recent episode. Listen, and then come back and give us your thoughts.

Who is profiting from the war in Ukraine?

From the Prophet Spencer W. Kimball in 1976:

The Lord gave us a choice world and expects righteousness and obedience to his commandments in return. But when I review the performance of this people in comparison with what is expected, I am appalled and frightened. Iniquity seems to abound. The Destroyer seems to be taking full advantage of the time remaining to him in this, the great day of his power. Evil seems about to engulf us like a great wave, and we feel that truly we are living in conditions similar to those in the days of Noah before the Flood…

In spite of our delight in defining ourselves as modern, and our tendency to think we possess a sophistication that no people in the past ever had — in spite of these things, we are, on the whole, an idolatrous people — a condition repugnant to the Lord.

We are a warlike people, easily distracted from our assignment of preparing for the coming of the Lord. When enemies rise up, we commit vast resources to the fabrication of gods of stone and steel — ships, planes, missiles, fortifications — and depend on them for protection and deliverance. When threatened, we become anti-enemy instead of pro-kingdom of God; we train a man in the art of war and call him a patriot, thus, in the manner of Satan’s counterfeit of true patriotism, perverting the Savior’s teaching:

“Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;
“That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 5:44-45).

So, who is profiting from the war in Ukraine and promoting idolatry in fabricating gods of stone and steel?

Read this story.

The war in Ukraine will indeed be a bonanza for the likes of Raytheon and Lockheed Martin. First of all, there will be the contracts to resupply weapons like Raytheon’s Stinger anti-aircraft missile and the Raytheon/Lockheed Martin-produced Javelin anti-tank missile that Washington has already provided to Ukraine by the thousands. The bigger stream of profits, however, will come from assured post-conflict increases in national-security spending here and in Europe justified, at least in part, by the Russian invasion and the disaster that’s followed.

Indeed, direct arms transfers to Ukraine already reflect only part of the extra money going to U.S. military contractors. This fiscal year alone, they are guaranteed to also reap significant benefits from the Pentagon’s Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative (USAI) and the State Department’s Foreign Military Financing (FMF) program, both of which finance the acquisition of American weaponry and other equipment, as well as military training. These have, in fact, been the two primary channels for military aid to Ukraine from the moment the Russians invaded and seized Crimea in 2014. Since then, the United States has committed around $5 billion in security assistance to that country.

According to the State Department, the United States has provided such military aid to help Ukraine “preserve its territorial integrity, secure its borders, and improve interoperability with NATO.” So, when Russian troops began to mass on the Ukrainian border last year, Washington quickly upped the ante. On March 31, 2021, the U.S. European Command declared a “potential imminent crisis,” given the estimated 100,000 Russian troops already along that border and within Crimea. As last year ended, the Biden administration had committed $650 million in weaponry to Ukraine, including anti-aircraft and anti-armor equipment like the Raytheon/Lockheed Martin Javelin anti-tank missile.

Despite such elevated levels of American military assistance, Russian troops did indeed invade Ukraine in February. Since then, according to Pentagon reports, the U.S. has committed to giving approximately $2.6 billion in military aid to that country, bringing the Biden administration total to more than $3.2 billion and still rising.

More here:

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Does the ‘render unto caesar’ story in the Bible mean Jesus was in favor of paying taxes?

Matthew 22:15-22

15 ¶ Then went the Pharisees, and took counsel how they might entangle him in his talk.

16 And they sent out unto him their disciples with the Herodians, saying, Master, we know that thou art true, and teachest the way of God in truth, aneither carest thou for any man: for thou bregardest not the person of men.

17 Tell us therefore, What thinkest thou? Is it alawful to give tribute unto Cæsar, or not?

18 But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, Why atempt ye me, ye hypocrites?

19 Shew me the tribute money. And they brought unto him a penny.

20 And he saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription?

21 They say unto him, Cæsar’s. Then saith he unto them, aRender therefore unto bCæsar the things which are Cæsar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s.

22 When they had heard these words, they marvelled, and left him, and went their way.

Many people today interpret the above passage as Jesus’ justification for taxation. I hear it in discussions all of the time, and in the modern world where Jesus must be used to justify social justice rhetoric, this passage is trotted out constantly by left-wingers and other lovers of taxation.

Any careful reading of this scripture and the Bible in general will, of course, render such a take ridiculous. It is clear that people at the time did not understand this parable to mean Jesus was justifying taxation — just the opposite, as I will show in this post.

The first and most obvious point is that In Luke 23:2, we read that the three charges brought against Jesus were that 1)he was a subversive 2)he was AGAINST paying taxes to Caesar and 3)he claims to be the Messiah. So, if the audiences at the time universally agreed that Jesus was in favor of paying taxes to Caesar (based on the render unto Caesar quotation), the second charge would have never been brought. The “render unto Caesar” quotation is in three of the four Gospels, including Luke 20:25, so clearly it was well known.

So, what is the correct interpretation of this passage? To completely understand it, we must know more about the history of the First century AD, the Roman occupation of Israel and coinage during the time.

The First Century AD was filled with anti-tax protests and uprisings in the Holy Land. There are several non-Biblical reports of Jewish tax revolts in the years before and after Jesus’ death. Judas the Galilean taught at the time that “taxation was no better than an introduction of slavery,” and he said the only legal tribute was to God. One of Pontius Pilate’s primary charges was to prevent more revolts against Roman rule, which is one reason the governor was in Jerusalem during Passover when Jesus was crucified.

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