As regular readers of the Web log know, my extended family is… well, extensive. This is primarily due to my big sister Rose, who has a huge brood of cute, lovely, bright children and her husband’s brother’s family, which is quite close and equally as populous. Consequently, events like Christmas dinner have traditionally required elaborate prior planning, and this year was supposed to be no exception. Then, of course, things changed quite quickly in November, and all of that was canceled, rather reluctantly and not without a considerable amount of annoyance, by family matriarch Rose.
So, following the advice of the Centers for Disease Control to avoid participation in large gatherings during the holidays, I spent this Christmas at my home in Great Falls, Virginia with my friend Cerise, just as I have been spending most holidays since March of 2020. The dinner menu included a fresh wild Canada goose that, naturally, I had to order well in advance (in October, actually) from an organic butcher shop in McLean, and which, obviously, I had intended to prepare as the centerpiece of the anticipated 2021 Yuletide spread at Rose’s place – with roasted Black Forest chestnut and wild boar sausage stuffing. The goose being a fait accompli, we resigned ourselves to having lot of delectable leftovers. There are worse problems to have. That being a lot of food for two people, we accompanied it simply with roasted fingerling potatoes harvested from the Chilean altiplano with Languedoc Périgord black truffles in a Pyrenees goat butter sauce and a salad of endive, hearts of palm, watercress and dandelion greens garnished with roasted Tuscan pine nuts, dressed in estate-bottled early harvest Sitia olive oil, twenty-year-old Antica Acetaia Mandrio balsamic vinegar of Modena and a pinch of gray Breton sea salt. It being Christmas, I decided on a nice bottle of Vietti Rocche di Castiglione 2016 to accompany that. For dessert, I likewise kept it light – champagne sorbet I improvised using a bottle of Dom Perignon 2010 I just happened to have in the fridge.
The sorbet had to wait, however, since just as I was clearing the table in anticipation of fetching it from the kitchen, my land line rang, and the Caller ID indicated it was my brother-in-law, Henry “Hank” Pawlikowski, Rose’s husband. I put the telephone on speaker mode so Cerise wouldn’t feel left out of the conversation. For the last few years, she’s always had some choice words for him.
Tom: Hank, what is it?
Hank: Tom, it’s Shannon! She’s in the hospital!
Tom: What’s the matter with her?
Hank: She has covid – again!
Cerise: Well, now, that’s hardly surprising, is it? What with you and Shannon hanging around in that “survival complex” out in the boondocks of West Virginia in your MAGA hats staring at computer screens reading conspiracy theories on Facebook with your lunatic friends, waiting for the world to end, spewing corona virus all over each other yelling about how liberal Democrats eat babies and so forth.
Hank: Oh, hi, Cerise. Uh… season’s greetings.
Cerise: Same to you. Have you been to court yet regarding your arrest for participation in the January 6 insurrection?
Hank: Um… no, not yet.
Tom: And you did take my advice about that, right?
Hank: Uh, yeah. But I haven’t testified against anybody yet, and none of them know I’m state’s evidence.
Cerise: You’re lucky.
Hank: Uh-huh. And Tom got me a real good lawyer. Oh, and thanks, Tom. I really appreciate you… um… ah…
Tom: Paying him.
Hank: Uh, yeah. I’m eternally grateful.
Tom: At this point, counting his retainer, you eternally owe me twenty-six thousand, seven hundred and eighty dollars in legal fees for your case.
Hank: Yeah, yeah, Tom… um… I will definitely pay you back, I swear.
Tom: You were total fool to traipse down Pennsylvania Avenue and storm the Capitol just because Donald Trump told you to.
Hank: Yeah, yeah, I know… I was absolutely a complete, utter fool.
Cerise: And I hope you’ve learned your lesson about believing what you see and hear on Fox News. You’re aware of the fact that Fox “newscasters” and “commentators” were advising Trump in his conspiracy to overthrow the United States government prior to January 6, 2021, correct?
Hank: They… what?
Cerise: Oh, you’re not? Well, you are now. It came out last week as part of the Select Committee’s investigation.
Hank: Tom – is she serious?
Tom: Serious as a heart attack, Hank. We’re talking outright treason here, so when the time comes, you better sing like a canary for those federal prosecutors.
Hank: Uh… yeah… don’t worry about it, I will, I will. Look, Tom, I took Shannon back to the same hospital that she was in when she got covid the first time, and they ran some tests, and I’m really, really worried about her.
Tom: What tests?
Hank: It’s the same doctor, too. He told me that the first time she had covid the test showed it was, um… you know… the first kind…
Tom: Original Flavor Covid-19.
Hank: Yeah, basically.
Cerise: That would be what the scientists call the “wild type,” the virus that either jumped from an animal to a human at the Wuhan Wet Market or escaped from the Wuhan Institute of Virology laboratories, depending on who you ask, in 2019.
Tom: So what does she have now?
Hank: That’s just it, Tom. The doctor says the tests show she has… what he calls “concurrent infections” of delta and omicron.
Cerise: Sounds like you have plenty to worry about, then. Omicron evolved when someone developed concurrent infections with beta covid, HIV and the common cold.
Hank: HIV? My God, the doctor never said anything about that.
Tom: It’s true, unfortunately – omicron shares the same genetic sequence fragment with the HCoV-229E cold virus and human immunodeficiency virus. When two or more viruses infect a person, they all start doing the same thing – making copies of themselves using the molecular machinery of the human cell. The result is all kinds of virus genes mixed up together, and what can come out of that sometimes amounts to a microscopic Frankenstein’s monster. It’s just a consequence of the way virus evolution works.
Hank: Shannon doesn’t believe in evolution.
Cerise: And evolution doesn’t care what Shannon believes.
Tom: Some virologists theorize that the gene fragment has something to do with suppressing immunity, which could explain why omicron is so contagious and evades both natural and vaccine immune responses. But there’s another theory that omicron evolved when an earlier covid variant jumped from humans to an animal and then back to humans again. And there are several more – never any lack of theories in a situation like this.
Hank: That’s… fascinating, Tom. But I’m really worried about what might happen if Shannon… you know… dies this time.
Cerise: Perhaps you ought to be more concerned about what will happen if she lives.
Hank: Huh? What do you mean?
Cerise: Knowing Shannon, I can just see her walking out of the hospital, still convinced that covid is a hoax and telling herself that she obviously only had a case of pneumonia brought on by the exhaustion resulting from all the work she’s doing preparing for the End Times and / or the reinstatement of Donald J Trump as the rightful President of the United States; all the while refusing to wear a mask, naturally, and spewing some new covid variant that’s as contagious as omicron and as deadly as delta all over everyone she meets.
Hank: Um, well, now that you mention it, they do have her in an isolation room.
Tom: As well they should. It’s people like her that are responsible for the government’s inability to end the pandemic. Even with wild type covid, we needed an eighty percent vaccination rate, nationwide, to halt the spread. Then with delta, that requirement went up to eighty-five percent. Now, with omicron, we’ll have to get ninety-five percent of the population vaccinated with at least three shots before it stops spreading.
Cerise: Face it, Hank, people like Shannon are murderers – they’re responsible for at least three hundred thousand dead Americans who would have lived if Shannon and the other forty million half-wit Typhoid Marys running around places like Florida, Alabama, Texas, Ohio – and oh, yes, let’s not forget West Virginia – had just gotten vaccinated and worn masks in the first place!
Tom: Hey, Hank – something just occurred to me. How come you didn’t end up in the hospital with Shannon, like you did last time?
Hank: Um… promise you won’t tell Shannon?
Tom: Tell her what?
Hank: Or anybody else? Please?
Tom: Oh, okay, I promise. Not tell them what?
Hank: After I recovered from covid, I got vaccinated.
Cerise: No! Really?
Hank: Yeah, I just couldn’t stand the thought of getting it again.
Tom: At least having it convinced you that it’s real, which is more than I can say for Shannon.
Hank: It’s real all right. It feels like somebody is choking you to death and it goes on for days and days. And I still can’t taste stuff like I used to, and I’m getting a lot of headaches for no reason. No way I wanted any more of that. So anyway, there’s this town three ridges over the mountains from where the survival compound is, and somebody volunteers to go there every month or thereabouts to buy ammo for our assault rifles. It’s the closest place with a gun shop that carries assault rifle ammo, and there’s a Walgreens down the block from the gun shop and a Shoney’s across the street. So after I bought the ammo, I’d go in the Shoney’s and order a burger or something and afterward I’d go into the bathroom and get in a stall and put on a disguise…
Cerise: A disguise?
Hank: Yeah, in case someone who knows us folks from the survival compound recognized me – somebody from the gun shop, for instance. It’s a small town. You can’t be too careful – if anybody at the compound found out I was getting vaccinated, I was afraid they might think I was an FBI informant or something. It could be ugly. So anyhow, then I’d go into Walgreens and get a shot.
Cerise: Did you give them your real name for the vaccination card?
Hank: No, I gave them a made-up name. But seeing as how hardly anyone was coming in to get vaccinated, they didn’t ask a whole lot of questions. Then they’d give me a card and I’d tear it up in real tiny pieces and throw it away, then change out of my disguise. I did that three times with three different disguises.
Tom: So you got three shots?
Hank: Yeah, the first time I got Johnson and Johnson. Then delta started up and so I went back for another shot, but they didn’t have Johnson and Johnson anymore, they had Moderna, so I got that. Then I couldn’t get back for about six weeks, and the third time all they had was Pfizer, so I got that.
Cerise: And they didn’t ask to see your vaccination card for the second shot?
Hank: I told them it was my first shot, every time.
Tom: And they didn’t recognize you?
Hank: I wore different disguises.
Tom: Three different vaccines? Well, I’d say a wide spectrum immunization regime like that, combined with the natural immunity you developed from your initial covid infection, together are probably responsible for keeping you out of the hospital. How about the rest of your… colleagues… at the survival complex?
Hank: Most of them are in the hospital, too, just not as bad off as Shannon.
Cerise: And nobody’s suspicious because you haven’t come down with covid again?
Hank: Hmm… good point… I guess nobody’s thought of that yet.
Tom: Sounds like this might be a good time for you to return to Fairfax and beg Rose to take you back.
Hank: I can’t just leave Shannon here! It wouldn’t be right!
Cerise: So you’re going to wait around for your fellow lunatics to recover from covid and notice that you’re the only one who didn’t get sick? What do you figure they will do if they conclude you’re some kind of fink – shoot you and feed your carcass to the bears or just throw you out of their Apocalypse nutcase club?
Hank: Um… I hadn’t really thought about that yet.
Cerise: Sounds like thinking’s not a big priority up there in your neck of the woods. Lucky for you, maybe, huh? With all due respect to Shannon, I suggest you get while the getting’s good. If she dies, you will have overstayed your welcome, I presume, and if she doesn’t, it won’t matter if you’re not there while she’s spraying your buddies with whatever horrendous new variant she’s cooked up in that isolation room. And hey, who’s to say that your natural immunity plus three covid shots will be enough to withstand an assault from her new viral creation? You might end up with covid again after all.
Hank: Oh, Jesus! I never…
Cerise: Thought of that. Right. My recommendation is, you start thinking about it now.
Hank: Look, you guys, you don’t understand! Shannon can’t stop believing that covid isn’t real! Because if she did, see, then it’s like… I donno… it’s like… it’s like a row of dominoes… you know, where somebody stands a bunch of dominoes up in a line next to each other, and then they give the last one a push and they all fall over, each one knocking over the one next to it? It’s like that! If Shannon has to admit that covid isn’t a hoax, then that means the Jewish space lasers aren’t real either! It means that Comet Ping Pong Pizza isn’t actually a front for liberal Democrat pedophiles to do dirty things to little children in a hidden dungeon in the basement! It means the lizard aliens aren’t here to put a satanic-globo-communist in the White House and establish a world tyranny for the Illuminati! It means that those weren’t crisis actors faking the mass school shootings! It means the Hollywood elites aren’t doing adrenochrome harvesting! It means that JFK isn’t still alive and coming back to Dallas for a resurrection! It means that the vaccines don’t contain microchips that the government put there for citizen tracking and population mind control! It means Red October is never going to happen! It means that humans cause global warming! It means astronauts actually landed on the moon! It means there’s really no Deep State to fight against! It means that there was no steal to stop, and there will never be a Reinstatement! It means Donald Trump is a pathological liar! For Christ’s sake, it means Barack Obama was born in Hawaii! God Almighty, I could go on all night! Forget about covid, if Shannon has to confront the fact that all of that is lies, she’ll drop dead of a heart attack!
Cerise: So tell me how that would not make the world a better place.
Tom: Darling, please! Shannon is Hank’s sister-in-law, after all.
Cerise: If cretins believing crap like that is helping to spread covid, my dear, sorry, but I say to hell with them, family or not.
Tom: You’re sexy when you’re being pragmatic, did you know that?
Cerise: Yes. Want to kiss off this pathetic bozo and go get pragmatic in the bedroom?
Hank: Hey! Hey! Wait a minute!
Tom: And save the champagne sorbet for later?
Cerise: Right after, if you like.
Hank: Tom! This is serious! Tell me what to do!
Tom: Oh, all right. Hank, assuming Shannon survives the consequences of her ignorant stubbornness and inexcusable stupidity – the woman graduated from college, for Christ’s sake – what you need in order to steer her in the direction of reality is a wedge issue.
Hank: Wedge issue?
Tom: Yeah, something that she probably believes that has some credible basis in reality. Remind her of that and then start talking her toward…
Hank: Uh, Tom?
Hank: I can’t do that.
Hank: She can’t talk. She’s on a ventilator.
Cerise: Madre de Dios! Seventy-five percent of covid patients placed on a ventilator die! Why are we even bothering to discuss this?
Tom: Can she listen?
Hank: Yeah, but if she can’t argue back, I’m pretty sure talking to her about stuff like this is just going to make her angry.
Tom: Okay, in that case, let’s assume she is taken off that ventilator and has recovered to the extent necessary to have a conversation.
Tom: They what you should do is engage her in a conversation about me – it could be anything – you gave me call at Christmas and I wished you both the best, and I say Rose got a bonus for high grades in her elementary school classes, and Hank Junior just sold a non-fungible token to one of his artworks for half a million dollars…
Hank: He what!
Tom: You know, if you weren’t holed up in the sticks with piles of guns, ammo and dynamite waiting for the end of civilization, and you communicated with your family instead of ignoring them while insisting that your crazy survivalist plans are going to save them from some imagined impending catastrophe that never seems to happen, you might not find that so astonishing. Now, as I was saying…
Hank: Do you think he could loan me some money?
Tom: Focus, Hank…. focus…
Hank: Oh. Okay, sorry. You were saying?
Tom: I’m thinking, Hillary Clinton.
Hank: Hillary Clinton.
Tom: Yes, Hillary Clinton. I assume Shannon hates her?
Hank: With a passion, yeah.
Tom: Okay, so, start with the hometown DC small talk and work the conversation around to Hillary Clinton and mention that, hey, you know, Tom despises her, too.
Hank: You do?
Tom: Oh, come on, who doesn’t? Only the most politically correct, cancel-culture brainwashed, half-witted woke zombies have even the least scintilla of respect for that hectoring, no-talent harpy. Sure, she thinks she’s a genius, but what bumbling incompetent who has held one or more positions of power more or less by dumb luck doesn’t? If she hadn’t been married to William Jefferson Clinton, where would she have ended up? As the head of some political science or law department at an unexceptional university somewhere; and you know everybody on the faculty would absolutely revile her.
Hank: Um… okay… I guess so. Is there anything specific I should point out?
Tom: Start with how she totally botched healthcare reform when her husband appointed her to run it. Then, there’s a whole litany of shady deals and outright screw-ups when she was secretary of state under Obama – the illegal foreign contributions to the Clinton Foundation, using her private email server for State Department business during her entire tenure as Secretary of State…
Hank: Hold on a second, I think I should write this down.
Tom: No problem.
Cerise: He better write it down; the list of Hillary’s misdeeds and disasters is longer than the list of women who accused her husband of sexual assault.
Tom: I’ll try to just hit the highlights. You ready, Hank?
Hank: Yeah, yeah, keep going.
Tom: Her unauthorized releases of classified information that endangered State Department personnel all over the world; the Russian employee of the Secret Service at the Moscow embassy who gave classified US information to the Russian Federal Security Service; the 2012 attack on the US embassy in Benghazi, Libya; the thousands of emails from her private servers found on sex pervert Anthony Weiner’s laptop…
Cerise: She had resigned as Secretary of State to run for president when that happened.
Tom: Okay, point taken, let’s agree to include the post-State resignation period, then. Okay, so when she was still Secretary of State, there was the derailing of an IRS suit and her subsequent deal that allowed the coverup of ninety percent of USB secret Swiss bank account holders; her completely incompetent handling of the Honduran constitutional crisis; her bumbling attempts at mediation of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks; her amateurish attempts at negotiation with Iran that lead to escalation of Iranian nuclear programs; the absurd imbroglio she sparked with the United Kingdom about the Falklands oil fields; the mindless injection of the US into disputes over the Paracel and Spratley Islands…
Cerise: Do you think Shannon is… um… sophisticated enough to understand all of those examples?
Tom: Ah… also a good point. How about we look at her performance as a US senator? She voted to let the Wall Street bankers and hedge fund billionaires off the hook for the 2008 economic collapse driven by a real estate bubble she promoted with her Senate votes – what’s more, she simply voted the same way Charles Schumer did on every financial bill, which is to say, in favor of Wall Street every time. And she avoided being a sponsor for one hundred and sixty-four of one hundred and eighty-nine financial Senate bills when she was in office. And of the bills she did sponsor, every single one was backed by Schumer.
Hank: That’s good, that’s good… Shannon’s always complaining about the crooks on Wall Street.
Tom: Okay, how about this – Clinton didn’t bat an eyelash when Wall Street lobbyists got Congress to repeal the Glass-Steagal Act…
Tom: They abolished the barrier between commercial and investment banks.
Hank: There are two kinds of banks?
Cerise: I think maybe Hank better stick with the stupid stuff Hillary did when she was First Lady and Secretary of State, Tom – the simple stupid stuff.
Hank: Yeah, I think maybe Cerise is right. So anyway, the plan is, I tell Shannon what – that you and she have the same opinion of Hillary Clinton?
Tom: Well, not the same, but pretty close. And give Shannon some examples you think she’ll… um… comprehend.
Hank: Okay, I can do that. Then what?
Tom: Then praise Shannon for a few things she’s right about.
Hank: Ah… yeah… I’ll have to give that some thought, but I suppose I can think of some.
Tom: Good. Then observe that everybody occasionally gets something wrong, and look at the facts, she’s had covid twice now. So maybe she made a bit of a mistake when she thought that covid is a hoax.
Hank: And you’re sure she’s going to buy that?
Tom: No, but it’s better than doing nothing and letting her persist in her delusions. And if you can get her to admit she was wrong about covid because she believed in imaginary things without any facts behind them, then… slowly… try to get her to examine some of the other ridiculous things she believes and admit to herself… slowly… that she made some mistakes – perfectly understandable, forgivable mistakes, naturally – and nothing she needs to get upset about; nothing anyone expects an apology for, but mistakes, nonetheless. And if this works, and she starts blubbering and crying and makes a big thing out of how asinine and moronic she was, and she wants to apologize to you, her family or somebody else, what do you do?
Hank: Agree with her?
Tom: No! Of course not! You tell her she was being intelligent, but the problem was, she was reasoning from false premises! Can you say “reasoning from false premises?” Say “reasoning from false premises.”
Hank: Reasoning from false premises.
Tom: I knew you could. And tell her that’s no big deal. Tell her that Aristotle, who was so smart, he invented logic, used it to conclude a whole lot of stuff that was wrong. And why? Because he applied perfectly good logic, just like smart person such as Shannon would do, but reasoned from false premises. For example, I can say, “The moon is made of green cheese, therefore water is composed of hydrogen and oxygen,” or, I can say, “The moon is made of green cheese, therefore water is composed of star light and fairy snot.” Logically, both statements are true.
Hank: They are?
Tom: Yes, because logically, the statement “If P therefore Q” is equivalent to “The opposite of P or Q.”
Hank: The opposite of P?
Tom: Yes – “not-P.”
Hank: Not P or Q?
Tom: No, it’s not “Not P or Q”… it’s “Not-P”… or... “Q.” “The opposite of P”… or… “Q.”
Hank: So the opposite of “the moon is made of green cheese,” is “the moon is not made of green cheese.”
Tom: Yes, Which a is true statement: The moon is not made of green cheese. You see? If P is false, then Not-P is always true, no matter what Q is, and the logical statement “Not-P or Q” will always be true, no matter whether Q is true or false. And the difference here is that the conclusion of the first statement is true, while the conclusion of the second statement is false.
Hank: So you’re saying, if you assume something false to begin with, you can conclude anything.
Cerise: Holy smokes, it’s beginning to look like he’s smarter than I thought!
Hank: Oh… I see... and that’s how QAnon works!
Tom: And Donald Trump, and Tucker Carlson, and Louie Gohmert and Marjorie Taylor Green, and Michael Lindell, and others too numerous to mention, yes. That’s how they do it. They assume something that isn’t true and then construct an argument that concludes anything they care to imagine. Now, you think you can get that across to Shannon?
Hank: Um… ah… yeah… I think I can!
Tom: Well then, do it!
Hank: Okay! Thanks, Tom!
Tom: You’re welcome.
Hank: Oh, and I almost forgot to tell you – Shannon still never got any medical insurance.
Hank: And her current medial bill is… ah…. I got it here… yeah… um… twenty-two thousand four hundred ninety-one dollars and thirty-six cents. Past due. Could you…
Tom: Text me an address and I’ll Fed-Ex a check to it for thirty thousand. You still have ID so you can cash it, right?
Hank: Yeah, yeah, I do! Oh, Jesus, Tom! Thanks! You have no idea how…
Tom: Yes I do. Shannon may be a pathetic piece of work, but she’s still your sister-in-law. And you’re my brother-in-law, so that makes her part of my family.
Hank: Right, Tom, for sure – family forever!
Tom: And you two morons are going to pay me back every cent, aren’t you?
Hank: Oh, yeah, absolutely, you can count on it!
Tom: So I’ll put it on your tab, because I haven’t gotten back a dime of the money I gave you guys to keep Shannon out of the graveyard the last time she ended up in the ICU with covid.
Hank: Yeah, yeah, Tom, I know – not to worry, I got this.
Tom: You better. Anything else?
Hank: No, no, that’s great, Tom, totally awesome! Thanks! And Merry Christmas!
Cerise: And a happy New Year to you, loser!
Tom: Don’t forget to text me that address! Goodbye!