CSotD: Varying Comments on the Variant

Martyn Turner provides a good starting point by celebrating the fact that we’ve long since lost track of the starting point and it’s all ups and downs now.

Turner is Irish, hence the snakes. The game we Yanks call “Chutes and Ladders” is “Snakes and Ladders” elsewhere because of its Indian origins, but it’s played the same and snakes are a more threatening image.

Which doesn’t matter much in the board game but works well in this context.


Brazilian cartoonist Carlos Amorim (Cartoon Arts Intl) offers a second brilliant game-based metaphor, albeit one you need to be a futbol fan to appreciate.

This is terrific work in large part because there is so little substitution in soccer and we don’t know if this is a case of taking a weary player out of the game for some fresh legs, or if the coronavirus team is behind and needs some scoring or is ahead and wants a defender to hold their lead.

If it mattered, that would be a flaw. As it is, it lets you ponder, and that seems quite appropriate, given that we’re not yet sure what’s going on with this new variant.

Which brings us to our first

Juxtaposition of the Day

(Paresh Nath – Cartoon Arts Int’l)


(Ramses Morales Izquierdo – Cartoon Movement)

The omicron variant is still being studied, but the South Africans who first identified it report that the people being hospitalized are not vaccinated, which isn’t actual proof of anything but is a pretty good hint, which these cartoonists take in slightly different directions.

Morales points out that the medical profession has been begging people to become vaccinated, and portrays this vulnerable anti-vaxxer as a tin-foil nitwit, while Paresh turns things somewhat, making it an accusation against deliberate, boneheaded idiocy.

On a purely pragmatic level, this may be a distinction without a difference, but there are a variety of levels in which it does matter.


Greg Kearney, for instance, accuses the Republicans of purposely downplaying the threat of the coronavirus for political advantage, and it’s hard to argue with  him.

There are many things being bruited about that are hard to believe, but high on the list is the notion that, among all the Senators, Representatives and Governors in the GOP, there is absolutely nobody smart enough to recognize the value of vaccines and of masks.

While the party seems oddly loyal to some genuine fruitcakes, certainly they can’t all be so paranoid and so scientifically illiterate that none of them see what’s going on.

But, hey, it means they don’t need to shoot anyone on Fifth Avenue. They can just hand out bad advice and kill them by playing to their insecurities and their fears.

And, similarly, it doesn’t seem to cost them a single vote.


The outbreak has stoked some truly irrational conspiracies on both sides, including A.F. Branco (Creators)’s theory that Chinese leader Xi Jinping bullied the World Health Organization into skipping over the next Greek letter out of fear of him rather than because he’s one of many people to bear the name.

The most screwy take I’ve seen so far, however, is that the variant was announced in order to distract us from the start of the Ghislane Maxwell trial. Branco’s conspiracy only takes place at a political level, while that one requires a jump into a completely other universe of paranoia.

This, too, may be a distinction without a difference. I remain in favor of handing out fake earbuds to people who wander around talking to themselves, but they seem to be doing a pretty good job these days of blending in anyway.


Juxtaposition of the Day #2

(Bob Gorrell – Creators)

(Dana Summers – Tribune)

It’s not all paranoia. Some of the factually dubious things being said are traditional political spin, and it’s hard to know how much is being said in loyalty to the party and how much is deliberate deception.

This popular accusation — discounted here by Politifact and here by CNN — is based on a remark Biden made during the campaign, in which he accused Trump of being xenophobic on the same day that Trump announced travel restrictions, but, as pointed out in those links, he said it too close to the announcement for it to be definitely taken as a comment on that specific move.

Certainly, Trump’s blatant bigotry against Muslim immigration and his remarks about “shithole countries” made xenophobia a credible evergreen charge, while his insistence on referring to the virus as “the Chinese Virus” and even “Kung Flu” justify pointing out his bigotry on that particular topic, travel restrictions aside.


Kevin Siers brings up a more complex accusation, which is that the vaccines are not being distributed in a fair manner.

It’s certainly true that, while the US is at about two-thirds vaccinated, South Africa has only about a quarter of its adult population protected.

It’s not, however, as simple as rich people hoarding the medicine for themselves, though there is an element of Bat Masterson’s observation that life is fair because the rich get ice in the summer and the poor get it in the winter.

The issue came up at yesterday’s White House press briefing, and Jen Psaki said the South Africans have not been requesting more vaccines, that the problem is not supply but distribution.

Still, other nations accuse the Biden Administration of publicly favoring patent waivers so that vaccines can be produced in other countries while failing to follow through with meaningful action in that direction.

As said, this one is complex, and not the sort of problem that responds well to endless debate. We need some rapid debate, given the facts already known.


Juxtaposition of the Day #3

(Rico Schacherl)


(Walt Handelsman – AMS)

We’ll end this otherwise grim roundup with a reminder that great minds think alike and also that shit happens.

This is pure coincidence. It’s impossible to believe that Handelsman, who is based in Louisiana, could possibly have stolen this from Schacherl, who lives in Johannesburg, or vice-versa.

After all, it’s a whole 600 miles from Baton Rouge to Laredo, where we are assured by Governor Abbott  that Texas and South Africa share a common border.


(Careful, there, Greg. You’re gonna lose the redneck vote.)

11 thoughts on “CSotD: Varying Comments on the Variant

  1. Nothing to do with Omicron, but an observation on cultural references becoming obsolete: the doctor on the right in the cartoon by Ramses Morales Izquierdo is wearing a head mirror. A couple of months ago I gave a talk to a group of new medical residents and I wore a head mirror because reasons.

    Not one of the residents knew what it was or what it did.

  2. While I enjoy both the cartoons and commentary, we need to clarify a few facts.

    1. The “vaccine” is a therapeutic, whose sole purpose is to lessen the effects of SARS-CoV-2 should you become infected. It does NOT eradicate the virus nor does it inhibit its spread, as both the vaccinated and the unvaccinated carry the same viral load (the ability to pass the virus on to others).

    2. Out of dozens and dozens of peer-reviewed studies, NOT ONE has found masks effective against influenza. Why does this matter? Because Covid-19 and influenza are similar in size. Surgical and N-95 offer 95% effectiveness for any particle, bacteria or virus larger than 300 nanometers. Both influenza and SARS-CoV-2 range fro 40-160 nanometers, making mask ineffective.

    3. A recent study found that ONE-THIRD of U.S. citizens had been infected in 2020. This is prior to any vaccine being available and may be a large contributing factor to why many choose not to be vaccinated. Further, here to there are multiple studies that have found a ZERO benefit to the shot if you have been previously infected.

    In fact, in Shrestha, et al (2021) they found:

    “Not one of the 1359 previously infected subjects who remained unvaccinated had a SARS-CoV-2 infection over the duration of the study. Individuals who have had SARS-CoV-2 infection are unlikely to benefit from COVID-19 vaccination…”

    4. The notion that natural immunity is inferior to this particular vaccine is anti-science. We know from a 2008 study of living survivors of the 1918 Spanish flu epidemic that ” 100% of the subjects had serum-neutralizing activity against the 1918 virus and 94% showed serologic reactivity to the 1918 hemagglutinin.” Even Dr. Fauci commented on the study to the Associated Press stating …”This is the mother of all immunological memory here.”

  3. @David Aplin-

    Regarding point #2- while it is obvious that viruses are too small to be trapped by masks, are these studies only considering virus size or the size of the aerosols that the virus hitch a ride on? I’m not a virologist nor a microbiologist, but my understanding is that masks trap or at least slow down the droplets expelled from our mouths and noses that transport virus are thus a effective in reducing transmission.

  4. In response to Mr Applin

    1: In Shrestha, et al (2021) they found:

    “vaccination was associated with a significantly lower risk of SARS-CoV-2 infection among those not previously infected (HR 0.031, 95% CI 0.015 to 0.061)”

    The vaccine is not merely therapeutic but prevents infections. We know that people who have been vaccinated can still get infected with Covid-19. What we don’t know is if this is due to the difference between the vaccine produced antibodies or Covid-19 infection produced antibodies. It maybe that people who had mild or asymptomatic infections can be re-infected.

    2: Here is a study on the effectiveness of face masks in preventing the transmission of flu or covid-19


    “A total of 21 studies met our inclusion criteria. Meta-analyses suggest that mask use provided a significant protective effect (OR = 0.35 and 95% CI = 0.24–0.51). ”

    3: It is estimated that one third of Americans have been infected with Covid-19.


    “However, the ascertainment rate remained well below 100 percent, as individuals with mild or asymptomatic infections, who could still spread the virus, were less likely to be tested.”

    Many, if not most, people who have been infected are unaware that they were infected with Covid-19. Unless a person has tested positive for Covid-19 they would be better off getting the vaccination

    4: No one is saying that natural immunity is inferior to vaccination. It is better to achieve herd immunity through vaccination than letting the disease run its natural course which would result in many hospitalizations and deaths.


    Over 386K Americans have dies this year. Is that really a viable plan? Just let enough people die and who ever is left will be ok.

  5. Mr. Applin,

    I am not an epidemiologist, but for professional reasons, I aggressively follow the bona fide science re COVID (CDC, JAMA, ISGlobal, NIH, etc.). Your post is not completely factual and is full of anti-vacc talking points.

    1. You wrote, “…both the vaccinated and the unvaccinated carry the same viral load (the ability to pass the virus on to others).” This may be accurate if a vaccinated person has the COVID virus in his/her upper respiratory tract. However, an unvaccinated person, even an asymptomatic person, can have the virus streaming through his/her body with no immune system response. Of course that unvaccinated individual has a far greater viral load.

    2. You wrote, “Out of dozens and dozens of peer-reviewed studies, NOT ONE has found masks effective against influenza.” Please cite five. Also, please see

    3. You wrote, “Further, here to there are multiple studies that have found a ZERO benefit to the shot if you have been previously infected.” Other than the Shrestha study, please provide cites. Also see regarding a June 2021 study reaching the opposite conclusion. https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/70/wr/mm7032e1.htm

    4, You wrote, “The notion that natural immunity is inferior to this particular vaccine is anti-science.” This is the statement that, for me, establish you are just another anti-vax misinformation pusher. Please leave this blog alone.

  6. If rethuglicans can, by lies, by hook or by crook, keep folks from being vaxx’d, causing hospitalization/death rates to increase, it gives them something to blame PRESIDENT Biden for in 2024, and could even be used in the 2022 elections. Cynical? Perhaps. I prefer to think of it as realistic.

    I mean, look at what they’re doing with the supply chain issue . . . blaming it on PRESIDENT Biden. Oh, and the increase in gas prices. Blame PRESIDENT Biden.

    Hubby and I have finally admitted that this pandemic and its aftereffects won’t be gone in our lifetimes, if ever.

  7. Dentists surgeons and nurses consistently wore face masks for DECADES before the pandemic *because they worked•.

    They didn’t wear them as theater or so that if the surgery went wrong they couldn’t be identified. They wore/wear them because, despite claims to the contrary they reduced transmission of airborne viruses

    Medical knowledge has progressed much in the hundred years since the Spanish flu pandemic. Even those who have no official medical training but can only look at history understand vaccines were few, not readily available, or easily produced, and were mostly live cultures. To suggest that the limited precautions available to ancestors at that time are good enough to continue to be depended upon today is not rational..

  8. Commenters be aware: While we appreciate sourcing facts our AI bots will put comments in a holding pattern when more than one url is in a reply.
    We just released a couple above from their cages.

  9. Thanks Bill, for pointing that out. But in some ways the mechanics of infection are beside the point. David Applin’s points are variations on a single theme, namely that if a solution isn’t 100% effective, it’s worthless. Mitigation counts for nothing in this point of view.

    The problem is that life is fraught with risk, and reducing risk saves lives. Full Stop. Vaccines, Masks, and distance have all been shown to do that, and is the reason that unvaccinated people so heavily outnumber vaccinated people in new infrastructure.

    To touch a little on the droplet thing – what Applin is offering (and what the study he cites is offering) is a straw man argument. Noting that a virion can pass through a mask, while its medium of transmission cannot is willfully misleading. One need to have paid only a little attention to the science to realize that. The virions size doesn’t matter if the droplet carrying it is stopped.

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