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Tag: rand paul

It’s Better To Rebut Masking Opponents With Science, Not Censorship

Like many Americans, I do not like wearing a face mask that hurts my ears, steams up my glasses and makes my bearded face itch. And while I think businesses should be free to require face coverings as a safeguard against COVID-19, I am skeptical of government-imposed mask mandates, especially in K-12 schools.

At the same time, I recognize that my personal peeves and policy preferences are logically distinct from the empirical question of how effective masks are at preventing virus transmission. From the beginning, however, the great American mask debate has been strongly influenced by partisan and ideological commitments, with one side exaggerating the evidence in favor of this precaution and the other side ignoring or downplaying it.

Last September, Robert Redfield, then the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, described masks as "the most important, powerful public health tool we have," going so far as to say they provided more protection than vaccines would. In a 2020 New York Times op-ed piece, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer asserted that "wearing a mask has been proven to reduce the chance of spreading COVID-19 by about 70%" — a claim that even the CDC said was not scientifically justified.

The CDC invited skepticism about the value of general mask wearing by dismissing it until April 2020, when the agency suddenly began recommending the practice as an important weapon against the pandemic. Although that memorable reversal supposedly was justified by evolving science, the main concern that the CDC cited — asymptomatic transmission — was a danger that had been recognized for months.

When the CDC changed its advice, research on the effectiveness of face masks in preventing virus transmission was surprisingly sparse and equivocal. Although laboratory experiments supported the commonsensical assumption that almost any barrier to respiratory droplets, including DIY cloth coverings, was better than nothing, randomized controlled trials generally had not confirmed that intuition.

A January 2021 review of the evidence in the "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences" journal found "no RCT for the impact of masks on community transmission of any respiratory infection in a pandemic." The article, which also looked at observational studies, said "direct evidence of the efficacy of mask use is supportive, but inconclusive."

The authors then considered "a wider body of evidence," including epidemiological analyses, laboratory studies and information about COVID-19's transmission characteristics. "The preponderance of evidence," they concluded, "indicates that mask wearing reduces transmissibility per contact by reducing transmission of infected respiratory particles in both laboratory and clinical contexts."

In a "science brief" last updated on May 7, the CDC said "experimental and epidemiological data support community masking to reduce the spread of SARS-CoV-2." But it acknowledges that "further research is needed to expand the evidence base for the protective effect of cloth masks."

Where does that leave Americans who are unpersuaded by the existing evidence? Banned from major social media platforms, if they are not careful.

YouTube recently suspended Sen. Rand Paul's account because of a video in which the Kentucky Republican said, "most of the masks that you get over the counter don't work." This statement ran afoul of YouTube's ban on "claims that masks do not play a role in preventing the contraction or transmission of COVID-19," which is similar to policies adopted by Facebook and Twitter.

While conceding that "private companies have the right to ban me if they want to," Paul said he was troubled by the fact that the leading social media platforms, partly in response to government pressure, seem to be insisting that users toe the official line on COVID-19. He has a point.

Paul's criticism of cloth masks was stronger than the science warrants, reflecting a broader tendency on the right to dismiss them as mere talismans without seriously addressing the evidence in their favor. But rational discourse entails rebutting arguments by citing contrary evidence instead of treating them as too dangerous for people to consider.

Jacob Sullum is a senior editor at Reason magazine. Follow him on Twitter: @JacobSullum. To find out more about Jacob Sullum and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com

Rand Paul Tells Vaccinated To ‘Mind Your Own Business’

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Senator Rand Paul blasted millions of Americans who are fully vaccinated, telling them to "mind your own business" after complaining about those who say they don't want to eat in restaurants where everyone is not vaccinated.

"The bottom line is for those who are saying, 'I won't go to a restaurant unless we force everybody to be vaccinated,' if you're vaccinated you are overwhelmingly safe from hospitalization and death. Mind your own business," the Kentucky Republican said on Fox News.

Sen. Paul is correct about vaccinated people being "overwhelmingly safe from hospitalization and death," but COVID-19 can still make those vaccinated very ill, subject to long-term COVID, and can still be transmitted to those who are vaccinated or not vaccinated – including children, especially those who cannot be vaccinated. Americans are now seeing large increases in coronavirus cases and hospitalizations among children.

Paul also accused Democrats of "plucking" migrant children with COVID who have crossed the border into the U.S. and using them to "seed" new coronavirus variants across the country. His remarks seemed to somewhat echo those of far right Texas Republican Congressman Louie Gohmert, who once claimed a vast "terror babies" conspiracy: children being born in the U.S. by parents not legally in the country who would grow up to become terrorists against the nation.

"They're taking kids from down at the border who may have it, and they're plucking them up and putting them all over the United States, as if they're wishing to see the country with a new variant. It's an awful thing to do," Paul baselessly alleged.

Fauci Slams ‘Lying’ Rand Paul Over False Pandemic Accusation

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Sen. Rand Paul has been attacking Dr. Anthony Fauci for months, and on Tuesday the esteemed director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) fought back.

Sen. Paul on Tuesday accused Fauci of "responsibility for four million people dying around the pandemic."

An ophthalmologist, Paul has been trying to pin the cause of the coronavirus pandemic on Fauci for months, falsely claiming the immunologist funded the Wuhan, China lab research that allegedly led to "gain of function" ability for the SARS-COVID-2 virus to become transmissible to humans, a claim Fauci and other experts deny.

On Tuesday during a congressional hearing, Fauci unleashed over a year's worth of pent-up anger on the Republican from Kentucky.

After threatening Fauci, by saying lying to Congress is a federal offense, Paul asked him if he wanted to retract his earlier statements.

"Senator Paul, I have never lied before the Congress, and I do not retract that statement. This paper that you're referring to was judged by qualified staff, up and down the chain as not being gain of function," Fauci pointedly replied.

As Paul interrupted him, Fauci demanded, "let me finish."

"Senator Paul, you do not know what you are talking about, quite frankly, and I want to say that, officially, you do not know what you are talking about," the animated Fauci declared.

Paul accused Fauci of "dancing around this," and accused him of "trying to obscure responsibility for four million people dying around the pandemic."

After a heated exchange with Paul repeatedly interrupting Fauci, Fauci laid down the law: "You are implying that what we did was responsible for the deaths of individuals. I totally resent that. And if anybody was lying here, Senator. It is you."

Republicans Downplay Delta Variant Dangers — And Discourage Vaccination

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

Republicans are dismissing concerns that deadly coronavirus variants might bring new spikes as fear-mongering. But they are also discouraging the vaccines that could protect their constituents.

"No one cares about the Delta Variant or any other variant. They are over covid & there is no amount of fear based screaming from the media that will ever force Americans to shut down again," tweeted Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene on Monday. "Forced masks and vaccines will cause Dems to lose big. All voters are over covid."

Kentucky Rep. Thomas Massie tweeted charts to suggest that the Delta variant, which fueled major case spikes in India and is rapidly becoming the dominant strain of the coronavirus in the United States, is not all that scary.

"Don't let the fearmongers win," demanded Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul. "New public England study of delta variant shows 44 deaths out of 53,822 (.08%) in unvaccinated group. Hmmm."

Though less than half of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated and children under age 12 are not yet able to get any coronavirus inoculation, GOP lawmakers have pushed to lift all safety measures.

"Fully vaccinated Americans should be able to return to normal," wroteTennessee Rep. Diane Harshbarger last Monday, urging an end to mask requirements on airplanes.

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz agreed, bragging that he had backed legislation to lift the requirement and complaining that "every Dem" on the Commerce Committee voted against it.

"I joined my colleagues in calling on the Biden administration to end mask mandates for vaccinated Americans on planes and public transportation," wrote Wyoming Sen. Cynthia Lummis on Friday. "There'='s simply no science backing up this mandate. Wyoming citizens are ready to get back to life as normal."

After Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top epidemiologist, suggested he would wear a mask in areas with low vaccination rates as an extra precaution, Sen. Roger Marshall of Kansas claimed that his "flip-flop is what causes low vaccination rates — Americans feel like they're being lied to."

"I agree w/ @CDCgov, the vaccine is effective against Delta Variant," he added. "Masks not warranted if you're vaccinated."

But while vaccines have drastically reduced coronavirus cases and severity for those who actually get them, they are not 100 percent effective. In Israel, the health ministry reported Sunday that the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID vaccine was about 64 percent at preventing infection in June — as the Delta variant became increasingly common there.

Contrary to Greene's suggestion that the nation no longer cares about the COVID-19 pandemic, a Kaiser Family Foundation poll released Wednesday found 73 percent of Americans believe "more people need to get the vaccine to help stop the spread" of the virus. Just 22% believe community spread "is so low that there is no need for more people to get the vaccine."

But many Americans are still refusing to get vaccinated — and the divide appears to mirror political leanings. Of the 20 states that met President Joe Biden's target of having 70 percent of their adults at least partially vaccinated by July 4, every one was a state that voted for the Democrat in the 2020 presidential election. The states with the lowest vaccination rates nearly all voted for the Republican.

Making matters worse, some Republican legislators have actively discouraged people from getting vaccinated.

Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin held a news conference last Monday to warn against the very rare side effects of the coronavirus vaccines by highlighting a handful of people who say they were harmed by them.

"But instead of encouraging more people to get vaccinated so we can be rid of this plague once and for all, Johnson has chosen to use his taxpayer-financed megaphone to draw attention to a vanishingly small number of people who believe they suffered a serious side effect," the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's editorial board wrote last Wednesday.

They called him the "most irresponsible representative of Wisconsin citizens since the infamous Sen. Joseph R. McCarthy in the 1950s."

Massie and several of his fellow House Republicans have also opposed efforts to vaccinate all members of the military.

"I've been contacted by members of our voluntary military who say they will quit if the COVID vaccine is mandated," he tweeted Saturday. "I introduced HR 3860 to prohibit any mandatory requirement that a member of the Armed Forces receive a vaccination against COVID-19."

Service members are not allowed to abandon their jobs — doing so during their contract is a crime punishable by up to five years of confinement.

This is not the first time Republicans have minimized the threat of the virus and attacked those trying to curb its spread. Then-President Donald Trump admitted in February 2020 that he knew the coronavirus was deadly and that he mislead the nation intentionally because he "wanted to always play it down."

While the number of daily cases and deaths has dropped significantly since Trump left office, the pandemic is not over. More than 11,000 Americans tested positive for the virus on Monday; almost 200 died.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

Why I’m Not (Very) Worried About Inflation

For a long time, inflation has been the phantom of the American economy: often expected but never seen. But the latest Consumer Price Index, which showed that prices rose by five percent from May of last year to May of this year, raises fears that it is breaking down the front door and taking over the guest room.

The price jump was the biggest one-month increase since 2008. It appears to support the warning of former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers, who wrote in February that President Joe Biden's budget binge could "set off inflationary pressures of a kind we have not seen in a generation." Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell charged last month that the administration has already produced "raging inflation."

For anyone who lived through the turbulence of the 1970s, when the CPI climbed year after year, peaking at a rate of more than 13 percent, the specter of inflation is enough to induce night terrors. One of the great governmental marvels of the past 40 years was the Federal Reserve's complete conquest of this malady. To let it return would be a grievous setback.

There are reasons to think that could happen. The Fed has pumped huge sums of money into the economy to offset the effects of the pandemic, and the Biden administration got Congress to approve a huge economic relief package. Americans saved a lot over the past year, and if they decide to burn through all that cash, they could push prices still higher.

At this point, though, watchful concern is a more appropriate attitude than outright alarm. For now, I'm not worried — not very worried, anyway — about inflation.

Why not? One reason is that a spike in prices is not inflation any more than a stretch of rain is Noah's flood. It's no surprise that prices in May were appreciably higher than a year earlier — when much of the economy was shut down because of the pandemic.

Prices will keep going up as life continues to return to normal and Americans rush to spend money on all the things they missed because of COVID-19. Lingering supply chain snarls will put additional pressure on prices. But this should be a one-time phenomenon. Inflation is not inflation unless it persists over months and years.

Another reason for optimism is that even when it was trying to raise the inflation rate, during and after the Great Recession, the Federal Reserve found it remained stubbornly low. The central bank's monetary expansion should have brought about the higher inflation it sought. But it didn't — suggesting that something has changed about the connection between the money supply and consumer prices.

Back then, conservative critics forecast an outbreak of inflation caused by easy money and excessive federal spending. In 2009, economist Arthur Laffer wrote, "We can expect rapidly rising prices and much, much higher interest rates over the next four or five years." Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) said Americans should be "prepared to carry money to the grocery store in a wheelbarrow."

Let's hope their hallucinations have subsided. If those policies didn't cause inflation then, they may not cause it now. Stable prices have become the intractable norm over the past quarter-century, for reasons we don't fully understand. Loose fiscal and monetary policies don't seem to matter the way they once did.

One danger is that the recent price increases will fuel inflationary expectations, prompting businesses to raise prices and workers to demand higher wages, setting off a self-perpetuating upward spiral. But what inflationary expectations are we talking about?

Data compiled by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis indicate that, as of June 10, the expected inflation rate over the next five years is just 2.23 percent. Interest rates on 30-year mortgages have fallen below three percent, compared with nearly five percent in 2018.

Given their performance over the past 13 years, it's not unreasonable to believe that the Federal Reserve officials who set monetary policy actually know what they're doing. When the pandemic hit, the economy was well into the longest peacetime expansion ever — and inflation was still subdued.

Fed Chairman Jerome Powell and his colleagues have earned the benefit of the doubt. They haven't forgotten the trauma of the 1970s, and they don't want to go down in history as the people who brought it back.

When prices jump, vigilance against inflation is entirely justified. But we should also watch out for false alarms.

Steve Chapman blogs at http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/chapman. Follow him on Twitter @SteveChapman13 or at https://www.facebook.com/stevechapman13. To find out more about Steve Chapman and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

Republicans Stirring Up Ugly Smears -- And Lethal Hatred -- Against Fauci

Days after thousands of emails from Dr. Anthony Fauci became public through a series of FOIA requests, Republicans are using portions of those emails—out of context—to ramp up attacks on the longtime director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Those emails are being conflated with a series of media-hyped articles about the origins of COVID-19, and the result is a genuinely toxic stew that is being used by Republicans ranging from Josh Hawley to Donald Trump Jr. as a way to stir up hate and rake in cash.

For those not neck deep in OAN, Newsmax, or Fox News, it may be hard to fathom just how much those channels have become a 24/7 assault on the 80-year-old doctor, or how hard they have been pushing the "lab escape" theory as "proof" that the NIAID director is somehow responsible for the COVID-19 pandemic. All of these outlets are in heavy rotation with the idea that COVID-19 originated in a Wuhan lab, operated by a friend of Dr. Fauci, that Fauci helped China in covering up that origin, and that this somehow absolves Donald Trump of all responsibility in 900,000 American deaths.

And that's the lightweight version. The version being pushed by multiple "guests" and "experts" appearing on these programs is that the SARS-CoV-2 virus was deliberately engineered to infect people as part of a program that Fauci—and President Barack Obama—approved of and funded. The baseless accusations are so ugly that, even as Republicans like Hawley demand that Dr. Fauci be fired, others, like Trump Jr., are already chuckling over the idea that Dr. Fauci could be murdered.

On Friday evening, Trump Jr. showed that he isn't just expecting Dr. Fauci to be killed by the rabid Trump supporters being pushed to believe that a man who has lived his life in service to both medicine and the nation is some kind of monster. No, Junior is ready to celebrate that murder. In an Instagram post, Trump Jr. posted an image saying "I'm just going to jump ahead on this, and said I don't think Fauci killed himself." Those words were pasted over a smiling image of the odious and sadistic slave owner Calvin Candie from the film Django Unchained.

Sen. Rand Paul started the latest edition of the smear train on Thursday when he issued a fundraising pitch insisting that Fauci "must go" and claiming that Fauci—who was forced to correct Paul over and over in Senate hearings—was "continuously and deliberately misleading the public at every turn." He provided no examples, but insisted that someone must "fire Fauci!"

On Friday, Sen. Hawley explicitly tied together vague claims about Fauci's emails, with equally vague claims about COVID-19. "Anthony Fauci's recently released emails and investigative reporting about COVID-19 origins are shocking." Exactly what in Fauci's emails Hawley found upsetting, he didn't say. But he did call for Fauci to resign, as well as "a congressional investigation" into claims that Fauci somehow covered up the pandemic's origins.

Also on Friday, Donald Trump issued a statement saying that "After seeing the emails, our Country is fortunate I didn't do what Dr. Fauci wanted me to do."

What this means is anyone's guess, but by Saturday morning Sen. Marco Rubio figured he had his marching orders, so he piled on, calling for Biden to remove Dr. Fauci. And again, Rubio's claim went directly back to the idea that Fauci "dismissed the idea that the virus could have come from a lab."

Fauci never made such a dismissal. And the "lab escape" origin of COVID-19 certainly isn't proven. But it has been getting constant fluffing from a series of articles and constant right-wing coverage, all of which features the implication that "Trump was right" about "the China virus."

The Daily Mail that Trump intends to make things even worse Saturday evening, when he makes his first appearance as a private citizen at a North Carolina rally. He's planning to make attacking Dr. Fauci the center of his tirade,

On Friday, President Biden spoke up in support of Dr. Fauci, responding to a question by saying, "Yes, I'm very confident in Dr. Fauci."

But the assault on Anthony Fauci is unrelenting and the level of ugliness demonstrated by the Trump, Jr. message is only getting worse. If Republicans have learned anything from Jan. 6, it's apparently that they really can (and do) inspire and direct deadly hate.


Sen. Rand Paul Says He Won’t Get Vaccinated Despite CDC Recommendation

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) said Sunday that he will not be getting a COVID-19 vaccination. Paul claimed that since he already had COVID-19, he believes he has immunity. Speaking with WABC radio in New York, Paul said he would not change his mind about not getting vaccinated unless he sees evidence proving that the vaccine is more effective than surviving from the actual virus. “Until they show me evidence that people who have already had the infection are dying in large numbers, or being hospitalized or getting very sick, I just made my own personal decision that I'm not getting vaccinated be...

Far Right’s Covid Conspiracy Blames Fauci For Virus

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

The far right has a favorite new conspiracy theory: Dr. Anthony Fauci, it seems, conspired with nefarious globalists to manufacture the COVID-19 virus in a Wuhan, China, laboratory and unleash it on the unsuspecting world in order to seize control of the global population. Or something along those lines.

But watching its progression into more mainstream settings—including a recent White House press conference—provides a vivid illustration not only of the ways that conspiracy-fueled extremists twist quasi-legitimate debate to their own ends, foisting their fantasies on a larger public in the process, but how they can almost instantaneously transform government-created information vacuums into fetid hothouses for their fearmongering and smears.

Far right promotes conspiracy theory blaming Fauci for COVID-19 www.youtube.com

"COVID-19's greatest power is fear," intoned conspiracy-meister Alex Jones in the introduction to a recent episode of his Infowars show, behind a distorted video portrait of Fauci and creepy soundtrack. "It is a psychological warfare weapon that has been deployed against the people of the world—to be the cover for a controlled global collapse, to consolidate power in the hands of the globalists, and establish their New World Order.

"If this power grab is ever to be defeated, we must meet it head on, and expose the fact that the virus was deliberately released from the Wuhan lab, and that Fauci was publicly in control of the gain-of-function coronavirus project," Jones asserted.

The stories about the Wuhan laboratories are not new. A number of far-right conspiracists, ranging from Jones to Donald Trump, have made similar claims in the past but were knocked down by leading scientists. However, their assertions have come under fire due to questions raised by an article in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists suggesting that the weight of evidence points to the likelihood that the COVID virus was produced in a Wuhan lab—which in turn has set the far-right aflame.

The article, by onetime New York Times science writer Nicholas Wade, argued that the consensus among leading virologists that the virus originated in wildlife and was transmitted to humans has no data to support it, and that the theory that it had leaked out of a laboratory—specifically, the Wuhan Institute of Virology—due to so-called "gain-of-function" research was supported by the weight of the evidence. Its primary conclusion, however, is that none of the theories are conclusive because of a lack of evidence—almost entirely due to the refusal of the Chinese government to allow a transparent investigation of the lab's role in the global pandemic.

That was all the opening the conspiracy crowd needed. As usual, Jones was only leading a parade of hysterical theorists eager to add their take on the Wuhan-lab controversy. "Did The Pandemic Start in Fauci's Lab?" asked one YouTube video. "Chinese Virologist Claims Coronavirus Was Man-Made In Wuhan's Laboratory," and "Is the Coronavirus a Chinese Bioweapon?" read others. At World Net Daily, the headline read: "New evidence ties COVID-19 creation to research funded by Fauci."

Wade's article was careful to specify that the evidence for any of the lab-leak theories is inconclusive, and acknowledges the natural-origin theory could yet prove correct. He complains that the lab-leak theories have been unfairly dismissed as conspiracies, but spells out clearly that "the idea that the virus might have escaped from a lab invoked accident, not conspiracy."

What he fails to acknowledge, however, is that reportage such as his becomes malleable putty for the conspiracy theorists. Jones was adamant about suggestions that the lab release was accidental: "None of it's accidental. You had the Rockefeller Foundation lockstep, you had the Event 201 with Gates and Fauci and the U.N.," he told his audience.

Jones blamed research under the auspices of "Fauci and Bill Gates" for the creation of what he called a "bioweapon." One of his guests went on to assert that the COVID-19 virus was not an accidental product, either: "This is clearly an offensive biological warfare weapon," he said.

On the "Real America's Voice News" podcast by former Trump adviser Stephen Bannon, another ex-White House adviser, Peter Navarro, held forth at length about the Wade article, plainly eager to blame Fauci for it all: "If it came from the lab, Fauci did it," Navarro told Bannon. He also claimed that Fauci used contract legalese to "get around the Trump White House to give the Chinese Communist Party weaponization capability through gain of function."

"You know, Fauci pulled a fast one on the House of Trump, I'm telling ya," he said. "This Nick Wade article, Fauci is goin' down."

He concluded: "For whatever reason, Fauci wanted to weaponize that virus. And he is the father of it, he has killed millions of Americans, and now we are 99.99 percent sure of that."

A number of Republican politicians—notably Wisconsin Congressman Mike Gallagher and Kentucky Senator Rand Paul—have now called for an official investigation into whether U.S. taxpayers were helping finance "gain of function" research in Wuhan. Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson blamed Fauci, saying: "So what were we doing cooperating with China?"

The extent to which the Wuhan-lab-leak-theory is becoming a right-wing obsession was manifested late last week when reporter Emerald Robinson of the conspiracy-friendly Newsmax operation tried to grill Press Secretary Jen Psaki about the matter. She asked a question similar to Johnson's: "Given that gain-of-function research is dicey, why would the U.S. fund that in China?"

When Psaki suggested she ask the National Institutes of Health that question, Robinson continued: "Who does the president agree with, Dr. Fauci or the other officials? Does he think it was a lab leak?"

"Well, the president has said, and I have said from here many times, that there needs to be a credible, independent investigation through the World Health Organization, and one that relies on data, that relies on participation from China and other countries that may have information," Psaki answered. "That's certainly something everybody has called for and we look forward to that happening."

The article that sparked the controversy is also deeply problematic, in no small part because of the author: While Wade is indeed a formerly well-regarded science writer, his reputation was permanently tarnished in 2014 when he published a book—titled A Troublesome Inheritance: Genes, Race, and Human History—contending that race is a biological reality, and that recent natural selection had created racial differences in economic and social behavior—claiming, as he is in the case of the COVID-19 theories, that "politics" suppressed a robust discussion of the matter.

The book was denounced in a letter signed by 140 senior geneticists who said that Wade had misrepresented and misinterpreted their findings, and that his conclusions fell well outside of any grounded hypothesis based on the science: "We reject Wade's implication that our findings substantiate his guesswork. They do not."

An American Scientist review of the book concluded: "A Troublesome Inheritance is itself troubling, not for its politics but for its science. Its arguments are only mildly amended versions of arguments discarded decades ago by those who methodically and systematically study human behavioral variation across cultures."

Wade, it seems, has a knack not only for distorting and misrepresenting science, but for promulgating "apolitical" discussions of scientific issues that just happen to become grist for white nationalists and far-right conspiracy theorists. His recent piece on the Wuhan labs is filled with similar key omissions.

For instance, he claims that the only evidence supporting the argument that the COVID-19 genomes indicate a natural origin is a letter by two scientists based on ostensibly slipshod claims, saying: "And that's it." But in fact another letter he cites (and dismisses), published in the medical journal The Lancet in February 2020, specifically references a list of studies by scientists from multiple countries who "have published and analyzed genomes of the causative agent, severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2),1 and they overwhelmingly conclude that this coronavirus originated in wildlife, as have so many other emerging pathogens."

A recent debunking by Politifact of the claims regarding Fauci notes that, while Fauci was indeed involved in approving a grant to the Wuhan Institute of Virology, all parties involved deny that it involved gain-of-function research.

"We have not ever participated in gain-of-function research. Nor have we ever been funded to participate in gain-of-function research," Robert Kessler with the EcoHealth Alliance told PolitiFact.

"The research supported under the grant to EcoHealth Alliance Inc. characterized the function of newly discovered bat spike proteins and naturally occurring pathogens and did not involve the enhancement of the pathogenicity or transmissibility of the viruses studied," the NIH told Politifact.

Fauci himself recently addressed the underlying issue in an interview with National Geographic, calling the whole debate a "circular argument."

"If you look at the evolution of the virus in bats and what's out there now, [the scientific evidence] is very, very strongly leaning toward this could not have been artificially or deliberately manipulated … Everything about the stepwise evolution over time strongly indicates that [this virus] evolved in nature and then jumped species," Fauci said.

For conspiracy theorists, however, actual science, facts, and logic don't really matter. They have just learned how to trot out enough of them to seem interested in a good-faith discussion, and then using them to springboard into the bizarre alternative universe of fabricated smears where they dwell.