Note 46: Going full Social Darwinist this week

How I learned to stop worrying and love natural selection.

Before I get into the meat of this weeks’ newsletter, some congratulations are in order.

First to Mary “Wally” Funk and her Very Good Week as she finally made it up to space, after decades of being passed over by NASA. She set the record for becoming the oldest astronaut at age 82, while a Dutch boy sitting across from her set the record for the youngest astronaut at the ripe old age of 18 years old.

And congrats to all the engineers at Blue Origin who pulled off a textbook launch and landing:

I don’t know if I’ve been as excited about anything my adult life as the various space races that we have the privilege of witnessing.

The event ended just in time on Tuesday morning for me to see how it affected my investments in Rocket Lab and Astra Space. The Monday before was a brutal day for the markets at large, and for shares of early-stage space companies specifically. Astra ended up trading at a 52-week low (even below its value as a SPAC stock), and I used that as an opportunity enlarge my position in that company (and dilute the amount I may have overpaid for in my initial purchase). Tuesday after the launch was lackluster, and definitely not a “rising tide lifts all boats” kind of day. The rest of the week wasn’t kind to me either, with ASTR slipping throughout the week and me losing money on this latest purchase. :-(

Anti-vaxxers are correct. It is their choice.

As I dejectedly have been watching American vaccination rates peter out and the remainder of those not taking the COVID vaccine argue more streneuosly that they are (with apologies to Twisted Sister) are “not going to take it”, I’ve arrived at the interesting place where I agree with them.

Now, to be clear, I don’t agree with their take on the science, and I think that they are a bunch of loons, but when it comes to whether we should leave them alone and try to acheive natural immunity themselves, I’m pretty much in line with them on that. We shouldn’t be wasting any more resources trying to make them feel better about doing the right thing for themselves and their communities. They’re bound and determined to commit a form of collective suicide and I think we should stop restraining them and allow them to go out in blazes of glory suffocating and choking as they exercise their freedom to the fullest.

From a recent AP/NORC poll, of the remaining unvaccinated folks, there are about 19% who are open to the shot, with the remainder being in the “probably not” and “definately not” categories. As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, Biden and state governments should focus on getting those folks their shots, and ship the rest overseas as a form of vaccine diplomacy. If first-world Americans don’t want the protection, there are plenty of folks in struggling countries that do.

So, let’s allow the anti-vaxxers to exercise their choice, while the rest of exercise some of our own options:

  1. Allow insurance companies to surcharge any folks who haven’t been vaccinated or organizations that permit the unvaxxed on their premises. Instead of all of us collectively paying for their stupidity, let’s let the market find the price for dealing with the avoidable outcomes of COVID infections. We already do this with smokers and health insurance - there’s no reason COVID can’t be treated differently.

  2. Make the return to school contingent on members of a child’s household provid proof of their vaccination status, and require the kids to be vaccinated as we’ve done with a whole other set of viruses for the better part of a century.

  3. Allow businesses to refuse service to patrons who do not provide proof of immunity as a means of allowing them to protect their workers and other customers. Allow businesses to make continued employment on workers being immunized.

  4. Make it possible to sue unvaxxed COVID transmitters for infecting someone else. If a chain of evidence that pinpoints a local Patient Zero can be established, hold that person legally liable for the subsequent infections. If a venue or business can be identified as the source of an outbreak, open the door for civil suits against them as well. Valid plaintiffs only include people who have been vaccinated and people who have valid documented medical reasons for not getting the shot.

  5. Allow transportation companies (airlines, bus companies, train lines) full latitude to refuse service to the unvaxxed.

  6. Make gov’t benefits contingent on immunization. Folks exercising their choice to skip the shot lose their Social Security, welfare checks, and any other benefits provided by the social safety net.

The goal here isn’t about turning anti-vaxxers into second-class citizens, but rather to limit the (entirely inevitable and predictable) costs and negative impacts of their choices from the people who are doing the common-sense and responsible thing. If they want to continue exercising their right to serve as a future Petri dish for a future variant of COVID, more power to them. As many of them like to say, “freedom isn’t free”, so let’s get started settling the check.

Book report

Test Gods: Virgin Galactic and the Making of a Modern Astronaut by Nicholas Schmidle (★★★★☆): This is a solid account of Virgin Galactic’s space program from its early days with Burt Rutan and the Ansari X prize. In a bid to be a modern The Right Stuff, the book focuses on test pilot Mark “Forger” Stucky and his journey to the upper reaches of the atmosphere. The book is solidly constructed, with the one exception being the author’s attempt to insert himself into the narrative to try and draw parallels around his life growing up the son of a pilot. I appreciate that the book wouldn’t exist without the author’s own familial connections (his father opened the door for the book in the first place), but save that for another book.

In terms of my overall reading goal, I am now three books ahead of schedule (58 of 101).

Interesting reads

Despite Tuesday’s flight, Jeff Bezos is running out of time to save Blue Origin (Ars Technica)

The Colorado River is shrinking. Hard choices lie ahead, this scientist warns (Science)

Why Nicolas Cage endures (Vox)

What Ever Happened to IBM’s Watson? (New York Times)

America, China and the race to the Moon (The Economist)

Ibram X. Kendi on What Conservatives — and Liberals — Get Wrong About Antiracism (The Ezra Klein Show)

Rocket Lab identifies cause of Electron failure (Space News)

Blue Origin successfully sends Jeff Bezos and three others to space and back (The Verge)

In the year 2021, it’s a roasty 92° in Chicago, located on Earth in the Sol system. In the year 3307, I’m about to continue my journey back into the Bubble after visiting Sagittarius A* in my trusty Diamondback Explorer. I finally achieved the Elite rank in exploration, and I’m looking forward to getting back to humanity and building a souped-up Anaconda for further exploration trips while listening to podcasts episodes over a thousand years old.