Exploiting A Death

Colin Powell died earlier this week of COVID complications. He was the most popular American military officer since Dwight Eisenhower. Like Ike, it is widely rumored that both the Democratic and Republican parties considered running him as their presidential candidate. Today the right wing, which has taken over the Republican Party, is exploiting his death in an effort to further their anti-vaccine lies.

I will admit I was never the biggest Colin Powell fan. However, I respected his service to America and the fact that at his core, with one notable exception, he acted as a good American. I certainly won’t speak ill of him in his death and would never use him to enhance a lie. (One of the advantages of being a progressive is that lying to prove a political point is unnecessary.)

The anti-vaccine right is saying that the Powell’s death proves that the COVID vaccines don’t work. If memory serves me correctly, one of the few classes that really challenged me in college was Statistics; (again if memory serves me correctly, I got a “B”). First off nobody has said that the COVID vaccines are 100% effective. On its surface the right’s statement illustrates ignorance at best, more likely stupidity or simply an attempt to deceive.

These decades later, one of the few things I still value from Statistics is the significance of sample size. I don’t remember how to measure it but I know a sample size of one is statistically insignificant. This is common strategy on the right. How often does one of their arguments start out along the lines of, “I know of this one person…”?

The rate of breakthrough infections becoming fatal is 0.0004% or 1 in 25,000.  The rate of breakthrough infections themselves is about 1 in 5,000.   I’m not a statistician but I like my chances being fully vaccinated; especially when combined with the prudent behavior I practice to protect myself against the misled.  In fact it’s hardly more than arithmetic.

My degree is not in medicine but if you have been paying attention you know that other underlying factors make certain people more vulnerable to COVID.  Powell was 84 years old and suffering from cancer which had weakened his immune system. The General was also fighting Parkinson’s disease which I have no idea if it increased his vulnerability or not but it certainly wasn’t helping him.

What kind of person exploits the death of someone who most consider an American hero in order to advance a lie that, if believed, will kill countless Americans?

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