For Christmas

(A relevant seasonal excerpt from my World War II novel, My Dear Cousin, which was completed and released last year at about this time. Part of the narrative is in letters, between two cousins; Vennie is an Army nurse serving in North Africa and Europe, Peg the wife of a Far East POW, waiting out the war in Australia, wondering for years if her husband is still alive.) The details of this 1942 Christmas holiday celebration in a military hospital was taken from this book.

Letter from Vennie to Peg, dated 26 December 1942, Postmarked APO NY, headed Arzew, Algiers

My dear Cuz:

We had our Christmas here in Algeria at the hospital and it was more beautiful and moving than I can describe.

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Scott Atlas’ book, “A Plague Upon Our House.”

I read this book this week and found a good book review in “City Journal,” titled “Three Blind Mice.” Atlas began as an academic neuroradiologist and then transitioned to a 15 year career as a health policy researcher. I did something similar when I was forced to retire at age 55 with an old back injury. I spent a year at Dartmouth learning methodology and biostatistics. I don’t know enough about Atlas’ story to know if he did something similar. Quite a few academic physicians have done similar transitions, especially as they get older.

In Atlas’ case, once he was recognized by the Media, he was immediately denigrated as “a radiologist.” He was also labelled as “not an epidemiologist.” It did not matter that none of the other three MDs on the Task Force was an epidemiologist, either. Atlas was in contact with many epidemiologists who were feeding him data and statistics.

He found the “Three Blind Mice” of Birx, Fauci and Redfield were uninterested in data or the scientific publications he kept bringing to the meetings. Eventually, he gave up going to the meetings. He found Trump receptive and he agreed with Atlas’ program of protecting the high risk population, especially nursing home residents, plus others with pre-existing conditions, one of which has turned out to be obesity. He blames Trump and his team for being afraid to sack Birx who was the one telling all the Governors to lock down their states. As he says in conclusion, “It didn’t matter. They still lost the election.” They feared a firestorm in the press if she was demoted.

Atlas was in despair as they continued to emphasize testing the asymptomatic and neglect the nursing homes where almost 50% of the deaths occurred. The psychological and economic damage from the lockdowns may last for years. Masks are useless and he quotes many studies to prove it. The one study quoted by Birx all along was based on two beauty parlor employees. That was it.

In the end, he quit after the election although Trump wanted him to stay. He continued to communicate by email. He describes the insane abuse he took from the Media and may spend a little too much time on it in the book. Some professors at Stanford (not the epidemiologists) sent out an email letter attacking him for working with Trump.

He has one section about Florida Governor DeSantis who, he writes, was already familiar with the literature and who implemented most of Atlas’ policies on his own. I remember the Media attacking DeSantis when he set up treatment facilities at a large retirement community, accusing him of treating supporters first. He was following the science they ignored in their identity politics frenzy. Florida could have been as big a disaster as New York with their huge senior population. The fact that DeSantis followed the science and not the Media prevented that outcome.

Other books are beginning to come out now but this one seems authentic by an insider. Here is the book at Amazon. I read the Kindle version. The hardcover came out a few days later.

Recent Reading

Four mini-reviews in this batch:

Splendid Solution, by Jeffrey Kluger
Red Plenty, Francis Spufford
Instruments of Darkness, Alfred Price
The Scarlet Thread, Mandy Rice-Davies

Splendid Solution is about the development of the Salk polio vaccine. The book gives a vivid picture of the devastation wrought by epidemics with no vaccines and without meaningful treatments, both the 1918 Spanish Flu epidemic and the successive polio epidemics, and the public health measures used in attempts to control such epidemics.  It describes how the Salk vaccine was developed, some of the conflicts among scientists, and the vaccine rollout, including media reactions and early manufacturing problems.  Very interesting reading, especially in the light of our present vaccine situation and controversies.

Red Plenty is about Soviet economic planning, as seen from the inside.  (I’ve reviewed it previously here, but recently re-read it in conjunction with an online book discussion group.)  It’s part fiction and part factual history: the characters include factory managers, economic planners, mathematicians, computer scientists, and “fixers.” Very well-written and also well-researched and footnoted.

Instruments of Darkness is about electronic warfare during WWII, primarily on the European front but also touching on the Pacific war.  Covers ‘the battle of the beams,’ in which Britain attempted to interfere with the radio guidance system used by the Germans to support night bombing, and the jamming and spoofing which was directed at communications between night fighters and their ground controllers.

The author was himself an electronics warfare officer with the RAF during the war, so speaks from a position of knowledge.

A Scarlet Thread is a historical novel about Israeli settlements in what was then called Palestine, at the time of the First World War.  Faced with increasing exactions and depredations by the Turkish rulers, a group of Jews resolve to support the British war effort by providing intelligence information–if they can find anyone in the British government who is willing to accept such information and take it seriously, that is.

The author became famous (or infamous) as one of the two women involved in the Profumo sex scandal of 1963-64, which brought down Prime Minister Macmillan and the Conservative government.  She married an Israeli, moved to Israel, and converted to Judaism–this book (published in 1989) is a pretty decent historical novel, not just an attempt at capitalizing on her celebrity.

 

 

 

An Extraordinary Woman

She was born to privilege and a degree of wealth, at the turn of the last century – Muriel Morris, an heiress of the Swift meatpacking fortune, and by most accounts conflicted over that circumstance. Like a scattering of her peers in the debutant world, she had an interest in social justice, as it was generally understood at the time. She is reported to have read Upton Sinclair’s polemic The Jungle as a teenager and been horrified – doubly so as both sides of her family had made their fortunes in the industry which Sinclair portrayed as especially brutal and gruesome. Muriel Morris was also of an unexpectedly intellectual bent and determined enough to pursue her intellectual interests – first with studies at Oxford, England in the 1920s, and then in – of all places, Vienna, Austria, where she hoped to study psychoanalysis with Sigmund Freud. She briefly married a British artist, Julian Gardiner, by whom she had a single child, a daughter, before deciding to pursue a medical degree at the University of Vienna in 1926. She had a trust fund sufficiently generous to support herself and her small daughter.

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