COVID-19 dominates the news cycle. It should. This dangerous pandemic continues to spread. COVID cases are spiking in many places, including here in the Tri-Cities.

The consensus appears to be that what’s happening here and elsewhere is not a “second wave” of the coronavirus, but rather the first wave showing up big in places where it hasn’t before. There is some debate about the reasons why this is true. Is it because folks have been careless about following the recommended prevention measures, or because the virus is now so ubiquitous?

My guess is that the real explanation is some of both. It’s hard to reach firm conclusions about the virus. Researchers keep changing their opinions, as they gather more information. And not all agree on how to read the data. There is simply an avalanche of contradictory information and opinion on the internet, in print media, and on television.

The confusion has been compounded by the transparent dishonesty of some public officials and even some health care “experts.” We are told that large gatherings are dangerous — except when the gathering is a protest of which the person calling the shots approves. Research supporting hydroxychloroquine is ignored because Donald Trump made hopeful noises about the drug. Just last week, the U.S. Supreme Court approved a local regulation that permitted gatherings of up to 500 persons in theaters and honky-tonks where distancing is impossible, but prohibited church services of even 50 people, even with distancing rules.

When those who are supposed to be looking out for everyone make pronouncements so biased, so flighty, so whimsical, it is no wonder that there is a great deal of skepticism about everything else they say. All the same, I think the wiser course for ourselves and our families is to ignore the flighty inconsistencies, and do our best to follow the prescribed distancing and mask protocols.

A secondary but prominently featured continuing story is the sometimes violent “protests” in places like Seattle, Portland and Oakland. I use the quotation marks because what’s happening appears to be more public vandalism and violent rioting than peaceful protest. Defacing and setting fire to public buildings and private homes, pushing over fences and barricades, hurling bottles, and assaulting officers with baseball bats and lasers isn’t protest.

CNN and other reporters keep describing the “protests” as “mostly peaceful.” Not really. The eyewitness accounts I’ve read say there are some peaceful demonstrators, who are replaced by the rioters and vandals later in the evening. It’s not clear to me what the former are protesting. George Floyd? But why pick the Portland Federal Building? Floyd wasn’t killed by federal officers.

The rioters are different. Their demands are for dismantling law enforcement and handing out all sorts of free stuff, with the message that no one or his property will be safe until they get their way. That’s a sad and frightening story, but one that the media mostly doesn’t want to tell. And no, the rioters don’t “socially distance.” I guess they’re immune from COVID.

There is another story that didn’t get much play but did make national news. Last week, the Office of Naval Intelligence, which now heads the federal investigation of Unexplained Aerial Phenomena (the term currently in vogue) briefed members of Congress on the status of reliable reports that we have in our skies unknown aircraft with capabilities far beyond ours.

The government does this sometimes, slowly dribbling out concessions that something is and has been going on that we don’t understand. These reports are usually timed to coincide with other events that make sure the public is mostly not paying attention — Christmas or another holiday, for example, or now, when the public is rightly so focused on the pandemic.

Senators who were briefed were guarded in their comments. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio said he was most concerned about reports of flights over our military installations and expressed the fear that Russia or China has made some technological breakthrough.

That strikes me as unlikely. If the Russians or Chinese really had aircraft capable of the speed and maneuvers reported, we’d know about it from splashy public demonstrations, and not from sporadic flyovers.

But it’s easier to worry about Russia or China rather than dwell on the notion that vehicles are coming here from who knows where, piloted by we don’t know whom and who knows why. But if that’s happening, don’t worry. CNN knows the answer.

It’s Donald Trump’s fault.

Bob Arrington is a Kingsport attorney. E-mail him at

r_arrington@chartertn.net.