Links 7/9/20

Links for you. Science:

A ‘Viral’ New Bird Song in Canada Is Causing Sparrows to Change Their Tune
One U.K. trial is transforming COVID-19 treatment. Why haven’t others delivered more results?
It’s Not a Snake, but Beware of Its Venomous Bite. Animals called caecilians may have been among the first vertebrates on land to lace their bites with venom.
Can an Algorithm Predict the Pandemic’s Next Moves? Researchers have developed a model that uses social-media and search data to forecast outbreaks of Covid-19 well before they occur. (paper here)
Australia Has a Flesh-Eating-Bacteria Problem: In the beach towns south of Melbourne, everyone, it seems, knows someone who’s been attacked.


How Schools Work: A Practical Guide for Policymakers During a Pandemic (really important)
The Trump Administration Is Giving Up on Fighting the Pandemic (taco-bowl eating surrender monkeys)
Colleges Face Rising Revolt by Professors
The big factor holding back the U.S. economic recovery: Child care (this is why the policy framework erected by AEI and adopted in the mainstream is so disastrous. We needed to crush the curve first, then worry about reopening)
What Are Art Galleries For? Three artists on the future of the gallery system after Covid-19.
The Statue Donald Trump Has Overturned
If you can’t get to a national park, appreciate their beauty with these 11 photos
Maya Moore for the Win. Jonathan Irons finally walks free thanks to the efforts of the all-time basketball great.
A DNA Mix-Up Involving a Washing Machine Kept a Man in Jail for 3 Years. The Louisiana case highlights how prosecutors and crime labs withhold key documents from defense lawyers, keeping some defendants in custody for months or years.
A small Missouri city thought it had dodged the coronavirus. Now, it’s hitting home.
How to Make Defunding the Police a Reality. For the past half-century, American cities have spent more on policing each year. All of a sudden, nationwide protests have put divestment on the table. (note the parts about D.C.’s Mayor Bowser)
Is Congress Ready For QAnon?
Some Canadian businesses want to let Americans back in. Most Canadians don’t.
Hospital ratings often depend more on nice rooms than on health care
Sean Doolittle sees sports as a reward America hasn’t earned yet
Pro sports are returning in bubbles, but bubble soccer popularity is growing
Black families pay significantly higher property taxes than white families, new analysis shows
Donald Trump Has A Secret Plan to Win (Seriously)
California rejected Chinese company’s push to help with coronavirus testing. Was that the right move?
The NBA’s Reopening Is a Warning Sign for the U.S. Economy
Trump’s newest assault on America’s public schools: They teach kids to ‘hate their own country’

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The Tragedy of Arizona: We Can Crush the Curve, but It Takes Time

Despite Vichy Republicans giving up on fighting COVID-19, there’s no reason to give up. We still can turn and fight this, though it will take a lot longer now. And no state illustrates this more than Arizona.

In the two weeks preceding July 4, Arizona has had 42,163 cases of COVID, resulting in a two-week prevalence of 0.58% (number of cases over two weeks divided by the total population), but that’s probably a massive underestimate, as the percent positive tests during that time frame is 24.3%, meaning there are lots of people who need tests and aren’t getting them (news reports bear that out). A charitable two-week prevalence for Arizona is probably one percent (though it could be higher than that, easily).

For Arizona to decline to the prevalence threshold Germany uses to throw the emergency brake for a region, 0.05% prevalence (yes, that’s how bad it is in Arizona), Arizona likely needs a twenty-fold reduction just to reach the ‘oh shit! Break the glass!’ threshold Germany uses. This can be done, because D.C. did the same thing. It took about three and a half months of strict measures, but D.C. did do this.

We can do some back of the envelope calculations. Like I noted in a post about prevalence, these numbers, while precise, should not be necessarily seen as accurate, but they do indicate roughly the scope of the problem. When we look at the Rt (the number of new infections arising from a single infection; greater than one means it’s spreading, less than one means it’s receding) for states that have managed to mash things down, Rt is usually around 0.75 (though many of the heavily affected states have never had an Rt that low). If we assume that it takes six days for the next group of people to be infected, we can dummy out what this looks like.

(technical note: Obviously, it will be more complex. To start with, I’m discretizing a continuous process. The ability to infect begins at different times for different people, and is some kind of curve, not a simple function. Rt won’t remain constant, and is hard to estimate when case numbers are small. Likewise, six days might be too long an interval (or too short). Plus many other complications. But as a toy example it illustrates the key point, which we’re about to get to).

Suppose we’re stating at 1,000 new cases a day, and we’re shooting for 50 new cases per day (i.e., 20-fold decrease). If Rt equals 0.75, then in six days, the number of daily new cases will be 750. Six days after that, 563 new cases per day. Six days after that, 422 cases per day, and on, and on (and on…). If you’re patient you can reach your target, but it’s going to take a long time, somewhere in the ballpark of two months.

For Arizona, to get to the German threshold, it could take around two months, provided, of course, that Arizonans can get their shit together and do the fucking job. To reach what I would call ‘protective prevalence‘, where it’s low enough to survive the occasional bout of stupidity, would probably take another five to six weeks after that.

Again, these are ballpark estimates, though they worked pretty well for D.C., and they give an indication of how long it will take–much longer than fourteen days.

So, why did I refer to the tragedy of Arizona? In the last two weeks of April, Arizona had a two week prevalence of 0.04%. To crush this to 0.01% or lower would have taken a few weeks, and they obviously would be in a much better position than they are now.

Instead, Arizona’s leadership got* stupid, and now COVID-19 rages out of control. And there’s no reason to think ‘what happens in Arizona, stays in Arizona.’ As deputy CDC director Anne Schuchat put it, “We are not even beginning to be over this… As much as we’ve studied [the 1918 flu pandemic], I think what we’re experiencing as a global community is really bad and it’s similar to that 1918 transformational experience.”

It’s going to be a long summer and fall, and it didn’t have to be. Remember that when you vote.

*Or continued wallowing in its stupidity, depending on one’s political predilictions.

Posted in COVID-19 | 1 Comment

Links 7/8/20

Links for you. Science:

Coronavirus autopsies: A story of 38 brains, 87 lungs and 42 hearts
My Coronavirus Lab Is Safer Than Your Supermarket
In our divided red and blue nation, coronavirus data is a uniting purple. Coronavirus has been highly politicized but granular information is the friend of public health, politicians and the equitable reopening of America.
The coronavirus may have mutated to become more infectious, Dr. Anthony Fauci says (paper here; the authors don’t rule out a bottleneck, so we’re right back where we started…)
What House Democrats actually want to do about climate change (“Can you imagine Republicans doing this? Assembling a policy committee and holding more than a year’s worth of consultations, meetings, and hearings to gather expert testimony and translate it into a detailed policy blueprint?”)


The Time Will Never Be Right to Leave Afghanistan: If we’re honest with ourselves, there will never be American victory. Nobody can even tell us what it looks like. Someday, we’re just going to leave.
Facebook says the good it does outweighs the bad. But how many ‘likes’ make up for the hate?
What If… You Can’t?
Grad student mom: This is something I can’t fix
Education 101: Don’t Open a New Charter School in the Middle of a Pandemic
‘The barn’s on fire’: The Phoenix mayor and Arizona’s former health director detail how the state’s coronavirus response went from successful to catastrophic
‘It Wasn’t Inevitable’: House Vote On D.C. Statehood Was Years In The Making
How Police Secretly Took Over a Global Phone Network for Organized Crime
How Did Police Unions Get So Powerful?
The Problem Isn’t Just Police—It’s Politics
D.C. NFL Team Considering Name Change After Public And Corporate Outcry
There is no such thing as a millennial: The generation is really two groups, estranged from each other by culture and economics (same argument can be made about GenX)
Business Owners Say the City is Spoiling Outdoor Dining With Exorbitant Insurance Requirements
D.C. school system and teachers clash ahead of school reopening
The Neoliberal Looting of America: The private equity industry, which has led to more than 1.3 million job losses in the last decade, reveals the truth about free markets.
‘Because of my stupidity.’ California man dies of COVID-19 after going to barbecue (killed by asymptomatic carrier who thought people without symptoms couldn’t spread the disease–the public health communications failure is astonishing)
How Fauci, 5 other health specialists deal with covid-19 risks in their everyday lives
Populists Inflame the Coronavirus Outbreak Across Latin America
Hamilton despised slavery but didn’t confront George Washington or other slaveholders

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The Trump Administration Finally Admitted What Their COVID-19 Response Plan Is

And it’s what some asshole with a blog told you it was a couple of months ago. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Over the July Fourth weekend (by the way, we’re now calling Independence Day “All Countries Matter Day”, yes?), the Trump Administration finally stopped hiding what their COVID-19 response plan is, with the simple phrase “We need to live with it.” That is, it’s acceptable to have 200,000 to 500,000 people dead, especially if they’re disproportionately those people, so we can get business back to normal (workers’ finances are an afterthought). Which is to say, standard Republican policy since the Reagan Era (boldface added):

So the Trump administration, along with many of its Republican collaborators, has a plan. It’s just that the plan is so horrifying that many people don’t want to believe the administration would do something like that. The plan is simple. Restart businesses, and let the American Carnage ensue. It will disproportionately affect minorities and lower-income people–and if those people were better people, they would have been wealthier and whiter, so fuck ’em anyway. I think they also believe–likely incorrectly–that the carnage will be confined mostly to urban, Democratic areas. Meanwhile, TEH STONKS! will be doing well, so all is good.

That’s the plan.

Before you make a counterargument, consider this: the Republican Party has spent the last forty years undermining worker protections and environmental protection. Why would they suddenly change their ways? This is what they do because they believe it’s the right thing to do, as horrifying as that is. Sure, this isn’t some toxic sludge, it’s a virus. But they have never cared about workers or public health, so why would they start now?

The absence of a plan to reopen safely as reasonably possible is the plan because they don’t care about your safety or health.

To claim that the scope of the crisis will encourage them to rise above their typical behavior is to make the same mistake many people made in the run up to the Iraq War. Yes, Little Lord Pontchartrain might have lied a lot about budgets and other things, but war–the Most Serious Action a President Can Take™–was too important. Surely, he and his administration wouldn’t lie about war? (narrator: they did). …Trump has an even more strained relationship with reality than Bush did.

So, yes, there’s a plan. It’s in plain sight, and it’s monstrous.

In other words, it’s not incompetence (though there’s plenty of that too), it’s intentional. We need to recognize the horror.

It’s not that Biden would be awesome–we’ll probably have to protest against him too. But he does have a plan to crush the curve–it’s not perfect, but it hits the key points.

So vote in November, and vote wisely. Your life could depend on it.

Posted in Conservatives, COVID-19, Resistance Rebellion And Death | 2 Comments

Links 7/7/20

Links for you. Science:

Until I created this map, I hadn’t appreciated how bad the situation in the US is. These maps show districts with over 50 cases per 100k in the last week (Germany’s “emergency brake” trigger for local lockdowns)
The weird, colourful garden where CERN’s obsolete particle detectors enjoy their quiet retirement
Suppression of a SARS-CoV-2 outbreak in the Italian municipality of Vo’
Early Herd Immunity against COVID-19: A Dangerous Misconception
‘It’s really hard to find maintainers…’ Linus Torvalds ponders the future of Linux


The Meltdown Crisis (“Some meltdowns are rooted in what COVID revealed to many people: they have a class position and it isn’t what they thought it was.”)
Official U.S. coronavirus death toll is ‘a substantial undercount’ of actual tally, Yale study finds
Popular Pro-Trump ​Digital Strategist Made Racist Comments on a Secret Twitter Account
A Massive Wave of Evictions Will Probably Hit Washington Next Month
How the American Worker Got Fleeced. Over the years, bosses have held down wages, cut benefits, and stomped on employees’ rights. Covid-19 may change that.
‘PizzaGate’ Conspiracy Theory Thrives Anew in the TikTok Era. The false theory targeting Democrats, now fueled by QAnon and teenagers on TikTok, is entangling new targets like Justin Bieber.
Oregon State Police don’t wear coronavirus masks as they patronize Corvallis coffee shop, despite governor’s order (acab?)
Coronavirus Brings American Decline Out in the Open. Without fixes for infrastructure, education, health care and government, the U.S. will resemble a developing nation in a few decades.
Refusing to Wear a Mask Is Like Driving Drunk. Republicans talk a good game about “personal responsibility.” It’s time for President Trump’s supporters to actually display some.
The Voting Disaster Ahead: Intentional voter suppression and unintentional suppression of the vote will collide in November.
Why does this government get away with murder?
Gay People Are Being Murdered in Chechnya. Why Aren’t We Talking About It?
Tom Cotton’s Argument Against DC Statehood Is the Same One Racists Have Always Used. Or, why it took New Mexico 62 years to become state.
The RNC Is Paying a Former Apprentice Hand Accused of Having Trump Dirt
Standing Their Ground in Well-Manicured Yards. The Trump presidency has been a literal call to arms for excitable whites who view nonwhite people as inherent threats (“…the genius of the modern firearm is that even the inept can use it to kill. It’s like the presidency that way.”)
Why Surviving the Virus Might Come Down to Which Hospital Admits You. In New York City’s poor neighborhoods, some patients have languished in understaffed hospitals, with substandard equipment. It was a different story in Manhattan’s private medical centers.
Why the lopsided House vote in favor of D.C. statehood was so historic
This is how you lose a culture war
Young People Really Don’t Like Donald Trump. That doesn’t bode well for the future of the Republican Party
Researchers expected ‘outrageously high’ discrimination against Black renters. What they found was worse than imagined
The U.S. job market is still in very bad shape. Just wait until the fiscal time bomb goes off. (obvious, but true)

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Vichy Republicans Test Out Surrender to COVID-19

I don’t like military metaphors for a public health crisis, but the Trump administration’s new slogan about COVID-19 they aired over the weekend, ‘We need to live with it‘, is nothing more than an admission they won’t do anything significant to combat COVID-19, and that they’re just leaving us to get injured and die (and, sorry, while mask wearing is important, it’s going to take a lot more than that). It’s the epidemiological equivalent of how Trump and Republicans treated Puerto Rico after hurricane Maria.

That said, in retrospect, we probably should have seen this coming. The first fatal flaw is that the policy response framework was driven by the American Enterprise Institute. To be charitable, there is no way they could support the necessary economic framework for crushing COVID-19:

The problem is that the AEI plan is fundamentally affected by policy constraints. There are certain policies that a group like AEI can not and will not consider, and those policy constraints affect the range of policy responses.

Consider what a program put forth by a lefty think tank would look like. On the left, construed somewhat broadly, there was a general consensus on four policies:

  1. Rent and mortgage suspension, for businesses and residents.
  2. Temporary universal healthcare coverage, including for those who lost their jobs.
  3. Some kind of significant income supplements for households.
  4. Mandatory sick leave, so essential workers wouldn’t feel obligated to work when they are symptomatic.

There were other things too, but the overall goal was to use massive federal spending to place significant swathes of the U.S. economy into what multiple commentators, including Paul Krugman, referred to as a ‘medically induced coma.’ And not for a month either, but for as long as it took.

If that is your framework, you stop worrying about fourteen-day declines which allow you to tentatively reopen some businesses in order to keep them afloat. Instead, you focus on crushing the curve, and, critically, the prevalence of COVID-19 (the proportion of the population that is currently sick)…

Since an AEI-backed plan that would result in massive federal intervention in the economy is an impossibility, we’re left with second-best options of relative improvements leading to partial reopenings. When massive federal intervention is off the table, then we’re left with these other metrics, such as decline for a couple of weeks followed by hoping for the best, because there’s no way to support the economy long enough to reach a meaningful low level of prevalence.

And prevalence, not bending epi curves like Beckham, is key:

If people want things to ‘return to normal’, or some semblance of normal, then we need to dramatically lower the prevalence of infected people. When COVID-19 is very rare, one is far more likely to survive higher risk activities. That means masks and physical distancing for an extended period of time–the first, sort of shutdown didn’t cut it, and we left far too early.

Once we get it to Oslo levels (and we could, if we had a competent and coordinated response), life will be far more like normal.

Economist Paul Krugman made a similar point his very own self (boldface mine):

Nor can we simply hit the reset button. Activities we could have safely resumed two months ago, when infection rates were low, aren’t safe to continue given today’s much higher Covid-19 prevalence. That is, we’re in worse shape, even economically, than we would have been if Trump and his allies had taken the pandemic seriously early on…

Right now we should be going all-out to bring the Covid-19 surge under control and making sure that Americans keep getting the economic aid they need. In reality, neither of those things is likely to happen. Infections and hospitalizations will soar further, and millions of Americans will lose crucial economic lifelines in a few weeks.

What’s pathetic is that we could still crush the curve, even though it will take much longer now (something I’ll discuss tomorrow). Instead, the administration is just giving up because there is no way they can propose the policies we need.

So, yes, while the metaphors of ‘Wars on Things’ (poverty, drugs, etc.) aren’t helpful, the Trump Administration has decided that they’re just going to give up and hope people become numb to the American Carnage.

That is a shameful and humiliating surrender. And anger is the appropriate emotion.

Posted in Conservatives, COVID-19 | Leave a comment

Links 7/6/20

Links for you. Science:

Most People With Coronavirus Won’t Spread It. Why Do a Few Infect Many?
New journal will vet Covid-19 preprints, calling out misinformation and highlighting credible research
U.S. withdrawal from WHO threatens to leave it ‘flying blind’ on flu vaccines
Dinosaurs wiped out by asteroid, not volcanoes, researchers say (paper here)
COVID-19 Herd Immunity Is Much Closer Than Antibody Tests Suggest, Say 2 New Studies (if these studies bear out to be correct–and we should be very cautious about this–this is very good news)


Trump’s awful new reelection strategy makes a powerful case against him
I’m Not Ready to Go Back to Restaurants. Is Anyone?
Fear, Lockdown, and Diversion: Comparing Drivers of Pandemic Economic Decline 2020
How Donald Trump will finally kill the Southern Strategy
Why This Restaurant Critic Isn’t Dining Out Right Now
Europe in 1989, America in 2020, and the Death of the Lost Cause
China forces birth control on Uighurs to suppress population
Concerned for fall semester, UVM faculty union prepares to file labor complaint
Woodrow Wilson Was Even Worse Than You Think. An incorrigible white supremacist, his racism was fundamental even to his “idealistic” plans for a peaceful post-WWI world order.
The Racial Wealth Gap Is About the Upper Classes
Howard Croft, 78, D.C. Social Activist, Dies of Coronavirus
Do I need to get my family tested for coronavirus every time one of us has a runny nose this winter?
Democracy or Autocracy? Democrats May Have the Final Say
D.C. Teachers Spar With School System Over Return To In-Person Classes
More than 40 Bay Area school principals in quarantine after in-person meeting
Then & Now: On 60th anniversary of Glen Echo Park protests, civil rights activist reflects
A Smithsonian Curator Opens Up About Artwork and How Her Own Work Has Changed During the Pandemic
Internet platforms crack down on right-wing extremists and their ‘Boogaloo’ cult
Journalists are reexamining their reliance on a longtime source: The police

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Tell Brooke Pinto

While this, at the corner of Q and 13th Street NW, might seem to be just random defund the police chalking, it’s actually pretty smart:



“Brooke” refers to Brooke Pinto, D.C.’s Ward 2 newly-elected Council Member. And this is right outside her house (it’s across the street, if I’m not mistaken). The point isn’t to force Pinto to change her mind directly, but to do the kind of drama that forces the issue.

So, how about it, Council Member? I live in Ward 2 and have never missed an election. Brandon Todd likely went down, in part, because of his calls to increase policing in Ward 4. Because we do have to balance budgets at the state level, there’s an opportunity cost here.

Posted in DC | 2 Comments

Links 7/5/20

Links for you. Science:

Rhinovirus rampant or testing triumphant?
Trump To Nominate Anti-Environment Extremist As Permanent Public Lands Chief (James Watt disciple)
In Early February, the Coronavirus Was Moving Through New York
‘They Want to Kill Me’: Many Covid Patients Have Terrifying Delirium
Potent antibodies found in people recovered from COVID-19


The 3 Weeks That Changed Everything: Imagine if the National Transportation Safety Board investigated America’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. (not the whole story, but still excellent)
How Jamaal Bowman Beat Rep. Eliot Engel In The Bronx: The left is getting more sophisticated at winning campaigns, and progressive Democratic primary challengers now have an “ecosystem” at their disposal.
A Dire Warning From COVID-19 Test Providers. U.S coronavirus testing could fail again, as surging demand creates new backlogs and delays.
The Obummer Plague
Carl Reiner, TV comedy pioneer and probing straight man to Mel Brooks, dies at 98
Trump’s Tulsa Rally Drew People From Dozens of Virus Hot Spots in U.S.
Hasan Minhaj Is Proud to Present TurboTaxSucksAss.Com
Almost 17,000 Protesters Had No Idea A Tech Company Was Tracing Their Location
‘Parks and Recreation’ Co-Creator Mike Schur Remembers Carl Reiner, “The Emperor of Comedy”
Did a Chinese Hack Kill Canada’s Greatest Tech Company?
The virus didn’t stop a Washington socialite from throwing a backyard soiree. Then the tests came back positive.
Transit riders have a choice
With The Minimum Wage Rising, The Fight For $15 Is Finally Finished In D.C.
Los Angeles Hit Hard by Implosion of Freelance Work
National mask mandate could save 5 percent of GDP, economists say
Focus on Opening Schools, Not Bars
Think racial segregation is over? Here’s how the police still enforce it.
Trump hotel fails coronavirus hygiene testing as Dr. Fauci warns of 100,000 cases a day
Pay cuts are becoming a defining feature of the coronavirus recession
Minimum Wage Increases Face A New Challenge From Coronavirus
Southern neighborhoods have been named ‘plantations’ for decades. That could be changing.
Black Lives Matter protests are having a counterintuitive effect on Covid-19 spread

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Little Understanding

Observed on Willard St NW, between 17th and 18th, Dupont Circle, D.C.:


Posted in DC | 1 Comment