Links 6/22/21

Links for you. Science:

This giant prehistoric rhino was the biggest land mammal to walk the Earth
The Delta Variant Could Create “Two Americas” Of COVID, Experts Warn
Maine Residents Fend Off Poisonous Caterpillars
Pediatric cardiologists explain myocarditis and why your teen should still get a Covid-19 vaccine
Safety, Immunogenicity, and Efficacy of a COVID-19 Vaccine (NVX-CoV2373) Co-administered With Seasonal Influenza Vaccines

Other:

How many Democratic senators don’t want Democrats to be able to govern?
Un-Critical Race Theory. What if CRT’s conservative critics actually got what they want?
The Covid Housing Crisis Is Crushing the Service Industry
In a once-gritty D.C. market, these wholesalers’ world is slipping away
Local officials say Baker is failing to invest in state’s broken public health system
When anti-vaxxers want to come to your wedding
The ultrathin new iMac lost a lot more than size. A half-inch desktop computer shows how Apple’s obsession with thin design can work against us
Why The FDA’s Approval Of A New Alzheimer’s Drug Should Worry You. Aduhelm, a pricey treatment meant to stall mental decline, may be a case study in everything that’s wrong with how America manages prescription drugs.
Even Wall Street Shills Understand Why the Democrats Failed (would add that $15/hour minimum wage also was big, and has since disappeared, which will be catastrophic for Democrats in 2022)
Amazon is intentionally burning through warehouse workers, but it may not be sustainable forever
Calm Down, The Classics Aren’t Going Anywhere
This grifter comes as a grifter
Biden’s Climate Irresponsibility: It would be nice if having a Democratic president automatically meant real action on climate change. Sadly, it isn’t true.
How America quietly lost 2,700 ships
Instagram Is Still A Hotbed Of Anti-Vax Propaganda
Report Reveals Wild History Of Woman Leading Firms Pushing ‘Italygate’ Election Conspiracy Theory
Republicans, spurred by an unlikely figure, see political promise in targeting critical race theory
Teen vaccinations surge in Washington region during first month of eligibility
How America’s Weirdest Guidebooks Were Funded by the Government
Toll from political push at UNC continues to mount
The Emperor speaks with his nobles

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People Have to Like This Crap: The Child Tax Credit Edition

One of Biden’s signature anti-poverty programs is the Child Tax Credit, which gives families $300 per month per child as a tax refund (if someone pays no taxes, they receive a check). Unfortunately, the implementation leaves a lot to be desired (boldface mine):

While this money will be automatically sent out to families who file taxes, parents in the direst need of financial aid — those with incomes so low they don’t need to file taxes — must use a separate online portal to sign up for the benefit.

But already, the government’s website is proving to be very inaccessible….

The website requires Americans to have an email address before inputting any personal information, is only in English and only works on desktop computers or laptops. On a mobile phone, the website is essentially unusable, with the text stretching off of the screen.

“For it to reach the people we want it to reach and to have the impact we want, it needs to be in multiple languages,” Mata-Cisneros said. “We would like to see the email requirement eliminated. Making it mobile friendly — you can’t use it on your phone — we are really concerned about that.”

The online tool looks very similar to the government website the IRS used last year to distribute stimulus checks to this same population.

“In our assessment it’s pretty much inaccessible to a lot of underserved communities,” Jen Burdick, an attorney with the Community Legal Services of Philadelphia, whose clients overwhelmingly ran into issues with the online portal last year. “All in all it means most people cannot do this on their own.”

…And, for those who do have an email address and access to a computer, the tool itself requires a level of tax literacy non-filers often don’t have, Burdick said. The platform doesn’t simplify information requests like TurboTax would, instead it looks like a government tax return document

The IRS says it is working to improve the website but pointed out that the tool was built with two private partners: Intuit, the company behind TurboTax, and the Free File Alliance….

Meanwhile, Intuit was quick to blame the IRS for usability issues.

Responding to one user who complained via Twitter that they couldn’t use the tool on their smartphone, an Intuit QuickBooks IT support team employee responded that the “website was created by the IRS.”

These failures of governance provide an opportunity–if Biden is willing to seize it (boldface mine):

The issues with getting the very poor into this program appear to be, at least in part, artifacts of anticompetitive agreements between the IRS and members of the Free File Alliance. These firms know that the IRS obviously has the capability to provide higher quality and lower-cost tax filing services to the public. Such a competitive public option for tax filing would clearly drive most of them out of business, so they spend their money and lobbying efforts on making sure the public never gets such a public option. In general, it’s the public who loses here. And in the case of the CTC, it’s the most impoverished children in our society who will lose out due to Intuit’s greed.

We can and should build a coherent welfare state to meet the basic needs of everyone in our society. The CTC has design problems that hamper its ability to rise to that challenge, and PPP has criticized those flaws. But the Non-filer Sign-up Tool is a huge red flag that, beyond the design flaws, there are administrative issues with the program. The difference is, for some of those administrative issues, like the problems with this tool, Joe Biden does not need a single vote to fix them. He just needs to call up Janet Yellen and demand an immediate fix. He is the President, after all, and his flagship program is on the line.

Longer term, the IRS needs to rip up these mafia-like agreements with Intuit and the FFA, and create a free, public tax-filing service administered by the government itself. The American public deserves to not be treated like fools by profit-seekers like Intuit.

If you want people to turn out to vote for you, people have to like this crap. If you make a program impossible to use, especially in the service of corporate profits, this, oddly enough, demobilizes voters. Biden could fix this, but will he? Democrats have to learn that, when they control the executive branch, they actually have to…execute. Of course, that might involve pissing off campaign contributors, but Democrats are going to have to pick some fights.

Posted in Democrats, Fucking Morons, Taxes | Leave a comment

Links 6/21/21

Links for you. Science:

The Pandemic’s Wrongest Man: In a crowded field of wrongness, one person stands out: Alex Berenson.
New Dinosaur Species Is Australia’s Largest, Researchers Say
Glacier Blood? Watermelon Snow? Whatever It’s Called, Snow Shouldn’t Be So Red.
A Pill to Treat Covid-19? The U.S. Is Betting on It. A new $3.2 billion program will support the development of antiviral pills, which could start arriving by the end of this year.
The Biologist Who Fell to Earth. At 17, Juliane Diller was the sole survivor of a plane crash in the Amazon. Fifty years later she still runs Panguana, a research station founded by her parents in Peru.

Other:

New York: The Invention of an Imaginary City (excellent)
Are Democrats Falling Into a Republican Trap on Biden’s Biggest Priority?
How the U.S. Lost National Healthcare
What It Took To Get A Whole Metro Car Into Edgewood’s New Metrobar
A Backroom Deal To Kill Single Payer. Under pressure from labor leaders and insurance execs, NY Dem leaders are blocking a vote on health care legislation even though it has majority support in the legislature.
A Little More Remote Work Could Change Rush Hour a Lot
The Maddening, Twisted Story of the Diplomat Who Became a Troll
Warren Buffett and the Myth of the ‘Good Billionaire’
The Geophysicist Who Stormed the Capitol
Texas: The Only State to Commit Treason in Defense of Slavery Twice
Facial Recognition Failures Are Locking People Out of Unemployment Systems. ID.me’s CEO says unemployment fraud is costing taxpayers $400 billion, but his own company is denying claims because of problems with its tech, users say.
The myth of Alamo gets the history all wrong: Instead of a heroic stance for freedom, Texans fought to be able to enslave people
BuzzFeed’s ‘Community’ Scam Is a Nightmare Come True
Could the U.S. Have Saved More Lives? 5 Alternate Scenarios for the Vaccine Rollout
COVID-19 outbreak forces closure of Manatee government headquarters. 2 people have died (instead of “deep cleaning”, how about testing and requiring vaccination?)
Grievance Conservatives Are Here to Stay
Why The New Yorker’s Stars Didn’t Join Its Union
America’s Worst Columnist Leaves With a Bang
AstraZeneca vaccinated fans can’t see Bruce Springsteen Broadway show
Will Democratic Court Nominations Live Up to Biden’s Promises?
What Republicans Mean When They Say ‘Stacey Abrams’

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The Mayoral Retirement Non-Crisis

Over at Politico, there’s an article about how many mayors are deciding to leave office, in part, due to trials and travails of the COVID-19 crisis. This is presented as a bad thing.

That is wrong.

Some asshole with a blog wrote a few months ago:

…many state and local officials actively made the situation worse.

A couple of weeks ago, some asshole with a blog noted:

This has been the greatest domestic policy failure in my lifetime–and, sadly, I’m not young. In light of this failure, most states’ governors and other powerful state-level politicians, regardless of party, perhaps should not be reelected, even those that are solid on other issues.

I don’t have any answers to this conundrum, but rewarding, or even excusing failure of this magnitude, doesn’t seem like a good thing to do.

I will grant that, on the whole, more Republicans have been more destructive than Democrats, but when I look at states, I find very few that haven’t fucked up their COVID-19 response. Yes, Trump et alia put the entire country behind the damn eight ball. Still, many local responses have been poor and exacerbated the problem. Others have been extremely mediocre.

As was the case nationally, Republican officeholders were far more likely to be actively malevolent, but COVID-19 wasn’t just the greatest domestic acute crisis in my lifetime, it was the greatest failure to respond effectively to a domestic acute crisis in my lifetime. This includes a lot of gormless local-level Democrats who never tightened restrictions enough, and when they did, they were far later than they needed to be.

So there are a lot of officials who should be retiring. The problem is that not enough of them are choosing to do so–or being forced to do so.

Unfortunately, we are going to give too many people in authority a do-over, when they should be resigning and leaving public life, given the magnitude of their failures. I don’t believe in silver linings, when over 600,000 people died, many of them needlessly, but this is an opportunity we shouldn’t waste.

Posted in COVID-19, Ethics, Resistance Rebellion And Death | Leave a comment

Links 6/20/21

Links for you. Science:

‘Potentially the worst drought in 1,200 years’: scientists on the scorching US heatwave
World’s smallest dinosaur is actually a ‘weird’ prehistoric lizard, scientists say
Should we track all breakthrough cases of COVID-19?
A Mysterious Crater’s Age May Add Clues to the Dinosaur Extinction
How the COVID pandemic is changing global science collaborations

Other:

How To End Up Serving The Right
The delta variant is a rising threat in the U.S. We have to redouble vaccination efforts.
288,000 Iraqis Would Be Happy to Hear This. If They Were Alive.
In secret recording, Florida Republican threatens to send Russian-Ukrainian ‘hit squad’ after rival
Democrats Should Leap at the Chance to Take Joe Manchin’s Deal
A high school marked unvaccinated students at prom with a Sharpie. Parents called it Nazi Germany, Republican says.
Inside Tom Cotton’s Insane World Of DNA Theft, Olympic Athletes, And Anti-China Conspiracies
Fox’s anti-“critical race theory” parents are also GOP activists (they do this a lot)
COVID-19: How Fake Tests, Fudged Data Helped Paint a Kinder Picture for Kumbh Mela
‘Lab Leak Theory’ Is About Giving Trump A Pass For 600,000+ COVID Deaths
Tucker Carlson, Matt Gaetz, and MTG team for hugely dangerous claim that FBI was behind Jan. 6
Jon Stewart Believes COVID-19 Pandemic Is Caused by Science as He Pushes Wuhan Lab-Leak Theory (putz)
Vladimir Putin Is a King Bullshit Artist
American Fables: George Packer seeks refuge in political myth
Two weeks later, Tucker Carlson’s attack on Fauci has quietly collapsed
Mitch McConnell’s Message to Justice Stephen Breyer: Quit Now
From fare changes to boosted bus service, here’s what to expect from Metro this year
Most kids aren’t vaccinated. But schools can no longer mandate masking
This FDA Decision Has All the Hallmarks of a Truly Terrible Blunder. We have made great strides since my father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 1985, but this doesn’t much look like one.
Critical race theory battle invades school boards — with help from conservative groups
With Only 41% of U.S. Vaccinated, Biden Abandons Promised COVID Workplace Safety Regulations

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Kiss

Observed at the corner of 13th and Q Streets NW, Logan Circle, D.C.:

Kiss

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Links 6/19/21

Links for you. Science:

An Analysis of Private Healthcare Claims: A Detailed Study of Patients with Long-Haul COVID
As coronavirus recedes, colds and common viruses are back — especially among children
Coronavirus vaccinations for young children should be an urgent priority
CureVac, latest experimental coronavirus vaccine, proved just 47 percent effective amid spread of variants, preliminary analysis shows
Why Did the Cave Art Vanish? Erased by This Furry Creature and Its Feces.

Other:

On spending a non-message
The Diary of a Reluctant Statehooder
Treat the rich! Rightwingers defend our insanely undertaxed plutocrats
The Specter of Critical Race Theory Is Rotting Republicans’ Brains
Why the GOP wants Stacey Abrams as the face of Joe Manchin’s election compromise
Texas’ 1836 Project is a big bag of BS, and we all know everything’s bigger in Texas
The hidden politics of New York City’s new ranked-choice voting system
What’s the ‘critical race theory’ uproar really about? The right-wing need to fabricate enemies
A GOP congressman’s snub of a wounded Jan. 6 cop signals deeper GOP pathologies
Jennifer Gosar says what many of us are thinking: Her brother, Paul Gosar, is responsible for Jan. 6
GOP Voters Believe Trump’s Lie That Arizona’s Sham Audit Could Overturn His Election Loss
The Corporate Shill Award Goes To…
The Framers Would Call the United States of Today Corrupt. And They’d Be Right
DeJoy Is the Trump Appointee Still Menacing Us
Trump’s army of God: Doug Mastriano and the Christian nationalist attack on democracy
Revealed: Even More Insurrectionists Have Histories Of Violence Against Women
Juneteenth and the Several Endings of Slavery in the U.S.
Oh No, President Joe. I Wish You Hadn’t Said This.
The Truth About Black Freedom
Tucker Carlson has full control over Fox and its stranglehold on the Republican Party
Tom Cotton Is a Few Reindeer Short of Santa’s Sleigh. The Arkansas senator has postulated a totally normal theory of Chinese government machinations around the 2022 Winter Olympics.

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In Case You Missed It…

…a week of Mad Biologist links:

First Museum in Sixteen Months

Kids, Delta, and Household COVID-19 Transmission

Vaccines, ‘Passports’, and Lying

The State of COVID-19 in D.C.: Getting Better

21st Century Servants

The Critical Race Theory Moral Panic and the Southern Baptist Convention

Posted in Weekly Roundup | Leave a comment

Links 6/18/21

Links for you. Science:

COVID-19 Vaccination Coverage Among Pregnant Women During Pregnancy — Eight Integrated Health Care Organizations, United States, December 14, 2020–May 8, 2021
Scientists Report Earliest Known Coronavirus Infections in Five U.S. States (paper here; not entirely convinced)
NIH researchers find more evidence Covid was circulating in the US in December 2019 (see above)
COVID-19 mRNA vaccination generates greater IgG levels in women compared to men (BUT WHAT ABOUT THE MEN?!?)
Novavax Covid-19 Vaccine Is 90% Effective, Including Against Variants, New Study Shows

Other:

Why Confederate Lies Live On (must-read)
Nonsense and Sensibility
Stopping Critical Race Theory Is Now a Bona Fide Right-Wing Grift
Why Buffalo is a hub for illegal debt collectors who scam thousands across the country
D.C.’s cheap parking permits are the Achilles’ heel of the Comprehensive Plan
Urban broadband deserts: Digital redlining is a policy, not an accident.
Returning to the Office Will be Hard
We Are Lucky That This Republic Survived
Ned Beatty, versatile and prolific actor of stage and screen, dies at 83
Did Marjorie Taylor Greene Just Bump Into the Shamelessness Ceiling?
The more we learn about Trump’s corruption of DOJ, the worse it gets
He Made Sticky Stuff for MLB Pitchers for 15 Years. Now He’s Speaking Out.
The Amazon that customers don’t see: Inside a key warehouse during the pandemic
We’re learning more about how Trump leveraged his power to bolster his election fantasies
If the Senate Is Serious About Ending Endless Wars, It Should Focus on the 2001 AUMF
How to Have a Roaring 2020s (Without Wild Inflation) (without dealing with housing and retail store prices, we’re going to have problems)
Still a summit secret: What happened in Helsinki between Putin and Trump? (Democrats are so bad at this)
A Foolproof Plan That Could Not Possibly Have Any Negative Consequences
The Policy That Might Have Rescued America And Stopped Trump
Spread The Blame Around
Biden’s plan to tackle far-right terrorism is sane and thorough, so expect a Tucker meltdown

Posted in Lotsa Links | 1 Comment

The Critical Race Theory Moral Panic and the Southern Baptist Convention

There are two very odd things about the recent hyping of ‘critical race theory.’ First, I think a lot of people–even White ones!–wouldn’t disagree with the premise that the legal system has built in structural biases against Black people. Of course, that’s not how Republicans are weaponizing the term, but, still, it’s not something new or even, post-George Floyd, that controversial for many people.

What’s even weirder is how they spun this out of whole cloth. With “defund the police”, there was an actual slogan on the left, construed broadly, that was used and argued about for a significant length of time. People wrote it on signs, and argued for it in columns. But that didn’t happen with critical race theory. It wasn’t discussed at Democratic conventions, protests, or even mentioned by the left very often. It really seems to have been conjured out of thin air. Though, in an article about the schism in the Southern Baptists, I did find this (boldface mine):

Messengers will confront a series of measures likely including the propriety of women delivering sermons, the handling of sexual abuse and a denunciation of critical race theory, the concept that historical patterns of racism remain ingrained in modern American society and institutions….

Mr. Jolly, who will attend his first annual meeting, watched with alarm as public schools in his area have begun to teach what he describes as critical race theory. And he was shocked when high-profile leaders in his own denomination endorsed aspects of the sprawling racial protest movement last summer. “I think C.R.T. is one of these destructive heresies that have snuck in,” he said, referring to a passage in the New Testament book of 2 Peter about false teachers who bring “swift destruction on themselves.”

At its 2019 meeting, the convention affirmed that critical race theory could be an “analytical tool” useful to faithful Christians, a move that many conservatives describe as alarming. Its current president, J.D. Greear, urged Southern Baptists last summer to declare that “Black lives matter.”

I wonder if part of the moral panic about critical race theory can be traced to the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) raising and supporting it. Needless to say, the SBC, to this left-ish type, isn’t really part of the left, regardless of how broadly one construes the left: this doesn’t mean Southern Baptists can’t be part of the left, but no one would describe the SBC itself as a left-aligned organization. I could imagine this being the first introduction, such as it was, for many at the convention to critical race theory.

Given the close ties between many Southern Baptists and the Republican Party, I wonder if this primed conservatives for the critical race theory moral panic.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments