Links 5/7/21

Links for you. Science:

DOJ Threatened MIT Researchers With Subpoena in Collaboration With Bolivian Coup Regime
CDC says coronavirus could be under control this summer in U.S. if people get vaccinated and are careful (lots of very optimistic assumptions though)
AMR (for R)
Reaching ‘Herd Immunity’ Is Unlikely in the U.S., Experts Now Believe
Efficacy of NVX-CoV2373 Covid-19 Vaccine against the B.1.351 Variant

Other:

Liz Cheney, We Have a Memory. You’re No Hero.
Judge confirms Barr lied about Mueller report — will New York Times apologize for spreading that lie?
Merrick Garland Has Trained the Justice Department’s Sights on the Cyber Ninjas
Here’s where people are riding Metro this spring
A vision for an affordable and accessible Eckington deferred
Gaming in colour: uncovering video games’ black pioneers
Ruckus in the skies: What happens when airline passengers refuse to wear masks (stuff them in the overhead bins?)
They’re Hunting Satan Amongst the Ballots in the Election ‘Audit’ Out in Arizona
America’s Bullshit Tolerance Is Reaching Dangerously High Levels
Just when the Arizona Republican election ‘audit’ couldn’t get any worse, it somehow does
Biden Axes Trump Gig-Worker Rule, Favoring ‘Employee’ Model
The inadequacy of the term “Asian American”
Does the Term “Latinx” Advance Social Justice?
Facebook’s oversight board whiffed. Trump deserves a permanent exile.
Liz Cheney Has Only Herself to Blame
NY State AG James seeks fines against far right trolls Jacob Wohl and Jack Burkman for voter suppression scheme
Bank Shot: Financial Giants’ Return to Manhattan Gives Smaller Businesses Hope (Dimon’s comments make me think CEOs hate remote working for two reasons: 1) they can’t figure out how to work Zoom; 2) the remote office reminds them how little they actually contribute to the business)
The Mount Pleasant Uprising, 30 Years Later
DC Council sets the stage for high-density residential construction on publicly owned land along U Street Corridor
Is Unemployment Insurance Behind the Fast-Food Labor Shortage? In reality, it’s the low pay and abysmal working conditions.
D.C.’s Office of the Inspector General to Investigate Department of Employment Services. The audit follows a series of issues DOES has experienced since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. (consider the previous link in light of this one)
Kenyan McDuffie, Others Push Mayor for a Clear Reopening Roadmap. “It’s incredibly hard for businesses to sustain themselves when they’re forced to respond to ad hoc reopening announcements.” (1. D.C. never followed its own shutdown metrics, so why would they follow reopening metrics; 2. How does each wards vaccination frequencies play into this)

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Too Many Professional Democrats Don’t Appear to Understand What America Is Facing

A discordant note in Biden’s first 100 days–and it’s not fair to lay this on Biden–is how some professional Democrats, including narcissistic ideologue Sen. Joe Manchin and Manic Pixie Dream Senator Kyrsten Sinema, but not only those two, fail to understand that Republicans are working overtime to cement majority rule. I get that many Democrats don’t want to govern like Bernie Sanders, but stopping incipient fascism is kinda important.

Because Elie Mystal has the right of it (boldface mine):

The basic argument from conservative Democrats is that the party should be cautious in its use of power. Taking aggressive, provocative actions, like ending or reforming the filibuster, might encourage Republicans to use power viciously should they ever get it again. But that argument is ludicrous. It proceeds from the false premise that Republicans are restrained by what Democrats are willing to do. The truth is that Republicans are restrained only by what their racist white voters will allow, and those voters have proved time and again that they will allow anything so long as their tribe comes out on top…

I will acknowledge that Republicans will use any action by Democrats as an excuse to further vitiate democracy, should they get a chance. If Democrats kill or even just weaken the filibuster, Republicans will use whatever small Senate majority they’re able to cobble together to ram through the most divisive and extremist laws they can think of. If Democrats add four justices to the Supreme Court, Republicans will add 10 when they get a chance. If Democrats prosecute Trump for corruption and tax fraud, Republicans will prosecute Joe Biden for having ice cream before dinner if they have to. That is their way.

Republicans are not bluffing when they promise retribution should Democrats use the power they have won. But so what? How is that any worse than what we have now? Republicans supported a whole-cloth lie about the results of the last election, which led directly to a massive insurrection against the government. Many of their voters were willing to capture and kill elected representatives or quietly supported those who would. Republicans have chosen to pursue power at any cost, and yet there are Democrats like Joe Manchin who think defending procedural gridlock will “heal” these divides.

Who in their right mind thinks Republicans won’t use all the power they have in, say, 2025 just because Democrats showed restraint in 2021? Republicans never hold their fire because they’re afraid of the Democratic response. They never say, “If we’re not careful, we might piss off Chris Coons.”

The only way to protect people from what Republicans will do once they regain power is to make it difficult for the white supremacist rump of the party to gain power again. The only way to do that, legitimately, is to secure voting rights. The cure for the ills of democracy is more democracy.

Unfortunately, I’m not sure enough Democrats understand the urgency of the moment. If they don’t, then we might get a situation where Democrats lose the House in 2022 for years, and the Senate until 2030.

Posted in Democrats, Resistance Rebellion And Death | 1 Comment

Links 5/6/21

Links for you. Science:

Pfizer is testing a pill that, if successful, could become first-ever home cure for COVID-19
Scientists Are Relocating Nuisance Beavers to Help Salmon
Drones show California’s great white sharks are closer — and more common — than you think
Siberia Is on Fire—and It’s Only May
Microplastics are everywhere — but are they harmful?

Other:

Don’t Fall for the D.C. Retrocession ‘Okey-Doke’. Retrocession is being used to derail what Washingtonians actually want: statehood. (yep)
How most of the West got the pandemic so badly wrong?
The Real-Life Victims of Democrats’ Irrational Deficit Paranoia. How moderates’ fear of the Congressional Budget Office screws students and shrinks ambitious policy, all to protect the fabled “taxpayer”
The D.C. Council Just Advanced An Updated Comprehensive Plan. Here’s What’s In It
Biden and the Future of the Family
Our Government Was Attacked on January 6, But Can’t Get Itself Together to Investigate It
Mayor Bowser’s Revised D.C. Mask Order, Explained
Republicans scramble to ban ‘certain messages’ and ‘unsanctioned narratives’ from schools
Republicans to officially make opposing sedition disqualifying for party leadership
The counting will continue until results improve
Supreme Court’s Ethics Problems Are Bigger Than Coney Barrett
Proud Boys saw wave of contributions from Chinese diaspora before Capitol attack
The coronavirus vaccine skeptics who changed their minds
Facebook’s Oversight Board Just Reminded Us of What an Almighty Problem Facebook Is
Trump’s New Blog Is a Trap. The only way to win is not to play
The Murdoch cancer — how one country is trying to cure itself
DC Council Approves Comprehensive Plan Amendments
Ban Him Forever: To send the right message, Donald Trump’s removal from Facebook must be permanent.
Innovations In Human Resource Management
Netanyahu is desperate, unhinged and totally uninterested in governing
Businesses are desperate for workers … but not desperate enough to pay more

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The Last Year in Republican Politics: The Triumph of the Palinists

It’s best described by this synopsis of Republican efforts to make mail-in voting harder (boldface mine):

Two things conspired to dampen that Republican enthusiasm in recent years: Progressive-minded states began to adopt mail-in balloting as means of boosting overall voter turnout and better ensuring equality in voting opportunities, generating the predictable (indeed, unavoidable) Republican reflex of now seeing conspiracy in use of the thing they championed because now the wrong people were using it. There is no better way to convince a white conservative that a government program is corrupt or unnecessary than informing them that a nonwhite nonconservative is benefiting from it, and that is such a universal truth that Fox News was able to build a whole network around it.

But it was Donald Trump who flipped Republican lawmakers, in some cases overnight, on the subject. A narcissistic conspiracy crank and ignorant buffoon in all subjects, Trump began to see the promotion of mail-in balloting as an insult to him, personally, in that calls to vote by mail emphasized the dangers of the deadly pandemic that he also believed was being inflated solely to make him look bad. Because Trump is Trump, this almost immediately evolved into claims that mail-in voting was itself a conspiracy against him; as Trump slid in the polls and it began to look more improbable that he could step over half a million corpses to win a second term, Trump’s team began to overtly say that if they lost, they would blame it on “fraud” rather than acknowledge his loss.

A coping mechanism for a decompensating malignant narcissist in the throes of mental crisis thus became a new Republican Party core belief. No, no, it couldn’t possibly be that the Dear Leader’s incompetence through four years culminated in economic collapse and nationwide chaos. It must be a conspiracy by “urban” voters, globalists, immigrants, atheists, and every other enemy of white nationalist chaos. It turns out that if you get hundreds of Republican lawmakers to repeat the same white nationalist claims, enough of the Republican base will believe the claims to mount a genuine, if incompetent, insurrection.

Of course, one of the first practitioners of this lunacy–Trump v0.1–was Sarah Palin, who made grievance politics part and parcel of Republican Party politics (boldface added):

While people have described Palin as engaging in identity politics, that sells identity politics short. Palin along with the proto-movement surrounding her–Palinism–practices what could be call ‘politics of the blood.’ It’s derived from Giovanni Gentile’s description of fascism: “We think with our blood.” In Palin’s case, it’s an emotional appeal to a romanticized, mythical past of “real America.” And that’s why I think the fixation people have on Palin’s complete policy incoherence and ignorance is missing the point.

Her policy ignorance isn’t a bug, it’s a feature. Palin is conceptually and intellectually poor because her politics are not about policies, but a romantic restoration of the ‘real’ America to its rightful place. The primary purpose of politics is not to govern, not to provide services, and not to solve mundane, although often important, problems. For the Palinist, politics first and foremost exists to enable the social restoration of ‘real’ Americans… and the emotional and social advantages that restoration would provide to its followers… Practicalities of governance, such as compromise and worrying about reality-based outcomes, actually get in the way. Why risk having your fantasy muddied by reality?

In this way, symbols and short phrases are the goal, not a means (although others, such as corporations and lobbyists, are willing to co-opt the emotions these symbols generate to further their own agendas)…

But that romanticism is at the heart of Palinism. It’s not a forward-looking utopianism, but a desire to return to a mythical, halcyon America that was Christian, low-tax, small government, and had less racial and ethnic discord (the latter is the most absurd, but, if you were white, there weren’t racial problems: you were white–no problems!). This vision has not existed for decades, if at all, but it is a predictable reaction to the loss of primus inter pares status of Christian whites; they are no longer the default setting

What makes Palinism worrisome, and why I think it can be labelled ‘para [or proto]-fascist’ is that it is marginalist. For ‘real Americans’ to take back ‘their’ country–and note the phrase take back–they, by definition, are taking it back from an Other, whether that Other be a religious minority, racial minority, or some other group. This isn’t ‘old-school’ identity politics–getting a fair share; even if we disagree about the amount of shares and methods, traditional identity politics are not marginalist. There is a disconcerting streak of marginalization of the Other (e.g., gays, religious minorities, racial minorities) that could easily veer into eliminationist rhetoric and violence; arguably, Palin came very close in the 2008 campaign. Had Palin or McCain wanted to, they could have incited their political rallies to violence; they were that angry.

The Republican rank-and-file was primed for this.

Posted in Conservatives | 1 Comment

Links 5/5/21

Links for you. Science:

How donkeys digging wells help life thrive in the desert
Covid ‘Doesn’t Discriminate by Age’: Serious Cases on the Rise in Younger Adults
How long can you really depend on an IUD for contraception?
What Doomed a Sprawling City Near St. Louis 1,000 Years Ago?
Helen Murray Free, chemist who revolutionized diabetes testing, dies at 98

Other:

Clarification of Spending/Inflation Constraints According to Modern Monetary Theory
Lumber is shockingly expensive. Thanks, Obama.
How the Pentagon Started Taking U.F.O.s Seriously
Weird Science
The only thing Republicans are debating is their degree of loyalty to Trump
Can Cities Be Saved From ‘Supergentrification’? Aspen May Offer a Roadmap
That’s What the Money Is For
U.S. Captured, Tortured, and Cleared Him. He’s Still in GITMO.
The Republican Party Has Developed New Rites of Initiation: You Must Push the Big Lie
The Big Lie Both Is and Is Not About Election Fraud
Ohio judge has to force Columbus police not to brutalize nonviolent protesters
Community college saved my life. Thank you, Joe Biden, for trying to make it free.
Liz Cheney 2024? Let’s hope not
First responders put other people at risk by refusing to take the vaccine
Joe Biden Just Wants to Make the U.S. a Normal Country That Isn’t Horrible for Parents
The Rules Dems Could Change To Keep The Tom Cottons Of The Senate From Delaying Biden Noms’ Confirmations
Ban Tear Gas
Voices Of Wards 7 And 8: Violence In The Community
Good Thing She Isn’t Fed Chair
The New York City Ban on Snow Days Is a Ban On Joy
Millions Are Saying No to the Vaccines. What Are They Thinking?
How Do We Reach The People We’re Least Likely To Reach

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The Sum of All Inchoate Feelings: The Voting Suppression Edition

While much of the impetus behind the wave of Republican voter suppression bills is pure political cynicism, we shouldn’t neglect the role inchoate feelings play either (boldface mine):

Republicans, when pressed for details on any reported fraud that would prompt the need for the bill, often demurred.

I don’t know, but I’m sure it was going on,” Mr. Ingoglia responded to a question on the House floor about any reported instances of illegal ballot collection. “Just the fact that they weren’t caught doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s not happening.”

Are some of these assholes cynical liars? Sure, but like their rank-and-file, many of them simply can’t comprehend that Joe Biden and the Democrats (horrible band name!) kicked their asses. Losing the election was inconceivable to them:

Many Republican voters scoff at those results, convinced Trump was cheated. Raymond Fontaine, a hardware store owner in Oakville, Connecticut, said Biden’s vote total – the highest of any presidential candidate in history – makes no sense because the 78-year-old Democrat made relatively few campaign appearances and seemed to be in mental decline.

“You are going to tell me 77 million Americans voted for him? There is just no way,” said Fontaine, 50.

More like 81 million akshually, but why rub it in? They couldn’t accept–and still can’t–that Trump could lose, that so many Americans–even White ones!–despise him (despite Trump never having net positive popularity ratings). If you can’t accept that, then the fix must be in, and cheating must have happened.

Well, as some of these same voters said circa 2016, fuck their feelings. I realize Democratic elected officials really can’t say something like “You lost. Get over it and yourselves, snowflakes“, but the rest of us can. They lost, fair and square, and they need to grow the fuck up and accept that.

Posted in Conservatives, Fucking Morons, Voting | 1 Comment

Links 5/4/21

Links for you. Science:

Farming without disturbing soil could cut agriculture’s climate impact by 30%
How Pfizer Makes Its Covid-19 Vaccine
Assess Ventilation When Determining Safe Distancing in Schools to Control COVID-19 Transmission
How Humanity Gave Itself an Extra Life
The COVID States Project #48: Assessing the impact of the pause in Johnson & Johnson vaccine use on COVID-19 vaccination intent

Other:

D.C. is working on a futuristic plan: Less parking, taller buildings and a transformed city
Many police officers spurn coronavirus vaccines as departments hold off on mandates (then maybe they shouldn’t be…)
Not wearing masks outside (in most circumstances) is fine. Wearing masks outside is also fine if you want to.
We Know How to Prevent Traffic Deaths. Our Goal Should Be Zero.
Biden Needs to Fire the FBI Director
Good Luck to Republicans if Biden’s Family Plan Becomes Law
Britain risks cementing in power a corrupt and incompetent government in undeserved gratitude for the vaccine
Do public health officials need to be political activists? A fight over an HIV crisis renews the question
Out of Oxygen
The Big Biden Policy Idea That Nobody (Not Even Joe Biden) Is Discussing
Why Covid-19 is Running Amok in India
Is the Abandonment of Guest Worker COVID Protections a Taste of Things to Come?
New York requires $15 broadband for poor people, promptly gets sued by ISPs
Experts call for federal monitors of Arizona Senate election audit, citing violations of voting laws
Paid to Lie. On the boundless and hugely remunerative cynicism of Rupert Murdoch and his faux-news fabricators
At a walk-up coronavirus vaccine clinic in D.C., every shot is a small victory
Were We Awake During The Campaign
Don’t Wait for Herd Immunity: We may never reach the point when viral spread stops, but a strategy of minimizing risk—not eliminating it—can help Americans reclaim normalcy. (feels like giving up and settling for thousands of needless deaths, but that’s what we do in 21st century America)
Democratic senator has tough questions for the FBI on how it missed Jan. 6 threat from Proud Boys
Some schools skip student quarantines
We Tortured The Shit Out Of Some Folks
Oregon Lawmaker Who Opened State Capitol To Far-Right Protesters Faces Charges

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Fast-Forward COVID-19 Punditry

While I realize pundits* have to come up with new things to say, or at least, new ways of saying the same old thing, watching the punditocracy race ahead of where many places actually are in terms of COVID-19 prevalence and vaccination is surreal. Some asshole with a blog noted this earlier this week:

In terms of vaccination, as of two weeks ago (remember, it takes about two weeks for the vaccine’s protection to kick in), 23.5% of D.C. residents were fully vaccinated, and 49.7% of D.C. residents had received at least one dose. We’re nowhere near done yet, but hopefully in a month or so, we’ll be in a good place regarding vaccination…

Yet reading the commentary, one would think we’re at sixty or seventy percent fully vaccinated (hint: we’re not). We will be eventually but not for a while.

Atrios sums up the consequences rather well:

When “everyone” but not everyone is vaccinated, there will be zero public restrictions or social restraints. And people will still be getting sick and dying. Probably more than a few. Maybe just “bad flu season” but… that’s not so good!

People point to the UK’s fast first dose vaccination, but there hasn’t been indoor dining in most of the country since November, and in none of it since around Xmas (even now).

One hundred COVID-10 deaths per day for one hundred days is equivalent to the annual death toll from gun violence**. I hope the death toll is lower than that due to vaccine uptake–and it could be if we pushed hard–but I think too many people, including even those in public health, are needlessly adjusting their expectations downwards too soon.

I’m going to be mad about all of this for a long time.

*not to mention assholes with blogs!

**This figure refers to violence. Gun suicides are about double that.

Posted in BANG! BANG!, Basic Human Decency, COVID-19 | Leave a comment

Links 5/3/21

Links for you. Science:

Why some people don’t experience vaccine side-effects, and why it’s not a problem
How eDNA is revolutionizing the tracking of elusive species. It may soon be used to fight wildlife trafficking.
Trial of existing antibiotic for treating Staphylococcus aureus bacteremia begins. NIH-supported trial will test dalbavancin in hospitalized adults.
Baby Mammoths Were Meals for These Saber-Tooth Cats
Sponges can crawl, but it costs them bits of their bodies

Other:

Vaccine Skepticism Was Viewed as a Knowledge Problem. It’s Actually About Gut Beliefs. (good, but not new at all–ScienceBloglings were discussing this circa 2007)
Employers are outraged that workers won’t come crawling to work for peanuts in a pandemic
‘Deaths of Despair’ and the Failure of Capitalism
The ‘Capitalism is Broken’ Economy
Call it ‘enforcement fatigue’: Restaurant workers are tired of fighting unruly customers
‘Floyd was my man. But George Floyd is a movement.’ The private grief of Courteney Ross, George Floyd’s girlfriend
How Extremists Weaponize Irony To Spread Hate
The vaccine insurrection. How do we deal with the new antivax movement? (we need a carrot and stick approach; e.g., no one working in nursing homes should be turning down vaccination)
Daniel Kaminsky, Internet Security Savior, Dies at 42. If you are reading this obituary online, you owe your digital safety to him.
The Fight to Clean Up the EPA. Trump nearly broke the EPA. Can the Biden administration repair the damage?
The Origin Story Of GOP Outrage Over Totally Imaginary Biden Red Meat Ban
COVID vaccines: time to confront anti-vax aggression
Joe Biden fought this destructive law. 25 years later, he can help repeal it.
Experian doxes the world (again)
A small electorate chooses Boston’s mayors. Let’s change that. Shifting municipal elections to even-numbered years, so they align with national elections, would boost turnout dramatically. (D.C. should do this too)
How much money do English majors make? Don’t ask. Publicizing the earning potential associated with various college programs would reinforce a narrow view of what higher education is all about.
The unmaking of India (not behind paywall)
Black residents of Elizabeth City, N.C., thought police violence happened in other places. Then it came to their town.
Disney’s writer wage-theft is far worse than reported
Complacency and Government Failures Fueled India’s COVID Disaster
COVID-19 surges in Oregon, sickening younger adults and forcing a return to restrictions

Posted in Lotsa Links | 1 Comment

The State of COVID-19 in D.C.: Getting Better, but Bowser’s New Guidelines Might Not Help

Before we get to Mayor Bowser’s late and atypically unannounced rule change, the entire city and Wards 4–8, are still above the German rollback threshold of 50 new cases per 100,000 per week–which also is the threshold the CDC suggests schools for all grades can reopen (0.05% in the second column below):


Ward one-week prevalence one-week % pos. two-week prevalence two-week % pos.
1 0.032% 1.0% 0.106% 1.8%
2 0.027% 0.4% 0.050% 0.4%
3 0.045% 0.2% 0.082% 0.4%
4 0.062% 1.8% 0.136% 1.9%
5 0.097% 1.6% 0.189% 1.8%
6 0.053% 1.5% 0.141% 1.9%
7 0.131% 3.5% 0.317% 4.1%
8 0.154% 3.0% 0.322% 3.1%
D.C. total 0.074% 1.2% 0.166% 1.6%

The ‘good place’, which is one new case per 100,000 people per day, would be 0.007% in column two and 0.014% in column four–and we’re still no near that in Wards 4, 5, 7, and 8. The percent positive rates are good in Wards 1-6, and borderline in Wards 7 and 8. Wards 1, 4, 6, and 7 saw large decreases, and Ward 8 had a slight decrease. Ward 6 saw an increase. Wards 2 and 3 also saw increases. However, Ward 2 increased from 21 to 25 new cases while having fifty percent more tests, and Ward 3 had a large backlog of testing results (~12,000), equal to about three additional weeks worth of tests, so the only concern is the increase in Ward 6. R(t), using recent data (D.C. calculates R(t) using cleaned up data that is about 10 days–two viral reproduction cycles–out of date), has been below 0.9 most of the week.

In terms of vaccination, as of two weeks ago (remember, it takes about two weeks for the vaccine’s protection to kick in), 23.5% of D.C. residents were fully vaccinated, and 49.7% of D.C. residents had received at least one dose. We’re nowhere near done yet, but hopefully in a month or so, we’ll be in a good place regarding vaccination, though it would help greatly if CDC could released zipcode level data, so we have a better idea of how each of the wards are doing (I wouldn’t be surprised if there were twenty percent point gaps between some wards, unfortunately).

The vaccination numbers make Mayor Bowser’s Friday night surprise announcement–one that the city uncharacteristically did not promote–about masking puzzling. Initially, the city was going to be far more lax about indoors mask wearing for fully vaccinated people (basically, they wouldn’t have to wear masks), and leave it up to restaurants and business to enforce any possible rule breakers.

What could possibly go wrong?

Ultimately, the city backed down, but the outdoor guidance is still vague (“Unvaccinated persons leaving their residences shall wear a mask when they are likely to come into contact with another person, such as being within six feet of another person”), as it’s unclear if this includes, for instance, narrow, high-traffic sidewalks (in fairness, the CDC is unclear about this too).

Anyway, things are improving, but we need more vaccine uptake. As some asshole with a blog put it:

Given these distribution problems (and I think the Biden administration could have offered more guidance here to states), D.C. shouldn’t relax restrictions further for the next couple of week since vaccination rates just aren’t where they need to be.

That said, if Wards 2 and 3 are any indication, there is a light at the end of this tunnel, hopefully by the beginning of June, even if too many people had to die to get there.

Anger is still the appropriate emotion.

Still angry.

Posted in COVID-19, DC | 1 Comment