Links 11/30/20

Links for you. Science:

Hurricanes are staying stronger even over land as oceans warm from climate change, study finds
Trump administration official who questions global warming will run key climate program. David Legates moves from NOAA to the U.S. Global Change Research Program
Transmission heterogeneities, kinetics, and controllability of SARS-CoV-2
A Geneticist’s Dilemma: A growing number of scientists believe that the cure for disease can be found in our DNA. But that poses a unique problem for some Native Americans.
Pandemic raises difficult issues about limits of tests for covid-19, other diseases


Let’s Talk About Higher Wages. The nation, and the Democratic Party, desperately needs a replacement for the tired story that tax cuts drive economic growth.
Congress can wait: How Biden can reshape our future with executive action
Forgive Us Our Debts. Churches are doing what politicians have been unable to do, rescuing Americans from crushing medical bills.
You may have never heard of Judge Juan Torruella, but his death is another warning for January 5
Abolishing the Economics Nobel Isn’t Enough
Don’t Blame the Left for the Democrats’ Losses
Young voters set turnout record, aiding Biden win (so by all means, let’s fuck up student debt relief, which they overwhelmingly favor)
Online Anti-Vax Communities Have Become A Pipeline For QAnon Radicalization
D.C. deserves a police chief who embraces transparency. So, too, does Prince William County.
New York City Will Reopen Elementary Schools and Phase Out Hybrid Learning
Germany has lessons about containing the damage of COVID-19. It’s not too late for us to start listening
Mask defiance remains strong in Big Sky Country, even as the pandemic rages
America Just Can’t Get Enough Lysol
Why Twitter is (Epistemically) Better Than Facebook
Rich donors don’t make great ambassadors
Let Trump try to defend racist, traitorous Confederates. Congress can still prevail.
Trump dramatically changed the presidency. Here’s a list of the 20 most important norms he broke — and how Biden can restore them.
Elizabeth Warren: What a Biden-Harris administration should prioritize on its first day
Kimberlé Crenshaw: the woman who revolutionised feminism – and landed at the heart of the culture wars
A Trump donor’s company got a 3 percent federal pandemic loan. It sells title loans at a 350 percent annual rate.

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The State of COVID-19 in D.C.: An Ongoing Failure of Governance

It was yet another disastrous week for COVID-19 in D.C. The entire city and all wards, including the ‘low prevalence bastions’ of Ward 2 and 3, are now well above the German rollback threshold of 50 new cases per 100,000 per week (0.05% in the second column below):

Ward one-week prevalence one-week % pos. two-week prevalence two-week % pos.
1 0.164% 1.6% 0.307% 1.9%
2 0.156% 1.5% 0.286% 1.5%
3 0.103% 1.4% 0.178% 1.5%
4 0.205% 3.3% 0.384% 3.7%
5 0.185% 2.5% 0.381% 3.1%
6 0.182% 1.5% 0.387% 1.9%
7 0.230% 5.3% 0.418% 5.7%
8 0.202% 4.6% 0.371% 4.9%
D.C. total 0.181% 2.2% 0.345% 2.4%

For context, in column two, the ‘good place’, which is one new case per 100,000 people per day, is 0.007%.

There are some marginal improvements in Wards 5 and 6, but those wards were doing so poorly to begin with, that’s not really saying much (Ward 5 did have a lower percent positive rate too, so testing seems to be improving there). All the other wards are worse–and objectively bad.

Meanwhile, the city’s new proposals are to further limit indoor dining starting December 14, and ban booze purchases after 10pm (apparently, COVID-19 is like Gremlins or something). There also will be further limits on houses of worship. And people are pretty good about wearing masks, so I’m not sure how much more we can squeeze out of that. I don’t think all of these new rules will be enough to lower R(t) to less than one (i.e., daily new cases will decrease). I hope it will, but I’m not convinced. At all.

While next week probably won’t be much worse, partly because travel-related COVID-19 cases won’t really start hitting the system until late this week, it’s going to be bad soon. Deaths are going to keep coming through–right now, we’ve had twenty deaths in the last two weeks–and D.C. will likely join the 1/1000 residents COVID-19 deaths club by the end of the year.

This is an utter failure of governance by both the mayor and the Council, the latter which seems to be focused on everything but the immediate crisis at hand. Why anyone currently holding office in D.C. should be re-elected escapes me. As some asshole with a blog noted:

The city won’t do that, however, because it needs revenue, so people will get sick and die for money. I’m not surprised Bowser has adopted this line because I expect Bowser to do her usual when faced with a crisis: hunker down and hope it resolves itself or is forgotten.

Unfortunately, you can’t bullshit the virus.

But the D.C. Council also is failing–if nothing else, members have a political opportunity here–and there’s nothing wrong when opportunism is aligned with good policy. My hunch about the D.C. Council’s actions is that it is one part hunkering down and one part stone cold ignorance of biology and math. They know lots of things, such as the ins and outs of housing policy. But here isn’t anyone on the Council or their staffs (or enough people on staff to break through) to know what to ask and how to ask it.

It is obvious what needs to be done, as painful as it might be economically: we need to shut down indoor dining (and bars), and other gathering places, and limit gatherings to households. If things get worse, we might have to consider schools too*, but that should be a last resort.

As usual, even with these horrible data, we still could be only four to six weeks away from returning to normal-ish, but we intentionally remain four to six weeks away from safely returning to normal-ish because we’re unwilling to do what it takes to make that happen.

Anger isn’t the appropriate emotion, rage is.

*I’m far less sanguine than some about the lack of spreading in schools–and from schools back into the commmunity. It appears to be an argument with little evidence to support it (and Israel’s experience contradicts it), and I fear that public health officials will rue making these claims so strongly.

Posted in COVID-19, DC | 7 Comments

Links 11/29/20

Links for you. Science:

For the first time, scientists detect the ghostly signal that reveals the engine of the universe
Recent endemic coronavirus infection is associated with less severe COVID-19
Dr. Mary Fowkes, 66, Dies; Helped Science Understand the Pandemic. She performed autopsies in New York that found blood clots in vital organs, suggesting how much the virus spreads through the body. (heart attack)
Illegal Tampering by Diesel Pickup Owners Is Worsening Pollution, E.P.A. Says
What Will Trump’s Most Profound Legacy Be? Possibly Climate Damage. President-elect Biden can restore many of the 100-plus environmental regulations that President Trump rolled back, but much of the damage to the climate cannot be reversed.


OAN Is So Dangerous Because It Looks Like a Real News Channel
The President Doesn’t Need Congress to Cancel Student Loan Debt. Democrats Will Push For Action in 2021
Homeless families sought shelter from COVID-19 in vacant houses. CHP officers evicted them before Thanksgiving
The Tragedy of Jeremy Corbyn
What Facebook Fed the Baby Boomers: Many Americans’ feeds are nightmares. I know because I spent weeks living inside two of them.
The disinformation system that Trump unleashed will outlast him. Here’s what reality-based journalists must do about it.
Times Change: In the Trump years, the New York Times became less dispassionate and more crusading, sparking a raw debate over the paper’s future.
What the coronavirus vaccine shows about the potential for innovation
Biden Is Stepping Into a Dream Economic Scenario
Utah’s Desert Monolith Mysteriously Vanishes
Trump’s Election Lies Failed, but the Damage Is Done
Janet Yellen at Treasury Is One of Biden’s Best Appointments
A shot. A wait. Another shot: Two-dose coronavirus vaccine regimens will make it harder to inoculate America
From campus, a lesson in controlling the virus. Massachusetts colleges have been the rare success in combating the spread of coronavirus. The state could learn from their extensive testing plans.
Experts Warn Of Erratic COVID-19 Testing Numbers After Thanksgiving
Well Paid Bullshit Artists
More than two dozen Covid-19 cases were traced to youth basketball at a California gym, health officials say
Why Everyone’s Suddenly Hoarding Mason Jars
The flip side to Biden’s appointments: All the Trumpers he can fire
Barack Obama Doesn’t Have the Answers. The former president seems unable to reckon with the failures of his presidency and diagnose the Republican Party’s incurable nihilism.
S–t Public Defenders See: Innocent, But Fined. The state of Iowa collects millions of dollars in fines from people whose charges were dismissed. There’s also a Catch-22: financially, you’re better off guilty

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A Bit Optimistic for Late November

Observed on 15th Street, between Church and Q NW, Dupont Circle, D.C.:

November optimism

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Links 11/28/20

Links for you. Science:

The “false-positive PCR” problem is not a problem
Social Media and the New World of Scientific Communication During the COVID-19 Pandemic
Trump administration removes head of federal climate program that oversees key reports
The world’s largest wetlands are on fire. That’s a disaster for all of us
Naturally occurring indels in multiple coronavirus spikes


Just A Little Worse
I will never get to go to Hong Kong: The story of the time I went to Hong Kong
Comcast Expands Costly and Pointless Broadband Caps During a Pandemic
Covid Combat Fatigue: ‘I Would Come Home With Tears in My Eyes’
Who’s in Charge of the Democratic Party? That’s actually a surprisingly difficult question to answer. We must have more accountability and transparency if the party is to live up to its name.
Kelly Loeffler marketed derivatives during Great Recession at world’s most notorious tax haven
Public apathy frustrates COVID-19 contact tracers: ‘We know people are lying to us’
Union Power After the Election: The development of a social democratic faction in the Democratic Party has given labor a chance to punch above its weight. But access alone isn’t power.
‘Kraken’ attorney has message for Trump fans: Make checks payable to Sidney Powell
Mostly Spared This Year
President gets mocked on Twitter, demands law be changed immediately to stop this threat to national insecurity
Economics Not Culture Wars Drove Most Trump Voters (inaccurate title, good discussion)
Patients of a Vermont Hospital Are Left ‘in the Dark’ After a Cyberattack
It Wasn’t Ideology That Sank House Democrats. It Was Bad Strategy.
All Out Of Ideas
The Native People of This Country Helped to Rescue America From Its Worst Instincts
Why did Democrats bleed House seats? A top analyst offers surprising answers. (made this point a while ago)
Inside the outbreak: How COVID-19 hit Lamar Jackson and the Ravens
Supreme Court’s scientifically illiterate decision will cost lives
Pacific Northwest needs 4 new cities on undeveloped land, report says (“Unless existing cities like Seattle are willing to bulldoze 40% of their single family homes, those cities won’t grow dense enough to fit all the people coming to the area in the next few decades.” But… you could do that)
Why There Are Suddenly Not Enough COVID Tests. It’s not just the Thanksgiving rush.

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

In Case You Missed It…

…a week of Mad Biologist links:

Creepy Donnie

The State of COVID-19 in D.C.: Our Response Is a Kinder, Gentler Trumpism

When You Miss Superspreading, Everything Looks Like ‘Community Spread’ and Family Gatherings

People Have to Like This Crap: Give Them All the Things

Prosecute Those Around Trump

We Are Not Free During an Out of Control Pandemic

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Links 11/27/20

Links for you. Science:

Carriage of Extended-Spectrum-Beta-Lactamase- and AmpC Beta-Lactamase-Producing Escherichia coli Strains from Humans and Pets in the Same Households
Transmission of Multidrug-Resistant Salmonella enterica Subspecies enterica 4,[5],12:i:- Sequence Type 34 between Europe and the United States
Doctors say CDC should warn people the side effects from Covid vaccine shots won’t be ‘a walk in the park’
Oxford/AZ Vaccine Efficacy Data
Genetic Adaptation in New York City Rats


Why Reopening Schools Has Become the Most Fraught Debate of the Pandemic (excellent)
Governance in Rich Liberal American Cities
The Inside Story of Michigan’s Fake Voter Fraud Scandal
‘It’s the Legacy of Slavery’: Here’s the Troubling History Behind Tipping Practices in the U.S.
The Coming Deadly Covid Winter
How to ‘disappear’ on Happiness Avenue in Beijing
What Would a State-Owned Amazon Look Like? Ask Argentina
Joe Biden Is Filling His Cabinet With Pro-War Hawks
How do we avoid future authoritarians? Winning back the working class is key
Yes, the Biden administration should hold Trump accountable
Winterization Grantees Want Greater Spending Flexibility
Free Transit Doesn’t Reduce Driving — But Does Increase Local Business Support (affordable monthly passes have similar effects–people will use them for non-business trips)
‘People are pissed’: Tensions rise amid scramble for Biden jobs
Donald Trump Presidential Library
Trump’s Last Act: Risking National Security to Honor the Confederacy
Eero Saarinen, Concordia Theological Seminary (1958) Fort Wayne, IN
The Democrats’ Maddening Cowardice Is Carrying Over into the Biden Era (last part of the post is related to this)
When a News Anchor Does the Government’s Job
Their Patients Have COVID-19 and Still Think It’s a Hoax Nurses treating coronavirus skeptics are being spit on and harassed. Many want to quit.
Most schools should close and stay closed through winter
And Now We Know His Name

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We Are Not Free During an Out of Control Pandemic

In light of the recent Supreme Court decision to allow sectarian dogma to override pandemic regulations, this observation about de facto freedom during the pandemic seems relevant (boldface mine):

Here’s a question for all red-blooded liberty-loving American patriots: Who has a greater lived experience of freedom at the moment, citizens of Vietnam or the United States? Vietnam, of course, is a one-party Communist state, with fairly strict limitations on freedom of speech, the press, and so on, while the U.S. has (at least for now) a somewhat democratic constitution and (at least formally) some protections for civil liberties.

But in Vietnam, there is no raging coronavirus pandemic. Thanks to swift action from the government, that nation squelched its initial outbreak, and has so far successfully contained all subsequent infection clusters before they got out of hand. Its figures at time of writing (which have been confirmed as reliable by outside sources) show a mere 1,283 cases and 35 deaths, and no community transmission for the last 75 days. Life for Vietnamese people has returned to normal, with a few sensible precautions. If their success holds for a few more months until a vaccine can be deployed, Vietnam will have dodged the pandemic nearly perfectly….

Meanwhile in the self-appointed “land of the free,” on Sunday the seven-day average of daily COVID-19 deaths was 1,148. The same seven-day average of new cases has increased from about 82,000 on November 1 to over 150,000 on Sunday — numbers that are certainly a large underestimate, because, with very high test positivity rates across much of the country, many cases are being missed. Total recorded deaths in the U.S. are over 250,000, which again is a large under-count. There are many more future deaths already baked in, and infections are mounting exponentially in almost every state. Unless something changes, and fast, the coronavirus pandemic will surpass the Second World War to become the greatest American mass casualty event since the influenza pandemic of 1918.

The bleak irony of American life is our boastful and hyperbolic national conception of liberty has left us as one of the most unfree peoples on the globe. There can be no freedom without government, a lesson currently being inscribed in blood, and stacked up in the mobile morgues that are overflowing with corpses in more cities around the country every day.

As an American, the months since March have felt like living in Airstrip One, the miserable police state formerly known as Britain in George Orwell’s 1984. In that time I have seldom left my house for fear of catching the virus, or worse, spreading it to someone who is at risk and killing (or permanently disabling) them. I have not seen my family since October 2019 for the same reason. In a best-case scenario, I will not see them until the middle of next year — something like 2 percent of my entire lifespan, optimistically speaking. It looks like even the occasional outdoor dining I savored as a small bright spot over the summer will be shut down soon, with cases spiking badly in my home city of Philadelphia.

All the political freedoms I supposedly enjoy as an American citizen are useless in the face of this unending tsunami of death and misery. The plain fact is that the average resident of Vietnam — under a repressive dictatorship, let me emphasize — has more freedoms in the places where, for most people, it really counts: the freedom to leave the house, the freedom to see and touch one’s family and friends, the freedom to go to a restaurant or a bar or a movie or a concert, and simply the freedom from constant grasping fear of invisible death

Thomas Hobbes noted 369 years ago that if a political sovereign is constrained by absolutist property rights, “he cannot perform the office [the people] have put him into, which is to defend them both from foreign enemies and from the injuries of one another; and consequently there is no longer a Commonwealth.”

I can’t stop thinking about the Maine wedding–and weddings can be religious gatherings–that led to seven deaths, none of whom are involved in the wedding. The Supreme Court’s decision will get people killed.

It didn’t have to be like this.

Rage is the appropriate emotion. Reform the courts. Reform them now.

Posted in Conservatives, COVID-19, Fucking Morons, Resistance Rebellion And Death | 3 Comments

Links 11/26/20

Links for you. Science:

Why Oxford’s positive COVID vaccine results are puzzling scientists
Nature journals reveal terms of landmark open-access option. The journals will charge authors up to €9,500 to make research papers free to read, in a long-awaited alternative to subscription-only publishing.
A Vaccine Won’t End the Pandemic in Rural America. COVID-19 Could Linger for Years—Just as Influenza Did a Century Ago
No evidence for increased transmissibility from recurrent mutations in SARS-CoV-2
The D.C. Coronavirus Data We Don’t Know. Where are the outbreaks? What are the superspreading events? (excellent general points; related post here)


Obama the pretender (important, if discomforting for some)
I’ve Got The Feeling That Something Ain’t Right
They Know Even Less Than What They Say (Oster is not good)
A Weird Monolith Is Found in the Utah Desert
With Great Power Comes At Least Very Small Responsibilities
A Son Recalls His Father’s Role In The So-Called ‘Foggy Bottom Gang’
Beyond burnout: For health care workers, this surge of Covid-19 is bringing burnover
Despite the CDC’s Eviction Ban, Thousands of Tenants Are Losing Their Homes
Biden to spotlight CDC officials shunned by Trump. Nancy Messonnier, who enraged the president with her public warning of “severe” Covid-19 consequences, is slated to reemerge as a key adviser.
Roiled by Election, Facebook Struggles to Balance Civility and Growth
Why Newsmax Supports Trump’s False Voter-Fraud Claims
Two School Districts Had Different Mask Policies. Only One Had a Teacher on a Ventilator.
How Venture Capitalists Are Deforming Capitalism
To Save the Economy, Biden Must First Save Lives
Janet Yellen Is Probably the Best Treasury Secretary We Could Expect from a Biden Presidency (would like some ‘younger’ people; time for GenX to get a chance to really fuck things up)
This Is More than Another Line on John Kerry’s Resumé
Want to understand Biden voters? Here’s your reading list. (yep)
Key Democrat warns Biden not to nominate Mike Morell as CIA director
How the Biden Administration Can Free Americans from Student Debt (and it’s how you’re supposed to do politics–dance with them that brung ya)
Trump has set a hidden trap for Biden. It could do great damage.
Transit remains fairly safe during the pandemic, studies show

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Prosecute Those Around Trump

Over at the Nation, Jeet Heer argues the pros and cons of prosecuting Trump. While he comes down on the side of prosecuting Trump, my inclination is to let the state criminal proceedings continue: I think we’ll be pleasantly surprised how they go once he’s no longer president. It might be like getting Al Capone on taxes, but we should take it, because Heer and others who argue about Trump are missing the point.

For justice to have a deterrent effect, it must target his enablers. That is, many of the people who supported Trump supported him through illegal actions, and they must be punished for doing so. Biden should reinstate and invigorate the inspectors general at, well, all of the agencies, and restart (or flat out begin) investigations into various Trump officials who violated federal law. I don’t really care if someone took a couple of notepads home–that’s not what I mean. But everything from the egregious Hatch Act violations, to kids in cages (we need lots of ICE prosecutions), to outright corruption should be investigated.

This isn’t about vengeance, though there’s nothing wrong with feeling some schadenfreude when it comes to these assholes, but ensuring that well-off powerful people who gain governing power don’t misuse it. Admittedly, we don’t know what Trump will do regarding pardons (though pardoning people really isn’t in his own best interest, as they then can no longer refuse to testify on the grounds of self-incrimination), but it’s prosecuting his enablers that will prevent the next Trump: most of his enablers have a lot to lose, and won’t be willing to lose for another Trump–or a Tom Cotton.

Posted in Conservatives, Resistance Rebellion And Death, The Rule of Law | 2 Comments