Sunday, October 24, 2021

Buzzfeed News on the career of data sleuth Elisabeth Bik


Ptown 2015-8

Stephanie M. Lee has a very detailed article for Buzzfeed News “A Data Sleuth Challenged A Powerful COVID Scientist. Then He Came After Her”, link.

The story focuses on the career of Elisabeth Bik. Early in the pandemic, she started to question the claims of French scientist Didier Raoult, that hydroxychloroquine could treat Covid, which encouraged Trump to remain rosy about the pandemic during the lockdowns that started in March 2020.

Mochael Donnelly, who broke the story on the Provincetown Breakthrough cases in July 2021, is another good example.

Thursday, October 21, 2021

New Yorker on the origins of Sars_CoV2


NY 2015-11

Carolyn Kormann writes for The New Yorker : “The Mysterious Case of the COVID-19 Lab-Leak Theory: Did the virus spring from nature or from human error?”

Kormann makes the case that  the ability of coronaviruses to change quickly in nature in animals may be much greater than we had thought, expanding way beyond the  Majoing Caves into other parts pg SE Asia.

She reports odd findings about the pangolin.

She does go over the litany of coincidences surrounding Wuhan since late summer 2019.

She notes that the CCP may be more worried about its agricultural policies than the lab. And the role of the US NIH with gain of function research in China in the past is murky at best.

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Cosmopolitan: why people are trapped by Q


snow line

Check out this Cosmopolitan booklet: “Thousands of People Are Trying to Leave QAnon, but Getting Out Is Almost Impossible” by Andrea Stanley with photos by Todd R.Fosgreen.

It appears as pure tribalism, with addiction to conspiracy theories about “the others”, 

People who join cults are weak competing as individuals, inviting personal disdain.

The bird pictures are interesting.    

Friday, October 15, 2021

“In Trump's Shadow: The Battle for 2024 and the Future of the GOP”, by David M. Drucker, and Trump's soft coup tries


capitol 2021-9

“In Trump's Shadow: The Battle for 2024 and the Future of the GOP” by David M. Drucker, published by Twelve, 288 pages,  ISBN 978-1538754047, AMAZON LINK.  Motivates discussion of Trump’s continual coup threat.

Greg Sargent writes in the WPost “The dangerous idea behind Trump’s coup effort is still alive. Let’s kill it.” analysis motivated by the book. It is the idea that the 12th Amendment would have given Pence the power to deny electoral votes on Jan 6 and turn over to state legislatures.  

Annie Karni discussed Pence’s decision in the NYT.

Here is the notorious Eastman memo, CNN.

Friday, October 08, 2021

‘Teens in America’ and staying silent?

dfw 2018-5

Here is a shocking story by Hannah Natanson from ‘Teens in America’ on The Washington Post. Video and photo by Nitashia Johnson, Oct. 8, 2021.

“These Texas teens stayed silent about racism. Then their Black principal was suspended. At Colleyville Heritage High, students rushed to defend James Whitfield, who has been accused of embracing critical race theory and is in danger of being fired.”

The setting of the story is schools in Colleyville, TX, NE of Fort Worth.

It is right to present the whole factual basis of CRT.  But then it demands people change personal goals and join up.   

But the principal denies he promoted CRT.  The tone of this story is disturbing.  

Sunday, October 03, 2021

David French: Divided We Fall: America's Secession Threat and How to Restore Our Nation (belated preview)

Texas 2018-5

 David French, on his own subsite, repreviews his “Divided We Fall: America's Secession Threat and How to Restore Our Nation”, St. Martins, 285 pages, Sept 2020, with an essay “A Whiff of Civil War in the Air, Malice and misinformation are driving national division”. 

It’s a vicious cycle.

Interesting is that he notes that many of the January 6 insurrectionists were ordinary business owners with families who were caught in this cycle of disdain for those of oppressed groups making reparative collectivized demands, which could sound threatening and vengeful

Sunday, September 19, 2021

Jean M. Twenge's "iGen": smartphones have caused teens to miss out on real life (what about adults?)


Here’s another preview, from 2017, “iGen: Why Today's Super-Connected Kids are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy – and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood – and What That Means for the Rest of Us”, by Jean M. Twenge, Atria Books, reprint, 463 pages.

Here’s some constructive criticism by Annalisa Quinn on NPR.

The book was mentioned on Smerconish Saturday morning (Sept. 18).  Social media is especially brutal with teenage girls, setting up standards that they must compete to meet for men to want them.  Really, it seemed to be that way when I was going up.  People were expected to outgrow the pickiness.  In a way, that had something to do with what happened to me at William and Mary.

Tim Pool in Timcast IRL talked about how today’s teens and young adults are demoralized, after an unsuccessful (it seems) interaction on Twitter with March for our Lives cofounder Cameron Kasky (when Kasky had a breakthrough case).

Thursday, September 16, 2021

Dixon Osburn's "“Mission Possible: The Story of the Repealing ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’”


Signing the bill on Dec 10, 2010 at the Capitol

C. Dixon Osburn, a cofounder of the Servicemember’s Legal Defense Network (SLDN) shortly after Bill Clinton announced his “don’t ask, don’t tell, don’t pursue” policy for gays in the military, has authored a book “Mission Possible: The Story of the Repealing ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’”, which became official in September 2011, just about ten years ago today.  The bill setting it up had been signed Dec. 10, 2010;  I was there at the Capitol (outside) on the last day before my mother went into hospice for her own passing.

The book is self-published under an imprint of his own name, in hardback, paper and ebook, ISBN 978-1-7372824-1-3 paper, 43 short chapters, 511 pages, 932 endnotes, no index.

I will review the book in detail on my Wordpress media commentary site after reading.

The issue is separate from the more recent partial ban by Trump of transgender in the military, which Biden has largely repealed.

The Washington Blade has a history of those who fought the policy, by Michael Bedwell, “Remember their names”. 

My own experience, as summarized in my first DADT book (1997), was to be thrown out of William and Mary in my first semester because of the same ideas used to justify the ban – intimacy of young men in a confined space (in my case, the dorm); but in 1968 I would volunteer for the draft and enter and complete Basic Training at Fort Jackson, SC.

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

"Peril", by Bob Woodward and Robert Costa, will note that the JCS had to "override" Trump after January 6 and reassure China that the US would not attack with nukes (as "retaliation" for the coronavirus)


Air Force Memorial, Arlington VA, 2007

Peril”, by Bob Woodward and Robert Costa, from Simon and Schuster, 512 pages, to be released Tuesday September 21, 2021, makes a revelation that seems alarming today.

On January 7, one day after the Insurrection, Gen Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, called his counterpart in China to reassure the latter that the United States would not be attacking China (with nuclear or anything else) despite Trump’s bluster, referring especially to the coronavirus and accusations of its connection to a Chinese virology lab in Wuhan (now considered credible).

The book reportedly has other materials regarding the dangers posed by possible conflict with North Korea (with all the controversial ICBM test North Korea made early in the Trump days). 

David Pakman read from the book in a video, and notes that Trump could have fired Milley and appointed a yes-man.  Would we be alive today?

Friday, September 10, 2021

"Solar Superstorms: Planning for an Internet Apocalypse" from coronal mass ejections


air travel 2018-9

Today, September 10, 2021, Smart News offered an article pointing to a serious paper at the University of California, Irvine by Sangeetha Abdu Jyothi, “Solar Superstorms: Planning for an Internet Apocalypse”, 13 pages, PDF link here.

The paper considers the idea that a solar superstorm with a corona mass ejection arrival at Earth (13-hours-72 hours) could leave much of the power grid intact (more or less), but still destroy a lot of Internet connectivity, especially among countries, and especially affecting oceanic cables.  It would take months to repair.

It also notes that the most serious such incidents in the world occurred in 1859 (Carringon), 1921 (before much of the world was electrified), 1989 (in Quebec, a smaller event), and a narrow miss in July 2012.  CME damage normally happens only after pretty much a direct hit on Earth in its orbit around the Sun, considering the Sun in three dimensions.

The probability of a significant event in any decade can be as high as maybe 12%. We'll see sunspot activity increase from a min this decade. 

Here is an introductory article in Livescience.

Sunday, September 05, 2021

Washington Post runs sound-and-photo-essay on Navajo health during pandemic

Navajo Reservation Painted Desert


Here is an sound-illustrated op-ed from the “Voices Across America” series in The Washington Post, “For Navajo, crowded homes have always been a lifeline; the pandemic threatens that”.

This problem for indigenous populations got a lot of attention in 2020.

Now the remedy is to build tiny houses for sick family members, but the question remains of how quick the vaccinations are.

Wikipedia embed: Navajo nation aerial, Arizona, click for attribution 

Friday, September 03, 2021

The Atlantic has two big articles on coronavirus/Delta and vaccines/long haulers


second vaccination site 2021-3

Ed Yong’s long article in the Atlantic Sept. 1 “Long Haulers Are Fighting for their Future” needs a careful read.

Main takeaway, some vaccinated people are getting it, even after only mild symptoms from breakthrough infections.  That’s one reason to keep on masking.  On the other hand, some people with long hauler from pre-vaccine infections got better.  After my second Pfizer shot in March 2021, I noticed my sense of smell got much stronger, as I noticed odors in other people's apartments from the hall I had not noticed recently, as apparently I had some smell loss without noticing it -- which implies I had probably had very mild COVID with few symptoms or noticeable illness. 

Another is that there is no certainty as to whether the virus is hidden away somewhere, to be reactivated (that’s unusual for RNA viruses) or if it is an autoimmune disease.  It seems anecdotally to be more common in young women than young men, but college and pro football players have been stopped by it. 

Katherine Wu also brings us up to date on “What we know about waning immunity”.  Yes, Delta may hit faster than the memory cells left from an older vaccination can respond, and is a less perfect fit anyway.  Still, vaccinated people are staying away from ventilators and oxygen, although they may not be free of long COVID in some cases.

But the vaccines are going to need to keep up, just as they do with flu.

Wednesday, September 01, 2021

Anne Applebaum looks at how social media has create today's "Scarlet Letter"


Take a look at Anne Applebaum’s long article in “The Atlantic”, to be available in print Oct. 1, 2021, “The New Puritans”, illustrations by Nicholas Ortega. The byline, “Social codes are changing, in many ways for the better. But for those whose behavior doesn’t adapt fast enough to the new norms, judgment can be swift – and merciless.”   She starts her article with a discussion of Nathaniel Hawthorne's "The Scarlet Letter", which we all read in high school junior English (and took tests on). 

The focus of her article is due process – and mob justice (and demands, like boycott threats) denies that.  The “social justice” mobs on social media impose a metastasizing fear on those who could question them – because of the power of organizing enough people.  But the same thinks have happened in Communist societies in the real world – no one could go against their comrades. 

She gives one particular example that really seems egregious, at Princeton, where a faculty member Joshua Katz criticized the university’s identarian-letter focused on blackness and whiteness, in a Quilette article, and was “relitigated.”  

Thursday, August 26, 2021

"A Science in Shadows": Washington Post piece on gain-of-function research and relevance to COVID19


Cafe at NIH Bethesda MD 2015-3

David Willman and Madison Muller discuss the whole issue of “Gain of Function” research in a long Washington Post pieceA Science in the Shadows”, Aug. 26, 2010.   The tagline, “Controls on ‘gain of function’ experiments with supercharged pathogens have been undercut despite concerns about lab leaks”.

The basic takeaway is that these dangerous experiments have been going on in several labs around the world, including two in the U.S., and at one time the US supported Wuhan on experiments with coronaviruses (if it really stopped is a little unclear).

The article links to another story by Ellen Nakashima, Yasmeen Abutaleb and Joel Achenbach on Biden’s receiving the intelligence review, which is not yet available, awaiting redaction of classified materials.  Some of the motivation for this comes from reports of workers from the Wuhan lab being hospitalized in the fall of 2019, but in China people go to the hospital more quickly than in the IS.

But the report seems to be inconclusive.  I tried to explain the big picture with a comment of my own:

“I've read comments by experts that "furin cleavage" and "receptor binding domain" changes do happen naturally with coronaviruses. But I've also read expert comments that this particular virus's change is still unusual in nature from the viewpoint of the details of the biochemistry. Unfortunately, we need a trace of the virus's evolution back to an animal (whether or not humans intervened with GoF, which sounds plausible -- as does accidental US co-culpability extending back for years even if it did happen in a Wuhan lab).  From a practical viewpoint, Americans (and those everywhere) face a severe curtailment of their freedoms for a common good due to an unpredicted "force majeur" event, and we need to think that idea through as to how we view our freedoms. (Look at what is going on in Australia with lockdowns and "zero Covid", v. counting on vaccines.)”

Update 8/27:  ABC News reports in some detail on the intelligence report, article by Sasha Pezenik,Sony Salzman, andKaitlyn Folmer.  Four intelligence elements said with low confidence that the pandemic came from natural zoonotic spillover, one said with moderate confidence that it was a lab leak.  No one believes it was intentional or weapons development, and does not believe the Chinese realized the seriousness of the epidemic until toward the end of 2019, although there are events (Military olympics, communications shutdown in early Oct., database closure in Sept 2019, and even hospital parking lot use, as well as some specific information about a virus in one cave in southern China) that suggest they could have been aware of a potential problem.  (Reports of wastewater near Spain in March 2019 are interesting.)  It seems as though that near Wuhan the virus started to exponentiate maybe in early December 2019, maybe with scattered cases before. But some private American citizens seem to have become aware of something going on, at least by mid December.  There is an unclassified summary, linked by Fox News's story (similar to AP and ABC), here

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Rob Wallace and his "Dead Epidemiologists: On the Origins of COVID-19"


Minneapolis 2019-9

Eamon Whalen offers us in The Nation (paywall, and fortunately this site remembers my logon pretty well) “The Unemployed Epidemiologist Who Predicted the Pandemic

This article is a short bio of Rob Wallace, from a Minnesota family that also provided scientists as parents.  Rob has a book from October 2020 “Dead Epidemiologists: On the Origins of COVID-19”, from Monthly Review Press", 260 pages.

Rob’s main thesis is that concentrated agribusiness by its nature increases the risk of new pathogens and pandemics.  That can be true in the United States, but in China it has also compounded itself by driving smaller farmers into moving into riskier outlier areas (maybe near bat caves).  China’s socialism has not provided a panacea for this problem Furthermore, in China small farmers may live very close to their farm animals, which is particularly a risk for new influenza strains.

Rob buys the idea that a novel coronavirus jumped species in a small operation and was accidentally taken to Wuhan, among other larger cities to the north.  But he doesn’t explain why outbreaks didn’t happen in other cities.  Maybe the way superpreader events work?  Of course, there is some sporadic evidence (like wastewater) of earlier cases around the world, maybe even in the US, in the later part of 2019 that were usually mild and did not lead immediately to pandemic.  The idea that it could have changed radically inside an immunocompromised human (or animal) seems possible.  (But this never really happened during the AIDS epidemic with other infections, for example, at least not in a way that ignited a secondary pandemic.) Rob does not deny that a Wuhan lab leak is possible, and also considers much research dangerous.  But he still thinks agricultural practices are a far bigger risk.

Rob lost a job because of outspokenness in circumstances that sound complicated, but managed to turn a blog into a book as a collection of essays in 2016, titled “Big Farms Make Big Flu: Dispatches on Influenza, Agribusiness, and the Nature of Science”, from Monthly Review Press in June 2016, 400 pages, paper.

His parents (Deborah and Rodrick Wallace) had written a book in 2001 “A Plague on Your Houses: How New York Was Burned Down andNational Public Health Crumbled (Haymarket Series)”, Verso, 242 pages.  The South Bronx crumbled because NYC reduced fire services in poor neighborhoods after 1969 based on a study from Rand Corporation (which interviewed me for a job at the end of 1969 as I was leaving the Army, like I might have wound up in California.)

Monday, August 23, 2021

Laurie Garrett in Foreign Policy, “The Science Says Everyone Needs a COVID-19 Booster Shot – and Soon”


Gateway Regional Park, Fairfax VA, 2021-8

Here is a formal Argument by Laurie Garrett in Foreign Policy (paywall), “The Science Says Everyone Needs a COVID-19 Booster Shot – and Soon”, link 

The tagline, “the biology of the delta variant has made mass revaccination an urgent necessity.”

Garrett goes on and describes the various layers of defense in your immune systems the vaccines (especially mRNA) activate, and why they can wear off.

Eight months for a lot of us will be too long.

Saturday, August 21, 2021

A fresh take on Ayn Rand's "Atlas Shrugged", as reviewed on Prageru


NYNY 2015-11

I had talked about Atlas Shrugged here May 16, 2009, but I thought I would share a review by PragerU with Michael Knowles and Eric Daniels.

They talk about the idea that the driver of the plot of the 1200 page novel is an unwinding of the relationship between two heroes, Dagney Taggart (who runs the railroad) and Henry Reardon (who makes the school).  Heroes disappear, and go on strike, to leave the mooches to flounder and let the world fall apart.  Interesting is that it isn’t driven between heroes and villains (although the end of the three-part movie was indeed, as I remember).

Daniels also talks about the moral basis of marriage and children, which is that is should be seen as a process that should increase personal agency.

Sunday, August 15, 2021

Ezra Klein interviews Spencer Ackerman, about his "Reign of Terror" book, and what Trump understood about 9/11


Freedom Tower tour, 2014/6

Ezra Klein previews the book by Spencer Ackerman, “Reign of Terror: How the 9/11 Era Destabilized America and Produced Trump”, from Viking Press, 445 pages, e-book and hardcover, somewhat pricey.

Ackerman has written for The New Republic, Wired, the Guardian, and the Daily Beast.  This is his first book.

The (New York Times) review consists of a podcast here commentary and interview, where there is also a text transcript offered.  Reading a transcript goes faster than listening to a podcast.

Klein feels that Bush painted this as a battle against the “other”, that wants to change us to be like them, which could play even into the race card (“brown people’).

The actual interview starts out by talking about birtherism and Obama.

He then gets into the scale of the surveillance state that Bush started building and had constructed fully by 2008, before Obama ran – who could be presented by neoconservatives as an enemy because of how he looks. 

Klein says neocons thought they could harness the fear of the “others”, but Trump took it further, into an “aggrieved, vengeful patriotism”.  We must not only confront the enemy, but dominate them, those who seem different from us.  That leads to a culture of soft fascism.  It also leads to ideas at the fringe (like replacement theory), like what we saw at Charlottesville and then even January 6.  These ideas included “nativism” which excludes those who weren’t part of the chosen tribes that formed America (??). I note that on p. 2 of my second DADT book (2002), in a Foreword called "The Winding Road Toward Liberty", I wrote, regarding 9/11, "We have a feral, viral enemy that seems diabolical enough to use the opportunities id our own technological society -- particularly those related to mobility, communication and self-expression -- to destroy our modern world by clandestine and asymmetric attacks from within."

The video above is from a Cato Institute book forum with the author on August 13.

Monday, August 09, 2021

The IPCC of UN issues its alarming official report on climate change


Mild January day in Mt Vernon Ohio in 2018 

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has issued a formal report (in my sense, a "book"), which the press has picked up as quite alarming and “code red”.

The main page for loading the reports is “The AR6 Climate Change 2021: The Physical Science Basis”.  This breaks into three major reports:  “Summary for Policymakers” (39 pages)

The second section is “Technical Summary”, 150 pages,  all preliminary that say “do not cite, quote or distribute”m after the first 41 page summary/ . 

Then there is a “Full Report” that combines everything, mostly preliminary with the same disclaimer, 3949 pages.

There is an executive summary, six pages.  Warming of the Earth from the start of industrialization has been 1.1 degrees C (almost 2 degrees C).  Limiting total warming to 2 degrees C will be very challenging.

There is an executive summary, six pages.

Sunday, August 08, 2021

Robin DiAngelo's sequel "Nice Racism", well it sounds rather gratuitous


Selma, AL, 2014-5

 A sequel to “White Fragility”, Robin DiAngelo offers “Nice Racism: How Progressive White People Perpetual Racial Harm”, from Beacon Press, 220 pages.

One of the most common ways is deliberately bringing up other people’s (or one’s own parents”) racism gratuitously. 

She also criticizes white people remaining "comfortable" in a racist culture. 

I can recall conversations with black co-workers in the 1990s, where one of them brought up the fact that I was not aware of the fact that I could pass as a gay man because I was white.  I thought it was rather excessive to say that.  Here is a particularly grotesque quote from her new book, Twitter

Wednesday, August 04, 2021

Defense attorney for January 6 defendants recommends history books; there is a favorite of mine (native-American and libertarian) that she could have named


GWU, NW DC, G St, 2007

Caroline Anders has an important piece in the Washington Post about defense attorney Heather Shaner, who represents some of the defendants who were in the Capitol on January 6.

She recommends her clients read certain history books and gives them free copies.  These include “Bury Your Heart at Wounded Knee” (Dee Brown);  Just Mercy” (Bryan Stevenson, well covered by John Fish on YouTube) and “Schindler’s List” (Thomas Keneally).

I would recommend “Where White Men Fear to Tread: The Autobiography of Russell Means” (St Martins), who sold autographed copies of his book at a 1999 convention of the Libertarian Party of Minnesota at Mystic Lake on Highway 160 SW of Minneapolis.  He passed away in 2012.  As for history books, I remember Crane Brinton's two volumes of "A History of Civilization", red covers, from undergraduate days at GWU. 

I need to mention the mainstream media’s condemnation of the book by Joseph Mercola, as in an article by Sheera Frenkel.  Apparently it is #1 on Amazon (at least now) and its title mentions “The Great Reset” and “lockdowns”.  Look for yourself (but believe at your own and others’ peril, perhaps). CNN (today) considers the book unnamable on the air.  

Tuesday, August 03, 2021

House GOP report: “The Origins of COVID-19: An Investigation of the Wuhan Institute of Virology”

Wuhan Institute of Virology main entrance


Here is a House Foreign Affairs Committee Report Minority Staff, with the lead editor Mchael T. McCaul, 117th Congress, authors “The Origins of COVID-19: An Investigation of the Wuhan Institute of Virology”, with pdf link here.

The document runs 81 pages and is in many sections, each with its own conclusions.

The report makes particular use of the day September 12, 2019, which China deleted much of its virology databases.  The writers believe that a leak accidentally occurred, maybe because of a failure of a ventilation system in the buildings. Authorities believes some workers were infected, with or without symptoms.  The report also maintains that a Chinese “military Olympics” for its own military in October went on and could have spread the virus.

It cites wastewater positive tests for the Virus abroad after that, although does not mention such a test near Barcelona as early as March 2019.  Cases did not accumulate in larger numbers until late December 2019.

It believes that the furin cleavage site change was unusual for beta coronavirus in detail, although furin cleavage does occur in nature for coronavirues.

It also chases the “conflict of interest” and email trail of many WHO and other health officials, even Fauci and Daszak. .

Laura Kelly has a story in The Hill that introduces the report.

The report reads like a prosecutorial indictment of China, and it is hard to see how the US intelligence report that Biden has ordered, due late this month, will respond to it.

Embedded picture of Wuhan Institute of Virology, Wikipedia, click for attribution 

Sunday, August 01, 2021

Laurie Garrett in Foreign Policy: "The Science Says Everyone Needs a Covid-19 Booster Shot -- and Soon"


PW County park 2021-7

Laurie Garrett has a booklet-length article in Foreign Policy (paywall) “The Science Says Everyone Needs a Covid-19 Booster Shot – and Soon” with the byline “The biology of the delta variant has made mass revaccination an urgent necessity”.

There is a lot of attention to Israel’s starting its third dose revaccination for those over 60.  She also discusses the UK, which seems to be reversing its rise in Delta cases now (maybe because a longer time before the second shot). 

The basic problem seems to be, if you don’t vaccinate everyone in the world very quickly, selective pressures may encourage nastier vaccine-evading variants. 

For my money, that sounds like pressuring China to take even more responsibility for vaccinating the entire developing world.

Yet the Sinovac vaccine doesn’t sound like it has done as well in preventing serious disease as the mRNA’s.  That’s a soft statement.  In theory, since it seems to use a greater variety of proteins, its protection ought to be more stable.  But that would be a whole new subject for Garrett to take up, what kind of vaccine really will be the most dependable in discouraging selective escapes.  China does sound capable of the mass production and it owes the world this given the origins. 

The world has never tried to vaccinate its way out of public health crisis quickly before (which is what mRNA specifically intends to do).  But the only other alternative would be some mass-produced rapid testing and automated smartphone contact tracing for everyone (Mina’s idea).  Well, plus, more rapid testing and approval of therapeutics to be given by mouth or simple injection right after infection (the “gay medicine” idea).  We haven’t gotten there, either.

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

"Beyond Human Endurance": 3-D article in Washington Post explains how some areas of the planet could become unhabitable


Nevada, 2012-5 

The Washington Post has an extended animated “3-D” article “Beyond Human Endurance: How Climate Change Is Making too Hot and Humid to Survive”, by Ruby Mellen and William Neff.

Even ocean breezes in some parts of the world could be deadly.

It’s true, even, that temporary heat domes like recently in the Pacific Northwest could make an area temporarily uninhabitable.

Monday, July 26, 2021

Amazon suddenly delists "When Harry Became Sally" book by Ryan Anderson, believing it presents trans-genderism as "mental illness", while presenting an "explainer" free on Kindle


NIH Clinical Center, where I was a patient in 1962

OK, the 2018 book “When Harry Became Sally: Responding to the Transgender Moment” by Ryan Anderson, runs 251 pages in hardcover and was published in February 2018 by Encounter books. I had to pull figurative teeth – log on to Goodreads through Facebook and allow friends to see I was looking for it, to find the name of the publisher, just to write this post.  It is said to be a “best-seller”.

The book was characterized at first by the Washington Post as labeling transgenderism as a “mental illness”.  When the author complained, the Post corrected the story.

Then in February 2021 Amazon suddenly delisted the book, almost after three years, saying it would not allow books that claimed LQBTQ people were mentally ill to be listed.  Amazon also ignored the Washington Post’s own retraction.  The author explains in a WSJ article, and the WSJ follows up with an op-ed (paywall, unfortunately).   Compare the author’s account of his work with, say, ThinkProgress or NCRegister.   Sunday night, July 25, Fox News told this little story again on its "Canceled in the USA" news series

The theory was offered that the delisted was a political ploy to encourage Congress to pass the Equality Act as is.  There are still some controversies, like transgender and women’s sports, with that legislation, and the HRC insists they have been resolved.  Some reviewers call Ryan a “social conservative”.

But the idea that a book must not “frame LQBTQ identity as a mental illness” is superficial and deceptive itself.  First, the group encompasses many different “identities”.  The emotional world of a cis gay man is very different from that or a trans person.  By definition, a transgender person would need medical treatment to transition, although that does not define mental illness, but in that sense, yes, biological gender at birth “matters”.  A gender fluid or non-binary person would not need such attention however, so, yes, the claim that it is not a medical issue is credible.  Anderson talks about gender dysphoria as needing therapy or counseling, at least, and apparently advocates that parents and kids should wait on physical intervention like with puberty blockers or surgery (the latter will be irreversible).  None of this is, he claims, the same as “mental illness”.

Gender dysphoria is not the same as body dysphoria, which actor Reid Ewing talked about a lot a few years ago.

The book is still available at Barnes and Noble’s website, and there is an “Summary” still on Amazon by “Fireside Reads”, free by Kindle or inexpensive by paperback.  I read the Kindle free on my desktop (this works if you have a regular Amazon account), and the explainer presents an outline (like Cliff Notes) and then quiz questions, like a course handbook.  There is even an explainer of its being delisted. The style of the handbook reminds me of two books in the mid 1990s with buttons using my own "do ask do tell" title written in the style of persuasion handbooks for lay people or students than in the form of a formal non-fiction book (like mine, with footnotes and endnotes).   It's important to remember that when presenting the history of any GLBTQ person or subpopulation, the "mental illness" classification was accepted until 1973, so accurate history has to describe this past, however unpleasant for activists today.  It was certainly applied to me in 1961-1962.  

Amazon should restore this book to normal purchase.

(This article is a rewrite/update of a more fragmentary story on February 2, 2021.) 

Saturday, July 24, 2021

Tim Wise: Medium essays on anti-racism


artwork at Rafko Park Leesburg VA

The way I use this blog now, it’s fair to share a group of essays by Tim Wise on his Medium account.

The most important of them is, that “conservative” attempts to ban anti-racist education “isn’t about protecting kids, it’s about pacifying them”, here.  

Another one is “missing the systemic forest for the individual trees”, here.

Finally, “it isn’t about white people, it’s about whiteness”, here.

OK, I’ll take the last one first.  Karlyn Borysenko has been incredibly emphatic that critical race theory is not the same as anti-whiteness, and she blocks people who make that claim, and says the claim only enrages people back to white supremacy.  The article says that “whiteness” was created and embedded into the legal system in the early nineteenth century, and some of it persists (the old “one drop rule”).  But he stops short of claiming that students should be indoctrinated to feel personally guilty about this.

Likewise, students should learn the gory details about how bad it really was, as to how slavery was built into the early history of the US, as was (sometimes) capturing indigenous people’s lands – and the latter resembles the whole European history of colonialism.   Likewise, systemic racism creates hidden privilege that looks like invisible ink.  The real question is what you expect individual people do to about this today in their own personal and public (especially online) lives.  There are those who say making these implicit demands for conditional allyship is part of the theory, however. 

Thursday, July 22, 2021

"America Is Getting Unvaccinated People All Wrong": interview by Young and Boyd in The Atlantic


San Francisco 2018-9

The Atlantic has a major interview by writer Ed Yong of San Francisco pediatrician Rhea Boyd, titled “America Is Getting Unvaccinated People All Wrong”. The subtitle is “They’re not all anti-vaxxers, and treating them as such is making things worse.”

One of the biggest problems is that children under 12 are not yet eligible according to FDA clearance for the vaccines, but may be more affected by the Delta variant than earlier strains, and maybe indirectly exposed even by superficial infections that still happen with fully vaccinated adults, who themselves usually don’t get sick.

The other problem is that many poorer people are unable logistically to get to vaccine sites or get time off from work or get the child care they need.

The Atlantic's coronavirus coverage is provided without paywalls, and is supported by grants from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative and the Robert Woods Johnson Foundation. 

Thursday, July 15, 2021

"I Alone Can Fix It": Book by Loennig and Tucker renders JCS chief's comments about Trump's near coup in 2021

General Mark A. Milley

Journalists Carol Leonnig and Philip Tucker authored “I Alone Can Fix It: Donald J. Trump’s Catastrophic Final Year”, 592 pages, will be released by Penguin Press on Tuesday July 20 and possibly arrive that day if ordered by Amazon.

The main controversy the past few days has been the current Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley’s recent statements that the JCS contemplated a once-a-day mass resignation (a reverse Saturday Night Massacre) to thwart a possible Trump coup after the Nov 3 election.

Jamie Gangel, Jeremy Herb, Marshall Cohen and Elizabeth Stuart interviewed the authors and provide a summary on CNN, with a video of Anderson Cooper, explaining the details of Milley’s assertions.

It’s a little hard to assume what would have happened to ordinary citizens.  Martial law, as such, is very difficult to pull off.  Would the Internet be turned off? 

The terms “brownshirts” and “Reichstag moment” appear in the interview. 

But again, it’s a little hard to see how it would happen.  I ordered the book just now. Trump remains in charge of the Republican Party.

Update: July 18:  Now there are reports that Trump wanted to launch an attack on Iran to create a national emergency so he could stay in power (??)

Sunday, July 11, 2021

"Not My Idea: A Book About Whiteness": is this children's book kindness, or simply indoctrination


June 2020 protests in DC meant boarding properties

Author, illustrator: Anastasia Higginbotham

Title: “Not My Idea: A Book About Whiteness

Publication: Dottir Press, 2020, ISBN 978-1-9483-4000-7, hardcover, illustrated heavily, 65 pages, hardcover.

I bought this book to find out for myself what kind of indoctrination is going on.  This is a series of four books about “ordinary terrible things”  for children (also divorce, death, and sex).  

First, many observers maintain that Critical Race Theory is not the same as “anti-whiteness”.  Dr. Karlyn Borysenko says that much, and equating the two will only motivate the far right further.

The “contract binding you to whiteness” appears on p. 59, and on p. 60 reminds you that you do not have to “sign on to whiteness”.  But others have maintained that whiteness is system and ingrained so that most “white” people are not aware of it. So on the surface this book actually contradicts Robin DiAngelo. 

I grew up in the 50s and 60s, and was not immediately affected by the Civil Rights Movement.  In seventh grade, in 1955, we were taught about Brown v. Board of Education.  In the DC area we would read about the unrest in the South, including the murder of three civil rights workers in 1964, but it seemed distant.

The problem, in my thinking, comes if you want (white) people living today to be held personally accountable for the supposed unearned benefits from the past on a history that used slavery, and seizure of indigenous lands, sometimes.  We have seen civil rights for black people and other minorities slowly improve since the mid 1960s, to the point that many minorities succeed well as individuals, but where statistically more black people remain in poverty (also some other groups like Latinos) than those of European descent.  But the idea of expecting “white” people to suddenly take this seriously today is novel, although it was certainly aggravated by the Trump administration and then events like Charlottesville and January 6.

So I am not so concerned with educating people about a theory, just as you educate people about communism or fascism.  But I am concerned about manipulation and indoctrination of pre-teens through high school students, although I don’t know how much this is going on.

Timcast IRL (video above) examined a “Workbook for How to Be an AntiRacist” (Amazon)  which is a handbook accompanying Kendl’s book written by a third party.  The book goes on to jumble up critical race theory with intersectional groups around sexuality and gender.  This is being used in some public school systems but would not be part of academic critical race theory.

My practice is to place the Amazon ad in a review of a book I have bought and read, even if I find its contents problematic.

Thursday, July 08, 2021

Steven S. Rogers, preview of "A Letter to My White Friends and Colleagues: What You Can Do Right Now to Help the Black Community"

BLM Plaza in DC, 2020/6

Today, on a local DC show “What You Need to Know” on WJLA7 in Washington DC (ABC affiliate, owned by Sinclair, which is considered conservative although the station is rather liberal) a speaker briefly reviewed the book by Steven S. Rogers, “A Letter to My White Friends and Colleagues: What You Can Do Right Now to Help the Black Community”, from Wiley Press, 240 pages, ISBN 978-1119794776 (Amazon).

A site called Readmoreco gives the author an interview, here.

The Chicago Sun Times has a review by Mark Brown in which it enumerates the author’s suggestions. 

The suggestions are rather specific.  He wants white people to invest specific percentages of their income in black-owned banks (four of them are in Illinois, which is why Chicago papers happen to have the reviews), give a certain portion of their normal contributions to black owned colleges (which have a specific definition), and dedicate specified percentages of their household budget to supporting black owned businesses.

Personally, I don’t recognize “groups” (or intersections of groups) as targets for my own attention.  But the market brings about results that are probably largely better than these percentages.

For example, in 2017 I sold an inherited house and moved into a high-rise condo.  The occupancy (including owners) is probably more than 50% people of color and/or Muslim. The board is representative by race and gender, as a result of normal elections.  Since I naturally use nearby gas stations, convenience stores, food takeout, and the like, many of the businesses franchised but owned probably by minority members.  I use a UPS store which happens to belong to a man from China.  There is no particular intention behind this, that is just how it turns out with the market.  If I am on U Street in Washington DC, I sometimes eat at Ben’s Chili Bowl.  But there is no particular system that could show an specific amount going to black owned businesses.

As for charitable giving, several of the non-profits are large organizations whose assistance to persons probably goes to more than the desired 9% black, but the organizations themselves (some operate overseas) are not specifically about any one race.

He also wants every black American over 18 to receive a reparations check for $153000 to close the inherited wealth gap.  But how would you determine legally who was “black”?  What happens to the deficit and debt ceiling, etc.?

He (a former Harvard professor) admits he is race conscious, more or less following DiAngelo’s line of thinking.

It is true that federal law recognizes the concept of minority-owned businesses in some contexts.  I had a job interview in 1988 with Mitchell Systems, which said it was minority owned.  I think I would have gotten the offer, but I went with another company (which became interesting).  The concept did not interview with hiring white men.