Friday, February 26, 2021

NYTimes et al: "The Coronavirus Is Threatening a Comeback"


NYCity from Freedom Tower 

I’ll call Apoorva Mandavilli’s long piece in the New York Times today a “booklet”, The Coronavirus Is Threatening a Comeback: Here’s How to Stop It.”

She believes we have a false sense of security from the recent drops, which is leveling off this week, after last week’s horrible weather in the Midwest and Texas.  The drop in death rates and ICU is partly attributable to vaccinating people in care facilities.

But young adults have not been vaccinated yet.  Essential workers will help.  People in large households will help.  Young adults living alone (this seems like gay men especially) as adults have, ironically, very little disease right now, given the past.

We should be concerned that the variants may be more aggressive with young adults (as there are sporadic horror stories in the media, but they don’t hit close to home yet).

We should also be very concerned if the virus keeps on becoming more evasive and aggressive, despite our previous expectations.

She does talk a lot about behavioral change, and perhaps personal social values changes.

The Zeynep Tufecki tells us in The Atlantic, “5 PandemicMistakes We Keep on Repeating”.  They have to do with engaging risk, evenhandedly.

One question that sounds critical:  with the new variants retain their high dispersion, with most spread in super-spreader events?  Or could surfaces and even personal hygiene turn out to become more important than they have so far?

Monday, February 22, 2021

Amazon apparently removes a book critical of "transgender ideology", but you can tell where the author is coming from


World Pride, NYC, 2019

The Epoch Times (whatever its supposed connections to China and the CCP’s agenda, publishing a conservative newspaper) reports that Amazon has “quietly” removed a high-profile book “criticizing transgender ideology”.

In 2018, Matthew J. Franck had written the book review, “Pressing Pause on the ‘Transgender Moment’”: Ryan T. Anderson’s “When Harry Became Sally: Responding to the Transgender Moment” (Encounter Books). If you press the link on Amazon, you get a “sorry, couldn’t find that page”.

I sometimes get offers of samples of children’s books that seem to promote transgenderism in minors, and I have let them pass.  In real life, I don’t know any cases of puberty blockers or surgery in younger minors, middle school, etc.  This does not sound like something that happens a lot.  When there is a genuine physical medical reason, that may well be a different matter.  But it is relatively uncommon.

There isn’t much video from the author on YouTube;  if you look, you see where he is coming from.

But I am not one for saying everyone has to declare their pronouns, or use “their” when you really know the person is a he or she.

  Update: March 2:  Amazon has quietly published content guidelines that mention "hate speech".  The Epoch Times (paywall now) and Free Beacon Times have published stories about this development.  (There is a newer discussion here of this matter July 26, 2021). 

Sunday, February 21, 2021

“This Is How They Tell Me the World Ends: The Cyberweapons Arms Race” by Nicole Perlroth, preview



This Is How They Tell Me the World Ends: The Cyberweapons Arms Race” is almost too encyclopedic to be the warning it should be.  Author Nicole Perlroth has worked for years as a security reporter for the New York Times.  This 491—page opus looks like the career output. The publisher is Bloomsbury, with hardcover ISBN 078-1-63557-605-4.  There is an Author’s Note, Prologue, seven parts, 23 chapters, an Epilogue, Acknowledgements, Endnotes, and Index.  The Prologue adds 27 Roman-numbered pages.  A Prologue or Introduction is part of the book and should be numbered as such.  The Prologue chronicles Ukraine’s power outages at the hands of the Russians, where the Russians were showing off what they could do.

The New York Times has a short review by Jonathan Tepperman Feb. 9, 2021, “The most serious security risks facing the United States”, link.

The basic premise is that the United States drew first blood by using cyber as a weapon itself, most notably with the Stuxnet worm against Iran, to interfere with its getting nuclear weapons. 

The biggest controversies are zero-day vulnerabilities – those that hackers can exploit with immediate effect on existing systems, and a strategy called Vulnerabilities Equities Process (VEP), a system of weapons for the government to keep in its arsenal. 

In the meantime, we have seen all kinds of counter attacks, of Sony Pictures by North Korea over a movie at the end of 2014, leading to the ongoing hack of the Solar Winds contractor firm.  Recently, there was a hack in Florida at the time of the Super Bowl trying to poison a water supply.

The warnings in Ted Koppel’s “Lights Out” (Nov 10, 2015) seem grim indeed.

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Bart Ehrman's "Heaven and Hell: A History of the Afterlife", previewed


Sierra Nevada, California, 2012

I ordered a hardcover copy of “Heaven and Hell: A History of the After Life”, by Bart D. Ehrman, sometime back because, well, of my current situation with age and the pandemic, and my writing, where certain character are “angels” (particularly in the screenplay “Epiphany”).

The publisher is a biggie, Simon & Schuster, ISBN 978-1-5011-3673-3, 326 pages, endnotes and index starts at 297, fourteen chapters.

I expect to do a more thorough review on Wordpress after some time, but I want to note that the middle chapters provide a sequence of views, from the old testament (“why wait for a resurrection?”), then Jesus himself, and finally the apostle Paul.

One theme that comes up is that for many people who did not “make it”, death is simply annihilation, and back to non-existence.  Indeed, it seems, if the brain is physically intact, even after death, there might occur a “life review” and time could stretch out infinitely and create the impression of eternal life, if one never “converges” to death.  But if the brain is destroyed traumatically, as in war, of some forms of self-harm, or by an enemy with religiously based destruction, there could be no opportunity for such an indefinite extension. Paul, particularly, wanted the reward for the faithful (remember “faith” = “works”) to come with some kind of re-embodiment, as an angel.  In theory, at least in the realm of science fiction, this opens up the idea that “angels” are those who came back (the opposite of “the Leftovers” as in the HBO series). 

There is a review of the book by Ben Corbitt for Saint Matthias Episcopal Church, link

One of my own issues is my own personal agency.  Given a sequence of ironies in my life, the current pandemic challenges my agency (really, almost as a result of quantum theory, when I was privileged enough to escape the things that happen to most people, so I get caught in the paradoxes posed by lockdowns, quarantines and maybe sequestrations). Situations can occur that would seem to nullify what I had believed in my whole life.  Would I want more than annihilation if I was triaged?  This is all quite disturbing. I would have to be much more willing to bond with people "where they are" with less of my own individuality than I have been.  That sounds like the tale of the "Rich Young Ruler"

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Andy Ngo's "Unmasked": the mainstream media refuses to take Antifa seriously

Andy Ngo by Gage Skidmore


I just got (purchased through Amazon) my copy of Andy Ngo’s book, “Unmasked: Inside Antifa’s Radical Plan to Destroy Democracy”, published by Center Street in New York and Nashville, 308 pages in hardcover, main text ending at page 238, with index, volumes of endnotes, an introduction, afterword, and twelve chapters.  ISBN is 978-1-5460-5956-1.

Many in the mainstream media will be very critical of Ngo’s opus, such as (Los Angeles Times) Alexander Nazaryam, with an article whose headline appears to imply that Antifa is not a “real enemy”.

Ngo starts out his introduction by the depiction of his milkshaking and beating in June 2020 in Portland. 

His epilogue describes his parents’ expropriation while in Vietnam after the Americans left in 1975, their forced reeducation until their long escape.  They were regarded as criminal by communism merely having unearned capital from the labor of workers.

Of course, I won’t diminish the gravity of the Capitol riots on January 6 or their significance. Generally speaking (not always) white supremacist groups are far “better” armed than the relatively amateurish antifa “cells”.  A major exception in the past would have been the Symbionese Liberation Army that kidnapped Patty Hearst, for example.  But the demands of the Left seem to be that the “privileged” accept arbitrary disruptions of their property and businesses and honor their quid pro quo’s, demands to join them in quid pro quo’s and reparations for past sins of their ancestors.  This is a case of classical Marxist (or even Maoist) moral theory getting mixed up with critical race theory.  Ngo maintains that the rise of Antifa corresponds with the growth of Black Lives Matter.

I will cover this in more detail soon on my Wordpress Media Reviews blog.

Ngo is gay, but his index does not mention homosexuality or gender issues. See the Los Angeles Blade article by Karen Ocamb.

Photo embed from Wikipedia, click for attribution (from Skidmore).

Friday, February 12, 2021

A top-of-the-line podcast (with transcript) on self-publishing for new authors, especially with fiction


Near Frederick MD

“AskAlli has a valuable Advice  podcast and transcript for “self-publishing advice,” 

The speakers are Oma Ross and Michael LaRonn.

They talk about author websites, and their embedded blogs, which they say are more obviously appropriate for non-fiction and for fiction, where you might have little to say about the novel itself regularly.  They like Wordpress, and they are not decisive about whether you should use a package.

They talk about liability insurance, which they say would be unusual for fiction (but conceivable if you based the novel and real people and didn’t obscure things).  Generally, you won’t be able to get media perils very easily anyway, and it isn’t clear that it would cover much (whether regular torts like libel, or even copyright or trademark infringement, a troubling possibility from trolls, like with the CASE Act (copyright). Yet large media companies have the insurance, and it is arguable (as was suggested in 2008 before the financial crisis) to propose requiring it for authors (who usually do have to indemnify their publishers, but this is self-publishing).  They also warn that you could have to be concerned about safety liability if you hold events after the pandemic winds down.

They also talk about business organization, including proprietorship and LLC.  You may have to watch zoning laws in your locality or bylaws if you are in a condo or HOA. 

Tuesday, February 09, 2021

"How the Coronavirus Tore Through D.C., Maryland and Virginia", Washington Post online booklet


Virginia Hospital Center, Arlington

Rebecca Tan. Antonio Olivo, and John D. Harden offer a horrifying booklet in the Washington Post, “How the Coronavirus tore throughD.C., Maryland, and Virginia."

In the DMV, “900000 infected, 15000 dead”.

The first positive case in the District of Columbia was announced by Mayor Bowser on Saturday, Feb. 29.

There were no cases in Virginia until early March.

But whole families started getting infected, sometimes with serious results, and by the end of March lower income people in larger households, who could not isolate, were starting to get it.

It would spread among different demographics with the reopenings.  In the fall, it would be college students spreading it home.

Families would have little gatherings, and everyone would get sick in a few days.

Among younger adults, or even older adults living alone with lower exposures, actual illness would be much less common.  But in some families, many would be come very ill and would have deaths, sometimes after a prolonged time on ventilators. Some adults would have to go to skilled nursing facilities to learn to walk again after “recovery”.

Saturday, February 06, 2021

Time article on the behind-the-scenes activity all 2020 to "fortify" elections in the face of a pandemic -- and the piece becomes controversial


polling place where I worked March 3

 Time Magazine has published a controversial articleThe Secret History of the Shadow Campaign that Saved to 2020 Election.”

Much of the article examines the work of organizer and labor operative Mike Podhozer to lead the effort to keep the entire electoral process under a kind of supervision.   It had started perhaps with a 2019 dinner in Mark Zuckerberg’s home.

There were enormous Zoom meetings with many operatives throughout 2020, mainly to deal with the challenges that the pandemic could present with normal voting in person legally. Obviously, Trump did not want to see any changes that would lead to increases in turnout for black or other minority voters (outside of his own base). A major problem was that poll work is often done by elderly workers, who arguably could not work safely on Nov. 3 (I talked to Fairfax County about this and was told that persons over 70 need not work).  By and large, states are free to change their rules on how voting works, as long as legislatures have authorized election administrators to do so.

Other problems included the poll watchers.  Republican poll watchers claimed that the were kept away, and poll workers claim they were harassed by watchers not wearing masks.

A particular threat was that in swing states, officials might be “bullied” into letting Republican-controlled electors choose the electors and override voters  (all part of “stop the steal”).

Tim Pool had a run-in with Twitter, not allowing a major tweet to be retweeted or linked, as he stated the facts about the article. Cassandra Fairbanks was suspended for a day on Twitter for posting a particular story about alleged fraudulent delivery of ballots in Michigan, after the story had been ruled false.  Her claim (however questionable) is on Gateway Pundit (link, if you want to see it) and can be read online on Telegram.  (She is also on Gab, which is down now.)   Timcast IRL examines the matter with Jack Posobiec in this video

But it is correct to say that a “cabal” did “fortify” the election so that unusual maneuvers by Trump, leading to the insurrection, could not change the result.

Thursday, February 04, 2021

"Inside the Battle for Fulton County's Votes", from Atlanta Magazine and WABE-NPR

Philips Arena

Johnny Kaufmann has an article for Atlanta Magazine and station WABE (“where Atlanta meets NPR”), “Inside the Battle for Fulton County’s Votes”, which you can read (long), or listen to as a podcast (30 minutes).

Many of the complications resulted from a plumbing failure in the State Farm Arena where the Fulton County ballot processing took place. It’s ironic because the facility sat vacant after March 11, 2020, the day the world ended, on a day that the Atlanta Hawks lost a basketball game to the New York Knicks, and then all major league sports shut down as players started testing positive.  The failure occurred as a result of excess unrelieved water pressure in an unused, unentered men’s bathroom, overflowing the urinals.

The article discusses some specific personnel, the difficulties they faced, and the indignation from Trumplikins when Georgia went for Biden (even before, while they counted) and then when the runoffs went for the Democrats, too.

I worked a 16 hour day in the Virginia primary March 3, but the county decided that those over 70 need not work the election.

Voting in a pandemic did provide a tremendous challenge.

Picture: Atlanta State Farm Arena, p.d., embed from Wikipedia, click for attribution