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.

Tuesday, July 06, 2021

Foreign Policy article by Justin Ling: "The Lab Leak Theory Doesn't Hold Up" (or does it?)


I wait to enter a packed bar during Pride NYC; I, as well as most patrons, am fully vaccinated

 A long article by Justin Ling in Foreign Policy (paywall) argues that the newly credible lab leak theory for SARS_CoV2 does not hold water with him.  Ling has had other articles in Medium and medical journals pointing out how mutations occur in Nature.  The article is titled bluntly “The Lab Leak Theory Doesn’t Hold Up” with the byline “The rush to find a conspiracy around the COVID-19 pandemic’s origins is driven by narrative, not evidence”.

He claims that Wuhan was simply the first city in China where the pandemic was noticed, but that led suddenly to the building of a field hospital.  As Johnny Harris had pointed out in a video (Movies blog), it really is hard to explain why there weren’t more outbreaks nearer the caves.  But Ling notes that the original SARS in 2003 had traveled about 900 miles to where it was first noticed.

He also repeats the fact that furin cleavages (and receptor binding domain changes) happen in nature with coronaviruses, particularly in animals with simultaneous infections.  However other virologists have pointed out that the specifics of the PRRA codon change are very unusual to occur in nature spontaneously.

Other sources have noted a possible Fauci email coverup in early February 2020.

Thursday, July 01, 2021

Washington Post provides 3-D magazine online analysis and personal stories of Champlain Towers collapse in Surfside, FL

Surfside condominium collapse photo from Miami-Dade Fire Rescue 1


The Washington Post has a magazine article “The Shattered Lives of Champlain Towers South”, By Silvia Foster-Frau, Ann Gerhart, Danielle Rindler, Karly Domb Sadof, Garland Potts  and Artur Galocha .

The article shows the layout of the units relative to the collapse and presents life stories in a 3D article.

The article leads to a technical article, heavily illustrated in 3-D diagrams, “Video, images and interviews, deepen questions about role, of pool deck in condo collapse.”  It does seem that the area around the pool going into the garage affected the stability of part of the whole building.  It is not easy to summarize.

I don’t know if this has happened to a major high-rise in the US.  It has happened overseas, as with a particularly horrible fire in Britain because of the building’s outer covering.

Suing the condo association amounts to suing all the owners.  One problem is that most condo boards are lay persons elected by owners;  they are not necessarily engineers.  Your HOA is your lowest level of local government.  Most would not have the financial reserves for such liability, and I don't know how well building Master policies cover losses.  They would have large deductibles per unit. 

In northern Virginia, a Skyline Towers condo building under construction collapsed in March 1973 when shoring was apparently improperly removed.  

There was a possible “near miss” with New York City’s Citicorp tower, built in 1977, Slate article. 

Picture is from Wikipedia, embed, click for attribution.