Monday, March 6, 2023

Tracking: tweets and elephant cries

[This has been an exceptionally depressing two weeks in political news. Somewhat edited for clarity.]

  • I will remember March 4, 2023 as the day when, echoing the Nazis, Michael Knowles, a “conservative” religious fanatic, called openly for the erasure of transgender people.

Covid, Three Years On

This is an attempt to organize at a very high level what we have learned about covid in the past three years. It is much more for myself than any broader audience, and is not a completely or extensively footnoted article; if I were going to provide cites for what is now largely common knowledge it would have to be a much longer and more extensively researched piece. I have generally stuck with moderate sources and information, attempting to avoid both denial and unreasonable fear.

The disease is real and the reality is enough.

Where sources conflict, for instance studies of the risk and incidence of long covid, I have attempted to chose plausible median data. This reflects both skepticism of extremes and of over-precision; many people demand precise numbers, and on these matters precise numbers are difficult to come by.

Once I post an article, I usually leave it standing with only minor changes, but in the case of this article I will correct errors as they are reported to me.

Sunday, February 26, 2023

Romancelandia, LGBTQAI+, et al v Bouzy

You don’t remember it (it was passing away in my youth) but there was a time when gynecological information was kept from women. It is for that reason that Our Bodies, Ourselves was published, and was a radical act in its time. Such material was banned as obscene in the past, and will be again, if the misogynists have their way. These bans, regardless of how well-intended, are invariably enforced over-broadly, and Spoutible will be pressured to do so. There is a huge, mean-spirited, well-funded, and largely successful movement that is working to that goal.

Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Covid, the media, the medical literature, and SCIENCE!

I recently had an extended Twitter discussion with an antivax lawyer, and he pointed out that he knew a lot of people who had had covid who didn’t have long covid symptoms. This isn’t likely. He probably assumed this was so because those people didn’t talk about it, and didn’t have big, obvious disabilities.

One gets a different picture of covid from reading the medical literature than from casual conversation with people who have had the disease or most of the major media sources. The people he knew may not have talked about long covid symptoms, or recognized them. Many doctors, even, don’t.

Saturday, January 28, 2023

Tweets and Elephant Calls

Here in the United States we have had a massive outbreak of invertebrate spinelessness.

Controlling Airborne Diseases: Tuberculosis and Covid

Controlling Airborne Diseases: Tuberculosis and Covid

Another airborne disease, tuberculosis, was suppressed during the 20th century. Could we do the same with covid?

Thursday, January 26, 2023

We beat tuberculosis. We can beat covid.

A distant family member died of covid today. Utterly unnecessary. And I realized: we beat tuberculosis, another airborne disease, which used to kill 1 in 7. We can beat covid. Why aren't we trying?

Wednesday, January 25, 2023

President Biden's Imagination

I don’t think President Biden has much imagination. This comes through in his remarks about covid, where he just doesn’t imagine what it’s doing to the country and the world. It’s the same thing, I think, with his handling of the insurrection. He doesn’t see that it’s a political hazard and that it may yet take over the country, especially if capitalist leaders throw huge numbers of people out of work. That’s what brought the Nazis to power in Germany and it might bring the extreme Republicans to power here in the United States.

This doesn’t mean that Biden is an evil man. A lot of the commentators I follow seem to think he is, but I think they mistake his limitations for evil. He seems to be a decent and devout man and he’s gotten a lot done. But he seems unable to imagine many parts of the future and take precautions against foreseeable disasters. It is as if our country is a pinball and flippers and traps and all the rest of the panoply of a pinball machine are operating. We have no idea where we’re going to end up, because our leaders can barely look past the next trap.

On the Recent Tech Layoffs

Apparently the Federal Reserve and various influential financiers are very bothered by the favorable labor market. So the Fed plans to raise interest rates and, despite very good profits, several major technology companies are undertaking extensive layoffs.

In what is used to be called a layoff, in the auto industry, say, people are let go because of seasonal downturns or because sales are bad. Employees recognize that there’s a reason, even if it’s one they don’t like very much, and they have an expectation that they will eventually be called back. That’s not at all what these firings are - they are entirely arbitrary and the employees know it. These firms have broken the trust of their employees, and the best will think twice before hiring on again with these firms - it will become a matter of employees looking at more reliable employers for work, or establishing their own businesses - very much an option available to most tech workers. So these companies have managed to reduce the quality and output of their workforce. If this, plus the Fed’s interest rate increases induce a recession, people will get angry and they’ll turn out and vote. It may just hand the country to the Republicans, the way the great depression handed Germany to the Nazis.

Why is the capitalist elite so stupid?

Notes On Russia, and the Russia-Ukraine War

(I have written this, rather than a much longer essay. I hope it will be of some value.)

  1. One of the questions that has haunted me since the beginning of the Russia-Ukraine war is “How is it to be ended?” And the best answer I see is “With Russia pushed back to its border, and that border guarded,” which is not a happy answer. Russia is still a nuclear power, and in extremity may turn to weapons of mass destruction.

  2. The Russian populace is thoroughly propagandized, and the overwhelming majority believes in this war. Russia needs a second glasnost, opening, so that its people see the truth. For Russia, if it comes out of the fugue it is in, it has to go on to something else. What it had is over. Communism failed. Oligarchy failed. So, then, what?

  3. The peace of Europe is not adequate, as the post-World War I peace was not adequate. The German nationalists were allowed to regroup and to evade the reparations by inflating the Deutsch Mark (and destroying most people’s savings, creating a disaffected population which could easily be propagandized by the Nazis.) (That was muddled economic history, I've struck it out.) What would a positive world peace that included Russia look like?

Tuesday, January 17, 2023

An Argument for Arresting White-Collar Criminals Like Common Thieves

If someone commits a simple physical crime, a murder, say, or a mugging, the police apprehend them as soon as possible, and holds them while the prosecutor decides what charges to bring. But in white collar crime, there’s an investigation, the appropriate prosecutor decides what charges to bring, goes to a grand jury, gets an indictment and, finally, the suspect is brought in, perhaps even politely asked to come in.

Tuesday, January 10, 2023

Inaction Against Authoritarianism

It seems to me that the Justice Department is being made the whipping boy for decades of Democratic inaction against the rising tide of racism and authoritarianism and damn if I think it’s fair. Justice Department lawyers are apparently working very hard to build an airtight case against Trump and his merry men, but if it hadn’t been for decades of inaction on the part of Democratic leaders and elected officials it would never have been needed in the first case.

Sunday, January 8, 2023

On Conflicts Among the House Republicans and Policies

Joanne B. Freeman, the redoubtable author of The Field of Blood, about violence in the antebellum Congress, offers a timely New York Times op-ed about antebellum conflicts over the House Speakership. I like the history given in the op-ed very much, but I think she gets current politics wildly wrong when she writes:

The resulting speakership struggle was not about an issue. It was not
about a policy. It was about power. Kevin McCarthy’s reported
concession to empower the extreme right by making it easier to oust
him as speaker was a surrender of power — and that’s all a potential
speaker has to offer in today’s political climate. Promises to support
key bills or logrolling mean nothing in a party that has very little
real planned legislation and very few policies.

The leadership struggle was also about policy; whether to make some modest compromises with the Democrats or to go full on fascist. Unlike slavery, which was sectionally popular in the antebellum period and therefore had sectional representation, the policies of the fascist wing of the Republican Party are, when stated plainly, popular with very few, and Republican policies overall are, when stated plainly, still minority policies.

So Republicans do not state them.

The modern Republican party is dominated by a coalition of business interests, nationalists, militarists, white supremacists, and religious radicals. They oppose social insurance programs and support white supremacy. So the only way they can win elections is by lying about their goals and taking advantage of flaws in the US political system. They have to pretend to be about nothing to take advantage of wavering low-information voters, but they are very much about tax cuts for the rich, gutting social insurance programs, and white supremacism. (And, for some reason, the gold standard, beloved of US aristocrats from the very beginning, bah!)

The Republican leadership is not honest about what they support and, in fact, when much of the public is told what Republicans support, they simply do not believe it (to this point, see Data For Progess’s polling), but never doubt that they have policy goals, and that the conflicts both with and within the Republican Party are about policy as well as raw power.