Sunday, August 2, 2020

Insanity from the Obama Era

In this podcast about the threat of nuclear war, Lisa Perry notes that the U.S. is going to spend $1.7 trillion (trillion -- with a "T") to "modernize" our nuclear weapon inventory. $1.7 trillion

Having read about this in The Bomb, I understand the pressure the Obama administration felt to do this. But it seems relatively clear to me now that agreeing to this was a big mistake. 

More broadly, though, keep this* in mind when you hear that we can't spend money to help people, we "have to" cut social security, etc. 

*And the fact that every year, the U.S. spends more on "defense" than the next ten most profligate countries combined

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

What a world

Thanks again to the liberal media.

From Vox's daily email:

·       On Monday night, President Donald Trump took to Twitter to (re)tweet out dangerous misinformation about the coronavirus pandemic. He amplified a false claim to his 84.2 million followers that “Covid has cure” — which it does not. [CBS News / Christopher Brito]

·       The tweet — which linked to a video promoting the disproven drug hydroxychloroquine and dismissing the need to wear a mask — was quickly removed by Twitter for violating the site’s Covid-19 misinformation policy. [Vice / David Gilbert]

·       Separately, Donald Trump Jr., the president’s eldest son, tweeted out the video on Monday night, describing it as “a must watch!!!” The tweet has since been deleted, and Don Jr. lost his tweeting privileges for 12 hours. [The Verge / Chaim Gartenberg]

·       The conspiracy video that both Trumps chose to promote is objectively absurd: As the Daily Beast reported Tuesday, a doctor featured in the video has argued that the US government is run by “reptilians,” among other bizarre claims. [The Daily Beast / Will Sommer]

·       Nonetheless, the video, which was shared by the far-right site Breitbart, got substantial traction on Monday. Facebook said it was viewed more than 14 million times before it was taken down. [Washington Post / Katie Shepherd and Taylor Telford]

·       Trump defended the conspiracy theorist doctor, Stella Immanuel, telling reporters on Tuesday she was "spectacular" and "very respected." Immanuel has attributed various health issues to "people having sex in their dreams with demons" in addition to her hydroxychloroquine advocacy. [Twitter / Jeremy Diamond]

·       The tweet that finally resulted in Twitter taking action was just one of several shared by Trump on Monday night that boosted the discredited theory that the antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine is an effective Covid-19 treatment. And at least one attacked the credibility of Dr. Anthony Fauci. [Twitter / Manu Raju]

·       On Tuesday, Fauci brushed off the attacks, telling George Stephanopoulos that “I don’t even read them. ... I just will continue to do my job no matter what comes out because I think it’s very important.” [TPM / ZoĆ« Richards]

·       But the coronavirus misinformation problem isn’t just coming from the White House. Over the weekend, the right-wing Sinclair Broadcast Group came under fire for its plan — now abandoned — to air an interview with a conspiracy theorist featured in the Plandemic movie. [Vox / Zeeshan Aleem]

·       The video that Trump shared on Monday was backed by the Tea Party Patriots, a fundraising group that has donated more than $24 million to Republicans since 2014. [NBC News / Brandy Zadrozny and Ben Collins]

And while Trump continues to amplify baseless coronavirus conspiracies, the pandemic is still running rampant in the US. More than 148,000 people have died of the virus, and a federal report from this past weekend urged 21 states to tighten measures aimed at controlling the virus. [New York Times]

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

The Greatest Injustice in the World

At this moment in history, when innocent people like Elijah McClain are being murdered by the state, some people have gotten together to fight against the greatest injustice in the world: Meanies are mean to them on Twitter or Slack.

Snark aside, it isn't as though I do have any reason for empathy. A while back, I had a mortgage, car payment, pre-existing conditions, and a kid in college. Then I found myself out of my job because I quoted Anthony Bourdain. In addition to being suddenly unemployed, thousands upon thousands of people attacked me online.

And you know what? It just doesn't compare to being murdered. It doesn't compare to being stalked and doxxed and threatened with rape or torture (and I've been basically tortured to the point of being broken).

So if you look at this moment in history and you think it is all about you and protecting your precious privileged ideals ... maybe think again.

Update: The “free speech debate” isn’t really about free speech

Friday, July 17, 2020

796 Scandals, Color-Coded

From Andrew Tobias:

It’s impossible to read all 20,000+ lies and misleading claims Trump has made since taking office.  (In eight years, the same fact-checking apparatus found Obama had made 28.)

But it’s almost impossible not to read or at least meander amongst these 796 mostly-short paragraphs . . . “A Catalog of Trump’s Worst Cruelties, Collusions, Corruptions, and Crimes.”  Color-coded, no less.

Thursday, July 16, 2020

Our Ancestors Knew Death in Ways We [Hopefully] Never Will

Keeping with a general theme here, this NY Times article is subtitled: Some say we’re doomed. But science and public spending have saved us from pandemics worse than this one.

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

The best-selling book of all time is a horror

In a recent podcast, Ezra Klein's guest said that reading the Bible turned her from an atheist into a Christian. 

Wait, what? This Bible?

PS: Saw this via one of our pals in Australia.

Friday, July 3, 2020

From EK re: voting (part of a broader conversation with peers)

Under the current system, doing anything but voting for your most preferred/least dispreferred option of the two candidates most likely to get the most votes is a betrayal of your rational civic duty. I think we’re all rational enough to agree that the two candidates that are going to get the most votes are Biden and Trump. One of them - or, in the event of a catastrophe, their VP - will be sworn in in January 2021. If anything else happens, there has likely been some sort of unprecedented societal collapse and we’ll have bigger problems than who we voted for. That’s not a ‘false choice’, that’s accepting reality. If it’s your rational, considered belief that something other than one of those two options is feasible come January 2021; you’re entitled to that belief. But I doubt you truly believe that.

Your vote is not an endorsement. Your vote is not a prom proposal. Your vote is a political action. Voting is one of the ways we have gotten, in this country -- after many many years of fighting for that right to be expanded -- to move our society in a less bad direction. And after you cast your vote, you are free to use every other method of political action to try and get whoever’s in office - even and especially if it is the person you voted for - to keep moving society in a better direction - to enact policies you believe in, to change our voting system, to get rid of the electoral college, to get money out of politics, whatever you see fit.

If you think more people would die under a Biden administration than a Trump administration, then by all means, vote for Trump. If you think there would be more suffering under a Biden administration than a Trump administration, then by all means, vote for Trump. If you truly, rationally believe that there will be no difference in the number of lives unnecessarily lost, in the amount of suffering, if you really and truly believe that having an administration that listens to science and expertise over ratings, and wants to expand, not contract, access to healthcare, will make no difference at all in how many people suffer and die from Covid-19 after January 20th 2021, than by all means, sit on your hands, vote third party, write in Vermin Supreme, crumple up your ballot and eat it, whatever. You can throw away your chance for political action, but don’t pretend that’s not what you’re doing.

I don’t think any of you really believe any of those things are true. I believe that you are all smart, rational people who are looking at the same world that I am. I believe that you are all compassionate people who care about reducing suffering and minimizing needless loss of life. The reason you know I believe that is that I am bothering to write all of this up; if I thought you were thoughtless and cruel, I wouldn’t bother.

I think it matters tremendously which of those two options ends up in the White House, and I think a Biden administration will lead to less suffering. I could tell you all the reasons I believe that, but I won’t patronize you -- you can all see the news and see what the Trump Administration does and fights for. You can read Biden’s positions on his website and look at what he did as Vice President. 

I’m just going to tell you two things. One because it hasn’t gotten a lot of press: The Trump administration recently pushed a rule through HHS that would tell medical providers that they could refuse medical care to transgender people like me (or any LGBTQ people) if they felt it violated their conscience. I’ve been sitting every day since the rule came down terrified that if I get sick, someone’s going to decide it’s better not to spend the resources to save me because I’m trans. That in two years, three years, I’m going to get in a car accident and someone’s going to look at me and watch me bleed out and laugh - something that has happened to actual, real, non-theoretical trans people. The fact that people are already suing to block this rule is the one thing that makes me less afraid, and the more time the Trump administration has to pack the courts with people who don’t believe in my human rights, the less safe I am. And I’m a white, middle-class trans person with financial security and a supportive family. I’m about as safe as it gets as a trans person in this country. There are many more people like me who are less safe and will be less safe after four more years of this administration.

And I’m going to tell you this because it’s personal and so you wouldn’t know from the news: In November of 2016, my family had long conversations on the phone about how to ensure my parents, both of whom have preexisting conditions, and especially my father, whose life was already saved by the ACA - his words, not mine - were going to ensure that they stayed on employer healthcare when the new administration and the new Congress got rid of the ACA. When McCain voted no on the ACA repeal, I nearly wept on the phone to his office thanking him. This administration is still fighting to kill the ACA and I’m absolutely terrified that four more years will mean it dies and the protections for preexisting conditions - the protections for my mom and dad - will die with it. There are many many vastly more vulnerable people than us.

I’m sorry I don’t have anything smart to say about corrupt systems or institutions or anything like that. This isn’t theoretical for me and I simply don’t have the luxury of treating it like a debate club. This is the lives and safety of me, many more people like me, of my family, many people like us, and many many others who are less safe under Trump because of their gender or orientation or skin color or national origin. If filling in a bubble on a piece of paper seems too hard of a thing to do to help try and make us a little more likely to survive - I can’t stop you from thinking it’s too hard for you. If you’d rather follow the example of the many, many people who in 2016, in 2000, could have chosen to use their vote to put someone different in the White House, but really truly believed in their hearts that they were going to create change in a corrupt system by voting third party or not voting - I can’t stop you. The system doesn’t seem to have gotten better since 2000 to me, but I can’t stop you. I can’t make you fill in any bubble. 

But I do hope that, if nothing else, ‘helping people like EK and their family have a better chance of surviving’ is a reason to at least think about swallowing some bile and moving a pen. 

And if not, I do hope that whatever reasons you tell yourself for making me and my family less safe, for selling the human rights of me and everyone like me down the river, you feel good about them the next time you have to look me in the eye.