Breathing Room: What Are You Streaming?

I don’t know about you but I have the sense things are about to snowball, and I don’t mean because there’s a lot of the white stuff out on my lawn.

There’s just so much on our plates right now between trying to carry on with our lives and yet hang back in safety because the pandemic continues. Too many balls in the air which must descend and yet our hands are already full.

We could use a little breathing room before things get hairier than they already are.

With that in mind, what is it you’re streaming these days if you’re a streaming platform user?

I finally caught a movie I’ve been meaning to watch since it released in 2018 — Fast Color, directed by Julia Hart featuring Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Lorraine Toussaint, David Strathairn, and a youngster who will surely appear in many more films, Saniyya Sidney.

It’s an allegory about Black women and our changing world. I don’t want to spoil the film. I will only say that it’s a remarkably deft work making excellent use of a lean cast, a small number of settings, and in spite of it being a story about super powers, no heavy handed excess of CGI like Marvel or DC films.

It was perfect, not too much or too little. I’m sure I will watch it again. It’s currently on Netflix and Hulu though you can rent it on many other streaming platforms.

It wasn’t like the rest of my usual viewing which runs heavily toward Asian dramas (ex. Midnight Diner), documentary series about food and culture (ex. Taco Chronicles), with the occasional historical fiction series (ex. The Cook of Castamar).

What have you watched lately, and what are planning to watch in the near future?

For those of you who don’t stream, what are you viewing these days and how?

Not certain yet what I’m going to watch tonight. It may depend on what you have to say in comments.

I do know I’m going to be eating popcorn. Somebody bought me a microwave popcorn popper; it was shipped to me without any card or gift receipt so I have no idea who to thank for this groovy silicone device which I have used every day since I got it. No more prepackaged microwave popcorn with the funky chemicals and too much plastic packaging.

In two hours I’ll whip up another batch and find something suitable for breathing room.

Letting Go of 2021

It’s been a rough few weeks in so many ways, on top of a really rough year.

We’ve reached the limits of patience, fortitude, and resources in so many ways. In part because of the pandemic and manufactured barriers created by disinformation and willful destruction, in part because of frustration with systems damaged over time by those who refused to believe in cooperative, collaborative, collective effort, and in part because time simply has its way with us, we’ve experienced pain and loss over and over again.

I’ve lost several heroes I looked up to in a handful of weeks — feminist author bell hooks, writer Joan Didion, attorney Sarah Weddington, and now actor/comedian Betty White, all gone ahead to higher ground.

With former senator Harry Reid‘s passing we’ve lost a fighter who taught so many younger Democrats how be effective.

The Trash Talk crowd here lost someone who surely entertained them many times since the 1980s with former coach and commentator John Madden‘s death.

There are so many more brilliant people to whom we’ve had to say goodbye, including many of the 822,914 COVID-19 dead. It just plain hurts.

Making resolutions seems wholly useless against this barrage of loss.

~ ~ ~

Author and journalist Elizabeth Gilbert wrote about making your own ceremony for ending the year. Her tone in 2014 when she wrote this post was so hopeful; it seems surreal now, looking back, to think we were all so glib about embracing the future.

We’ve had a trial by fire since then, a long conflagration which has torched all our illusions. What political monstrousness didn’t destroy a pandemic and time have finished.

And in some cases, literal incineration thanks to the mounting climate emergency.

Gilbert’s suggestion seems fitting, then, to say goodbye to this year with flames — write down things we want to get rid of with end of this year, write down the things we ask into our lives in the year ahead, and then burn these wishes, tossing the ashes into water to both release the past and summon the future.

Perhaps you won’t need the symbolism and the ritual of ceremony, but the exercise is still worthwhile to take measure of what we’re leaving and consider what lies ahead.

What will you let go of with the ending of this year and the passing of yet more of our figureheads?

What will you welcome at the stroke of midnight and the coming dawn of the new year?

~ ~ ~

Scottish poet Robert Burns is credited with writing the traditional song, Auld Lang Syne, which will be sung this evening where people meet in spite of the pandemic.

But Burns did little of the writing; he collected older bits and pieces of traditional Scots’ songs and molded them into the tune we know now.

One of the earlier versions based on the older verses was published in a Scottish newspaper in 1711 by James Watson.

I’m very fond of one old verse in particular, which rings clearest this evening for me:

My Heart is ravisht with delight,
when thee I think upon;
All Grief and Sorrow takes the flight,
and speedily is gone;
The bright resemblance of thy Face,
so fills this, Heart of mine;
That Force nor Fate can me displease,
for Old long syne.

For Old long syne my Jo,
for Old long syne,
That thou canst never once reflect,
On Old long syne.

Goodbye and farewell, 2021. Hello and welcome, 2022.

Best wishes to you all for a better year ahead.

What Have We Been Reading?

I’ll go first.

1. The Constitution Of Knowledge by Jonathan Rauch. It’s a practical discussion of epistemology, the philosophy of how we know stuff. I’ve discussed it in several posts, notably here. The second half discusses his suggestions for dealing with lies, disinformation, trolls and generally with the Insurrection Party led by TFG. I haven’t read it because it seems hopeless. See No. 7 below.

2. The Dawn Of Everything by David Graeber and David Wengrow. I’ve just started this book, and it’s fascinating. The story we are taught is that human societies evolve sequentially from small bands of hunter-gatherers to agriculture to small trading towns to cities to states, with more and more complicated governmental structures. This is called progress. The authors say this story comes from Jean Jacques Rousseau, and has colonized our minds.

They claim that we have learned a lot since the early 19th C., and it mostly contradicts this story. They call on extensive research in archaeology, Wengrow’s primary area of study, and anthropology, Graeber’s, to draw a completely different picture. There are a number of ideas like the following, ideas that offer a different way of imagining the possibilities of an advanced technological society:

Back in the 1960s, the French anthropologist Pierre Clastres suggested that precisely the opposite was the case. What if the sort of people we like to imagine as simple and innocent are free of rulers, governments, bureaucracies, ruling classes and the like, not because they are lacking in imagination, but because they’re actually more imaginative than we are? We find it difficult to picture what a truly free society would be like; perhaps they have no similar trouble picturing what arbitrary power and domination would be like. Perhaps they can not only imagine it, but consciously arrange their society in such a way as to avoid it. As we’ll see in the next chapter, Clastres’s argument has its limits. But by insisting that the people studied by anthropologists are just as self-conscious, just as imaginative, as the anthropologists themselves, he did more to reverse the damage than anyone before or since. P. 73.

This idea resonates with me. I’ve seen the art produced by our ancestors from 25,000 years ago, in caves like the Font de Gaume in Southern France. It’s near Les Eyzies-du-Tayac-Sireuil, which is home to The National Museum Of Prehistory, and several reconstructions of the living quarters of the Magdelanian culture. From the mouth of the Font-de-Gaume even today you can see walnut trees and, I imagine, wild asparagus, berries, and small game in the underbrush. The Dordogne River is nearby, full of fish. There are large abri, cut-outs high up in the cliffs, which make decent living quarters. I’m not sure what more they needed to live pleasantly. Why would they submit to domination by one of their band? Why would they follow some loudmouth who wants to take over some other abri in some stupid war?

There’s a review of the book by William Deresiewicz in the Atlantic. If you need encouragement to read this book, here it is.

3. Pride, Prejudice, And Other Flavors by Sonali Dev. This novel centers on a family descended from royalty in India. The parents immigrated to the San Francisco area, and did very well indeed. It’s loosely modeled on Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, a particular hero of the author. The “flavors” come from Indian cuisine as practiced by a chef raised in England and trained in Paris. He comes to the area to take care of his artist sister who has a brain tumor that only the surgeon daughter and protagonist can hope to eradicate, and only at the cost of her sight.

The connections to Pride and Prejudice are well adapted to current times. For example, in Pride and Prejudice, Elizabeth forms a prejudice against Mr. Darcy because he rejects her at a dance. Besides that, he behaves like he’s better than everybody else, which she attributes to his wealth and his arrogance. Consequently she can easily use him as the object of her wit. In Dal’s retelling, this plays out between the surgeon and the chef in a more complex ways, involving both both their histories.

As an aside, I also like the Bollywood flic, Bride And Prejudice, which is set in the India of today; it’s a lot of fun.

4. Reputation by Lex Croucher. This first novel is set in Regency-Era England. It imagines the lives of 20-somethings from the upper class, free from parental supervision, and freed from all constraints by the wealth and power of their families. The protagonist is a well-read, well-educated, and thoughtful young woman of the middle class, caught up into the lives of the rich young. It’s a life filled with parties, drugs, liquor and even a bit of sex. For me the sensibility of the novel is so 21st Century that it didn’t work as a period piece. It will be published in the US next year.

5, The Elegance Of The Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery. This is an extraordinary novel. Barbery studied philosophy at the École Normale Supérieure de Fontenay-Saint-Cloud in Lyon (I think) and taught at Université de Bourgogne. There are a number of themes in the book, but one that stands out for me is the effort to put the ideas of philosophy into action in the lives of the characters. For example, one character is a 12 year old girl of extraordinary intelligence, who has decided that there is no point to living so she plans to commit suicide on her 13th birthday. The meaninglessness of life is a concern of the main character as well. This is a nod to The Myth Of Sisyphus by Albert Camus, in which we are asked why we don’t commit suicide in the face of the absurd.

There are discussions of some of my favorite things, food, music, and art. As to music, the use of Mozart’s Confutatis from The Requiem is hilarious. I love Dutch still life paintings; here’s the subject of that link. I’ve always liked philosophy, some of which is powerful, and some of which, like Barbery’s description of the a philosophy dissertation on William of Ockham, seems ridiculous.

The author doesn’t think much of upper middle class French society, and it shows. That’s fun. It’s fun to think how these criticisms would work in US society.

I refuse to acknowledge any flaws in this book. And the translator, Alison Anderson, is dazzling.

6. The Night Watchman by Louise Erdrich. This novel is grounded in the life of Erdich’s grandfather, a Chippewa leader who was instrumental in preserving the reservation and way of life of his Turtle Mountain Band. Most of the book describes the lives of the members of the Band in the mid-50s. Perhaps the most valuable part for me was the way visions work for the characters. At one level if felt like magical realism, but it seems so grounded in their lives that I felt an intuition about how it might work in my own life in our hyper-technical society.

7. Thinking Fast And Slow by Daniel Kahneman. I took up this book at the suggestion of commenter Epicurus. I’ve just started, and perhaps I’ll have more to say about it in a future post. In the meantime, two observations. First, the book is beautifully written. It’s easy to follow the argument; the examples are clear and precise; and the introduction shows how he came to think about things as he does.

Second, the idea of two systems of cognition is intuitively appealing. Years ago I read a book about epistemology that used the terms intensive and reflexive to describe two separate ways of thinking. I’d guess we’ve all had the experience of self-checking that goes on when we think of something we might say, or write something, then a separate voice in our heads pipes up with objections. So is the idea that we don’t know much about what lies below either of the two systems. Studies of vision show that much of the computation is done before the image reaches the brain, so it seems reasonable to think there’s a lot of pre-computation in each of the two systems. Things are happening in our minds we can’t perceive.

That’s most of what I’ve read over the last few weeks. So, what have you been reading?

Update: Thanks to everyone for the marvelous array of books and the discussion. I hope everyone found something they’re excited to read.

And Happy Holidays to all!
Ed
=====
Image by Janne Poikolainen, creative commons license.

CTDT: Critical Turkey Day Theory

[NB: check the byline, thanks. /~Rayne]

I’m once again up to my elbows in another Thanksgiving turkey, preparing  the annual feast. My two adult children are home to observe this holiday, bringing with them a new challenge: four dogs.

I swear this is payback for not letting them have pets when they were younger.

My canine guests range in size from a dainty 30 to a hefty 90 pounds and exhibit varying degrees of nervousness. Two of them are here because my eldest is dogsitting.

And one of these dogs suffers from ADD as does their owner.

I really need more than a continuous stream of alcohol to get through this day.

But I wouldn’t have it any other way. We are all of us healthy, we’ve all been vaccinated and don’t need to wear masks or to ventilate the house. Three of us have had our boosters with the remainder to get theirs very soon.

Last Thanksgiving we looked for places to have an outdoor picnic in the cold halfway between my place and my kids’ places, because we didn’t want to risk being cooped up inside not knowing if any one of us had been exposed to COVID.

This holiday is better; we are living far more freely than last year.

For this we give our thanks.

~ ~ ~

Putting aside the pandemic, the complexion of this holiday has changed since I was in grade school back in the 1960s. The happy little turkeys we made from construction paper and hand prints are the only thing which might yet make sense now that the truth has stripped away the hoo-ha make-believe surrounding the mythic first Thanksgiving and the Mayflower’s Pilgrims of Plymouth.

We know now that the decimation of the indigenous people who were here long before the Mayflower arrived had already begun because of exposure to diseases brought by British fishermen; they’d also attempted to enslave members of tribes as they fished the east coast.

The epidemics which came with the whites killed nearly 90%% of native people who had no resistance to the Europeans’ diseases, leaving behind smaller numbers of tribal members who could not fend off violence by settlers after what we’ve been taught was the first Thanksgiving.

This holiday has been a fallacious celebration of peace and harmony between immigrant whites and the native peoples; in truth it marks the beginning of massive genocide. What we were taught as children was that this land was nearly virgin, ready for the taking, when in fact it had been populated by millions belonging to many nations but cleared by disease and the savagery of Christianity’s “soldiers” who claimed dominion here as part of their god’s promise to them.

The eventual American colonies were born of disease and deaths of the previous occupants of land that wasn’t truly up for grabs.

Decolonizing this holiday requires seeing this truth beneath the happy little cut-out turkeys and remembering what has been sacrificed and lost before this day.

~ ~ ~

Walking a foot in both worlds — a descendent of European settlers on one side of the family and a member of a vanquished indigenous people nearly wiped out by disease and whites’ oppression — can be a bit challenging.

The in-laws who are all of European descent do not want to hear the truth, that they live on what is occupied land hornswoggled one way or another from Native Americans. “Oh, but there were treaties, this is ceded land,” they’ll argue. How quaint — as if the remaining 10% of the people who once lived here had the power to confront and force off settlers who came bearing even more disease and firearms.

The truth is bitten back, just as it must have been hundreds of years ago when indigenous Wampanoag first met the Pilgrims, stressed and needy after their long voyage as they attempted to settle into their new home on others’ land.

It’s a tradition which is changing, but not all at once. Many other uncomfortable truths will still be held back this day; we ignore the in-law who’s a pig-ignorant anti-vaxxer, and the other who’s an unrelenting gullible Trumpist who eats up all bat shit garbage they are fed by Facebook. There’s no reasoning with them.

In spite of them we make an effort to depart from a white-centric observation; this day will be spent celebrating the health and companionship of those who survived the last year because they cared for their fellow humans and themselves, thinking of the generosity of the Wampanoag back in 1621.

We’ll remember genocide both passive and active took a vast wealth of humans who lived on this soil, entire nations and their ways gone with them.

We’ll support Native American by choosing an indigenous-owned business or Native American artist when we shop for holiday gifts, or make a donation to support Native American news outlets.

We’ll talk about the nations on whose lands we live (do you know whose land you’re on?), and discuss the foods which would have been eaten by these same nations.

There’s more we can do but this is a start toward decentering the white settlers in American history and recognizing the history of this country hasn’t been as glossy and perky as packaged by those uncomfortable with the truth.

~ ~ ~

The observation of thanksgiving as an autumnal or harvest festival was hit or miss and highly local in this country’s early years. It was formalized as a national holiday after Sarah J. Hale lobbied then-President Lincoln for a “day of our annual Thanksgiving made a National and fixed Union Festival.”

Lincoln consented and issued this proclamation:

Washington, D.C.
October 3, 1863

By the President of the United States of America.

A Proclamation.

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequalled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the United States the Eighty-eighth.

By the President: Abraham Lincoln

William H. Seward,
Secretary of State

It is this we’ll celebrate today: leaving behind a falsely-constructed image of the past, remembering where these bounties came from, aspiring to heal this nation’s wounds, the restoration of its health, and enjoyment of domestic tranquility as we continue to seek a more perfect Union.

Thanks to you all for sharing this holiday with us, and every day as community members at emptywheel.

Now let’s see if this household can get through a turkey dinner without any one of these four energetic canines helping themselves to our feast.

The End Of Roe v. Wade

Is the title of this post alarmist? No, not really. That is effectively what the new Texas law has done, and has now been fulsomely endorsed by the Supreme Court, without even the courtesy of full briefing, oral argument and a merits decision. It was known this was coming when SCOTUS let this bunk take effect yesterday morning without action, it was just a question of what the backroom dynamics were in that regard. Now we know.

Here is the “decision”. As anti-climatic as it is, it is important. This is decision on a law, and the words count.

It is madness upon not just in Texas, but the entire country. These earth shattering decisions used to come only after full briefing and argument. No longer, now the shadow path is supreme.

Agree with Mark Joseph Stern in Slate when he says this:

At midnight on Wednesday, in an unsigned, 5–4 decision, the Supreme Court effectively overturned Roe v. Wade. The five most conservative Republican-appointed justices refused to block Texas’ abortion ban, which allows anyone to sue any individual who “aids or abets” an abortion after six weeks, when the vast majority occur. There is no exception for rape or incest. The decision renders almost all abortions in Texas illegal for the first time since 1973. Although the majority did not say these words exactly, the upshot of Wednesday’s decision is undeniable: The Supreme Court has abandoned the constitutional right to abortion. Roe is no longer good law.

Texas’ ban, known as SB 8, constitutes a uniquely insidious workaround to Roe. It outlaws abortion after six weeks, but does not call on state officials to enforce its restrictions.
Instead, as Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote in dissent, the law “deputized the state’s citizens as bounty hunters, offering them cash prizes for civilly prosecuting their neighbors’ medical procedures.” Random strangers can sue any “abettor” to an abortion anywhere in Texas and collect a minimum of $10,000, plus attorneys’ fees. The act’s language is incredibly broad, encompassing any friend, family member, clergy member, or counselor who facilitates the abortion in any way. Every employee of an abortion clinic, from front-desk staff to doctors, is liable as well. And when an individual successfully sues an abortion provider, the court must permanently shut it down.

What other questions does this action, really inaction, by SCOTUS generate? A lot. Peterr asked this elsewhere:

Next up, perhaps, in the Texas legislature, now that SCOTUS has affirmed (5-4) their new approach to enforcement of state laws . . .

Texas declares that black and hispanic people shall not be allowed to vote, and delegates enforcement to any citizen, allowing them to sue for at least $10,000 if they can prove a black or hispanic person voted.

Texas declares that marriage is reserved to one man and one woman, and delegates enforcement to any citizen, allowing them to sue any same-sex couple who presents themselves in any form or fashion as “married” for at least $25,000 . . .

etc. etc. etc.

Again, not hyperbole. For now though, it is crystal clear that Roe is gone. There will be different laws in different states, at best. That is it.

What happens when states like Texas/their citizen plaintiffs start trying to enforce their craven law as to conduct occurring in other states? I don’t know, but that is the next horizon.

At any rate, this is going to be a problem for a very long time. If SCOTUS will do this though, given their clear previous precedent contrary to today’s order, means you can kiss voting rights cases goodbye.

It is a not so brave, nor honorable, new Supreme Court world.

Mirriam Seddiq, Dulles Justice and New Effort For Afghan Evacuees

Woke up to see that one of our favorite commenters, Eureka, noted Marcy’s retweet of MirriamZary from late last night. There are so many new folks here, and such a hurricane of strife, in the four and a half years since Trump set the first Muslim Travel ban that I thought a little backstory would be good about now. So, here we go.

@MirriamZary is her Twitter handle, but her real name is Mirriam Seddiq, and she is totally kick ass. I’ve twitter known her forever, there are a certain group of criminal defense attorneys that have long known and interacted with each other, on and off of twitter, and she has very long been one.

The day Trump instituted the Muslim ban in 2017, Mirriam, her partner at Seddiq Law, Justin Eisele, and some local attorney colleagues founded Dulles Justice and camped out at Dulles airport protesting the way Muslims were being detained and denied legal immigration assistance. They gave advice to families concerned, and laid a lot of the initial basis that soon got the Muslim ban set aside. Also inspired similar efforts in international airports all over the country, including here.

It was so inspiring that, after getting some tips from her work, I got off my butt and went and joined some other friends at our local Sky Harbor airport to do the same. That occurred all over the country. Thankfully, it was not that much of a legal problem here, and most of our time went into protesting (and it was a pretty big one) for news cameras and reporters, and not into having to address legal issues and problems. Soon the travel ban was set aside, and a lot of the impetus on the ground started with Mirriam and Dulles Justice. She is a hero, and is clearly now back at it. By necessity, yet again.

So, that is the back story of MirriamZary. Updates will likely be necessary as events are unfolding quite fast. How the Afghan evacuees are treated in the US, and elsewhere, will be an ongoing story and concern for quite some time.

As a coda, for now anyway, I’d like to point out how awesome women criminal defense attorneys are. You may remember me mentioning it here at EW. I took after Kathleen Walsh almost immediately on Twitter because I was so outraged and disgusted by her demeaning article. That was just the start, I kept on for a bit, because Walsh deserved it. Another one of the evil criminal defense attorneys, my pal Scott Greenfield, did a fantastic post on Walsh’s uninformed nonsense. What Kathleen Walsh doesn’t understand is what defense attorneys, and women are a core part of them, really do. They kick ass and take names, and Mirriam Seddiq is a prime example of that.

This Is Bullshit: Silver Takes the Gold for COVID Guff [UPDATE-1]

[NB: Check the byline, thanks. Update at bottom of post. /~Rayne]

I’m sure my neighbors wondered what the hell was going on here Friday. The weather was nice enough that my windows were wide open exposing those within hearing to my vented spleen. There was so much crap in my social media I couldn’t help yell, “Bullshit, bullshit, absolute bullshit!” I can only hope they thought I was yelling about the Olympics.

What really set me off was dangerous twaddle from someone who should long ago have learned not to opine without data.

Because he refuses to stick to his lane using data to support his case, Nate Silver has become anathema, all of his own doing. His bullshit tweet Friday about COVID can get people killed if they pay him any heed at all.

No data offered here to support this swag – it’s pure opinion.

For the last couple of months we’ve known we haven’t been dealing with the same virus variant which began the pandemic; we’re now up against a far more transmissible version the features of which researchers are still analyzing.

In its pandemic coverage, the Washington Post reported the Centers for Disease Control acknowledged in an internal memo “the war [against COVID] has changed”:

… The document strikes an urgent note, revealing the agency knows it must revamp its public messaging to emphasize vaccination as the best defense against a variant so contagious that it acts almost like a different novel virus, leaping from target to target more swiftly than Ebola or the common cold.

It cites a combination of recently obtained, still-unpublished data from outbreak investigations and outside studies showing that vaccinated individuals infected with delta may be able to transmit the virus as easily as those who are unvaccinated. Vaccinated people infected with delta have measurable viral loads similar to those who are unvaccinated and infected with the variant. …

In other words our past assumptions about SARS-C0V-2 no longer work; this isn’t a virus with a replication factor of R2 (in which one infected person infects two more on average) but an R-naught much higher.

Let’s revisit what was known at the end of June this year about the Delta variant in this explainer I’ve shared before:

It’s the change in charge and in the amino acid described in Rob Swanda’s video above which may be responsible for both the high level of virus load found in both unvaccinated and vaccinated individuals. Think of the electrostatic charge as acting like a magnet, attracting more virus to receptors, combined with a change to the spike protein which may allow the virus to attack host cells more quickly and not be recognized quite as rapidly by vaccinated persons’ immune systems. You’ll grasp why vaccinated persons are infectious and spreading the virus along with unvaccinated carriers.

For another overview which offers a fairly basic explanation of the process by which viruses mutate and then disperse as well as an overview of the Delta variant, see this MedCram video from July 20:

If you watch this video, do pay special note to dates on materials cited. There’s one graph in particular addressing the spread of Delta in the UK based on data from June; the spread of Delta is so aggressive that data wasn’t accurate by the time of this video a month later.

This article in BBC provides a graph showing the trend from mid/late June in the UK; Delta’s spread continued along that rapid uptick, resulting in more hospitalizations though vaccinations kept the rate from matching the last COVID surge. The MedCram video (at 5:17) does attribute the increase to the Delta variant.

Note also the differences in population testing positive for Delta – now much younger – and the admissions. While vaccinated individuals are still unlikely to need hospitalization as documented outbreaks like that in Provincetown MA show, they can still get the virus. We still don’t yet know what the long-term repercussions are among vaccinated individuals who have asymptomatic or mild cases of COVID. We do know that previous variants have caused damage among infected individuals even though they had asymptomatic or mild cases, and younger people including children were among those who were injured.

But now that we know vaccinated persons can both be infected with Delta and spread it, vaccinated persons can’t simply “choose to live [their] life ~however [they] want under COVID” because they pose a danger to individuals who can’t be vaccinated or are immune compromised.

That’s someone like Montel Williams, living with a compromised immune system, fully vaccinated, did everything right to protect himself, and yet someone infected him through thoughtless carelessness:

Don’t listen to bullshit from unqualified hacks who don’t have skin in the game. Pay attention to credentialed virologists, epidemiologists, public health professionals who are on top of the data related to COVID and the peer-reviewed research about its variants.

Above all continue to wear masks and maintain some level of social distancing even if you’re vaccinated, not just because you may become mildly ill but because you may infect others who may not be able to be vaccinated — particularly children — or who may be immune compromised.

This tweet shows the difference between an infected young teen’s lungs and health lungs; imagine this happening to younger children, unable to be vaccinated while vaccines have yet to be approved for use among those under age 12:

Prevent this from happening to more children by encouraging vaccination. The sooner we reach 70% or more vaccinated, the faster we can halt the emergence of the next highly-transmissible and damaging SARS-CoV-2 variant.

UPDATE-1 — 2:40 PM ET 31-JUL-2021 —

When some denialist throws a 99% survival rate statistic in your face, sit them down and share this.

Oh, was I suppose to provide a trigger warning? COVID doesn’t provide them, oops.

The video above only addresses patients who’ve been hospitalized. At least one recent study suggests an average 13-14% of persons who recover from COVID have symptoms lasting weeks and months, some of which are debilitating and reflect permanent damage COVID does to the body.

Freedom. Woo. Choose to live your life however you want. Good luck getting out of bed freely after hospitalization, or keeping your job while suffering from brain fog and other cognitive impairment found in long COVID.

Space Cowboys

Well, today there will be another Billionaire Blastoff. First went Sir Richard Branson and Virgin Galactic; today will come Jeff Bezos and Blue Origin. Musk will come last, but as much as he is dislikable, and he really is, he has sent a rocket into real space to the ISS. He just wasn’t on it, which is okay in the Billionaire Blastoff races.

There is a lot of discussion in the social media and press as to whether these vanity flights are worth it, or whether the relative money should be spent on domestic efforts and climate change, child poverty etc. Strikes me that is a valid discussion.

It is pretty hard to argue with the “spend your cash now” on this or that. Very valid arguments. The side that, sure it is vanity by these Billionaire Blastoffers, but there is value here long term, is also right. Maybe it is not such a simple dichotomy.

I will also add, that as a former pilot, I more love the fact that actual pilots had to drive Virgin Galactictic. Bezos vehicle is the proverbial space monkeys in pre-Mercury criticisms.

There are a multitude of questions on the Billionaire Blastoffs. All, and maybe more, valid to be discussed. Personally only, I think the net good in advancement of engineering and US space capability militates in the positivities column. But that is not an easy question.

Use this thread for any launch things. Featured above is the great Steve Miller. And with plaudits to our once, and forever, Roving Reporter Rosalind.

On Helmets And Vaccinations

Okay, so I told an old war story from the motorcycling days of my youth in an earlier thread. In response to a Raven Eye comment, I said:

“Your story of father and BB guns really holds water though. A friend and me, pre driver’s license, used to ride dirt bikes all over what is now suburbia. We would take 410 shotguns out quail and dove hunting. They seemed, shall we say, not very effective at range. So, one day with leathers and helmets on, we paced off, maybe 50-75 yards and shot at each other. We each took some pellets but no harm. And that is the kind of stupid your father foresaw.”

As stupid as it sounds on the surface, it was fine. We were both wearing motorcycling attire and full coverage helmets. Looking back, it still falls in the “things you ought not do” department. But we were in no real danger, just young and stupid.

I’ll get to the “vaccinations” part of this post in a minute, but back to helmets. I never even thought to wear a bicycle helmet, whether riding on the streets of Tempe in college (hey, I got sideswiped once!), or on those of Santa Monica in the summers. Literally never crossed my mind. Now they are ubiquitous on almost every bicyclist you see.

Back to the helmet thing. I wore a Bell Star, with flip down visor. It cost an insane amount of money at the time, but my mother paid it in a heartbeat, as my friends and I did not just ride to hunt quail and dove, we raced motocross and hare and hounds. It was the classic white Bell Star one, with a flag decal on each side. My friend in this story did not wear a Bell, but, I think, a Shoei. There were not that many full coverage helmets that early. Either way, we were pretty safe for the 410 test.

That Bell helmet later saved my life. I had done some wrenching on a friend’s Yamaha 250 (close to what I had raced earlier), and was taking it home to him. Doing 30-40 mph on a large street with a palm tree median when a little sports car made a left turn in front of me. The bike collapsed into the side, and I was catapulted over it and landed 20-30 yards on the other side, on my knees, elbows and head. The elbows were skinned, the knees really hurt, and the trusty Bell Star was cracked in the cranium section. Cracked. That would have been my head. I went to the hospital for a checkup, but was released within a couple of hours. Concussions were not yet a thing.

Such is the value of helmets. But how many people out there now, without a thought, wear bicycle helmets, but ignorantly refuse to get vaccinated? I honestly do not know the answer, but it strikes me that it may be a quantifiable amount. And how is that exactly? Here is an NFL player, once “hesitant” that found the vaccine jesus. Good for Travis Kelce. For one and all, PLEASE go get fully vaccinated; it is good for you, your family and society. It, like helmets, can save lives. Do it.

Ending American Erasure

[NB: Byline check, thanks. /~Rayne]

In my personal library I have a copy of my textbook from American Government, a mandatory class when I was in high school in Michigan from 1974-1978. Most students took this class in their senior year as it was understood they needed familiarity with government before they voted for the first time, usually within a year of becoming seniors.

Covered about week three of the school year, the subjects of immigration and citizenship followed an overview of basic forms of government, the American republican system of democracy, and the Constitution.

It was the first time in my life that coursework directly addressed any topic related to my family’s origins – specifically my father’s Chinese heritage.

This is it, all of it from that class, in three paragraphs, one of which is a footnote.

The text, Page 83:

Oriental and Personal Exclusion Policies. Congress placed the first major restrictions on immigration with the passage of the Chines Exclusion Act in 1882.[3] At the same time it barred the entry of convicts, lunatics, paupers, and others likely to become public charges. Over the next several years a long list of “undesirables” was composed; for example, contract laborers were excluded in 1885, immoral persons and anarchists in 1903, and illiterates in 1917.[4] By 1920 more than thirty groups were listed as ineligible on grounds of personal characteristics.

Footnote:

[3] The law was intended to stem the flow of “coolie labor” to the Pacific Coast; the Chinese could and did work for far less than white laborers, especially in the mines and on the railroads. By 1924 all Orientals had been excluded except for temporary visits. The policy was relaxed somewhat during World War II when provision was made for the admission of limited numbers of Chinese, Filipinos, and natives of India. Since 1952, immigration from each independent country in the Far East has been regulated by the quota system.

Page 89:

Just how broad the 14th Amendment’s statement of jus soli is can be seen from one of the leading cases in the law of citizenship, United States v. Wong Kim Ark (1898). Wong Kim Ark had been born in the United States to parents who were citizens of China. After an extended visit to China, he was refused entry to the United States by immigration officials at San Francisco. They insisted the 14th Amendment should not be applied so literally as to mean that he was a citizen. They held that as an alien he was prohibited from entry by the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. The Supreme Court, however, ruled that under the clear words of the 14th Amendment Wong Kim Ark was, indeed, a native-born citizen and that the Chinese Exclusion Act could not be applied to him.

Because he and his immediate family members left no documents like journals, a total of 318 words in Magruder’s American Government, fifth edition circa 1971, are all I have to understand why my great-grandfather ended up staying in Hawaii rather than coming to the U.S. mainland.

There was nothing in the textbook about other laws affecting immigration and citizenship of Chinese coming to the U.S. – nothing about:

Anti-Coolie Act of 1862
Naturalization Act of 1870
Page Act of 1875
In re Ah Yup 1878
Angell Treaty of 1880 and 1892
Geary Act 1902
In re Hong Yen Chang 1890
In re Knight 1909
Immigration Act of 1924, which included the Asian Exclusion Act
Lum v. Rice 1927

Nothing at all about state and local restrictions affecting Chinese immigrants like:

CA Foreign Miner’s Tax Law 1852
CA law barring “Chinese or Mongolian races” 1858
Pigtail Ordinance of San Francisco
Alien land laws across multiple states

And while there was a generalized discussion of the Naturalization Act of 1790 affecting naturalization of “free white person[s] … of good character,” there’s nothing about its affect on Chinese who weren’t considered white.

As recently as 2018 (!) an alien land law remained in effect in the state of Florida which denied Asian farmers the right of land ownership; the law was finally overturned by voters that year though they had rejected its repeal in 2008.

All of this is particularly galling knowing that over the course of the project, the Transcontinental Railroad was built with the labor of as many as 20,000 Chinese immigrants – enough men to populate a small city. In my American History class the achievement in which the west and east railroads were joined was covered with little more than a passing nod.

Just look at this famous photo taken at the celebration of the railroad’s completion:

Chinese immigrants made up as much as 90% of Central Pacific Railroad’s workforce. How many Chinese faces do you see in that photo? The Chinese paid dearly, hundreds having died from the dangerous work and conditions, paid far less than whites on the same job, only to be literally erased.

It’s also particular painful over the last couple of weeks observing the anniversary of the Tulsa race massacre in which Black Wall Street residents were murdered, knowing that there have been multiple massacres in American history of Chinese Americans which have gone unobserved. Granted, there have been more massacres of Black Americans throughout American history like the 1920 Ocoee massacre, but like the thousands of railroad workers the Chinese victims of white rage since the 1800s received a dearth of recognition.

How many U.S. textbooks contained references to these violent assaults on Chinese American communities during which whites drove out residents after attacking and sometimes killing Chinese Americans:

Los Angeles Chinese Massacre 1871
33 California attacks 1880s
Rock Springs Massacre 1885
Attack on Squak Valley 1885
Tacoma riot 1885
Miscellaneous mob violence in Colorado, Nevada, Oregon 1885-1886
Seattle riot 1886
Hells Canyon massacre 1887
Pacific Coast Race Riots 1907
Bellingham riots 1907

Likely none. Perhaps it’s just as well my great-grandfather never made it to the mainland, becoming an American citizen after the U.S. annexed Hawaii in 1898 and granted Hawaii’s citizens U.S. citizenship in the process of establishing the Hawaii as a territory.

It’s funny Donald Trump forgot this bit of history each time he denied Barack Obama’s U.S. citizenship, yet more deliberate erasure. Each time I heard about Trump’s birtherism I wondered if my family’s citizenship was likewise being called into question for being both brown and born in Hawaii.

~ ~ ~

All of this is to say that the rabid state-level attempts to excise teaching the truth of America’s history is another racist effort to police brown people and erase them while continuing to siphon their value (i.e., keep working and contributing to Social Security and taxes, but die early from the same kind of racist neglect extended to Americans of color through the nation’s history.)

Hello again, colonialism, this time occupying not only brown bodies but the public’s mind, whitewashing the past.

I won’t use the phrase which was honestly and earnestly applied to the body of knowledge which teaches all of America’s history, including its pre-nation origins. I respect the persons behind it, but the phrase or label has become toxic, deliberately made so by a counter movement intended to invoke a reflexive negative reaction in a particular audience.

That I will call out for what it is: it’s white supremacy and nationalism with oligarchic sponsors, attempting to sanitize its wretchedness and avoid disclosure of its ongoing toxic effect on this country by insisting the history of Black Americans is removed from classrooms.

It’s naked racism, fighting against a near-term future in which half or more of the U.S. is not white, in which people like me and my family are a part of a new majority.

It’s a raw struggle for continued domination over the narrative through which they cling to power – the falsehood that America is ever-innocent and eternally white, that its emergence over the last 402 years didn’t depend on the physical, economic, and political subjugation of non-white humans and their nations, even now on a rolling basis.

It’s desperate denialism which cannot accept this country began as multiple layers of theft, constructing an illusion of a vast and empty space waiting for European whites to fill it, suppressing the truth that forced labor by brown people helped turn this space once occupied by indigenous brown people into the precursor entity which became the largest economy in the world.

Fuck all of that. Fuck the erasure which denies people of color have been an intrinsic part of this country’s emergence and too often under violence.

~ ~ ~

No country is perfect. Absolutely none; it’s the story of humanity. A good many countries are now or have been occupiers or occupied over the history of mankind. Changes in boundaries and country names through human history often came with atrocities. There are some truly awful histories like that of the former Belgian Congo and the more recent Cambodia under Khmer Rouge, South Africa’s apartheid past, and now the horrors of the Israel-Palestine conflict and China’s carceral Xinjiang province.

In this the U.S. is not alone. It’s simply a younger country than the United Kingdom whose English forebears injected their brand of slavery into this nation’s history by bringing enslaved people of Ndongo ashore into what is now the state of Virginia.

The same nation later “discovered” Hawaii, encouraging the first wave of colonists and their European diseases which over the next hundred-plus years would wipe out roughly 80-85% of Hawaiians.

This is in part why Hawaii became a territory and is now our fiftieth state. There were too few Hawaiians left to mount a vigorous rejection of colonialism, to defend against the seizure of its monarch. Magruder’s American Government gave even less text to the process by which Hawaiians’ sovereign was deposed and its government replaced as American sugar plantation owners desired, in order to reduce taxes on their products.

I can’t recall exactly how much my American History text expended on Hawaii but I doubt it was little more than a page.

In spite of the wrongs done by Britain and then the U.S. to the small sovereign Pacific nation, it is a bulwark of islands guarding the remote mainland, its residents ready to defend their nation as they were in 1941.

The women in this U.S. Navy photo who were training to fight fires in Pearl Harbor naval shipyard aren’t all white. They are like me and my family – mixed race, some Hawaiian, some Chinese. There were more who were Filipino and Japanese. Let’s not forget war hero and former senator Daniel Inouye of Hawaii, also of Japanese heritage who served his country in WWII with distinction along with other tens of thousands of other Japanese Americans even as 120,000 more civilian Japanese Americans were interned.

These Americans didn’t withdraw and withhold their efforts because the nation which claimed their island as territory was at that time majority white. They signed up to serve the military as did many other local residents who likewise weren’t all white.

Like so many other non-white Americans — Black American descendants of slaves and later immigrants from African nations, Vietnamese and Latin American immigrants, Native Americans who were here all along, so many more — they are part of our complete history and are entitled to be remembered and taught in classrooms.

Any and all of these groups are worth more than three paragraphs. All America deserves a richer, more complete picture of itself. Their story is our story; it shouldn’t be muted, silenced, erased.

Accept the truth: this is what America looks like at its best, warts and all.

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