Three Things: Breathing, Thinking, Mating and COVID-19

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

Breathing, thinking, mating.

At least one of these three things are important to you, no matter your age. COVID-19 can affect one or more of them, and we don’t yet know to what extent.

More importantly, it’s not getting through to the general public that COVID-19 can affect one or more of infected persons’ lungs, brain, and reproductive organs even if they are young, not to mention their heart and vascular system.

And by young I mean students in school, whether K-12 or tertiary (college/university) education.

~ ~ 3 ~ ~

But first, let’s talk about bad assumptions and biases.

We’ve heard since the earliest media reports from China that COVID-19 affected the lungs. It was characterized as a “pneumonia-like illness,” and unfortunately this characterization limited the public’s earliest perceptions of the disease.

“Pneumonia-like illness” allowed misinformation and disinformation to flourish — it’s just another flu, the propagandists propelled, ignoring the much greater mortality rate and the insufficient data about SARS-CoV-2’s transmissibility.

The health care system geared itself toward treating a “pneumonia-like illness,” demanding ventilators when ventilators might be fine for pneumonia, but might pose new risks with a disease like COVID-19. Health care workers performing endotracheal intubation, extubation, noninvasive ventilation were and are exposed to aerosolized virus material, requiring much greater rigor in personal protection due to these aerosol-generating procedures and the volume of virus they are exposed to each shift.

Even with increasing awareness that personal protection must be stepped up for COVID-19 as compared to influenza, hospitals still don’t have a handle on infection control. The Wall Street Journal reported:

“…Researchers at University of Nebraska Medical Center found the coronavirus in hallway air outside negative-pressure Covid-19 rooms. The Omaha hospital revamped its ventilation system to protect people in hallways by creating negative air flow there, too. …”

Existing negative air pressure rooms — Airborne Infection Isolation Rooms (AIIR) — might have been enough for influenza. It’s clearly not when 5,000 cases of COVID-19 may be related to inadequate infection controls in hospital settings in spite of like that used in dedicated COVID-19 treatment rooms. Hospitals would have changed their infection control protocols long ago had they seen nosocomial transmission of flu within hospitals approaching the rate of transmission with COVID-19, but perhaps the health care system has relied too heavily on annual flu vaccinations. Perhaps nosocomial transmission of flu and other pneumonia-like illness would have been much higher without vaccinations, revealing how flawed existing infection controls have been.

Our health care systems too slowly recognized COVID-19 isn’t like influenza or a pneumonia-like illness. It’s far more insidious. It’s now cost at least 600 health care workers their lives.

In addition to flawed assumptions, bias has also screwed up screening for COVID-19. Many of our community members know of people who were denied tests for COVID-19 because they didn’t meet certain criteria; one of the early criteria was whether the subject had traveled to China or been in contact with anyone who had been to China. Trump and his xenophobic followers have continued to exacerbate bias with racist framing of COVID-19.

Except that many cases of COVID-19 can be traced to Europe. It can be seen in the emergence and dominance of the G-lineage of the virus versus the D-lineage which was first common along the west coast. Everyone who had any one of the symptoms identified by China should have been tested for COVID-19, no matter where they had been or with whom they had been in contact.

I can’t begin to think about the number of lives which could have been saved had this country launched effective testing more widely, in concert with quarantine. But we didn’t in no small part because of limited, faulty thinking about COVID-19.

What other biases have similarly shaped our ability to address COVID-19 effectively?

The racist, ageist, ableist bias which informs inaction because it only negatively affects those people?

~ ~ 2 ~ ~

We still don’t know what the repercussions are for recovered COVID-19 patients, including those who were asymptomatic.

Lung damage, which initially shaped health care professionals’ treatment as if COVID-19 was a pneumonia-like illness, appears to be long term.

Drillinger, M., Chesak, J. (fact checker) (2020, June 22). Lifelong Lung Damage: A Serious COVID-19 Complication. Retrieved July 27, 2020, from https://www.healthline.com/health-news/lifelong-lung-damage-the-serious-covid-19-complication-that-can-hit-people-in-their-20s

Damage was also seen in lungs of infected individuals who appeared to be asymptomatic or only mildly ill with COVID-19.

Prevalence of Asymptomatic SARS-CoV-2 Infection
Daniel P. Oran and Eric J. Topol
Annals of Internal Medicine, Reviews 3 Jun 2020
https://doi.org/10.7326/M20-3012

But it’s not just patients’ lungs affected; more than 36% of COVID-19 patients had neurological impairment.

Mao L, Jin H, Wang M, et al. Neurologic Manifestations of Hospitalized Patients With Coronavirus Disease 2019 in Wuhan, China. JAMA Neurol. 2020;77(6):683–690. https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamaneurology/fullarticle/2764549

Delirium, brain inflammation, stroke, and nerve damage occurred as well as a rare condition, acute disseminated encephalomyelitis (ADEM) — an inflammatory disorder which is sometimes fatal.

R W Paterson, R L Brown, L Benjamin et al, The emerging spectrum of COVID-19 neurology: clinical, radiological and laboratory findings, Brain, awaa240, Published: 08 July 2020
https://doi.org/10.1093/brain/awaa240
https://academic.oup.com/brain/article/doi/10.1093/brain/awaa240/5868408

The virus causes heart damage, even in patients who had no pre-existing cardiac disease:

In this global survey, cardiac abnormalities were observed in half of all COVID-19 patients undergoing echocardiography. Abnormalities were often unheralded or severe, and imaging changed management in one-third of patients.

Marc R Dweck, Anda Bularga, Rebecca T Hahn, Rong Bing, Kuan Ken Lee, Andrew R Chapman, Audrey White, Giovanni Di Salvo, Leyla Elif Sade, Keith Pearce, David E Newby, Bogdan A Popescu, Erwan Donal, Bernard Cosyns, Thor Edvardsen, Nicholas L Mills, Kristina Haugaa, Global evaluation of echocardiography in patients with COVID-19, European Heart Journal – Cardiovascular Imaging, , jeaa178, https://doi.org/10.1093/ehjci/jeaa178

Abnormalities found included myocardial infarction (heart attack), myocarditis (inflammation of heart tissue), takotsubo cardiomyopathy (temporary deformation of heart chamber), as well as elevated natriuretic peptides and cardiac troponin.

Scientific American published an article this weekend which offered even more anecdotal evidence of cardiac damage from COVID-19 even in asymptomatic persons.

Autopsies of COVID-19 victims showed damage to testicles:

Yang M, et al. Pathological Findings in the Testes of COVID-19 Patients: Clinical Implications. Eur
Urol Focus (2020), https://doi.org/10.1016/j.euf.2020.05.009
https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2405456920301449

Based on findings, not only should kidney function and hormone levels be monitored but younger men should receive fertility counseling for family planning:

Wang, S., Zhou, X., Zhang, T. et al. The need for urogenital tract monitoring in COVID-19. Nat Rev Urol 17, 314–315 (2020). Published 20 April 2020 Issue Date June 2020
https://doi.org/10.1038/s41585-020-0319-7
https://www.nature.com/articles/s41585-020-0319-7

There have been many anecdotes of patients with sequelae lasting months after their initial illness. A large enough number exist for them to form groups in social media to compare notes about their experience. As the underlying SARS-CoV-2 virus is novel, we don’t have years of experience to look back upon for trends. We can’t yet predict whether there will be lifelong disability though many patients have reported development of diabetes, kidney dysfunction, heart disease, neurological impairment which have lasted months after they were technically deemed recovered. Studies on COVID-19’s long term effects have only recently begun and may last months to years.

We also don’t know how long any immunity post-infection will last, let alone whether most individuals can expect not to be re-infected within a year of their first infection. Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro is a recent obvious case raising questions about immunity; he tested positive for COVID-19 a third time two weeks after testing positive the first time.

So much for Bolsonaro’s faith in hydroxychloroquine as a therapy for COVID-19.

A British study showed immunity dropping within three months after recovery:

… In the first longitudinal study of its kind, scientists analysed the immune response of more than 90 patients and healthcare workers at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS foundation trust and found levels of antibodies that can destroy the virus peaked about three weeks after the onset of symptoms then swiftly declined.

Blood tests revealed that while 60% of people marshalled a “potent” antibody response at the height of their battle with the virus, only 17% retained the same potency three months later. Antibody levels fell as much as 23-fold over the period. In some cases, they became undetectable. …

Longitudinal evaluation and decline of antibody responses in SARS-CoV-2 infection
J Seow, C Graham, B Merrick, et al
medRxiv 2020.07.09.20148429; doi: https://doi.org/10.1101/2020.07.09.20148429
https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.07.09.20148429v1

We’ve now seen cases where persons have recovered from COVID-19 only to be reinfected and sickened by a different strain. In a Hong Kong patient who had recovered in March but was reinfected during later travel to Spain, we see the problem of making assumptions based on bias about the “China flu.” COVID-19 isn’t just a single coronavirus strain originating in China.

The possibility of reinfection with different strains combined with decreasing immunity over time means reliance on “herd immunity” is foolhardy, and vaccines may not work as long as intended. Mitigating the spread of the disease remains crucial until a safe, effective, and durable vaccine has been developed, tested, and prepared for global distribution.

~ ~ 1 ~ ~

If hearts and lungs, neurological and reproductive systems are permanently affected by COVID-19 even in younger patients who may remain asymptomatic, why risk exposing children and college-age students to COVID-19 by returning them back to in-classroom schooling?

You’d think white nationalists would clue in that their precious ideal of a white power future is threatened by this virus, literally neutered by testicular damage, but no — they insist students must return to school.

Worse, they insist on sports, demanding college football right now, even though athletes have been infected, sickened, suffered heart damage, and died from COVID-19 in spite of their youth and health.

Why are we even allowing in-classroom schooling at all when there has been zero effort to fund and implement modifications to HVAC systems though we have known for months now that aerosolized exhalation in poorly-ventilated enclosed spaces is the greatest risk factor to mass infection?

The only answer seems to be in the lack of any answer at all — the choice to do nothing is a choice.

And the choice the Trump administration, GOP legislators and state governors have made is to maim and kill more Americans.

~ ~ 0 ~ ~

There’s an incredibly stupid tweet making the rounds, published by Students for Trump. They share a photo of Trump standing before burned-out buildings in Kenosha, Wisconsin. The tweet reads, “President @realDonaldTrump tours what Biden will do to America.

Most tweeters who comment remark on the idiocy of this projection: Trump stands before the wreckage he helped spur during the waning election year cycle as he runs for re-election.

I can’t help wonder if the stupidity of the tweet is a reflection of the damage exposure to COVID-19 may have already wrought on Students for Trump.

This is the future of the Republican Party: too brain damaged to recognize their reflection in the mirror.

Too impaired to recognize the self-inflicted injury, too messed up to save themselves and their future.

.

This is an open thread, though COVID-19 content is preferred.

The Good Trouble of John Lewis

Another lion has left the earth. John Lewis. And that damn bridge in Selma needs to be immediately renamed for him, as has been discussed for years. Do it now. But finally abolishing the name and specter of the Edmund Pettus Bridge will not be enough. Structurally, the Pettus is not very large, it only has four piers, but it spans the arc of civil rights. The very civil rights still at issue today. John Lewis is the epitome of that arc.

From the New York Times:

Representative John Lewis, a son of sharecroppers and an apostle of nonviolence who was bloodied at Selma and across the Jim Crow South in the historic struggle for racial equality and who then carried a mantle of moral authority into Congress, died on Friday. He was 80.
……
Mr. Lewis’s personal history paralleled that of the civil rights movement. He was among the original 13 Freedom Riders, the Black and white activists who challenged segregated interstate travel in the South in 1961. He was a founder and early leader of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, which coordinated lunch-counter sit-ins. He helped organize the March on Washington, where Dr. King was the main speaker, on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

Mr. Lewis led demonstrations against racially segregated restrooms, hotels, restaurants, public parks and swimming pools, and he rose up against other indignities of second-class citizenship. At nearly every turn he was beaten, spat upon or burned with cigarettes. He was tormented by white mobs and absorbed body blows from law enforcement.

This day was clearly coming, it was widely known Lewis was not well and in the throes of cancer. The death also comes as the racist cancer in society he fought so hard as a youth is center stage yet again. Not just in the abuse in the streets by police, not just in the Black Lives Matter movement, but in the despair of the poor and downtrodden. And, importantly, in favor of all citizens voting.

As Barack Obama said:

“Generations from now,” Obama said when awarding him a Medal of Freedom in 2011, “when parents teach their children what is meant by courage, the story of John Lewis will come to mind — an American who knew that change could not wait for some other person or some other time; whose life is a lesson in the fierce urgency of now.”

The fierce urgency of now is every bit as critical as at any time in history.

June Bug Goes to Ireland

June Bug the Terrorist FosterEx Dog and I moved to Ireland today.

We followed Mr. EW by about three weeks, enough time for us to close out the house and for him to get through Ireland’s mandatory two-week quarantine. We intend to stay in Ireland for the indefinite future.

We moved for personal reasons, the two most important having to do with Mr. EW (who has family in Ireland). Those reasons got us 95% of the way to deciding to move.

But that was shortly before armed insurgents streamed into Lansing MI, incited, in part, by the President, trying to undermine sound public health guidelines. It was before a series of increasingly brazen moves on the part of the Administration to undermine rule of law. It was before the Administration and allied governors took affirmative steps to make the coronavirus worse. It was before the President deliberately stoked racism in an effort to divide the country.

We’re not leaving to get away from America. But having made the decision to move, it offers some distance to realize all the things that have become part of an increasingly dysfunctional America — of which Trump is as much symptom as cause — that we’ll leave behind.

Having made the decision, the last few weeks have felt like a rush to get out before a great wave overcame us and submerged us before we moved, most notably European travel restrictions on anyone from the United States, but also the resurgence of COVID itself. Recently, the EU agreed to open travel, but specifically exclude those states — like the US — that have failed to control the spread of COVID, and Ireland is expected to pass new guidelines in coming days that may make flights from the US less frequent. I felt flying on a flight with 40 passengers was an acceptable risk, but such a flight might be too dangerous in the days ahead.

I will be quarantining for 14 days, spending my time between a bedroom and office while Mr. EW shows June Bug the new neighborhood (he took the above picture). Under EU rules, June Bug no longer has a month-long quarantine, she just has paperwork to prove that she’s not bringing diseases that are prevalent in the US but not Ireland. Just us humans have to quarantine now. June Bug’s paperwork — and not the process of getting June Bug into a crate for the trip — proved to be the biggest recent hurdle.

As the fog of the move clears during the quarantine, I hope to catch up on things I’ve noted in passing (though still have a bunch of family things and move-related work to focus on). I don’t expect things at emptywheel to change significantly, but will let you know of administrative details that may change slightly.

Parts of my family, mostly of Irish descent, have been in the US since the famine, arriving in the US between 180 and 117 years ago. Today, during another natural disaster exacerbated by misgovernment, I moved back.

Still Dreaming of the American Dream

After the wholly repugnant speech Donald Trump gave in South Dakota — on lands stolen from Lakota and Dakota nations because there was gold alleged to be in the Black Hills — it’s important to remember this one point.

Donald J. Trump is not this country. He may be a product of it, but he is not this nation. He may believe L’etat, c’est moi, but this premise is not this country’s past and will not be its future.

We are the United States of America, including the many citizens he denigrated in his white-nationalist-written speech.

Trump may speak for and to a minority of people who voted for him in 2016, those whose rights were given preference by an electoral system designed to ensure white slave owners would not lose their grip on power to the Black people they once enslaved.

But Trump is not this country, nor are his base alone. We the people are collectively the United States of America.

This country’s origins, though flawed by slavery and oppression of indigenous people, began with the right intentions. The founders sought to overthrow autocratic monarchic government and its oppression for the right of individual self-determination, fairness, and collective effort toward a more perfect union. It is this spirit we should recall and re-embrace each Fourth of July, disregarding the crackpot fulminations of the fascist criminal who would rather see this nation divided. He seeks to defer history’s looming punishment meted out to those who have abused the trust of this nation for their own personal gain under Trump’s administration.

History doesn’t wait, however, not even for a bloviating white man with access to monied and powerful friends.

History doesn’t wait for us, either. Like this nation’s founders we have choices to make and action to take if we wish to ensure the future is kinder and our history more forgiving.

In an 1858 debate with his opponent, Stephen Douglas, Abraham Lincoln spoke of the Declaration of Independence:

I think the authors of that notable instrument intended to include all men, but they did not mean to declare all men equal in all respects. They did not mean to say all men were equal in color, size, intellect, moral development, or social capacity. They defined with tolerable distinctness in what they did consider all men created equal—equal in “certain inalienable rights, among which are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” This they said, and this they meant. They did not mean to assert the obvious untruth that all were then actually enjoying that equality, or yet that they were about to confer it immediately upon them. In fact, they had no power to confer such a boon. They meant simply to declare the right, so that the enforcement of it might follow as fast as circumstances should permit. They meant to set up a standard maxim for free society which should be familiar to all, constantly looked to, constantly labored for, and even, though never perfectly attained, constantly approximated, and thereby constantly spreading and deepening its influence, and augmenting the happiness and value of life to all people, of all colors, everywhere.

History looks to us to enforce the rights in the Declaration of Independence, waits for us to continue to labor toward a free society. We are called to value the life of all its people, to further the pursuit of happiness across this nation.

I’ll repeat my closing from last year’s Fourth of July post:

We must recall our nation’s identity began with a shared belief that we are all created equal, that we are endowed with certain unalienable Rights including Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

Seeking to establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, we instituted a government to secure our inalienable rights and these common interests.

We can and will check this government of and by the people when it fails us just as we checked a monarch in 1776, just as we’ve checked executives and other elected office holders who have failed their oaths. We have continually refreshed our representatives and justices to the same end.

As we have for 243 years we still have work to do. Ted Kennedy spoke of the ongoing nature of this nation’s mission when he said, “For all those whose cares have been our concern, the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die.”

Recommitting to the American dream, I leave off with hope that we can and will continue to pursue a more perfect union.

Wishing you and yours a safe and responsible pandemic-enhanced holiday — wash your hands, wear a mask, maintain appropriate social distance but celebrate together nevertheless.

 

Consider this an open thread.

Three Things: Numbers, Hearings and Racist Code

There’s always more than three things to address but here’s three we should look at more closely.

~ 3 ~
This is what we’re up against.

823 Americans have died of COVID-19 since yesterday. In contrast, South Korea, which learned of its first case of COVID-19 the same day the U.S. learned of its own, has only lost 281 of its citizens.

We lost not one American to an attempted shoe bombing in 2001 and yet an immediate program was developed and implemented to detect future shoe bombing attempts, requiring air travelers to take off their damned shoes and go through multiple screenings.

But Trump can’t be arsed to shut up and let the professionals handle stopping an ongoing daily stream of deaths from COVID-19.

This administration is killing Americans. Trump’s not even hiding the fact he’s willing to ignore deaths to manipulate numbers by insisting testing for the virus should be suppressed. He has the temerity to brag about his performance which has resulted in the unnecessary deaths of more than 120,000 Americans.

Yesterday the House Committee on Energy and Commerce held a hearing on oversight of the Trump Administration’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Called to testify before the committee:

Robert R. Redfield, M.D., Director, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (statement at 27:39)

Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., Director, National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes o Health (at 33:40)

Admiral Brett P. Giroir, M.D., Assistant Secretary for Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (at 38:25)

Stephen M. Hahn, M.D., Commissioner, U.S. Food and Drug Administration (at 43:54)

 

Some of the GOP’s efforts are useless, wasteful filibustering — like Rep. Bob Latta’s (OH-5) question about how the human body makes antibodies. This is something he should have been briefed on let alone read on his own long before this hearing. He should have read this basic biology question MONTHS AGO when the pandemic began. So was his question about how the vaccine would be distributed WHEN WE’RE 6-18 MONTHS OUT AT BEST from having a viable, effective, safe vaccine through Phase III trials.

Rep. Diana DeGette asked Fauci about vaccine development (at about 1:28:00); I think he was extremely optimistic saying he thought there would be one by early 2021. But the question wasn’t as specific as it should have been; there are clinical trials in progress for a couple of candidates, but it’s not clear what phase they are in.

Reported last week by StatNews:

There are more than 100 projects around the world centered on the development of a vaccine for the coronavirus. As of May 11, eight candidate vaccines were being tested in clinical trials in people.

An official at the National Institutes of Health said in mid-May that large-scale testing could begin in July with a vaccine potentially available by January.

Other experts say the more likely timeline is summer or fall of 2021.

The other factor beyond the capabilities of the vaccines and developers which will predict the time to public distribution is Congress and the White House.

If we still have that malicious narcissist in the Oval Office without a veto-proof Democratic majority in the Senate, nationwide roll-out of a vaccine by the U.S. government may not happen even if an efficacious vaccine is found.

Meanwhile, COVID-19 don’t care…

Just like Trump.

~ 2 ~
The Mary Sue presented a nice overview of what happened in Tulsa this past weekend.

In short, Team Trump fucked themselves hard.

What happened this weekend was supposed to be a point where Trump turned the narrative back in his favor and moved the attention away from the activists and change that have controlled the news cycle for months. But what really happened was instead of taking the attention away from the K-Pop teens for his failures, those things all combined to add one more line to an endless line of failures that we can only hope will keep going until November.

It wasn’t just a loss of narrative and momentum but the complete trashing of campaign data harvesting.

We don’t know exactly what the data accumulated by Trump’s re-election campaign looks like after receiving ~800,000 registrations for the Tulsa rally. Some were valid, some were valid but no-shows, some were legitimate addresses of people who had zero intention of attending — likely sent by TikTok accounts.

And a mess of them must have been K-pop fans who are still feeling their oats after they DDoS’d police video monitoring during anti-racism protests as well as spamming right-wing hashtags.

Parscale’s operation better have had a good backup before the Tulsa registrations began, though I have suspicions somebody’s ass wasn’t well covered.

I mean, who is foolish enough to brag about more than 1,000,000 registrations like that, without a hint of skepticism about the data’s integrity?

Somebody prone to hubris, that’s who.

And somebody else isn’t going to pay Team Trump for data gleaned through Tulsa.

~ 1 ~
The ACLU filed suit this morning against the Detroit Police Department for its wrongful arrest of Robert Williams based on racist facial recognition technology.

The Washington Post published an op-ed by Williams explaining what happened to him and why facial recognition software should be banned.

The next morning, two officers asked if I’d ever been to a Shinola watch store in Detroit. I said once, many years ago. They showed me a blurry surveillance camera photo of a black man and asked if it was me. I chuckled a bit. “No, that is not me.” He showed me another photo and said, “So I guess this isn’t you either?” I picked up the piece of paper, put it next to my face and said, “I hope you guys don’t think that all black men look alike.”

The cops looked at each other. I heard one say that “the computer must have gotten it wrong.” I asked if I was free to go now, and they said no. I was released from detention later that evening, after nearly 30 hours in holding. …

It’s not just the software at fault, though. DPD made absolutely no attempt to confirm Williams’ identity against images they had before they took him into custody, processed him, and detained him overnight in holding.

They literally can’t be bothered or they are racist as hell in a minority majority city.

The ACLU is calling for a ban on facial recognition in Detroit, Williams being a perfect example of how flawed and racist the technology is as well as an assault on innocent citizens’ privacy.

 

Boston’s city council banned facial recognition technology this morning, setting an example for Detroit.

What’s your municipality doing about facial recognition technology?

Are you blowing off this issue because you’re white and you couldn’t possibly be misidentified?

Sure.

~ 0 ~
The House Judiciary Committee hearing on politicization at the Justice Department is still under way as hit Publish. If you haven’t been following along and want to catch up, here are four Twitter threads covering the hearing.

Marcy https://twitter.com/emptywheel/status/1275821690170335237

Jennifer Taub https://twitter.com/jentaub/status/1275825424405323776

Courthouse News https://twitter.com/ByTimRyan/status/1275821746923417603

CNN https://twitter.com/jeremyherb/status/1275820657289428994

This is an open thread.

The Tussle in Tulsa: A Retrospective

I had been worried about the risk of violence in Tulsa this weekend given Trump’s tweet bordering on incitement ahead of his rally.

Fortunately my concern was for naught. Didn’t see a single Hawaiian shirt cross my Twitter feed while watching the lead up to and after the event, not a one in the approximately 6,600 attendees.

But the event itself didn’t live up to other expectations.

I have to believe Brad Parscale will be looking for new contracts. Or perhaps he’ll be retained just to keep him from mucking things up further somewhere else in the election cycle food chain.

He’d claimed 800,000 had reserved for the event, a number which seemed wholly unrealistic considering the population within a four-hour drive of Tulsa and the advertisements placed for non-white attendees. We know now a confluence of activist engagement via social media platform TikTok, K-pop fans, and mounting concerns about COVID-19 contagion as well as risk of violence may have artificially boosted reservations and kept attendance down.

Parscale’s claimed this morning that protesters blocked access to the venue, pointing to an AFP photo of a gate with a couple handfuls of protesters and what looks like an equal amount of media.

Unfortunately for Parscale, AFP took a photo of another gate with red-hatted, pale-skinned, maskless attendees streaming through the gate.

And other media outlets took photos outside the venue showing an awful lot of pavement.

The speech intended for outdoor overflow audience was cancelled. Wouldn’t even need a sound system to speak to this few people.

The big feat of the day: one-handed drinking.

Attendees were subjected to a 20-minute ramble about the “fake news” from his Westpoint speech last weekend after which he had difficulty walking down a ramp.

What a perfect example of the cobra effect — trying to defuse a problem but only making it worse. But Trump is too much of a narcissist to allow criticism of his person to go unanswered.

The lowest point in Trump’s speech yesterday was his remarks about COVID-19 testing.

He’s made comments before about the number of tests correlating to the number of cases. Comic Sarah Cooper has famously riffed on this.

But this time he’s expressed an intent to withhold health care from the public for personal aims — to keep the reported number of cases artificially low, without regard to the effect this would have on actual reduction of COVID-19 cases.

Aside from revealing again he’s so utterly toxic, this statement needs investigation. It’s impeachable if he both demanded a reduction or slow-down in tests, especially if he did so for the purposes of improving his polling numbers.

None of his efforts skewing reality have paid off as he’d like. We can see the tangerine emperor’s ass.

And nothing he’s done will make this grim number go away.


This is an open thread.

Three Things: SCOTUS on LGBTQ+ Discrimination, Qualified Immunity, Gun Rights

Very big SCOTUS day today. Huge — and that’s in spite of the court declining to hear cases on multiple issues.

~ 3 ~

In BOSTOCK v. CLAYTON COUNTY, GEORGIA and two other cases, the Supreme Court ruled in 6-3 decision that firing an employee for being gay or transgender violates the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Title VII (42 USC § 2000e-2 [Section 703]) reads,

It shall be an unlawful employment practice for an employer –

(1) to fail or refuse to hire or to discharge any individual, or otherwise to discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual’s race, color, religion, sex, or national origin;

Dissenters were Justices Kavanaugh, Thomas, and Alito; Alito filed a dissenting opinion which Thomas joined. Kavanaugh also filed a dissenting opinion.

Overview of the three cases from Human Rights Watch:

In R.G. & G.R. HARRIS FUNERAL HOMES v. EEOC and AIMEE STEPHENS, Aimee Stephens worked as a funeral director at R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes. When she informed the funeral home’s owner that she is transgender and planned to come to work as the woman she is, the business owner fired her, saying it would be “unacceptable” for her to appear and behave as a woman. The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in March 2018 that when the funeral home fired her for being transgender and departing from sex stereotypes, it violated Title VII, the federal law prohibiting sex discrimination in employment.

In ALTITUDE EXPRESS INC. v. ZARDA, Donald Zarda, a skydiving instructor, was fired from his job because of his sexual orientation. A federal trial court rejected his discrimination claim, saying that the Civil Rights Act does not protect him from losing his job because of his sexual orientation. In February 2018, the full Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that discrimination based on sexual orientation is a form of discrimination based on sex that is prohibited under Title VII. The court recognized that when a lesbian, gay or bisexual person is treated differently because of discomfort or disapproval that they are attracted to people of the same sex, that’s discrimination based on sex.

In BOSTOCK v. CLAYTON COUNTY, Gerald Lynn Bostock was fired from his job as a county child welfare services coordinator when his employer learned he is gay. In May 2018, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals refused to reconsider a 1979 decision wrongly excluding sexual orientation discrimination from coverage under Title VII’s ban on sex discrimination and denied his appeal.

The dissent weighed in at more than 140 pages out of the entire 177 page syllabus and decision handed down by SCOTUS today.

The first sentence of the dissent:

There is only one word for what the Court has done today: legislation. The document that the Court releases is in the form of a judicial opinion interpreting a statute, but that is deceptive.

Right-wing ideologues are in a furor over Justice Gorsuch’s delivery of the opinion. They must have had absolute faith in Gorsuch to be so incredibly outraged that his interpretation didn’t sustain bigotry. He wrote,

An employer who fired an individual for being homosexual or transgender fires that person for traits or actions it would not have questioned in members of a different sex. Sex plays a necessary and undisguisable role in the decision, exactly what Title VII forbids. Those who adopted the Civil Rights Act might not have anticipated their work would lead to this particular result. But the limits of the drafters’ imagination supply no reason to ignore the law’s demands. Only the written word is the law, and all persons are entitled to its benefit.

Today’s decision doesn’t end all discrimination against LGBTQ+ persons, only employers defined by Title VII. There is still a need for more legislation to ensure all persons in this country may rely on the same rights in housing, credit, property ownership and more. The House passed the Equality Act in May 2019 to address these shortcomings; the bill is now languishing on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s desk in spite of support for the bill from 70 percent of Americans.

Steve Silberman noted a trait shared by two of the three dissenting jurists:

One of the most passionately angry voices today:

“Bungled textualism.” ~chuckling~

~ 2 ~

The SCOTUS declined to hear cases seeking reexamination of the doctrine of “qualified immunity.” Thomas was the lone jurist who wanted to hear cases; in a six-page dissent he wrote, “qualified immunity doctrine appears to stray from the statutory text.”

There will be greater pressure on lawmakers to address qualified immunity in legislation.

Opinion piece about qualified immunity:

Rep. Ayana Pressley on qualified immunity:

~ 1 ~

The SCOTUS declined to hear multiple Second Amendment cases after it avoided addressing New York City’s regulation of guns back in April because the city repeal of the restriction render the case moot.

Justices Thomas and Kavanaugh dissented, wanting to hear a case related to New Jersey’s regulation of concealed carry guns.

~ 0 ~

There’s actually four things today — SCOTUS also declined to hear the Trump administration’s petition regarding California’s SB 54 which prevents the state’s law enforcement resources from being deployed to aid federal immigration enforcement. Alito and Thomas dissented, wanting to take up the matter; surprisingly, Kavanaugh voted with Roberts and Gorsuch to decline.

We are still waiting for a decision on Deferred Action of Childhood Arrivals policy (DACA), which could cost the U.S. as many as 27,000 health care workers at the worst time possible if SCOTUS finds DACA unconstitutional.

This is an open thread.

The Why of “Defund the Police” [UPDATE]

[Update at the bottom of this post. /~Rayne]

Apart from the purely economic rationale that a function which has so repeatedly failed should not continue to be funded, there are ample reasons why policing as we know it in this country needs to be deconstructed and replaced — in shorthand, defund the police.

Last night on HBO, John Oliver did an amazing job of discussing the problems with policing in America. It’s so good I can’t add anything. It’s a primer from which we should start.

Yet Oliver’s work was tremendous not just because it examined the history of this country’s failure to reform policing, but because the end of his program gave a black voice a platform long overdue (31:56).

I want to reverse what he did by insisting you listen to author Kimberley Jones first, her entire comment and not just the excerpt Oliver shared. This is a powerful statement you should not miss:

And then watch John Oliver’s program last night. In this order you can see that everything about policing in America has been constructed on lies.

You’ll hear and read puzzlement about calls to defund the police.

What does it mean? asked because their privilege has never forced them to look carefully at how fucked up policing is in the U.S. (note carefully the person and context surrounding them when they ask).

What do they want instead? as if “they” are a separate group, disclosing the bias at the root of the problem.

Why can’t we just fix it? again, privilege blinds those who ask to how fatally flawed policing has been from the start. Some who have internalized this country’s systemic oppression will also ask this same question.

The wealth of this country was built on economic theft, and American policing has been constructed to preserve this massive looting of hundreds of years of black lives.

What Kimberley Jones doesn’t point out is that the looting didn’t stop with black lives. The ground Americans stand on was stolen from yet more brown people who were eradicated, and then farmed and developed by stolen people under whips and chains and at gun point. The theft continues apace under a legal system which ensures the gap of wealth remains uncrossable, that power likewise remains solely in the hands of those with wealth.

There is no fixing a police system designed to protect capital created from ongoing crime.

 

Defund the police, by which it means see with clear eyes the original sin of placing preservation of property rights over human rights, the original sin of treating some humans as less worthy than others.

Defund the police, by which it means to re-prioritize our spending with those same clear, open eyes with an aim to realize reasonable distributive justice, developing and preserving human lives.

 

UPDATE — 09-JUN-2020 11:15 AM ET —

Because there’s a lot of complaining about the unofficial slogan, “Defund the Police,” I think these couple of tweets are worth consideration.

Quit complaining. Focus: we need to change how we ensure public safety. What are you doing about it?

Start attending your local county/city/town/village council meetings. Research your local law enforcement entity’s performance. Are municipalities measuring complaints against law enforcement along with use of force? What has your locality done to ensure there is adequate access to mental health care, addiction, housing, and domestic crisis intervention, all of which affect the number of calls to police?

You can also do other research right now before you attend a local meeting.

Citizens Police Data Project – https://www.CPDP.co

CPDP takes records of police interactions with the public – records that would otherwise be buried in internal databases – and opens them up to make the data useful to the public, creating a permanent record for every CPD police officer. Examine this as a model for tracking your local law enforcement’s performance.

Mapping Police Violence – https://mappingpoliceviolence.org/nationaltrends

A research collaborative collecting comprehensive data on police killings nationwide to quantify the impact of police violence in communities. Check your state against others for trends in death by cops.

Police Use of Force Project – http://useofforceproject.org/

This Campaign ZERO project investigates the ways in which police use of force policies help to enable police violence in our communities. Read their report examining 100 communities.

Police Union Contract Project – https://www.checkthepolice.org/

This Campaign ZERO project reviewed police union contracts and police bill of rights legislation to examine how they make it more difficult to hold police accountable. Read their summary report of 81 cities in 15 states.

The Open Policing Project – https://openpolicing.stanford.edu/

This project at Stanford University aims to help researchers, journalists, and policymakers investigate and improve interactions between police and the public by collecting and analysing data from police traffic stops across the country. Read their findings.

Policing Project – https://www.policingproject.org/

This NYU School of Law project works to ensure accountability and democratic participation on the front end, before police violence requires ineffective back-end accountability. Read their work to date.

National Police Accountability Project – https://www.nlg-npap.org/

A National Lawyers Guild project dedicated to holding law enforcement accountable for misconduct. If you’re a lawyer, check for one of their online webinars.

 

This is NOT an open thread. Please stick to this topic in this thread.

Three Things: A for “Antifa”, B for Brutality, C for Commit (Murder)

Messy title, sorry — couldn’t think of something snappy and I’m even struggling with a lead in. Let’s just get to it.

~ 3 ~

A/B switch: “Antifa”

A little article about a tiny town caught my eye this weekend. Some racist gits in a rural area of Washington state played cat-and-mouse with a multi-racial family trying to camp in the area while driving a bus-turned-camper.

Local racists harassed them, accusing them of being members of “Antifa” — the made-up bugbear conjured from anti-fascist philosophy by Trump’s brain trust, hereinafter referred to with appropriate scare quotes. Even the local paper reports “Antifa” exists as an organization when there isn’t one.

What struck me as odd is how intensely a local gun shop owner and at least a dozen local residents believe there is an effort by “Antifa” to bus in their anarchist members to make trouble.

Right…busloads into a town with an estimated population of 6,600.

How did this notion about bogeyman “Antifa” become so quickly and deeply embedded in a remote area of the U.S.? Especially where the possibility of any anarchists making a big splash let alone filling a bus is utterly ridiculous.

It’s not just this one small town, either. It’s much of the Pacific Northwest and beyond — so many people looking like doofuses, claiming victory over non-existent anarchist hordes.

This mythology has even eaten the already-compromised brains of candidates like this one:

She’s threatening people with an automatic weapon in a campaign ad and then complains because Facebook took down her advertisement. Greene is simply unfit to hold office if she can’t understand threats of violence are simple violations of Terms of Service.

Now it’s true that figureheads in the GOP have been willing to push the vaporous entity “Antifa” using their bully pulpit — like Sen. Ted Cruz droning on last summer about a non-binding Senate resolution, S.Res. 279, submitted by Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) declaring “Antifa” a terrorist organization while pointing to a Pacific Northwest group which may or may not have truly existed and whose domain address has been defunct for three years.

But most right-wing voters don’t run around saying, “But Ted Cruz said…” about any topic. If they did he might have had a chance at winning the primary in 2016, but he’s just a placeholder.

Same for Bill Cassidy — he’s just another empty suit in a GOP seat.

Some organized effort has been put into building and consolidating pro-fascist sentiment among people willing to arm themselves, take to the streets, and cut down trees in the woods, and openly harass persons of color.

Here’s my theory: “Antifa” isn’t just a bogeyman. It’s a test, like an A/B switch. The folks who adopt this concept so deeply they are willing to take action outside the norm can also be persuaded to take other action.

QAnon likely serves a similar purpose, providing a centralized mythology for persons identified as too weak to reason out of a wet paper bag but willing to invest some degree of effort for their new “faith” system.

What can’t be seen apart from idiots like this gun shop owner and his compadres is how this uptake is being tested online. This small town gun shop owner didn’t pull the idea of bus-packing “Antifa” terrorists out of thin air; he must have gotten through broadcast media and social media, of which only social media would allow a two-way push-pull of content.

Who or what is at the other end of whatever pushed this “Antifa”-on-buses meme to this tiny town in northwestern Washington? Is it just Facebook content and Fox, or is something more in play?

Is it like the Russian influence operations which were able to convince people to organize Trump rallies via Facebook in 2016?

Or is it something more simple — a convenient distraction from the continuing mass death event we know as COVID-19?

~ 2 ~

B for Brutality

Greg Doucette has been collecting and curating cases of police brutality and abuse from across the country since protests began after George Floyd’s murder-by-racist-cop.

As of this afternoon Doucette has collected at least 384 independent cases, nearly all captured on camera.

This many cases over the last week’s time suggests there are not merely a few bad apples, but that the entire barrel has now gone rotten.

Brutality is normalized from top to bottom of law enforcement, deeply embedded into policing.

These persons employed by our tax dollars are not protecting anyone. It’s not clear who they are serving apart from property owners; they are not serving the greater public interest.

Most telling: in cities where curfews were not enforced or were lifted, there was no violence.

The police have been the source of violence — many of nearly 400 cases itemized so far provide ample evidence of this fact.

It’s time to look for better models to serve the public’s needs. We are paying too much for services which do not work. We need to do more than reform policing. It should be torn down, plowed into the ground, and something better built from scratch.

Look at the City of Los Angeles’ projected budget allocation:

New York City’s budget is similarly distributed with a massive skew toward policing.

What this currently pays for is abusive police who assault the public, escalate tensions, after failing to make a good faith effort to de-escalate and mediate community conflict.

The money is there; priorities need to change. Tax dollars need to be spent more effectively on the root causes which have driven the need for policing — more money for mental health resources, community housing for the homeless, therapy for drug addiction, child care, after-school programs, and crisis intervention instead of militarized policing which moves to violence far too eagerly, too often.

It’s time to abolish police as we’ve known them and build something better, healthier for our society.

If you’re balking at this idea, ask yourself why.

~ 1 ~

C for Committing Murder — mass murder by COVID-19

Given the large number of rallies across all 50 states protesting police brutality and racism, it’s reasonable to expect an uptick in COVID-19 cases.

The police bear a substantive portion of responsibility for anticipated cases arising from the protests due to poor policing practices including imposition and enforcement of curfews. Like the nearly 400 documented cases of brutality and abuse, police kettling of protesters into tight clusters breaking social distancing appeared organized and systematic.

Like repeated use of bridge closures to limit protesters’ movement even when being herded away from protest sites toward home at the end of the day.

New York City was particularly bad; it not only shut down bridges, forcing protesters into narrow streams, but it shut down subway stations for several days, sometimes at NYPD’s orders. Protesters bunched up at the subway finding themselves without transportation, hemmed in by police. Lack of alternate public transportation did not help matters.

The situation was further aggravated by police seizure of bikes for stupid (read: no) reasons.

Kettling wasn’t confined to New York City. There are many tweets documenting cases in larger cities like Seattle and Chicago.

An additional risk factor for protesters is their exposure to chemical irritants like pepper spray and tear gas. This Twitter thread explains the risks irritants pose.

Stress caused by police abuses may make protesters more vulnerable to COVID-19 exposure.

Which may have been the point: abusive police encouraged to use bad police practices may have been engaged in passive-aggressive large scale murder by exposure to biological agents.

We can only hope that the increased use of masks by protesters discouraged coronavirus transmission and reduced injuries caused by chemical irritants.

Yes, chemical irritants, Bill Barr, you lying sluggard with zero background in science. Let an expert in chemistry tell you.

Barr poses a threat to the health and welfare of the American public and needs to be impeached. Even if the GOP Senate will slack off and fail to remove him, the Dem-led House should impeach Barr for his abuse of office and his lying to the public so that Congressional records tell the future Barr’s bullshit was and is unacceptable from an attorney general.

~ 0 ~

And then the white nationalists embedded throughout police forces across the country, for which I haven’t enough energy remaining though it’s urgently in need of attention.

Like Salem, Oregon:

And Las Vegas:

There’s more of them. Trump’s Department of Justice under Jeff Sessions and Bill Barr have failed to do anything effective to root them out, though a GOP-led Congress throughout Obama’s administration and beyond has also played a role in suppressing oversight of white nationalist threats infiltrating law enforcement.

It looks less like neglect and more like deliberate abuse.

 

This is an open thread.

Tanks for the Memories

It’s June 5 in China as I type this late in the evening of June 4 in the U.S.

~ ~ ~

We’ve seen U.S. military personnel deployed to American cities which are not burning down and are not under siege; they’ve been deployed because Americans dared to exercise their First Amendment rights.

These are the same innate rights which founded this nation when colonists rebelled against the tyranny and oppression of an autocratic monarch, writing rebellious missives and tossing tea into Boston Harbor.

Troops and equipment were deployed on both coasts, to Washington D.C. and Los Angeles area.

Sen. Chris Murphy wants to know more about this aircraft also deployed:

Some of this military deployment was just plain stupid, sloppy, wasteful — flip-flopping resources from one place to another. I can’t imagine the military doing this; this is on Barr and Trump.

A federal riot team was dispatched to Miami for some reason. Perhaps it was because of Trump National Doral Miami golf course, or Mar-a-Lago, Trump National Golf Club Jupiter, and Trump International Golf Club West Palm Beach located an hour north. Perhaps it was because Miami-Dade County is only 15% non-Hispanic white and there would surely be protesting there. Maybe it was intended as an intimidation or voter suppression tactic which doesn’t appear to have occurred to Floridians.

The locals in Miami certainly didn’t know why.

With the news, a question hung in the air. Why Miami?

The answer is still shrouded in mystery, but the way the announcement was carried out has confused officials across different levels of government. Several law enforcement sources at both local and federal levels only learned about the team’s presence in Miami after reporters pointed them to statements from the Trump Administration.

Ultimately, the federal team is leaving Miami without being deployed.

Florida’s Gov. Ron DeSantis asked the National Guard to drop its work on COVID-19 support and take up patrol in Tampa because of protests there — but the protests have been relatively peaceful.

At least until police showed up.

There’s also the hyper-militarized police which can barely be distinguished from military. This one is particularly puzzling since Walnut Creek, California is a relatively wealthy and relatively white part of the state.

This tank-ish vehicle drew comparisons to tanks used in Tiananmen Square in 1989.

June 4, 1989, to be exact — 31 years ago.

It’s not just Americans who see a parallel; this is from a Canadian academic:

Some of my friends of Chinese heritage are disturbed by the comparison, suggesting Americans avoid it in no small part because many Chinese are still traumatized by the 1989 events. Others are concerned because China’s government still aggressively censors any mention of the 1989 protests, potentially removing users from social media. This is a serious punishment because all their identity, employment information, bill paying, credit scores are mediated through social media.

Other Chinese who don’t live in the mainland point to the comparison between 1989 and the US in 2020 and warn us not to end up like the Chinese — under an even more repressive state after hundreds of civilians’ deaths when the military put down the protests, squelching demands for a more democratic society.

It doesn’t seem possible that there could be more than a passing similarity between China in 1989 and the U.S. today, given the amount of freedoms many (straight white) Americans in this country possess.

We were reminded, though, the likely reason the military was called upon may have found inspiration in 1989.

Does Trump think this is just a noisy student uprising which can be put down with tanks? Do his bigoted, talentless minions likewise think police brutality is a nothing burger which can be squashed easily with a show of force?

It’s rather ridiculous what power has been called upon to protect the White House from the protesters who want police brutality against black Americans to end.

So much energy and resources wasted because Trump has a ridiculously shallow concept of power and how best to use it.

But even more ridiculous than all this overkill intended to suppress Americans’ First Amendment right to exercise free speech through protest is the Republican Party’s hypocrisy, from Sen. Tom Cotton’s obnoxious op-ed in The New York Times calling for military deployment against Americans, to this feckless gem from the House GOP caucus:

Utterly blind to their double standard — a president who uses the military to suppress constitutionally-protected speech in violation of his own oath of office is okay with them, but they threaten a totalitarian government which also suppressed speech with military force?

At least the Chinese show signs of breaking their suppression — in spite of attacks on Hong Kong’s freedoms — after their government’s initial handling of the COVID-19 pandemic cost the country valuable time to stop the disease from ravaging Wuhan’s population.

Free speech would have saved Chinese lives; it would have prevented President Xi Jinping’s and the Chinese Communist Party‘s loss of credibility caused by suppressing Dr. Li Wenliang’s warning about COVID-19

Somehow I doubt Trump will learn anything at all from China’s failure.


He certainly doesn’t seem able to learn from his own.

~ ~ ~

It’s now June 5 here in the U.S. as I finish typing this.

31 years ago, a lone man carrying bags in his hands as if he had just been shopping, stood in front of a line of tanks impeding their procession. The Chinese military had fired upon protesters, killing as many as 500 people in Tiananmen Square during the previous two days in an effort to put down the pro-democracy movement.

Tank Man, Tiananmen Square, 1989 - photo by Stuart Franklin
For a moment in time one man stood between the regime and an oppressive future.

I’d like to think there are more than one or two persons willing to stand up to systemic abuses and repression here, hold it in check longer than a moment in time.

The protesters in the streets over the last 10 days tell us there are.

The polls in November will tell us if there are enough.

What will our children say of this time in 31 years? What will they remember of us?

 

This is an open thread.

image_print