3 Things: Myths of Overnight Success, Herd Immunity, and COVID-19 Vaccine

[NB: I’ve spent several days drafting this post only to have today’s FDA’s pause on J&J vaccine throw a wrench in the works. I will try to pull something together about that issue in a separate post. / ~Rayne]

Friends and family tell me they are frustrated by people they know who are dragging their feet getting a COVID-19 vaccine. Some are actively resisting vaccination, refusing to get one.

Nearly all of this has been driven by misinformation, often been spread by well-meaning but skeptical folks. Anti-vaxx disinformation has been spread by those who have a vested interest in seeing Americans getting sick and dying, accepted by the same audience.

One friend told me a skeptical acquaintance explained, “I’m not an anti-vaxxer, I just don’t trust how fast this has been put together.”

Others have waved off the vaccine, saying they “don’t need a vaccine because we’ll reach herd immunity,” or “I already had COVID so I’m fine.”

We are never going to reach herd immunity so long as people refuse to be vaccinated.

And people wonder why CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky was so emotional a couple weeks ago about the need to continue infection prevention and the rate of vaccination.

The problem in my home state is evident in this profile piece (now paywalled) featuring Michigan residents in the 10th congressional district. You’ll recall Rep. Paul Mitchell who won in 2018 declined to run for reelection because of the political atmosphere. It wasn’t just the toxicity in Washington DC from Trump and his backup singers in the GOP-majority Senate, but back at home where constituents have become increasingly unmoored from reality.

Their part of the state is the worst for new cases and deaths; given how thinly populated the rural district is and how small these communities are, they have to know people who are severely ill and dying and yet they just don’t give a flying fuck.

There will be no reaching some of these folks, ever, but we have to reach folks who are on the fence if we are ever going to stop the spread of COVID including new variants.

~ 3 ~

Misinfo/Disinfo 1: The vaccine was developed too fast.

Truth: The mRNA vaccines like Pfizer-BioNTech’s and Moderna’s were at least 31 years in the making. Work on adenovirus-vector vaccines like Johnson & Johnson’s began in the 1950s looking at defenses against adenoviruses. These are the only two types of vaccines currently distributed in the U.S. under Emergency Use Authorizations.

Research for the COVID-19 vaccine began in 2002 with the emergence of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), caused by the coronavirus now known as SARSr-CoV. The epidemic which ran its course from 1 November 2002 – 31 July 2003, resulted in approximately 8,000 cases and nearly 800 deaths.

Research into Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS), another coronavirus which is very similar to SARSr-CoV and SARS-CoV-2, also contributed to the body of knowledge. MERS epidemic resulted in 2,500 cases and nearly 900 deaths.

In total there were at least 12 years of research into similar coronaviruses before funding dried up because neither then-known coronaviruses were spreading.

In tandem with the research on coronaviruses, technology used for genetic sequencing and analysis improved exponentially in sensitivity, capability, and speed. Once SARS-CoV-2 was isolated and the unique spike protein identified, the vaccine research had most of what it needed to develop a trial-worthy vaccine candidate. The genetic sequencing in January 2020 couldn’t have done so quickly and in such detail in 2002.

The mRNA approach used by Pfizer and Moderna was first proposed in the late 1980s after more than a decade of conjecture; research into HIV and Ebola are among the diseases which contributed to the body of knowledge for these COVID vaccines. That’s more than 30 years of research leading up to the current vaccines.

If funding for research hadn’t stopped in the mid-2010s, COVID vaccines might have been delivered weeks or even months earlier than late October/early November last year.

~ 2 ~

Misinfo/Disinfo 2: Don’t need vaccination because of herd immunity.

Truth: We are nowhere near herd immunity. The safe approach to herd immunity also relies on vaccines.

While there are a number of ways this concept is being distorted, I ran into a situation last week in which someone I know who is a health care provider had begun to doubt the use of vaccines for COVID.

They’d been exposed to a European doctor’s claim that wearing masks and the vaccines themselves prevented our bodies from eliciting a natural immune response.

Ignoring, of course, the fact that nearly 600,000 Americans alone have died from the effects of their natural immune response to infection with SARS-CoV-19. That’s the disease, COVID – the response to the infection.

I went and did some digging to check this Euro doc’s credentials and lo, there it is: he’s a fucking DVM. A veterinarian who did some work on viruses in animals, with a handful of papers published a couple decades ago about viruses in donkeys. I won’t even name this bozo because I don’t want to give his nonsense any more oxygen.

In retrospect this guy is akin to the French researcher whose early, extremely small, and utterly lousy study was used to rationalize the use of hydroxychloroquine as COVID therapy. Poor credentials and bad track record combined with inadequate evidence, launched from overseas into American consumers’ social media – and they lapped up his misinfo and disinfo without any skepticism let alone the wherewithal to check credentials.

Just stop them. Cut them off as soon as they start talking about herd immunity.

That includes cutting off morons like Texas Gov. Gregg Abbott:

Nobody should listen to this stupid asshat when it comes to COVID-19 because he’s propagating false information when he should be turning this over to professionals with appropriate credentials.

I’ll let biologist Carl Bergstrom discuss the concept of herd immunity with regard to a pandemic in this Twitter thread:

Bergstrom distills the challenge:

“The key thing to note is that the herd immunity threshold is the point at enough people are immune (by vaccination or previous infection) to prevent a new epidemic from starting from scratch.

It is *not* the point at which an ongoing epidemic disappears.”

COVID will still be with us after a majority of the adult public has been vaccinated because children and unvaccinated adults will constitute 20-30% of the population while the herd immunity threshold for COVID as an airborne disease will be closer to that of other other airborne diseases like pertussis and measles. This means at least 90% percent of the public must be immune before the disease will stop spreading.

And with only 35.9% of the U.S. having had a dose of vaccine, there’s no way in hell any part of the U.S. is close to herd immunity – including Texas where as of today only 19.9% of residents have been fully vaccinated.

All of this assumes there isn’t a new strain mutating in an unvaccinated person which may bypass the existing vaccines. It’s urgent that we vaccinate as many people as possible as quickly as possible to stem the spread of the disease before this can happen, setting off a new epidemic.

Anybody who is waiting for herd immunity while refusing to wear a mask and rejecting the vaccine is a nihilist wishing sickness and death on others if not themselves.

But don’t take my word for it; find virologists, epidemiologists, public health experts, and/or others with solid credentials who’ll explain why we need to be vaccinated to reach herd immunity.

~ 1 ~

And then the excuse used by the oppositional defiant/libertarian/owning the libs crowd –

Misinfo/Disinfo 3: Getting vaccinated means submitting to the federal government which is taking away freedom by issuing “vaccine passports.”

Truth: NO. Fuck, no. The only thing being issued at vaccination sites is a record of vaccination. Vaccination records are shared with one’s doctor under HIPAA privacy regulations.

I am so disappointed with former representative Justin Amash on this point. It’s as if he’s forgotten universities and public schools have long required proof of vaccination for entrance, because education provided in a shared public space requires students who are not at risk of death from other students’ diseases.

It’s as if Amash has forgotten the Constitution is not a suicide pact, and that the nation’s founders lived in a world when travel was often restricted by epidemics like smallpox, measles, and yellow fever requiring mandatory quarantines.

Or that state and federal governments regularly require proof of baseline safety measures like passing vision and driver’s tests for a driver’s license.

Businesses and government functions should not be held hostage by a pandemic. They should be able to ask their employees and customers to act prudently to protect themselves and others, which may include providing proof of vaccination.

(Florida’s Gov. Ron DeSantis can pound sand with his ridiculous executive order banning “vaccine passports,” intended to prevent cruise ships requiring booking passengers to have proof of COVID vaccination. It’s as if he’s completely forgotten what happened to cruise passengers last year.)

Here’s a more personal example as a business case for required vaccination. My youngest contracted mild food poisoning from a chain restaurant’s takeout, but the first question posed by his employer and co-workers who all work in a facility which tests foods and pharmaceuticals, is whether he really contracted COVID since some symptoms like nausea may be present after infection with SARS-CoV-2. Imagine the repercussions to the supply chain if someone asymptomatic simply went to work in that environment.

My kid is taking the day off and getting tested for COVID to assure their workplace is safe, but imagine this happens again next week to a different employee, and the week after that to yet another. The cost to business and to workers could be staggering when simply requiring vaccination with proof could resolve the challenge.

And your own foods and drugs might also be safer for it.

Fortunately my youngest will be vaccinated soon; my oldest already is as of last week when Michigan opened vaccinations to all ages.

~ 0 ~

As of this morning we have lost 562,007 Americans to COVID – 476 died yesterday, the lowest number of daily deaths since last autumn.

Most of these deaths were not caused by UK variant B.1.1.7 which is now dominant in the US, nor by Brazilian variant P1, nor by South African varian B.1.351, all three of which appear to be more transmissible, and in the case of P1, more deadly, sickening younger people more often, and re-infecting those who already had an earlier strain.

Had we not mitigated the first strains of COVID with a combination of social distancing, mask wearing, increased hygiene, and lockdowns as well as vaccines, we would be on our way to several million dead.

But we are still on our way to that number if people do not continue mitigation measures and get vaccinated. Brazil’s 1,480 deaths yesterday alone, most caused by P1, offers proof.

Open Thread: NASA’s Perseverance Rover Mars Landing

OMG it feels soooo good to be able to think about future-looking science instead of worrying about the country blowing up!

We’re waiting now for NASA’S latest Mars rover craft to land on the red planet. Follow along with these videos:

This is NASA Mission Control with a 360-degree video feed (some browsers may not support this):

This is raw feed from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab:

Some of the content may be duplicative, but it’s still exciting to listen to this team as they reach a major landmark in their Perseverance project.

Why is Perseverance so different and important compared to the previous Mars rover missions? From the Mission Overview site:

The Perseverance rover has four science objectives that support the Mars Exploration Program’s science goals:

Looking for Habitability: Identify past environments capable of supporting microbial life.
Seeking Biosignatures: Seek signs of possible past microbial life in those habitable environments, particularly in special rocks known to preserve signs of life over time.
Caching Samples: Collect core rock and “soil” samples and store them on the Martian surface.
Preparing for Humans: Test oxygen production from the Martian atmosphere.

In other words, we’ve moved beyond successfully arriving at the planet, landing, and taking a look around. We’re now ready to engage in the science which supports humans once they arrive in a near-future stage of exploration.

That last goal is huge; if we can’t manufacture oxygen on Mars using the planet’s resources, we’re going to have to bring means to support humans with us in future exploration.

UPDATE-1 — 3:39 PM ET —

10 minutes ago from The Oatmeal:

RunPeeNowHURRYLOL

UPDATE-2 — 3:55 PM ET —

TANGO DELTA.

Touchdown!! Perseverance is on Mars’ surface!! WOOHOO!!

Poor scientist calling the tick-tock just gave a massive sigh of relief over the raw feed.

And now they have an image from the surface!

Congratulations, Team Perseverance!!

UPDATE-3 — 4:25 PM ET —

And now the first tweet from Perseverance on Mars!

Team Perseverance has run through their post-landing review. The next phase of the mission has now begun.

Wow, it feels so good to have some successful science under the belt today!

What science would you like to see tackled this year? Share in comments.

Three Things: It’s Our Lucky Day

Though friends and family in Texas are still desperately miserable, we had an unusually lucky day.

~ 3 ~

Don’t know about you folks but my sleep cycle has been extremely erratic during this pandemic. I’m up at 3:00 a.m. for a few hours, finally fall back to sleep, and wake again at no set hour.

Today I woke a few minutes before nine a.m. ET, launching Twitter immediately as one does while still trying to shake off the Trump era habit of checking for the apocalypse on rising.

Lo and behold, the first tweet in my timeline was the live stream of the impending implosion of Trump’s shuttered Atlantic City hotel.

I huddled under my blankets in rapt attention for several minutes waiting for explosives’ detonation and BOOM-boom-boom-boom-boom, there it was and I blinked and the hideous structure was gone when I opened my eyes.

Dust slowly rose into the air and sailed out over the ocean like fine confetti.

It was glorious — a sign like smoke over the Vatican, a portent of better things to come.

~ 2 ~

And there it was, the dusty oracle delivered.

One of the meanest, nastiest, most useless sacks of flesh assumed room temperature today.

Right-wing talk radio blabbermouth Rush Limbaugh succumbed from complications due to lung cancer.

Don’t tell me I’m being unusually harsh; I’m using the contemptible toad’s own words. When homeless rights activist Mitch Snyder died, Limbaugh said Snyder assumed room temperature.

Nor should you imagine for one goddamned moment I will now demonstrate an iota of respect for that dead wretch because respect is earned. The racist, misogynist ignoramus who played a key role in the progress of the GOP away from a pro-democracy political party earned no respect from me.

This obituary at Huffington Post says it best, though there’s plenty it left out even though it’s unsparing. Michael Tomasky at Democracy Journal faults Bork and Scalia for Limbaugh’s poisonous rise across our publicly-owned airwaves (there’s a lesson in this).

Adios, motherfucker. Give my regards to Hades.

~ 1 ~

Good news from White House COVID-19 Response Team today


Doubling the weekly average is great, considering the response team had NOTHING, ZIP, NADA in the way of a federal plan for rolling out the vaccine as of Inauguration Day. The Trump Administration’s plan appeared to consist of dumping vaccine on the states in quantities which may have been rationalized by politics, and telling the states to just do it, just distribute it — if they listened to VP Pence’s team.

If they listened to Secretary Azar — like Florida’s Gov. DeSantis surely did, with emphasis added by grocery store chain Publix’s heiress’s donation — then commercial pharmacies were going to run the show.

What a fucking shit show.

With luck in spite of the lingering Trumpy mess, some of you have had your first and possibly second vaccination if you’re in health care or older than 65 (age threshold depends on states’ criteria and how closely they followed the CDC’s guidance, I think, correct me if I’m wrong). Good. I won’t receive mine for another eight weeks, I estimate, based on my state’s current roll out schedule.

With the announcement that enough doses have been ordered for delivery in late July, the rest of the country may expect to be vaccinated by late summer. Depending on how the last push for vaccinations is organized and pulled off, school this fall is likely to be on campus and in classrooms once again.

That is very good news.

~ 0 ~

If you feel inclined to assist Texans who are suffering from the worst of the intersection between their elected GOP officials and capitalist profiteering, the Texas Tribune reported where help is accepted (bottom of article):

Here’s how to help:

Dallas: Dallas Homeless Alliance President and CEO Carl Falconer said donations can be made to Our Calling, who is managing the city’s shelter at the convention center.
Austin: Chris Davis, communications manager for Austin’s Ending Community Homelessness Coalition, or ECHO, said people can find a list of ways to help here. These donations range from sleeping bags to monetary donations for hygiene and snack kits.
San Antonio: South Alamo Regional Alliance for the Homeless Executive Director Katie Vela said their biggest area of need is volunteers to work the overnight shifts, especially those living in the downtown area who might be able to walk to the shelters. Vela also said the shelters are also in need of hot meals beginning Tuesday. People can find the list of shelters here.
Houston: Catherine B. Villarreal, the director of communications for the Coalition for the Homeless, said people can donate to any of the organizations in The Way Home listed here.

I hope Texans are thinking ahead to the thaw when all that snow and ice will turn into flood water, which may be as soon as Friday.

Trump Impeachment II – The Beginning

And so it begins any minute now. Don’t fret, it will not take long, because Pelosi, Schumer and the Dems have so decreed out of political cowardice. Is that politically expedient at the start of the nascent Biden Administration? Maybe! But they all took an oath to protect and defend the Constitution, not their political expediency.

So where are we at the onset of proceedings?

The tentative schedule is this:

First, there will be a debate over the “Constitutionality” of even holding and impeachment trial at all. This is a ridiculous argument, and will fail, but with much cowardly GOP Senate support.

There will be up to four hours equally divided between the impeachment managers and the president’s counsel to debate the constitutionality of the trial. Again, that will fail as to Trump. Then there will be sixteen hours per side to argue their case. It will be predictable baloney from both sides, with no actual evidence submitted and admitted. And, no, “video presentations” do not count, that is simply argument by propaganda. Each party’s arguments are delimited by not being able to go over two days, and cannot exceed eight hours each.

“After the presentations are done, senators will have a total of four hours to question both sides. Then there will be four hours divided equally between the parties for arguments on whether the Senate will consider motions to subpoena witnesses and documents, if requested by the managers.

There will be up to four hours equally divided for closing arguments, along with deliberation time if requested by the senators before the vote takes place.”

Much of the above, though not all, came from an excellent report by Barbara Sprunt and Diedre Walsh at NPR.

Is this year another stupid and truncated show trial by Pelosi, Schumer and the Dems, in order to look like they are doing something while they are cowering? Of course it is. Same as it ever was.

There will also be discussion of an “organizing resolution”. Don’t fall for that, the parameters have already been agreed to behind the scenes.

Lastly, while joint stipulations may always be made, otherwise the general parameters are controlled by the extant Senate Rules on Impeachment. They are here for your reference.

And here is Leahy’s feckless “Dear Colleagues” letter.

Larry King Is Dead, Long Live The King

Probably the world knows by now that broadcasting legend Larry King has died at 87. He was not necessarily a journalist, per se, even if news was often broken on his show. He was a massive media presence, and a good one. Unlike so many others, he did not get in the way of his guests and interviewees letting themselves be themselves, for better or worse.

CNN is doing some larger biography, and it is worth watching for a little bit. But King brought together Rabin, Hussein and Arafat on a TV show. You don’t see that every day. Then there was all the OJ Simpson charges and trial coverage. There are a lot of people still in the public view today that came out of that. Some rightfully, some not as much so.

As a parting thought, some love for Ted Turner. He took King off of late night talk radio, that I sometimes listened to on a timed clock radio while falling asleep, before his CNN TV gig, to grow the fledgling CNN. Ted Turner innovated so much it is almost silly. Elon Musk will never, even in his dreams, accomplish as much as the great Ted Turner.

Do you have any memories?

He Slipped The Surly Bonds Of Earth: RIP Chuck Yeager

“Oh, I have slipped the surly bonds of earth,
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed and joined the tumbling mirth of sun-split clouds –
and done a hundred things You have not dreamed of –
wheeled and soared and swung high in the sunlit silence.
Hovering there I’ve chased the shouting wind along
and flung my eager craft through footless halls of air.
“Up, up the long delirious burning blue
I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace,
where never lark, or even eagle, flew;
and, while with silent, lifting mind I’ve trod
the high untrespassed sanctity of space,
put out my hand and touched the face of God.”

That is from the poem “High Flight” by John Gillespie Magee, Jr. It was written in 1941, but it surely envisioned the later life and exploits of Chuck Yeager. Later that year, in December, Magee, a pilot in the RCAF, and his Spitfire collided with another plane over England. Magee, only 19 years old, crashed to his death. He could not have known the reach of his poem over all the years, nor how it might describe another pilot, Chuck Yeager. But it did.

Yesterday, Chuck Yeager passed away at the age of 97. He was a true American hero in every sense. The first human to break the speed of sound. Arguably the finest test pilot in history.

From the early Washington Post obituary:

He first stepped into a cockpit during World War II after joining the Army Air Forces directly out of high school. By the end of the war, he was a fighter ace credited with shooting down at least 12 German planes, including five in one day. Making the military his career, he emerged in the late 1940s as one of the newly created Air Force’s most revered test pilots.
….
He later trained men who would go on to join NASA’s Gemini and Apollo programs. Throughout his life, he broke numerous speed and altitude records, including becoming the first person to travel 21/2 times the speed of sound.
….
His greatest breakthrough occurred on Oct. 14, 1947, when a B-29 aircraft released then-Capt. Yeager and his squat, orange Bell X-1 experimental craft at nearly 20,000 feet over California’s Mojave Desert. The Bell X-1 was propelled by a four-chamber rocket engine and a volatile mix of ethyl alcohol, water and liquid oxygen, and Gen. Yeager named it “Glamorous Glennis” after his first wife. Gen. Yeager, traveling at nearly 700 mph, broke the sound barrier.
….
Not that Gen. Yeager’s career lacked its frightening moments. While he was able to pull out of at least one situation in 1953, when his plane spun out of control for 50,000 feet, he wasn’t so lucky in 1963 when, after reaching near space, he ejected from an NF-104 and suffered burns that required several surgeries.

After the last incident in that WaPo quote, Yeager got back in and kept flying. Because that is who and what he was.

Go read the entire WaPo obituary, it is, and this is an understatement, the stuff of legend. Yeager was also the glue that held together the famed book “The Right Stuff” by Tom Wolfe. Forget the movie, read the book. I cannot find my copy right now, but the stories in it are wonderful, and the best ones were arguably about Yeager, who trained the early astronauts but never became one. He did not want to be a proverbial monkey in a cage, so he kept on as a test pilot and fighter pilot.

As Wolfe would paint in his book:

“He was going faster than any man in history, and it was almost silent up here, since he had exhausted his rocket fuel, and he was so high in such a vast space that there was no sensation of motion. He was master of the sky.”

and

“The most righteous of all the possessors of the right stuff: Chuck Yeager.”

Yes. Quite a man.

Thanksgiving Day Cheer

Okay, the football gods did not smile on fans today. Texans at Lions and Washington Football Team at Cowboys is about the worst schedule the NFL could put up. There was a Steelers and Ravens game for the night slot that would have been interesting, but, alas, it was rescheduled to Sunday because of the Coronavirus. Blecch.

But, hey, there is a lot else to be thankful for. Especially here, thanks to all of you. And so we are thankful for all of you!

Also food. Mrs. bmaz is cooking up some great grub, and I know there is some awesome looking stuffing, some turkey (not the turducken I requested, but it will be fine). That, and that some part of it involves some of my personal stash of bacon from Zingermans (thanks Marcy!), is about all I really know. There is Blueberry Crumb Pie from the Rock Springs Cafe (as good of pies as you will ever taste), and vanilla bean ice cream. Some nice red wine, and that will do it.

What are you folks eating and thinking about? Have at it! Music today is the classic Wasted Words by the Allmans. Enjoy, and Happy Thanksgiving folks. May you have a joyous one, and stay safe.

Through Turkey Giblets to the Stars

Sorry about the lack of a Thanksgiving Day post until now. I’ve had my hands stuck up the backside of a 19-pound turkey much of this morning when not busy with chopping, peeling, cooking everything to accompany this unexpected behemoth. My family pod is here and trying to help with the feast but as always it seems the challenges expand to meet the people present.

Like the 5-pound bag of sugar which more closely resembled a giant sugar cube.

Or discovering the turkey still solid like a pink fleshy iceberg.

Or beloved spouse deciding to get a jump on sales and buying 10-pounds of hamburger which must be shaped in to patties and frozen right now, in the middle of the circus in my kitchen.

But I’m thankful to have all of this hubbub today generated by my pod — myself, my spouse, my two kids — all of us healthy, masked, and together for this holiday.

~ ~ ~

Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.
― Winston Churchill

We have an opportunity to kick a fascist autocrat to the curb, thanks to the tireless efforts of people like Stacey Abrams in Georgia, and Ben Wikler in Wisconsin. Thank you to all the new voters they and others like them encouraged to register and vote, all those neophytes who saw the threat for what it was, who see the promise committing to vote can bring. We owe the chance to save Americans’ lives and America’s democracy to these folks.

~ ~ ~

As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.
― John F. Kennedy

Never separate the life you live from the words you speak.
― Paul Wellstone

Going forward it’s on us all to repair the damage of this last four years, to remedy base blemishes built upon over time, to scrape away the palimpsest of colonialism and contemporary racism, misogyny, and xenophobia, starting anew with better, inclusive materials.

May our efforts mirror our best intentions as we strive toward a more perfect union.

~ ~ ~

Sometimes our light goes out but is blown into flame by another human being. Each of us owes deepest thanks to those who have rekindled this light.
― Albert Schweitzer

We’ve had some very dark passages and tough times. We are grateful to those who give us reason to continue to work for social justice and economic democracy for all. We are thankful for you, our community.

~ ~ ~

Per aspera ad astra. Gratias tibi.

We’re So Not Through Here

This is emptywheel, where we have frequently posted work contrary to conventional wisdom, or dissented from political leadership with indifference to party.

Each contributor here has their own voice though we’re sometimes confused for each other.

Today is one of those days when you will see a wide gap between emptywheel contributors.

Specifically, I do not personally subscribe at all to Quinn Norton’s belief that the Union is done.

I have written before, however, on numerous occasions, that the United States has not lived up to its ideals.

The concept of this union was flawed from the beginning, having launched as it did with a concession to slaveowners. That original sin dogs this nation to this day; slavery still exists in the form of a carceral state which is heavily weighted against minorities.

The concept of this union was also predicated upon the occupation of lands belonging to pre-existing nations. I’m a product of one of those occupied nations, whose people were nearly wiped out by disease and greed white American occupiers brought to their land.

But I am also an example of what happens when disparate people come together under a singular proposition: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of happiness.”

I am the product of people from Nordic and middle European countries, the product of trips around the Pacific and East Asia. All my forebears came here because they perceived a freedom to pursue lives and opportunity they did not have in their home nation-states.

They found an appeal in this premise worth risking their persons as well as their fortune, meager as it was: “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

My forebears stayed in spite of being erased in a number of ways — like the records of my French-Canadian family members’ existence in Michigan being repeatedly obscured or deleted by majority English- and German-speaking occupants, or my Asian family losing its true name when recorded by customs, and then stranded by the Chinese Exclusion Act. Or my Hawaiian family losing the right to its own land because whites deposed its monarchy and seized the islands, in addition to spreading deadly disease.

In spite of being marginalized then and now, my forebears and family made a comfortable life and felt it was their honor, privilege, and duty to contribute to these United States. Among my family members is a Medal of Honor winner — a second generation American who served in the Navy until he retired. My father and brother both served in the armed forces as well.

This isn’t an easy country. If you don’t speak English and especially if you’re not white, it can really demand a steep price. Try taking the citizenship test.

Witness the harassment Ilhan Omar has faced for her race, ethnic heritage, and religion, in spite of the First and Fourteenth Amendments, yet she continues to serve her constituents as their representatives in our democratic republic system of government.

It’s because of the price many Americans have faced to become and remain Americans that I’m put out at Norton’s “the Union is done” essay.

I don’t think she truly has a clue what it’s taken for a sizable percentage of this country to hold this union together, such as it is. She may have faced misogyny but really, in which countries does misogyny not exist?

She can play with sentiment and co-opt others’ pain in her argument that the Union is done, but she hasn’t faced the existential threat one’s skin can pose in a land founded by slaveowners and their sympathizers.

She has the unacknowledged privilege of associating with people who’d rather see people like my family dead, and yet she thinks she can declare “the Union is done.”

Take a hard look at what the Black Americans of this country have been doing since voting began last month as a commitment to form a more perfect Union. Ask them if the Union is done.

Take a hard look at what Native Americans have had to do — forced to change their lifestyle, assigning addresses to places which to them are simply Home — in order to vote, otherwise invalidated and erased if they don’t. Ask them, too, if the Union is done.

And take note of the naturalized immigrants who are worried they and their kin will be harassed by ICE and potentially incarcerated or deported while trying to vote simply because they aren’t white and have come to this country too recently. Ask them if the Union to which they emigrated, many as refugees, is done.

My Chinese family members weren’t permitted to emigrate here or own land until 1943, when it suddenly became convenient to have China side with the U.S. against Japan. I tell you this Union is not done, from the house I own under a hyphenated Chinese name.

I’ve pointed to the words of former escaped slave Frederick Douglass before, with regard to the shortcomings of this nation:

… Allow me to say, in conclusion, notwithstanding the dark picture I have this day presented of the state of the nation, I do not despair of this country. There are forces in operation, which must inevitably work the downfall of slavery. “The arm of the Lord is not shortened,” and the doom of slavery is certain. I, therefore, leave off where I began, with hope. …

The work is slow, so often grinding. It is like farming on a’a and pahoehoe lava, which my family knows well. The biases which are foundational to the problems this country faces are older than this country. We are kidding ourselves if they won’t take at least a half-life to fully end, during which time the demographics of this country will force change. Look at what has transpired, the push and pull in the dozen-plus years this site has tackled the nature of security in an open society.

But this union is by no means done and over. It’s there in the lines we have seen in the streets for weeks, snaking out the doors of polling places across this country. It’s in the cars lined up in a drive-through campaign rally, queued hopefully, trustingly in a drive-through foodbank.

It was there in the streets after George Floyd was murdered.

From goose quill pen’s first ink on parchment 244 years ago, this union has always been aspirational, a nation in a state of becoming, a people who must occasionally check themselves and listen to their better angels.

From the speech before a battlefield of nearly 50,000 American dead 157 years ago, we re-consecrated ourselves,

that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

The union is not over. The dream still lives, its work goes on; we will not yield.

It’s simply time once again to rededicate ourselves to forming a more perfect union.

We can begin this day of all days by exercising and protecting our right to vote.

Last Trash Talk Before The Election

Welp, we have almost made it to November 3. As I type this, there are less than 72 hours to the opening of the polls for Election Day. The long national nightmare will be very far from over, irrespective of which candidate wins. But, and this is important, the relentless onslaught of annoying campaign commercials, mailers in your mail box and robocalls calls and texts will be over, and that will be a huge relief. I don’t trust the polls, especially the national ones. State polls are a far better indicator, but even those are fraught these days, but they are far more important because the electoral college is what really matters, and that is state by state. Polling is hard now. The saw about cell phones skewing polling is really true. Some people, including me, won’t answer them for rando callers. It also skews more urban. So, who knows what the ground will look like on Wednesday November 4, we shall see!

There is one other bit of unfortunate news, Sir Sean Connery has passed. Here is a great obituary from the BBC. Everybody knows the various Bond movies, and they were all great in their own way. I’d like to focus on some of his many other notable roles. He won an Oscar for The Untouchables. But his work was every bit as spectacular in The Wind And The Lion and Hunt For Red October, not to mention as John Mason in The Rock (a fantastic flick). And let’s not forget his portrayal of William von Baskerville in The Name of The Rose, also spectacular. What are your favorite roles and lines, here is a list? RIP Mr. Connery.

On to the games. In the NCAA, there are not a ton of really promising matchups. Texas at Oklahoma State could be one. OSU is pretty solid, and has a very decent defense. Watch out for OSU this year. Most of the national focus is on Ohio State at Penn State. Clearly the Buckeyes have to be favored, but you never know against PSU at home. Boston College is at Death Valley to play Clemson, who will be without star QB Taylor Lawrence because of a positive Covid test. I will still take the Tigers, but no Lawrence is a big wrinkle.

In the Pros, all eyes are on Scribe’s Steelers at Baltimore, and that is a tossup. If they get any contain whatsoever on Jackson, which is not easy, I’d pick the Steelers. But that is a huge if with the reigning MVP. Saints at Bears looks pretty interesting, as does Niners at Squawks. The SNF game is Dallas at Eagles. Ugh. MNF has Tampa Bay at Giants. That also looks to be an ugh.

Lastly, F1. This weekend is the “Emilia Romagna Grand Prix”. No, I do not know exactly what “Emilia Romagna” is, that is new to me. It apparently is a region of Italy with Bologna as the capital. What I do know, however, is that this marks the return of F1 to the Imola Circuit, also known as the Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari, the home of the former San Marino Grand Prix. It has not hosted F1 since 2007, there have been many renovations and upgrades in the meantime. The circuit looked quite fast in qualifying, where Bottas nudged out Hamilton and Verstappen for pole. Pierre Gasly did a great job to place P4 on the grid. The two McLarens placed P9 and P10, continuing their resurgence. Should be fun.

Okay, that’s it for today. Kind of a traditional Presidential election thing around here, music is Elected by Alice. Go out and vote. Biden is not perfect, no candidate ever is, but he is light years better than Trump. Cast yer ballots, mine is already in!

image_print