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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.

Trump’s Death Panel Comes for Detroit [UPDATE-1]

[Update at bottom of post, thanks. /~Rayne]

Ordinarily I wouldn’t step on Marcy’s posts by putting another one up so soon and one so short, but I am both FURIOUS and scared sick about this.

Since last night, Detroit Free Press confirmed yesterday’s rumors about the number of ventilators at one chain of Detroit hospitals — that area hospitals had run out of ventilators and patients were notified on arrival they may not have access to a ventilator if needed.

Without ventilators, those suffering from acute respiratory distress syndrome in critical need may die.

Trump decided to kill Detroiters by withholding essential equipment. He’s chosen not to act in a timely fashion and interfered with the state’s ability to obtain equipment, while trash talking about Michigan’s governor in the process.

Welcome to Trump’s death panel.

Michigan’s Governor Whitmer couldn’t make it any more plain how urgent the situation was, just as Governor Cuomo has.

Trump’s gross negligence isn’t hurting just black Detroiters, either — yeah, I went there, you know damned well Trump doesn’t care about the woman who is our governor or the black people who are the majority in Detroit.

Trump is hurting rural white Michiganders in areas that voted for him in 2016.

If this is how he’s setting out to win swing states, I hate to see what more harm he’ll cause to solidly blue states.

UPDATE — 1:10 P.M. ET —

You need to watch this video produced by an ER nurse in Oakland County, Michigan. The county straddles four congressional districts, two of which recently flipped blue. This is where white flight settled pre-2000, leaving Detroit behind.

They don’t even have acetaminophen to give patients when they put the ventilator tube down their throats — assuming they still have ventilators right now.

Trump’s death panel won’t just kill you. It will make sure you suffer along the way.

 

Wednesday Morning: Woe, Nelly, Woe

I meant woe, not whoa. I do know the difference.

It’s woe I was thinking of when I wrote this next bit.

What would you do if you were told you wouldn’t be paid for last 2 months of a 9-month job?
Let’s say you have kids to feed, a mortgage/car payment/college loan payments to make, childcare to pay, out-of-pocket healthcare costs — you know, all the expenses the average working person has.

In spite of one or more obligatory college degrees, continuing education requirements and mandatory background checks, your job requires you to work in facilities where ‘mushrooms, black mold, fecal matter, dead rodents, no heat‘ are common. It’s a workplace functioning like Flint’s water crisis, and it’s been this way for more than a decade. Fellow employees have had to bring in paper towels and light bulbs from home or solicit them as donations to the workplace.

Because of your employer’s money woes, you may even have made a concession agreeing to collect your pay over 3-4 months instead of the next six to eight weeks you are actually scheduled to work.

And then your employer’s employer says they aren’t going to pay, and you might have to work without pay for the next six weeks. Unpaid, as in violation of labor laws unpaid.

And your employer’s employer has a history of acting both in bad faith and with prejudice. Your workplace hasn’t improved for years; children were permanently poisoned and adults died as a result of their awful handiwork on this and other projects.

What would you do? Quietly stay at your desk working and hope for the best, or walk out in protest to demand action?

The employer’s employer accuses you of all manner of bad things, and is actively undermining your rights to organize, by the way.

Welcome to Detroit Public School system, and welcome to more of Michigan’s obnoxious and toxic GOP-led legislating. Pretty sure the jerks who are causing this latest crisis by grandstanding on teachers’ backs don’t care if the president arrives here in Michigan today.

Dude caught on video sprinkling substance on food arrested by FBI
As if we didn’t have enough to worry about in Michigan, some whackjob has been sprinkling a mixture of hand sanitizer and rodent poison on food in stores, including salad buffets. He was caught on security camera in Ann Arbor, but he is alleged to have sprinkled this mix in multiple stores in Ypsilanti, Saline, Birch Run, and Midland. The mixture is not supposed to be toxic, but who wants to eat remnants of isopropyl alcohol and an anticoagulant? What the hell was this all about anyhow?

Canadian city of 80,000 forced to evacuate overnight due to massive wildfire
Mind-boggling to think of an urban center this size forced to flee on such short notice, but Fort McMurray did just that beginning late afternoon yesterday. Even the local hospital was emptied as fire leaped from undeveloped to developed areas, consuming neighborhoods. 80% of homes in the Beacon Hill neighborhood are ash. Conditions have been unusually warm and dry in the region; the local temperature was 83F degrees before the evacuation notice was issued. Weather conditions today are expected to be hotter (32C/90F) and WSW winds stronger ahead of a cold front, likely spreading the fire even farther to the northeast.

The area around Fort McMurray has only been in moderate drought conditions, yet the fire was explosive, doubling in size in a matter of hours. Can’t begin to imagine what might happen in areas where conditions are drier while this climate-enhanced super El Nino continues.

Volkswagen’s former head of engine and transmission development exits company
Wolfgang Hatz, suspended by VW for his role in Dieselgate, chose voluntarily to leave the company. This bit in NYT’s article is choice:

In 2007, shortly after being named head of engine and transmission development at Volkswagen, Mr. Hatz complained at an event in San Francisco that new rules on tailpipe emissions in California were unrealistic.

“I see it as nearly impossible for us,” Mr. Hatz said of a proposed regulation during the event, which was filmed by an auto website.

In other words, Hatz didn’t see the purpose of the regulation, didn’t perceive a challenge to design truly clean diesel — he saw an obstruction he needed to bypass. Auf wiedersehn, Herr Hatz.

Odds and sods

  • Middle Eastern drought worst in 900 years (NASA) — Drought map of Cyprus, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, Syria, and Turkey looks awful, but Egypt — wow.
  • Wars might be caused by lack of water (Scientific American) — I sense a theme developing…hey, guess when the Crusades were? 900 years ago.
  • Study shows stocks overvalued often, too long (Phys.org) — Huh. Interleaves with economic social theory of reflexivity, that.
  • Third leading cause of death in U.S.: medical errors (Science Daily) — Grok this: 250,000 deaths a year. You’d think insurance companies and policy makers would look into this, considering annual death toll is like ten times that on 9/11. Imagine if we spend tax dollars on fixing this and improving health care instead of militarizing against the rare-to-non-existent domestic terror attack.
  • Tesla’s residential battery, Powerwall, now for sale (Bloomberg) — Residential solar may now explode with growth. We can only hope.

It’s supposedly downhill from the top of this hump. Race you to the bottom!

[Work in Progress] Timeline: Flint’s Water Crisis

This is a work in progress. Not all dates and events between the end of 2015 and current date have been added as of publication. This timeline will be updated periodically, as events unfold and as key information is revealed about Flint’s ongoing water crisis. Some information is incomplete or in need of validation. Links to sources will be added over time. If you have content you believe is relevant and should be added, please share in comments.
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1974-2002

XX-DEC-1974 — The federal Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) enacted to ensure safe drinking water for the public; the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is responsible for setting safety standards, monitoring, compliance and enforcement of the same under the SDWA.

07-JUN-1991 — EPA issued the Lead and Copper Rule (LCR) limiting the amount of lead and copper in public drinking water, as well limiting the permissible amount of pipe corrosion occurring due to the water itself.

XX-JUL-1998 — The federal Environmental Protection Agency required all large public water systems maintain a program to monitor and control lead in drinking water due to piping corrosion under the Lead and Copper Rule (LCR). Cities like Flint must have a state-approved plan to maintain water to regulatory limits for pH, alkalinity, corrosion inhibitor chemicals.

XX-XXX-2002 — [DATE TBD] Genesee County purchased 326 acres of property with 300 feet of Lake Huron waterfront via auction from Detroit Edison, for $2.7 million **How did this purchase affect the city of Flint’s 2002-2004 financial crisis?
__________

2009

28-AUG-2009 — Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) issued a permit to Genesee County Drain Commission for water withdrawal from Lake Huron (Permit 2009-001), up to 85 million gallons per day. MDEQ director at the time is Steven Chester.
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2011

10-MAY-2011 — DTE Energy expressed interest in acquiring 3 million gallons of water from Lake Huron intake for use at the Greenwood electricity generation plant.

07-SEP-2011 — Report to Flint City Council by Rowe Professional Services determined buying water from Karegnondi Water Authority (KWA) cheaper than continuing to purchase from Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD), or using Flint River water as upgrades to Flint treatment equipment required would cost $50 million.

XX-SEP-2011 — (confirm date) City of Flint increase water and sewer rates 35%. Higher water costs due in part to higher-than-expected unmetered water losses. This is the second double-digit rate hike in 2011. The city’s water system once served ~200K residents, now serves half that number and a much smaller manufacturing base.

29-NOV-2011 — Emergency Manager Michael Brown appointed by Gov. Rick Snyder to take over management of the city of Flint effective 01-DEC-2011. Democratically elected offices are now subordinate to the EM.

XX-DEC-2011 — (confirm date) Report showed the City of Flint leaking 30 to 40% of its water, well above more typical 15-20 percent loss of unmetered water.

14-DEC-2011 — EM Michael Brown appointed Howard Croft as Director of Infrastructure and Development. Croft’s role has oversight of Parks and Recreation department, Street Maintenance, Water and Sewer, Sanitation, Planning, Fleet and Community and Economic Development. Jerry Ambrose named financial advisor, with oversight of finance, budget and treasury departments; Gary Bates named director of human resources and labor relations. Bates’s role was temporary, lasting 90 days, at time of appointment.

20-DEC-2011 — The City of Detroit sells $500,675,000 in bonds for Water Supply System Revenue funding (pdf). The offering prospectus notes Flint’s desire to migrate to the KWA, but that it might be seven years out before the move. 6% of DWSD water is supplied to Flint.
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2012

XX-FEB-2012 — (confirm date) Emergency Manager’s team audited Flint’s water system to identify current rate of unmetered water loss.

23-APR-2012 — EM Michael Brown proposed budget plan includes a 25% average increase in water and sewer rates, with water rates projected to increase 12.5% and sewer 45%. City personnel cuts were also proposed. Water and sewer are the single largest expenditure in the budget. (Proposed budget, PDF) **Did any of the personnel cuts made affect staffing of water and sewer maintenance?

XX-AUG-2012 — [DATE TBD] Emergency Manager Ed Kurtz appointed by Gov. Rick Snyder after Brown steps down. Kurtz has previous experience working in Flint during the 2002-2004 financial emergency.

XX-DEC-2012 — [DATE TBD] Michigan Treasury officials met with Flint city officials to discuss drinking water alternatives, including Flint River. Only two options — remaining on DWSD, or development/switch to new KWA — would be studied.
Read more

Normalizing the Disenfranchisement of African Americans

I’ve been one of the first people to note that the Emergency Financial Manager laws have disproportionately affected MI’s African Americans. Note what I wasn’t arguing: that Governors Snyder and Granholm imposed EFMs because the cities in question were predominantly black. But it is, in fact, the case that the EFM law is affecting African Americans disproportionately, and with Detroit as Rick Snyder’s bullseye, affecting far too many of MI’s African Americans.

Nevertheless, the Free Press decided to turn that observation into a straw man.

Brian Dickerson: What’s really driving state takeovers: It ain’t race

[snip]

Benton Harbor, Ecorse, Flint and Pontiac have something much more important in common: They’re all shrinking— hemorrhaging taxpayers, homeowners, employers at an alarming rate.

And in each case, African Americans are rushing for the exits just as fast, and in some cases faster, than their white, Latino and Asian neighbors.

The numbers in the accompanying chart tell the story succinctly: In the decade between the U.S. census counts in 2000 and 2010, Benton Harbor and Pontiac both lost more 10% of their residents. Ecorse and Flint lost more than 15%, and Detroit, the city currently atop the state treasurer’s critical list, lost 25%.

Now, the argument is a bit odd, not least because it looks at the last 10 years of population trends to explain an EFM law that goes back over twenty years (though the cities that have been in and out of EFM status, including Flint and Ecorse, have been losing population throughout that period).

More telling, though, is that Dickerson didn’t consider why Wayne County, which also has a deficit and also shrank over 10% in the last decade, hasn’t been seized (though people have started gunning for Wayne County, too). While the answer is obvious–not least, that the law pertains to municipalities–it reveals a lot of the underlying logic that got MI to embrace EFM laws.

It’s not just that both Democrats and Republicans chose to make cities sink or swim on their own decades ago; given the segregation and history of white flight, that decision did have racial implications. It’s also that the state relies relatively more on property taxes than other states, and relatively less on income taxes (particularly for a state that doesn’t have another big source of funding, like oil revenues). Those decisions have made the exodus of MI’s residents–both black and white–particularly devastating for cities. And all that’s before you factor in things like predatory lending which further exacerbated the problems of communities with large African American populations.

The underlying issue here is MI’s shrinking population, which itself is largely a response to globalization, to the gutting of the manufacturing that once thrived in these cities. But we as a state can choose to deal with it as a state, or we can choose to let the cities rot while putting stimulus money into newer areas. And while the decision to do the latter may not be motivated primarily out of racism, it is having the undeniable affect of taking away a disproportionate amount of African Americans’ self-governance.