Archives

I put all the nice links in the back half of the post (tech, grifting, COVID, economic boosts, and more)

Things to worry about:

June 12: “In 2016, Gun Violence Archive recorded that 241 people were shot and killed or wounded in a road rage incident; so far this year, as of June 7, that number is 212, the analysis found. ‘I don’t think we quite realized how dramatic the change was going to be.’

“Customers trying to avoid online delivery platforms like Grubhub by calling restaurants directly might be dialing phone numbers generated and advertised by those very platforms — for which restaurants are charged fees that can sometimes exceed the income the order generates.

Magie filed a legal claim for her Landlord’s Game in 1903, more than three decades before Parker Brothers began manufacturing Monopoly. She actually designed the game as a protest against the big monopolists of her time — people like Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller. […] And yet it was the monopolist version of the game that caught on, with Darrow claiming a version of it as his own and selling it to Parker Brothers. While Darrow made millions and struck an agreement that ensured he would receive royalties, Magie’s income for her creation was reported to be a mere $500. ”

“What do you mean ‘text’? There’s obviously some math text on the blackboard on the right, just like there’s obviously a woman covering almost half of the photograph. Is that woman invisible? Why?” When neural nets try to auto-detect what’s in an image…and what kinds of things they miss.

The Onion, in “this isn’t even a joke”: “Promising to let him know as soon as something becomes available, nurse Janae Howager informed a man having a heart attack Thursday that there was about an hour wait until the next Covid-19 patient died.”

Things to make you smile:

“Despite being lauded by some of the right-wing media’s leading figures, though, the Freedom Phone’s buyers could be getting less than they expect for its $500 price tag. That’s because the Freedom Phone appears to be merely a more expensive rebranding of a budget Chinese phone available elsewhere for a fraction of the Freedom Phone’s price.” But hey, influencers get referral codes, so when their followers buy the phones they get a $50 cut. It’s grifters all the way down.

February 25: “The lawyers working to reunite immigrant parents and children separated by the Trump administration reported Wednesday that they have found the parents of 105 children in the past month.” And that was just the Biden administration’s first month.

““We both started writing grants,” Dr. Weissman said. “We didn’t get most of them. People were not interested in mRNA. The people who reviewed the grants said mRNA will not be a good therapeutic, so don’t bother.’”” (There’s a happy ending! It’s the research that led to the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech COVID vaccines.)

“A New York City pilot program that dispatches mental health specialists and paramedics instead of police for certain nonviolent emergency calls has resulted in more people accepting assistance and fewer people sent to the hospital, early data shows.” Don’t send cops to do non-cop jobs! It works!

Cash transfers have arguably the strongest existing evidence base among anti-poverty tools, with dozens of high-quality evaluations of cash transfer programs spanning Africa, Asia, and Latin America and including both unconditional and conditional cash transfer. These studies include many randomized controlled trials (RCTs) and also include studies that measured impacts 4–5 years out,1,2 evidence which exists for hardly any other interventions.”

The Onion again: “Deeming the move unfortunate but necessary to keep his fledgling Silicon Valley dream alive, CEO Jason Ipser told reporters Tuesday that his struggling tech company was almost desperate enough to start making an actual product.

No to Bad Things

Antivaxxer aunt posted a bunch of signs from protests she says she supports, and they all look like this:

Signs with text like, No to Bad Things

Other rallies have signs that take stands — “Black Lives Matter,” “Justice for George Floyd,” “Gay Rights Are Human Rights,” “End Anti-Trans Discrimination.” These are just “Freedom! Freedom is good! Please assume without question that everyone here agrees perfectly with me about what we need to be Free from.”

Gotta wonder what % of the group says afterward “look how many of us aren’t into any CRAZY stuff, we just agree Big Pharma is faking everything” and what % says “look how many of us agree a secret cabal is kidnapping children to get high by snorting their ground-up bones.”

(…did you know that’s not a parody? Do you know that’s actual, totally-earnest QAnon lore? Was your mind as blown by that as mine was?)


In TWIV #720 (starts around 51:17), Paul Offit told a story that I’ve been meaning to write down.

So his wife’s a pediatrician. A 4-month-old comes into her office for a vaccination…and the kid has a seizure.

Child gets rushed to the hospital. Is diagnosed with a seizure disorder. Ends up having a chronic neurological condition. Offit doesn’t say what it was called, but the important part is — only a few years later, the child dies from it. They were 5.

And this is the kind of story antivaxxers love to tell as Proof that Vaccines are Harmful and Evil —

except —

the vaccination hadn‘t happened yet.

The seizure hit before the child got any shots. Like — moments before. “The doctor was drawing the vaccine into the syringe” before. And obviously they didn’t finish — when a baby is having a seizure, you get them the hell to a hospital, now! General preventative care can wait.

And Offit points out that if the timing had been five minutes different — if the appointment was a bit earlier, if the office moved a bit faster, maybe if the parents hit a few more green lights on the way there — the parents would’ve blamed the shots for all of it.

And who could talk them out of it? If you spent years trying to care for a child with a terrifying deadly disease, and the symptoms all started moments after a vaccine — how would anybody convince you that that was a coincidence?

Except here’s a case that was just as vanishingly unlikely, that we know was a coincidence.

It’s absolutely wild. One-in-a-million doesn’t even come close. If you wrote it in a novel, people would dunk you to the end of time for trying to make a serious point with such a transparent, exaggerated, anvilicious setup.

But sometimes, in medicine, in health, in real life, that’s just how it is.

And it’s not a “totally happened to my friend’s cousin’s barber!” urban legend. It’s from a specific doctor. You can listen to — or watch the video version of — a source, as told by her specific husband.

Respiration in the ’30s, virus images in the ’60s, ambulances in the ’70s, vaccines in the now

Virology and medical history links

The first images of a coronavirus were taken by June Almeida in the 1960’s. She was one of a group who submitted the findings to Science, which rejected the paper on the grounds of “that’s not a new discovery, that’s a flu virus and you took a bad picture.”

“In 1934, Wells and his wife, Mildred Weeks Wells, a physician, analyzed air samples and plotted a curve showing how the opposing forces of gravity and evaporation acted on respiratory particles. […] Randall paused at the curve they’d drawn. To her, it seemed to foreshadow the idea of a droplet-aerosol dichotomy, but one that should have pivoted around 100 microns, not 5.

Those men you see interviewed, they were the first EMTs, the first paramedics. Not just in Pittsburgh, but anywhere. The first “ambulance” driver may have been some poor Spanish conscript back in the 15th century, but the men who made up the first-ever ambulance squad with trained paramedics? Those guys are still around.” A 1970s (!!) success story about taking a job out of the hands of police, and putting it in the hands of professionals with actual relevant training.

“The [measles] outbreak began that September, when an infected passenger is thought to have flown to [Samoa] from New Zealand. Infection quickly spread among the island’s by then substantial population of unvaccinated children. According to Dr Katherine Gibney of the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity, one in every 150 babies aged between six and 11 months died.” This is the future that antivaxxers want.

Virology and medical present-day links

“Early reports showed high mortality from coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), while current United States data mortality rates are lower, raising hope that new treatments and management strategies have improved outcomes. For instance, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data show that 6.7% of cases resulted in death in April, compared with 1.9% in September.

“During the 2019 flu season from Sept. 29 to Dec. 28, the CDC reported more than 65,000 cases of influenza nationwide. During the same period this flu season, the agency reported 1,016 cases.” COVID keeps flourishing whenever we slack off on safety protocols, but hey, seems like even halfhearted anti-COVID measures can do a great job at blocking the flu.

“The strategy signals a shift from the past year, during which the Trump administration largely delegated responsibility for controlling the virus and reopening the economy to 50 governors, fracturing the nation’s response. Interviews with more than 100 health, political and community leaders around the country and a review of emails and other state government records offer a fuller picture of all that went wrong.

“I am concerned that the underrepresentation of Black people among those who have received the vaccine so far will lead to a further widening of racial disparities in Covid-19 infection and death rates. And so I share my journey from “no” to “yes,” my own #BlackWhysMatter, with whoever will listen.

“Oregon healthcare workers who were stranded in a snowstorm on Tuesday began administering leftover coronavirus vaccines to motorists on the side of the road rather than let the doses go to waste.” Heroes!

a year’s worth of bad things, political warnings, and lingering Trump links

2015, and still relevant: The USPS isn’t in financial trouble because people aren’t using it enough. It’s in “financial trouble” because Congress ordered it to stockpile enough cash to pre-fund all employee pension and health insurance costs for the next 75 years. Even if we all sent enough mail to cover that unnecessary liability, Congress could easily pass another law saddling it with another unnecessary liability. We fix this by yelling at our representatives to shape up, not by buying more stamps.

May 2020: “Despite her visible role in the fight against abortion, McCorvey [aka Jane Roe] says she was a mercenary, not a true believer. And Schenck, who has also distanced himself from the antiabortion movement, at least partially corroborates the allegations, saying that she was paid out of concern ;that she would go back to the other side,; he says in the film. ‘There were times I wondered: Is she playing us? And what I didn’t have the guts to say was, because I know damn well we were playing her.'”

May 2020: “Finland ran a two-year universal basic income study in 2017 and 2018, during which the government gave 2000 unemployed people aged between 25 and 58 monthly payments with no strings attached. The payments of €560 per month weren’t means tested and were unconditional, so they weren’t reduced if an individual got a job or later had a pay rise. The study was nationwide and selected recipients weren’t able to opt out, because the test was written into legislation. ”

September 11: “Industry companies spent tens of millions of dollars on [plastic recycling] ads and ran them for years, promoting the benefits of a product that, for the most part, was buried, was burned or, in some cases, wound up in the ocean. Documents show industry officials knew this reality about recycling plastic as far back as the 1970s.

September 30: “Maybe “guided apophenia” is a better phrase. Guided because the puppet masters are directly involved in hinting about the desired conclusions. They have pre-seeded the conclusions. They are constantly getting the player lost by pointing out unrelated random events and creating a meaning for them that fits the propaganda message Q is delivering.” A game designer’s analysis of QAnon.

October 23: “A rightwing extremist boasted of driving from Texas to Minneapolis to help set fire to a police precinct during the George Floyd protests, federal prosecutors said. US attorney Erica MacDonald said on Friday that she had charged Ivan Harrison Hunter, a 26-year-old Texas resident, with traveling across state lines to participate in a riot. ” (It’s them. It’s always them.)

December 9: “Last week, CMD obtained the 2019 tax records of two right-wing funders who donated to the FDRLST Media Foundation that year: GOP megadonor and shipping supply billionaire Richard Uihlein and DonorsTrust, a donor-advised fund manager that has been dubbed “the dark money ATM” of the conservative movement.” Looks like we can add Uline Shipping next to StickerMule on the list of “this company’s owner will pass your money on to horrible causes.”

December 17: “Per capita gross domestic product and unemployment rates were nearly identical after five years in countries that slashed taxes on the rich and in those that didn’t, the study found. But the analysis discovered one major change: The incomes of the rich grew much faster in countries where tax rates were lowered. Instead of trickling down to the middle class, tax cuts for the rich may not accomplish much more than help the rich keep more of their riches and exacerbate income inequality, the research indicates.”

January 20: “Early in President Trump’s term, McSweeney’s editors began to catalog the head-spinning number of misdeeds coming from his administration. We called this list a collection of Trump’s cruelties, collusions, and crimes, and it felt urgent then to track them, to ensure these horrors — happening almost daily — would not be forgotten.”

January 29: “Donald Trump was cultivated as a Russian asset over 40 years and proved so willing to parrot anti-western propaganda that there were celebrations in Moscow, a former KGB spy has told the Guardian.”

February 18: “The Austin American-Statesman found a single, forgotten copy of that report on a Public Utilities Commission shelf in 2011. The paper went looking for it in 2011 because of the cold snap that hit Texas in February of that year. The state legislature held angry hearings, and later that spring Hegar introduced his bill to require the Public Service Commission to prepare a weatherization and preparedness report each year, an obligation that was later neglected.” Texas utility companies vs. history, or Yes, We Need That Infrastructure Bill.

March 11: “It isn’t easy to figure out exactly how much electrical energy these ‘idling cars’ are consuming, but even the lowest estimates are eye-wateringly bad. Cambridge University seems to have done the most legwork in figuring this out, and at the moment, the annualised power consumption of bitcoin mining is 128 terawatt hours. In 2019-20, every single thing plugged into Australia’s largest main grid consumed 192.

Haven’t made a link roundup post in a while, so the rounds are very up

A bunch of gun-violence and police-brutality news stories, assembled at random over the past…year, basically.

Links in chronological order by the time the news story happened, not the time when I found out about them.

2018: “Three officers moved in to restrain Epstein and he’s tackled to the ground [in an airport, where they wouldn’t let him get on a plane] while screaming, “Don’t beat me up, you motherf***ers!” and “They’re treating me like a f***ing black person!”

2018: “Detective Maurice Ward, who’s already pleaded guilty to corruption charges, testified that he and his partners were told to carry the replicas and BB guns ‘in case we accidentally hit somebody or got into a shootout, so we could plant them.’

2018: “‘Eight percent of all men killed in the U.S. are killed by cops,’ Frank Edwards, a postdoctoral associate at Cornell University told Mic. ‘That’s huge, and that number is even higher in some places than others. That’s really striking, to think of police as a major source of homicide deaths. It’s a public health problem.'” (…understandable the stats would be different for women, since they have “male ex-partners” as such a major factor.)

June 2020: “Those men you see interviewed, they were the first EMTs, the first paramedics. Not just in Pittsburgh, but anywhere. The first “ambulance” driver may have been some poor Spanish conscript back in the 15th century, but the men who made up the first-ever ambulance squad with trained paramedics? Those guys are still around.” A 1970s (!!) success story about taking a job out of the hands of police, and putting it in the hands of professionals with actual relevant training.

August 20: “ICE and ICA have subjected people to violent force by guards as they suffer the worst COVID-19 outbreak. Newly obtained records provide undeniable evidence of what people inside have been saying for years, and illustrate a years-long history of abuse that foreshadowed today’s tragedy. The ICE contracting system builds in an inhumane profit-driven incentive to keep people locked in detention. All the while, ICA is pursuing contracts to try to expand ICE detention to new regions, with no accountability for past and ongoing atrocities.”

November 23: “Officers can take cash and property from people without convicting or even charging them with a crime — yes, really! — through the highly controversial practice known as civil asset forfeiture. Last year, according to the Institute for Justice, the Treasury and Justice departments deposited more than $5 billion into their respective asset forfeiture funds. That same year, the FBI reports that burglary losses topped out at $3.5 billion.

November 30: “In the aftermath of the shooting, Ashland Police Chief Police Chief Tighe O’Meara emphasized police believe the blame lies with the shooter, not the young man who had been playing music in his car.” A statement this obvious shouldn’t be so newsworthy. Justice for Robert Paul Keegan.

January 16: “Over the course of the next 10 minutes, Eric was allegedly handcuffed and held down, and two deputies allegedly took turns putting their weight on the teen, whom the lawsuit describes as obese and not actively resisting after he was restrained. Once deputies realized he’d gone limp, according to the suit, Eric was taken to a local hospital, where he went into cardiac arrest. A coroner later ruled that Eric’s death was an accident.” Justice for Eric Parsa.

February 18: “The daily paths they travel as former death-row inmates are every bit as daunting, terrifying, and confusing as the burden of innocence that once taunted them. The post-traumatic stress faced by a wrongly convicted person who has awaited execution by the government doesn’t dissipate simply because the state frees the inmate, apologizes, or even provides financial compensation—which often is not the case. ”

April 14: “For well over a decade, Cariol Horne insisted she was wrongly fired for trying to stop a White colleague from putting a handcuffed Black man in a chokehold. The colleague said Horne, who is Black, had jumped on him while he struggled to gain control of an unruly suspect. Review after review of the incident declared he was right. Then he was convicted of abusing his badge by shoving the heads of four handcuffed African American teenagers into a police car.”

April 16: “A 73-year-old grandmother of nine was picking wildflowers on the side of the road in Loveland, Colorado, last summer when a local cop got out of his patrol vehicle and told her to stop—beginning a police encounter that ultimately left her with broken bones, bruised, and traumatized. “