Tag Archive | Politics

Literally unimaginable wealth [real-money inequality, Bitcoin inequality, taxes, resignations, and banking the unbanked]

“Jeff [Bezos] is so wealthy, that it is quite literally unimaginable. Let’s put this wealth in perspective by comparing it to some familiar things.

New Yorker: “The actual truth about the American tax system is that it is slightly progressive. The richest one percent earn about 21 percent of the income and pay 24 percent of the taxes.” (Honestly, better than I expected! But they could absolutely pay more.)

“This trend has been characterized as the Great Resignation, and just about every economist and pundit has taken their crack at teasing out why it’s happening. […] In these moments, it’s best to actually ask the workers themselves. I did that, talking to dozens of people who have recently quit their job, or experts who closely track workers who have. And some patterns emerged.”

Those top players represent a mere 0.01% of all bitcoin holders and yet they control 27% of the digital currency, the Wall Street Journal reported. That compares to the old-fashion dollar, where the top 1% controlled 30% of total U.S. household wealth, according to Federal Reserve data.” But hey, cryptocurrency is gonna be the great decentralized revolution that lets us escape the inequalities of fiat currency, right?

“DC/EP [China’s test run of a digital-only currency, in beta] would have to be able to handle at least 300,000 transactions per second across the country at peak times to do what cash does. So DC/EP won’t be a blockchain.” (For comparison, a single credit card like Visa averages a couple thousand per second and says they can handle at least 24,000, and Bitcoin averages a whopping between-3-and-4 transactions a second.)

“He told the press how the problems of banking the unbanked were technical — that banks were unable to move money fast enough without a blockchain. This is completely backwards. Banks know how to move numbers between computers. The slow part is settlement and compliance — making sure that everything is done in order, and making sure that banks, and money transmitters in general, are solvent, honest and not fronting for drug runners.”

Political links for the big anniversary of Coup-Anon

General politics links:

They gave millions to one of the groups that stormed the US Capitol on Jan 6 2021. They were the largest Trump donors in Wisconsin, and Mrs. Uhlein took a fundraising role with the Trump campaign.” Reasons not to use Uline (and alternative places to get your packaging).

“The starting point of any sustainable ecommerce packaging strategy is to ensure packaging is recyclable. In the last three years, a handful of articles have cast doubts on recycling. While the news stories are well intentioned, we are alarmed to see how they have led consumers to be even more cavalier about recycling.

“With every passing minute, more people were posting her picture. Many of them wrote that they didn’t know if what they were reading about Wayfair was true, but they figured that sharing it couldn’t hurt. Samara was about to find out just how much it would.

Court documents detail Mazza’s alleged role in that assault, citing video evidence from surveillance cameras and social media. Investigators say they identified him in part by using video from the siege that Mazza himself had uploaded to Twitter—footage recorded with and posted from the same iPhone he later used to call the Shelbyville police about his gun.”

Police didn’t pursue a case on the grounds that [the harasser who left voicemails like “You guys are a bunch of f‑‑‑‑‑‑ clowns, and all you dirty c‑‑‑suckers are about to get f‑‑‑‑‑‑ popped”] didn’t threaten a specific person or indicate an imminent plan to act, according to emails and prosecution records. […] Reporters connected with him in September on the phone number police called untraceable.”

COVID-related links:

…the White House repeatedly overruled public health and testing guidance by the nation’s top infectious disease experts and silenced officials in order to promote then-President Donald Trump’s political agenda.”

This headline has shown up multiple days in a row, here’s one from January 3: “The U.S. has reported a record single-day number of daily Covid cases, with more than 1 million new infections.”

The electoral benefit, they imagine, is that anti-vaccination propaganda will fire up the base, ensuring a reliable high turnout of their most loyal voters. The cost, of course, is that some percentage of those voters won’t be able to vote in the next election because they’ll be dead.”

“Today, a state once nationally lauded for its prudent, pre-emptive shutdowns that successfully blunted Ohio’s pandemic toll, is cited as standout example of abject failure in public health. It is among the top states at the bottom of the fully vaccinated rates. It recently logged the highest number of COVID hospitalizations, adjusted for population, of any state in the country.

“With another coronavirus variant racing across the U.S., once again health authorities are urging people to mask up indoors. Yes, you’ve heard it all before. But given how contagious omicron is, experts say, it’s seriously time to upgrade to an N95 or similar high-filtration respirator when you’re in public indoor spaces.” (Given the state of things in Ohio, I got a pack of these to wear on the bus.)

Something uplifting to round this off:

“Very early on, Walter Reed’s infectious diseases branch decided to focus on making a vaccine that would work against not just the existing strain but all of its potential variants as well.” Generic coronavirus antivirals ftw.

“People will reject science right until the second they need everything I have to keep them alive”

August 11: ““What makes me the maddest,” one of my doctor friends told me, “is that these people will reject science right until the second they need everything I have to keep them alive, and then they feel that they can come to our door and be entitled to that help and that hard work.”

September: “The generators held, but like Terrebonne General, the hospital lost water and air conditioning. As the storm raged, a bleeding man arrived to drop off his fiancée, who had been sucked out of their wrecked home a few blocks away. The emergency room staff got to work mending her wounds as water poured from the ceiling.” COVID-choked hospitals weathering a hurricane.

September 8: “Getting the first dose of COVID-19 [vaccine] resulted in significant improvements in mental health, beyond improvements already achieved since mental distress peaked in the spring of 2020.” One piece of good news! Not only do the vaccines fight off COVID, getting them right now will literally help with depression.

September 13: “My wife and I don’t get to see much of each other. […] Right now shifts start at 8 a.m. and we are currently working 19 to 20 hours the first day of our two-day shifts. Then we’re back up after sleeping a few hours, and we don’t sleep that second night of work. Then I go home and either work other places in my town ― […] or, if I am lucky, I will sleep 30 hours straight.” This isn’t an account from a doctor or nurse. He’s an embalmer.

September 15: “The U.S. has recorded more than 41.4 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and more than 665,800 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data.” That’s 1 in 500 of the entire US population. (And 2 in 125 of people who have gotten it.)

September 17: “On Thursday, shortly after Idaho enacted crisis standards of care statewide, Dr. Steven Nemerson with Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center in Boise said that to his knowledge, no patient in the state had been removed from life support in order to provide the equipment to someone else. But he warned it would happen.”

September 18 (NYT): “Vaccine-resistant Americans are turning to [monoclonal antibodies] with a zeal that has, at times, mystified their doctors, chasing down lengthy infusions after rejecting vaccines that cost one-hundredth as much.” This treatment isn’t any older than the vaccines! It hasn’t had longer to develop. It hasn’t been tested more. The only difference is that it hasn’t been brigaded by antivaxxers…oh, and that it doesn’t last. Unlike the vaccine, which teaches your body to make its own antibodies.

September 21: “We’re in the worst state that we ever have been in the pandemic, this surge has been back-breaking for our health care facilities,” said Katherine Hoyer, a spokeswoman for Panhandle Health District that covers five northern counties in Idaho. “Our case investigators, they cannot keep up.”

October 3: “I did not appreciate the intensity of support for a vaccine mandate that existed, because you hear that loud anti-vax voice a lot more than you hear the people that want it,” Kirby said. “But there are more of them. And they’re just as intense.”

October 13: “We’ve demonstrated conclusively that saving nearly everyone who dies of the flu is within our power. To do nothing now—to return to the roughly 30,000-deaths-a-year status quo without even trying to save some of those lives—would seem irresponsible. So what do we do? Which measures do we maintain and which do we let go?”

The Onion: “Astounded by the damning information, local anti-vaxxer Pete Dixon was reportedly horrified Thursday after discovering that every single American who got a smallpox vaccine in the 19th century was now deceased.

And: “We found that when presented with a counterfeit vaccination card, Covid-19 was unable to distinguish it from the real thing approximately 7 out of 10 times.”

Meanwhile, a bit of history: “When news of a successful [polio] vaccine came in 1955, The Christian Century lavished praise on Dr. Jonas Salk and other scientists. “We hope,” the editors wrote that April, “that services of thanksgiving to God are being held in millions of homes and thousands of churches for this answer to prayer, this successful completion of a decade of intensive concentration on medical research.”

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.

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!