Sunday, July 11, 2021

Links, for the few other things happening

This is many months of links, perhaps since the election in November 2020. 

The GOP decides no post-mortem needed on the election. Let's trade farfetched theories instead. Dems are worried at the gains Republicans made. And, naturally, the GOP wants to make it harder to vote again. Not exactly pro-republic values. 

The Kansas City Star newspaper apologized for decades of racist and biased coverage of black folks. Yes, of course it happened. If this is seen as white guilt or pandering, I want to shoot someone. 

Texas had a deep cold snap that devastated its power grid and its water pipes (in houses and the mains). A lot of conservatives were blaming green energy (because they want them as a scapegoat), but the governor placed blame on the failure of their regulations. 

Witty column about CPAC, the conservative convention. This year it's 99.99% Trump fealty. 

Cuomo's sexual harassment, teasing, and pressure is similar to what is still found in many companies. 

Racial discrimination against black tribal members in American Indian nations.

Marjorie Taylor Greene, the Qanon nutcase who won a House seat, may not have much of role in current events within a few months. However, she is getting a lot of attention now for some of her bizarre beliefs, prior statements, and current political antics. 

How big an impact did slavery have on the US economic system? Are claims by black Americans that they built the US true? I hope to find out more about this important question. It's certainly possible because cottom made up (by dollar) more than half of US exports during some periods in US history. 

Big Pharma is trying to get closer to Dems because they looked like they would win the lion's share of power in the 2020 election. 

Voting rights and Texas.

Russian hackers. Maybe the Biden administration will make some progress. 

China. Xi Jinping and his consolidation of power

The condo collapse in Florida. It's being carefully investigated, but there were known structural problems, but the condo board wasn't able to raise the money for the repairs. 

Image: geology.com


Monday, May 3, 2021

Is covid natural or engineered? Plus other covid topics.

This question is a political football, but it shouldn't be since it's a question about fact and any answer will be based on scientific information. 

As a layman, I'm not going to be able to contribute much to resolving this question. I'm not doing any of the first-hand research. I don't know what kind of equipment is involved in such research. I might be able to understand of the evidence and reasoning, but some of it might be outside the scope of my knowledge. 

So if I decide on this question, it will be based on me reading what biology experts have to say, and they don't always agree. 

Some here are three articles about the question of the origin of covid-19. Robert Redfield, former head of the CDC, opined that the virus escaped from the virology lab in Wuhan. However he said it was just his opinion. Their opinions are supposed to be based on scientist fact and extensive knowledge and experience. By not citing his reasons, Redfield reduces his opinion to the worth of a layman's opinion, which is nothing.  That's a big cop-out for a scientist, and it isn't at all clear why he does that. 

This article states that certain aspects of covid show that it wasn't engineered. I don't find it particularly clear or convincing. Something about the backbone and some change to a protein. There was some huge article in Nature or one of the premiere medical journals that was (I infer) categorical about a natural origin for covid. 

Others aren't so sure. Some report that dissent on the origin has been quashed. Wait, that isn't supposed to happen in the sciences, but it probably does. Then there is a piece of cyberpunk happening with the melding of genetics scientists with computer researchers and hackers. 

From what I've gleaned, there are three major theories about the origin of covid:

  1. It started with bats in a different province. Spread to one or more humans or an intermediate animal. Got to Wuhan where it could spread much more. It also become more optimized to humans somewhere along the way. 
  2. It was a naturally occurring virus and was sampled and set to the Wuhan virology lab, where it possibly changed, and accidentally escaped.
  3. It was experimented on in the Wuhan virology lab to improve its capabilities, perhaps as a bioweapon. Probably escaped. 
  4. (Nutty) It was made in the US and transferred secretly so that the whole world would blame China. 

The claims it couldn't be engineered are (my attempt at interpretation) that the backbone isn't one a virologist would choose. Nor would they make the changes in the spike protein because virologists are better at copying nature than making successful wild guesses at what might work. 

I'll repeat that I don't know. The natural origin narrative sounds somewhat stronger because of the number of bats available in the wild and all the mutations they could support by passing around viruses. Kind of like what humans are doing now, and we are seeing the variants pop up. 

Image: theparisreview.org

Extras. Biden and the Dems passed a covid relief bill in early March without support of Republicans. Repubs look like shit because of it. Keeping a link to a great article about the effectiveness of masks. I hate those stupid anti-maskers. Just wear it, damn it. It won't hurt you and it seems to help. Turf wars between Inspectors General including a covid IG. People leaving the Mormon church because too many Mormons are acting like angry Trumpers and not listening to the church leadership or medical experts who are urging care and compassion. 

India is having a huge outbreak. This video shows what it's like for someone who runs a traditional Hindu crematorium when covid hits. 

I read this on a private site, so no linking. However there was an explanation for why Michigan had a large surge in March: the return of snowbirds. A lot of Michiganders go south for the winter to places like Florida. There they picked up covid, many were asymptomatic, and they brought it back to Michigan to a less-exposed population. And, presto, a surge. 

Image: clickondetroit.com


Update 5/10/21. Covid is causing significant increases in type 1 diabetes. This isn't a complete surprise because viral infections have long been suspected. But it's been noted among practices and now the information is being tracked. 

More updates, mixed. Timeline of revelations about the Wuhan lab. Important related article. And some fact-checking. More focused on gain-of-function.

Update 6/25/21. A scientist has uncovered hints that several covid-like viruses were circulating in Wuhan and were sampled, and some sequences published and then withdrawn. This might indicate a natural evolution. But there's also a detailed discussion of the evidence of poor lab practices in the past and recently and also involving Wuhan that implicates a lab leak. 

Update 7/18/21. Covid and Politics.....and Facebook. The Biden administrator announced or revealed taht it's telling Facebook when it finds disinformation about covid and the vaccines. Outrage meter spins. I guess the government shouldn't be countering disinformation, huh? 

Friday, April 16, 2021

The most important issues from the trial of Derek Chauvin

With my healthcare background, I can observe signs that other people might not notice. I've seen a movie where an actor had a moment of real intense emotion, causing his face to flush and forehead veins to pop. So I used these skills to see what I could observe in the videos of George Floyd's death. But I dearly hoped that the prosecution would bring in experts to do this and explain in detail what was happening in those final minutes. 

Luckily, the prosecution did put an expert on the stand to talk exactly about that. His name is Dr. Martin Tobin. I couldn't place his accent or manner of speaking, with its precision. It turns out that he's Irish, but has worked in the US for decades. (Not enough brogue, sadly.) 

His twin specialties are the physics and physiology of breathing and critical care of critically ill patients. He's observed many dying, and knows very well what it looks like. So he was able to observe and explain so much in the videos of George Floyd. 

First is that there is no doubt that Floyd died from not getting enough oxygen due to the police restraint on him. Chauvin was responsible for most of that fatal restraint. Chauvin was pinned between the pavement and the knees for two officers. His arms were twisted behind his back, His neck was compressed. His left side was compressed. He was trying to draw breath through his compressed throat/trachea into his chest. Basically, he was constrained to breathing with his right lung and little power to expand it except on his right side. And drawing breath through his compressed neck. 

His intake of fentanyl wasn't a factor. He showed none of the signs of opiate overdose, that gradual slide into unconsciousness with reduced respiration rate. His respiration rate (breaths per minute) remained normal until his heart stopped. It's possible to see his last breath in this video at 17:22. 

With my background I was able to follow just about everything that Dr. Tobin talked about. Here is video of his testimony: part 1, part 2

A use-of-force expert testified for the defense, and tried to make a good case. However, the prosecutors managed to slice up some of his testimony because officers are required to reevaluate moment-to-moment and provide care as needed to those in custody. The prosecutors were well-prepared and discussed the placement of Chauvin's knees (using stills from the videos) and showing how the crowd wasn't vocal except for one person, nor was it advancing on the police. The video here

Image: news.sky.com

Extras. Another expert concurs with Dr. Tobin. The official autopsy report. What professional journalists report, in contrast to my idiosyncratic view. A key defense witness, an expert on restraint. The prosecution cross-examination, especially at 1:17:18, is masterful. And Snopes fact-checks Floyd's criminal history. The jury instructions, directly from the judge, directly to the jury. 

A couple of links to body cam footage of George Floyd's arrest and death. Lane and KeungThao


Saturday, March 27, 2021

Belated impeachment roundup

The House impeached Trump for a second time. This time the trial was held after he already left office. However it was still reasonable to impeach him because the impeachable action took place so late in his term, and it was a highly provocation act that deserved an impeachment declaration and trial. 

The trial occurred in early February. This article lays out very simply why the trial was needed

The opening words of the House prosecutors’ brief underscore the gravity of the offense: "This trial arises from President Donald J. Trump’s incitement of insurrection against the Republic he swore to protect..."

This was a more somber proceeding than the last one. It as simple, straightforward, and it let the shock of the events fill the space. Representative Jamie Raskin led the impeachment managers and set the tone. I'm having some trouble describing it, perhaps because I was a witness too, and what I saw and how I felt when witnessing it are so much more powerful than mere words. The people in the House and Senate experienced that invasion and insurrection, and they don't need people to explain what it was, the gravity of it, the fears, the enormity. 

A major point is that actions leading to the riot didn't start on Jan. 6, but were brewing and encouraged well before then. So you can't just look at what happened that day, but also what led to the actions on the that day, and all that Trump did before then to foster it. 

The defense was a mishmash of justification and umbrage at the proceeding. They even spliced together snippets of Democratic leaders exhorting supporters to fight as though to say 'everybody did it.' Most politicians may use the word 'fight' but they also give signs of what they mean by that, and Trump did too. We got to see the outcome. 

Neither the prosecution nor the defense ran on too long, so the trial lasted only four days. 

The acquittal verdict wasn't in any doubt. However, 7 GOP senators voted to convict, which is a testament to the horror of what happened for those who have a remnant of their souls left. 

Mitch McConnell blasted Trump for his actions, but a few weeks later was telling the country that he'd support Trump in 2024 if he was the GOP nominee. So easily are principles shredded. 

Image: nytimes.com

Extras. All the evidence presented. 

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Background of the Capitol HIll insurrection

This article is particularly good at laying out the violent rhetoric and actions that preceded the insurrection and set the tone for it. This includes invasions of statehouses in Michigan, Oregon, and Kentucky. Also the incident when Trump supporters boxed in a Biden campaign bus in Texas. 

There was some disarray in the Capitol police in the run-up. They didn't stay informed on the trends and missed the signs to be better prepared. Timeline and issues. Did some members of Congress help rioters in the run-up? 

Groups were saying that they'd storm the Capitol (a particularly good article, also here). Alt-right groups are taking advantage of the opportunity to radicalize Trump supporters. The groups are in the military and law enforcement, and disinformation is rife. The scope of planning within the groups and between the groups isn't clear yet. The Proud Boys appear to have spearheaded some actions (excellent video), but the Oathkeepers and 3-percenters are well-represented too. More will be emerging as investigations continue. Here's NYT covering Proud Boys' chat prior to the riot. 

Also, what roles did Roger Stone and Alex Jones play? Here's Roger Stone raising money in the run-up. 

It was perhaps sheer luck that more people weren't killed. Most of the rioters were pro-police and not in favor of injuring police just to get to the members of Congress. The more radical groups perhaps didn't see enough support for more violent action and therefore didn't go that route. 

Tucker Carlson says it was just good Americans yearning to be heard by a callous, uncaring, overbearing government. Wow, talk about propaganda. 

A huge article about the work done by non-partisan groups to prevent a huge mess in the election and the aftermath. Election systems were strengthened, sometimes with donated money. Business groups didn't want chaos, but they saw it coming if they did nothing. 

A transcript of the speech given by Trump on Jan. 6. Search for 'fight' and search for 'peace' to get a sense of how much peaceful protest wasn't emphasized. 

Two articles about the belated response of the military to requests for help. Shorter, possibly clearer. Longer with a detailed timeline. There appeared to be almost an hour delay in getting the OK from top military to send in national guard units. The guards weren't able to go directly to help--they had to stop at armories to get the proper gear first. But at least they had partially mustered, or it would have taken even longer. 

Image: brandeis.edu

And more aftermath. 

A Republican Congressman (and Nazi youth look-alike) Madison Cawthorn has a moment of regret, but did it last? Minority leader McCarthy says that everyone bears responsibility. That's a convenient smearing/spreading of the blame. A pundit trying to minimize the importance of the riot. Mostly, things weren't that bad and democracy wasn't overturned, so it's not that bad. 

watchdog of Parler found a 'patriot' calling for much more violence next time. Lets hunt these cowards down like the Traitors that each of them are, he writes. 

In Michigan, the head of the state senate goes along with the line from the true believers, and then apologizes, somewhat. This is such a standard  problem of standard cowardice. 

In Pennsylvania, there's a civil war between Trump supporters and those who support Toomey and a level of independence. We'll see in 2022 who is nominated to the open Senate seat and who wins. 

The Capitol Hill police force deals with group (and individual) PTSD. 

The nutty pillow guy is making 'documentaries' about the election theft. Here is a review: Absolute  Proof is as bad as you'd expect. 

Facebook has its own 'supreme court' and they were called on to rule and/or advise on the permanent suspension of Trump's account. Here's the pithy version of what they decided, including the phrase 'replete with falsehoods' about Trump's statement. Here is a more detailed version

'Daddy told us to come to DC.'

Trump supporters aren't that different from the Proud Boys or other right-wing fight groups. 

The saga of Ashli Babbitt, the woman who was shot while crossing a barricade in the Capitol.  

More about OathKeepers, Three Percenters,  and other militias

Trump tried to get the DOJ to overturn the election.

The New York Times made a somewhat short video (40 minutes) about the Jan. 6 riot, using pieced-together video of the events. 


Monday, February 22, 2021

Whither Qanon now?

[Originally published 2/22/21. It was removed in a sweep of Qanon material but 'reinstated.' That's OK because bots are required to handle chores on the internet.]

I've been casually observing Qanon adherents for maybe 7 months now. I hadn't noticed that they were overly nuts. Some, maybe the ones held up as examples in Twitter, seemed like regular folks with good hearts. I'm reevaluating that impression now. 

It's one thing to care about children and worry that there might be pedophile rings. It's another to think that most high-ranking Democrats and intelligence folks are part of those rings. And to think that others would allow that to continue until they could all be arrested in one huge operation spearheaded by Donald Trump and JFK Jr. who is actually still alive. Not only is that idea nutty, it's rather nasty too because the Q folks have decided that one group (Dems) contains all these vile people. That's scapegoating and prejudice and an extremely harsh judgment based on the creepiest kind of evidence. 

I was somewhat worried about Q, but hadn't seen that any had committed much violence except for one wacko murder in NY. I have to reevaluate that too because it seems like Q folks were heavily involved in the mob action on the Capitol on Jan. 6. The woman shot by a police officer: a Q believer. The woman crushed in a crowd: a Q believer. A guy arrested in the Upper East Side: a Q believer. Few of them identified themselves in the crowd, but it seems that they were there. I'll be watching for the reports.

But what will Q do now? 

Q himself is supposedly not dropped a message since sometime in November. One of the people pretending to be Q, Someone Watkins who runs 8kun, is telling people to move on to something else, but thanks for these wonderful times we've had and the friends we made. Some Q folks are waking up to the likelihood that they fell hard for a hoax. A few hardcore ones are trying to hang on. Maybe some grifters will help them do it and will fake some drops. The latest is that Trump will be inaugurated on March 4 (the old date for inaugurations) and the military will round up those perfidious Dem pedophiles. Then on March 5 they'll move the goalposts again. 

Image: The San Diego Union-Tribune


Extras. Unsorted good articles on Q. An excellent analysis of the game aspects of Qanon and why it's addictive. The Hill. Washington Post. A man fingered as Q who has a feel for how dangerous it is. Qanon is the conspiracy to eat all other conspiracies. A hilarious video interview of four Qanons revealing a variety of their beliefs and also some mutual doubts. 

Update 3/3/21. An article about deprogrammers who work with Qanons. One method is getting them to remember how they started being sucked. The person is led to connect the dots of how they were sucked in, and it helps them evaluate the process more clearly. 

Update 3/4/21. The reinguration of Trump was supposed to happen today. DC didn't want to be caught off-guard again, so there was a strong National Guard contingent. Very few Qanons showed up. I've heard of 4. It looks like Qanon is dead. Now is time for the former Qanons to forget they ever believed that trash.

Marjorie Taylor Greene, a Qanon and rightwing nutscase, was elected to the House. A search of her social media turned up her upvoting calls for violence against other members of Congress, who weren't too pleased with their new colleague. She was promptly voted off committees. Is this a harbinger of increased partisanship to come? 

Saturday, January 23, 2021

Was I prepared for what happened at the Capitol?

I knew Jan. 6 was going to be a big day. As with the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, the fans were planning to turn out. This wasn't going to be a flop. It was going to be major

I wrote to a friend that I was going to make a shopping run in the evening unless things went 'batshit crazy.' That's what I wrote Tuesday, Jan. 5. 

By Jan. 7 or later, I was trying to recapture what my expectations were. Here's what I've been able to reconstruct.

Background on rallies

There had been a very large Trump rally on Nov. 14 that was overwhelmingly peaceful. It could have been like that, but I didn't think it would stay that calm. After all, Trump had been gearing up the rhetoric, and appeared to be getting more reckless instead of more resigned. The prior Saturday, Trump called the Secretary of State of Georgia to pressure him to find 17,800 votes and give the election to Trump. This was nuts for a number of reasons. 

  1. The Secretary of State had been vocal about the issues, how he had investigated them, and how very little fraud was found. This included a hand recount and a second machine recount.
  2. It was too late. The vote results had been certified by all the powers in Georgia, so it was official.
  3. The Electors had already met and voted. 
  4. There wasn't any time for reversing the certification and having a new certification giving the votes to Trump. 
Getting desperate?

So it was clear that Trump wasn't bowing to the inevitable. On Monday, Jan. 4, he floated the idea that Mike Pence would do the right thing and throw out Biden votes. Again, Trump ignored the evidence that Mike Pence would do no such thing. The idea had already been floated, and Pence was clearly not embracing it. 

So Wednesday was the day that Congress would certify the votes from the Electors, and Joe Biden would officially be the next president. 

Trump seemed to hope that he had a way to prevent that, but was there a legal route left to do that? All legal routes, except a very farfetched one, had been exhausted. The farfetched legal route was that Electoral College votes would be challenged in Congress, the challenges debated, both houses of Congress would throw out enough votes so that Biden didn't meet the 270 vote threshold, and then both houses of Congress would vote to declare Trump the winner. 

Did Trump really believe he and his mass rally of supporters could influence Congress to that degree? Maybe Trump believed, maybe he didn't. 

Maybe Trump didn't care about whether the route was legal or not. Maybe he would have been happy to have his mob take hostages and demand that Congress award the presidency to Trump. Certainly some of the mob were planning to do that. It's ironic because they also claimed to be fighting for the Constitution at the same time they were clearly using force and violence to exert their will upon Congress. That's not very constitutional. 

So what did I really expect? 

I expected Trump supporters to surround Capitol Hill. I expected a lot of shouting and grandstanding. I didn't expect that they would break in and have mobs roaming through the Capitol. But my definition of 'batshit crazy' was mobs holding hostages and demanding that Congress declare Trump president. Also possibly kidnapping members of Congress from their homes, on the way to the Capitol, or family members of Congress people. I didn't think it was likely to go that far, but it was on my radar. 

And Trump's mobs got 80% of the way there. However, they didn't take hostages, and they didn't get to make demands based on holding hostages. They probably would have done this, but the Capitol police weren't going to allow them to do that. The police would shoot to kill before they would allow hostages to be taken. So it was the strength of the police, and their willingness to use deadly force, that prevented the worst batshit scenario. 

But not just the police. The mobs weren't armed for the most part, and they weren't planning to use deadly force. The use of force by the police drew a line that the mob wasn't willing to cross. The next time there's a mob like this, they will most likely know in advance that they are have to cross that line. 

Cyborg with zipties for distinguished members of Congress
Image: cbsnews.com