…more equal than others [DOT 18/5/21]

it doesn't add up...

…I probably went on more than enough about my misgivings in regard to what’s going on over in Israel the other day

Israelis are adept at the pretense of normalcy. We move with seeming ease between daily life and life-threatening crisis. Our home front has endured assaults from Saddam Hussein’s Scud missiles, Hezbollah’s Katyushas and precision missiles, Hamas’s homemade rockets and the more lethal Iranian models currently falling on our neighborhoods, along with suicide bombing and car ramming and stabbing sprees.

The Israeli ethos of coping is summed up in an ironic but heartfelt phrase, Lo na’im, lo norah, “not so pleasant but not so terrible.” Even when it is terrible, as it is now, with half the country forced into air raid shelters and “safe rooms,” we know there is a morning after.

But now it is the morning after that I worry about most. Even as the missiles fall, Arab citizens and Jewish citizens are violently attacking one another. More than the missiles, I worry about the terror we have internalized. How will we overcome the hatred and fear?

Israel’s Real Existential Threat [NYT]


…but I figure it’s worth mentioning that something doesn’t entirely add up about calling for a ceasefire

Biden Supports Israel-Gaza Cease-Fire, as Fighting Rages Into Second Week [NYT]

…while also pouring hundreds of millions of dollars in military hardware to the side of that conflict that remains vastly superior in those terms to begin with

…but that’s not the only stuff that isn’t adding up for me this morning

Asked about the path to enact new voting rights laws, Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) has repeatedly offered a pat reply: “Failure is not an option.”

Faced with a barrage of new state laws aiming to restrict voting outside Election Day — pushed by Republican legislators who have been egged on by former president Donald Trump’s false claims of rampant fraud — most Democrats agree with Schumer that the need for a federal backstop is essential.

But failure is very much an option — it is, in fact, the most likely one.

A Senate committee last Tuesday reached a partisan deadlock over Democrats’ sprawling overhaul of federal election, ethics and campaign finance law — the For the People Act, also known as H.R. 1 or S.B. 1 — and there is no clear path to breaking it. A Thursday lunch meeting of Democratic senators to discuss a way forward did not produce any breakthroughs, and lawmakers, aides and activists said they have little more than blind hope that one will materialize.

Democrats confront reality on voting rights: Congress probably isn’t coming to the rescue [WaPo]

…so…naturally now is the time certain people want to speak up about how they’d to do their bit about voting rights

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, wrote a letter Monday calling on Congress to reauthorize the Voting Rights Act, seeking to jump-start a debate on a bipartisan path to bolstering voting access.
The Manchin-Murkowski letter is designed to show that there is some bipartisan support for the cause of protecting voting rights.

It comes as Manchin faces progressive criticism for being the lone Democratic holdout on the “For The People Act,” a sweeping bill that aims to allow more ballot access and that all states must follow. The Democratic-controlled House approved that bill but it hasn’t taken up the bill named for John Lewis.
“Inaction is not an option. Congress must come together — just as we have done time and again — to reaffirm our longstanding bipartisan commitment to free, accessible, and secure elections for all,” Manchin and Murkowski wrote. “We urge you to join us in calling for the bipartisan reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act through regular order. We can do this. We must do this.”


…while others…are looking beyond who gets to take part in favor of who gets to call the game

A new poll from CBS News and YouGov provides perhaps the best insights on how the Republican Party base views Rep. Liz Cheney’s (R-Wyo.) excommunication from leadership. And spoiler alert: They’re in overwhelming agreement. Eighty percent support the decision.

The poll also reinforces, as The Washington Post’s Philip Bump writes, just how much false beliefs of a “stolen” election permeate the GOP base.

More interesting to me, though, was what came at the end of the poll. The pollster tried to figure out just what the base thinks its party should do now to help it win future elections. On this, the base was more split, but pretty remarkably so.

It provided them two options: focus on messaging to expand its appeal, or focus on changing voting rules to try to win with the voters it has.

Nearly half of Republicans — 47 percent — chose the latter option. Just 53 percent preferred a strategy more focused on the GOP’s message.


…& guess who’s back?

When social media network Parler came back to life on Apple’s App Store Monday, it was designed to be a less offensive version than what users are able to see elsewhere.

Posts that are labeled “hate” by Parler’s new artificial intelligence moderation system won’t be visible on iPhones or iPads. There’s a different standard for people who look at Parler on other smartphones or on the Web: They will be able to see posts marked as “hate,” which includes racial slurs, by clicking through to see them.


…so to return to what should be a very dead horse indeed that continues to be flogged to a degree that is hard to credit

Donald Trump’s effort to steal the 2020 presidential election fell short. Now Republicans across the country are promoting changes to laws and personnel that could allow him — or someone like him — to succeed in 2024.

I’m not referring to the hundreds of GOP proposals in statehouses across the country that will make it harder for many people, in particular Black Democrats, to vote. Those measures are egregious and offensive. They are the strategy of a party that has given up on winning by putting forward more appealing policies and candidates and so hopes to win by keeping as many of its opponents away from the ballot box as possible.

What I’m talking about is in some ways even more insidious: an insurance policy to potentially steal the election if the vote-suppression strategy fails.
He failed because enough local officials had more integrity and courage than a majority of the Republican caucus in the U.S. House has mustered. The leaders of the Pennsylvania legislature said they didn’t have the authority to do what Trump was demanding. Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger simply refused to go along. One of two Republicans on the Michigan board caved to the pressure, but the other, Aaron Van Langevelde, listened to his conscience, and his vote alongside the board’s two Democrats was enough to turn aside Trump’s attempted theft.

All of this was inspiring to many of us. To the anti-democracy forces ascendant in the Republican Party, it provided a challenge and a road map.
“At the end of the day, there were good people on both sides of the aisle who were determined to protect people’s right to vote,” Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, a Democrat, said in a meeting with Post reporters and editors this month. “If those people change in 2022, then you have a scenario in 2024 where the good people who protected their states in 2020 aren’t there any more.”
As they target the people and positions that stood in their way last time, they also are attempting to change the rules, so a pro-Trump legislature could more easily override the will of the people — and the objections of any honest secretary of state who stood in the way.

“In 2021, state legislatures across the country — through at least 148 bills filed in 36 states — are moving to muscle their way into election administration, as they attempt to dislodge or unsettle the executive branch and/or local election officials who, traditionally, have run our voting systems.”

That is the conclusion of a recent report, “A Democracy Crisis in the Making,” by two nonpartisan organizations, States United Democracy Center and Protect Democracy, and a nonprofit law firm in Wisconsin, Law Forward.

“Had these bills been in place in 2020,” the report found, “they would have significantly added to the turmoil that surrounded the election, and they would have raised the alarming prospect that the outcome of the presidential election could have been decided contrary to how the people voted.”
This is why it matters so much that Trump continues to lie about 2020, and that House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) and most of his party have abjectly surrendered to the lie. It’s not just about history. The lie is being used to give cover for actions that in 2024 could turn the big lie into the big steal.

Voter suppression is bad. But this tactic is even worse. [WaPo]


In the wake of the 2020 election, there’s been a lot of attention paid to attempts by states to restrict voting. The Brennan Center for Justice has counted more than 350 pieces of legislation that include such restrictions, including a number that have been signed into law. In some cases, as with the new laws in Georgia and Florida, the enactment of those laws has spurred controversy and backlash.

But this is not the only arena in which states — meaning largely Republican legislators in states — are responding to the events of 2020 with new legislation. New analysis from the nonprofit organization PEN America has identified 100 pieces of legislation that in some way aim to amplify or introduce penalties associated with what the group calls “protest-related activity.” A number of those bills have been abandoned, as is the case with the voting legislation tracked by the Brennan Center. But six have been signed into law.
But the intent of the restrictions is generally obvious. Many of the bills targeting protest, for example, both increase penalties for rioting and adjust the threshold for declaring a riot downward, as is the case with legislation signed into law in Florida. Many increase penalties for acts of vandalism or for obstructing traffic. Others introduce new trespassing rules, including, as a bill proposed in South Carolina would do, making it a felony to camp on state property without authorization. Another common component of these bills reduces penalties for drivers who strike protesters if the driver feels as though his or her life is at risk. (You can see them all on the organization’s website.)


…quis custodiet ipsos custodes, you ask…well…turns out that’s hard to say

More than half a decade after Eric Garner in New York and Michael Brown in Ferguson were killed by police, the public is still unable to access this information for the majority of US police departments, raising concerns about the ability of the nation’s top law enforcement agency to institute even the barest transparency reforms.

In 2015, the Guardian and the Washington Post began tracking killings by police, leaning on local news coverage. Both efforts represented an embarrassment for James Comey, the then FBI director, who called it “unacceptable” that the FBI did not have its own count of similar events.

The bureau wanted to collect deeper data that included not just killings, but also serious injuries and all officer firearm discharges, according to Gina Hawkins, the police chief of the Fayetteville police department in North Carolina and the chair of the FBI’s National Use-of-Force Data Collection Task Force.

“We realized the only data reporting on how often citizens died as a result of an encounter with an officer was based off media coverage, which is sporadic,” Hawkins, the taskforce’s third chairperson, told the Guardian. “There are a lot of smaller agencies that don’t get a lot of media coverage, so you may not know what’s happening there.”

The program stalled after Donald Trump became president, Hawkins said, but in 2018 the FBI released a summary of information it collected through a pilot program. So far in 2021, the FBI says, 40% of law enforcement agencies have reported officers’ use-of-force data on a monthly basis. The agency publicly discloses the departments currently participating.

But the actual use-of-force data submitted to the FBI by police departments is not available for public review. The FBI says it won’t release this information until 80% of agencies in the country participate.

Hawkins says the FBI is closing in on 50% but because the program is voluntary, there’s no guarantee that police departments will continue sending data to the FBI. An FBI spokesperson told the Guardian in an email that the bureau attempts to raise awareness among police about the program at conferences and digital advertising through various law enforcement organizations.
Because the FBI has not released any force data it has collected, the Guardian attempted to verify the effectiveness of the program by asking police for the same use-of-force reports they sent to the FBI. We also sent a records request for this exact data to the FBI, which declined to provide it.

Though the data we received was incomplete, it still indicated that police used aggressive force against Black and Native American people most often in cities where police used chemical munitions to disperse protesters last year.


Black Lives Matter activists said a man tried to hit them with his car. The suspect turned out to be a judge. [WaPo]

Police were called to a fellow officer’s home. They found a meth lab in the basement, prosecutors say. [WaPo]

…I guess you could argue that the ransomware stuff, by contrast, very much is adding up

The attack that led Colonial Pipeline to shut down its 5,500-mile pipeline, causing fuel shortages throughout the southeastern United States, underscored that the ballooning ransomware wave isn’t just about money. Targeting the private businesses that run much of the economy also threatens national security.

President Biden on Thursday announced that the U.S. government had “strong reason to believe” the criminals behind the attack lived in Russia, though he said he did not believe the Russian government had directed the assault. Nonetheless, he warned Moscow about the need to “take decisive action” against them. The Justice Department, he said, would step up prosecutions of ransomware hackers and the government will “pursue a measure to disrupt their ability to operate.”

Shortly after Biden’s comments, DarkSide, the hacker ring behind the Colonial strike, told its criminal partners that it had lost control of its computer servers and was shutting down. Some experts and U.S. officials warned this could be an “exit scam,” to pretend they were leaving the business only to reappear at a later date under a different name. In any case, it is unlikely to end the risk from ransomware attacks.

One thing is certain. DarkSide had a profitable quarter. The ring that collected $14 million in ransoms for all of 2020 and raked in $46 million in just the first three months of this year, according to an analysis by Chainalysis.


…but if you were to listen to the head of the russian intelligence service speaking in a BBC interview where he claimed there was no evidence that russia was involved in either that or the solarwinds attack…& suggested that perhaps it was in fact western interests that were responsible…which I did happen to…I can tell you it came back around to the not-adding-up pretty swiftly


…but I guess when you make it all about the bottom line you kind of lose sight of what goes into the equation

The market-driven energy sector has spent a decade or more cutting costs, streamlining and digitizing. Four big oil refineries have shut down in Pennsylvania and New Jersey since 2010 because it’s cheaper to bring in gasoline by pipeline from the Gulf Coast, 1,500 miles away — as long as that pipeline stays in operation. Texas and California have driven the price of electricity down by throwing out the old regulatory structure — the structure that made sure utilities earned enough to invest in backup resources.

In the name of efficiency, “resilience was assumed,” said Daniel Yergin, a historian and author of “The New Map: Energy, Climate, and the Clash of Nations.

But even as American fossil fuel producers proudly declared the country to be energy independent once more in recent years, the energy sector has stripped redundancy out of its systems, at the risk of leaving customers in the lurch when things go wrong. Some companies have declined to take the precautions needed to survive the unexpected, whether it’s bad weather or a cyberattack.

America’s power grid and pipelines and refineries are aging, under strain, often retrofitted with new technology in an effort to keep up. Critics have been warning for years of the dangers of underinvestment and diffident maintenance, and pointing to new threats linked to everything from climate change to terrorism to digital crime.


…ignorance is bliss & all that sort of thing, right?

A sprawling online network tied to Chinese businessman Guo Wengui has become a potent platform for disinformation in the United States, attacking the safety of coronavirus vaccines, promoting false election-fraud claims and spreading baseless QAnon conspiracies, according to research published Monday by the network analysis company Graphika.

The report, provided in advance to The Washington Post, details a network that Graphika says amplifies the views of Guo, a Chinese real estate developer whose association with former Trump White House adviser Stephen K. Bannon became a focus of news coverage last year after Bannon was arrested aboard Guo’s yacht on federal fraud charges.
The Graphika report “is an important forensic analysis of the ways that rich and politically motivated people can manipulate social media,” said Joan Donovan, director of the Technology and Social Change Research Project at Harvard’s Shorenstein Center.
Lisa Kaplan, Alethea Group’s founder and chief executive, said the network’s fluency in American politics and ability to make use of other languages beyond English suggest it could remain a powerful asset.

“These groups don’t just lie dormant after an election, they shift focus and morph topics to maintain their relevance so they can be activated to achieve the goals of those who control them,” she said.
The “ants” appear to coordinate their work on chat apps, including Discord, WhatsApp and Telegram, and to post content across Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other sites, Graphika said. The researchers found identical posts appearing almost simultaneously from different Facebook accounts, a sign of tight coordination. But the researchers came to believe this work was not “inauthentic,” a term meaning that those posting content are not expressing their own views — often a trigger for takedowns or other enforcement actions.

Alethea Group’s analysis said accounts in one of the Discord channels tied to the network encouraged participants to post campaign-related content in Spanish. One message on Nov. 2, 2020, asked, “On the last day before the election, can we spread the truth … as much as possible in Spanish?”

Alethea Group said users active in the network employed so-called “social listening tools” to monitor popular phrases and the performance of news articles — part of an effort to maximize their own reach. One of the Discord channels also contained instructions for creating fake Twitter accounts, and for spacing out tweets to avoid the platform’s automated detection technologies.

Accounts said to be part of the network have faced sporadic sanctions by social media companies, including the closing of 150 Twitter accounts for “spam and platform manipulation” during the 2020 presidential election. Graphika found concerted efforts to sidestep platform rules by, for example, posting modified web addresses that would not face automatic bans by Facebook or Twitter.
After the election, content across the network embraced President Donald Trump’s false election-fraud claims and the related #StoptheSteal hashtag, and promoted Trump’s plans for a Jan. 6 rally in Washington, Graphika found. During the rally and subsequent storming of the U.S. Capitol, GTV featured live streams of the action, which Guo supporters promoted on social media, along with material calling members of the mob “patriots.”

Later, GNews and other wings of the network pushed false conspiracies that the violence was the work of antifa, Graphika found.

Regarding the coronavirus pandemic, Graphika said the network has amplified the unsubstantiated claim that China purposely manufactured the virus as a bioweapon. Chinese scientist Li-Meng Yan, whose spreading of unproven claims about the origins of the novel coronavirus sparked a pitched backlash among American medical researchers last year, is regularly featured in content and has openly affiliated herself with two nonprofits that Guo announced he was founding in 2018.

Posts on the network have pushed the use of the unproven treatment hydroxychloroquine to fight covid-19 — GNews published comments from Guo saying he himself has taken the drug — and repeatedly attacked the safety of coronavirus vaccines.
Graphika said the network also has “continuously amplified QAnon-aligned content,” including by posting an “extensive collection” of QAnon videos on GTV.

Chinese businessman with links to Steve Bannon is driving force for a sprawling disinformation network, researchers say [WaPo]

…but I guess that’s kind of the point

In the final days of Donald Trump’s presidency, all eyes in Washington were on the unprecedented second impeachment of a sitting president after the riot on Capitol Hill. No one noticed when, on Jan. 15, the Treasury quietly eased sanctions on a man it previously described as profiting from “corruption and misconduct.”

Dan Gertler is not a household name, but for more than two decades, he has been the gatekeeper to the mineral riches of the Democratic Republic of Congo, the world’s largest producer of cobalt. The metal is crucial for batteries, meaning that Congo could play a similar role in the electric vehicle age to the one Saudi Arabia has played in the oil age — making Mr. Gertler a very important figure indeed.

It didn’t take long for the Biden administration to reverse course and reimpose sanctions on Mr. Gertler, an Israeli tycoon. It did so in March, saying that relaxing sanctions on him was “inconsistent with America’s strong foreign policy interests in combating corruption.”

But the furor over the Gertler matter brought to light a world that’s normally hidden from public view, one where billions of dollars change hands every day and the fortunes of countries and the outcomes of wars are decided: the world of the commodity traders.

Mr. Gertler, despite his dominance in Congo, is merely a bit player in this world. Behind him in many of his deals stood the world’s largest commodity trading company: Glencore. Like him, Glencore is hardly a household name. But it is the leader of a small group of companies that dominate the world’s supply of oil, food and metals, generating massive wealth for a few individuals and facing little, if any, scrutiny.
Commodity traders make the global economy tick. But they are more significant than that: Their dominance of the world’s natural resources has made them kingmakers in countries like Congo where oil or metals are the main source of wealth. They bankroll entire nations that are otherwise shut out of the financial markets, lending to them against future commodity production.

While they perform an essential role, there are remarkably few of them. Five companies handle a quarter of the world’s oil, seven grain traders supply half of its food, and just two trading houses dominate the metals markets. The top four commodity traders alone handle more than $700 billion in natural resources every year — more than the total exports of Japan.

And yet the commodity traders remain largely unknown, not just to the public but, more worryingly, to lawmakers and regulators, too. That ought to change.

Drag Commodity Traders Out of the Shadows [NYT]

…but I guess it’s a matter of perspective

Patriotic Millionaires, whose members earn incomes of more than $1m or have assets worth more than $5m, campaigned in front of Bezos’ homes with billboards reading “Cut the bullshit. Tax the rich.”

“We’re ending up with a few rich people and a lot of poor people and that doesn’t work,” Morris Pearl, chairman of the Patriotic Millionaires board and a former BlackRock executive, told the Guardian.

“That’s not a way you can run a sustainable society.”

Millionaires who support taxing the rich protest in front of Jeff Bezos’ homes [Guardian]

…what you don’t know, eh?

The federal tax code contains a loophole so big that in the time you spend reading this article, it will have saved wealthy families and their heirs an average of about $400,000. Over the course of a day, the average total savings is more than $100 million.

Families without sizable estates may be unfamiliar with the provision, but it’s been on the books for more than 90 years and has helped the wealthy pass on billions in dollars to their descendents tax-free.

It’s known as the stepped-up basis rule, or, as President Joe Biden called it this month, the “trust fund loophole,” and Biden’s American Families Plan aims to put an end to it for many people who inherit big estates.


…exactly who was it that came up with the idea that stuff can’t hurt you?

Twenty companies are responsible for producing more than half of all the single-use plastic waste in the world, fuelling the climate crisis and creating an environmental catastrophe, new research reveals.

Among the global businesses responsible for 55% of the world’s plastic packaging waste are both state-owned and multinational corporations, including oil and gas giants and chemical companies, according to a comprehensive new analysis.

The Plastic Waste Makers index reveals for the first time the companies who produce the polymers that become throwaway plastic items, from face masks to plastic bags and bottles, which at the end of their short life pollute the oceans or are burned or thrown into landfill.
ExxonMobil is the greatest single-use plastic waste polluter in the world, contributing 5.9m tonnes to the global waste mountain, concludes the analysis by partners including Wood Mackenzie, the London School of Economics and Stockholm Environment Institute. The largest chemicals company in the world, Dow, which is based in the US, created 5.5m tonnes of plastic waste, while China’s oil and gas enterprise, Sinopec, created 5.3m tonnes.

Eleven of the companies are based in Asia, four in Europe, three in North America, one in Latin America, and one in the Middle East. Their plastic production is funded by leading banks, chief among which are Barclays, HSBC, Bank of America, Citigroup and JPMorgan Chase.

The enormous plastic waste footprint of the top 20 global companies amounts to more than half of the 130m metric tonnes of single-use plastic thrown away in 2019, the analysis says.

Single-use plastics are made almost exclusively from fossil fuels, driving the climate crisis, and because they are some of the hardest items to recycle, they end up creating global waste mountains. Just 10%-15% of single-use plastic is recycled globally each year.
The plastic waste crisis grows every year. In the next five years, global capacity to produce virgin polymers for single-use plastics could grow by more than 30%.


‘This is environmental racism’: activists call on Biden to stop new plastics plants in ‘Cancer Alley’ [Guardian]

To limit climate change, by 2030 the world must install the equivalent of the current largest solar park — every day. The rate of energy efficiency improvements will have to triple the rate of the past two decades. And by 2035, the sale of the internal combustion engine needs to be a thing of the past.

Those are some of the items in a new International Energy Agency report titled “Net Zero by 2050: A Roadmap for the Global Energy Sector,” which warns that the pathway to net zero is “achievable” but “narrow.”

The report hails the rapid growth in the number of countries that have pledged to achieve net zero emissions; those pledges now cover about 70 percent of global emissions of carbon dioxide. China has pledged to reach net zero emissions by 2060.

But the report warns that in many cases there is nothing backing up the pledges. Most of them “are not yet underpinned by near-term policies and measures,” the report said. Even if successfully fulfilled, the pledges to date would still fail to cover 22 billion tons of carbon dioxide emissions worldwide in 2050.
But the IEA notes that overhauling the planet’s climate is a tremendous economic opportunity. According to the agency, energy investment would surge to $5 trillion by 2030, adding 0.4 percentage points to annual global growth. Fourteen million jobs would be created. And by 2030, global GDP could be 4 percent higher than it would be if the world economy continued on its current path.

But the IEA notes that overhauling the planet’s climate is a tremendous economic opportunity. According to the agency, energy investment would surge to $5 trillion by 2030, adding 0.4 percentage points to annual global growth. Fourteen million jobs would be created. And by 2030, global GDP could be 4 percent higher than it would be if the world economy continued on its current path.
The road map, however, is a difficult one. It says that the sale of electric vehicles must go from around 5 percent of global car sales today to more than 60 percent by 2030. The amount of solar and wind power added every year would have to quadruple.

The agency also says that most of the global reductions in greenhouse gases through 2030 are based on technologies readily available. However, the study notes, “in 2050, almost half the reductions come from technologies that are currently at the demonstration or prototype phase.”
If the international community could stick to the IEA road map, there would be no need to invest in new fossil fuel supplies, the report says. Coal demand would plunge from 90 percent to just 1 percent of total energy use in 2050. The demand for natural gas would drop by 55 percent, and oil would tumble 75 percent to 24 million barrels per day, down from around 90 million barrels in 2020.
Instead, investment would focus on electricity transmission and distribution grids, more than tripling from now through 2030. The number of public charging points for electric vehicles would soar from around 1 million today to 40 million in 2030, requiring investments of almost $90 billion in 2030.
[N]ew technologies could lead to new competition for critical materials such as copper, cobalt, manganese and rare earth metals, use of which would grow almost sevenfold between 2020 and 2030 on the net zero pathway. The materials are used for more climate-friendly energy sources.

The outcomes could be perilous. “This creates substantial new opportunities for mining companies,” the report says. “It also creates new energy security concerns, including price volatility and additional costs for transitions, if supply cannot keep up with burgeoning demand.”

But the IEA head also flagged possible weaknesses in emerging markets where many governments lack the funds to make the large investments needed. He said that if industrialized nations fail to subsidize poorer nations, 90 percent of new emissions would come from less-developed nations. Due to decreases in oil demand, many oil-rich countries could face a drop in government revenues.


Supreme Court Gives Big Oil a Win in Climate Fight With Cities [NYT]

…yeah…that court…the one that wants to take a run at overturning roe v. wade…but has less appetite for…if you’ll pardon the expression…calling a spade a spade

Supreme Court won’t decide if use of the N-word amounts to illegal discrimination


…it’s kind of all over the place…the not-adding-up thing, that is…when it comes to vaccine supplies…not so much

In delivering vaccines, pharmaceutical companies aided by monumental government investments have given humanity a miraculous shot at liberation from the worst pandemic in a century.

But wealthy countries have captured an overwhelming share of the benefit. Only 0.3 percent of the vaccine doses administered globally have been given in the 29 poorest countries, home to about 9 percent of the world’s population.

Vaccine manufacturers assert that a fix is already at hand as they aggressively expand production lines and contract with counterparts around the world to yield billions of additional doses. Each month, 400 million to 500 million doses of the vaccines from Moderna, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson are now being produced, according to an American official with knowledge of global supply.

But the world is nowhere close to having enough. About 11 billion shots are needed to vaccinate 70 percent of the world’s population, the rough threshold needed for herd immunity, researchers at Duke University estimate. Yet, so far, only a small fraction of that has been produced. While global production is difficult to measure, the analytics firm Airfinity estimates the total so far at 1.7 billion doses.

The problem is that many raw materials and key equipment remain in short supply. And the global need for vaccines might prove far greater than currently estimated, given that the coronavirus presents a moving target: If dangerous new variants emerge, requiring booster shots and reformulated vaccines, demand could dramatically increase, intensifying the imperative for every country to lock up supply for its own people.

What Would It Take to Vaccinate the World Against Covid? [NYT]

…or in terms of an entirely different spectrum

The government has a new program to help Americans pay their Internet bills. Unfortunately, companies like Verizon are twisting it into an opportunity for an upsell.
All Internet service provider participation in the program is voluntary, and each ISP gets to write some of its own rules for how to hand out the money. Soon after the EBB launched, I started hearing from Washington Post readers about their frustrations signing up with certain ISPs.
Verizon elicited the most ire from readers. It requires customers to call a phone line to register for the EBB, rather than just signing up online. And when you do, Verizon tells some customers the EBB can’t be used on “old” data plans, so they’ll have to switch. That might be allowed by the letter of the law but certainly isn’t the spirit of the program.
And unfortunately, Verizon isn’t the only ISP saying it won’t support older plans. AT&T, which also makes customers call to activate the EBB for home Internet, says existing customers will have to select from one of a handful of options, and the plan they select will become their plan after the EBB program ends. Charter says that “an extremely small percentage of customers” who have legacy Internet plans will have to switch to a Spectrum Internet plan as part of enrolling in the EBB.




  1. Speaking of math, John Oliver had a good segment on Palestine on Last Week Tonight Sunday and the huge disparity between Palestinian and Israeli casualties.

  2. I think a good portion of the 53% of republicans think the GOP still stands for fiscal conservatism and states rights and ignore the evidence right before their eyes. That’s my take from random convos.

    • Seems about right. Gallup this last year identified 31% of the US population as Democrats, 25% as Republican, and 41% as independent. So 53% of the 25% means 13.25% of Republicans believe that they stand for fiscal conservatism and state’s rights. 
      Currently, about 16.5% of the US population is 65 or older. I’m willing to bet that the Venn diagram of the 13.25% that still believe in old-school Republican values and the 16.5% that are senior citizens has significant overlap.
      Let’s look at one more little thing. The presence of cognitive decline in adults 65 and older is 11.7% of the population. 
      Now, I’m not saying that Republicans prey on the old and mentally infirm but … fuck it, that’s exactly what I’m saying. 

      • I didn’t explain that right in paragraph 1. 53% of the 25% of Republicans who believe in old-school Republican values mean that 13.25% of the US population believes that Republicans stand for fiscal conservatism and state’s rights. And then go on from there. 

  3. Since we know the Rethugs can’t win in fair elections, if they can’t win with all the voter restrictions either, they do have a long game…
    I watched this Vice special last night, it’s pretty long but if you just watch a few of the interviews you get the idea of why these idiots buy into Trumpism.  They really believe all the shit he said was real…

    • Thanks for jumping in, this was beginning to feel like home, where I talk to myself and the cat lifts his eyebrows!
      I have a small glimmer of hope, my company has started sending out Diversity Equality Inclusion newsletters and we are a NH based company, we actually had Dan Quayle speak at a Co. meeting!

  4. Instead of commenting on the depressing news, I’m going to comment on the depressing doctor’s visit I just had with Lil. Nothing seriously wrong, but he needs glasses. He’s 3. That’s so young for glasses! Ugh. And it’s not the sort of thing that goes away – he’s just going to be a glasses wearer. (Like me, unlike his dad.)
    And the doctor mentioned it’s primarily genetic, but the only environmental factor that research has seemed to support is sun exposure. So now I feel like I did this to him by not spending enough time outside with him. That’s a fun guilt trip. 

    • At least you caught it early is my take.  Both my girls needed glasses at a young age but my eldest hid it until we were whale watching & she couldn’t see the whales.  She finally admitted she couldn’t see the chalkboard in class.  Glasses aren’t as big a deal with kids as it was when I was young & you got picked on.  Both girls are now in contacts which is a blessing & curse.

      • I  got outed by my second grade teacher, who told my parents I was squinting at the board and needed to get my eyes tested. So I’ve been a glasses wearer ever since. Worse yet, my undiagnosed allergies and a weird shaped eyeball (keratoconus) prevented me from wearing contacts much (or getting lasik). But things are much, much better for kids now and there are many more options than I had. Plus glasses are way better now — coke bottle lenses are a thing of the past. 

        • My eldest went to a S.African opthamologist that got her on these contacts she only wore when she slept.  When she woke up her vision was 20/20 with no glasses or contacts!  Sadly, eventually she had to transition out of those but nobody believed her at first when she would tell people that.  Technology is definitely getting better.

          • …I know about those…for those they work for they are clever as anything…but as you say they rely to some extent on things having improved a lot…I know someone from a previous generation who once fell asleep wearing “hard” contact lenses (which those sort of are in that that’s what kind of forces the eye into the right shape/curvature for the focal point to work properly for a few hours between wearing them) before such a thing as gas-permeable lenses existed

            …they did not have a happy morning…by all accounts it was extremely painful & it took some time before their suffering abated & their vision was restored…until I heard that story it never occurred to me that eyes might not appreciate being starved of oxygen?

          • Yeah, vision has to do with the shape of your eyeball. Lasik reshapes it permanently but it’s not for everybody, and even then over time your eyes will tend to deteriorate. Hard contact lenses (the old-school kind that RIP mentions) also reshaped your eyeballs and over time they could improve your vision, kind of like splinting a broken leg. 
            My eye doctor tells me that the good news is that I have cataracts and eventually will need implants and I’ll have 20/20 vision for a while. My eye doctor fancies himself a comedian. 

        • For me it was a dance class recital where I was sitting up in the balcony with my mom after my performance. She asked if it was one of my friends on stage and I scoffed at her “how would I be able to tell from here?” So I got glasses early in middle school. I was super self conscious even though I have no recollection of anyone teasing me for them. 

    • It is not your fault… unless you’ve been raising Lil in a submarine or bunker. I feel you on pervasiveness of parental guilt. It is not easy to evade.
      Both my husband and I have worn glasses from a young age and know that our kiddos will probably end up needing them soon too. You are not alone. And of course having poor eyesight is nothing to be ashamed of.

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