Boris Johnson was reluctant to tighten Covid restrictions as cases rose last autumn because he thought people dying from it were “essentially all over 80”, Dominic Cummings has claimed.https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-57854811
Mr Johnson had wanted to let Covid “wash through the country” rather than destroy the economy, Mr Cummings said.
“Hardly anyone under 60 goes into hospital… and of those virtually all survive. And I no longer buy all this NHS overwhelmed stuff. Folks I think we may need to recalibrate… There are max 3m in this country aged over 80.”
…I’m not overly fond of giving dominic cummings the attention he so clearly craves given the instrumental part he played in foisting boris (& brexit) on folks
Should we sympathise with the prime minister? This week, as he puts an end to Covid restrictions in England, he faces the biggest challenge of his two years in office, with belligerent scientists on one side and belligerent economists on the other. Politics must decide the winner, and Boris Johnson’s style of government is unsuited to decision. His innate indecisiveness was exposed at the weekend by uncertainty over whether to exploit a “pilot testing scheme” to avoid Covid quarantine, before following the lead of his chancellor, Rishi Sunak, and performing a U-turn.
Since 2020, Johnson has been sorely tried by apparent misfortune. He has experienced serious illness, a painful divorce, financial worries, the resignation or stepping down of his chancellor, health secretary, the leader of his civil service, and the head of his political staff. His leadership was never suited to collective government. It is egomaniacal, based on charm, fumbling, humour and an addiction to publicity – all handicapped by his relationship with truth which is as dysfunctional as his relationships with women.Does Boris Johnson deserve sympathy? Not really, given the risk he’s taking [Guardian]
…but on the other hand
On Monday, almost all remaining coronavirus restrictions in England were lifted. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are still maintaining some measures, at least in the near term.
The changes reflect an exponential rise in coronavirus cases, propelled by the highly contagious delta variant. The United Kingdom reported 48,161 new coronavirus cases on Sunday. In a few days, the caseload could match January’s peak.
Johnson, who is vaccinated, is in quarantine after being in contact with an infected individual — none other than his health secretary.
The British government denies that by dropping most coronavirus restrictions it is trying to hasten the arrival of “herd immunity” — the point where the virus has no place to go because the percentage of people vaccinated or protected by past infection breaks the chain of the contagion.
But many scientists say that this is essentially what the policy implies. Some health experts have called it a reckless experiment with dangerous consequences for the world. Others say it is reasonable.https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/england-freedom-day/2021/07/19/story.html
…it’s not like boris johnson doesn’t deserve to have his true colors on display…so if anyone’s interested in just how bad that can all sound the BBC will be releasing the full interview later today….possibly somewhere around lunchtime…so…anyway…where were we
It was only a matter of time until Donald Trump converted the debate over covid-19 vaccines into an occasion for his supporters to show their loyalty to him — and even worse, to the “big lie” that his 2020 loss was illegitimate.
“People are refusing to take the Vaccine because they don’t trust his Administration,” the former president said in a statement Sunday, referring to President Biden. “They don’t trust the Election results, and they certainly don’t trust the Fake News.”
There you have it: Trump is telling his supporters that they are correct not to trust the federal government on vaccines, because this sentiment should flow naturally from their suspicion that the election was stolen from him. Expressing the former has been magically transformed into a way to show fealty to the latter.https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2021/07/19/vile-new-trump-gop-claim-about-vaccines-suggests-trouble-ahead/
…I know it’s kind of a cliché at this point to talk about saying the quiet part out loud…but if actions speak louder than words
When Dolly Parton received her first dose of the Moderna vaccine at Vanderbilt University, where her million-dollar donation helped to fund the research, she sang an updated version of her iconic song “Jolene.” The tongue-in-cheek lyrics were meant to inspire people to get vaccinated:
Vaccine, vaccine, vaccine, vaccine I’m begging of you, please don’t hesitate Vaccine, vaccine, vaccine, vaccine ’Cause once you’re dead, then that’s a bit too late
She gave it a good try, a heroic try, but somehow the bonehead politicians running this state managed to overcome even the good will generated by its favorite daughter.https://www.nytimes.com/2021/07/19/opinion/tennessee-dolly-parton-covid-vaccine.html
At last weekend’s Conservative Political Action Conference in Dallas, Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colo., told the crowd: “Don’t come knocking on my door with your ‘Fauci ouchie.’ You leave us the hell alone.”
“For people who are politically intoxicated, which is a lot of the country right now, it makes sense to celebrate any failure by the administration,” former Rep. Carlos Curbelo, R-Fla., told NBC News.
“The problem right now is that the voices of these credible public health professionals are getting drowned out,” Surgeon General Vivek Murthy said at Thursday’s White House news briefing.
Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., had a more pointed response to the conservative characterization of the government’s vaccination efforts.
“This is outrage politics that is being played by my party and it’s going to get Americans killed,” he said in an interview with CNN’s “State of the Union” this week.https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/politics-news/conservative-hostility-biden-vaccine-push-surges-covid-cases-rise
Across a vast swath of the American heartlands, the anti-Biden backlash is being replicated in Republican-controlled statehouses in what Ronald Brownstein has described in the Atlantic as a “collective cry of defiance”.
In some instances, the challenge to Biden is explicit. At least nine Republican-controlled states, Texas included, have passed laws banning the enforcement of federal firearms statutes in a blatant attempt to frustrate the president’s ambition to tackle the nationwide scourge of gun violence.
Twenty-six states have put a stop to the extra $300 a week in unemployment support that the federal government has extended through the pandemic, suggesting that they care more about resisting Biden’s economic agenda than about giving a helping hand to their own. The latest to do so, Louisiana, has the worst poverty rate in the US bar Mississippi – with one in five of its citizens below the poverty line.
In other cases, Republican-dominated legislatures have invested in hot-button social issues, aggressively targeting minority communities and other groups for attack. At least 15 states have between them enacted 90 measures to restrict access to abortions – a record number. Thirty-three states have pumped out 250 anti-LGBTQ+ bills, and five have allowed firearms to be carried without a license in a major loosening of gun laws.
The backlash so far this year has also involved virulent rightwing efforts to suppress the vote of Democratic-leaning demographics, especially people of color. In the first six months of the year, about 17 states have enacted 28 new laws that will restrict access to the ballot box, according to the Brennan Center, and more are certain to follow.‘It’s chilling what is happening’: a rightwing backlash to Biden takes root in Republican states [Guardian]
Most sinisterly, bills have been introduced that would grant state lawmakers the power to overturn the legitimate will of the people in a contested presidential election. They would empower themselves to supplant their own winner – the electoral equivalent of a coup.
was the quiet part ever really that quiet to begin with?
On one level, the plethora of new books documenting the post-election months of the previous administration simply confirms that the 45th president was unhinged, deluded and unmoored to any concern for democracy. The former president was so deranged that Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, worried there might be a coup or a strike on Iran designed to keep the president in power.https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2021/07/19/republican-mendacity-education-joe-manchin/
In refusing to impeach him after the Jan. 6 insurrection, perpetuating the “big lie” of a stolen election, playing down the violent attack and refusing to investigate it through a bipartisan commission, Republicans have paved the way for future violence should the MAGA crowd not like the next election. Their utter refusal even now to act in the country’s interest should remove any doubt that whatever parliamentary rules and norms were designed for a system with two decent, pro-democracy parties are entirely inapposite when confronting the current GOP. Rep. Liz Cheney’s retort to Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) during the insurrection (“You f—— did this”) is applicable to her entire party.
…I’m thinking not
These “digital soldiers” aren’t picking up guns or marching on the Capitol — though many actually did that. Instead, nearly 100 Q-aligned candidates ran for Congress in the 2020 election, according to watchdog site Media Matters for America, with dozens of others running for governor, state legislature seats and county offices. Some were hardcore Q evangelists, while others had merely retweeted a QAnon hashtag. But all had shown some deference for a violent prophecy cult that was turning conspiracy theories into gospel.
Like so many of QAnon’s predictions, these candidates mostly failed. The majority didn’t get past their primary or ran in solidly Democratic districts and had no chance of victory. A few won at the state level, and constant media fixture Marjorie Taylor Greene, who has spouted QAnon-friendly conspiracy theories for years, won her deeply Republican congressional district in Georgia. But she was an outlier.
Post-2020, Q believers are once again gearing up to run for office and grow their movement, but with two major strategy changes. One is that Q believers are now getting involved in local elections for school boards and city councils and showing up at board meetings to scream about Q-linked topics. The other is that many of these candidates no longer identify as believers in QAnon — or even acknowledge that a movement with that name ever existed. They’re taking their “secret war” to new recruits looking to strike back against a way of life they feel is eroding — without the public acknowledgement that such a war exists. In doing so, they have the potential to expose new audiences to their violent mythology, without having to explain away the baggage that comes with the term “QAnon.”https://www.nbcnews.com/think/opinion/qanon-fanatics-are-rebranding-their-secret-war-it-could-work
Spurred on by their leaders, real and imagined, Q believers are showing up at school board gatherings and running for obscure local offices around the country. They’re spouting the same conspiracy theories about sex traffickers, critical race theory and the erasure of conservatives represented by “cancel culture” that have long been at the heart of QAnon. They’re scaring parents while firing up disaffected conservatives. And they’re doing both without publicly associating with or name-dropping Q. Either way, the message is the same: There’s a war going on against your way of life, and the only way to win is if you personally join the fight.
That impact is real. In June, the National Education Association released an op-ed asking “Is QAnon Radicalizing Your School Board?” highlighting board election wins by Q believers in Michigan, Washington, Florida and California. And that was before the more organized attempts to infiltrate school boards with fears of trafficking and critical race theory.
…although you’d be forgiven for wondering if there really is a place for a quiet part these days
The Israeli surveillance giant NSO Group and companies linked to it or its founders have spent millions of dollars in hopes of wooing their way into the U.S. market, hosting demonstrations for government intelligence officials and hiring Washington’s most prominent names despite pledges that its phone-hacking tool can’t be used inside the United States.
The company’s attempts to secure U.S. contracts appear to have been unsuccessful, with federal and local law enforcement agency representatives saying in emails and interviews that they balked at its Pegasus spyware tool’s million-dollar price tag.
But an influential network of Washington consultants, lawyers, lobbyists and other prominent personalities have earned money from the company, its parent company or its founders, a Washington Post review of government and company filings shows. Those beneficiaries include some of the most powerful members of the Obama, Trump and Biden administrations.
Among those who’ve received payments from NSO or related companies are former chiefs of the Homeland Security and Justice departments, as well as Washington’s most prestigious law and public-relations firms, the public filings show.https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2021/07/19/nso-business-us/
NSO began pitching U.S. intelligence and police officials on its hacking tool as early as 2014, launching a side company, Westbridge Technologies, with filings in Delaware, Maryland and Virginia, state business records and internal emails show.
Governments must impose a global moratorium on the international spyware trade or face a world in which no mobile phone is safe from state-sponsored hackers, Edward Snowden has warned in the wake of revelations about the clients of NSO Group.
Snowden, who in 2013 blew the whistle on the secret mass surveillance programmes of the US National Security Agency, described for-profit malware developers as “an industry that should not exist”.
He made the comments in an interview with the Guardian after the first revelations from the Pegasus project, a journalistic investigation by a consortium of international media organisations into the NSO Group and its clients.
For traditional police operations to plant bugs or wiretap a suspect’s phone, law enforcement would need to “break into somebody’s house, or go to their car, or go to their office, and we’d like to think they’ll probably get a warrant”, he said.
But commercial spyware made it cost-efficient for targeted surveillance against vastly more people. “If they can do the same thing from a distance, with little cost and no risk, they begin to do it all the time, against everyone who’s even marginally of interest,” he said.
“If you don’t do anything to stop the sale of this technology, it’s not just going to be 50,000 targets. It’s going to be 50 million targets, and it’s going to happen much more quickly than any of us expect.”https://www.theguardian.com/news/2021/jul/19/edward-snowden-calls-spyware-trade-ban-pegasus-revelations
“It’s like an industry where the only thing they did was create custom variants of Covid to dodge vaccines,” he said. “Their only products are infection vectors. They’re not security products. They’re not providing any kind of protection, any kind of prophylactic. They don’t make vaccines – the only thing they sell is the virus.”
“There are certain industries, certain sectors, from which there is no protection, and that’s why we try to limit the proliferation of these technologies. We don’t allow a commercial market in nuclear weapons.”
…& that’s before you get to the “hostile foreign interests” part
The Biden administration organized a broad group of allies to condemn Beijing for cyberattacks around the world, but stopped short of taking concrete punitive steps.U.S. Accuses China of Hacking Microsoft [NYT]
Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken said China’s Ministry of State Security “has fostered an ecosystem of criminal contract hackers who carry out both state-sponsored activities and cybercrime for their own financial gain.”
The diplomatic goal, American officials have said, is to get China, Russia and other players to agree to a set of guardrails for behavior — not arms control, which would be impossible to verify in a world of invisible, reproducible cyberweapons, but an accord on what kind of targets and behavior would be prohibited.
…not that interests have to be foreign to be hostile
When Royal Dutch Shell published its annual environmental report in April, it boasted that it was investing heavily in renewable energy. The oil giant committed to installing hundreds of thousands of charging stations for electric vehicles around the world to help offset the harm caused by burning fossil fuels.
On the same day, Shell issued a separate report revealing that its single largest donation to political lobby groups last year was made to the American Petroleum Institute, one of the US’s most powerful trade organizations, which drives the oil industry’s relationship with Congress.
Contrary to Shell’s public statements in support of electric vehicles, API’s chief executive, Mike Sommers, has pledged to resist a raft of Joe Biden’s environmental measures, including proposals to fund new charging points in the US. He claims a “rushed transition” to electric vehicles is part of “government action to limit Americans’ transportation choice”.
Shell donated more than $10m to API last year alone.
And it’s not just Shell. Most other oil conglomerates are also major funders, including ExxonMobil, Chevron and BP, although they have not made their contributions public.
The deep financial ties underscore API’s power and influence across the oil and gas industry, and what politicians describe as the trade group’s defining role in setting major obstacles to new climate policies and legislation.
API is also fighting a growing number of lawsuits, led by the state of Minnesota, alleging that the trade group was at the heart of a decades-long “disinformation campaign” on behalf of big oil to deny the threat from fossil fuels.
But despite threats to API’s lasting influence, Whitehouse argues the trade organization represents the true face of the industry. Instead of using its considerable power to push for environmentally friendly energy laws, API is still lobbying to stall progress with the oil industry’s blessing.
“Their political effort at this point is purely negative, purely against serious climate legislation. And many of them continue to fund the fraudulent climate denialists that have been their mouthpieces for a decade or more,” Whitehouse said.How a powerful US lobby group helps big oil to block climate action [Guardian]
Enter carbon tariffs, an idea that’s attractive to Senate Democrats, and not just because they could use the money. We’re running a one-way experiment with the only climate we have, and that’s a bad idea. Taxing imports that are carbon-intensive to produce sounds like an easy way to introduce better incentives, especially for developing countries eager to emulate China’s coal-fueled economic boom. Unfortunately, carbon tariffs are a political gimmick that won’t solve the real problems they ostensibly address, and might well introduce new ones.
Such taxes are less a revenue juggernaut than an administrative nightmare: How do you determine the carbon “cost” of a product in a country where carbon isn’t priced? Nor do they necessarily drive all that much environmental cleanup, because so much of what a country such as China produces is destined for its domestic market or consumers in countries with similarly lax environmental standards.
It’s even more challenging in the United States, which doesn’t currently have a domestic carbon price or the bureaucracy to administer one. Certainly Democrats aren’t proposing one in this package. That makes this look less like a way to drive environmental cleanup than what Adele Morris, an environmental economist at the Brookings Institution, calls “a vehicle for protectionist mischief.” The World Trade Organization is keenly sensitive to such vehicles and is likely to throw up roadblocks at every turn.https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2021/07/18/carbon-tariffs-are-political-gimmick-not-real-response-climate-change/
…which reminds me…I forget whether this is one of the things I wittered on about before
Few would dispute that China’s recent crackdown on cryptocurrency trading and mining has contributed to the recent plunge in the value of bitcoin and other cryptos.
But while the argument rages about whether the volatility of cryptos is a sign of fundamental weakness or merely a bump along the road, the initiatives coming out of Beijing are being seen by experts as a sign of China’s attempts to incubate its own fledgling e-currency and reboot the international financial system.
The benefits of an e-currency are immense. As more and more transactions are made using a digital currency controlled centrally, the government gains more and more ability to monitor the economy and its people.
The rollout is also seen as part of Beijing’s push to weaken the power of the US dollar, and in turn that of the government in Washington. China believes that by internationalising the yuan it can reduce its dependence on the dollar-dominated global banking system, just as its Belt and Road Initiative is building an alternative network of international trade.
Alarm in western governments is such that the threat posed by the digital yuan, which could put China out of reach from international financial sanctions, for example, was discussed at last month’s G7 meeting.https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/jul/09/currency-and-control-why-china-wants-to-undermine-bitcoin
Seen from the perspective of central banks, cryptocurrencies are a threat to financial stability, argues Carsten Murawski, professor of finance at the University of Melbourne in Australia, and if digital currencies are to be developed then authorities want control.
…& I could bang on ad nauseam about how bad shit like NFTs & cryptocurrencies are in the bigger picture…but let’s just say there’s a reason they never tried to call it “smart money”
Well before China decided to kick out all of its bitcoin miners, they were already leaving in droves, and new data from Cambridge University shows they were likely headed to the United States.
The U.S. has fast become the new darling of the bitcoin mining world. It is the second-biggest mining destination on the planet, accounting for nearly 17% of all the world’s bitcoin miners as of April 2021. That’s a 151% increase from September 2020.https://www.cnbc.com/2021/07/17/bitcoin-miners-moving-to-us-carbon-footprint.html
This dataset doesn’t include the mass mining exodus out of China, which led to half the world’s miners dropping offline, and experts tell CNBC that the U.S. share of the mining market is likely even bigger than the numbers indicate.
…I mean, that piece tries to run with the idea that at least the carbon footprint of all that shit is liable to be smaller this way…but all in all I’m not sure that call supports the load they’re hanging on it in an effort to make out it’s a positive story…sometimes what we call things can be…misleading…like…smartphones
For inexperienced hikers, smartphones are a multipurpose tool: a flashlight, an emergency beacon and a GPS, all in one device. But it can be ill-advised, and possibly life-threatening, for hikers to rely solely on their phones as they head into the wilderness, experts say.Smartphone Directions May Put Novice Hikers in Danger, Experts Say [NYT]
The trouble is that, while smartphones have made a lot of activities easier, from hailing a car to ordering takeout, the devices have complicated things for some hikers who don’t realize they’ll need much more than their phones.
Further complicating factors include wandering into remote areas without cell service or the devices running out of power, rendering them useless to summon help.
…admittedly I may be biased on this one…too many family holidays as a kid that involved hiking up steep things all damn day when sensible people would have been reclining by a pool or on a beach…possibly with umbrella drinks…but I’ll give my folks this…if you’re headed to those sorts of places the bare minimum you ought to have is a real map & an actual compass…ideally you’re better off carrying enough stuff that in a pinch you could deal with getting stuck out there until tomorrow comes…but that’s probably a conversation for another time…& you know what they say about time & tide
Sometimes, the moon seems to move in mysterious ways.
It’s mostly circles and ovals, depending on your perspective. But there is also something else — a so-called wobble — animating those rotations and revolutions. According to a study published last week, the phenomenon is expected to lead to more flooding here on Earth in the middle of the next decade.
While that may sound alarming, the wobble is nothing new. It is a regular oscillation that humans have known about for centuries, and it is one of many factors that can either exacerbate rising sea levels or counteract them, alongside other variables like weather and geography.
The authors of the study, published in the peer-reviewed scientific journal Nature Climate Change, aimed to untangle all of those variables in an effort to improve predictions about the future of floods. Their results underscored a basic fact separate from the movement of the moon: Our oceans are rising because of climate change.https://www.nytimes.com/2021/07/16/science/moon-wobble-rising-tide-sea-level.html
Rising temperatures caused by greenhouse gas emissions are not the only cause of higher flood risks, and the report explored the interplay of many variables that push and pull at ocean levels.
…& as if that weren’t enough…it’s only tuesday…damn it
…& maybe one more for boris