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PostPosted: Sat 25 Jan , 2020 12:41 am 
A green apple painted red
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Honestly, it still sounds to me that people people more readily listen to arguments for or against a particular candidate based on what they already decided about that candidate.

My personal respect for Sanders plummeted when it came out that he was a millionaire and suddenly he went from railing against "millionaires and billionaires" to just attacking billionaires.

He also looks and talks like an old man and I don't believe he has the energy for eight years of leadership in him.

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PostPosted: Sat 25 Jan , 2020 10:06 pm 

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Well, to be fair, being a millionaire is probably not what it used to be. ;) I suppose today's billionaires are what used to be millionaires. But yeah, Sanders has his issues, too.

If I was empress of the universe, I'd eliminate the entire over-70 club - Warren, Biden and Sanders. Not so much for lack of energy, but because cognitive decline is unpredictable.

Though I have to say, there are times when those over 70 are smarter/ more experienced than those who are younger. I can't remember his name, but I was reading about the battle of Waterloo and the 72-year-old Prussian general who overruled his younger deputy and decided that, yes, they would go and reinforce Wellington and the British. Turned out to be the smart decision.

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PostPosted: Sat 25 Jan , 2020 10:17 pm 
A green apple painted red
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Over 70 I can deal with, it's over 80 that's too much for me. The cognitive decline you mentioned is too real.

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PostPosted: Sun 26 Jan , 2020 1:02 am 
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Take the average US life expectancy, and subtract 4 years from it. If I could wave a magic wand, I would make that the maximum age a president (or congressperson, really; and probably SCOTUS retirement age) could get elected. We have a lower age limit that no one minds. A maximum age limit is a perfectly reasonable thing too.

(Wait, what's this thread about....? [emoji14])


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PostPosted: Sun 26 Jan , 2020 1:40 am 
A green apple painted red
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That's 75 years, which iirc eliminates Sanders, Biden, and Bloomberg, but leaves both Warren and Trump. It also takes out McConnell. I'd hand you that magic wand if I could.

The average age of Alzheimer's diagnosis is 80, but I'm not sure what they are averaging.

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PostPosted: Mon 27 Jan , 2020 2:48 pm 

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I'm not sure, either, since early onset Alzheimer's starts much earlier.

You also have to remember that "average age at diagnosis" doesn't mean "average age when your mental health started declining." It just means that the symptoms got bad enough, after what was probably a starting point you can't define and a very slow progression.

Reagan probably had Alzheimer's for at least part of his presidency. I assume that was mostly hidden because he had competent people to cover for him. And maybe he wasn't belligerent and accepted that he shouldn't be in charge.

And of course there are lots of other forms of mental decline besides Alzheimer's.


If Trump doesn't have some form of cognitive decline, on top of being asshole in general, (and corrupt and ignorant and lazy....) I'll be very, very surprised.

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The building of castles in sand, of queens in snow,
That we cannot make any corner in life or in life's beauty,
That no river is a river which does not flow.

- Louis MacNeice, Autumn Journal


Those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities. ― Voltaire


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PostPosted: Mon 27 Jan , 2020 10:44 pm 

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I'm just going to put this here, for lack of a better spot and in case anyone is interested. At one point in the Trump thread, I wondered whether The Atlantic had changed hands. They were hardly talking about him (or politics and world news) any more. On a day when there was plenty of significant news in the US and abroad, most of the articles seemed rather like fluff.

Well, it seems I was right. A majority interest was bought by The Emerson Collective. Based on the social justice focus of this company, though, there's no reason to suspect they're going soft on Trump. Possibly trying to attract a different audience, though, or grow it in a different direction.

Just because it's useful to know where your news media is coming from:
https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/28/business/media/atlantic-media-emerson-collective-majority-stake.html
Quote:
Emerson Collective, the organization founded by Laurene Powell Jobs, has agreed to acquire a majority stake in The Atlantic magazine, with full ownership possible in the coming years....

....By acquiring a majority stake in The Atlantic, Emerson Collective — which focuses on education, the environment, immigration, and social justice issues — expands its portfolio of media and entertainment investments. It is an investor in Axios, a media company started by the Politico co-founder Jim VandeHei and its former star reporter, Mike Allen, and in Pop-Up Magazine. Last year, it took a minority stake in Anonymous Content, the production and talent management company behind the movie “Spotlight.”

The organization also helps support several nonprofit journalism organizations, including the Marshall Project, Mother Jones and ProPublica....


A much longer article on the Emerson Collective, from the Washington Post
https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/style/wp/2018/06/11/feature/the-quest-of-laurene-powell-jobs/?noredirect=on
Quote:
Emerson Collective did not appear to conform to traditional models of philanthropy. Its worldview seemed more or less clear — center-left politics with a dash of techie libertarianism — but its grand plan was unstated while its methods of spurring social change implied that simply funding good works is no longer enough. The engine Powell Jobs had designed was equal parts think tank, foundation, venture capital fund, media baron, arts patron and activist hive. ...

She set up the collective as a limited liability company rather than a foundation, not unlike the three-year-old Chan Zuckerberg Initiative established by Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg. This gives flexibility to do more than just make grants to nonprofit groups. ...

Emerson invests in private companies, Powell Jobs said, not because the goal is to make money but because Silicon Valley has shown her that “amazing entrepreneurs who … are 100 percent aligned with our mission” can find solutions that might not occur to a nonprofit. Emerson is also able to back advocacy groups, launch its own activist campaigns and contribute to political organizations....

The LLC structure also means Emerson need not disclose details of its assets and spending. “The majority of her philanthropy, no one knows about,” Arrillaga-Andreessen said. ...

To make sure Emerson is thinking as audaciously as the entrepreneurs all around it, Powell Jobs will go on “tech tours” ... “She wants people to innovate in their sector — education reform, getting the Dream Act passed. So Emerson has become like an accelerator for causes around social change.”


I have no idea whether or not The Atlantic will continue to be a centrist voice. Emerson claims they will stay out of the magazine's affairs:
Quote:
... When she met the magazine’s journalists after the deal was announced, she vowed to stay out of editorial decisions with words to the effect of: There’s a door between Emerson and the Atlantic, but it only swings from the Atlantic into Emerson; it doesn’t open in the other direction. “That went over really well,” Bradley told me. “That’s what our staff was talking about: ‘Will the Atlantic have a party line on … her issues?’ ”

Still, she is taking a deep interest in the ambition and position of the enterprise in an ever more digital media landscape. Lattman, the former Times editor who is in charge of Emerson’s media investments, now serves as vice chairman of the Atlantic. Powell Jobs told me his responsibilities are mostly on the business side. Earlier this year, the magazine decided to hire some 100 employees in the coming 12 to 18 months, a 30 percent increase, half in the newsroom, to augment coverage of Washington, Hollywood, technology and other subjects..

“She runs really deep,” Bradley said. “She will do a six-hour meeting and really get into the detail. And in those sessions, you hear not just social-justice kinds of ambitions, but, ‘Where are we taking this? What can we do with it?’ … There’s a fantastic competition setting in right now … to be the English-language journalism enterprise for the world. I think there will be more than one winner. … The Atlantic is really interested in doing that run, and she’s very interested in doing that run.” He continued, “She’s also interested in technologies that we’ve begun in, but we’re not as serious as she would have us be and as we will be. Podcasting would be a good example. Video. … And while we have real technology talent, you won’t be surprised that the Atlantic’s principal gift isn’t to operate on the frontiers of technology. And she said, no, it should be.”...

To me, all the new hires suggest that the claim of non-interference might not be entirely true. And "business side" could mean a multitude of things. I've definitely noticed a shift in content, especially recently - fewer detailed and well-rounded articles on important and/or difficult topics, a lot more entertainment and movie reviews, and everything generally getting shorter (and, subjectively, it looks to be leaning more left on a lot of topics).

One thing that bugged me is that the recent articles include one with no pretense at objectivity where a reporter asked Hillary Clinton her views on Mark Zuckerberg/Facebook and then basically validated them as correct, presumably because she agrees with them. My main issue with this is that it was presented as a straight news/ analysis piece, not an editorial, which The Atlantic marks as "Ideas." Admittedly, there can be a fine line sometimes between analysis and editorial but this one is clearly over that line. https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2020/01/hillary-clinton-mark-zuckerberg-is-trumpian-and-authoritarian/605485/

And I was a little bothered to see an article written by Elizabeth Warren that lays out her policy ideas, but nothing by any of the other Democratic presidential candidates: https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/01/elizabeth-warren-we-can-end-our-endless-wars/605497/
Especially placed 3 articles down from the article "Bernie Can't Win"
I'm fine with hearing Warren's views, but I'd be much happier if the ran a section where they gave all of them the opportunity, instead of singling her out.

btw, I generally agree with Warren's goals and views here, but the article is pretty much just a political speech/ platform, and not really a discussion of the situation in the Middle East.("First, I would make the cornerstone of my approach to ending these wars the renewal of efforts to forge diplomatic solutions based on realistic objectives...." )

And this is certainly a political speech, not a Middle East analysis: "In Syria, we must pursue clear and achievable goals that will not require resources we never intended to commit.... Instead of playing games with troop deployments and missions, we should use our remaining leverage to negotiate a fragile balance among Syria, Turkey, Russia, and Iran; mitigate the humanitarian crisis; and keep ISIS fighters in prisons." All that is lovely - but how the hell are we going to pursue clear and achievable goals in that quagmire? I don't know, and she doesn't say. Or even hint that she realizes it will be difficult and maybe impossible.

If she'd written a general essay about the Middle East situation, or a knowledgeable analysis of Trump's blunders, and not a campaign speech/platform, I'd feel differently. Honestly, I could have written the same article and I have no special knowledge of the Middle East beyond what I read in the news.

At the very least, they should have labeled it what it is - her policy goals by a presidential candidate. It seems dishonest to have it be labeled just as an editorial by Elizabeth Warren, U.S. Senator from Massachusetts.


This, and the Hillary Clinton editorial not labeled as an opinion piece, struck me as disappointing and not something I would have expected from The Atlantic.


EDIT: Then again, they do still have occasionally articles like this one, which is a promising sign. I stumbled across it by looking up one of the new authors. IMO, it's a gem and worth reading. A few quotes below, to get the flavor of it. :
https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/01/packer-hitchens/605365/
Quote:
The Enemies of Writing

A writer who’s afraid to tell people what they don’t want to hear has chosen the wrong trade.
Quote:
...Why is a career like that of Christopher Hitchens not only unlikely but almost unimaginable? Put another way: Why is the current atmosphere inhospitable to it? What are the enemies of writing today?...

First, there’s belonging. ...writers are now expected to identify with a community and to write as its representatives. ... The group might be a political faction, an ethnicity or a sexuality, a literary clique. The answer makes reading a lot simpler. It tells us what to expect from the writer’s work, and even what to think of it. Groups save us a lot of trouble by doing our thinking for us.

... Belonging is numerically codified by social media, with its likes, retweets, friends, and followers. Writers learn to avoid expressing thoughts or associating with undesirables that might be controversial with the group and hurt their numbers. In the most successful cases, the cultivation of followers becomes an end in itself and takes the place of actual writing.

As for the notion of standing on your own, it’s no longer considered honorable or desirable. It makes you suspect, if not ridiculous. ....
Quote:
In 2015, PEN America, an organization I belong to and admire, gave its first Freedom of Expression Courage Award to Charlie Hebdo, the satirical French weekly. Four months earlier, two jihadists had slaughtered most of the paper’s staff at its weekly meeting in Paris. The award caused a lot of controversy among American writers. More than 200 PEN members denounced it, including some of the country’s most illustrious writers, and half a dozen table hosts refused to attend the awards ceremony. ...

Two years later, PEN gave the same Freedom of Expression Courage Award to the Women’s March.. ... After Charlie Hebdo, it became an award for American political activism. PEN was honoring heroes on its side—public figures whom the majority of American writers wholeheartedly support. The award became less about freedom than about belonging. As Charlie Hebdo showed, free speech, which is the foundation of every writer’s work, can be tough going....

Among the enemies of writing, belonging is closely related to fear.... It’s the fear of moral judgment, public shaming, social ridicule, and ostracism. It’s the fear of landing on the wrong side of whatever group matters to you. An orthodoxy enforced by social pressure can be more powerful than official ideology, because popular outrage has more weight than the party line....
Quote:
....The idea that publishers exist exactly to shatter a consensus, to provoke new thoughts, to make readers uncomfortable and even unhappy—this idea seemed to have gone dormant at the many houses where my friend’s manuscript was running into trouble. Fortunately, one editor remembered why he had gotten into publishing and summoned the courage to sign the book, which found its way to many readers. But the prevailing winds are blowing cold in the opposite direction....
Quote:
If an editorial assistant points out that a line in a draft article will probably detonate an explosion on social media, what is her supervisor going to do—risk the blowup, or kill the sentence? Probably the latter. The notion of keeping the sentence because of the risk, to defy the risk, to push the boundaries of free expression just a few millimeters further out—that notion now seems quaint. So the mob has the final edit.
Quote:
Last year I taught a journalism course at Yale. My students...always wanted to write from a position of moral certainty. This was where they felt strongest and safest. I assigned them to read writers who demonstrated the power of inner conflict and moral weakness... But I could see that they were skeptical, as if I were encouraging them deliberately to botch a job interview. They were attracted to subjects about which they’d already made up their minds.

My students have come of age during a decade when public discourse means taking a position and sticking with it. The most influential writers are those who create a dazzling moral clarity. ...
Quote:
Certainty removes the strength of doubt, the struggle to reconcile incompatible ideals, the drama of working out an idea without knowing where it will lead, the pain of changing your mind....
I hope The Atlantic pays heed to this article, though I suspect it's more likely to follow what's profitable and safe. One of my favorite things about The Atlantic in the past was that they had well-reasoned, thoughtful articles from people I didn't always agree with, but gave me different perspectives.



Politico also notes some changes. (I've definitely noticed some departures by writers, too. Many of the names Politico mentions seem to be national security experts and/or have a political focus.)
https://www.politico.com/news/2019/11/20/laurene-jobs-the-atlantic-072210
Quote:
Powell Jobs’s presence at The Atlantic has been felt by an influx of resources since she arrived, with the company adding more than 100 employees — of which 50 are in the newsroom — launching a paywall, and unveiling a new redesign. The magazine on Friday added Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post columnist Anne Applebaum, who joins other post-sale recruits like George Packer, Peter Nicholas, Jemele Hill, Prashant Rao, and Dante Ramos....

There has also been noticeable churn, with the departures of politics editor Vernon Loeb and writers like Julia Ioffe, Rosie Gray, Natasha Bertrand, Taylor Lorenz, and Elaina Plott — the latter announcing Friday she was joining The New York Times. ...

There have also been several business-side departures in recent months, such as senior VP of global communications Emily Lenzner, chief business and product officer Alex Hardiman, and Cohn, who is currently on a short-term Harvard fellowship. ...

Bradley wrote Wednesday that an executive search firm has begun a “thorough and ambitious” search for a new Atlantic leader, who may hold the title of president or CEO. ...

So far, Bradley said, they have seen about 40 advisors and candidates for the position, which includes “current media leaders,” “editorial leaders making ‘the jump’ to business leadership,” “digital and product leaders,” and “rising stars from other industries.”..

btw, it's also gone mostly behind a paywall, maybe at least partly because they went from being profitable, before Powell bought it, to losing money when they expanded so suddenly.

_________________
It is this we learn after so many failures,
The building of castles in sand, of queens in snow,
That we cannot make any corner in life or in life's beauty,
That no river is a river which does not flow.

- Louis MacNeice, Autumn Journal


Those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities. ― Voltaire


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PostPosted: Wed 29 Jan , 2020 1:26 pm 

Joined: Fri 10 Aug , 2012 4:42 pm
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I included some free speech-related news in the post before this one , since the article from The Atlantic reminded me of them. But they're probably better in their own separate post, with various essays on academic free speech. I've included some quotes just to give the flavor of each essay and some of their arguments. But of course, the only valid way to evaluate someone's arguments is to read the whole essay.

All three news articles below are about an organization protecting their "brand" by suppressing free speech. The part I'm most disturbed by is that all three stories come from organizations - the media, academia - that should be promoting free speech and not suppressing it. The fear of controversy (and, on campus, student activists/ helicopter parents/ outside agitators) undoubtedly plays a major role in this.


https://www.theguardian.com/media/2020/jan/28/washington-post-staff-reject-reporter-suspension-kobe-bryant-felicia-sonmez
Quote:
An internal revolt is building inside one of the nation’s top newspapers after hundreds of journalists at the Washington Post came out publicly against a decision to suspend a reporter for tweeting an article about Kobe Bryant’s historical rape accusation hours after his death.

More than 300 Washington Post journalists have signed a letter from its union expressing “alarm and dismay” at the newspaper’s decision to suspend its national politics reporter Felicia Sonmez.

Before the letter was shared on Monday, the Post’s opinion section also published an article by its own media critic slamming the move. “If journalists at The Post are prone to suspension for tweeting stories off their beats, the entire newsroom should be on administrative leave,” ....


https://thehill.com/blogs/blog-briefing-room/news/480249-college-football-coach-suspended-after-saying-hed-like-to-have
Quote:
A college football coach in Michigan was suspended on Monday ...“The comments made by Offensive Coordinator Morris Berger, as reported in The Lanthorn student newspaper, do not reflect the values of Grand Valley State University,” the university said in a statement. “Berger has been suspended and the university is conducting a thorough investigation.”

Berger graduated with a degree in history from Drury University, so the sports editor of the student outlet asked which three historical figures, living or dead, would Berger would like to have dinner with.

“This is probably not going to get a good review, but I’m going to say Adolf Hitler,” Berger said, according to the interview. “It was obviously very sad and he had bad motives, but the way he was able to lead was second-to-none. How he rallied a group and a following, I want to know how he did that. Bad intentions of course, but you can’t deny he wasn’t a great leader.”

“Yeah, that’s definitely one. You have to go [former President John F. Kennedy], his experience with the country and being that he was a good president and everything,” Berger continued. “And this might sound crazy, but Christopher Columbus, the ability to go on the journey he was on and his emotion into the unknown. Think about putting yourself in the setting of that unknown, and then to take it all in as you arrive is crazy.”...
btw, back when I was a student - and I went to a very liberal college - the response to this wouldn't have been to suspend and investigate the guy. But some of us students would have probably debated things like whether or not sitting down to talk with a monster is ever appropriate (and could you even stomach doing it), and can you learn anything extra about a demagogue from meeting them in person vs. using the historical record. And we probably would have had some decent discussions. That sort of thing can be destroyed by a culture where expressing "wrong thinking" gets you punished and people become afraid to say anything that might be misinterpreted.

https://eu.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2020/01/09/professor-fired-iran-post-babson-college-asheen-phansey/4425515002/
Quote:
A Babson College professor has been fired for a Facebook post that jokingly suggested that Iran's supreme leader should make a list of American cultural sites worthy of bombing....

“In retaliation, Ayatollah Khomenei [sic] should tweet a list of 52 sites of beloved American cultural heritage that he would bomb,” Phansey wrote in the since-deleted post. “Um… Mall of America? Kardashian residence?"

The post came after President Donald Trump tweeted that he would include cultural sites in the list of 52 targets he would strike if Iran took action against the U.S. after killing its top general last week....

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education slammed the decision...

"The professor's post⁠ is obvious rhetorical hyperbole and cannot reasonably be read as a threat, incitement, or even a sincere endorsement of violence,"... "Babson's process-free termination of the professor in an attempt to quell criticism on social media is censorship, plain and simple, and reveals Babson's stated commitment to freedom of expression to be worthless."...






https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2017/06/whos-afraid-of-free-speech/530094/
Quote:
Who's Afraid of Free Speech?

What critics of campus protest get wrong about the state of public discourse
Quote:
...The violence at Middlebury and Berkeley was troubling and should be condemned by both liberals and conservatives. But the truth is that violent demonstrations on campus are rare, and are not what the critics have primarily been railing against. Instead, they have been complaining about an atmosphere of intense pushback and protest that has made some speakers hesitant to express their views and has subjected others to a range of social pressure and backlash, from shaming and ostracism to boycotts and economic reprisal.

Are these forms of social pressure inconsistent with the values of free speech?

That is a more complicated question than many observers seem willing to acknowledge....
Quote:
Put bluntly, the implicit goal of all argument is, ultimately, to quash the opposing view..... If we are successful enough, the opposing view will become so discredited that it is effectively, although not officially, silenced....
Quote:
This highlights a paradox of free speech, and of our relationship to it. On the one hand, Americans are encouraged to be tolerant of opposing ideas in the belief that “the best test of truth is the power of the thought to get itself accepted in the competition of the market,” as Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes put it in his landmark 1919 opinion in Abrams v. United States.

On the other hand, unlike the government, Americans are not expected to remain neutral observers of that market....
Quote:
....viciousness and incivility are legitimate features of America’s free speech tradition. ... it would be naïve to insist that individuals adhere to some prim, idealized vision of public discourse.*

This, one suspects, is what bothers many critics of political correctness: the fact that so much of the social pressure and pushback takes on a nasty, vindictive tone that is painful to observe. But free speech often is painful. ...
Quote:
Does this mean any form of social pressure targeted at speakers is acceptable? Not at all. ...

What about other forms of social pressure? If Americans are concerned about the risk of coercion, the question is whether the pressures are such that it is reasonable to expect speakers to endure them. Framed this way, we should accept the legitimacy of insults, shaming, demonizing, and even social ostracism...

Heckling raises trickier questions. Occasional boos or interruptions are acceptable since they don’t prevent speakers from communicating their ideas. But heckling that is so loud and continuous a speaker literally cannot be heard is little different from putting a hand over a speaker’s mouth and should be viewed as antithetical to the values free speech. ...
* Just one comment on this. He seems to be ignoring the fact that this is taking place on a campus. So the true question IMO is "Should we expect students to adhere to certain standards of public discourse while they are on campus?"
(And a somewhat related question: Are certain students treating others with the same respect and deference they expect for themselves?)



https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2016/06/the-chilling-effect-of-fear/486338/
Quote:
The Chilling Effect of Fear at America's Colleges

The coddling of students’ minds has resulted in grave restrictions of free speech on campus—but academic leaders are also to blame.
Quote:
No great universities exist in the world without a deep institutional commitment to academic freedom, free inquiry, and free expression. ... Today, these core university values are being questioned again, but from a new source: the students who are being educated at them.

What explains this recent outcry against free expression on campus? Multiple possible explanations exist, of course, including the hypothesis that parents have coddled a generation of youngsters to the point where students feel that they should not be exposed to anything harmful to their psyches or beliefs. Whether or not these psychological narratives are valid, there are, I believe, additional cultural, institutional, and societal explanations for what is going on. And the overarching theme is that today’s youngsters, beginning in preschool, are responding to living in a contrived culture of fear and distrust....
Quote:
Today, nearly half of a random sample of roughly 3,000 college students surveyed by Gallup earlier this year are supportive of restrictions on certain forms of free speech on campus, and 69 percent support disciplinary action against either students or faculty members who use intentionally* offensive language or commit “microagressions”... Counterintuitively, liberal students are more likely than conservative students to say the First Amendment is outdated.

Consider a few recent cases....

The chilling effect of these kind of restrictions on speech were not lost in 1947 on Robert Hutchins, the president of the University of Chicago, who opined during the McCarthy period: “The question is not how many professors have been fired for their beliefs, but how many think they might be.”...
Quote:
Born in the mid-1990s, seniors in my Columbia University undergraduate seminars today likely have not experienced major national threats, except for their vague memories of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Yet these “millennials” might better be labeled “children of war and fear.” ... During times when elected officials have exploited the public’s fear of terrorism for political gain, students seem more willing to trade civil liberties for a sense of security....

Add to this apprehension the fears that so many students of color experienced before college... and it is no wonder that they seek safe havens...
Quote:
.... the students often dismiss the views of their professors and administrators who can’t “get it” because they are not part of the oppressed group.
Quote:
But there is a different, though equally important, reason many students today are willing to suppress free expression on campus.....Students and their families have been increasingly treated as “customers.” Presidents of colleges and universities have been too reluctant to “offend” their customers, which may help explain why they so often yield to wrong-headed demands by students....
Quote:
Students want to be protected against slurs, epithets, and different opinions from their own—protected from challenges to their prior beliefs and presuppositions. They fear not being respected because of a status that they occupy. But that is not what college is about. While some educators and policymakers see college primarily as a place where students develop skills for high-demand jobs, the goal of a college education is for students to learn to think independently and skeptically and to learn how to make and defend their point of view. It is not to suppress ideas that they find opprobrious. Yet students are willing to trade off free expression for greater inclusion and the suppression of books or speech that offend—even if this means that many topics of importance to their development never are openly discussed.

Of all of America’s great universities, the University of Chicago seems to have come the closest historically to getting this right. ...

*What I think would be equally (or more) interesting is how many students would support disciplinary action against those who unintentionally offend. (I assume, or at least hope, the number in support would drop off tremendously.) Part of the problem IMO is that some people no longer make that distinction. And they're often the loudest and most active.



https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2019/05/camille-paglia-protests-represent-dangerous-trend/588859/
Quote:
Don’t Let Students Run the University

Trying to get professors fired because you don’t like their views isn’t activism—it’s preening would-be totalitarianism.
Quote:
When did college students get it into their head that they should be running the university? The distressing trend of students somehow thinking that they’re the teachers began in earnest in the 1960s, a time when at least some of the grievances of campus protesters—from racism and sexism to the possibility of being sent to die in Southeast Asia—made sense.

A more noxious version of this trend, however, is now in full swing, with students demanding a say in the hiring and firing of faculty whose views they merely happen not to like. This is a dangerous development—a triple threat to free speech, to the education of future citizens, and to the value of a college education. ...
Quote:
..Student activism can be an important part of education, but it is in the nature of students, especially among the young, to take moral differences to their natural extreme, because it is often their first excursion into the territory of an examined and conscious belief system. Faculty, both as interlocutors and mentors, should pull students back from the precipice of moral purity and work with them to acquire the skills and values that not only imbue tolerance, but provide for the rational discussion of opposing, and even hateful, views.....
Quote:
Indulgent parenting may play a crucial role here. In an era when celebrities and plutocrats will drop nearly a half million dollars to get their children into the University of Southern California—no offense intended, Trojans—it is easy to imagine that mom and dad are not going to insist on tough love and adult advice when their children call them to complain that their grades are suffering because they were skipping class while trying to get on their professor’s post-tenure firing squad.



https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/03/the-glaring-evidence-that-free-speech-is-threatened-on-campus/471825/
Quote:
The Glaring Evidence That Free Speech Is Threatened on Campus

A debate at Yale highlighted the disconnect between those who would downplay the problem, and the growing mass of evidence that they’re wrong
Quote:
At a recent Intelligence Squared debate, an audience filled an auditorium at Yale University to weigh the timely proposition, “Free speech is threatened on campus.” The debate concerned higher education generally, not just the host institution. And at the event’s conclusion, having heard arguments on both sides of the question, 66 percent of the crowd agreed: free speech is threatened. That represented a 17-point shift from a poll taken as the event began. ...

The Foundation of Individual Rights in Education keeps track of colleges that have speech restrictions, rating each institution green, yellow, or red. To receive the worst rating, a college must have at least one policy “that both clearly and substantially restricts freedom of speech.” That threshold is met only when a policy “unambiguously infringes on what is or should be protected expression” in a way that is “obvious on the face of the policy and does not depend on how the policy is applied.”...



https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2017/09/students-free-speech-campus-protest/539673/
Quote:
Is Free Speech Really Challenged on Campus?

Two historians debate the role of universities in fostering a commitment to the open exchange of ideas.

_________________
It is this we learn after so many failures,
The building of castles in sand, of queens in snow,
That we cannot make any corner in life or in life's beauty,
That no river is a river which does not flow.

- Louis MacNeice, Autumn Journal


Those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities. ― Voltaire


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PostPosted: Thu 30 Jan , 2020 4:30 pm 

Joined: Fri 10 Aug , 2012 4:42 pm
Posts: 2006
Old news (2011) but I'd never heard of this guy before. Others might be interested too.
He also has a book out, The Party is Over, that slams both parties, though it seems more focused on the Republicans (which Lofgren was, for decades)

https://washingtonmonthly.com/2011/09/04/mike-lofgren-leaves-the-cult/
Quote:
Before this morning, I’d never heard of Mike Lofgren. But James Fallows explained that Lofgren recently retired from a lengthy career as an esteemed Capitol Hill staffer. Fallows characterized him as a respected, knowledgeable figure.

And with this in mind, it was rather striking to read the lengthy piece Lofgren wrote for Truth Out, published yesterday with this headline: “Goodbye to All That: Reflections of a GOP Operative Who Left the Cult.”...



Lofgren's essay, on which The Party is Over is based:
https://truthout.org/articles/goodbye-to-all-that-reflections-of-a-gop-operative-who-left-the-cult/
Quote:
Barbara Stanwyck: “We're both rotten!”

Fred MacMurray: “Yeah – only you're a little more rotten.” -“Double Indemnity” (1944)

Those lines of dialogue from a classic film noir sum up the state of the two political parties in contemporary America. Both parties are rotten – how could they not be, given the complete infestation of the political system by corporate money on a scale that now requires a presidential candidate to raise upwards of a billion dollars to be competitive in the general election? Both parties are captives to corporate loot. The main reason the Democrats' health care bill will be a budget buster once it fully phases in is the Democrats' rank capitulation to corporate interests – no single-payer system, in order to mollify the insurers; and no negotiation of drug prices, a craven surrender to Big Pharma.

But both parties are not rotten in quite the same way. The Democrats have their share of machine politicians, careerists, corporate bagmen, egomaniacs and kooks. Nothing, however, quite matches the modern GOP.

To those millions of Americans who have finally begun paying attention to politics and watched with exasperation the tragicomedy of the debt ceiling extension, it may have come as a shock that the Republican Party is so full of lunatics. To be sure, the party, like any political party on earth, has always had its share of crackpots, like Robert K. Dornan or William E. Dannemeyer. But the crackpot outliers of two decades ago have become the vital center today....


It's very, very long but also very perceptive, with a few surprises. A handful of quotes below:
Quote:
The only thing that can keep the Senate functioning is collegiality and good faith. During periods of political consensus, for instance, the World War II and early post-war eras, the Senate was a “high functioning” institution: filibusters were rare and the body was legislatively productive. Now, one can no more picture the current Senate producing the original Medicare Act than the old Supreme Soviet having legislated the Bill of Rights.

Far from being a rarity, virtually every bill, every nominee for Senate confirmation and every routine procedural motion is now subject to a Republican filibuster. Under the circumstances, it is no wonder that Washington is gridlocked: legislating has now become war minus the shooting, something one could have observed 80 years ago in the Reichstag of the Weimar Republic....

A couple of years ago, a Republican committee staff director told me candidly (and proudly) what the method was to all this obstruction and disruption. Should Republicans succeed in obstructing the Senate from doing its job, it would further lower Congress’s generic favorability rating among the American people. By sabotaging the reputation of an institution of government, the party that is programmatically against government would come out the relative winner….
Undermining Americans’ belief in their own institutions of self-government remains a prime GOP electoral strategy...
Quote:
While Democrats temporized, or even dismissed the fears of the white working class as racist or nativist, Republicans went to work. To be sure, the business wing of the Republican Party consists of the most energetic outsourcers, wage cutters and hirers of sub-minimum wage immigrant labor to be found anywhere on the globe. But the faux-populist wing of the party, knowing the mental compartmentalization that occurs in most low-information voters, played on the fears of that same white working class to focus their anger on scapegoats that do no damage to corporations' bottom lines: instead of raising the minimum wage, let's build a wall on the Southern border (then hire a defense contractor to incompetently manage it). Instead of predatory bankers, it's evil Muslims. Or evil gays. Or evil abortionists.

How do they manage to do this? Because Democrats ceded the field. Above all, they do not understand language. Their initiatives are posed in impenetrable policy-speak: the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The what? – can anyone even remember it? No wonder the pejorative “Obamacare” won out. Contrast that with the Republicans' Patriot Act. You're a patriot, aren't you? Does anyone at the GED level have a clue what a Stimulus Bill is supposed to be? Why didn't the White House call it the Jobs Bill and keep pounding on that theme?

You know that Social Security and Medicare are in jeopardy when even Democrats refer to them as entitlements. “Entitlement” has a negative sound in colloquial English: somebody who is “entitled” selfishly claims something he doesn't really deserve. Why not call them “earned benefits,” which is what they are because we all contribute payroll taxes to fund them? That would never occur to the Democrats. Republicans don't make that mistake; they are relentlessly on message: it is never the “estate tax,” it is the “death tax.”...
Quote:
The results of the last decade of unbridled militarism and the Democrats' cowardly refusal to reverse it[4], have been disastrous both strategically and fiscally. It has made the United States less prosperous, less secure and less free. Unfortunately, the militarism and the promiscuous intervention it gives rise to are only likely to abate when the Treasury is exhausted, just as it happened to the Dutch Republic and the British Empire....
Quote:
Pandering to fundamentalism is a full-time vocation in the GOP. Beginning in the 1970s, religious cranks ceased simply to be a minor public nuisance in this country and grew into the major element of the Republican rank and file. Pat Robertson's strong showing in the 1988 Iowa Caucus signaled the gradual merger of politics and religion in the party. The results are all around us: if the American people poll more like Iranians or Nigerians than Europeans or Canadians on questions of evolution versus creationism, scriptural inerrancy, the existence of angels and demons, and so forth, that result is due to the rise of the religious right, its insertion into the public sphere by the Republican Party and the consequent normalizing of formerly reactionary or quaint beliefs....
Quote:
If you think Paul Ryan and his Ayn Rand-worshipping colleagues aren't after your Social Security and Medicare, I am here to disabuse you of your naiveté.[5] They will move heaven and earth to force through tax cuts that will so starve the government of revenue that they will be “forced” to make “hard choices” – and that doesn't mean repealing those very same tax cuts, it means cutting the benefits for which you worked....

_________________
It is this we learn after so many failures,
The building of castles in sand, of queens in snow,
That we cannot make any corner in life or in life's beauty,
That no river is a river which does not flow.

- Louis MacNeice, Autumn Journal


Those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities. ― Voltaire


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PostPosted: Tue 04 Feb , 2020 3:24 pm 

Joined: Fri 10 Aug , 2012 4:42 pm
Posts: 2006
Something that rarely gets mentioned by most news media (the cynic in me suspects there's a reason for this). Or most climate change activists, for that matter - especially the ones who are young and have grown up in a technology-addicted world, where "connected" is becoming incorporated into everything, and many people think that consulting your cell phone every 15 minutes is the only way to live. It's easy to blame the faceless them and "the evil corporations" and so forth for everything. But the problem is also us and our wants, which the corporations fulfill.


https://e360.yale.edu/features/energy-hogs-can-huge-data-centers-be-made-more-efficient
Quote:
The cloud is coming back to Earth with a bump. That ethereal place where we store our data, stream our movies, and email the world has a physical presence – in hundreds of giant data centers that are taking a growing toll on the planet....

We are often told that the world’s economy is dematerializing – that physical analog stuff is being replaced by digital data, and that this data has minimal ecological footprint. But not so fast. If the global IT industry were a country, only China and the United States would contribute more to climate change ...

Storing, moving, processing, and analyzing data all require energy. Lots of it. The processors in the biggest data centers hum with as much energy as can be delivered by a large power station, 1,000 megawatts or more. And it can take as much energy again to keep the servers and surrounding buildings from overheating.

Almost every keystroke adds to this. Google estimates that a typical search using its services requires as much energy as illuminating a 60-watt light bulb for 17 seconds and typically is responsible for emitting 0.2 grams of CO2. Which doesn’t sound a lot until you begin to think about how many searches you might make in a year.

And these days, Google is data-lite. Streaming video through the internet is what really racks up the data count....


https://www.computerworld.com/article/3431148/why-data-centres-are-the-new-frontier-in-the-fight-against-climate-change.html
Quote:
Why Data Centers are the New Frontier in the Fight Against Climate Change
As we continue to generate more data than ever before, how can we stop the data centers that house this information from destroying the planet?



Related, in an article I read a while back on noise pollution:
https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2019/11/the-end-of-silence/598366/
Quote:
Karthic Thallikar first noticed the noise sometime in late 2014, back when he still enjoyed taking walks around his neighborhood.

.... Until recently, the area around Brittany Heights had been mostly farmland, and there remained a patchwork of alfalfa fields alongside open ranges scruffy with mesquite and coyotes.

... It was during one of these strolls that Thallikar first became aware of a low, monotone hum, like a blender whirring somewhere in the distance. ...Just one single, persistent note: EHHNNNNNNNN. Evening after evening, he realized, the sound was there—every night, on every street. The whine became a constant, annoying soundtrack to his walks.

And then it spread. ...

Eventually, the community discovered that it was coming from a data center.
Quote:
Arizona attracts data centers the way Florida attracts plastic surgeons. The state has low humidity; proximity to California—where many users and customers are based—but without its earthquakes or energy prices; and, thanks to lobbying efforts by CyrusOne, generous tax incentives for companies that drop their servers there. Walk 10 minutes due north from CyrusOne’s Chandler complex, and you’ll reach two other data centers, with a third just down the road. Drive 15 minutes from there, and you’ll come across three more. Continue farther east past Wild West Paintball, and you’ll hit an Apple data center, which will soon be joined by a Google facility, plus another data center from CyrusOne....

...As the sun and traffic dropped, the intensity of the hum rose. The droning wasn’t loud, but it was noticeable. It became irritatingly noticeable as the sky dimmed to black, escalating from a wheezy buzz to a clear, crisp, unending whine....

We were silent again and listened to the data center moaning. Which was also, in a sense, the sound of us living: the sound of furniture being purchased, of insurance policies compared, of shipments dispatched and deliveries confirmed, of security systems activated, of cable bills paid. In Forest City, North Carolina, where some Facebook servers have moved in, the whine is the sound of people liking, commenting, streaming a video of five creative ways to make eggs, uploading bachelorette-party photos....








And on a completely different topic. I was reminded of this editorial by some liberals' obvious disdain for the Midwest and rural voters when they discussed the snafus with reporting Iowa caucus results last night. Even though the delay won't really matter to anyone other than the cable news programs, who IMO are mostly upset they lost their audience by not getting real time information.:
https://www.nytimes.com/2019/11/08/opinion/warren-biden-trump.html
Quote:
How the Insufferably Woke Help Trump

Democrats are insulting and condescending to the swing-state voters they need the most.
Quote:
...It’s no mystery why so many Democrats can no longer connect to the white working class. Progressives promise free college, free health care, free child care, and scream in bafflement, What’s wrong with you people?

No doubt, some of those people are racist and xenophobic. But many others simply feel insulted and dismissed. And these are voters who can still be persuaded to save our country from a disastrous second term of a corrupt and unstable president.

Barack Obama, still the smartest politician in the land, knows this; a week ago, he rightfully called out the call-out culture that marginalizes so many people who are ready to vote against Trump.

“This idea of purity and you’re never compromised and you’re always politically ‘woke’ and all that stuff,” he said, to a round of applause. “You should get over that quickly.” He was talking about an attitude, not necessarily policies — an attitude that dominates the bullying fringe of his own party. Predictably, he was called out for being paternalistic, with a boomer attitude....

You can try to win the election by expanding the pool of progressive voters over all. But the inconvenient fact remains that a relatively small pool of working-class voters in the handful of battleground states are still likely to determine the fate of the country next year...
btw, I've always though it's interesting that people who get upset about any form of bias, when it comes to minority groups or women or gender identity, consider it acceptable to think that people in big cities or on the coasts are smarter, better, more accepting, and in all ways superior to those who live in the Midwest or in rural areas. And that all rural areas are alike. Even when they themselves have never lived anywhere except the suburbs.

I've noticed that the US news media encourage this, by going and finding the least educated people, often in very isolated areas with high poverty rates, like the hills of Kentucky, and asking them a brief question or two about Trump. But the UK's The Guardianhad a decent article once, where they went and interviewed a few people from different backgrounds in one Iowa county and listened to them properly.
https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/jan/13/swing-voters-donald-trump-crazy-but-will-get-my-vote-us-election-2020-iowa
Quote:
Swing voters on Trump: 'He drives me crazy but he'll get my vote'

In the latest dispatch from counties where voters swung from Obama to Trump, Chris McGreal finds residents of Howard county, Iowa, pining for calmer days but many crediting the president on the economy
Quote:
It is Neil Shaffer’s job to get Donald Trump re-elected in a patch of rural Iowa that saw the largest swing in voters in the country from America’s first black president to one of its most divisive in 2016. But even Shaffer, the Republican party chair in Howard county, is not sure he’ll be voting for Trump again. ....
And, of course, you'll get a different mix of people in other parts of Iowa or the Midwest, for instance in the college towns.



OT: After listening to both liberals and conservatives discussing Pete Buttigieg online, I might have to take back what I said about his homesexuality being an issue for too many voters. :) He's even winning over some conservatives and no one seems to give a damn about his sex life. The only people who seem to care are some super-religious "stopping abortion is my only issue" sorts, and they wouldn't vote for any Democrat anyway.
As I've said all along, Buttigieg would be my choice and I'm glad to see this.

_________________
It is this we learn after so many failures,
The building of castles in sand, of queens in snow,
That we cannot make any corner in life or in life's beauty,
That no river is a river which does not flow.

- Louis MacNeice, Autumn Journal


Those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities. ― Voltaire


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PostPosted: Tue 11 Feb , 2020 3:11 pm 

Joined: Fri 10 Aug , 2012 4:42 pm
Posts: 2006
As far as I can tell, this does not seem to be widely reported in the US:

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/02/civil-rights-groups-sue-state-israel-boycott-law-200210180553709.html
Quote:
United States civil rights groups announced on Monday that they filed a lawsuit against a public university in the US state of Georgia, after the school cancelled a speaking engagement of a journalist who refused to sign a pledge to not boycott the Israeli government. ...

"As the conference date approached I was told that I must sign a contract pledging to not participate in boycotts against Israel," Martin said during Monday's news conference. "Knowing that this was a violation against my constitutional right to free speech and right to protest, I informed them that I could not sign such a contract. I was then cancelled as the speaker from the conference," she said...."I was scheduled to give a talk as a journalist about media and media literacy,"...

In 2016, Georgia Governor Nathan Deal signed into law a bill requiring any person or company entering with the state of Georgia into a contract worth $1,000 or more to sign a pledge not to engage in political boycott of the Israeli government.

Similar measures have been enacted in at least 28 other states across the US....

In July, the US House of Representatives passed a resolution opposing the BDS movement. The move followed a similar bill that passed in the Senate, allowing states or local governments to refuse to do business with companies or individuals that boycott Israel.

Critics say such measures violate the right to free speech guaranteed under the First Amendment of the US Constitution, which protects individuals' right to participate in boycotts as a form of peaceful, political protest....

I am often surprised that Americans are not more outraged over this. It's been going on for a while.




Interesting (long) article that examines all sides of the issue.
https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/feb/11/foster-care-short-stays-new-mexico
Quote:
It felt like being kidnapped': the trauma of short stays in foster care

Every year, about 17,000 children are taken from their families only to be returned within days. The impact can be lifelong
Quote:
The children usually arrived in the dead of night, silent and terrified.

For two years, Daniel Derkacs and Ashley Keiler-Green, foster parents in Albuquerque, New Mexico, regularly took in kids whose parents were suspected of abusing or neglecting them. Sometimes, as the couple scrambled to find pajamas for their latest house guest, they wondered if they’d just met a child who would be with them for years to come.

But they rarely had time to get acquainted. Of the 50 children placed in their care from 2017 to 2019, more than three-quarters were returned to their own families within days, they said. For Keiler-Green, a doctor, the churn felt like working in the ER.

“You get to know this vulnerable person intimately, on the worst day of their life,” she said. “You patch them up a bit, you fall in love a bit. And then, poof – you have no idea what happens to them after that.”...

...every year, an average of nearly 17,000 children are removed from their families’ custody and placed in foster care only to be reunited within 10 days, according to a Marshall Project analysis of federal Department of Health and Human Services records dating back a decade.

Every state allows certain officials – such as police officers, child-services workers or hospital staff – to take a child from their parents without a court order if they believe the child faces imminent danger of physical harm. In most states, police and child-services officials work together during emergency removals, often making split-second decisions in high-pressure situations. Nightmare stories abound of children dying after warning signs of abuse and neglect were ignored.

But this analysis shows thousands of children taken from their homes without court approval are quickly returned to their families after child-services officials review the evidence. ...

Among states, New Mexico ranked first: in recent years, about 40% of its foster children returned home within a few days or weeks. That’s due in part to an unusual state law that lets police unilaterally take children into foster care for a 48-hour “hold” while their parents are investigated by child services.

About 42% of short stays in New Mexico stem from various forms of alleged neglect; these cases are often poverty related, such as when parents cannot provide adequate housing or food or leave their kids home alone because they cannot afford childcare. Eighteen per cent are due to alleged physical or sexual abuse....

Although short stays in foster care may seem too fleeting to matter, they often inflict lasting damage....

_________________
It is this we learn after so many failures,
The building of castles in sand, of queens in snow,
That we cannot make any corner in life or in life's beauty,
That no river is a river which does not flow.

- Louis MacNeice, Autumn Journal


Those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities. ― Voltaire


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PostPosted: Thu 13 Feb , 2020 9:03 pm 

Joined: Fri 10 Aug , 2012 4:42 pm
Posts: 2006
An interesting pair of articles, when taken together. The first one was published a few days ago:
https://www.forbes.com/sites/rogerpielke/2020/02/09/a-climate-blacklist-that-works-it-should-make-her-unhirable-in-academia/#1881352a6368
Quote:
How Academic ‘Blacklists’ Impede Serious Work On Climate Science
Quote:
A climate advocacy group called Skeptical Science hosts a list of academics that it has labeled “climate misinformers.” The list includes 17 academics and is intended as a blacklist. We know of this intent because one of the principals of Skeptical Science, a blogger named Dana Nuccitelli, said so last Friday, writing of one academic on their list, “if you look at the statements we cataloged and debunked on her [Skeptical Science] page, it should make her unhirable in academia.”

That so-called “unhirable” academic is Professor Judy Curry, formerly the chair of the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at Georgia Tech, and a Fellow of both the American Geophysical Union and American Meteorological Society. ....

How can it be that a website, founded by an Australian cartoonist named John Cook and run mainly by volunteer non-academics and amateur scientists, can rise to the position of not just claiming to arbitrate who is and who is not an appropriate hire for universities, but actually fulfilling that role?...

But what has happened to Curry is just the tip of the iceberg.

Upon discussing on Twitter the Skeptical Science claim that their “debunking” of Curry should make her “unhirable in academia,” a follower of mine pointed to a trove of hacked internal discussions among the Skeptical Science team. In those discussions from around 2010-2012, my father, Roger Pielke, Sr. — also a prominent atmospheric scientist — was mentioned some 3,700 times. Correspondingly, my father is also listed on the Skeptical Science blacklist.

I have read those internal discussions and what I saw is incredibly disturbing, for academic freedom and for simple human decency....

One interesting thing I've read about Dr Curry is that she did some of the early work supporting climate change. But she is not a climate alarmist and is skeptical about some of the more extreme predictions of the models. I've looked at some of the things she wrote and honestly don't see what the climate alarmists find so terrible about her, besides routine academic disagreement. There are similar spats and disagreements going on all over the place, in many fields. In extreme cases, the participants avoid citing each others' papers except when it's absolutely unavoidable, and then they do it grudgingly. :) But never, except in the case of the climate change field, do they seem to resort to blacklists and lawsuits.

I should add that there is a paragraph or two of obvious right-wing bias in this editorial, concerning "Skeptical Science's" involvement in politics. And the person who wrote it has a stake in the issue, which he admits. But I still found it revealing for the tactics in Skeptical Science's emails. I don't like this sort of interference in science/ academia by either right- or left-leaning political groups.



https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2017/01/03/dc-appeals-court-says-climate-scientist-may-sue-over-blog-posts-questioning-his
Quote:
A District of Columbia appeals court has given a major legal win to Michael Mann, a professor at Pennsylvania State University who studies climate change, in his defamation suits against two bloggers who compared him to Jerry Sandusky, the former coach found to have sexually assaulted numerous boys.

The three-judge panel did not rule on the merits of the case but rejected an attempt by the bloggers to have the suits thrown out on First Amendment grounds.....

The decision could be important for several reasons. Mann and others who work in climate change say they face unfair personal smears by those who deny climate change, and Mann has emerged as a scholar willing to fight back on the issue. Mann -- Distinguished Professor of Atmospheric Science at Penn State -- is also a prominent figure among scientists who work on climate change.

At the same time, the case is unusual. Mann and his supporters say that his suits are consistent with the principles of academic freedom and free expression. But many media and civil liberties groups have backed the bloggers, saying that Mann's suits could endanger free expression....

Henry Reichman, professor emeritus of history at California State University at East Bay and chair of the AAUP's Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure (of which Mann is a member), blogged that the decision was "a victory for both academic freedom and science."... "especially given the renewed danger to climate science and academic freedom posed by the incoming Trump administration."

But an editorial in National Review said the decision undermined the First Amendment.

"Properly understood, the First Amendment provides broad protection for free expression on matters of political and scientific controversy. It protects vigorous debate not only over the merits but also over the ethics of politically controversial scientific enterprises. In particular, it protects the right of all Americans -- scientists, journalists and even bloggers -- to express caustic criticism of scientific theories that purport to resolve hot-button political controversies on matters as sweepingly consequential as the extent and cause of global warming. The court’s decision yesterday badly neglects these principles."...





I happen to agree with the editorial below. Defend your views vigorously with science and logic, certainly. But lawsuits and blacklists to suppress people who don't agree with you? Absolutely not.
(And when you're smearing those who disagree with you and simultaneously suing those who smear you, well, I think I detect some hypocrisy.)
https://www.forbes.com/sites/trevorburrus/2014/08/14/hopefully-dr-michael-e-mann-doesnt-sue-me-for-this-column/
Quote:
Hopefully Dr. Michael E. Mann Doesn't Sue Me For This Column
Quote:
The battle over climate-change science is heating up, so to speak, and it has moved to the courts. The defamation lawsuit brought by climatologist Dr. Michael E. Mann—one of the creators of the famed “hockey-stick graph” that shows a recent spike in world temperatures—has now moved to the District of Columbia Court of Appeals, the equivalent of a state supreme court for the district. Mann alleges that a blog post by Rand Simberg on the blog of the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), and subsequently quoted by Mark Steyn at National Review Online, was libelous. The Cato Institute, joined by the Reason Foundation, the Goldwater Institute, and the Individual Rights Foundation, has filed an amicus brief supporting the defendants, arguing that courts should not be called upon to referee scientific disputes.

Because the climate-change debate is one of the most important and lively public policy debates of our time, stifling that debate with lawsuits will not only diminish our ability to have an open and honest discussion about climate change, it will hurt future discussions about anything controversial. Whatever you believe about climate change, you should hope that the D.C. Court of Appeals dismisses the case as soon as possible....

_________________
It is this we learn after so many failures,
The building of castles in sand, of queens in snow,
That we cannot make any corner in life or in life's beauty,
That no river is a river which does not flow.

- Louis MacNeice, Autumn Journal


Those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities. ― Voltaire


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PostPosted: Fri 06 Mar , 2020 4:06 pm 

Joined: Fri 10 Aug , 2012 4:42 pm
Posts: 2006
Long but interesting.
https://www.politico.com/news/magazine/2020/03/06/1619-project-new-york-times-mistake-122248
Quote:
I Helped Fact-Check the 1619 Project. The Times Ignored Me.

The paper’s series on slavery made avoidable mistakes. But the attacks from its critics are much more dangerous.
Quote:
On August 19 of last year I listened in stunned silence as Nikole Hannah-Jones, a reporter for the New York Times, repeated an idea that I had vigorously argued against with her fact-checker: that the patriots fought the American Revolution in large part to preserve slavery in North America.

Hannah-Jones and I were on Georgia Public Radio to discuss the path-breaking New York Times 1619 Project, a major feature about the impact of slavery on American history, which she had spearheaded. The Times had just published the special 1619 edition of its magazine, which took its name from the year 20 Africans arrived in the colony of Virginia—a group believed to be the first enslaved Africans to arrive in British North America.

Weeks before, I had received an email from a New York Times research editor. Because I’m an historian of African American life and slavery, in New York, specifically, and the pre-Civil War era more generally, she wanted me to verify some statements for the project....

Despite my advice, the Times published the incorrect statement about the American Revolution anyway, in Hannah-Jones’ introductory essay. In addition, the paper’s characterizations of slavery in early America reflected laws and practices more common in the antebellum era than in Colonial times, and did not accurately illustrate the varied experiences of the first generation of enslaved people that arrived in Virginia in 1619....
Quote:
The 1619 Project became one of the most talked-about journalistic achievements of the year—as it was intended to....

But it has also become a lightning rod for critics, and that one sentence about the role of slavery in the founding of the United States has ended up at the center of a debate over the whole project...
Quote:
The criticism of the Times has emboldened some conservatives to assert that such “revisionist history” is flat-out illegitimate....

But the debates playing out now on social media and in op-eds between supporters and detractors of the 1619 Project misrepresent both the historical record and the historical profession. The United States was not, in fact, founded to protect slavery—but the Times is right that slavery was central to its story. And the argument among historians, while real, is hardly black and white....
Quote:
Here is the complicated picture of the Revolutionary era that the New York Times missed...
Quote:
The 1619 Project, in its claim that the Revolution was fought primarily to preserve slavery, doesn’t do justice to this history. Nor, however, does the five historians’ critical letter. In fact, the historians are just as misleading in simply asserting that Lincoln and Douglass agreed that the Constitution was a “glorious liberty document” without addressing how few other Americans agreed that the Constitution’s protections should be shared with African Americans....

_________________
It is this we learn after so many failures,
The building of castles in sand, of queens in snow,
That we cannot make any corner in life or in life's beauty,
That no river is a river which does not flow.

- Louis MacNeice, Autumn Journal


Those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities. ― Voltaire


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PostPosted: Tue 10 Mar , 2020 6:43 pm 

Joined: Fri 10 Aug , 2012 4:42 pm
Posts: 2006
I stumbled across this paper, this morning, and thought I'd share it in case anyone is interested. It's from our last pandemic, the H1N1 "swine" flu in 2009 (which was, in some ways, the opposite of this one - it unexpectedly hit young people much harder than anyone would have predicted, with more life-threatening illnesses than anyone expected, while old people tended to be resistant and had a much milder time than predicted). There's nothing technical in it, just discussions from focus groups.

What struck me is a sense of deja vu. People's reactions don't change much. The unknown is scary, and maybe stockpiling toilet paper and bottled water (why???) gives you a sense of control/doing something.
https://bmcpublichealth.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1471-2458-10-697
Quote:
The first cases of influenza A/H1N1 (swine flu) were confirmed in the UK on 27th April 2009, after a novel virus first identified in Mexico rapidly evolved into a pandemic. The swine flu outbreak was the first pandemic in more than 40 years and for many, their first encounter with a major influenza outbreak. This study examines public understandings of the pandemic, exploring how people deciphered the threat and perceived they could control the risks.
Quote:
Participants were asked to describe their images of swine flu. Typically, participants reported images of 'Mexico', 'pigs', the man who was depicted sneezing in the DoH swine flu public awareness campaign and people wearing 'face masks'. Some participants mentioned more dramatic images including: 'chaos', 'death', 'borders and airports closing' and 'people being quarantined'.
Quote:
"The picture I have is from the newspaper, with all the people who were wearing the masks" (Dave, FG1). Another participant recalled: "I just remember it being on TV...all you saw was everyone running about with white masks on so that's kind of the image I have of something very contagious that they can't confine"
Quote:
Participants commonly mentioned that before swine flu was confirmed in the UK they assessed it might be: "like another SARS experiences, not coming to much" (Emma, FG4). However, once cases were confirmed in the UK and public health officials appeared unable to contain its spread they viewed it as more threatening. As one woman recalled: "...it was scary when they said they were trying to contain it and then they discovered they couldn't..." (Fran, FG 9). However, these initial fears quickly subsided over the subsequent weeks. The main reason given by participants for this reappraisal of risk was that during the summer wave of swine flu cases, people in Britain had become more familiar with swine flu and less fearful of it through direct experience or knowing someone who had contracted it. A typical view was that: "At first, it was like we're all going to die...but before long we knew we weren't and it was just no big deal" (Angela, FG8)
.
Quote:
Ellie: At first they were basically saying 'that we're all doomed.' That's the impression they were giving, and I just found that was very unnecessary.

Sophie: Yes the intent to cause hysteria in people. I don't find it myself, but I've seen other people lapping it up and worrying (FG 1).

In three of the groups the media were also criticized for covering swine flu at the expense of more serious diseases which pose a greater threat to lives. For instance, one participant in a group of student nurses commented:

Mia: Before swine flu came along, MRSA and C-Diff was in the news like an awful lot, and nowadays you hear like nothing about it, and it is still around - and people like still do need to know about how that can like affect you as well.

Katy: No, it shouldn't just be dropped just because something new and big has come along... (FG 5).


Just FYI, related:
http://www.cidrap.umn.edu/news-perspective/2012/06/cdc-estimate-global-h1n1-pandemic-deaths-284000
Quote:
Working with admittedly sparse data, a research team led by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has estimated the global death toll from the 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic at more than 284,000, about 15 times the number of laboratory-confirmed cases.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has put the number of deaths from confirmed 2009 H1N1 flu at a minimum of 18,449, but that number is regarded as well below the true total, mainly because many people who die of flu-related causes are not tested for the disease.

The CDC-led team, which included researchers from several other countries, based its estimates on H1N1 case data from 12 countries and case-fatality ratios (CFRs) reported from five countries. Their report was published online yesterday in the Lancet Infectious Diseases....



Also, for those who think the U.S. response is unique in its current state of messy semi-chaos. From a German paper:
https://www.dw.com/en/coronavirus-in-germany-health-care-system-under-pressure/a-52663510
Quote:
Kai Clemens* ... has firsthand experience with Germany's efforts to clamp down on the spread of COVID-19 — over 500 people have tested positive in the country. Clemens, who is in his early 30s and lives in the southwestern state of Baden-Württemberg, recently spent several days in quarantine in a hospital. He shared his experience under the username "Coronavirus Influenza."

Clemens has since been released and has been placed under a 14 day-long quarantine at home. The situation started after his girlfriend exhibited flu-like symptoms following a business trip. She later learned that she'd been in contact with a person infected with the coronavirus....

Clemens believes that the doctors and the local health department did their best, but that he nonetheless "didn't feel well-informed at all."

"That is still a big problem. The doctors, for example, said: We don't actually need to keep you here due to health reasons. Quarantine at home protects others just as well from infection, but now you're here and we have unclear criteria or contradictory statements or no clear instructions on when or how we can let you go," he told DW.

The local health department seemed overwhelmed on the telephone when he called, Clemens said. He added that it's still "quite unclear" why the German government hasn't set up a central hotline specifically dedicated to handling coronavirus concerns ...




btw, another interesting thing I stumbled across. It's probably more meaningful to those who understand PCR tests and the problems with their high sensitivity (and maybe have some knowledge of epidemiology and infectious diseases as well). I can understand prioritizing testing for those who are sick, which will in itself inflate the severity of the disease. But it boggles my mind that China did the testing, then deliberately decided that these people "aren't infected" when it's quite possible they are. :
https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-020-00434-5
Quote:
Researchers are concerned that China’s official reports on the number of coronavirus infections have not been including people who have tested positive for the virus but who have no symptoms. They fear the practice is masking the epidemic’s true scale....

The situation in Heilongjiang has put a spotlight on China’s reporting guidelines. These had already been getting attention after they were updated on 7 February to allow physicians to confirm cases using images from chest scans rather than waiting days for lab tests. The change in diagnostic criteria saw infections in Hubei, the province at the centre of the epidemic, jump by nearly 15,000 cases in a single day last week....

Wu Zunyou, the chief epidemiologist at the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention in Beijing, says ... those who test positive are isolated for 14 days and monitored by health authorities. If they develop symptoms in that period, they are classified as a confirmed case. ...

Omitting these cases from official counts gives the impression that the virus is more severe than it really is, says Ian Mackay, a virologist at the University of Queensland in Brisbane. This could mislead other countries that are trying to prepare for the most likely effects...

Not counting asymptomatic cases also hampers efforts to model the virus to understand its extent and spread, says Michael Mina, an infectious-disease immunologist and epidemiologist at the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston...

_________________
It is this we learn after so many failures,
The building of castles in sand, of queens in snow,
That we cannot make any corner in life or in life's beauty,
That no river is a river which does not flow.

- Louis MacNeice, Autumn Journal


Those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities. ― Voltaire


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PostPosted: Wed 11 Mar , 2020 2:43 pm 

Joined: Fri 10 Aug , 2012 4:42 pm
Posts: 2006
https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/03/course-us-will-have-woman-president/607702/
Quote:
Sexism Probably Wasn’t What Doomed Warren’s Campaign

The belief that female candidates for president face impenetrable barriers does more to perpetuate sexism than dismantle it.
Quote:
With Elizabeth Warren’s decision to drop out of the presidential race last week, a Democratic field that began with half a dozen female contenders is effectively down to Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders—a fact that has sparked a surge of feminist anger and dismay. On Twitter, the author and activist Amber Tamblyn urged Warren’s female supporters to give themselves “the space to grieve, and be angry, and be numb.” But what they shouldn’t do is let the Massachusetts senator’s withdrawal convince them that, for female candidates, the presidency still lies beyond a glass ceiling.

At some point, the United States is going to elect a woman to the White House, and Warren’s loss doesn’t change that. Most of the people, male and female, who run for president are unsuccessful. That four female senators made serious bids for the 2020 Democratic nomination suggests that the pipeline of potential future nominees has grown and will continue to do so. And while subtle and not-so-subtle misogyny remains a factor in politics—as does the opposing force of feminist passion, which surely energized Warren’s campaign—many other factors are also in play....
Quote:
Claims of a pervasively bigoted, misogynistic climate—whether toward Warren or Clinton—tend to rest on sweeping but largely unquantifiable and unfalsifiable assertions that female candidates are subjected to resentment and harsh scrutiny in a way that men are not. Attempts to back up these claims with data often reference a 2010 Harvard study that supposedly concluded, as the feminist philosopher Kate Manne summarized in a recent Washington Post essay, that “men who seek power were viewed as stronger and tougher, while power-seeking women provoked feelings of disgust and contempt.”

But what did the Harvard study actually find? ...
Quote:
Manne, who has argued that a pervasive patriarchy in America relentlessly punishes women who challenge male dominance, cites a pair of other studies, from 2004 and 2007, as potential evidence of sexist bias in politics....

But whether this research—conducted with groups of a few dozen undergraduate psychology students—sheds light on actual voters’ views of female candidates is an open question. In a 2009 study that approximated a real-world setting much more closely, using a sample of more than 1,100 American adults, the Dartmouth College political scientist Deborah Jordan Brooks found that people who read made-up news stories about a fictional male or female Senate candidate did not penalize women more for gaffes, tears, or displays of anger—and that a female candidate with no prior political experience tended to be viewed more positively than a man with a similar background.

Meanwhile, in real-life congressional elections—since as far back as the 1980s—women who run win as often as men do ...






https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/02/about-corona-poll/607240/
Quote:
What the Dubious Corona Poll Reveals

Americans are desperate to believe the worst about one another.
Quote:
Have you heard that 38 percent of Americans won’t drink Corona beer, because they are afraid of contracting the coronavirus?

For the past hours, this finding has spread across the internet like wildfire (or, more apt, a dangerous disease). CNN, the New York Post, and Vice all wrote up the poll.

On Twitter, where “38% of Americans” was the top national trend for parts of the day, many writers with large followings used it as an occasion to condemn their fellow citizens as idiots. “38% of Americans shouldn’t be allowed to roam free,” Benjamin Dreyer, an author, wrote.

The problem here is that the poll, published by the PR agency 5WPR, absolutely did not find what the wags on Twitter say it did. Its dissemination, however, does tell us an awful lot about a screwed-up media system that allows unscrupulous companies and individuals to spread misinformation....
Quote:
A number of major news outlets appear to have walked right into the trap. ...

After repeated phone calls, emails, and tweets to 5WPR and its chief executive, I was finally able to get access to the full questions asked in the poll. These make clear that the survey was a fishing expedition designed to elicit viral stats....

Ariel Edwards-Levy, the polling editor for HuffPost and one of the first journalists to register skepticism about the poll on Twitter, has also been unable to get access to the actual data. As she told me, “One of the best things a media outlet can do when reporting on polls is to insist on transparency about exactly what questions were asked and whom they were asked of. It’s also important that reporters treat polling as critically as they would any other source—for instance, being wary of ‘shock’ findings, contextualizing results with other available data, and avoiding the tendency to overstate or overinterpret results.”...


Mind you, The Atlantic spread its own misinformation today, in a story that claimed the coronavirus is so much worse than the flu because it may cause cytokine storms and, in severe cases, various body organs unrelated to the respiratory tract may be affected. Um, guys... that's the flu, too. In fact, cytokine storms seemed to be the main issue in young people with healthy immune systems during the 2009 H1N1 epidemic. In old people, the usual problem is that the immune system is weaker than when they were young. Plus the disease puts stress on things like a weakened heart or a compromised respiratory tract. The main reason the COVID-19 pandemic could be worse than the 2009 flu pandemic is that it's hitting the traditionally "at risk" group (older, sick and immunocompromised) the worst. That was actually the fear when the flu pandemic started in 2009, its effects on older people and the strain on the healthcare system's ability to provide care. For most healthy younger people, COVID-19 seems likely to be little more than the sniffles, and less severe than the flu. And it's becoming clear that this will even be the case for some older people too.

Really, I wish journalists would stay away from the technical stuff they only half-understand.
Overstating the effects is just going to put a worse strain on doctor's offices when they have to deal with worried, mildly sick people who will be perfectly fine with fluids and rest, instead of prioritizing those who need real care.

_________________
It is this we learn after so many failures,
The building of castles in sand, of queens in snow,
That we cannot make any corner in life or in life's beauty,
That no river is a river which does not flow.

- Louis MacNeice, Autumn Journal


Those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities. ― Voltaire


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PostPosted: Fri 13 Mar , 2020 4:17 pm 

Joined: Fri 10 Aug , 2012 4:42 pm
Posts: 2006
https://quillette.com/2020/03/10/experiencing-romes-first-day-on-coronavirus-lockdown/
Quote:
Experiencing Rome’s First Day on Coronavirus Lockdown
Quote:
I went out on Tuesday morning wondering what a country on lockdown looks like. I live in the un-touristy Garbatella neighbourhood of Rome, where it was sunny and 15 degrees. It wasn’t as quiet as I expected. Oblivious to government directives, the parrots were squawking in the eucalyptus trees and the neighbourhood cats were sunning themselves on the sidewalk. There were people having breakfast at the coffee bar in the piazza. A mechanic was working on a car and blocking the sidewalk—as usual. All the shops that are usually open were open.

I bumped into my neighbour Paola and we stood there awkwardly, about a metre between us—the prescribed distance....
Quote:
I asked Paola what she was doing outside. She said she had to go to the market to get some food. Then she would go home and not go out again unless it was absolutely necessary. I had to do the same thing. But first I needed coffee, so I went to the local bar, which was open. Apparently, I am not the only one who regards its services as essential.

Including me, there were four customers inside, along with the barman, who was wearing a green mask. A sign on the door instructed us to stay one metre apart.

The others were discussing a newspaper story about a woman who’d fled Milan on Sunday night in a taxi. .... According to the guys in the bar, the best thing about a nationwide lockdown was that this woman was now just as stuck in Rome as she once was in Milan. While we enjoyed a laugh at her expense, another person tried to enter the bar, but was told he’d have to wait outside until one of us was finished....
]
Quote:
I made one last stop at the butcher, where I had to take a number and stand outside so that no more than three people would be in the store.... The woman holding 45 opened a bottle of white wine that she had in her backpack and offered us plastic cups. Almost everyone took a little bit, and I did, too, since it seemed like the neighbourly thing to do. But I was concerned that she was standing too close as she poured it, and that she wasn’t wearing gloves. A man—number 38—read out a headline from La Republicca. In the badly affected northern region of Lombardy, we learned, officials are considering closing all shops and offices, and shutting down public transportation. There were murmurs of “È giusto, è giusto.” (“It’s the right thing to do.”) The woman with the wine bottle added “E la prossima? Noi.” (“We’re next.”)...




https://time.com/5799586/italy-coronavirus-outbreak/
Quote:
Why Is Italy's Coronavirus Outbreak So Bad?
Quote:
On Monday, Italy placed its 60 million residents under lockdown, as the number of cases of the COVID-19 virus throughout the country continues to rise.

In less than a month, Italy has gone from having only three cases of the coronavirus to having the highest number of cases and deaths outside of China, with 463 deaths and at least 9, 172 of people infected throughout all 20 regions of the country. The number of cases rose by 50% on March 8 alone. Italy also faces an above average mortality rate of 4%....

The nationwide lockdown is expected to have major economic repercussions on the country, where growth was already stagnating....
Quote:
Because the virus spread undetected, some officials believe this is the reason for such a high number of cases in the country...

Some officials also believe Italy, which has already tested over 42, 000 people, may have a higher number of cases as a result of performing more rigorous tests than their European counterparts.

....The average age of coronavirus patients who have died because of the virus in Italy is 81, according to the National Health Institute. Italy, which has one the world’s oldest populations, could be facing a higher mortality rate as a result of its above-average elderly population. “Italy is the oldest country in the oldest continent in the world,” says Lorenzo Casani, the health director of a clinic for elderly people in Lombardy told TIME. “We have a lot of people over 65.”

Casani also suggests the mortality rate might be higher than average because Italy is testing only the critical cases. “We are not doing enough,” he said....
Quote:
Many have applauded Italy’s actions [the various lockdowns]. In a tweet, the Director-General of the World Health Organization commended Italy for its “bold, courageous steps” and for “making genuine sacrifices.”

Some infectious disease and public health experts, however, have concerns about the effectiveness of the lockdown.

“These measures will probably have a short-term impact,” John Edmunds, a professor at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine told Reuters, noting that the measures were “almost certainly unsustainable.” He added, “if they can’t be sustained for the long term, all they are likely to do is delay the epidemic for a while.”...


EDIT: btw, I'm very surprised to see a number of governments responding to this sort of virus and outbreak by shutting down borders, cancelling trips, bringing people home en masse (yeah, like jamming the airports with travelers for hours while they wait to be tested is something an infectious disease specialist would recommend), closing restaurants and tourist attractions, etc. Frightened people demanded things like border closures during the 2009 H1N1 pandemic too. But the governments listened to scientists and held their ground, knowing it was pretty pointless with this sort of outbreak and the virus was going to do what the virus was going to do.

This time, the media and the fear seems to be driving politicians to a level of response I'd expect with something like smallpox. I have no crystal ball and I don't know whether it will do any good to slow this coronavirus or not, except maybe in special circumstances like Italy, where they probably want to make sure there's enough hospital capacity outside the worst hit region to take any overflow. I guess we'll see. My suspicion is that they're driving the world economy off a cliff for no useful purpose and we'll find that this virus was already widespread and many people have already been exposed. If anything, it seems likely to overwhelm the medical system with people seeking care out of "an abundance of caution" when they see governments responding to this virus like they've never before responded to a cold or flu virus. Or overreacting when they see someone with allergies near them (seriously, if you have reason to be that worried, you should be staying home yourself).

The weird thing is that WHO pointed out, early in the outbreak, that shutting borders and cancelling flights from affected countries was not going to be helpful. And now, when it seems even more pointless, they're silent. Except that they're apparently considering whether they should change their classification system for "officially recognized" pandemics by level of severity next time.

In a way, it reminds me of the foot and mouth disease epidemic/ disaster in the U.K., where the government put too much emphasis on advice from the mathematical disease modelers, who turned out to be mostly wrong.

It's also interesting to see the difference in concern between scientists and liberal arts faculty. Some of the liberal arts people are very worried. The scientists are rolling their eyes at the panic and asking each other "so, have you gotten the zombie death plague yet?" Older people, who lived through 2009 and other things like the 1968/69 "Hong Kong" flu pandemic, also seem to be much less freaked out than the millenials, which is really weird considering the relative risk.

_________________
It is this we learn after so many failures,
The building of castles in sand, of queens in snow,
That we cannot make any corner in life or in life's beauty,
That no river is a river which does not flow.

- Louis MacNeice, Autumn Journal


Those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities. ― Voltaire


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PostPosted: Mon 16 Mar , 2020 2:25 pm 

Joined: Fri 10 Aug , 2012 4:42 pm
Posts: 2006
I happen to agree with this person. It doesn't mean we will be right, but I think it's useful for people to see that there are a variety of reactions to COVID-19 and to stop getting outraged when authorities don't respond with extreme measures.
https://www.azcentral.com/story/opinion/op-ed/2020/02/25/coronavirus-may-seem-scarier-than-flu-but-lets-not-overreact/4860362002/
Quote:
Bob England, MD is former director of the Maricopa County Department of Public Health and serves as the interim drector of the Pima County Health Department. Will Humble is former director of the Arizona Department of Health Services and serves as executive director of the Arizona Public Health Association.
Quote:
Given what we now know about how easily the new coronavirus spreads, it’s only a matter of time before it starts circulating here in Arizona.

That means state and county health staff and our elected officials will be making decisions about what kinds of public health measures to take when it gets here.

We urge them to exercise two kinds of caution:

Use public health interventions that are reasonable and necessary.
Avoid taking actions that will do more community harm than good.

There’s a balance to be struck in public health. Every decision needs to weigh the costs versus benefits....



And I found their experience in the 2009 pandemic interesting, especially since that influenza virus was much worse for young people than this coronavirus.
Quote:
During the 2009 flu pandemic, the guidance from the CDC was to close schools when a student was diagnosed with the new virus. Within a few days, there were three schools closed in Maricopa County, and the number of pending cases made it obvious that the virus was Valleywide. It was spreading, well, like influenza.

It made no sense to close schools based upon where testing happened to have been done when it was almost certainly in many schools. The choice became either close every school, or none.

If we had made the decision to close Valley schools out of an abundance of caution, we would have closed all schools. "Out of an abundance of caution" is public health speak for this may be more than necessary, but because we don’t know for sure, we’re going to take extra precautions...

We decided to err on a different side of caution. Arizona and Maricopa County were among the first jurisdictions in the country to push back against the CDC recommendations to close schools with an H1N1 case, and we reopened all our schools during the first week of the pandemic.

We decided that the economic and social disruption caused by closing schools would do more harm than good. That proved to be the right choice....

IMO, "out of an abundance of caution" is often driven more by public demands/ politics/liability issues than science.


btw, probably my last post for a while. The world loves a good panic but I don't have to watch everything amplified on the internet. Things are saner in the real world, where most people barely remember the swine flu panic of 2009.

_________________
It is this we learn after so many failures,
The building of castles in sand, of queens in snow,
That we cannot make any corner in life or in life's beauty,
That no river is a river which does not flow.

- Louis MacNeice, Autumn Journal


Those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities. ― Voltaire


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PostPosted: Thu 19 Mar , 2020 2:38 pm 
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Inky, I hope you stay around and post socially, even if you don't feel like posting in the Symposium at the moment.

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PostPosted: Tue 24 Mar , 2020 8:10 pm 

Joined: Fri 10 Aug , 2012 4:42 pm
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Thanks, Jude, but I'm taking a break from the internet in general, maybe long term. Might check in at some point, who knows.

I made the mistake of getting on today, then I end up reading things and ended up crankily grumbling "You utter morons of reporters - NO, the fact that you have twice as many positive cases today as yesterday doesn't necessarily mean the coronavirus is spreading exponentially. The same cases were probably positive yesterday and the day before - the only difference is they now know they have COVID-19 and not another respiratory virus. "

Or I see the news pontificating about how shocking it is that teenagers and college students and newly unemployed people are congregating on the beach and grumble that some of us told you this would happen when you cancel classes for the rest of the entire semester, and when you close businesses down and put people out of work- what did you expect, that the law of unintended consequences has been repealed?

Or I see someone saying earnestly how social distancing is so valuable for protecting us from the virus, she's just sad she can't hug her daughter anymore (of course you can, you idiot - you're already sharing the same airspace 24/7. Just don't hug your neighbor when you run into him at the grocery store). Or a clueless media pundit getting upset over a couple holding hands as they jog, because they're not 6 feet apart (it's OK to kiss in private but not hold hands in public? Huh?) Or people who have been led to believe that social distancing is some sort of magic bullet that will keep the virus from killing people (sorry, no - all it might accomplish is that you're less likely to die just because too many people got sick at once and you couldn't get into ICU. And there's even some debate about the net benefits of stretching out the epidemic, when you consider other needs like people with things like heart attacks or "elective" surgery that's actually needed, just not urgent).

Or people talking earnestly about why they're not tracing transmission chains any more and that's a disgrace. (It's far too late for that - and, anyway, the last time that had any real chance of actually stopping this coronavirus was when there was still only a limited number of cases outside China. Slow it down, maybe. Stop it, no. And once it's widespread enough, trying to slow it by tracing cases becomes a useless waste of resources.)

And the Democrats adding their pet social causes to an economic stimulus bill, and the Republicans playing politics as well. And now we're adding nearly $2 trillion dollars in debt to the US, to mitigate what seems mostly a self-inflicted wound.


It's like a train wreck. Hard to look away. Better for my sanity to just stay away. :)



Anyway, I'm not much into the social stuff on the 'net.


For what it's worth, it's interesting to see that experts who think logically rather than emotionally are starting to get a little airtime. I guess you can only run stories about the end of the world for so long before people start to get bored with it.
https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/20/opinion/coronavirus-pandemic-social-distancing.html
Quote:
Is Our Fight Against Coronavirus Worse Than the Disease?

There may be more targeted ways to beat the pandemic.

Not that this is likely to convince the state governors busily trying to outdo each other with rules and mass restrictions, "out of an abundance of caution." I was naive enough to think they would start to relax some of the restrictions, as usual, once they realized how widespread the virus already is. Instead, most countries and states are tightening them.

I'm actually finding it somewhat reassuring that the virus has apparently been spreading for weeks in North America, as I suspected earlier, and I haven't seen anyone mentioning unexpected mortality spikes from an unknown disease. If they could be hidden by the flu season deaths, that might argue for lower estimates on case fatality rates. I saw someone mention, the other day, that swine flu case fatality rates were estimated at 1% in the early stages of that pandemic. They ended up much, much lower in the end, though I can't remember the figure.


Also rather interesting, in light of the people focusing on COVID-19 in Italy and hyperventilating, that Italy has quite a hard time with influenza too. Maybe their issues should not have been unexpected if you were paying attention .
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31401203
Quote:
RESULTS:We estimated excess deaths of 7,027, 20,259, 15,801 and 24,981 attributable to influenza epidemics in the 2013/14, 2014/15, 2015/16 and 2016/17, respectively, using the Goldstein index. The average annual mortality excess rate per 100,000 ranged from 11.6 to 41.2 with most of the influenza-associated deaths per year registered among the elderly. However children less than 5 years old also reported a relevant influenza attributable excess death rate in the 2014/15 and 2016/17 seasons (1.05/100,000 and 1.54/100,000 respectively).
CONCLUSIONS: Over 68,000 deaths were attributable to influenza epidemics in the study period. The observed excess of deaths is not completely unexpected, given the high number of fragile very old subjects living in Italy. In conclusion, the unpredictability of the influenza virus continues to present a major challenge to health professionals and policy makers.

_________________
It is this we learn after so many failures,
The building of castles in sand, of queens in snow,
That we cannot make any corner in life or in life's beauty,
That no river is a river which does not flow.

- Louis MacNeice, Autumn Journal


Those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities. ― Voltaire


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PostPosted: Thu 26 Mar , 2020 11:25 am 

Joined: Fri 10 Aug , 2012 4:42 pm
Posts: 2006
Actually, I was thinking about things and thought I'd add a couple of things that might be helpful to some people. DH is in STEM himself and he didn't know this stuff, though he's inherently skeptical of the hysteria.


It’s becoming pretty obvious to me from press conferences that decision makers are relying heavily on mathematical models of disease. This isn't surprising - they're been doing this sort of thing more and more.

How these models work is that the modelers take whatever data they might have so far from the outbreak, simplify things into certain estimated parameters, and plug them into a computer model of disease spread. The models may or may not approximate the real world, and they're never 100%. I’ve had to look at some of them a little bit, for other diseases, though I’m not an expert in that field by any means. And I take them with a very large grain of salt. They’ve screwed up badly at times, for example in the foot and mouth disease epidemic I mentioned earlier. And it could be even worse when you have a new disease and your estimates could be way off. FMD was a very old and much-studied disease and they still messed up - their estimates went too far toward the worst case scenario of how the disease would spread in the UK. But the politicians listened to the modelers and not to certain experienced infectious disease experts who thought the models' predictions were implausible.

We’ll have to see how they do. For one thing, I’m not so sure you can really incorporate human behavior very well and that people will react the way the modelers expect. See, for instance, New Yorkers fleeing lockdown and extended spring break partiers.


But out in the real world, I do know that if you have a disease that’s fairly mild and often doesn’t have any symptoms, one good way to make most of your healthy research animals sick is to stress them. Researchers normally do it by injecting corticosteroids, which are chemicals released by your own adrenal glands during stress. But I’ll bet a good way to do it in humans would be prolonged social isolation and fear/ anxiety. So, if anything, what I would do in this outbreak is to get as much sunshine, fresh air and exercise as the authorities allow. And whatever form of social interaction is pleasant, non-stressful, and possible, in the middle of all this social isolation stuff. And by all means, avoid the 24/7 clickbait news media. They’re going to focus on all the scary individual stories and worst case scenarios. If I wanted to make everyone cower in fear, I’d put up a website that does that in real time every influenza season.


It might also be reassuring to know that, even though there's no known antiviral right now that can affect this virus (and hydroxychloroquine* isn’t looking too promising so far), doctors have a lot of experience treating respiratory diseases. And once you’re seriously ill, it doesn’t really matter too much whether you have influenza or COVID-19 or some other virus. (I'm seeing a lot of crap about "oh, but this is different - we have drugs for influenza." But influenza drugs work by far the best during the first couple of days after you get sick. After that, what’s most important is the supportive care. And the way we overuse influenza drugs in the U.S. for all and sundry, the flu viruses become resistant to them. At one point, years ago, the CDC had to tell doctors not to even bother using some older flu drugs that season - nearly all the viruses were resistant.)

So basically, though this particular coronavirus is new to the human race, the type of disease isn’t uncharted territory as much as the news media would have you believe.


*And the chloroquine phosphate in fish tank cleaner is looking pretty damn lethal, if you're idiot enough to panic and drink some. Seriously, some scared people are finding really dumb ways to kill themselves right now, for a virus they may never get and that at least 99% of the population (quite possibly more) will survive if they do get infected. Some other people have died from treating their mucous membranes with something stupid, though I can't remember what. Methanol, maybe?




btw, I saw someone mention that, in the U.S., some of the skilled nursing facilities at nursing homes have good experience with respiratory support and have the equipment to do it. If it's true, it could take some of the burden off hospitals. And hopefully, this run on hospitals of the panickers with mild symptoms will end when people start to realize that, yes, most people can recover quite nicely at home even if you never know whether it was the flu, a cold or COVID-19. We don't need doctors and nurses having to sit at home because they've been infected with the virus. Even if they don't have symptoms or very mild ones, they can't see patients if they're infectious.

_________________
It is this we learn after so many failures,
The building of castles in sand, of queens in snow,
That we cannot make any corner in life or in life's beauty,
That no river is a river which does not flow.

- Louis MacNeice, Autumn Journal


Those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities. ― Voltaire


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