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andym's Journal
andym's Journal
December 27, 2021

First They Fought About Masks. Then Over the Soul of the City.

"First They Fought About Masks. Then Over the Soul of the City."
Sabrina Tavernise
Dec 26, 2021
NY Times (reprinted by Yahoo News -- 9 min read)

The story begins sometime in July 2020, with Enid, OK city commissioner Jonathan Waddell, a retired military man, who attended a meeting for public comments on a proposed mask mandate, a mandate he favored as good for public health. A rowdy crowd of people dressed in red had other plans:

At the end of the night, the mask mandate failed, and the audience erupted in cheers. But for Waddell, who had spent seven years making Enid his home, it was only the beginning. He remembers driving home and watching his mirrors to make sure no one was following him. He called his father, a former police officer, and told him what had happened. He said that people were talking about masks but that it felt like something else. What, exactly, he did not know.

From lockdowns to masks to vaccines to school curricula, the conflicts in America keep growing and morphing, even without Donald Trump, the leader who thrived on encouraging them, in the White House. But the fights are not simply about masks or schools or vaccines. They are, in many ways, all connected as part of a deeper rupture — one that is now about the most fundamental questions a society can ask itself: What does it mean to be an American? Who is in charge? And whose version of the country will prevail?

Social scientists who study conflict say the only way to understand it — and to begin to get out of it — is to look at the powerful currents of human emotions that are the real drivers. They include the fear of not belonging, the sting of humiliation, a sense of threat — real or perceived — and the strong pull of group behavior.

“If my American identity is an important part of who I am, and suddenly there’s a serious threat to that, in some ways that means I don’t know who I am anymore,” he said. “It’s an attack on the very core of how I see myself, of how I understand myself.” In Enid, both sides in the mask debate believed they were standing up for what was right. Both cared deeply for their city — and their country — and believed that, in their own way, they were working to save it....
--more at the link--
A very interesting editorial worth reading in full, from the perspective of one man who was ostracized from his community to some extent for supporting mask mandates. The article tries to get to the heart of the matter, which seems to be a backlash from people who feel that their "group" is losing "control" in the USA, and are acting out to stop that. Mr. Waddell feels there is a conflict about who will write the next chapter of American history, and that there will be some kind of battle to decide it. The article ends with the statement that he is thinking of moving to AZ because Enid, OK no longer feels like home to him and his family.

December 10, 2021

David Brooks on the end of American Conservatism and his becoming a moderate Democrat

The rich philosophical tradition I fell in love with has been reduced to Fox News and voter suppression."
David Brooks
The Atlantic
"What passes for “conservatism” now, however, is nearly the opposite of the Burkean conservatism I encountered then. Today, what passes for the worldview of “the right” is a set of resentful animosities, a partisan attachment to Donald Trump or Tucker Carlson, a sort of mental brutalism. The rich philosophical perspective that dazzled me then has been reduced to Fox News and voter suppression.

I recently went back and reread the yellowing conservatism books that I have lugged around with me over the decades. I wondered whether I’d be embarrassed or ashamed of them, knowing what conservatism has devolved into. I have to tell you that I wasn’t embarrassed; I was enthralled all over again, and I came away thinking that conservatism is truer and more profound than ever—and that to be a conservative today, you have to oppose much of what the Republican Party has come to stand for....

Trumpian Republicanism plunders, degrades, and erodes institutions for the sake of personal aggrandizement. The Trumpian cause is held together by hatred of the Other. Because Trumpians live in a state of perpetual war, they need to continually invent existential foes—critical race theory, nongendered bathrooms, out-of-control immigration. They need to treat half the country, metropolitan America, as a moral cancer, and view the cultural and demographic changes of the past 50 years as an alien invasion. Yet pluralism is one of America’s oldest traditions; to conserve America, you have to love pluralism. As long as the warrior ethos dominates the GOP, brutality will be admired over benevolence, propaganda over discourse, confrontation over conservatism, dehumanization over dignity. A movement that has more affection for Viktor Orbán’s Hungary than for New York’s Central Park is neither conservative nor American. This is barren ground for anyone trying to plant Burkean seedlings.

I’m content, as my hero Isaiah Berlin put it, to plant myself instead on the rightward edge of the leftward tendency—in the more promising soil of the moderate wing of the Democratic Party. If its progressive wing sometimes seems to have learned nothing from the failures of government and to promote cultural stances that divide Americans, at least the party as a whole knows what year it is. In 1980, the core problem of the age was statism, in the form of communism abroad and sclerotic, dynamism-sapping bureaucracies at home. In 2021, the core threat is social decay. The danger we should be most concerned with lies in family and community breakdown, which leaves teenagers adrift and depressed, adults addicted and isolated. It lies in poisonous levels of social distrust, in deepening economic and persisting racial disparities that undermine the very goodness of America—in political tribalism that makes government impossible...."

In a long essay, Brooks details his journey from socialism in his youth, to his adult self's love of Edmund Burke and American conservatism to his disgust with what conservatism has become in recent years. I found this a very interesting essay that explains the conservative intellectual mindset fairly clearly, while ignoring the deep contradictions that have always been part and parcel of the modern American conservative movement-- though Brooks does acknowledge the racism that even people like Bill Buckley fell prey to. What's most interesting is that he concludes that Burke himself was not anti-government and that "The central conservative truth is that culture matters most; the central liberal truth is that politics can change culture," and he believes that they should be combined.

Brooks realizes that it is the Democratic Party that still retains the sense of modern American democracy and sensibilities while the Republican Party has gone off the deep end toward Trumpian fascism.

December 2, 2021

Germany locks down unvaccinated people, as leaders plan to make shots compulsory

Source: CNN

Berlin (CNN)Germany on Thursday announced a nationwide lockdown for the unvaccinated, as its leaders backed plans for mandatory vaccinations in the coming months.

Unvaccinated people will be banned from accessing all but the most essential businesses, such as supermarkets and pharmacies, to curb the spread of coronavirus, outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel and her successor, Olaf Scholz, announced Thursday, following crisis talks with regional leaders.

The pair also backed proposals for mandatory vaccinations, which if voted through the parliament could take effect from February at the earliest.

Under the tightened restrictions, unvaccinated people can only meet two people from another household. Bars and nightclubs must shut down in areas with an incidence rate above 350 cases per 100,000 people over one week. And the country would limit the number of people at large events like soccer matches.

Read more: https://www.cnn.com/2021/12/02/europe/germany-lockdown-covid-restrictions-intl/index.html

Germany will impose greater restrictions specifically on the unvaccinated. They also also discussing making vaccinations mandatory, and voting on it in February.

Such measures are not possible in the USA.
November 8, 2021

Democrats can't keep ignoring the culture war. They should fight it -- and win Will Bunch

Democrats can’t keep ignoring the culture war. They should fight it — and win | Will Bunch
by Will Bunch | Columnist
Published Nov 7, 2021
The Philadelphia Inquirer

The Democrats need to fight a culture war — more than anything else — over voting rights, to make the argument that the red state wave of Republican voter suppression laws is a profoundly unAmerican activity, and that Democrats are the spiritual heirs to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and the Selma-to-Montgomery march, and thus the protectors of an expansive vision for democracy that works for all citizens. To do that, Team Biden needs to make clear — starting with an Oval Office address — that voting rights is his No. 1 priority, and that he will use every tool in his White House bag of tricks to force at least a carve-out of the wretched filibuster to clear the way for game-changing bills like the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.

The Democrats need to fight a culture war over book banning — to stop playing rope-a-dope on the bogus “critical race theory” issue and fight for academic freedom and open expression. They need to put Republicans from Virginia — where Youngkin won with an attack ad on Toni Morrison’s Beloved — to Texas, where American jihadists have targeted some 850 titles in school libraries — on the defensive for the book burning mindset that our antifascist grandfathers fought on the shores of Normandy and in the Battle of the Bulge.

The Democrats need to fight a culture war over science — to make their voters as passionate about defending the core values of inquiry and knowledge that led to the COVID-19 vaccine and our understanding of what will be needed to roll back climate change in the same way that the far right and its Facebook-fried (excuse me, Meta-fried) misinformation have fired up the right over pandemic denial and fossil fuel addiction.

The Democrats need to fight a culture war over education — to remind parents that the real fight for the future of our children is not whether we can keep denying critical parts of American history but whether we’re providing any civics education at all to our kids, and whether we can offer our young people access to the kinds of higher education that’s out of reach for far too many. There needs to be a new push to revive free community college, and Biden needs to remember his campaign promise to address student debt in a big way....
Much more at the link
Finally, a potentially winning strategy from someone who has the pulse of the nation.
Read the whole editorial: it is quite a good read.
October 6, 2021

Who knew? The right-wing is fighting people who "hate America": Nicki Haley

The conservative argument for power now and in the future is that they are the only true patriots who love America, while all others hate America. They use the culture wars to do this-- it's why they created a whole movement to fight "critical race theory" in order to portray those who point out the US's historical failings as hating America. To them any criticism of the past, such as criticizing slavery, is equal to hate.

Frankly, most self-identifying conservatives really do not care much about economics or anything else but the culture wars. The culture wars are and have been the focus of Fox News and Trump as well.

This tactic needs to be strongly fought against in the the sphere of public opinion.

Evidence? Well there's plenty. Here is the latest:
Nikki Haley outlines her vision of the Republican future (with or without Donald Trump)
"WASHINGTON – Nikki Haley told fellow Republicans Tuesday they have an urgent mission to renew their conservative convictions, the latest in a series of high-profile speeches by potential GOP presidential candidates maneuvering in the shadow of Donald Trump.

"A large portion of our people are plagued by self-doubt or even by hatred of America. It’s a pandemic much more damaging than any virus," Haley said in a heavily promoted speech at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation & Institute in Simi Valley, Calif.."

October 4, 2021

GOP games with the debt ceiling crisis are a perfect excuse to create new filibuster exceptions

like those that exist for reconciliation and judicial appointments, which can be used not only to raise the debt ceiling (a special exception), but also one for civil/constitutional rights (for voting rights). McConnell should be wary of the effect of his games. The emergency of a default should be enough to justify it even for moderates.

Update Senate Democrats and Joe Biden are now floating the idea at least for raising the debt limit.
See post:

October 1, 2021

Rockefellers have a message for Joe Manchin

Rockefellers have a message for Joe Manchin
Opinion by John D. Rockefeller V, Justin Rockefeller and Valerie Rockefeller
Editors Note: John D. Rockefeller V, Justin Rockefeller and Valerie Rockefeller are the adult children of former West Virginia Governor and Senator Jay Rockefeller. They are fifth generation members of the Rockefeller family. The views expressed in this commentary belong to the authors
Updated 9:21 PM ET, Thu September 30, 2021

"We were raised in coal country, about two hours south of Sen. Joe Manchin's hometown, with a commitment to public service. Like Sen. Manchin, our father, five-term Sen. Jay Rockefeller, served as secretary of state and governor before being elected to the US Senate. And like Sen. Manchin, our father, who is now retired, has deep respect for the state's legacy of hard work and grit.

Manchin has served our state well. He is a caring and determined leader who we've been honored to know as our father's colleague and friend. Unfortunately, when it comes to our state's future (whether it's the jobs West Virginians will hold or the energy they'll consume), Manchin is sticking with a problematic past by opposing the Senate's $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill. Only by supporting that bill can Manchin lead West Virginia boldly into the clean-energy future that will help the people he has been elected to serve.

Manchin could be the deciding vote on the reconciliation bill that would help fund infrastructure projects and a wide array of social programs. The senator expressed his concerns about the bill's price tag in a Wall Street Journal op-ed, yet failed to acknowledge that delaying the reconciliation bill and jeopardizing the infrastructure bill is a dangerous move that could end up costing the entire country, as well as the people of West Virginia.


Likewise, our family, known to many for its legacy of oil wealth, has acknowledged and acted upon the undeniable science that documents the destructive impact fossil fuels have on our climate. We consider it our moral imperative to divest from fossil fuels and invest sustainably. Many Rockefeller-affiliated nonprofits are also putting their endowments, which originated from oil wealth, towards clean and inclusive economic development. West Virginians should share in the prosperity and promise that the renewable energy boom will bring. The federal support the reconciliation and infrastructure bills offer will be critical to making it possible."
...more at the link above...
They then ask Joe Manchin to support the reconciliation bill for the good of WV and the USA.
September 16, 2021

Trump's Big Lie is changing the face of American politics

Trump's Big Lie is changing the face of American politics
Analysis by Stephen Collinson, CNN
Updated 9:43 AM ET, Thu September 16, 2021
"Relentless efforts by former President Donald Trump and his true believers in politics and the media have convinced millions of Americans that Joe Biden is a fraudulent President who seized power in a stolen election.

This deep-seated suspicion of last November's vote, which threatens to corrode the foundation of US democracy, mirrors the message adopted by the ex-President months before he clearly lost a free and fair election to Biden.

It has immediate political implications -- the lie that the last election was a fix is already shaping the terrain in which candidates, especially Republicans, are running in midterm elections in 2022. And the widespread belief that Trump was cheated out of power is building the former President a 2024 platform to mount a GOP presidential primary bid if he wishes.

Longer term, the fact that tens of millions of Americans were seduced by Trump's lies about election fraud poses grave questions about the future of America's democratic political architecture itself. Ultimately, if a large minority of the population no longer has faith in rule by the people for the people, how long can that system survive? And if the will of millions of people is no longer expressed through voting, what other outlets are there? Already, the January 6 insurrection has shown what happens when aggrieved groups -- in this case incited by a massive lie -- take matters into their own hands."

more at link
MUCH MORE in the Article about democracy being on trial in America with great quotes from Gavin Newsom ""Democracy is not a football. You don't throw it around, it's more like a, I don't know, antique vase. You can drop it and smash it in a million different pieces." and Eric Holder "I think about ... those democracies that were lost in the middle part, the early part of the 20th century where democracy was not adequately defended and authoritarian regimes rose, And it wasn't because democracy was unpopular. You know, democracy was strong. But the reality is the defense of democracy was weak, and we cannot allow that to happen in this country."

Collinson also suggests that Trump would almost certainly be renominated if he decides to run and that ambitious Republicans will support his Big Lie to maintain their standing with Trump supporters. Basically the danger of Trump's Big Lie threatens American democracy itself, and once it falls apart it will not be easy to reconstruct it.

September 15, 2021

The peril of Trump keeps growing nearly 8 months after he left the White House

The peril of Trump keeps growing nearly 8 months after he left the White House
Analysis by Stephen Collinson, CNN
Updated 1:40 AM ET, Wed September 15, 2021

"Add another evidence dump to the growing case that a second Donald Trump presidency would be more extreme and dangerous than the first.
As Trump teases another run at the White House, his behavior and new accounts of his wild final days in office are becoming too outlandish to ignore, given that he's already the prohibitive favorite for the Republican nomination. Before that, he's the tip of the spear of the GOP bid to retake the House in midterm elections next year. The price for entry for any party candidate is fealty to the flagrant lie sold to millions that Trump is still the rightful President. And he's undoubtedly the dominant force in Republican politics -- even if his ever more radical conduct may make his appeal in a national election more doubtful. At least in an election that is free and fair.

The disclosures in Woodward and Costa's "Peril" are among the most serious and alarming yet. If they are borne out, they would not just be a case of a President tearing at the structures of US democracy -- as he did with the US Capitol insurrection on January 6, designed to disrupt Biden's certification as the winner of November's election. But they also would represent a sign that the nation's most senior military officer believed Trump was a grave danger to the world in the fevered days when he was trying to cling to power.

There is a definite sense -- borne out by five years of scandals, crushing of presidential norms and evidence of the political damage that an out-of-control President can do -- that what doesn't kill Trump's political career makes it stronger."

more at the link-- a good article discussing the danger that Trump and his enablers in the GOP pose to the nation. This goes beyond political differences to a threat to the American political system itself.

August 30, 2021

Misunderstanding preliminary scientific results led to the ivermectin fiasco

Work on cultured cells (cells grown on plastic) is considered a way to get preliminary data on whether a drug might be useful for a disease.

1000's of drugs look good on cultured cells for numerous diseases: few actually work in humans for various reasons. Hydroxychloroquine worked well in cultured cells too, btw. However, human trials showed no effect for hydroxychloroquine-- turned out the cell line used was more limited than normal human lung cells in how SARS-Cov2 could bind.

Ivermectin kills invertebrate parasites by binding to invertebrate glutamate-gated chloride channels in nerve cells, hyperpolarizing the nerve cells causing paralysis and death.

Ivermectin also appears to have antiviral activity against numerous viruses possibly due to an off-target ability to block transport of proteins into the nucleus of cells by binding to importin (IMP) ?/?1. At high concentrations many drugs bind to other than their original intended target.

Last year, some scientists decided to test whether it would also work against Sars-Cov2 in cell culture. Here is the paper showing that it worked against Sars-Cov2 on cultured cells: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0166354220302011 They mention that similar favorable cell culture data for dengue virus led to a human trial which showed NO efficacy. That is typical of something working in cells on a dish but not in animals or people.

But looking at their data for Covid-19 they needed >5 uM dose of ivermectin for 50% efficacy (it's off-target after all) [they need closer to 10 µM to be effective] and normal human dose only brings the tissue level to .0873 µM-- which is 60 times too little to do any good. Basically ivermectin was DOA for Covid-19 after that realization. Data on dosing from https://ascpt.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/cpt.1889

But that didn't stop some reading news stories and even some scientists to think it might work-- there are even clinical trials exploring its use, which will almost certainly will not show efficacy based on the need for toxic doses of the drug for the treatment to even have a chance. Why? Misunderstanding the significance of preliminary scientific results.

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