Monday, June 14, 2021

Günter Grass, The Tin Drum

At Amazon, Günter Grass, The Tin Drum.

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Fergus Bordewich, Bound for Canaan

At Amazon, Fergus Bordewich, Bound for Canaan: The Epic Story of the Underground Railroad, America's First Civil Rights Movement.

What Comes Next for Portland? (VIDEO)

At the New York Times, "After a Year of Protests, Portland Is Ready to Move On. But Where?":

PORTLAND, Ore. — Defund the police? City leaders in Portland tried it. A unit in the fire and rescue bureau, one of the first of its kind in a major city, began this year taking some 911 calls about people in crisis, especially those who are homeless.

Instead of police officers with flashing lights and guns, a paramedic and a social worker would drive up offering water, a high-protein snack and, always and especially, conversation, aiming to defuse a situation that could otherwise lead to confrontation and violence. No power to arrest. No coercion.

“Having someone show up and offer you goods rather than run you off is different, and people respond to it — it softens the mood,” said Tremaine Clayton, a burly, tattooed veteran of 20 years at the fire and rescue bureau who helps run the program.

But this spring, just as the project was preparing for a major rollout into more neighborhoods, there was another plot twist: The new policing alternative was itself mostly defunded. The city decided on a go-slow approach, and the promised $4.8 million expansion evaporated.

Portland, the Oregon city of bridges, bike lanes and left-leaning idealists — beloved, abhorred and caricatured in just about equal measure — is wrestling mightily with the question of what it means to make a city safe and, as it gradually opens up from the Covid-19 shutdowns, to feel safe, too. It is an issue that many American cities are addressing as the economic and societal disruptions of the past year linger and resonate.

Violent crime, especially homicide, has spiked in most urban areas during the pandemic, and many police departments are facing new scrutiny about training and bias since the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis a year ago.

But here in the nation’s 25th-largest metropolitan area, with about 2.5 million people, there is an additional factor that ripples through every public policy choice, and that even the city’s top prosecutor said has to a degree warped the debate about what to do to rebuild a city that Portlanders want and love.

A hardened core of street activists, many of them professing opposition to authority in general, has dug in and shows no signs of going away. (Portland’s mayor, Ted Wheeler, has asked people to stop calling them protesters, but rather what they call themselves: anarchists.) Their numbers are now down to perhaps 25 to 75 on any given night, compared with hundreds in late 2020 and the many thousands who marched last summer in protests after Mr. Floyd’s murder.

But they have shown themselves at times to be violent — one was charged with attempted murder after a Molotov cocktail was thrown at the police — destructive of property and highly adaptable, using social media tools and other strategies to divert the police from the targets they select.

Direct actions are promoted on social media with the phrase “No gods, no masters,” a 19th-century anarchist term that indicates a rejection of all forms of authority. More traditional protesters from Black Lives Matter and other movements who try to curtail violence are now ridiculed as “peace police” by the anarchists, who mostly consist of young, white men.

Demetria Hester, a member of Moms United for Black Lives, continues to push for defunding the police but disagrees with the current call for dismantling the entire political system. “Breaking windows is performative,” she said. “That satisfies them at night, but they don’t have a plan.”

Some prominent Black leaders have been formally distancing themselves, with some calling the anarchists’ rejection of gradual progress just another symbol of privilege that Black people do not have.

“Being able to protest every night is a white privilege, being able to yell at a police’s face is a white privilege,” said Gregory McKelvey, a prominent Black organizer who ran the mayoral campaign last year for Mr. Wheeler’s opponent, Sarah Iannarone. “Most Black people across the country do everything they can to avoid cops.”

Still, Mr. McKelvey has empathy for those who feel that taking to the streets is their only outlet. “These are people who have felt like they’ve had no agency or power in their life or in the political system,” he said. “They want to feel powerful, and when you can have the mayor talking about you every single day, and hundreds of police officers show up to fight you every day, you feel more powerful than when you’re sitting at home.”

The protests have led to vicious finger-pointing over who was to blame for the serial destruction that has left so many downtown storefronts shattered and covered with plywood.


Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Way Down in the Hole (VIDEO)

Some tunes in the afternoon.

Tom Waits. He's one bluesy muthafucker.

Monday, June 7, 2021

Arthur Koestler, The Gladiators

At Amazon, Arthur Koestler, The Gladiators.

Cornelius Ryan, The Longest Day

At Amazon, Cornelius Ryan, The Longest Day: The Classic Epic of D-Day.

President Biden Snubs 77th Anniversary of D-Day Invasion (VIDEO)

Terrible. Just Terrible.

At Fox News, "Biden snubs D-Day's 77th anniversary, angering veterans: Veteran calls Biden's failure to recognize D-Day 'reprehensible'."

Odds Are You Won't Live to See Tomorrow...

I drop my youngest son off at school on M-W-Fridays.

Our normal routine is to put his shoes on when we get there, as it's easier to get him out of the house. I nevertheless have to be inventive sometimes while tying his shoes ... because my boy's so full of energy, he sometimes forgets to focus on the task at hand! So, a couple of days ago I starting singing to distract my son a bit ... I sang, "Secret Secret agent man, secret agent man ... They've given you a number and taken away your name..."

It worked, and now my boy wants me to sing Johnny Rivers to him every morning! It would help to have the rest of the lyrics down, so please enjoy this raw footage of "Secret Agent Man": 

Hot Fun In the Summertime (VIDEO)

Good stuff, from 1969.

Sly and the Family Stone.

Sunday, June 6, 2021

Seventy-Seventh Anniversary of the D-Day Nomandy Invasion

It's a long time ago. But we should never forget what they did there so that the world might be free. 

At Fox News, 77th D-Day anniversary serves as a reminder of American greatness."

Here Comes Summer!

I love it!

At Old Row.

Friday, June 4, 2021


This is the big Wuhan lab-leak story, in great detail, at Vanity Fair, "The Lab-Leak Theory: Inside the Fight to Uncover COVID-19’s Origins":

I. A Group Called DRASTIC

Gilles Demaneuf is a data scientist with the Bank of New Zealand in Auckland. He was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome ten years ago, and believes it gives him a professional advantage. “I’m very good at finding patterns in data, when other people see nothing,” he says.

Early last spring, as cities worldwide were shutting down to halt the spread of COVID-19, Demaneuf, 52, began reading up on the origins of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes the disease. The prevailing theory was that it had jumped from bats to some other species before making the leap to humans at a market in China, where some of the earliest cases appeared in late 2019. The Huanan wholesale market, in the city of Wuhan, is a complex of markets selling seafood, meat, fruit, and vegetables. A handful of vendors sold live wild animals—a possible source of the virus.

That wasn’t the only theory, though. Wuhan is also home to China’s foremost coronavirus research laboratory, housing one of the world’s largest collections of bat samples and bat-virus strains. The Wuhan Institute of Virology’s lead coronavirus researcher, Shi Zhengli, was among the first to identify horseshoe bats as the natural reservoirs for SARS-CoV, the virus that sparked an outbreak in 2002, killing 774 people and sickening more than 8,000 globally. After SARS, bats became a major subject of study for virologists around the world, and Shi became known in China as “Bat Woman” for her fearless exploration of their caves to collect samples. More recently, Shi and her colleagues at the WIV have performed high-profile experiments that made pathogens more infectious. Such research, known as “gain-of-function,” has generated heated controversy among virologists.

To some people, it seemed natural to ask whether the virus causing the global pandemic had somehow leaked from one of the WIV’s labs—a possibility Shi has strenuously denied.

On February 19, 2020, The Lancet, among the most respected and influential medical journals in the world, published a statement that roundly rejected the lab-leak hypothesis, effectively casting it as a xenophobic cousin to climate change denialism and anti-vaxxism. Signed by 27 scientists, the statement expressed “solidarity with all scientists and health professionals in China” and asserted: “We stand together to strongly condemn conspiracy theories suggesting that COVID-19 does not have a natural origin.”

The Lancet statement effectively ended the debate over COVID-19’s origins before it began. To Gilles Demaneuf, following along from the sidelines, it was as if it had been “nailed to the church doors,” establishing the natural origin theory as orthodoxy. “Everyone had to follow it. Everyone was intimidated. That set the tone.”

The statement struck Demaneuf as “totally nonscientific.” To him, it seemed to contain no evidence or information. And so he decided to begin his own inquiry in a “proper” way, with no idea of what he would find.

Demaneuf began searching for patterns in the available data, and it wasn’t long before he spotted one. China’s laboratories were said to be airtight, with safety practices equivalent to those in the U.S. and other developed countries. But Demaneuf soon discovered that there had been four incidents of SARS-related lab breaches since 2004, two occuring at a top laboratory in Beijing. Due to overcrowding there, a live SARS virus that had been improperly deactivated, had been moved to a refrigerator in a corridor. A graduate student then examined it in the electron microscope room and sparked an outbreak.

Demaneuf published his findings in a Medium post, titled “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: a review of SARS Lab Escapes.” By then, he had begun working with another armchair investigator, Rodolphe de Maistre. A laboratory project director based in Paris who had previously studied and worked in China, de Maistre was busy debunking the notion that the Wuhan Institute of Virology was a “laboratory” at all. In fact, the WIV housed numerous laboratories that worked on coronaviruses. Only one of them has the highest biosafety protocol: BSL-4, in which researchers must wear full-body pressurized suits with independent oxygen. Others are designated BSL-3 and even BSL-2, roughly as secure as an American dentist’s office.

Having connected online, Demaneuf and de Maistre began assembling a comprehensive list of research laboratories in China. As they posted their findings on Twitter, they were soon joined by others around the world. Some were cutting-edge scientists at prestigious research institutes. Others were science enthusiasts. Together, they formed a group called DRASTIC, short for Decentralized Radical Autonomous Search Team Investigating COVID-19. Their stated objective was to solve the riddle of COVID-19’s origin.

At times, it seemed the only other people entertaining the lab-leak theory were crackpots or political hacks hoping to wield COVID-19 as a cudgel against China. President Donald Trump’s former political adviser Steve Bannon, for instance, joined forces with an exiled Chinese billionaire named Guo Wengui to fuel claims that China had developed the disease as a bioweapon and purposefully unleashed it on the world. As proof, they paraded a Hong Kong scientist around right-wing media outlets until her manifest lack of expertise doomed the charade.

With disreputable wing nuts on one side of them and scornful experts on the other, the DRASTIC researchers often felt as if they were on their own in the wilderness, working on the world’s most urgent mystery. They weren’t alone. But investigators inside the U.S. government asking similar questions were operating in an environment that was as politicized and hostile to open inquiry as any Twitter echo chamber. When Trump himself floated the lab-leak hypothesis last April, his divisiveness and lack of credibility made things more, not less, challenging for those seeking the truth.

“The DRASTIC people are doing better research than the U.S. government,” says David Asher, a former senior investigator under contract to the State Department.

The question is: Why?

II. “A Can of Worms

Since December 1, 2019, the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19 has infected more than 170 million people around the world and killed more than 3.5 million. To this day, we don’t know how or why this novel coronavirus suddenly appeared in the human population. Answering that question is more than an academic pursuit: Without knowing where it came from, we can’t be sure we’re taking the right steps to prevent a recurrence.

And yet, in the wake of the Lancet statement and under the cloud of Donald Trump’s toxic racism, which contributed to an alarming wave of anti-Asian violence in the U.S., one possible answer to this all-important question remained largely off-limits until the spring of 2021.

Behind closed doors, however, national security and public health experts and officials across a range of departments in the executive branch were locked in high-stakes battles over what could and couldn’t be investigated and made public.

A months long Vanity Fair investigation, interviews with more than 40 people, and a review of hundreds of pages of U.S. government documents, including internal memos, meeting minutes, and email correspondence, found that conflicts of interest, stemming in part from large government grants supporting controversial virology research, hampered the U.S. investigation into COVID-19’s origin at every step. In one State Department meeting, officials seeking to demand transparency from the Chinese government say they were explicitly told by colleagues not to explore the Wuhan Institute of Virology’s gain-of-function research, because it would bring unwelcome attention to U.S. government funding of it.

In an internal memo obtained by Vanity Fair, Thomas DiNanno, former acting assistant secretary of the State Department’s Bureau of Arms Control, Verification, and Compliance, wrote that staff from two bureaus, his own and the Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation, “warned” leaders within his bureau “not to pursue an investigation into the origin of COVID-19” because it would “‘open a can of worms’ if it continued.”

There are reasons to doubt the lab-leak hypothesis. There is a long, well-documented history of natural spillovers leading to outbreaks, even when the initial and intermediate host animals have remained a mystery for months and years, and some expert virologists say the supposed oddities of the SARS-CoV-2 sequence have been found in nature.

But for most of the past year, the lab-leak scenario was treated not simply as unlikely or even inaccurate but as morally out-of-bounds. In late March, former Centers for Disease Control director Robert Redfield received death threats from fellow scientists after telling CNN that he believed COVID-19 had originated in a lab. “I was threatened and ostracized because I proposed another hypothesis,” Redfield told Vanity Fair. “I expected it from politicians. I didn’t expect it from science.”

With President Trump out of office, it should be possible to reject his xenophobic agenda and still ask why, in all places in the world, did the outbreak begin in the city with a laboratory housing one of the world’s most extensive collection of bat viruses, doing some of the most aggressive research?

Dr. Richard Ebright, board of governors professor of chemistry and chemical biology at Rutgers University, said that from the very first reports of a novel bat-related coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan, it took him “a nanosecond or a picosecond” to consider a link to the Wuhan Institute of Virology. Only two other labs in the world, in Galveston, Texas, and Chapel Hill, North Carolina, were doing similar research. “It’s not a dozen cities,” he said. “It’s three places.”

Then came the revelation that the Lancet statement was not only signed but organized by a zoologist named Peter Daszak, who has repackaged U.S. government grants and allocated them to facilities conducting gain-of-function research—among them the WIV itself. David Asher, now a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, ran the State Department’s day-to-day COVID-19 origins inquiry. He said it soon became clear that “there is a huge gain-of-function bureaucracy” inside the federal government.

As months go by without a host animal that proves the natural theory, the questions from credible doubters have gained in urgency. To one former federal health official, the situation boiled down to this: An institute “funded by American dollars is trying to teach a bat virus to infect human cells, then there is a virus” in the same city as that lab. It is “not being intellectually honest not to consider the hypothesis” of a lab escape.

And given how aggressively China blocked efforts at a transparent investigation, and in light of its government’s own history of lying, obfuscating, and crushing dissent, it’s fair to ask if Shi Zhengli, the Wuhan Institute’s lead coronavirus researcher, would be at liberty to report a leak from her lab even if she’d wanted to.

On May 26, the steady crescendo of questions led President Joe Biden to release a statement acknowledging that the intelligence community had “coalesced around two likely scenarios,” and announce that he had asked for a more definitive conclusion within 90 days. His statement noted, “The failure to get our inspectors on the ground in those early months will always hamper any investigation into the origin of COVID-19.” But that wasn’t the only failure.

In the words of David Feith, former deputy assistant secretary of state in the East Asia bureau, “The story of why parts of the U.S. government were not as curious as many of us think they should have been is a hugely important one.”

Keep reading.


Michael Knowles, Speechless

 At Amazon, Michael Knowles, Speechless: Controlling Words, Controlling Minds.

Hailey Morinico, 17-Years-Old, Throws Mama Bear Off the Back Fence (VIDEO)

Heh, throwing a bear off the back fence is definitely going on my bucket list, heh.

At ABC News 7 Los Angeles, "Video: Teen fends off bear in Bradbury backyard":

Critical Race Theory Rapidly Destroying American Health Care

A great, great piece from Katie Herzog, at Bari Weiss's Substack, "What Happens When Doctors Can't Tell the Truth?":

People Are Afraid to Speak Honestly

They meet once a month on Zoom: a dozen doctors from around the country with distinguished careers in different specialities. They vary in ethnicity, age and sexual orientation. Some work for the best hospitals in the U.S. or teach at top medical schools. Others are dedicated to serving the most vulnerable populations in their communities.

The meetings are largely a support group. The members share their concerns about what’s going on in their hospitals and universities, and strategize about what to do. What is happening, they say, is the rapid spread of a deeply illiberal ideology in the country’s most important medical institutions.

This dogma goes by many imperfect names — wokeness, social justice, critical race theory, anti-racism — but whatever it’s called, the doctors say this ideology is stifling critical thinking and dissent in the name of progress. They say that it’s turning students against their teachers and patients and racializing even the smallest interpersonal interactions. Most concerning, they insist that it is threatening the foundations of patient care, of research, and of medicine itself.

These aren’t secret bigots who long for the “good old days” that were bad for so many. They are largely politically progressive, and they are the first to say that there are inequities in medicine that must be addressed. Sometimes it’s overt racism from colleagues or patients, but more often the problem is deeper, baked into the very systems clinicians use to determine treatment.

“There’s a calculator that people have used for decades that predicts the likelihood of having a successful vaginal delivery after you've had a cesarean,” one obstetrician in the Northeast told me. “You put in the age of the person, how much they weigh, and their race. And if they’re black, it calculates that they are less likely to have successful vaginal delivery. That means clinicians are more likely to counsel black patients to get c-sections, a surgery they might not actually need.”

There’s no biological reason for race to be a factor here, which is why the calculator just changed this year. But this is an example of how system-wide bias can harm black mothers, who are two to three times more likely to die in childbirth than white women even when you control for factors like income and education, which often make racial disparities disappear.

But while this obstetrician and others see the problems endemic in their field, they’re also alarmed by the dogma currently spreading throughout medical schools and hospitals.

I’ve heard from doctors who’ve been reported to their departments for criticizing residents for being late. (It was seen by their trainees as an act of racism.) I’ve heard from doctors who’ve stopped giving trainees honest feedback for fear of retaliation. I’ve spoken to those who have seen clinicians and residents refuse to treat patients based on their race or their perceived conservative politics.

Some of these doctors say that there is a “purge” underway in the world of American medicine: question the current orthodoxy and you will be pushed out. They are so worried about the dangers of speaking out about their concerns that they will not let me identify them except by the region of the country where they work.

“People are afraid to speak honestly,” said a doctor who immigrated to the U.S. from the Soviet Union. “It’s like back to the USSR, where you could only speak to the ones you trust.” If the authorities found out, you could lose your job, your status, you could go to jail or worse. The fear here is not dissimilar.

When doctors do speak out, shared another, “the reaction is savage. And you better be tenured and you better have very thick skin.”

“We’re afraid of what's happening to other people happening to us,” a doctor on the West Coast told me. “We are seeing people being fired. We are seeing people's reputations being sullied. There are members of our group who say, ‘I will be asked to leave a board. I will endanger the work of the nonprofit that I lead if this comes out.’ People are at risk of being totally marginalized and having to leave their institutions.”

While the hyper focus on identity is seen by many proponents of social justice ideology as a necessary corrective to America’s past sins, some people working in medicine are deeply concerned by what “justice” and “equity” actually look like in practice.

“The intellectual foundation for this movement is the Marxist view of the world, but stripped of economics and replaced with race determinism,” one psychologist explained. “Because you have a huge group of people, mostly people of color, who have been underserved, it was inevitable that this model was going to be applied to the world of medicine. And it has been.”

Whole Areas of Research Are Off-Limits

“Wokeness feels like an existential threat,” a doctor from the Northwest said. “In health care, innovation depends on open, objective inquiry into complex problems, but that’s now undermined by this simplistic and racialized worldview where racism is seen as the cause of all disparities, despite robust data showing it’s not that simple.”

“Whole research areas are off-limits,” he said, adding that some of what is being published in the nation’s top journals is “shoddy as hell.”

Here, he was referring in part to a study published last year in the Proceedings Of The National Academy Of Sciences. The study was covered all over the news, with headlines like “Black Newborns More Likely to Die When Looked After by White Doctors” (CNN), “The Lack of Black Doctors is Killing Black Babies” (Fortune), and “Black Babies More Likely to Survive when Cared for by Black Doctors” (The Guardian).

Despite these breathless headlines, the study was so methodologically flawed that, according to several of the doctors I spoke with, it’s impossible to extrapolate any conclusions about how the race of the treating doctor impacts patient outcomes at all. And yet very few people were willing to publicly criticize it. As Vinay Prasad, a clinician and a professor at the University of California San Francisco, put it on Twitter: “I am aware of dozens of people who agree with my assessment of this paper and are scared to comment.”

“It’s some of the most shoddy, methodologically flawed research we’ve ever seen published in these journals,” the doctor in the Zoom meeting said, “with sensational conclusions that seem totally unjustified from the results of the study.”

“It’s frustrating because we all know how hard it is to get good, sound research published,” he added. “So do those rules and quality standards no longer apply to this topic, or to these authors, or for a certain time period?”

At the same time that the bar appears to be lower for articles and studies that push an anti-racist agenda, the consequences for questioning or criticizing that agenda can be high.

Just ask Norman Wang. Last year, the University of Pittsburgh cardiologist was demoted by his department after he published a paper in the Journal of the American Heart Association (JAHA) analyzing and criticizing diversity initiatives in cardiology. Looking at 50 years of data, Wang argued that affirmative action and other diversity initiatives have failed to both meaningfully increase the percentage of black and Hispanic clinicians in his field or to improve patient outcomes. Rather than admitting, hiring and promoting clinicians based on their race, he argued for race-neutral policies in medicine.

“Long-term academic solutions and excellence should not be sacrificed for short-term demographic optics,” Wang wrote. “Ultimately, all who aspire to a profession in medicine and cardiology must be assessed as individuals on the basis of their personal merits, not their racial and ethnic identities.”

At first, there was little response. But four months after it was published, screenshots of the paper began circulating on Twitter and others in the field began accusing Wang of racism. Sharonne Hayes, a cardiologist at the Mayo Clinic, implored colleagues to “rise up.” “The fact that this is published in ‘our’ journal should both enrage & activate all of us,” she wrote, adding the hashtag #RetractRacists.

Soon after, Barry London, the editor in chief of JAHA, issued an apology and the journal retracted the work over Wang’s objection. London cited no specific errors in Wang’s paper in his statement, just that publishing it was antithetical to his and the journal’s values. Retraction, in a case like this, is exceedingly rare: When papers are retracted, it’s generally because of the data or the study has been discredited. A search of the journal’s website and the Retraction Database found records of just two retractions in JAHA: Wang’s paper and a 2019 paper that erroneously linked heart attacks to vaping.

After the outcry, the American Heart Association (AHA), which publishes the journal, issued a statement denouncing Wang’s paper and promising an investigation. In a tweet, the organization said it “does NOT represent AHA values. JAHA is editorially independent but that’s no excuse. We’ll investigate. We’ll do better. We’re invested in helping to build a diverse health care and research community.”

As the criticism mounted, Wang was removed from his position as the director of a fellowship program in clinical cardiac electrophysiology at University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and was prohibited from making any contact with students. His boss reportedly told him that his classroom was “inherently unsafe” due to the views he expressed.

Wang is now suing both the AHA and the University of Pittsburgh for defamation and violating his First Amendment rights. To the doctors on the Zoom call, his case was a stark warning of what can happen when one questions policies like affirmative action, which, according to recent polling, is opposed by nearly two-thirds of Americans, including majorities of blacks, Hispanics, and Asians.

“I’m into efforts to make medicine more diverse,” a doctor from the Zoom group said. “But what’s gone off the rails here is that there is an intolerance of people that have another point of view. And that's going to hurt us all.”

JAHA isn’t the only journal issuing apologies. In February, the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) released a podcast hosted by surgeon and then-deputy journal editor Edward Livingston, who questioned the value of the hyper focus on race in medicine as well as the idea that medicine is systemically racist.

“Personally, I think taking racism out of the conversation will help,” Livingston said at one point. “Many of us are offended by the concept that we are racist.”

It’s possible Livingston’s comments would have gone unnoticed but JAMA promoted the podcast on Twitter with the tone-deaf text: “No physician is racist, so how can there be structural racism in health care?”

Even more than in the case of Norman Wang, this tweet, and the podcast it promoted, led to a massive uproar. A number of researchers vowed to boycott the journal, and a petition condemning JAMA has received over 9,000 signatures. In response to the backlash, JAMA quickly deleted the episode, promised to investigate, and asked Livingston to resign from his job. He did.

If you try to access the podcast today, you find an apology in its place from JAMA editor-in-chief Howard Bauchner, who called Livingston’s statements, “inaccurate, offensive, hurtful and inconsistent with the standards of JAMA.” Bauchner was also suspended by JAMA pending an independent investigation. This Tuesday, JAMA announced that Bauchner officially stepped down. In a statement, he said he is “profoundly disappointed in myself for the lapses that led to the publishing of the tweet and podcast. Although I did not write or even see the tweet, or create the podcast, as editor in chief, I am ultimately responsible for them.”

Shortly after this announcement, the New York Times reported that “JAMA’s reckoning” led to a backlash from some JAMA members, who wrote in a letter to the organization that “there is a general feeling that the firing of the editors involved in the podcast was perhaps precipitous, possibly a blot on free speech and also possibly an example of reverse discrimination.” Bauchner’s last day at JAMA is June 30...

Keep reading.


Memorials Come Down at 'George Floyd Square' --- and the Local Are Pissed! (VIDEO)

Yes, and this was where shots were fired last week during live coverage of the anniversary of Floyd's death. 

At the New York Times, "Minneapolis Removes Memorials and Barricades From ‘George Floyd Square’":

MINNEAPOLIS — The bulldozers arrived before dawn on Thursday at the South Minneapolis intersection where the police killed George Floyd. Moving quickly, city workers in neon vests hauled away flowers, artwork and large cement barricades that have allowed the corner to serve as an ever-growing memorial to Mr. Floyd for more than a year.

By the time hundreds of people began flocking to the scene in protest, many of the tributes at the intersection known as George Floyd Square were gone. The large metal fist that sprouts from the middle of 38th Street and Chicago Avenue was still there, but the barriers that activists used to block traffic had been removed and the city had put most of the items honoring Mr. Floyd into storage.

The mayor and other city officials hoped that the effort would let traffic flow through the intersection again, allowing businesses to prosper and cutting down on the violence in the neighborhood. But demonstrators said that the unannounced action was disrespectful to Mr. Floyd’s memory and that the city was trying to force people to move on from his killing.

In the weeks after May 25, 2020, when a police officer knelt on Mr. Floyd’s neck as he took his last breaths, the intersection was transformed into a community space that people visited from around the world, to pay their respects or simply to say they had been there. In April, hundreds of people gathered in the intersection and erupted in cheers when Derek Chauvin, the white former officer, was found guilty of murdering Mr. Floyd, a Black father who had recently lost his job as a security guard...

Still more.


Black Rifle Coffee Babe; Emma Watson Total Nude; and Sweet Random Honkin Woman in Twitter

This is great!

Emma Watson is here

Plus, Black Rifle babe.

Also, random big and busty babe

'Nervous Breakdown'

Keith Morris sang the original "Nervous Breakdown" on Black Flag's breakout EP in 1978. Totally cool:

I'm about to have a nervous breakdown
My head really hurts
If I don’t get the hell outta here
I'm gonna go berserk,

Cause I'm crazy and I’m hurt
Head on my shoulders
I'm going berserk

I hear the same old talk talk talk
The same old lines
Don't do me that today, yeah
If you know what's good for you you'll get out of my way 'cause
I'm crazy and I'm hurt
Head on my shoulders
Going ... berserk

I won't apologize
For acting outta line
You see the way I am
You leave any time you can 'cause
I'm crazy and I'm hurt
Head on my shoulders
Going ... berserk

Crazy! crazy! crazy! crazy!

I don't care what you fuckin' do!
I don't care what you fuckin' say!
I'm so sick of everything
I just want to... Die!

Thursday, June 3, 2021

'Bridge Over Troubled Water'

The Concert in Central Park, from 1981. 

Simon and Garfunkel:

When you're weary Feeling small

When tears are in your eyes

I'll dry them all

I'm on your side

Oh, when times get rough

And friends just can't be found

Like a bridge over troubled water

I will lay me down

Like a bridge over troubled water

I will lay me down

When you're down and out

When you're on the street

When evening falls so hard

I will comfort you

I'll take your part

Oh, when darkness comes

And pain is all around

Like a bridge over troubled water

I will lay me down

Like a bridge over troubled water

I will lay me down

Sail on silver girl

Sail on by

Your time has come to shine

All your dreams are on their way

See how they shine

Oh, if you need a friend

I'm sailing right behind

Like a bridge over troubled water

I will ease your mind

Like a bridge over troubled water

I will ease your mind

'Call Me'

I was out and about this afternoon, and Blondie came over the radio. 

Fourteen months and this is what makes my day. *Eye-roll.*

Color me Color me your color, baby 

Color me your car

Color me your color, darling

I know who you are

Come up off your color chart

I know where you're coming from

Call me (call me) on the line

Call me, call me any, anytime

Call me (call me) I'll arrive

You can call me any day or night

Call me

Cover me with kisses, baby

Cover me with love

Roll me in designer sheets

I'll never get enough

Emotions come, I don't know why

Cover up love's alibi

Call me (call me) on the line

Call me, call me any, anytime

Call me (call me) I'll arrive

When you're ready we can share the wine

Call me

Oooh, he speaks the languages of love

Oooh, amore, chiamami, chiamami

Oooh, appelle-moi mon cheri, appelle-moi

Anytime, anyplace, anywhere, any way

Anytime, anyplace, anywhere, any day, any way

Call me


Challenging Critical Race Theory, Rhode Island Mom Demands School Curriculum from South Kingstown School District (VIDEO)

This is getting to be a very big thing. Democrats can't be that stupid. The 2022 midterms aren't that far off, and Lord knows the country's turned to hell since Trump left office. 

And this takes courage. The freakin' school district is threatening a lawsuit? No, this isn't right. Public schools are for the public, right? Well then the people shouldn't have to go to hell and back to get the most basic information on what schools are teaching their kids. Applause for this brave woman, wow.

It's Nicole Solas, at Legal Insurrecion, "I’m a Mom Seeking Records of Critical Race and Gender Curriculum, Now the School Committee May Sue to Stop Me (Update)":

I am a mother in the South Kingstown School District in Rhode Island investigating through public records requests how critical race and gender theories are integrated into lessons, school policies, and contracts. Now the School Committee is considering suing me to stop me.

My child is enrolled in kindergarten and I became concerned that Critical Race Theory (CRT) and gender theory were integrated into lessons when an elementary school principal told me that teachers don’t refer to students as “boys” and “girls.” Additionally, I was told a kindergarten teacher asks five-year-olds, “what could have been done differently on the first Thanksgiving” in order to build upon a “line of thinking about history.” I asked why kids could not be called “boys” and “girls” and was told it was “common practice.” I asked for clarification on the “line of thinking” about history but got no answers. The more questions I asked, the less answers I received.

Then I asked for a tour of the elementary school and the Superintendent offered me an in-person or virtual tour, but never responded with a date and time despite my numerous follow-up emails and phone calls. After almost a month of radio silence the Superintendent then told me that now they were not offering tours due to Covid restrictions. Yet the Superintendent offered tours of other schools to campaign for a school bond.

I also asked to see the elementary school curriculum. I asked the principal, the school committee, the superintendent, the director of curriculum, and even the legal department at the Rhode Island Department of Education to allow me to view the curriculum. The school’s Director of Curriculum told me she was unavailable and never responded when I said I could view the curriculum on any day and time. Then a school committee member directed me to file an Access to Public Records Act (APRA) request on the school district website to obtain the curriculum. After thirty days, I received an incomplete curriculum and filed an APRA complaint with the Attorney General.

By contrast, curriculum for two charters schools in South Kingstown (Kingston Hill Academy and The Compass School) is available on their websites. I scheduled a tour of a private school in five minutes. Why was it so hard to get a tour and see the curriculum in my own public school district?

At this point I had reason to believe that the school district was hiding information and deliberately stonewalling me. I started using the APRA request google link on the school district’s website to request public documents that might answer my questions about CRT, gender theory, and other concerns. When I requested the emails of a school committee member the estimate of what they would charge me came back as $9,570. Who can afford that?

Under the APRA, “a reasonable charge may be made for the search or retrieval of documents. Hourly costs for a search and retrieval shall not exceed fifteen dollars ($15.00) per hour and no costs shall be charged for the first hour of a search or retrieval.” Additionally, each copy costs 15 cents.

I amended my request to narrow the scope of requested emails to six months and requested digital copies instead of hard copies. That $9,570 estimate dropped to $79.50. I quickly realized that if I structured many specific and narrow requests, I could afford to purchase the public information which was otherwise inaccessible to me due to the non-responsiveness of my school leadership. I felt like I had cracked the code to this mystery of inaccessible information.

These initial high estimates of public records requests are common barriers to parents obtaining information about their children’s school district. A parent in another Rhode Island school district received an estimate of $17,295.75 to obtain public information related to the cost of an athletic field. Access to public information is not cheap. Or equitable.

I continued to submit small and numerous public record requests to investigate my school district. The school department continued to respond in the statutory time period of ten days. A school committee member even made a snarky reference to my APRA requests in an email. Evidently my APRA requests were not problematic if they were the subject of sarcasm from a school committee member. No one in the school department ever told me it was a problem while I was in constant contact with them to request and purchase information. I purchased over $300 worth of public information and shared it to a private Facebook group to raise awareness about indoctrination in Rhode Island schools. I developed a growing network of likeminded teachers, parents, and community members who gave me information about CRT and gender theory infiltrating Rhode Island school districts.

Then, on Friday, May 28, the school committee set an agenda item for a public meeting to discuss “filing litigation against Nicole Solas to challenge the filing of over 160 APRA requests.”

My school committee now is considering suing me because I submitted a lot of public records requests to get answers to my questions which the School District would not answer. This same school committee which told me to use a statutorily prescribed process to obtain one piece of information (curriculum) is now having a public meeting to discuss suing me for using the same statutorily prescribed process to obtain other information. The message was clear: ask too many questions about your child’s education and we will come after you.

The most puzzling part of this shameful abuse of government power is that numerous attorneys with whom I’ve consulted cannot figure out the basis of a claim against me. There is no limit to submitting public record requests. Further, the APRA statute contemplates multiple requests made in a 30-day period for the purpose of cost. It states: “[M]ultiple requests from any person or entity to the same public body within a thirty (30) day time period shall be considered one request.” Accordingly, I did not submit 160 requests – I submitted ONE.

I suspect the South Kingstown School Department is displeased that a parent has found a way to legally compel responses to difficult questions surrounding CRT and gender theory in public school. I suspect they are also displeased about my criticism of the antiracism policy and appointment and hiring policy, both of which are under review and breathtakingly racist.

The Access to Public Records Act prohibits a government body from compelling a citizen to justify or explain her requests for public information. But, here I am attending my first in-person school committee meeting where my own name is one of two agenda items in open session. Here I am feeling immense pressure to explain and justify my public information requests to this shameful government body on pains of potential litigation against me. A school committee scheduling a public meeting to discuss “filing lawsuit against Nicole Solas to challenge filing of over 160 APRA requests” is nothing short of an attempt to deprive me of my civil rights to obtain public information about my child’s school.

I can think of a dozen better ways my APRA requests could have been addressed. The Superintendent could have hired a temporary assistant for $12 an hour to retrieve documents. If the school department is concerned about this extra cost of fulfilling my public record requests, it should use its 64 million dollar budget more wisely than to hire a consultant to manage School District’s Facebook page for $50 an hour to post important messages like memes that say “Happy Mother’s Day.”

The school committee also could have reached out to me and asked if they could answer my questions directly. But no. Instead, they sought to publicly vilify a mother.

Although I am shocked that a government body would use the threat of litigation to publicly bully, harass, and intimidate a mother who was advocating for her child’s education, I am not afraid. And I will not stop asking questions.

This shameful retaliation against a parent who demand transparency from public schools will not be tolerated. Every parent needs to keep asking questions. Every parent needs to submit more public records requests when they do not receive answers to their questions from school leaders. Hold your elected representatives accountable and do not allow them to prevent you from protecting and advocating for your children.

If the school system starts to bully you because you are asking too many questions, then you’re winning. Don’t give up.

J. P. Daughton, In the Forest of No Joy

At Amazon, J. P. Daughton, In the Forest of No Joy: The Congo-Océan Railroad and the Tragedy of French Colonialism.

Dad and His Beautiful Daughter Go Viral in Video Rebutting 'Critical Race Theory'

So cool. 

What a wonderful little cutie.

At Pajamas, "THIS Is How You Handle the Race-Hustlers," and Fox News, "Dad-daughter duo go viral with video rejecting critical race theory: 'Your skin color does not matter': Kory Yeshua tells 'Fox & Friends' why he pushed back on CRT in daughter's school":

Andy Ngo Needs a Bodyguard (VIDEO)

I responded to Mr. Ngo on Twitter earlier: "Maybe time to hang it up for a bit? Write another book? I don’t know? Get out of Portland for a while?"

The man cannot continue to do his coverage of Antifa all alone. He needs at least a bodyguard, if not a full force-protection squad surrounding him when he's out doing his thing. He will be killed. He says himself he's had a couple of dozen of death threats, and it was just a year or two ago the he was beaten to an inch of his life. He's moved back to Portland to care for his parents, but hey, his parents won't have a son too much longer if he keeps it up. Like I suggested, maybe it's time for him to pass the baton? Write books? Let someone else take up the mantle of on-the-ground reporting like this? 

I don't know? Life's too short. 

At Ingraham's last night:

Wednesday, June 2, 2021

Vegas Vactioners Face 26-Mile Traffic Jam Back to California (VIDEO)

At the Review Journal, "Memorial Day traffic jams I-15 at California-Nevada border."

There were a few drunk drivers, but most of those busted were trying to make time on the emergency lanes. That's why my wife and I get on the freeway before 6:00am, to beat the rush back to Cali.

Alan Taylor, William Cooper's Town

At Amazon, Alan Taylor, William Cooper's Town: Power and Persuasion on the Frontier of the Early American Republic.

Elizabeth Hinton, America on Fire

Elizabeth Hinton, America on Fire: The Untold History of Police Violence and Black Rebellion Since the 1960s.

'So Far Away'

Carole King. (And James Taylor.)

I've been singing this song, and I couldn't remember who sings it. 

She's so lovely, and this is 1971, so long ago.

Republicans Fight Back Against Critical Race Theory

Republicans are fighting critical race theory, but what about conservatives? 

It's not hard to see the C.R.T. is going to be with us for the long haul. The problem is what to do with it. What's I'm seeing in response so far isn't very appealing, much less conservative. It's a lot of cancel culture coming from the right. It's too bad, too, for the solutions aren't too far and away. Folks should look to first principles, especially federalism. That is, push education policy down to the local level as much as possible, and as fast as you can. Get Congress out of the picture. Give states and localities the money, and then let them decide their own curricula. The real conservative bet would be abolishing the Department of Education. Can the Republicans do that? They're the putative conservative party. They should go big and call for a massive downsizing of the federal government, devolving more and more responsibilities to the states. I can't recall really any Republican administration doing that, not even Ronald Reagan's. 

Maybe you'd have to go back to Barry Goldwater's The Conscience of a Conservative for such bold initiatives to reinvent government? 

Downsize, devolve, and delegate education policy down from the federal government to the states. And then get government out of the way and let the people decide what's best for their kids and communities. 

We'll see.

At NYT, "Disputing Racism’s Reach, Republicans Rattle American Schools":

In Loudoun County, Va., a group of parents led by a former Trump appointee are pushing to recall school board members after the school district called for mandatory teacher training in “systemic oppression and implicit bias.”

In Washington, 39 Republican senators called history education that focuses on systemic racism a form of “activist indoctrination.”

And across the country, Republican-led legislatures have passed bills recently to ban or limit schools from teaching that racism is infused in American institutions. After Oklahoma’s G.O.P. governor signed his state’s version in early May, he was ousted from the centennial commission for the 1921 Race Massacre in Tulsa, which President Biden visited on Tuesday to memorialize one of the worst episodes of racial violence in U.S. history.

From school boards to the halls of Congress, Republicans are mounting an energetic campaign aiming to dictate how historical and modern racism in America are taught, meeting pushback from Democrats and educators in a politically thorny clash that has deep ramifications for how children learn about their country.

Republicans have focused their attacks on the influence of “critical race theory,” a graduate school framework that has found its way into K-12 public education. The concept argues that historical patterns of racism are ingrained in law and other modern institutions, and that the legacies of slavery, segregation and Jim Crow still create an uneven playing field for Black people and other people of color.

Many conservatives portray critical race theory and invocations of systemic racism as a gauntlet thrown down to accuse white Americans of being individually racist. Republicans accuse the left of trying to indoctrinate children with the belief that the United States is inherently wicked.

Democrats are conflicted. Some worry that arguing America is racist to the root — a view embraced by elements of the party’s progressive wing — contradicts the opinion of a majority of voters and is handing Republicans an issue to use as a political cudgel. But large parts of the party’s base, including many voters of color, support more discussion in schools about racism’s reach, and believe that such conversations are an educational imperative that should stand apart from partisan politics.

“History is already undertaught — we’ve been undereducated, and these laws are going to get us even less educated,” said Prudence L. Carter, the dean of the Graduate School of Education at the University of California, Berkeley. Attempts to suppress what is still a nascent movement to teach young Americans more explicitly about racist public policy, like redlining or the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, amount to “a gaslighting of history,” she said, adding, “It’s a form of denialism.”

The debate over the real or perceived influence of critical race theory — not just in schools but also in corporate, government and media settings — comes as both parties increasingly make issues of identity central to politics. And it accelerated during the presidency of Donald J. Trump, when discussions over racism in the country were supercharged by his racist comments and by a wave of protests last year over police killings of Black people.


The Right Way on Trade?

From Gordon Hanson, at Foreign Affairs, "Can Trade Work for Workers? The Right Way to Redress Harms and Redistribute Gains":

For decades, the promise of globalization has rested on a vision of a world in which goods, services, and capital would flow across borders as never before; whatever its other features and components, contemporary globalization has been primarily about trade and foreign investment. Today’s globalized economy has been shaped to a large extent by a series of major trade agreements that were sold as win-win propositions: corporations, investors, workers, and consumers would all benefit from lowered barriers and harmonized standards. American advocates of this view claimed that deals such as the North American Free Trade Agreement would supercharge growth, create jobs, and strengthen the United States’ standing as the world’s largest and most important economy. According to then President George H. W. Bush, “NAFTA means more exports, and more exports means more American jobs.”

A quarter of a century later, such optimism appears profoundly misplaced. NAFTA and other deals did boost growth, and free trade remains a net benefit for the U.S. economy as a whole. But the overall gains have been far less dramatic than promised, and many American workers suffered when well-paid manufacturing jobs dried up as factories moved abroad. Those who managed to stay employed saw their wages stagnate. The federal government, meanwhile, did little to build a safety net to catch those who lost out.

Unsurprisingly, Americans have complicated views on trade. Although a majority of voters see free trade as a good thing, barely one-third believe that it creates jobs or lowers prices. In response, political elites and elected officials across the ideological spectrum have scrambled to distance themselves from free-trade policies and from the major pacts of the past. For its part, the Biden administration has made a noble-sounding but vague pledge to pursue a “worker-centric” trade policy. The specifics are still unclear, but such an approach will likely include more aggressive so-called Buy American provisions, which require government agencies to give preference to U.S. products when making purchases; increased pressure on trading partners to respect workers’ collective-bargaining rights; and a hawkish relationship with China. Despite the rhetoric, these proposals put the administration well within the bounds of existing U.S. trade policy—tweaking margins here and there.

That approach is unlikely to fix the problems caused by free trade—which, despite the appeal of protectionist talking points, isn’t going anywhere. Instead, the Biden administration should establish targeted domestic programs that protect workers from the downsides of globalization. A responsible policy would capture the gains of free trade but make up for domestic losses. In recent years, the United States has done neither...

Still more.


Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Heather Mac Donald's, The War on Cops

At Amazon, Heather Mac Donald, The War on Cops: How the New Attack on Law and Order Makes Everyone Less Safe.

photo BC_TheWarOnCops_zpslfj0gilp.jpg

'The Five' Slams 'Defunding the Police' (VIDEO)

I almost never watch "The Five." I prefer outnumbered way more, heh, with all those hotties. 

This is a good segment, though, especially Dagen McDowell and Jessica Tarlov.


California Boasts the Strictest Gun Control Regulations in the Country

I knew California had some of the toughest gun control laws around, but I didn't know we were the toughest. 

But do they work? Sure. But of course, it's the guns themselves that need regulating, less so the people. The once-Golden State should get more golden on gun ownership, sheesh.

At CSM, "California has the most gun-control laws in US. Do they work?":

As of 2020, California had more gun laws – 107 – on the books than any other state, according to research from the State Firearm Laws Database. And while those laws haven’t made California the state with the least amount of firearm deaths, it does put it around the bottom quintile, says Dr. Eric Fleegler, a pediatric emergency physician at Boston Children’s Hospital who researches gun violence and regulations.

Crucial, Dr. Fleegler says, are California’s laws on universal background checks – a solution to “a huge loophole in the federal background check” – as well as laws on gun storage, laws relating to gun ownership for people with a history of domestic violence, and people with restraining orders. These measures are intended to help with all types of gun violence – from suicides to accidents – not just murders and mass shootings.

“They really cover a broad gambit,” Dr. Fleegler says. But, he adds, where there are guns, there will always be gun deaths, intentionally or otherwise. “While legislation on the one hand can certainly lead to some reductions in the number of guns owned at the state level, they don’t actually prohibit the purchase of guns,” he says. “[Regulations] do a more thoughtful approach to who has them, how do you store them, if someone has domestic violence as part of their history, remove them from actually owning them.”

Mass shootings have an element of surprise or randomness that can make prevention difficult, even with other gun-control measures in place. “Those [shootings] are extremely distinct” from other forms of gun violence, Dr. Fleegler says. So-called red-flag laws, which allow for the confiscation of guns from those who are deemed a risk to themselves or others, can be a good step, he says. But “it’s one thing to pass legislation, it’s a whole other thing to enforce legislation,” he adds – as was highlighted when those laws didn’t prevent a recent shooting in Indianapolis.

Gun sales in California – and the nation – surged last year, spurred by racial and political unrest, economic insecurity, and the uncertainty of the pandemic. According to state data released in March in a court case, about 1.17 million new guns were registered in the state in 2020 – the most since 2016. The buying spree continued into the first part of 2021.

In 2020, there were just two public mass shootings in which four or more people died – down from 10 in 2019, the worst year on record, according to experts on mass shootings. That’s due in part to pandemic lockdowns. However, overall shootings increased – with more than 600 incidents where four or more people were shot, up from 417 in 2019. And violence generally increased by 20% or more in many large and small cities, California’s included, writes Dr. Garen Wintemute, a professor of emergency medicine and violence prevention at the University of California, Davis. Through mid-2020, the size of the increase in violence was proportional to the size of the increase in gun sales, he writes in an email.

“There was ... social disruption on many fronts, on a scale we’ve not seen in many years. We are just beginning to experience the effects of those interacting changes,” he explains. “We are likely to have a rough summer.”

When it comes to red-flag laws, “it was California that really created the model we see today,” where both police and family members can initiate the process, says Mr. Heyne at Brady. Indiana and Connecticut were the first states to have such laws. But following California’s passage, 16 states and the District of Columbia passed laws similar to the Golden State’s – including five with Republican governors.

California is also home to the University of California Firearm Violence Research Center, the first state-funded center for such research. It’s part of a holistic approach to gun violence “that is something that we have seen other states also pick up,” Mr. Heyne says. But after the San Jose shooting, “we still have a lot of work to do.”

Part of that work, advocates like Mr. Heyne believe, will have to come from Congress. California isn’t an island, he notes, and guns can flow across its borders. But the state has leaders at the federal level who’ve long championed gun control.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein was the architect of the 10-year federal assault weapons ban passed in 1994, and has pushed for its reinstatement. Her home state bans assault weapons. Other California Democrats, such as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Vice President Kamala Harris, have also pushed for gun-control measures, though few reforms have passed at the federal level in recent decades.

Nationally, “we do very little to screen individuals or to separate [from firearms] individuals that we know are at risk of dangerous behavior,” Mr. Heyne says. “If we want to really address gun violence in all of its forms, we need a comprehensive approach that is tactical, that is surgical, that is very specific to addressing the types of gun violence that exist in America, because it’s not a monolith. All of these different forms of gun violence require different solutions.”