Patterico's Pontifications

7/30/2021

Weekend Open Thread

Filed under: General — Dana @ 8:13 pm



[guest post by Dana]

Hello, weekend! I hope you all have something fun to look forward to this weekend. Here are a few news items to chew over. Feel free to post anything you think would interest readers. Please make sure to include links.

First news item

Weighing in on the vaccinated to mask up:

Yes, if you’ve been vaccinated, you can still die from COVID-19, but the odds are infinitesimally small…But the CDC isn’t recommending mask-wearing to protect the vaccinated. It claims, without providing supporting data, that the vaccinated need to wear masks to protect the unvaccinated from the new delta variant.

Let’s assume the CDC actually has the data to support its policy. There are three primary arguments to require the vaccinated to mask up.

First, we need to protect unvaccinated adults, who account for nearly all COVID-19 deaths and hospitalizations. There would be a good case for this if vaccines weren’t readily available. But they are. At this point, if you choose not to get vaccinated (without a medical excuse), I think that’s profoundly foolish, but that’s your choice.

Second, there’s the matter of children under 12 who still can’t get the vaccine. My heart aches for any child who dies from COVID-19—or anything else. Fortunately, the death rate for children is statistically miniscule. According to the CDC, of the more than 600,000 deaths from COVID-19, only 335 have been kids under 18 (and it’s unclear how many of them had significant additional health issues). According to the CDC, roughly twice as many kids die in car accidents every year. We don’t ban kids from cars.

The third argument, usually only hinted at, is that we need to keep COVID-19 from mutating into an even more dangerous variant that can defeat vaccines. This is a real concern. But masking and even lockdowns won’t prevent that. As best we can tell, the delta variant came from India. We could require Americans to wear masks and even get vaccinated, but that wouldn’t stop the virus from mutating somewhere else. And unless we want to ban global travel indefinitely, or until we vaccinate much of the planet (which we should do), we have to live with that possibility.

Meanwhile, there are real costs to backsliding back into masking and, heaven forbid, school closures, lockdowns, etc.—which some people are already agitating for. This stuff is terrible for kids, infuriating for adults, and (rational or not) profoundly disruptive of social peace and trust. The chief incentive for getting vaccinated—after protecting yourself and your loved ones—is the promise of getting back to normal.

Second news item

Totally unsurprising he said this:

Former President Donald Trump pressured acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen to declare that the election was corrupt in an attempt to help Republican members of Congress try to overturn the election result, according to notes of a December 2020 call Trump held with Rosen and acting deputy attorney general Richard Donoghue.

During the December 27, 2020, call, Trump pressured Rosen and Donoghue to falsely declare the election “illegal” and “corrupt” even after the Justice Department had not uncovered evidence of widespread voter fraud.

“Just say that the election was corrupt + leave the rest to me and the R. Congressmen,” Trump said on the call, according to Donoghue’s notes.

Third news item

That was then, this is now:

The long-expected gubernatorial recall election in California is set for Sept. 14, and 46 candidates (not including the governor himself, Democrat Gavin Newsom) have officially qualified to run. But perhaps the most intriguing development in the race has come in recent polling. After the recall looked uncompetitive for months, evidence has emerged that the race is tightening.

Until last week, there had been no new polls of the recall election in about a month. But since then, we’ve gotten two — and both showed Newsom in danger of being recalled. First, an Emerson College/Nexstar Media survey found that 48 percent of registered voters in California wanted to keep Newsom in office, while 43 percent wanted to recall him. Then, a poll from the University of California, Berkeley, Institute of Governmental Studies co-sponsored by the Los Angeles Times found that 50 percent of likely recall voters wanted to keep Newsom and 47 percent wanted to oust him. These fresh polls — both within the margin of error — differed markedly from a handful of surveys released in May and June that found the recall effort trailing by at least 10 percentage points.

Who casts a ballot in this unusually timed election could be pivotal. The UC Berkeley IGS/Los Angeles Times poll underscored why: Among registered voters, Republicans were far more likely to say they’d vote than Democrats or independents. Eighty percent of Republican registered voters said they were absolutely certain to vote, compared with only 55 percent of Democrats and about half of independents. As such, likely voters were opposed to removing Newsom by only 3 points, while the spread was much wider among all registered voters — 51 percent were opposed to removing him compared with just 36 percent in favor (in line with the pollster’s findings in early May and late January). In fact, Republicans’ enthusiasm for this race is so high that they make up roughly one-third of the survey’s likely electorate, even though they constitute only about one-quarter of California’s registered voters.

Fourth news item

Tragic: “I should’ve gotten the damn vaccine”:

Two weeks ago, life was great for Jessica DuPreez. She was on vacation in San Diego with her fiancé Michael Freedy, (better known as Big Mike at the M Resort where he worked), and their five kids ages 17, 10, 7, 6 and 17 months.

Shortly after their vacation, Freedy went to the hospital for what he thought was a severe sunburn. He tested positive for COVID-19.

Thursday morning, Freedy died with DuPreez by his side…

Freedy was not vaccinated for COVID-19.

“We wanted to wait just one year from the release to see what effects people had, but there was never any intention to not get it,” DuPreez said. That is a decision she said she will always regret and has now gotten the shot along with their oldest child.

Freedy sent her a text message while in the hospital it said, ““I should have gotten the damn vaccine.”

Fifth news item

Vile:

Sixth news item

A complete disaster:

President Joe Biden had just announced plans to withdraw all American troops from Afghanistan in April when, during a classified briefing with top national security officials on Capitol Hill, one lawmaker stood up and asked a pointed question.

What was the Biden administration’s plan to evacuate the thousands of Afghan nationals who aided the U.S. war effort, and expedite their visas?

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin didn’t have an answer. “We’ll get back to you on that,” Austin said, according to two people in the room and a defense official familiar with the interaction.

Austin’s response shocked them — and it foreshadowed what many members of Congress, Republicans and Democrats alike, now see as a failure by the Biden administration to sufficiently prepare for the avalanche of visa applications and the need to quickly evacuate those Afghans from the country as the Taliban make steady territorial gains.

“It’s my view that the evacuations should have started right after the announcement of our withdrawal. That evacuation started too late,” Rep. Jason Crow (D-Colo.), a former Army Ranger who served in Afghanistan, said in an interview. “But it started. And I appreciate the fact that it’s going, and that they’re doing it aggressively now.”

Related:

The White House has finally agreed our allies must be evacuated and it has a plan to evacuate those who can make it to Kabul. Sadly, it is not enough. The Association of Wartime Allies recently polled the Afghan Special Immigrant Visa population. Nearly 49% are outside Kabul — a population of approximately 34,000 people. Unless we go save them, they will die within weeks…The Taliban claims to control 85% of the country and is fighting to take the cities it does not yet control…An Association of Wartime Allies survey estimates that 3,200 Afghan allies are currently trapped in Kandahar.

The Taliban has a presence on Afghanistan’s roads and have created checkpoints for vehicles. They have used biometric data at these checkpoints to identify US allies and administer their death sentences on the side of the road. Hundreds have already suffered this fate, according to No One Left Behind.

Commercial air travel is scarce between Afghan cities, and most of our allies cannot afford the ticket. The Afghan military cannot defend or move these people. Only US troops can do it. Now, we have two options before us. Either we accept the mass murder of people we made a promise to save or we take bold action. I argue we must do the latter.

The President should order the 82nd Airborne Division or the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force back into Afghanistan. We should retake airfields we held mere months ago. Some remain in Afghan military control, others we will likely have to seize from the Taliban by force. From these air bases, we should begin the evacuation of our Afghan wartime allies that should have properly occurred before we withdrew any of our own forces.

Seventh news item

Read this first. I had planned to write about Simone Biles pulling out of the Olympics but didn’t get around to it. And I’m so glad I didn’t because David French has written a very insightful piece about the decision that Biles made (behind paywall):

Every now and then you can read a sentence or two of prose that can change your life. I’ve had that experience more than once reading C.S. Lewis, but these words, from The Screwtape Letters, have stood out to many as much as anything he’s ever written. “Courage is not simply one of the virtues,” wrote Lewis, “but the form of every virtue at the testing point, which means at the point of highest reality.”

Until I read those words, I’d had a more cramped view of the term. There was physical courage, the willingness to risk your body in the face of mortal danger. And there was moral courage, which usually manifested itself in the willingness to accept, say, career or reputational risks to make a righteous stand. But to Lewis, courage is essentially tied to every virtue, to the point where we don’t even know if we possess the virtue until it’s tested.

So a great gymnast (the greatest in world history) who has “played hurt” many times before is persevering in the face of historic abuse and an ongoing scandal, and she’s still participating in a system that (despite recent reforms) has engaged in the systematic exploitation of young girls. In those circumstances, she faced a potentially catastrophically-dangerous crisis that not only profoundly risked her health, it also risked the success of her national team.

What is the virtue in play here? Prudence is one. A sport is not worth your life. It’s not worth your spine. Thus the comparisons to, say, basketball players who “freeze up” and brick three after three are off-base. If LeBron James has a bad game, he’s not risking paralysis with every shot. Moreover, the desire to demonstrate your toughness is not worth the harm to your squad.

Thus, the right-wing critics who piled on again and again and again and again and again decrying Biles’s alleged lack of toughness weren’t so much calling for courage but for recklessness. In spite of all of the factors above, they wanted her to walk out to the mat, fly through the air, and let the chips fall where they may.

The virtue in play was prudence. The vice was recklessness. So when Biles committed to prudence at a testing point more dramatic and high-profile than any of us will likely experience in a thousand lifetimes, she demonstrated exactly the kind of courage that C.S. Lewis so powerfully defined.

Eighth news item

White House slams Delta variant messaging:

The White House is frustrated with what it views as alarmist, and in some instances flat-out misleading, news coverage about the Delta variant. That’s according to two senior Biden administration officials I spoke with Friday, both of whom requested anonymity to candidly offer their opinion on coverage of the CDC data released that suggests vaccinated Americans who become infected with the Delta coronavirus variant can infect others as easily as those who are unvaccinated.

At the heart of the matter is the news media’s focus on breakthrough infections, which the CDC has said are rare. In some instances, poorly framed headlines and cable news chyrons wrongly suggested that vaccinated Americans are just as likely to spread the disease as unvaccinated Americans. But that isn’t quite the case. Vaccinated Americans still have a far lower chance of becoming infected with the coronavirus and, thus, they are responsible for far less spread of the disease.

“The media’s coverage doesn’t match the moment,” one of the Biden officials told me. “It has been hyperbolic and frankly irresponsible in a way that hardens vaccine hesitancy. The biggest problem we have is unvaccinated people getting and spreading the virus.”

As the Biden officials explained to me, the administration is worried that the media’s focus on these instances of breakthrough infections might lead to people being more hesitant to get a vaccine…

MISCELLANEOUS

I have been trying to locate a specific artist whose work always intrigues me and which I wanted to share here but was simply unable to remember the artist’s name. Finally, after umpteen google searches, I messaged an old friend who is an art professor and asked him. He was quick with the name I was looking for: Robert Longo. I first saw large prints of Longo’s work hanging on the walls of a beautifully appointed study in a restored 120-year old home. The prints made for striking focal points in the elegant, neo-classically designed room filled with overstuffed bookcases and antiques:

Untitled

Untitled

Have a great weekend.

–Dana

DOJ: IRS Must Release Trump Tax Returns to Congress

Filed under: General — Dana @ 1:46 pm



[guest post by Dana]

Today:

The income tax returns of former President Donald Trump must be released by the IRS to Congress, the Department of Justice said Friday.

The DOJ’s Office of Legal Counsel said that the Democratic-lead House Ways and Means Committee had made a request with a legitimate legislative purpose to see Trump’s tax returns, with a stated objective of assessing how the IRS audits presidents’ tax returns.

That 39-page opinion is a reversal of an opinion by the same office, during the Trump administration, which had backed the IRS’s refusal to give the committee Trump’s returns.

Under federal law, the tax-related committees of Congress have a “broad right” to obtain taxpayer information from the Treasury Department, the IRS’s parent, the new opinion noted.

“The statute at issue here is unambiguous: ‘Upon written request’ of the chairman of one of the three congressional tax committees, the Secretary ‘shall furnish’ the requested tax information to the Committee,′ ” Friday’s opinion said.

No comment from Trump yet, but if his furious claim made back in February that he was the victim of “political persecution” is any indicator, then I’m pretty sure we’ll be hearing from him soon enough:

“This investigation is a continuation of the greatest political Witch Hunt in the history of our Country, whether it was the never ending $32 million Mueller hoax, which already investigated everything that could possibly be investigated, “Russia Russia Russia,” where there was a finding of “No Collusion,” or two ridiculous “Crazy Nancy” inspired impeachment attempts where I was found NOT GUILTY. It just never ends!

So now, for more than two years, New York City has been looking at almost every transaction I’ve ever done, including seeking tax returns which were done by among the biggest and most prestigious law and accounting firms in the U.S. The Tea Party was treated far better by the IRS than Donald Trump. The Supreme Court never should have let this “fishing expedition” happen, but they did. This is something which has never happened to a President before, it is all Democrat-inspired in a totally Democrat location, New York City and State, completely controlled and dominated by a heavily reported enemy of mine, Governor Andrew Cuomo. These are attacks by Democrats willing to do anything to stop the almost 75 million people (the most votes, by far, ever gotten by a sitting president) who voted for me in the election—an election which many people, and experts, feel that I won. I agree!

The new phenomenon of “headhunting” prosecutors and AGs—who try to take down their political opponents using the law as a weapon—is a threat to the very foundation of our liberty. That’s what is done in third world countries. Even worse are those who run for prosecutorial or attorney general offices in far-left states and jurisdictions pledging to take out a political opponent. That’s fascism, not justice—and that is exactly what they are trying to do with respect to me, except that the people of our Country won’t stand for it.

In the meantime, murders and violent crime are up in New York City by record numbers, and nothing is done about it. Our elected officials don’t care. All they focus on is the persecution of President Donald J. Trump.

I will fight on, just as I have, for the last five years (even before I was successfully elected), despite all of the election crimes that were committed against me. We will win! “

–Dana

Vaccinated Or Not, LAUSD Requiring Weekly Covid Testing For All Returning On-Site Students And Employees

Filed under: General — Dana @ 9:27 am



[guest post by Dana]

This is sure to draw ire from any number of Los Angeles Unified School District parents:

The Los Angeles Unified School District will require all students and employees who are returning for in-person instruction to participate in weekly COVID-19 testing — regardless of vaccination status, the district announced Thursday.

“This is in accordance with the most recent guidance from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health,” Interim Superintendent Megan K. Reilly said in a statement.

LAUSD, the nation’s second-largest school district, had previously said that fully vaccinated students and employees would not require testing. But as schools district-wide prepare to reopen for in-person instruction on Aug. 16, L.A. Unified said it’s closely monitoring evolving health conditions and adapting its response.

In addition to regular testing, safety measures will include: masking for all students, staff and visitors; maximizing physical distancing as much as possible; continuing comprehensive sanitizing efforts, including frequent hand washing; upgraded air filtration systems; and collaborating with health partners and agencies to support free COVID-19 vaccination.

In California, if students want to attend public school, private schools, or daycare, they must be immunized against 10 serious communicable diseases: diphtheria, Haemophilus influenzae Type B (bacterial meningitis), measles, mumps, pertussis (whooping cough), polio, rubella, tetanus, hepatitis B and chicken pox. Vaccination laws only apply at specific times: upon entering child care, transitional kindergarten/kindergarten or 7th grade, or when transferring into schools or child care from out of state or out of the country. Otherwise, the immunization status of students is not an issue.

If Covid-19 vaccines were mandated for school children, the question then becomes, will parents be allowed to opt-out of immunizing their children based solely on their personal beliefs? The answer to that is still unknown, given that there is not yet an approved Covid-19 vaccine for children 12 years and under, and it depends on which State entity adds Covid-19 vaccine to the list of mandated vaccines for schoolchildren:

Currently, flu, HPV and COVID-19 vaccinations are not required for California students under Senate Bill 277…

Once the vaccines are fully approved for young children, it’s unclear whether lawmakers will consider adding the COVID-19 vaccine to the schedule of mandated shots.

That means there are currently no personal belief exemptions for these vaccinations, because they are not mandated in the first place. At the moment, parents can choose whether to vaccinate their children against these diseases.

But if those vaccinations were to be added to the state’s list of mandatory shots, experts say a personal belief exemption may not apply — depending on how the new vaccines are added to the list.

Dorit Reiss, a professor of law at UC Hastings and a member of the Vaccine Working Group on Ethics and Policy, said the law included a clause that allows the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) to mandate new vaccinations.

If vaccinations are added to the schedule in this way, the law stipulates that personal belief exemptions must be offered to parents and students.

“New vaccines required — like COVID, flu, HPV — will have a [personal belief exemption] if, and only if, the department of health adds them without going through the legislature,” Reiss said. “If the Legislature adds them, the Legislature will set the terms.”

That means that the state Legislature could choose to pass legislation that adds a vaccination to the current list without offering a personal belief exemption.

“The Legislature may at any time amend or pass a new statute to add a required immunization,” said Brandon Stracener, a senior research fellow at UC Berkeley Law School’s California Constitution Center. “This additional restriction on the department, an executive regulatory agency, reflects a balance between the greater speed with which agencies can react and the more direct voter accountability legislators face.”

Additionally:

Reiss said the CDPH has yet to add a vaccination of its own to the list since SB 277 passed in 2015.

“I expect that if it’s added, it would be added by the legislature,” she said. “That’s how all currently mandated vaccines were added. I think the CDPH would be very cautious of the political implications if it went at this without legislative mandate.”

That means there likely would not be a personal belief exemption.

“The [CDPH] could attempt to deem coronavirus an appropriate disease under these statutes to require immunization,” Stracener said. “But the legislature might have to respond itself if a large enough number of asserted personal belief exemptions made it clear that the legislature would have to act to ensure public safety.”

Along with no philosophical opt-out for immunizations in California, the Ca. Health & Safety Code (§ 120325 et seq.) also notes there is no religious exemption as well.

–Dana


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