Patterico's Pontifications


Weekend Open Thread

Filed under: General — Dana @ 9:00 pm

[guest post by Dana]

Here are a few news items to chew over. Please feel free to share anything that you think would interest readers. Make sure to include links.

First news item

It was inevitable, and I expect it will continue to happen in other cities and states where the schools remain closed:

A group of parents frustrated by efforts made to date to reopen classrooms in the nation’s second-largest K-12 system is suing the Los Angeles Unified School District and local teachers union.

The lawsuit, filed this week in Los Angeles County Superior Court, alleges that LAUSD breached its responsibility to act in the best interest of students by allowing the teachers union to dictate when schools should reopen.

LAUSD, United Teachers Los Angeles and UTLA President Cecily Myart-Cruz are named as defendants in the complaint.

Second news item

Get your messaging straight, people:

A day after Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Dr. Rochelle Walensky suggested people vaccinated against COVID-19 would not become infected with or transmit the disease, the CDC backtracked the comments.

“Our data from the CDC today suggests that vaccinated people do not carry the virus, don’t get sick,” Walensky told MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow on Monday. “And that it’s not just in the clinical trials, it’s also in real-world data.”

The comments were particularly notable because just two days earlier, Walensky spoke of “impending doom” she was feeling due to cases starting to tick back up. It was something she reiterated to Maddow.


Third news item

Of course Russia is trying to crush Alexey Navalny. That’s who they are:

The Russian state is making a slow spectacle of crushing Alexey Navalny and his organization. The opposition politician is in prison, serving a two-and-a-half-year sentence for “violating his parole” while he recovered from a near-fatal poisoning attack by his own government. Last week, Navalny’s lawyers and his wife, Yulia, said that he has developed health problems for which prison authorities are denying adequate treatment. He is also facing torture by sleep deprivation. (The prison service has denied mistreating Navalny.) On Wednesday, Navalny declared a hunger strike. Meanwhile, Navalny’s allies are planning new demonstrations to demand his release. Dozens of people around Russia are still in jail after being arrested in connection with pro-Navalny demonstrations that took place in January and February. Over the weekend, authorities arrested Yuri Zhdanov, the father of Ivan Zhdanov, who heads Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation.

Related observation and advice:

Fourth news item

Losing his cool:

Here is the minute I finally lost it: Sunday, March 21, at 9:34 p.m.

That’s when my wife and I got an email saying our kids’ New York City public elementary school would be closed yet again. Testing had found two positive COVID-19 cases among nearly 700 students and staff.

It was the fifth time the school had closed since New York reopened schools in the fall. Each time has been the same: First, we get an email that testing has turned up one case. A few days later, we get a second email saying testing has found a second case and the whole school will be closed for a day while health officials investigate.

And then, every time, comes the coup de grâce form letter: “Subject: 10 Day Bldg Closure.” Per New York City policy, two unlinked cases result in the building being shuttered for 10 consecutive days.

Fifth news item


U.S. Border Patrol officials said agents rescued two young children Tuesday night after smugglers dropped the children from the top of the border wall in a remote area west of El Paso.

A Border Patrol agent operating a camera pointed at a section of the barrier just west of El Paso spotted the two young girls, ages 3 and 5, as they were dropped from the top of the 14 foot wall. Border Patrol released a video showing the smuggler on the wall dangling the children before dropping them one by one. The older girl quickly stands up after she lands on the ground. The younger girl sits for a while before getting on her feet. The individual on the fence also tosses a small bag to U.S. side of the border with the children. The video then shows two men quickly leaving the area on the Mexican side of the barrier.

Sixth news item

Tragedy at the Capitol:

A U.S. Capitol Police officer was killed and another injured after a man drove a car into a security barricade at the Capitol complex on Friday, acting Chief Yogananda Pittman said.

The driver was shot after jumping out of the car with a knife and failing to respond to verbal commands and “lunging” at the officers, Pittman said. The suspect was taken to a hospital and pronounced dead a short time later.

About the suspect:

Law enforcement sources said Green recently lived in Virginia. In postings on social media, he let his friends and family know that the past few years have been “tough” and the past few months “tougher.”

“I am currently now unemployed after I left my job partly due to afflictions, but ultimately, in search of a spiritual journey,” he wrote on his now-deleted Facebook page.

Green’s page featured several recent postings that reference the teachings of the Nation of Islam, a Black separatist movement that does not follow the traditional teachings of Islam, and its leader Louis Farrakhan. Nation of Islam has been classified as a “designated hate group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center because of what the SPLC calls “deeply racist, antisemitic and anti-LGBT rhetoric of its leaders.”

Beautiful spring:


The heart of the Christian faith: crucifixion and resurrection:

“And they stripped Him and put on Him a scarlet robe. And when they had platted a crown of thorns, they put it upon His head, and a reed in His right hand: and they bowed the knee before Him, and mocked Him, saying, Hail, King of the Jews! And they spit upon Him, and took the reed, and smote Him on the head. And after that they had mocked Him, they took the robe off from Him, and put His own raiment on Him and led Him away to crucify Him.” “And they crucified Him and parted His garments, casting lots: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, They parted My garments among them, and upon My vesture did they cast lots.” Matthew 27:28 to 31 and 35.

“Therefore doth My Father love Me, because I lay down My life that I might take it again. No man taketh it from Me but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of My Father.” John 10:17 and 18.

“And they shall scourge Him and put Him to death; and the third day He shall rise again.” Luke 18:33.

“And He began to teach them that the Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders, and of the chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.” Mark 8:31.

Have a blessed weekend.


The Question of Vaccine Passports

Filed under: General — Dana @ 9:23 am

[guest post by Dana]

As the Biden administration is working with private companies to develop a framework for digital vaccine passports, a new report discusses the lack of standards and uniformity with the passport apps being developed:

Vaccine passports are new apps that will carry pieces of your health information — most critically your coronavirus vaccination status. They may soon be required to travel internationally or even to enter some buildings.

But a growing list of tech companies, governments and open-source software groups are all attempting to tackle the problem, prompting some concerns about a lack of a standard approach that would make it possible to carry around just one pass. Plus, apps would need to pull and verify your vaccination records in an easy, safe and controlled format. And wide adoption would require the majority of countries, airlines and businesses to agree on one (or two or three) accepted standards.

Several different organizations developing apps and tapping into government databases acknowledge how critical a common standard is. Still, many different groups are all racing to create that standard, with some overlap.

Jen Psaki sought to allay fears about the vaccine passport:

“There are a couple key principles that we are working from,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said at a press briefing on Monday. “One is that there will be no centralized universal federal vaccinations database, and no federal mandate requiring everyone to obtain a single vaccination credential.”

As more Americans get vaccinated, the problem will grow. Reportedly, more than 37.4 million Americans are now fully vaccinated. [Ed. Yours truly just received the second shot yesterday. 24 hours later, and I am experiencing a swollen arm and achy joints. But if that’s the extent of my reaction, then I am counting my blessings.]

Arguments against the digital vaccine passport have included the potential violation of civil liberties. Here is the ACLU identifying what they see as the biggest potential problems with a digital vaccine passport. Some of their concerns have already been addressed in the Washington Post link above:

There is a difference between a standardized system for presenting proof of vaccination, and a digital system for doing so. With more and more of our credentials being displayed through apps on our phones — from airline boarding passes to concert tickets to gym memberships — it strikes many people as an obvious and overdue step to create a similar digital credential for those occasions when a person has to prove that they’ve been vaccinated. But digital credentials present a number of new potential problems, and we would oppose a vaccination credential system that does not meet three crucial criteria: It is not exclusively digital. A system that is exclusively digital, whether by design or as a practical matter, would be a nonstarter because it would increase inequality. Many people don’t have smartphones, including disproportionate numbers from some of our most vulnerable communities, such as people who are low-income, have disabilities, or are homeless, as well as more than 40 percent of people over age 65. As a result, any vaccine credential system would need to include a paper-based version for those who don’t have a smartphone or simply don’t want to use one. The paper option should not be a difficult or disadvantageous afterthought; a standardized credential should be primarily a paper-based system with an optional digital component, not the other way around.

It is decentralized and open source. The quest for a digital identity and credentialing system has become an entire field unto itself. Numerous companies, technologists, and academics have already generated a variety of concepts, standards, and products that would let us use cryptographic files or “tokens” on our phones to prove things about ourselves across our lives. The best of these schemes — and the only ones that should be considered for any digital elements of a vaccine credential system — take a decentralized and open source approach that puts individuals in control of their credentials and identity data, which they would hold in a digital wallet. But given the difficulty of creating a digital vaccine passport, we could see a rush to impose a COVID credential system built on an architecture that is not good for transparency, privacy, or user control.

It does not allow for tracking or the creation of new databases. Unless a vaccine credential system is completely decentralized and user-centric, it creates the potential for amassing new personal data. If some big company is getting notified any time someone reads one of your credentials, that would let them track your movements and interests — the stores, concerts, and transportation venues you visit, and much more. In the absence of airtight legal protections for privacy, any such information could then be sold for commercial purposes or shared with law enforcement.

However, making for odd bedfellows, a wing of the Republican Party has expressed their own concerns about vaccine passports:

A growing number of the Republican Party’s most conservative members have seized on the passport proposals and expected guidance from the White House, blasting them as an example of government overreach that would isolate Americans who choose not to get vaccinated and violate the privacy of those who do.

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), the controversial congresswoman whose conspiratorial remarks have drawn criticism from some in her own party, this week dubbed the passports President Biden’s “mark of the beast” and called the proposal a form of “corporate communism.”

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), a steadfast ally of former President Trump and prospective 2024 presidential candidate, vowed this week to take executive action to ban businesses and local governments from implementing vaccine passport policies. He also urged the Republican-controlled state legislature to draft a more permanent measure against such requirements.

“It’s completely unacceptable for either the government or the private sector to impose upon you the requirement that you show proof of vaccine to just simply be able to participate in normal society,” DeSantis said at a press conference on Monday…

The opposition to vaccine passports is the latest front in a year-long effort by conservatives to rally their supporters around restrictions put in place since the outset of the pandemic. Throughout 2020, some of the most prominent Republicans, including Trump, railed against government-mandated lockdowns and mask mandates.

How do you feel about the digital vaccine passports? How much does it concern you that, if the government is willing to mandate a digital passport, it would give them an opening to track other privacy issues? Also, do you really think this is a winning issue for the Republican Party, given that they need to win five seats in the House and one seat in the Senate next year to recapture their majorities? I sure don’t see it helping them.


More on The Matt Gaetz Saga

Filed under: General — Dana @ 7:56 am

[guest post by Dana]

This is like watching one of the most bizarre train wrecks ever:

A Justice Department investigation into Representative Matt Gaetz and an indicted Florida politician is focusing on their involvement with multiple women who were recruited online for sex and received cash payments, according to people close to the investigation and text messages and payment receipts reviewed by The New York Times.

Investigators believe Joel Greenberg, the former tax collector in Seminole County, Fla., who was indicted last year on a federal sex trafficking charge and other crimes, initially met the women through websites that connect people who go on dates in exchange for gifts, fine dining, travel and allowances, according to three people with knowledge of the encounters. Mr. Greenberg introduced the women to Mr. Gaetz, who also had sex with them, the people said.

One of the women who had sex with both men also agreed to have sex with an unidentified associate of theirs in Florida Republican politics, according to a person familiar with the arrangement. Mr. Greenberg had initially contacted her online and introduced her to Mr. Gaetz, the person said. …

The Times has reviewed receipts from Cash App, a mobile payments app, and Apple Pay that show payments from Mr. Gaetz and Mr. Greenberg to one of the women, and a payment from Mr. Greenberg to a second woman. The women told their friends that the payments were for sex with the two men, according to two people familiar with the conversations. [Ed. You have got to be kidding! Apple Pay and Cash App?? I just can’t wrap my mind around that...]

In encounters during 2019 and 2020, Mr. Gaetz and Mr. Greenberg instructed the women to meet at certain times and places, often at hotels around Florida, and would tell them the amount of money they were willing to pay, according to the messages and interviews.


Gaetz allegedly showed off to other lawmakers photos and videos of nude women he said he had slept with, the sources told CNN, including while on the House floor. The sources, including two people directly shown the material, said Gaetz displayed the images of women on his phone and talked about having sex with them. One of the videos showed a naked woman with a hula hoop, according to one source.

“It was a point of pride,” one of the sources said of Gaetz.

Gaetz has denied the allegations:

“Matt Gaetz has never paid for sex,” Gaetz’s office said in a statement to The New York Times. “Matt Gaetz refutes all the disgusting allegations completely. Matt Gaetz has never ever been on any such websites whatsoever. Matt Gaetz cherishes the relationships in his past and looks forward to marrying the love of his life.”

And then, as if we couldn’t hate politicians more than we already do, reportedly there was a boys’ club in the Florida State House in which Gaetz competed for the most notches on the bedposts:

Sources said Gaetz was part of a group of young male lawmakers who created a “game” to score their female sexual conquests, which granted “points” for various targets such as interns, staffers or other female colleagues in the state House. One of the targets of the scoring system was a group the lawmakers had heard were “virgins,” according to a source.

Time will tell where the truth and the lies begin and end in this sordid mess, and whether Gaetz had a sexual relationship with a 17-year old and paid for her to travel with him.


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