Weekend Open Thread
[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
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
To @dineshdsouza and the others downplaying January 6th: you are disgraceful. pic.twitter.com/86bLnfACIf
— The Republican Accountability Project (@AccountableGOP) July 29, 2021
Sixth news item
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.”
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…
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:
Have a great weekend.