I’m tired of arguing with Vaccine-skeptics. Do we argue about whether Drunk Driving is Wrong? The answer is No.

I’ve been reading some articles lately about how one might be able to persuade vaccine-skeptics and anti-maskers that it really would be better it they were to change their positions to come into tune with public health guidelines.

Screw that, I say.

Do we try to convince drivers that it’s not a good idea to drive drunk? No. We arrest them and put them in jail.

In Massachusetts we have “social host liability,” for crying out loud, where you can be held legally liable if you host a party and one of your guests gets drunk, drives home, and causes an accident on the way.

The scientific evidence for vaccines are overwhelming. If fact, unlike Jesus Christ, these vaccines really are a miracle!

The scientific evidence for masking the unvaccinated is overwhelming. (The evidence for masking the vaccinated is more ambiguous.)

Let’s stop arguing with these people. Make new rules:

  • If you want to be a state or federal employee, get the vaccine.
  • If you want to be a health care worker, get the vaccine.
  • If you want to work in a job that has regular customer contact, get the vaccine.
  • If you want to eat in a restaurant, get the vaccine.
  • If you want to go see a movie or a show, get the vaccine.
  • If you want to go into a ballpark, get the vaccine.
  • If you want to go on a cruise, get the vaccine.
  • If you want to fly to another country, get the vaccine.

If you don’t want to get the vaccine, then kiss your job goodbye.

If you don’t want to get the vaccine, then kiss goodbye the opportunity for eating out, for recreating, for vacationing, or for traveling.

If you don’t want to get the vaccine, then at least mask up.

If you don’t want to do any of these things, then sit at home and complain about vaccine-fascism on the Internet. But stay out of the rest of our lives, because you’re as irresponsible as a drunk driver, and we’re tired of arguing with you.

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All the so-called experts on Afghanistan should just sit down and shut up.

Now that the Afghani government has collapsed like a house of cards, and the Taliban are firmly in control, I hear various “experts” being interviewed on the radio or on television about what happened.

All these experts should just sit the fuck down and just shut the fuck up.

The experts could not have been more wrong about Afghanistan. It’s not just that they know nothing, they know less than nothing. Almost everything they’ve been telling us for the last 20 years has been completely wrong. And this is not a partisan issue: both Democrats (Barack Obama) and Republicans (George W. Bush and Donald Trump) have been on the wrong side of this issue. And, to give Trump some credit, he was the first President who recognized that this was an unwinnable war.

Of course, Trump completely botched the negotiations with the Taliban, by announcing his withdrawal dates way ahead of time. When Biden inherited the situation he decided to go ahead and continue the evacuation of the American military from Afghanistan. We were supposed to have until the end of August to get our people out, but the complete collapse of the Afghan military caught us by surprise.

Is this Biden’s fault? I have no idea.

The Republicans, of course, want to lay the blame for all this on Biden, even though it was there guy, #45, who initiated the whole thing.

Geesh, imagine the Republicans being hypocrites about this. It’s so different compared to how they’ve been about everything else for the last four years.

I do think that this question — why did we waste more than $2 trillion dollars and 6294 American lives over 20 years to prop up a country that had no interest in propping up itself — would benefit from a “9/11” style commission, to really get some clarity about how we could have gotten this so completely wrong.

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It Doesn’t Matter how much longer we stay in Afghanistan, they will never be “safe” from the Taliban

Is it a total bummer that the Taliban are soon going to take over most, if not all of Afghanistan?

Sure it is.

But here’s the thing: it’s their country. The Taliban are Afghanis. It’s their own civil war.

I grieve, like everybody else, for the young women who won’t get an education now, the interpreters who cooperated with the Americans who will be hunted down now, the intellectuals who will be silenced now.

But this is a country that no one can control. The Soviet Union was there for nine years, and they couldn’t get the country under control. We’ve been there for 19 years. How much longer are we supposed to stay?

The place is never going to be “safe” from the Taliban. We can’t protect them forever, so they will have to protect themselves.

This is one are where, remarkably enough, both Joe Biden and Donald Trump essentially agree.

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A few disparate Thoughts on the Olympics

I’ve been pretty clear that I thought it was a mistake to hold the Olympics now in the midst of a resurging Pandemic, but hold them they did. NBC didn’t quite get what it wanted, as the ratings are apparently down quite a bit, and I’ll wait to hear how much money Tokyo lost without any foreign tourists (or even Japanese ticket-buyers). But they managed to get it done.

Simone Biles

Probably the biggest story coming out of the Olympics is Simone Biles and all the events she withdrew from after getting a case of the “twisties” and having to prioritize her mental health. How much pressure there was on Biles can be seen by the number of commercials that featured her in the last month. At least she should clean up financially, regardless of how many events she withdraws from.

I remember asking myself why Biles even wanted to come to these Olympics. She’s 24 now — which is ancient for an Olympic gymnast — and she already cleaned up at the 2016 Olympics, where she won six medals, four of which were gold, including the gold for the all-around best gymnast. In her career she has won 19 gold medals, including the Olympics and World Championships.

What did she have left to prove?

We are so obsessed, here in the United States, with being #1 at everything. Michael Phelps, between Athens (2004), Beijing (2008), London (2012) and Rio de Janeiro (2016) won an insane 23 gold medals, including 28 medals overall. That’s more medals than most countries have won — for example, Ecuador (2 gold, 3 overall), Israel (1 gold, 11 overall) or Algeria (5 gold, 17 overall). It’s more than even some very big countries, like Nigeria (3 gold, 25 overall) or even India (9 gold, 29 overall), with its estimated population of 1.35 billion inhabitants.

Biles joins Naomi Osaka in getting us to look at the mental health of athletes, an issue that is long overdue. She’s already the greatest gymnast of all time, she really had nothing left to prove.

Russian Olympic Committee

The Russians brought a team this year that could not officially compete under the Russian flag. That’s because the Russians have been engaging in rather flagrant doping for years. In fact, systematic doping by the Russians has resulted in more than 200 Russian athletes caught doping at the Olympic games, with 43 medals having been stripped from Russian competitors (which is more than 30% of the global total). In 2019 the World Anti-Doping Agency banned Russia from all major sporting events including the Olympic Games for four years. That ban was later reduced to two years by the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

So now the Russians can compete — with a few exceptions for individual athletes who were found to have violated doping rules more recently — but only under the banner of the “Russian Olympic Committee,” and only by hearing a snippet from Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1.

So what?

The Russians are still competing and still counting up their medals.  They still racked up 71 medals, including 20 gold, which is third after the United States and China.

I don’t know what the proper sanction is for Russia’s state-sponsored doping program. I just know that this — making their athletes listen to Tchaikovsky and not allowing them to march behind their flag — doesn’t amount to a hill of beans. The previous champion for Olympic doping was, of course, the old East German state, many of whose female athletes looked like they had been feeding on cow hormones. But I don’t think the current sanctions are going to discourage the Russians much.

(NPR has a very interesting article on how the Olympic medal table explains the world.)

Sports that don’t need to be in the Olympics

There are several sports that really don’t need to be in the Olympics because they get plenty of attention on their own.  The three at the top of that list for me would include:

  1. Tennis, which has four highly publicized “Grand Slam” championships every year.
  2. Golf, which has four highly publicized “Major Championships” championships every year.
  3. Men’s soccer, which has the World Cup, the European Championships, the Copa America, and world tournaments for Under-17, Under-18, Under-19 and Under-21 players. (Women’s soccer also has a World Cup and several other tournaments, but is a more arguable case.)

There are other sports that have major international championships, including baseball, basketball, rugby, and ice hockey in the winter olympics. 

The sports I want to see are the ones that you never see but every four years:  table tennis, archery, skeet shooting, team handball, volleyball, badminton, kayaking, fencing, judo, rowing, sport climbing, diving, trampoline, water polo, and yes, even swimming. 

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I’m completely losing patience with Climate-Deniers, Anti-Vaxxers, and People who still believe the Big Lie

I’ve been doing a slow burn that is turning into an unmodulated rage when it comes to three categories of people:

  • Climate deniers
  • Anti-vaxxers
  • People still believing the Big Lie

Taking them in order.

Climate deniers

For the second year in a row, the western United States is basically one gigantic forest fire. The fires have been so intense this year, that smoke from the fires have made it all the way out to the East Coast, to New York and Boston, and we are having air quality warnings urging us not to exercise outdoors.

At the same time, on the East Coast we are being inundated with rain like never before, causing massive amounts of floods. In my home city of Worcester, we broke the record for rainfall in the month of July on July 20th, or less than two-thirds of the way through the month.

In Germany and Belgium, and in China, and in India, and in Sri Lanka, and in Eastern Australia, there have been unprecedented floods as the result of unnatural amounts of rainfall.

Climate change isn’t “coming,” it’s already among us. And yet, we have huge numbers of idiots still denying that climate change is either dangerous or man-made.

If these idiots want to deny science, they should get off the Internet and give back their computers, tablets and cell phones, because none of these things work without science.

Anti-vaxxers

Earlier in 2020 a miracle happened: scientists developed not just one, but more than a dozen vaccines worldwide, including vaccines based on messenger RNA (which had never successfully been developed before). If you talked to anybody last year who had expertise in the development of vaccines — as I managed to do — those people were probably tamping down your expectations about how quickly these vaccines could be developed and how effective they would be.

Well, scientists around the world, many working in coordination, exceeded just about everyone’s expectations.

And that should have been the beginning of the end of the Covid-19 pandemic, at least here in the United States, if people had actually committed to taking the vaccine.  

Joe Biden wanted to deliver us our “independence from Covid” by July 4th, and we could have gotten there with a little bit of cooperation.

Instead, we now have the delta variant, the reimposition of mask mandates, and people begging for the vaccine as they are being intubated when it finally dawns on them that the pandemic is not a hoax.

Fuck these people. 

Fuck people like Phil Valentine — a Tennessee radio host who is now singing a different song after having been infected with Covid — for all the damage he already did mocking people who were getting themselves vaccinated before the virus finally came for him. 

Okay, maybe don’t fuck him, he can actually help. But he certainly deserves the time he’s spent in the hospital and the discomfort he’s endured.

The Big Lie

And finally, the big lie. Newsflash: Trump did not win the 2020 election, and he’s not getting reinstated in August.

This is about one thing and one thing only: the supercalifragilistic ego of one unreconstructed malignant narcissist, Donald Trump, who just cannot accept that he lost to a “sleepy” guy who once was a stutterer.

There is no “policy” involved here, no greater truth that his supporters are seeking to reveal. It’s one guy, so out of touch with reality, that he just cannot deal with the fact that he lost.

Loser!

Now, the Republicans are taking advantage of the moment to enact laws designed to produce voter suppression, but that’s just a strategy of convenience. Needless to say, the same Republicans who claim there was voter fraud in the Presidential election make no claims of voter fraud based on the very same ballots on which they were elected.

Hypocrites!

And somehow, we’re supposed to “make nice” with these people because their feelings have been hurt by critical race theory, a theory taught in law school, and which almost no regular Republicans understand.

Fuck these people.

They’ve been hating on us for decades because we’ve asked them to pay women the same as men, to accept gay marriages, or not to use racial epithets. They are so invested in the culture wars. They think that we will fold in the face of their intransigence, but they may find that they’ve finally pushed us too far.

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Second-generation Germans know what it is like to be on the wrong side of History

I know what it’s like to be on the wrong side of history, an experience that my Trump-supporting conspiracy-theorizing friends may eventually understand.

I’m a “second generation” German. And no one likes the Germans.

So, just to point out the obvious, no one “both sides” the Holocaust. Nobody believes that there were “good people” among the extermination camp guards, just as there were obviously many good people among the Holocaust victims.

One of the things you have to try to understand as a “second generation” German is how your people, the people you love and grew up with, could be involved with something as incomprehensible as the Holocaust. The second generation has done a lot of soul searching, trying to understand what happened and how to make sure it never happens again. It’s also made us, I dare say, suspicious of authority and especially sensitive to propaganda.

Anti-German prejudice is still alive today, 76 years after the end of World War II. It’s demonstrated in things like the British public booing the German National Anthem during the UEFA European Championship at Wembley, when the English and Germans played a soccer match.

Now, believing Trump’s Big Lie and supporting the insurrectionists is obviously not like supporting the Holocaust. But it’s still on the wrong side of history. And at some point many of the people who support Trump and his Big Lie will be hugely embarrassed by the degree to which they’ve been had by the Great Conman, but more importantly, their friends and loved ones may be hugely embarrassed by the degree to which they ended up on the wrong side of history.

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You can thank Andrew Wakefied for being the Anti-Borlaug and one of the principal drivers of Vaccine-Hesitancy

Norman Borlaug is sometimes credited as “the man who fed the world.” An American agronomist, Borlaug developed semi-dwarf, high-yield, disease-resistant wheat varieties which were introduced to Mexico, Pakistan, and India. Borlaug has been estimated to have saved “over a billion people worldwide” from starvation. Not surprisingly, he was feted with a lot of prizes, including the Nobel Peace Prize, the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal.

At the opposite end of the spectrum we could put Andrew Wakefield, a British physician and researcher who was one of the principal perpetrators in the Lancet autism fraud, a 1998 study that falsely claimed a link between the measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine and autism. Ever since then a significant number of people have believed that there is a connection between various vaccines and autism, which is false. The initial study was retracted and it was later found that Wakefield and his colleagues had faked some of the data.

That, of course, has not prevented celebrities like Robert F. Kennedy Jr. (who should know better) and Jenny McCarthy (who knows almost no science to begin with) to continue to promote conspiracy theories relative to vaccines and autism.

The autism fraud isn’t necessarily the progenitor of vaccine hesitancy — which has existed to some degree since vaccines were invented — but it has boosted vaccine hesitancy enormously. And that has, of course, contributed to the current hesitancy by millions of people to take one of the Covid-19 vaccines. RFK Jr., in particular, was complicit in promoting a film that targeted black Americans with false anti-vaccine information.

At this point, with many Americans properly vaccinated, Covid-19 is becoming “a pandemic of the unvaccinated.” Honestly, I wouldn’t even care — if Trump supporters and anti-vaxxers want to kill themselves in a global act of Darwin awardism, that’s up to them — except that their oppositional behavior is keeping Covid-19 alive. We’re now in the surge of the Delta variant, the fourth major mutation of the original Covid-19 infection.

Jesus Fucking Christ!  Most of these people also consider themselves to be Christians, to complete the circle of irony.

In any case, you can thank Andrew Wakefield — who is still alive and still causing trouble — for being the anti-Borlaug and one of the principal contributors to today’s rise of vaccine-hesitancy.

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Trump suing Twitter, Facebook, and Google is a publicity stunt, not a legal strategy

Some of you may have heard the exciting news that the former guy, #45, is suing Twitter, Facebook, and Google. Just so you all know, it’s a publicity stunt, not a legal strategy.

Here are all the reasons why the suit will go nowhere:

  1. Twitter, Facebook, and Google are private companies. The First Amendment doesn’t apply to them. It applies to government censorship.
  2. Trump had to agree to the Twitter, Facebook, and Google terms of conditions, just like you and me, when he signed up.
  3. Google didn’t “kick him off” anything. Apparently Trump just doesn’t like some of the search results.
  4. The famous “section 230” has nothing to do with whether Trump should be on Twitter or Facebook.
  5. If section 230 were to be repealed, it would actually force Twitter and Facebook to unload Trump so that they would not be liable, for example, for Trump’s defamation of the character of women who have accused him of sexual assault.  (See the lawsuit brought by E. Jean Carroll if you don’t know what I’m talking about.)
  6. And if that weren’t enough, under their terms and conditions, Trump has to sue Twitter, Facebook, and Google in federal court in California, whereas he filed suit in federal court in Florida.

But aided and abetted by Fox News and other right wing propaganda outlets, Trump’s acolytes will make his supporters believe that there is actually merit to this case.

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Bill Cosby’s release from prison was really all about Prosecutorial Misconduct

Yesterday came the surprising news that Bill Cosby’s conviction had been vacated and that he had been released from prison. That was a punch to the gut. Bill Cosby? I hadn’t thought about that dude in years. Cosby’s transformation from America’s Dad into a serial rapist was even more disheartening than Guiliani’s transformation from America’s Mayor into Trump’s worst attorney (and that’s saying something).

To provide some context for this discussion, Cosby has been accused by an extraordinary 62 women of various kinds of sexual assault and rape allegations, many of which fall in the “date rape” category. The first of these dates back to 1965, and the most recent of which dated to 2008 (so a more than 40 year career of bad behavior). However, most of these were not reported until 2014 when a lot of women who thought that they alone had been the victim of the beloved comedian and “America’s Dad” realized that they were part of a large group of women who had been similarly abused.

The problem for most of these women is that the various civil and criminal statutes of limitations that governed such actions in the various jurisdictions where they had taken place had expired a long time ago. (A statute of limitations basically provides that an action needs to be brought within a specific number of years, — often three, four or five years — from when the injury occurred of from when the plaintiff should reasonably have known that an injury had occurred.)

Enter Andrea Constand, a former college and Canadian national team basketball player who claimed that back in 2004 Cosby had invited her to his house for a discussion of her career prospects, where he had drugged her and engaged in date rape. Constand was the only of his various victims who filed a civil case in a timely fashion and was able to extract a settlement from him. She was also the only one whose case was the basis of a criminal indictment and conviction.

This case, however, is not about the guilt or innocence of Bill Cosby. It is about prosecutorial misconduct.

What happened here in a nutshell is this:

  • Montgomery County District Attorney Bruce Castor assured Cosby in 2005 that he would not be prosecuted relative to Andrea Constand’s claims. (Castor at the time did not think the evidence was sufficiently compelling to secure a conviction.)
  • Constand had previously filed a civil lawsuit against Cosby, and the agreement between Castor and Cosby prevented the comedian from invoking his 5th Amendment rights.
  • In civil depositions related to the Constand suit, Cosby made incriminating statements, which helped to lead to a $3.38 million settlement.
  • Castor left office in 2008, and was succeeded by Risa Vetri Ferman and, in 2016, Kevin R. Steele.
  • The first thing Steele did was file the sexual assault case against Cosby because the statute of limitations was running out.
  • Steele then used Cosby’s incriminating statements from the 2006 civil depositions to secure a conviction in 2018.
  • And that, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, said he could not do.

In effect, the Supreme Court of PA decided that Steele was bound by Castor’s agreement, and couldn’t prosecute Cosby where the comedian had already made incriminating statements in reliance on the agreement with Castor. The decision was not unanimous, and the dissents noted pointedly that Castor and Cosby never put their agreement in writing.

By the way, if the name “Bruce Castor” rings a bell, there is a reason for that. Bruce Castor, in case your wondering, is the same idiot who presented the defense for Donald Trump at his 2nd impeachment trial, at which he was mocked for his rambling and incoherent opening remarks.

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The Republicans have now had three bites at the Apple. Maye we can finally put this issue to bed.

It’s finally official: the Affordable Care Act (aka “Obamacare”) is constitutional.  The opponents of the ACA have now had three bites at the apple:

  1. National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius, 567 U.S. 519 (2012), in which the Supreme Court found constitutional the penalty provisions of the ACA as a part of the legitimate “taxing power” of the United States Congress.
  2. King v. Burwell, 576 U.S. 473 (2015), in which the Supreme Court held that the outlay of premium tax credits was constitutional both in those states with exchanges established directly by a state, and those where the exchanges were established by the federal government.
  3. California v. Texas, No. 19-840 (2021), in which the Supreme Court now holds that states like Texas did not have “standing” to bring their latest challenge to the ACA, which had to do with the taxing power of the Congress after the penalty for not having health insurance had been set to $0.

Don’t worry if you don’t understand this. Hardly anyone without a law degree understands it. It has to do with “federalism” and the commerce clause and what the federal government is allowed to do and what it has to cede to the states. It’s highly technical.

The point is that the opponents of the ACA have now taken every shot they can at it, including neutering the penalty provisions, and they haven’t succeeded.

The history is actually very similar to that of Social Security, which was also challenged back in 1937 as an unconstitutional exercise of the legislative powers of the Congress (see, for example, Helvering v. Davis, 301 U.S. 619 (1937) and Steward Machine Company v. Davis, 301 U.S. 548 (1937)). 

The Republicans have not yet introduced a legitimate alternative to the ACA because — as has been noted on many previous occasions — the “individual mandate” was their idea. It was their response to the Clinton health care proposals, and I guess that’s all they got. They shot their wad and never managed to reload.

In the meantime, needless to say, we’re still waiting for #45, the former guy, to unveil his “amazing” health care plan.

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