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More in the same vein: Steven J. Miller, PhD Yale in mathematics, renounces his “study” of a biased sample of those who didn’t return absentee ballots.

2020-11-24
Moro Rock (my own photo)

Steven J. Miller, an assistant professor of mathematics at Williams College, was given a data set of phone calls to Pennsylvania Republicans who requested absentee ballots but apparently didn’t return them by a Mr. Braynard. This was in search of suspected voter fraud that would justify throwing out the results of the election in Pennsylvania, which was recently certified as having been won by Joe Biden.

The resulting “declaration” was written up on a conservative news site called “Just the News” with the headline,

“In sworn statement, prominent mathematician flags up to 100,000 Pennsylvania ballots”

Federal Elections Commission Chairman Trey Trainor says new analysis by professor Steven Miller “adds to the conclusions that some level of voter fraud took place in this year’s election.”

This Steven J. Miller has now “disavowed” the analysis he made of the data set he was given. This disavowal was written up in a local newspaper, The Berkshire Eagle, with the headline:

Williams prof disavows own finding of mishandled GOP ballots.

The article includes the following text, which makes Steven J. Miller look a bit naive about the data set he was given:

“Richard De Veaux, vice president of the American Statistical Association and a colleague of Miller’s in the Williams College Department of Mathematics and Statistics, called the estimates “completely without merit” and agreed that Miller erred in publishing his results without addressing issues in the underlying data.

“To apply naïve statistical formulas to biased data and publish this is both irresponsible and unethical,” De Veaux wrote in a statement to The Eagle. “It is the statistician’s responsibility to verify the data, or to provide disclaimers if that can’t be done.”

Carina Curto, a professor of mathematics at Pennsylvania State University, said Miller’s numbers “are almost surely wrong” because they rest on the key assumption that the people who answered the phone are actually a representative sample of all the Pennsylvania Republican voters who requested but did not return a ballot.

“This small sample from the phone survey almost surely has large sampling biases and systematic errors,” said Curto. “There is absolutely no reason to believe it is representative of the larger population.”

Lior Pachter, a computational biologist at the California Institute of Technology, said that simple issues – such as incorrect phone numbers – could have accounted for some of the concerning patterns that Miller saw.

“There’s no guarantee that the people they talked to were the actual people they meant to call,” he said.

He criticized Braynard’s group for not putting the same questions to Pennsylvania Democrats as a control group. More than 230,000 Democrats in the state did not return mail-in ballots that they had requested, according to the U.S Elections Project.”

https://www.berkshireeagle.com/news/local/williams-prof-disavows-own-finding-of-mishandled-gop-ballots/article_9cfd4228-2e03-11eb-b2ac-bb9c8b2bfa7f.html

What an unbiased analysis of this data should have done:

If this Mr. Braynard really wanted to know why so many people requested ballots but didn’t return them, he should have tried calling a random sample of all those people, 165,000 + 230,000. But no.

This is merely a random sample of the so-called data that supposedly proves election fraud, in the eyes of the outgoing president. If there was some more convincing data, surely that would be worthy of headlines in some national news media– but there are no such headlines.

We can conclude that, although absence of evidence is not evidence of absence, absence of evidence in the face of concerted efforts by motivated seekers of such evidence, is indeed sufficient to allow us to conclude that there was no appreciable fraud in the presidential election. Therefore, Joe Biden is indeed the president-elect.

There was probably some fraud in the election perpetrated by both sides, but it seems to have cancelled out enough to have given Mr. Biden a 6 million vote margin of victory and a convincing Electoral College majority.

No time to celebrate– we should worry about a large minority of die-hard Republicans who favor authoritarian con-men.

What should concern lovers of our democratic federal republic is that 74 million people voted for someone who is obviously a conman, someone who continues to perpetrate his cons despite his electoral defeat. The prospects for karma to catch up with he-who-must-not-be-named in the next four years are in the balance.

We must continue to fight for our federal democratic republic.

We must form a large popular opinion base in favor of aggressive prosecution of this conman for state tax fraud, state insurance fraud, and any other offenses that the State of New York can think up quickly. There is no use in trying to prosecute him on a federal level because his last act as president will be to have himself pardoned– as surely as the sun will set on his four years of federal mis-rule.

Fortunately we have state attorneys general who are looking into this matter with considerable motivation. We wish them success in their endeavors to hold he-who-must-not-be-named to account.

Why is my “Winston Churchill” post so popular? And other rants.

2020-11-23

Why is my “Winston Churchill” post so popular? It’s not a movie review, although it does review a movie. It’s not a source page on Winston Churchill, although it does discuss the apocryphal nature of certain Churchill quotes. For the last week, it has been among the top posts in views– in fact, in November (this month) it has already received 196 views. Somebody is linking to it.

Let me know if you have an answer to this question: who cares about what I wrote about Winston Churchill– and why so much, so recently?

The desperation of the fans of our friend he-who-must-not-be-named.

I received a link to this “declaration” from “Bits of DNA” (another web site from WordPress) that just shows you how desperately crazy certain Republicans can be.

First, the declaration: it purports to be a rigorous mathematical/statistical analysis of Republican absentee ballots requested by someone other than the registered voter in the state of Pennsylvania. It is, however, motivated by a desire to prove “fraud” (although that word is not used anywhere in the declaration) and it is couched in lawyer’s language in an attempt to build up the credibility of the declarer in front of a judge.

The declarer is Steven J. Miller, a mathematician at Williams. The author of the website is Lior Pachter, a computational biologist who does get into the weeds.

Lior Pachter is, on the web site, writing about things he gets “over the transom” and in other ways, but mostly about data, or the absence of data, in things he reads.

This is what I wrote in my comment… now you’ll have to go to “Bits of DNA” for the rest.

Is Steven J. Miller a real person?

I should have gotten my two cents worth in earlier, but I didn’t have time to read Steven J. Miller’s text that prompted your outraged refutatory rant, so I put it off a while. I’m glad I did, because while I was busy elsewhere, some other people put in some very helpful information about the ballots and you even got a snotty remark from the guy who put Steven J. Miller up to his “analysis” of the “data.” — in other words, the guy who pulled the wool over his all-too-willing eyes.

What would be real evidence of fraud?

I read the “declaration”– it appears to be an attempt to be evidence. If we’re looking for evidence, then we would like to have a person say, “I requested a ballot and returned it but it wasn’t counted.” Or, “I didn’t request an absentee ballot, but one was returned in my name.”

Those responses would be prima facie evidence of fraud. But that’s not what we got (as far as I know; surely, there would be big headlines if one person said that they returned their absentee ballot but it wasn’t counted OR that they never requested an absentee ballot but one was requested (by a fraudster) and it was returned BUT they didn’t vote, OR that they tried to vote and were told that an absentee ballot had been returned in their name.)

What did Miller write instead?

Why is someone (Steven J. Miller) doing a complex statistical analysis of murky data? I don’t understand the data nor his analysis, but then I barely passed a course in basic statistics and barely graduated from college, much less medical school. Is this an attempt to allege fraud without using the word “fraud”? Without actually presenting any evidence that would constitute fraud?

I don’t know. But if you (Lior Pachter) understand what he (Steven J. Miller) is saying and you conclude that he’s talking through his hat, then I won’t argue with you. Clearly, this “declaration” was intended to be presented to a judge as “evidence.” Clearly, Google Scholar is not a reliable way to assemble a publication list for a single person, even if it was curated by that person (I’m still unclear on that and I don’t have time to re-read it carefully enough to figure out whether Steven J. Miller actually curated his Google Scholar list.)

Matt Braynard is behind it all

Just as clearly, the declaration proves nothing, no matter what Mr. Braynard in his snotty way says about your analysis. Why would you bother to study a collection of data that comes from the horse’s mouth (that’s what Mr. Braynard is offering) for free when someone (Steven J. Miller) clearly motivated to produce the desired result (even if he didn’t get paid) doesn’t even come within shouting distance of producing said result?

I don’t recall your implying anything about whether Steven J. Miller was paid for his motivated analysis of bad data or not. All you said was that he didn’t say anything about a source of funding or whether there was any conflict of interest– something that scholarly papers usually do say, but which is usually left out of depositions by lawyers. So don’t feel reprehensible.

I forgot that I requested an absentee ballot.

The comment by Dmitry Kondrashov provides an innocent explanation for why some people might have requested an absentee ballot and then forgot about it… although I would have remembered if I received an absentee ballot because, if I went to vote in person, I would have taken care to bring it with me so that it could be invalidated. I’m a little more obsessive-compulsive than the average voter.

The bottom line, though, is Where are the prima facie evidences of fraud– where are the people who attest that they didn’t request an absentee ballot, but one was returned in their name anyway? Or, where are the people who attest that they returned an absentee ballot but it was never counted? Or, where are the people who attest that they tried to vote only to be told that an absentee ballot had already been returned in their name?

In the absence of those attestations, a series of phone calls, no matter what response anyone says they got or how many calls they say they made (“almost” a million), are not evidence.

This won’t hold up in court.

No wonder those suits are being thrown out. Just like all the other lies told by he-who-must-not-be-named, they stand up right to the point where they are supposed to count, and then they fall down.

So don’t feel bad that Mr. Braynard is accusing you of running your mouth without the facts or being reprehensible– we still like you, and we’re (fortunately) in the majority (I checked on that.) Dammit, Jim, I’m a doctor, not a statistician– nor a lawyer– but I can tell when someone is talking through their hat (Steven J. Miller) or just being snotty (Matt Braynard.)

Ted Kaczynski, mathematician and mad bomber.

PS for those who are interested, one commenter mentioned idiot savants and… the Unabomber. Ted Kaczynski (a genius and a PhD mathematician) was severely psychologically damaged by a supposedly great psychologist, Henry Murray, as part of a “scientific study” (he spent 200 hours as a subject in an experiment, part of which involved filmed weekly sessions in which he was belittled and humiliated based on personal information he had given to the researcher initially– this was “research” because his EEG was recorded while these sessions were repeatedly replayed to him) while he was an undergraduate at Harvard. He graduated in 1962, before this sort of so-called research became frowned upon. See Wikipedia (and an article in the Atlantic from 2000) for a brief summary of this torture that probably had something to do with his later behavior.

There but for the grace of G-d…

(photo courtesy of 5688709 via pixabay.com)

The cohesion of the Republican Party, even in defeat, shows the power of propaganda

2020-11-20

I have been re-reading some of my old posts about the current president and I have discovered how wrong I was about his support from women. As it turned out, in the 2016 election, he achieved majority support from white women, especially those who had not attended college. He also achieved massive support from men who had not attended college.

As a proxy for susceptibility to propaganda, we can guess that not having attended college is pretty good. Those who go to college are less susceptible to being conned by the kind of propaganda that has been circulating since at least 1946 (see Nixon, below.)

A disjointed rant about propaganda instead of a reasoned blog post

Fox “News” (officially “Fox News Channel”) was established in 1996, is now available to 87 million cable TV subscribers (along with CNN, MSNBC, and others) and is watched by approximately 2.5 million people on average (more than any other single news channel.) On Election Day, Fox averaged 14 million viewers to CNN’s 9.4 million and MSNBC’s 7.6 million.

Before Fox, there were the newspapers, radio, and over-the-air television stations. Wikipedia:

During the American civil rights movement, conservative newspapers strongly slanted their news about Civil Rights, blaming the unrest among Southern Blacks on communists.  In some cases, Southern television stations refused to air programs such as I Spy and Star Trek because of their racially mixed casts. Newspapers supporting Civil rights, labor unions, and aspects of liberal social reform were often accused by conservative newspapers of communist bias.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Media_bias_in_the_United_States

Propaganda before Fox

Richard Nixon was a pioneer in the technique of push-polling (fake polls that suggest things to the subject rather than getting their opinions.) He hired people in his 1946 campaign for a US House seat to call potential voters and tell them, “This is a friend of yours; I can’t tell you who I am. Did you know that Jerry Voorhis [Nixon’s opponent] is a communist?” and then hang up. Voorhis was not a communist, but Nixon won the election anyway.

During Richard Nixon’s presidential re-election campaign, an operative named Donald Segretti created black propaganda (that is, material intended to create the impression that it was created by those it is supposed to discredit.) Among other forgeries, he created a fake letter on Edmund Muskie’s letterhead making false allegations about “Scoop” Jackson.

These efforts hindered the campaigns of Muskie (who dropped out of the race because of this) and Hubert Humphrey (who lost the nomination to George McGovern.) Segretti was exposed in 1974 and convicted of distributing illegal campaign literature. He spent four months in jail.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) ran a program called “COINTELPRO” which used black propaganda to libel the Black Panthers, the Communist Party, Native American groups, leaders of labor unions, and even people who protested against the war in Vietnam. No-one in the FBI was punished for this work.

Newspapers were masters at pushing right-wing propaganda disguised as straight news. William Randolph Hearst was the first; he inherited the San Francisco Examiner from his father in 1887 and soon added newspapers in New York and Los Angeles as well as magazines. By the 1920’s he had dozens of newspapers, magazines, books, and movie productions. The business survives to this day and continues to acquire publications and websites.

The politics of the Hearst newspapers is unrelentingly right-wing but remains within the mainstream of US politics. Not so the Sinclair Broadcast Group, which now owns or operates 193 television stations covering 40% of the US population.

The television stations bought by the Sinclair Broadcast Group become increasingly conservative and support the Republican Party wholeheartedly. They have taken over many local TV markets and converted their news segments to propaganda for conservative causes. This began roughly in 1967 and increased in the 1980s. Today the Sinclair franchise controls a large part of the local TV market in many rural areas.

According to Wikipedia: “Critics including former CBS Evening News anchor Dan Rather have described Sinclair’s practices as being “an assault on our democracy” by disseminating what they perceive to be Orwellian-like propaganda to its local stations.”

Then there are the radio jockeys. Alex Jones is one; he started out right after graduating from high school in 1993. Wikipedia says: “When the Oklahoma City bombing took place in 1995, Jones began accusing the federal government of having caused it: “I understood there’s a kleptocracy working with psychopathic governments—clutches of evil that know the tricks of control”.”

Then There Was Fox

Fox is owned by Rupert Murdoch, who also owns several Australian outlets, the Weekly Standard, and the New York Post. Former Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean referred to Fox as a “right-wing propaganda machine.”

George W. Bush’s cousin, John Prescott Ellis, worked for Fox doing election projections in 2000, and he reversed Fox’s call of Florida for Gore after talking repeatedly on the phone with his cousins George and Jeb.

Now we have a “fake” election

The modern propagandist is, of course, [redacted], who has the power to fire people who dare to contradict him. He fired Richard Krebs shortly after Mr. Krebs did his job and told the world that our presidential election was free of fraud.

[redacted] has worked all his adult life at shaping perceptions and was successful at first, even as he went through six bankruptcies and kept getting richer and “richer.” He created a TV persona that earned him over $400 million for saying “You’re fired.”

Now he claims that he won the election even though everyone who worked on it said it was free of problems– and Biden got five million votes more than he did, including 306 electoral votes. He has gone down the path of destroying our country with his orders to Mnuchin to cut off funding from the CARES act, even though billions of dollars are still available to be loaned out to help the economy.

His last gambit is an attempt to get Republican legislatures to install their own slates of electors, as a superficial reading of the Constitution seems to allow. It turns out that there are laws that prohibit such shenanigans. He needs a good lawyer, but he has Giuliani instead.

What was that dark liquid that was running down Giuliani’s cheeks the other day? (Professional hair stylists don’t think it was hair dye– maybe it was shoe polish on his sideburns.)

(photo courtesy of pixabay.com and Erika Wittlieb)

FDA Emergency Use Authorization for completely at-home COVID-19 test: press release (not widely available until next spring.)

2020-11-19

This press release from the FDA announces emergency use authorization for a completely at-home COVID-19 test using a nasal swab and a real-time loop mediated amplification reaction that takes about 30 minutes to complete. All you do is take a deep nasal swab and stick it in the container. The battery-powered device heats up a batch of chemicals; after 30 minutes, it lights up positive or negative.

The test is manufactured by Lucira Health in California, costs $50 for a single use, and claims it will be available nationwide in the spring. It is said to be at least 94% as sensitive as the gold standard RT-PCR test. The company also claims a 98% agreement with negative tests (otherwise known as specificity.) The test is intended for use on people with symptoms and it is available only by prescription.

The press release also notes that the “health care provider” (doctor, nurse practicioner, or physician assistant) is required to report the results to their local “relevant public health authorities.”

Lucira’s press release contains additional information, including the image I lifted from their web site, above. Live Science also has a post with similar information, and USAToday has a post as well. USAToday says the test will only be available at Sutter Health in northern California and Cleveland Clinic Florida in Miami-Dade until next spring. The Wall Street Journal also has a piece on the test, but it is certainly behind a paywall, so I won’t link to it.

FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn said (per the FDA press release), “The FDA continues to demonstrate its unprecedented speed in response to the pandemic… Today’s action underscores the FDA’s ongoing commitment to expand access to COVID-19 testing. ” Which sounds like something a publicist would say rather than an objective scientist. So you pays your money and you takes your chances.

Why US has worst COVID-19 in developed world: [redacted] failed to use Defense Production Act under authority of Commerce Clause of the Constitution.

2020-11-19

The US has the worst outbreak of COVID-19 of any developed country in the world. Despite our status as the most medicalized country with the most financial resources, we have been afflicted with the highest total of patients with COVID-19 and the worst death rate as a proportion of our population.

Federal Government has been absent from pandemic response

The reason? No organized federal response to the pandemic was ever made. Our president specifically told the states that they were responsible for controlling the disease individually. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) was not allowed to formulate a pandemic response plan, nor to properly organize a testing, tracing, and data overview system.

As a result, individual states have been competing with each other and with the federal government to obtain personal protective equipment (PPE: masks, gloves, gowns, hand sanitizer, etc.)

The collection of data showing how many infections and deaths have occurred has been poorly organized. Private news media has been at the forefront of data collection. In a case where data collection was under the control of the CDC, it was removed from the loop and a private company was substituted. As a result, data collection was severely impaired for a time. Only after an outcry was the CDC reinstated as a part of data collection.

At the same time that the federal government has done little to help organize a response to the pandemic, some federal officials have failed to encourage personal responses like wearing a mask in public. The president has repeatedly denigrated people for wearing masks and made false statements minimizing the extent of the outbreak.

Warp Speed program for vaccines only exception to federal inaction

The only organized federal response has been the “Warp Speed” program that has subsidized private drug companies in their efforts to develop vaccines and therapeutics. Some companies have received large ($4 billion or more) payouts for development and pre-purchase of these not-yet-developed vaccines. Other companies have developed vaccines and drugs on their own, using their own not-inconsiderable funds.

Development of vaccines has proceeded apace, with the new mRNA-based vaccines already having two candidates already nearly available (although not in time for the presidential election.) The two mRNA-based vaccines have reported near-miraculous 95% efficacy in Phase III trials. Both will be available in the next couple of months under Emergency Use Authority (EUA.)

There are still shortages of N95 face masks and other protective equipment. Drugs that show efficacy are still in short supply (monoclonal antibodies especially.)

At the same time, the virus is spreading exponentially, burning through the US population so fast that COVID-19 is now the third-leading cause of death (behind only the traditional killers, cancer and heart disease.)

Why is there such rapid spread of COVID-19 and why do we still have shortages of basic equipment? The federal government has not taken responsibility for organization or supply of needed drugs and equipment.

Why we should have controlled it

There are two reasons why the federal government should be able to be the primary force behind the response to this pandemic: first, the Commerce Clause of the Constitution, and second, the Defense Production Act.

The Defense Production Act (DPA) allows the federal government to order private companies to produce equipment needed in emergencies (first used in the Korean War.) The DPA provides that the president can order production and set a fair price (allowing for significant profit) at which the government will purchase all the equipment that it orders to be produced (whether or not it is ultimately used.)

The DPA has only been used in one instance this year: to order the production of ventilators. It should have been used for production of PPE, but it was not. No reason has been given for this failure, but there is suspicion that the federal government is afraid to be seen ordering production to private industry.

Why the DPA is constitutional

There should be no hesitation in using the DPA for the first reason given above: the Commerce Clause of the US Constitution. Under this clause, the federal government has the power to regulate commerce that potentially crosses state lines. It reads as follows:  “The Congress shall have Power… to regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with Indian Tribes.” 

Supreme Court decisions have interpreted the Commerce Clause to mean that Congress can pass laws that regulate trade between states and control the conditions under which things are manufactured that may be sold between states. In addition, the Court has decided unanimously that this clause can be used to prohibit price-fixing schemes among meat packers in Chicago (1905) as a restraint of interstate commerce, regulate labor standards (1938), and prohibit racial discrimination and segregation “in places of public accommodation involved in interstate commerce” (1964.)

The Supreme Court also limited the Commerce Clause in certain cases, for example striking down a law that “prohibited the possession of a firearm within 1,000 feet of a school (1995).” In another controversial case, “In United States v. Morrison (2000), the Court held that the commerce clause did not permit Congress to enact a federal civil remedy—i.e., a ground for civil lawsuits in federal courts—for acts of gender-motivated violence as part of the Violence Against Women Act (1994).”

“In 2005, however, the Court held in Gonzales v. Raich that enforcement of the federal Controlled Substances Act (1970) against the intrastate noncommercial possession, production, and use of medical cannabis (medical marijuana) in compliance with a California state law was consistent with the commerce clause because such activities could substantially affect the supply of and demand for marijuana in the illicit interstate market.”

(quotes in the last three paragraphs are from the Encyclopedia Britannica article on the Commerce Clause and the next paragraph is a paraphrase of text from the same entry.)

In another, even more controversial case, the Supreme Court held that the Commerce Clause did not apply to the Patient Affordable Care Act (PACA or “Obamacare”) because the law prohibited commercial inactivity (not buying an insurance policy) rather than activity. The Court upheld that law on the basis that it was part of Congress’s taxing authority– the law provided a financial penalty for not buying insurance. The PACA goes before the Supreme Court again in oral arguments very soon.

The bottom line is that the DPA involves interstate commerce and thus lies well within the Congress’s power to regulate. There is no logical reason for the federal government to fear that using the DPA will be looked upon with disfavor by private industry– they have the power and the moral right.

This means that it is well within the authority of the federal government to take charge of industry’s production of needed goods during an emergency. It is also clear that only the federal government has sufficient money and organization to provide plans and infrastructure to respond to the pandemic. The federal government in this case has abandoned its responsibility and allowed the pandemic to spread unchecked by not leading the country’s fight against the virus.

He has abandoned his responsibility

Thus, in a very real sense, the president is responsible for the illness and death that we have experienced over the last nine months. A conservative estimate of the death and destruction that could have been avoided can be made by comparing the deaths per capita in the US and Canada. Our neighbor to the north has experienced roughly half the death rate that we have.

So we can say, with justification, that the president is culpable in the deaths of over a hundred thousand Americans and the sickness of five or six million more (some asymptomatic, others gravely ill, and 5-10% afflicted with what is often called “long COVID”– six months or more of disability.)

(photo by Wynn Pointaux courtesy of pixabay.com)

“Their last dying words are, ‘This can’t be happening. It’s not real’”: COVID-19 patients in denial: South Dakota ER nurse on Twitter

2020-11-17
photo by Sathish Kumar Periyasamy via pixabay.com

A South Dakota emergency room nurse reported on Twitter Saturday that some of her patients, short of breath on 100% oxygen, still insist that they don’t have COVID-19 because they deny that it exists. Her tweets were widely repeated and she gave an interview on CNN with fuller details, according to this article in the Washington Post on November 16.

“It’s like a horror movie that never ends,” related one of her Twitter posts. She told CNN, “I think the hardest thing to watch is that people are still looking for something else and a magic answer and they do not want to believe covid is real.”

This is one of the saddest things that I have read about this pandemic: the intensity of denial that some people display. They must have been indoctrinated to refuse to believe in something that is obviously real. Is it the television programs they have been watching? The main news network that has been pushing this denial is Fox, and others include One America News Network (OANN), Newsmax, and Sean Hannity.

Whoever has been feeding people these lies about something that is so obvious must have an ulterior motive. Is it because they make more money by promoting a conspiracy theory? Or are they invested in a lie that, once they start down that road, they can never backtrack? What is the reason which leads supposedly good people to tell such lies?

What is the reason behind this denial?

Flu vaccine in 2009 offers lessons for COVID-19 vaccine distribution now: money and structure needed: WaPo

2020-11-17
photo courtesy LuAnn Hunt via pixabay.com

In 2009, an epidemic of H1N1 influenza was countered by a vaccination program that was plagued by delays. This program was described in a Washington Post article published November 17, 2020 (not paywalled.)

The first delay was due to inadequate supplies. Unexpected problems with production led to availability of less than a quarter of the vaccine that was expected. Vaccination clinics had to be cancelled. By the time enough vaccine was available, the epidemic had begun to subside and people lost interest in getting their shots.

The second problem was widespread concern about the safety of the vaccine. Even prior to the disinformation and misinformation campaigns of today, many people had doubts about the H1N1 vaccine. It was based on previous influenza vaccines with only minor changes, but there was still plenty of anxiety about its safety.

The third, and most important, problem was the lack of ongoing investment in public health infrastructure. This problem persists today, and is even worse than it was eleven years ago. Public health budgets have been cut even further since then, and state public health departments are overworked and underfunded even before the novel coronavirus’ onset.

From the article:

…the biggest stumbling block of 2009 still hasn’t been resolved: There is no broad adult immunization network engaged with federal and state immunization programs, meaning there is no database ready to recruit the thousands of clinicians who will be needed to administer coronavirus vaccines.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/covid-vaccine-lessons-h1n1-vaccine/2020/11/17/b5626596-1ac1-11eb-aeec-b93bcc29a01b_story.html

Massive investment will be needed to gear up for administration of vaccines in the next few months. There is a critical need for federal legislation to pay for this as well as all the other financial shortfalls that have come about as a result of the pandemic. Cooperation will be needed in Congress, and there is much uncertainty as to whether the Senate will be up to the task two months from now.

Journalist assassinated on second try in Philippines: 18th press victim in four years.

2020-11-14
guns photo by Tumisu via pixabay.com

This was the beginning of an article in the Guardian on November 10:

A Filipino journalist who survived a previous attempt on his life by pretending to be dead has been killed outside his home, police have said. Virgilio Maganes, 62, who was a commentator for DWPR radio station in the northern province of Pangasinan, died instantly after he was shot six times by motorcycle-riding gunmen, Major Christian Alucod told AFP. The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) condemned the murder, which it said was the 18th such killing since Rodrigo Duterte became president in 2016. “His death is an indictment on this government’s empty boast that press freedom is alive and well in the country,” the union said.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/nov/10/journalist-virgilio-maganes-shooting-killed-philippines

The assassination of journalists is a favorite ploy practiced by the Russian government, as has been well documented over the years. Reports of the Philippine government doing the same have not been publicized in the US. Perhaps our press doesn’t care what happens over there.

They should care, because our own government has been declaring that the press is “the enemy of the people” for four years. Killings haven’t happened over here, at least not so you’d notice– just harassment and intimidation.

Wikipedia has a list of journalists killed in the US– the only ones killed in the last four years were on June 28, 2018: five victims of a man in Maryland who held a grudge against them for publishing an account of his guilty plea in a 2011 criminal harassment case.

Nothing is in Wikipedia about journalists arrested, wounded by rubber bullets, or tear-gassed at demonstrations (or nearby) although this has happened repeatedly, especially in the last six months.

Now that a new administration is in the wings, perhaps things will improve. Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty, however. Publicity is vital to the protection of journalists from intimidation and violence.

Jennifer Rubin: “There is no moral or intellectual reason that will persuade them. There is no respectful conversation to be had with people who argue in bad faith. ” (repost)

2020-11-14

This quote comes from her column about Him getting more irrational and the Republican’s excuses for Him getting more and more lame.

[Update: this applies especially to those who claim that He has “won” the presidential election just held.]

Here is the whole paragraph:

There is no moral or intellectual reason that will persuade them. There is no respectful conversation to be had with people who argue in bad faith. The only solution is to defeat [redacted] and his party so thoroughly that [redacted]ism is permanently discredited. A party that continues to defend this president is simply beyond redemption.

Ms. Rubin was a well-known conservative columnist before what’s-his-name got elected emperor-in-his-mind; since the election, she has become obsessed with just how awful He really is.

Here is what Bill “Slightly Dangerous” Kristol said on Twitteer:

To Republicans who’ve been inclined to acquiesce in a [redacted] re-nomination in 2020: Read his tweets this morning. Think seriously about his mental condition and psychological state. Then tell me you’re fine with him as president of the United States for an additional four years.  –6:56 AM Mar 17, 2019

(thanks to pixabay.com and GeorgeB2 for the illustration– note that I initially searched for “fraud” on the pixabay database and a picture showing the logo for “[redacted] University” came up.)

CDC tries to re-assert itself after falling under influence of current administration; record new cases, over 180K, rising death rate. Money needed for vaccine distribution.

2020-11-14
photo by Einfach-Eve courtesy of pixabay.com

The CDC is once again beginning to publish guidelines although it has not yet returned to holding press conferences to announce new policies. The story is in the New York Times for November 13.

As I posted yesterday, the CDC has finally published a guideline that recommends wearing face masks for the protection of the wearer as well as others. This is based on relatively new research that reinforces previous positive studies and confirms the informed guesses that have been made for months by scientists.

There is now hope among the rank and file in the CDC that it can return to apolitical, science-based work without the interference of the current administration. First of all, there are about 67 days before the current administration has to leave and the Biden administration can take over. This leaves only a few days for anyone to be fired or transferred in retaliation for ignoring directives from the current administration.

What is happening now? Well, the Times says that 181,194 new cases were reported yesterday, along with 1,389 deaths. During the next week, chances are that new cases will exceed 200,000 a day by Friday. Deaths are likely to increase as well, but just when they will exceed 2,000 a day is open to speculation.

At the same time, the distribution of a vaccine (assuming that it is the Pfizer vaccine) will be fraught with difficulties. The main problem is lack of money. States will need money to develop a distribution and monitoring system. The federal government will need to step up and provide the money, because the states are already strapped due to increased expenses and reduced revenue over the last eight months.

So far, nothing is forthcoming from the current administration. We hope that the Biden administration has the will to appoint logistics specialists and provide money for the job– this is the quickest way to stop the pandemic and stem its economic and human costs. The issue will come to a head as the vaccine is approved in January.

In addition, sequencing many more samples of the virus will help contact tracing. Many more people must be put on the job to trace contacts and to follow the flow of virus mutations as it jumps from one person to the next– this will be the best way to follow the spread and pin down how the virus gets from person to person.