03 August, 2020

How the Pandemic Defeated America


Despite ample warning, the U.S. squandered every possible opportunity to control the coronavirus. And despite its considerable advantages—immense resources, biomedical might, scientific expertise—it floundered. While countries as different as South Korea, Thailand, Iceland, Slovakia, and Australia acted decisively to bend the curve of infections downward, the U.S. achieved merely a plateau in the spring, which changed to an appalling upward slope in the summer. “The U.S. fundamentally failed in ways that were worse than I ever could have imagined,” Julia Marcus, an infectious-disease epidemiologist at Harvard Medical School, told me.

Since the pandemic began, I have spoken with more than 100 experts in a variety of fields. I’ve learned that almost everything that went wrong with America’s response to the pandemic was predictable and preventable. A sluggish response by a government denuded of expertise allowed the coronavirus to gain a foothold. Chronic underfunding of public health neutered the nation’s ability to prevent the pathogen’s spread. A bloated, inefficient health-care system left hospitals ill-prepared for the ensuing wave of sickness. Racist policies that have endured since the days of colonization and slavery left Indigenous and Black Americans especially vulnerable to COVID‑19. The decades-long process of shredding the nation’s social safety net forced millions of essential workers in low-paying jobs to risk their life for their livelihood. The same social-media platforms that sowed partisanship and misinformation during the 2014 Ebola outbreak in Africa and the 2016 U.S. election became vectors for conspiracy theories during the 2020 pandemic.

[Residency]u/Dr_D-R-E details the horrific situation and working conditions as a physician in an overwhelmed hospital during the COVID-19 pandemic.


When you don’t know if you’re going to catch it because there just isn’t enough equipment, you start recording videos of yourself in the car on the way home so that your daughter will have some memory of you if you don’t make it, when you see your coworkers crying in the parking lot at the end of the day, noticing that a lot of people are carrying rosaries for the first time, when the attendings let it slip that they’re drinking more than usual at home to calm down. The hospital feels like it’s on fire, you know it’s on fire, you can see it’s on fire, but you still feel cold.

You can’t convey that to people. You can’t make them understand that.

I’ve worked in the inner city for almost my entire training, I’ve seen ridiculous shit, but I NEVER thought that at an American hospital, the infrastructure would be so pushed beyond our limit.

When I hear people bitch about how “hospitals used COVID to excuse poor quality care and protect negligent doctors” it makes my blood boil. How many times did they have to push patients on bipap with BP 70/30 into an elevator because that’s as stable as you could get them before moving to a higher level floor? Did they ever do a residency in pediatrics then have to titrate levophed and start dialysis on a 70 year old? Did they have to admit a 26 year old, look them in they eyes and say “this will help, you’re gonna be okay” before intubating and feeling this person was going to die... finding out 2 weeks later you were right?

Call me callous, angry, traumatized, but I hope some of these people encounter the hell that is COVID so they can eat their words from their precious, healthy populations that walk around mask free thinking they’re smarter than the herd.

Ask Herman Caine’s family what they think about masks. Survive stage 4 cancer but die because you can’t be bothered to wear a mask.

02 August, 2020

Shane Burcaw on being a "disabled person"

As I got older, I began to realize that the things I was experiencing were just flat-out ableism in its many forms. Teachers talked down to me because they lacked an understanding of disability. Kids treated me differently because they lacked experience with disability. The systems that provide care were broken and needed fixing. The working world undervalued disabled workers and failed to provide accommodations.⁣

These are not problems inherent to me as a person; they are a reflection of society’s shortcomings. Being disabled isn’t bad; society treats disabled people badly.⁣

Today, I’m a disabled person. I am no longer ashamed of that language. I don’t feel a need to shy away from it to fit in with non-disabled people. My disability is not shameful or a problem. For me, this identity-first language fills me with pride, and this pride encourages me to fight for better access and treatment for myself and millions of others.

30 July, 2020

Government watchdog finds 'strong indicators of widespread fraud' in small business loan program


The Small Business Administration's Inspector General said Tuesday the office found likely examples of pervasive fraud in the Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program, which provided funding to small businesses affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

The watchdog office said its preliminary review found "strong indicators of widespread fraud." Specifically, its investigation into hundreds of hotline complaints found $250 million in loans and grants to "potentially ineligible recipients" and another $45.6 million in potential double payments. 

As of July 26, the SBA had given nearly $164 billion in loans through the program, it said. The potential errors represent about one-tenth of one percent of the program's total funding so far. 

29 July, 2020

What the Data Say About Police

There are large racial differences in police use of nonlethal force. My research team analyzed nearly five million police encounters from New York City. We found that when police reported the incidents, they were 53% more likely to use physical force on a black civilian than a white one. In a separate, nationally representative dataset asking civilians about their experiences with police, we found the use of physical force on blacks to be 350% as likely. This is true of every level of nonlethal force, from officers putting their hands on civilians to striking them with batons. We controlled for every variable available in myriad ways. That reduced the racial disparities by 66%, but blacks were still significantly more likely to endure police force.
• Compliance by civilians doesn’t eliminate racial differences in police use of force. Black civilians who were recorded as compliant by police were 21% more likely to suffer police aggression than compliant whites. We also found that the benefits of compliance differed significantly by race. This was perhaps our most upsetting result, for two reasons: The inequity in spite of compliance clashed with the notion that the difference in police treatment of blacks and whites was a rational response to danger. And it complicates what we tell our kids: Compliance does make you less likely to endure a beat-down—but the benefit is larger if you are white.

America Doesn’t Need a New Revolution

America looks different if you grew up, as I did, in Africa and the Middle East. There I had firsthand experience of three things. First, bloody internecine wars between Africans—with all the combatants dark-skinned, and no white people present. Second, the anarchy that comes when there is no police, no law and order. Third, the severe racism (as well as sexism) of a society such as Saudi Arabia, where de facto slavery still exists.
I came to the U.S. in 2006, having lived in the Netherlands since 1992. Like most immigrants, I came with a confidence that in America I would be judged on my merits rather than on the basis of racial or sexual prejudice.
There’s a reason the U.S. remains, as it has long been, the destination of choice for would-be migrants. We know that there is almost no difference in the unemployment rate for foreign-born and native-born workers—unlike in the European Union.
We immigrants see the downsides of American society: the expensive yet inefficient health-care system, the shambolic public schools in poor communities, the poverty that no welfare program can alleviate. But we also see, as Charles Murray and J.D. Vance have shown, that these problems aren’t unique to black America. White America is also, in Mr. Murray’s phrase, “coming apart” socially. Broken marriages and alienated young men are problems in Appalachia as much as in the inner cities.
If America is a chronically racist society, then why are the “deaths of despair” studied by Anne Case and Angus Deaton so heavily concentrated among middle-aged white Americans? Did the Covid-19 pandemic make us forget the opioid epidemic, which has disproportionately afflicted the white population?

28 July, 2020

There’s a Question My Confederate Ancestors Taught Me To Ask

155 years ago, the army of my ancestors folded its flags and stacked its arms. The tidal pull of tribalism carried away the men who gave me their name. Their legacy—and the legacy of every generation that has been caught up in the sweep of history in ways that harm us still today—should cause us all to pause. 
When the crowd says yes, consider the option of no. When the crowd says go, discern whether we should stop. And through it all, pray for God’s grace—that we’re not too foolish to know the truth or too weak to do what’s right.

Police: 'Umbrella Man' was a white supremacist trying to incite George Floyd rioting

A masked man who was seen in a viral video smashing the windows of a south Minneapolis auto parts store during the George Floyd protests, earning him the moniker “Umbrella Man,” is suspected to be a member of the Hell’s Angels biker gang seeking to incite racial tension in a demonstration that until then had been peaceful, police said.
A Minneapolis police arson investigator said the man’s actions at the AutoZone on East Lake Street set off a chain reaction that led to days of looting and rioting. The building was later burned to the ground.
“This was the first fire that set off a string of fires and looting throughout the precinct and the rest of the city,” Erika Christensen wrote in a search warrant affidavit filed in court this week. “Until the actions of the person your affiant has been calling ‘Umbrella man,’ the protests had been relatively peaceful. The actions of this person created an atmosphere of hostility and tension. Your affiant believes that this individual’s sole aim was to incite violence.”

27 July, 2020

Ta-Nehisi Coates Revisits the Case for Reparations

A lot of your article was about Chicago housing policy. It was a very technical analysis of housing policy. When people talked to me about the article—and I could tell they hadn’t read it—“So, Ta-Nehisi’s making a case for”—no, no, no, I said. First and foremost, it’s a dissection of a particular policy that’s emblematic of so many other policies.

Right, right. So, out of all of those policies of theft, I had to pick one. And that was really my goal. And the one I picked was housing, was our housing policy. Again, we have this notion that housing as it exists today sort of sprung up from black people coming north, maybe not finding the jobs that they wanted, and thus forming, you know, some sort of pathological culture, and white people, just being concerned citizens, fled to the suburbs. But beneath that was policy! The reason why black people were confined to those neighborhoods in the first place, and white people had access to neighborhoods further away, was because of political decisions. The government underwrote that, through F.H.A. loans, through the G.I. Bill. And that, in turn, caused the devaluing of black neighborhoods, and an inability to access credit, to even improve neighborhoods.

A Taxonomy of Fear

Some on the left still claim cancel culture doesn’t exist. Mass firings, they say, are not taking place. Only a few people—who probably deserved it!—have lost their jobs.
But it doesn’t require mass dismissals to put many people in a genuine state of unease and intimidation. A few chilling examples are enough to spread the fear to a lot of people that an inadvertent error can destroy your life. As New York Times columnist Ross Douthat writes, “the goal isn’t to punish everyone, or even very many someones; it’s to shame or scare just enough people to make the rest conform.”
And so dread settles in. Challenging books go untaught. Deep conversations are not had. Friendships are not formed. Classmates and colleagues eye each other with suspicion.
In her 2003 memoir, Azar Nafisi describes secretly teaching Lolita and other forbidden Western books to a small group of female students in Iran. Reading Lolita in Tehran portrays a group of students so committed to the expansion of their minds that they are willing to put their freedom at risk to read a novel.
In her 2019 book, The Problem with Everything: My Journey Through the New Culture Wars, Meghan Daum asks a colleague who teaches twentieth-century American literature at the University of Iowa whether he still teaches Lolita. “It’s just not worth the risk,” he tells her.

26 July, 2020

A Eulogy for a Friend, a Lament for our Nation

It never occurs to many of us—or maybe it occurs, but folks don’t care—that many people online are operating from a place of pain. The public bravado conceals a private vulnerability. 
In reality, we are not created to endure an avalanche of hate. Few people have the thick skin they might believe they possess. So we fire off broadsides and reel from the response. 
I must confess, the more I learn about the lives of people online and off, the more I see the profound depth of Christian commands to love our enemies, to bless those who persecute us, to respond to evil with good, to turn the other cheek. It’s about so much more than our witness. It’s part of Christ’s love (and ours) for our neighbors, including our enemies.
To me, one of the most poignant of all scriptures is Isaiah 42:3. Prophesying the coming Messiah, Isaiah declares, “a bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench.” 
That person you call an enemy is so very often a bruised reed—even those enemies who can seem most aggressive, most outspoken. Shall we break them in our righteous response? Because remember, the alternative to turning my cheek is striking his. One alternative to blessing is cursing. One alternative to kindness is cruelty. And cruelty destroys lives.

Portland As I See It

The fact that some protesters cross the line from protected First Amendment activity to unlawful destruction is undisputed, as is the federal government’s authority to take reasonable measures to defend the courthouse. The legality of the responses actually chosen is open to numerous challenges. As Steve Vladeck explains at the Lawfare blog, questions remain as to exactly which laws are being enforced, why federal officers have made arrests away from the courthouse, why officers are not clearly identified, and why Homeland Security rather than the Department of Justice is leading the effort. The state of Oregon has filed suit against the government, so these questions may eventually be sorted out in court.
The question of whether the federal response is wise and humane, however, can assuredly be answered in the negative. Footage from recent nights of protests includes the beating of a 53-year-old Navy veteran, the teargassing of moms, and the shooting of a peaceful protester in the head with a rubber bullet, leaving him in need of reconstructive surgery.
It’s also abundantly obvious that if the aim of a federal show of force was to dispel the protests, the plan has backfired miserably. The numbers of protesters had dwindled substantially in recent weeks, but reports of heavily armed, unidentified, camouflaged federal officers abducting people off the street into unmarked vehicles and meting out violence on the people of Portland have thoroughly re-energized the populace. The ranks of hardened protesters are now supplemented by thousands of fresh faces, many of them difficult to believably portray as “anarchists” that “hate our country,” as the president described them on Monday.