Discussion thread

February 23, 2021 • 10:15 am

I’ve more to say today, but I’m busy working on a response to Adam Gopnik’s latest letter in our exchange of views about the question “Are the methods used by science the only way of knowing?” As expected, Adam defended literature as a “way of knowing”, and I have much to say in response—too much to be shoehorned into 1200 words. Condense, condense, condense. But the exchange will go on for at least three letters each, or more likely four, and it’s both enormously fun and has also made me think hard.

Until this afternoon, then, I offer this post as a platform for readers’ discussion.  You can talk about anything you want, but I’ll make a suggestion, which you don’t have to address:

How is the new administration doing? Clearly it’s miles better than Trump’s, but are there things you aren’t keen on? What about the expensive ($1.9 trillion) pandemic relief bill? Will $1400 stimulus checks to those making below a certain amount really constitute any substantial help? Does the minimum-wage increase belong in this bill? Is Joe’s administration too woke? How is he handling the pandemic?

It’s not a sin, you know, to find fault with an administration that you see as a tremendous improvement over the four-year nightmare that was Trump.

Or, discuss whatever you want.

115 thoughts on “Discussion thread

  1. Here in Canada, Trump also inspired the worst in people who he appealed to. I seem to see less anti-mask/anti-lockdown protests. This could be 1) it’s not being reported as much 2) I’m not noticing but that could be because of 1. 3) Fines against organizers of events were finally being levied and reported on 4) Trump is gone and the rhetoric from his Twitter has stopped. My intuition says the last has a big influence….

    1. A colleague of mine was walking in downtown Vancouver on the weekend and came across a large anti-mask protest. I suspect there hasn’t been as much change as you think…

      And everywhere else in Canada it’s probably just too cold for people to bother.

      1. Yeah I’m probably just not noticing it as much. I did a quick search and there was some charges laid Feb 8 in Hamilton, Ontario when the “Hugs Over Masks” group protested in front of City Hall.

  2. I will offer this complaint about Biden….. Too much religious display at his public events. Otherwise, it will be a long time before I forget the trauma of the last four years enough to complain much. He’s doing far better than I expected.

    1. Yes, I agree. Still, it’s easier to believe in Biden’s faith than Trump’s. So what’s better: someone who truly believes the fake news of religion or someone who fakes their religious belief? Of course, it is easy to decide between Trump and Biden but this is a harder question to answer generally.

    2. Yes, I have to say that I flinched a bit when he had his “moment of silence” for the half million Covid victims, and then crossed himself (Jill did not). It’s his right to do that, but I’d prefer that he keep his displays in private.

      1. But he’s not a “devout” Catholic, according to a Kansas Archbishop. Good grief. Just like noted Constitutional scholar and Catholic Doug Kmiec was not a “real” Catholic because he supported Obama.

        1. In 2004, Raymond Leo Burke, the archbishop of St. Louis, said that then-presidential candidate John Kerry should be denied communion because of his pro-abortion-rights stance. Pope Benedict XVI later promoted Burke to cardinal and made him head of the Vatican supreme court.

          When Pope Frankie the First took over, he demoted Burke’s ass.

      2. Reminds me of the one about the Jewish kid who makes the sign of the cross before stepping into the batter’s box in a little league game. When his father asks him about it later, he says, “It’s just somethin’ I saw that kid Murphy do, and he hit a home run.”

    3. Biden’s religious displays don’t bother me because his religious views do not threaten me, unlike the views of the right-wing evangelicals. I do not expect Biden to push pro-life legislation, vouchers for parochial schools, or other religious demands. He can cross himself and say “God bless America” all he wants. If by doing so he attracts some religious voters away from the Republicans, good!

  3. Good exercise for the brain! Cool!

    I hope the ice has moderated on your walking routes.

    Brevity being the soul of wit. Reminds my of the scene in the movie A River Runs Through It when Norman’s Dad keeps telling him to cut his essay by 50%. 🙂

    When I edit my writing, cutting it back to the essentials (as best I can) is my main focus.

    Good discussion topic:

    – What about the expensive ($1.9 trillion) pandemic relief bill?

    I think it’s needed. We are entering the home stretch from the economic standpoint and we need to help as many people and businesses bridge the chasm as we can.

    – Will $1400 stimulus checks to those making below a certain amount really constitute any substantial help?

    I think it will. People need immediate cash to get over the chasm to the other side when things will pick up. It would make no real difference to my family; but we are very fortunate.

    – Does the minimum-wage increase belong in this bill?

    I would prefer it were under a separate bill. It should stand on its own; and it’s not really a COVID-related provision.

    I also worry about how certain people will think about this. Imagine yourself a starting school teacher: You are making $30K per year in some locations (data aren’t easy to find on starting salaries) — which would be $15/hour IF you were working a 40-hour week, which is far from what teaching is like. My wife has been working 12 hours/day 6-7 days per week since mid-August (a week before her report-back date).

    As such a starting teacher you’d be making federal min. wage after attending (and paying for) four years of university (giving up four years’ of income) and getting yourself licensed as a professional, and doing student-teaching (internship). You get to make as much as a basic laborer. (Whoo-hoo, such a deal!) (And all that’s on top of the crazy mandates that come down every year for teachers, getting special, high-intensity training (S.H.I.T.) on your are a racist, and being blamed 100% for all adverse student outcomes, all “achievement gaps”, and the systemic racism in the school system.)

    – Is Joe’s administration too woke?

    I don’t think so, yet. They are flying the Woke flags. After one month, it’s too early to tell from a policy perspective.

    I am not happy about the (apparent) “throw open the borders” policy that seems to be taking shape with regard to immigration.

    – How is he handling the pandemic?

    Well. But it’d be damned hard not to shine after Voldemort and his cult minions! And Biden has been incredibly fortunate with the timing of taking office — just as the vaccination program spins into full gear and we seem to have turned the corner (for real this time, unlike in October) on the infection, hospitalization, and death rates — for whatever reason. (My guess: The big factor is that far more people were infected/recovered/gained immunity last year than they or the statisticians knew about.)

    1. I think you’ve just made a good case that teachers are way under-paid, not that the minimum wage shouldn’t be raised.

      1. I agree. I am just pointing out that it isn’t as simple as pulling a switch.

        I haven’t actually looked at the details of the proposal (i.e. how it would be transitioned in). I’m in favor of the $15/hr MW; but I think it will result in inflation and, in the end, over time, it might make no real difference. (But I also can’t imagine trying to make ends meet on $11/hour.)

      2. I completely agree. Teachers should be paid FAR more–enough to make teaching a truly enviable job, with the sort of prestige deserved by those who accept the responsibility of educating the young. And the spending on public education should NOT be based on local property values, as it is throughout everywhere I’ve ever lived in the US…that makes sure public education is less well funded where it is most needed (which also coincides with places of higher than average minority populations, not surprisingly) and highly funded where people have the most advantages already (more or less). I’ve never understood how this is tolerable to Americans, except that “we” have a general disdain of education and knowledge and “book learnin'” that’s astonishing, shortsighted, ignorant (self-fulfilling) and frankly idiotic. It’s terribly depressing.

        1. There is a strong anti-elites streak in the American people. Exhibit A: The 2016 POTUS election.

          Thankfully we sobered up in 2020.

          Yes, my wife being in the trenches in an urban public school district, I can only agree with virtually everything about teaching in the USA. My wife is paid pretty well; but she’s got 30-years’ experience, EBD of a PhD in Ed, and she’s a damned good teacher and a damned hard worker.

          I may make a post on this thread later touching on a (very) few of our frustrations.

          The hard problem of public education in the USA is funding. Getting people to pay more for other peoples’ kids’ education. This is money well spent; but most Americans can’t or won’t see this. It is WAY more economical to prepare a kid for a good job than for a prison cell.

          We used to have something more of a consensus on this: vis the land grant state universities. But, led, by the GOP, all education funding and policies on all levels have gone backwards. From the GOP’s perspective, this was to attack the last bastion of unions in the USA: The public sector and specifically teachers.

          1. Yes, investing in the individuals that make up your society is not only ethical, but it has pretty damn good returns too. I think the evidence on that is already in. A classic example, and having to do with education, was the GI Bill.

            1. Good point, and to use a contemporary example, look at Europe- at least 10 countries offer free education, including University; countries like Germany and the Scandinavian countries even pay for medical school. And guess what, in almost every measurable way, those countries are far more successful than the US in terms of positive societal outcomes. This country used to understand that investing in its citizenry is paramount to a successful and thriving middle class. Then Reagan came along (2nd time in this thread I’ve disparaged the man) and he decided rich people need to get richer, and everyone else will magically benefit from the creation of more million and billionaires. And that myth has pervaded American politics ever since. And now, for the first time in decades the newest generations will be worse off than their parents. Something’s gotta give.

        2. I too would prefer more appreciation for learning in US culture.

          But I disagree with you on the importance of public school funding because it is well-established (and consistently ignored) that there is only a very weak relationship between school funding and student outcomes. Most of the differences between schools are the result of student selection. Teachers are also unable to prevail against the genes and peer groups of their students.

          1. If you were in the trenches of public schools, you would not say that about funding. They are woefully underfunded. The quantity of mandated actions and the severe restrictions on actions mean that teachers are severely overburdened.

            Just as a for-instance: Many Special Ed kids really need a full-time employee to mind them. (This is the mainstreaming mandate.) Most schools simply don’t have the money for this. This means the kid is ill-served AND the rest of the kids are too. And the teacher is overwhelmed trying to deal with it. Multiply several fold for several SE kids.

            Just one example. This kind of situation is rampant.

            You are dead-right about the genes and peers groups (and families and neighborhoods). But: Only teachers and schools are held responsible.

      3. Absolutely. It also seems to me that raising the minimum wage would likely help apply pressure to raise teachers wages, and other low paying professionals.

    2. “teachers, getting special, high-intensity training (S.H.I.T.) on your are a racist, and being blamed 100% for all adverse student outcomes, all “achievement gaps”, and the systemic racism in the school system.”
      Rings all too true in Canada as well. When my Calculus classes didn’t all have A averages, the principal would call me in and say she believed in “student success” (meaning handing every kid an A on a platter??). Love your S.H.I.T. acronym!

      I think that teachers are generally better paid in Canada than in the US. Driving across the US a couple of years ago we stopped at a Buffalo Wings in Michigan City, Indiana. Our waitress was a full-time teacher but had to supplement her salary by waitressing. Pathetic!

      1. If that was in the summer time, it is pretty common for teachers to do part time or seasonal summer work. Rather sad that they have to (or choose to).

        One of my wife’s main reasons for going into teaching was: Summers off. I make enough that she’s never had to worry about teaching summer school etc.

        The S.H.I.T. acronym came from my time at a certain large airplane manufacturer whose name starts with “B”. Good company; but some stupid training sometimes (like anywhere I suppose).

          1. Ouch, that is especially painful.

            For short time, I worked at a firm that did engineered electric power structures. The office was small: 8 engineers, 1 sales guy, 2 managers 15 or so support staff.

            Every single one of the support staff worked this full time job and then had a second part-time job. And almost all of them were married and their spouses also had two jobs. (Small office, you actually got to know people.) This just to be able to have a house and some level of savings. Hard working people. Hard life.

    3. … Norman’s Dad keeps telling him to cut his essay by 50%.

      Reminds me of the line, generally attributed to Blaise Pascal, that “[i]f I had more time, I would have written a shorter letter.” 🙂

  4. A little off topic but close enough for me.
    I’m not sure why I and people like me are getting this money. I am retired on Social Security and a moderate nest egg. Apart from a drastic reduction in spending (no travel) the pandemic has had no effect on my financial situation.

    1. I’m in a similar situation. We don’t really need it. But I think the complexities around designing ways to avoid sending money to you and me would result in lots of delay getting the money into the hands of people who desperately need it.

        1. We still go fairly regularly to places that we believe are doing a good job of distancing, safe practices, etc. Overall, Colorado has been pretty good with masks and other protocols.

    2. If you spend it getting takeout (or eating in) in your local restaurant, or hiring a plumber, etc., the money will be having the intended effect, even if you aren’t unable to pay your own bills.

      My family isn’t eligible (and we weren’t last year) and that is appropriate. We have weathered this whole thing about as favorably as anyone could hope to. I am very grateful for that! My biggest impact (which hasn’t turned out to be one, in the end) was the stock market, as we intend to retire in less than a year and most of our retirement security is wrapped into the markets in one way or another — much of it directly. I did not look at our accounts from March through May last year.

    3. Likewise though not yet retired. The pandemic has actually given me slightly more net income. No gas bills from driving 45 minutes to work each way was one reason. And I got a fair raise that had been pending for at least a year.
      I make too much to have gotten much in the first stimulus and won’t get any of this one. And I am absolutely fine with that.
      So, I too spend it on big tips for takeout food. Those small businesses and employees need it.

      We certainly would have taken an overseas tourist vacation in the last year without the pandemic. Instead we bought new large items for the house, due to appliance failure or just long overdue.

  5. Tweet:

    How to repeal the First Amendment:

    1) place media distribution in the hands of a corporate oligopoly.

    2) threaten to break them up unless they control disinformation.

    3) define disinformation as speech you don’t like.

    Easy.

  6. As present, the steep decline in new Covid infections has only put us into September-October levels of new infections. I won’t believe that a corner has really been turned until it stays low thru the next spate of winter holidays.

    1. Within a matter of weeks (or count them as a few months if you’re a glass half-empty sort of person), a critical mass of people in the USA will have been vaccinated.

  7. I’m just happy that it is now at least mostly light out for my entire morning and afternoon bike commutes. After months of riding in darkness, it is so nice to see the daylight hours getting longer!

  8. I am always a bit nonplussed by these trillion dollar stimulus packages. Where does all that money come from? What is happening to the national debt? Will these important assistance proposals eventually need to paid by much higher taxes?

        1. Economists win Nobel Prizes for arguing exact opposites 😋 Krugman never saw a national spending program he didn’t like.

            1. My perception, however flawed and subjective, is that economists knows everything by virtue of being economists. (Perhaps a dead heat with corporate CEO’s.)

        2. There is an excess of capital, meaning that interest rates ought to be negative. But deficits do matter in the end. Whether or not interest rates on debts can be negative is a matter of trust. If investors expect that the government is borrowing too much, interest rates could rise. If trust in currencies disappears, there could be hyperinflation.

    1. The government either borrows it or prints money. The former leads to debt and the latter leads to inflation. In the UK, the government has spent money like water. Rather than doing stimulus cheques, they subsidised the cost of furloughing workers. If a company has to lay people off, they can choose to furlough them instead and the government pays 80% of their salary.

      I think this is a better option than just handing out cash because it gives the furloughed people the chance of having a job when everything starts getting back to normal, but it is incredibly expensive. Fortunately, inflation was at an all time low at the start of the pandemic – in fact, it was considered too low – so the Bank of England can print lots of money to finance the whole thing and not stimulate too much inflation. However, we are still going to be paying for the pandemic for a long time.

  9. I mentioned earlier that I was just reading a lengthy history on John Quincy Adams. The presidential period only 4 years did not amount to much. But his total life that included much of his father’s time (John Adams) all the way to his own death in the Congress, on the floor of the House of Rep. in 1844 included much more. Nearly all of his life was spent in service to his country and the guy is very much overlooked in our history. He is a very fine example of someone who made it all the way to the top job in the country but who’s vision and programs were mostly ignored or defeated because the majority of the people were going a different direction. The president that followed Adams, Andrew Jackson was one of the poorest, yet popular president and he came closer than any other president to a Donald Trump type president. Very little progress made during his 8 years and it is easy to see today, mostly going in the wrong direction. So the country had a very large wasted period during these years prior to the civil war and it helped create the environment for the war. Today we have just past through 4 wasted years with Trump that also left much damage. And there are many people who still approve of Trump and his damaging results to our government and country. Many of his type are still within the government and congress. I do not see the Biden presidency as a big movement or change over the 8 years of Obama. The policies need to be bolder and the actions against the damaging Trump cult of the past must be louder than they have been so far. It must also be down to the state level in every state to eliminate this retarded and backward thinking in the red states. Right now democrats must be aggressive in pointing out that republican government is responsible for the massive failures in Texas. Responsible for the pandemic failure. Where is the noise? Biden and the democrats have the microphone temporarily and they need to use it. Otherwise they will go down in history just as John Quincy Adams did.

    1. I also would like to hear more from Biden. Perhaps he’s trying to show that he’s more about the work than his predecessor. For one thing, he is focused on the pandemic relief bill and getting his nominees through the Senate. His first State of the Union address will be worth listening to closely.

      I like Biden’s approach to cooperation across the aisle. Choosing policies that having bipartisan support by voters, as opposed to Congress, is hopefully going to place a lot of pressure on GOP congresspeople to cooperate.

  10. Raising minimum wage to $15 an hour: I feel a little sheepish admitting that I don’t like it, since it doesn’t feel that long ago that I graduated with a four-year degree from a state college and earned $12.50 an hour at my first job. I’m not suggesting I work harder than a non-college graduate, but it’s a good thing that our society values and rewards education—especially higher education—as means to prosperity.

    1. Higher education has been devalued significantly compared to when I went to college, and even much more so than when my parents generation did. These days you need a college degree for just about any kind of job, except the very lowest, to have a decent chance of serious consideration. For just about any job that isn’t labor or flipping burgers, a college diploma is the first sort criteria. Applicants with no college education go to the bottom of the list, or the trash can. For many jobs it doesn’t matter what the degree is, just as long as it is a degree.

      Hand in hand with that higher education has become a lucrative money making endeavor. It started with new colleges popping up all over the place offering short degree programs for less money than the more traditional universities. Things really ramped up with the advent of the internet. Many of them are flat out scams.

      The result is that the education one receives to earn a diploma these days is of lower quality than the same degree 40 years ago. And it means that while more people than ever before do have a degree of some sort, more so than ever before those degrees don’t signify anything of real value, except making sure your application doesn’t get tossed in the first round of sorting.

      It goes without saying that STEM degrees, and some other types no doubt, have been much less subject to the degradation I’m complaining about here.

      1. I agree that your basic liberal arts 4-year degree is worth less now (I was at university 1979-1984). Engineering is probably worth more than it was then (based on starting salaries). And my perception is that most of the young engineers I’ve worked with over the last couple of decades got a better education (from a practical standpoint) than I did.

        There is a thriving area of skilled labor in the USA now. 2-year degrees in, for instance: Welding, machine operation, skilled construction work, equipment operation, physician’s assistant, nursing assistant, engineering technician, etc. which pay well. And they are a better fit for quite a few people than 4-year college (and cost a lot less in terms of time and money).

        I continue to scratch my head as to why anyone would pay the $250K (or whatever it costs) to attend, for instance, an Ivy League school, and take a degree in something like sociology (where the career path is murky). University study as a hobby?

        When I went to university, I was sharply focused on future earnings (and a good fit for my aptitudes).

    2. I think it would be better if the $15/hour didn’t apply to everyone w/ a minimum wage job all at once. I think it’s Australia who has a good minimum wage, but it doesn’t apply to high school kids/dependents, and I think you get a higher minimum wage if you are married/have kids. So more of a tiered minimum wage and that makes more sense to me. In the US, it also greatly depends on where you live. $15/hour is minimal in a place like NYC, Seattle, San Francisco, L.A. (where the minimum wage is already $15/hour). But in a rural state like Wyoming, or pretty much any of the southern states, it would be a boon to millions of workers. And I also think restaurant employees who live mainly off tips get a bum deal where many of them make less than $4/hour…esp. in red states. Ironically, it is the economies of red states that will see the biggest benefit to their economies if the $15/hour is adopted, yet red states are anti-worker and don’t want it. The GOP still hasn’t realized that Reagan’s trickle-down economics is a failed idea, and has destroyed the middle-class over the last 40-odd years.

      1. I heard a talking head on NPR, it might have even been yesterday, advocating for going beyond the $10K already being considered for student loan debt relief and giving $50K to every BIPOC family. [More or less:] “It would be a great economic boost to BIPOC families.”

        [No sh!t, Dick Tracy?]

        I think that is what the woke left are really asking for. And maybe it makes sense; but I haven’t been sold yet. And who would get it? Defining it be race will certainly be unconstitutional. (And good luck defining “black” in a way that is constitutional and stands up in court.) And: what would it cost and how would it be paid for. There seems to be this assumption that “just the rich” will pay for it. What data from the last 40 years in the US would make one believe that?

        Trickle down has worked perfectly from the GOP perspective. (You don’t really think they wanted the people at the bottom to get the money?) They gave the money to the people at the top and they kept it. No problem.

        http://www.berettaconsulting.com/barbarossa/M/stuff/inc/2019-12-24/Quint_Dec-2019.JPG

  11. I’d like some informed discussion re: two enduring mysteries (mysterious to me, anyway) re Covid vaccination strategy:

    (1) Covid cases to date number ~25M, a figure many believe is about a 4-fold undercount, so let’s assume the actual case count is an even 100M. Many of those previously infected likely have some degree of immunity as measurable, say, by simple ELISA assays for neutralizing antibody titers. By using the average titer of now fully-immunized people as a benchmark, shouldn’t people requesting a vaccine be required to take a test to see if they may already display robust immunity? Why waste scarce shots on the already-immune?

    (2) Why on earth does it remain an open question re: whether the vaccines permit or prevent post-vaccination transmission? I dunno, maybe stick a swab up some noses pre- and then post-vaccination and see if/when subjects test negative?

    1. #1 is a good question. My wife and I had Covid with mild symptoms so it is especially of interest. I have deliberately not been aggressive in pursuing a vaccination, thinking that I’m already immune. However, I believe that there’s a good chance that immunity, whether due to catching the bug or getting the vaccine, gives immunity for a limited time.

      On both questions, I am sure there are studies underway to answer them but I don’t know the latest news on them.

      1. What makes you believe that the SARS-CoV2 immunity would be short-lived? Nearly all immune responses are specific and long-lived.

        1. The pros have said that immune systems remember some diseases well but not others. There is also the question of evolving variants. I believe getting the flu gives us only limited immunity though variants also play a role. Here’s a BBC article on the subject with a relevant quote:

          https://www.bbc.com/news/health-52446965

          The immune system’s memory is rather like our own – it remembers some infections clearly, but has a habit of forgetting others.

          Measles is highly memorable – one bout should give lifelong immunity (as the weakened version in the MMR vaccine does). However, there are many others that are pretty forgettable. Children can get RSV (respiratory syncytial virus) multiple times in the same winter.

          The new coronavirus, Sars-CoV-2, has not been around long enough to know how long immunity lasts.

          But a recent study led by Public Health England (PHE) shows most people who have had the virus are protected from catching it again for at least five months (the duration of the analysis so far).

            1. As I understand it, SARS is only related to COVID. It might cause us to bet that COVID gives us at least three years but it isn’t a guarantee. As I said, I’m taking that bet by not pursuing a vaccination aggressively, though I am not waiting three years.

              1. SARS is a group of viruses, and so-named for causing Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome. I believe that you are doing the right thing by waiting a while for vaccination – it frees up more doses in the short term, and you can get the vaccine when it is widely available to anyone.

            2. Thank you for that: Good news.

              Everyone on the epidemiology side I’ve been hearing since at least last summer has said, more or less: This disease will be somewhere between seasonal flu (new vaccine every year) and the Measles (single vaccination regime, lifetime immunity). And very likely to be closer to the flu (no surprise).

              I will be happy, if necessary, to receive an annual booster to retain my immunity.

              Much yet to be learned!

        2. I heard an expert say exactly that on the World Service today – there are now plenty of documented cases of re-infection. Immunity may last 3 months or more but you can get it again. Supposedly vaccines reduce the harmful effects so you are less likely to be hospitalised, although immune response rises over x weeks then tails off, perhaps to 60ish % depending on the vaccine variety.

      2. Since I had the virus too I have been the same. We apparently have some immunity but it will likely only last a few months. Kansas is very slow in getting the vaccination business going. I will be lucky to get it in the next three months. In a semi-failed state that is just the way it is. I think they have finished with all the health workers and most of the old folks homes. After that is is mostly those who are well off, have connections or work for companies who are helping to get their people vaccinated. I am retired and belong to none of those groups. When Trump got the virus he was given the transfusion or whatever they call it that is readily available now if you can get it. If I had had that, I probably could have avoided the hospital but I knew nothing about it. They say if you can get these anti-bodies within the first 10 days or so, it really helps.

    2. 1) Standing up an effective system to make such discrimination reliably would take longer than just vaccinating everyone. (Just my guess, working in industries that have to do such things, and have to be able to prove they’ve done them.)

      2) The studies performed were for the acute need: Stop people dying and stop the medical systems getting overwhelmed: Does the vaccine work for its primary purpose? And, much like (1), it takes time, money, and effort to determine such things (and I’m sure we will, eventually) but for the moment, we’re busy manning the fire hoses.

    3. There is quite a bit, let us say ample, evidence that a Covid infection does not cause good immunity. About half of those knownto have had Covid, have no detectable antibodies. (well, that is the antibodies we’re looking for, there might be other we don’t test for).
      It is not clear either whether a vaccinated person cannot spread the virus. I’d say that if it attacks the virus in the respiratory tract it would, but not if deeper into the body.
      Remember Salk and Sabin for polio? The injected dead virus of the Salk vaccine gives excellent immunity for life, but does not touch the polio virus in the GI tract. The attenuated living virus of the oral Sabin vaccine (albeit giving no good life-long protection) killed the virus in the GI tract, preventing further spreading. It is clear that the Sabin vaccine needed less penetration to cause herd immunity than the Salk vaccine.
      And on a side note, Salk did not want to profit from his vaccine, and donated his rights. A true hero for humanity, and one of my personal heroes too.

      1. “The attenuated living virus of the oral Sabin vaccine (albeit giving no good life-long protection) killed the virus in the GI tract, preventing further spreading.”

        Maybe I’m dense; but this doesn’t make sense. I don’t see how an attenuated virus vaccine could:

        1) Kill the virus directly. It’s an irritant, essentially, to the immune system, not an anti-viral. Or:

        2) Induce a stronger reaction than the real, fully-virulent version already present in the GI tract.

        Please explain, thanks.

        I received only the Sabin vaccine (twice I think). I thought it did provide life-long immunity. I thought it was the basis of the current near-eradication of polio.

  12. That relief bill should be passed, the $1400 extra stimulus will not just help those in need (yes, there will always be a few that are not in real need that will get it), but it will stimulate the economy and help the economy to get going. The latter is a sine qua non to be able to face the debt.

    Although a $15 minimum wage is a very good idea in itself (Heather Hastie had some good angles on that), I think it should not be in this bill for tactical reasons. The Democratic majority in the Senate is wafer-thin (cigarette paper thin), and it’s inclusion will strengthen Republican resistance. Taking it out of the bill would be a good gambit to ‘bi-partizanship’: “You see? We do listen to you”. It would be a tragedy if this ($15) would be the hill the stimulus package would die on.

    Is the Biden admin too woke? No, I don’t really think so, but this ‘title IX'(?) saga should be reviewed (I’m not 100% sure that this Biden admin actually instated it, it is kinda murky for an outsider). ‘Preponderance of evidence’ is not good enough for a serious crime like rape, and adult trans-women should not be allowed to compete in women’s events, or jailed in women’s jails. Did this admin support that? If so, these are very serious woke flaws.

    1. I think we will see Woke things coming out of the Biden administration from time to time. Some will be deliberate steps to appease the Far Left components of his base. Some will be the doings of individuals within his cabinet. I just listened to today’s White House press conference. Evidently Biden supports the study of Black reparations but he’s making sure that people understand that it doesn’t mean he’ll support or act on the recommendations of the study. At a minimum, Biden is playing a difficult game. Let’s hope he holds the line.

  13. Oh, I can’t help it. Since this is an open discussion…

    A couple of frustrating anecdotes from the world of an public school teacher in an urban school district. (Grades 1 and 2 — a critical time for acquiring reading skills.)

    The talk on education in Minnesota, where we live, is: The achievement gap. Minnesota leads the nation in education; but BIPOC kids, especially black kids, lag. This means the gap looks terrible. (The overall picture is still, despite the lagging groups, very high, so that gap is large. This is, by woke definition, due to systemic racism.)

    My wife went to the homes of several of her students at the beginning of the year (it may have even been before classes started) to make sure the kids were set up with computers (provided by the school district) and had internet access, knew how to fire up their computers, walked them through the programs, walked their parents and/or siblings through the same. (We are both old and I have asthma — she was none too happy having to make physical contact with people during COVID; but this is what teachers do.) These were all BIPOC families. I’ll also note that this is not teaching. This is social work.

    * * * *

    Case 1. The child does not show up for (virtual) class. They leave early. They have been using inappropriate language on chat and over the audio on group meets.

    Family flatly denies all of this. Teachers show time-stamped records. Family continues to deny that the kid did it and says that the teacher said that the student could leave early (false — no one else left early).

    Family gets angry and (what I’ll call) takes an attitude with school staff.

    Teacher informs that family that the student is turning in blank work. Family denies this. Teacher shows time- and name-stamped stamped blank work.

    Family gets angry and says, “stop bothering us!”

    This is a BIPOC kid. The exact kind of kid on the wrong side of the gap.

    * * * *

    Case 2: Child is turning in blank work. Child is not turning on camera for morning group meet, when everyone is expected to be on-camera (the school bends over backwards to provide exceptions for this, if needed — none was needed or requested in this case. Reason: Homeless kids, kids with turbulent home life, some kids simply aren’t psychologically able to handle this. The school has their arms around all of this.).

    Teacher works with kid over weeks on turning in work and properly attending meet times.

    Eventually, teacher contacts parent. Parent is in “angry mode” from the start. Teacher explains situation. Parent is in denial mode. Parent gets angry: “Why haven’t you told us before?!” Teacher: We try to work these things out on our own, get kids aligned with the expectations, etc., before bringing in parents. And, frankly, because parents get angry when given negative feedback. Parent, “oh, … yeah.”

    Parent: Our kid needs special attention: We expect you to spend 3 hours per day one-on-one with our kid. (My wife has 31 students. 31 X 3 = 93 hours.) Teacher performs the 3 hours per day for a full week, to make sure the kid understands expectations. Parent made aware that 3 hours per day isn’t practical for an entire school year.

    Issues continue. Kid is not on camera during meets. Kid is drawing, combing hair, etc., while on meets. Does not respond to correction.

    Teacher contacts parent by email, and explains.

    Parent: You can’t provide any feedback that isn’t positive. You can’t tell them not to comb their hair or draw while on meets. This negative feedback is causing mental health problems at our house. (Teacher has heard the kids melting down occasionally.) [Um, the teacher’s job is to correct the kids’ mistakes. Allowing one kid to screw around destroys classroom management.]

    Only solution remaining for the teacher: Shut off the kid from meets when they screw around. This is for kids whose parents were angrily demanding more in-person (one-on-one online meetings) time with their student.

    This kid is a white, middle-class kid with two employed parents (who are working from home) and the kid is in the gifted and talented program at the school.

    * * * *

    And so it goes. Every year, more mandates on what has to be taught and how. No mandates ever removed. Every year, further restrictions on what can be done with uncooperative or disruptive kids. (You can’t touch them, period. You can’t take away recess, forget about sitting in the corner or writing “I will not …” repeatedly on the board. You can’t even stop them from physically harming you (you’d be amazed what 6- and 7-year olds can do; teachers at her school have suffered concussions.) They basically can do nothing. They can just call the office.)

  14. Hopefully the stimulus checks will go through. They may not be enough for those in dire need. As our household doesn’t need we will do as last time and donate to local food banks etc.

  15. too much to be shoehorned into 1200 words. Condense, condense, condense.

    Or as Pascal seemingly put it,

    Je n’ai fait celle-ci plus longue que parce que je n’ai pas eu le loisir de la faire plus courte.

    “I would have written a shorter letter, but I did not have the time.”

  16. National Review’s The Week said “The best thing about Joseph Biden’s inauguration as the 46th president was how normal, even bland it was,” and I agree.

    After four years of Old Yeller, bland suits me just fine.

    1. We’re still of allowing thousands to die of covid every day, continuing America’s forever wars, and carrying out a brutal policy of family separation, not to mention having completely given up on avoiding catastrophic climate change. But thank goodness the president is polite about it.

  17. I am baffled that there is still so much resistance to Covid-19 vaccines. Realistically, you should expect to get the disease eventually unless you get vaccinated. This is especially likely if your social circle includes other people who do not like vaccines. Even if you assume that they are fatal to 1:100,000 people who take them, they are far less dangerous than sunbathing, driving, smoking et cetera.

    1. “Realistically, you should expect to get the disease eventually unless you get vaccinated.”

      That’s not true if the population reaches herd immunity. If the disease rate is really low, people who skip the vaccine may not get infected. We can tolerate a small number of people who choose not to get vaccinated. I am not justifying anti-vaxxers. Just pointing out a fact.

      I suspect this may not be a problem anyway. Once the vaccination-hesitant see people around them getting vaccinated and not dying from COVID or the vaccine, they will decide to get it. I hear people like that interviewed on the news and it is still early days. Once most have been vaccinated, most of the rest will give in.

      1. There are a whole lot of people who refuse to get vaccinated against flu despite the very real possibility of dying from it. Some of them say “I’ve got a good immune system.” Other’s avoid it because they don’t like needles. And yet more are still banging on about autism.

  18. With teachers part of the problem is attitudinal. And there’s no way to fix that problem.
    Absolutely they’re not paid enough but their vital job isn’t respected enough. I was a teacher in Japan in my salad days and teaching there (and throughout E. Asia) is an honored profession.
    D.A.
    NYC (formerly of Tokyo)

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