Thursday: Hili dialogue

August 25, 2022 • 6:30 am

Good morning on Thursday, August 25, 2022, National Whisky Sour Day. It’s a decent drink if it’s not too sweet.


It’s also National Banana Split Day, National Burger Day (but only in the UK), and Kiss and Make Up Day.

Stuff that happened on August 25 includes:

This portrait of Galileo by Justus Sustermans, painted in 1636, was probably painted from life, as Galileo died in 1642 and was commissioned by one of Galileo’s friends. Galileo was about 72 at the time. 

Severely wounded, and left to die by his comrades, Glass nevertheless made it to civilization. It’s an amazing story, and is the basis for the popular movie The Revenant, in which Glass was played by Leonardo DiCaprio.

Despite his injuries Glass regained consciousness, but found himself abandoned without weapons or equipment. He had festering wounds, a broken leg, and deep cuts on his back that exposed his bare ribs. Glass lay mutilated and alone, more than 200 miles (320 km) from the nearest American settlement at Fort Kiowa, on the Missouri River. Glass set the bone of his own leg, wrapped himself in the bear hide his companions had placed over him as a shroud, and began crawling back to Fort Kiowa. To prevent gangrene, Glass allowed maggots to eat the dead infected flesh in his wounds.

Using Thunder Butte as a navigational landmark, Glass crawled overland south toward the Cheyenne River where he fashioned a crude raft and floated downstream to Fort Kiowa. The journey took him six weeks. He survived mostly on wild berries and roots.

Here’s a trailer for The Revenant, which I thought was okay but not great. It is a compelling tale, though.

This series of six articles, totally bogus, was probably created to both increase sales and mock hyped-up astronomical theories about life on other planets. Here’s a picture from the series with the caption, “A lithograph of the hoax’s “ruby amphitheater”, as printed in The Sun.” People believed this stuff! Batlike humans!  But the Sun never admitted it was a hoax nor retracted the series.

  • 1875 – Captain Matthew Webb becomes the first person to swim across the English Channel, traveling from Dover, England, to Calais, France, in 21 hours and 45 minutes.

Here’s Captain Webb in his bathing costume. He was the first person to swim the channel unaided (someone had done it before wearing an inflatable suit:

The infectious agent is the bacterium Yersinia pestisand there was a simultaneous discovery of the agent by Alexandre Yersin. Wikipedia describes the simultaneous discovery:

In 1894, two bacteriologists, Alexandre Yersin of Switzerland and Kitasato Shibasaburō of Japan, independently isolated in Hong Kong the bacterium responsible for the 1894 Hong Kong plague. Though both investigators reported their findings, a series of confusing and contradictory statements by Kitasato eventually led to the acceptance of Yersin as the primary discoverer of the organism. Yersin named it Pasteurella pestis in honor of the Pasteur Institute, where he worked.

Here’s Shibasaburō on the thousand-yen banknote.

And the title of Yersin’s paper (click to read):

Here’s a 7-minute AP video about the liberation of Paris. There’s a page of great photos of the liberation here.

Krenz served four years for his policy, but still defends the former East Germany and is a big fan of Putin.

Da Nooz:

*Biden has decided to cancel up to $20,000 in student loan debt, which amounts to a big chunk out of the budget that will of course need filling by American taxpayers:

President Biden announced student loan debt relief on Wednesday for tens of millions of Americans, saying he would cancel $10,000 in debt for those earning less than $125,000 per year and $20,000 for those who had received Pell grants for low-income students.

The debt forgiveness, although less than what some Democrats had been pushing for, comes after months of deliberations in the White House over fairness and fears that it could exacerbate inflation before the midterm elections.

. . . Mr. Biden also announced that a pandemic-era pause on student loan payments, which has been in effect since March 2020, would expire at the end of the year. The debt relief plan will almost certainly face legal challenges, making the timing of any relief uncertain.

Here are the specs, with income estimated from tax reports in 2020-2021:

Students who received Pell grants will be eligible for $20,000 in debt forgiveness. Around 60 percent of borrowers have received Pell grants, and the majority come from families making less than $30,000 a year. The Education Department estimates that 27 million borrowers will qualify for up to $20,000 in relief.

Millions of other borrowers will be eligible for $10,000 in debt relief, as long as they earn less than $125,000 a year or are in households earning less than $250,000. Current students are also eligible for the debt relief; if they are dependents they will be assessed based on their parents’ income.

That income threshold seems quite high to me, but assessing what this will do to the economy is above my pay grade. It does, however, seem unfair to those who are actually paying back their student loans while making less than $125,000—a very good salary.

If you want to see more specific details, or to see if you qualify for debt forgiveness, the NYT has an article about that here.

*Anthony Fauci, the man we all know as the government’s face of the pandemic, is retiring at the ripe old age of 81.  From the WaPo:

Fauci, 81, has led the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases since 1984. He joined the parent agency, the National Institutes of Health, in 1968 as a 27-year-old doctor who had just finished medical residency and was quickly identified as a rising star. Most recently, Fauci has also served as President Biden’s chief medical adviser since the start of his administration.

Fauci’s tenure as director of the infectious-diseases institute made him an adviser to seven presidents and put him on the front lines of every modern-day scourge, including AIDS, the 2001 anthrax scares, Ebola, Zika and the coronavirus pandemic. During the nearly four decades Fauci led the agency, it grew from a little-known institute with a $350 million annual budget to a globally recognized powerhouse with a budget exceeding $6 billion.

I don’t know much about Fauci, and only rarely listened to him on the news when he made pronouncements, but never had any clear reason to distrust the guy. Nevertheless, on some media and websites, mostly but not entirely right-wing ones, he was constantly excoriated for lying and distortion. I didn’t believe that then, and don’t now. But trawling around the internet I find that there are criticisms of his handling of the pandemic published not only at Bari Weiss’s site but also at Slate, a left-wing site

At Bari Weiss’s Substack, Dr. assesses Fauci’s legacy, and it isn’t pretty. He says Fauci got it badly wrong by treating kids as vectors of the disease, leading to school closings, didn’t allocate enough money for basic Covid-19 research, ignored the fact that having gotten the virus conferred a substantial amount of immunity, ignored the dissent of the “Great Barrington Declaration,” failed to admit that the “science” could be fallible, and finishes off with this:

Dr. Fauci made tremendous contributions, but during this crisis we needed someone at the top who took a broad view of how to fight a novel virus, and made recommendations based on weighing the direct and indirect consequences to society.

How to Regain Trust:

We now face the threat of a future pandemic in a country in which a large number of people no longer trust public health authorities. What happens when we have a novel, highly contagious, airborne virus with a much higher fatality rate than that of Covid-19?

We desperately need to rebuild public trust now. That begins by having public health officials apologize for being dogmatic in their pronouncements, when the correct answer should have been: “We don’t know.” One lesson we should all learn from Covid-19 is that we should not put our entire faith and trust in one physician.

That’s a severe indictment, and, not having followed Fauci’s pronouncements (I relied on my own physician for data and advice), I don’t know how to judge it. But I put it here so readers can see, agree, or disagree.

Slate wrote a generally positive assessment, but also said this:

 Like most people in power during a fast-moving pandemic, Fauci has been wrong. Most infamously, he was wrong about masks and asymptomatic transmission early in the pandemic. He was also wrong about vaccines stopping transmission. He was dismissive about the possibility of the lab origins of the virus—which, though increasingly unlikely, could not at the time be completely ruled out—which later raised eyebrows and fed into conspiracy theories because the NIH had provided grant money that indirectly funded virus research in Wuhan. The stress of managing a pandemic in a withering political environment even caused the preternaturally composed Fauci to occasionally give in to the heat of the moment. (“If anybody is lying here, senator, it’s you,” he snapped at Sen. Rand Paul in a testy exchange last summer.) Some of Fauci’s apparent flip-flopping was legitimately due to evolving evidence, but some of them were overconfident predictions. It would be fair to call some of them missteps—but not Nazi-level war crimes. To conflate the two, as figures on the right have done quite casually, is unhinged.

But a deeper issue, I think, is that the archetype of the “trusted doctor” just did not survive the pandemic. It might be easy to chalk this loss up to a hyperpolarized country that can’t agree about anything. Or to blame decades-long efforts to generally destabilize scientific expertise. These are both factors. But the loss of the trusted doctor is also about a nation confronting a truth easier to ignore before the pandemic: Public health is unavoidably political.

I’m not so sure about the last sentence, which is very glib. If there were a polio epidemic, which is barely possible, I think the nation would trust a Chief Doc who told everyone not already immunized to get their shots.

*Even a conservative can be right (so to speak), and I agree with Bret Stephens’s latest piece in the NYT, “Will anybody punish Iran for its murderous campaign?” One mistake the Biden administration has made is to trust Iran’s words and to assume that a big carrot will get it to stop its nuclear program. We all know that’s baloney, but pretend to believe it. Not Stephens. First Stephens properly indicts Iran for the tentacles of terrorism it spreads across the world, targeting citizens in other countries who’ve criticized it (and we don’t even need to include the latest assault on Rushdie). He goes on:

The Islamic Republic has been carrying out a campaign of assassination, kidnapping and intimidation of its critics from its earliest days. Those who argue that these efforts are merely responses by Iran for wrongs done to it — the Trump administration’s 2020 assassination of Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani of the Revolutionary Guards, for instance — have cause and effect backward. Suleimani was targeted after a career spent killing others, including, according to the Pentagon, hundreds of Americans.

How does all this bear on the negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program? The conventional wisdom is that it doesn’t — that Iran’s record of fanaticism and murder has nothing to do with its willingness to limit its atomic ambitions in exchange for economic incentives.

But of course it does. The mistakes we’re making, says Stephens, are sending a signal of weakness by refusing to criticize its actions while continuing nuclear negotiations, and ignoring the lying, hateful, and nefarious Islamist character of the regime:

Advocates of a deal can tell themselves that it will have safeguards to verify compliance. But Iran has found ways to cheat, and the lifting of sanctions will provide it with a financial bonanza that it will immediately put to destructive use. Making a deal with Iran now is about as wise as striking a new arms-control agreement with Vladimir Putin.

I absolutely agree with that last paragraph, and believe that those who think we should negotiate with Iran, assuming it will act in good faith, are completely blind to reality.

*The governor of Oklahoma, Kevin Stitt, has rejected an appeal for clemency by James Coddington, scheduled to be executed for murder this morning. Granted, the crime was a gruesome one, but how is it expiated by killing someone else:

James Coddington was convicted and sentenced to die for the beating death of his friend and coworker, 73-year-old Albert Hale, inside Hale’s Choctaw home. Prosecutors say Coddington, who was 24 at the time, became enraged when Hale refused to give him money to buy cocaine.

. . .During a clemency hearing this month before the state’s five-member Pardon and Parole Board, an emotional Coddington, now 50, apologized to Hale’s family and said he is a different man today.

“I’m clean, I know God, I’m not … I’m not a vicious murderer,” Coddington told the board. “If this ends today with my death sentence, OK.”

Mitch Hale, Albert Hale’s son who had urged the parole board not to recommend clemency, said he feels a sense of relief with Stitt’s decision.

“Our family can put this behind us after 25 years,” Hale, 64, said. “No one is ever happy that someone’s dying, but (Coddington) chose this path … he knew what the consequences are, he rolled the dice and lost.”

No, Mr. Hale, Coddington did not choose this path; he had no choice at the time but to murder Albert Hale. Now it might be that Coddington is such an odious character that he must be kept away from society forever, in which case they could give him life without parole, which in the end works out as cheaper than execution. But what if Coddington can be rehabilitated, or already is? What if he can be released into society and make a positive contribution?

I suppose advocates of legal execution would say that rehabilitation is not an option, but they’re wrong, at least for many prisoners. We already know what execution is not a deterrent, so the only reasons to keep Coddington imprisoned until he dies are because he’s lying about being reformed and remains a danger to society, and, further, that there’s no chance in hell of him being reformed.  What I smell here is the odor of retributive punishment, which solves nothing except to quell the anger of relatives. Coddington is a broken man and needs to be fixed, but fixing, to my mind, can never involve killing a prisoner.

*Finally, a new paper in Nature, which I haven’t read but was publicized by the AP, says that humans were already on their way to bipedality 7 millions years ago, after our lineage (the “hominins”) had split from that of chimps and bonobos. This is well before many people thought that bipedality had evolved, but researchers, analyzing one femur and two ulnae (a forearm bone), have concluded that the species, Sahelanthropus tchadensis, could not only walk upright, but was also partly arboreal, and clambered about in the trees. (In fact, it was probably more at home in trees than walking on the ground.) As the paper’s abstract notes

The morphology of the femur is most parsimonious with habitual bipedality, and the ulnae preserve evidence of substantial arboreal behaviour. Taken together, these findings suggest that hominins were already bipeds at around 7 Ma but also suggest that arboreal clambering was probably a significant part of their locomotor repertoire.

Here are the leg bones and arm bones from a News and Views in Nature (note that this piece calls the species a human “relative”, which is correct, rather than a human “ancestor”, which may not be correct (see below).

(from Nature): Two views of the femur (left) and of the right and left arm bones of Sahelanthropus tchadensis that were discovered in 2001.Credit: Franck Guy/PALEVOPRIM/CNRS – University of Poitiers

Other evidence for bipedality is that the foramen magnum, the hole in the base of the skull where the spinal cord connects to the brain, appears to be placed farther below the skull than other arboreal apes, indicating somewhat of an upright stance. That, at least is what the AP report says. But the AP report adds this:

Twenty years ago, scientists discovered a 7-million-year-old skull that they concluded belonged to a creature who walked upright and was our earliest known ancestor. Not everyone was convinced. Now, the researchers are back with more evidence they say strengthens their case.

Unfortunately, we do not know if Sahelanthropus tchadensis is one of our ancestors, much less the earliest known one. There could have been several species of apes that evolved after our ancestor branched off from that of chips and bonobos, but only one of those species would have been our ancestor. The rest could be relatives but not ancestors, since they left no genes to posterity..  We already know of several species of hominin, like the “robust” ones, that are on our side of the human/chimp divide but went extinct without leaving descendants. Newspapers have to stop conflating relatives with ancestors!

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is mad at Andrzej:

Hili: I have a grudge against you.
A: What for?
Hili: I don’t know yet.
In Polish:
Hili: Mam do ciebie pretensje.
Ja: O co?
Hili: Jeszcze nie wiem.

And a photo of baby Kulka. Was Hili her relative?


Marie sent this duck cartoon by Mick Stevens; the caption is the prize winner in the New Yorker Cartoon Caption Contest #592 for November 13, 2017. You can see other suggested captions here.

From Thomas, a cartoon by Tom Thaves. God knows everything!

I’m told that the bridge on the right is Westminster Bridge:

The Tweet of God, and a respondent:

From Titania. My vote is for Charles Darwin or Jonas Salk:

From Malcolm. How many logos do you recognize?

From Simon, who responds, “I have now!”

From the Auschwitz Memorial:

Tweets from Matthew. This one is of a “black tiger”, with some degree of melanism. No telling whether this is genetic, though.

From Ziya Tona (“Earthling”). What on earth kind of bird is this????

Here’s an unusual paper from Current Biology. Part of the abstract is this:

Here, we studied the global spread of (mis-)information on spiders using a high-resolution global database of online newspaper articles on spider–human interactions, covering stories of spider–human encounters and biting events published from 2010–20204. We found that 47% of articles contained errors and 43% were sensationalist. Moreover, we show that the flow of spider-related news occurs within a highly interconnected global network and provide evidence that sensationalism is a key factor underlying the spread of misinformation.

WHY couldn’t medieval artists draw cats?? This is a persistent mystery.

45 thoughts on “Thursday: Hili dialogue

  1. Re: Student loan forgiveness AND Dr. Fauci –

    It’s so easy to criticize responses to complex problems when the critics aren’t in the position of having to offer an alternative. When choices are made and applied in complex situations, there are always going to be tradeoffs. Critics can point to the downsides not addressed and scream; the doers live with the consequences.

    Just once I would like to see the critics give something back besides negativity.

    Those who receive debt forgiveness may very well eventually contribute more in taxes than they got back. Is it “fair” to those paying their debts? I don’t know, but sometimes solutions have to be weighed against potential benefits to the larger society. I paid my loans off, every penny, but it wasn’t easy. But at today’s level of borrowing, I could not have done it. I’m willing to pay a little more in taxes to see people with skills get on their feet.

    And Fauci? When you’re dealing with an organism that we don’t know much about, the best you can start out with is educated guesses. As evidence is amassed, strategies can be refined, but he also had the political situation to deal with, which was not so much the case for, say, polio. Give the guy a break.

    I feel the same way about gun laws. Have you ever, even once, heard a gun-waver offer anything in the way of ideas to address mass murders? I mean REAL ideas, not just saying “more guns”. If that actually worked, we’d have the safest society on earth, which we clearly don’t.

    Complex problems don’t have simple solutions.


    1. Thanks linda. It appears that I was writing comment 3 below while you were posting. You said it better and more concisely than I did.

    2. Linda (and Jim) – agree on both.

      I came to comment on loan repayment. My own education was paid for by local and central govt, so I don’t know how mad I can be about others getting some relief. Is it perfectly fair? Of course not. Nothing ever is. But, “suffer because I had to” is not a great mantra. Should a patient have a new treatment withheld because previous generations had to suffer? Should we not stop a war because people are already dead, so the rest should follow?

      A lot of the congressional whiners on this had PPP loans forgiven that they could have repaid more easily than many student loan holders (e.g. marg three names $183,504, Boebert $233,305). They also were not whining about tax cuts that disproportionately benefitted the rich.

      This is straight up transactional politics – as the Trump tax cuts were – you target a giveaway to disproportionately benefit your base. At least this one is widely distributed.

      Re Fauci. Reacting to often confusing data in a fast developing situation is always going to be difficult. Doing it in real time in front of an audience in the face of political pressure, especially given the general cluelessness and mendacity of many politicians, is not a job I’d want. I wish him well in his future endeavors.

      1. This is straight up transactional politics – as the Trump tax cuts were – you target a giveaway to disproportionately benefit your base. At least this one is widely distributed.

        Trump’s base is the working class, and most of the culture war involves highly educated Democrats punching down at uneducated working class folks, and those folks punching back by electing people like MTG.

        Biden forgiving student loans is a punch in the face to the working class, and they will see it as such.

        There is also a big difference between letting people keep more of the money they earned (a tax cut) and transferring money that person A earned to person B (a transfer payment).

        1. You know what was a real punch in the face to the working class? Trump’s tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans and corporations. And did Trump’s “working-class base” make a peep out of their tax dollars going to the rich? Nope. This $300 billion of Biden’s is a pittance compared to that. The vast majority of Trump’s base is a mixture of conspiracy fueled grievance culture and a cult of personality. They’ll be outraged at Biden no matter what he does because Trump, Fox, News Max, et al. will tell them he and the dems are to blame for all their woes, and they’ll believe it. It’s a really simple tactic that demagogues have used to great success as it works well on the rubes. These are the same rubes who vote for people like MTG because they can’t think for themselves and are only motivated by perceived threats and unbridled rage. Though, imo, the biggest reason people like MTG get elected is gerrymandering, not some sort of payback for “Democratic elites punching down on the working class folks”. And speaking of working class folk, when has the GOP done anything for them in the last 40+ years? They despise unions, for one. Hell, they didn’t even want to help people during the pandemic, or ease inflation and prescription drug costs, or acknowledge the ravages of climate change. And while yelling and screaming and clutching at pearls, do they actually give any advice show a plan as to what they would do to fix things? They are focused on empowering corporations, making the rich, richer, taking away health care and a woman’s right to choose, and in general, making life more difficult for people. Try and cite one piece of legislation the GOP has championed that does anything to better the lives of average working Americans.

          1. I am a college professor, and so most of the Dem legislation helps me personally. However, I grew up lower middle class, and I have always been sympathetic to people who work hard physically for a living.

            I think Dems are in for a shock when they realize the extent to which they have alienated the working class.

            1. College professor? Ceiling Cat save us. You don’t have your facts straight. Plus, a random link don’t mean shit. Why do you waste people’s time with your propaganda?…does it impower or something? Sheesh. Your bullshit link is affiliated to a Glenn Beck project…how lame:

              ( is director of the Socialism Research Center at The Heartland Institute and the co-author, with Glenn Beck, of the forthcoming book “The Great Reset: Joe Biden and the Rise of 21st Century Fascism.”

              This site is becoming difficult to read because of loons who post shit like you…I’ve also noticed a lot of regulars dropping off…bullshit like yours doesn’t fit the mold, man (the “mold” being anti-bullshit).

              I know, I can just move on; there’s plenty of free-thinking sites out there. The fact is, this is the only site I’ve ever affiliated with. And I’d hate to have the readership overthrow what I love about WEIT. So it goes.

            2. It’s a really simple tactic that demagogues have used to great success as it works well on the rubes. These are the same rubes who vote for people like MTG because they can’t think for themselves and are only motivated by perceived threats and unbridled rage.

              Here is a perfect example of what I am talking about. Instead of trying to understand where people are coming from and what is motivating them, you call them “rubes” and claim they “can’t think for themselves.”

              Once you begin to see how much the culture war is actually a class war, your level of understanding will increase.

    3. And Fauci? When you’re dealing with an organism that we don’t know much about, the best you can start out with is educated guesses. As evidence is amassed, strategies can be refined, but he also had the political situation to deal with, which was not so much the case for, say, polio. Give the guy a break.

      I agree with you.

      This part of the Slate article just shows that the author, Tim Requarth, does not understand how science works. Fauci (representing numerous scientists worldwide) drew conclusions and developed theses based on a few data (unknown disease, remember?), which later proved to be wrong when more data were known and evaluated accordingly. That is just the way it goes: Trial and error, hypothesis and error.

      With each mistake, the researchers got a little smarter and learned more about the virus and its effects. Incidentally, this learning process is not yet complete, as can be seen, for example, in the ever new virus mutants that are emerging far more quickly than virologists assumed about 2 years ago. Or Long Covid, which is still not known exactly why it occurs or why it has such devastating effects in some patients.

      1. Fauci’s mistake in the beginning was pretending to be sure of things that he had no way at all to be sure about — no airborne transmission, among others — and that were evidence-free dogma in leading US infectiologist circles, dogma that had not moved an inch despite accumulating evidence to the contrary from flu experiments (long before COvid) and had already proven fatal in at least one Ebola case (medecins sans frontieres use heavy full body protection when dealing with Ebola cases in Africa, US experts were sure it was spread only in large droplets and surgical masks were enough, then they let one Ebola nurse who called the CDC because she already had symptoms take a plane to her parents because they were sure it couldn’t be Ebola, she had worn the surgical mask they told her to wear, hadn’t she.

        1. This is a false assertion. Virologists and epidemiologists worldwide (including, for example, Christian Drosten, a world-leading expert on Coronaviridae) had very similar suspicions to Fauci’s based on the limited evidence obtained to date. As the findings became more precise, scientists adjusted their recommendations accordingly.

    4. >Those who receive debt forgiveness may very well contribute more in taxes than they got back.

      That’s a non sequitur, Linda. A debtor still has to pay her taxes.

      Interest on student loans up to $2500 is deductible against income but the amount that can be deducted falls as income rises, says the IRS.
      If someone owes $10,000, the maximum that will be assumed for ordinary debtors by the taxpayers under President Biden’s plan, she is probably paying $300 a year in interest. Assume all of it deductible from income for a low-income earner living in her mother’s basement at whom the relief is being aimed. As a foreigner, I will guess the tax savings this deduction would give her at $60-100 in the first year, falling in subsequent years as the debt is retired. If she has almost no income, and pays little tax to begin with, the tax foregone by Uncle Sam is even less.

      But if she is forgiven the principal, she receives an immediate gift of $10,000 plus no more interest payments. No longer having the interest deduction, her income tax rises by $60-100. I don’t see how Uncle Sam benefits from this transaction. Sure, eventually she might land a really good job with her education and pay a lot more income tax then but she would, or wouldn’t, have done this anyway, regardless of whether her loan was forgiven. Forgiving the loan doesn’t enable her to become a high-bracket taxpayer: there’s no sense of a tax investment here. It’s just an undeserved gift. It’s not like a debtor has to work at Starbucks and can’t get hired by a bank, or by the White House.

      And if you send the message that the taxpayers will pay the first $10,000 of college debt, will the colleges not just harvest that subsidy by raising tuition by $2500 a year? I’m really struggling to see how this measure benefits anyone except those likely to vote for Biden, and gives the finger to everyone else.

      1. Can it be and this is pure speculation grounded in the complexity to measure that the contribution of this loan relief is in human well being. The burden thus relieved adds to all, in and about this future taxpayer. It could stretch many years and there will be failures.
        There are some things that money can’t see.

  2. I guess as I read the criticisms of Dr. Fauci in Bari Weiss’ substack yesterday, i became pretty angry. In my not so humble opinion, that not of a medical guy, but of a retired civil servant who has been involved in and observed numerous go/no go decisions on flight projects..decisions involving human flight and flight of very expensive equipment, I am very aware of what is often called analysis paralysis wherein decision makers continuously want more data before committing to advancing a project to its ultimate aim…flight. For example the safest we could have been on return to flight after the space shuttle challenger accident was simply never to fly again.

    I found the article on Dr. Fauci to be a lot on monday morning quarterbacking. Yes he and his team made some wrong calls in the heat of battle when they were trying to collect and assess data in real time, where they had to help policy makers weigh the medical impacts on society against economic and social impacts. If i recall correctly, it was not just infection resistance conferred by vaccine that favored using the mrna vaccnes, but resistance to severe disease and death from the virus. It was also the unknown but developing understanding of long covid effects of using covid itself for “natural resistance” as opposed to vaccination. There was also the huge number of deaths and hospital impacts of early patients which led to other surgical procedures being cancelled. Children were and are vectors as they do not just exist in isolation in school but travel back and forth from homes with adult parents and possibly very susceptible grand parents. And children DID get sick and die.

    Bottom line is: it’s a virus jake! But for now, the disease seems to have been corralled by the totality of Fauci calls. Yes kids lost a year of development but they did not get sick to a large extent and they did not die. And, by the way, if you are worried about the increasing achievement gap that was exacerbated by distance learning, then I suggest you support putting significant resources into teaching k-2 reading, particularly to the poor, now that students are back.

    I know there are other opinions and I will be happy to read them, but will not argue as i have more than used up my daily character count.

    1. I completely agree with Jim Batterson – Fauci et al. had to make calls on the fly regarding a response to a NOVEL virus. Most of the critiques of Fauci I’ve read are guilty of one or both of two sins – hindsight and a failure to understand the scientific process. For example, the early hypothesis that schools were potential hotbeds of transmission had to be modified as more data were accumulated. That’s good science. Bad science is sticking to an original hypothesis even when the weight of the data point to its falsification.

      Finally, let’s look at Fauci’s 40 year career, not just the last three. How many lives were saved as a result of his leadership? I don’t know the answer, but I bet it’s in the millions.

    2. I would also point out that per Wikipedia, Dr. Makary is a pancreatic surgeon. I do not see how this gives him any special expertise on the nature of infectious diseases, how they are transmitted, and how best to combat them. Just because he is a medical doctor does not mean he deserves to be believed above all others. I see this in the historical profession where celebrity historians bloviate to the media on topics they know little about. On many topics of public concern, such as inflation, so-called experts differ on how to confront them. To be frank, on controversial topics that require specialized knowledge to even begin understanding, I am often left bewildered.

      1. We have a situation in Germany that is similar to Fauci’s. The virologist Christian Drosten, an expert on Coronaviridae, who has also advised our government, has often been criticized by physicians (e.g. pulmonologists, microbiologists) who have no expertise in virology, let alone Coronaviridae.

        As the Wikipedia points out, Dr. Makary has given some statements about COVID-19, which were already rejected as erroneous by numerous experts at the time of their announcement.

        Marty claims that natural immunity is equal to or better than a vaccine.
        – The studies are outdated. They date from when the Delta variant was still dominant.
        – Which protects better against (re)infection can only be said after a wave has subsided. For omicron, initial studies suggest that mild omicron infection in particular does not mount a robust immune response.
        – The risks of infection far outweigh those of vaccination. Therefore, a full vaccination series including a booster is currently the safest way to protect against a severe covid 19 course.

        In Germany, we have a saying “Schuster, bleib bei deinen Leisten (roughly translated as “cobbler, stick to your strip”). Dr. Makary should have considered this advice before commenting on matters where his expertise is inadequate.

  3. Biden didn’t cancel the debt, he just shifted the burden to tax payers. There have been plenty of articles pointing out he doesn’t have the legal authority to do that. I guess if the Administration and the press don’t care, it’s ok. It would be interesting to know how many members of the media are affected by this. I think I read that 67 White House staffers are.

  4. On Fauci, it needs to be remembered that he was simultaneously dealing with the Orange Genius, who had been promoting Pepcid, and even managed to get $21M diverted to study that. He was even treated with that himself as I just learned while trying to remember the trade name of the antacid, aka Famotidine. As that never rose to the level of Ivermectin in fanatic following, I think that its inclusion on that list could only have been at Boss Tweet himself’s insistence.

  5. Shibasaburō: When I came across his work on Y pestis a year or so ago I thought it was a remarkable for coming only 40yrs after Admiral Perry opened Japan to the west. He had worked in Berlin on diphtheria before that and probably should have shared the first Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine with his German collaborator, but lost out. An interesting and apparently illustrious career followed, though.

  6. “Coddington did not choose this path; he had no choice at the time but to murder Albert Hale.” And the governor? Did he have a choice about not granting clemency?

    1. Thank you for the snarky comment. No, the government didn’t. BUT, as we know, people’s minds can be changed by arguing with them, and I can change minds by arguing against execution. Granted, the fact that I’m opposed to capital punishment is not a choice I made; it was the ineluctable result of my genes and environment.

      But if you’re trying to say that you favor Coddington’s execution, then say so.

      1. >I can change minds by arguing . . .”

        How many minds would you say you have changed by arguing with them against capital punishment? As a public figure you may have had the opportunity for persuasion. Or do you mean that you can in theory change minds and so you ought to try, for something you believe in and can marshal evidence to support?

        I have no opinion on Coddington’s execution. To me, the only opinions that matter all live in Oklahoma. I’m just trying to explore your argument about the malleability of minds.

        1. Why do you think the only opinions that matter all live in Oklahoma? If you think it’s not our business because we don’t live and vote there and Coddington’s fate will have no material impact on us, would the same reasoning not mean that our opinion on what they teach as ‘science’ in New Zealand is also irrelevant? Although the two issues are obviously very different, it seems to me that what they have in common is the fact that specific cases provide instances relevant to wider issues that are relevant to us all.

          As to the malleability of minds, why would anyone post an opinion on a web-site such as this (whether the original post or the commenters below the fold) if they did not think there was some possibility of persuading others of their view? Capital punishment was once the norm across most of the world but is now practiced in ever fewer countries. Presumably in those countries that have turned their backs on it this was because arguments against it eventually overpowered arguments in favour in the minds of electorates and/or governments.

          1. The reason I asked is that my counter-hypothesis is that individual people don’t change their minds on questions of values*. If capital punishment or affirmative action draw less support over the years, I propose it is because their adherents die off or become less influential in their senescence. They are replaced by people who have different value judgements fitting with the zeitgeist of their formative years. Swimming against this tide is the tendency for ambivalent, open-minded people to become harder as they age. The older you are, the more murders you have heard about and the more failures of social engineering you have seen, I suppose.

            You are speaking as a death-penalty opponent. That’s beside the point. I was not making any claim for or against it, leastwise for Oklahoma. I was only curious about Jerry’s statement that he can change minds on values questions. Has he debated someone about capital punishment or any values-based question and changed a mind, maybe even his own—debate works both ways—as a result?
            * Questions of fact are another matter. In the beginning, I was a strong proponent of compulsory vaccination against Covid-19 because preventing transmission, as the vaccines appeared to do, was the only way we were going to get society working again. Since all rights are contingent and none is inalienable, this was a justified infringement on liberty. However when the facts changed—vaccination was not effective in preventing transmission with the repeated sustained exposure seen in normal life—I changed my mind. So did the authorities: provincial vaccination mandates evaporated.

    1. Yes, Dr Marty Makary (McCuackary) is not one I would give much credence in this context. His hit-piece is a Gish-gallop of misinformation.
      Fauci was wrong on occasion but not often. Eg children being reservoirs is still not decided either way, but they probably can be.
      Until the natural selection of the omicron variant, vaccination really significantly reduced the chances of transmission *.
      I note that the link “he was wrong about masks and asymptomatic transmission early in the pandemic” leads to Joe Biden’s debt forgiveness, nothing about Fauci.
      In fact, Fauci did not recommend masks for the wider public (when there was a shortage of masks for medical personnel, who really needed it most, remember?) in the very early stages of the pandemic in March 2020 (as, btw, did our host’s personal physician), but quickly changed his stance as more data (and more masks) became available. I can hardly find fault there.
      Of course I feel vindicated for advocating the wearing of masks from the beginning (although less important than eg. a properly thought out air flow) in confined spaces, but then, we have a lot of TB here, which naturally leads to a positive prejudice in favour of masks.
      There is a lot more to say about all of this, of course, but I think that overall Fauci did a sterling job.

      * In fact it is thought that widespread vaccination and post Covid exposure survivors actually caused the less virulent, but more contagious and antibody evading Omicron (I have difficulty to write that with a capital O) to replace the most virulent Delta variant. We really don’t know if this lower virulence and immunity evading traits are linked, but I have a (admittedly completely speculative) hunch it somehow is.

  7. researchers, analyzing one femur and two ulnae (a forearm bone), have concluded that the species, Sahelanthropus tchadensis

    Ah, new material on Sahelanthropus. Well, that’s very welcome. I’ll RTFP in a few moments.
    But it’s worth remembering that 20-odd years ago, the first serious effort to look for pre-human hominids outside the East African setting … succeeded, yielding Sahelanthropus. That may point to the actual origins of primate bipedality being in a move from a forested environment to a lake margin environment rather than the specifically “East Africa-wards” movement that it is often expressed as. Which is one of the justifications the original researchers had for fossil-hunting on the palaeo-shoreline of Lake Chad’s progenitor.
    Possibly relatedly, I’ve seen several papers going past recently in the geological literature, stressing the relative elevation changes across the East African Rift and along the rift axes and the consequent shifting pattern of lakes, river basins and highs (volcanic or tectonic) in which the evolution of hominids is generally thought to have taken place. In that context, the shifting lakes and shorelines pattern nearby around “Lake Chad” isn’t that much of a change of type of evolutionary pressures/ opportunities, as it is looking in a different direction at similar pressures/ opportunities for the putative chimpanzee-human last common ancestor in the Congo forest basin. Which, if the molecular clock people are within arm’s length of reality, happened not that long before the time of Sahelanthropus.
    (A reminder, if it is needed, that the relatively low pH of forest soils isn’t terribly good for bone preservation. Lake/ river sediments are generally considered better – which is why palaeontologists have been looking at lake margins for fossils for a long time.
    I’m sure the Creationists are going to misrepresent these discoveries – and discoveries to come, which can be reasonably predicted with further prospecting – as “Darwin overturned”, “Evilutionists back-track again” etc, when the reality is simply looking in different areas and finding new stuff, maybe broadening the focus of research slightly.
    If regional security has improved to the degree that palaeontologists (and other researchers?) consider it safe enough to go back into the field, that is probably a good sign for the inhabitants of the area. They’ve had a grim generation caught between incursions from the Sudanese wars to the East and the Al-quaeda/ ISIS affiliates in Northern Nigeria and Mali to the west.

    1. It is interesting that the discussions of bipedality in hominids all seem to assume that it only arose once, and therefore the earliest species to show evidence of bipedality is the ancestor of all the later bipedal hominids. It never seems to be considered in these discussions that bipedality may have arisen more than once in hominids as an example of convergent evolution. I’m not arguing in favor of that alternative, but it is interesting that it so rarely seems to considered.

      1. I had exactly the same thoughts. Seven million years is pretty far back, well before the accepted (but not iron-clad) divergence between chimps and humans is supposed to have occurred. And convergence is not uncommon.
        The problem is we don’t really know the factors that drives towards bipedality. A coastal or semi-aquatic wading ape*? Cooling a growing ape brain by distancing it from the hot soil? Any others?

        *That hypothesis has gone ‘out of fashion’ lately, but I do not think the arguments against are any more robust than the ones in favour.

  8. I watched carefully as the whole thing unfolded, and followed most of what Fauci said and did. I work with numerous infectious disease specialists. To a person they disagree with pretty much everything Dr. Makary says here. Every single thing attributed to him as listed in the body of your post is factually wrong, and some are just silly. His is Monday morning quarterbacking at its worst.

  9. Just in terms of the management of science, it is a disaster for someone like Fauci to control so many research dollars for so long. This practically guarantees that many promising lines of research will not be followed.

    Also, it was a mistake for someone who controls research funding to be placed in charge of responding to the pandemic. During a crisis like a pandemic, we need robust scientific debate, but if your program manager is calling the shots you are not going to argue with him and risk losing your funding.

  10. Regarding the criticisms of Fauci, Steven Pinker speaks my mind better than I ever could in this article by Robert Bazell (adjunct professor of molecular, cellular, and developmental biology at Yale and, for 38 years, chief science correspondent for NBC News), Steven Pinker on the Tribal Roots of Defying Social Distancing.

    [Pinker] “With coronavirus, it’s genuinely hard to know whether surfaces are potential vectors, whether six feet is enough or not enough, whether masks help or don’t help. From a scientist’s point of view, it’s not surprising the information would shift. That’s because our natural state is ignorance. We can only learn from data, and as the data comes in, our state of knowledge and best practices will change. But, partly because people think of experts as oracles, as opposed to experimenters and exploiters of trial and error, there’s a presumption that either the experts know what is the best policy from the get-go, or else they are incompetent and ought to be replaced.
    That’s opposed to what we know to be the correct situation in science—namely, no one knows anything, and you have to learn.”

    [Pinker] “As Kahan has shown, even those of us who think we have enlightened beliefs on evolution, climate change, coronavirus, don’t have the expertise to come to a reasoned conclusion. So we trust the scientists.
    And we’re right to do so because scientists do have methods more likely to lead to the truth than the conspiracy theorists and kooks.”

  11. The slate piece on Fauci was very good and I agreed, but not with the last sentence. The trusted doctor in the sense of someone whose judgement you can trust blindly did not survive the pandemic because it became obvious even to naive lay people that science is a process, that educated guesses and predictions are wrong are lot of the time, that not every old medical adage (e.g. no airborne infection by respiratory viruses) is evidence based and that medicine had neglected infectious disease for many decades. Despite all the money supposedly spent on preventing a coronavirus pandemic, none of the programs had actually prevented anything, and in the West, different from Asia, there was no plan how to deal with this once community transmission occurred.
    Of the polarized political and scientific sides, no one came out unscathed, no one can point to the other side and say: You made the mistakes, we were right. Far more people died or suffered debilitating illness through Covid than people like Ioannidis extrapolated from their leaky data. On the other hand, social distancing measures were so badly coordinated and implemented that they could not work optimally, and some of them had grave unintended consequences. On top of that came the politicians who preached water in public and drank wine in private.
    And now we have monkeypox, an outbreak that could easily have been extinguished completely had one done only a tiny fraction of what one did with Covid. Schools were closed for Covid, but the promiscuous international sex party circuit of men having sex with men could not stop for even a few weeks, that was unthinkable because of discrimination. Looks bad, if you ask me.

  12. I spent over 15 years paying off my student loans. The interest rate was an average of 10%. The burden of the payments was immense. I work in the art field so there was never enough money for things like health insurance or saving money for retirement. But tuition wasn’t as expensive then as it is today. I am happy for the students who received relief because now they won’t be as burdened as I was.

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