Lies and Violence

Violence can only be concealed by a lie, and the lie can only be maintained by violence.

– Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

This week’s featured post is my review of what we now know about January 6, “One Year Later“.

This week everybody was talking about the January 6 insurrection

The featured post is my look back at January 6, but everyone else was doing it too. Here’s the Late Show’s musical tribute.

President Biden also spoke out more forcefully than usual.

For the first time in our history, a president had not just lost an election, he tried to prevent the peaceful transfer of power as a violent mob breached the Capitol. But they failed. They failed. And on this day of remembrance, we must make sure that such attack never, never happens again.

… We must be absolutely clear about what is true and what is a lie. And here’s the truth: the former president of the United States of America has created and spread a web of lies about the 2020 election. He’s done so because he values power over principle. Because he sees his own interest as more important than his country’s interest and America’s interest. And because his bruised ego matters more to him than our democracy or our constitution.

But my favorite line was “You can’t love your country only when you win.”

Meanwhile, the Maricopa County Elections Department put out a report that systematically went through all the conspiracy theories about the 2020 election in Arizona’s largest county, concluding

The November 2020 general election was administered with with integrity and the results were accurate and reliable. … The Elections Department followed all state and federal laws.

The report responds to the questions raised by the pro-Trump-biased Cyber Ninja election audit, typically concluding that the Ninjas were confused by their own ignorance of election law and the county’s voting systems, and that they then interpreted their confusion as evidence of nefarious activity.

We determined that nearly every finding included faulty analysis, inaccurate claims, misleading conclusions and a lack of understanding of federal and state election laws.

The Elections Department operates under the supervision of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, which has a Republican majority.

In other Arizona election news, the Cyber Ninjas are insolvent and are shutting down. I’ve gotta wonder what happened to the millions of dollars MAGA fans contributed to them.

and the pandemic

The vertical ascent in the new-cases graph continued this week. New cases are averaging 678K per day, more than tripling in the last two weeks. Hospitalizations have also turned upwards, but not as steeply: up 82% in two weeks, to roughly the same level as last January’s peak. Deaths have turned upward as well, but are nowhere near previous peaks: The seven-day average is 1674 now, compared to 1160 two weeks ago, but 2555 on September 22 and 3344 last January 16.

Those numbers remain hard to interpret: Many of the new cases will undoubtedly progress to hospitalizations or deaths in the coming weeks. But it also increasingly looks like the Omicron variant is somewhat milder than Delta. (Though possibly worse here than in Europe.) Unfortunately, the case-numbers are so huge that even smaller percentages turning serious will still produce a lot of serious cases. And 1674 deaths each day from a single disease is a toll that would have shocked us two years ago.

So it’s hard to answer the questions we all really want to ask: How risky is it to go to the grocery or eat in a restaurant or have people over for dinner? You’re more likely than ever to catch Covid, but maybe you’ll throw it off, especially if you’ve had three shots. Personally, I’m erring on the side of caution.

The really difficult question right now is when/whether to open the schools. I think there’s a broad consensus that distance learning didn’t work very well for a lot of kids, and that we should have had more in-person school last year. But now? With 600K+ new cases per day?

I can hear the debate inside my own head: “Wouldn’t it make sense to stay closed for a week or two until the surge passes?” “But everybody was saying ‘two weeks’ when we first closed the schools in March, 2020. How do we know that two weeks won’t turn into six months?”

NPR provides guidance on when and how to test.

On January 1, at least 800K unused Covid tests expired in a Florida warehouse. A state official explained: “We tried to give them out prior to that, but there wasn’t a demand for it.”

and the Supreme Court

which heard arguments about President Biden’s vaccine mandates, one applying to health care workers (including those at nursing homes), and the other to businesses with more than 100 employees.

You might think this should be just another note under the pandemic headline, but that’s not really what this case is about. The Court’s conservative justices have been looking for a chance to make a sweeping “nondelegation” ruling that cripples federal regulating agencies in general. Vaccine mandates are just an opportunity for six unelected judges — half appointed by a president who lost the popular vote — to remake American government.

In other words, the vaccine cases reach a Supreme Court that appears to be on the verge of reining in the ability of federal agencies to regulate any and all private conduct — a trend that has nothing at all to do with the Covid pandemic or the Biden administration’s responses to it.

In both situations, the law passed by Congress is clear:

Congress enacted the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act), which gives a similarly named agency — the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) — sweeping authority to protect workers from health hazards. Among other things, Congress gave OSHA the power to issue binding rules that provide “medical criteria which will assure insofar as practicable that no employee will suffer diminished health, functional capacity, or life expectancy as a result of his work experience.”

Ordinarily, OSHA must complete a lumbering process that requires years of study and consulting with employers before it can hand down a new rule, but a provision of the OSH Act permits OSHA to issue an “emergency temporary standard” if the agency determines that “employees are exposed to grave danger from exposure to substances or agents determined to be toxic or physically harmful,” and that such a standard is “necessary to protect employees from such danger.”

If anything qualifies as an emergency, you would think that a plague killing over a thousand people a day would, especially given that several of the early outbreaks were in workplaces. So this is exactly the kind of situation Congress had in mind when it passed OSH in 1970 (and sent it to be signed by that flaming socialist Richard Nixon).

But not so fast. The OSH Act, like the founding legislation of most of the federal regulatory agencies, violates a principle that conservative jurists invented precisely for the purpose of wrecking federal regulatory agencies: nondelegation. According to the nondelegation doctrine, Congress violates the Constitution if it delegates too much of its power to agencies of the executive branch. So it doesn’t matter what OSH says, because it’s unconstitutional. Congress should have to pass a new law every time the country needs a new regulation — or at least a regulation that the Court’s conservative majority doesn’t like.

Have you seen what we have to go through to pass a law these days? Imagine needing to overcome a filibuster every time there’s a new carcinogenic food additive.

Ominously, Chief Justice Roberts drew attention to OSH being more than 50 years old. Recall that his main rationale for gutting the Voting Rights Act in 2013 was that “things have changed”, a legal principle I am unable to find in the Constitution. No wonder Vox’s Ian Millhiser believes

NFIB is likely to be a turning point in the right-wing Roberts Court’s relationship with the elected branches — and it could permanently disable the federal government’s ability to address crises like the Covid-19 pandemic in the future.

and electric vehicles

The day-long traffic jam on I-95 in Virginia drew my attention because I had driven that very stretch of road just a week before. But I was still surprised by where WaPo columnist Charles Lane took the story: into scare-mongering about electric vehicles.

If everyone had been driving electric vehicles, this mess could well have been worse. … It is a scientific fact that batteries of all kinds lose capacity more rapidly in cold weather, and that includes the sophisticated lithium-ion ones used by Teslas and other EVs. … Absent some breakthrough in mobile charging technology, out-of-juice EVs in out-of-the-way places will need a tow. If Monday’s nightmare had been an all-electric affair, they might have littered the highway for miles.

A few quick observations:

  • Dissing EVs is a hobby horse for Lane. He’s also done it here and here, where he described EV-skepticism as his 10-year “fixation”.
  • An electric-vehicle driver running the heater and wondering when his battery will die is in basically the same situation as a gas-powered-vehicle driver watching his fuel gauge go down.
  • Mobile charging doesn’t require a “breakthrough”. Systems “designed to be carried by a standard roadside-service truck” already exist, it’s just a matter of deploying them — which service stations should be eager to do as the number of EVs on the road increases. In the same way that a gas-powered car can be rescued with a single can of gas, and doesn’t require a complete fill-up, a stranded EV would just need enough juice to get to the next charging station rather than a time-consuming full charge. So in an I-95-type situation, one truck should be able to get many EVs moving again.
  • In the meantime, you can put your Tesla in neutral and push it into the breakdown lane, right next to all the cars that have run out of gas.
  • Lane waves off the popularity of EVs in frigid Norway, but his reasons for doing so are sketchy. For example, the link supposedly supporting his claim that Norwegian EVs are almost all second cars goes to a 2014 survey. Could anything possibly have changed since then?
  • As I know from driving my hybrid Accord, cold weather does have an effect on batteries, but it’s nothing to panic about. The cold also lowers the mileage of my gas-only second car.

I’m reminded of last February, when Texas Governor Greg Abbott blamed the collapse of his state’s electrical grid on green energy’s supposed inability to cope with cold weather, rather than his own free-market dogmatism. But somehow Wisconsin and Germany hadn’t noticed the same limitations.

The lesson I draw: Change is scary, so light-on-facts horror stories about the New often sound more convincing than they should. Remember when same-sex marriage was “presaging the fall of Western Civilization itself“?

Fascinating look at how Tesla was able to double its car production in 2021, while larger automakers often had to shut down plants for lack of key components:

When Tesla couldn’t get the chips it had counted on, it took the ones that were available and rewrote the software that operated them to suit its needs. Larger auto companies couldn’t do that because they relied on outside suppliers for much of their software and computing expertise.

and you also might be interested in …

The Webb Space Telescope has successfully deployed its mirror, which had been folded up to fit inside the launch vehicle. The unfolding in space required 178 separate release mechanisms to work, and they did.

The three men who lynched Ahmaud Arbery while he was out jogging were sentenced to life in prison. Only one of the three will be eligible for parole.

Notable deaths seem to come in clusters. This week: Sidney Poitier. There was a time in my childhood when Poitier was the only bankable Black actor. And of course, he only played characters that were specifically written as Black. The idea of a general-purpose Black movie star like Denzel Washington or Morgan Freeman, who might compete for any role not specifically written as some other race, was far in the future.

[W]ithout him, many filmgoers of previous generations might never have imagined an educated, Black authority figure.

Follow-up question: Who’s the female version of Poitier, or of Washington and Freeman?

What if you didn’t have to fund Fox News through your cable subscription? The goal of this campaign is to not to get cable systems to drop Fox, but to offer a Tucker-Carlson-free cable package that people can choose if they want.

Personally, I’d probably get the with-Fox package, because I think I need to keep an eye on the Right in order to do this blog properly. (Just this week, I wanted to check whether Sean Hannity was leading his show with the Sean-Hannity-tweet story that MSNBC was focusing on. He wasn’t. I didn’t watch the whole show, but Uproxx claims he never got around to mentioning it.) But I sympathize with the desire to know that your subscription money is not being used to promote White supremacy and knowingly spread disinformation.

Novak Djokovic appears to have won his battle with the Australian government. Today a judge ruled that he can enter the country without vaccination and play in the Australian Open.

As the son of a small farmer — I mean, he was 6’1″, but the farm was just 160 acres — I have mixed feelings about John Deere’s prototype “fully autonomous tractor“. Driving a tractor up and down the rows is repetitive and boring — exactly the kind of thing that an AI should be able to handle — but it’s also kind of peaceful and meditative. The idea that in a decade or two no one will do that job brings out the Luddite in me. Or maybe the John Henry.

Perversely, I think capitalism is about to achieve the Soviet vision of massive farms under unified management. It will happen not via worker collectives, but by eliminating the workers altogether.

and let’s close with a photo finish

I couldn’t pick which closing I liked better this week, so I’ll give you two of them. First, it must be great to be a panda cub rolling in snow for the first time.

But I can’t leave out an actual photo finish: the second annual Christmas Covid horse race.

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  • David Klopotoski  On January 10, 2022 at 1:32 pm

    I don’t know what it is but to me bears always look like people wearing bear suits. It must be because bears occasionally stand on two legs.

  • nedhamson  On January 10, 2022 at 1:37 pm

    Reblogged this on Ned Hamson's Second Line View of the News.

  • Roger  On January 10, 2022 at 1:54 pm

    I don’t think there is a black female equivalent to Sidney Poitier. He was a singular feature. And black women had to overcome misogynoir. From the Boston Globe: For much of the 20th century, Black America reserved a special term for its most esteemed public figures. They were “race men.” Sidney Poitier, who died Friday, at 94, may well have been the last. The concept no longer applies as it once did, in part because of how successful in the larger culture Poitier was.

    A race man wasn’t defined just by being someone famous and successful. He was also conscious of presenting himself as an exemplar of probity and dignity. More than a role model, a race man was a living, breathing assertion that America might someday live up to its ideals.

    Booker T. Washington, Duke Ellington, A. Philip Randolph, Ralph Bunche, Jackie Robinson, Thurgood Marshall, Martin Luther King Jr., Edward Brooke were race men. In manner, if not matter, Malcolm X was one, too.

    Even as such individuals inspired other Black Americans, they took on a greater challenge, demonstrating through their conduct, character, and achievement not just the evil of white racism but its absurdity.

  • thebhgg  On January 10, 2022 at 2:09 pm

    Your comment on farming makes me wonder: do you follow Sarah Taber (@sarahtaber_bww) on Twitter?

    She has many comments circling around both “small family farms” and “tech bros disrupt agriculture” and even “why are we growing so much fecking grain…we don’t eat it…it’s not good for animals…ah…White Supremacy”

    I would love to see your pushback on her narrative: you’d be honest, careful, and kind. So far, the only pushback I ever see is basically just romanticization of Manifest Destiny.

    Just a google based search of her handle and “family farm” yields this gem on the front page:

    But the top hit was this: defining terms, and making sure we understand what they mean. “Family Farm” is approximately equal to “Landed Gentry” and also approximately equal to “Corporate Farm”. And if you want to push back on that I would *love* to read it, for the reasons I listed above.

    Oh, and that second thread points out what the better looking options might be: decidedly NOT letting society rely on all its food to be grown by farmers who farm only because they were born into the right family.

    I hope you review her book when it comes out. I’ll even buy it for you.

  • Carol  On January 10, 2022 at 2:19 pm

    Cicely Tyson, Ruby Dee, Lena Horne,for starters It says a lot about men that they cant remember female actresses.

  • Anonymous  On January 10, 2022 at 4:09 pm

    I would argue that Alfre Woodard is a current female equivalent to Denzel Washington. She is a black everywoman who can portray just about anything and be believable to audiences, white and black. And she seems to be cast in everything.
    Octavia Spencer may also be reaching that level as well.

  • susanmbrewer  On January 10, 2022 at 8:20 pm

    Viola Davis

  • cnminter  On January 11, 2022 at 8:36 am

    Don’t forget Regina King

  • Lee Thomson  On January 11, 2022 at 8:45 am

    I was delighted to find this in WaPo yesterday and now I am deeply curious (but sadly not hugely encouraged) by Manchin being pinned between combative constituents:

  • Thomas Paine  On January 11, 2022 at 10:46 pm

    “You can’t love your country only when you win.”

    The problem is that Donny Corruption and his enablers/sycophants don’t love our country at all. Our country exists so it can be controlled and looted, as all other things and people do. This is the relationship they have with everything, like every personally aggrandized dictator or mob boss.


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