Nuttier than a Qcake

These anti-vaxxers are something else:

A hodgepodge of Trumpworld superfans, disillusioned Democrats, far-right extremists, self-identifying independents, and street preachers assembled Sunday morning to rally against equal parts COVID-19 vaccines and mandates.

The event started at the Washington Monument, with attendees making the trek to Lincoln Memorial to hear from many anti-vax superstars, including Robert F. Kennedy Jr., controversial virologist Dr. Robert Malone, and Fox Nation’s Lara Logan, who has been ghosted by her employer.

Ahead of the march to the Lincoln Memorial, attendees gathered to speak with each other and hold sporadic demonstrations, including dancing and chanting to anti-vax rap songs.

Far-right fanatics were out in full force, from the extremist members of the hate group Proud Boy to rank-and-file supporters who consume everything that conspiracy theorist Alex Jones utters.

John Kopel, a staunch advocate against COVID-19 vaccines and an InfoWars loyalist, told The Daily Beast ahead of the rally he is a “fan of Alex Jones.” Carrying a sign that promoted Jones’ media entity and claimed “[Dr. Anthony] Fauci is a mass murderer,” Kopel said that he remains upset with former President Trump’s initial push of what he calls the “bio-weapon.” The rally-goer added that Trump’s endorsement of the vaccine is a “serious issue.” “We are for medical freedom,” he continued before suggesting that Trump might have been “corrupted.”

But it wasn’t only right-wingers in attendance, as many self-identifying Democrats and others also showed up to the event.

Clare Tobin, a lifelong Democratic voter from Chicago, voiced her frustrations with politicians pushing mandates and vaccines. “I don’t trust the vaccine,” she said. “You can’t even trust the Democrats, either. They all have the same message. They all had the same agenda.”

Then there was the straight-up bizarre, which included one attendee dressing up as Uncle Sam with a vaccine going through his top hat.

Elliot Crown, from New York, who dressed in garb resembling Uncle Sam, told The Daily Beast he was there to protest Americans’ “rights being curtailed,” citing the pandemic as a “fraud.” “They [both Democrats and Republicans] are taking orders, it is a global thing. They all use the same phrase ‘Build Back Better.’”

Along the march route, attendees were also enticed to buy Trump paraphernalia, given religious books, and encouraged to take a free nasal spray that promises to cure anyone of the coronavirus if they are infected. Xlear CEO Nathan Jones, whose company sells the spray and has been sued by the FTC, was in attendance and baselessly claimed to The Daily Beast that his nasal solution “works” on COVID-19, adding that “just using saltwater [will] stop the spread of COVID-19 in the lungs.”


During the event, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. made a bonkers Holocaust analogy, a theme from the day’s activists as attendees brought comparable messaging along with them on signs. “Even in Hitler’s Germany, you could hide in the attic like Anne Frank did,” he told the crowd.

I have often compared the Trump phenomenon to a Grateful Dead concert as a way to illustrate that it’s more of a tribal gathering than just a place to see your idols. I think this from the anti-vax crowd yesterday is more on the nose than I anticipated. (Of course, some of those people would actually be at a Grateful Dead concert, if they still had them — they aren’t all right wingers.)

Minecraft DDoS Attack Leaves Small European Country Without Internet

Andorra Telecom, the only ISP in the principality of Andorra, suffered repeated distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks during a multi-day Twitch gaming tournament. From a report: The DDoS attacks occurred during the scheduled SquidCraft Games tournament in Minecraft, one of the most successful Twitch Rivals tournaments ever broadcast. Eight or more Andorran streamers were eliminated from the Twitch tournament after the second day of attacks due to their repeated disconnects. There is some suspicion that perpetrators planned the DDoS attacks on Andorra Telecom to cheat the Andorran's of their chance to win the $100,000 pot. The SquidCraft Games was a highly anticipated Twitch streaming event designed to emulate the hit Netflix series called The Squid Game in Minecraft. As noted, it has been a viral game streaming event with a peak viewership of over a million on day two of the event. As per the TV series, this is an elimination game, and in this Twitch event, there is a healthy prize pot of $100,000 to ensure participants would be highly competitive. The event will end on Tuesday. A significant portion of the 150 SquidCraft games participants lives in Andorra. Spanish language reports of the event confirm that day one went without a hitch for all players, in terms of fairness. The games "green light, red light," and "hide and seek" ran smoothly to their conclusions.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

JD Vance Pretty Sure America Needs To Laugh More At People’s Tragic Deaths

Hillbilly Effigy author JD Vance is running for the vacant Senate seat from Ohio, and he’s apparently decided the best way to distinguish himself from his Republican primary opponents is to act like an unrepentant asshole. It worked for Ted Cruz, and that’s certainly a man who’s made some solid life choices.

Spectrum News reporter Taylor Popielarz interviewed Vance for an article that described him as one of “six serious candidates” for the GOP nomination, but Vance insists that he’s not serious. That’s the whole problem with America. No, J.D. Vance has jokes.

Popielarz asked Vance why Ohioans should vote for a callous creep who cracked jokes about a fatal shooting on the set of an Alec Baldwin movie — you know, when a human being died. (He phrased this more politely.)

POPIELARZ: And they say, does that really — you had said, "Dear Jack, let Trump back on, we need Alec Baldwin tweets" — as this, you know, deadly shooting was playing out. If a voter sees that as they're plugging into this race, and they say, is that the type of rhetoric I want a US senator to have? How do you explain that?

VANCE: I'd say like, look, people may not always agree with my rhetoric, but I think unfortunately, our country's kind of a joke. [yeah, he said that — SER] And we should be able to tell jokes about it. Right? I think it's important for our politicians to have a sense of humor. I think it's important for us to be real people. Every single person that I knew was joking about what would Donald Trump say if he was on Twitter. Right?

Most mammals were glad Trump wasn’t on Twitter so he couldn’t make a public mockery of a woman’s tragic death. Halyna Hutchins was a real person who probably enjoyed a good joke, as long as it wasn’t the “Ha, Ha, this person’s dead” kind. It’s nice to have standards.

JD VANCE, ASSHOLE: So JD Vance Is Pretty Pathetic, Yeah?

This awful person who’ll probably lose the GOP primary to Josh Mandel, who’s worse, seems to think the key to political authenticity is jerkass behavior. He’s modeling himself after noted populist hero Andrew Dice Clay.

VANCE: So I think the idea that we can't have somewhat offensive humor sometimes from our politicians is basically just asking us to have fake politicians all the time. That's not what I'm going to be. Maybe it turns some people off, but I think the realness turns more people on.

Nothing about JD Vance turns anyone on.

Here are some more excerpts from Vance's standup act:

POPIELARZ: On the pandemic, you've said publicly that you were vaccinated against COVID-19. Did you get boosted?

VANCE: I've not. No, I've not. We all got COVID in December. I didn't have any symptoms. You know, so not planning on getting boosted anytime soon.

That half hour at CVS might cut into Vance's mocking the dead on Twitter time, but you should get boosted even after having had COVID-19.

Vance said that people are wary of the vaccine because it’s so “new” but he also blamed the Biden administration for not providing enough monoclonal antibodies — a treatment that is just as new as the vaccine.

JD VANCE, ASSHOLE: We Saw JD Vance And WaPo In A Closet Making Babies

Vance opposes vaccine mandates but supports abortion bans. His explanation is hilarious!

VANCE: Well, because I think with vaccines, you're talking about your own medical decisions for your own body, whereas abortion you're talking about discarding another human life, right? That to me is the big and obvious difference.

Vaccines don’t just keep yourself from dying but others, as well, because you’re less likely to spread COVID-19 and clog up the hospital system while scarfing down monoclonal antibodies. Also, I don’t have a medical degree, but I think most abortions occur inside someone’s "own body."

Vance claims we “have bad censorship problems in this country because of social media” and vowed to break up the big technology companies, which you can do as a senator. The joke here is that Vance doesn’t know how the First Amendment works: Private companies can’t “censor” anyone, and the government can’t force private companies to offer their platforms to politicians or even random bigots who want to spread bigoted lies and promote violence.

Unlike Mandel, who is nuttier than a king-sized Snickers, Vance won’t outright embrace Donald Trump’s Big Lie about the 2020 election, but he’ll imply it was fixed with Jewish Big Tech money.

VANCE: I mean, the thing that I talk the most about, of course, is the $420 million Zuck [Zuckerberg] bucks. Do we really think it's okay for one of the most powerful social media companies in the world to go up and buy local boards of elections? I don't. And I think if you do, you don't want to live in a real democracy.

Zuckerberg donated more than $400 million to help local elections offices prepare for the November election, which took place during a pandemic. This is not the same as “buying” local boards of elections. There was no attempt to alter or suppress the vote. No wonder Vance wants to crack down on social media. This is the sort of blatant disinformation that would get an average person's account suspended.

During his Senate campaign, Vance sacrificed every last shred of dignity and human decency he might’ve possessed. He’s a joke with no punchline.


[Spectrum News]

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Faster Internet Speeds Linked To Lower Civic Engagement in UK

Faster internet access has significantly weakened civic participation in Britain, according to a study that found involvement in political parties, trade unions and volunteering fell as web speeds rose. From a report: Volunteering in social care fell by more than 10% when people lived closer to local telecoms exchange hubs and so enjoyed faster web access. Involvement in political parties fell by 19% with every 1.8km increase in proximity to a hub. By contrast, the arrival of fast internet had no significant impact on interactions with family and friends. The analysis of behaviour among hundreds of thousands of people led by academics from Cardiff University and Sapienza University of Rome found faster connection speeds may have reduced the likelihood of civic engagement among close to 450,000 people -- more than double the estimated membership of the Conservative party. They found that as internet speeds rose between 2005 and 2018, time online "crowded out" other forms of civic engagement. The study's authors have also speculated that the phenomenon may have helped fuel populism as people's involvement with initiatives for "the common good," which they say are effectively "schools of democracy" where people learn the benefit of cooperation, has declined. Other studies have shown that social media engagement has strengthened other kinds of civic engagement, for example by helping to organise protests and fuelling an interest in politics, even if it does not manifest in traditional forms of participation. However, politics conducted online has been found to be more susceptible to "filter bubbles," which limit participantsâ(TM) exposure to opposing views and so foster polarisation.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

NASA Celebrates Private Sector Deployments of Space-born Tech in Its Latest Spinoff

An anonymous reader shares a report: NASA's Spinoff magazine is one of the things I look forward to reading every year. The space agency's research trickles down to the rest of the world in surprising and interesting ways, which it tracks and collects in this annual publication. This year is no different, and NASA tech can be found in everything from hiking gadgets to heavy industry and, funnily enough, space. There are dozens of technologies that have made their way to everyday use in a variety of places highlighted in this year's issue, which you can browse here [PDF]. I talked with Daniel Lockney, the head of NASA's Tech Transfer Program overseeing the deployment of its tech and research among terrestrial companies looking to put it to good use. "Typically what happens is: NASA develops something, they report it to my office, and we look at it to figure out, first, does it work? And second, who else can use it? And if someone can, we figure out how to get it to them," Lockney explained. "I try to give as much away for free as I can. I've got no direction to generate revenue or bring something back to the U.S. treasury. The 1958 NASA act that created us says to disseminate our work -- nothing in there about making a dime." The result is cheap or free licensing of interesting tech like compact, long-lasting water filters, unusual mechanical components, and other tech that was needed for space or launch purposes but might find a second use on the ground. Lockney highlighted a couple items in the latest batch that he thought were especially interesting. "There was a partnership with GM to develop the Robo-Glove, a functional glove that astronauts will wear to help reduce strain during repetitive tasks and increase grip strength," he said. "Squeezing something on a spacewalk, you can do it a couple times, but if you're gripping a tool for the whole afternoon... so we developed this glove to assist in that work, and now it's being used at factories around the world."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

What If We Paid Hospital Employees And Ambulance Drivers With … Taxes?

It is an inevitable fact of life that every criticism of "at-will employment" will lead to at least one very wise person explaining that the system actually benefits both employers and employees, because although it means that an employer can fire you for any reason, it also means that you can quit for any reason as well. So there.

It's not a great point, because obviously people in other countries can quit their jobs for any reason they want, barring slavery ... but also because it's not necessarily always true, either. In many states, your employer can sue you for not giving them proper notice — but is not required, legally, to give you advance notice or severance.

In Wisconsin, a team of health care workers are currently being barred from leaving one job for another, on account of the fact that their soon-to-be-former employer says that people will be put in danger if they do quit.

Via Post Crescent:

ThedaCare requested Thursday that an Outagamie County judge temporarily block seven of its employees who had applied for and accepted jobs at Ascension from beginning work there on Monday until the health system could find replacements for them.

The employees were part of an 11-member interventional radiology and cardiovascular team, which can perform procedures to stop bleeding in targeted areas during a traumatic injury or restore blood flow to the brain in the case of a stroke. Each of them were employed at-will, meaning they were not under an obligation to stay at ThedaCare for a certain amount of time.

Outagamie County Circuit Court Judge Mark McGinnis granted ThedaCare's request and held an initial hearing Friday morning. The case will get a longer hearing at 10 a.m. Monday.

The employees will not be working anywhere on Monday, until the judge figures out what should be done. (There isn't news yet on today's hearing, where employees were expected to testify.) And the thing is, it's complicated on both sides. ThedaCare is arguing that if the seven members of the team leave for their new jobs before they are replaced, people could actually die. That really is a serious concern. Overall, ThedaCare is a more comprehensive hospital with a Level II Trauma Center and a Comprehensive Stroke Center with more specialists available around the clock, so patients that need more care are sent there rather than to Ascension, which is only a Level Three Trauma Center and Primary Stroke Center. If ThedaCare doesn't have that team, many patients will need to be transferred mid-treatment, and that's not great for them.

But ThedaCare also had a chance to pay their workers more and provide a counter offer. They didn't. They also had weeks to find replacements. They didn't. And yes, it's probably going to be hard for them to find people who are willing to work for whatever it is they were paying these people that was less than what Ascension is giving them, in a time when health care workers are quitting in droves anyway, but if they want to have a team of people to do this work, they're going to have to figure out how to pay them.

In other health care work news, we got a "feel good story" this weekend about how teenagers in Sackets Harbor, New York, have "saved" their town's volunteer ambulance by becoming EMTs and volunteering themselves.

Via CBS:

These baby-faced first responders took over the town's Emergency Medical Services not long after COVID-19 hit, when all the older EMS volunteers either couldn't — or wouldn't — do the job anymore.

That exodus is part of a national trend. In rural America, 35% of ambulance services are all-volunteer. And 69% of those departments say they're struggling to find help.

Fortunately, in Sackets Harbor, desperation led to inspiration. In New York State you can become an EMT at 17, and you can start assisting when you're even younger. When a group of local high schoolers heard that, they decided to step up, took the required training and resuscitated the department.

There is so, so much that is wrong with this picture.

The reason many ambulance services in rural areas are staffed by volunteers is not because people are just so wonderful and want to provide that service out of the kindness of their hearts, it's because it's not profitable for private companies to run ambulances in those areas. And so now, we've got towns relying on unpaid child labor to get people to emergency rooms. That is where we are with this.

Picture it! An Alternate Universe America that actually makes sense, in which ambulances and paid EMT jobs are funded through taxes so that every place can have them. That could create jobs and make it so people don't have to go into debt because they had a medical emergency. Also, we could look at the number of health care workers and doctors we need to take care of our population and ensure that we are educating enough people to do those jobs by subsidizing their education. And then — then — we pay them with our tax dollars, so we don't run into situations where hospitals are in competition with one another for workers, because they are all paid fairly.

Alas, we can't do that, or anything else that logistically makes sense, because that would be communism. I get it! People are frightened of that, except when it comes to police departments for some reason. But if those people want to avoid what they apparently believe would be a nightmare scenario of socialized medicine, then they should probably get on the ball and start trying to figure out "free market" solutions to these problems that, ideally, do not involve the use of unpaid child labor or forcing people to stay at jobs that don't pay them enough.

[Post Crescent | CBS]

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Open Thread


In case you are interested, Vice President Kamala Harris is in Milwaukee, Wisconsin today, delivering remarks highlighting the historic funding  in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law that will remove and replace lead pipes all across the country.

In spite of the importance of the issue, there wasn’t much to the speech.  But if you want to watch, here it is:

Open thread.

The post Open Thread appeared first on Balloon Juice.

Schools have long been a culture war battlefield

Greg Sargent on the latest assault on public school teachers:

Glenn Youngkin’s victory in the Virginia gubernatorial election persuaded Republicans that there’s political gold in attacking teachers for supposedly indoctrinating the nation’s children about race. So in GOP-controlled state legislatures, efforts to place new restrictions on teachers are accelerating.

But behind these efforts lie specific trends that could prove particularly toxic. The risk: They may make teachers believe they are on such thin ice that they end up whitewashing the U.S. past rather than dare to communicate hard truths about it.

That’s the key takeaway from a new report from PEN America on the latest batch of restrictions moving forward in GOP legislatures. The report shows that these efforts are expanding and getting more pedagogically pernicious in their goals.

The report’s top-line finding: Dozens of proposals have already been introduced this month to limit how our nation’s racial past and present are taught. That’s striking enough, but what’s underneath these efforts also matters.

There are three important features of these efforts, the report finds. The first is sloppy drafting: Many leave terminology vaguely defined, such as the idea that certain “concepts” are in some vague sense off limits. The second: Many explicitly target teachers’ speech and require direct punishment of speech that’s deemed a violation.

The third: Many come with a “private right of action,” allowing parents and citizens to seek to levy their own punishments against teachers, such as suing them in court. Put all this together, and the aim seems to go beyond the traditional exercise of state authority to set curriculums.

Instead, this seems to treat teachers as subversive internal threats who must be zealously rooted out at any deviation from orthodoxy. The vague drafting of prohibited concepts, combined with threats of action and/or punishment, seem structured to make educators feel constantly at risk, chilling the range of discussion.

“This is about putting the fear of God into teachers and administrators,” Jeffrey Sachs, the political scientist who authored the new report, told me. “Teachers are going to avoid discussing certain topics altogether — topics related to race, sex and American history that as a society we might want to discuss.”

And then there’s this from the media’s favorite so-called moderate Republican:

A level of statewide chaos unprecedented in recent memory is looming for Virginia schools, as a new Republican governor prepares to enforce a mask-optional mandate on Monday that many superintendents and parents have vowed to fight, or to uphold, with all the ammunition they can muster.

Gov. Glenn Youngkin, who is just more than a week into his governorship, issued an executive order on his first day in office delegating to parents the decision on whether children wear masks at school. The order, which contravenes federal health guidance and masking requirements maintained by the vast majority of Virginia school districts throughout the coronavirus pandemic, is in keeping with Youngkin’s campaign promise to give parents greater control over all aspects of their children’s education.

The order is supposed to take effect Monday for all of Virginia’s roughly 130 school districts and more than 1.5 million public and private schoolchildren. But it has already plunged Youngkin into a bitter war with significant swaths of the public school system: Within days of the order’s announcement, superintendents in the suburbs just outside D.C. and in Youngkin’s new home, Richmond, promised to keep requiring masks. In response, Virginia’s lieutenant governor said Youngkin could pull funding from disobedient districts. A group of parents also sued to reverse the order, and Youngkin filed to dismiss their suit.

Schools have been a battle ground in the culture wars for decades. This is not new and I’m shocked that so many people of a certain age seem to have amnesia about that fact. (I don’t blame young people — nobody told them) This is one of their favorite strategies and they do it ALL THE TIME.

COVID and the made-up CRT controversy have added to a sense of urgency and I think they see their chance to advance their agenda. But don’t kid yourself, their overarching goal is to privatize public schools so they can indoctrinate kids their own way without interference. It’s always been their goal.

Teachers are public employees, they are unionized and they are predominately female and racially diverse. What could be a bigger enemy to the right than that? This kind of pressure is designed to chase good teachers out of the field and further degrade the institutions. They are already laboring with low pay, little respect and micromanaging the classroom. This assault from parents and politicians over closures and masking is likely to be the last straw for many. These are educated people. They can find other jobs in this market. And nothing will make the right wing happier.

Mark Cuban on His Online Pharmacy: ‘Our KPI is How Much We Can Reduce the Stress of Our Patients’

Mark Cuban's announcement over the weekend of an online pharmacy selling over a hundred generic drugs at near cost was totally unexpected but will likely be welcomed by millions who struggle to afford medication. The billionaire told TechCrunch that the business model is refreshingly simple: "Lower pricing reduces patient stress, and that will lead to more customers." From the report: The Cost Plus Drug Company aims very simply to provide as many common medications as possible in generic form at as low a price as possible. All cash, no IP deals, no insurance companies -- just buy pills for what they cost to make, plus 15 percent to cover overhead. Asked about ROI, Cuban admitted there isn't much to speak of, by design. "I want to be above break even while maximizing the number of people who can afford their medications," he said. "Shoot. I would be happy if we can make a little, but push pricing of generics sold elsewhere down significantly. Our challenge is to keep pushing prices lower," not compete with anyone, he continued. "Our KPI is how much we can reduce the stress of our patients who buy generic meds. When people save a lot of money on their medications, they often will tell others they know that have the same challenges. That word of mouth impacts our growth the most."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

The Supreme Court Is About To Do Some Very Bad Sh*t, And We’re Not Just Talking About Abortion

The six conservatives on the Supreme Court have clearly decided to rip the Band-Aid off all at once, decimating the last iota of the Supreme Court's legitimacy in two insane, precedent-shredding years. The Court has already overruled Roe v. Wade on the DL, on the way to making it official in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health. They're hot to make concealed carry legal everywhere without a permit. And they're preparing to greenlight outright bribery under the guise of campaign finance while kneecapping the ability of Americans whose civil rights are violated to recover damages from the federal government.

It was already bad before this morning's orders list came out, and now it's worse because the Court agreed to hear two cases challenging affirmative action in college admissions: one at Harvard, which is private, and one at UNC Chapel Hill, which is public. Safe bet that the justices didn't take those cases just to say that they affirm the 2003 Grutter v. Bollinger holding that the use of race conscious admissions to achieve a diverse student body does not violate the Equal Protection clause.

Grutter was upheld in a 2016 opinion written by Justice Anthony Kennedy, who has now been replaced by Ol' Kegstand. And with Justice Amy Coney Barrett in Ruth Bader Ginsburg's seat, Justices John Roberts, Clarence Thomas, and Samuel Alito, who have always loathed affirmative action, clearly like their odds.

But wait, there's more! Because the Court also agreed to hear a challenge to the EPA's ability to protect wetlands that would allow businesses to pollute the groundwater and developers to build more housing without intrusion by the pesky federal government. Of course the plaintiffs are just humble farmers seeking to do what they like on their own property. But there's a reason the Chamber of Commerce and National Association of Home Builders are backing this challenge to the Clean Water Act, and it's not because they're worried about a half-acre plot outside Priest Lake, Idaho.

The case joins West Virginia v. EPA, which challenges the federal government's right to regulate power plant emissions. The original plaintiffs included West Virginia, North Dakota, the North American Coal Corporation, and Westmoreland Mining Holdings LLC, but the appeal is now being prosecuted by a consortium of states who think that fighting for your children's right to breathe in COVID droplets and coal ash counts as virtue signaling.

So, it's looking to be a busy couple of terms for the Court. But don't you worry, they'll still find time to beat back any public health, voting rights, or abortion regulations the Biden administration comes up with. Time to stock up on morning after pills and masks — it's going to be BAD.

[WaPo / Bloomberg]

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