Well, that’s one hotel to avoid in New York

No, not the Trump hotel, even if that one should be avoided as well. Rather it’s the Arlo Hotel in Soho, where Keyon Harrold and his 14 year son was accosted by a white lady, who couldn’t locate her phone, and assumed Harrold’s son had stolen it. As Harrold makes clear on his Instagram story, this was handled very badly by the Hotel manager, who encouraged her behavior.

This incident should result in the woman getting charged, the hotel manager getting fired, and the Arlo Hotels appologizing and refunding the cost of the stay to Keyon Harrold and his family, at the very least. The Arlo Hotels should also provide proper training to their employees, so this never happens in the future.

Dominion and Smartmatic are tired of the Trump lies

One of the attack vectors of Trump and his allies has been to attack the voting machine used during the election, claiming that they were used for fraud.

This obviously have negative effects on the companies behind the voting machines, and they are clearly not going to just accept this. The two main companies behind the voting machines, Dominion and Smartmatic, have started to take steps towards legal action. On top of that, at least one employee from one of these companies has also taken steps.

Smartmatic started out by demanding that Fox News, Newsmax and One America News Network retracted their fraud claims. This led to at least Fox News fact-checking their own claims, finding the false, as did Newsmax.

Dominion also came out swinging with 21 retraction and/or record preservation demand letters, some of which were quite brutal – see e.g. the letter to Mellissa Carone. Before those 21 letters, they had already sent one to Sidney Powell.

From the news articles I have read and the law podcasts I have listened to, both Dominion and Smartmatic have strong cases, so it seems likely that a number of news sources and Trump allies will find themselves in deep legal trouble. It is also going to be interesting to see what will be turned up during discovery.

Bette Midler should stay in her lane

I am generally not a great fan of people telling actors that they should stay in their lane, but occasionally they really should stay in their lane. Bette Midler demonstrates a clear example of this.

It all started with a tweet by Dr. Jen Gunter

Which caused Bette Midler to write the following

It is hard to surprise me these days, but I must admit I hadn’t considered Bette Midler attacking Dr. Jen Gunter as being alt-right as one of the missing ingredients of 2020. Bette Midler’s defense was much appreciated by Marianne Williamson

Unsurprisingly, Dr. Jen Gunter actually knew what she was talking about.

Bette Midler is probably not going to admit that she is wrong about Marianne Williamson, but hopefully this will be a lecture in humility, making her actually do a little research before tweeting, and especially before accusing someone like Dr. Jen Gunter as being alt-right.

Restless in the time of COVID-19

I am sorry that I have been quiet, but I have somewhat overburdened with work. Denmark has gone into lock-down again, which means that there are a lot of companies that are entitled to compensation, as soon as the politicians hammer out the details (often while going through an approval process in the EU, ensuring that no countries sneak in illegal subsidies disguised as Corona relief. The involvement of politicians and the EU makes developing and supporting the compensation systems a bit of a moving target.

But enough about my work.

Or rather, instead of talking about my work, let me make clear how privileged I have been, having had work through both the lock-down starting in March, and now this current lock-down. What’s more, due to the extreme time pressure and ever-changing nature of the demands, I have had to go to work every day, meeting up with a core group of people, working on clearing the path for the developers of the systems (most of developers work from home).

This is probably what has kept me stable.

I am an extrovert, probably even an extreme extrovert. Social contact means a lot to me. If I hadn’t had regular contact with other people, I would almost certainly have sunk into something akin to depression, or at least have gotten stressed.

Going to work, instead of working from home, means that I have to be more careful about social contact outside work, than I would have been if I worked from home. Now, I am not only risking my health, but also the health of everyone working together with me.

As not only an extrovert, but quite a social person, it obviously pains me to not be able to see my friends. This is however a price I have to pay, and one that I think everyone in a position similar to mine (working with other people, living with at-risk people etc) should be willing to pay. The stop of the spread of Corona starts “at home”, and we all have to do our part.

This also means getting tested if we have been at risk at being exposed. In Denmark there is a track-and-trace app based on Bluetooth, which tells you if you have been close to someone who afterwards reported that they had gotten infected. This app is quite sensitive, and since Bluetooth can’t control for all the other factors for whether you have been at risk for exposure. Nevertheless, I have taken any warning I have gotten from it quite seriously, and Friday I went and had my 9th COVID-19 test, after having been told by the app that I had been exposed to a risk of infection. I am still waiting for the results, but given that I have no symptoms and I haven’t heard that anyone, that I have actually spent time, is infected, I am expecting the test to be negative as were all the tests before it.

In usual times, I spend a fairly large part of my spare time socializing and traveling, both things which I can’t really do at the moment. I have been to short trips to Vienna, Austria and Rome, Italy this year, but this is nothing like what I had planned, or what I normally travel in a year.

The lack of socializing and traveling makes me restless, and makes me miss the social aspects of the internet 20 years ago, where I used to hang out on chat boards, discussion forums, and blog comment sections. These communities don’t seem to exist the same ways as they used to. Now, there are Facebook, Twitter, Reddit and Discord, and while there is nothing inherently wrong with these things, I am not part of any communities there, like I used to be in e.g, the Mercedes Lackey Mailing List, Salon’s Table Talk, The Doonesbury Town Halls, Readerville, the comments at the blogs over at ScienceBlogs etc. Even places I used for social purposes a decade ago, e.g. Twitter, has become much less so now, as the medium has grown, and becomes such a hose of information.

I know this sounds like an old man complaining about change, but I quite understand that a lot of things are pretty similar to back then, I am just the one who hasn’t followed along. Until earlier this year, I hadn’t even looked at Discord, even though it is a major networking/community tool for a lot of people. I just miss the comfort of the past, obviously ignoring all the bad parts from back then.

Even after apparently becoming a bit of a Luddite on the internet, I have still managed to keep some contact with friends and family around the world, even making some new friends along the way.

This is part of what makes it possible to keep my restlessness in bay. Knowing that it is still possible to socialize and make friends around the world. It also gives me something to look forward to: being able to meet my friends (new and old) when we can travel again.

Because we will be able to traveling again. And socialize.

We just have to be patient for a little longer – the vaccines are here, but they need to be produced and distributed in large enough numbers. As someone said, it is not the vaccines that stop the pandemic, but the vaccinations. And that’s the stage where we are now. Vaccinations have begun, with the most vulnerable and exposed people getting them first, as is entirely proper.

Later the rest of us will get the chance. When enough have, we can normalize things. Things will probably not go entirely back to normal – I can easily see a situation where proof of vaccination/negative test is required for traveling and for participating in sporting events, festivals and other places where a lot of people are gathered.

When it is possible to socialize again, I will be throwing a party, inviting all my friends, and then start planning my travels.

Until this happens, I will stay restless, getting tested occasionally, and spending all too much time on work.

Dancing in the streets

If you ever think you are not doing a good job, just remember, people are not literally dancing in the streets because you are leaving.

The same can’t be said of Trump.

When the Biden/Harris win was announced it led to partying in the big cities all across the US.

LA Times have some great photos from Los Angeles.

USPS workers often took part in the celebration, which this Mashable piece shows.

New York knows Trump the best, and they probably celebrated the hardest – see the coverage at NY Magazine – Intelligencer

Outside the US, there were also celebrations: Fireworks in London, church bells in Paris as Biden win celebrated abroad

On a personal level, I cannot begin to express the joy and relief I felt when I saw the results, and the pleasure I took from seeing the anxiety turn into happiness in my facebook and twitter feed.

Culling the Danish mink

It is a story that has gotten some traction in international media, but which might have been overlooked by people focused on the US election.

The Danish government has ordered the culling of all mink in Danish mink farms.

Denmark is the biggest mink fur producer in the world, so this is a multi-million dollar industry that is getting wiped out.

The reason for the decision, which I am sure wasn’t taken lightly, was that the mink poses a health care risk – more precisely, they are a source of new mutations of the corona virus – some with worrying characteristics. Or as BBC explains it:

Mink kept in large numbers on mink farms have caught the virus from infected workers. And, in a small number of cases, the virus has “spilled back” from mink to humans, picking up genetic changes on the way.

Mutations in some mink-related strains are reported to involve the spike protein of the virus, which is targeted by some, but not all, vaccines being developed.

“If the mutation is on a specific protein that is being currently targeted by the vaccine developers to trigger an immune response in humans then it means that if this new virus strain comes out of the mink back into the humans, even with vaccination, the humans will start spreading it and the vaccine will not protect,” Dr Peyre told BBC News.

While the culling is going on, the region of Denmark where the strain has been observed in humans, has been shut down. People have to stay in their municipalities, avoid gatherings, and all bars, restaurants and cafés have been closed. An effort to test everyone in the region (approximately 280,000 people) has begun.

Some politicians in the Danish parliament, especially those in opposition to the government, has questioned whether the measures are necessary, but it is worth noticing that the only scientist in the Danish parliament, Stinus Lindgreen, has come out in clear support of the measures, stressing the need to react quickly to ensure this doesn’t turn into a greater problem.

Currently, there is negotiations going on about how to compensate not only the people directly affected, but also people who are indirectly affected by the culling and the shut down of the region.

 

A great relief

Like most other people, I have been in a state of anxiety for the last of couple of weeks due to the US presidential election. When there wasn’t a decisive result on election night, it didn’t exactly help my anxiety. When my brother called me a couple of hours ago, and told me that the news media have called the election for Biden/Harris, it lifted a considerable weight of my chest.

The pattern of the election results followed what was expected, the first few releases of counted votes would bring Trump strongly in front, but as more populated areas, and especially the mail-in votes, got counted Biden would surge, and take the lead.

What we hadn’t expected, was how long it would take for the surge to overtake Trump’s lead, and thus how long time it would take before the election could be called, and by how slim margins.

Biden currently set to get 306 votes in the electoral college, but some of them will be won with razor thin margins – in Georgia, Arizona and Pennsylvania, Biden is leading with less than 1% of the votes. These numbers are expected to increase, but not into huge margins.

A few thoughts:

First of all, thank you to everyone who fought so hard for Biden to win. It could have been easy to become complaisant after the polls showed Biden well ahead, but people didn’t stop up, but instead fought to get people registered and interested in voting.

As an outsider, it is incredible to me that the margin of victory is so small – especially as it looks like Biden got at least 4 million votes more than Trump, which in a normal democracy would leave little doubt about the results. I guess the US presidential election system shows its ugly side once again.

I see a lot of people claim that the razor thin victory was because it was Biden, and not someone more progressive, like e.g. Bernie Sanders. It is very hard to say anything meaningful about such a claim, but I think it is important to point out how large Trump’s support was. As it stands right now, he is the candidate who got the second most votes ever in the US presidential election, only beaten by Biden. He got a million more votes than Obama in 2008, and more than 8 million more votes now than he got in 2016.

I really have a hard time seeing anyone matching Trump’s results, and I find it impressive how much better Biden did. I think any other Democratic candidate would have failed.

This doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t rather have had a different, more progressive president, but I think such a candidate wouldn’t have had broad appeal, which was necessary to win this election.

Speaking of necessary for winning, it is important that the Democrats fight voters suppression. Stacey Abrams did this in Georgia, with such great results, that the state might turn blue (fingers crossed) and that the two senate races are going into run-offs.

And speaking of the Georgia run-offs – these two elections are extremely important for the Democrats effort to take over the Senate. Put simply, the Democrats needs to win both of these races in order to take the majority in the Senate, which is the only way that Biden and the Democrats can introduce any progressive ideas.

 

The iceberg theory of sexual harassment

Danish politics is right now rocked by Morten Østergaard, the leader of the mid-center party Radikale Venstre, stepping down due to a 10-year old case of sexual harassment. The case that led to him stepping down, was the report of him groping a female member of parliament from the same party when she first became a member of parliament, 10 years ago. It came out when the party decided to have a 24-hour session, where people could call in and report or talk about past cases of sexual harassment. This is part of the party’s attempt to change the sexist political culture in Denmark.

A lot of people have of course focused on the so-called irony of the leader having to step down due to the very problem the party is trying to fight. Which of course shows that people really don’t get the whole concept of trying to change the culture.

Morten Østergaard has himself explained that he stepped down not because of the old incident, but rather due his handling of the case after it came out, trying to claim it had been handled internally, without admitting it was him who had done it.

Unsurprisingly, a lot of people attacked the woman, Lotte Rod, who stepped forward, claiming that it was a coup – apparently in coordination with Sofie Carsten Nielsen, the woman who took over as leader of the party, even though Lotte Rod didn’t support her as the new party leader. They also make a great point of it being a very minor transgression (an unwanted touch) which in no way should lead to such drastic results.

I, on the other hand, was waiting for the other shoe to drop.

You see, I have developed something I could call the iceberg theory of sexual harassment (note, I am not using theory in the scientific way here). It goes something like this: Any credible report of sexual harassment about a person or organization, hides a equal or larger number of unreported cases. Unreported in this case, might not be internally, but definitely not known to the general public/surroundings.

The iceberg theory is based on empirical evidence, but is also based on the simple fact that people who are unwilling to respond boundaries in one case, is likely to not be willing to respect boundaries in other cases. This is true for sexual harassment, and it is true for things such as sexual assaults and rape (see e.g. Repeat Rapists on Campus, which explains that repeat rapists are responsible for a majority of rapes). Do note, that I am not claiming that people who commit sexual harassment will go on to commit sexual assault or rape, but that the same type of mechanisms are in play.

On the organizational level, it has been shown many times that an organization that accepts sexual harassment in one case, has also accepted it in many other cases.

And of course, the other shoe also dropped in the case with Morten Østergaard, who admitted that there was also a complaint about him from 2016. This time, from a 21 year old intern. This was apparently not know to the other members of parliament for the party, which is quite likely due to legal reasons.

Is this the last case? Only time will tell, but it certainly did show that his decision to step down was the right one, and that there is a lot of work left to change the political environment. Both in Radikale Venstre, where the process has started, but also in the other political parties, which to a large degree seems either to ignore the problem or to deny that there is one.


Note, there is comment moderation switched on, which means that if you haven’t had a comment approved before on this blog, your comment will be put into a queue until I approve it. I will try to check regularly for new comments, but I am somewhat away from my computer most of this weekend, so it might take a little time before I notice and approve the comment.

It should go without saying that sexist, bigoted and slanderous comments won’t be approved.

The very real cost of racism in human lives

There is a very important article in Slate that everyone should read.

Racism Is a Pandemic

When two colleagues and I started examining infectious mortality rates during the early 20th century, we were looking for regional differences in how the United States handled influenza, tuberculosis, and other kinds of infections. Of course, we were especially interested in that era’s deadly pandemic. The 1918 flu had killed on a scale that’s hard to fathom: an estimated 50 million people worldwide, and half a million in the U.S.

To get a detailed look at infectious disease mortality in that era, we digitized and carefully checked old public health records, linked them to census population estimates, and categorized the causes of death. We didn’t believe the results. We discovered that white mortality during the 1918 flu pandemic was still lower than Black mortality, up to that point, had ever been. This wasn’t only true in the South, but in every region of the United States. This wasn’t about regional public health—it was about racism.

[…]

This spring, while recovering from my own COVID-19 infection, I wondered whether the same thing would still be true today. I found it unfathomable that the disaster unfolding around me that spring in New York, where my parents live and where I had become sick, could bear any resemblance to more typical life in the United States. And yet, thinking about how the 1918 results had stunned me, I wanted to see for myself. As life ground to a halt in the midst of another cataclysmic pandemic, how did the toll of this one compare to that of the more ordinary, ubiquitous catastrophe? Will white mortality during the coronavirus pandemic still be less than what Blacks experience routinely, without any pandemic? I began to work out equations and search for data.

[…]

If the Black population did not experience a single death due to COVID-19, if the pandemic only affected white people, Black mortality in 2020 would probably still be higher than white mortality.

This is a thought experiment. In reality, of course, COVID has hit Black populations hardest, and the inequality in death rates is likely to greater than it has been in many years. Racism is making Black Americans, along with indigenous and immigrant populations, most vulnerable to the pandemic. But the hypotheticals give us an important perspective on the reality: Racism gave Black people pandemic-level mortality long before COVID.

And it is racism that is killing Black people. “Mortality modelers” like me know that there are an awful lot of reasons one person might live longer than another. But when we see that one group in a society consistently dies at younger ages than another, we can look for trends. America excludes Black people from mechanisms of generating wealth, consigns them to the worst schools, confines them to neighborhoods with more pollution and more poverty, targets them with routine violence by state authorities, and treats them with suspicion and hostility when they seek medical care. There is no mystery in those early deaths.

We all know the devastating cost of COVID-19, yet as the article makes clear, the cost of racism on the Black communities is as high, or even higher, year after year.

This has to change. As the article states:

It is time we honestly confront the magnitude of racial inequality in the United States: a pandemic’s worth of death, every single year. Once we do that, our question about radical proposals to combat racism should shift from what is politically palatable to, simply, what will work.

Honoring RBG, a surge in donations to the Democrats

After the news broke about the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Democratic campaigns and organizations have raised record numbers in donations. It is clear that the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has galvanized the support of the Democrats and the opposition to Mitch McConnell. Since the death, the fundraiser to defeat Mitch McConnell has raised more that 17 million dollars from more than 200,000 donators.

Fundraiser to Defeat Mitch McConnell Raises $13 Million Overnight After Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Death

A fundraiser to defeat Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell in the Kentucky Senate race has raised over $13 million overnight and continues to rapidly increase since the passing of Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Update 4:00 PM: Since publishing at 9:51 AM PT, the campaign has now raised over $17 million from nearly 200,000 donors.

[…]

The campaign called “Get Mitch or Die Trying” is led by ActBlue, a non-profit that funds left-leaning and progressive groups. Donations to the campaign are split among candidates in races in key swing states where Republicans are defending seats and could be at risk of losing a majority, including Colorado, Maine, Iowa, Alabama, Michigan, Texas and Kansas.

An tweet from Tommy Vietor, founder of Crooked Media, the organization between the campaign, shows how stark the effect of the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the campaign was

This is not the only group seeing a rise in donations after her death.

Democrats shatter ActBlue’s donation records after Ginsburg’s death

Friday after Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death was announced — $6.2 million — than in any other single hour since ActBlue, the donation-processing site, was started 16 years ago.

Then donors broke the site’s record again in the 10 p.m. hour when donors gave another $6.3 million — more than $100,000 per minute.

The unprecedented outpouring shows the power of a looming Supreme Court confirmation fight to motivate Democratic donors. The previous biggest hour, on Aug. 20, when Joseph R. Biden Jr. spoke on the final night of the Democratic convention, saw $4.3 million in donations processed, according to an ActBlue spokesperson.

Before noon on Saturday, donations to Democratic causes and campaigns on ActBlue since Justice Ginsburg’s passing had topped $45 million.

According to this US Today article, the donations kept coming

Record-breaking donations pour in from the left after Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death

Record-breaking money poured in from the political left to Democratic candidates following the death Friday of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, as Democrats braced for a nomination fight ahead of the presidential election and looked to build momentum for a Senate takeover.

[….]

The progressive-backed ActBlue — a donation-processing site that helps Democratic candidates, committees and organizations raise money — reported more than $95 million raised between the time Ginsburg’s death was announced and Sunday morning Eastern time.

The donations to both Get Mitch or Die Trying and ActBlue are spread across candidates, especially in close races, so even if it is highly unlikely that McConnell is going to loose his race, his behavior after the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg might be the final push that is going to cost the Republicans not only the presidency, but also the senate – and maybe even a few governorships.