How fucked is the USA? A COVID-19 DeathSplainer.

SARS-CoV2 infections were originally doubling once every 2.5 days, according to the CDC and the WHO. Over the last 4 days, deaths in different countries have had different doubling rates, but US deaths doubled very close to once in that 4 days.

This is a result of the fact that the places with the highest numbers of deaths also have done the most to slow transmission via shelter-in-place orders and other measures. So even if infections and deaths are doubling much faster in counties and states that haven’t yet been hit hard, the total number of deaths they add from a single doubling might yet be small compared to deaths in, say, New York City, which had over 500 on Friday. (By the way, New York City’s measures haven’t yet been effective at slowing the doubling: their deaths doubled in a mere 3 days.) We are not likely headed for a slowdown of the doubling rate because there are so many places where the virus is just beginning its infectious burn, and while each individual county might be small, there are many counties with many, many people in Texas and Florida and Georgia and other red states.

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Trump Administration Ordered Immigration Courts to Spread Coronavirus

Is almost literally what happened earlier today, March 9th, 2020. The National Association of Immigration Judges recommended that immigration courts display disease prevention posters in english and several other languages to protect court employees, lawyers, and attendees.

But as odd as it seems for a court to be part of the executive branch, in the case of immigration courts, they are organized under Article II powers (executive powers, thus  accountable to the president) rather than article III (judicial powers, thus accountable to the Supreme Court generally on some matters, or the Chief Justice specifically on remaining matters) because the constitution gives authority over immigration and naturalization to the executive, subject to duly passed laws.

As a result, the President has the authority to interfere with immigration courts to the extent not prohibited by law passed by Congress and signed by the President (or passed with veto-override). Apparently the President or his delegates were none too pleased that immigration judges wanted to prevent death and disease and ordered immigration courts to take the posters down:

It’s hard to explain just how heinous and shortsighted this is, but mostly because it is so obviously heinous and shortsighted. To the Trumpists who actually need this explained, I doubt comprehension will ever come.

Unintentional Humor: Codeword Trump

From an article on Raw Story, we get this information about the phone call from Trump to Zelenskyy:

A former Trump administration official has confirmed to Politico that White House did place transcripts into the codeword system.

After Trump made false claims about his conversations with Mexican and Australian leaders in 2017, someone from the White House leaked the official transcripts. After that was when the White House took the unusual step to block anyone from having access to the call transcripts, according to the former Trump official.

“I don’t think the person who leaked those was ever really discovered,” the former official told Politico. “So there was a decision to tighten the restrictions for those who had access to those transcripts.”

According to another former Trump National Security Official cited by Politico, “it would be unusual to put transcripts in the code word system.”

But according to the whistleblower, senior White House officials intervened to “‘lockdown’ all records” to try and get them out of the general access to anyone in the White House. They did so because “of the likelihood, in the officials’ retelling, that they had witnessed the president abuse his office for personal gain,” the whistleblower claimed.

… wait for it …

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He learns nothing.

Much has been made of the fact that one of Trump’s defenses (there were many, and not all of them can be advanced simultaneously without obvious and major contradiction, but even so) against Trump’s obvious efforts to get Russia to help his election campaign is that he was simply naive about the law when making pronouncements like, “Russia, if you’re listening…”.

Now, obviously he’s not learned that lesson and his claims of naivety ring hollow given that in the early summer he said that if offered dirt by a foreign nation in the 2020 election, he would still accept it, knowing as he does the illegality and the political consequences of doing so.

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Trump Would Rather Have His Racism Than $20 In His Pocket

So, when redesigning the US$20 bill, the treasury department took a poll on the best person to next be depicted. You may remember that Andrew Jackson, the genocidal maniac who was critiqued by other slave holders for how cruelly he treated his slaves, graces your US twenties right now. Since the US has been notoriously bad at featuring women on its currency and since the new bill was due to come out in 1920, the anniversary of women gaining the right to vote in the US, and because US citizens have more sense than the government, the person selected to honor the new bill is Harriet Tubman… except the men couldn’t have a white guy replaced by a Black woman, so the new design was to keep Jackson, but move him to the reverse side of the 20 while putting Tubman on the front.

Creating a new bill is a time-consuming task, not least because after the old one has been out for a while, counterfeiters will have learned to mimic most of the features and the new bills, in addition to being durable in water, somewhat more tear resistant than most papers, and meeting US consumers’ subjective expectations that a bill seem “official” and not feel plasticky (which implies “fake”), new anti-counterfeiting techniques need to be designed into each new bill. Even when the person featured in the portrait does not change, the bills themselves do every so often and updating the counterfeiting countermeasures is a significant part of that. For this reason, the Treasury is literally in a constant state of research and development of new features that can be built into any new bills.

This time round, however, Steve Mnuchin, the US Secretary of the Treasury, has just told congress that despite the long lead time and the overwhelming poll support for Tubman, she will not appear on the $20 bill in 2020. Instead, Mnuchin suggests, 2028 is a more likely date. This would extend the current design to 25 years of use. We are already at 16, and the previous record for the longest use of a single design is about 15 years. In 2017 Mnuchin suggested that the Treasury might not release Tubman on the 20 because consumers become attached to particular persons on particular bills. This rationale was given despite the fact that the decision had already been made to keep Jackson’s image on the bill, if on the other side. But now, in 2019, Mnuchin has just announced that due entirely to needing to develop new anti-counterfeiting techniques, Tubman’s image cannot appear when originally intended.

The whole thing stinks, as I’m sure you’ve noticed. Take a moment to think and you’ll realize that even if no new anti-counterfeit measures were ready to be placed in the 2020 series bill, changing the design and keeping the current measures is better at challenging counterfeiting than doing nothing at all. So why delay?

The real answer we can only guess, but I have three good ones: 2020 is a Presidential election year, and not only does Trump idolize Jackson, but I think he’s also afraid that his racist supporters will be furious at him if his treasury department releases a $20 with a Black woman on it – no matter how many white men are on it with her. If enough of his supporters are racist (a reasonable proposition), then pissing off the racists will hurt Trump’s chances at reelection.

And so here we are, we can’t have nice things because

  1. Trump idolizes a genocidal maniac who embarked on the ethnic cleansing of indigenous peoples from the areas of US territories that were recognized states during his term, and generally from any economically valuable land,
  2. Trump’s supporters are too often racist to risk the US government promoting the picture of a Black woman during an election year, and
  3. Trump is his own racist supporter who doesn’t want to see a Black woman’s face on “his” money.

It’s amazing how Trump can combine the most obscenely consequential power grabs with the most trivial and petty exercises of that power.


PS. And will the Democrats call this out for the racism that it is? Of course not. We’ll get a few comments about how it’s disappointing that 100 years after the ratification of the 19th amendment we still have never had a woman’s portrait on US paper currency during a federal election in which women were entitled to vote. But they certainly won’t say anything about racism, or even about how Mnuchin’s assertions are literally irrational.

 

If I only had a brain: What I should have written, but didn’t write, but someone else wrote, so you’re saved.

The Attorney General of the USA has, helpfully, provided us with a summary of the Harry Potter books. Interestingly, it concludes that Voldemort was innocent.

William Barr publishes summary of Harry Potter series claiming Voldemort was “completely exonerated”

 

You really can’t know how badly I want to take credit for that. Purest genius. My favorite quote?

Those unfamiliar with how these things work will no doubt point to evidence of things like killing people as examples of wrong-doing, but the evidence is weak at best.

It’s short. You have no excuse not to read it in its entirety.

 

The Immigrant, The Idiot, and The Judgement

Look, Donald Trump is an idiot. We all know that. It’s not so much that he’s ignorant, he is arrogantly ignorant. He personifies the worst-case Dunning-Kruger effect. Previously the most perfect example of this was uttered a mere 40 days or so into his presidency as he announced (again) his intention to repeal Obamacare:

Now, I have to tell you, it’s an unbelievably complex subject. Nobody knew health care could be so complicated.

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OMGOMGOMG, Have You Heard Trump Talk Lately?

This quote from a Pi Day press conference is just precious:

if we had a proper wall, which we’re building now as we speak, and we’re getting a lot more funding for it, as you know, with what we’re talking about with the vote today, whether it’s positive or not, I’m vetoing it, unless I don’t have to veto, I think that’s unlikely, I’ll do a veto, it’s not going to be overturned. But we have done a great job at the border through apprehension.

The whole thing is a glorious clusterfuck of rhetorical fail, but I love the bit that benefits from interpretation as a Freudian admission he’s using fear mongering: “we have done a great job at the border through apprehension.”

And, of course, “whether it’s positive or not, I’m vetoing it, unless I don’t have to veto, I think that’s unlikely, I’ll do a veto”. Seriously. Every single day is like a celebration of the 25th to this guy … and I’m not talking Christmas.

 

 

One Theory Is That Trump Colored The US Flag Wrong

When Trump visited an Ohio classroom, the students were coloring in US flags. Trump decided to take part:

Trump’s flag is red, white a blue, but not exactly how you’d expect.

Of course, while many are howling at the error, there is another theory to be considered, one that doesn’t implicate the president’s intelligence

The Russian flag is *also* red, white and blue.

This flag has a blue stripe.

 

Just sayin’.

 

 

 

First Amendment Issues are NOT (necessarily) Free Speech Issues

All freaky, kinky, queer women are human beings.

Not all human beings are freaky, kinky, queer women (more’s the pity).

So how is that related to the first amendment? The First Amendment (FA) protects more than just speech. It protects a total of 5 separate rights. Let’s take a look at the full text and then break it down:

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