The enemy has been vanquished, maybe

Yesterday, I did successfully kill my own Facebook account, and it is gone for good. If you were one of my Facebook friends, it was nothing personal — you’ve still got my email, yeah? Or can follow me on Twitter? Or hey, there’s this blog which you’ve obviously found. I’ve just found Facebook increasingly repugnant, and as they do more and more crap to harvest information and money, it’s utility to me has been outweighed by its ugliness and inconvenience.

If you also want to free yourself from the Facebook shackles, you can just follow these instructions like I did. I think they worked. They’re provided by Facebook itself, which leaves me suspicious that they lied and didn’t really delete all my information, and that they may have left a few hooks in place to reel me in when they want.

Reminder: I’m answering questions at 11am Central time today

Today I’m going to answer some patron/reader questions:

• Viruses replicate? Does that mean they mutate in infected people, too?
• Given the choice between a vaccine that stops spread but does nothing to reduce lethality and a vaccine that allows spread but eliminates lethality, what would be a better strategy for us?
• Hey, what about that old germ layer theory? It’s 205 years old, is mesoderm still a thing?

I’ll also try to answer any other questions that come up.

For a grand finale, today is the day I nuke my Facebook account. It won’t be too exciting: click, click, click, click, click, click (etc.), it’s gone. At least, it better not be exciting, I won’t be too happy if the Facebook police show up at my door.

What happens when you don’t let Marvel and Disney dictate your movie choices?

I coulda cried. I went to the movies last night, and it wasn’t another goddamned comic-book super-hero franchise movie. All summer long, that’s all they’ve shown, and I am so tired of that crap. Please, please, no more movies where all tension and drama is supposed to be resolved at the end with a great big punchy slog of a fight with lots of CGI!

The Green Knight is not that movie. Instead, we get all the complexity and ambiguity of the medieval story, with dangly bits of the tale that hang there and make you scratch your head and wonder what that was supposed to mean, and at the end you have to think about what it was all about. It also doesn’t slavishly follow the old poem, and the director adds new surprises. That’s what I want more of in a movie — creativity and originality and complexity. I may have to go again later this week just to soak in the lovely imagery and pick up on the nuances.

The only negative, something that diminished but did not ruin the movie for me, was the audience. For some reason, the theater had a small mob of boys in their early teens who came in to watch, presumably thinking this was another goddamned comic-book super-hero franchise movie. They were visibly bored, constantly getting up to go to the lobby, whispering to each other, noisily chomping on their snacks. So spread the word: this is not an action movie. There isn’t a lot of sustained violence. The sexy scenes are muted and strange. Stay home, kids, you won’t like this movie. And theaters: I know you’re desperate for ticket sales, but you’re doing no one any favors by letting the kiddies into a movie they won’t understand.

P.S. There won’t be a sequel to The Green Knight. It won’t launch a franchise with a new addition to the story every summer. The studios may be unhappy with that, but it’s a huge plus as far as I’m concerned.

Blast off!

To the moon, Alice, to the moon!

Look at that. No COVID-19 cases in my county in the summer, and then we all got cocky and slacked off. The Minnesota governor lifted the mask mandate, we had the Stevens County fair (I skipped it), the college students started trickling back, the schools opened, and whooo-eee, look at that spike! 28 cases on Thursday, 48 on Friday, and we’ll have to wait and see the thrilling progression on Monday. Will it continue to rise? Or will the roller coaster start going down? Nobody knows! We don’t even know where the locus of infection is, although rumor has it that in this case it’s due to spread in a local church congregation.

You may recall the conservative church domination of our school board means the public schools here aren’t allowed to insist on masking or vaccinations. How’s that going for you, Stevens County?

I’m pretty sure our local hospital couldn’t cope with 48 serious cases — I hope the majority of the current surge do not require hospitalization — so, to everyone else…do not get sick right now. Be safe. Don’t take any risks. Because if you do, you might find yourself at the bottom of any priorities.

Anti-vaxxers are murdering children

Who kills, again? Fuck every one of these assholes.

They are all aiding and abetting murder by taking up ICU space with diseases that were easily preventable. Look at this example.

What first struck Nathaniel Osborn when he and his wife took their son, Seth, to the emergency room this summer was how packed the waiting room was for a Wednesday at 1 p.m.

The Florida hospital’s emergency room was so crowded there weren’t enough chairs for the family to all sit as they waited. And waited.

Hours passed and 12-year-old Seth’s condition worsened, his body quivering from the pain shooting across his lower belly. Osborn said his wife asked why it was taking so long to be seen. A nurse rolled her eyes and muttered, “COVID.”

Seth was finally diagnosed with appendicitis more than six hours after arriving at Cleveland Clinic Martin Health North Hospital in late July. Around midnight, he was taken by ambulance to a sister hospital about a half-hour away that was better equipped to perform pediatric emergency surgery, his father said.

But by the time the doctor operated in the early morning hours, Seth’s appendix had burst — a potentially fatal complication.

I take that personally. When I was a child, I almost died of appendicitis — the memory of the agony of that event still burns in my memory. I only had to wait 5 minutes after my dad carried me at a run into the hospital (my projectile vomiting probably motivated the staff), but if that thing had ruptured, if modern medicine hadn’t made appendectomies safe and routine, I wouldn’t be here today. I still remember the pain and drifting in and out of consciousness on that short and probably too fast drive to the hospital, and I can’t imagine what it would have been like to wait 6 hours for treatment.

Fortunately, in this case there was a relatively happy outcome.

Seth Osborn, the 12-year-old whose appendix burst after a long wait, spent five days and four nights in the hospital as doctors pumped his body full of antibiotics to stave off infection from the rupture. The typical hospitalization for a routine appendectomy is about 24 hours.

The initial hospital bill for the stay came to more than $48,000, Nathaniel Osborn said. Although insurance paid for most of it, he said the family still borrowed against its house to cover the more than $5,000 in out-of-pocket costs so far.

You know, there’s this process called triage, in which you rank the needs of the patients. I would not object if hospitals made a patient’s refusal to obtain a cheap, safe, easily obtainable vaccination part of the triage process. When Seth Osborn shows up in the emergency room, they should have looked at the list of people taking up ICU beds with COVID-19 who had not been vaccinated, and bumped one of them out to make room for the kid. It’s a hard decision, but medical personnel sometimes have to make those painful choices.

Imagine if Seth had died because some selfish asshole had neglected to do the minimally responsible thing, all because some Republican had told him not to.

I quite enjoy a good Sullivan-bashing, but…

Please do tear into Andrew Sullivan. This review of one of his books in The Baffler does a fine job of highlighting his shallow and contradictory thinking. Everything Sullivan does is a mess, and I have no idea how he continues to be published.

Three decades and four hundred pages later he’s still at it. “Transgenderist ideology,” he writes in “The Nature of Sex,” “is indeed a threat to homosexuality, because it is a threat to biological sex as a concept.” “Native Americans had been the first to discover this continent, and, with it, their own sort of American dream—thousands of years before Europeans imagined theirs,” he declares in an essay about the coronavirus pandemic, as if he actually believes the interpolation of a not particularly clever anachronism creates an equivalence between Stone Age nomads wandering into an unpopulated land and the gun-toting, disease-carrying invaders who stole that land from them ten thousand years later. Writing about Dan-el Padilla Peralta, a Dominican-born professor of classics who “came to see the white supremacists’ cooptation of the classics as inextricable from the classics themselves,” Sullivan tells readers that Padilla “refuses to ‘praise the architects of that trauma as having done right by you at the end.’”

This was one of a dozen times my margin note read “Physician, heal thyself.” But there can be no healing when there’s no ability to recognize one’s plight in others, and Sullivan remains resolutely uninterested in any losses but his own. In his mea culpa on the Iraq War, the final note isn’t “the lives lost, the families destroyed, the bodies tortured, the civilization trashed.” That was “bad enough,” sure, “but what was done to America—and the meaning of America—was unforgivable. And for that I will not and should not forgive myself.” That’s right, folks: as many as a million people were killed in a pointless war that Andrew Sullivan hawked like a fishwife for no other reason than his need to punish as many Muslims as possible for 9/11, but what’s important to remember is that he feels really bad about it. When I read this, I was reminded of Edmund Wilson’s reaction to Brideshead Revisited: “The last scenes are extravagantly absurd, with an absurdity that would be worthy of Waugh at his best if it were not—painful to say—meant quite seriously.”

But, the author of the review, a gay man, also constantly undercuts himself by sexualizing Sullivan, and the review keeps bring me up short.

The subsequent twenty-five years have proven Sullivan a dependable shill for reactionary causes célèbres, whether it’s defending racism and sexism in the name of “science” (“It may be no accident that testosterone-soaked ghettos foster both high levels of crime and high levels of illegitimacy”), opposing hate-crime laws on the grounds that calling someone a “gook” or “n*gg*r” “allows natural tensions to express themselves incrementally,” or undercutting radical LGBTQ activism by insisting that only a $35 marriage license provides “a sense of normality, of human potential, of self-worth—something that my generation never had and that previous generations would have found unimaginable.”

But that was still a few years off. At the time I was less interested in a bangers-and-mash Roy Cohn than in whether or not Maer and Andrew had fucked. I hope they did. No, really, I do. At least then there’d be something about Sullivan I could take pleasure in, if only vicariously.

If a book reviewer were a heterosexual man who kept bringing up his fantasies about the sex life of the female author of the book, would we be fine with that? Sullivan’s sexuality is an OK topic to discuss since Sullivan brings it up all the time, but please, don’t make it about your sexual interests, reviewer. Do discuss Sullivan’s hypocrisy on the subject. I do like that he quotes Sullivan’s own words at length, which is the best way to expose a fool.

I suspect that the way Sullivan continues to be published is by being such an obnoxious contrarian that his fellow obnoxious contrarians think they’re being clever by putting his ideas out there — not because they’re good, but because they are so wildly wrong. That’s why Maher continues to bring him on as a guest, because he’s not favoring ideas, he just wants noise.

I’m convinced: death to Facebook

One of Facebook’s very own internal reports on the state of Facebook has seen the light of day, and it is revolting.

Its revelations include:

  • As of October 2019, around 15,000 Facebook pages with a majority US audience were being run out of Kosovo and Macedonia, known bad actors during the 2016 election.
  • Collectively, those troll-farm pages—which the report treats as a single page for comparison purposes—reached 140 million US users monthly and 360 million global users weekly. Walmart’s page reached the second-largest US audience at 100 million.
  • The troll farm pages also combined to form:
    • the largest Christian American page on Facebook, 20 times larger than the next largest—reaching 75 million US users monthly, 95% of whom had never followed any of the pages.
    • the largest African-American page on Facebook, three times larger than the next largest—reaching 30 million US users monthly, 85% of whom had never followed any of the pages.
    • the second-largest Native American page on Facebook, reaching 400,000 users monthly, 90% of whom had never followed any of the pages.
    • the fifth-largest women’s page on Facebook, reaching 60 million US users monthly, 90% of whom had never followed any of the pages.
  • Troll farms primarily affect the US but also target the UK, Australia, India, and Central and South American countries.
  • Facebook has conducted multiple studies confirming that content more likely to receive user engagement (likes, comments, and shares) is more likely of a type known to be bad. Still, the company has continued to rank content in user’s newsfeeds according to what will receive the highest engagement.
  • Facebook forbids pages from posting content merely copied and pasted from other parts of the platform but does not enforce the policy against known bad actors. This makes it easy for foreign actors who do not speak the local language to post entirely copied content and still reach a massive audience. At one point, as many as 40% of page views on US pages went to those featuring primarily unoriginal content or material of limited originality.
  • Troll farms previously made their way into Facebook’s Instant Articles and Ad Breaks partnership programs, which are designed to help news organizations and other publishers monetize their articles and videos. At one point, thanks to a lack of basic quality checks, as many as 60% of Instant Article reads were going to content that had been plagiarized from elsewhere. This made it easy for troll farms to mix in unnoticed, and even receive payments from Facebook.

Troll farms. It’s all troll farms, as far as you can see. This service I signed up for to keep in touch with family has instead become a service for Eastern European assholes to keep in touch with me.

Although, I guess things do change. If Facebook had stayed true to its original purpose, we’d be using it to track hot girls on campus. The legitimate social functions were just a passing phase in Facebook’s process of becoming whatever the hell it is now.

I’ll be posting my announcement that I’m leaving Facebook right now, and let it sit there for a few days…and then I’ll nuke my account during my Sunday livestream. That’ll be fun.