Are Sinema and Manchin the Democratic party’s past or its future?

Money plays an obscenely large role in American politics. It is not unusual for politicians with a reforming agenda to get elected to Congress and then get seduced by the big money interests that lobby heavily in Washington. Kyrsten Sinema, the Democratic senator from Arizona, perhaps holds the record for the speed with which she abandoned the policies that appealed to the people who elected her and became a tool of the plutocrats and corporations. She was first elected to the House of Representatives in 2012 as a progressive and then was elected to the senate in 2018 and it was hoped that she would help wrest control of that reactionary body from the Republicans. But it has become increasingly clear during the recent discussions on the infrastructure bills that she has abandoned any progressive agenda that she might have once had. I recounted her political transformation back in March.
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The murky ancestry of John James Audubon

I know nothing about birds but was of course aware of the name John James Audubon who became famous for his books containing detailed and lavish color paintings of the birds of America. His name has been adopted by various ornithological societies and one hears references to his name all the time. For some reason, I had thought that he was Black and was thus surprised when I read this news item that the Audubon Naturalist Society is dropping the name because of Audubon’s unsavory history and racist attitudes that, among other things, involved slave trading. They are making this move as part of a nationwide trend of not honoring people who have been guilty of deplorable acts.
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The most vaccinated region in the US is … Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico has become the most vaccinated region in the US and why that may be so is interesting.

Puerto Rico has fully vaccinated just over 73% of its 3.3 million residents, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That’s more than 2.3 million people.

On the mainland, Vermont leads with 70.8% of the population fully vaccinated, followed by Connecticut at 70.2% and Maine at 70%, according to the CDC, which added that just over 57% of the total US population was fully vaccinated as of Friday.

Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, wrote on Twitter that Puerto Rico’s “fabulous” vaccination efforts have “gotten way too little attention.”
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One of the best arguments for getting vaccinated and wearing masks

And it comes from Fox News, of all places, and was made by host Neil Cavuto during an interview with Howard Kurtz. Cavuto has multiple sclerosis, heart disease, and cancer and is thus severely immunocompromised. He was vaccinated and contracted covid-19 and has recovered. He feels that being vaccinated was what enabled him to survive the breakthrough infection.


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On heroes with clay feet

Over at Impossible Me Abbeycadabra had an interesting post in which she wrote about author Neil Gaiman with whom she shares a lot of literary interests, so much so that she considers him a ‘hero’. She is well aware of the danger of having heroes, given that so many public figures whom one once liked or admired have later revealed themselves to have quite obnoxious views on some major issues (the number of such people is too large and the names too well-known to be worth listing), so she is naturally relieved that so far he has not had any unflattering things revealed about him. But she shares the same feeling of unease that all of us have that some figure we look up to might have some dark secret revealed.
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Police and firefighters opposing vaccinations

On The Daily Show Trevor Noah comments on the odd fact that there seems to be high levels of resistance to getting the covid-19 vaccine among police and firefighters. The vaccine mandates issued by many jurisdictions that require all government employees to be vaccinated has resulted in many of them either leaving or challenging the mandates in court. Given that they pride themselves on risking their lives for the sake of others, this fear of taking a life-saving vaccine is puzzling. It may be that it is a higher level of general anti-vaccine and other right-wing ideology within these groups that is driving the resistance.

Popperians and Marxists

One of the things I noticed is that while I write and give talks lot about the philosophy of science, I get most pushback when I criticize Popper’s falsifiability idea (such as in my Scientific American article The Idea that a Scientific Theory can be ‘Falsified’ Is a Myth: It’s time we abandoned it) than any other thing I say. What is interesting is that I get challenged by both scientists and intelligent design creationists, who are usually on opposite sides of discussions about the nature of science. For example, at Why Evolution Is True, evolutionary biologist Jerry Coyne (and his commenters) disagreed with my article. And over at Evolution News intelligent design creationist David Klinghoffer also disagreed with me.
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The religious exemption card is getting harder to play

In the US, claiming that some action is based on their religious faith tends to give people wide latitude. So it is not surprising that people reach for it even in situations where it is hard to discern any religious basis. We see this now as states and companies are issuing vaccine mandates requiring that their employees get vaccinated or conform to various kinds of other requirements such as regular testing or get fired.

But people who are trying to use religious exemptions to get out of vaccine mandates are not finding it as much of an easy sell as they might have expected. We saw how basketball player Andrew Wiggins had his request for such an exemption denied and now the head football coach along with four of his coaching staff of Washington State University were fired for not getting vaccinated as required for all state employees.
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Ted Cruz told to butt out by Australian political leader

The chief minister of Australia’s Northern Territory did not take kindly to Ted Cruz criticizing his vaccine mandate, and told him to buzz off.

The scientific consensus on climate change is overwhelmingly strong

A new study finds that the scientific consensus that humans are altering the climate has passed the 99.9% level.

The degree of scientific certainty about the impact of greenhouse gases is now similar to the level of agreement on evolution and plate tectonics, the authors say, based on a survey of nearly 90,000 climate-related studies. This means there is practically no doubt among experts that burning fossil fuels, such as oil, gas, coal, peat and trees, is heating the planet and causing more extreme weather.

One has to parse statistics like this carefully to see exactly what has been measured.

The latest survey of peer-reviewed literature published from 2012 to November 2020 was conducted in two stages. First, the researchers examined a random sample of 3,000 studies, in which they found only found four papers that were sceptical that the climate crisis was caused by humans. Second, they searched the full database of 88,125 studies for keywords linked to climate scepticism such as “natural cycles” and “cosmic rays”, which yielded 28 papers, all published in minor journals.

“It is really case closed. There is nobody of significance in the scientific community who doubts human-caused climate change,” said the lead author, Mark Lynas, a visiting fellow at Cornell University.

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