« notes from the culture wars, chapter the millionth: in which the League of Women Voters throws some shade | Main | good day, bad day »

May 25, 2021

Comments

Your tax dollars at work.

"PRELIMINARY STATEMENT
1. Under the supervision of Constable Alan Rosenat the Harris County Constable’s Office, Precinct One, young female deputies were handpicked for “undercover operations” under the guise of legitimate police work were molested and traumatized by their intoxicated male commanding officers for their own sexual gratification. What began as an idea for “bachelor party” prostitution stings soon grew into a booze-fueled playground for sexual exploitation in which young, untrained deputies were subject to disgusting abuse. Both Constable Rosen and the Harris County District Attorney’s Office have known about this abuse for months, but they refused to take any action and rebuffed anyone who complained. Constable Alan Rosen attended at least one of these ‘parties’ personally. Three of the young deputies spoke up about their abuse to their supervisors at the Constable’s Office, including Constable Rosen’s chief of staff, but they were ridiculed by their commanders, retaliated against by their abusers, and quietly reassigned to less prestigious duties."

Liz Gomez, et al. v Harris County, Texas, et al.

Your tax dollars at work.

Odd, I didn't get the impression that the female deputies were getting paid for their "service" here. Which doesn't make the abuse any less bad, but....

an Israeli spacecraft loaded up with some hibernating tardigrades recently crashed into the moon. oopsie!! scientists wondered if they little critters might still be alive. would they survive the crash?

I'd really like to see someone send a craft to the moon to check for actual survivors. Be a great verification test for our procedures for looking for evidence of life on other worlds, too.

sounds like Harris County needs a new constable.

we got one like that here in Boston, too. although he's probably on his way out, and quite likely to jail.

damned tax dollars!! if it weren't for them, we'd all be angels.

I'd really like to see someone send a craft to the moon to check for actual survivors.

I will admit that the idea of a moon overrun by bands of free-roaming tardigrades is strangely appealing.

I'd really like to see someone send a craft to the moon to check for actual survivors.

as a first test, take some to IIS, put them in a cup, open the door and let them sit on the front porch for a couple of days.

ISS would work too. they'd probably crash IIS.

Odd, I didn't get the impression that the female deputies were getting paid for their "service" here.

But they were using federal funds for human trafficking stings turned sex parties.

they were using federal funds for human trafficking stings turned sex parties.

I suppose it says something that my instant reaction (without even checking) was: Well, it was the Trump administration, so what else would you expect?

From my point of view, even if the sting operations were completely above board, they are still an egregious misuse of tax money.

Liz Gomez, et al. v Harris County, Texas, et al.

Interesting. This is in Houston, for those of you who aren't current on TX geography. The lead plaintiff lawyer is a good friend and former law partner of mine. His son, Cordt, is his law partner. I refer cases to both them regularly. They both know their way around the block. This will be interesting. It is not Jamie Lee Jones redux, I am confident of that.

This will be interesting. It is not Jamie Lee Jones redux, I am confident of that.

Hoping you mean Jamie Leigh Jones and her case against KBR/Haliburton, McKinney. If so, I hope your confidence is justified (given your knowledge of the plaintiff lawyers, my hopes are high).

Not sure why these two are what came to mind.

"That Man is the product of causes which had no prevision of the end they were achieving; that this origin, his growth, his hopes and fears, his loves and his beliefs, are but the outcome of accidental collocations of atoms; that no fire, no heroism, no intensity of thought and feeling, can preserve an individual life beyond the grave; that all the labours of the ages, all the devotion, all the inspiration, all the noonday brightness of human genius, are destined to extinction in the vast death of the solar system, and that the whole temple of Man's achievement must inevitably be buried beneath the debris of a universe in ruins - all these things, if not quite beyond dispute, are yet so nearly certain, that no philosophy which rejects them can hope to stand. Only within the scaffolding of these truths, only on the firm foundation of unyielding despair, can the soul's salvation henceforth be safely built."
Bertrand Russell

(Same goes for you, tardigrade!)

"Harry Caray: Yes! Hey! Now, Ken, we all know that the moon is not made of green cheese.

Dr. Ken Waller: Yes! That’s true, Harry.

Harry Caray: But what if it were made of barbecue spare ribs? Would you eat it then?

Dr. Ken Waller: What?

Harry Caray: I know I would. Heck, I’d have seconds. Then polish it off with a tall cool Budweiser. I would do it.

Dr. Ken Waller: Yeah?

Harry Caray: Would you?

Dr. Ken Waller: I’m confused.

Harry Caray: It’s a simple question. Would you eat the moon if it were made of ribs?

Dr. Ken Waller: I don’t know how to answer that.

Harry Caray: It’s not rocket science. Just say yes and we'll move on.

Dr. Ken Waller: Yes!

Harry Caray: Hey! How 'bout this mad cow disease?"

SNL, featuring Will Ferrell and Jeff Goldblum

Okay, so which UC campus has a tardigrade as a mascot? Because they're all *required* to have some variety of "bear" as a mascot, right?

Which are the "drop bears" also, too?

Because they're all *required* to have some variety of "bear" as a mascot, right?"

Actually, no. For example, the UC Santa Cruz mascot is . . . wait for it . . . the Banana Slug. (My recollection is that the UCSC students were making a statement about how seriously they took the whole mascot thing.)

Another limit reached.

Asahi daily, an official Tokyo Olympics partner, calls for cancellation of Games
https://m.koreatimes.co.kr/pages/article.asp?newsIdx=309418

You have to wonder what the folks in Japan, both government officials and the members of the Olympic Committee, are thinking. Are the benefits of hosting the Olympics really so enormous as to warrant going forward? Or is it entirely about the egos of those involved?

Of course, the International Olympic Committee ought to have cancelled, on its own authority, long since.

Stanford republicans, Peter Thiel, Tom Cotton and the bullshit hypocrisy of their cancel culture snowflaking:

https://www.democracynow.org/2021/5/25/journalist_emily_wilder_ap_firing

@ wj:

UC Irvine's mascot is not really much of a bear either. An anteater, in fact. Back in the days when this was new, it was reported that their war cry was ZOT! ZOT! (From the comic strip BC which was actually funny in those long-gone days)

anteaters are also known as "ant bears", IIRC.

Yeah, banana slugs. Isn't that just an "unofficial" mascot, though? I applaud the mockery of the "mascot must be a bear" standard, but think it's better (like UCI) when there is some non-ursus-related program activity that still has "bear" in it.

If there was a UC campus that was primarily an engineering school, they should have "ball bearings" as their mascot. Works for *-ball games!

You have to wonder what the folks in Japan, both government officials and the members of the Olympic Committee, are thinking. Are the benefits of hosting the Olympics really so enormous as to warrant going forward? Or is it entirely about the egos of those involved?

I don't have any 'inside' information, but some observations. Because the IOC basically holds all the cards, there is little that Japan can do

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-57097853

Now, Japan could have pressured the IOC by pointing out how serious the situation was, but that would undercut their claims that everything was under control, even though (imo) they just got lucky, cultural quirks helped slow the spread without the kind of top down dictated measures that other East Asian countries did (this is exacerbated by the fact that Japan is much more willing to imitate the West/the US than to look to Asia, thanks for nothing Yukichi Fukuzawa!)

A lot of people here have seized on a recent poll that said that 80% of the Japanese public was either for cancelling or postponing the games. This is a bit misleading, because it gives the appearance of a binary choice, but actually, the postpone option was a way of splitting the difference, so it's not really clear what public opinion actually is. And regardless what it is, the Japanese public is remarkably gormless when it comes to holding the government to account for, well, anything. But it does seem like a reckoning is coming, the party in power (the LDP) has essentially held power since 1955, except for a brief interregnum in 1993.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1955_System

However, I don't think anyone has ever lost money betting that the Japanese public will fail to make any kind of protest, and I'm afraid I don't see the odds are good of it happening, even for this mess of an Olympic Games.

Yeah, banana slugs. Isn't that just an "unofficial" mascot, though?

From the UC Santa Cruz website (https://www.ucsc.edu/about/mascot.html ) regarding Sammy the Slug:
"In June 2011, Sammy celebrated 25 years as the official mascot of UC Santa Cruz."
Don't get much more official than that.

And isn't it amazing the obscure bits of knowledge we get into here?

Meanwhile, at UCI...

Zot Zot Zot

Zot! Zot! Zot! \m/

Apropos of nothing; and everything: https://xkcd.com/2468/

UCB and UCLA have bears, but it's not just banana slug and anteater; UCSD has the "Triton" which is not at all bear-natured, and it looks like UC Davis has a horse?

(Triton athlete 1991-94, back when it was Division 3)

It's time once again for...The Return of the Repressed. Boston Review article by David Theo Goldberg about the right wing attacks on Critical Race Theory (which seems, in this post-Gorge Floyd era, to have replaced Cultural Marxism as the official leftist specter haunting America).

http://bostonreview.net/race-politics/david-theo-goldberg-war-critical-race-theory

Worth a quick read both for its quick history of Critical Race Theory (and Critical Race Studies), and to see the shade he throws towards Robin DiAngelo.

From the article nous links: Kendi’s popularizing of some work on race shares little with DiAngelo’s reductive account of what she calls “white fragility.”

Snarky of me, but I'm glad to see I'm not the only person on earth who doesn't care much for DiAngelo.

It's probably just me, but whenever I see "critical race theory", I think it needs some phase diagrams.

Then maybe some path integrals also, too.

It's probably just me, but whenever I see "critical race theory", I think it needs some phase diagrams.... Then maybe some path integrals also, too.

I admit, my immediate response is to try to wedge such sentences into something pertaining to race conditions in real-time software. How did English end up with "race" meaning both (a) skin coloration or (b) a competition about which of two entities will complete a task first?

BLM gives me a similar problem. I worked too many years for a western state legislature, where BLM have been the bad guys for most of the last 75 years.

Acronyms have this ability to slip by faculties of critical thinking. Tons of jokes about military acronyms but the reliance on them is to create a group think.

My own field, EFL, loves acronyms, in part because it doesn't feel it is science-y enough.

"Who has more TLAs, IBM or DOD?"

TLA = Three Letter Acronym

My own field, EFL, loves acronyms, in part because it doesn't feel it is science-y enough.

I was originally a mathematician, and acronyms are relatively rare. Some of that is the tendency to say, "G is an Abelian group" and then assume that everyone reading will remember what G is three pages later, and all the properties that go with that.

Capacity constraints are forcing my field to move towards TLA/Es.

TLA/E = Three Letter Acronym / Extended, i.e. a 4 letter acronym.

Nobody can beat Congress.

"With the passage of the REINS Act earlier today, the House of Representatives got to talk about a piece of legislation that is referred to by a dumb acronym. Congress loves this. Here are the 240 times it has created such bills this year alone."
All the Silly Legislative Acronyms Congress Came Up with This Year: August 2, 2013


"Ten of the worst (or possibly greatest) congressional backronyms—intentional acronyms created by attention-seeking lawmakers, or more likely, their poor staffers:"
10 of the Worst Congressional Acronyms Ever: August 25, 2014


"WASHINGTON — Rep. Mike Honda (D-Calif.) on Wednesday introduced the Accountability and Congressional Responsibility On Naming Your Motions (ACRONYM) Act — legislation that would prohibit the addition of words to the title of a bill just to create an acronym."
Congressman Introduces ACRONYM Act To Clean Up Bill Names: Apr 01, 2015


"On Friday, in the grand tradition of politicians seeking to capitalize on a cultural moment, Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) introduced a bill aimed at reducing the number of "trophy killings" of African wildlife. This, of course, was in response to last week's news that a Minnesota dentist had killed a lion in Zimbabwe after it was lured out of its habitat -- the killing that launched a million think pieces.

Menendez cobbled together an apt acronym for his measure. The bill is titled, "Conserving Ecosystems by Ceasing the Importation of Large Animal Trophies Act." Or, the CECIL Act.

Get it? Of course, you get it. (Oh, you actually don't? It was the name of the lion. And welcome back to Earth.)
...
Update: The office of Rep. John Yarmuth (D-Ky.) points out that we missed one of his bills: The Keeping Our Campaigns Honest Act, or KOCH Act.

We regret the omission, because it was good, and award it a Top 25 ranking after the fact."
364 bills that have been introduced in Congress, ranked by acronym quality: August 3, 2015


Congressional acronym abuse, 1973-2013: An overly in-depth analysis of congressional acronym usage in bill names.

If the worst thing about the Congress was stupid/vapid acronyms in naming bills, the nation would be in far better shape than it actually is.

Capacity constraints are forcing my field to move towards TLA/Es.

Many years ago I remember reading a humorous piece about a hypothetical acronym gap between the US and the Soviet Union. The argument went that having a Cyrillic alphabet of 33 letters for Russian, the bad guys had many more possibilities for three-letter acronyms.

Michael Cain: If (as I remember it) you were the person who recommended the Alex Verus books to me, I just wanted to say thanks, I am three in and finding them rather enjoyable.

Good link, nous. I wonder if reading that piece would have any effect on the outlook of someone like our friend McKinney.

Open thread, so... It looks like hometown fans of the Denver Nuggets will be unable to legally view on TV two of the Nuggets' first five playoff games this year, because a couple of billionaires are in a pissing contest over amounts of money that don't matter to either of them. This was the second regular season that Denver viewers have not had local channel coverage of the team. This year has been particularly frustrating as Nikola Jokic has had a dominating season that will almost certainly get him the MVP award.

In the seemingly-forever "the rules get called differently in the playoffs" NBA saga, the league office conceded that there were between four and eight fouls on the Joker that should have been called but weren't in the first game. Rumors are that the NBA league office has communicated with the officiating crews that Jokic should be treated like other superstars in the playoffs, ie, defenders don't get to touch him when he's got the ball, and barely touch him when he doesn't.

Michael, didn't realize you were a basketball fan. That disjunction between the playoffs and the regular season, I'd say is because of the structure of having essentially two seasons, because the regular season eliminates so few teams and you have so much more viewership focussed on the playoffs. Not sure if it is inevitable, but it feels like the structure affects that. You contrast that with baseball in the good old days with no notion of wild cards. This isn't to say that sports should be like one or the other, just that they get affected by a lot of things off the ball.

If you didn't see this, this Campos post at LGM also has some food for thought on basketball and systems

https://www.lawyersgunsmoneyblog.com/2021/05/three-point-shooting-in-the-nba-and-the-meritocracy

Not for nothing but there have been a few things lately where "debunked conspiracy theories" don't seem to be so debunked.

https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/politics/tom-cotton-once-again-makes-media-look-foolish/ar-AAKx0Jy

https://www.slowboring.com/p/the-medias-lab-leak-fiasco

Choi’s piece is one of those things that happens on the internet when the story is totally accurate but also doing a lot of sensationalization for clicks. What Cotton said at the hearing is that the Chinese government’s official story about the seafood market was wrong, which was something that was at the time also being floated in Vox and The New York Times and Science and the Lancet. Where Cotton differed from the consensus is that he attributed this to malice, which is not what the scientific articles said (but also isn’t a scientific question) and was not the NYT’s preferred interpretation of events.

But that was the actual parameter of the debate; Fisher thought this illustrated a point about the abstract functioning of systems while Cotton thought it illustrated a point about the malign intent of a foreign adversary. Belluz, a science journalist rather than a foreign policy writer, entertained both interpretations as consistent with the facts. And it seemed like a fairly classic foreign policy sort of argument. Throughout history, hawks see malice and threat behind everything that happens, while more dovish people tend to see misunderstanding and confusion. You can imagine the Tom Cotton of 1914 talking somewhere in Vienna about the Serbian government’s obvious complicity in the assassination of Franz Ferdinand while the Max Fisher of the time says the difficulty controlling the Black Hand and its operations reveals the fundamental weakness of the Serbian state.

This is why I ask folks here to post where they find stuff. I realize the sensationalistic tendencies of stuff on the web are not going to be swayed by this tiny corner of the internet, but it would be nice to have a bit of a quiet space to talk these things out a bit.

I'm not sure that's the quote I would take from it, but a very good link lj. I suspect the "telephone" aspect of Twitter is a fairly common occurrence, plus the discussion toward the end on how little value there is in defending a minority position on Twitter and the negative effects of that was really interesting.

Thanks Marty, is was tough to choose one quote, I thought the piece was one of those 'read the whole things'.

I don't know precisely what Cotton has said, but if one wants to laud Cotton for his prescience, one also has to note how obsequious he was to Trump in regards to the travel ban and failing to criticize him in relation to what he was arguing (as the article cites, Trump expressed his confidence in China, even after he kneecapped US participation in WHO
https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-trump-who-idUSKBN2352YJ ), but I pull this up here not to score points, just to say that there is a lot in the article to consider. Very few people come out looking too good.

The media needs to up their game in who they pick to make them look foolish...

From The Hill article on Tom Cotton’s prescience:

In June 2020, he wrote an op-ed for the New York Times advocating the deployment of the U.S. military to American cities to help control violent protests. Pretty prophetic considering what we witnessed during that horrific riot at the Capitol on Jan. 6.

Prophetic Tom Cotton voted against a congressional inquiry into the Jan 6 riot.

Does anyone here think Cotton’s advocacy of the Wuhan Lab claims is motivated by a simple desire to discover the truth?

So, my point wasn't about Tom Cotton. My point was that media, mainstream and otherwise, has decided that pretty much any minority view can be tagged "debunked" and ridiculed.

It is a real risk that these "debunked" notions that turn out to be not so debunked only allow the crazies to say I told you so.

There are lots of things that have been debunked but getting people to bite it just gets harder.

My least favorite phrase over the last year has been "claimed, without evidence" which in most political contexts goes without saying. And in other contexts is more the norm than the exception. It was just lazy journalism meant to dismiss the claim, also without evidence.

Open thread, so: Janie, I know you are interested in most things GBS, so I thought you might want to look at this if you haven't already seen it.

https://www.theguardian.com/culture/2021/may/29/his-fair-lady-how-george-bernard-shaws-wife-played-a-vital-role-in-his-masterworks

My point was that media, mainstream and otherwise, has decided that pretty much any minority view can be tagged "debunked" and ridiculed.

“Media” does not speak with one voice. Express any view whatsoever, and somebody somewhere will tag it “debunked” and will ridicule it.

And FWIW a headline stating “Tom Cotton makes the media seem foolish” seems like a pretty good example of a point of view being “debunked and ridiculed”.

Everyone should take public statements, by anyone about anything, with a grain of salt. Everyone should consider who is speaking, and what the interests of the speaker are relative to the topic under consideration. Everyone should also consider the qualifications of whoever is speaking to hold and render an opinion on the topic being discussed.

Regarding the whole Wuhan Lab thing, I have no idea what the actual source of the virus is, nor do I have the technical chops to know which of the various theories are more likely to be true. Nor does it seem particularly relevant to me in any practical way whether it came from a bat or a pangolin or if it escaped from a lab. It is, perhaps, alarming that states might sponsor labs whose purpose is designing tools of mass murder, but it’s surely not news.

What is obvious to me is that people want to use the various theories about where it came from to score points over other people who they consider to be their opponents, and who they consider to be their opponents for reasons completely unrelated to the epidemiological sources of COVID.

So I tune it out. There is no particular need for me to even have an opinion about it, I don’t have the skill set to have an informed opinion about it, so I don’t have an opinion about it.

Saves me a lot of time.

Maybe it came from a lab, maybe it didn’t. In either case, Cotton is not a virologist so he’s just parroting sh*t he heard somewhere for purposes that have nothing to do with dealing with the virus. Maybe he’s a prophet without honor in his own country, or maybe he’s just another blind squirrel who found a nut. Or maybe he’s just another full of sh*t politician looking for a way to wind people up. And The Hill touting him as a prescient genius is just another example of the thing you seem to find objectionable.

And sometimes the “crazies” are just f***ing crazy. Nothing you or I are gonna do to change that, so I don’t waste my time worrying about what they are going to think or do.

FWIW, there actually are reliable, responsible sources of information. Reuters is pretty good, Christian Science Monitor. The AP is not bad. Folks who listen to partisan voices generally do so because they say what those folks want to hear. It’s a business model.

Crazies are gonna be crazy. I mostly just try to avoid them.

Sometimes people do claim things with evidence, though the evidence may fall short of proving the claim. Just making sh*t up, even if the sh*t is possible, has been too common at the highest levels of government for several years now. The standards for making public claims from positions of authority are at or near a local minimum.

It’s possible to simply make no claim one way or the other if there’s no particular reason to think a specific possibility is particularly likely. You don’t even have to make suggestive speculations of the form “maybe this happened; I don’t know, but some people think so.”

It’s possible to be careful about what you say publicly from a position of trust and power. It’s also possible to say whatever you think is in your narrow political interests without regard to any sort of factual basis. They are not the same and shouldn’t be treated the same.

All of that is true, hsh. None of it changes the media shortcomings.

The current media business model seems to be that it's better to be first than to be right.

The media tells us that the 2020 election was a fraud, and that Donald Trump is really the POTUS.

The media tells us that D’s operate a global child prostitution ring out of a pizzeria.

There is no “media” that speaks with one voice. About anything.

How are “the media’s” shortcomings different from any other institutions?

The media tells us that the 2020 election was a fraud, and that Donald Trump is really the POTUS.

The media tells us that D’s operate a global child prostitution ring out of a pizzeria.

There is no “media” that speaks with one voice. About anything.

How are “the media’s” shortcomings different from any other institutions?

When a politician makes poorly evidenced claims which suits their political viewpoint, occasionally they'll be right. This is not an argument for paying more heed to poorly evidenced claims. But it does mean that not everything a Trumpist says is necessarily wrong.

In the case of the origins of Covid-19 however, it seemed to me, fairly early on (I said so on here) that the claims from virologists that Covid-19 could not plausibly have come from the Wuhan lab were themselves based on distinctly shaky evidence. "They would say that, wouldn;t they", I thought.

COVID originated from Wuhan lab - could be. Evidence, either way, does not yet appear to be dispositive. Could have been sloppy or inadequate lab procedures that enabled an "escape". Who knows?

COVID was "created" in Wuhan lab - nope. No evidence for this as far as I am aware.

Trump Administration response to the pandemic was a ham handed politically driven fucking disaster. YEP.

Reading LJ’s Yglesias article, it seems like there have been many media sources presenting the idea that the virus originated in the Wuhan BSL lab.

Some sources, e.g. the NYT, presented both points of view at various times.

Some sources unfairly conflated Cotton’s actual statements with those of others, which actually were nutty conspiracy theories.

So I’m not seeing a media conspiracy to suppress minority points of view. I’m seeing a mixture of points of view, presented in the absence of perfect information. Some unfairness to Cotton, specifically, which is balanced by his own belligerence and commie-baiting.

Cotton, specifically, appears to see not just malfeasance, but malice, in the idea that the virus began in the lab. Which is not only a point of view for which there is no evidence, it’s profoundly counterintuitive. It strikes me that Cotton’s contribution to the discussion is more about stirring up animus toward China, and less about safeguarding the public health.

People - including the crazies of the world - are not the passive victims of what “the media” feeds them. Everybody makes choices about what they read and listen to, and everyone makes choices about what they accept as true. To the degree that people embrace nonsense, much of the responsibility for that belongs to them.

And the fact that the media business model is all about being first to market is nothing new.

The current media business model seems to be that it's better to be first than to be right.

Please tell the peanut gallery here when it was different. Thank you.

my attitude is: prove it was a leak, or STFU.

none of this trial-by-conjecture, "They’re in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad and east, west, south and north somewhat" bullshit.

otherwise, no, your idiot god-king is still an idiot and you're a dumb-ass cultist simp who should be mocked rather than consulted for reasons of forensic epidemiology.

ahem

Michael, didn't realize you were a basketball fan.

I read the Campos piece and agreed with both of his major points: the league had to do something to turn around what the Detroit Bad Boys had done to style of play, and it took the coaching staffs a long time to adjust to the 3-point line. I follow the Nuggets, but wouldn't say that I'm a fan overall. It's particularly frustrating this year, with so few televised games, since Denver is benefiting from the game opening up again. In that previous era, Jokic would be an NBA bust. With the floor opened up, he's a passing wizard who can also shoot from outside (and if given MVP treatment, is more than adequate in the paint).

cleek: *those* people should be given exactly as much respect as their advocacy of hydroxychloroquine has earned them.

What is obvious to me is that people want to use the various theories about where it came from to score points over other people who they consider to be their opponents, and who they consider to be their opponents for reasons completely unrelated to the epidemiological sources of COVID.

So I tune it out. There is no particular need for me to even have an opinion about it, I don’t have the skill set to have an informed opinion about it, so I don’t have an opinion about it.

I realise that, without stopping to think about it, this has been exactly the reason I have paid almost no attention to the various theories about where the virus originated. If there is ever a definitive answer, it might help to, for example in the case of a lab escape, tighten up lab procedures. Or in the case of mutation from wildlife, tighten up regulation of wild food markets. If either of these remedial attempts is even feasible. But apart from this, the people who are actually qualified to investigate the cause should just be allowed to get on with it, and the grandstanding idiot pols and pundits should just be ignored.

Or, as Snarki so wisely says: *those* people should be given exactly as much respect as their advocacy of hydroxychloroquine has earned them.

many media sources presenting the idea that the virus originated in the Wuhan BSL lab.

"many media source" as cited by Yglesias include Lancet, NYT, Science magazine, Vox, Joe Biden (!) in USA Today, Boston Magazine, New York Magazine.

Not cited in the article, but cited in links from the article are the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, Medium, and National Review.

The folks piling on Cotton were the NYT (again), the WaPo, and Choi in Business Insider.

What I'm pushing back on here is the idea that there is a "mainstream media" that somehow colludes to suppress minority opinions. Or even one that speaks with one voice about anything at all.

As far as Twitter goes, it's not a news source. It's a social media platform. Anybody can say any random thing they like on Twitter, without the normal journalistic discipline of fact-checking or even bearing any responsibility at all for anything you say. It's people shooting the breeze. Same with blogs.

Don't get your news from Twitter.

The term "mainstream media" is basically a right-wing catch-all for any news organ whose political stance they don't like. Fox News is never lumped into "mainstream media", even though they dominate cable news as a medium. The WSJ somehow doesn't get tagged as "mainstream media", even though they have millions of daily readers and have a op-ed page that is basically a megaphone for the interests of finance capital and the business community.

There are relatively reliable sources of information. There are people writing and speaking in public who can address issues like the sources of COVID with some degree of authority. You might have to seek them out, they might not be the voices blaring away at you on the TV sets at they gym or hospital waiting room or airport terminal. But they are there. You may have to make a tiny effort, and apply a rudimentary level of critical thought to what comes at you through the puke funnel, but it's do-able.

People are responsible for what they consume, and for who and what they believe. Good information is available, and in the absence of good information you can always choose to simply not have an opinion.

I'm entirely ambivalent on the whole media squabble. There are things that matter in the search for where and when the virus originated, but the battle over that narrative really isn't concerned with the substantive things (lab safety protocols, virology ethics, scientific reporting standards, the actual science of how the virus took on its highly infectious form) at all.

Nope. All of that takes a back seat to the Culture Wars.

What can actually be done to change the nature of the 24-hour-news-cycle (especially when it is already playing catch-up with the constantly changing tides of social media bullshit)? It's all Gish Gallop in the name of Our Side, and the media has no power to either break that cycle or to ignore it. Every time they try to slow down the gallop they get attacked for it.

Like right now. That's what this is.

Journalism is only as good as its audience forces it to be. It's stuck inside the media ecology just as much as the rest of us are.

So what can be done to change this that isn't a limitation on freedom of speech and information? Concrete suggestions?

I've supported EFF and the ACLU for over a decade. I've been following the media studies and political science research on the subject since around 2005. I'm not seeing much to be done other than persuading people to slow their roll and be willing to trust the experts and follow shifts in best practices while we wait for better answers.

And I am far from convinced that such an approach is at all likely to work.

What I'm pushing back on here is the idea that there is a "mainstream media" that somehow colludes to suppress minority opinions

forget it. it's conservative dogma.

If the Fox News Channel is not part of the "mainstream media" I'd like to know WTF "mainstream" means.

Here in America, if you have a cable TV subscription, you're almost certainly paying money to the FNC whether you watch it or not, because of "bundling". I bet there isn't a single cable TV "package" on offer anywhere in the country which includes any sort of news channel but does NOT include Fox News. I call that pretty goddam mainstream.

--TP

Fox can't be mainstream because their entire business model depends on them being the alternative to the mainstream. they have to be outsiders or else they can't preach their litany of suppression and victim-hood at the hands of the evil oppressive liberal elites.

it's a cult.

In the case of the origins of Covid-19 however, it seemed to me, fairly early on (I said so on here) that the claims from virologists that Covid-19 could not plausibly have come from the Wuhan lab were themselves based on distinctly shaky evidence. "They would say that, wouldn;t they", I thought.

I'm not sure who you're talking about, exactly, or what they said, but I would say it's the opposite. Any hypothesis that the virus came from a lab, whether accidentally or intentionally, is on extremely shaky ground and always has been.

The null hypothesis here, meaning the only reasonable position to take unless overwhelmingly convincing evidence to the contrary emerges at some point -- and it certainly hasn't to-date -- is that this virus simply spilled over from an animal reservoir. The same way viruses have entered the human population literally thousands (or millions) of times previously, and is becoming, if anything, more likely as human populations increase and we encroach on more wild areas.

Or you could believe that for the first time in recorded history, a lab accident somehow went unnoticed, uncontained, and allowed a virus to gain sufficient foothold in the general population.

Nevermind that no evidence for this virus ever having been in a lab exists. That the virus, the place it was collected from, its genetic sequences, etc., somehow went completely unpublished, unrecorded and un-noted by the academic institution it's supposed to have leaked from, and all the workers there. (Nevermind that there's no record of any of those workers being sick.)

Nevermind that most of the proponents of this claim invariably employ a weak motte and bailey argumentation strategy. Vacillating between the unlikely, unevidenced, but at least hypothetically plausible hypothesis of an accidental leak of a wild sample -- and a completely discredited and contrary to evidence conspiracy hypothesis that the Wuhan lab is a secret biological warfare laboratory.

Please tell the peanut gallery here when it was different. Thank you.

The time horizon is very much shorter and 24/7.

Check your current messaging. Fox News fell to the forces of the MSM during The Steal and the Battle of Arizona. Only Hannity and Carlson remain loyal to the Forces of Truth. All hail Newsmax and OAN.

As far as Twitter goes, it's not a news source.

But more than a few journalists seem to watch it like hawks watching for breaking news. And they sometimes run with whatever appears without checking its validity first.

Part of the trend towards metacommentary in the media. Reporting news gets one accused of bias, especially if there is any whiff of judgment involved in the analysis of the information. Much safer just to find out what people are saying and what is trending and report that.

It's also a lot easier and faster and it relies on the basic drama of the sporting contest or soap opera to keep readers engaged.

If the Fox News Channel is not part of the "mainstream media" I'd like to know WTF "mainstream" means.

"mainstream media" == "any media outlet which publishes stuff that I disagree with"

It's part of a worldview which requires members to see themselves as part of an embattled minority. After all, if your media sources are "mainstream", how can you be a minority? Let alone a critically threatened and embattled one?

It does not even account for the other assumption (or is that presumption?) that they actually are the (silent) majority that gets suppressed by a minority controlled by the enemy du jour (and behind that usually the Jews, although that part is better kept implicit. You know what happens to those who dare to speak the truth about that).
It reminds me of the ants in The Once and Future King.

Or you could believe that for the first time in recorded history, a lab accident somehow went unnoticed, uncontained, and allowed a virus to gain sufficient foothold in the general population.

I think that’s slightly overstating the case.
There’s at the very least reasonable suspicion amongst virologists that the H1N1 flu pandemic back in the 70s resulted from a lab leak:
https://www.bloomberg.com/opinion/articles/2021-05-27/covid-19-and-lab-leak-history-smallpox-h1n1-sars

Stating that the current pandemic resulted from a lab leak is of course nonsense. Admitting the possibility that it did, as do a large number of virologists who still think it unlikely, is entirely rational.

Anyone who claims that they know its origins for sure is either ignorant or lying.

Not for nothing but there have been a few things lately where "debunked conspiracy theories" don't seem to be so debunked.

You mean like this one?

enjoy the long weekend.

But more than a few journalists seem to watch it like hawks watching for breaking news. And they sometimes run with whatever appears without checking its validity first.

"eager reporter rushes to get his half-a-nugget of info to the presses in time" has been a trope in movies forever.

it's just people. they never fail to live up to an ideal.

Anyone who claims that they know its origins for sure is either ignorant or lying.

I think I'd amend that to "Anyone outside China . . . ." It seems entirely possible that the Chinese government has a handle on its origin. Even if they aren't willing to share.

It seems entirely possible that the Chinese government has a handle on its origin.

Or they quietly disappeared anyone who did. Check the date on this.

"There has been an underlying conspiracy theory suggesting that the origin of the deadly coronavirus was from a virology lab in Wuhan. That was previously speculation, but now Chinese scientists have released new findings that link the laboratory in Wuhan and COVID-19.
...
However, the new report states that the lethal respiratory disease was more likely to start in a laboratory instead of the market. The South China University of Technology released a new paper on the origins of the coronavirus, and concluded that the disease was probably created by the Wuhan Center for Disease Control (WCDC) and the Wuhan Institute of Virology."

Chinese Scientists Believe Coronavirus Came From Virology Lab In Wuhan (February 17, 2020)

It seems entirely possible that the Chinese government has a handle on its origin. Even if they aren't willing to share.

If it was a lab leak of a certain type, then yes, it's quite possible that the Chinese government (or at least lab management) knows how it happened. Because there would be a "paper" trail: sequencing of the viral RNA, at least in vitro experiments, etc. Hard to get rid of that trail entirely, since it would largely be in the databases and their backups, difficult to change without leaving some footprints.

Other types of lab leak, like workers being careless handling bats while extracting samples would be harder to pin down. That would probably come down to being able to definitively identify patient zero.

This seems obvious enough that I have to believe the WHO team the lab cooperated with raised all these questions.

I also believe that if the "intelligence community" has sources inside China good enough to pin those things down, they are going to be extremely reluctant to show the evidence and compromise those sources.

If they know and do not say, they're not claiming. If they know (that it came from their lab) and claim the opposite (which they do), they're lying.
In neither way does it invalidate your original statment. So, the amendment is superfluous.

Btw, I would expect most governments to lie, if it came from their labs either as a result of an accident or deliberately.

[I do not make a claim about the real origin but the wet market is at least a very plausible source since it would not be the first time that something bad came from such a place]

That paper is being stretched pretty thin by the Bro Bible and The Daily Mail. It's a two-page, preprint report with literally nothing but a couple of possible bat infections and a bit of speculation.

https://img-prod.tgcom24.mediaset.it/images/2020/02/16/114720192-5eb8307f-017c-4075-a697-348628da0204.pdf

I figured that if the paper were as incriminating as the sources were implying, that they would want to link directly to the paper, so I was suspicious when there were no links given.

Not much there.

and concluded that the disease was probably created

prove it, or STFU with the conspiracy theories.

and concluded that the disease was probably created

... i mean, aren't you, right on this very thread, moaning about reporters going off without having the full story?

christ.

My point was that over a year ago some people inside China were suggesting that the virus may have come from a lab. You can bet that they are now well hidden if still alive.

i'm suggesting suggestion isn't proof of anything.

My point was that over a year ago some people inside China were suggesting that the virus may have come from a lab. You can bet that they are now well hidden if still alive.

Eh. More likely they just put them on a list of problem citizens. Competition is fierce enough that could sink a career. Disappearing them just lends credence to what they wrote.

I have former students whose friends have gone to jail in China for protest activity, so I’m not imagining China as a benign and forgiving place. I just don’t think that they would need to take drastic measures against someone for such a weak paper with no actual secrets being leaked.

I also believe that if the "intelligence community" has sources inside China good enough to pin those things down, they are going to be extremely reluctant to show the evidence and compromise those sources.

If they’d had such information while Trump was in office, such reluctance wouldn’t have made any difference.

AFAICS, all they have is some (dubious) satellite analysis about hospital traffic, and the recent “exquisite” (sic) intelligence about 3 lab workers being “hospitalised” at the end of 2019 with unspecified viral illness.
The latter report is actually talks about hospital “visits”, which could cover anything from an outpatient visit to full hospitalisation.

If they’d had such information while Trump was in office, such reluctance wouldn’t have made any difference.

On the contrary, given Trump's demonstrated (utter lack of) concern for intelligence sources, they would have been even more reluctant to admit that they had any. Especially to him, or anyone who would likely tell him.

I want a

I visited the
Wuhan Wet Market,
but all I got was
this cute pangolin

T-shirt.

Bro Bible is certainly my go-to source for information on virology and the protocols of bio-safety labs.

I want a ... T-shirt.

OK...

... i mean, aren't you, right on this very thread, moaning about reporters going off without having the full story?

That libertarian 'do as I say, not as I do' ethos strikes again...

Stating that the current pandemic resulted from a lab leak is of course nonsense. Admitting the possibility that it did, as do a large number of virologists who still think it unlikely, is entirely rational.

Yeah, it's certainly possible. But:

1) In order to come from mishandling a lab sample, the sample itself had to come from somewhere -- i.e., it was a sample taken from a bat or a weasel or a pangolin or sth. out in the woods somewhere. A creature that would have been part of a reservoir of thousands or millions of fellow carrier animals sharing a virome, and ranging across some (possibly significant) geographic swathe of central or south China somewhere.

A range it probably shares substantially with...humans. Not researchers, just people blundering around in the same woods collecting mushrooms or firewood, or milking bats or whatever. Maybe even hunting or raising the reservoir animals for food or pelts or as pests. 'Wild' interactions are bound to significantly outnumber the lab ones, especially considering that the latter is much more likely to include proper handling precautions.

If it didn't come from a wild spillover event, the fact that a sample could be collected in the first place meant it was out there, and probably only a matter of time.

2) It beggars belief to think that there's no paper trail.

The thing about this virus is that it's only ~95% similar to the closest known samples -- a virus called RaTG13 found in bat populations in S. China and SE Asia. As far as we know, nothing closer has ever been sampled or sequenced in a lab.

It's likely that nCoV2019 does count that virus as a relative, but not actually a super close one. That missing 5% is still several decades worth of mutations. The branching off point was, best guess, some time in the 1950s. The evolution since must have taken place in some as-yet-unknown reservoir animal.

So, if nCoV2019 leaked from a lab, some researcher must have found that reservoir at some point. Maybe sometime in 2018 or early 2019. They wouldn't have known they had the scourge of 2020 on their hands, of course, but they would have been excited to discover a new reservoir of potentially deadly coronaviruses. They would have sequenced it. Published a preliminary paper announcing the heretofore undiscovered new animal coronavirus host they had found. Or at least sent an email to an overseas colleague or three.

It's all very well to say that Chinese officials covered it up, but for them to have been able to, I think you have to suppose either a) that the leak happened as soon as the sample was in the lab, and that officials found out almost before the researchers did, or b) a really unreasonable level of retroactive cover-up efficiency on the part of Chinese officialdom.

(Or, I suppose, c) a secret lab that didn't keep normal records, or publish and correspond with the outside scientific community. But that'd be a different lab than the one everyone's talking about. And starts to look a lot more like the much less reasonable secret weapons lab theory.)

Bro Bible is certainly my go-to source for information on virology and the protocols of bio-safety labs.

LOL.
And I have to admit, I thought something similar, but less witty.

From the 'brobible' (really?) linke:

The Wuhan Center for Disease Control is located only 900 feet from the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market, and is near the local hospital.

It seems like this 'suspicious' proximity does a lot of work in some of these "lab origin" theories.

It doesn't hold up so well now that earlier cases have been uncovered, miles away from the wet market, which is no longer considered a likely origin point.

And yet, somehow, none of the proponents are inspired to re-evaluate any of their conclusions...

Remember, it's Bro Bible linking to The Daily Mail, mentioning, but not linking to the paper that I linked to above.

So much journalistic integrity being passed along here...

Bro Bible says 900 feet. Cotton says within a few miles.

Somebody needs a new measuring tape.

If BB is right, then Cotton is right. It's like the director of the CDC saying that the outdoor transition of COVID is less than 10%.

The comments to this entry are closed.

Blog powered by Typepad