Messaging against malice

David Leonhardt complains about the messaging[1] in yesterday’s (July 27, 2021) announcement that people in some areas of the country should resume wearing masks in indoor public places.[2] He’s not wrong; I was wondering if it would apply in Allegheny County. It doesn’t,[3] but if I’m reading a map he included (figure 1) correctly, it does apply, somewhat ironically I might add, to the area where my mother lives.


Fig. 1. Map categorizing U.S. counties by transmission rate, attributed to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention by David Leonhardt, July 28, 2021,[4] fair use. According to the CDC, people in areas of “substantial” or “high” transmission should resume wearing masks, even if fully vaccinated, in public indoor spaces.[5]

I say it’s ironic because my mom lives in a much more liberal area than I do; in one conversation she quipped that people there would wear masks just because Donald Trump refused to. Allegheny County, on the other hand, has faced down rebellion over masking requirements and restaurant and bar restrictions.[6] Indeed, as I drive around the county and surrounding areas, I still see campaign signs and flags supporting Trump in an election he lost nearly nine months ago.

One of the points Leonhardt makes is that parts of the country most needing to follow the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s advice are the least likely to follow it.[7] And of course, there’s excellent reason to believe he’s right. The map (figure 1) illustrates a point I made a few days ago:

We’re seeing an awful lot of coverage of the South and vaccine hesitancy.[8] I’m becoming concerned that this is starting to look like an Old Confederacy problem when, in fact, the problem is nationwide, the evil idiots I lament[9] are everywhere.[10]

Sure, there’s a big splotch of red, indicating high transmission across the old South and another in much of the intermountain West (figure 1), but folks in most of the most populated areas of California, Oregon, and Washington should, according to the CDC, also resume wearing masks.[11]

While my mom’s part of the world might well largely comply and thus be an exception—the San Francisco Bay Area often is—Leonhardt’s point largely stands:[12] “The parts of the country that would benefit most from a new crackdown on Covid-19 — including more frequent mask wearing — are also the places least likely to follow C.D.C. guidance.[13]

This is a problem. It’s a problem because people have refused to be vaccinated. It’s a criminal problem because politicians, pundits, and even ordinary people have willfully—these are the same people who, supporting Trump, gleefully proclaimed “fuck your feelings”[14] and “make a liberal cry”—disseminated disinformation and have exploited fealty to Trump to discourage vaccination and compliance with other COVID-19 mitigation measures[15] and because this refusal ultimately threatens even the fully vaccinated:[16] While the vaccines remain effective against current “variants of concern,”[17] the assumption has to be that eventually a variant will emerge that does “break through” vaccinations more frequently,[18] and the longer we’re living with COVID-19, the more likely that is to happen.

Sure, the CDC could do a better job with messaging.[19] But they’re also up against a malice that cannot reasonably be denied.

  1. [1]David Leonhardt to Morning list, “A confusing message,” New York Times, July 28, 2021, https://messaging-custom-newsletters.nytimes.com/template/oakv2?abVariantId=0&campaign_id=9&emc=edit_nn_20210728&instance_id=36411&nl=the-morning&productCode=NN&regi_id=97793637&segment_id=64604&te=1&uri=nyt%3A%2F%2Fnewsletter%2F12f5196d-ad87-5d92-8259-21654fdb0c86&user_id=087ade925ce15f15a24824418c4789ce
  2. [2]Yasmeen Abutaleb, Joel Achenbach, Dan Diamond, and Adam Taylor, “CDC urges vaccinated people in covid hot spots to resume wearing masks indoors,” Washington Post, July 27, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/2021/07/27/cdc-masks-guidance-indoors/; Sabrina Siddiqui and Tarini Parti, “CDC Urges Vaccinated People to Resume Wearing Masks Indoors in Some Areas,” Wall Street Journal, July 27, 2021, https://www.wsj.com/articles/cdc-to-urge-vaccinated-people-to-resume-wearing-masks-in-public-indoor-spaces-11627399286
  3. [3]Paul Guggenheimer, “What the CDC mask recommendations mean for Western Pennsylvanians,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, July 27, 2021, https://triblive.com/local/regional/what-the-cdc-mask-recommendations-mean-for-western-pennsylvanians/
  4. [4]David Leonhardt to Morning list, “A confusing message,” New York Times, July 28, 2021, https://messaging-custom-newsletters.nytimes.com/template/oakv2?abVariantId=0&campaign_id=9&emc=edit_nn_20210728&instance_id=36411&nl=the-morning&productCode=NN&regi_id=97793637&segment_id=64604&te=1&uri=nyt%3A%2F%2Fnewsletter%2F12f5196d-ad87-5d92-8259-21654fdb0c86&user_id=087ade925ce15f15a24824418c4789ce
  5. [5]Sabrina Siddiqui and Tarini Parti, “CDC Urges Vaccinated People to Resume Wearing Masks Indoors in Some Areas,” Wall Street Journal, July 27, 2021, https://www.wsj.com/articles/cdc-to-urge-vaccinated-people-to-resume-wearing-masks-in-public-indoor-spaces-11627399286; Paul Waldman, “I’m tired of being nice to vaccine refusers,” Washington Post, July 27, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2021/07/27/im-tired-being-nice-vaccine-refusers/
  6. [6]Dillon Carr, “Restaurants and bars banding together to give Gov. Wolf an ultimatum,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, August 4, 2020, https://triblive.com/local/pittsburgh-allegheny/restaurants-and-bars-banding-together-to-give-gov-wolf-an-ultimatum-thursday/; Dillon Carr, “Restaurants back down from ultimatum, request meeting with Gov. Wolf,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, August 6, 2020, https://triblive.com/local/pittsburgh-allegheny/restaurants-back-down-from-ultimatum-request-meeting-with-gov-wolf/; Dillon Carr, “As deadline approaches, restaurants vary on defying Wolf’s capacity order, other restrictions,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, August 13, 2020, https://triblive.com/local/pittsburgh-allegheny/as-deadline-approaches-restaurants-vary-on-defying-wolfs-capacity-order-other-restrictions/; Dillon Carr, “Some tavern owners make their own pandemic rules, call on governor to adjust state’s,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, August 14, 2020, https://triblive.com/local/south-hills/some-tavern-owners-make-their-own-pandemic-rules-call-on-governor-to-adjust-states/; Dillon Carr, “Restaurant and bar owners decry Gov. Tom Wolf’s orders, encourage others to open,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, December 21, 2020, https://triblive.com/local/westmoreland/restaurant-and-bar-owners-decry-gov-tom-wolfs-orders-encourage-others-to-open/; Megan Guza, “Allegheny County restaurant task force shuts down 2 repeat offenders for covid-19 violations,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, September 22, 2020, https://triblive.com/local/allegheny-county-restaurant-task-force-shuts-down-2-repeat-offenders-for-covid-19-violations/; Megan Guza, “Judge: Crack’d Egg can’t flout covid rules while waiting to appeal ruling,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, April 2, 2021, https://triblive.com/lifestyles/food-drink/judge-crackd-egg-cant-flout-covid-rules-while-waiting-to-appeal-ruling-on-covid-rules/; Royce Jones, “COVID-19 In Pittsburgh: Several Restaurants Defy Statewide Restrictions, Stay Open For Indoor Dining,” KDKA-TV, December 20, 2020, https://pittsburgh.cbslocal.com/2020/12/20/restaurants-defy-statewide-restrictions/; KDKA-TV, “Brentwood Restaurant That Sued Allegheny County Over Coronavirus Restrictions Files For Bankruptcy,” October 9, 2020, https://pittsburgh.cbslocal.com/2020/10/09/the-crackd-egg-files-for-bankruptcy/; Paul Martino, “After Defying Health Department, Crack’d Egg Follows Judge’s Ruling And Closes,” KDKA-TV, February 4, 2021, https://pittsburgh.cbslocal.com/2021/02/04/crackd-egg-closes/; Nick Matoney, “Restaurant revolution: Some owners in Pennsylvania plan to expand capacity despite mandate,” WTAE, August 14, 2020, https://www.wtae.com/article/restaurant-revolution-some-owners-in-pennsylvania-plan-to-expand-capacity-despite-mandate/33602662; John Shumway, “‘People Don’t Care’: Recent Jump In Allegheny County Coronavirus Cases Linked To People In Their 20s, 30s,” KDKA-TV, June 23, 2020, https://pittsburgh.cbslocal.com/2020/06/23/jump-in-allegheny-county-coronavirus-cases-linked-to-young-people/; Maria Simbra, “‘It’s Negligence’: Young People Hosting Coronavirus Parties, Betting On Who Gets Infected First,” KDKA-TV, July 3, 2020, https://pittsburgh.cbslocal.com/2020/07/03/coronavirus-parties-young-people/; Teghan Simonton, “Allegheny County data shows parties becoming a growing source of coronavirus,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, July 30, 2020, https://triblive.com/local/pittsburgh-allegheny/allegheny-county-data-shows-parties-becoming-a-growing-source-of-coronavirus/; Teghan Simonton, “Braddock restaurant owner apologizes for comparing Gov. Wolf, Levine to Nazis,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, August 14, 2020, https://triblive.com/local/pittsburgh-allegheny/braddock-restaurant-owner-apologizes-for-comparing-gov-wolf-levine-to-nazis/; Teghan Simonton and Joyce Hanz, “4 Allegheny County restaurants defy orders to close for violating covid restrictions,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, December 23, 2020, https://triblive.com/local/valley-news-dispatch/4-allegheny-county-restaurants-defy-orders-to-close-for-violating-covid-restrictions/; Paula Reed Ward, “Brentwood restaurant defies order to close for covid-19 violations, faces court action,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, September 18, 2020, https://triblive.com/local/south-hills/brentwood-restaurant-defies-order-to-close-for-covid-19-violations-faces-court-action/; Paula Reed Ward, “Crack’d Egg flouts shutdown as deputies quarantined for dining, taking photos with owner,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, December 14, 2020, https://triblive.com/local/south-hills/crackd-egg-flouts-shutdown-as-deputies-quarantined-for-dining-taking-photos-with-owner/; Paula Reed Ward, “Restaurant owner sues Braddock mayor, claims defamation,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, December 14, 2020, https://triblive.com/local/restaurant-owner-sues-braddock-mayor-claims-defamation/; Paula Reed Ward, “Allegheny County argues Crack’d Egg can’t hide from covid restrictions under bankruptcy filing,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, January 5, 2021, https://triblive.com/local/south-hills/allegheny-county-argues-crackd-egg-cant-hide-from-covid-restrictions-under-bankruptcy-filing/; Paula Reed Ward, “Judge rules against Crack’d Egg, health department case can proceed,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, January 7, 2021, https://triblive.com/local/south-hills/judge-rules-against-crackd-egg-health-department-case-can-proceed/; Paula Reed Ward, “Judge to rule on Crack’d Egg restaurant closure order next week,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, January 29, 2021, https://triblive.com/local/south-hills/judge-to-rule-on-crackd-egg-restaurant-closure-order-next-week/; Paula Reed Ward, “Crack’d Egg restaurant asks to withdraw bankruptcy filing,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, February 2, 2021, https://triblive.com/local/south-hills/crackd-egg-restaurant-asks-to-withdraw-bankruptcy-filing/; Paula Reed Ward, “Judge orders Crack’d Egg to follow covid rules or close,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, February 3, 2021, https://triblive.com/local/south-hills/judge-orders-crackd-egg-to-follow-covid-rules-or-close/; Paula Reed Ward, “Crack’d Egg seeks stay to injunction while appeal is heard,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, February 8, 2021, https://triblive.com/local/south-hills/crackd-egg-seeks-stay-to-injunction-while-appeal-is-heard/; Paula Reed Ward, “Judge rules against Crack’d Egg restaurant: ‘They’ve largely chosen their fate here,’” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, February 17, 2021, https://triblive.com/local/south-hills/judge-rules-against-crackd-egg-restaurant-theyve-largely-chosen-their-fate-here/; Paula Reed Ward, “Crack’d Egg asks court to allow maskless customers in restaurant,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, March 29, 2021, https://triblive.com/lifestyles/food-drink/crackd-egg-asks-court-to-allow-maskless-customers-in-restaurant/
  7. [7]David Leonhardt to Morning list, “A confusing message,” New York Times, July 28, 2021, https://messaging-custom-newsletters.nytimes.com/template/oakv2?abVariantId=0&campaign_id=9&emc=edit_nn_20210728&instance_id=36411&nl=the-morning&productCode=NN&regi_id=97793637&segment_id=64604&te=1&uri=nyt%3A%2F%2Fnewsletter%2F12f5196d-ad87-5d92-8259-21654fdb0c86&user_id=087ade925ce15f15a24824418c4789ce
  8. [8]Dan Diamond, “153 people resigned or were fired from a Texas hospital system after refusing to get vaccinated,” Washington Post, June 22, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/2021/06/22/houston-methodist-loses-153-employees-vaccine-mandate/; Tim Fitzsimons and The Associated Press, “Top Tennessee health official says she was fired after efforts to get teens vaccinated,” NBC News, July 13, 2021, https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/top-tennessee-health-official-says-she-was-fired-after-efforts-n1273887; Courtney Ann Jackson, “Mississippi doctors still urging folks to get vaccinated as Delta variant becomes dominant COVID strain,” WLBT, July 5, 2021, https://www.wlbt.com/2021/07/06/mississippi-doctors-still-urging-folks-get-vaccinated-delta-variant-becomes-dominant-covid-strain/; Peter Jamison, “Their neighbors called covid-19 a hoax. Can these ICU nurses forgive them?” Washington Post, July 6, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/dc-md-va/2021/07/06/appalachian-covid-deniers-nurses-virginia/; Brett Kelman, “Tennessee abandons vaccine outreach to minors — not just for COVID-19,” Nashville Tennessean, July 13, 2021, https://www.tennessean.com/story/news/health/2021/07/13/tennessee-halts-all-vaccine-outreach-minors-not-just-covid-19/7928701002/; Dhruv Khullar, “One half of America is protected. The other is approaching a perilous moment in the pandemic,” New Yorker, June 23, 2021, https://www.newyorker.com/science/medical-dispatch/the-delta-variant-is-a-grave-danger-to-the-unvaccinated; Hannah Knowles, “DeSantis sells ‘Don’t Fauci My Florida’ merch as new coronavirus cases near highest in nation,” Washington Post, July 14, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2021/07/13/desantis-fauci-florida/; Jeremy Kohler, “GOP Legislators in Missouri Oppose Vaccine Efforts as State Becomes COVID Hotspot,” Pro Publica, July 21, 2021, https://www.propublica.org/article/missouri-legislators-oppose-vaccine-efforts-as-state-becomes-covid-hotspot; Oliver Laughland and Jessica Glenza, “Inside a Tennessee hospital grappling with Delta and vaccine hesitancy,” Guardian, July 24, 2021, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2021/jul/24/tennessee-coronavirus-covid-delta-variant-cases-vaccines; Dennis Pillion, “‘I’m sorry, but it’s too late’: Alabama doctor on treating unvaccinated, dying COVID patients,” Advance Local, July 21, 2021, https://www.al.com/news/2021/07/im-sorry-but-its-too-late-alabama-doctor-on-treating-unvaccinated-dying-covid-patients.html
  9. [9]David Benfell, “Weeding out the stupid,” Not Housebroken, July 23, 2021, https://disunitedstates.org/2021/07/23/weeding-out-the-stupid/
  10. [10]David Benfell, “Not just the old Confederacy,” Not Housebroken, July 24, 2021, https://disunitedstates.com/2021/07/24/not-just-the-old-confederacy/
  11. [11]David Leonhardt to Morning list, “A confusing message,” New York Times, July 28, 2021, https://messaging-custom-newsletters.nytimes.com/template/oakv2?abVariantId=0&campaign_id=9&emc=edit_nn_20210728&instance_id=36411&nl=the-morning&productCode=NN&regi_id=97793637&segment_id=64604&te=1&uri=nyt%3A%2F%2Fnewsletter%2F12f5196d-ad87-5d92-8259-21654fdb0c86&user_id=087ade925ce15f15a24824418c4789ce; Sabrina Siddiqui and Tarini Parti, “CDC Urges Vaccinated People to Resume Wearing Masks Indoors in Some Areas,” Wall Street Journal, July 27, 2021, https://www.wsj.com/articles/cdc-to-urge-vaccinated-people-to-resume-wearing-masks-in-public-indoor-spaces-11627399286; Paul Waldman, “I’m tired of being nice to vaccine refusers,” Washington Post, July 27, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2021/07/27/im-tired-being-nice-vaccine-refusers/
  12. [12]Dan Diamond, “153 people resigned or were fired from a Texas hospital system after refusing to get vaccinated,” Washington Post, June 22, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/2021/06/22/houston-methodist-loses-153-employees-vaccine-mandate/; Jackie Drees, “Vaccine passports: 23 states with bans, limitations & green lights,” Becker’s Healthcare, May 26, 2021, https://www.beckershospitalreview.com/digital-transformation/vaccine-passports-10-states-with-bans-limitations-green-lights.html; Tim Fitzsimons and The Associated Press, “Top Tennessee health official says she was fired after efforts to get teens vaccinated,” NBC News, July 13, 2021, https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/top-tennessee-health-official-says-she-was-fired-after-efforts-n1273887; Courtney Ann Jackson, “Mississippi doctors still urging folks to get vaccinated as Delta variant becomes dominant COVID strain,” WLBT, July 5, 2021, https://www.wlbt.com/2021/07/06/mississippi-doctors-still-urging-folks-get-vaccinated-delta-variant-becomes-dominant-covid-strain/; Peter Jamison, “Their neighbors called covid-19 a hoax. Can these ICU nurses forgive them?” Washington Post, July 6, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/dc-md-va/2021/07/06/appalachian-covid-deniers-nurses-virginia/; Brett Kelman, “Tennessee abandons vaccine outreach to minors — not just for COVID-19,” Nashville Tennessean, July 13, 2021, https://www.tennessean.com/story/news/health/2021/07/13/tennessee-halts-all-vaccine-outreach-minors-not-just-covid-19/7928701002/; Hannah Knowles, “DeSantis sells ‘Don’t Fauci My Florida’ merch as new coronavirus cases near highest in nation,” Washington Post, July 14, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2021/07/13/desantis-fauci-florida/; Jeremy Kohler, “GOP Legislators in Missouri Oppose Vaccine Efforts as State Becomes COVID Hotspot,” Pro Publica, July 21, 2021, https://www.propublica.org/article/missouri-legislators-oppose-vaccine-efforts-as-state-becomes-covid-hotspot; David Leonhardt, “A Vaccine Road Trip,” New York Times, January 22, 2021, https://www.nytimes.com/2021/01/22/briefing/biden-fauci-trump-covid-vaccine.html; Laurel Wamsley, “Florida Gov. DeSantis Rejects Vaccine Passports As ‘Completely Unacceptable,’” National Public Radio, March 30, 2021, https://www.npr.org/sections/coronavirus-live-updates/2021/03/30/982837517/florida-gov-desantis-rejects-vaccine-passports-as-completely-unacceptable
  13. [13]David Leonhardt to Morning list, “A confusing message,” New York Times, July 28, 2021, https://messaging-custom-newsletters.nytimes.com/template/oakv2?abVariantId=0&campaign_id=9&emc=edit_nn_20210728&instance_id=36411&nl=the-morning&productCode=NN&regi_id=97793637&segment_id=64604&te=1&uri=nyt%3A%2F%2Fnewsletter%2F12f5196d-ad87-5d92-8259-21654fdb0c86&user_id=087ade925ce15f15a24824418c4789ce
  14. [14]David Benfell, “The Donald Trump supporters’ campaign message: Fuck Your Feelings,” Not Housebroken, December 11, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/08/26/the-donald-trump-supporters-campaign-message-fuck-your-feelings/
  15. [15]Max Boot, “Republicans are preventing America from reaching Biden’s vaccination goal,” Washington Post, July 6, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2021/07/06/republican-antivaxxers-biden-vaccination-goal/; Philip Bump, “Vaccine skepticism and disregard for containment efforts go hand in hand,” Washington Post, April 2, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2021/04/02/vaccine-skepticism-disregard-containment-efforts-go-hand-in-hand/; Philip Bump, “A third of White conservatives refuse to get vaccinated — a refusal shown in polling and the real world,” Washington Post, July 6, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2021/07/06/third-white-conservatives-refuse-get-vaccine-refusal-shown-both-polling-real-world/; Libby Cathey, “Biden tries to clarify comment that Facebook is ‘killing people,’ ABC News, July 19, 2021, https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/biden-clarify-comment-facebook-killing-people/story?id=78927017; Dan Diamond, “153 people resigned or were fired from a Texas hospital system after refusing to get vaccinated,” Washington Post, June 22, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/2021/06/22/houston-methodist-loses-153-employees-vaccine-mandate/; Dan Diamond, Hannah Knowles, and Tyler Pager, “Vaccine hesitancy morphs into hostility, as opposition to shots hardens,” Washington Post, July 15, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/covid-vaccines-biden-trump/2021/07/15/adaf6c7e-e4bd-11eb-a41e-c8442c213fa8_story.html; Jackie Drees, “Vaccine passports: 23 states with bans, limitations & green lights,” Becker’s Healthcare, May 26, 2021, https://www.beckershospitalreview.com/digital-transformation/vaccine-passports-10-states-with-bans-limitations-green-lights.html; Elizabeth Dwoskin, “Facebook steps up campaign to ban false information about coronavirus vaccines,” Washington Post, December 3, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2020/12/03/facebook-covid-vaccine/; Tim Fitzsimons and The Associated Press, “Top Tennessee health official says she was fired after efforts to get teens vaccinated,” NBC News, July 13, 2021, https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/top-tennessee-health-official-says-she-was-fired-after-efforts-n1273887; Michael M. Grynbaum, Tiffany Hsu, and Zolan Kanno-Youngs, “On Fox News, Vaccination Pleas Intensify, but Skepticism Persists,” New York Times, July 20, 2021, https://www.nytimes.com/2021/07/20/business/media/fox-news-covid-vaccines.html; Courtney Ann Jackson, “Mississippi doctors still urging folks to get vaccinated as Delta variant becomes dominant COVID strain,” WLBT, July 5, 2021, https://www.wlbt.com/2021/07/06/mississippi-doctors-still-urging-folks-get-vaccinated-delta-variant-becomes-dominant-covid-strain/; Peter Jamison, “Their neighbors called covid-19 a hoax. Can these ICU nurses forgive them?” Washington Post, July 6, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/dc-md-va/2021/07/06/appalachian-covid-deniers-nurses-virginia/; Ron Kampeas, “In latest Nazi analogy, Marjorie Taylor Greene invokes ‘medical brown shirts’ in decrying vaccination outreach,” Jewish Telegraphic Agency, July 7, 2021, https://www.jta.org/quick-reads/in-latest-nazi-analogy-marjorie-taylor-greene-invokes-medical-brown-shirts-in-decrying-vaccination-outreach; Brett Kelman, “Tennessee abandons vaccine outreach to minors — not just for COVID-19,” Nashville Tennessean, July 13, 2021, https://www.tennessean.com/story/news/health/2021/07/13/tennessee-halts-all-vaccine-outreach-minors-not-just-covid-19/7928701002/; Dhruv Khullar, “One half of America is protected. The other is approaching a perilous moment in the pandemic,” New Yorker, June 23, 2021, https://www.newyorker.com/science/medical-dispatch/the-delta-variant-is-a-grave-danger-to-the-unvaccinated; Ed Kilgore, “The Willfully Unvaccinated Are the Newest Republican Martyrs,” New York, July 13, 2021, https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2021/07/the-willfully-unvaccinated-are-the-newest-republican-martyrs.html; Hannah Knowles, “DeSantis sells ‘Don’t Fauci My Florida’ merch as new coronavirus cases near highest in nation,” Washington Post, July 14, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2021/07/13/desantis-fauci-florida/; Jeremy Kohler, “GOP Legislators in Missouri Oppose Vaccine Efforts as State Becomes COVID Hotspot,” Pro Publica, July 21, 2021, https://www.propublica.org/article/missouri-legislators-oppose-vaccine-efforts-as-state-becomes-covid-hotspot; Oliver Laughland and Jessica Glenza, “Inside a Tennessee hospital grappling with Delta and vaccine hesitancy,” Guardian, July 24, 2021, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2021/jul/24/tennessee-coronavirus-covid-delta-variant-cases-vaccines; Summer Lin, “Got your COVID vaccine? Stay out, says California restaurateur decrying ‘stupidity,’” Sacramento Bee, July 26, 2021, https://www.sacbee.com/news/coronavirus/article253039643.html; Apoorva Mandavilli, “Reaching ‘Herd Immunity’ Is Unlikely in the U.S., Experts Now Believe,” New York Times, May 3, 2021, https://www.nytimes.com/2021/05/03/health/covid-herd-immunity-vaccine.html; Tom McCarthy, “US public increasingly skeptical of Covid-19 death toll, poll finds,” Guardian, July 21, 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/jul/21/us-coronavirus-death-toll-public-opinion-poll-accuracy; Chris Megerian, “Biden’s coronavirus success threatened by political divisions he pledged to heal,” Los Angeles Times, April 27, 2021, https://www.latimes.com/politics/story/2021-04-27/bidens-coronavirus-success-threatened-by-political-divisions-he-pledged-to-heal; Grace Panetta, “GOP Rep. Lauren Boebert calls Biden’s door-to-door vaccinators ‘needle Nazis,’” Yahoo! News, July 8, 2021, https://news.yahoo.com/gop-rep-lauren-boebert-calls-130015902.html; Kari Paul, “‘A systemic failure’: vaccine misinformation remains rampant on Facebook, experts say,” Guardian, July 21, 2021, https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2021/jul/21/facebook-misinformation-vaccines; Jaclyn Peiser, “Evangelical pastor demands churchgoers ditch their masks: ‘Don’t believe this delta variant nonsense,’” Washington Post, July 27, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2021/07/27/tennessee-pastor-greg-locke-masks/; Bryan Pietsch, “Twitter suspends Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene for spreading covid-19 misinformation,” Washington Post, July 20, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2021/07/20/marjorie-taylor-green-twitter-suspended-covid/; Tony Romm, “Fake cures and other coronavirus conspiracy theories are flooding WhatsApp, leaving governments and users with a ‘sense of panic,’” Washington Post, March 2, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2020/03/02/whatsapp-coronavirus-misinformation/; Greg Sargent, “A vile new Trump-GOP claim about vaccines suggests trouble ahead,” Washington Post, July 19, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2021/07/19/vile-new-trump-gop-claim-about-vaccines-suggests-trouble-ahead/; Mark Scott and Steven Overly, “‘Conspiracy bingo’: Trans-Atlantic extremists seize on the pandemic,” Politico, May 12, 2020, https://www.politico.com/news/2020/05/12/trans-atlantic-conspiracy-coronavirus-251325; Reis Thebault, “In latest clash over Wuhan lab, Fauci tells Sen. Rand Paul: ‘You do not know what you’re talking about,’” Washington Post, July 20, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2021/07/20/fauci-paul-wuhan-lab/; Daniel Villarreal, “Matt Gaetz Says Anthony Fauci ‘Has Blood on His Hands, And Now the Country Knows It,’” Newsweek, June 4, 2021, https://www.newsweek.com/matt-gaetz-says-anthony-fauci-has-blood-his-hands-now-country-knows-it-1597853; Benjamin Wallace-Wells, “The Vaccine Resisters,” New Yorker, March 5, 2021, https://www.newyorker.com/news/annals-of-populism/the-vaccine-resisters; Paul Waldman, “Right-wing anti-vaccine hysteria is increasing. We’ll all pay the price,” Washington Post, July 8, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2021/07/08/right-wing-anti-vaccine-hysteria-is-increasing-well-all-pay-price/; Laurel Wamsley, “Florida Gov. DeSantis Rejects Vaccine Passports As ‘Completely Unacceptable,’” National Public Radio, March 30, 2021, https://www.npr.org/sections/coronavirus-live-updates/2021/03/30/982837517/florida-gov-desantis-rejects-vaccine-passports-as-completely-unacceptable; Hannah Wiley, “‘No masks. No vaccines.’ Battle is brewing over coronavirus immunizations in California,” Sacramento Bee, June 26, 2020, https://www.sacbee.com/news/politics-government/capitol-alert/article243381501.html
  16. [16]Maggie Fox, “Unvaccinated people are ‘variant factories,’ infectious diseases expert says,” CNN, July 3, 2021, https://www.cnn.com/2021/07/03/health/unvaccinated-variant-factories/index.html
  17. [17]Joel Achenbach, “New study on delta variant reveals importance of receiving both vaccine shots, highlights challenges posed by mutations,” Washington Post, July 8, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/delta-variant-vaccines/2021/07/08/05b1bc5e-df75-11eb-ae31-6b7c5c34f0d6_story.html; Dhruv Khullar, “One half of America is protected. The other is approaching a perilous moment in the pandemic,” New Yorker, June 23, 2021, https://www.newyorker.com/science/medical-dispatch/the-delta-variant-is-a-grave-danger-to-the-unvaccinated; David Leonhardt, “Why Aren’t the Vaccines Approved?” New York Times, July 21, 2021, https://www.nytimes.com/2021/07/21/briefing/covid-vaccines-fda-approval.html; Rong-Gong Lin, II, “Confidence grows that COVID-19 vaccines hold their own against variants,” Los Angeles Times, May 10, 2021, https://www.latimes.com/science/story/2021-05-10/covid-vaccines-holding-their-own-against-coronavirus-variants; German Lopez, “Got the vaccine? Experts say you can relax about your Covid-19 risk now. Really,” Vox, May 11, 2021, https://www.vox.com/22423098/covid-19-vaccine-coronavirus-protection-herd-immunity; Sally Robertson, “Previously infected vaccinees broadly neutralize SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern,” News-Medical, May 2, 2021, https://www.news-medical.net/news/20210502/Previously-infected-vaccinees-broadly-neutralize-SARS-CoV-2-variants-of-concern.aspx
  18. [18]Maggie Fox, “Pfizer sees waning immunity from its Covid-19 vaccine, says developing new booster,” CNN, July 8, 2021, https://www.cnn.com/2021/07/08/health/pfizer-waning-immunity-bn/index.html; Natalie Grover, “New Covid vaccines needed globally within a year, say scientists,” Guardian, March 29, 2021, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/mar/30/new-covid-vaccines-needed-within-year-say-scientists; Berkeley Lovelace, Jr., “Pfizer says it is developing a Covid booster shot to target the highly transmissible delta variant,” CNBC, July 8, 2021, https://www.cnbc.com/2021/07/08/pfizer-says-it-is-developing-a-covid-booster-shot-to-target-the-highly-transmissible-delta-variant.html
  19. [19]David Leonhardt to Morning list, “A confusing message,” New York Times, July 28, 2021, https://messaging-custom-newsletters.nytimes.com/template/oakv2?abVariantId=0&campaign_id=9&emc=edit_nn_20210728&instance_id=36411&nl=the-morning&productCode=NN&regi_id=97793637&segment_id=64604&te=1&uri=nyt%3A%2F%2Fnewsletter%2F12f5196d-ad87-5d92-8259-21654fdb0c86&user_id=087ade925ce15f15a24824418c4789ce

Lock up the anti-vaxxers

See update for July 27, 2021, at end of post.


According to the Washington Post, “Messaging experts counseled for months that blaming unvaccinated Americans would only backfire.”[1] But it’s apparent that it is not my patience alone that has been exhausted:[2] Read more

  1. [1]Dan Diamond and Tyler Pager, “‘Patience has worn thin’: Frustration mounts over vaccine holdouts,” Washington Post, July 23, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/2021/07/23/anger-targets-vaccine-holdouts-delta-surge/
  2. [2]Dan Diamond and Tyler Pager, “‘Patience has worn thin’: Frustration mounts over vaccine holdouts,” Washington Post, July 23, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/2021/07/23/anger-targets-vaccine-holdouts-delta-surge/; David Frum, “Vaccinated America Has Had Enough,” Atlantic, July 23, 2021, https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2021/07/vaccinated-america-breaking-point-anti-vaxxers/619539/; Paul Waldman, “I’m tired of being nice to vaccine refusers,” Washington Post, July 27, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2021/07/27/im-tired-being-nice-vaccine-refusers/

Normalized pedophilia and other discrepancies of the young

This ad (figure 1) keeps showing up in, of all places, a Times of Israel newsletter:

Fig. 1. Screenshot taken by author from Times of Israel newsletter on July 24, 2021, fair use.

Has it never occurred to the people who are determined to eviscerate every last pubic hair that they seek to reproduce the appearance of pre-pubescent genitalia? That such a determination is, to me, evidence of pedophilia? Read more

Weeding out the stupid

See updates through July 27, 2021, at end of post.


Among my darker thoughts is a wish that COVID-19 would be more efficient at weeding out the evilly stupid. It almost—only almost— is.[1] It really doesn’t work like that, with the as yet mostly unrealized potential for variants that will more readily “break through” vaccinations.[2] But Jesus, I tire of the stupid. Read more

  1. [1]Melanie Evans and Julie Wernau, “Unvaccinated Americans Are Behind Rising Covid-19 Hospitalizations,” Wall Street Journal, July 18, 2021, https://www.wsj.com/articles/unvaccinated-covid-19-hospitalizations-11626528110; Ed Kilgore, “The Willfully Unvaccinated Are the Newest Republican Martyrs,” New York, July 13, 2021, https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2021/07/the-willfully-unvaccinated-are-the-newest-republican-martyrs.html; Luke Money and Rong-Gong Lin, II, “Tougher tactics targeting the unvaccinated needed to stop new COVID-19 spike, experts say,” Los Angeles Times, July 14, 2021, https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2021-07-14/to-slow-covid-19-rise-door-to-door-vaccine-outreach-and-workplace-requirements-could-help; Ed Pilkington and Lauren Aratani, “US seeing ‘pandemic of the unvaccinated’ as cases rise in every state,” Guardian, July 16, 2021, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/jul/16/covid-19-us-delta-variant-unvaccinated
  2. [2]Maggie Fox, “Unvaccinated people are ‘variant factories,’ infectious diseases expert says,” CNN, July 3, 2021, https://www.cnn.com/2021/07/03/health/unvaccinated-variant-factories/index.html

A rigidity to Uber’s stupidity

See update for July 25, 2021, at end of post.


To try to make a long story short, driving for Uber and Lyft on Pittsburgh roads destroyed my 2007 Toyota Camry Hybrid; maintenance costs had become ludicrous. Uber and Lyft have arrangements with rental car companies such that I could, in theory, rent a car to drive, but rental cars have become hard to get and very expensive.[1] Another issue is that for this kind of work, I really need some options that make the car more resilient to the abuse it must endure, and I put a lot of mileage on, so I’m feeling like a used car (right now, even these are ludicrously expensive[2]) is really an inadequate solution. So I ordered a new car and waited and waited and waited, because a shortage of computer chips has slowed production.[3] That car has finally arrived and I have a temporary vehicle registration from the dealer, which I have submitted to Uber and Lyft so I can resume driving. Read more

  1. [1]Scott McCartney, “Wait, Where Did All the Rental Cars Go?” Wall Street Journal, April 14, 2021, https://www.wsj.com/articles/hertz-avis-enterprise-rental-car-shortage-11618335385
  2. [2]Nora Naughton, “Selling Your Used Car? You Could Turn a Profit,” Wall Street Journal, July 18, 2021, https://www.wsj.com/articles/selling-your-used-car-you-could-turn-a-profit-11626606000
  3. [3]Debby Wu, Sohee Kim, and Ian King, “Why the World Is Short of Computer Chips, and Why It Matters,” Bloomberg, June 17, 2021, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-02-17/the-world-is-short-of-computer-chips-here-s-why-quicktake

Cornel West’s resignation and neoliberalism’s pernicious influence on academia

There is much in Cornel West’s resignation from faculty at Harvard Divinity School to unpack here:


Perhaps it is that I am old and that my eyes now make reading fine print difficult, so with assistance from Google’s magic, I will render the text from that image: Read more

The choice of violence over safety

The explosion in gun nuttery leading up to the 2020 election,[1] in part because conservatives were afraid Joe Biden wouldn’t allow them to, also led to people buying guns because they were afraid of the gun nuts that surrounded them.[2] It’s an example of the very thing anti-gun folks fear: Guns lead to more guns and, inevitably, the violence that accompanies those guns.[3] Read more

  1. [1]Abha Bhattarai, “‘We’ve got to protect ourselves’: Some threaten to shop elsewhere if they can’t openly carry guns,” Washington Post, September 6, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2019/09/06/weve-got-protect-ourselves-some-threaten-shop-elsewhere-if-they-cant-openly-carry-guns/; Andrew Chung, “U.S. Supreme Court weighs challenge to New York gun transport limits,” Reuters, December 1, 2019, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-court-guns/us-supreme-court-weighs-challenge-to-new-york-gun-transport-limits-idUSKBN1Y50ZG; Jane Coaston, “The Virginia gun rights rally raising fears of violence, explained,” Vox, January 17, 2020, https://www.vox.com/2020/1/17/21067627/virginia-lobby-day-gun-laws-extremism
  2. [2]Marc Fisher et al., “‘Fear on top of fear’: Why anti-gun Americans joined the wave of new gun owners,” Washington Post, July 10, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/interactive/2021/anti-gun-gun-owners/
  3. [3]Gun Violence Archive, 2021, https://www.gunviolencearchive.org/

That merit should yield at least a decent living

Full disclosure: I have hundreds of thousands of dollars in student loans, accumulated on my way to my Ph.D., but the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (Pheaa) is not my servicer. My student loan servicer horror story wasn’t really a horror story so much as an absence of communication that convinced me to change servicers as I consolidated all of it into income based repayment and my advice to other borrowers since has been consistently to get out from under Navient. I gather Great Lakes also has its problems, but for the most part, they’ve been much more tolerable.

“No doubt critics will see [the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency] bowing out [from federal student loan servicing] as a positive development,” Justin S. Draeger, president and chief executive of the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators, said in an email. “But with one major servicer exiting, and still no comprehensive plan” from the Education Department “on how they’ll be transitioning millions of borrowers into repayment, let alone a publicly available comprehensive strategy on loan servicing, the task before the Department grows more daunting every day.”[1]

Apparently Pheaa had been the target of numerous complaints, at least some of which apply to the industry as a whole, and is withdrawing due to “the complexity and cost of managing those programs.”[2] Read more

  1. [1]Eric Kelderman, “The Plan to Resume Federal Student-Loan Repayments in October Just Hit an Obstacle,” Chronicle of Higher Education, July 8, 2021, https://www.chronicle.com/article/the-plan-to-resume-federal-student-loan-repayments-in-october-just-hit-an-obstacle
  2. [2]Eric Kelderman, “The Plan to Resume Federal Student-Loan Repayments in October Just Hit an Obstacle,” Chronicle of Higher Education, July 8, 2021, https://www.chronicle.com/article/the-plan-to-resume-federal-student-loan-repayments-in-october-just-hit-an-obstacle

George W. Bush’s Global War on Terror ends in defeat

George W. Bush’s “Global War on Terror” is now ending in defeat, unless one regards Iraq, where Iran’s influence seems at least as great as that of the U.S.,[1] as “victory,” or one regards Afghanistan, where the Taliban is far from defeated,[2] as “victory.” The U.S. withdrawal from the latter will be complete and the “main British mission” will be out on July 4.[3] Read more

  1. [1]Julian Borger and Martin Chulov, “Iran general Qassem Suleimani killed in Baghdad drone strike ordered by Trump,” Guardian, January 3, 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/jan/03/baghdad-airport-iraq-attack-deaths-iran-us-tensions; International Crisis Group, “Averting the Middle East’s 1914 Moment,” August 1, 2019, https://www.crisisgroup.org/middle-east-north-africa/gulf-and-arabian-peninsula/iran/205-averting-middle-easts-1914-moment; Luke Harding, “Trump accuses Iran over storming of US embassy compound in Baghdad,” Guardian, December 31, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/dec/31/us-embassy-stormed-in-baghdad; Louisa Loveluck et al., “Trump says Iranian military leader was killed by drone strike ‘to stop a war,’ warns Iran not to retaliate,” Washington Post, January 3, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/iran-strike-live-updates/2020/01/03/3779f55c-2e33-11ea-bcb3-ac6482c4a92f_story.html; David Nakamura, “In confrontation with Iran, Trump wrestles with the shadow of Obama, ‘the metric he has to beat,’” Washington Post, January 5, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/in-confrontation-with-iran-trump-wrestles-with-the-shadow-of-obama-the-metric-he-has-to-beat/2020/01/04/2bd11a80-2e49-11ea-9b60-817cc18cf173_story.html; Missy Ryan et al., “How Trump decided to kill a top Iranian general,” Washington Post, January 3, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/how-trump-decided-to-kill-a-top-iranian-general/2020/01/03/77ce3cc4-2e62-11ea-bcd4-24597950008f_story.html; Mustafa Salim and Liz Sly, “Protesters chanting ‘Death to America’ break into U.S. Embassy compound in Baghdad,” Washington Post, December 31, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/iran-backed-militia-supporters-converge-on-us-embassy-in-baghdad-shouting-death-to-america/2019/12/31/93f050b2-2bb1-11ea-bffe-020c88b3f120_story.html; Mustafa Salim and Liz Sly, “Supporters of Iranian-backed militia end siege of U.S. Embassy in Baghdad,” Washington Post, January 1, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/supporters-of-iranian-backed-militia-start-withdrawing-from-besieged-us-embassy-in-baghdad-following-militia-orders/2020/01/01/8280cb34-2c9e-11ea-9b60-817cc18cf173_story.html; Paul Waldman, “Trump’s rationales for the Soleimani killing are falling apart,” Washington Post, January 5, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020/01/07/trumps-rationales-soleimani-killing-are-falling-apart/
  2. [2]Gordon Lubold and Yaroslav Trofimov, “Afghan Government Could Collapse Six Months After U.S. Withdrawal, New Intelligence Assessment Says,” Wall Street Journal, June 23, 2021, https://www.wsj.com/articles/afghan-government-could-collapse-six-months-after-u-s-withdrawal-new-intelligence-assessment-says-11624466743?mod=article_inline
  3. [3]Danielle Sheridan, Ben Farmer, and Sami Yousafzai, “Taliban has won the war in Afghanistan, says Lord Dannatt as UK and US troops pull out,” Telegraph, July 1, 2021, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2021/07/01/taliban-has-prevailed-afghanistan-says-former-army-head-lord/

It’s okay to be a rapist as long as you are sufficiently powerful

So let’s pick this apart:


In the screenshot that Peter Daou includes in his tweet, Sandy Knauer asserts that she would vote for Joe Biden over Donald Trump or Bernie Sanders even if Biden raped her “in the middle of Fifth Avenue.”[2] Read more

  1. [1]Peter Daou, “Something tells me I'm wasting my time arguing with Biden defenders. . . .” Twitter, July 1, 2021, https://twitter.com/peterdaou/status/1410631136565415940
  2. [2]Screenshot in Peter Daou, “Something tells me I'm wasting my time arguing with Biden defenders. . . .” Twitter, July 1, 2021, https://twitter.com/peterdaou/status/1410631136565415940