The full COVID update for Tuesday is here.

The case numbers in the USA are now dropping. For twelve consecutive days the numbers have been lower than the same day of the previous week. In the past three days, the percentage declines are in the twenties.

Hospitalizations have also started a slow downward turn. The number of hospitalized Americans with COVID is about 3% less than it was a week earlier. Given that the decline in “new cases” started 12 days ago, and given that hospitalization trends trail new cases by about two weeks, this is starting to turn downward right on schedule.

Fatalities, however, are not declining, to say the least. The seven-day average is 26% higher than it was on the same day last week. The last time it was this high or higher was last February 14th. Remember that the fatality trends usually trail the case trends by about three weeks, and the spread was really rampant three weeks ago. It may be another week or more before there are any positive indicators in this metric.

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Although the United States has started to follow the South African model in terms of its experience with omicron, France has not. It just keeps getting worse. On Tuesday, France reported more than 500,000 cases, its all-time high. That’s even more cases than the United States, despite the facts that (1) the USA has five times as many people; (2) the USA itself is in serious trouble, with case levels at eight times the red line. In starkest terms, France was more than fifty times the red line! I have tried to research why France’s numbers are so bad and still increasing, but I have yet to find a convincing explanation.

My working hypothesis is that COVID is spread by eating snails and surrendering.

(Just fuckin’ witcha, Frenchies.)

There has been a lot of talk about sanctions against Russia for a Ukrainian invasion, and what Russia may do in rebuttal. I have read a lot about how the Russians may engage in monumental hacking attacks, or how they may cut off Europe’s critical fuel supplies.

What I have not read is this: Russia and its evil half-brother Kazakhstan supply 38% of America’s uranium. Uzbekistan, where my family comes from, is not as subservient to Russia, but they would have to comply if Russia made them an offer they can’t refuse, and they supply another 8% of America’s needs. All told, that’s nearly half of our uranium that Russia can control if it chooses to.

The United States has 56 nuclear power plants supplying power to 28 different states. Together those plants supply about a fifth of all power in the United States. If Russia and Kazakhstan were to impose an embargo on the sale of Uranium to the USA, it would have a massive impact on energy production. America’s allies, notably Australia and Canada, have substantial uranium resources, but can’t immediately supplant the supply from Russia and its allies. Similarly, nuclear power can eventually be replaced by other forms of energy, but not overnight. If Russia decided to take the most dramatic action and cut America off, a disruption like this could create chaos in the stock market, and could wreak havoc on everyday life in certain parts of the country.

Russia and the Kazakhs may not want to do this because they make a profit selling that uranium to the USA, so an embargo is a lose-lose, but they can do it if they feel it is necessary.

And you may have read this somewhere – Mr. Putin is not an especially nice person.

It’s not dead yet, but it’s about to go on the gurney when the “bring out your dead” guy arrives.

The Supremes have agreed to hear the discrimination suits against Harvard and UNC

“The advocates who first developed the Harvard and UNC lawsuits in 2014 aspired to an eventual battle at the Supreme Court, where affirmative action has been upheld only through fragile one-vote margins.”

Given the new roster on the court, I see no chance for affirmative action to survive. Those one-vote decisions belong to the past. Even Justice Roberts, who often sides with the liberals, has been an opponent of the practice. It’s not just the composition of the court that seems to doom affirmative action. There is also law and that pesky Constitution. I believe that affirmative action is good for society, but it’s difficult to find any legal basis for it.

Take note of these two points:

  • “Harvard argued that it considers race in a flexible way that benefits all highly qualified candidates. Its lawyers told the trial court that the college could fill its freshman class entirely with applicants who had perfect test scores and grades, but that it wanted a different mix on campus, a broader range of talent and life experiences.”
  • “The lower US courts that ruled for Harvard and the University of North Carolina in the dual-track cases, however, said the programs used race in a sufficiently limited way to fulfill compelling interests in diversity.”

You see what the Harvard defense and the lower court rulings have in common? They have absolutely no basis in law or the Constitution. They are based on social justice arguments rather than the actual pertinent law. What Harvard “wanted” is not the same as what Harvard must do under the law, and “compelling interests in diversity” is a social engineering argument, not a legal one.

On the other hand, the case against Harvard was brought under Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which prohibits schools receiving federal funds from discriminating based on race. The UNC lawsuit similarly claims Title VI grounds, as well as a violation of the 14th Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection of the law, which covers state institutions. Those are valid legal arguments. Justice Roberts himself famously declared, “The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.”

I have mixed feelings about this matter. I believe in the benefits of affirmative action, and even some of America’s prominent conservative voices have agreed with me, but its legal basis has always been tenuous at best, and I believe that the current conservative Supreme Court is highly unlikely to uphold it. If you’re a betting man, the over/under is that six judges will vote against Harvard and UNC.

The House committee had already received hundreds of pages of documents within hours of the ruling.

“The ruling denying Trump’s request to take up the case effectively deferred to a decision last month against him by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, which had concluded that Trump’s claims for executive privilege over the documents ‘would have failed even if he were the incumbent’ president, the Supreme Court noted.”

Trump’s claim was meaningless, anyway. Executive privilege only involves the President’s ability to shield certain matters from Congress or, in some cases, the judiciary and general public. So if the Supreme Court had sided with him, he could conceivably have kept the documents from Congress. But here’s the rub. He could not shield the documents from the executive branch. That’s not a thing. If the courts had ruled that Trump could shield documents from Congress, Biden could have ordered his subordinates to place everything online immediately (probably with some redactions), in which case the House committee would have had access to all of it anyway. Trump undoubtedly realized all of that, and that everything would eventually come out, but I assume his strategy was to stall for time on any evidence not in his control, while destroying any evidence in his control before it can be subpoenaed. (That’s almost always his strategy, and has been since long before he became a politician.)

She was sworn in tonight.

Pretty interesting story behind it.

Her personal back story is pretty inspiring. Her parents are Haitian refugees who worked low-level jobs (taxi driver and maid), but she made it all the way through law school and had been working as the CEO of Trinity Health. I’m not enthused about her for several reasons, but you would expect that she would be a strong candidate in a predominately Black congressional district, and you’d be right. She was essentially guaranteed a victory against any Republican. She probably would have won at least 60-40 if she had run against Jesus.

Now the Republicans couldn’t risk having one of their rising stars get slaughtered in an election, so they had to throw in a sacrificial lamb. This is the same theory that caused the 6th man on our high school golf team to play against John Calabria and Terry Diehl, two future PGA touring pros who went to two of our rival schools. Obviously our very best guy, who might shoot a 79 on his best day, was going to get killed by Calabria or Diehl, who played consistently under par on the courses we played. (If I remember right, Diehl first broke par on the Genesee Valley Course when he was 12! I remember thinking it must be a misprint.) So we just moved each of our 1-5 guys down one slot, and threw our weakest guy in against the two aces.

Who was the sacrificial lamb in the election? Quite a troll. An ex-con with quite a rap sheet, and a former drug addict who proudly displays his love of the Confederate “stars and bars.” His preferences include a preference for secession along the Mason-Dixon line.

Because black voters love that shit!

Well, you can’t accuse him of pandering!

At the time he filed his candidacy, he didn’t even have a driver’s license, because it had been suspended for a careless driving citation. Moreover, his ex-wife had filed a police report against him on Nov. 6, 2020, in which she alleged she feared for her safety. According to the report, she was told by a friend of hers that Mariner was “losing it” and wanted to take it out on his wife. “I’m just gonna tie her up, kidnap her and take her to the mountains to get her straight.”

A real boy scout. He probably even knew the correct knots to tie her up.

Oh, yeah, one more thing. He may not even have been legally eligible to run. Article VI, Section 4, of the Florida Constitution states that, “No person convicted of a felony … shall be qualified to vote or hold office.” It would be up to the courts to settle that. It’s not clear whether that provision has been overridden by an amendment. It’s not even clear whether that provision in the Florida constitution could legally apply to a federal office, since the U.S. Constitution specifically defines the requirements for the House, and it’s not clear whether the states can add additional requirements. This is a complicated matter, and not so obvious as I implied at first.

Be that as it may, you can probably guess how the election came out. The woman whose parents worked their asses off to escape poverty, enabling her to get a law degree and become a CEO, won overwhelmingly, about 4-to-1. The Confederate Flag guy got 19%. It is probably not completely coincidental that the white population of that district is (wait for it) … 19%.

So far, no surprises. That would be the end of the story in a rational world. But we don’t live in such a world any longer. All reality is backwards. The troll refused to concede the election and filed lawsuits alleging ballot issues in two areas. As if it mattered. The guy didn’t even get 20% of the vote!

His explanation makes no sense to me.

“Now they called the race — I did not win, so they say, but that does not mean that they lost either.”

OK.

His general state of confusion is further addled by what appears to be virtual illiteracy, based on his Facebook posts, which are often so baffling that one can’t tell what he’s trying to say.

“I’m 100% certain that when Dr. Martin Luther King gave this speech (the- ‘I have a dream…’ speech), he wasn’t talking about blaming disparities in the black community on ‘white privelage’. Today, the two most important issue to defeat are fatherless homes, especially in the black community, and stopping the left from using the black community as political pawns … I’ll be called a Nazi, and you’ll be called an Uncle Tom if you don’t look like me, but say what I.”

I couldn’t find any mention of his educational level in any of his biographical material. I’m guessing that a Ph.D. from the Yale classics department is probably not in the cards.

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“Gee, I’m kind of a dumb, illiterate white guy with multiple felony convictions who may not be eligible to hold the office I’m running for. I openly worship the Confederacy in a predominately Black district. I just can’t believe I lost! It must be fraud!”


Here it is in VHD:



According to some reports, the explosion was so loud that it could be heard in Alaska!

Here is a satellite photo that shows the size of the initial cloud compared to the size of Australia (click to enlarge)

The Tonga Online website has some pics from surface level.

Or something. I think his new term of address, rather than Your Royal Highness, is Your Assholiness.

He has also been de-coloneled and de-commodored.

I take it he is still the Duke of Earl or whatever dukedom he represents, and is still ninth in line to the throne, and will continue to be a vice-admiral, and the article still calls him “Prince Andrew.” Oh, yeah, and “Andrew will remain as a counsellor of state, able to undertake official duties if the sovereign is temporarily incapacitated through illness or abroad.”

So maybe it’s not really all that big a punishment. Call me when he gets demoted to chimney sweep.

I guess it depends on how one completes the thought. Less than what? If it’s less than Pete Davidson – certainly. If it’s less than they used to – maybe. If it’s less than me – probably not, unless they are Tibetan monks.

This may be the one and only time I link to an article in Scientific American.

It’s the only magazine where I don’t even understand the pictures.

We now resume the usual crap at my reading level, from Cracked and Weekly World News …

“The research involved stimulating the clitorises of 20 adult females while their brains were scanned using functional magnetic resonance imaging.”

I don’t know if the scientists involved here are smart enough to prove this point, but I know that there’s an even more cogent argument for their genius: they thought this up in the first place. “Look, I’ll just place this device on your head while I lick your clit. It’ll only take a sec. Darn. The reading wasn’t clear. We better take a longer scan.”

The Man of La Manchin averred: “I’ve tried everything humanly possible. I can’t get there. This is a no.”

The Democrats were ecstatic after they won those two Senate seats in Georgia, thinking they were in the catbird’s seat, but that was all an illusion. The situation is better for them than if they had lost those seats, but the 50-50 stalemate in the Senate has made Manchin the most powerful person in America. Manchin was sent to Washington by a mere 290,000 voters, yet he now wields more power than Biden, who got 81 million votes. Nobody would be saying a word about Manchin if the Democrats had lost those two Georgia seats. If that had happened, only serious political junkies would even be able to name a senator from West Virginia. (I have no idea who the other one is.) Now everyone who watches TV news or reads a paper will stand a tip-toe when he is named, and rouse him at the name of Manchin. Talk about a guy in the right place at the right time! (Or the opposite, depending on your politics.)

Oh, those tricky “cc” and “ch” combinations. In the past week I have had to look up the pronunciation of four words that are mispronounced so often by allegedly intelligent commentators that I thought perhaps I had been pronouncing them incorrectly all these years:

machination
chicanery
accede
flaccid

My pronunciations were all correct. People just use words that they don’t know how to pronounce. Those ch’s are really pesky.

they are a “k” in machination
they are an “sh” in chicanery
they are a typical “ch” in chicken

As for the cc’s in flaccid and accede, for centuries they have been pronounced as “k”

(ækˈsiːd)
(ˈflæksɪd)

But many American dictionaries, in the non-fascist spirit of favoring description over prescription, are now listing “a SEED” and “FLAH-sid” as alternate pronunciations because languages are living, evolving entities. If everyone pronounces a word a certain way, it becomes correct by default. In a classic example of linguistic evolution, if you pronounce the word “mauve” in the traditional correct form, almost every American will either misunderstand you or think you’ve messed up! (It should rhyme with “grove.”)

Here are OED’s phonetic representations of those two words:

məʊv
grəʊv

Frankly, I have given up on this one. I deliberately pronounce it “mawv” now so Americans will know which word I am saying. I would pronounce it the traditional way if I were in Canada or the UK, but I’ve never had a need to use that word in those countries, and I don’t expect that I ever will. It just doesn’t come up that often in conversation. Maybe it could pop up in trivia competitions: “Name all of Tom Wolfe’s books.”

“Meanwhile, Mitch McConnell is now appearing to reverse course on the probe and saying its findings are “something the public needs to know.””

Stone said he invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination “to every question” they asked him. Don’t they start by asking his name? How can that incriminate him?

(Now that I think about it, admitting “I am Roger Stone” is an admission that you are someone with seven felony convictions, so maybe he has a point.)

“He’s got to condemn this shit ASAP. The Capitol Police tweet is not enough,” Trump Jr. wrote to Meadows.

“I’m pushing it hard,” Meadows replied. “I agree.”

“We need an Oval Office address. He has to lead now,” Trump Jr. continued. “It has gone too far and gotten out of hand.”

WTF? You have to agree with Junior’s thought process – but at the same time, you have to wonder why he did not just talk or text to his father directly. Mary Trump’s answer: “Cowardice. Because Donny knew that the message he was delivering was the message his father did not want to hear.”

Her answer seems logical, but I’d like to hear Junior’s own answer to the same query. Their family dynamic is fascinating. Did Junior first try to contact his dad directly, only to find his call screened? Were there texts from Junior to Senior that went unanswered before the outreach to Meadows? Does Eric know how to text? Inquiring minds want to know.

Warren tweeted that they should fix the tax code so Musk pays more taxes.

Musk called her “Senator Karen,” and pointed out that he will pay more taxes than any American in history this year. (That seems correct. He deferred capital gains taxes, but did not avoid them.)

Given that Musk actually accomplishes things while the congress basically just jerks off, it’s not unreasonable to posit that the country should give money to him, rather than the other way around.

That said, Warren’s point is probably valid when applied to most other billionaires. Even many of them have admitted they should pay more taxes.

“Griffin allegedly paid more than $3,000 to the woman to fly her and the 9-year-old girl to Boston in July, where prosecutors say he picked them up from the airport and brought them to the ski house ‘where the child was directed to engage in and did engage in illegal sexual activity,’ the indictment said.”

I hope they also brought charges against the mother who orchestrated this encounter.

The Hindenburg disaster – color-restored [4k Color]

From the National Archives, quoting reporter Herb Morrison.

Later in the broadcast, as reporter Herb Morrison learned that there were survivors, he said, “I hope that it isn’t as bad as I made it sound at the very beginning.” Years later, Morrison recalled that he yelled “Oh, the humanity,” because he thought everyone on board had died; in fact, sixty-two of the people on board survived.

A look back on how the media and the political left jumped on the Jussie bandwagon.

What ticks me off most about this guy is the fact that he didn’t plead guilty. Yeah, I know everyone is entitled to be tried by a jury if he so elects, but what was the point of doing so. Could his guilt have been any more obvious? The crimes he was accused of basically amounted to wasting the resources and time of those in the legal system. By going to trial against a mountain of evidence, with literally no defense of any kind except obvious lies, he showed just how little he cared about what he was accused of – because the fruitless trial just wasted more time and resources. I’m surprised the jury foreman didn’t echo The Producers: “Your honor, we find the defendant incredibly guilty.”

I suppose a guilty plea would have earned him a slap on the wrist, and a fine requiring him to pay back the city $130,000. That lenience wouldn’t really have bothered me at all. Now I hope he gets the maximum sentence on all of his charges. Screw this guy. He’s still lying. Furthermore, he should probably be further charged with many, many counts of perjury for his sworn testimony in the trial itself.

She confirmed that the pics were legit: “Book filed a complaint with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement after getting multiple text messages from an unknown number on Nov. 12, including two nude pictures that Book sent only to a close friend.”

Update: I think I had misunderstood this situation. I originally had assumed that the kid had somehow obtained some exclusive content of some kind, but now it seems that there was an avalanche of nude material hitting the internet, and this kid just happened to have a couple of the gazillion nude pics and explicit videos circulating around. Apparently he did not hack or originate material. He simply was one of many people with some leaked material, and he tried to turn that into a profit with a meaningless blackmail scheme. I will argue for “meaningless” because even if she had paid him and he had subsequently surrendered whatever he had, it would have made no difference. Pandora’s Box had already opened. The Phun site alone has unearthed a couple dozen videos and many pics, many of them XXX explicit. The Phun thread can be found here.

Bob Dole, 1923-2021, one of the last of the WWII warriors.

He had a good sense of humor to the last. When Norm Macdonald died, Dole got the comment exactly right when he tweeted “Bob Dole will miss Norm Macdonald.”

(Norm’s hook in his Dole impersonation was that he always referred to himself in the third person.)


Can Aussies drink the most? Maybe not! “It’s possible that they were the drunkest country in 2020 because they largely managed to avoid COVID-19 lockdowns. Bars and clubs remained open.” Heck, in Wisconsin we call Aussies “teetotalers.” Then again, Wisconsin is not a country. Yet.

Kidding aside, the article says that the average Australian gets drunk 27 times a year, and that the women drink more than the men. That’s a lot of alcohol abuse, even by Wisconsin standards.