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JoanofArgh's Journal
JoanofArgh's Journal
May 31, 2021

The 'culture wars' are a symptom, not the cause, of Britain's malaise

It’s often said that Conservatives and the rightwing press are good at stoking divisions. What’s perhaps less acknowledged is that they do so mostly by inventing them: those who campaign for more inclusive policies become “the woke mob” and “the looney left”; those who want students to learn about the darker parts of Britain’s history become “people who hate Britain”; judges and politicians who want to follow basic parliamentary procedures become “enemies of the people”, “saboteurs”, and “traitors”, and so on.

In every case, we’re told that the future of the nation is at stake. The relentlessness of this “culture war” narrative leaves us with the image of an irreconcilable rift at the heart of British society: between liberals obsessed with identity politics who live, literally or spiritually, in “north London”, and sidelined social conservatives who live – or rather, are “left behind” – everywhere else (most emotively in “the red wall”). These fantasy constructions are now the twin pillars of Conservative rhetoric.

But this image of an irreconcilably divided nation is just that: an image. A spate of polls have shown that we are not as divided as many would have us think. Views in the so-called red wall are largely consistent with the rest of the country and, nationwide, few people know what either the “culture war” or “wokeness” even mean. Yet the right still pushes this narrative relentlessly, railing against a lefty elite that somehow manages to both wield a hegemonic control over Britain’s culture and be hopelessly out of touch with it. The new rightwing television channel, GB News – one of many new ventures to pitch itself as an urgent corrective – will host a segment called Wokewatch, to illuminate and amplify examples of the loony left’s looniness.

It’s no surprise that Boris Johnson thrives in this environment: a journalist by trade, a liar by nature, he is all too familiar with the energising power of some well-placed hyperbole. As the Daily Telegraph’s Europe correspondent in the 1990s, Johnson wrote all kinds of wild and made-up provocations about the EU’s regulatory overreach: before Wokewatch there was Brusselswatch. The aim of Johnson’s exaggerations wasn’t any particular political agenda, but rather to stoke animosity. “Everything I wrote from Brussels was having this amazing, explosive effect on the Tory party,” Johnson recalled in his Desert Island Discs interview for Radio 4 in 2005, “and it really gave me this rather weird sense of power.” As prime minister Johnson pursues the same approach, but his plaything is now the nation at large.


Culture wars are also a favorite tactic of authoritarian strongmen from Mussolini to the present.

May 27, 2021

Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad won a 4th term with 95.1% of the vote

Wow, what a popular guy!

Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad won a fourth term in office with 95.1% of votes in an election that will extend his rule over a country ruined by war but which opponents and the West say was marked by fraud.

Head of parliament Hammouda Sabbagh announced the result in a news conference on Thursday, saying voter turn out was at around 78%.

The election went ahead despite a U.N.-led peace process that had called for voting under international supervision that would help pave the way for a new constitution and a political settlement.

The win delivers Assad seven more years in power and lengthens his family's rule to nearly six decades. His father Hafez al-Assad led Syria for 30 years until his death in 2000.


May 26, 2021

Immunity to the Coronavirus May Persist for Years, Scientists Find

Immunity to the coronavirus lasts at least a year, possibly a lifetime, improving over time especially after vaccination, according to two new studies. The findings may help put to rest lingering fears that protection against the virus will be short-lived.

Together, the studies suggest that most people who have recovered from Covid-19 and who were later immunized will not need boosters. Vaccinated people who were never infected most likely will need the shots, however, as will a minority who were infected but did not produce a robust immune response.

Both reports looked at people who had been exposed to the coronavirus about a year earlier. Cells that retain a memory of the virus persist in the bone marrow and may churn out antibodies whenever needed, according to one of the studies, published on Monday in the journal Nature.

The other study, which is also under review for publication in Nature, found that these so-called memory B cells continue to mature and strengthen for at least 12 months after the initial infection. “The papers are consistent with the growing body of literature that suggests that immunity elicited by infection and vaccination for SARS-CoV-2 appears to be long-lived,” said Scott Hensley, an immunologist at the University of Pennsylvania who was not involved in the research.


May 26, 2021

9 Legal Scholars Describe How Trump Could Run and Govern from Prison.

Jfc. I can't see him getting elected if he's imprisoned but just the possibility is insane.

I have to post a tweet thread because the article is behind a paywall at Business Insider.


Trump wouldn't even be the first person to run for president from prison. Eugene Debs (1920) and Lyndon LaRouche (1992) have done it before.

Serving as president from prison has never been done though, and legal experts told us it would be complicated.
wondered whether Trump might give his State of the Union Address via Zoom, or whether the nuclear football would be kept in a nearby cell.

One possibility: Trump could potentially designate the White House as a Bureau of Prisons facility where he's the only inmate, said Professor Frank Bowman.

If Trump were convicted of a federal crime, he could try to pardon himself. If he were in a state prison, a governor or state parole board could pardon him. "I'm guessing that Cuomo's not too favorably disposed," said professor Brian Kalt of Michigan State University.

The 25th Amendment could also come into play. Trump could theoretically hand over power to his VP for an extended period of time. That vice president "could be his son, or whoever else that happens to be," said constitutional law professor Michael Gerhardt.

May 24, 2021

DeSantis invited James O'Keefe and Project Veritas to signing of anti-tech bill

Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis on Monday invited serial conservative hoaxster James O'Keefe as a guest for the signing of a bill targeting technology companies.

O'Keefe has spent over a decade through his group Project Veritas attacking Democrats, media organizations, and progressives, often utilizing videos that have been deceptively edited, removing crucial context.

The new legislation signed by DeSantis will impose fines on companies for banning political candidates, either locally or statewide, even if the candidates violate the companies' terms of service, promote disinformation, or incite violence, just as Donald Trump did before he was permanently banned from Twitter in January.

The law is expected by legal experts to face court challenges for violating First Amendment protections for speech. DeSantis name-checked O'Keefe, who was positioned behind the governor for the entirety of the speech and signing ceremony, to loud applause from supporters in the audience.


May 22, 2021

Good thread on why prescription drugs are so high in US


Why are prescription drug prices so high in the US?

Let us start with insulin as an example. Insulin is the Achilles heel. If we understand insulin, we understand why it's so hard to fix our broken system.

1/ Existence of a vulnerable population needing a lifesaving medicine

2/ Monopoly

3 companies control the market for insulin. In a monopoly with significant regulatory and legal barriers to entry of competing products, the seller can set the price however high they want.

Here, the monopoly is not over a luxury item, but a lifesaving medicine.

3/ Patent Evergreening:
Making patent life extremely long & preventing competition.

Covert: By making newer version of a drug and patenting it (see insulin below)

Overt: Filing multiple new patents on same drug to stretch patent life, pay for delay schemes, lawsuits.

4/ Planned Obsolescence

When Pharma introduces new drugs, the new one is marketed as so much better, that using an older drug is not good clinical practice.

With insulin it's ok. But in other fields, new "me-too" drugs often provide minimal incremental value to justify cost.

5/ Biosimilar and Generic drug approval process is slow, expensive, and complicated. Numerous regulatory and legal barriers.

Studies show you need 4 or more competing biosimilars/generics to have an effect on price. One is not enough.

6/ Price "Collusion"

Absent true completion, if just 2 companies make similar products they can choose to increase prices in lock step. Both benefit. With insulin for years prices of competing drugs increased almost on same day to same level. It is not overt collusion. But...

7/ The Middlemen

Everyone in the supply chain from Pharma to Wholesaler to Pharmacy Benefit Manager to Pharmacy benefits from a higher price, except the patient. Profit is proportional to list price, which means it's in everyone's interest to have a high price.

8/ Influence of the Pharma Lobby

Pharmaceutical companies spend a lot on lobbying. Which is why nothing ever gets done.

Plus the factors for high price (#1-7) are many, and it's easy to point fingers.

9/ There are also other factors that make prices insanely high that are unique to the US:

Medicare must buy, but cannot negotiate.

Prescribers of meds administered in doctors offices stand to gain more by prescribing a more expensive option.

10/ So what are the solutions?

Every western nation has value based pricing. A maximum price that is negotiated for new drugs proportional to the value they provide. This ensures a reasonable launch price, & prevents the type of crazy price increases that are possible in the US

11/ Medicare must be able to negotiate for prices.

@ASlavitt once said almost 90% of Americans agree that Medicare should negotiate for drug prices, and 90% of Americans agree on very few things!

12/ Reform regulatory and patent process to make it easier for generics and biosimilars to end the market.

We cannot allow patent evergreening by repeated new patents filed on the same drugs as is the case with analog insulins and many new drugs.

13/ Eliminate reimbursement for drugs administered in doctors offices from a % of sales price to a fixed reimbursement. The current system encourages the use of a more expensive alternative when an equivalent cheaper one is available.

14/ Reforms to ensure that price increases are not related to rebates and lack of transparency in deals between Pharma and PBMs.

Many ways to do this. Including transparency, ending practice of rebates or passing rebates to patients. There will be many trade offs. It's complex.

15/ What can individual doctors do?

Help patients find the lowest cost options. Always prefer generics and biosimilars if possible.

For patients paying cash, prices of common drugs can vary dramatically. @GoodRx helps find the lowest price.

May 20, 2021

House Democrats had their best April on record in fundraising, topping Repubs

The House Democrats’ campaign arm raised more than $12 million last month, topping its Republican counterpart and giving the group its best April on record in terms of fundraising.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) pulled in $12.2 million in April and wiped out its remaining $5.5 million in debt from last cycle, according to figures shared first with The Hill. The DCCC ended the month with $32.1 million in the bank, nearly tripling the cash on hand it carried at this point in 2019.

By comparison, the House GOP’s campaign arm, the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC), announced on Thursday that it had raised $11.2 million in April, an impressive haul and the group’s best off-year April, but one that still falls about $1 million short of the DCCC’s.

The NRCC still has slightly more money in the bank than the DCCC — about $34 million — and it entered 2021 without any notable debt, unlike its Democratic counterpart. The massive April hauls underscore how fundraising is not slowing down in the wake of the 2020 elections, even in a year without any regularly scheduled federal elections.


May 19, 2021

New poll by Democratic pollster Stan Greenburg in swing states and districts

A newly released poll from the Democratic firm Democracy Corps, surveying battleground states and congressional districts, lends fuel to the more pessimistic outlook for Biden and congressional Democrats. Conducted between April 27 and May 3, the survey finds that Republicans are tied with Democrats on the generic congressional ballot (45 to 45 percent) in these swing states and districts. Republicans are showing more enthusiasm for their party: The percentage of Democrats showing the highest levels of engagement dropped from 85 percent just before last year’s election to 57 percent in this month’s survey. By contrast, 68 percent of Republicans say they’re still highly engaged, compared to 84 percent before the election.

Far from being a divided party, Republicans look awfully united behind Donald Trump’s brand of populist, culture war-driven politics. The purging of outspoken Trump critics like Liz Cheney from the party isn’t dissuading traditional Republicans from maintaining their partisan affiliation. In these battlegrounds, Republicans are holding onto more than 87 percent of “non-Trump conservatives,” a constituency more skeptical of the former president, with just five percent defecting to Democrats. A clear majority of “moderate Republicans” (70 percent) are also sticking with the party for next year’s midterms, with just 13 percent preferring Democrats. Republicans are holding onto the softest part of their coalition, while maintaining the enthusiasm of the Trump base in opposition to Biden.

On this competitive turf, Biden’s job approval rating stands at 49 percent, with 45 percent disapproving. But the intensity of support or opposition tips the scales towards Republicans: 33 percent view the president “very favorably” while 38 percent view Biden “very unfavorably.” Biden is also losing ground with independents: Just 35 percent of these swing voters approve of the president’s performance, while 47 percent disapprove. Democrats are winning a mere 17 percent support among independents on the generic ballot, with 34 percent backing Republicans and a 45 percent plurality saying they’re undecided.

These battleground results suggest that while Republicans’ brand is battered over their abject loyalty to Trump, the Democratic Party’s own leftward drift is also deeply alienating to middle-of-the-road voter. “We were surprised by how much Donald Trump’s loyalist party is totally consolidated at this early point in its 2022 voting and how engaged it is,” the polling memo reads. “Democrats cannot fail to see how Trump’s party is fully engaged with its ongoing culture war, focused on crime, open borders, and defunding the police. Democrats are at risk of repeating 2020 if they do not prioritize defusing and neutralizing it.”


May 19, 2021

Families Live in Fear as Long-Haul Covid Afflicts More Children

One of the few statistical comforts of the otherwise nightmarish Covid-19 pandemic — that it largely spares young people — is fading: The long-haul symptoms that have stricken many U.S. adults are now hitting those under 20.

A relatively small but increasing percentage of children are struggling for months with extreme fatigue, rapid heart rate, memory loss, depression and other symptoms. In one sign of their growing numbers, the UH Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital in Cleveland is opening a Long Haul Clinic just for young people, the first of its kind in the country.

Families whose children are afflicted are plunged into a terrifying maze of symptoms that come and go, and have no knowable end point. Katie Krol, 42, got the virus from a co-worker at a Michigan engine plant in March 2020 and brought it home to her two youngest children. All three continue to suffer.

Even the family of one of the Biden administration’s top Covid advisers, Andrew Slavitt, is dealing with the same issue. At a White House briefing Tuesday, he revealed that one of his “young and fit” sons was infected by the virus six months ago, but still experiences shortness of breath and frequent flu-like symptoms. Slavitt said the family has no idea how long it will last. “The pediatric piece of this is pretty neglected,” said Amy Edwards, associate medical director of pediatric infection control at University Hospitals in Ohio. “Kids with long haul have brain fog, chronic fatigue, fevers on and off, weird rashes. Long-haulers don’t go to the hospital. They suffer at home.”


May 17, 2021

The World Economy Is Suddenly Running Low on Everything

Mattress producers to car manufacturers to aluminum foil makers are buying more material than they need to survive the breakneck speed at which demand for goods is recovering and assuage that primal fear of running out. The frenzy is pushing supply chains to the brink of seizing up. Shortages, transportation bottlenecks and price spikes are nearing the highest levels in recent memory, raising concern that a supercharged global economy will stoke inflation

Copper, iron ore and steel. Corn, coffee, wheat and soybeans. Lumber, semiconductors, plastic and cardboard for packaging. The world is seemingly low on all of it. “You name it, and we have a shortage on it,” Tom Linebarger, chairman and chief executive of engine and generator manufacturer Cummins Inc., said on a call this month. Clients are “trying to get everything they can because they see high demand,” Jennifer Rumsey, the Columbus, Indiana-based company’s president, said. “They think it’s going to extend into next year.”

The difference between the big crunch of 2021 and past supply disruptions is the sheer magnitude of it, and the fact that there is — as far as anyone can tell — no clear end in sight. Big or small, few businesses are spared. Europe’s largest fleet of trucks, Girteka Logistics, says there’s been a struggle to find enough capacity. Monster Beverage Corp. of Corona, California, is dealing with an aluminum can scarcity. Hong Kong’s MOMAX Technology Ltd. is delaying production of a new product because of a dearth of semiconductors.

Further exacerbating the situation is an unusually long and growing list of calamities that have rocked commodities in recent months. A freak accident in the Suez Canal backed up global shipping in March. Drought has wreaked havoc upon agricultural crops. A deep freeze and mass blackout wiped out energy and petrochemicals operations across the central U.S. in February. Less than two weeks ago, hackers brought down the largest fuel pipeline in the U.S., driving gasoline prices above $3 a gallon for the first time since 2014. Now India’s massive Covid-19 outbreak is threatening its biggest ports.


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