Just wishes more Americans could have been infected.
Rightwing culture warrior Dennis Prager announced yesterday that finally, after lots of effort, he has achieved a major item on his bucket list: He's tested positive for COVID-19, and he couldn't be happier. On his YouTube "radio" show, Prager said he'd actually been working at getting the virus, because he's adopted the false belief, newly popular on the Right, that "natural immunity" resulting from surviving an infection with COVID is way better than any vaccine. (Big surprise: That's a very dangerous assertion: Vaccines are safer and more reliable than getting a disease that so far has killed more than 700,000 Americans.)
Here's Prager proudly explaining that he's got the bug, and how he worked so hard to get it, via Media Matters:
Prager said he tested positive for COVID last week and has "been steadily improving," insisting — without offering medical evidence — that "At no point was I in danger of hospitalization." He did note that he had received a course of treatment with monoclonal antibodies, which actually are very effective at preventing hospitalization, but not a guarantee, and certainly not a cure. He also listed the full range of quack "treatments" that fellow anti-vaxxers are excited about, despite their utter lack of proven effectiveness in clinical trials, from hydroxychloroquine to horse paste. So hooray, he probably won't get malaria or mange. Probably.
Prager proclaimed he had "done what a person should do if one is not going to get vaccinated," but he didn't explain why he considered monoclonal antibodies an acceptable product of Big Pharma while he's been urging people to avoid the vaccines.
But HA HA, that's obvious! Donald Trump made a big public show of calling monoclonal antibodies a miracle treatment, but when Trump got vaccinated, he did it off camera and barely said a word about it. Therefore vaccines must be bad and liberal, monoclonal antibodies (and sheep dewormer) are good and patriotic.
Are we doing Dennis Prager's thought process correctly?
Prager explained how he'd actively sought out a nice infection, because that's the new thing rightwing crazies are touting.
Before we get into that, let's Truth Sandwich his lies about "natural immunity," because there's a LOT of bogus bullshit out there, from people who have been lying about science from the start of the pandemic. Here's a nice guide about what's known, and what isn't (so far) about "natural" immunity versus vaccination, from the University of Nebraska Medical Centers:
The data is clear: Natural immunity is not better. The COVID-19 vaccines create more effective and longer-lasting immunity than natural immunity from infection.
• More than a third of COVID-19 infections result in zero protective antibodies
• Natural immunity fades faster than vaccine immunity
• Natural immunity alone is less than half as effective than natural immunity plus vaccination
The takeaway: Get vaccinated, even if you've had COVID-19. Vaccine immunity is stronger than natural immunity.
"Natural immunity can be spotty. Some people can react vigorously and get a great antibody response. Other people don't get such a great response," says infectious diseases expert Mark Rupp, MD. "Clearly, vaccine-induced immunity is more standardized and can be longer-lasting."
You'll see a lot of rightwing claims that "natural" immunity is supposedly far stronger than vaccines, even suggestions that it's X times better, but the evidence just isn't there yet, and the claims are often based on cherrypicked data from studies that haven't yet been peer-reviewed.
But we do know vaccines are safe and effective. More to the point, remember that "natural" immunity — when it does arise — only occurs after people have survived an infection. Seeking out a deadly virus is no way to "protect" yourself.
OK, so now that we've inoculated you against misinformation, let's look at Prager's weird quest to get himself infected, because if he stumbles he might fall. He claims he's wanted to get infected "the entire time," which suggests to us he's been slacking, since if he'd really wanted a case of COVID, he probably could have rushed out and done it before it was trendy (and well before monoclonal antibodies were available at no cost to the patient, the wuss).
But never mind. Prager says that in hopes of getting the virus,
I have engaged with strangers, constantly hugging them, taking photos with them knowing that I was making myself very susceptible to getting COVID. Which is, indeed, as bizarre as it sounded, what I wanted, in the hope I would achieve natural immunity and be taken care of by therapeutics. That is exactly what has happened.
Then this line, which ought to terrify anyone who thinks about it even a little bit: Prager believes that "It should have happened to the great majority of Americans."
That's some heavy-duty Angel of Death stuff; remember that when Trump's Let God Sort 'Em Out adviser Scott Atlas was pushing "herd immunity" through widespread infection, the Washington Post estimated that just getting 65 percent of Americans infected — which we now know is well below the threshold needed to stop the spread of the virus — would kill at least 2.1 million Americans.
But Prager is quite certain the virus isn't a big deal anyway, since in May 2020 he advocated eating from forks he's dropped on the floors of restaurants to "prove" that's a perfectly smart thing to do. (The video did not actually show him going to a restaurant to lick other diners' utensils, we'll note.)
In fact, Prager is quite angry that too few Americans have been infected, because the virus is so very harmless:
The number of deaths in this country owing to COVID is a scandal which one day will be clear to Americans. The opposition of therapeutics on the part of the CDC is owing to the corruption of the belief in the value of vaccine and only vaccine. Whether it is because of all the money that goes into the CDC from the pharmaceutical companies or a simple unquestioning faith in vaccines, or both, only God knows. So, I have walked the walk on this matter and here I am.
You see, if only we'd gotten more people sick with a deadly virus that actually isn't cured by most of the useless shit that wingnuts think cure it, then everyone who survived would be just fine. Apart from the millions who would've died, as if they'd have mattered. At least Prager walks the walk, and then picks up any forks he stepped on and puts them in his mouth.
It must be the fault of the pharmaceutical industry, which also sells hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin for treating other diseases, although they're apparently useless against COVID. Big Pharma also sells genuinely effective monoclonal antibody treatments like Regeneron — which is vastly more expensive than the vaccines, at $2,100 a dose (paid by the government) compared to about 40 bucks for two doses of the Pfizer vaccine, or $30 for two doses of Modernas. Darn you, Big Pharma, for promoting safer, more effective, and cheaper vaccines. Dennis Prager is on to you!
We wish Mr. Prager a speedy recovery, because we are not monsters, and genuinely hope he's not the next person to fill the blank in the prefab headline "_________, Radio Host Who Urged Listeners To Skip Vaccines, Dies of COVID." We would far rather make fun of him where he's alive and can see it.
The fucking idiot.
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The answer is 'In every way possible. It's global, dumbass.'
We got another reminder yesterday that grown-ups are running things again, this time in the form of — we hope you're ready for the shock of your life — a set of reports from 23 government agencies on how they'll be affected by the climate emergency and what they plan to do to meet those challenges.
We know, it's a lot to take in. We'll give you a moment to catch your breath.
But as you can imagine, it's very srs bns, because a warming planet with more frequent extreme weather events will affect just about every aspect of how we live, and how the government does stuff. As the New York Times points out, some of it sounds like the stuff of dystopian fiction:
Less food. More traffic accidents. Extreme weather hitting nuclear waste sites. Migrants rushing toward the United States, fleeing even worse calamity in their own countries.
Some of it may sound more mundane, but will require costly changes to deal with. F'rinstance, as the Department of Transportation report notes, more severe weather is going to lead to airport closures, flight cancellations and delays, and snarls in the air traffic control system. Even without storms, warmer average air temperatures mean planes will need longer takeoff runs, and they won't be able to fly as far or carry as much as they did in the cooler past. Not gigantic changes, but enough to have an economic effect.
The reports were required by Biden as part of an assload of executive orders he issued on January 28, when he announced his climate agenda and pledged to pursue a "whole of government" approach to the climate crisis, rather than shunting the issue off to agencies like the EPA or the Interior department. The 23 agencies include some that are obviously going to be dealing directly with climate and its impacts, like the departments of Agriculture, Defense, Interior, Homeland Security, and Transportation, as well as the EPA and NASA, along with other agencies that don't immediately pop into your head when you think "climate change," like the Department of Education or the General Services Agency.
But hell yes, they're all going to be dealing with climate: The Education Department's report points out that just in California, during the 2018-2019 school year, wildfires caused school closures that affected more than a million kids and their families. More powerful hurricanes are going to affect schools across a larger part of the country — kids in Puerto Rico lost an average of 78 school days after Hurricane Maria, for instance. And then there's the challenge of upgrading tens of thousands of schools to be more energy efficient, plus planning to do something about the more than 6,300 schools nationwide that are in flood plains. Those schools alone serve about four million kids.
And yes, the super-boring General Services Agency, which manages federal property, purchasing, and vehicle fleets, among other things, is revising its design standards to make sure government facilities are more resilient — that's a hell of a lot of office space. GSA also handles IT for government agencies, and there again, it has to plan for how to keep data systems working when there are wildfires and severe storms and coastal flooding.
There's even a report from the Smithsonian Institution, which has all those museums in flood-prone Washington DC. It would be a darn good idea if the "nation's attic" didn't literally have to move its collections upstairs and paint "HELP US" on the roof.
A little more, from NBC News:
Changes in temperature, increases in floods and droughts, more pests and disease will all affect America's food supply, according to the Agriculture Department, while the Department of Housing and Urban Development warned that affordable housing "is increasingly at risk from both extreme weather events and sea-level rise."
Health and Human Services said that not only are more people exposed to deadly heat and floodwaters because of climate change, but also that exposure to certain infections increases as the life cycles of ticks and mosquitoes change. Severe weather disasters contribute to anxiety, depression and other mental health impacts, they added.
In accordance with Biden's call for racial equity and justice, the reports all note what their departments can do in that area; HHS's report, for instance, says it'll fund grants to research health effects in frontline communities, which is a hell of a lot, given that some of the worst industrial sources of pollution have been built in minority and low-income communities. That's also why the Build Back Better reconciliation bill specifies that climate mitigation funding should go to environmental cleanup, adaptability planning, and building resilient infrastructure in the most hard-hit communities.
The Defense Department has long considered climate change a potentially "destabilizing force," causing international tensions and also creating logistical problems for the armed forces, as military bases in some areas get flooded or damaged by storms and equipment gets bogged down in wetter parts of the world. As the Times points out,
Water shortages could even become a new source of tension between the U.S. military overseas and the countries where troops are based. At DOD sites outside the United States, "military water requirements might compete with local water needs, creating potential areas of friction or even conflict."
Then there's the Department of Homeland Security, which notes that the US is already dealing with climate refugees from Central America, a challenge that's only going to grow as farmland dries up and climate change causes even greater "population movements from Mexico, Central America, South America, and the Caribbean." Perhaps a bit ominously, the Times points out that
The department doesn't say how it plans to respond in the future as more people flee to the United States, beyond saying it "will focus on national security and balanced, equitable outcomes."
Sadly, we don't think that translates to abolishing ICE. Maybe we can send the agency to the poles, where ice is already in short supply.
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First she'll send the Idaho National Guard to Texas. Then TO THE MOOOOON!
Idaho may have only a fraction of the population of Florida or Texas, but by Crom, we do our level best to make up for it in random acts of crazy bullshit. We seem to have more than our share of rightwing crazies, from the North Idaho Nazis who got sued out of business decades ago to the rabid anti-Semite who's running for a seat on a school board this year — with the local GOP's endorsement. The joke in Idaho has always been that we have a two-party system: Conservative business-oriented Republicans, and full-on crazy conspiracy-theory Republicans. Idaho Gov. Brad Little is one of the former. And Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin is very much one of the latter.
Unlike in some states, the governor and lieutenant governor do not run together as a ticket, so it's not all that surprising that McGeachin is gearing up for a primary challenge against Little next year. Just to emphasize that she's running well to the right of Little, whenever he leaves the state, McGeachin has taken to using her momentary power as acting governor to sign some crazy and probably illegal executive orders. In late May, when Little attended a Republican Governors Association conference in Nashville, McGeachin issued her very own executive order banning all mask mandates in the state. Little rescinded it as soon as he returned.
This week, while Little flew down to Texas to meet with other Republican governors to whine about the "crisis" at the border, McGeachin again issued a symbolic executive order on the pandemic, this time banning vaccine mandates and mandatory testing for infections. While she was at it, McGeachin tried to call up the Idaho National Guard and send troops to the US-Mexico border, only to be rebuffed by the Guard's commanding general. So everything's very normal here, all righty.
McGeachin, following the example of America's One True President, issued her executive order on Twitter, saying she had "fixed" Little's April ban on vaccine passports, which had applied to all state agencies. McGeachin's "improvement" extended the ban to include public schools and universities, and also banned agencies and schools from even requiring employees be tested, since the Founders believed all Americans must spread viruses freely if they want. While she was at it, McGeachin also prohibited any private employer from mandating their workers be be vaccinated or tested, because apparently free enterprise means telling businesses what to do.
McGeachin also took advantage of Little's absence to try ordering the National Guard to the border, writing a letter to Major General Michael J. Garshak advising him that
As of Wednesday, my constitutional authority as Governor affords me the power of activating the Idaho National Guard [...] As the Adjutant General, I am requesting information from you on the steps needed for the Governor to activate the National Guard.
Garshak, who knows from chain of command and what a legal order is, sent back a one-paragraph reply noting that he was "unaware of any request for Idaho National Guard assistance under the Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC) from Texas or Arizona" and reminding the acting governor that "As you are aware, the Idaho National Guard is not a law enforcement agency."
It did the job, but might have been more impressive, historically resonant, and diagnostically accurate had Garshak sent back a message simply reading "NUTS!"
Politico points out that in June, Little had already sent a group of Idaho State Police members to the border to assist with "intelligence gathering and investigative work to stop drugs from coming across the border," because drugs at the US-Mexico border are such a huge crisis in Idaho.
Little issued his own hilarious statement on Twitter, vowing to rescind any executive actions McGeachin took while he was away:
I will be rescinding and reversing any actions taken by the Lt. Governor when I return. https://t.co/iBuQqX1R5i— Brad Little (@Brad Little) 1633470697.0
I am in Texas performing my duties as the duly elected Governor of Idaho, and I have not authorized the Lt. Governor to act on my behalf.
Before I even left the state, the Lt. Governor unabashedly requested information from the Adjutant General to deploy our National Guard to the border, the same place I am visiting today to work with my fellow Republican governors on solutions to the crisis. Attempting to deploy our National Guard for political grandstanding is an affront to the Idaho constitution and insults the men and women who have dedicated their life to serving our state and the country. The crisis at the border is something I take very seriously. That is why this summer I worked closely with the states of Arizona and Texas to determine the most impactful way to support their mission, and I sent a specialized team of Idaho State Police troopers to support drug interdiction efforts at the border. The people of Idaho can be assured that as their duly elected Governor, I will continue to fight this important issue.
Paragraph breaks, Governor, please.
We really like the part where Little castigates McGeachin for "political grandstanding" by trying to deploy the National Guard while he was out of the state on his own grandstanding visit to the border, which by contrast was totally necessary and serious and appropriate.
As of yet, Democrats in the state legislature have not called for all state officials to undergo mandatory irony recognition training.
While a number of Republican officials have condemned McGeachin's stupid little stunt, we have no doubt she considered it a huge success for her own campaign. A lot of Idaho wingnuts are still extremely angry with Little because in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, he actually ordered a lockdown in Idaho, complete with closures of "non-essential" businesses and prohibitions on in-person church services. Little never issued a statewide mask order, leaving that up to municipal and county governments, but he never banned mask mandates, either.
McGeachin, on the other hand, embraced the pro-virus crazy wing from the get-go, participating in a bizarre anti-public-health video sponsored by the far-Right Idaho Freedom Foundation, in which she posed with a Bible and a gun in the cab of a survivalist van. Clearly, she sees no electoral downside in trying to out-crazy establishment Republicans like Little.
Will it work? Crom only knows! Idaho's business-suite Republicans have always had the advantage in cash and support, especially among the state's influential and affluential LDS community (which, we'll remind you, also supports public health). But the crazy wing in Idaho politics keeps getting crazier, and might end up taking over, as has happened in so many states. As the pandemic continues to fill Idaho hospitals and morgues, there's still plenty of time for the state to swing crazier.
And hell, we haven't even had a good Muslim-baiting panic over Afghan refugees yet.
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Won't someone think of the guns?
Thanks to pressure from the NRA and its pet members of Congress, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has been prevented from doing meaningful research on America's epidemic of gun-related violence since 1996, when Congress passed the "Dickey Amendment." That measure didn't formally ban the CDC from researching gun violence as a public health threat — it merely defunded it, which amounts to the same thing. As NPR reported in 2018 when Congress voted to explicitly allow the CDC to research guns again (but without any new funding!), the NRA and its supporters were pissed off at the CDC for its heresy in publishing "a landmark 1993 study that concluded that having a gun in the home was more dangerous than not having one." Guns can't possibly be more dangerous than no guns, the NRA insisted, so no more funding for any science that would reach conclusions the NRA didn't like.
Fortunately, under Joe Biden's CDC director, Rochelle Walensky, the CDC will once more start doing more than the most rudimentary research on the public health effects of guns, and of gun laws. Currently, for instance, the CDC tracks how many Americans are killed with firearms: on average, slightly more than 100 a day, including crimes, suicides, accidents and negligent shootings, and the use of firearms by police. As NPR pointed out in a Wednesday story, there's a lot we don't know about other important questions:
But how often is someone injured by a firearm in America? Why, how and what kinds of weapons are used? What are the underlying causes? What's the relationship between shooter and victim? What evidence-based, scalable programs work best to help prevent criminal shootings, accidents and suicides? On these and other questions, people in public health, criminal justice, policing and academia admit they lack full and adequate answers. [...]
The CDC is now hoping to get a fuller picture of the data and long-neglected details on the impact of daily gun violence. The CDC and the National Institutes of Health, for the first time in nearly a quarter-century, are funding new research on guns to help reduce firearm-related injuries, deaths, crime and suicides.
CDC grants are funding research projects that, among other things, will look at how gun violence happens in various communities and population groups — such as service members and veterans, or adolescents who witness gun violence in their communities — so prevention efforts can be improved. In all, the CDC announced nearly $8 million in new research funding last week. Additional grant applications for funding from NIH are still under evaluation.
In addition, NPR says,
the CDC is now providing funding to 10 state health departments so they can start collecting data in near-real time on emergency room nonfatal firearm injuries. This will allow doctors and epidemiologists to potentially identify trends and craft swift interventions, as they have done to contain the coronavirus pandemic and other national health emergencies.
This is all very promising stuff, particularly given the increase in shootings during the last year — coinciding with huge increases in gun and ammo purchases during the pandemic. Sure, it stands to reason that a flood of new gun owners might result in more shootings, particularly when combined with increased paranoia, isolation and public fears about scary antifas and protesters insisting their Black lives also happen to matter. Or it might be something entirely different. But to really get a handle on why this is happening, researchers need solid data. And finally, after 24 years, the path is clear to start collecting and making sense of it.
And perhaps when the studies start showing results, this time Congress won't be pushed to suppress research the NRA doesn't like.
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