Why rich white Americans believe in masks

It isn’t obvious why rich white Americans should have become Mask Karens. All through the first half of 2020, the World Health Organization told humans that masks for the general public wouldn’t save them from a respiratory virus (archive.org). Looking at infection and hospitalization rates versus mask law dates does not suggest a strong and reliable effect. Some charts:

A friend who is a professor of cognitive science:

It’s the usual causality problem with epidemiology. Upper middle class Northeasterners (like me) are adamant about mask wearing, and they rarely get sick. So it must be working.

In other words, “Coastal Elite” (at home on Zoom) and “Essential Critical Infrastructure Worker” (exposed to dozens or hundreds of strangers each day) seldom overlap. (See also infection/death rates versus race.)

Professor Karen didn’t think that a mistaken belief regarding the efficacy of masks was bad because it would help Biden/Harris defeat Donald Trump. It turns out that a guy whose salary has depended on government funding for four decades is a passionate supporter of the political party that promises to expand government…

A few mask papers:

  • Ahmad, et al (2001). “The Effect of Wearing the Veil by Saudi Ladies on the Occurrence of Respiratory Diseases.” Journal of Asthma, 38(5), 423–426. doi:10.1081/jas-100001497: The most interesting finding in this paper is that wearing the veil is more associated with asthma and the common cold. This is probably related to the means of transmission of respiratory tract infections, with the veil being so close to the face leading to a wet area in front of the mouth and nose that facilitates the growth of microorganisms
  • “Unmasking the surgeons: the evidence base behind the use of facemasks in surgery” (JRSM, 2015): there is a lack of substantial evidence to support claims that facemasks protect either patient or surgeon from infectious contamination. … Masks are a quintessential part of the surgical attire that has become so deeply ingrained in the public perception of the profession. However, even today, it remains unclear as to whether they confer any tangible benefits to surgical outcomes.

Related (things that Americans aren’t doing because they believe that masks will, in fact, stop the plague):

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If Donald Trump is determined to stay in power, why hasn’t he started a war?

My Facebook friends confidently say that Donald Trump is a dictator who will stop at nothing in order to hold onto power. In this, they are backed up by U.S. media. See “Will Trump Ever Leave the White House?” (NYT, October 2019), for example:

Since 2015, we have been worrying about how much danger Donald Trump posed to democracy. Now, with the impeachment inquiry moving forward, a new question is rapidly gaining relevance: How and when will President Trump leave the White House?

If Trump wants to quarantine through January 2025 at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, why hasn’t he started any wars during his four years as Emperor? He has actually had some encouragement from the media and Congress, e.g., to intensify U.S. military involvement in various Middle Eastern morasses. (see, for example, “Trump’s Decision to Withdraw From Syria Is Alarming. Just Ask His Advisers.” (Editorial Board of the NYT, December 19, 2018))

The most obvious and easiest way for an American president to boost his/her/zir/their popularity is to become a wartime Commander in Chief. Look at FDR, re-elected in 1944 despite being 99 percent dead.

Trump hasn’t taken “the easy way in”. Why not? Democrats love to talk about how stupid Trump is. Are he and his advisors too stupid to realize the power-preserving value of a war?

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Get your yard ready for Election Day

From a single house near our local airport (in Lincoln, Massachusetts):

One of my big concerns with the above is that the LGBTQIA+ rainbow flag, part of the Biden-Harris sign, is placed in an inferior position to the American flag, which the 1619 Project informs us is a symbol of oppression (not to mention treason against legitimate British rule that would have ended slavery decades earlier!). In what moral universe does the Flag of Slavery (TM) get to be placed higher than the Rainbow Flag of Tolerance?

(Note that “Science is not a Liberal Conspiracy” is illustrated with lithium, useful for treating poor mental health occasioned by forgetting to take away the Deplorables’ right to vote.)

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Why did Twitter and Facebook suppress the New York Post after it published the Biden emails, but not the New York Times after it published the Trump tax return info?

Catching up a bit here on the news… “Twitter Won’t Let The New York Post Tweet Until It Agrees To Behave Itself” (Forbes):

Twitter TWTR +1.2% has kept the Post’s official Twitter account locked since Thursday, the Post says, when the newspaper shared several tweets about its story on Hunter Biden that has been increasingly called into question.

On Thursday, Twitter blocked sharing of the Post story and said the piece violated several of its rules, including a prohibition on sharing personal information and hacked materials. Facebook also reduced distribution of the Post report, but the brunt of conservative displeasure over the social media sites’ limiting access to the Post story fell on Twitter.

The New York Times published information that it says came from Donald Trump’s personal tax returns (but they haven’t published the actual returns so we can’t see for ourselves?). Yet the NYT wasn’t banned by Twitter or Facebook. Aren’t personal tax returns “personal information” and/or “hacked materials”?

I’m sure that there is a justification for how the banning of the Post is consistent with the celebration and approval of the Times, but I wonder what it is!

Related (some NY Post stories you won’t see in the NYT):

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Zoom IFR class materials available for other flight schools

We just wrapped up a three-session Zoom IFR training class and the learners (generally Private pilots, but some instrument-rated pilots getting a refresher). I thought that other CFIs might be interested to use our materials (PowerPoints and some PDFs from the FAA).

The class relies on the following: (a) the FAA materials are excellent, and (b) a lot of folks who were fortunate enough to get an education prior to coronapanic and associated school shutdown are good at reading. No need to spoon-feed the material slide after slide as though learners are incapable of reading a book.

(Each Zoom session was a little over an hour, including questions and answers. There was a bit of inadvertent action on camera, but nothing as exciting as what the righteous Trump-haters at New Yorker magazine put on (example of why we need the New York Post, despite the Twitter ban).)

From a recent IFR trip to Washington, D.C. (note shadow of the Cirrus, enveloped in LGBTQIA+ goodness):


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Racialized groups in our local public school

From the folks who will, if all goes according to plan, eventually occupy what will be the most expensive (per-student) school ever constructed in the United States:

Dear faculty, staff, parents, and guardians,

As you know the district has partnered with NCBI (National Coalition Building Institute) to support us in our work to become an antiracist district and our larger AIDE work (antiracism, inclusion, diversity, and equity). One of the many facets of our plan this year is for NCBI to conduct focus groups with a series of stakeholders including students, parents/guardians, and district staff.

The list below shows all of the focus groups we plan to hold over the coming two months:

Boston-resident students in METCO program grades 4-6
Boston-resident students in METCO program grades 7-8
Lincoln-resident students in grades 4-8 who identify as Black, biracial, or mixed
Lincoln-resident students in grades 4-8 who identity as part of other racialized groups (LatinX, Indigenous, Asian-American, Middle Eastern)
Lincoln-resident students in grades 4-8 who identify as White

What’s a “raciliazed group”? From Wikipedia:

In sociology, racialization or ethnicization is the process of ascribing ethnic or racial identities to a relationship, social practice, or group that did not identify itself as such. Racialization or ethnicization often arises out of the interaction of a group with a group that it dominates and ascribes a racial identity to for the purpose of continued domination; over time, the racialized and ethnicized group often gradually identifies with and even embraces this identity and thus becomes a self-ascribed race or ethnicity. These processes have been common throughout the history of imperialism, nationalism, and racial and ethnic hierarchies.

With almost everyone, except for Donald Trump, dropping dead from COVID-19, how important is this?

We recognize that everyone has a lot going on in life now — and we also believe that it is important for us to dedicate time to listening to the experiences of our fellow community members.

I would love to know who these people are who have “a lot going on in life now”!

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Apple builds a virtual city on a hill

Within my Apple News app:

iPhone owners can make a difference, learn, give back, take action, and more! Let’s click and check the range of political opinion that Apple expects phone owners to want to learn about…

And scrolling…

There is nothing better than “grappling with … privilege” from the vantagepoint of a $1,400 iPhone 12 Pro Max!

Wouldn’t people have a lot more to donate “in support of Black lives and communities of color” if they kept their old phones and/or bought Google Pixel phones rather than Apple?

As part of this section, Apple also notes “Racism is a factor in health care, criminal justice, education, and other crucial election issues. Learn more about where the presidential candidates stand.” This leads to a Trump, who ripped Apple’s zero-tax rug out from under the company, versus Biden section:

Would resurrecting the ERA actually be a move in the direction of social justice? How could the federal government continue to have quotas for women-owned businesses, for example? Couldn’t people identifying as “men” or “not women” say that this program violated the ERA? The Biden-Harris campaign platform promises to direct billions of dollars to those who identify as “women”:

Biden will: Direct federal funding to women-owned businesses, including through his new historic $400 billion investment in additional federal purchases of products made by American workers, in his first term. This will be the largest mobilization of public investments in procurement, infrastructure, and R&D since WWII, and it will critically be designed to support small businesses and those owned by women and people of color. … Improve and expand the Small Business Administration programs that most effectively support women-owned businesses, especially those owned by women of color. Immediately after taking office in 2009, the Obama-Biden Administration started to make billions of dollars in capital available to women-owned businesses… Biden will build on this work and expand SBA programs that target women.

District courts struck down a bunch of stuff that Trump was trying to do because they found that his campaign rhetoric was evidence of wrongthink. Unless Presidents Biden and Harris can rip out the hard drives at archive.org, there will be a huge mountain of evidence that their intent for much of their agenda was motivated by a desire to help Americans with a particular gender ID, something that would then be prohibited by an adopted Equal Rights Amendment:

Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.

(does the ERA itself need to be amended? It sounds as though it might be tainted with some gender binarism and transphobia)

Readers: Can we be redeemed merely by following Apple’s guide?


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Humans are defeating nanny tech in cars?

A typical new car has a lot of driver assistance features designed to make driving safer. Examples from Toyota:

(Blind Spot Monitor and Rear Cross-Traffic Alert are separate features, not on all trim levels.)

And the latest, for the 2021 Camry:

But insurance companies don’t cut rates for cars that have these features (source). Here are some possible explanations…

  • highway driving is already very safe and most of these magic features, e.g., blind spot monitor and lane-keeping, work only on the highway
  • humans aware of these electronic guard rails drive more carelessly to the point that the risk is the same
  • the insurance market is inefficient
  • the technology does not, in fact, work well in real-world conditions (our Honda Odyssey blind spot monitoring works great, though, which might be why this fine machine is the choice of Amy Coney Barrett!)

Readers: How do we explain the apparent contradiction?

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Why can’t people who’ve previously been infected with COVID-19 clean car interiors?

One of my favorite businesses here in the Boston area has been shut down since March as part of one of the 50+ orders from the Maskachusetts governor: full-service interior cleaning at the Allston Car Wash.

Most of the folks whom I’ve met working there over the years were native Spanish speakers, i.e., the very folks whom NPR tells us are most likely to have been infected with coronavirus:

MassINC’s survey of Latino results found the infection rates for essential workers is far from the only challenge Latino residents have faced. But it is a major one. Public health data, however incomplete, is clear about one thing: Latino residents have been much more likely to contract COVID-19 and to suffer serious health consequences from it. The poll also documented the devastating economic and health consequences many have felt and showed many Latinos to be among those who have been hit the hardest.

So they’ve very likely been exposed to coronavirus and now it is illegal for them to work because they live in the state that ranks #3 for most coronapanic-related restrictions. [The article didn’t talk about “Latinx” residents of Maskachusetts, so have only partial information.]

I previously asked why people who’d previously been hospitalized for COVID-19 and discharged months earlier couldn’t have enjoyed being spectators at the U.S. Open tennis match. Now the same question for working in these banned industries: Why can’t the car wash reopen for interior cleaning if they employ only those who’ve previously had a COVID-19 positive test result? Indulge in some mask theater as well if we want a “belt and suspenders” approach and have the cleaned cars sit for a couple of minutes with the windows open and the vent blowers turned up to max.

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Togo, the Disney sled dog movie

If there is a dispute in your household regarding whether a big furry dog is allowed to sleep in the bed… Togo is the movie for you! This is a fantastic (in all senses of the word) dramatization of the 1925 dog team relay that brought diphtheria antitoxin serum to Nome.

The best part, from my point of view, is that the growth of a character (and in every Hollywood movie, of course, someone has to grow!) is demonstrated by abandonment of a previous objection to a dog sleeping in the (humans’) bed.

Recommended if you’ve got a Disney+ subscription. (Does it qualify as “the best piece of art in any form that I have ever seen in my life,” as Michelle Obama said of Hamilton? Maybe not, but it has Arctic dogs and, at least when presented on a TV, it holds the viewer’s attention much better than Hamilton.)


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