Saturday, September 26, 2020

Weekend Reading: The Holding On to Reality Edition

Yesterday, Pumpkin was invited to go to watch the Ruth Bader Ginsburg movie in a friend's backyard. We decided to turn that down. Two hours sitting near the same people, even outdoors, felt risky to us, particularly since we don't know the hosts well. I saw pictures from the event on Instagram and I think it would have been fine. Everyone was wearing masks. 

If Pumpkin had cared a lot about the event we may have let her go, but she'd already seen the movie (watching it with her history teacher last year was an event we could bid on in the school auction - she loves that particular teacher so we made sure we bid enough to get her a spot). And she's going to see those same friends today. They are going to the mall. This is San Diego, so malls are outdoors. The mall also has a mask requirement, even in the outdoor spaces. It is the mall I took the kids to for pretzels before school started, and my observation was that the mask requirement was almost uniformly followed and that people kept their distance from others. So this outing feels OK to us.

I hate how every invitation has to be considered like this, but that is our reality now and I am trying to just roll with it.

Speaking of reality... I have long found the penchant for just ignoring reality to be one of the most exhausting and infuriating aspects of the current Republican party. Climate change? Not happening. Or if it is happening, it isn't humans. No need to do anything. We're protecting people with pre-existing conditions! What's that about a court challenge to the ACA? Oh, pay no attention to that. Here's a meaningless executive order instead. Isn't it nice? And so on. We're constantly being spun and outright lied to and told we're delusional for noticing it. You disagree with me on whether we should make changes to address climate change or whether people with pre-existing conditions should be guaranteed access to health insurance? Fine. But own your position and disagree honestly. Don't lie to me about it.

And now this reality distortion machine is turning its attention to the election. Just look at how the story of those nine military ballots in PA has played out. It is going to be like this until the election and possibly beyond. It is exhausting and I think that is part of the point. The intention is to normalize the idea that the electoral process is controversial and suspect, and that this election will end up decided by the Supreme Court.

I think it is a catastrophe for the country if this election ends up decided by the Court. I actually agree with David Frum's analysis on this (click through to read the whole thread):

But I also think that there is a similar problem if the court decides narrowly in the other direction. This election really needs to be decisively settled by the voters. 

You know what I'm going to say about how to help make sure that is the case: Write letters to low-propensity voters with Vote Forward. Write postcards to registered Democrats with Postcards to Voters. Pick a campaign and donate or volunteer (or both). Get involved with one of the independent get out the vote operations, like Let America Vote or Fair Fight. If you're young and healthy, consider being a poll worker. Give money to Pizza to the Polls to help send pizzas to people stuck in long lines at voting places to encourage them to stay and vote. If you would normally be a Republican voter who is putting country over party in this election but don't want to give money to the more Democratic-leaning options above, Pizza to the Polls is a good choice! Also check out Stand Up Republic and Republican Voters against Trump to see if one of those organizations has an option for getting involved that feels right to you.

And if you know someone in Pennsylvania who is planning to vote absentee... make sure they know abut the privacy envelope!

In short, I strongly encourage you to find a way to get involved and then do it. My experience is that taking action makes me feel less anxious. If I catch myself doom-scrolling Twitter, I sit down and write a couple of letters or postcards instead.

Trump and his enablers are trying to normalize the idea that there will be irregularities requiring the Supreme Court to decide the election because they are losing the election and they know it. Dan Pfeiffer has a good piece on this, and how we should think and talk about what is going on. 

That's not to say that I don't find this moment scary. I think we're in a very dangerous moment. Ezra Klein's recent interview with political scientist Suzanne Mettler on the four threats to democracy (guess what! We have all of them right now!) really highlights that. But it is a moment of opportunity, too, and people aren't giving up:

Even if we keep the election out of the Supreme Court, there is still probably going to be a 6-3 majority on the court. Should we fight this appointment? Sure, we should. I don't like our chances, but I didn't expect us to save the ACA back in 2017 and we did. If we lose this specific fight, I don't think we have to give up on the rights we care about, though. I went back and re-read the post I wrote two days after the 2016 election. I still believe those things. We mitigate harm while we take the issue to the states and look at other options for change, like passing new laws that address the concerns in the Court's rulings and working to change cultural opinion (I think this is what will eventually settle the gun issue, to be honest).

And we remember that even Justices we mostly don't agree with may make rulings on some issues that we do agree with. See, for instance, Gorsuch on Native American treaty rights.

In COVID-19 news... what is going on at the CDC and FDA is really alarming a lot of folks in biomedicine. Derek Lowe captures the situation well. I continue to think that there will be enough pressure on the companies working on vaccines to play it straight - coming both from external experts and their own internal staff - that we'll be able to tell whether or not we have evidence that a vaccine is safe and efficacious, regardless of what the Trump administration tries to do. For instance, the companies have published their study protocols, which is unusual but a welcome step right now. But the Trump administration will muddy the water for political purposes and make this harder than it needs to be.

There has also been some progress on trying to understand why some people get so much sicker than others with COVID-19. As this article in Science summarizes, two studies add support to the theory that those people do not have as much type I interferon. If this research holds up in further studies, this has clinical implications and may help us better treat COVID-19 while we wait for a vaccine.

Here are some things that made me smile this week:

I continue to enjoy looking at old vacation photos. Last week, I revisited a trip to Zion National Park that we took when Petunia was just a baby.

This picture:

This thread:

This needlework art:

This thread:

Here's your weekly bunny:

Happy weekend, everyone!

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