The Amy Klobuchar Lie and George Floyd’s killer

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Derek Chauvin has four known incidents of note in his history as a cop or cop-like person. In the first one, he was one of several officers involved in an incident involving both citizen and police officer violence, but when this was looked into, no action was taken because the actions of the cops were seen as justified. Chauvin was only marginally involved in that one. The next three may have involved much less justified police behavior, and Chauvin was directly involved.

One of the latest, persistent, and pernicious Internet memes is that Amy Klobuchar can no longer be considered a vice presidential candidate because she was the prosecutor who failed to investigate or charge Chauvin for those first three. The fourth incident is, of course, Chauvin’s cold blooded and very public murder of George Floyd just a few days ago.

The theory that Kloubchar should have prosecuted Chauvin is deeply and, even, absurdly flawed, however. As noted, the first incident was not of interest in this regard. The second incident happened in a different county than the one in which then prosecutor Amy Klobuchar worked. For her to have prosecuted someone in a different county would have been extraordinary. (And no, Chauvin was not working at the time as a cop in Klobuchar’s county, Hennepin.) The third incident occurred when Klobuchar was a United States Senator, not the Hennpin County prosecutor.

When I pointed out these difficulties with the theory on a friend’s very long Facebook comment thread on this topic, my comments were deleted. In another instance on Facebook, a person, faced with the truth, stated that there are many, many police incidents that are not known to anyone because they are kept secret, and that is where we see the evidence against Kloubchar.

Let us pause for a moment of silence, during which time you can click on this link to the Conspiracy Handbook.

Are we back? Ok.

ADDED: Because there is already some conspiratorial pushback on this post, I want to be very clear. The people complaining about Klobuchar vis-a-vis Chauvin cite three incidents.

1) 2006, as one of six Minneapolis third precinct cops who responded to a stabbing. The suspect fled, then got out of his vechile wielding a shotgun. He was shot by several of the cops in pursuit. The cops were cleared in that shooting.

2) Soon after, there was a complaint against him in Lino Lakes That case involved a law suit, which is not the purview of the district attorney, and it was dismissed. Lino Lakes is in Anoka County, Klobuchar was CA in Hennepin County.

… Klobuchar was elected to the Senate in 2006 and started to serve in January 2007 …

3) In 2008 … well, who really cares what happened vis-a-vis Chauvin and Klobuchar in 2008, she was in the Senate.

Sources: CNN, NBC, Wikipedia.

ALSO ADDED: It turns out that Chauvin and George Floyd knew each other They both worked as bouncers or security over a 17 year period at the same club. This is not the point of this post, but it seems important to note, though I’m not sure yet why it is important. I’ll quickly add that the neighborhood where this all happened, where I lived for several years, is pretty tight. Lots of people know lots of other people, and it is part of the culture of that part of town to be friendly and to know your neighbors, attend common events, etc. So this may mean nothing. Or it could mean a lot, we’ll see.

This attack on Klobuchar appears to be systematic, wide spread, and very successful. I am not sure if I can say yet if it is her political rivals within the Democratic Party, the Republicans, or some outside influence like the Putin/Trump gang. It feels like rivals from within the party, though, because their method is usually to make up things that may be totally unbelievable, then repeat them a few times, then duck and cover. I don’t know why that is their method, but it is.

Some people have gotten really mad at me for “defending” Klobuchar. It does not matter to them that I am not actually defending Klobuchar, and that I’m not even supporting her to be Biden’s Vice Presidential running mate (see below). What I am defending is the truth, and I’m questioning what looks to me like an inappropriate political hit job.

But let us talk about Klobuchar as a VP or Presidential candidate for just a second. Well, not really “let us talk,” more like “I’m going to talk for a second, you can listen if you want.”

Klobuchar was a successful prosecutor during a period in our recent history when we (the people, in majority, not necessarily you or me) demanded tough prosecutors. This was the latter part of the era in which we, Americans the ultimate Asshats, incarcerated more people, and generally people of color, than anyone had been incarcerating across the world. Prosecutors were doing the jobs we hired them to do. Now, some of those prosecutors are in other lines of work. It may well be possible that people like Amy Klobuchar and Kamala Harris can never really run for President or be a Vice President for this reason. So be it.

That does not happen to be why I’m not a supporter of Klobuchar for president, though. My consideration of this issue doesn’t even get that far. We actually have significant policy differences, but I regard that as less important than some might because policy is set by Congress in those particular areas. I mostly don’t want Klobuchar in the presidential race because I want her as Senator. “As senator?!!?” you might think. “But, but, but…” you might think. But hear me out.

I am something of a student of Minnesota politics these days. If you are as well, I’m sure you’ll agree with me on this, because I’m mainly referring to basic facts. Minnesotans tend to send more Republicans than you might think to Congress. Minnesota is one of only two places that went against the Blue Wave two years ago in our Congressional delegation, net. In the past, we sent the man regarded as the Worst Senator in Washington DC, Norm Coleman to the Senate. Twice. And the first time it was because we got mad at the Wellstone family for articulating progressive Democratic values at a funeral. That is the reason Norm Coleman was Senator for two terms.

I’ve spent a lot more time than ,many of my Twin Cities associates and friends communicating with Rural Minnesotans. I’ve had this conversation:

“You can’t possibly tell you would vote for Trump.”

“I voted for him last time, I’ll vote for him again.”

“But he’s bad for farmers, and the environment, and everything you have here in this county is farming and environmental tourism.”

“Oh, no, that’s just his game. He’s on our side, believe me. He’s great.”

“Do you usually vote for Republicans?”

“Oh, yes, all the time, they are on my side.”

“So, Klobuchar, what about…”

“Amy’s great! I love Amy!”

So, there you go. Keep Senator Klobuchar in the Senate, maybe we get to keep sending two Democrats to Washington. Same with Al Franken, by the way. The Klobucahr-Franken team was effective at keeping Minnesota blue in the Senate. These days, even with a strong Trump Backlash, we are on tenuous ground here.


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Behave, by Sapolsky

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Why do we do the things we do?

Over a decade in the making, this game-changing book is Robert Sapolsky’s genre-shattering attempt to answer that question as fully as perhaps only he could, looking at it from every angle. Sapolsky’s storytelling concept is delightful but it also has a powerful intrinsic logic: he starts by looking at the factors that bear on a person’s reaction in the precise moment a behavior occurs, and then hops back in time from there, in stages, ultimately ending up at the deep history of our species and its genetic inheritance.

Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst by Robert Sapolsky cheap now on Kindle


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How The Pandemic Ends

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The gold standard, the ones to beat, the top dog, brain trust magnate, 800 pound gorilla, paragon, cream of the crop, and the one head and shoulders above all others, in the matter of a Covid-19 vaccine, is Oxford.

The group at Oxford already made a Coronavirus vaccine, for MERS, but it never underwent final testing and deployment. Not enough people were getting sick from MERS, and it was under control.

This group is optimistic about having a vaccine in September of this year. Give them a month leeway, a few months for emergency intensified field testing, and some extra time to ramp up production and negotiate liability issues, and we could have a world wide vaccination program well under way by the end of January.

Between now and, say, August 15th, the medicos will have developed and deployed a half dozen nursing, ER, and IC procedures that drop the death rate of the most severely ill well below its near 90% level, to maybe half, and various treatments, therapies, and all will drop the number who go from diagnosed to severe down by a double digit percent.

Although natural herd immunity would take multiple waves and years, a certain reduction of infection rate happens at any percentage. New normal practices will have adapted to slow the disease. By mid September there will be parts of the US, and various smaller sized countries, where COVID-19 will become rare or nearly non existent, even as new hotspots emerge. But even those hotspots will be dealt with better than the US addressed this disaster in the early week.

But the flareups will be severe, and in most cases, caused by politically driven Republican strategies cheered on by Trump and sullenly overseen by Pence. The carnage will continue to be so bad, and the response to it by Trump and his gang of Republicans so inept and inextricably linked to nefarious side bets and deals, that there is a non-zero chance his administration will not still be in place on election day, November 3rd. Either way, Trump will be voted out of office on November 3rd, and probably dragged from the White House and impaled with a broom stick well before inauguration day by angry tourists and DC residents after he attempts to annul the election results. There is a non-zero chance that the 46th President of the United States will be Speaker Pelozi, for the several days between Trump and Pence’s awkward and painful departure (captured on hundreds of cell phones) and the inauguration of President Joe Biden.

There will be no Biden Inaugural Ball and his Inauguration speech will be on Zoom, But his first act will be to sign the 2021 Rapid Immunization Order, speeding up the delivery of the vaccine already developed by Oxford and manufactured everywhere but the United States even as Jared Kushner tries to get his vaccine (which is fatal to 1 in 200 who are injected with it, and does not actually protect against COVID-19) to be the legally required stick.

But I digress.

Schools will not reopen in the Fall, but by Spring it will be possible to have limited activities, as vaccination spreads faster than COVID-19 itself ever did. Kids who come from anti-Vax families will be shunned, and hate their parents forever, because they won’t be allowed to go to the 2021 proms and graduation ceremonies, which will be endlessly televised and smeared across social media until we are giddily sick of them.

By the end of 2021, the virus will be history (except in the Congo, where all diseases go to retire securely), social distancing will be a fond memory (for everyone with sensory processing disorder), and our new society, led by science and reason, will begin the process of building windmills instead of tilting at them.


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The limit I place on your yammering

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You know who you are. This may or may not be for you, but if it is not, feel free to pass on to others who are, well, asking to be told off in this particular manner.

I don’t have time or energy to deal with individuals who do not get the fact that you fight for your most bestest beloved ideal candidate in the primaries, then drop that fetish and get behind the one picked by the majority of people in your party, then work just as hard for that one.

Working less hard for that one is OK as long as you don’t constantly whine about it, or otherwise hurt the candidate chosen by the majority. Anything short of that is your own little world of fascism, where your idea is the only valid idea and the majority does not rule. That is unacceptable.

Conspiracy theory or other made up crap to justify your inappropriate position by saying it wasn’t really majority rule, the system is rigged, is also not acceptable. The process is designed openly and by people just as committed to a better world as you are. If you want the process to be different, get involved. If you think that cant work, buy me a beer after the plague is over and I’ll spend a few hours going over how I and others have in fact changed the system by getting involved, in our own ways, in a consensus building grass roots process. But probably, if this message really is for you, you won’t survive in a consensus building grass roots process anyway.

The good news: The sense that the system is rigged against you, and that your minority view is the one everyone else should adopt, eventually goes away as you mature. There is always that.

That is all.

PS, yes, the title of this post is designed to annoy you, just for fun.


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If I suggested you read this, it is because you used “ad hominem” wrong

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The term “ad hominem” means directed against a person.

If you are a racist, and I say you are a racist, then my statement is ad hominem. Note that the statement may be technically correct. I’m saying something about you, and you really are a racist, so my statement is correct. On the other hand, if you are not a racist, and I say you are a racist, that is an incorrect ad hominem statement. My statement is incorrect. Either way, I have not committed an “ad hominem fallacy.” I’ve simply made a statement about you, that may or may not have been correct.

So, what the heck is the meaning of the term “ad hominem fallacy” you may ask? (Note that the term “ad hominem” itself, or “ad hom” for short, has come to imply “ad hominem fallacy.”) In the above example, you might think that if I call you a racist and you are, that I have not committed a fallacy, but if you are a racist, I’ve not. In neither of the above examples, have I committed the ad hominem fallacy.

If I sent you to this post to read it, it is more likely because I think you’ve committed the fallacy of the ad hominem fallacy. This is a meta-fallacy. You have claimed that an ad hominem fallacy has occurred because someone has called someone a racist (or some other nasty thing, I’m using “racist” as an example here, obviously) whether the accusation is right or wrong. But your reference to the ad hominem fallacy is in fact a fallacy because none of that relates to what an ad hominem fallacy actually is.

An ad hominem fallacy is when you are arguing over an issue, like are cats better than dogs, and you go after the person you are arguing with and attack them as a person as part of your argument. That is not the same as the question of whether the person is in fact worthy of this attack.

Let me give you an example.

Me: Cats are better than dogs.

Hitler: No, dogs are better than cats.

Me: No. You are, in fact, Hitler, and Hitler is a total jerk, so therefore, cats are better than dogs.

Here, I am wrong in two ways. First, you can’t say that cats are better than dogs. Or visa versa. Second, I’m arguing that the other guy in this argument is wrong because he is a jerk. I was committing an ad hominem fallacy.

However, I am right about one thing. Hitler is a jerk. So, let’s play it out again from a slightly different angle.

Me: Cats are better than dogs.

Hitler: No, dogs are better than cats.

Me: Hitler, you are a complete jerk, did you know that?

Hitler: So I’ve been told.

Me: In any event, you are wrong. Cats are better than dogs.

Hitler: Really, you can’t say one is better than the other.

Me: You know, you are right about that. You are still a jerk.

Hitler: So I’ve been told.

Hitler is still bad.
Here, our discussion about cats vs. dogs actually came to a reasonable conclusion and, indeed, a consensus. Who knew both Hitler and I could be so reasonable? Also, I made an ad hominem attack on Hitler. I called him a jerk. In so doing, I did not commit an ad hominem fallacy. I made a statement of belief about Hitler’s jerkiness, and very likely, I was right. I did not use Hitler’s jerkiness as part of my argument about cats vs. dogs. Even if I was wrong, and Hitler is a nice guy with a bad reputation, my statement was still not an ad hominem fallacy. It might have been wrong, but it was not an ad hominem fallacy. It was about him, so technically, it was “ad hominem” but not a fallacy.

An ad hominem fallacy is when you use a personal attack on a person in order to devalue or dismiss an argument they are making. It is NOT when you make a statement about the person, which may or may not be a personal attack, in and of itself. I maintain Hitler is a jerk, and I don’t care about cats vs dogs. Maybe I’m right, maybe I’m wrong, but while that is an attack on the man, it is not a logical fallacy. If I say his opinion about dogs vs cats is wrong because he is a jerk, THAT is an ad hominem fallacy.

I sent you here because I think you got that wrong, and I wrote this post because I’m weary of that common fallacy, about a fallacy, being toted out in the middle of arguments.


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Minnesota Republicans Reject Science, Call For Increasing Death Toll

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In Minnesota, we have a Democratic Governor, a Democratic House, and a Republican Senate. We have what is recognized nationwide as one of the best responses to COVID-19 by any US State. Within Minnesota, we find the highest level epidemiology and immunology talent, with one of the top in a small handful of leading scientists in each of those field in the world, and they are directly advising Governor Tim Walz.

But, the Republicans are now holding us hostage. They will not proceed, until the shutdown ends, with what we call the “bonding bill” (the bill that comes out every two years that deals with funding but not policy, and covers a lot of the work done in infrastructure, including roads and bridges (which fall down when properly maintained), educational facilities, all of that. Their reasoning?

“Waaa waaa! We’ve done that for weeks now. Waaa waaa! It should be done by now. Mommy I don’t wanna any more.”

Typical Republican BS.

If you are in my neighborhood, vote for, or donate money to, Ann Johnson Stewart? or Adam Jennings? for State Senate, and, actually, ThrowTheBumsOut! The Democrats will take the Senate if both of these candidates win, and with enough support, then can win.

(Please forgive the question marks in the above links. That is an as yet unexplained bug in the latest version of WordPress, one that I find very troubling. With luck they have gone away by the time you see this!)

I can’t easily give a link to this story, but it is the Star Tribune (front page) May 3rd. In brief:

GOP says no bond deal amid stay-home

Kurt “Science Doubter” Daudt, Minnesota House Speaker. Photo from a 2016 story on how he can’t balance his checkbook.
By CHRISTOPHER SNOWBECK and TOREY VAN OOT Star Tribune staff

After a brutal April that saw more than 300 deaths and hundreds of COVID-19 hospitalizations, Minnesota health officials say the new month promises more sickness and loss but also a health care system better equipped to handle the pandemic.

House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, said his caucus will block passage of a public infrastructure borrowing package until the peacetime state of emergency Walz has used to enact the stay-at-home order and other coronavirus response measures comes to an end.

“We feel that this has gone on for basically two months now where we’ve had unilateral decisionmaking by the executive,” Daudt said.


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Robert Galbraith aka JK Rowlings Book Cheap

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There are four Cormoran Strike books, written by “Robert Galbraith” aka JK Rowlings. Obviously the JK in JK Rowlings has some significance. Anyway, they are really fantastic books. Extraordinarily well written private eye literature pieces that are not hobgoblins of the patriarchy are hard to come by. Each book is great, but as a set (and yes you must read them in order) they develop threads and characters that will make you want to read them again once you’ve gone through them all.

In my head, Cormoran Strike looks nothing like this.
And I mention them now because one of them is on sale relatively cheap for the Kindle, at least, in the US. (That’s number 2, for 4.99, which is cheap for this sort of in-demand book.)

For reference, following is the series. If you haven’t read them yet and don’t have any, you might track down used copies of a couple of them, and mix and match (but even used copies of these books are on the high side).

The Cuckoo’s Calling (Cormoran Strike Book 1)

The Silkworm (Cormoran Strike Book 2)

Career of Evil (Cormoran Strike Book 3)

Lethal White (Cormoran Strike Book 4)


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Republican COVID-19 Denier Senator Scott Jensen Caught Golfing On Zoom Meeting

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Here’s the video of recent MN Senate Health Care Policy Bill hearings.

In it we can see ample evidence that Senator Scott Jensen, a Republican COVID-19 denier, was golfing during the meeting. My favorite moment is when Senator Hayden asks him “How are you hitting, out there?”

5:39 – Jensen is seen driving at the beginning of the meeting
17:49, 19:01 – The sound of golf is clearly audible
18:13 – Jensen is visible outdoors and someone can be seen with golf clubs behind him, despite Jensen’s efforts to obscure this by holding his camera close to his face
38:14 – A conversation, presumably between Jensen’s golf buddies, is clearly audible during the committee hearing
50:44, 56:30 – Jensen is clearly sitting in a golf cart.
50:55 – Jensen’s golf cart gets so loud that it disrupts the meeting and folks are asked to mute microphones.
51:10 – Senator Hayden jumps in to “ask Senator Jensen how’s he hitting them out there?”

From the DFL: “Senator Jensen has been an extremely prominent voice casting doubt on the death toll of the COVID-19, appearing on the Ingraham angle twice and fueling conspiracy theories all across the internet. Jensen’s claims on the COVID-19 death toll have been labeled false by numerous fact-checkers.

Recently, Jensen appeared on a web show hosted by Del Bigtree, a noted anti-vaccination conspiracy theorist who has advised healthy people to avoid any eventual COVID-19 vaccine. Jensen has also shared a widely debunked video featuring two California urgent care doctors who cast doubt on the seriousness of COVID-19 and recommend ending Stay at Home Orders immediately.”


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Problems conceptualizing Covid

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The Covid-19 pandemic is serious, scary, real, and kills. And there is a fair amount we don’t know about it.

There I said it. You don’t have to worry about me thinking Covid-19 isn’t serious. That happens to me a lot. Someone says “OMG, the COVID-19 is just like a grizzly bear eating your face off!” and I point out that a virus and a face-eating grizzly bear present distinctly different problems. Then the person gets all pissy and mad because I did not share their specific horror. Generally, I prefer it if people do not shove their fears in my face at the expense of reason. We have real fears, we don’t need to add on the ones that are bogus, unsupported, panicked, or untethered from reality.

You might say, jeezh, Greg, what harm does it do if people don’t understand every little thing about COVID-19 and, in their conceptualizing this disease, stray away from actual science and reality and stuff? Most of the time it probably does’t matter. But people make decisions on the basis of what they think they know. If you think the SARS-CoV2 virus doesn’t really live on surfaces, you won’t be careful about door knobs and push plates in heavily used public places, and you may thus contribute to the spread of this disease. If you think COVID-19 can be spread by eating food from a can, you might waste your energy, my energy, everybody’s energy, by campaigning against canned food. And so on.

So what kinds of things are people getting wrong? Here’s a sampling.

COVID-19 is caused by a virus. Most life lessons about pathogens are not transferable across types of pathogens. A coronavirus can’t be compared usefully to malaria or sleeping sickness because those are single celled eukaryotes. COVID-19 can’t be compared to bacterial infections. All these different kinds of pathogens have different effects, do different things, act in different ways, and need to be dealt with using specific actions (or avoiding specific actions).

COVID-19 is caused by a particular type of virus. There are many kinds of viruses, and the different kinds have distinctly different biologies. Comparing the behavior of SARS-CoV2, the virus that causes COVID-19, to the influenza virus, is like comparing the behavior of eels to eagles. How they reproduce inside a cell, how they avoid a body’s immune response, how much they mutate, and how a vaccine might work for each type of virus, are really very different, in fact, astonishingly different. Comparisons are not helpful at all.

Immunity is a tricky concept to understand. I wrote about it here. I think immunity (to a pathogen) is often viewed as an absolute, and as a somewhat magical thing. If I’m immune to a particular pathogen, that pathogen can not infect me, right? If I’m walking down the street, and a pathogen is coming the other way and I’m immune to it, it crosses the street to not get anywhere near me, right?

No. If I’m what we call “immune” to a pathogen, that means that the pathogen still goes inside me. It starts to do whatever that pathogen normally does in a human body. It is, in fact, infecting me. Then, because I’m “immune” a particular part of my immune system quickly responds to that pathogen’s presence, because I’ve acquired an immunity to it either by prior infection or by vaccination. Other parts of my immune system also work against a pathogen whether I was previously vaccinated or exposed or not.

The acquired immunity that comes with vaccination or prior exposure causes my body to respond more quickly. The best kind of immunity is where my body responds well within the time period where the pathogen hasn’t made me sick yet, attacks the pathogen, and kicks the crap out of it before it can do anything. I don’t get “sick” from the pathogen not because it did not infect me — it did infect me — but because the illness that pathogen typically causes never got of the ground. The natural biological course of the pathogen did not advance sufficiently to either make me feel bad or to be passed on to another person. Or, in a less ideal immunity, common with many pathogens, I do actually get somewhat sick, and maybe I can even pass the disease on, but acquired immunity makes me much less sick and much less contagious.

And as noted, a person who is “not immune” is typically a little immune anyway. That is because the immune system has several parts that try to stop a pathogen, and because the above mentioned acquired immunity is still an immunity before it is trained up in your body. It just takes longer.

The difference between a typical “non-immune” person and a typical “immune” person, as the term is usually applied, is this and only this: For the immune person, the adaptive immune system (only one part of the immune system) acts faster because it is trained by prior infection or a vaccine (which simulates a prior infection) so the body is prepared.

Indeed, a normal immune response to a pathogen is often to get sick and seem not very immune at all. Little kids get colds all the time, and they can last a long time. It seems like from a certain young age until a few years later, still at a young age, a kid is sick all the time. Adults go around bragging about how they haven’t lost a day of work in 20 years. (Not all adults, but some.) This is largely because kids don’t have a very strong immunity to the handful of different viruses that give us regular colds. But over time, a human will typically develop a stronger and stronger immunity. All these humans are immune to those viruses to some degree, just not perfectly and totally immune.

With COVID-19, we hear stories of “reinfection” and this has led many people to believe that humans do not develop an immunity. The numbers of possible re-infections is very very small compared to the number of people infected, and it is highly likely that those instances are bad reports, or individuals who never really got rid of the disease to begin with. Of the remaining, much smaller number of individuals, re-infections may have happened because that person’s immune system just didn’t produce a strong immunity in that person. A very small number of possible re-infections is expected for any disease and isn’t alarming.

Usually, an exposure to a pathogen that we can develop an immunity to results in an immunity that lasts for a while. Usually, years.Sometimes enough years that it seems like a life long immunity, or close to it. In other cases, you get a modest immunity that gets better with more exposure. Remember, SARS-CoV2 is a particular virus, and should not be compared willy nilly to other viruses. HIV gets around the human immune system, but it is a very different virus. Not a valid comparison at all.

Sometimes our immunity does not help us much with a later infection, or so it seems. You get a Yellow Fever shot and later they tell you you need another one. Or, the flu shot from last year isn’t helpful this year. This might be a linguistic matter. We call the pathogen by a certain name, but underlying that name is a wide range of different species or strains of that pathogen. We use the word “flu” for “influenza” but there are many different major types of influenza. If influenza was a “canid” then there would be foxes, wolves, coyotes, and domestic dogs. All in the same family but not really the same.

Alternatively, later infection could be the result of a particular strain mutating enough to side step our immunity, somewhat. Or, it could be that our immunity wore off.

A common misconception about mutations is that they make a pathogen worse. Well, they can, but they usually don’t. We hear “COVID has had 29 mutations! Aieeeee!!!” I assure you that SARS-CoV2 has had many many more mutations than that. If you get COVID-19, the SARS-CoV2 inside you probably mutates hundreds or thousands of times as it replicates using your cellular machinery, as viruses do. But, the vast majority of mutations cause a viral strain to become broken, or to not change at all. A small number may make the virus a little better at what it does, or a little less good at what it does. From our point of view as the host of the virus, a small number of mutations might make it harder to pass it on, or easier to pass it on, or liable to make a person a little more sick or a little less sick. That any one of these mutations occurs in your body does not mean that that mutation will now be part of the general population of SARS-CoV2 viruses. The vast majority of mutations that both happen in an infected individual and that do not produce a dead-end variant will not be passed on to the next person. You will just sneeze them out and they will be killed by ultraviolet light, hand sanitizer, or the main thing that kills most individual virus particles: Time.

We hear a lot now about rare and scary things. Twenty-three year olds dropping dead of a stroke, or other odd blood clotting things, and so on. Those may be real or they may not be real. If tens of millions of people get a disease, there will be situations where a cluster of individuals were going to also have some other thing happen to them medically, and they happen to have this thing occur while they have COVID-19. Coincidence. Or, a disease like this might really have some other effect that is very rare, but that thing is, well, very rare. After the discovery of some possible odd effects on blood clotting, people started to say things like “it kills young people in this strange way and we didn’t know it until now! Aieeeee!!!!” but at the same time, the death-over-age statistics did not change. We did not find 300,000 dead 23 year olds. The strange new thing remained rare, and enigmatic. Important, interesting, something we must find out about. But still very rare.

I’ll end here with a dirty little secret of the immune system: Of all the different biological systems that make up the typical animal (including humans) it is with the immune system that the gap between all that can be known and what we confidently know is largest and deepest. We know a lot, but we also don’t know a lot. And, it is so damn complicated that it is impossible to expect the average non-expert to not make the sorts of mistakes mentioned above. I can add this: I’m heavily revising what I cover in my course on the immune system, to help future generations of pandemic victims have an easier time parsing what is happening around them. Assuming I can get back into a classroom with them!


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Hacking America, History of Information, History of Africa, William Shakespeare

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At this moment, there is a batch of very interesting and generally acclaimed books for sale really cheap in Kindle form in the US, that I suspect readers of this blog will be interested in.

A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare: 1599 by James Shapiro. Good reviews, but this is outside my area of expertise so I can’t say for sure, but it looks good.

Creek Mary’s Blood: A Novel by “Burry my Heart at Wounded Knee” author Dee Brown.

Africa: A History is an anthology that includes some older material, but all good. This is totally within my area of expertise, and I can say this book is full of classic writing by classic scholars. Not a light read. Edited by Alvin Josephy.

The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood by James Gleick.

The Plot to Hack America: How Putin’s Cyberspies and WikiLeaks Tried to Steal the 2016 Election by Malcom Nance.


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No, Michael Moore did not make a documentary called “Planet of the Humans”

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That was some other guy. The recently released documentary “Planet of the Humas” was written by Jeff Gibbs and Directed by Jeff Gibbs. See?

No mention of Michael Moore there. This is a Jeff Gibbs documentary.

Michael Moore does have a lot to do with this production, though. He is the executive producer, and he seems to be promoting it. But it is not his baby. It is Jeff Gibbs’ baby. We don’t know how much Moore was involved, or if he’s even seen it. (Well, he’s probably seen it, but did he only see it after it was done?)

Why is this important? For a rather sad pair of reasons. Here they are:

1) Trusted, sincere, carefully done analysis from several different individuals shows us that Planet of the Humans is not a good documentary at all. It borders on dishonest (if not charging across that border several times) and while here and there in the film there is surely an important message or two, the messages are supported with information that is mostly bogus, biased, some kind of balderdash.

2) Many people love and respect Michael Moore and his work, and a large number of individuals have, in my experience, decided that since this is a Michael Moore joint, it must be fabulous, and it must be true.

So, I say this to you, Michael Moore fan: This documentary sucks, but it is OK that it sucks. This is a documentary by Jeff Gibbs, not by Michael Moore. So, it is OK to pay attention to the many voices of critique. Indeed, as my friend Adam Siegel asked me earlier today: “Who is the real victim here? Is Michael Moore a victim of his friend Gibbs’ poor work? Does he know how bad this is? Poor man,” or words to that effect.

Speaking of Siegel, he is the one on-line expert who has gone all meta over Moore. He has assembled a series of posts, the most recent (on top of the list below) being the most comprehensive but all are worth a look, that put together the panoply of critiques of Planet of the Humans. Go read:

Moore’s Boorish Planet of The Humans: An Annotated Collection

Planet Of The Humans: Moore Trouble Than It’s Worth

Distributor pulls Michael Moore’s (@MMFlint’s) #PlanetOfTheHumans due to truthiness & errors

For #EarthDay, Michael Moore (@MMFlint) releases fundamentally misleading film

Sometimes less is more. In this case, Moore is less.


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Piecing Together Human Anatomy In The Time of Covid-19

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Bored?

Resorting to jigsaw puzzles?

Like science?

Then you are in luck! Try the new Dr. Livingston’s Anatomy Jigsaw Puzzles, based on art created by Mesa Schumacher, a Certified Medical Illustrator from Johns Hopkins University.

Dr. Livingston’s Human Anatomy Jigsaw Puzzles come in three volumes so far, a head, a thorax, and an abdomen. The maximum dimensions of each puzzle would make this a 1000 piecer for sure, but since they are not rectangles they run closer to 500-600 pieces. They are also not terribly hard. Some of the puzzle perimeters have a double edge: the actual edge of the puzzle, and the edge of the illustration (ie., skull) running close and in parallel, so that 12% or so of the puzzle practically does itself. Also, you can’t really be a good anatomical drawing and ahve the kind of vagueness that a harder puzzle tends to have. But that’s OK because you will want to do all of them in a short time anyway.

I believe there are plans to make a total of seven puzzles, but at the moment there are only the three mentioned above available.


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