Monday, August 31, 2020

Two Minutes to Dinner

My great and good friend J-Co started off a considerable descent into tomfoolery when he sent a 'text' message consisting of a picture mashing up Colonel Sanders spokesman Colonel Sanders and Iron Maiden 'mascot' Eddie:

This kicked off a series of imaginary products based on the Iron Maiden discography... 

The 'Aces High' Bucket: Bucket of Wings, Two Sides (Axis and Allies), Choice of Drink (English Channel, North Sea, or Atlantic Ocean) 

The 'Number of the Feast': 666 chicken nuggets, Devil's Food Cake 

'Ancient Mariner' Special: 8-piece extra crispy albatross, unlimited refills of salt water 

 Here's where I confess that I'm not a huge Iron Maiden fan, but every now and again, an Iron Maiden binge is a welcome change from my normal listening habits. It's certainly provided fodder for some terrible jokes...

Sunday, August 30, 2020

O, Mi Corazón

 Today was too nice a day to be enmeshed in the terrible current events.  It was a balmy,  breezy day, and I spent much of my afternoon shift alternating between watching ospreys soar above the storied Hudson and watching a turkey hen with three poults foraging in the grass by the pathway from our parking lot to our visitors' center.  For a brief, magical moment, I had a finger-long, perhaps a widow skimmer, land on my knee as I sat on a bench, contemplating the beauty of my surroundings. After work, I met up with friends at a place with a deck overlooking the Hudson... a place that serves five dollar gin-and-tonics. It's a particularly beautiful time of year in New York, and I spent the day in a particularly lovely region of the state.

Yes, it was a day too lovely to contemplate contemporary horrors... so how about a lovely rendition of a song about historic horrors?  Here is a video of Spanish band Hinds singing a rendition of Spanish Bombs, written by the Clash as a contemplation of the Spanish Civil War:

It's kinda disconcerting hearing such lovely voices singing about 'bullet holes in the cemetery walls' in the Days of '39, kinda like reading about deadly protests on such a lovely day. UPDATE: Looking at the shirt worn by Ana Perrote, on the righ-hand side, reminds me that the second most vile slur in American Vernacular English originally meant 'rabbit', which in Spanish is the phonetically similar 'conejo'. This is one of the best slur reclamations I've seen in a while.

Saturday, August 29, 2020

I Rand So Far Away

There's a spurious quote, attributed to Thomas Jefferson and beloved of right-wingers: "When Government fears the people, there is liberty. When the people fear the government, there is tyranny." I cut and pasted it from some Ron Paul website.  It usually gets bandied about when a bunch of armed right-wingers gather to protest some perceived government overreach.  I find it hypocritical when Rand Paul, Ron Paul's equally disgusting right-wing son, complains about being chased by an angry mob.  Shouldn't this scene warm the cockles of every right-winger's heart?

This is the sort of America they've always claimed to want!  Rand Paul should be ecstatic.  I am reminded of his hypocrisy regarding the shooting of Steve Scalise... a shooting that perfectly encapsulated the 'Second Amendment Solution' that guys like Rand Paul always drone on about.  That Second Amendment is not to shoot deer.  Rand Paul and his followers should support the people who made him, a representative of the government, fearful. 

Post title taken from the music of my youth.

Friday, August 28, 2020

Green Screen Queen

 I did not watch live coverage of last night's last night of the RNC.  Why give a ratings-obsessed asshole a view?  I watched a couple of post-mortems, and the best description of Trump's delivery of a seventy minute speech was the doughty Aaron Rupar's quip: 'somnambulant'.  The whole thing was 'Must Miss TV'.

The highlight of the evening was the First Lady's dress, which was the perfect hue for greenscreening.  The internet's smartest snarkers were quick to react, with this being my particular favorite reimaging, by Media Matters for America's Parker Molloy:

Part of me suspects that Melania wore this dress on purpose in order to sabotage her husband's event... after all, she probably thought he'd have been dead a long time ago, but having him lose in November and end up in federal prison would accomplish the same thing... ridding her of a disgusting ogre.  At any rate, somebody involved in the production must have known that greenlighting a greenscreen dress would pose problems, yet nobody did anything about it... and the Trumps have been involved in the television industry for a couple of decades already.

The other great Melania moment was her outré reaction to her stepdaughter:

Sometimes simple mistakes get by without detection... I still think Melania is awful, but the very notion of her engaging in a sub rosa resistance campaign is amusing, I just hope her horrible husband doesn't catch on if it's true.

Thursday, August 27, 2020

The Last Six Months Don't Count

 I haven't been watching much of the RNC, because I don't want to boost the ratings with which the Occupant of the White House is obsessed, but I've been watching and reading recaps, and the thing that strikes me is that the Republicans are running as if the last six months have never happened.  They cite economic figures from February, COVID-19 simply isn't mentioned, and the civil unrest that has been unfolding over the past three months is portrayed as something that happens in 'Joe Biden's America'.

One of the best RNC postmortem series consists of long-form deconstructions by Jared Holt of Right Wing Watch and Matt Binder of the DOOMED podcast.  During last night's breakdown, they perfectly described the Trump campaign's strategy: Trump is running as if he were the challenger and Biden were the incumbent.  Furthermore, Jared Holt noted that the Trump campaign is running an imaginary Trump (a competent, compassionate man) against an imaginary Biden (a socialist firebrand).

Now, for the next two months, I expect to hear about Joe Biden's inadequate COVID-19 response, and his failed economic recovery program.  It will be a final, ramped-up gaslighting campaign, the perfect coda (I hope) to a four-year campaign of mendacity and distortion.

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Secret Science Club Zoom Lecture Recap: The Livewired Brain

 Last night, the Secret Science Club presented a Zoom lecture by Stanford University neurologist Dr David Eagleman, who was lecturing about brain plasticity, the subject of his book Livewired: The Inside Story of the Ever-Changing Brain.  

Dr Eagleman indicated that the brain cannot be typified as either hardware or software, and coined the term 'liveware' to describe the brain, which is malleable enough to create new connections if it is damaged.  A dramatic example of the ability of the brain to reconfigure its connections can be found in hemispherectomy patients, who have an entire hemisphere of the brain removed, typically to treat individuals who suffer from extreme seizure disorders.  Even with half of the brain removed, many patients receiving the surgery in childhood can rewire the brain to the extent where they exhibit no symptoms more noticeable than a slight limp.  Dr Eagleman coined the term 'livewired' to describe the brain's plasticity, the ability to mold into a new shape which can be held, because 'plasticity', coined by William James in the 19th Century, implies that the brain molding reaches a fixed state, while in reality the brain continually reconfigures connections, though plasticity diminishes over age.  

Certain parts of the brain are more malleable than others, the visual cortex is less malleable than the somatosensory cortex- visual data is relatively stable, while data from our changing bodies is unstable.  Brains match their input... the cortex is relatively uniform (Dr Eagleman joked that it was a 'one trick pony'), but the different sensory organs input different data.  The brain wraps itself around new data streams.  Dr Eagleman founded a company which developed a vest which can allow deaf people to use vibrations on the skin to simulate hearing.

Unlike, for example, zebras which can run shortly after birth, humans are helpless at birth.  Dr Eagleman described humans as having 'half baked' brains at birth, and the malleability of human brains have allowed us to overrun the planet.  The goal of the brain is to model the world.

The brain figures out how to control the body it finds itself in.  Dr Eagleman presented us with the example of an armless archer, who holds the world's record for the longest accurate bowshot.  A robotics team has developed a starfish robot which uses machine learning to figure out how to locomotor.

Brain circuitry comes to reflect what an individual does.  New neural pathways develop in the cortex to accommodate juggling or playing a musical instrument.  The modeling, regulated largely by acetylcholine, is based on relevance... for instance, a piano player who uses two hands equally, should show different pathways than a guitar player, who uses two hands in different manners.

In the case of brain damage resulting from a stroke, constraint induced therapies which bind the non-impaired limb can force patients to recover functionality more rapidly.

The takeover of territory in the cortex occurs rapidly, subjects who are blindfolded exhibit activity in the visual cortex triggered by touch within an hour.  It is probable that dreaming provides stimulation to the visual areas of the occipital cortex to prevent takeover from other senses during sleep.

Dr Eagleman noted that memory involves changing the structure of neural connections while keeping function.  

To get an idea of how this lecture went, here is an interview of Dr Eagleman conducted by MIT researcher Lex Fridman in which the good doctor defines the concept of livewiring:


If you want in on the actual Zoom lectures, drop a line to my great and good friends at the Secret Science Club.  You don't have to be in Brooklyn to let Margaret and Dorian introduce you to fantastic lectures by brilliant intellects such as Dr Eagleman.

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Four Years Ago, It Was Just Another Race Cult

The breakout star of last night's boring Republican National Convention was Kimberly Guilfoyle, former Fox talking head and current girlfriend of Don Jr and highly paid 'campaign consultant'. She was in full cultist mode last night:


 I'm getting serious Esoteric Order of Dagon vibes from that thumbnail picture:

I guess that's appropriate when your boyfriend has the Assmouth Look. Poking around the t00bz, I discovered I wasn't the only person to note that Guilfoyle looked like something out of a cheesy fantasy movie:

I also got a snake handler vibe from her, maybe because she positioned her hands like a Minoan Snake Goddess for much of the speech.   I'm not good with the photoshop skills, but I imagine some wag will notice the likeness.

 Post title take from one of my favorite lines of dialogue: "Two, three years ago, it was just another snake cult... now they're everywhere.

Tonight is a combination bar trivia/Secret Science Club Zoom lecture night, so I sha'n't be watching the atrocity... better to build my brain up rather than rot it with GOP lunacy.

Monday, August 24, 2020

Night One of the Freak Show

 I just got in from having dinner and a couple of beers with friends, and made the mistake of putting on the Republican convention.  It's funny to hear Steve Scalise talking about the low unemployment numbers under Trump when about ten percent of the population is out of work.  I decided to turn off the livestream, no need to bump up the ratings

The Wonkette peanut gallery is providing a live-ish play-by-play, and the redoubtable Aaron Rupar is pulling out the whackiest soundbites... I hope he gets hazard pay!  I mean, listen to this lunacy:

Human sex drug traffickers? Is there a black market for imported Cialis? I think I'll watch the postmortems tomorrow, no need to bump up the ratings with my peepers... Trump is obsessed with ratings. It's not like this convention will feature quality musical interludes or touching stories that aren't complete bullshit. If I wanted a freak show, it would be this one: At least that freak show doesn't last for four nights. UPDATE: Jesus Christ, why do I do this to myself? I just had to dip back into the maelstrom of madness: I must be a glutton for punishment.

Sunday, August 23, 2020

Wanton Destruction

 It's a perfect metaphor for this Maladministration and the Republican Party in general... the paving over of a portion of the White House Rose Garden at Melania Trump's behest.   The removal of the Rose Garden's gloriously flowering crabapple trees to facilitate a Hatch Act violating Republican Convention is akin to Trump opening up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling- it involves the long-term destruction of a publicly owned thing of beauty for the short-term gain of a tiny minority of people.  I mean, look at what hath been wrought by the First Concubine:

Siri, play Big Yellow Taxi...

The post title was specifically chosen for its double entendre... I'm not in a particularly charitable mood regarding the Wife of the Occupant.

Saturday, August 22, 2020

If the Tests Are Faulty, the Numbers Will Go Down

 Via Tengrain, we have the disquieting news that the Trump Maladministration rescinded the FDA's authority to regulate COVID-19 tests.  Not only does that leave the COVID-19 testing field open to grifters like the My Pillow Guy and Doctor Demon Semen (how soon will she develop a test to determine how much Satanic Spooge is infecting the ill?), the possibility that faulty tests will result in lower positive rates could be spun as getting the pandemic under control.  The current death toll stands at over 180,000, though I can't be the only one to suspect that this figure is a gross undercount.  For the record, I predicted in March that the death toll in the US would hit half-a-million before the pandemic runs its course.

The deregulation of testing kits to lower the official death count strikes me as a ploy by the Maladministration to underplay Trump's horrendously inept handling of the pandemic in the runup to the election.  His hope that a Russian vaccine could be rushed to the market is a 'Hail Mary' pass, never mind the need for clinical trials... he is already attacking the Food and Drug Administration as a 'deep state' agency trying to delay a vaccine rollout to hurt him politically.   

Meanwhile, he's touting another toxin as a cure.  November cannot come soon enough!

Friday, August 21, 2020

The Feast of St Joseph

 Today is the Feast of St Joseph, but not the one you're thinking of... there are no sfingi to be had this time of year anyway.  Today is the day we celebrate the birthday of the Sainted Joe Strummer, and a charitable livestream featuring an all-star cast of musicians will take place this afternoon.

I'm especially interested in hearing Cait O'Riordan and Spider Stacy, and I hope that Shane MacGowan, who shockingly survived Joe Strummer, makes an appearance as well.  Most of all, I hope that Joe's bandmate Mick Jones makes an appearance, especially if his daughter joins him.

Besides being a punk legend, Joe Strummer was an unapologetic lefty, singing about racial and class issues, the evils of imperialism, the experiences of immigrants and repressive government policies, not only as one of the frontmen (with Mr Jones) of the Clash, but as the leader of the Mescaleros.  Joe also fronted the Pogues while Shane MacGowan was pursuing a solo career, or drinking himself silly... I forget which.

I'm going to have to join the livestream somewhat late, being preoccupied with work for the first hour or so, but I will definitely watch as much as I can.  In the meantime, I figured I'd post a video of one of my favorite Clash songs, the timely White Man in Hammersmith Palais, being performed by St Joe, who promptly turned over vocal duties to his loving fans:

Now, that's exactly the sort of roots rock rebel we need these days, when the white riots we see tend to be stupid ones.

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Hope Trumps Cynicism

 Last night's convention speech by Barack Obama really brought home the degree to which our nation has fallen.  Just hearing an intelligent, compassionate man delivering a unifying speech highlighted how stupid and divisive the current Occupant of the White House is.

The Trump campaign is banking on the cynicism that Barack Obama mentioned... one of his big campaign pitches in 2016 was aimed at African-American voters: "What the hell do you have to lose?"  We know the answer now- over a hundred-and-seventy American lives, millions of jobs, the esteem of allies worldwide.

Joe Biden isn't quite the orator that Barack Obama is, he's got a reputation of being a gaffe machine.  Biden never misses a word, though, when it counts... I've never heard him misspeak when addressing a funeral or memorial service.  The Tor Books website has a post about Meriadoc Brandybuck in LotR, which reminds me that Joe Biden has a hobbit-esque streak: "But it is the way of my people to use light words at such times and say less than they mean. We fear to say too much. It robs us of the right words when a jest is out of place."

I've had several conversations online, and spoke at some length with my mom, about the role that Joe Biden will play if he wins the election- he will largely play the role of Healer-in-Chief, the kindly, empathetic figure who can work to reunite the body politic, the peacemaker who can reassure our allies that we are back on the right track.  Barack Obama articulated the importance of Hope in the face of an election that increasingly looks rigged, cynicism about the validity of the electoral process only helps Trump.  Biden cannot be a transformational figure such as Obama was, but he can act as a decent steward, one who remembers the values that, to use the cliche, made America great, and can rely on his younger proxies to make damn sure that the values that our society claims to embody apply to all people.

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Loomer Lunacy Looming

Amid the downward spiral of the GOP into the Maelstrom of Madness, perhaps no event is more significant than the Florida 21st District primary victory of Laura Loomer, bigot, conspiracy theorist, and all-around whackadoodle.  I covered Loomer's idiotic stage-crashing at the Shakespeare in the Park production of Julius Caesar, featuring a Trump look-alike in the title role.  Not only has Loomer been banned from Shakespeare in the Park, she's been banned from multiple social media platforms, as well as Uber and Lyft, for her anti-muslim fanaticism, she's had multiple public breakdowns regarding these bans:


That video should make for an interesting opposition ad. 

Perhaps Loomer's greatest public self-own, even greater than her wooing of a neo-nazi, was the protest which had her chain herself to one door of Twitter's NYC headquarters, allowing the unfettered entrance and exit of Twitter employees.  Two hours later, the NYPD had to free her with bolt cutters because she had to pee, and hadn't provided herself with food or drink.  This is the sort of forward thinking we need from an elected representative.  There was also her bizarre trip to Minnesota with a couple of other grifters to hunt down information proving that Representative Ilhan Omar is a sinister, anti-American schemer.

Thankfully, the district in which Loomer is running is overwhelmingly Democratic, leading some wags to speculate that her run is a cynical cash-in, or even just an attempt to force Twitter to re-instate her, which isn't going to happen.  At any rate, the impossible actually occurred, and 2020 actually became even stupider.

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Unpardonable Vote Suppressor Signing Unneccessary Pardon

 In a move calculated to distract people from Biden's convention, and to appeal to women voters in a most cynical fashion, President Trump has decided to pardon Susan B. Anthony for voting illegally.  His announcement comes across as flippant, the sort of sneering delivery that a guy who thinks it's all a joke:



It's my contention that Susan B. Anthony needs no pardon, the real crime was the illegality of women voting.  By pardoning her, Trump is attempting to remove her agency posthumously.  He even admits to this in his announcement: "You know that she got a pardon for a lot of other women and she didn't put her name on the list, so she was never pardoned."  She did not request a pardon, having her 'crime' listed on her curriculum vitae was a lot more powerful testament to her life's work than accepting a pardon from a man for having the temerity to exercise a right which should have been hers could ever be.

Donald Trump even violates a dead woman's consent.

Monday, August 17, 2020

My Day in Court

 This is a subject I didn't want to cover until I knew what the resolution would be.  Back in late February, I 'earned' the first traffic ticket I'd gotten in almost exactly twenty-five years.  While driving to work at around 11PM, a New York State Trooper pulled me over for a 'rolling stop', claiming that I had proceeded through a stop sign without coming to a complete halt.  

I checked the 'not guilty' box on the ticket, indicating that I was willing to go to court to dispute the ticket.  My one point of contention is that I came to a complete stop at the stop sign, and that what appeared to be a rolling stop actually represented my proceeding through a pedestrian crossing, and tapping my brakes because I saw a car proceeding northbound on the roadway I'd planned to turn into.  I immediately went into 'investigative mode', drawing on the skills I had picked up while investigating insurance claims back in the 1990s.  In this case, it involved photographing the intersection.  Here we see the intersection, with the 'stop' line on the left...  my argument would be that the 'rolling stop' occurred at one of the righthand lines, which represent the crosswalk:

I also took measurements of the intersection, determining that the stop line was sixteen feet, nine inches from the intersection, which is longer than my wee car:

The argument that I had prepared in my head was, "Because Officer *REDACTED* and I had different vantage points, our perspective, in the literal sense of the word, differs."  I was counting on the ambiguity of the scene (especially given the fact that it occurred at night) exonerating me.  An attorney friend actually joked, "I've never heard of a Rashomon defense for a traffic ticket!"

My original court date was set for late April, but it was put on hold until August 17 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  This morning, I put on long pants, decent shoes, and a collared, button down shirt for the first time since March.  I hopped on the Number 7 Bee-Line bus to take me to the courthouse, which is across town, opposite City Hall.  I arrived a half-hour early for my court appearance.  Most of the other defendants were dressed in shorts or jeans, and T-shirts, but I'm not the sort who dresses down for court.

Before the courtroom was opened, a representative of the Yonkers Police Department had us line up and gave us the option to plea down to lesser charges.  We could continue to fight the ticket, and if we unsuccessful, we'd have to pay a full fine and full points would accrue to our licences.  In my case, I would accumulate three points on my license.  The PD rep informed me that a guilty plea to a lesser moving violation would result in no points and a fifty-to-one hundred dollar fine.  All of my Perry Mason airs went the way of the dodo, and the manila envelope of photographs seemed superfluous.  For less money than I've paid for certain epic bar tabs, this whole thing could go away.  I chose the plea deal.  After everybody had made their determination, the courtroom was opened and we filed in.

My one beef with the process is that an attorney representing several clients was given precedence over the schmoes like me who were there on our own behalf.  When I was finally called, the process was lickety-split:

"Mr _________, do you plead guilty?"

"Yes, Your Honor."

"Mr _________, can you pay the fine today?"

"Yes, Your Honor."

"Mr _________, you may pay the cashier across the hall."

"Very well, Your Honor."

The whole process took less than half an hour.  After paying the cash to cover the fine, I was free to go, license points free, wallet slightly lighter.  Being somewhat overdressed for an August day off, I decided to go straight home, with one detour to purchase some salumi to make a bigass sammich for lunch.  Upon arriving home, I joked with my upstairs neighbor how I'm no longer a desperado after my day in court.

It was a learning experience, I hadn't been in an actual courtroom in twenty-five years (I beat that ticket, the responding officer didn't show up).  I don't plan on repeating the experience- not any time soon, at any rate... maybe in another twenty-five years.

Sunday, August 16, 2020

Bucket Brigade

 Next Tuesday will mark two weeks since tropical storm Isaias hit the area, taking down a lot of trees, blocking roads, and downing power lines.  Lingering power outages remained until a couple of days ago, and there are still trees and branches precariously dangling over roadways.  Convoys of bucket trucks have been a feature on the local roadways, dispatched to the locales where problems remain.

Last night, while running an errand at Stop-and-Shop before working the graveyard shift, I saw an entire brigade of bucket trucks parked in the lot the supermarket shares with a hotel:


Truck-obsessed five year old me would have been sent over the moon by the sight of so much heavy equipment, arrayed like the closest equivalents we now have to the dinosaurs that also obsessed me (and still do).  Older, staider me was sent over the moon by the site of so much heavy equipment deployed to get our infrastructure back in order.  

For the record, our company e-mail still hasn't been restored since a post-Isaias power outage and generator malfunction (not to mention the fact that our IT guys are working remotely).  At least I sent in my expense reports before this problem came up, by which I mean came down.

Saturday, August 15, 2020

Long Live the King!

No organism embodies the simultaneous durability and fragility of Nature as the monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus).  This showy orange and black butterfly undergoes a seasonal migration from the species wintering grounds in Mexico to the North American continent as far north as Canada.  The orange and black color scheme of the monarch is a textbook example of aposematism- the butterflies sequester enough cardiac glycosides  from the milkweed plants they consume as caterpillars that they can knock animals that eat them for a loop.  They do make dramatic photographic subjects, such as this monarch that I photographed on the job today:

The toxic monarchs have a doppelgänger, the viceroy butterfly (Limenitis archippus), long thought to be a non-toxic Batesian mimic, but recently discovered to be a toxic Müllerian mimic

The monarchs themselves are durable creatures, able to migrate for thousands of miles, but their status is fragile.  The milkweed plants on which the larval monarchs subsist are often eradicated by the agricultural use of pesticides, the development of rural and exurban real estate, and mowing of lawns and highway margins.  More alarmingly, the Mexican oyamel fir forests in which the butterflies overwinter are endangered not only by global warming, but by logging.  Earlier this year, anti-logging butterfly conservationist Homero Gómez González was found dead, probably murdered.  

This is the prime season for spotting monarchs in my neck of the woods- the conditions are perfect for them to stop at this particular geographic area in late summer.  Watching these gorgeous creatures as they flutter in a seemingly fragile manner, knowing all along that they are stalwart pilgrims, long journeying, gladdens my heart.  The very though of perhaps losing them in my lifetime is horrific.  I've touched on this subject before, specifically regarding milkweeds.  Our head groundskeeper is very knowledgeable, so she always maintains a healthy population of the plants on our sites, as well as a variety of pollinator-attracting flowering plants... she really should have a natural platform for balancing human landscaping desires with the needs of other organisms.

Conservation measures should be implemented both here in the 'States and in the oyamel forests of Mexico.  In particular, the short-term benefits of logging should be rejected in favor of a more sustainable ecotourism model... but that would depend on getting the narcotrafficking and logging related violence under control.  A sustainable ecological policy would benefit butterflies and people.

I take great joy in the quiet moments of observing these enchanting creatures, and I strongly feel that they must be preserved for subsequent generations.

Friday, August 14, 2020

Toots Giving Good Advice

In this crap year, one has got to seek what positivity one can, in whatever form it comes.  I have long been a huge fan of Toots and the Maytals (Sweet and Dandy is one of my all-time favorite songs).  I was very happy to hear a new single by Toots on the radi-adi-o a couple of nights ago, and it's a timely one.  Here's Toots giving us some advice to cope with this terrible, terrible year:

The song makes a good companion piece for his old classic Time Tough- thankfully, Toots provides us with a toolkit to survive these tough times, because good music provides solace in bad times.

Thursday, August 13, 2020

Socially Distant Secret Science Club: Adolescent Angst Edition

 Tonight, I am participating in a Zoom-based Secret Science Club lecture featuring Dr Barbara Natterson-Horowitz, of the Department of Human Evolutionary Biology at Harvard University and professor of medicine in the UCLA Division of Cardiology.  Dr Natterson-Horowitz is the co-author of the book Wildhood: The Epic Journey from Adolescence to Adulthood in Humans and Other Animals.

 Dr Natterson-Horowitz began the lecture with a discussion of the prefrontal cortex, which is not entirely developed in adolescence.  Because the prefrontal cortex is not completely developed, adolescents often engage in dangerous behaviors.  Many mental illnesses have their start in adolescence as well.  Adolescents are also vulnerable to exploitation.  This development pattern has its roots in evolutionary biology, and Dr Natterson-Horowitz will discuss the role of evolution in cortical development.

Dr Natterson-Horowitz is a medical doctor, and also studied psychiatry.  She became a cardiac consultant to the Los Angeles Zoo, and treated a chimpanzee which had a stroke.  She realized that her medical knowledge was anthropocentric, with studies of animals focused on zoonotic infections.  She ended up treating animal diseases and studied animal behavior.  She realized that she needed to integrate human and veterinary medicine, studying bird cardiology, the parallels between horse and human fainting spells, and self harm in parrots.  There is a benefit to having an evolutionary understanding of illnesses.  Human exceptionalism is a problem, there is an unexamined assumption about human diseases and  vulnerabilities.  Vulnerability to disease is an evolutionary trait.  She displayed a phylogenetic tree jotted down by Darwin in his notebooks, with an endearing "I think" at the page header:

Adolescents are vulnerable to accidents, they are vulnerable to suicidal ideation, and exploitation, sexual and otherwise.  Dr Natterson-Horowitz displayed a video of the evolutionary timescale, and stated that she wanted to begin her discussion of underlying evolutionary roots of disease to the Cambrian explosion. Arteriosclerosis, the underlying issue behind cardiac disease, is common to chordates.  Is adolescence unique to humans?

Dr Natterson-Horowitz took us through a whirlwind tour of studies of adolescence from Aristotle to  G. Stanley Hall (who spoke of the 'Sturm und Drang' of adolescence), to Sigmund Freud, to Anna Freude, to Margaret Mead, who explored the 'nature vs nurture' issue in a comparative adolescence study.  Dr Natterson-Horowitz wanted to expand Dr Mead's model to other species.  She defines adolescence a the period between puberty or fledging until sexual maturity.  She extolled the beauty of words such as 'elver' for adolescent eels or 'smolts' for adolescent salmon.

Dr Natterson-Horowitz continued with an overview of adolescent ailments, beginning with fainting.  Fear-triggered fainting seems to be a paradoxical occurrence, it involves a slowing of the heartrate rather than the expected increasing heart rate.  Fainting actually reduces the blood flow to the brain,  certain animals use 'tonic immobility' to evade predation.  Playing a recording of wolf howls will cause a fawn to freeze, with a lowered heart rate.  Adolescents have a greater tendency to faint than older specimens- flight might not be as successful for these individuals than for adults.

Dr Natterson-Horowitz is seeking adaptive answers to similarities rather than a proximate answer.  She then went on to discuss adolescents' vulnerability to accidents.  Adolescents are more prone to risk taking.  Is mortality more common among adolescent animals?  Are elvers more vulnerable than adult eels?   There are proximate reasons for adolescent vulnerability: inexperience, underestimation of risk, interest in novelty, peer-directed socialization (even among fish species).  Adolescents are predator naive, therefore they are easy prey.  Dr Natterson-Horowitz displayed a video of a wildebeest migration, directing our attention to the skittishness of the adult animals.  There are adaptive learning strategies animals use, such as predator inspection, a dangerous collective behavior in which adolescent animals approach predators in order to study them.  Dr Natterson-Horowitz likened this behavior to her own children's experience learning to drive, and the danger that riding with peers holds as risk taking thresholds lower.  Is this a 'conserved' evolutionary behavior rooted in predator inspection?

Dr Natterson-Horowitz then shifted the focus to mental illness.  Anthropocentrism is seen more in studies of mental illness than in studies of other diseases.  The study of mental states in other animals has been stunted by human exceptionalism, which even has implications when discussing the stigma against mentally ill persons.  Adolescence is when mental illnesses such as schizophrenia and social anxiety emerge.

Most animals exhibit social hierarchies.  Serotonergic pathways are involved in dominance behavior in zebrafish.  There is a connection between social status shifts in other chordates and human moods, with serotonin playing a role.  There are no level playing fields in nature.  Dr Natterson-Horowitz initially thought of privilege as an exclusively human characteristic, but 'privileged' animals inherit the status of their parents- territory, 'royal' status, parental intervention in contests.  She even broke listed the various animals that benefit from inherited privilege.  Studying this can help to understand human inequity without bogging discussion down in culture war baggage.

Dr Natterson-Horowitz then shifted the discussion to the study of vulnerability to sexual abuse.  Humans are reaching puberty earlier than used to be normal, and early onset menarche can lead to increased sexual abuse, depression, and scholastic failure.  In a study of captive ringtail lemurs on St Catherine's Island, the lemurs are better fed than their wild peers.  Wild ringtail lemurs have female dominance structures.  The better fed captive lemurs reach puberty earlier than their wild counterparts, and the females reach sexual maturity before achieving social dominance, so they can become targets of sexual coercion.  Among the fossa of Madagascar, female adolescents exhibit a transient masculinization- adult males have spiny penes, adolescent females temporarily develop spiky clitorises, perhaps as a protective adaptation.  Phenotypes change to help protect animals which haven't developed behaviors which protect them.

The lecture was followed by a Q&A session.  The first question was from a transgender individual who discussed 'going through puberty' again at the age of twenty-eight.  Sexuality in animals is not monolithic, with clownfish having both testes and ovaries, and fossa going through transient masculinization.  Evolutionary biology has been seen through a heternormative lens, and an adultocentrist lens.  There is dynamic diversity in sexual expression among animals. A medical student called about further resources for medical students, Dr Natterson-Horowitz discussed dog breeds which have to be delivered by C-section, and noted that there needs to be better collaboration between doctors and veterinarians.  Another caller asked about the tendency of male humans to engage in riskier behavior than female humans, and whether other animals exhibited this... the data is insufficient to determine if the pattern holds.  Another question involved arrested adolescence in humans.  Adulthood in animals- you have to keep yourself safe, you have to know status, you have to be able to successfully communicate sexually, and you have to be self-reliant.  Humans with arrested development have a mismatch between the inherited neurobiology and the modern world.  There is a possibility that the adolescent males which engage in risky behavior tend to be more successful in terms of sexual selection.  

Dr Natterson-Horowitz likened human exceptionalism in medical research as a 'blindfold' which should be discarded, the onset of diseases such as cancer and mental disease should not be overlooked as a source of insight into human health.  

Another question regarded predator inspection among humans.  Dr Natterson-Horowitz noted that adolescents are attracted to risk.  Adolescents tend to like horror movies and amusement park rides.  There is an innate attraction to scary stuff.  When her kids were adolescents, she hadn't heard of predator inspection, but she recounted a time when one of her kids wanted to drive during a dangerous storm.    Fish kept from their peers have a hard time dealing with predators and don't learn how to school.  Isolated birds have a hard time learning their songs, and developing proper breeding behaviors.  Peer experience is necessary for safety and proper mating.  An organism suffering from the 'oddity effect' is at risk, conformity is adaptive in large groups subject to predation.

Can treatment of animal trauma result in better non-verbal treatment of humans suffering from trauma.  The accumulation of adverse childhood experiences can result in adult trauma.  Puppies raised in puppy mills are separated from their mothers at a premature age, and the adverse puppy experience can result in psychopathologies such as aggression and aberrant behavior.  There are breed differences in psychopathologies, and the study of the genetics of resilience might help in the study of human pyschopathologies.

Risk-taking in adolescence, particularly the desire for novelty, often has a connection to the dispersal of adolescents.  Some organisms disperse and individuals, some (such as king penguins) in large groups.  Adolescents need to be innovators.  Among carnivores, such as hyenas, adolescents presented with puzzle boxes tend to be more persistent in trying to extract the reward within.

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Best Possible Veep Pick

 I was out on the town when the news that Joe Biden had picked Kamala Harris as his running mate was announced, which gave me some time to consider the choice before commenting on it.  I think that Harris was the best pick for Biden.  She's relatively young, which will bypass fears of Biden's age being a factor in his term (Elizabeth Warren is a spetuagenarian, like Biden), and set her up for an eventual run in 2024 or 2028.  She's the daughter of immigrants from Jamaica and India, so she ticks a number of boxes in the 'historic run' column (just joking here)... she will be able to speak eloquently about issues faced by women, immigrants, and people of color.  Harris has adopted the Green New Deal, which bodes well for solving environmental issues and creating well-paying jobs.  As a corollary, she is also dedicated to combating environmental racism.  To Joe Biden's credit, he nominated her even though she has never shied away from criticizing him throughout the primaries.

Predictably, Harris has been attacked by both the 'dirtbag left' and pretty much the entire right.  The lefties refrain that 'Kamala is a cop' has been countered by a public defender who had dealings with her in court.  One can certainly criticize such repressive policies as 'three strikes' law, but that can be laid at the feet of the voters.  Oddly enough, one right-wing rag that has written numerous pro-police, anti-protestor screeds has a 'Kamala is a cop' shirt for sale.  The right-wing has already started a bizarre farrago of attacks- she's a socialist radical, she's a repressive enforcer of unjust laws, she's not African-American, she's a black nationalist.  There are even weird 'gotcha' attacks about her sister's use of hydroxychloroquine to treat her lupus.  The election is going to be a shitstorm of racism, misogyny, xenophobia, and conspiracy theories, all promulgated by the most hypocritical bungholes on the planet.  It's all they have, because Harris is a longtime public servant with some notable achievements under her belt.

I have no fear that these attacks will actually work, primarily because they are incoherent, but also because Kamala Harris is intelligent, unflappable, and has impressive knife skills:


She also doesn't take herself too seriously, which will serve her well on the campaign.  I think she will make a perfect foil for Joe Biden, and I hope this career move will eventually end up with her in the White House.  Now excuse me while I look up masala dosa recipes.

ADDENDUM: I figured I'd post a link to my 'Schrödinger's Blackness' post, because it will be relevant for the next three months to MUMBLEMUMBLE years.  Simply put, the blackness of any Democratic politician cannot be determined until a right-winger figures out what sort of smear campaign to wage against said Democrat.

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Returning to the Field of Contention

 Like most people, I can pinpoint the day the world stopped... for me, it was March 10th, the last night out for team bar trivia.  It wasn't a night of any fanfare, things just stopped afterward, with cancellations and closures just quietly taking place over the course of the week.

Tonight, the regular trivia night isn't exactly returning, but the gent who runs the game will be conducting a trivia match over Zoom.  I will be meeting some teammates at the usual spot, which is currently open for outdoor dining at 'distanced' tables.  It'll be a night of contending on the field of Knowledge of Largely Useless Things, a night of the team's in-jokes swapped over not-so-healthy food and a few drinks, the sort of Tuesday night that ended in early March.

There won't be a way to dole out prizes, or to indulge in the often whacky side games our demented Master of Ceremonies likes to engage in during the festivities, but it's a chance to support an establishment that we have frequented for years, and to support an eccentric quizmaster who we've all come to love like a relative.  I don't know if this will be a weekly thing, like the live trivia competition, but this return to the field of contention is a good start.

Monday, August 10, 2020

A Taxing Morning

Late last week, I received a letter from the NY State Department of Taxation and Finance, indicating that I owed them MUMBLEMUMBLE dollars. It was a suspiciously high number, unaccounted for by a simple mathematical error. The explanatory noted revealed that whoever processed my tax return had neglected to factor the paycheck witholdings from my W-2 form. Yeah, they didn't apply the money I'd paid all year to the bill.

The form had a number to call if I was disputing the bill, as well as online options (too damn byzantine to navigate) and mail-in options (the current Maladminstration is messing with the US Postal Service).  I called the number, pressed the number for my preferred language, and entered my social security number. 

The conversation I had with the representative of the Department of Taxation and Finance was actually pleasant.  I explained the nature of the problem and he was able to quickly resolve the issue by pulling up copies of the two W-2 forms I'd affixed to my IT-201i form (one for New York State, and one for my beloved Yonkers).  He quickly made the adjustment to the bill, indicated that everything was resolved, and bid me a good day.  The whole process took about ten minutes.

I had been stressed out and pissed off when I received the letter, which of course didn't lead me to yell and carry on at the bureaucrat that I spoke with this morning... you just don't mistreat the person best equipped to help you.  My stress and peevishness are completely gone now.  Whatever led to the initial mistake has been dealt with, and once again, I am impressed with the courtesy and professionalism of the government functionaries that so many people like to beat up on.

Sunday, August 9, 2020

Hating the New Interface

The boffins at Google, in their infinite wisdom, decided to, for the second time in the ten and three-quarters years I've been blogging, 'upgrade' the user interface.  Frankly, I don't dig it.  There are two 'views' in the 'new post' screen, a 'compose' view and a 'HTML' view... and neither of them is good.  Looking at my past two posts, a reader can see the problems, with one have broken HTML links and the other having an outsized image.  Perhaps it's my unfamiliarity with the interface, but it just seems like there is less authorial control over posts.

The real problem that I have encountered is a seeming incompatibility of the two 'view' modes... trying to fix a paragraph break issue resulting from the HTML mode in compose mode resulted in the broken hyperlinks.  Adding an image in compose mode resulted in less control over layout than in the previous interface.

I imagine the blog will be looking pretty damn ugly over the next few weeks, as I figure out the workarounds needed to make the blog look like 'legacy mode'.  The legacy interface can be reverted to until September, but that is just delaying the inevitable.

I will defer to Danny Aiello to describe my opinion:

Just to embed that video, I had to toggle between the compose and HTML modes... and I'm still trying to figure out how to embed links in the HTML mode. I guess I'm getting what I've been paying for, though.

Saturday, August 8, 2020

Two Snakes, Four Years

 My Great and Good Friend J-Co texted me an image which I found absolutely hilarious:

Two, three years ago, he was just a City Council candidate, but now he's everywhere!

Vote Thulsa Doom, but do it in person... would I send a mail-in ballot to a slayer such as you? 

Ya know, all kidding aside, Thulsa Doom would still be a better president than the asshole currently holding the title... we already have a snake in the White House, two snakes would only be an improvement.

Friday, August 7, 2020

On School Openings

 I just got off the phone with Mom, who updated me on the college situation of my nephew, Boy A (my sister's middle child), who flew into Dulles Airport in Virginia for the upcoming college semester.  Mom picked him up at the airport and brought him home.  After a hasty meal, he loaded up the car that Mom had stored for him, and drove down to the home of my brother Gomez, who lives close to Boy A's campus.  The university's decision to resume classes was a hasty one, the administration was on the fence about online-vs-in person learning until last week.

Personally, I suspect that the resumption of traditional schooling will be a disaster, and my suspicions seem to be borne out by <a href="">the situation in Georgia</a>, which has led to the quarantine of teachers after members of the football team tested positive for COVID-19.  As is typical in the current, dysfunctional United States, the mature, responsible <a href="">teenager who reported the lack of social distancing and mask wearing</a> in her high school had been suspended, but was reinstated due to a nationwide public outcry.  Yeah, we're living in a time when teenagers have more sense than the people in charge of our governments are.

It's still early August, so I haven't heard from my other siblings regarding the upcoming schooling situations for my other nieces and nephews.  Additionally, I have yet to hear if the athletic program I volunteer-coach for will resume in October.  Personally, I think administrators should err on the side of caution, but I'm not the sort of dummkopf who believes that <a href="">children are almost immune to the novel coronavirus</a>.  Stay safe, kids!

Thursday, August 6, 2020

Tish Versus the Grifters

The big local news story of the day was New York State Attorney General Letitia James announcing a suit to dissolve the National Rifle Association. In a stroke of genius, AG James couched the suit as an effort not to regulate gun ownership, but to eliminate a corrupt organization:  

“The NRA’s influence has been so powerful that the organization went unchecked for decades while top executives funneled millions into their own pockets. The NRA is fraught with fraud and abuse, which is why, today, we seek to dissolve the NRA, because no organization is above the law.” 

The NRA defrauds and abuses its members, whose membership fees serve to enrich such scumbags as former CEO Wayne LaPierre. By pursuing a civil suit, AG James has neatly sidestepped the issue of gun control, though the right-wing propaganda machine has conveniently ignored that. Predictably, Vulgarmort claimed that she is waging a war on the Precious Second Amendment:

I'm more inclined to agree with this assessment by an independent investigative journalist:

I doubt that Leticia James is a Sex Pistols fan, but I immediately thought of John Lydon when I heard that she was initiating this lawsuit: “You don’t sue the NRA because you hate the law-abiding gun owners. You sue the NRA like that because you love them, and you’re sick of seeing them mistreated.” 

I just wish that our Attorney General would have been a bit more calculating from a political perspective... this lawsuit is going to be cited in Republican political ads for the next three months, and Biden (a centrist Democrat who shouldn't scare middle-of-the-road, middle-of-the-country swing voters) will be portrayed as a gun-grabbing Maoist. The subtleties of going after the organization for abusing gun-owners will be buried under a deluge of bad-faith arguments. Put succinctly, I think she should have waited until mid-November to announce this lawsuit.

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Renters' Apocalypse

Last month, in a critter post, I touched on the upcoming eviction crisis which is now upon thousands of renters in New York as the governor's eviction moratorium expires. The eviction crisis is nationwide, as states such as California, Texas scramble to forestall a 'tsunami' of evictions... some states could see a mind-boggling eviction rate of sixty percent. Predictably, black and latin renters are particularly vulnerable to eviction, a vicious corollary to the elevated risks posed to these communities by the pandemic.

There are plenty of pieces written about preventing an eviction crisis which potentially puts forty million Americans on the street, but these solutions require a will to help financially struggling residents (always an 'iffy' prospect in this Capitalist Paradise) and a political system which functions. Put succinctly, I'm not confident that this apocalyptic housing crisis will be averted. I can't even wrap my head around the danger posed by throwing millions of people into an already overtaxed shelter system while a highly contagious viral pandemic ravages the country.

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Can't Get There From Here

I should have had an inkling of how bad the afternoon was going to suck when I received the call at 2PM on my day off. The gent who was supposed to work the 5PM-9PM shift phoned to tell me that he was stuck at his primary job, speaking of downed trees, a transformer fire, and a power outage. We made plans to switch shifts, and I resigned my self to power up, shower up, and head out. The second indication that the afternoon would suck was the amount of small branches, formerly attached to my nextdoor neighbor's oak tree, strewn throughout the backyard. Tropical storm Isaias had hit the county, and hit it hard, with wind gusts of up to 80mph/129kph.

There were tree limbs down in the neighborhood, but I had parked in a treeless stretch. I headed north to work on I-87, then made a strategic blunder when, wanting to avoid the Rockland County bound traffic on I-287, I exited onto the Saw Mill River Parkway and into the wanderings of Odysseus. The Saw Mill River Parkway, an unkind road at best, was down to one lane due to downed trees, and the exit I wanted to use was closed entirely. I proceeded to the next exit, and took a local road, only to find it cordoned off about shortly before the intersection I wished to take... a U-turn later and a turn onto another road which would ordinarily lead to my destination terminated in yet another dead-end and U-turn. Every road I ventured onto ended up in a closure, until I decided that the only way to get to work would be to turn back south, taking the Sprain Brook Parkway south, then in a counterintuitive manner, taking I-287 east in order to go west, exiting at the next interchange and getting back onto the roadway, westbound. Yes, I had to go south to get north, and east to get west. I then stuck to the major roadways, the ones less susceptible to blockage by downed trees. All the while, I had an old REM song running through my head:

I arrived at work right on time, having left myself an hour and a half of travel time for a trip which usually takes half-an-hour. Of course, when I arrived at work, half of the site had lost power and one large pine tree had snapped in half, accompanied by numerous smaller branches. The sky had cleared, but the winds were still fairly high. The server was knocked out of whack, suggesting a power failure on the other half of the site. I checked out the site, noting no damage to any buildings, then fed the cat, and checked in with my boss to let him know the conditions onsite. I took a moment to yell at some people who were noodling around our parking lot- a couple with a baby in a stroller and a guy with a kid on a bicycle, "One, we're closed, and two, from a liability standpoint, I can't have you onsite with the danger of falling branches." Meanwhile, I was thinking, "What kind of asshole takes their kid out for a stroll at the tail end of a friggin' disaster?"

The rest of my day was pretty uneventful, thankfully I have plenty of e-books to choose from, and after my initial 'chucking out' period, nobody came onto the property... I guess the sight of a huge pine tree snapped in half dissuaded most people from getting a closer look.

At 9PM, my relief came, and the first question from his mouth was, "Who made all this mess?" Without hesitation, I replied, "Isaias!"

Monday, August 3, 2020

I Didn't Need Those Anyway

If I were tasked with building something both beautiful and dangerous-looking, I would be hard pressed to design something more appropriate than the great black wasp (Sphex pensylvanicus). It's not the sort of thing which you want to see on top of your aspirin bottle:

Yeah, I didn't need those anyway... of course, things didn't go any better when it flew into the restroom when I needed to answer a call of nature. There was a lot of shooing before any pooing that morning, to be sure.

Sunday, August 2, 2020

Industrial Hygiene

Today was the last day in our first 'soft opening' weekend on the job. Things seemed to go well, the response was pretty good and people looked to be enjoying themselves. Only ticket holders were admitted, social distancing was maintained, and masks were mandated. At the end of the day, as the visitors filed out, we began breaking down the equipment, display pieces and a point of sale terminal for ticket scanning. As we broke down the equipment, we disinfected it before putting it away. I had no luck fitting the employer-provided nitrile gloves on my ham-sized hands, so I had to settle for a pre-toting squirt of hand sanitizer. As I was doing so, I joked about how these cleaning/disinfecting routines had become second nature, but that some of these tasks were extremely difficult...

Ever try to wipe down a cat with Clorox?

Saturday, August 1, 2020

At What Point Can We Call It a Genocide?

I'm a New Yorker, always have been, and will always be, even if I leave the Empire State, which I don't plan to do on any long-term basis. Sure, I'm an American, but New York has never disappointed me like America has, so my True Blue New York heart is stronger than my... uhhhhh... blood red American... uhhhhh... blood. This is why this story infuriates me. Amid the tale of contaminated tests sourced from sketchy, connected companies and an incoherent patchwork of pandemic response plans comes this bombshell:

The plan called for the federal government to coordinate distribution of test kits, so they could be surged to heavily affected areas, and oversee a national contact-tracing infrastructure. It also proposed lifting contract restrictions on where doctors and hospitals send tests, allowing any laboratory with capacity to test any sample. It proposed a massive scale-up of antibody testing to facilitate a return to work. It called for mandating that all COVID-19 test results from any kind of testing, taken anywhere, be reported to a national repository as well as to state and local health departments.

And it proposed establishing “a national Sentinel Surveillance System” with “real-time intelligence capabilities to understand leading indicators where hot spots are arising and where the risks are high vs. where people can get back to work.”

By early April, some who worked on the plan were given the strong impression that it would soon be shared with President Trump and announced by the White House. The plan, though imperfect, was a starting point. Simply working together as a nation on it “would have put us in a fundamentally different place,” said the participant.

But the effort ran headlong into shifting sentiment at the White House. Trusting his vaunted political instincts, President Trump had been downplaying concerns about the virus and spreading misinformation about it—efforts that were soon amplified by Republican elected officials and right-wing media figures. Worried about the stock market and his reelection prospects, Trump also feared that more testing would only lead to higher case counts and more bad publicity. Meanwhile, Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House’s coronavirus response coordinator, was reportedly sharing models with senior staff that optimistically—and erroneously, it would turn out—predicted the virus would soon fade away.

Against that background, the prospect of launching a large-scale national plan was losing favor, said one public health expert in frequent contact with the White House’s official coronavirus task force.

Most troubling of all, perhaps, was a sentiment the expert said a member of Kushner’s team expressed: that because the virus had hit blue states hardest, a national plan was unnecessary and would not make sense politically. “The political folks believed that because it was going to be relegated to Democratic states, that they could blame those governors, and that would be an effective political strategy,” said the expert.

Yeah, you read that right, because the pandemic was supposed to be relegated to Democratic states, a push to distribute test kits was not considered necessary. Let that sink in... and consider that the founding of this country was pretty much predicated on a genocide via biological agents. At what point can we call the pandemic response, botched because the novel coronavirus was perceived as affecting 'Democratic areas' and minority populations, be considered a genocide? The problem, though, is that it is in the nature of biological agents to spread, there's no way to contain them... now, the pandemic is raging through swing-state Florida and traditionally red state Arizona- what was once seen as 'Democide' is now hitting MAGAmerica. The death toll, a mere 150K at the beginning of the week, now stands above 157K, even as the White House manipulates the statistics. At what point do we consider this a genocide?