2021 Index

Conversation #63, Part 9: Sitrep Negative (November 8, 2021)

This episode contains the ninth part of our conversation about COVID-19, the Delta variant, and the territory we’re all lost in. Grace and I have been derailed in our pocast recording and production efforts for months, but we managed to get out for a walk during one of my lunch breaks and record this situation report. This is a recording made with a handheld portable recorder and contains a considerable amount of background noise. TL;DR version: the situation isn’t great. And of course I (Paul) didn’t get time to edit and upload it until the week of Thanksgiving when I had a few days off work, so we’re well behind events again, but we’re doing what we can.

How to Listen

You can find the MP3 file here.

The Podcast feed is here.

Note that I recently changed our server to support HTTPS. All future podcast links will use HTTPS, and HTTP requests to our server should be automatically redirected to use HTTPS.

This episode is also on YouTube here. It is audio-only. Note that because I often use brief clips of copyrighted music, YouTube may insert ads or block viewing in some locations (for example, some episodes can’t be viewed in Cuba). Even if a video can be played now, there is no guarantee YouTube won’t change these permissions in the future.

The Podcast channel on YouTube is here.


Conversation #63, Part 8: Soft Eugenicists and Vaccine Realists (September 12, 2021)

This episode contains the eighth part of our conversation about COVID-19, the Delta variant, and the territory we’re all lost in. Grace and I continue straight through from the last part, and discuss three articles: a hot mess of a hot take from Glenn Greenwald, a terrific summary of the current vaccine situation by Buzz Hollander, and an editorial reminding us that mocking and belittling those who haven’t yet been vaccinated is not only counter-productive, but often based on mistaken understandings of the population, their motivations, their relationships to the medical establishment, and their risk factors.

Show Notes

I (Paul) would like to apologize for mumbling and sounding sleepy. It’s because I was, in fact, fairly sleep-deprived during our recording session.

Glenn Greenwald’s article, “The Bizarre Refusal to Apply Cost-Benefit Analysis to COVID Debates” can be found here.

Buzz Hollander’s article “Let’s Stop Pretending about the Covid-19 Vaccines” can be found here.

Dan Brooks’ editorial “Contempt for the unvaccinated is a temptation to be resisted” can be found here.

For those who would like to take deeper dives into the literature: I (Paul) was not quite correct when I described famotidine as a “proton pump inhibitor.” This common drug (sold under the trade name of Pepcid) does decrease stomach acid production, but it’s an H2 receptor antagonist, so its mechanism of operation is a bit different than proton pump inhibitors like omeprazole. It shows some promise in treating COVID. A paper can be found here. The patent has expired so drug companies don’t have a big incentive to fund such studies, but a very small observational study (not a full-fledged clinical trial) showed some promise; see the paper here.

Quercetin is a plant flavonol found in a variety of fruits and vegetables. It is likely harmless, and may have potential as an anti-inflammatory, but currently has not been found clinically effective at treating any disease (although again, it is worth mentioning that there aren’t a lot of financial incentives to study compound like this that aren’t patented). It’s not unreasonable to test its efficacy as an adjunct in treating COVID. A paper on quercetin can be found here.

The music clips are from Stevie Wonder’s song “Master Blaster (Jammin’),” originally released in 1980.

How to Listen

You can find the MP3 file here.

The Podcast feed is here.

Note that I recently changed our server to support HTTPS. All future podcast links will use HTTPS, and HTTP requests to our server should be automatically redirected to use HTTPS.

This episode is also on YouTube here. It is audio-only. Note that because I often use brief clips of copyrighted music, YouTube may insert ads or block viewing in some locations (for example, some episodes can’t be viewed in Cuba). Even if a video can be played now, there is no guarantee YouTube won’t change these permissions in the future.

The Podcast channel on YouTube is here.


Conversation #63, Part 7: Our COVID Close Calls (September 12, 2021)

This episode contains the seventh part of our conversation about COVID-19, the Delta variant, and the territory we’re all lost in. It’s a bit hard to believe, but this episode is under an hour long. That’s because we don’t talk about any articles in this one. Instead, we just bring listeners up to date on our recent COVID close calls and talk about the challenges of keeping our family safe in a world that is acting like the pandemic is over, even as the lines on the graphs get steeper and steeper.

Show Notes

The music clips are from the song “We Work the Black Seam” by Sting, from his 1985 album The Dream of the Blue Turtles.

How to Listen

You can find the MP3 file here.

The Podcast feed is here.

Note that I recently changed our server to support HTTPS. All future podcast links will use HTTPS, and HTTP requests to our server should be automatically redirected to use HTTPS.

This episode is also on YouTube here. It is audio-only. Note that because I often use brief clips of copyrighted music, YouTube may insert ads or block viewing in some locations (for example, some episodes can’t be viewed in Cuba). Even if a video can be played now, there is no guarantee YouTube won’t change these permissions in the future.

The Podcast channel on YouTube is here.


Conversation #63, Part 6: Delta Changed Things (August 29, 2021)

This episode contains the sixth part of our conversation about COVID-19, the Delta variant, and the territory we’re all lost in.

In this part, Grace and I discuss the startling reality of how the CDC stopped tracking so-called “breakthrough” infections, even as many vaccinated people became dangerously sick. We talk about the pre-symptomatic, but highly infectious window, and the logic of how viruses undergo evolutionary pressure into more-lethal and less-lethal variants over short and long time periods. In the short term, COVID-19 has no “incentive” to become less lethal if it is very effectively transmitted before it kills its hosts. We talk about the importance of sampling lots of people, including those who aren’t reporting symptoms or exposures, to track the virus, which we aren’t doing, what it means to be “asymptomatic,” “presymptomatic,” or “subclinical,” and why this distinction is important. If someone is completely asymptomatic, not presymptomatic or subclinical, can that person spread the virus? And does that person develop immunity against reinfection? We could only tell this if we did universal testing. Meanwhile, why did the CDC tell vaccinated people not to get tested if they are exposed? And why do some people who want to get tested have trouble accessing tests? Why hasn’t the CDC done its job, even if the data it collected would make the Biden administration’s COVID response look bad? Despite the CDC’s many failings, we are starting to see data that reveals that vaccine immunity fades over time, especially in the elderly, resulting in more frantic backpedaling and narrative-shifting as the authorities acknowledge things that we predicted long ago. The United States has particular structural problems that guaranteed we would be hit particularly hard by this pandemic, and our lack of functional health system is the result of decades of bipartisan embrace of neoliberal policies. We then get into the weeds on “breakthrough” infection rates of the old variants compared to the new variants, and why we have to interrogate the reported numbers that rarely seem to add up. The CDC under the Biden administration continues to do a disastrously bad job tracking the reality of the pandemic.

Next, we talk about the ongoing narrative-shifting, which tells us that we should embrace “meeting the virus” because it is, or will be, not a big deal. This is eugenics talk, similar to what we’ve heard from the far right, about how COVID-19 will soon be just like the flu, only softer, sugar-coated, and wrapped in the language of science and protection of children. We work our way through an article from The Atlantic, which contains a combination of some good information and commentary, contradictory numbers, under-the-rug sweeping, awful framing, and happy talk about what might happen when COVID becomes endemic; that part is a dispatch from some future fantasy world.

Finally, we review a much saner article from New York magazine that is honest about the gap between the official numbers and reality - a gap big enough to drive many, many mortuary trailers through.

Show Notes

The ProPublica article “The CDC Only Tracks a Fraction of Breakthrough COVID-19 Infections, Even as Cases Surge” can be found here.

The Atlantic article “How the Pandemic Now Ends” by Adam Maida can be found here.

The New York Magazine article (which is partially an interview) called “Don’t Panic, but Breakthrough Cases May Be a Bigger Problem Than You’ve Been Told” by David Wallace-Wells can be found here.

The music clips are from the song “Softcore Surge” by Sly and Robbie, from the album Drum & Bass Strip to the Bone by Howie B, released in 1998, and “Happy Talk” from the 1958 film of the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical South Pacific.

How to Listen

You can find the MP3 file here.

The Podcast feed is here.

Note that I recently changed our server to support HTTPS. All future podcast links will use HTTPS, and HTTP requests to our server should be automatically redirected to use HTTPS.

This episode is also on YouTube here. It is audio-only. Note that because I often use brief clips of copyrighted music, YouTube may insert ads or block viewing in some locations (for example, some episodes can’t be viewed in Cuba). Even if a video can be played now, there is no guarantee YouTube won’t change these permissions in the future.

The Podcast channel on YouTube is here.


Conversation #63, Part 5: Delta Means Change (August 24, 2021)

This episode contains the fifth part of our conversation about COVID-19, the Delta variant, and the territory we’re all lost in. In this part, Grace and I talk about how Delta is forcing a change in the narrative, and worse, a dishonest retelling of previous versions of the pandemic public health narrative. With broken air conditioning, we attempt a speed run through several articles. Delta is the predominant variant in Michigan now. An expert from Veterans Affairs writes about how Delta is different and why non-pharmaceutical interventions are more important than ever. A Slate writer argues that things won’t be returning to normal. And a Vox writer slips us a delicious poisoned apple as she downplays the risks of Delta in the service of the reassuring lie.

Show Notes

The MLive article “Delta predominant in Michigan; 99% of specimens identified as variant in last 4 weeks” can be found here.

The Tampa Bay Times opinion column “What we now know about how to fight the delta variant of COVID” by J. Stacey Klutts can be found here.

Lucian Truscott’s article in Salon, “Will things ever return to normal? It doesn’t look that way right now” can be found here.

German Lopez’s article from Vox, “We have to accept some risk of Covid-19,” can be found here.

The music clips are from the song “Changing” by The Fixx from the album Reach the Beach, released in 1983.

How to Listen

You can find the MP3 file here.

The Podcast feed is here.

Note that I recently changed our server to support HTTPS. All future podcast links will use HTTPS, and HTTP requests to our server should be automatically redirected to use HTTPS.

This episode is also on YouTube here. It is audio-only. Note that because I often use brief clips of copyrighted music, YouTube may insert ads or block viewing in some locations (for example, some episodes can’t be viewed in Cuba). Even if a video can be played now, there is no guarantee YouTube won’t change these permissions in the future.

The Podcast channel on YouTube is here.


Conversation #63, Part 4: The Narrative’s Power Fails (August 18, 2021)

This episode contains the fourth part of our conversation about COVID-19, the Delta variant, and the territory we’re all lost in. In this part, we talk about how we handled the Polio epidemics of the twentieth century, which lasted decades, when the general consensus was that protecting children from a sometimes-fatal, sometimes-debilitating illness was worth the cost. We then talk about several examples of neoliberal consensus-building and goalpost-moving, in which public health experts promote noble lies and cheerfully claim that Oceania has always been at war with Eastasia. The worst are full of passionate intensity.

Show Notes

You can read Chris Hedges’ work on Salon here.

The article from the Shepherd Express aboutthe polio epidemic in Milwaukee is here.

Abudul El-Sayed’s article “Vaccine verification >>> mask mandates.” can be found here.

The article from Persuasion, “What We Got Wrong (and Right) About COVID-19,” can be found here.

We mentioned, but did not discuss, this article from Politico explaining how our antiquated and under-funded public health infrastructure made it very difficult to properly track infections in the pandemic.

The music clips are from the songs “Funky Shit” by The Prodigy from the album The Fat of the Land, released in 1997, and “Shit Towne,” by Live (yes, the band’s name is “Live,” so when they were touring you could see Live live) from the album Throwing Copper, released in 1994.

How to Listen

You can find the MP3 file here.

The Podcast feed is here.

Note that I recently changed our server to support HTTPS. All future podcast links will use HTTPS, and HTTP requests to our server should be automatically redirected to use HTTPS.

This episode is also on YouTube here. It is audio-only. Note that because I often use brief clips of copyrighted music, YouTube may insert ads or block viewing in some locations (for example, some episodes can’t be viewed in Cuba). Even if a video can be played now, there is no guarantee YouTube won’t change these permissions in the future.

The Podcast channel on YouTube is here.


Conversation #63, Part 3: Disinfowars (August 14, 2021)

I was hoping to get this one out earlier, but we had a 30-hour power outage, which put a real dent in our plans.

This episode contains the third part of our conversation about COVID-19, the Delta variant, and the territory we’re all lost in. In this part, we talk in some depth about the kinds of COVID tests, and take a deep dive into currently circulating disinformation that claims the CDC’s COVID test procedures have been incorrectly reporting cases of influenza as cases of COVID, and other claims about tests. Paul describes his attempts to get into the scrum on Twitter. Finally, we talk about why smart people often believe in things that aren’t true, and talk briefly about Baffler article about what facts are in our age of social media.

Show Notes

The article “What Are the Different Types of COVID-19 Tests?” can be found here.

We also briefly mentioned genomic sequencing which could distinguish specific variants of COVID-19, but did not cite any sources on this. One such source can be found here and an example of current research on variants can be found here.

The article “Claims that CDC’s PCR test can’t tell COVID from flu are wrong” can be found here.

The Baffler article “What Does a Fact Look Like?” can be found here.

The music clips are from the songs “Too Much Information” by The Police, and “Academy Fight Song” by the post-punk band Mission of Burma. Both songs are from 1981.

How to Listen

You can find the MP3 file here.

The Podcast feed is here.

Note that I recently changed our server to support HTTPS. All future podcast links will use HTTPS, and HTTP requests to our server should be automatically redirected to use HTTPS.

This episode is also on YouTube here. It is audio-only. Note that because I often use brief clips of copyrighted music, YouTube may insert ads or block viewing in some locations (for example, some episodes can’t be viewed in Cuba). Even if a video can be played now, there is no guarantee YouTube won’t change these permissions in the future.

The Podcast channel on YouTube is here.


Conversation #63, Part 2: Delta Farce (August 10, 2021)

This episode contains the second part of our conversation about COVID-19, the Delta variant, and the territory we’re all lost in. In this part, we interrogate three articles about the current situation and talk about what they get right, what they get wrong, what they overlook, and the authors’ biases.

Show Notes

Jake Johnson’s article about “undervaccinated clusters” is here.

Thomas Pueyo’s blog post on the Delta variant is here.

Matthew Rozsa’s brief article about the Lambda variant is here.

The music clips are from the songs “Delta Dawn,” by Larry Collins and Alex Harvey, recorded by Tanya Tucker in 1972, and “Canary in a Coalmine” by The Police, from the album Zenyatta Mondatta, released in 1980.

How to Listen

You can find the MP3 file here.

The Podcast feed is here.

The Podcast channel on YouTube is here.


Conversation #63, Part 1: Maps and Territories (August 9, 2021)

This episode contains the introductory part of our conversation about COVID-19, the Delta variant, and the territory we’re all lost in. This will be at least a five-part conversation.

Show Notes

The music clips are from the songs “Maps and Legends” by R.E.M, from the album Fables of the Reconstruction, and “Territories” by Rush, from the album Power Windows. Both albums were released in 1985.

I was incorrect when I asserted that the mini-series of Stephen King’s The Stand appeared on HBO. It was broadcast on the ABC network in May 1994.

How to Listen

You can find the MP3 file here.

The Podcast feed is here.

The Podcast channel on YouTube is here.