Music Sunday

I forgot to do “Music Saturday” yesterday, so you get it today instead!

Alanna Matty is a singer-songwriter from Toronto, here’s an older song that she hadn’t recorded before. It’s about an historic building full of memories that’s going to be removed in the name of urban development. As she notes in her comment on this video…

This city has a habit of tearing down landmarks to build condos, and this is a song I wrote about a bar that they tore down a few years ago, but now with Sneaky Dees on its way out it seems appropriate again, so i figured it was time to actually put it out there.

Fortunately, it looks like Sneaky Dee’s will be around for awhile longer in their current location and likely somewhere else even if the request to redevelop the building at College and Bathurst is approved. Of course, the history, memories, and ghosts will have to be uprooted along with the name, so Alanna’s song still hits home.

Here’s “Tear It Down” by Alanna Matty:

She also streams live on Twitch.

Signs, signs, everywhere signs

There are quite a few yard signs in my neighborhood, not unusual, really, for a presidential election year. The “Trump” signs, flags, and banners were out first, but there are a significant number of “Biden” signs (not nearly as many flags and banners, however) on display now. But most homes don’t have any signs at all.

I imagine it would be uncomfortable to live next door to someone who is supporting the candidate you don’t like. There are two houses a few blocks away where a”Trump” sign isn’t more than three feet from the neighbor’s “Biden” sign. I’ve never put yard signs out for any election; living on a side street in a small town it’s doubtful it would influence much (I have my doubts about them even on main roads), and while I have a pretty good idea about my neighbors’ political views (and they probably have a good idea about mine), I’d prefer to have friendly conversations with them, and about anything but politics. Besides, all they have to do is Google me and they can read everything I’ve written on Twitter and on my blog over the years and their suspicions about me will be confirmed.

The signs I really don’t understand are the “We support our police” variety. I know why that’s an issue, of course, but it’s unfortunate that we’re so binary about it. I support my local police because I certainly would like them to stop by if I have someone breaking into my house, but that’s not a blanket approval of anything they want to do. There’s plenty of documentation of police malpractice around the country, particularly aimed at persons of color. But we seem to have divided the issue in such a way that you’re either fully supportive of police (who are therefore above any criticism) or you want them completely de-funded and disbanded (and you’re probably a communist, too, come to think of it). Wouldn’t it be nice to have a rational discussion about how to fix civil rights violations committed by police officers while also acknowledging that “no police at all” isn’t a reasonable position?

But that’s not where we are, less than two months from one of the most consequential elections in American history. On the bright side, maybe we can beat each other over the head with our signs when it’s finally over.

Bizarro World

I mentioned to my wife a few nights ago that, along with all of the other political upheaval in the U.S. as we approach the 2020 election, things could still be worse: Ruth Bader Ginsburg could die before the election, giving Donald Trump a chance to quickly nominate her replacement, despite the refusal of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in 2016 to even give Barack Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland, a hearing, much less a confirmation vote.

Well, that scenario is now not just possible, but likely, after Ginsburg’s death from cancer this evening at the age of 87.

It comes as no surprise at all that Mitch McConnell announced tonight, while also praising Ginsberg’s life, that if the president nominates her replacement this fall, that person would get a confirmation vote in the Senate.

Of course he’ll hold a vote, even if doing so would be incredibly hypocritical. That certainly has never stopped McConnell before. As Nancy LeTourneau pointed out last year, he doesn’t care what you think.

We learn about how government works in school, but it doesn’t seem to be much more than facts in a textbook that we had to memorize to pass a test or two. Every election is transactional; what can Politician A do for me that Politician B won’t? While we don’t usually see great variances from political norms from election to election, that’s more a function of the political elite protecting the status quo.

But we’re in Bizarro World right now. Trump and his supporters are willing – or even hoping – to burn it all down to maintain power and control. Expecting any outrage from those who make up the Republican Party today is a fool’s game. And like McConnell, they don’t care what you think, either.

Tale of the tape: Redfield vs. Trump

UPDATE (6:20 p.m.) – The New York Times is reporting this evening that the information about coronavirus testing that was published on the CDC’s website last month that raised questions about the agency’s independence was actually written and posted by staff from the Department of Health and Human Services over the objections of CDC staff.

On Wednesday, Dr. Robert Redfield, who is the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, testified to Congress about the current state of the coronavirus pandemic. At one point, he suggested that a vaccine against COVID-19 was more likely to be available next year and, holding a mask in his hand, suggested that masks were the best defense against the virus. This, he suggested, is because the efficacy rate of vaccines is not 100% (70 to 80 percent would be considered pretty good), while masks, if worn consistently (and correctly) provide dependable protection.

Wednesday evening, President Trump contradicted Redfield, because the “vaccine won’t be available until 2021” and “wearing masks is important” messages don’t fly in the no-fact-zone that is the White House these days. Trump suggested that Redfield was “confused” and got the timeline wrong, even claiming that Redfield had said as much in a phone call with the president.

The CDC has been criticized recently as it’s become apparent that political pressure has been put on the agency, causing some of its statistical reporting and other public health information to be questioned, which is a shame. The CDC has been a world leader in public health science, and it’s terrible to watch that reputation be tarnished in the U.S. and globally.

Science isn’t easy to comprehend, though, so it’s easy to see how someone might become “confused.” Let’s take a quick look at the scientific credentials of each of the players to see who might be more likely to be “confused” by epidemiological data:

Robert Redfield

  • Director, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  • Administrator, Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry
  • B.S., Georgetown University, 1973
  • M.D., Georgetown University School of Medicine, 1977
  • During college worked at Columbia University labs focusing on retrovirus effects in human disease
  • Medical residency at Walter Reed Army Medical Center while serving in the U.S. Army
  • Continued as a U.S. Army physician, specializing in virology and immunology clinical research
  • Retired from the Army in 1996, holding the rank of colonel
  • Co-founded the Institute of Human Virology at the University of Maryland, focusing on HIV research
  • When appointed director of CDC, he stated that the agency was “science-based and data-driven, and that’s why the CDC has the credibility around the world that it has.”

Donald Trump

  • 45th President of the United States
  • Real estate tycoon and television personality
  • B.S. in economics, University of Pennsylvania (has claimed to have graduated first in his class from the Wharton School at Penn, but his academic records have never been released)
  • No other education or experience in science or medicine
  • Generally rejects scientific evidence related to the coronavirus (“It goes away, and it goes away quickly,” “doesn’t have much of an impact” on children, “herd mentality”, etc.) and climate change (“I don’t think science knows, actually.”)

While Redfield’s nomination to be CDC Director in 2018 wasn’t without controversy, I think I’ll take the advice of someone with actual experience as a medical doctor and virologist over the man who told us on February 27, “It’s going to disappear. One day, it’s like a miracle, it will disappear.”