Friday, July 31, 2020

Where Were You In the War on Reality

Demons in early 14th-century Provençal miniature of "Temptation by Lechery" attributed to Maître Ermengaud, British Museum, via The Conversation.

If it's true, as Stephen Colbert said, that "reality has a well-known liberal bias", does that mean we should give it less attention, just in pure fairness?

The latest is that the last phase of data collection for the 2020 census—what they call "nonresponse followup", the personal interviewing of residents who didn't fill out their forms—is being cut off early. Originally scheduled for 13 May–31 July and put off because of the pandemic to 11 August–31 October, it's now going to stop on 30 September, according to reporting from NPR:

The Census Bureau is cutting short critical door-knocking efforts for the 2020 census amid growing concerns among Democrats in Congress that the White House is pressuring the bureau to wrap up counting soon for political gain, NPR has learned.

Attempts by the bureau's workers to conduct in-person interviews for the census will end on Sept. 30 — not Oct. 31, the end date it indicated back in April would be necessary in order to count every person living in the U.S. given major setbacks from the coronavirus pandemic. Three Census Bureau employees, who were informed of the plans during separate internal meetings Thursday, confirmed the new end date with NPR. All of the employees spoke on the condition of anonymity out of fear of losing their jobs.

If this is really happening and the Commerce Department isn't announcing it, let alone offering an explanation, there can only be one fairly obvious reason: a new phase in the Trump administration's (and Republican Party's) effort to shrink the number of Democratic congressional districts (and state legislative districts as well). Following on their failure last year to force the census to ask the citizenship question, meant to intimidate noncitizens from responding (thanks, SCOTUS!), and last week's announcement that they plan to exclude undocumented immigrants from the census's congressional reapportionment numbers  (plainly unconstitutional according to the explicit language of the 14th Amendment, "Representatives shall be apportioned among the several States according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each State, excluding Indians not taxed", and it won't survive court scrutiny), just another day in the war on reality.

Since people who didn't answer the online census form are people without broadband access, predominantly minority members
there still exists a stubborn digital divide that disproportionately impacts Americans from underserved communities. One in three African Americans and Hispanics — 14 million and 17 million, respectively — still don't have access to computer technology in their homes. Similar dismal numbers, 35 percent of black households and 29 percent of Hispanic households, do not have broadband.
and immigrants trying to stay out of public attention, afraid (wrongly) that the data can be used by ICE to hunt down the undocumented, the undercount is concentrated in the urban areas where these people mostly live, as well as black rural districts in southern states, and these populations, who largely vote Democratic, will lose districts, and the overwhelmingly white suburban areas that provide most of the Republican vote will gain. (There are also rural broadband-challenged areas with mostly white populations in the "heartland" from West Virginia to Utah and North Dakota to Arkansas, but their populations are so small that census workers won't need as much time.) 

Reality discriminates against Republicans!

Then there's the word, also from NPR (I've been dumping on them lately, but the really good work they do deserves highlighting too, especially when nobody else is doing it), on the government's move to privatize the collection of data on Covid-19 hospitalization and shift it from the CDC to the Department of Health and Human Services:

The established system was disrupted by a memo dated July 10, issued to hospitals by HHS. In the memo, HHS took the unusual step of instructing hospitals to stop reporting the capacity data to CDC, and to instead use a reporting platform developed recently by the private contractor, TeleTracking. As NPR has reported, the details of how the contract was awarded to TeleTracking are unclear.

Hospitals got only a few days notice of the change and scrambled to adapt.

There was was plenty of outcry at the time (it was unsettling enough that the news was announced by Roger Stone's old mentee and chauffeur Michael Caputo, notorious anti-Chinese racist, whose public relations clients have included Vladimir Putin and Carl Paladino, now at HHS, though he has no health expertise): 

“Historically, C.D.C. has been the place where public health data has been sent, and this raises questions about not just access for researchers but access for reporters, access for the public to try to better understand what is happening with the outbreak," said Jen Kates, the director of global health and H.I.V. policy with the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation.

“How will the data be protected?” she asked. “Will there be transparency, will there be access, and what is the role of the C.D.C. in understanding the data?”

News of the change came as a shock at the C.D.C., according to two officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter. 

And now the results are in, and we're screwed:

The data now available to the public appears to be neither faster nor more complete.

When HHS took over the collection and reporting of this hospital capacity data, it promised to update "multiple times each day." Later, the agency walked that back to say it would be updated daily.

Those daily updates have yet to materialize. On Thursday, an HHS spokesperson told NPR via e-mail, "We will be updating the site to make it clear that the estimates are only updated weekly."

Current data at the site hasn't been updated since 23 July. And
The tallies do not include certain categories of hospitals, including rehabilitation or veterans' hospitals, which have suffered COVID-19 outbreaks. These rehabilitation and veterans' hospitals had previously been included in the data reported by CDC, says the official, who spoke to NPR on background because they were not authorized to speak on the record.
So maybe it's intended to make the situation look better than it is. Or maybe it's just contributor grift—in addition to the TeleTracking firm, the HHS project is powered by Palantir, the company of Trump's seventh largest donor Peter Thiel, which has also earned $1.5 billion from the Trump administration for a surveillance system for ICE. 

But meanwhile, Trump's promoting Dr. Stella Immanuel:

On July 27, the president and his son Donald Trump, Jr. tweeted a viral video featuring Dr. Stella Immanuel, in which the Houston pediatrician rejected the effectiveness of wearing face masks for preventing the spread of COVID-19 and promoted hydroxychloroquine to treat the disease.

Journalists quickly dug into Immanuel’s background and found that she’s also claimed that having sex with demons can cause illnesses like cysts and endometriosis.

I can't help feeling this is a war on reality on multiple fronts (the demon sex front included).

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