Perhaps unsurprisingly, not that many links this week. If you’re looking for some reading material, check out the best links of 2021 here.
The Things I Would Never Do | The Atlantic
How is Caitlin Flanagan so good at writing…
But a few weeks ago something happened that finally broke my spirit. For the first time in this endless war, I felt like deserting.
What happened is I lost some teeth.
It was a shocking event, one that had nothing to do with a cancer recurrence or with my overall health; it was just far downstream from some of the endless treatments I’ve had over 20 years, a side effect I’d never considered. I was finally ready to give up.
Game, set, match: cancer.
This is the horrible part of the essay where I have to give you some dental information. Believe me, I tried to keep it out, but the story doesn’t add up without it. […]
I holed up in my empty bedroom and began calling the group—the women who have been with me this whole, long experience. Everyone was extremely sympathetic, but none of them seemed alarmed. This had nothing directly to do with cancer, and my life wasn’t in any danger. These are people who get in cars and book flights whenever bad cancer news arrives; my older sister just teleports into my kitchen before I’ve even picked up the phone to call her. Nothing I said could convince them that this was more than a setback.
What people don’t realize is that all of the treatments I’ve been through these 20 years have added and added and added up. It’s as though each one is a porcelain cup, and each of those cups has been stacked one on top of another. One more piece of bad news could bring them crashing down.
Covid Panic is a Site of Inter-Elite Competition | Freddie deBoer
I’m curious what you’ll think of this piece:
Covid is a serious disease that has killed a lot of people, but it does not kill different people at the same rates. Obviously, one of the greatest risk factors is being unvaccinated. But you’d still rather be a child and unvaccinated than be a 50-year-old and vaccinated if you’re trying to avoid Covid. Nor do different adult populations have the same risk profile. The vast majority of those people who have died of Covid have been elderly, immunocompromised, or ill. Those who have been hospitalized by Covid have also been disproportionately obese, to a startling degree. Covid discriminates, and not just against the unvaccinated. I don’t know why our media has decided that reflecting the plain scientific reality that different people have profoundly different Covid risks should be so taboo, but it’s precisely the sort of thing that causes a loss of trust among the skeptical. […]
Imagine my confusion, then, at the number of vaccinated people, almost all of them educated, liberal, and upwardly mobile, existing in a state of constant anxiety and dread over Covid, despite the fact that these feelings confer no survival advantage at all. While I have no issue with people feeling what they’re naturally feeling, I would argue that those with large platforms have a responsibility not to contribute to panic. Unfortunately many people with huge followings are being remarkably irresponsible, openly spreading fear and engaging in baseless speculation about mass death. This despite the fact that almost all of them fall in demographic slices with low risk. The immense popularity of overstating one’s personal risk from Covid, and of structuring one’s whole life around that exaggerated risk, can’t be explained in logical terms. It can only be understood with the animal logic of the force that dictates the living conditions of our entire elite class: their competition against each other. […]
Bogost’s piece is an absolute classic, maybe the classic, in a particularly strange form of worry porn that progressives have become addicted to in the past half-decade. It’s this thing where they insist that they don’t want something to happen, but they describe it so lustily, imagine it so vividly, fixate on it so relentlessly, that it’s abundantly clear that a deep part of them wants it to happen. This was a constant experience in the Trump era - liberals would imagine that Trump was about to dissolve Congress and declare himself emperor, they’d ostensibly be opposed to such a thing, but they were so immensely invested in the seriousness and accuracy of such predictions that they’d clearly prefer for it to happen. I wrote about Chris Hayes and his bitter yearning for Trump last week, and he’s a good example, someone who ruminates on Trump and the dystopian future he might bring about with such palpable emotional pathology that it’s clear that, on some level, he needs it to happen, so that he can say “I was right.” And so with Bogost here; that level of anxious catastrophizing always carries with it the quiet, throbbing need for the bad dream to come true. Covid is already bad, very bad. I am always so confused that so many people seem desperately to want it to be worse.
The FDA Has Punted Decisions About Luvox Prescription To The Deepest Recesses Of The Human Soul | Astral Codex Ten
Classic Scott Alexander:
The FDA has a weird role here.
They already approved fluvoxamine as an antidepressant. That means it’s legal, pharma companies can make it, pharmacies can stock it, and individual doctors can prescribe it whenever they want, including for COVID.
But they approved it with a label saying “For Depression”. Doctors are kind of . . . well, “hidebound” is a harsh word, but they really hate doing weird new things that no one has explicitly given them permission for. It’s not illegal to prescribe fluvoxamine for COVID. It’s not even going to get you in any trouble. It might not get covered by insurance, but it only costs about $10 anyway. The problem is just that it’s weird.
So in order to make doctors feel completely comfortable prescribing it, the FDA would have to add “…And For COVID” to the label. The scientists involved in the big study have asked them to do this.
I hoped that the FDA would say “Since the COVID pandemic is an emergency, we’ll do this right away”.
I predicted they would say “Please give us a year to figure out our opinion on this.”
I feared they would say “There’s just not enough evidence”.
What I never imagined at all was their actual response, which was “Sorry, we don’t understand our own bureaucracy well enough to figure out how to do this.”
Christmas Omicron update | Noahpinion
This doesn’t mean that Omicron is down to “just the flu” levels of severity (though it could be pretty close, if the most optimistic estimates turn out to be true). But it’s not as severe as Delta, and with widespread vaccination, acquired immunity, and boosters, we may be able to ride this wave out without as many deaths as in previous waves.
(And although it’s definitely too early to bet on this, there’s an even more optimistic possibility. If acquired immunity to Omicron also provides good immunity against other, deadlier types of Covid, then Omicron’s contagiousness might simply crowd out those other versions completely. A much less severe Omicron that crowds out the more severe forms of Covid wouldn’t just kill fewer people; it would dramatically hasten the end of the pandemic. But don’t get your hopes up just yet.)
So that’s the good news for the short term. And in the medium term there are two other reasons for hope — both based on the strength of human science (and American science in particular).
My values, howled into the wind | Shtetl-Optimized
It’s like, what do you call someone who’s absolutely terrified about global warming, and who thinks the best response would’ve been (and actually, still is) a historic surge in nuclear energy, possibly with geoengineering to tide us over?
… who wants to end world hunger … and do it using GMO crops?
… who wants to smash systems of entrenched privilege in college admissions … and believes that the SAT and other standardized tests are the best tools ever invented for that purpose?
… who feels a personal distaste for free markets, for the triviality of what they so often elevate and the depth of what they let languish, but tolerates them because they’ve done more than anything else to lift up the world’s poor?
… who’s happiest when telling the truth for the cause of social justice … but who, if told to lie for the cause of social justice, will probably choose silence or even, if pushed hard enough, truth?
… who wants to legalize marijuana and psychedelics, and also legalize all the promising treatments currently languishing in FDA approval hell?
… who feels little attraction to the truth-claims of the world’s ancient religions, except insofar as they sometimes serve as prophylactics against newer and now even more virulent religions?
… who thinks the covid response of the CDC, FDA, and other authorities was a historic disgrace—not because it infringed on the personal liberties of antivaxxers or anything like that, but on the contrary, because it was weak, timid, bureaucratic, and slow, where it should’ve been like that of a general at war?
Beautifully Preserved Dinosaur Embryo Spotted in Fossilized Egg | Gizmodo
The rare fossil embryo of an oviraptor is revealing a surprising connection between the hatching behavior of dinosaurs and modern birds, according to new research. […]
“This dinosaur embryo inside its egg is one of the most beautiful fossils I have ever seen,” Steve Brusatte, a co-author of the study and a paleontologist at the University of Edinburgh, said in the press release. “This little prenatal dinosaur looks just like a baby bird curled in its egg, which is yet more evidence that many features characteristic of today’s birds first evolved in their dinosaur ancestors.”
Indeed, analysis of the embryo showed it to be in a tight fetal position, with its head tucked into the body and spine nestled along the curvature of the egg shell. Uncurled, it would be 10.6 inches long (27 cm). Scientists refer to this as “tucking” behavior, which is observed in modern birds.
Karnataka Hospital Insurance Experiment | Overcoming Bias
Opportunity to purchase insurance led to 59.91% uptake and access to free insurance to 78.71% uptake. … Across a range of health measures, we estimate no significant impacts on health. … We conducted a baseline survey involving multiple members of each household 18 months before the intervention. We measured outcomes two times, at 18 months and at 3.5 years post intervention. … only 3 (0.46% of all estimated coefficients concerning health outcomes) were significant after multiple-testing adjustments. We cannot reject the hypothesis that the distribution of p-values from these estimates is consistent with no differences (P=0.31).
So a new randomized experiment on ordinary health residents of India had 6.8x as many subjects as the RAND experiment, and also found no net effect on health. It only looked at the effects of hospital treatment, but to many that is the crown jewel of medicine.
13 of the Cringiest Public Gaffes and Blunders | Mental Floss
If you've ever made a horrendously embarrassing mistake at school or work, just imagine how much worse it would be if there was a live camera pointing at you and millions of people watching at home. Well, wonder no more, because below, you'll find some of the cringiest public gaffes to ever grace the screen, from award-show snafus to the most butt-clenchingly awkward musical performance in the history of Saturday Night Live.
Why Christmas was the best time of year to escape slavery | Washington Post
It was the night before Christmas, and as Jarm would remember it later, “though cold, it was as clear and beautiful as Tennessee sky could make it.”
He stood outside the slave cabin with his enslaver’s horse, a stolen saddle full of food and a forged travel pass. He sneaked inside briefly to kiss his sleeping mother on the forehead. For her own safety and his, she couldn’t know he was about to escape.
Thus began a weeks-long journey as Jarm and a friend traveled north to Canada and freedom. They encountered suspicious White people who physically attacked them and demanded to see their passes, and sympathetic White and Black people who fed them and their horses and guided them onto an Underground Railroad they didn’t even know existed.
Though their escape was harrowing, Jarm didn’t have to deal with perhaps the greatest threat in his bid for freedom: Jarm’s enslaver, Mannasseth Logue, who was also his biological father. Nor did he have to run from a slave-catching posse called by Logue. No posse had been called because Logue didn’t know Jarm was gone.