SocraticGadfly

January 27, 2021

Biden names transsexual Dr. Rachel Levine to HHS position ... And?

First, yes, my blog post headline about President Joe Biden's nomination of Dr. Rachel Levine is correct. Don't like it? I'll be blunt. On this site, on issues like this, first of all, I get the last word, not you.

As for WHY it's right?

Repeat after me:
Sex is not gender and gender is not sex.
Sex is not gender and gender is not sex.
Sex is not gender and gender is not sex.

Also repeat after me a phrase I intend to use more and more as I get older:
Period and end of story.
Period and end of story.
Period and end of story.

Gender may be in part based on biological sex, that is of course true. But, given that women's (and men's) cultural roles, whether stereotypical or not, are culturally based, that's proof No. 1 that gender is not sex.

And, this is very important for other reasons. If, like Dr. Levine, you want to go into a woman's restroom, you're fine. You're a woman, to the best that modern transitioning surgery and medications can make that so. No problem. Likewise on attending a variety of woman's functions. Ditto, if you were a much poorer version of Dr. Levine and needed to use a woman's shelter.

BUT?

If you're a man wearing a dress and makeup, but with no intention of ever sexually transitioning, or even transitioning to the degree your wallet can afford the costs, you're NOT a woman — especially if you make clear that you have no plans to transition and that cost isn't an issue, or that you would still have no plans to sexually transition if cost weren't a factor but it is right now.

That's the difference between "transsexual" and "transgender," and per philosophy of language, and sociology of language as well, it's why I'm careful on what word I use where.

Now, do I think that any agenda Biden has behind the appointment is "nefarious"? 

Unless Levine identifies as a nebulous "trans activist," and is activist, and Biden knew this, no.

I've said before in these pages that I'm not, NOT, not, a "gender-critical radical feminist." Instead, if you want to label me, I'm a "gender-skeptical non-radical feminist."

Per the above, I'm "gender-skeptical" in noting gender ain't sex. At the same time, I do note the two are intertwined. On the third hand, I reject excesses of critical theory on "gender critical," "race critical" and other things that come primarily from certain segments of academia.

On the third hand, Levine DOES appear to support UNWARRANTED medical interventions on gender-dysphoric youth. She's therefore a danger to kids, and also a violator of her Hippocratic oath.

Did I say "unwarranted"? Yes I did, and I've written before on WHY. Twice

To start?

Without "prods" from reading too much social media or other things, 60-90 percent of gender dysphoric adolescents stay with their birth sex — and come out as gay or lesbian.

The author, Debra Soh says:
Previous research has shown that homosexuality is associated with gender-variant behaviour in childhood. All 11 studies following gender dysphoric children over time show the same finding – if they don't transition, 60 to 90 per cent desist upon reaching puberty and grow up to be gay.
There we go.

Dr. Kenneth Zucker has similar figures, per this piece in part about him winning a wrongful termination lawsuit. (Sidebar, and an "interesting" one: Soh, as well as Zucker, is in Canada, though Zucker was born in the U.S.)

But, we can just use puberty-blockers, can't we, without physical or mental risk, even if they may not be as necessary as some "trans activists" claim?

Wrong.

I stand with the Mayo Clinic, which notes that puberty blocking medications should only be used for children who:
  • Show a long-lasting and intense pattern of gender nonconformity or gender dysphoria.
  • Have gender dysphoria that began or worsened at the start of puberty.
Note that the first stipulation has an AND, not an OR. The dysphoria must be BOTH long-lasting and intense. Note also the second stipulation. Gender dysphoria that starts after puberty should NOT be treated with these medications. And these bullet points, plus two others, including one that says a child who is a candidate for such medications should at the same time be addressing any "psychological, medical or social problems" that could interfere with such treatment.

I also stand with the Mayo Clinic, vs those who I will consider and call "child transgender manipulation activists," in that these medications, from what we already now, likely DO have some long-term effects. I've seen, and it's a public Facebook group, so no privacy violations, direct claims that such medications have no such effects. When I pointed that out, the leading advocate just "moved on" to another talking point. PBS's Frontline has more about possible long-term effects. Any major multiyear hormonal changes on a pre-adult, a child, are almost guaranteed to have some brain effects. Frontline also notes (as of the time of the piece) that use of puberty blockers for gender-dysphoric children is an off-label use.

More here.
“The bottom line is we don’t really know how sex hormones impact any adolescent’s brain development,” Dr. Lisa Simons, a pediatrician at Lurie Children’s, told FRONTLINE. “We know that there’s a lot of brain development between childhood and adulthood, but it’s not clear what’s behind that.” What’s lacking, she said, are specific studies that look at the neurocognitive effects of puberty blockers. The story also notes that there’s health risks behind transitioning hormones, and that these risks may vary based on the age at which they’re started.
Here's another piece about long-term effects for women who received Lupron for other reasons. (Leupron is the main trade name for leuproleptin, the only puberty blocker on the market.) Besides thinning bones, similar problems such as thinning tooth enamal and joint issues are listed.

Meanwhile, the BBC reported last fall that the newest British research study both found some possible mental health side effects and had ethical problems in the study itself. But, many Radically Active Transgenderism Supporters continue to claim that there's basically no problems.

Beyond that, which I had forgotten until doing a blog search, I first wrote about the willful misuse of the word "transgender" 15 years ago. For whatever reason, I didn't use "transsexual" as a blog tag before this point, though. But, that's been fixed.

At the same time, I'm not blind to politics that are involved on different sides of this issue. Some wingnuts want to deny that there is any such thing as being born to the wrong sex, and therefore reject transsexualism as well as transgenderism. On the "other" side (there's more than two sides, as this piece indicates, or should), there's a large SJW-type contingent. It's their effort to "thank" for the word "transsexual" being considered pejorative by many.

January 26, 2021

Coronavirus week 42: Vaccine-resistant strains, more

COVID is still not going anywhere; sadly, the increased wearing of masks in rural/red areas is also not going anywhere. That's doubly important because some new variants may have greater vaccine resistance, even as Merikkka may well pass 450,000 deaths by the end of this month and is almost certain to pass 500,000 by the end of February.

So, with that in mind, and because this is global pandemic, we start with global-level news. Let's dig in to what we have for this week.

First, a reminder. We're now at anniversaries stage, as last Thursday was one year since the first confirmed US case.

Global

The P1 variant first found in Brazil, like the London and South Africa ones, appears to have increased virulence (but not death rate) versus the original strain. It also MAY (stand by) increase chances of reinfection. (The first confirmed US case has now been reported.)

The Biden Administration and others have talked about delaying second doses of Pfizer or Moderna vaccine to try to stretch it out. From Britain, the UK's rough equivalent of an emergency science group within the National Academy of Sciences strongly warns against that, saying it's likely to create vaccine-resistant strains of the virus.

Lawrence Wright has a long piece about COVID-19 variants and vaccine immunity. The whole thing is worth a read, but the shorter version? The UK variant appears to be no problem on the current vaccines, but the South African variant may indeed have more vaccine resistance. On the new Brazilian variant, it's too soon to say, but given anecdotes coming from that country, it's almost certainly more vaccine-resistant. And, it's not just the current Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. Any COVID vaccine that is mRNA based and targets a virus in the same way they do is vulnerable to having props knocked out from under it if the virus shows fairly rapid evolution.

With all this in mind, it's why I said last week that I doubt a universal vaccine against all coronaviruses will ever be feasible. The expense of gearing a new one up every year, vs. the annual flu vaccine, with the added issue that it would likely, on average, be only 50 percent effective vs the flu jab being 70 percent effective, all argue against it.
 
National
 
The New York Times says that the slowness of the vaccine rollout means that it won't be safe to end social distancing measures until this summer.
 
Via guest blogger Dorit Reiss, Skeptical Raptor updates his previous comments on employer vaccine mandates. Reiss notes that Pfizer and Moderna were both approved under EUAs and that there's never been a test case over whether or not an employer can require an EUA vaccine. Reiss says that, as she sees it, the framework still lies in favor of the employer, but it's not a slam-dunk. She adds that things like collective bargaining will have other restrictions.

Texas

State Rep. Carl Sherman, who I knew long ago in my Today Newspaper days, is the latest who "got it." Per the Trib, kudos to the Texas House, with members actually LESS WINGNUT in the Texas GOP in the pink Capitol dome than their counterparts in the white one in DC. The Texas House UNANIMOUSLY voted to require masks on the floor. 

The state's unemployment rate remains high, and that doesn't include underemployment, wage cuts at many full-time jobs, and more. Reminders to wingnut-lite Gov. Strangeabbott all the way to wingnut de luxe Shelley Luther on "reopen Texas": Dead people don't shop.

And, COVID deaths continue to fall hardest on people in service-type jobs who have few options.

The latest case surge in Texas is in the upper Valley, north and south of Laredo. (Yeah, I know, that's technically not part of the "Valley" to most Texans, but you know what? If we're being really technical, geologically speaking, there is no such thing as a Rio Grande Valley at all. So shut up.)

Dan Solomon actually writes a story for the Monthly that isn't a feel-good indulgence of Texas myth, but rather, a claim that on total infections, it's worse than we hear, as he wonders when "normal" will return.

The UK variant is in the Metroplex.

National

Fauci says Trump wouldn't let him go on Rachel Maddow. So, telling Platonic "noble lies" is fine, but having balls is not.

Could we all finally, maybe, be getting relatively cheap N95 masks? If so, will anybody require wearing them, not just "a mask"? (The answer is yes in several European countries and haha [sardonic laugh] tis to die for in Merikkka.)

January 25, 2021

Neoliberal Dems are also climate change semi-minimalists

So are many of their media friends, like William Wallace-Wells at NY Mag, claiming the war over climate denial has been won.

Whether it has or not is one thing. I don't think it has, but, if claiming it has is because you think neoliberal market-based actions will fix everything, as Wallace-Wells does, it certainly has not been one.

Or, it HAS been won, because per Pogo, "We have met the enemy and he is us."

WW does halfway admit that 2.5C or more, not just 2C, is semi-baked in unless we act now.

But, after that, it's a fail.

Reality, as noted here before? The Paris Accords are toothless Jell-O and Biden having the U.S. rejoin them does noting to make them less toothless. And, Biden's old boss, Dear Leader, was one of two people, along with Xi Jinping, to make sure they're toothless. (This, in addition to his lies on Uyghur camps, is another reason to despise Howie Hawkins and any other leftists and left-liberals who give Xi a pass on anything.)

Further reality? I don't know what he thinks about Xi Jinping, but at the Nation, John Nichols (shock me) loved him some of Biden's pseudo-green taint.

Further reality? 

The curves are bending even more slowly than WW claims. 

Coronavirus didn't bend the curve that much, and its effects are temporary.

The slow bending is likely too late, unless we do a real, non-Democrat Green New Deal.

The bipartisan foreign policy establishment likes to lick Xi's pseudo-green taint.

==

Another neoliberal climate change minimalist, or  to be technical, a salvific technologist? Elon Musk, who still believes carbon capture is both doable and a real too. (Salvific technologism is also part of WW's schtick.

So, Democrats, like Republicans, will fiddle will LA and DC burns. They'll just play nicer, louder music.

And, a reminder: The most recent switch in weather in California is why we talk about "climate change" and not just "global warming," wingnuts.

January 23, 2021

Why didn't Trump pardon himself? My thoughts

The first thought is the starting point.

And, that's that Trump didn't think himself guilty of any crime. He believes it's "fake news," or more subtly, the student of Norman Vincent Peale believes that if he repeats to himself the mantra that he didn't do anything wrong, it means it's true.

Second? He's relying on any dregs of the "presidential club" that may drip down to him. He did leave a nice note for Status Quo Joe, after all.

Third? He knows that pardons only cover federal crimes, and perhaps fears that a self-pardon, in addition to dumping gas on "no unity" fires of some national Democrats, would remove his Fifth Amendment rights in any state criminal justice system legal actions.

More reasons may be uncovered in the future, but that's my initial take.

January 22, 2021

A universal coronaviruses vaccine: Possible? Feasible? Realistic?

Given that COVID-19 is just the latest coronavirus-based pandemic, or fear of pandemic, to hit the globe, can we go beyond the current COVID-19 vaccines to create a universal coronavirus jab? Wired explores the possibility. Even if they just, on average, offer 50 percent protection, that would make them somewhat like annual flu vaccines only on a much bigger scale. The question then would be, how much more, per year,  or every 2-3 years, would they have to be tweaked than the annual flu shot?

Also, once you're past pandemic fears, who's going to pay for this? By that, I'm not talking about paying for vaccine development. I'm talking about who's going to pay for annual distribution and administration of an annual COVID vaccine in non-pandemic times? A regular flu shot ain't free, at least not here in the non-national health care USofA, and a universal COVID vaccine would be orders of magnitude more pricey?

Next, back to the first paragraph. I said somewhat like annual flu vaccines. The flu jab, except in an especially off year, offers something like 70 percent protection, not 50 percent. Would a universal COVID vaccine at 50 percent protection be "worth it" on the issue of protection versus the costs of vaccine tweaking for virus evolution? Some virologists and vaccinologists need to weigh in.

Related?

Lawrence Wright has a long piece about COVID-19 variants and vaccine immunity. The whole thing is worth a read, but the shorter version? The UK variant appears to be no problem on the current vaccines, but the South African variant may indeed have more vaccine resistance. On the new Brazilian variant, it's too soon to say, but given anecdotes coming from that country, it's almost certainly more vaccine-resistant. And, it's not just the current Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. Any COVID vaccine that is mRNA based and targets a virus in the same way they do is vulnerable to having props knocked out from under it if the virus shows fairly rapid evolution.

My off the top of the head hunch is, no, it wouldn't be worth it for vaccinating the general population. Maybe the aged, infirm and other high risk, but not the general population.

January 21, 2021

Texas Progressives: Status Quo Joe is officially large and in charge

The Lege has started, it faces a budget shortfall that Comptroller Glenn Hegar is surely turd-polishing, and we await seeing just how wingnut it will be this year.

Meanwhile, Texas Democrats are again overpromising. And, somebody besides me is telling them to stop it.

Finally, Texas Monthly must have had a really slow month because it's got not just one, but two, pieces of bullshit in its February issue.

Meanwhile, yes, it's Jan. 20 and Trump is gone, but Trumpism isn't; Joe Biden is here, and Democrat neoliberalism is back.

Let's dig into this week's Roundup.

Texas

The Texas Observer offers its analysis of the new Lege session, and reminds anybody with a brain that if we didn't live in a banana republic with an every other year Legislature, we wouldn't have the worst of national economic slowdowns (see 2010 after the Great Recession).

In Captain Obvious news analysis, the Texas Tribune notes that the bankrupt (morally as well as financially by legal definition) NRA's planned move to Texas will be more a legal than physical one. That said, there's no guarantee the Chapter 11 filing will be approved. And NY State AG Letitia James can appeal if it is. She also can probably seek to bounce some of this to federal court, and ask for that to be heard in the Southern District of New York.

Will last Tuesday be the last Confederate Heroes Day in Tex-ass?  A number of Dem Legiscritters say yes, but, we know how much the Texas Democratic Party continues to overpromise and underdeliver.

Speaking of, the Observer suggests they stop overpromising and instead celebrate what they've done the past few years and build on that.

Off the Kuff takes an early look at voting-related bills that have been filed in the Legislature.

Raise Your Hand Texas asserts there's enough money to fully fund public education.

Texana

Texas Monthly peddles a novella of placebo miracles about a eucalyptus tree that ain't an olive tree in South Texas.

The Monthly, in what must be a slow month, goes on to peddle bullshit about Sanderson being the new Marfa East or something. (No-follow settings on both links; no clickbait assistance from me!) I guess we need to talk about Texas-fried self-Californication or something? (I've been through Sanderson on a return home on one of my trips to Big Bend; it' AIN'T all that or even half of all that.)

North Texas

The protestors over Cooke County's Confederate statue have not given up on trying to get that removed. Sadly, and not for the first time, they're engaging in untruth when they claim Gainesville is the most racist small town in the former Confederate States of America. The fact that the city of Gainesville voted to remove its statue is one refutation. (You too get the "no-follow," Simone Carter.)

National

Racist cops and Army grunts? Say it ain't so. Well, Parler location data on smartphones DOES say it's so.

There is, if you will, a "deep state." It's the unelected, hired-not-nominated, federal bureaucracy, which includes branches such as the national security branch. Nicholas Grossmann notes that the QAnon nutters at the heart of the Capitol insurrection have kicked a deep state beehive. (That said, given racists among the Capitol Police and other things, I'm less certain than him of how dire the consequences may be.)
 
The Facebook-Google incestuous ad sales collusion has been publicly exposed. Thanks, a big thanks to whomever failed to redact Kenny Boy Paxton's legal filing.

Trump's flirtation with a Patriot Party will be a flop, if it even gets off the ground — which it likely won't, says this take.

Noah Horwitz minces no words in claiming treason on Jan. 6, and obviously doesn't know the constitutional meaning of the word "treason." Noah, make sure you learn better at law school if you ain't gradu-ma-wated yet. (I have so commented there; Noah, as do I, have a moderation hold. I don't really care if it posts or not, just that he sees it.)

Independent Political Report talks about the first two (of maybe three?) state Green parties being booted by the national organzation.

Steve Vladeck explains the Insurrection Act.

Rick Casey draws a parallel between Ken Paxton and Earl Warren.

Mean Green Cougar Red worries that things will get worse before they get better.