Webtacular World Issue # 382, September 6, 2021

Greetings Webtaculators. The events that transpired across the United States this past week were horrific. Cities were abandoned because of historically unprecedented weather events, both due to too much and not enough water. COVID continues to kill over 1,500 people per day, even though we are starting to collectively give up fighting it. Perhaps most worryingly, the Supreme Court failed to uphold its constitutional duty as any lawyer knows it to be, and failed to strike down a blatantly unconstitutional Texas law that all but will ban abortions in its state. I completely understand that I have sounded like Chicken Little over the last while, but considering my worst fears seemed to all come to pass at once (the awful effects of climate change, the refusal by Americans to take other people’s safety into consideration, and the take over of our court system by right wing Christian fanatics), I find it hard to believe I’ve been over reacting – if anything, I haven’t been doing enough. On to the news.

STORY OF THE WEEK (long read)
What: America Is No Longer Governed By Its Constitution
Why: Although there are many stories to choose from as “story of the week,” I am going to focus on Texas’ abortion ban. A few things come to mind –

  1. Out of all the stories this week, this is the one that is purely a human story; yes, climate change is very much caused by humans, and communicable disease also largely affects humans, but banning abortion is the only major event that we chose to inflict on ourselves.
  2. There are not enough men speaking in support of women (I understand that this language is simplistic in terms of sexual identity, but you get my point). I am acknowledging that a woman’s body is a woman’s choice, and any choice she may make is not my decision to make for her. Yes, this is an entirely valid argument to maintain even while demanding people get vaccinated for COVID – if you don’t immediately understand why, feel free to contact me so I can explain why they are different.
  3. Never mind that a woman’s right to abortion is supported by at least 60% of Americans, or that rules that attempt to limit women’s access to abortions have constantly been found to be unconstitutional for the last 50 years, or that a human embryo is not even a fetus at 6 weeks of gestation, or that no other personhood based laws apply to embryos.
  4. What the Supreme Court’s explicit silence does here is it destroys the Court’s own ability to determine the outcome of any law. I am disinclined to believe that the Judicial branch did this out of stupidity – the Justices and their law clerks are too smart by half to have invented this legal loophole on accident. Instead, like many recent events in our political system, these decisions were made by a vicious, malicious form of “Conservativism” that desires nothing more than power and control at all costs. One of the underlying issues with Conservative thought in the last 50 years is understanding just how few people are guiding it. If you look at right-wing think tanks, college groups, or legal institutions, you will find the same small subset of players. Take the Federalist society, for example. They are the single entity through which all Conservative leaning legal theory is filtered through in American law schools. If you take a look at a law school’s student group list, say, UC Davis, for example, every other entity (save for the American Constitution Society, which doesn’t really work as an analogue) is a specific interest group. In practice, The Federalist Society is the de facto voice against LAMBDA, ACLU, Legal Aid, Humanitarian law, etc., which makes its small collection of scholars, proponents, and members a single loud voice in all contexts. Want to talk about protecting gay rights? Federalist Society will debate it isn’t protected due to originalist context. Want to discuss over extension of religion in the public sphere? Federalist Society will argue first amendment rights. Want to talk about environmental regulation? Federalist Society will argue state rights. It is not an equal participant in any of these discussions, but it is the only other one. Think about it this way – right now, the Supreme Court consists of nine people, five of whom were or are members of the Federalist Society. I cannot overstate how small of a slice of the entire breadth of legal thought this group encapsulates. Wikipedia lists under 300 public figures who are members. The fact that this ultra-minority school of thought has essentially disemboweled the Constitution in front of our eyes should be absolutely horrifying.

ECONOMIC THING OF THE WEEK (5 min. read)
What: Happy Labor Day! Oh.
Why: Because COVID is still here, but, like I said above, we’re pretending it’s not. Like most other things, America is going to become more and more divided by the way that states have attempted to curtail this disaster and help their citizens.

SCIENCE THING OF THE WEEK (long read)
What: An Appeal To Actual Authority
Why: Because one of the things I have noticed with much of the discourse surrounding questions of proper COVID protocol shows that many people are falling victim to the logical fallacy called “appeal to authority.” In these cases, a person will incorrectly use their credentials to argue that their opinion on a matter is valid. One of the most egregious articles I came across was an Atlantic article written by a UCSF Associate Professor, questioning the validity of masking children in school. I am not going to link to the article, because it is worthless, but you can find it if you Google. What I wrote below is a modified version of something I sent a friend who posted the article on social media.

Please do not cite to this article as an authority for why kids should not wear masks in school. To start, Dr. Prasad is a blood cancer doctor (that’s what “hematologist oncologist,” the specialty Dr. Prasad practices, means, which is a far cry from a Dr. who specializes in infectious diseases or pediatrics). You wouldn’t hire a family law specialist for a tax law question, much like you wouldn’t talk to a podiatrist about my toothache.

Second, Dr. Prasad frames his question wrong. Dr. Prasad questions if masks benefit kids. Instead, the question he should be asking is if kids should wear masks to benefit society at large. If a kid gets COVID, that puts their parents, teachers, and everyone else they come into contact with at risk, even if the risk is low for kids themselves. The amount of people who have been exposed to COVID due to their kids being in school or daycare is ridiculously high, specifically because of this type of thinking. Lowering the amount of potential vectors to spread to everyone, not just children, is the entire point.

Third, as for the author’s actual bona fides, Dr. Prasad apparently “avoided research at all costs” while in med school , and apparently is famous primarily for being a contrarian in general, so I would not be inclined not listen to him regarding the efficacy of policy surrounding infectious diseases.

As for his recommendation, all Dr. Prasad conclusion does is raise a question, “is the difference enough to justify the imposition on kids,” to which he supplies no answer, other than “we don’t know.” According to him, not knowing if masks protect children (THEY DO) is enough to recommend against masking children, even though he has not provided any statistical evidence in favor of that position, which goes against his entire argument of not having enough data to recommend masks in the first place. Essentially, we know not masking definitely does not help, but masking most likely does help prevent the spread of COVID with possible, but unquantified drawbacks. Saying that this situation therefore means kids should go mask-less is an unreasonable conclusion.

Finally, Dr. Prasad commits another logical fallacy, called false equivalence, by stating that kids wearing a mask to prevent COVID is equivalent to recommending that a person who is trying to lose weight go on a diet of only eating two carrots a day. This is one of the worst false equivalence I have ever read. Wearing a mask will not kill you (in fact, it is highly likely that it will prevent you from dying in this instance!) – not getting enough nutrients will.

Basically, dude is a hack who is terrible at making a reasonable argument, and is likely endangering people by sounding like he knows what he’s talking about. Please do not listen to him or people like him.

SPORTS THING OF THE WEEK (5 min. read)
What: Football Is Back. Woooo…
Why: Because let the children play.

MOVIE THING OF THE WEEK (3 min. read)
What: Making Movies Like They Used To
Why: Because we haven’t had a slow burn space opera since the first Star Wars (seriously – go watch it again and see how long it takes for anything to happen). I am here for it.

MUSIC THING OF THE WEEK (3 min. look)
What: A Festival For The Rest Of All?
Why: Because I went to a music festival this weekend. I know that based on everything else I’ve said and done for the past year and half, that probably comes across as both reckless and hypocritical. It might be! All I know is that the venue required a valid negative test or proof of vaccination, I was outdoors, I was able to stay socially distanced by parking myself much further back from the stage than I other wise would, I wore a mask any time I wasn’t comfortably spaced (basically, entering and leaving the venue), and seeing the results of other similar concerts. I had a blast. Personal highlights were Run The Jewels, Foo Fighters, following around a group of influencers to see what exactly they do, and some lady seriously asking me if I was Zach Galifianakis, and congratulating me/him on the weight loss.

PHOTOGRAPHY THING OF THE WEEK (long look)
What: What Ida Wrought
Why: Because the amount of destruction Ida caused across the South and East coast is almost unbelievable.

LITERATURE THING OF THE WEEK (5 min. read)
What: America’s Bedrock
Why: Because this will be as good as anything else to commemorate what Labor Day actually means.

VIDEO GAME THING OF THE WEEK (5 min. read)
What: Looking Back
Why: Because for many reasons, old games are new again. All the links at the bottom of the article are also worth reading, if you have time.

INTERNET THINGS OF THE WEEK (∞)
What: Rick And Morty IRL; RIP Omar; Hanukkah In September
Why: Because Internet.

THING YOU SHOULD GET BRIAN OF THE WEEK
What: More Music. Vote No On The Recall.
Why: Because Brian deserves it.

Webtacularly yours,
Brian
Managing Editor, Webtacular World
The Internet You Didn’t Know You Needed™

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