Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Feet of Clay

Feet of clay, Roman votive offerings, via Episcopal Cafe.


There's a weird maneuver going on to make Peter Navarro, the bogus China expert Jared Kushner discovered on Amazon, into a coronavirus hero, on the basis of warning memos he's said to have submitted to the White House showing a prescient understanding of the threat: one from 29 January, which Maggie Haberman/New York Times got hold of—
A top White House adviser starkly warned Trump administration officials in late January that the coronavirus crisis could cost the United States trillions of dollars and put millions of Americans at risk of illness or death.
The warning, written in a memo by Peter Navarro, President Trump’s trade adviser, is the highest-level alert known to have circulated inside the West Wing as the administration was taking its first substantive steps to confront a crisis that had already consumed China’s leaders and would go on to upend life in Europe and the United States.
—and one that's showed up in a piece by Jonathan Swan and Margaret Talev at Axios from 23 February calling for allocation of $3 billion to spending on PPE supplies, development of drug therapies (not mentioning hydroxychloroquine, which Navarro has recently been pushing)  and vaccine, and Covid-19 testing, which the article claims Navarro wrote, but permit me to express my doubts on that subject, because no actual evidence that he did is offered, beyond Axios's assertion.

For the Record: What's Wrong With Journalism?

Via Santa Clara Univiersity.

Had an interesting back and forth with the artist formerly known as Thornton over a thing about journalism, whether we can manage to agree about it or not—where we do agree that "objectivity" and "impartiality" are bad ideas, but I insist it's not a bad thing for a newspaper to make an effort to be truthful, and he says look at the great old days when journalism knew what kind of business it was in and pleased its partisan readers and I say yeah and competed to help the imperalist swine start the Spanish-American war ("You supply the pictures, Mr. Pulitzer...") and so on:



Sunday, April 5, 2020

Literary Corner: Our Bodies, Our Shelves

Via GlobalBiodefense.com.


Stockpile
by Donald J. Trump
We have a stockpile. It is a
federal stockpile. We can use it
for states, or we can use it for ourselves.
We do use it for the federal government.
We have a very big federal government.
This is apparently a comment on Jared Kushner's interesting statement explaining why the federal stockpile of medical products shouldn't be distributed to the states that need them:
"The notion of the federal stockpile was it's supposed to be our stockpile. It's not supposed to be states' stockpiles that they then use," he said. "So we're encouraging the states to make sure that they're assessing the needs, they're getting the data from their local situations, and then trying to fill it with the supplies that we've given them."
Which seemed so peculiar, because, you know, where is the place that isn't in the states where it's meant to go?

Friday, April 3, 2020

Could it be?


A nice column by Paul Waldman at WaPo ("How this crisis could help us get to health-care reform") asks a question I've been thinking about a little bit, whether the pandemic crisis might not stimulate us in in the US to do something about the inequities of our health care system. It's easy for rightwingers to say that socialized medicine in Italy and Spain is proving just as ill equipped to handle the logistic demands of the thing as our marketized approach is, but what can't be denied is that we're going to have a much harder time paying for it, as Waldman says:
untold numbers of people are going to get huge bills from being treated for covid-19. Insurance companies made a big deal about waiving cost-sharing for coronavirus tests, but if you get it and have to get treated, you could still face thousands of dollars in costs, especially if you have a high-deductible plan of the kind that has proliferated in recent years.
The number of people facing those costs will be enormous. As bad as the virus has gotten in some other countries, that’s one thing their citizens don’t have to worry about.

Thursday, April 2, 2020

Not necessarily doing something nefarious, but how would you know?



Sterling is closed (as you'd imagine) until at least 30 April. Is he going out there on his own or with some "friends" and his $45,000 worth of golf carts to an otherwise closed course, like Chris Christie going to the beach during the government shutdown of July 2017? Will there be caddies, and will the kitchen at the 19th hole open up to prepare snacks?

Why is my first thought about the money?

For the Record: A note on passion and politics


Captain Picard in genuine fake bronze, $74.87 from Amazon. 

That godlike charisma thing that John Kennedy and Barack Obama had is a valuable thing in electoral politics, and of particular interest to the young male voter (the same population sector that lets itself get recruited into war fighting), and apparently Senator Bernard Sanders has some of that too, though it's hard for me to see, since I've been around people like him all my life, as I've pointed out before, but it has its limits, especially, in the American system, in the way it doesn't carry over into those midterm elections like 2010 and 2014, if only because the young male voter really can't be counted on to remember to vote. And it's not the only effective way of rousing politically effective emotion.

Biden has that ability to convey the impression that, as James Clyburn said, "He knows us," or he really does know us, as the case may be. Either way, he worked it brilliantly in two presidential elections as Obama's deputy, and he seems to have been working it pretty well in this year's primaries up until the appearance of the plague brought it all to a kind of standstill where we feel too shaken to understand what's going on.

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

For the Record: Quinine

Image via Wikipedia: "The quinine content of tonic water causes it to fluoresce under black light."
Dustup on me criticizing the First Pharmacologist in the White House:


Monday, March 30, 2020

Literary Corner: We've All Learned Something

Easter in Slovenia features exquisite dyed eggs and of course potica, a roll of yeast dough and walnut baked in a special ring mould, ideally on the hearth. 


Emperor Trump has composed a kind of David Brooks tribute in the effort to clarify how lucky people are to have this pandemic on his watch. I'm not even kidding.

What Life Should Be
by Donald J. Trump

The people of this country have been
incredible with social distancing
I'm getting letters
from people that
"I've found my family again..."
they were doing all sorts
of things and now
they're with their family
in the home
and they're not going out
and a lot of things
are happening and they're
writing me, "We've found
what life should be."
Big strong letters with tears streaming down their faces saying, Sir, thanks for mishandling the coronavirus, this extra time we're spending in social isolation is giving new meaning to our lives.

And Donald too shy to tell us how much he's enjoying himself away from the golf course—on his stomach in the family room playing board games with the kids, and helping Melanie out (you can imagine how fetching in her little apron) with complex Slovene baking projects that fill the East Wing with intoxicating fragrances.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Plague Eating

Thüringer Bratwurst at Wursthall, San Mateo.

If you've been making yourself crazy with fear over your failure to accomplish the impossible—washing every piece of clothing after each wearing, or disinfecting the shopping bag and wiping down the boxes and bottles before you put them in their cupboards, or washing lettuce with soap, or treating the whole house as if it was a restaurant kitchen, I've got some hope to hold out that it doesn't have to be quite as hard as it seems, from the esteemed chef and writer J. Kenji López-Alt, who's been writing recently on Covid hygiene and showed up for a radio interview with Francis Lam this morning of which the text and audio are here: Food in particular is pretty strongly unlikely to be in and of itself a problem.
FL: But, there is a theoretical risk anyway of touching stuff that a sick person might have sneezed on and then getting that into our system. Given that, it does sound like food could be a way of getting infected, right?
JKLA: Well, it is a novel virus like you said. We’re still doing research on it. There’s always a possibility, of course, but what we do know for certain is by far the majority of cases – in fact every case we’ve found so far or every case we’ve tracked so far – none have been linked to food or packaging or any kind of fomite is what it’s called, when it gets on something, gets on a solid object and is transferred to a person that way. All of the spread patterns we’ve seen have been based on aerosolized or droplet forms. Basically, when someone sneezes or coughs or breathes very moist air, viral load can get into that moisture, into the air, and you would breathe it into your respiratory system, into your lungs. That’s the main mechanism of transfer, which is similar to how previous coronaviruses like SARS and MERS were spread as well. Again, with those, neither one of them showed any signs of foodborne transmission.

Literary Corner: An Incredible Phenomenon



Dr. Deborah Birx, coordinator of the White House coronavirus task force, on President Donald Trump:


President Trump, on how he found out from President Xi Jinping (rather than, say, members of the White House coronavirus task force) that the rumors are true—younger patients don't generally get as sick from Covid-19 as older ones do (text via RealClearPolitics):

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Weavy Grievy

Tank top from Etsy. Library not for sale.


World-famous Judaeo-Christian existentialist philosopher David F. Brooks shows up to comfort us all with the knowledge that the lemons of global pandemic make great moral lemonade, if you add enough sugar ("The Moral Meaning of the Plague"):
Life and death can seem completely arbitrary. Religions and philosophies can seem like cruel jokes. The only thing that matters is survival. Without the inspiration of a higher meaning, selfishness takes over.
This mind-set is the temptation of the hour — but of course it’s wrong. We’ll look back on this as one of the most meaningful periods of our lives.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Cybernetic Democracy



An enchanting interview on NPR with Mayor Betsy Price of Fort Worth on the Covid-19 response in Texas carries the headline "Coronavirus Guidance Across Texas Is Not Consistent" at their website,  but that's really not accurate. It's pretty consistent, just at odds with governor Greg Abbott and of course the suicide volunteer lieutenant governor Dan Patrick; Abbott's been resisting calls for him to issue a statewide stay-at-home order, and the mayors and executives of the state's largest cities and counties have reacted by creating the situation that Abbot's order would have created, without his assistance.

That is, they've gotten together (by Zoom, presumably, they're practicing social distancing) and coordinated the issuing of orders of their own, covering 70% of the Texas population, and the other counties are coming on board one at a time, so it's going to be as if Abbott had issued a timely order. And indeed Abbott is now suggesting he might do it after all:

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

March of the Volunteers

Illustration by Sarah Rogers/Daily Beast, from a piece of last July by old Joel Kotkin taking astonished umbrage at conservatives supporting anti-sprawl zoning.

I'm enchanted by this parade of Republican geezers ready to sacrifice themselves and die for the market economy: Texas lieutenant governor Dan Patrick
“No one reached out to me and said, as a senior citizen, ‘Are you willing to take a chance on your survival in exchange for keeping the America that all America loves for your children and grandchildren?’ And if that’s the exchange, I’m all in … I just think there’s lots of grandparents out there in this country like me — I have six grandchildren — that what we all care about and what we love more than anything are those children. I want to live smart and see through this. But I don’t want the whole country to be sacrificed and that’s what I see.”
(From Matt Stieber at New York Magazine, who noted that the 2.6 million American children are being raised by their grandparents, which is not to mention who knows how many millions of American grandparents putting themselves in danger by providing daycare for the kids while the middle generation goes to work in the current crisis.)

radio rodeo clown Glenn Beck

Monday, March 23, 2020

If you want to feel some people have a worse grasp on this than you, ask a libertarian

Cheerful libertarian. Via David Brin.

Libertortionist economist Tyler Cowen wrote his own not-so-short Shorter for a piece at Bloomberg arguing for a silver lining to the Covid-19 cloud: it may destroy us all, but at least it will definitely destroy that noxious progressive left, forcing all its adherents, if any of them survive, to realize that Dr. Cowen was right all along:
— The egalitarianism of the progressive left ... will seem like a faint memory. Elites are most likely to support wealth redistribution when they feel comfortable themselves, and indeed well-off coastal elites in California and the Northeast are a backbone of the progressive movement. But when these people feel threatened in their lives or occupations, or when the futures of their children suddenly seem less secure, redistribution will not be such a compelling ideal…
I'm not interested in arguing that his ghoulish prediction is wrong, beyond noting that it's self-evidently silly, like people in some French town in 1348 wondering whether the Black Death would bring people to reject religion or cling more tightly to it (it clearly helped to bring on both, the secularization of the Renaissance and the theocracy of the Inquisition, along with a third option nobody foresaw, the creation of the new religion we call Protestantism).

But I would like to give some serious attention to the undeclared assumption that there is some crucial overlap between some or all (depending on which sentence you look at) of the members of the undefined class of "the progressive left", and some of the members of the undefined class of "elites" who are frequently well-off and frequently live in California or "the Northeast", which begs so many questions it ought to be arrested for vagrancy.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Mr. Bret on the Plague


Drawing by Eli Valley, 2 September 2019.


Stephens ("It's Dangerous to Be Ruled by Fear") needs a little fisking. Starting with the way he stakes out a moderate position by accusing both sides of doing it even inside Donald Trump's brain:
Donald Trump’s first instinct when it came to the coronavirus was to dismiss the threat as overblown, over there, and “totally under control.” His second was to use the pandemic as an opportunity to show off his world-historical leadership skills by treating the virus as a threat on par with World War II.
Both reactions were driven by politics, not evidence. The first was unquestionably wrong. The second needs to be questioned aggressively before we impose solutions possibly more destructive than the virus itself.
The World War II analogy has been raised by a bunch of figures, from Bernard Sanders to Joe Scarborough, who are not in fact strongly committed to giving Trump an opportunity to show off his world-historical leadership skills. Trump himself is interested in something like that when he happily agrees to be referred to as a "wartime president", but his ideas of leadership in  World War II are a little foggy:

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Literary Corner: Big Fan

Emperor Trump holding forth on the State Department—"I call it the Deep State Department"—causes Dr. Fauci to show an emotion. No idea who I should credit the clip to, it's been all over Twitter. 


Chloroquine: A Meditation
by Donald J. Trump

We’re going to know,
so we’re going to know soon,
including safety, but, you know,
when you get that safety this has been
prescribed for many years
for people to combat malaria,
which was a big problem,
and it’s very effective.
It’s a strong – it’s a strong
drug, so we’ll see. I will say
that I am a man that comes
from a very positive school
when it comes to, in particular,
one of these drugs, and we’ll
see how it works out.
Without seeing too much,
I'm probably more of a fan
of that than maybe anybody,
but I'm a big fan, and
we'll see what happens.
We all understand what the doctor said
is 100 percent correct: It’s early.
But I have seen things
that are impressive and we’ll see.
That’s all it is. Just a feeling.
I’m a smart guy. We only disagree
a little bit. It may work
and it may not work.
And I agree with the doctor
when he said it may work,
may not work. I feel good about it.
It's totally, it's just a feeling.
You know, I’m a smart guy.
I feel good about it. And
we're going to see, you're
going to see soon enough.
Let’s see if it works.
It might and it might not.
I happen to feel good about it,
but who knows? I’ve been right
a lot. Let’s see what happens.

Friday, March 20, 2020

Through Plague Eyes: David Brooks and Solidarity Forever




I was starting to worry about David Brooks, who's been filing his copy on time ever since he got married but didn't seem to have shown up last night the last time I looked, but my phone says his column went online by 8:00 PM, and he seems to have recovered from the sense of dread he was showing last week, of the world relapsing into Hobbesian savagery; now he's as jaunty as Mrs. Miniver getting the family ready for an air raid ("Screw This Virus!"):
While we’re at it, screw certainty. Over the past few weeks I’ve been bingeing on commentary from people predicting how long this is going to last and how bad it’s going to be. The authors seem really smart and their data sets seem really terrible.
I’m beginning to appreciate the wisdom that cancer patients share: We just can’t know. Don’t expect life to be predictable or fair. Don’t try to tame the situation with some feel-good lie or confident prediction. Embrace the uncertainty of this whole life-or-death deal.
Screw the grim data sets and the feel-good lies. Make it a threesome!

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Dream Piece



Today I seem to have gone on strike against the whole "work from home" concept, though I wasn't aware of this until around 5:30 this afternoon, when I started waking up from a nap on the couch, laptop on my lap, trying to reconstruct the tail end of a wondrous dream in which Joe Biden figured, probably as the dentist I was visiting and as the author of a bunch of posters, or postcards, that I was in charge of, with slogans some of which dealt with the phrase "another mouth to feed." I didn't get to see the dentist, but was spending some time with a kind hygienist, most directly based on my surgeon's lovely Russian nurse Natalya, a woman of inordinate compassion combined with courageous fatalism (she used to say she had experienced all the conditions the boss treated, which was certainly not true, even if she only meant it in the hypochondriac sense, which I'm sure she did), who presumably got into the dream on account of our own String (hi, String!) and a nurse in my Twitter feed called @RNSnark. She'd called me in as a special thing in spite of the fact that the office was temporarily closed (my real dentist called around noon to say the office was closed), for a job for which the dentist wasn't even going to be needed, fitting me with a kind of palate plate in opaque wax that she held in her palm, I mean in the shape of the front part of the palate, like the upper denture I had for a few months while my implants were getting done, but white rather than pink, and it didn't have a tooth, so it must have had some other function. It had been done all wrong, she said, and she was going to have to fix it for me, I think maybe by grinding it down somehow to make it fit better. The office was very dark, and there was nobody else around, but I think then there was somebody, while I was waiting for her to do whatever it was, to whom I spoke, probably a man, but I don't know what he said except that it left me curiously comforted, about the phrase "another mouth to feed," as a suggestion that that was a way Biden had referred to his children, and grandchildren, when they were infants, in a gruffly affectionate tone. With a warm smile, "Well, here's another mouth to feed."

I am feeling better, and the nap probably helped, not that I've been having any trouble sleeping, but so did Biden's primary victory speech on TV last night, the strangest political victory speech I've ever heard, and certainly the best. He hardly even mentioned the victory part, but for a brief mention in the middle—
Biden thanked poll workers and public health experts for allowing the polls to remain open in Illinois, Florida and Arizona, and said that, “today it looks like once again … our campaign has had a very good night.”
—but spoke mostly, in very somber and measured terms, about the pandemic, and what we all need to do in our different roles and in confidence in our poor old America, criticizing only Trump as he promised to restore dignity to the White House, and addressing the nation's suspicious youth with affection and hope:
“To the young voters” who have gravitated toward Sanders, Biden said, “I hear you, I know what’s at stake.”
“Senator Sanders and I may disagree on tactics, but we share a common vision,” Biden said, before listing off several policy priorities he said he shared with Sanders, including “affordable health care” and “tackling the existential challenge of climate change.”
I think that's right. It's not one old white guy or another who has to win this election, but the party, with the desperately important goals we all share. The speech is hardly getting any coverage today, but if you missed it, it's posted at the top here.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Plague Diary

Hill of Beans, via Jubilee Health Place.



This doesn't prove he didn't get tested, as far as I can see. It's not necessarily inconsistent with reality: the test isn't meant to be uncomfortable, but speaking as someone who has had many things stuffed up his nose and down into the pharynx, from feeding tubes (some of the most violent pain I've ever had, and I'm pretty sure they weren't doing it right that time) to tiny cameras (between rather and very uncomfortable for a second or two if you have a little deviation in the septum), but this is a swab like a Q-Tip end and doesn't go all the way down beyond your uvula, as mine do, so I imagine it's pretty easy. Then again who knows what kind of shape Donald's septum is in?

But we've heard so many cases of Donald pretending to know something he knows nothing about to recognize the symptoms—the slipperiness, the avoidance of concrete language in favor of value terms, the refusal to take a position—this is exactly what he'd say if he hadn't taken the test, and hadn't bothered to ask the doctor how it works, trying to convince us that he had.

On a personal note, I'd like to spend some time complaining about my own situation, in the category of old white-boy problems that are making it so annoying I hardly have time to be scared.

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Ides

Grigory Rasputin in hospital, 1914, after a first assassination attempt, via History Daily.

Friday afternoon's press conference, 35 minutes in, I thought I heard Trump say he wasn't going to get tested for Covid-19, though he didn't exactly say that:
Q: And also Senat- -- I want to ask another question, if you’ll let me. Senator Lindsey Graham and also Senator Scott -- Rick Scott -- are self-isolating. Are you planning to take any kind of precautionary measure to protect you and also your staff who was there with him?
A: No, we have no symptoms whatsoever. And we have -- we had a great meeting with the President of Brazil, Bolsonaro. Great guy. Very -- a very tremendous -- he’s done -- he’s doing a fantastic job for Brazil. And, as you know, he tested negative -- meaning, nothing wrong -- this morning. And we got that word, too.

Though he certainly hinted it very strongly at 43 minutes:
Well, I don't know that I had exposure, but I don't have any of the symptoms. And we do have a White House doctor and, I should say, many White House doctors, frankly. And I asked them that same question, and they said, “You don't have any symptoms whatsoever.” And we don't want people without symptoms to go and do the test.

But just after an hour he started suggesting that he might want to defy the doctors' recommendations and get tested "anyway", for the reason that he "thought" he would:

Literary Corner: Disquieting

Giorgio de Chirico, The Disquieting Muses, print reproduction of a painting originally made between 1916 and 1918, via Wikipedia.


This is out of line with the usual practice of the Literary Corner, not a verbatim extract but a compilation of highlights from Friday's press conference mashed up to look like a single sentence by @twmentality1 in the tweet below.

Then again, the version published by the White House is a bit of a fabrication in its own right, folding some but not all of Trump's glitches into the text in a way that makes them seem superficially normal, and the tweet captured the strangeness of Trump's reading disability and his gradual breakdown as he escapes from a given sentence of his prepared text into improvisation: shifting its meaning into unexpected and disturbing realms. I thought some e.e. cummings–style line breaking and punctuation could achieve a similar effect:

Saturday, March 14, 2020

For the Record: Old, mad, despised postscript

Illustration by Matt Chase via Politico.

We noted Thursday how Trump seemed to be tooling restrictions on international travel with an eye to the Trump Organization's bottom line, rejoicing that the first restrictions might get Americans to book more rooms in the States and exempting countries where he owns resorts (UK and Ireland) from the restrictions on flights from Europe. Occurs to me that his long insistence (overcome last night) on a payroll tax was about quite a bit more money than that:


So 7.65% in total.

A Plague on It

Fritz Lang, Metropolis, 1927.

Compassionate community weaver David Brooks is getting unraveled over the pandemic: his usual faith in the non-political institutions seems to be getting lost ("Pandemics Kill Compassion, Too"):
In “The Decameron,” Giovanni Boccaccio writes about what happened during the plague that hit Florence in 1348: “Tedious were it to recount how citizen avoided citizen, how among neighbors was scarce found any that shewed fellow-feeling for another, how kinfolk held aloof, and never met … nay, what is more, and scarcely to be believed, fathers and mothers were found to abandon their own children, untended, unvisited, to their fate.”
Tedious were it indeed, and Boccaccio doesn't in fact recount it, but follows ten young ladies and gentlemen characters to a country place safe from the disease, where they forget all about poor Florence once the "proem" to the book is over, and tell each other stories, which are certainly some of the best stories ever told, but don't tell you anything about what happened during the plague except that, as ever, wealthy people had enjoyable ways of getting away from it.

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Old, mad, despised

Highlighting by Benjamin Wittes, from 25 January, the day the Senate started hearing Trump's defense in the impeachment trial.

The thing that absolutely struck me about the Oval Office coronavirus address was Trump's/Miller's characteristic effort to blame the "foreign virus" crisis in the US on Europe:
At the very start of the outbreak we instituted sweeping travel restrictions on China and put in place the first federally mandated quarantine in over 50 years. We declared a public health emergency and issued the highest level of travel warning on other countries as the virus spread its horrible infection. And taking early, intense action, we’ve seen dramatically fewer cases of the virus in the United States than are now present in Europe.
The European Union failed to take the same precautions and restrict travel from China and other hotspots. As a result a large number of new clusters in the United States were seeded by travelers from Europe...
So that the travel restrictions on Europeans seemed aimed at punishing them rather than protecting the US, something they can hardly help with. anyway, since the horse was already long out of the barn (the outbreak of Covid-19 in the Kirkland nursing home, reported 28 February with the death of the man Trump referred to as a "wonderful woman", can't be traced to any foreign sources, so it's clear the virus was already established in the Northwest by then).

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Horse race stuff

First horse race in North America, New York 1655, painted sometime in the 1960s by Frederick Elmiger, via George Glazer Galleries.

As the Big Tuesday results started flowing in last night, a thing that happened earlier was starting to take on some iconic experience for me: the pearl clutching when candidate Joe Biden visiting a Detroit auto plant has a run-in with a misinformed young gun nut and tells him he's "full of shit":
It's almost like Berners have never met anybody from the working class in real life, or possibly never met anybody at all. The idea of Joe Biden being some kind of lordly figure unable to repress his contempt for the simple (white) working stiff will not work.

You know to what kind of person you can always say, "You're full of shit"? Your brother.

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Literary Corner: Masque of the Orange Death





Anybody That Needs a Test
by Donald J. Trump
Anybody that needs a test gets a test.
We — they’re there. They have the tests.
And the tests are beautiful.
Anybody that needs a test gets a test.
If there’s a doctor that wants to test, if there’s
somebody coming off a ship — like the big
monster ship that’s out there right now,
which, you know — again, that’s a big decision.
Do I want to bring all those people on?
People would like me to do that. I
don’t like the idea of doing it.
But anybody that needs a test can have a test.
They’re all set. They have them out there.
In addition to that, they’re making millions
of more as we speak. But as of right now
and yesterday, anybody that needs a test —
that’s the important thing — and the tests
are all perfect, like the letter was perfect.
The transcription was perfect, right? This
was not as perfect as that, but pretty good.

Monday, March 9, 2020

For the Record: Team Spirit


"Team of Rivals", 2013, by Mary Bailey/Flickr.



*lies not "lays"

Sunday, March 8, 2020

Republicans in Democrats' Clothing?

Henry A. Wallace. Photo by D.N. Townsend, 1940, via Wikipedia. 

Like everybody else around here, I've heard that quote dozens of times and possibly used it myself, but this started me off wondering what Democrats Truman might have been talking about, and whether it was a genuine quote at all, a question Dr. Google doesn't seem to have heard recently, but it turned out to be not too hard to find the source, an address Truman gave at a dinner of the Americans for Democratic Action, 17 May 1952:

Friday, March 6, 2020

Angry and Putrid

Satan in Council, from Gustave Doré's illustrations for Milton's Paradise Lost, via Wikiart. Jeet Heer, a wonderfully gifted writer who's getting unrecognizably performative in the course of the campaign, or the Nation's editors, chose the image to represent the Democratic Establishment conspiring to stop Sanders, but I'm not taking that seriously.


David Brooks  seems truly elated at the Biden ascendancy, and at the same time kind of apocalyptic ("Biden Gives the Establishment One Last Chance")—on the one hand suggesting the gods have finally blessed him with that Democrat he's going to be able to vote for
The angry and putrid shouting that has marked the last four years — and that would mark a Trump vs. Sanders campaign — might actually come to an end. Suddenly we got a glimpse of a world in which we can hear each other talk, in which actual governance can happen, in which gridlock can be avoided and actual change can come.
(though I'm not quite seeing how the presence of Biden on the stage will stop Trump from being "angry and putrid" during the campaign—Biden seems to goad him into his absolute worst behavior, as we've seen through the work of the Giuliani Irregulars and the impeachment) but on the other hand more fearful than before of some kind of revolutionary turmoil:

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Primary Update

Pago Pago, American Samoa, photo by NOAA via Wikipedia.

When the radio announcer ends the summary with "....and Mike Bloomberg won American Samoa" it's like Weekend Update with Chevy Chase. It makes me laugh out loud.

More important, as Fox reports, Bloomberg spent over $5 million per delegate in Super Tuesday states. Apparently he didn't have a fully staffed field office in Pago Pago, as I imagined, putting together the almost 200 votes it took to get his terrific win over Tulsi Gabbard (it's possible all her voters went to high school in Hawaii, as many Samoans do, and knew her from back when, but I warn you I'm making that up):
He didn't spend much in American Samoa, the only contest he won outright, just $904 on digital. In fact, the only state or territory where Bloomberg spent less was Wyoming. 
By comparison, Joe Biden, who won the most states on Super Tuesday, spent just over $2 million in total on television, radio and digital advertisements in those 14 states. (NBC)
Which makes me briefly wonder of the era of money could really be over. Biden spent less than anybody else, mostly because he'd just about run out of money by the time of the South Carolina primary that turned his fortunes around, but he did extremely well.

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Literary Corner: Everything Will Be Just Fine

Paul Klee, Senecio (Head of a Man Going Senile), 1922. I picked it for its orangeness before I was aware of the title and alternative.

Three songs from the Super Tuesday Eve rally in Charlotte, transcribed by the bots at rev.com.


A Little Trolling
by Donald J. Trump


I. Such a Good Reason
We like to troll.
We like to go
the night before one of their primaries.
We do a little trolling,
it’s called
we do a little trolling.
Bernie Sanders
was very upset,
“Why would he be there?” Why?
Because I want
to win, I want
to keep everybody happy.
That’s such a good reason.

Monday, March 2, 2020

About that brokered thing: the Sorkinian view



BradleyKSherman, just now, in the comments:
A brokered convention, assuming it's not a replay of Chicago '68, could be a wonderful asset to the blue team. Instead of it just being the ritual anointment of a candidate everyone already knows is the nominee, it could have real drama. Must-see TV, if you can stand watching these people on TV, which I can't but, apparently the majority can.
I totally agree, and coincidentally there's a piece in this weekend's Times Magazine with a hilariously relevant headline:

Aaron Sorkin on how he would write the Democratic primary for ‘The West Wing.’
That would clearly go to the open convention and wonderful, heartbreaking dénouement where the guy who most resembles Martin Sheen, who stayed out of the primaries altogether (my money on Sherrod Brown for this role), gives his speech to the floor and—spoiler—rejects the nomination that's been held out to him by the baffled superdelegates and tells them they have to just keep voting, even if it takes the 103 ballots it took in 1924, because that's what's American and what we believe, and that's where the show ends, as the delegates understand that democracy is work. Who they actually end up nominating is less important than that.

Sunday, March 1, 2020

About that brokered convention...


Via fivethirtyeight.com.


That's overnight. Biden has pulled well ahead of Sanders in North Carolina in their simulations, just ahead in Virginia, virtually even in Texas for Super Tuesday, and well ahead in Missouri, Mississippi, and Florida a week or two later. A couple of days ago Biden seemed likely to lose in his own home state. Not today:


I can't imagine there's much of a chance for Elizabeth Warren (or Buttigieg or Klobuchar, let alone Bloomberg) to take the nomination in Milwaukee in July—don't even have an idea how you'd go about calculating it—but I hope she has lots and lots of delegates anyway, for the leverage it'll give her, and women, in the writing of the platform and selection of a nominee. That scenario that looked like a hopeless but entertaining daydream last Wednesday is now something people need to be planning for, and some are. Fivethirtyeight isn't saying it out loud in their coverage, so you may have read it here first (Martin, who I've been neglecting lately, has more to say).


Performativity

Biden's elevator pitch in the New York Times building. 


Last week, the black news website The Root published a kind of magisterial overview of every remaining Democratic presidential candidate's "black agenda", based on a survey of policy, legal, and journalists experts, all of them black, and looking at a list of ten criteria (economics, criminal justice, education, voting right issues, comprehensiveness, blind spots, feasibility, candidate's history, candidate's intentionality, and programs' impact) and ranking all eight (including Tom Steyer, who dropped out last night) on a 100-point scoring system.

It's clarified some things that have been tormenting me for a while in a way that extends beyond the black agenda to the whole campaign, alongside yesterday's results in South Carolina, and might clarify for you some of the discomfort I've been having with the traditional left-right axis and its application in the current situation (and uses some terminology I've been using, which is gratifying, because that means I'm using it right). It's also entertainingly written, by Michael Harriot, and designed for suspense, so—spoiler alert—you might like to go read it before you look below the fold here.

Friday, February 28, 2020

David Brooks Joins Cancel Culture

Ilya Salavskiy, right, at a protest action in Oxford, May 2016. Euromaidan Press.
David Brooks ("No, Not Sanders, Not Ever"):
We all start from personal experience. I covered the Soviet Union in its final decrepit years.
Actually, no. As Brussels-based deputy editorial page editor of the Wall Street Journal from 1990 to 1994, Brooks got his byline on exactly four articles mentioning the Soviet Union, suggesting two visits to Moscow (and none after the Soviet Union collapsed in December 1991):
  • A puff piece ("It's too late for a party congress", 2 July 1990) extolling Ilya Saslavskiy, a Ukrainian Oxford graduate and member of the National People's Congress, calling him a "combative intellectual" and "New Soviet Man" representing the "real action" in the Communist Party. Saslavskiy became an American and was working for BP's Russian operations when he and his brother Oleksandr were arrested for spying on behalf of the US and Ukraine in 2008—not because they were actually spies, but because Putin found it useful in his campaign to turn BP into Rosneft. I'm glad to report the brothers (who were sentenced to two years probation) seem to be OK, see photo at top. The Soviet Union, of course, had no future.
  • A review ("The Soviet Reality: Murder, Apathy, Dishonesty", 17 July 1990) of Stanislav Govorukhin's 1990 documentary We Can't Live Like This which, Brooks notes, was applauded by the mayors of Moscow and St. Petersburg.
  • A lengthy opinion piece ("In USSR, possession is better than the law", 16 May 1991) illustrating the collapse of rule of law with the case of an astrophysicist, "Maxim Hlobov", who succeeded in stopping the KGB from stealing his new apartment. He got the name wrong (should be Khlopov—he's in France now, working in the Astroparticles and Cosmology Laboratory of the Institut National de Physique Nucléaire et de Physique de Particules). 
  • A travel piece ("An American in Moscow: Hard-currency god", 21 May 1991).

Thursday, February 27, 2020

For the Record: Affirmative Action

InterTribal Youth/Young Native Scholars visiting UC San Diego and a La Jolla beach, July 2014, via UCSD News



Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Handicap

Via League of Legends.


The family dined in Chinatown last night, standing by our conviction that we're no more likely to catch Covid-19 (or Trump Flu, as Misfit, via Ten Bears, via Bethesda71 is calling it) there than anywhere else in town (for the moment—we are not adopting President Chucklehead's position that there's nothing wrong, or that the virus is just a CNN trick to make him look bad), and I had the opportunity to miss the entire debate—didn't even look at my phone until we were on the way home, and I'm pretty happy about that. Judging from the clips it was awful, though I'm glad in principle that Elizabeth Warren said the things she said about Michael Bloomberg, whom I continue to consider to be a danger to the country, and about Bernard Sanders, in terms I'd like to have used myself:
“Bernie and I agree on a lot of things, but I think that I would make a better president than Bernie. And the reason for that is that getting a progressive agenda enacted is going to be really hard, and it's gonna take someone who digs into the details to make it happen,” Warren said. “Bernie and I both wanted to help rein in Wall Street. In 2008 we both got our chance, but I dug in, I fought the big banks, I built the coalitions and I won. Bernie and I both want to see universal health care. But Bernie's plan doesn't show how we're gonna get there, doesn't show how we're going to get enough allies into it, and doesn't show enough about how we're going to pay for it. I dug in, I did the work, and then Bernie's team trashed me for it.”
As I mentioned in my angry note of 17 February.

I have the funniest feeling at the moment of really seriously not knowing what's going on in this election at all, and of nobody really knowing. Some of the less obnoxious class of Berners on my Twitter feed were going on about what Bernie would do if Bloomberg were to win the nomination (of which fivethirtyeight estimates the chances at about 4%), betray his following by keeping his promise to support the nominee, or split off and lead the Revolution on some kind of outside, you couldn't tell whether in an independent candidacy or a mass people power movement or what, and everything about this scenario seemed so implausible to me that I stopped reading, but I didn't have a more probable one myself.

For the Record: Cherokee


A group of citizens of the Cherokee Nation, United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians, and Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians issued an open letter to Senator Elizabeth Warren to which I posted the following response as s sympathetic interloper with a background in cultural anthropology:



“By publicly equating race and biology with Native identity, your DNA test promoted the exact same logic the Right is currently using to try and destroy Native rights.” Although a strong Warren supporter, I have to agree with this statement.
But the Cherokee Nation applied the same discredited race science in denying tribal membership to Black Freedmen for years up to 2017 with arguments like, “only those with Cherokee blood should be citizens and a legal ruling otherwise would be an affront to its sovereignty” https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-nation/wp/2017/09/15/why-the-cherokee-nation-is-ending-its-decades-old-fight-to-deny-citizenship-to-descendants-of-its-former-slaves/
The Nation rightly accepted the district court’s ruling on this in the end, and seems to have had little problem forgiving itself for it. Can’t it try to show the same spirit of forgiveness to Senator Warren, who has worked to understand her error and to learn from it?

I'd add that rather than taking the moment as an opportunity to blame others for failings that I have been and may still be guilty of myself, I'd like to take it as a further opportunity for everybody to achieve a deeper understanding of what's wrong with a DNA-based definition of ethnic identity, of the differences between "race" and ethnic-cultural identity and their importance in people's lives. And to emphasize that anybody, no matter how virtuous, is capable of doing or saying a racist thing and anybody, no matter how benighted, is capable of learning to do better.