April 8, 2020

"Brake out your small violins for these older male celebrities — their hair has grown voluminously out of control in isolation."

"Humble bragging about how wild their hair has grown while sheltering in place has become a trend among famous men, who are sharing photos of their untamed quarantine locks while salons, barbershops and beauty parlors sit shuttered.... Some actors and athletes have decided to lob off their locks instead."

That's NY Post headline.

It's right to tag this as humble bragging, wrong to spell like that ("brake" for "break," "lob" for "lop").

Anyway, I note that these are rough times for wig wearers. That thing will not grow. Maybe some toupee guys are so rich they're having messed-up, grow-out-looking wigs made to continue their sad charade.

"Trump is very much the 'wartime commander' of his nation. His voters still adore him. They'll do anything for him..."

"... including defying calls to shelter in place and taking quack medical 'cures' for the pandemic. He is very much their 'wartime commander.' But Ms. Rice needs to understand that we are no longer one nation. We are two peoples inhabiting one geographic space. And the slight majority of us who are sickened by this 'president' have no leader, wartime or otherwise.' But make no mistake - Trump is very much leading his nation. This pandemic is placing the rift between Red and Blue states in sharp relief - and underscoring that we no longer share any common values.... Trump understands that he is the president for only half the country. He has never made any pretense about representing all of us. We Democrats believe in affordable health care, good quality public schools, affordable higher education, and equal opportunities in employment and education for all Americans, regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, or religion. We also believe in facts, science and evidence, and separation of church and state. Trump's voters want none of this. So where does that leave the rest of us? We are now nothing more than hostages here, in our own country."

That's the top-rated comment at "Trump Is the Wartime President We Have (Not the One We Need)/He should start leading with the decency and resolve that we deserve. I’m not holding my breath" by Susan Rice (at the NYT).

"I’m not holding my breath" was a bad figure of speech to use as the coronavirus imposes real breathing difficulty on thousands of victims.

Susan Rice was President Obama's national security adviser from 2013 to 2017.

Sanders is out.

The Washington Examiner reports.
Sanders announced his decision to drop out in an all-staff call on Wednesday, the day after Wisconsin's Democratic presidential primary....
So was he waiting for Wisconsin? Because the outcome of yesterday's voting is not yet revealed. The federal court order required a delay of the news until April 13th.

"It is one thing to plan for better times. It is something different to suggest they are just around the corner, as Trump has done repeatedly..."

"... since the outbreak began.... If the immediate public-health challenge is still enormous, so is the task of preparing for a gradual reopening of the economy. The most detailed consideration of this subject I have seen comes from Germany... [T]he most striking thing about the German study is the list of things that it identified as necessary for such a policy to be successfully implemented.... The United States has none of these things. Despite widespread agreement among epidemiologists and economists that a massive increase in COVID-19 testing is urgently needed, it hasn’t been implemented yet. Although the over-all number of tests has ramped up, there is little consistency across states, which translates to huge uncertainty about the real rates of infection in different places.... One reason why the COVID-19 fatality rate in Germany is so low—less than two per cent—is that its universal health-care system provided widespread testing and high levels of care from the beginning... The German report pointed out that [reopening] would need to be explained clearly to the public in a way that was realistic and made explicit that the new policy didn’t amount to a return to 'business as usual.' Credible political leaders would need to 'appeal to common values and emphasize moral standards' and 'solidarity.' It would also help if the person communicating the policy 'acts as a "role model," i.e., a person who aligns his or her own behavior with the measures.' This reads like a definition of an anti-Trump...."

From "Trump’s 'Light at the End of the Tunnel' Is a Delusion" by John Cassidy (in The New Yorker). Beautiful photo by Chip Somodevilla — worth clicking of only for that.

Does the press have any responsibility for tearing down Trump's credibility right when we need it? I'd say they should be scrupulously careful not to do any of the ordinary political partisanship that had already badly infected journalism. There's a lot of ruined credibility out there. Everyone ought to be trying to crawl back toward the truth. I think Trump — in his daily briefings — has been "appeal[ing] to common values and emphasiz[ing] moral standards and solidarity." But the Trump-hating media will not help him do this. They're looking for ways to blame him, to worsen his credibility. Why not help?

"'This was a brutal execution': Prosecutors allege pair kidnapped, shot couple in UW Arboretum."

The Wisconsin State Journal reports:
According to the complaint, [Khari Sanford, 18] and his girlfriend, Miriam Potter Carre, the couple’s daughter, had been living with her parents but not abiding by social distancing guidelines and other rules related to the coronavirus outbreak. Because [the mother, Beth Potter, 52] had a medical condition that put her at risk, the couple moved Sanford and Potter Carre into an Airbnb in the weeks before the killing.

""Now its your turn to record history as its happening. The [Wisconsin Historical] Society is actively documenting the impact of COVID-19..."

"... on Wisconsin and the world. Our tradition of balancing the collection of artifacts and material with personal experiences is a critical part of this process. Just like the soldiers in 1861, it is your documentation of your experience living during the COVID-19 pandemic and quarantine that will allow the Society to share history with people living 100 years from now. Every story is important. The Society is seeking individuals and organizations from all walks of life, different backgrounds and cultures. Perspectives from a retired couple or school-aged child are just as important as those from front-line health care workers. Teachers or supervisors could also make this an engaging group project!"

From The Wisconsin Historical Society.

Just like the soldiers in 1861?
In 1861, Wisconsin Historical Society founder Lyman Draper asked soldiers stationed at Camp Randall in Madison, Wisconsin to help document the Civil War by keeping a diary. After the war, those diaries were mailed back to the Society, where today they are regarded as one of the most valuable collections in the Society’s archives.
IN THE COMMENTS: Ryan writes:
Because staying home all day watching Netflix is just like the Civil War.

"Gonna keep finding new ways to play #pianoman until Billy Joel sees it."

Says Tess, at TikTok...

"Prine’s stuff is pure Proustian existentialism. Midwestern mind-trips to the nth degree."

Said Bob Dylan in 2009, quoted in "John Prine, One of America’s Greatest Songwriters, Dead at 73/Grammy-winning singer who combined literary genius with a common touch succumbs to coronavirus complications" (Rolling Stone).

I don't know exactly why Bob Dylan said that; I didn't really follow John Prine. If you think someone who loves Bob Dylan would love John Prine, you don't know enough about Bob Dylan. And I don't know much about John Prine. I had to scan the article to be reminded of song titles. The one I know is a song I particularly dislike, "Hello in There."

To widen my understanding I read the lyrics to" "Your Flag Decal Won’t Get You Into Heaven Anymore." The first thing I see the sneering at Reader's Digest that was common circa 1970s:
While digesting Reader's Digest in the back of a dirty book store
A plastic flag, with gum on the back fell out on the floor
Well, I picked it up and I ran outside, slapped it on my window shield
And if I could see old Betsy Ross I'd tell her how good I feel
But your flag decal won't get you into Heaven anymore
They're already overcrowded from your dirty little war
Now Jesus don't like killin', no matter what the reason's for...
Reader's Digest comes up in a Bob Dylan lyric. Compare:
As his fist hit the icebox
He said he’s going to kill me
If I don’t get out the door
In two seconds flat
“You unpatriotic
Rotten doctor Commie rat”
Well, he threw a Reader’s Digest
At my head and I did run
I did a somersault
As I seen him get his gun...
As I said, I don't know much about John Prine, and I'm sorry to see that he has died, of whatever cause. His work is more notable the random fact that his death has come from the disease that completely preoccupies us.

I see I have a tag for Reader's Digest. I'll have to publish this post so I can click on the tag and see why. I used to have a job where the work was reading magazines, and Reader's Digest was one of the magazines. Maybe I've blogged about that. You know, educated people in America used to look down on their fellow citizens who subscribed to Reader's Digest, but look what we read today. Edited down snippets and headlines.

April 7, 2020

At the Tuesday Night Café...

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... you can talk about whatever you like.

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"Normies now feel what we feel all the time. Alone, bored, sad, aimless, horny, empty, desolate..."

"... disconnected from the rest of humanity — the endless drone of whining and moaning I’m seeing on the social media timelines is the hellscape we have to endure constantly all the time during ‘normal times’, I can’t help but have a huge dose of schadenfreude over this — welcome to our world normiescum."

Wrote somebody on an incel website, quoted in a NYT article titled "Who Goes Alt-Right in a Lockdown?/Mass anxiety, political instability, and isolation are a pretty good combination for warping peoples’ world views," by Annie Kelly, who is identified as "a Ph.D. student [at t the University of East Anglia in England] researching the impact of digital cultures on anti-feminism and the far right."

Kelly goes on to opine:
It is undeniable that crises like a pandemic demand radical solutions.... But my research finds that the subcultural aspects of the internet... can make us feel less lonely in the short term but often end up entrenching us further into certain fatalistic and misanthropic ways of thinking....  In fact, the internet — for good and for ill — is a collaborative and imaginative space, rather than somewhere one group of people talks and another listens.... In this age of isolation, we need to be aware of how far-right actors will attempt to exploit this unprecedented situation....

"I know I’m vulnerable because I’m almost 90. I would not go to the hospital under any circumstances."

Said Shatzi Weisberger, 89, a retired nurse, quoted in "At 89, She Fears Dying Alone More Than the Coronavirus Itself/She wants to be surrounded by loved ones when she dies. Not intubated and isolated in a hospital" (NYT).
[Weisberger] did not want to die alone in her apartment. But if she went to the hospital, she was afraid that she would get the coronavirus there and die among strangers, cut off from the people she cared about....

Ms. Weisberger had long ago planned for her end of life: a friend had promised to sit with her in her last days; an acupuncturist would ease any pain; when it was over, an undertaker would ice her body until burial. Alone in her apartment [one night when she felt symptoms of a heart attack], with the city mostly locked down, she realized that whatever happened to her in the next days or months, she would likely face it alone.

“It’s going to be horrible not being able to get out of bed to go to the toilet or get food,” she said.
Why does a retired nurse, a medical professional, hate hospitals so much? And why does she look to an acupuncturist to "ease any pain"? (The key word is "ease" not "any.")

The answer, I'd say, isn't that nurses in general reject professional medical care, it's that the NYT chose to quote this particular rejecter of medical care because she happens to have been a nurse.

I experience this NYT article as part of the "death panels" agenda — getting old people to accept their fate and go down easy.

The gentlest sunrise.

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You have to imagine the sound of loons.

Even softer...

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The time was 6:48 on a morning when the "actual" sunrise time was 6:29.

"The United States needs to adopt smart quarantine as soon as possible."

Write Harvey V. Fineberg, Jim Yong Kim, and Jordan Shlain in the NYT. Fineberg is is the president of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and a former president of the National Academy of Medicine. Kim is an infectious disease physician and a former president of the World Bank. Shlain is an internist and entrepreneur.
In a smart quarantine, anyone in a family who is not well — and if you’re sheltering in place, whomever you are with is considered “family” — must get tested and be separated from the family until results return. While awaiting results, the separated family member can move into temporary accommodations overseen by medical professionals and be tested.

Those that test negative remain in quarantine in their accommodations, and if they test negative again at 14 days, they can return home, where they must continue to shelter in place. Those that test positive leave their temporary accommodations and enter a more formal Covid-19 recovery facility. Most of these people will recover and will be sent home in about two weeks after testing negative at least twice. People who get worse will be sent to an acute care facility.
It would be very hard to get Americans to accept that. Coming forward as "not well" has extreme consequences. You're put in some sort of government camp, it seems, and you're kept there even if you test negative. You get 2 weeks of internment just for coming forward to be tested. What kind of housing would this be? How could it spring up so suddenly in any sort of form we would accept? Or are we so worn down we're ready to be moved around and incarcerated like this?

ADDED: It's interesting that the NYT doesn't have a comments section for this one. I wanted to know how the Times readers reacted. As for my readers, here's a taste:

"Climb into the cattle cars, you'll find showers when you get there" — The first comment on this post, by Bumble Bee.

"Children would no doubt be involved, does a 'smart' policy advocating removing them from their families for 2+ weeks? Also, who is going to work these jobs? Lots of brain power, no common sense" — Mark.

"Perhaps this will be necessary if a truly virulent pathogen were to emerge...but this virus is not that. This 'smart quarantine' is a despot’s wet dream" - Krumhorn.

"Love op-eds like this one without comments, which would be brutal. You think there is any chance I am letting one of my small children who 'isn't feeling well' get sent to a government quarantine unit for weeks? There would be civil war. This has me angry this morning. But yea, let's trust experts" — John Borell.

"When I heard smart quarantine, I thought they meant loosening up on the healthy. But no... Sure, round them up and send them into camps. That’ll work" — tim maguire.

"So you want me to voluntarily go to a facility that likely has others with the disease for two weeks just to find out of I have the disease? Didn't this start at a place in Washington kinda like that? How'd that work out? I'll try my luck at home, thanks" — NoMook said.

"Even before the virus struck, Republicans and Democrats were girding for a record number of voting rights lawsuits throughout the states..."

"... over voter identification provisions, the location of polling sites, and moves to purge voter rolls. But the pressure to move to more voting by mail has intensified the maneuvering, and shifted its focus to absentee balloting....  Richard L. Hasen, a professor of law and political science at the University of California, Irvine... [said] 'We know that voter fraud, while very rare, more commonly occurs with absentee ballots than in-person balloting... [but w]hile there are legitimate reasons to worry about increased vote by mail... it’s not legitimate to fear increased vote by mail because it means that more voters would be able to vote'....  'I hope not, but I fear Wisconsin is a preview of what we’re about to see in the rest of the country,' said Ben Wikler, the chairman of the Wisconsin Democratic Party. Mr. Wikler said that the Republicans had been seeking to stick to the April 7 in-person election date to ensure low turnout, which, he said, would be a potential boon to Mr. Kelly, the conservative judge up for re-election. 'I think it creates a perceived opportunity, even if the public health consequences are ghastly,' Mr. Wikler said. He later tweeted that the Supreme Court decision would 'consign an unknown number of Wisconsinites to their deaths.'"

From "Wisconsin Election Fight Heralds a National Battle Over Virus-Era Voting" (NYT).

I love the Hasen quote: "there are legitimate reasons to worry about increased vote by mail... it’s not legitimate to fear increased vote by mail." Legitimate to worry but not legitimate to fear? I can imagine babbling out such a thing, but why did the Times print that quote? Of course, he's just trying to say what is always said on this subject, that making voting easier also makes it less secure and the 2 major parties emphasize the pros or cons based on their own interest in winning elections. It's easy to pick your party and know which side to come out on.

Wikler is, of course, openly on the Democratic side, and he's seizing hold of the new argument: DEATH!!!  That's a solid addition to the old argument that Republicans want to disenfranchise minority voters.

Meanwhile, here I am in Wisconsin on election morning, completely accepting my own disenfranchisement. I'm one of those citizens who always vote, but I'm not voting today and I did not request an absentee ballot. I did not like the procedure for requesting an absentee ballot (committing to voting absentee for the entire year and uploading a photo of my driver's license to a government website). And the level of social distancing I've chosen for myself — I don't go to the grocery store, though it's open — is inconsistent with going through my polling place. I don't believe that voting would consign me to my death. In fact, I'm not particularly afraid at all. I just have my preferences and I've made my decision. And it actually fits with my political preference: aloofness.

April 6, 2020

At the Monday Night Café...

IMG_4202

... you can talk all night.

Governor Evers single-handedly postpones the Wisconsin election.

The Wisconsin State Journal reports.

UPDATE: The GOP legislators took it to the state Supreme Court and won, 4-2. The election is back on for Tuesday.
Evers made his move four days after he said he had no legal authority to change the election. Republicans used the governor's own words against him as they took their case to the state Supreme Court.
Justice Kelly, who’s up for reelection, recused himself.

UPDATE 2: The U.S. Supreme Court ruled today, not on the dispute described above, but on a federal judge’s extension of the deadline for mailing in absentee ballots. The Court rejected the extension.

"I sometimes find President Trump’s voice reassuring. Not what he says. Not the actual words..."

"... (although once in a while one of his 'incredibles' reaches inside my chest cavity and magically calms the tachycardia). Trump’s primitive syntax, imperfectly designed for the young foreign woman he married, always dismays. But during a coronavirus-task-force press conference, when one hears him on the radio, from another room, his voice has music. Sorry. It does. A singer’s timbre; it is easy on the ear. Trump’s is a voice you use to calm down people you yourself have made furious. (His foremost mimics—Alec Baldwin, Stephen Colbert—have not captured its pitch, its air, its softness, which they substitute with dopiness, which is also there.) For the first ten minutes, before his composure slackens and he becomes boastful and irritable, he actually just wants to be Santa Claus in his own Christmas movie, and the quality of his voice is that of a pet owner calming a pet. I hear it!"

From "The Nurse’s Office/Desiring only to be Santa Claus in his very own Christmas movie, Donald Trump has a voice like that of a pet owner calming a pet" by the very highly regarded writer Lorrie Moore (in The New Yorker).

At the Lunchtime Café...

IMG_4193

... talk about anything you like.

The photo shows a mellow western view at 6:32 a.m.

"It’s tempting to see our attention economy as purely dystopian. It is nightmarish, after all, to compete with one another via avatars..."

"... for work, for sex, for companionship, for cash to pay our medical bills. But the rise of the attention economy also reveals a truth that the dandies of the café terrace did not realize: of course our selfhood is defined by the attention, and with it the love, of others. Even in the disembodied terrain of the Internet, we are utterly contingent creatures: not just self-makers or, God forbid, influencers, but beings dependent on the attention of others, an attention that, at its core, is not so unlike love. (As Simone Weil famously put it: 'Attention, taken to its highest degree, is the same thing as prayer. It presupposes faith and love.')"

From "Eat Me, Drink Me, Like Me /Is love in the attention economy unreal?" by Tara Isabella Burton (in The New Atlantis, Winter 2020).

This is a very interesting article. Highly recommended. But I got totally sidetracked wanting to understand that Simone Weil quote — "Attention, taken to its highest degree, is the same thing as prayer. It presupposes faith and love."

It doesn't really fit the idea Burton is talking about, which is the urge and effort to grab attention. The article title "Eat me, drink me, love me" comes from this Christina Rossetti poem, "Goblin Market." Excerpt:
“Did you miss me?
Come and kiss me.
Never mind my bruises,
Hug me, kiss me, suck my juices
Squeez’d from goblin fruits for you,
Goblin pulp and goblin dew.
Eat me, drink me, love me;
Laura, make much of me;
For your sake I have braved the glen
And had to do with goblin merchant men.”
But the Simone Weil quote seems as though it must mean not clamoring for attention but paying attention.  Read the Weil quote in context here, then — if you're with me this far — apply it to what we are doing or failing to do when we experience what Burton calls "purely dystopian... in the disembodied terrain of the Internet."

As for "the dandies of the café terrace":

"The largest waterfall in Ecuador has seemingly vanished after a sinkhole swallowed part of its water source."

"San Rafael Waterfall on the Coca River was a prominent tourist attraction for the country, and according to NASA, drew tens of thousands of people every year. The water dropped 150 feet into a crater-like opening on the other side Now, the iconic waterfall is gone, replaced by three streams, NASA said. All tourism to the site has been closed and it no longer appears on the country's travel website."

CNN reports. Before and after image at the link.

"Large numbers of people flocked to popular tourists sites and major cities across China over the country's holiday weekend..."

"... despite warnings from health authorities that the risk posed by the coronavirus pandemic remains far from over. Images from the Huangshan mountain park in Anhui province on Saturday April 4 showed thousands of people crammed together, many wearing face masks, eager to experience the great outdoors after months of travel restrictions and strict lockdown measures. A similar story played out in the capital Beijing, with locals flocking to the city's parks and open spaces...."

CNN reports.



What's going on? I have thoughts on the subject, but I decline to put them in writing.

David Lat — on the "Today" show — tells of his harrowing bout with coronavirus.

"We were at once recipients of and contributors to the joy of witnessing the sudden appearance of creatures none of us had foreseen, but which we ourselves had nonetheless created."

Said the Surrealist poet Simone Kahn, quoted in "Explaining Exquisite Corpse, the Surrealist Drawing Game That Just Won’t Die."

It's a game you might want to play, during our long confinement, with all the concern about about our body.

Here are 2 fabulous examples by Man Ray, André Breton, Yves Tanguy, and Max Morise (in 1928):



If you don't know how to do these drawings and don't want to read the linked article, look closely at these images and see where the paper folds are. One person begins the drawing, then makes a fold that reveals only the ends of his lines, the next draws from there and makes the next fold, etc.

"Trump-speak has always been a radically rough and wrong kind of poetry... his non sequiturs, his use of disjunction, his mangling of syntax..."

"... can make his rallies resemble nightmarish (and much more crowded) versions of poetry readings I’ve attended in which nonlinear language is conceived of as an attack on the smooth functioning of bourgeois political rhetoric. (Those were the days.) Trump campaigned in this pseudo-poetry, and he fails to govern in it, too, using language that intends to inflame or obscure but almost never refers to anything real. Like many poets, he conflates beauty and truth: We’re going to have a beautiful wall. Beautiful (Confederate) statues. Beautiful rallies (despite the virus). He has said that he’s 'automatically attracted to beautiful—I just start kissing them . . .'... Plato warned us against poets. I’m not sure I fully understand his arguments for deporting them from the Republic, but now I’m sobered.... Our guardian in the White House is... just a failed poet like me...."

Writes Ben Lerner in "Trump’s Numbers/What’s compelling about the President’s anti-poetry is how it sounds at once like Wallace Stevens and a bookie" (in The New Yorker).

I encourage you to click through to see the illustration, a tweaked photograph that's an extreme closeup of Trump's mouth. I don't know if the intention was to scream "vagina dentata," but that's what I heard.

"People can’t empathize with what it truly means to be poor in this country, to live in a too-small space with too many people..."

"... to not have enough money to buy food for a long duration or anywhere to store it if they did. People don’t know what it’s like to live in a food desert where fresh fruit and vegetables are unavailable and nutrient-deficient junk food is cheap and exists in abundance. People are quick to criticize these people for crowding into local fast food restaurants to grab something to eat. Not everyone can afford to order GrubHub or FreshDirect. Furthermore, in a nation where too many black people have been made to feel that their lives are constantly under threat, the existence of yet another produces less of a panic. The ability to panic becomes a privilege existing among those who rarely have to do it. I wholeheartedly encourage everyone who can to stay home, but I’m also aware enough to know that not everyone can or will, and that it is not simply a pathological disregard for the common good. If you are sheltering in place in an ivory tower, or even a comfortable cul-de-sac or a smartly well-appointed apartment, and your greatest concern is boredom and leftover food, please stop scolding those scratching to survive."

From "Social Distancing Is a Privilege/The idea that this virus is an equal-opportunity killer must itself be killed" by Charles M. Blow (NYT). Blow is discussing the WBEZ article — "In Chicago, 70% of COVID-19 Deaths Are Black" — that were were talking about here, last night.

"Has Anyone Found Trump’s Soul? Anyone?"

That's a headline in the NYT. A column by Frank Bruni.

How sanctimonious and simultaneously blind do you need to be to proclaim the soullessness of another human being?

I mean, it's tempting sometimes. I was just driving home from a glorious sunrise...

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... and I had the satellite radio on MSNBC. Mika Brzezinski was reading some news story, got the word "humane" and pronounced it "hoo-mane." I wondered, is she even there? Robot mode. But I didn't question her humanity. Hoomanity.

The subheadline on that Bruni piece is — I am not kidding — "He’s not rising to the challenge of the coronavirus pandemic. He’s shriveling into nothingness."

Well, it's a column. It's subjective. Bruni is seeing the President shriveling into nothingness. Wishful thinking. Why won't this man disappear entirely?
Do you remember President George W. Bush’s remarks at Ground Zero in Manhattan after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks? ... Do you remember President Barack Obama’s news conference after the school shooting in Newtown, Conn., that left 28 people, including 20 children, dead? I do.... Do you remember the moment when President Trump’s bearing and words made clear that he grasped not only the magnitude of this rapidly metastasizing pandemic but also our terror in the face of it?
It passed me by, maybe because it never happened.
And maybe because you hate him so much you can't see it. I see it every day when I watch the press briefing.
In Trump’s predecessors, for all their imperfections, I could sense the beat of a heart and see the glimmer of a soul. In him I can’t, and that fills me with a sorrow and a rage that I quite frankly don’t know what to do with.
I could sense... I can’t... me with a sorrow and a rage... I quite frankly don’t know....

Bruni knows he's talking about his own subjective experience, but he cannot stop. He insists on dehumanizing his adversary.
[Trump stressed that masks are] voluntary and that he himself wouldn’t be going anywhere near one that he might as well have branded them Apparel for Skittish Losers. I’ve finally settled on his epitaph: “Donald J. Trump, too cool for the coronavirus.”
That is, Bruni is picturing Trump catching the coronavirus and dying. The epitaph says "too cool." Speaking of cool, that's cold, Mr. Bruni. Is this what entertains the readers of the NYT? Standing back, looking for the bad, and laughing at the image of Trump dead and buried?
This is more than a failure of empathy....
Thanks for writing a next line that was the very thing I was thinking about you.
It’s more than a failure of decency, which has been my go-to lament. It’s a failure of basic humanity.
Hoomanity. It's that thing you say the people you don't like don't have. It's a wonderful foundation for building a political ideology.
In The Washington Post a few days ago, Michael Gerson, a conservative who worked in Bush’s White House, wrote that Trump’s spirit is “a vast, trackless wasteland.”
Oh! Bruni is copying Gerson's idea. Trying to get in on the hot Trump-hating over there in America's other newspaper.
Not exactly trackless. There are gaudy outposts of ego all along the horizon.
I see Bruni stumbling through the canyons of his mind. There's an outpost up ahead... your next stop — the Trump Hotel. Columnists check in. But they never check out.

I don't think Trump has been talking anymore about letting people gather together in churches this coming Sunday, Easter Sunday.

Here's how he spoke of Easter in yesterday's Task Force press briefing:
In closing, I also want to note today is Palm Sunday and at the beginning of Holy Week for Christians in America and all around the world. While we may be apart from one another, as you can see from our great churches, our great pastors and ministers are out there working very hard, but we may be apart we can use this time to turn to reflection and prayer and our own personal relationship with God. I would ask that all Americans pray for the heroic doctors and nurses, for the truck drivers and grocery store workers, and for everyone fighting this battle.... But most of all, I’d like to ask for your prayers for the families who have lost loved ones, ask God to comfort them in their hour of grief. It’s a great hour of grief for our nation, for the world.... With the faith of our families and the spirit of our people and the grace of our God, we will endure, we will overcome, we will prevail. 
But in Wisconsin, as reported by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:
Assembly Republicans are calling on Gov. Tony Evers to allow in-person services for Easter and Passover amid the deadly coronavirus pandemic.

"It is more important than ever that we allow Wisconsinites to observe their individual faiths," Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and the other members of the Assembly GOP caucus wrote in a Friday letter to Evers. "To that end, we ask that you work with Wisconsin churches and temples to allow them to hold Easter or Passover services, even if it's outside."

Evers declined the request....

The Republicans' request came one day before Republicans in the Assembly and Senate stalled Evers' move to push back Tuesday's election due to the coronavirus pandemic ravaging countries around the world....
I don't think the Republicans were at any risk that they'd get what they were asking for, so I consider this political posturing. Political religion theater...

April 5, 2020

At the Photographer's Café...

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... don't miss your shot.

Lots of folks with cameras at the lakeside today. And one of them fell in the lake. The air temperature was 35°, and I don't know what the water temperature was, but he'd clambered out onto a rock, and he slipped and splashed all the way in. Don't worry. He got out. And he didn't even say, "I'm cold." It's Wisconsin! And the Wisconsin thing to say when you fall into an ice-cold lake is, I can report: "That rock was slippery."

"As of Saturday, 107 of Cook County’s 183 deaths from COVID-19 were black. In Chicago, 61 of the 86 recorded deaths – or 70% – were black residents."

"Blacks make up 29% of Chicago’s population. The majority of the black COVID-19 patients who died had underlying health conditions including respiratory problems and diabetes. Eighty-one percent of them had hypertension, or high blood pressure, diabetes or both.... 'It’s disturbing and upsetting, but not surprising,' said Linda Rae Murray, health policy professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago. 'This is just a reflection of the facts that we already know about these pandemics. People who are vulnerable will die quicker and won’t have as many resources.'"

WBEZ reports.

Louis C.K. is back with a comedy special.

You have to pay $8 and buy it straight from his website. He's on his own now, the big pariah. If you think that might be funny, you're perfectly free to buy his show.

Sample material (copied from this article, at the Independent):
“I like jerking off, I don’t like being alone, that’s all I can tell you. I get lonely, it’s just sad. I like company. I like to share. I’m good at it, too. If you’re good at juggling, you wouldn’t do it alone in the dark. You’d gather folks and amaze them.... If you want to do it with someone else, you need to ask first. But if they say yes, you still don’t get to go, ‘Woo!’ and charge ahead. You need to check in often, I guess that’s what I’d say.... It’s not always clear how people feel. Men are taught to make sure the woman is okay. The thing is, women know how to seem okay when they’re not okay.... It’s kind of like a Negro spiritual.... It’s sort of similar. So to assume that she likes it is like if they heard slaves singing in the field and you’re like, ‘Hey, they’re having a good time out there.'”
If you're in the never-ever-ever-compare-anything-to-slavery set, you'll have to stay away. Also if comparisons to juggling squick you out.

"Influencers have been a source of ire long before the pandemic, rightly or wrongly."

"These people are usually women, usually young, and have usually built their business on their own persona, which requires a sort of self-aggrandizement to work. But it’s the last bit that doesn’t sit well at a time when survival depends on a group effort... As even some A-list celebrities have shown, this may just be a time for quiet reflection on the part of those we usually love to watch. But unlike A-listers, who tend to have an infrastructure of resources to fall back on, if influencers go quiet, their livelihoods could collapse around them.... Influencing is a massive industry, one that almost feels too big, too ingrained as an advertising mechanism to just go away. But like so many industries right now, it’s hard to tell how much and how permanently this pause will effect [sic] business as usual...."

From "Is This the End of Influencing as We Knew It?/Social media celebrities came under fire for bad pandemic behavior this week" (Vanity Fair).

Is there much of a chance that after this thing is over, we'll be more serious, more aware of what really matters in life, and we'll be done with the "influencers"?

It's a nice distraction to try to think of some of the good things that could come of this. We were just talking yesterday about whether the Coronavirus Era will spell the end of "wokeism." I said, I thought wokeism would survive, but maybe snowflakeism would succumb.

"Joe Biden said he will wear a mask in public, drawing a contrast between President Donald Trump and himself amid the coronavirus pandemic."

"On Sunday, the former vice president and current de facto Democratic presidential nominee emphasized one phrase repeatedly: 'Follow the science.'"

Politico reports.

Imagine standing on a podium, giving a speech, wearing a mask. But I guess there will be no public-speaking events, not until the Time of the Masks has ended.

And yet the Democrats still have a plan to do their convention in August. It would be weird if they did it with everyone there in the flesh and all of them masked.

"We want to finish this war. We have to get back to work. We have to open our country again. We have to open our country again."

"We don’t want to be doing this for months and months and months. We’re going to open our country again. This country wasn’t meant for this fewer, fewer, but we have to open our country again. I just spoke with the commissioners, leaders of, I would say virtually all of the sports leagues. Rob Manfred, Commissioner of Baseball, Major League Baseball, Roger Goodell, Commissioner of the National Football League, Adam Silver, Commissioner of the National Basketball Association, Gary Bettman, Commissioner of the National Hockey League, Jay Monaghan, Commissioner of the PGA Tour, Cathy Engelbert, Commissioner of the Women’s National Basketball Association. Dana White, the Ultimate Fighting Championship, Vince McMan, President of the WWE, Don Garber, Commissioner of Major League Soccer, Steve Phelps, President of NASCAR, Michael Wahn, Commissioner of the LPGA, Roger Penske, founder and Chairman Penske Corp and Drew Fleming, President of the Breeders’ Cup, and there were a couple of others on and these are all the great leaders of sport and they want to get back, they got to get back. They can’t do this. The sports weren’t designed for it. The whole concept of our nation wasn’t designed for, we’re going to have to get back. We want to get back soon. Very soon."

Said Donald Trump, at yesterday's Task Force press briefing. Transcript here.

I'm interested in this "whole concept" of what "our nation" — and sports — were "designed for." The virus has its own designs, and we need to design strategies to deal with it. What does it matter if the nation — and sports — weren't designed around what would be needed to win a war with a virus?

It's just rhetoric, Trump rhetoric. He riffs. It comes straight from his mind. I have a higher tolerance — and even an appreciation — for it than most people who — like me — didn't vote for him. I'd say, here, he's just crying out that he doesn't like having to do what we need to do. We want out! We want to work! We want to watch baseball! We want to live! He's feeling that at you. It doesn't mean we get back to doing America As It Was Designed To Be anytime soon. It's just: I know you want it. I'm going to get you back there as soon as I can but I'm sorry it's not yet.

ADDED: Another gem from that transcript:
I want to thank the American people, most of all for the selfless sacrifices that they’re making for our nation. I know it’s not pleasant. Although some people have said they’ve gotten to know their family better and they love their family more than ever, and that’s a beautiful thing. They’ve actually gotten to know them. They’re in the same house with their family for a long time. I guess it can also work the other way perhaps, but we don’t want to talk about that.
I like: "They’ve actually gotten to know them."

"I Have Anxiety and Depression. So Why Do I Feel Better Now?" — teaser on the front page of The Daily Beast.

I think I understand this. You have company. Everyone else can see the darkness that you see all the time, and they're disturbed in a way that you are not because they were living in good times, and they got pushed down. You did not.

I wrote all that before clicking through to the article, which is titled "If You Have Anxiety and Depression but Feel Better During Coronavirus, You’re Not Alone." The title stresses that there is company for those who suffer from anxiety and depression, but not — as I put it — because everyone else is joining you in your dark place. The relief from aloneness is in a fellow feeling among the people with anxiety and depression: feeling better.

The author is Laura Bradley. Her byline calls her an "entertainment reporter," but she identifies herself in the article as one of the "depression and anxiety patients" who have "felt their symptoms alleviate." Excerpt:

Palm Sunday sunrise — 6:32 and 6:34.

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"In an extraordinary snub on Saturday, Wisconsin’s Republican-led Legislature collectively shrugged its shoulders at an 11th hour call from Gov. Tony Evers to halt in-person voting..."

"... gaveling in and out of a special session in seconds without taking action. A source close to the governor told POLITICO on Saturday that Evers had no plans to take further action in an attempt to stop the election, despite his suggestion on Friday that he might explore other options.... The governor's reasoning in deciding not to take additional action, such as attempting to order polls closed by his own action or having a health official shutter them, is that it could backfire on him, the source close to Evers said. If the issue went before the Wisconsin Supreme Court, which holds a Republican majority, Evers risks inadvertently creating precedent that could adversely affect his emergency powers, the source said. Beyond that, the governor’s office doesn’t want to expend all of its political capital in a fight over moving the election because it needs GOP legislative leaders to play ball on a broader coronavirus funding package....  In a joint statement on Friday, legislative GOP leaders dismissed Evers’ last-minute plea, saying that hundreds of thousands of workers still were attending their jobs every day. 'There’s no question that an election is just as important as getting take-out food,' the statement said."

From "Wisconsin's primary to go forward Tuesday even as coronavirus all but shutters the U.S./A source close to Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers said he's unlikely to take further steps to halt the election" (Politico).

I don't know how much to believe that source, but Politico makes it sound as though Evers is afraid to use emergency executive power because to use it would be to expose it to judgment, and he might learn that the power does not exist, and that would hurt his ability to use that power on some later occasion.

What good is the power if you don't use it? If you say you have it, but the state Supreme Court has never had the occasion to tell you you're wrong, you can keep using it to threaten the legislature. That's the idea of conserving "political capital" so you can get the "GOP legislative leaders to play ball" on something else, something presumably more important than the election (the "broader coronavirus funding package"?).

But if Evers displays such reticence, is he preserving or losing political capital? I can't tell whether the idea is to maintain mystery over the scope of emergency powers — in case he wants to use or threaten to use it on some later occasion — or whether he simply wants to avoid controversy and conflict with Republicans because he has to keep working with them. That conservative majority on the state Supreme Court is 5-2, so, although a conservative incumbent is up for reelection, the balance cannot shift until next time. That is, there's little hope that the court will be more likely to approve of strong executive power after the election.

Here's what I tend to think. The problems with the election hurt Democrats more than Republicans, no matter what changes could be made. It is therefore best for Evers to stand back, let the chaotic election happen, and blame those terrible Republicans for deliberately disenfranchising the people of Milwaukee. If he acts, attention will turn to him and it will be presumed that Democrats got an advantage from what will be called a power grab. In that light, Evers does preserve political capital by not acting.

That's not to say partisan power is the highest value here. It's not.

ADDED: For insight into why the problems hurt Democrats so much, read "Despite Coronavirus Lockdown, Wisconsin Republicans Insist on an Election that Will Disenfranchise Thousands" (Mother Jones). It will be harder for people in Milwaukee to vote in person, but it's also harder for Democratic voters to use absentee ballots.

CORRECTION: As originally published, this post omitted the word "not" in "and he might learn that the power does not exist." Very sorry!

April 4, 2020

At the Gray Café...

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... the sunrise is cloud-covered once again, but you can hunker down in here and talk all night.

"The incredible true story of two brothers raised on the hardscrabble country music of rural West Texas who dropped out, tuned in, found God, and helped launch the seventies soft-rock revolution."

I am not a soft-rock fan, and I've even gone out of my way to scoff at "Summer Breeze," but I loved this Texas Monthly article "The Secret Oil Patch Roots of ‘Summer Breeze.'"

Excerpt:
When Jim [Seals] was four, the family moved to Iraan, a recently founded boomtown. [The father] Wayland worked for Shell—first as a roustabout, digging ditches, and then as a pipeliner—and he and his family lived in a modest company house surrounded by derricks that stood like trees in a forest...

Wayland was an old-fashioned man, proud of his ability to do physical labor. He loved going to work, and he loved coming home at the end of the day and pulling out his guitar, playing country and western songs he heard on the radio and songs he had written. Sometimes he hosted casual jam sessions and sing-alongs in his living room. Neighbors would stop by, bringing dinner and cakes, and everyone... would sing, sometimes long after dark.

Jim, a shy, sensitive boy, was five or six when a fiddler named Elmer Abernathy visited the Seals home. The boy was mesmerized by the man’s instrument, and the next day Wayland, who’d always wanted a family band, ordered him a fiddle from the Sears catalog. When it arrived, Jim tried to play it but couldn’t figure out where to put his fingers or how to draw the bow, so he slid it under his bed.

One night a year later, Jim had a dream that he was playing his fiddle. “It was the most beautiful music,” he said. “I could play anything. When I woke up, I remembered the position of my fingers in the song and pulled out my fiddle. I played the song from my dream, and it wasn’t as good as the dream, but it was a start.”
Much more at the link! Highly recommended. And here's the song:

"There will be a lot of death" as we enter what may be "the toughest week," said President Trump.

And Dr. Deborah Birx said: The next two weeks are extraordinarily important. This is the moment to not be going to the grocery store, not going to the pharmacy, but doing everything you can to keep your family and your friends safe and that means everybody doing the six-feet distancing, washing their hands."

Quoted in the NYT.

"We have little publicly available data about the racial makeup of those Americans who have been tested, those who have tested positive for the coronavirus..."

"... those who have been hospitalized, those who have become critically ill, those who have recovered, or those who have died from COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s information site does not offer racial data. Neither does the Johns Hopkins University database used by CNN, The New York Times’ count, nor the COVID Tracking Project. Few states, municipalities, or private labs are releasing their data by race. On Friday, the Illinois Department of Public Health became one of the few state offices to release some racial data. And the data showed a pandemic within the pandemic: African Americans are significantly overrepresented in infection rates in Illinois, while whites and Latinos are significantly underrepresented. African Americans make up 14.6 percent of the state population, but 28 percent of confirmed cases of the coronavirus. White people comprise 76.9 percent of the Illinois population, and 39 percent of the confirmed cases. Latinos comprise 17.4 percent of the state population, and 7 percent of the cases. In Illinois, Asian Americans were the only racial group without a significant disparity between their state population, at 5.9 percent, and confirmed cases, at 4 percent.... What we are seeing in Illinois could be happening nationwide—we just don’t know.... And Americans don’t seem to care to know. I suspect that some Americans believe that racial data will worsen racism.... Maybe I need to stop making everything about race, as my critics say.... Maybe some people fear that if racial data were to show that COVID-19 is disproportionately harming people of color, then white people will stop caring... Maybe there is only a class issue here...."

From "Why Don’t We Know Who the Coronavirus Victims Are?/The coronavirus is infecting and killing Americans of all races. But there’s little public data on whether the virus is having a disproportionate impact on some communities" by Ibram X. Kendi (in The Atlantic).

Another "maybe" (not mentioned by Kendi): Maybe it's a matter of pre-existing health conditions, notably diabetes.

It is interesting that the racial statistics are not getting out. I'm guessing it's either because it's difficult at this point to report them accurately or — more likely — because the officials believe that we're better off not thinking in these terms. People already feel bad about the virus, so why exacerbate the pain by making us feel that there's some evil human-made unfairness going on? And why give some people and not others a reason to think that this force of nature is picking favorites based on their race? Isn't it better to keep people feeling that we're all in this together, sharing a great human interest with the entire world?

How to make your own cloth face covering (without sewing!).

The official American presentation (with rubber bands):



The dreamier Japanese presentation (with hair elastics):



I think hair elastics would be more comfortable. I'm thinking that the cloth would feel heavy hooked over your ears like that and would prefer something that left the ears alone. The instructions I'm seeing for masks that tie around the back of your head all seem to require sewing.

And yet, it is obviously possible to take a long scarf, put it over your face, and wrap it around and do some tying to hold it in place. That's something we do in the North in the winter when the temperatures drop below zero. But there are summer scarves, and how to tie them to cover the face for sun protection seems to be well worked out, at least for women. I like this, which strikes me as stylish, but perhaps not much of a virus defense:



I'm seeing some videos showing bandannas tied in back in the classic Western armed-robber style. Is that approach good enough? Well, no one was ever claiming that a mask was a perfect shield, only that it might help to some degree. What degree? Who knows?!

And there's the whole dimension of mental wellbeing and social signaling: Do you feel better? And: Do other people see that you're being caring and thoughtful? The "bad guy" bandanna might not be so good at social signaling:



Now, the masks are voluntary, so you could just go without them (or go without them except when doing something dangerous, like venturing into a grocery store or a polling place). Are you going to wear a face covering? I took a poll, here, yesterday. Results (click to enlarge and clarify):



Do you see that I gave you pairs of options? There were 3 answers — yes, maybe, and no — and for each of the 3, there were 2 choices. The first choice for each had you reacting to a message from the outside— reacting one way or another to being told you should do something. The second one in each case had to do with thinking for yourself in doing what's rational. For each of the answers — yes, maybe, and no — the internal decisionmaking approach was much more popular. In fact, all of the thinking-for-yourself answers —the second, fourth, and sixth — were much more popular than any of the answers that were based on the reception of messages about what you ought to do.

The least popular answer was the one where you do what's recommended. I wonder if doing what you're told would become more popular if mask-wearing were not voluntary. But taking my poll would never be mandatory, and there'd be no consequence to lying on my poll, so I don't think I'd get a lot of check marks on the option: Yes, I'll do what I'm told.

"During the presidency of Barack Obama, the national stockpile [of medical supplies] was seriously taxed as the administration addressed multiple crises over eight years."

"About '75 percent of N95 respirators and 25 percent of face masks contained in the CDC's Strategic National Stockpile (∼100 million products) were deployed for use in health care settings over the course of the 2009 H1N1 pandemic response,' according to a 2017 study in the journal Health Security. Again according to NIH, the stockpile's resources were also used during hurricanes Alex, Irene, Isaac and Sandy. Flooding in 2010 in North Dakota also called for stockpile funds to be deployed. The 2014 outbreaks of the ebola virus and botulism, as well as the 2016 outbreak of the zika virus, continued to significantly tax the stockpile with no serious effort from the Obama administration to replenish the fund. During the presidency of Donald Trump, analysts have warned the United States is not prepared for a serious pandemic.... The Trump administration has not taken significant steps to replenish the Strategic National Stockpile."

From "Fact check: Did the Obama administration deplete the federal stockpile of N95 masks?" (USA Today), which rates the claim true.

Blaming Obama only goes so far. Trump had been President for 3 years by the time the coronavirus crisis got serious. Maybe Obama deserves "blame" for the depletion, but depletion sets up the need to replenish. Both Presidents are to blame for the failure to replenish. If anything, Trump is more to blame, since the depletion had already happened and Trump knew the stockpile was low.

"President Donald Trump has fired the intelligence community’s chief watchdog, Michael Atkinson, who was the first to sound the alarm to Congress last September..."

"... about an 'urgent' complaint he received from an intelligence official involving Trump’s communications with Ukraine’s president. Atkinson's decision set in motion the congressional probe that culminated in Trump's impeachment and ultimate acquittal in a bruising political and legal drama that consumed Washington for months.... House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) described the firing as 'retribution' coming in the 'dead of night' and called it 'yet another blatant attempt by the president to gut the independence of the intelligence community and retaliate against those who dare to expose presidential wrongdoing.'"

Politico reports.

Speaking of Theodore Roosevelt...

Theodore Roosevelt came up in the natural process of blogging — in the previous post, the first post of the day.

The next thing I notice — linked at Drudge — is "Theodore Roosevelt captain followed in footsteps of ship’s namesake by writing bombshell letter" (Navy Times). The Navy relieved Capt. Brett Crozier of command of an aircraft carrier named for Theodore Roosevelt after Crozier wrote a letter asking for help with the coronavirus outbreak on that ship. The San Francisco Chronicle got hold of the letter, which said:
“This will require a political solution but it is the right thing to do... We are not at war. Sailors do not need to die. If we do not act now, we are failing to properly take care of our most trusted asset — our Sailors.”
The acting Secretary of the Navy, Thomas Modly, justified relieving Crozier of command. He said that the letter "undermines our efforts and the chain of command’s efforts to address this problem, and creates a panic and this perception that the Navy’s not on the job."

The Navy Times article recounts the parallel in the live of the man Theodore Roosevelt. At the end of the Spanish-American War in the summer of 1898, Roosevelt and his Rough Riders were in Cuba facing malaria and yellow fever:
Regardless of the outcome, the commanders were compelled to put their request [to leave Cuba] into writing –– a task that fell to Roosevelt because, as the only non-general among the senior officer group, [he] had less to lose career-wise. The eventual U.S. president drafted what is now known as the infamous Round-Robin Letter... 
The full text of the letter is at the link. Excerpt:
[I]n this division there have been 1,500 cases of malarial fever. Hardly a man has yet died from it, but the whole command is so weakened and shattered as to be ripe for dying like rotten sheep, when a real yellow-fever epidemic instead of a fake epidemic, like the present one, strikes us, as it is bound to do if we stay here at the height of the sickness season, August and the beginning of September.

Quarantine against malarial fever is much like quarantining against the toothache. All of us are certain that as soon as the authorities at Washington fully appreciate the condition of the army, we shall be sent home. If we are kept here it will in all human possibility mean an appalling disaster, for the surgeons here estimate that over half the army, if kept here during the sickly season, will die.
The text of the letter found its way into the newspaper, enraging President William McKinley, who was working on peace negotiations with Spain, but the men were moved out of Cuba. History credits Roosevelt "with cutting through the red tape of bureaucracy and saving the lives of 4,000 men," says the Navy Times. The article ends:
Despite the hasty dismissal of Capt. Crozier, the large crowd of Theodore Roosevelt sailors who gathered Thursday to chant his name and cheer as he departed the hulking ship for the last time may indicate how fondly the skipper’s actions will be viewed in the years to come.

The Democratic Convention in Milwaukee will be "robust," "very muscular" and "It’s going to be safe, it’s going to be exciting and it’s going to be Wisconsin-y."

Said Tom Perez, the chair of the Party — the life of the party — about the convention which will begin on August 17th (instead of July 13th), reported at Fox 6 Now.

I suspect the delay is the first stage of cancellation, somewhere between denial and bargaining.
The extra five weeks will “increase the possibilities for us moving forward,” Perez said... “We’re going to continue to be guided by, among other things, what the situation on the ground is not only in Milwaukee and Wisconsin but across the country,” Perez said. “We will make sure that our presentation every day is exciting, it’s clear, it’s safe and it highlights our values.”
At some point, the "values" will require cancellation, but for now, the "value" of optimism is in play. Optimism and Wisconsin-i-ness.

I am a little surprised that the values permit the use of the phrase "very muscular." It might strike some people as sexist, but it might be sexist to regard it as sexist. It's more clearly ableist. Anyway, for me, at least, it calls to mind "Muscular Christianity":
Muscular Christianity is a philosophical movement that originated in England in the mid-19th century, characterized by a belief in patriotic duty, discipline, self-sacrifice, manliness, and the moral and physical beauty of athleticism.... The movement was also closely related to British imperialism, and many tenets of Muscular Christianity were derived from or related to the ideology of colonialism and the "Noble savage" archetype....

American President Theodore Roosevelt was raised in a household that practiced Muscular Christianity and was a prominent adherent to the movement. Roosevelt [and others] promoted physical strength and health as well as an active pursuit of Christian ideals in personal life and politics....

Roosevelt believed that, “There is only a very circumscribed sphere of usefulness for the timid good man”, a sentiment echoed by many at the time. Followers of Muscular Christianity ultimately found that the only solution to this was to connect faith to the physicality of the body....
Physical strength and health... that is indeed something you'd like your political party to embody in this time of raging disease and death. And I think that's what Perez is doing with his rhetoric of robustness and muscularity.

And Wisconsin-i-ness.

April 3, 2020

At the 6 Feet Café...

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... you can talk about whatever you like.

"With the masks, it is going to be a voluntary thing. You can do it. You don’t have to do it. I am choosing not to do it. It may be good. It is only a recommendation, voluntary."

Said President Trump, quoted in "Coronavirus Live Updates: C.D.C. Recommends Wearing Masks in Public; Trump Says, ‘I’m Choosing Not to Do It’" (NYT).

Are you going to wear a mask to deal with coronavirus? Pick the answer closest to what you think.
 
pollcode.com free polls

"Why Are So Many More Men Dying from Coronavirus?/The disproportionate toll this virus is taking on males isn’t an anomaly. When it comes to survival, men are the weaker sex."

A NYT piece by Sharon Moalem — "a scientist, physician, and the author of the forthcoming 'The Better Half: On the Genetic Superiority of Women.'"

The phrase "genetic superiority" sounds awful, even when you're saying the female is superior. But  Moalem — who, though named Sharon, is "an XY male" — really is talking about genetics:

"Last year, Sanford was charged with felony auto theft in Dane County. He was found responsible for the theft and admitted into a deferred prosecution program."

From "Teenager arrested in connection to homicides of Madison doctor, husband" (WKOW).

ADDED: From last December: "Suspect in Saturday's fatal shooting recently given deferred prosecution in felony case."

"Bill Withers, the legendary soul singer behind 1970s hits like 'Lean on Me,' 'Lovely Day' and 'Ain’t No Sunshine,' died on Monday in Los Angeles.… He was 81."

"The soulful singer and three-time Grammy winner died from heart complications."

Quotes from the NYT obituary and well-chosen YouTube embeds at my son John's blog.

This is not another celebrity coronavirus case. There are other ways to die, we may forget.

John also has quotes from a Roger Ebert review of a documentary about Withers. An excerpt from John's excerpt:
Perhaps in an attempt to slip some "meaning" into the film, the documentarians Damani Baker and Alex Vlack arrange a conversation with the scholar Cornel West and Tavis Smiley from PBS. It feels like they're trying to lead Bill into heavy generalizations, but he won't go there. Withers seems as close to everyday Zen as I can imagine. He talks a great deal about his philosophy, to be sure, but it's direct and manifestly true: Make the most of your chances, do the best you can, stop when you're finished, love your family, enjoy life.

"The rescheduling of the Olympics has hit female gymnasts particularly hard, considering that their window for Olympic success is so tiny."

"Most female Olympic gymnasts are teenagers who compete in only one Summer Games before their bodies mature, adding weight and height that make it harder to twist and flip. They also start the sport so young, much younger than their male counterparts, that their bodies break down and can’t last. It has been 48 years since an Olympic gold medalist in the women’s all-around was older than 19. So it would have been significant if Biles, the face of the American team going into Tokyo, competed this summer to defend her all-around Olympic title. She is 23 and cried in her gym’s locker room when she heard news of the postponement.... 'Mentally, I don’t know if I can handle it. It’s going to be hard. I was already battling with myself mentally if I could do it this year.'"

From "‘It’s Just So Devastating’: For Crestfallen Gymnasts, an Olympic Dream Deferred/Female gymnasts often compete at younger ages than their Olympic peers and have a far more concentrated opportunity at the top. Into that intense world dropped the coronavirus pandemic" (NYT).

Here's the highest-rated comment over there:
The short of it is that gymnastics is a broken sport that probably ought to not exist. It's fine to do it for recreation, but these elite gymnasts push their bodies to the point of failure, and beyond. All so they can compete in the Olympics at the age of 17, and then have to deal with the very real physical manifestations of overtraining for the rest of their lives. It's kind [of] like traumatic brain injury in football.
Reminds me of the letter I wrote to the NYT in 1988 (published here):

"Virus experts know that viral dose affects illness severity. In the lab, mice receiving a low dose of virus clear it and recover..."

"... while the same virus at a higher dose kills them. Dose sensitivity has been observed for every common acute viral infection that has been studied in lab animals, including coronaviruses. Humans also exhibit sensitivity to viral dose. Volunteers have allowed themselves to be exposed to low or high doses of relatively benign viruses causing colds or diarrhea. Those receiving the low doses have rarely developed visible signs of infection, while high doses have typically led to infections and more severe symptoms.... Low-dose infections can even engender immunity, protecting against high-dose exposures in the future.... People should take particular care against high-dose exposures... such as coffee meetings, crowded bars and quiet time in a room with Grandma — and from touching our faces after getting substantial amounts of virus on our hands. In-person interactions are more dangerous in enclosed spaces and at short distances, with dose escalating with exposure time. For transient interactions that violate the rule of maintaining six feet between you and others, such as paying a cashier at the grocery store, keep them brief — aim for 'within six feet, only six seconds.'... [W]e need to avoid a panicked overreaction to low-dose exposures. Clothing and food packaging that have been exposed to someone with the virus seem to present a low risk..... When we do begin to leave our homes again, let’s do it wisely, in light of the importance of viral dose."

From "These Coronavirus Exposures Might Be the Most Dangerous/As with any other poison, viruses are usually deadlier in larger amounts" (NYT). The article is by Joshua D. Rabinowitz, a professor of chemistry and genomics at Princeton, and Caroline R. Bartman, a research fellow. The comments function is turned off over there.

I'd like to see some serious commentary on this. It's very encouraging, but perhaps too encouraging. It's good for handling panic and anxiety, if that's your problem. I guess we're all sort of doing what we're told and sort of following our own interpretation.

Today's the day the Trump team is going to make a recommendation about wearing masks. I have not seen any people in masks in my city, and I'm skeptical about the great masking of America. I don't look forward to living around people who will look askance at those who go out unmasked. But then I look askance at people who don't show they care by observing a 6-foot clearance when they pass me by. I mean, I don't actually look askance. I just think askance. And blog askance.

"How do you hold an election in the middle of a pandemic? You don’t. And yet Wisconsin’s political leaders, from both parties, say we must."

"There are many reasons this is a bad idea but let’s start with the most important: It’s not safe to expect voters to go to the polls next Tuesday as coronavirus tears across the state.... And aside from this obvious risk to public health, there is a real risk to electoral credibility. If the election is held, turnout is likely to be abysmal, which may disenfranchise large blocs of voters and call into question the results. A federal judge this week invited those who brought lawsuits challenging the election to return to court afterward if they believe large numbers of people were disenfranchised...."

So says the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, insisting on cancellation of all in-person voting and the substitution of mail-in voting only.
[Governor Tony] Evers has called out the state National Guard to act as poll workers and help at precincts but it won’t be enough. Milwaukee, a city with 180 polling locations, may be down to fewer than a dozen for this election. All of which means that even with a low turnout, far too many people will feel the need to congregate too close to one another on Tuesday to exercise their right to vote....
I have a big problem with the absentee-voting mechanism the state is using, as discussed in my previous post. The website is awful — confusing and intimidating — and I don't think it allows you to shift to absentee voting only for April 7th. I believe you're forced to give up your right to vote in person for the rest of the year. And you are required to upload a photograph of your photo ID, which is off-putting to some people, including me.

"Madison mayor says absentee ballots extension helps, but election should still be postponed amid COVID-19 pandemic."

The Wisconsin State Journal reports, quoting Madison mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway.

I agree with our mayor. The planned election is not fair. It's not fair to old people like me who are used to voting in person and can't bring ourselves to go through an on-line procedure that required us to photograph our photo ID and upload it to a government website. It's not fair to the poll workers, who tend to be older and therefore more vulnerable. It's not fair to all the people who are trying to do social distancing but are thinking of deviating from the practice to venture into a place they know isn't right. What's the legitimacy to that outcome?

I'm rather sure that if the conservative candidate for state Supreme Court justice wins that liberals will think it's because right-wingers are dismissive of the limitations of social distancing and because poor, urban voters felt confused or intimidated. If the liberal candidate for state Supreme Court justice wins, I suspect conservatives will have theories of their own, though they don't spring to mind so easily. Absentee votes were "harvested"? Young people, feeling invulnerable, showed up in disproportion?

Anyway, it's actually still not too late to get an absentee ballot. A federal judge extended the deadline until this afternoon at 5. Go here. And go here if you want to get hired as a poll worker (and you're healthy and under 60).

If you're considering voting in person, know that your health will be safeguarded with "curbside voting" ("for those with underlying health conditions, recent symptoms or a cold or illness, or recent exposure to someone who is sick" (no requirement that you sign the poll book)), plexiglas shields between voters and poll workers (with the poll book passed to you under the shield), allowing you to use your own pen (blue or black), a supply of disinfectant spray, wipes and hand sanitizer (enjoy inhaling the spray), the floor marked with tape so you can see how to stay 6 feet apart, and a screening of the poll workers (done by asking them questions about their health).

ADDED: I'm trying to picture the plexiglas shield configuration. Is this something like a salad bar?

AND: Here's a Wisconsin State Journal article about yesterday's federal court decision:

The double exaltation of Bud Powell.

I don't think I knew the name Bud Powell until last week, when I I heard Bob Dylan's new song, "Murder Most Foul," which names the brilliant jazz pianist in the second-to-last line:
Play "Love Me Or Leave Me" by the great Bud Powell
Play "The Blood-stained Banner," play "Murder Most Foul"
Last night, I was reading — and getting close to the end of — Woody Allen's autobiography, and I came across this:
I never thought having biological children was doing them any favor, bringing kids into this world. Sophocles said to never have been born may be the greatest boon of all. Of course I’m not sure he would’ve said that if he ever heard Bud Powell play “Polka Dots and Moonbeams.” Soon-Yi and I chose adoption to try and make life better for a couple of orphans already marooned on this orbiting psychiatric ward....
And then on the last page of the book, summing up, he says "If I could trade my talent for any other person’s, living or dead, who would it be? No contest—Bud Powell."

Here's "Polka Dots and Moonbeams":



If you're wondering what the lyrics are, Frank Sinatra will sing them for you, here.
A country dance was being held in a garden
I felt a bump and heard an "Oh, beg your pardon"
Suddenly I saw polka dots and moonbeams
All around a pug-nosed dream...

"Detroit bus driver, who ranted about a coughing passenger, dies from coronavirus."

NY Post headline. Very sad, and I would not have used the disrespectful word "ranted." I would say "despaired."
[Jason] Hargrove said drivers are “public workers doing our job, trying to make an honest living, take care of our families.” “For you to get on the bus … and cough several times without covering up your mouth and you know (we’re) in the middle of a pandemic — that lets me know that some folks don’t care.... At some point in time we’ve got to draw the line and say enough is enough. I feel violated"...
The viral video is at the link.

"'Speak of the devil' is the short form of the English-language idiom 'Speak of the devil and he doth appear'..."

Says Wikipedia, in an article I'd say more about, but I've blogged it in the past — here, just last August. "It is used when an object of discussion unexpectedly becomes present during the conversation." I didn't say back then what had happened that got me thinking of that saying, and I won't say this time either. But it's weird when you say the name of a person you haven't seen around or even mentioned in years and he shows up the same day.

April 2, 2020

At the Found Sun Café...

EB28B7E5-B547-41AB-A53D-133C0701AB6F_1_201_a

... you can talk all night.

Are we still allowed to laugh? Because I just did.

"This is ridiculous. Even if our most optimistic expectations about the coronavirus come true, the convention should be canceled, not postponed."

My son John writes (on Facebook) reacting to "Democratic National Convention to Be Postponed Until Mid-August" (Wall Street Journal).

"That Thing You Do."



I'm sorry to say this happened: "Adam Schlesinger, Songwriter for Rock, Film and the Stage, Dies at 52/He made suburban characters shine in Fountains of Wayne songs and brought pop-rock perfection to the Tom Hanks film 'That Thing You Do!'" (NYT).
In Fountains of Wayne, which was started in 1995, Mr. Schlesinger and Chris Collingwood perfected a novelistic form of hummable pop-rock in a style derived from the Kinks and from 1970s groups like Big Star and the Cars.

They chose northern New Jersey and boroughs outside Manhattan as thematic territory, chronicling the lives of suburban mall shoppers, Generation X slackers and down-market cover bands in songs like “Hackensack” and “Red Dragon Tattoo.”...
I lived in Wayne for nearly all of my teenage years (1964 to 1969), and I remember when the first mall went up. Lost times. Sad to see that now we've lost the beautifully talented Schlesinger.

"It’s simply true that governments attempt to conceal all kinds of things. Even things partially visible to the naked eye."

"But it’s also true that the human body is a complex machine given to all sorts of odd behaviors. As Dan Savage wrote, 'Only Andrew Cuomo knows for sure, of course, and he’s not telling.' But, Savage said, 'I’ve spent a lot of time around gay guys with tit rings, and it’s my considered opinion that those are tit rings. Almost certainly.'... I decided the only thing left to do was call Barney Frank. Back in 2011, the former congressman stepped onto the House floor wearing a light-blue sweater through which his nipples were visible to anybody watching C-Span. Future president Donald Trump was apparently doing just that. 'Barney Frank looked disgusting — nipples protruding — in his blue shirt before Congress. Very very disrespectful,' he said on Twitter.... In general, Frank said, being a politician whose nipples become a subject of mockery or scrutiny isn’t as negative an experience as you might think. 'In some ways, it makes you feel good because it means you have people who are trying to attack you and they can’t find anything substantive.'... ...  Of Cuomo’s critics, he said, 'It reflects badly on them.' With all of that out of the way, I asked Frank if he’d be surprised if it turned out that Cuomo does, in fact, have pierced nipples. 'I’m gonna act as if you didn’t ask me that,' he said."

Since she asks, I guess it "reflects badly" — per Barney Frank — on Olivia Nuzzi, the author of the article I'm quoting "What’s the Deal With Andrew Cuomo’s Nipples? An Investigation" (NY Magazine).

Just to balance things out — though, as you know, with breasts, there's never perfect symmetry — I saw this in The Daily Mail a few days ago: "Experts warn that not wearing a bra during lockdown could damage the Cooper's ligament and cause breasts to sag - as women reveal they're ditching underwear for comfort while working at home."

Experts! Last I looked the expert opinion was that wearing a bra causes breasts to sag.

Imagine staying at home during the coronawar and worrying that your comfortable loungewear stylings were endangering what's left of your breastal perkiness! We've got bigger things to worry about, like the imaginary nipple piercings of the New York Governor.

"Seattle Destroyed Homeless Encampments as the Pandemic Raged/Advocates say the city continued to do unannounced sweeps, even after it was clear that the policy put unhoused people in danger of infection."

Headline at The Nation. Excerpt:
[D]espite the lack of space in the city’s shelters, Seattle—led by Mayor Jenny Durkan—continued to sweep homeless encampments last month, even after saying it would put a halt to the practice. During sweeps, city employees can destroy tents, throw away belongings the city doesn’t want or is unable to store, issue parking tickets or even impound vehicles....

The result is that Seattle’s unhoused community is now especially vulnerable to Covid-19. Those who lack permanent housing are being forced to choose between self-isolating in unsanctioned encampments and cars—or living in potentially overcrowded shelters....

“We’re seeing the City’s ability to build alternative spaces for our homeless in how they’re responding to our Covid-19 pandemic,” [said ACLU attorney Breanne Schuster]. “We’ve seen a new urgency to build spaces for people to go. Will that urgency exist after the pandemic? Our health crisis might go away, but our homelessness crisis will not.”