March 14, 2020

At the Sunrise Café...


... you can talk all night.

"That is science."

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Today's coronavirus press conference — quite good, I thought, in content and tone.

"Mr. Colvin does not believe he was price gouging. While he charged $20 on Amazon for two bottles of Purell that retail for $1 each..."

"...  he said people forget that his price includes his labor, Amazon’s fees and about $10 in shipping. (Alcohol-based sanitizer is pricey to ship because officials consider it a hazardous material.) Current price-gouging laws 'are not built for today’s day and age,' Mr. Colvin said. 'They’re built for Billy Bob’s gas station doubling the amount he charges for gas during a hurricane.' He added, 'Just because it cost me $2 in the store doesn’t mean it’s not going to cost me $16 to get it to your door.'"

From "He Has 17,000 Bottles of Hand Sanitizer and Nowhere to Sell Them/Amazon cracked down on coronavirus price gouging. Now, while the rest of the world searches, some sellers are holding stockpiles of sanitizer and masks" (NYT).

ADDED: Colvin acquired his stash by taking "a 1,300-mile road trip across Tennessee and into Kentucky, filling a U-Haul truck" with what he found in "little hole-in-the-wall dollar stores in the backwoods." The commenters at the NYT are letting him have it, saying he's clearly much worse than the man he calls "Billy Bob."

"In Siena, the city to which I am very attached, you stay at home but sing together as if you were on the street."

"Metropolitan Opera, After Shutting Its Doors, Will Offer Free Streams From Live in HD Catalog."

Playbill reports.
The performances, originally captured as live broadcasts in movie theatres worldwide, will begin at 7:30 PM [March 16th] on the company's website.... [T]he videos in the nightly series will be made available for free for 20 hours following the initial stream.
The lineup seems designed to welcome opera beginners. It begins with "Carmen," and the next night is "La Bohème."

This is great. I love seeing the silver lining. People are stuck without things to go out and do, but they can watch streamed video, and the public's need for entertainment can be met, and the forced seclusion can be used to build new interest in the best of performance arts.

I remember taking my sons to see "Carmen" when they were very young — the story and the music are so accessible and enjoyable to almost anyone.

(I'm not seeing where you need to click to get to the live stream, but we should be able to find that out by March 16th.)

If social distancing works to "flatten the curve," that will be great, but I'm wondering how long we will need to keep doing it.

Here at Meadhouse, we started our self-isolation around February 28th, a bit loosely, and then tightened it up by March 6th. I'm mostly visualizing it in terms of the next month, maybe the next 2 months, and I'm hoping America shapes up and does a great job of achieving the flattened curve that preserves access to healthcare services. That's the prime goal right now, and people are stepping up to it.

But I'm not hearing much talk about the next phase. Maybe you can point me to some articles on this subject. When do we reemerge? What are the possibilities? My rough understanding is that if we had not taken on this curve-flattening strategy, the virus would have hit like a tsunami. Trump used that water metaphor in his speech yesterday:
Some of the doctors say it will wash through, it will flow through. Interesting terms and very accurate. I think you’re going to find in a number of weeks it’s going to be a very accurate term.
That made me think: So the same amount of "water" is going to get in, but it will hit much more gently, more slowly. And it would speed up again if we returned to normal life, I take it, unless we do social distancing until the flow-through process is complete. My unscientific sense of what needs to happen is that large numbers of Americans need to slowly get the disease and recover with acquired immunity before we can resume normal life. We just need to make that process happen slowly.

Perhaps we can't know how long social distancing will be needed until we see how much we've managed to slow the process down. Maybe the process will be calibrated by increments of ending social distancing. And some of the distancing may never end — should never end. I know I stopped touching doorknobs in public places decades ago. Thinking about what you are touching, washing your hands and not touching your face, covering coughs and sneezes, and getting 6 feet away from anyone who acts sick — these are things we will do well to make a permanent part of life.

Maybe social distancing will balance out in the next 2 months, with many precautions feeling normal and extreme aspects of social avoidance gradually seeming less important.

But I anticipate looking back at this post in 2 months — and I am planning to live — and thinking oh, if you only knew! 2 months?!! Ha ha. No wonder they didn't tell you how long this would take! 

But there, now, I've said it. Message to future me: See? I wasn't naive. I knew.

"A virus is a peculiar object that is inert and arguably not truly alive outside a host. Only when it invades a cell and hijacks its machinery can the virus begin to replicate."

"Outside, on an inanimate surface, the virus will gradually lose the ability to be an infectious agent. It may dry out, for example. It can degrade when exposed to ultraviolet radiation from the sun. A person sneezing on a surface may deposit many thousands of virus particles, and some may remain viable for days. Still, the likelihood of a person who comes into contact with the remnants of that sneeze goes down over time, because most infections are the result of a large viral load.... [T]ypically it takes 'an army of viruses going in' to break through the natural defenses of a human being, which include mucus that lines airways...."

From "Coronavirus can stay infectious for days on surfaces. But it’s still okay to check your mail" (WaPo).

How are you dealing with "fomites" (surfaces that may have the virus)? It's hard to think about everything, but we've been careful bringing mail and packages into the house. We leave the boxes and bags outside and let various objects (including the mail) sit around on a table for a day or so before we touch them again (and we wash our hands after touching them to bring them to the table). Out in the world, I don't touch anything people may have touched, or I regard my own hands/gloves as tainted until I can wash them. I use a pencil to punch the buttons on the parking meter.

But it's good to have more information about how long the virus survives on objects and how likely you are to get infected through fomites. I don't have anything like a scientific grasp on how the virus ceases "to be an infectious agent"? When and how does it "degrade"? It doesn't die, because it isn't alive. Or must I say "arguably not truly alive"? I guess scientists argue about what it means to be "truly alive." Why can't they agree?

The question of what it means to be "truly alive" sounds like something nonscientists wonder about as they engage in a semi-deep assessment of their own life... as depicted in the Broadway musical "Company":

But alone/Is alone/Not alive/Somebody crowd me with love/Somebody force me to care...

"The United States has roughly 2.8 hospital beds per 1,000 people. South Korea, which has seen success mitigating its large outbreak..."

"...has more than 12 hospital beds per 1,000 people. China, where hospitals in Hubei were quickly overrun, has 4.3 beds per 1,000 people. Italy, a developed country with a reasonably decent health system, has seen its hospitals overwhelmed and has 3.2 beds per 1,000 people."

From "This is the coronavirus math that has experts so worried: Running out of ventilators, hospital beds" (WaPo).

As for the ventilators:
In a report last month, the Center for Health Security at Johns Hopkins estimated the United States has a total of 160,000 ventilators available for patient care (with at least an additional 8,900 in the national stockpile). A planning study run by the federal government in 2005 estimated that if the United States were struck with a moderate pandemic like the 1957 influenza, the country would need more than 64,000 ventilators. If we were struck with a severe pandemic like the 1918 Spanish flu, we would need more than 740,000 ventilators — many times more than are available.
That's some background on "Healthcare system capacity" means in this now-familiar graph:

March 13, 2020

At the Ice Break Café...


... you can talk all night.

Plague forces cancellation of play about the plague.

"Madison’s Overture Center for the Arts has cancelled... The Amateurs, Forward Theater Company’s play about a troupe of actors trying to avoid the Black Plague in 14th Century Europe...." (Wisconsin State Journal).

The play ran in NYC in 2018. From the review of the NY performance in the NYT. The play within the play is called "Noah's Ark." In that play, the actor playing God is "a mellifluous blowhard named Larking" who is doubting God's existence because of the Black Plague. The troupe encounters problems filling the roles as actors die.
In a moment of stubborn curiosity that alters the aesthetic history of mankind, [the actress playing Mrs. Noah] asks what would happen if Mrs. Noah just didn’t feel like getting on that ark one day.

What would happen, [the playwright, Jordan Harrison] suggests, is the Renaissance, or very nearly. The beginning of self-consciousness, he argues, is the beginning of enlightenment. If this sounds a bit heady for a rollicking tragicomedy in which pratfalls and death throes are tumbled together, that is part of the play’s unusual scheme....

[I]t really is a thrilling, expansive, world-changing moment in a very sneaky play when [the character playing Mrs. Noah] first asks, What’s my motivation? Which is a question you can only begin to contemplate after asking, What is God’s?

"I would recommend that people minimize social contact, and that means limiting all social engagements. That includes intimate gatherings among friends."

"I think the exception is if two households are in strict agreement that they are also going to reduce all outside contact and then those two households socialize together, to support one another. I can see social and mental-health advantages to that kind of approach."

From "The Dos and Don’ts of ‘Social Distancing’/Experts weigh in on whether you should cancel your dates, dinner parties, and gym sessions" in The Atlantic.

I've highlighted what one of 3 experts said.

The other 2 were less restrictive. One said, small gatherings "are probably okay as long as nobody has symptoms, respiratory symptoms." The other calls small gatherings "a gray zone" and recommending "not sitting very close, trying to keep distance. Wash your hands; avoid touching your face.... routinely disinfect... doorknobs, the bathroom faucets, those types of things... practicing good hygiene."

"President Trump today will declare a national emergency, a senior administration official says, invoking the Stafford Act, a law that allows FEMA to coordinate disaster response and aid state and local governments."

The NYT reports.

I know that 2 1/2 hours ago, I wrote "I'm not just doing news updates here," but sometimes I do need to make a post that is just a news update.

"The Biden 2020 campaign isn’t about following its nominal leader, or even listening to him; it’s about the party pushing him over the line collectively..."

"... and about making plans to give him the necessary support once he’s in office, as Booker’s endorsing statement alluded to in references to 'winning races up and down the ballot' and thinking of a presidential victory as the 'floor' rather than the 'ceiling' of Democratic Party potential. Biden’s sudden viability coincided with popular Democratic Montana Gov. Steve Bullock’s announcement that, after fending off months of entreaties to enter his state’s Senate race, he will go ahead and attempt to flip the seat, while Arizona and Maine flip-aspirants Mark Kelly and Sara Gideon have also expressed a preference for running down ballot of Biden rather than Sanders. Progressives eulogizing Elizabeth Warren’s presidential campaign have emphasized the prominent role that she can still play, going forward, in the Senate...."

From "Joe Biden Has Cured Democrats of Their Belief in a Savior President/Joe does NOT have this without everyone else’s help" (Slate).

How will courts operate in this time of social distancing?

Consider the example Wisconsin is setting (reported in the Wisconsin State Journal):
Under an order signed Thursday by [Dane County] Circuit Judge Valerie Bailey-Rihn, judges will hold more hearings by telephone or video conference, or will postpone them entirely, to reduce the potential for exposure to the virus...

"I’ve been arguing that philosophers don’t need to believe in their arguments in order to make them. But what they do need to believe in is..."

"... the project of philosophical inquiry itself. A philosopher might offer up her argument in the absence of conviction but in the hopes of furthering the philosophical discussion around it. This is very different from someone who offers up a controversial claim in order to stir the pot of internet discourse, or enrage his opponents. While belief in one’s position can be laudable, it’s not the only laudable motive for doing philosophy. One can aim at truth even while reserving judgment on whether one has hit it this time."

Writes philosophy professor Alexandra Plakias in "Let People Change Their Minds" (OUPblog).

This got me thinking about an essay in The Atlantic that I was just reading: "Cool It, Krugman/The self-sabotaging rage of the New York Times columnist" by Sebastian Mallaby:
In [a 1993 essay], Krugman reflects on his approach to academic research and emphasizes his facility with simple mathematical models that necessarily incorporated “obviously unrealistic assumptions.” For example, his work on trade theory, which helped win him the Nobel Prize, assumed countries of precisely equal economic size. “Why, people will ask, should they be interested in a model with such silly assumptions?” Krugman writes. The answer, as he tells us, is that minimalism yielded insight. His contribution to economics, in his own estimation, was “ridiculous simplicity.”

"Mid-morning and still no new Althouse post. I'm beginning to feel isolated."

Said Sebastian at 8:52 a.m. in last night's café... which was just as I was finally getting around to working up a post — published, below, at 8:58.

It wasn't just a matter of needing to get out to see the moon refuse to set...


It was also the news itself. I was reading around in my usual manner and not finding anything suitable (not until that one thing you see below). There's a great deal about the coronavirus, but I'm not just doing news updates here, I don't repeat things I've already done, and there's the ineffable feeling of blogginess, without which I won't blog. Please consider the absence of posts in that light.

Sebastian's comment struck me, because it's either sad or funny. We are taking on isolation, and, in fact, one of the articles I read this morning and rejected as non-bloggable was something about how going on line and engaging with social media would not work in the context of isolation taken on in response to coronavirus. It felt concocted out of old material about how social media isn't a good enough substitute for in-the-flesh relationships. Just add coronavirus, and you've got another coronavirus article. I'm not a vector for that.

Anyway, good morning.

"When I happen upon almost any image from one of the 'Simpsons' Instagram [accounts that post single frames from the show], I am struck by how absolutely visually gorgeous it is."

"This is, perhaps, especially true when it comes to @scenic_simpsons, with its visions of a violet car, its headlights on, cruising in a darkened parking lot full of silent vehicles; or an abstract thicket of trees, their tops as dense and foreboding as storm clouds; or a digital clock on a bedside table, its face glowing 7:59, next to an orange phone. Though they come to us via our hubbub-filled Instagram feeds, these stand-alone pictures are as quietly stunning as any made by our greatest American artists of alienation and loneliness, from Edward Hopper to Arthur Dove."

From "The Aesthetic Splendor of 'The Simpsons'" by Naomi Fry (in The New Yorker).

March 12, 2020

At the Sunrise Café...


... tell us something you think. And be patient. In search of calm, we're using more moderation.

“I did a shopping trip yesterday and thought I was all set. Then I made the mistake of checking the news and seeing lines of people in supermarkets, and paranoia got the best of me. So, here I am again.”

Said a middle-aged woman quoted in “‘It’s hell in there:’ NYC food stores mobbed amid coronavirus fears" (NY Post).

If you're that worried, why aren't you worried about crowding into a store?

Biden's Covid-19 plan.


"Major League Baseball will suspend all operations and likely delay the start of the 2020 season due to the coronavirus outbreak..."

Sports Illustrated reports.

I have tickets to the Ring cycle at the Chicago Lyric Opera next month:
Wagner’s Ring cycle is one of the greatest achievements in Western culture and an immersive adventure that every opera lover should experience. Lyric is proud to present a brand-new Ring in April 2020 — a rare and monumental undertaking that will attract audiences from all over the world to the city of Chicago.
I've already accepted that I can't go, but I wonder when (if?) it will be canceled (postponed?). I don't think the audiences "from all over the world" can make it.

Your blogger at sunrise.

Photo of me by Meade:


And, thanks to Meade, I got to pose, unaware, in a panorama along with the sun and the moon (click and click again to enlarge):


"How could the president's address to the nation include so many false statements about the issue that's been gripping the country and the world?"

My son John asks (on his blog).

"A senior Brazilian government official who visited Mar-a-Lago days ago, and was in close proximity to President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, has tested positive for the new coronavirus..."

The NYT reports, relying on "several Brazilian news outlets."

"I have my sister in bed, dead, I don’t know what to do. I cannot give her the honor she deserves because the institutions have abandoned me. I contacted everyone, but nobody was able to give me an answer."

Said Luca Franzese, an Italian actor and mixed martial arts trainer, after more than 36 hours of trying to find a funeral home to take care of the decomposing body — quoted in "‘Italy has abandoned us’: People are being trapped at home with their loved ones’ bodies amid coronavirus lockdown" (WaPo).

Franzese spoke on a video posted on Facebook that has over 9 million views, and the attention did work to get a funeral home to come collect the body.
Yet another disturbing scenario played out this week when a woman was quarantined alongside the body of her dead husband. Giancarlo Canepa, the mayor of Borghetto Santo Spirito in northern Italy, told CNN that the man died at 2 a.m. Monday, but that nobody would be allowed to remove his body until Wednesday morning....

The man, who has not been publicly identified, tested positive for coronavirus before he died, but refused to be taken to the hospital, Canepa told CNN. After he passed away, quarantine measures prevented anyone from entering the house and collecting his body.

The decision prompted an uproar, with neighbors telling television news station that it was painful to know that the grieving widow was alone with her deceased husband’s body. The woman had been standing on her balcony and crying for help, they said, and the man’s relatives were desperately pleading for someone to interfere....

"Lately I've been having a craving for grilled cheese, then I noticed my calendar and it all made sense."

A "confusing perspective" photo at Reddit.

Gray expanse with red dot.


"The devil has two strategies: the seduction of worldly promises... self-realization, careerism, and worldly success...."

"... and when this fails... there is humiliation, there is rage.... His pride is so great that he enjoys destroying with rage.... May the Lord give us the grace to be able to recognize that spirit that wants to destroy us with fury and when that same spirit wants to console us with worldly appearances, with vanity.... May the Lord give us the grace to discern the path of the Lord, which is the cross, from the path of the world, which is vanity, appearances, window-dressing."

Said the Pope, in Rome, where the coronavirus rages, though this homily seems to speak to people who are enjoying good times — self-realization, careerism, worldly success, vanity, appearances, window-dressing. But that gives it special effect: Those things you used to enjoy were never good for you, and if you are forced to relinquish them, well, you ought to have given them up on your own.

I don't know if the Pope connected these thoughts to the coronavirus, but I note that the word "quarantine" originally referred to the 40 days Jesus spent in the desert tempted by the devil. There was a temptation to worldly success:
Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”
So, when you are in your quarantine, you may long for all the vanity, appearances, window-dressing you have given up. The response from Jesus was:
"Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.'"

Sunrise, 7:20.


Actual sunrise time: 7:15.

The naturalistic moments before and after the President's speech. Laugh, if you like. I find it oddly comforting — reality, humanity.



"One of the ironies of the moment is that, where it’s been the usual path, in modern times, to find small, incremental measures having big effects..."

"... on public problems, in this case, big, seemingly outsize measures—cancelling public activities, closing schools and offices—are necessary to create the small changes in vectors that can at least manage the pandemic. This novelty perhaps explains why it is so hard to wrap our minds around the changes: it turns out that it is possible for something to be at once a huge public-health crisis while creating, so far, a minimal number of visible, obvious cases of illness. The sane thing right now is not to hope for a miracle cure but to accept that maximal measures might have usefully minimal effects."

From "The Coronavirus, and Why Humans Feel a Need to Moralize Epidemics" by Adam Gopnik (in The New Yorker).

"[W]hen Hurricane Irene devastated my state, Vermont, in 2011, people turned out within hours, bringing tools from backhoes to brooms."

"They mucked out basements and rebuilt driveways, and they kept coming back for weeks, until the job was done. They did it for strangers, mostly—although they didn’t remain strangers for long. But, with coronavirus, none of that is possible. There’s little way to be of use except to disappear inside your home, so that you can’t infect anyone. Indeed, even the places we gather for solace are increasingly off limits. Churches.... Schools....  sports...  We should use the quiet of these suddenly uncrowded days to think a little about how much we’ve allowed social isolation to grow in our society, even without illness as an excuse.... If we pay attention, we may value more fully the moment we’re released from our detention, and we may even make some changes in our lives as a result. It will be a relief, above all, when we’re allowed to get back to caring for one another, which is what socially evolved primates do best."

From "With the Coronavirus, Hell Is No Other People" by Bill McKibben (in The New Yorker).

There is the forced isolation of social distancing, and there is the isolation we choose for ourselves. During the forced isolation, we can reflect on the good and the bad of our chosen isolation. I don't agree with the implication that because we are "socially evolved primates," the meaning of life is to socialize. There is great value in solitude and in life within marriage and within a family. But this is a time to reflect on what really matters, and in addition to the trouble and pain, we may experience deeper benefits.

As we protect ourselves and others through this isolation, we should be thinking about how we can help. We can't help but going about ministering to others. And we need to help by doing what we can to avoid being among those who need medical care or cause anyone else to need medical care. Don't be part of the physical problem. But we can also help by using this time not to agonize and stir each other up but to preserve and refine our mind and our soul.

March 11, 2020

At the Wednesday Night Café...

... you can talk all night.

"To lessen the risk to our community as much as possible, UW-Madison will suspend Spring Semester face-to-face instruction effective Monday, March 23..."

"... the date that classes would typically resume after next week’s Spring Break. Alternate delivery of classes will begin on March 23 and continue at least through Friday, April 10.... Residents [of dorms] are being asked to take essential belongings, academic materials, laptops and medications with them for Spring Break and not return to residence halls following Spring Break through at least April 10. We hope that students will return to their permanent residence and complete their coursework remotely.... We recognize that some students may be unable to return to their permanent residence for various reasons and will need to stay in their residence halls.... Residence halls will remain available to these students where necessary, but we expect the majority of dorm residents to return home, leaving the residence halls much emptier and making it easier for remaining students to maintain social distance."

The University of Wisconsin announces this morning.

Forbes regrets any inconvenience when I click on the headline in its "popular" list, "Does Joe Biden Have Dementia? Does It Matter?"

The link on the front page takes me here:

I wasn't able to recover that as a Google cache or using the "Wayback Machine."

Poking around, I did find this from 2 days ago, written by Ted Rall, "Joe Biden Obviously Has Dementia and Should Withdraw":
You Democrats ought to be ashamed of yourselves. You spent the last four years criticizing Donald Trump in no small part for his mental state, and rightly so.... Trump is not merely a jerk. Psychologists have been so alarmed that they have violated a core ethical principle of their profession by attempting to diagnose him at a remove....

Now Democrats are conspiring to gaslight the American people by engineering the presidential election of a man clearly suffering from dementia, Joe Biden. This is no time to be “polite.” We are talking about the presidency.... Contrary to current ridiculous Democratic talking points, it is not ageist to point this out.....

Harvey Weinstein gets 23 years.

Hollywood Reporter reports.
Before his sentencing, Weinstein — who opted not to testify during his New York sexual assault trial — addressed the judge. Speaking, in a low voice, of the women who have accused him of misconduct, he said, "I have great remorse for all of you. I have great remorse for all women.... I really feel remorse for this situation. I feel it deeply in my heart."

Lead prosecutor Joan Illuzzi had asked Judge Burke to sentence Weinstein to "the maximum or near the maximum" years in prison, which could have been up to 29 years....

"Four years ago, Bernie Sanders put up a surprisingly strong fight against Hillary Clinton on the strength of his support among white working-class voters..."

"... who proceeded to desert Clinton in November... [T]he left quickly [concluded that]... the Democrats had failed to offer the kind of progressive radical alternative Sanders stood for, voters instead opted for Trump’s reactionary attack on globalism. In order to win them back and defeat Trump, Democrats needed to reorganize themselves as a radical populist party.... The second Sanders campaign has shown conclusively how badly the left misunderstood the electorate.... White working-class and rural voters have swung heavily against him.... The factor that actually explains 2016, as some of us chagrined liberals insisted at the time, was Hillary Clinton’s idiosyncratic personal unpopularity. It turned out large portions of the public, even of the Democratic electorate, simply detested her.... Clinton hatred allowed Sanders to draw more than 40 percent of the primary vote, and Clinton hatred allowed Donald Trump to narrowly win...."

From "Bernie’s Whole Campaign Was Based On a Misreading of the 2016 Election" by Jonathan Chait (NY Magazine).

"The tricky thing is that social distancing works best when done preventatively, before things get really bad..."

"... says [Lori Uscher-Pines, a senior health-policy researcher at the RAND Corporation]. But there are downsides, too — canceled events mean lost money (and sometimes lost jobs), and self-isolation can be hard on one’s mental health. For that reason, says Uscher-Pines, many public-health officials find it challenging to decide when to instate social-distancing regulations.... 'If you are personally concerned about COVID-19, you should try to limit your contact and exposure to crowded places, and try to maintain a distance of three to six feet [from other people],' she says.... Err on the side of a liberal interpretation, when possible — for instance, if (and when) schools close, keep kids away from their classmates outside the school building too. 'A big concern with something like school closure is that school will be closed, but then kids will mix on their own outside of school, and that kind of defeats the purpose,' she adds."

From "What Does ‘Social Distancing’ Really Mean?" (New York Magazine).

ADDED: The term "social distancing" is not familiar enough for me to feel comfortable using it in explaining why I'm not doing something. When I wrote an email to cancel an appointment just now, I referred to what I'm doing as "taking a 'social distancing' approach," and I thought that sounded rude and changed it to "taking a 'self-isolating' approach." That's more I'm doing this to myself and less I'm doing this to you.

Cruelly neutralized.

"For months, as part of a research project into the flu, [Dr. Helen Y. Chu] and a team of researchers had been collecting nasal swabs from residents experiencing symptoms throughout the Puget Sound region."

"To repurpose the tests for monitoring the coronavirus, they would need the support of state and federal officials. But nearly everywhere Dr. Chu turned, officials repeatedly rejected the idea, interviews and emails show, even as weeks crawled by and outbreaks emerged in countries outside of China, where the infection began. By Feb. 25, Dr. Chu and her colleagues could not bear to wait any longer. They began performing coronavirus tests, without government approval. What came back confirmed their worst fear. They quickly had a positive test from a local teenager with no recent travel history. The coronavirus had already established itself on American soil without anybody realizing it. 'It must have been here this entire time,' Dr. Chu recalled thinking with dread. 'It’s just everywhere already.'... Federal and state officials said the flu study could not be repurposed because it did not have explicit permission from research subjects; the labs were also not certified for clinical work. While acknowledging the ethical questions, Dr. Chu and others argued there should be more flexibility in an emergency during which so many lives could be lost. On Monday night, state regulators told them to stop testing altogether...."

From "'It’s Just Everywhere Already': How Delays in Testing Set Back the U.S. Coronavirus Response/A series of missed chances by the federal government to ensure more widespread testing came during the early days of the outbreak, when containment would have been easier" (NYT).

Coronavirus makes medical ethics look like red tape.

I found that article as I was looking for something about the true number of coronavirus cases in the U.S. I see that, right now, there have been 1,039 cases confirmed in the United States, but, as the linked article makes clear, the testing for the virus has been quite limited.

"[T]he president was able to take quick action to limit the number of people coming in from China that had exposure to coronavirus, but the No Ban Act would make it more difficult..."

"... for the president to keep Americans safe by addressing needs as we see other countries like Iran — you're seeing a large, potential large outbreak in Iran — Iran is one of those countries that we currently have a travel ban on because they don't allow us to properly vet that terrorists aren't coming into our country.... The president ought to be able to keep potential terrorists from coming into our country, but now with this outbreak of coronavirus, the president also needs to have all the tools available to limit, people coming in from countries with a high propensity of coronavirus... You wouldn't want legislation that would make it more difficult.”

Said Steve Scalise, quoted in "GOP leaders call on Pelosi to pull travel ban bill over coronavirus" (The Hill).

Trump endorses Tommy Tuberville — Tommy Tuberville, the opponent to Jeff Sessions in the Alabama Senate race.

IN THE COMMENTS: Larry J says: "I know some who say Tuberville's home address is in Florida, not Alabama. That wouldn't be a problem in New York where they have a history of electing people from out of state (Bobby Kennedy and Hillary Clinton) but it could be an issue here."

Interesting! I found this:

"If we erase the line, will he attack me?"

Please feel free to use this as a metaphor:

"What should Biden do now? (To me, it's obvious!)"

"I think he should get out now, not skew the voting any longer. He's not going to make it, and he doesn't deserve to make it. He's been the Jeb of the 2020 Democratic race, standing in the way of others but unable to succeed himself. He should bow out now, which will look gracious. It won't look gracious later, after 2 or more weeks of clinging to lost hope. He can endorse Pete or Amy and give one of them a boost now, when it will really count. But then, if what he secretly wants is to help Bloomberg, he should just cling to his horrible campaign and keep telling us it's all about South Carolina...."

I wrote on February 12th — less than a month ago — reacting to "The spectacular collapse of Joe Biden as Democratic frontrunner," a NY Post headline after Biden came in 5th in New Hampshire.

What an incredibly strange turnaround! Was it because he was in fact right that "it's all about South Carolina"? Was it that Bloomberg's strategy was so disruptive and distracting that it let Bernie Sanders slip to the front and that caused a panic and a stampede toward Biden?

My words from February 12th are not that ridiculous: "He's not going to make it, and he doesn't deserve to make it... He's... standing in the way of others but unable to succeed himself." That's still true as it relates to the general election. And "He's the Jeb" in the sense that Jeb would — in all likelihood — have gone on to lose to Hillary Clinton (and I think Biden will lose to Trump).

It bothers me — I won't say "amazes me" — that we Americans put so much time and effort into selecting major-party candidates for President and we end up with such a wearisomely inadequate, bland old politician, the very person who would have been selected if, without all this fuss, the party had just given the nod to the next person in line. It's so dispiriting that it's come to this!

ADDED: "You got a choice between Sleepy Joe and Crazy Bernie," said Trump, in early May of last year, prompting me to say: "There are a lot of Democratic candidates but they're all pathetic. It's the choice of no choice — 'a choice between Sleepy Joe and Crazy Bernie.'"

And here is Trump last April:

March 10, 2020

At the Sunrise Café...


... you can talk about anything you want... even the primaries that happened today, which I thought were too boring to put up a separate post. I mean, Biden won. You knew that would happen.


Joe Biden, the tough guy, mixing it up with the hard hats.

My biggest criticism? He's not taking coronavirus seriously! They're right up in each other's faces.

"Lee Boyd Malvo, half of a two-man sniper team which terrorized the Washington region and killed 10 people in October 2002, was married in a ceremony at Red Onion State Prison..."

"... in Virginia this month.... Malvo, who was 17 when he committed the crimes, was arrested with John Allen Muhammad, and ultimately convicted of two murders in Virginia and six murders in Maryland. He was given life sentences without parole in all eight cases. Virginia recently changed its rules to consider parole for juvenile offenders after they have served 20 years, but if Malvo, now 35, were paroled from Virginia, he would then have to begin serving his Maryland sentences. Carmeta Albarus, who helped Malvo’s defense team in 2003 break the psychological grip Muhammad had exerted over the teenager, said Tuesday that she was a witness to the marriage. 'I was honored to be there,' Albarus said. 'It was a beautiful occasion, given the circumstances of where it took place... She’s an absolutely wonderful individual.... I believe the institution was very accommodating'...."

WaPo reports.

Sandhill cranes take flight.

This morning at dawn, on Lake Mendota.

That was at 7:28, at the beginning of the sunrise run. About 20 minutes later, they were lingering by the parking lot, as if to request another photo session, in brighter lighting:


"More Americans approve of the job congressional Republicans are doing than of congressional Democrats' performance — 40% vs. 35%."

"The rating for Republicans in Congress has risen six percentage points since late October, before the impeachment of President Donald Trump in the U.S. House of Representatives. Over the same period, congressional Democrats' approval rating has edged down three points and disapproval has climbed five points, from 57% to 62%."

Gallup reports.

"Cancel Everything/Social distancing is the only way to stop the coronavirus. We must start immediately."

Writes Yascha Mounk (in The Atlantic). He offers "three crucial facts" that show it's wrong to tell people to "stay calm." The right answer is: Change "our behavior in radical ways—right now."

1. The cases are increasing exponentially. For example: "Italy had 62 identified cases of COVID-19 on the 22nd of February. It had 888 cases by the 29th of February, and 4,636 by the 6th of March."

2. It's "deadlier than the flu, to which the honestly ill-informed and the wantonly irresponsible insist on comparing it." We can't calculate exactly how deadly, but "the news from Italy, another country with a highly developed medical system, has so far been shockingly bad... suggest[ing] a case fatality rate of 5 percent—significantly higher, not lower, than in China."

3. Only "extreme social distancing" has been effective. It worked in China. "This suggests that anyone in a position of power or authority, instead of downplaying the dangers of the coronavirus, should ask people to stay away from public places, cancel big gatherings, and restrict most forms of nonessential travel.... Do you head a sports team? Play your games in front of an empty stadium. Are you organizing a conference? Postpone it until the fall. Do you run a business? Tell your employees to work from home. Are you the principal of a school or the president of a university? Move classes online before your students get sick and infect their frail relatives. Are you running a presidential campaign? Cancel all rallies right now."

In my household, we have radically changed our behavior. There's something I'm letting go that I've looked forward to for almost a year. It was a chance-of-a-lifetime experience on the highest level, and I have significant sunk costs. But I'm being rational and not agonizing about it or bullshitting some special rules for me that could make it okay to go ahead and do my special thing. I know it's way harder for most other people to embrace a lifestyle of social distancing, but I think these personal excuses and justifications amount to nothing when you're talking about participating in the exponential spread of a disease that could kill millions.

Don't be part of the problem. Control yourself.

"Singapore, which has been heralded for its response to Covid-19, decided that closing schools would do more harm than good."

"Political leaders and health officials there have addressed concerns about Covid-19 through clear, consistent and transparent communications about their response to the virus. If schools remain open, officials could enact measures to limit any potential spread among children and staff. All students could be checked daily for fever, a possible sign of Covid-19 infection. Even more attention should be given to hand washing and reminding children not to touch their faces. Children should be taught to sneeze into their sleeves. Schools can consider changing seating arrangements to keep children six feet apart.... Nonetheless, government officials may feel pressure to close schools. For true effectiveness... [c]hildren couldn’t gather in other settings, which would be very difficult to enforce. If schools close, child care programs will likely close too and working parents may have to stay home to watch their children. Health care and critical infrastructure workers would not be able to do their jobs for the same reason...."

Writes Jennifer Nuzzo, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, in NYT.

Are classrooms big enough to put all the children 6 feet away from any other child? That strikes me as absurd, but the main message I'm seeing from this column is that schools are better than families at keeping an eye on children and controlling them. And also schools are childcare facilities, and if they shut down, vast numbers of adults won't be able to go to work, and that will have a terrible effect not just on the economy but on the provision of health care services.

"But there’s more to the story of Harris’s endorsement. Yes, she genuinely likes Biden."

"The endorsement was real. 'I really do believe in Joe,' Harris told me. But coming days after the California primary, the timing of Harris’s announcement struck me as curious. ... I asked her about it. 'I had two women colleagues in the race, and I did not feel right putting my thumb on the scale [that] in any way would harm their candidacy,' Harris said, referring to Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.). Both ended their campaigns last week. 'So, when Elizabeth announced that she was getting out of the race, I let Joe know that I would endorse him.... Elizabeth and I have a very special relationship'...."

Writes Jonathan Capeheart in the Washington Post.

IN THE COMMENTS: rehajm said: "Does she know Tulsi Gabbard is still in the race? Not a friend?"

To be fair, we are all forgetting about Tulsi. And Tulsi isn't a Senator. I think Kamala meant women of my rank when she said "I had two women colleagues in the race." Senators are not "colleagues" of the folk in the lower house. The OED gives the etymology:
< French collègue, < Latin collēga , one chosen along with another, a partner in office, etc.; < col- together + legĕre to choose, etc.
The OED points me to "The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by Edward Gibbon, and I wanted to give you the full passage, because it's about separation of powers in government:

"'Protect Alex Trebek at all costs': Live audiences banished from 'Jeopardy!' and 'Wheel of Fortune' tapings amid coronavirus fears."

WaPo reports.
The cautious approach may protect audience members as well as the hosts and announcers, some of whom belong to high-risk populations that have been issued special precautions by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Jeopardy!” announcer Gilbert and “Wheel of Fortune” hosts Pat Sajak and Vanna White are all older than 60, which the CDC says puts them at “higher risk of getting very sick from covid-19.”

Trebek, the 79-year-old host of “Jeopardy!,” is doubly vulnerable because of his age and his recent cancer treatments. Since being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer last year, he has been undergoing chemotherapy, which can compromise the immune system.

Fans’ love for the “Jeopardy!” staples was obvious Monday, when many reacted to the news by cheering the producers’ decision to limit exposure to the public on the show’s set. “Protect Alex Trebek at all costs” became a common refrain on social media....

Morning story.





"It’s only when the tide goes out that you learn who’s been swimming naked."

Said Warren Buffet, quoted in "It’s a ‘Swimming Naked’ Moment: The Financial System Has a Real Test/The coronavirus spread and its economic effects are stressing the U.S. system for the first time since the 2008 financial crisis" by James B. Stewart (in the NYT).

March 9, 2020

At the Ice Break Café...


... you can talk about whatever you want.


"Biden... was put on the ticket to balance the ticket, not to enhance it. Barack was against the Iraq War, he was for the Iraq War. Barack was against the crime bill, he was for the crime bill."

Said Jesse Jackson, endorsing Bernie Sanders (Real Clear Politics).

"I have this odd admiration for Evangelical voters. The pretty much sold out their ideals concerning personal morality..."

"... and supported Trump all the way. In return they received Supreme Courts justices they like, a rollback of LGBT rights, a wide expansion of government support for religion, etc.. It was a deal with the devil but for now it is paying big dividends for them. Most of the progressives I know would be horrified by such a 'sellout.' Over at The Nation all sorts of progressives are saying they will sit out the election rather than vote for Biden. Their personal moral purity counts more than winning. It is the same thing that cost Clinton in 2016. It is my biggest worry about 2020."

That's the highest-rated comment (by far) on a NYT column by David Leonhardt, "The Simple Reason the Left Won’t Stop Losing/Progressives need to care more about winning."

"This is a unique position to be in, a unique and very humbling position. I want to be an ambassador of hope."

Said Adam Castillejo, quoted in "The ‘London Patient,’ Cured of H.I.V., Reveals His Identity" (DNYUZ).
Last March, scientists announced that Mr. Castillejo, then identified only as the “London Patient,” had been cured of H.I.V. after receiving a bone-marrow transplant for his lymphoma. The donor carried a mutation that impeded the ability of H.I.V. to enter cells, so the transplant essentially replaced Mr. Castillejo’s immune system with one resistant to the virus. The approach, though effective in his case, was intended to cure his cancer and is not a practical option for the widespread curing of H.I.V. because of the risks involved.

"It’s been a spiritual exercise in letting go. You paid for season ticket on the subway, now you realize..."

"... subway travel is the surest way of getting the disease. You have a subscription to the gym, the gym is closed. So is the cinema. Your tickets for concerts and football games are useless. Your children can’t go to school. Or university. Even mass is canceled.... Two weeks ago, when the first restrictions came in — banning all kinds of gatherings and closing pubs, though not actually restricting our movement — we were sure they’d overdone it. A cafe owner in downtown Milan told me angrily that one of the best weeks of the year had been blown: carnival, Fashion Week. Hoteliers complained of 90 percent cancellations. Then we saw the number of infections shoot up.... But inevitably the virus is bringing a new awareness that we all share the same physical space, Milan, Italy. We really live here, and we sink or swim together... I sense a new spirit of unity. The fallout for the economy will be huge. But paradoxically the government is very likely to be strengthened.... One suspects that when, God willing, the emergency is over, there will be those who will not want to relinquish this newfound power and the sense of identity and responsibility it brings."

From "This Is Life Under Lockdown in Italy/Your tickets for concerts and football games are useless. Your children can’t go to school. Even mass is canceled" by Tim Parks (NYT).

"The coronavirus is putting remote work to a gigantic test, and at a totally unprecedented scale."

"Throughout China, Italy, Japan and South Korea, workers have been on lockdown. Last week, the same happened in Seattle. Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft and Google all told employees there to remain home.... In fact, remote work isn't always possible. Fewer than half could do so at least some of the time, according to one Gallup survey. Hourly workers don't get paid if they don't work, and those in retail, manufacturing, or health care usually must be physically present to work.... 'I don't believe people are as productive at home'...."

From "Laundry Between Emails: Working From Home Goes Viral In The Time Of Coronavirus" (NPR).

"A comprehensive new study from two law students at Yale shows that routinely granting argument time to the solicitor general is a recent and curious phenomenon."

"The study asks the provocative question of whether giving the solicitor general this preferred position makes any sense. 'What we’re asking for is really for the court just to apply the same standard to all amici, whether they’re from the solicitor general’s office or not,' said Darcy Covert, who conducted the study with A.J. Wang. 'In cases where the connection to the federal government is particularly tenuous and the motivation for the solicitor general entering the case may be ideological, in those cases he certainly shouldn’t be getting oral arguments.'... Starting in 1988, though, the office’s success rate started to rise, reaching almost 100 percent. From the beginning of the term that started in 2010 through the end of the one that began in 2017, the court granted just eight of 26 motions for argument time from amici other than the solicitor general, the study found. During that same time, the court granted 252 of 253 such motions from the solicitor general."

From "The Supreme Court Has a Special ‘Friend’: The Justice Department/A new study questions the court’s practice of automatically granting argument time to the solicitor general as a 'friend of the court'" by Adam Liptak (NYT).

ADDED: The occasion for paying attention to this topic seems to be the Solicitor General's argument in an abortion case last week. The NYT article begins with a statement about that case — there were 70 amici who submitted briefs in that case but only the Solicitor General got to make an oral argument to the Justices (who may delegate reading these non-party briefs to their law clerks). Later, the article notes that the federal interest in this case about the constitutionality of a state law is "not obvious." The SG only offered to provide "the federal perspective":
The motion noted that the solicitor general’s office had taken part in arguments at the last big abortion case, during the Obama administration in 2016, but it neglected to say that it had supported abortion rights in that case. In last week’s argument, Jeffrey B. Wall, a deputy solicitor general, argued in favor of a state law restricting abortions. If he was offering “the federal perspective,” that perspective had shifted with a change in administrations.
And, I suspect, the NYT perspective on routinely granting the SG oral argument time has also shifted.

It seems to me that it's much better to routinely grant the SG's request than to base the decision on which side the SG supports.

Death comes for Max von Sydow.

The great Swedish actor was 90. From the NYT obituary:
Carl Adolf von Sydow was born on April 10, 1929, in Lund, in southern Sweden.... He was said to have adopted the name Max from the star performer in a flea circus he saw while serving in the Swedish Quartermaster Corps....

For all his connection to the land of his birth and of Bergman, Sweden became distant to Mr. von Sydow.... "I have nowhere really to call home... I feel I have lost my Swedish roots. It’s funny because I’ve been working in so many places that now I feel at home in many locations. But Sweden is the only place I feel less and less at home."
Did he really name himself after a flea?! From a 2012 interview (in The Guardian):
Is it true he named himself after a flea? "Ha ha ha!" booms Von Sydow, his laugh filling the room. "Yes! Ha ha ha! During my military service, I performed a sketch in which I played a flea called Max. So when critics kept misspelling my name, I decided to change it and thought, 'Ah! Max!'"
Ah, so it was not an actual flea "in a flea circus he saw," as the New York Times put it. He himself was in a show playing a character that happened to be a flea.

A flea circus is a show on a tiny stage that has real fleas performing (or tiny imitation fleas):
The first records of flea performances were from watchmakers who were demonstrating their metalworking skills. In 1578, Mark Scaliot produced a lock and chain that were attached to a flea. The first recorded flea circus dates back to the early 1820s, when an Italian impresario called Louis Bertolotto advertised an “extraordinary exhibition of industrious fleas” on Regent Street, London. Some flea circuses persisted in very small venues in the United States as late as the 1960s....
Here's Charlie Chaplin with his flea circus in one of my all-time favorite movies — "Limelight" (which I'll put up as a meditation on death alongside "The Seventh Seal," so please make that your double feature):

"Trump is going to try dampening black voter enthusiasm for Biden by contrasting the two men’s criminal justice records."

"The framing will be simple: Trump signed a bipartisan criminal-legal reform bill, the First Step Act, and has been generous with his pardon powers toward unjustly imprisoned black people, like Alice Marie Johnson.... ...Trump’s status as a self-styled reformer is laughable, [but] Biden’s record is grotesque. Most of its lowlights occurred in the 'tough on crime' 1980s and 1990s... [when] he viciously characterized people who commit crimes as sociopathic 'predators' who are beyond rehabilitation. He cast then-President Bush’s escalation of the War on Drugs as lacking 'enough police officers to catch the violent thugs, enough prosecutors to convict them, enough judges to sentence them, or enough prison cells to put them away for a long time.' He authored the 1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act [that]... expanded the death penalty, eliminated education funding for imprisoned students, created harsher sentencing guidelines for a wide range of crimes, and increased funding for local police departments and corrections departments....  Perhaps more than any other official of the era, he embodied the Democratic impulse to outflank Republicans from the right by locking more people in jails and prisons. He helped catalyze the most dramatic expansion of the carceral state in the history of the country with the highest incarceration rate in the world. He said he was 'not at all' ashamed of his involvement as recently as 2016...."

From "On Criminal Justice, Biden Has No Moral Standing Over Trump" by Zak Cheney-Rice (New York Magazine).

... the most dramatic expansion of the carceral state in the history of the country... — I don't think I'd ever seen the word "carceral" before — "the most dramatic expansion of the carceral state in the history of the country." But it's a word that the OED traces back to the 1500s. It means what you can easily see it means — relating to prisons. Nabokov used it in "Invitation to a Beheading" (1960), describing the opening of a prison door: "... suddenly the key scraped in the lock and the door opened, whining, rattling and groaning in keeping with all the rules of carceral counterpoint." That is, opening the prison door sounded exactly like opening a prison door.

ADDED: This magazine essay is larded with assurances that Trump is awful on criminal justice too, so it's only that Biden will have trouble gaining an advantage here. Biden can't get "moral standing over Trump," but why doesn't Trump have moral standing over Biden?

March 8, 2020

At the Sunrise Café...


... you can talk about whatever you want.

"Several Madison alders are sponsoring the resolution creating the LGBTQ+ Rainbow Murals and Crossings Art Pilot Program, which would install LGBTQ+ inclusive rainbow flag markings..."

"... at pedestrian crossings on the Capital City Trail and near the Capitol Square.... 'It would be a reminder to residents who see it that the LGBTQ community is an important part of the fabric of Madison, especially given that we have a lesbian mayor and many other queer people in positions of power'" (Capital Times).

Why should the street be painted to remind us of who's in a position of power? I would not paint anything political on the street. Let the street be a street. It doesn't need to talk to us, especially not to nudge us about what we should believe or value.

"By using public money to protect California homes from climate change, the state is transferring wealth from working-class people of color to white property owners."

"We shouldn't have to pay for Jack Dorsey's $40m estate when it crumbles into the sea" by Adrian Daub (in The Guardian).

Sunrise — 7:12 a.m.

March 8, 2020 sunrise 2

The actual sunrise time today was 7:22. The 2 other sunrise photos — 1, 2 — I've put up this morning — much oranger, less pink — were done at 7:27. Here's a longer view of the sky at 7:12:


Today's was one of the best sunrises I've seen in my 6 months of sunrise. It was excellent through a 20-minute period during which it changed a lot. If there's a good level of cloud cover — this was, I think, about 34% — then be there 15 minutes before the actual sunrise time or you'll miss the prettiest part. Today's sunrise was special because there was enough cloud cover to make the sun itself photographable after it came into view. That's how I got those pictures 5 minutes after the actual sunrise time. It was the longest window of opportunity I've seen so far.

I also discovered a new trick for photographing the sunrise on an iPhone. To keep the sun from blowing out the picture, touch the sun on the screen and it will reset the lighting.

"A few months before he died, in 2018, [Philip] Roth told me in an interview that he never intended his book as a political allegory. But by then, with the Trump administration in full swing..."

"... he agreed that the parallels between the world he invented and what was happening in contemporary America were hard to ignore: a demagogic president who openly expresses admiration for a foreign dictator; a surge of right-wing nationalism and isolationism; polarization; false narratives; xenophobia and the demonization of others."

From "‘The Plot Against America’ Imagines the Rise of an Intolerant Demagogue/David Simon has translated Philip Roth’s 2004 alternate history novel into an HBO mini-series, Simon’s first literary adaptation" by Charles McGrath (NYT).

From McGrath's 2018 interview with Roth:
ROTH: However prescient “The Plot Against America” might seem to you, there is surely one enormous difference between the political circumstances I invent there for the U.S. in 1940 and the political calamity that dismays us so today. It’s the difference in stature between a President Lindbergh and a President Trump. Charles Lindbergh, in life as in my novel, may have been a genuine racist and an anti-Semite and a white supremacist sympathetic to Fascism, but he was also — because of the extraordinary feat of his solo trans-Atlantic flight at the age of 25 — an authentic American hero 13 years before I have him winning the presidency. Lindbergh, historically, was the courageous young pilot who in 1927, for the first time, flew nonstop across the Atlantic, from Long Island to Paris. He did it in 33.5 hours in a single-seat, single-engine monoplane, thus making him a kind of 20th-century Leif Ericson, an aeronautical Magellan, one of the earliest beacons of the age of aviation. Trump, by comparison, is a massive fraud, the evil sum of his deficiencies, devoid of everything but the hollow ideology of a megalomaniac.

"The people from Hopewell Township who crashed on our road sued Cessna for—as I understood the complaint—not making a cockpit of sufficient structure to withstand the forces that injured them."

"I was subpoenaed to testify. There would be a deposition in my office in East Pyne Hall, on the Prince­ton campus. My office was not a boardroom. It sorely lacked space for me, two lawyers, and a court stenographer. We were crowded in there for upward of an hour, and I learned early on that I was meant to testify but not to tell a story. I was bubbling mad. How could anyone even imagine suing Cessna for Cessna’s role in the crash? As the court stenographer tapped along, I tried to say as much, but was quieted by the lawyers as my words were inserted edgewise. This seemed to be a story to tell, to investigate, to amplify, to enrich with detail about flight rules, liability law, aircraft design, women priests, women rabbis, and varying portraits of one subject by sixteen writers, but beyond this brief outline the disparate parts of 'The Airplane That Crashed in the Woods' seemed as resistant to the weaving and telling as they had been with an audience of two lawyers and a court stenographer."

From "Tabula Rasa/Volume One" by John McPhee (in The New Yorker). This is a collection of "saved-up, bypassed, intended pieces of writing as an old-man project, the purpose of which is never to end" — modeled on Mark Twain's "old-man project," his autobiography.

I chose the snippet above because it says something apt about the difference between how writers and lawyers process the raw material of life. But I'm interested in the overarching concept of the "old-man project" (and I, an old woman, am fine with the way old man McPhee didn't bother to include old women in the concept).

From a 2013 New Yorker article about Twain's book:
Its forbidding size and freewheeling structure have puzzled and infuriated generations of researchers who have descended into the archives, hoping to find a finished memoir and instead discovering ten file feet of musings, interspersed with letters and newspaper clippings. Twain insisted that his sprawling memoir not be published until a century after his death, in 1910, so that he could speak freely about everyone and everything. But he couldn’t resist publishing excerpts in the North American Review before he died. And, in the decades since, more has trickled out as editors have waded through Twain’s papers to uncover pieces that they considered worth publishing.
McPhee's idea of the "old-man project" is that it's a way to stay alive, so it's not just long and sprawling. It's impossible to finish. That's the idea. I get it. It's like blogging.

Sunrise... long view.


Amy slips... and it seems she's revealing that she's Biden's VP choice.

So funny... and kind of charming. I hope she is Biden's choice. I think they'll be cute together. What better way than a gaffe to reveal your connection to the gaffe-master?

Via "Klobuchar 'ticket' slip-up at Biden event in Michigan sparks speculation she'll be his VP pick" (Fox News).

AND: Let's see how Joe is doing:

IN THE COMMENTS: Bob Boyd tells the perfect joke: "Biden picked her because her hair smelled like honey mustard."


March 8, 2020 sunrise

Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers vetoed a bill and, when asked about it, couldn't explain why and admitted "You caught me."

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports:
Evers signed more than 60 bills on Tuesday and vetoed two related to games, including one that would have allowed any business with a Class B gambling license to hold raffles using a paddle wheel.

Evers told lawmakers in a veto message Tuesday that the bill could threaten revenue the state receives from casinos owned by the state's tribal nations in exchange for exclusive gaming rights. When a reporter asked him Thursday why he vetoed the legislation, Evers said he would follow up with an answer.

"Could you take us through your thought process on that?" Michael Leischner, a reporter for talk radio station WSAU, asked at a news conference in Wausau following a bill signing ceremony. "We'll get you the information on that," Evers responded. "I signed over 100 bills two days ago and vetoed a handful of other ones — but you caught me."
Why did he have the answer on Tuesday but not on Thursday? I can think of a few reasons: 1. The Tuesday message was a written statement, and on Thursday, he was tasked to find the answer in his own head, 2. The Tuesday message did not represent his "thought process," which is what the reporter on Thursday asked him about, and he didn't remember or didn't want to talk about his actual "thought process," 3. Evers is not truly in charge, not making his own decisions, because why would you say "We'll get you the information on that" — we — when asked about your own thought processes?

We're told that "Evers' staff" have complained about the way the legislature presents him with too many bills at once — Evers is a Democrat and the GOP holds the majority in both houses of the legislature. I guess that makes it harder to veto anything, but Evers vetoed 2 things, and you'd think he'd be able to explain why.

What is a paddle wheel raffle anyway? Surprisingly, it has to do with meat — meat and charities:
In Wisconsin there is a long-standing tradition of using meat raffles to raise money for charity.... “It’s kind of a very Wisconsin sort of a thing,” said state Sen. Andre Jacque (R – De Pere)....

Jacque says paddlewheel raffles, which are often used for meat raffle events, are illegal even under a Class B raffle license which many non-profits use. He says recently the Department of Justice has started enforcing the rule, sending letters to various charities warning they could be prosecuted for up to a Class I felony of fostering illegal gambling -- punishable by up to a $10,000 fine.

“When people find out they’re stunned,” said Jacque. “And I think especially stunned the Department of Justice doesn’t have higher priorities right now than to crack down on our charitable groups that hold meat raffles. So this is something where, you know, Wisconsin is unfortunately discouraging something that we actually advertise through our tourism sites, our community calendars and everything else... So [the veto is] disappointing.”
Jacque criticized Evers for claiming — in his veto message — that the bill "could threaten the exclusive rights of Tribal Nations to conduct Class III gaming in Wisconsin." Jacque said,  "In talking to tribal representatives, tribal leaders, there was no opposition because this doesn’t compete with casino gambling."

So you can see why the reporter wanted to push for Evers to explain his "thought process." Did Evers not understand what he was doing? Maybe he had no "thought process" at all or his thought process would show that he didn't understand the Wisconsin meat raffle tradition.

Anyway, I remember writing about the Wisconsin meat raffle. It was back in 2017, and I only noticed it because I saw a sign in a tavern window.

Isn't it odd that businesses were openly doing something that was a felony under state law? It's easy to imagine their thought process: Because it was done openly and traditionally around the state, people thought that whatever the law was on the books, it wasn't real. Then the state justice department began enforcing, and that motivated the legislature to change the law. But Evers vetoed the bill, perhaps not understanding that it would just preserve the tradition that had gone on even though it was — on the books — a crime.

ADDED: Writing this post, I was thinking of Tony Evers as elderly and perhaps in the kind of mental decline that we're worrying about with Joe Biden. But he's only 68. He was born in 1951, and so was I. I have a difficult time thinking of 68 as a time of mental deficiency. But maybe I have a difficult time because I really am in decline. It's like deciding to go ahead and drive when you've had a few drinks — by the way, that too is a Wisconsin tradition — you're judging whether you're impaired while you're — if you are — impaired.