April 4, 2020

At the Gray Café...


... 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.'"

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:

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...


... 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 1989 (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 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...


... 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.”

Sunrise, 6:43.


"Stay-at-home orders have nearly halted travel for most Americans, but people in Florida, the Southeast and other places that waited to enact such orders have continued to travel widely..."

"... potentially exposing more people as the coronavirus outbreak accelerates, according to an analysis of cellphone location data by The New York Times. The divide in travel patterns, based on anonymous cellphone data from 15 million people, suggests that Americans in wide swaths of the West, Northeast and Midwest have complied with orders from state and local officials to stay home. Disease experts who reviewed the results say those reductions in travel — to less than a mile a day, on average, from about five miles — may be enough to sharply curb the spread of the coronavirus in those regions, at least for now."

From "Where America Didn’t Stay Home Even as the Virus Spread" (NYT). Graphs and maps at the link. Lots of bright red in the south, where the worst places have people averaging "travel" of over 3 miles a day.

It's interesting that our phone data is being used this way, but what's the problem if people are going out for a 3-mile walk? The data the NYT is using may have a rough correlation to whether people are getting together in groups, but I know I go out and get in an average of 3.5 miles, and I'm not doing anything that's not within Governor Evers's rules, which say:
Individuals may leave their home or residence... To engage in outdoor activity, including visiting public and state parks, provided individuals... [at all times as reasonably possible maintain social distancing of at least six (6) feet from any other person]. Such activities include, by way of example and without limitation, walking, biking, hiking, or running. Individuals may not engage in team or contact sports such as by way of example and without limitation, basketball, ultimate frisbee, soccer, or football, as these activities do not comply with Social Distancing Requirements. Playgrounds are closed.
To get to a state park, you've got to drive your car, but that's just you in your car. You're not exposing yourself or others when you're in that interior space. Does the NYT really want to promote the idea that we're covidiots if we don't stay inside our homes?

ADDED: From the comments over at the NYT:
I'm a Fed, but live in rural Oklahoma. I normally travel 33 miles each way to work in Oklahoma City M-F, but we're on telework order, so that part is down to zero. However, most of you can't imagine the distances we have out here. The nearest decent grocery store is 16 miles away, and a Walmart is about 22. So, if we go out food shopping once every two weeks, that could be 44 miles for that alone. The maps therefore are missing once critical element (which is admittedly VERY hard to compute), and that would be "Average Essential Travel Distance". That should be the denominator in a ratio, with the numerator being "Average Miles Traveled". To be fair, I do statistics for a living, and I wouldn't even begin to know how to estimate that denominator, other than to ask a sample of individuals to take a guess at it.
But most of the commenters over there are picking up the message that I think the NYT intended to send: The people who vote for Republicans are ignorant and/or unwilling to act for the good of the whole.

I vote all the time — as a matter of ritual and civic duty — but I will not go to the polls on April 7th, because of the coronavirus.

So I was interested in this question on the new Marquette poll of registered Wisconsin voters:
What are the chances that you will vote in the April 7 election for state Supreme Court, presidential primaries, and other offices – are you absolutely certain to vote, very likely to vote, are the chances 50-50, don’t you think you will vote or have you already voted either by absentee ballot or early in person voting?
My answer is "Will not vote," which is what only 4% of the respondents told the pollster. 55% said they were "Absolutely certain," 17% said "Very likely," 13% said they'd "Already voted," and 9% said they were "50-50." There's also a 2% that said they "Don't know." Even if we assume those "Don't knows" were all people who knew they were not going to vote, it only makes 6% that, like me, have decided not to vote.

I would like to vote, and I know there was a way to get an absentee ballot by mail, but it wasn't obvious how to do it and I chose not to look it up, because I have always been an in-person voter. But I don't want to get close to other people. I know I'm not actively excluded from voting. I could have done something. But I didn't. I resisted. I'm set in my way of voting. Part of it is that the Wisconsin primary isn't going to change anything about the presidential election.

But there is also a state Supreme Court seat to be determined. I might have an opinion about that.

Do you believe that poll? All those people ready to go vote, despite the threat of death and the deadness of the presidential primary?

ADDED: I was going to read "Deadline to request absentee ballots is 5 p.m. today; these videos walk you through the process" in the Wisconsin State Journal, but I got blocked by a paywall. If I used the logic of progressives, I would accuse the Journal racism.

You're running on a 10-foot wide path, ahead of you are 3 men, walking 3 abreast, and spread out so that there's no way to pass them with 6 feet of separation.

What do you do?

This is harder than the usual problem I've encountered on my run during the coronavirus rules of separation. I've had 2 people walking toward me and taking up half the path, and I've dealt with it by running off the path, even when it meant that I had to go onto rugged, leaf-covered, sloping terrain. I'd believed that I was sending them the message that they ought to have gone into single file and moved all the way over, and I was protecting myself (and them) whether my message was understood or not.

But I'd also thought that there's something a little passive and cold about just demonstrating that they're not doing it right, so the 3 men walking 3 abreast — at a spot where brush prevented running off the trail — gave me the push I needed to actually speak to people. I do say "Good morning" or "Hello" to people I pass. It's not as though I'm afraid or too snooty to speak to strangers, but I don't like to tell people they are doing something wrong.

So I said what we say when we're biking and I'm on my bike that doesn't have a bell: "Passing on your left." The 3 men turned around and looked a little confused. I said, "Could you go single file and get all the way over?" And: "Thanks."

Ah! That worked, and I was glad to have made a breakthrough. Talking to people. Being friendly, but saying what is needed. Being straightforward. I'm trying to help.

And then there, up ahead, there's a man and a woman — maybe about 25  years old — walking toward me with the man along their right side and the woman walking right down the middle of the path, leaving me maybe 4 feet, so that I could not pass with a 6-foot separation. Before I got to them, I stepped off the path into the leaves to get my distance, but as they passed, I decided to speak to them.

I say (calmly): "You know, it would help if you went single file to pass and got all the way over."

Turning back, the woman corrects me: "You have plenty of room."

I say: "You don't know what I'm talking about?"

And the man, with a completely supercilious look on his face and his hands at eye level and wiggling his fingers in a brushing-me-back gesture, says: "Move along."

My spoken words were — and this is verbatim — "Wow. Oh, man. Okay." My unspoken words will remain unwritten.

Does Biden's new ad suggest 4 ways that he will meet the challenge of campaigning in the time of coronavirus?

Here's the ad:

Here's WaPo's Jennifer Rubin detecting 4 things Biden is doing. First, I'll just say: Nearly all of that ad is saying Americans are coming together and accomplishing something. The only issue identified is that those working on the front lines need proper equipment. That's completely uncontroversial. Biden simply says that he would give them the equipment they need. Everyone wants that. Asserting earnestly that he wants that to be done does not give us any information about how he could do it any better than Trump.

Anyway, here's Rubin with 4 things:
First, Biden will not spare President Trump from the charge that he failed as commander in chief, sending troops (health-care workers) into the fray without sufficient protection and equipment. The more Trump protests that governors do not need ventilators or that there are plenty of tests, the more fodder he provides to Biden that Trump is a derelict, incompetent commander in chief.
Wow. Biden didn't insult Trump like that! There would be blowback if he did. Criticizing from home? We can all do that. It doesn't cause medical equipment to appear. Rubin may want Biden to talk like some random social-media blowhard... or columnist in WaPo, but he's not doing that in this ad, and a lot of us would be disgusted if he did.
Second, Biden now can put meat on the bones of his message that the election is a fight for the “soul of the nation.”.... In Biden’s telling, Republicans focus on bailing out corporate interests (e.g., the giant slush fund) and savaging regulations (even clear-air requirements in the middle of a respiratory illness) while Democrats want to focus on more help for nurses and responders, more unemployment pay and more help for small business....
I heard the "soul" theme in the ad but I don't remember this kind of ideological polemic. I think Biden is restricting himself to trying to seem kinder and gentler. I don't remember any stress on the difference between Republicans and Democrats. I remember the idea that America is coming together and not even any assertion that that Biden has anything special to offer in this regard. He was praising the soldiers in this war and expressing a desire to equip them properly.
Third, the Democrats’ best argument in 2018 was health care. Now that we are in a health-care epidemic not seen for 100 years, Democrats have an obvious upper hand....
Biden could argue that Democrats — because of their interest in financing day-to-day health care — would be better at handing a sudden, extreme health-care crisis. But he did not even attempt to do that in this ad.
Finally, Biden plainly wants this to be about a contrast in leadership styles. In place of Trump’s bombast, irrationality and vindictiveness, Biden presents a calm and empathetic figure....
This is the one thing that I agree this ad is trying to do. That's Biden's pitch. Don't you want to listen to me? He read competently from a polished script to make this ad. That is, it's an ad. Trump we see endlessly on camera, in real time, pressured by questions for over an hour every day. The 2 men are not doing the same thing. It's hard to look at Biden's ad and imagine him at the lectern attempting to do the work of the presidency before our eyes. That would be a different test indeed!

April 1, 2020

At the Sunrise Café...


... you can talk 'til daybreak.

"A few days into Italy’s lockdown, people across the country sang and played music from their balconies as they came together to say 'Everything will be alright' (Andrà tutto bene)."

"Three weeks on, the singing has stopped and social unrest is mounting as a significant part of the population, especially in the poorer south, realise that everything is not all right. 'They are no longer singing or dancing on the balconies,' said Salvatore Melluso, a priest at Caritas Diocesana di Napoli, a church-run charity in Naples. 'Now people are more afraid – not so much of the virus, but of poverty. Many are out of work and hungry. There are now long queues at food banks.'"

The Guardian reports.

"We must first reject what often seems optimal in ordinary times, such as first-come, first-served, or even a lottery."

"These choices risk filling up ICU beds with patients unlikely to emerge alive, at the cost of the deaths of multitudes of patients who are likely to survive if given temporary care.... The save-the-most-lives strategy faces two plausible objections. The first questions how much survival counts, and whether a patient projected to survive a shorter period should have the same priority as one likely to live much longer. The second asks whether, on balance, younger patients should be favored over older ones.... In specific case... a pure save-the-most-lives rule could favor a 65-year-old over a more severely afflicted college-age patient. Many of us would root for the younger person, both because she might live longer if she pulls through and because the older patient has already enjoyed the decades of life that may be denied to the other. This modification of the save-the-most-lives strategy might be achieved by accepting a 'bias' in favor of the young, and not merely as tiebreakers. Ideally, this might be carried out without imposing formal age limits.... No preference is given to those most likely not merely to survive but also to enjoy the best health, let alone the highest quality of life. Nor does the strategy excuse abandonment of the disabled. Rather, it directs resources to providing the greatest assurance possible that each of us will achieve what we most value: our own survival and that of our loved ones and fellow citizens."

From "Here are rules doctors can follow when they decide who gets care and who dies/Ethicists like me have studied rationing for decades. In a few days, our guidelines will be needed" by Daniel Wikler, who is a Harvard Professor of Ethics and Population Health. He used to be in the Medical Ethics program here at the University of Wisconsin.

Great to see that David Lat is getting sprung from the hospital

Impressions: 1. Sunrise, and... 2. A few minutes on the car radio with Morning Joe.

The sunrise at 6:59 (20 minutes after the "actual sunrise") time:


And here's my impression of what I heard on Morning Joe, somewhere between 7 and 7:10 (Central Time). Trump must be criticized, so they have to pick a way to criticize him. What Joe has picked is that Trump failed to heed the advice of the experts until recently. We really were facing a pandemic with a million plus Americans dead, and the economy absolutely did need to be shut down, and Trump should have done it sooner. Now, he's finally absorbed the experts' message and he's acted.

Joe — and other Trump critics — have committed to the idea that we were faced with a calamity that required the lockdown and all the economic damage that ensued. I'm not saying they can't turn around and blame him for the damage to the economy, but it will be hard and hypocritical to look at what happens and say, See? Not that many people died, it wasn't so bad, and Trump overreacted and crashed the economy.

Are the critics boxed in? They can't really say, See? Not that many people died, because we won't know how many would have died if we hadn't taken the strong measures we did. Yesterday, the experts were saying they expect that the deaths in the United States will now be limited to 100,000 to 200,000, and that's still a lot, and maybe it will be less. Anything less than 100,000 will seem like an achievement, and we'll move on to restarting the economy.

Well, I'm sure, the Morning Joes of the world will be able to say the restarting of the economy happened too soon or too expansively. Joe was sneering this morning at the concern Trump showed for the economy as he worked out his response to the pandemic: It took Trump too long to shut things down because he cared too much about the economy. That makes it a lot harder for Joe, et al., to bash Trump for not caring enough about the economy.

Are the critics boxed in? Only if they have principles about being consistent. Or if they worry too much about seeing their inconsistency displayed in montages on social media.

"What if I don’t have an HSP? Am I now celibate?"/"Yes, I’m sorry to say, those are the recommendations. For now."

"But this doesn’t mean you can’t meet people online — start talking on the phone, have video chats, sext or have phone sex if that’s your thing. And if someone you meet online is encouraging you to meet in person? That not only tells you how they view their own safety, but, even more important, how they view yours."

From "Coronavirus and Sex: Questions and Answers/Some of us are mating in actual captivity. Some of us not at all. The pandemic raises lots of issues around safe intimate physical contact, and what it may look like in the future" (NYT).

An "HSP" is a "household sex partner." Something about "household" makes the person seem like a utilitarian implement. Like something you'd keep in a drawer next to the tongs and the can opener.

But the question is: Did you lay in your provisions or not? You should have procured a household sex partner for yourself, and now it's too late. Yes, you can order one on line, but anyone who could be delivered is not safe to use, and you'd be delivering yourself, and that would mean you're not safe to use.

You can't use people now. Unless you've got your own HSP. And you 2 are stuck with each other for the duration. So you'd better appreciate what you've got.

"It’s an incredibly dark topic and incredibly horrible topic" and "everybody is... going crazy," and Trump doesn't want to say he's optimistic, but he's "a very optimistic person."

Near the end of yesterday's Task Force press briefing, Trump talked about optimism:
At the end of this, and there will be, don’t say I’m optimistic, because I don’t want to … I wouldn’t want to do that, but I am optimistic. I’m a very optimistic person. Let me tell you, we will have thousands of ventilators, and what I want to do is make sure that we always have plenty for the future.... Now, I will say this, it’s an incredibly dark topic and incredibly horrible topic and it’s incredibly interesting. That’s why everybody is … They’re going crazy. They can’t get enough of it and they want to be careful and I guess they’re studying it for themselves. Just studying if they get it. A lot of people have it. A lot of people are positive and they hope for the best, because when this gets the wrong person, meaning a person that qualifies, generally speaking, under the list, it is ravaging. It is horrible.... A lot of very positive things are happening with the therapeutics and drugs of different kinds and the vaccines. I think a lot of very positive things are happening....

Are you doing the masks? Does it make you feel better? Are you making your own? Can you use a scarf?

"It’s Time to Make Your Own Face Mask/Here’s how to do it." That's the headline at the NYT.

If you're making your own face mask... what are the key elements? The pleats? The ear loops? I wouldn't assume you need the standard features of a commercially produced paper mask. The key — I'm guessing — is the fabric itself and the seal and perhaps getting some distance between your face and the fabric. Those loops around the ears seem like they are for health care workers — and other workers — who are actively engaged in something and who need to put them on and take them off quickly. For the civilian carefully venturing out in the world, we have some leeway, don't we?

From the NYT article:
The internet abounds with mask designs, but the research suggests that as long as the mask covers your nose and mouth and is comfortable to wear, the specific pattern you choose may not matter very much. Various household materials differ in their effectiveness — in Davies’s study, vacuum-cleaner bags offered better filtration than fabrics made of cotton blends, but plain cotton T-shirt fabric still provided a useful barrier.....
At yesterday's Task Force press briefing — transcript here — President Trump let us know — and know and know — that we could use a scarf:
You know, you can use a scarf. A lot of people have scarfs and you can use a scarf. Scarf would be very good, and my feeling is if people want to do it, there’s certainly no harm to it. I would say do it, but use a scarf if you want, rather than going out and getting a mask or whatever. We’re making millions and millions of masks, but we want them to go to the hospitals. I mean, one of the things that Dr. Fauci told me today is we don’t want them competing. We don’t want everybody competing with the hospitals where you really need them. So you can use scarfs. You can use something else over your face. It doesn’t have to be a mask, but it’s not a bad idea, at least for a period of time. I mean, eventually you’re not going to want to do that. You’re not going to have to do that. This is going to be gone. It’ll be gone, hopefully gone for a long time....

You can get a mask, but you can also do … I mean most people have scarves and scarves are very good and they can use a scarf and where are we talking about a limited period of time. And it says in the recommendations you can use … You can substitute a scarf for a mask. So if people feel that … And I think some people disagree with the mask for various reasons and some people don’t. But you can wear a scarf, you can do the masks if it makes you feel better. We have no objection to it and some people recommend it. 
I'm not criticizing the repetition. I like it. You get the message, and you're certain he meant to say it. Notice that he's not really recommending a scarf: You can use a scarf... if it makes you feel better. It still seems as though he's refraining from saying we need one because he doesn't want us competing with the people who really need them. And I also get the sense that he hates the idea of a masked public. This is going to be gone. It’ll be gone, hopefully gone for a long time....

But meanwhile, you can use a scarf. I get the feeling that he's saying you can use a scarf because he thinks we all have silky, beautiful scarves, and wearing scarves might be uplifting and optimistic, and the people in the street in their scarves might still look like America and not like some phobic closed society that isn't us at all.

"This better not be an April Fools puzzle. That's all I have to say."

Says Rex Parker — of "Rex Parker Does the NY Times Crossword Puzzle" — as he introduces the video version of himself doing today's puzzle, which does indeed — spoiler alert! — turn out to be an April Fools puzzle. So we witness his experience of the foolery — which he's in no mood for — in real time.

I like the way he's so ired at "ires"... at "ires" and a lot of other things. I always do the NYT puzzle, and I usually read his write-ups. It was fun to have the real-time experience on video. His critique of the "fill" is instantaneous and corresponds exactly to his writing. He's genuinely outraged, and it's enjoyable to go along with him in his outrage over this very lightweight problem. He knows it's not the worst problem we've got right now. The puzzle and his encounter with it are welcome distractions.

March 31, 2020

At the Tuesday Night Café...


... you can talk all night.

"For years, I've been working on a list of 'my favorite movie from each year of the last 100 years.'"

"It'll still take me a while to finish, but since we're all binging movies during the coronavirus situation, I'm going to give you a sneak preview… So here's a sampling of one movie for each decade from my upcoming list. The final list will have a lot more to it than this — not just 10+ times as many movies, but also extra content about each one....."

My son John writes on his blog. Go to the link to see the 10 recommendations and where to go to stream them.

"Yassin told me that he had been hit, and I told him to stop his jokes because he likes to joke a lot. He said, ‘Mama, I am not lying, I have been shot. I swear I have been shot.'"

From "Kenyan police shot dead a teenager on his balcony during a coronavirus curfew crackdown" (WaPo).
[Yassin Hussein Moyo, 13] had been standing on his third-floor balcony in a shantytown in Nairobi, watching police storm the neighborhood, beating people who refused to abide by the curfew with their batons, when a police bullet struck his stomach....The curfew, which requires people to stay in their homes from dusk to dawn, is the most stringent limitation and has led to a wave of police violence.... On Saturday morning, a motorcycle taxi driver died from injuries that his family says he sustained from being beaten by a policeman after he dropped off a pregnant woman at a hospital after curfew....



"What is clear is that the pandemic will change the landscape of the sex industry for the foreseeable future."

"As social distancing has led to more people seeking out intimacy online, sex workers say that people are flocking to [on-line] platforms.... That isn’t necessarily a viable option for sex workers who have historically relied on in-person meetings. Such is the case for a 22-year-old sex worker living in Indiana who goes by Lana Del They professionally. Lana Del They, who uses they/them pronouns, is a college student and lives in a small town; they travel to nearby cities for in-person sex work with regular clients. The money helps pay for necessities such as books. When their college was shut down, they were doing anything they could to 'stabilize' their economic situation. They started webcamming, but felt at a disadvantage.... 'Without establishing your online clientele before the pandemic, it’s hard to get a foothold right now,' says Lana Del They.... According to sex workers, there is some tension between those who established online presences before the pandemic and after. [19-year-old Bunny Adler] starting selling sex 'the minute' he turned 18. 'Now, there are people that are at home and are 20 and are hot, who can take a couple pictures and get a few bucks,' he says. 'I don’t judge that, but they’re not necessarily part of this community that we’ve built.'"

From "Sex work is changing in the pandemic. Here’s how it affects workers/‘As far as in-person labor is concerned, our work has been totally decimated'" (in The Lily, at WaPo).

Biden babble.

Sunrise, 6:54.


"Now, I wrote something off the cuff, if I can read this," said the My Pillow guy. "Okay," said Trump.

Mike Lindell, the My Pillow guy, was there at the Task Force press briefing yesterday, and he delivered his prepared remarks, about how his company was helping — putting 75% of its manufacturing capacity into cotton face masks. But then he wanted to add something that — presumably — nobody had checked out. Trump said "Okay."

Lindell laughed and plunged straight into religion and politics:
God gave us grace on November 8th, 2016, to change the course we were on. God had been taken out of our schools and lives. A nation had turned its back on God. And I encourage you: Use this time at home to get — home to get back in the Word, read our Bibles, and spend time with our families. Our President gave us so much hope where, just a few short months ago, we had the best economy, the lowest unemployment, and wages going up. It was amazing. With our great President, Vice President, and this administration and all the great people in this country praying daily, we will get through this and get back to a place that’s stronger and safer than ever.
Trump said:
That’s very nice. Thank you very much. Thank you, Mike. Appreciate it.... I did not know he was going to do that, but he’s a friend of mine, and I do appreciate it. Thank you, Mike, very much.
Trump did not know he was going to do that, but he's a friend of Trump's, so Trump must have known religion was coming. Religion is one thing, but this felt too much like campaigning — campaigning with religion. Trump said "okay" — go "off the cuff" — but he "did not know he was going to do that." Okaaaay.

The press briefings should not devolve into testimonials to the greatness of the President. Yes, there can be some room to get a little personal, to express some love, and it's fine to speak of God and prayers — a bit. Not too much. But we can't be having that Mypillowism every day.

For some reason, this subject reminded me of the trouble Trump had with the wind blowing his hair. (The head/pillow connection?) At the beginning of the event — in the Rose Garden — the wind was blowing briskly, pulling the long strands of Trump hair away from the usual stuck-together shape. He said: "And we’ve opened up — whoops, there goes our box" — the President had just done an unboxing of a new testing device — "And my hair is blowing around, and it’s mine. The one thing you can’t get away with. If it’s not yours, you got a problem, if you’re President."

Yeah, if it’s not yours, you got a problem, if you’re President. It's just awful when the President's toupee goes flying in the wind. Which President wore a toupee? I don't mean those openly wiggy wigs the first few Presidents wore. I mean the hairpiece that is supposed to deceive us. I tend to think it hasn't been done yet, but if anyone did, I'm going to guess Reagan.

When the coronavirus strikes a second time in the fall — as it probably will — we're going to have "more than just lessons learned," we will have "things... available to us that we did not have before."

At yesterday's Coronavirus Task Force press briefing, Anthony Fauci talked about what will happen in the fall:
[I]t will be a totally different ballgame of what happened when we first got hit with it in the beginning of this year. There’ll be several things that’ll be different. Our ability to go out and be able to test, identify, isolate, and contact trace will be orders of magnitude better than what it was just a couple of months ago. In addition, we have a number of clinical trials that are looking at a variety of therapeutic interventions. We hope one or more of them will be available. And importantly, as I mentioned to you many times at these briefings, is that we have a vaccine that’s on track and multiple other candidates.... What we’re going through now is going to be more than just lessons learned; it’s going to be things that we have available to us that we did not have before.
Of course, I'm interested in the treatments and vaccines — the new things that we hope will become available. But I'd like to hear more discussion of the "lessons learned." Perhaps it's tactful for Fauci and the rest of the force not to talk about the lessons, but let me go ahead.

It's not just a matter of the President and other government figures getting it through their head that the projections of the epidemiologists are worth acting on early, before people can see or believe we're looking at a catastrophe. We the people are learning the lesson. And some of us have been slow on the uptake. Some remain in denial.

But this months-long mandatory staycation and pausing of the once-vibrant economy are teaching us — most of us — that it's bad to wait and see if it really does look bad. Go with the epidemiologists, and there will be a lot less pain. Next time, the President and the Governors and the mayors will think differently about what burdens and restrictions the people will put up with. And we'll be more impatient — next time around — if our leaders don't act quickly.

It's the old Watergate question "What did the president know, and when did he know it?” come 'round again.

I was listening to MSNBC on my car radio just now. Nancy Pelosi on what I guess was "Morning Joe." She was talking about how Congress and the Executive branch need to work together, and then she worked in her attack on the President. You see, now, they are working together, but why did President Trump decide only this last weekend to extend the social distancing another month? It's good that the medical experts got through to him, but she'd like to know what they were saying to him at various points in the past, going back to February and January. Maybe they were telling him all along and if he'd followed them earlier, we could have begun social distancing in a month or 2 earlier, and we could have gotten the outbreak under control with much less sacrifice. She uttered the words "What did he know, and when did he know it?"

The classic question from the Watergate scandal was "What did the president know, and when did he know it?"

So you've got that to look forward to, once we emerge into the aftermath of the coronavirus lockdown. There will be investigations into Trump's failure to act sooner. And I think it's a sign that we're coming to the end of the beginning* and seeing the light at the end of the tunnel* that we're even talking about anything other than how can we solve this problem beginning now and going forward.


* A Winston Churchill phrase, after a victory in November 1942: "Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning." I think when it looks as though the coronavirus curve is about to flatten, it's the end of the beginning.

** "The light at the end of the tunnel" was a popular phrase in the Vietnam era. It began, I believe, as an expression of hope. You're in a tunnel, but you can at least see a dot of light, and that must be the exit. It became something to use only sarcastically, and the conventional joke of the time was that when you think you see the light at the end of the tunnel, it might be a train coming right at you. Don't look to the Vietnam Era for optimism!

ADDED: Trump watched the show too:

Do we need more racial data on the coronavirus pandemic... and if so why?

I'm reading "Democratic lawmakers, including Warren and Pressley, call for racial data in coronavirus testing" (Boston Globe).
“Any attempt to contain COVID-19 in the United States will have to address its potential spread in low-income communities of color, first and foremost to protect the lives of people in those communities, but also to slow the spread of the virus in the country as a whole,” the lawmakers wrote to [Health and Human Services Secretary Alex] Azar. “This lack of information will exacerbate existing health disparities and result in the loss of lives in vulnerable communities,” the letter warned....
There are less humane-sounding reasons to want to see the racial data. I've noticed some people looking to find that it's some other race than their own that is more vulnerable to the disease. We saw how, in the early stages of the pandemic, some people seized on the idea that only old people are seriously threatened. That slowed the response and dampened the group spirit that was needed to get the social distancing strategy to work.

So I question the eagerness to racialize the coronavirus. But I do think it's a sign that life is getting back to normal. We weren't talking about race for a while. Not so much anyway.

I returned to Joe Biden's website to see if the mystery of the "Daniel outbreak" had been solved.

Yesterday — here — we were talking about Joe Biden's new podcast, which I did not listen to but read in transcript form. The transcript was awful, but since I hadn't listened to the podcast, I didn't know how much of the awfulness was bad transcription, and it amazed me that the candidate's website didn't have an editor to make the text as coherent as possible. It could have been vastly improved simply with punctuation, but some things were just weird, possibly misheard.

If you go to that link to yesterday's post, you'll see that we talked about the line "we’ve grappled three crises from Daniel outbreak to the Iran nuclear deal to the auto industry rescue." What's "Daniel outbreak"? Many ideas were bandied about. Was Daniel a hurricane? Can you "grapple" (grapple with?) a hurricane? Was "Daniel" a mishearing of "ebola"?!

I went back to the website to see if they'd edited the transcript. And the transcript is gone! It was embarrassing. But they could have employed an editor... unless the raw audio itself is embarrassing. I know I didn't listen. Who will listen to a podcast of Biden talking? I don't see how Biden can win any new votes with this podcast.

At least with a transcript, we can search for interesting things to pass on in social media, but Biden's people have got to worry that his antagonists will look for the worst thing he said and use it to stir up contempt for their man. You know, like the mainstream media do to Trump every damned day.

Data from internet-connected thermometers show that social distancing may be working.

From "Restrictions Are Slowing Coronavirus Infections, New Data Suggest/A database of daily fever readings shows that the numbers declined as people disappeared indoors" (NYT):
The company, Kinsa Health, which produces internet-connected thermometers, first created a national map of fever levels on March 22 and was able to spot the trend within a day. Since then, data from the health departments of New York State and Washington State have buttressed the finding, making it clear that social distancing is saving lives.

Kinsa’s thermometers upload the user’s temperature readings to a centralized database; the data enable the company to track fevers across the United States.... Kinsa has more than one million thermometers in circulation and has been getting up to 162,000 daily temperature readings since Covid-19 began spreading in the country....
Kind of an invasion of privacy — voluntary self-invasion by the users of the thermometers — but this is really interesting. Here's the trend in my county:

Here's Manhattan:

The blue line is where Kinsa would expect the trend to be in a normal flu season. When the orange line goes red, that's "atypical" in that it doesn't correspond to the usual pattern of the flu, so it might be inferred that's the coronavirus.
As of noon Wednesday, the company’s live map showed fevers holding steady or dropping almost universally across the country, with two prominent exceptions. One was in a broad swath of New Mexico, where the governor had issued stay-at-home orders only the day before, and in adjacent counties in Southern Colorado....

By Friday morning, fevers in every county in the country were on a downward trend, depicted in four shades of blue on the map.

“I’m very impressed by this,” said Dr. William Schaffner, a preventive medicine expert at Vanderbilt University. “It looks like a way to prove that social distancing works. But it does shows that it takes the most restrictive measures to make a real difference.”...

The turning point [in Manhattan] began on March 16, the day schools were closed. Bars and restaurants were closed the next day, and a stay-at-home order took effect on March 20. By March 23, new fevers in Manhattan were below their March 1 levels....

“People need to know their sacrifices are helping,” said Inder Singh, founder of Kinsa.... Mr. Singh said he had approached the C.D.C. about using his data as part of its own flu surveillance, but agency officers had insisted on him giving up the rights to his data if they did, and he refused....
Well, there's an issue. People are giving the company their data, and the company wants to own it, even when the fate of a nation is in the balance. Maybe Trump can iron out that kink. He seems to focus on the interface between government and private business. Anyway, it's great to get this view of things, and nice of people to sacrifice their privacy to produce this fantastic overview of the health of the country and the effectiveness of the social distancing measures.

March 30, 2020

At the Sunrise Cafe...


... you can talk all night.

AND: A closer look:


Daybreak after the rain.


This morning, at 7:06.

"An Australian astrophysicist has been admitted to hospital after getting four magnets stuck up his nose in an attempt to invent a device that..."

"... stops people touching their faces during the coronavirus outbreak. Dr Daniel Reardon, a research fellow at a Melbourne university, was building a necklace that sounds an alarm on facial contact, when the mishap occurred on Thursday night.... 'I had a part that detects magnetic fields. I thought that if I built a circuit that could detect the magnetic field, and we wore magnets on our wrists, then it could set off an alarm if you brought it too close to your face. A bit of boredom in isolation made me think of that.... I accidentally invented a necklace that buzzes continuously unless you move your hand close to your face.... After scrapping that idea, I was still a bit bored, playing with the magnets. It’s the same logic as clipping pegs to your ears – I clipped them to my earlobes and then clipped them to my nostril and things went downhill pretty quickly when I clipped the magnets to my other nostril.'"

The Guardian reports.

"The USNS Comfort arrived in New York on Monday, bringing a massive Navy hospital ship to help relieve city hospitals overwhelmed by coronavirus patients."

"The ship departed Saturday from Naval Station Norfolk in Virginia. It was undergoing maintenance when President Donald Trump pledged to deploy it to New York, which was expected to take two weeks but was sped up to eight days."

Politico reports.

Here's Rachel Maddow, doing what she could to keep our spirits down, on March 20:

"There's no sign that they'll be anywhere on site helping out anywhere in the country for weeks yet. The president said when he announced that those ships would be put into action against the COVID-19 epidemic. He said one of those ships would be operational in New York harbor by next week. That's nonsense. It will not be there next week."

It's just pictures to give you an idea of what it might be like... fake but accurate...

"Hey, team Biden is Joe and I’m sitting here in Wilmington, Delaware. It’s a scary time. A lot of people out there confused things are changing every day, every hour."

"So I wanted to have this conversation with you now if we could, why am I doing this? Well, first so we can keep talking with each other or we can’t hold rallies anymore, but we’re not gathering in large public spaces.... And a, the second reason is I think this podcast could offer some really helpful information. I’ve seen these kinds of crises before and uh, and I’ve sat in the situation room in the oval office and we’ve grappled three crises from Daniel outbreak to the Iran nuclear deal to the auto industry rescue. And, uh, during that time I’ve been able to work with some pretty accomplished experts, women and men who have steered us through epidemics and demic.... [T]he young people who think they don’t have to worry about social dissonance distancing I should say. You know, do it for older people in your life.... You know, I have overwhelming faith in the American people when the American people have never, ever, ever, ever, ever let their country down when faced with a challenge. Never. And they’re smart. I am so darn proud. It sounds corny to be an American. How, look how we’re pulling together.... And, uh, you know, my heart goes out to all those folks who have lost somebody or have someone in the hospital who’s suffering. It just, it’s an enormous, enormous burden. And, uh, but, uh, we’re thinking about you. I really mean it and I, all Americans are pulling together, so we’re going to get through this... And, uh, in the meantime, everybody stay healthy, stay safe, and, uh, I’ll be talking to you regularly. Thank you so much."

That's Joe Biden, from a transcription of a podcast from the Joe Biden for President Website. I've added ellipses where I've taken things out, but I haven't changed anything else. You can also listen to the audio at that link.


Rick: "What is a Daniel outbreak?"