April 11, 2020

At the Saturday Night Café...


... you can't go anywhere, but you can talk about anything.

Re-enjoy the sunrise, this time with coots. The photo was taken at 6:33 a.m. — 7 minutes after the other photo I put up today.

Here's the live stream of “At Home With Farm Aid." It was Dave Matthews last I looked. Others who will be playing from home: Willie Nelson, Neil Young, and John Mellencamp. You may enjoy that. I like the home setting.

And one last extra, just to show you I got out on my mountain bike today, in a pretty place with plenty of social distancing:

"There has never been an American president as spiritually impoverished as Donald Trump...."

"... Trump is a spiritual black hole. He has no ability to transcend himself by so much as an emotional nanometer.... He represents the ultimate triumph of a materialist mindset. He has no ability to understand anything that is not an immediate tactile or visual experience, no sense of continuity with other human beings, and no imperatives more important than soothing the barrage of signals emanating from his constantly panicked and confused autonomic system.... In his daily coronavirus briefings, Trump lumbers to the podium and pulls us into his world: detached from reality, unable to feel any emotions but anger and paranoia. Each time we watch, Trump’s spiritual poverty increases our own, because for the duration of these performances, we are forced to live in the same agitated, immediate state that envelops him.... Each of these presidential therapy sessions corrodes us until the moment when the president finally shambles away in a fog of muttered slogans and paranoid sentence fragments.... We are all living with him in the moment and neglecting the thing that makes us human beings instead of mindless fish swimming in circles."

Such are the entirely subjective ruminations of Tom Nichols (author of "The Death of Expertise: The Campaign Against Established Knowledge and Why It Matters")(in The Atlantic).

I watch the briefings every day, and my subjective experience is nothing like that. I don't feel myself dragged into soullessness or losing touch with reality.

So who's crazy here?

pollcode.com free polls

AND: The poll results are very clear:

"It's not racist to point out that eating bats is batshit crazy."

Says Bill Maher:

And just to put it another way...

"Scooter sharing companies like Lime and Bird, which were booming, have suffered potentially fatal blows."

From "How the Virus Transformed the Way Americans Spend Their Money" (NYT).

And health care spending is down  — because "those who conduct elective procedures, dentists and specialists not working on the coronavirus response are doing less business. Some hospitals, faced with lower revenues from canceled nonemergency work, have furloughed or cut the pay of doctors, nurses and other staff members."

"The FBI was warned sections of the controversial Steele dossier could have been part of a 'Russian disinformation campaign to denigrate U.S. foreign relations'..."

"... according to newly declassified footnotes from a government watchdog report. The December report by Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz examined the FBI's investigation into alleged coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia as well as the FBI's four surveillance warrants for former Trump campaign aide Carter Page.... Several footnotes in Horowitz's report were redacted, and Republican Senators Chuck Grassley and Ron Johnson pushed for the declassification of four footnotes related to the Steele dossier... Footnote 350 in the IG report addresses the FBI's knowledge of Russian contacts with Steele and the potential for disinformation. Steele had 'frequent contacts with representatives for multiple Russian oligarchs, we identified reporting the Crossfire Hurricane team received from (redacted) indicating the potential for Russian disinformation influencing Steele's election reporting.'..."

Writes Catherine Herridge at CBS News.

"Why did Gov. Tony Evers, a Wisconsin Democrat, change his mind by trying to postpone the Wisconsin State Supreme Court election this week..."

"... when both he and Vice President Joe Biden had just recently said that the voting could proceed? It's really simple. Republican areas in the state had turned in many more absentee ballots than Democratic areas. This was shocking, because most people had assumed the race between Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders would give Democrats a huge turnout edge. That's when Evers panicked. To cancel an election the day before the vote — after your state party realizes it might be getting outvoted in absentees — is a pretty cynical move... If Evers had canceled the voting earlier, before seeing how many absentee ballots came in from Republican areas, this would not be an issue. But he wanted to wait until the eleventh hour...."

Writes John Pudner in The Washington Examiner. By posting this, I'm not saying I agree. It's just a point of view that I would like to be seen. I really don't know why Evers did what he did.

Sunrise, 6:26.


"Seizing on new estimates of a lower-than-projected death toll, the president signaled that he wanted to start resuming business on some basis..."

"... after his current stay-at-home guidelines expire on April 30, and he announced that he would name a task force next week to develop a plan. But he also promised to listen to public health officials cautioning against a premature move to relax limits. In actuality, the decision on when and how to reopen is not entirely Mr. Trump’s to make because he never ordered it closed. The stay-at-home edicts that have kept the vast bulk of Americans indoors were issued by governors state by state. But the president did issue nonbinding guidelines urging a pause in daily life through the end of the month. And if he were to issue new guidance saying it was safe to reopen or outlining a path toward reopening, many states would most likely follow or feel pressure from their businesses and constituents to ease up on restrictions....  Lobbying groups have become more vocal about the need for the administration to create a plan for the reopening of the economy... Some business leaders have been particularly frustrated that the government is not being realistic about the economic consequences of the fight against the coronavirus.... Many experts caution that growth will be slow when it returns because people will be wary of resuming normal activities before the country has far more extensive testing. Without widespread confidence in returning to work or other public activities, any economic recovery could be tepid....  If the government tells Americans to return to normal life and infections rise again, that could wipe out consumer optimism and lead to a longer, more damaging recession...."

From "Torn Over Reopening Economy, Trump Says He Faces ‘Biggest Decision I’ve Ever Had to Make’/The president suggested he wanted to move soon, but he also promised to listen to public health officials cautioning against relaxing restrictions prematurely" (NYT).

ADDED: Here's the sentence that strikes me as terribly thought out: "And if he were to issue new guidance saying it was safe to reopen or outlining a path toward reopening, many states would most likely follow or feel pressure from their businesses and constituents to ease up on restrictions." I don't think Trump is talking about saying the whole country is "safe" and ready to "reopen." The article just got done saying that the decisions on how closed things need to be have been done by governors.

I've seen some pressure on Trump to take more one-size-fits-all, top-down actions, and he has resisted because it's a big country and conditions are different in different places. Similarly, when Trump moves toward reopening, he is, I presume, going to continue with this approach, supporting opening the places where the conditions are most amenable to returning to work. We'll ease into it, watching as we go, and proceeding with caution.

The Times says "people will be wary of resuming normal activities before the country has far more extensive testing," meaning testing to see who has the virus (or the antibodies). But another kind of testing is experimenting with opening the country back up in a gradual way, where conditions are best, observing how well it works, and moving forward learning from experience. This is the experimentation characteristic of American federalism.

"Amid a Pandemic, Voice of America Spends Your Money to Promote Foreign Propaganda."

A statement from the White House. Excerpt:
This week, VOA called China’s Wuhan lockdown a successful “model” copied by much of the world—and then tweeted out video of the Communist government’s celebratory light show marking the quarantine’s alleged end.

Even worse, while much of the U.S. media takes its lead from China, VOA went one step further: It created graphics with Communist government statistics to compare China’s Coronavirus death toll to America’s. As intelligence experts point out, there is simply no way to verify the accuracy of China’s numbers.

The Coronavirus story is just one example of this pattern. Last year, VOA helped highlight the Twitter feed of Iran Foreign Minister Javad Zarif while he was issuing threats against the U.S. and sharing Russian anti-U.S. propaganda videos.

“VOA will represent America,” its guiding Charter reads. And for years after its founding during World War II, VOA served that mission by promoting freedom and democracy across the world for audiences who longed for both.
Here's the WaPo article about it: "White House attacks Voice of America, claiming it promoted Chinese propaganda."

April 10, 2020

At the Morning Moon Café...


... talk about whatever you like.

“The safety is the rarest, most difficult scoring play in the game. So why is it worth only 2 points?”

Yes, that’s what I want to know!

The argument that a safety should score 11 points, here, at FiveThirtyEight.

If he's American, why are you calling him "an Asian man."

You know, it's so dumb to accuse Trump of political crimes like this and to fail to make sure you're not committing the same damned crime you want us to be so outraged about it. The genius here is Greg Sargent at WaPo:
President Trump’s new campaign ad attacking Joe Biden as soft on China and coronavirus is drawing attention for its ugly xenophobia. As many have noted, in order to portray Biden as weak and overly deferential toward China — and, by extension, toward coronavirus — the ad shows Biden bowing to an Asian man with Chinese flags in the background.

The man turns out to be American.
Asian man!! He's American!

I've already talked about that ad — here, in a post that went up at 6:00 a.m. — so I'm not going into any more detail. I just wanted to laugh at Greg Sargent.

"In over a dozen states, marijuana dispensaries and pot shops have been deemed essential services and remain open through lockdowns..."

"... and illegal deliveries are also on the rise. This worries medical experts, who say smoking and vaping damage the lungs, worsening symptoms and helping to spread the virus.... 'Our business doubled: Every day is a Friday,' said the owner of Jack Flash, a[n illegal] cannabis delivery service in New York City... Buyers must retrieve their product and complete the transaction in the car, the owner said. 'Some people now don’t want to get in the car,' he said. 'Obviously we don’t want to do a hand to hand out the window, it just looks crazy.'... 'Well, I don’t want to touch anything, I don’t want to come out,' the owner of Jack Flash said, mimicking his customers. 'Then I say, "Well, then you don’t want pot."'... 'I have done a couple where I’ve left it in their mailbox and they’ve left money in the mailbox,' the owner said. 'I’ve done two or three like that.' Some deliveries have been made using the 'hand out the window' method, but Jack Flash’s owner has warned his staff not to get arrested.... 'That’s kind of a death sentence right now,' he said."

From "Staying Safe While Delivering Weed in the Pandemic/Legal and illegal cannabis sales have spiked, even though doctors warn that smoking and vaping worsen symptoms and spread. These businesses face a new problem: keeping employees safe" (NYT).

Weeping willow sunrise.


Photo take at 6:42 a.m. — "actual" sunrise time, 6:24.

"America has a history of settler colonization and capitalism that ruthlessly exploited natural resources and people, typically the poor, the migratory, the black and the brown...."

"What this crisis has revealed is that, while almost all of us can become vulnerable — even corporations and the wealthy — our government prioritizes the protection of the least vulnerable. If this was a classic Hollywood narrative, the exceptionally American superhero, reluctant and wavering in the first act, would make the right choice at this turning point. The evil Covid-19 would be conquered, and order would be restored to a society that would look just as it did before the villain emerged. But if our society looks the same after the defeat of Covid-19, it will be a Pyrrhic victory. We can expect a sequel, and not just one sequel, but many, until we reach the finale: climate catastrophe. If our fumbling of the coronavirus is a preview of how the United States will handle that disaster, then we are doomed."

Writes Viet Thanh Nguyen in "The Ideas That Won’t Survive the Coronavirus/Covid-19 is killing off the myth that we are the greatest country on earth" (NYT).

"Trump Keeps Talking. Some Republicans Don’t Like What They’re Hearing/Aides and allies increasingly believe the president’s daily briefings are hurting him more than helping, and are urging him to let his medical experts take center stage."

A NYT headline for an article by Jonathan Martin and Maggie Haberman. I don't believe they're at all interested in helping Trump politically.

I was just listening to a few minutes of "Morning Joe" as I was driving over to see the sunrise this morning. They had the same topic and were flatly opining that Trump was hurting himself by talking too much at the briefings. They warned him that Biden would be able to pick over his voluminous remarks and find damaging things to quote.

At the time, I thought, well, that must be the most damaging thing they've got against him today — that he's on camera talking too much — or it's the other way around and Trump's appearances are helping him and they want him to stop.

Here are the quotes in the NYT in support of that headline:
Mr. Trump “sometimes drowns out his own message,” said Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who has become one of the president’s informal counselors and told him “a once-a-week show” could be more effective. Representative Susan Brooks of Indiana said “they’re going on too long.” Senator Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia said the briefings were “going off the rails a little bit” and suggested that he should “let the health professionals guide where we’re going to go.”
That's far from harsh criticism. Of course, the briefings go on a long time. Trump and the force stand there taking questions as long as the reporters keep asking. Why not tell the reporters to stop talking so much? They can't complain that he won't answer questions. I don't know why, but I've been watching the show. I don't watch TV news. Can't stand the news on TV. But I watch the coronavirus briefing every day. It has high ratings, and I can see why.

"In fact, as of April 8, all 12 COVID-19 deaths in the City of St. Louis were African Americans."

Wrote Fredrick Echols, director of the City of St. Louis Department of Health, Newsweek reports.

He also wrote: "We are learning more about the coronavirus every day, but let me tell you this in no uncertain terms: It doesn't care if you are black, brown, white, red, yellow or some other shade... The idea that African Americans are somehow resistant to it is both untrue and dangerous to the health of our community."

According to Newsweek, there's a belief out there that "African Americans may be more resistant, if not immune, to coronavirus because of their higher levels of melanin." I'm not surprised to see that, because the disease originated in China and was slow to reach Africa, and people were speculating that racial differences mattered. As time has passed, it seems that the black population in the U.S. is more vulnerable — because other health problems. Anthony Fauci listed the conditions that disproportionately afflict African Americans: "diabetes, hypertension, obesity and asthma."

"Documenting Dr. Deborah’s scarves of choice as Response Coordinator for the White House Coronavirus Task Force."

It's the deborahbirxscarves Instagram account. It's not as though the scarves are doing satirical commentary. It's just photographs of the doctor in her scarves. Example:

View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Scarves of Dr. Deborah Birx (@deborahbirxscarves) on

I got there via "Dr. Deborah Birx’s Many Scarves Now Have Their Own Instagram Account" (Vogue).

"It was like a Popeye cartoon: the street was like madness, sailors and tourists and police. Halfway through singing my first song, the wall behind me collapsed and the club behind broke into mine, and everybody was fighting."

Said Donovan, about performing in a club in Hamburg in 1965, quoted in "Donovan: 'Can you believe the Beatles and I were paying 96% tax?'" (The Guardian).
“I realised television was for me; I picked it up very quickly. Everything – jazz, blues, folk, pop music, literature, feminism, ecology – I just absorbed it like a sponge, and I was prepared, because I had had poetry of noble thought read to me as a child.”...

He... got his first TV performance before he had even released a single, and slips into the third person, awestruck. “And suddenly, he connected with millions of people. How did he do that? And the cameraman loved it, and the directors loved it, and the producers loved it. How did I learn it so early? Because, what I’m about to sing to you, you already know.” The Gaelic singer-songwriter tradition is actually four: “poetry, music, theatre and radical thought”....

"Pence Blocks Fauci, Birx from Appearing on CNN after Network Stops Airing Full White House Coronavirus Briefings."

National Review reports.

UPDATE: "White House reverses position after blocking health officials from appearing on CNN" ("After this story was published, Pence's office allowed for the booking of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Robert Redfield for CNN's Thursday night coronavirus town hall. Dr. Anthony Fauci was also booked for Friday on 'New Day.'"). Good call.

"Sweden's Relaxed Approach to the Coronavirus Could Already Be Backfiring"/"Why Sweden's Lax Coronavirus Approach Could Be Backfiring."

2 headlines for an article that went up yesterday at TIME. The first one is the main headline on the article. The second one is the form it takes as it appears at the top of the "most popular" list in the sidebar over there.

There's such a difference between calling the Swedish approach "relaxed" and calling it "lax." "Relaxed" sounds more like freedom and ease. "Lax" sounds like negligence.

But Sweden did experiment with a lax/relaxed approach — perhaps you think the U.S. could have done that — and we can look at the results:
As many public spaces throughout Europe empty out—with citizens only leaving home for essential groceries or medication—life in Sweden is carrying on, mostly as usual. Children walk to school while adults meet up for dinner at their local bar. Only the vulnerable have been advised to isolate and some are working from home. Yet in Sweden, where there are 9,141 confirmed cases and 793 people have died, experts worry weaker measures may be leading to a more severe outbreak in the country of just 10 million citizens.

"In the last 24 hours, a computer simulation by a team of Belgian engineers that tracks the 'spread droplets' and 'slipstream' of the exhalations, coughs, and sneezes of people who are running, walking, or cycling has gone viral."

"Perhaps you have seen this gif on Twitter, Facebook, or NextDoor. Or, as some people on our staff have seen, perhaps write-ups of it have been texted to you by concerned friends or family. Though this was not the specific goal of the simulation, it is currently being used on neighborhood groups and social media as scientific evidence that people who are jogging and biking are putting others at risk. If you are getting 'droplets' or 'globules' on you, the thinking goes, you are at risk of contracting coronavirus. 'People should read and not misread my tweets and texts,' Bert Blocken of Eindhoven University of Technology, the lead researcher on the simulation, wrote in an email to Motherboard. 'I have never and nowhere discouraged people from walking, running, or cycling. Rather the opposite. Maybe people should read more, and react less.'"

"The Viral ‘Study’ About Runners Spreading Coronavirus Is Not Actually a Study/Belgian researchers chose to bypass all standard science publishing protocols to publish research that has been overhyped and isn't well understood" (Vice).

Yeah, I got that thing texted to me. I think people who are sheltering indoors are hot to drag others indoors.
Blocken has yet to publish a peer-reviewed paper about the simulation. In fact, he hasn't even published a non-peer-reviewed study.... Given what Blocken has put into the world, taken at face value, some people are understandably concluding that it is impossible to run or cycle safely in many cities; he recommends a distance of 65 feet between bikers and other people, something that is impossible to do in cities. The issue with Blocken’s suggestion that we “read more, and react less” is that there is almost nothing to read, and there is no study to critique....

I'm watching a new Trump campaign ad — "Biden stands up for China" — because Trump adversaries are attacking it.

I don't know if or when I would have noticed this thing, but I did see that "Gary Locke" was trending on Twitter, and that's what led me here:

When a name that you recognize trends on Twitter, you tend to click on it to see if this person has died. You might not recognize the name Gary Locke, but I did, because his name was on one of the most important freedom of religion cases, Locke v. Davey, and I taught a course on religion and the Constitution for many years. Locke's name is on the case because he was the governor (of Washington) back when a young man who'd qualified for a state scholarship on his academic merit was excluded because of an exception for students who major in devotional theology. (Over the dissent of Scalia and Thomas, the state was allowed to discriminate against religion.)

What does that ad have to do with Gary Locke? The ad begins by showing Biden accusing Trump of "hysterical xenophobia" for restricting travel from China to protect the U.S. from the coronavirus. It draws attention to the "billion-dollar deal" Biden's son had with China. We hear Biden making some pro-China statements and asserting that banning travel from China will not stop the disease and Biden's voice calling it "fear-mongering." At the end, we see Biden say "I complimented him on dealing with China" — as if he'd forgotten what he'd said earlier. And the last shot is Biden saying "I'm not going nuts."

So I watched that. It clearly and memorably establishes that Biden was among those who accused Trump of xenophobia for closing travel from China. But wait! There's still a way to accuse Trump of racism! It's about Gary Locke. Didn't you see?

Here's the NYT article on the subject: "New Trump Attack Ad Falsely Suggests Former Governor Is Chinese/The ad, which calls Joe Biden soft on China and includes an image of former Gov. Gary Locke of Washington, an Asian-American, comes at a time of rising xenophobia over the coronavirus." There's a fraction of a second in that ad when we see Biden walking toward a man who's standing in front of Chinese flags, and the man is Gary Locke, who served as ambassador to China during the Obama administration. No words are said about Locke. It's just part of an effort to make Biden look soft on China. Locke is of Chinese descent, so it seems as though whoever made the montage was not careful in choosing that one clip... unless it was a devious plan to get anti-Trumpsters to make the ad go viral.

The NYT asserts:
Mr. Trump’s campaign released the ad on Thursday at a time of rising xenophobia and violence in the United States aimed at Chinese-Americans, as bigots blame them and other Asian-Americans for the outbreak of the coronavirus, which originated in China.
So that's the defense for Biden: Don't attack Biden for accusing Trump of xenophobia (when Trump was doing what was clearly a good idea in defending us from the virus). Keep accusing Trump of xenophobia (for creating the impression that Locke was a Chinese official).

The Trump campaign doesn't concede that it failed to see Locke as an American:
“The shot with the flags specifically places Biden in Beijing in 2013,” Tim Murtaugh, a Trump campaign spokesman, wrote on Twitter, referring to the picture with Mr. Locke. “It’s for a reason. That’s the Hunter Biden trip. Memory Lane for ol’ Joe.”
The mini-controversy draws attention to the ad. I think that's helpful to Trump. But anti-Trumpsters do get a morsel to feast upon.

ADDED: I wondered about the assertion that we are in "a time of rising xenophobia and violence in the United States aimed at Chinese-American," but I could see there was a link on the words "xenophobia and violence." I'm clicking the link now. It goes to another NYT article, published on March 27th and also updated today:  "Spit On, Yelled At, Attacked: Chinese-Americans Fear for Their Safety/As bigots blame them for the coronavirus and President Trump labels it the 'Chinese virus,' many Chinese-Americans say they are terrified of what could come next."

April 9, 2020

At the Pink Moon Café...


... is there anything else you need to talk about?

The photo shows the moon at 6:26 a.m. (one minute after the "actual" sunrise time). I'm calling it the Pink Moon Café because that's the name of the café. The actual super pink moon occurred on the previous night. It's not called the pink moon because it's supposed to look pink. It's named after a pink wildflower that blooms at this time of year. Phlox subulata.

"Late that night, I learned that I would need to be intubated, or placed on a ventilator. This terrified me."

"A few days earlier, after my admission to the hospital, my physician father had warned me: 'You better not get put on a ventilator. People don’t come back from that.'... I have hazy memories of the intubation. My anesthesiologist was a woman with a slight Caribbean accent and an authoritative, reassuring demeanor. In my overwhelmed state, it seemed that a dozen people were in the room, when, in reality, it was probably just a handful. Aided by anesthesia, I soon fell asleep. I spent the next six days basically asleep, under sedation, the ventilator serving as my lungs. I remember nothing from this period.... Eventually, my doctors faced a choice: take me off the ventilator and see if I could breathe on my own, or give me a tracheostomy, which would have required an incision into my neck to insert a breathing tube directly into my windpipe. After conducting tests to assess my ability to breathe on my own, the doctors decided to take me off the ventilator.... In New York City, where I was hospitalized, 80 percent or more of coronavirus patients who end up on ventilators have died.... Many patients who come off ventilators suffer lasting physical, mental and emotional issues, including cognitive deficits, lost jobs and psychological issues, such as depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.... I am incredibly grateful to be alive. And for that, I have the ventilator to thank."

Writes David Lat (in WaPo).

“The Farm-to-Table Connection Comes Undone.”

“A direct pipeline to chefs that took decades to build has been cut off by the coronavirus, leaving small farmers and ranchers with food they can’t sell” (NYT).
For the first few weeks, farmers scrambled to find other ways to sell their crops. Some turned to online sales or tapped a renewed interest in community-supported agriculture, or C.S.A.s, in which farmers sell subscriptions for boxes of produce. Others delivered food to restaurants that had turned into pop-up grocers, or doubled down on the farmers’ markets that remained open. Many sent what they could to relief kitchens....

For some, it’s been the agricultural equivalent of trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. Celtuce, microgreens and gooseberries might make for a beautiful restaurant menu, but they aren’t what most stuck-at-home cooks are looking for.

“The only thing that makes this bearable for me, frankly, is at least I’m alone.”

“ A couple of people invited me to their houses in the country, houses much more lavish than mine. Some of them have the thing I would love to have, which is a cook, since I don’t know how to cook. And I thought, You know, Fran, you could go away and you could be in a very beautiful place with a cook, but then you’d have to be a good guest. I would much rather stay here and be a bad guest. And, believe me, I am being a bad guest.”

Says Fran Lebowitz, quoted in The New Yorker.

Can Democrats please control the dispersion of their bodily fluids in this time of airborne diseased droplets?

Gross metaphor in this headline at The Hill: "Democrats salivate over Obama coming off sidelines."

Let me get past the headline. Excerpt from the text:
Sources say the former president is ready but that he and Biden are also conscious of the coronavirus pandemic dominating the country and changing the nature of politics....

“No one has heard from him in a long time, and people will pay a lot of money to hear from him, even on a computer,” one longtime Obama ally said....

“Seeing Obama on the campaign trail should excite voters who’ve longed to see him weigh in on current issues and give Biden the needed push,” said Basil Smikle, who served as the executive director of the New York State Democratic Party and a former aide to Clinton. “Obama would also remind voters of his competence while in office, creating a strong contrast between Trump and the Democratic alternative.”
Obama would also create a strong contrast between himself and Biden. The bet is that Obama is so exciting and beloved and missed that we'll just want to do whatever he wants, though we don't get him, we just get Biden. But the appearance of Obama could remind us that we want someone younger and sharper and more vigorous, which points to Trump.

"Gov. Tony Evers directed the state Department of Natural Resources to close 40 Wisconsin state parks, forests, recreational and state natural areas, most of them in southern Wisconsin..."

"... due to record attendance over the first two months of April [sic]. Evers said the closure is 'due to unprecedented crowds, litter, vandalism and out of an abundance of caution to protect health and safety and help flatten the curve.' The areas are planned to be closed at the end of the day Thursday and remain closed until further notice.... In an effort to minimize the spread of coronavirus at state parks and protect DNR staff, while still keeping properties open, the DNR waived entrance fees, closed state park offices, visitor centers and all non-essential buildings on March 24.... But without supervision in the parks, there were issues with visitors not packing their trash out of parks and not keeping six feet of distance between groups of people who aren't living together."

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports.

See? That's why we can't have nice things?

Who were these idiots who couldn't keep 6 feet of distance and take out their own damned trash?

What's next? Ordering us to stay indoors because we can't take responsibility for walking down the street the right way?

IN THE COMMENTS: Dan from Madison said:
This is literally the douchiest thing Evers could have done. One of the very few things that people can do and enjoy - and safely - and he takes it away, with no proof of, well, anything. Perhaps there was an instance here or there where some garbage was left behind, but likely no more than any other day at a Wisconsin State Park. I have been frequenting Devils Lake and Gov Nelson twice a week and everyone has been extremely nice and doing the six foot thing. There is no garbage at either. How about close just the one(s) where there are actual problems? This sucks.

Trump loves to announce that people are doing a great job.

Sunbeams, 6:27 a.m.


"Actual" sunrise time: 6:25.

"But the most interesting thing that I've seen with the covid patients is that there's this sense of calm about them...."

"As we all know... if we get food stuck in our throat or we feel that we can't breathe, there's a sense of panic. The patients that are presenting are so tired that they're not even panicked anymore. They're just tired, 'cause they've just been working... working to breathe."

Says a nurse interviewed on "On the Front Lines in New Orleans/'The first thing I think, if you’ve got the symptoms, are you going to live, or are you going to die?'" — today's episode of "The Daily" podcast (from the NYT).

Why aren't we seeing the argument that when we phase out the economic shutdown, we need to open it up into the Green New Deal?

The ravages of the disease are horrible and tragic, and no sane person welcomed the onslaught, but here we are, all shut down, experiencing the pain and taking on the burdens. With our normal life gone, we long for new activity. But why not move into the level of activity that proponents of the Green New Deal said were justified by the predictions of climate change? Why talk of going back to our old ways? The highways and airlines are drastically reduced right now, and we don't want to stay this far shut down, but why are we thinking of getting all the way back to the extreme overactivity that was contributing to climate change? We could seize this opportunity to make a good leap into something that — until now — was too difficult to begin. We've begun. Let's see the value of this environmental achievement and engrain it into normal life as we move forward and conquer the disease.

Okay — that's the argument I'm not seeing. Why not?!

I do see "Goodbye, Green New Deal" by Kevin D. Williamson at The National Review (dated March 27, 2020):
The current crisis in the U.S. economy is, in miniature but concentrated form, precisely what the Left has in mind in response to climate change: shutting down large sectors of the domestic and global economies through official writ, social pressure, and indirect means, in response to a crisis with potentially devastating and wide-ranging consequences for human life and human flourishing....

What we are seeing right now is what it looks like when Washington tries to steer the economy.... The Left wants very much to convince Americans that climate change presents an emergency of the same kind requiring the same “moral equivalent of war” worldwide mobilization.... A couple of months of this is going to be very hard to take. Nobody is signing up for a lifetime of it.
ADDED: If the argument I suggest is not being made by the erstwhile advocates of the Green New Deal, it seems to mean that they were never sincere about their demands. The Greta Thunberg HOW DARE YOU? argument was fake. Green New Dealers: Step up and prove me wrong.

I don't expect an answer, so I will offer what I think is the best explanation of how there could be both silence and sincerity. The Green New Dealers feel empathy for those who are now suffering from the disease and from the economic shut down. They don't want to exacerbate the pain. And it's not merely empathy. They're afraid of the political damage if they point to the pain and call it a great opportunity. They don't want to look like ghouls.

"As news broke that Tripp was near death, Lewinsky tweeted: 'no matter the past, upon hearing that linda tripp is very seriously ill, i hope for her recovery. i can’t imagine how difficult this is for her family.'"

From "Linda Tripp, whose tapes exposed Clinton affair, dies at 70" (AP).
While defending the taping as necessary to protect herself if her credibility were questioned, Tripp also consulted with a New York literary agent before beginning her secret recordings. Her initial concerns proved warranted when officials and pundits questioned her motives and attacked her character.

Tripp soon became a recognizable member of the wide cast of characters in the impeachment drama, so much so that actor John Goodman appeared as Tripp several times on “Saturday Night Live.”...
That was back when women who came forward and exposed sexual harassment in the workplace were treated as fat, ugly, old, jealous, self-aggrandizing freaks. But America had not yet learned about sexual harassment... other than that time we watched the high-profile, televised attack on Clarence Thomas. Who portrayed Anita Hill on "Saturday Night Live"?

(Watch Goodman as Tripp here.)

I'm sorry, I'm losing interest....

ADDED: This tweet highlights 2 things:

1. You mother will always be able to get to you in a way that nobody else can.

2. The worst thing about Twitter is: You need to maintain a constant presence, tweeting frequently. You'll fall out of sight if you don't do that. But your material really isn't all that good, and every time your followers see you again and notice that you exist, they're just getting the next little snippet, and it's unlikely to be consistently sharp enough that they'll feel rewarded. So you will have a constantly nagging problem: I must be seen but don't look at me I'm ugly.

When first case of coronavirus appeared in NYC — a woman who'd flown in from Iran (via Qatar) — Gov. Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio "promised that health investigators would track down every person on the woman’s flight. But no one did."

Writes J. David Goodman in "How Delays and Unheeded Warnings Hindered New York’s Virus Fight/The federal response was chaotic. Even so, the state’s and city’s own initial efforts failed to keep pace with the outbreak, The Times found" (NYT).
A day later, a lawyer from New Rochelle, a New York City suburb, tested positive for the virus — an alarming sign because he had not traveled to any affected country, suggesting community spread was already taking place.

Although city investigators had traced the lawyer’s whereabouts and connections to the most crowded corridors of Manhattan, the state’s efforts focused on the suburb, not the city, and Mr. de Blasio urged the public not to worry. “We’ll tell you the second we think you should change your behavior,” the mayor said on March 5.

For many days after the first positive test, as the coronavirus silently spread throughout the New York region, Mr. Cuomo, Mr. de Blasio and their top aides projected an unswerving confidence that the outbreak would be readily contained.

There would be cases, they repeatedly said, but New York’s hospitals were some of the best in the world. Plans were in place. Responses had been rehearsed during “tabletop” exercises. After all, the city had been here before — Ebola, Zika, the H1N1 virus, even Sept. 11.

“Excuse our arrogance as New Yorkers — I speak for the mayor also on this one — we think we have the best health care system on the planet right here in New York,” Mr. Cuomo said on March 2. “So, when you’re saying, what happened in other countries versus what happened here, we don’t even think it’s going to be as bad as it was in other countries.”
New York City is not as bad. It's the worst.

April 8, 2020

At the Wednesday Night Café...

... you can talk about whatever you want.

No sunrise picture today. I overslept the sun. I'm going to need an alarm clock now to keep up my habit. The summer solstice is approaching. I can't count on myself to wake up by 5 a.m. — though I usually do.

Reporter asks Trump about pardoning Tiger King/Joe Exotic.

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

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

That's NY Post headline.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sanders is out.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From The Wisconsin Historical Society.

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

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

Says Tess, at TikTok...

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

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

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

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

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

April 7, 2020

At the Tuesday Night Café...


... you can talk about whatever you like.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The gentlest sunrise.


You have to imagine the sound of loons.

Even softer...


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

April 6, 2020

At the Monday Night Café...


... you can talk all night.

Governor Evers single-handedly postpones the Wisconsin election.

The Wisconsin State Journal reports.

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

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

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

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

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

At the Lunchtime Café...


... talk about anything you like.

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

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

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

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

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

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

As for "the dandies of the café terrace":

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

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

CNN reports. Before and after image at the link.

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

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

CNN reports.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Evers declined the request....

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

April 5, 2020

At the Photographer's Café...


... don't miss your shot.

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

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

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

WBEZ reports.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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