April 18, 2020

At the Trout Lily Café...


... you can talk about whatever you like.

I was so pleased to see the wildflowers back in my favorite woods!


The trout lilies have decided to grow in a way that we humans see as upside down. Meade got the idea to get underneath and photograph the flower from our idea of the front side (which let sky shine through):


"Look, if I wasn’t elected you would right now be at war with North Korea. Okay? I'll tell you for your people who don't understand the world..."

"... and they don't understand how life works. If I wasn't elected, you would, right now — Maybe the war would be over, hopefully with a victory, but if you remember when I first came in we didn’t have ammunition — not a good way to fight a war. President Obama left us no ammunition. Okay, and he left us virtually no medical and ventilators. He left us — the the cupboard was dry. Right — the cupboard was dry. No, I think right now, you'd be at war — essentially, in some form — it would be over, it would be raging — with North Korea, if I weren't President. And we're doing just fine with North Korea. Just fine. We'll see how it all ends up."

Trump said today.

On the subject of China, he said: "Maybe Sleepy Joe Biden’s gonna win. And if Sleepy Joe Biden wins you’ll own the United States. And China will own the United States."

ADDED: I listened to the entire press briefing today, and those 2 quotes were the things I remembered and wanted to tell you about. I thought they were a preview of the way Trump will be campaigning against Biden. In today's briefing, at least some of the time, Trump let it show that these briefings are taking the place of the rallies he's been prevented from doing.

"Noticeably subdued, Mr. Cuomo on Saturday shied away from conflict with President Trump a day after the two leaders traded barbs...."

"The governor underscored the need to work with the Trump administration to implement the widespread testing necessary to reopen New York’s economy. 'In the midst of this, there is no time for politics,' Mr. Cuomo said. 'How does this situation get worse and get worse quickly? If you politicize all that emotion. We cannot go there.'"

From "New York Appears to Be ‘Past the Plateau,’ Cuomo Says: Live Updates/Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo backed away from his conflict with President Trump but emphasized that the state would need federal help on testing" (NYT).

I think Cuomo was showing signs of stress yesterday. Who knows what happened behind the scenes, but there are so many reasons for toning down the public emotions. I went to the transcript to see the whole context, and this phrase jumped out at me: "If you’re in public, you have to wear a mask." He was talking about the actual physical masks that people are told to wear, but I thought the phrase worked well to express the demeanor a leader needs to display to maintain confidence and morale.

Anyway... here's the context I was looking for:

On State Street today — the temporarily closed, the closed for good, and the still open.




The protest scene in Austin, Texas.

ADDED: Here's Governor Abbott's order limiting freedom of movement in Texas. Key paragraph:
Is protesting a "physical activity like jogging and bicycling"? Are the protesters on the state capitol grounds "visiting a park"? Are they maintaining "necessary precautions"?

ALSO: "We must be outside!"

Note: I've clipped out a few seconds (not 6 minutes, as the video title has it).

"'We’re afraid of everyone. Afraid of the sun!’ – seemed to Jeff and me especially profound right now, this song about isolation, fear, and existential risks to our world."

Said Johnny Depp. ("Jeff" is Jeff Beck.) Here's their cover of John Lennon's song, "Isolation," recorded last year, presented now, to "make sense of the moment or... pass the time as we endure isolation together."

The lyrics appear on screen — or you can read them here. And if you prefer to hear John, listen here. The song is from 1970, when (Wikipedia tells us), John was "disillusioned with fame" and suffering from the effects of drug use. That is, he was talking about his personal situation and his psychological woes, which are nothing like the social distancing undertaken to fight the spread of the virus. How does this song affect you now? Does it help you endure the isolation or does it make you feel the urgency to reconnect with society?

Sunrise, 6:30.


Actual sunrise time — 6:11.

"[Trump] has managed in this crisis to tell us both that he is all-powerful and that he takes no responsibility for anything."

"And I suspect that this creepy vaudeville act, in a worried and tense country, is beginning to wear real thin. A man who claims total power but only exercises it to protect his personal interests, a man who vaunts his own authority but tolerates no accountability for it, is impressing no one. While governors are acting, Trump is chattering. While people are dying, Trump is bragging about his own ratings, signing his name on stimulus checks, pushing quack remedies, and abetting conspiracy theories about Chinese laboratories. And although there is a rump group of supporters who will follow Trump anywhere and may launch tea party–style protests against social distancing on his behalf, I suspect this fundamental unseriousness after responding to the virus so late is finally taking its toll. The emergency I feared Trump could leverage to untrammeled power may, in fact, be the single clearest demonstration of his incompetence and irrelevance. Combine this with a calamitous depression and I’m beginning to wonder if it matters that Biden is the Abraham Simpson of American politics. Maybe Biden doesn’t need to win this thing. Maybe Trump could lose it all by himself."

That's the Andrew Sullivan perspective (from this week's NY Magazine column).

I wondered — because I'm always looking for the exit door — whether there really ever were vaudeville acts that could be called "creepy." The internet quickly served up "The Dancing Pig" (from 1907):

I laughed and even squealed at one point (toward the end, so watch the whole thing).

Here's how I summarize the story in that vaudeville video: If a male chauvinist pig would just become a woman and dance, we could all be happy — maybe too happy.

Oh, I went back in the door. I read the quoted Sullivan passage carefully. I said out loud "Who's Abraham Simpson?" I thought it was some English reference I needed to research — someone in the orbit of Wallis Simpson perhaps — familiar to Andrew Sullivan but out of the range of things I've ever been interested in. I resorted to the intent again. D'oh! It's Grampa Simpson from "The Simpsons." Sullivan seems to just be conceding that Joe Biden is a mentally impaired senior.

"You see all over the country now people are revolting against certain state governors who want to maintain lockdown. It can’t go on."

"This forced shutdown, the forced ruination of the United States economy must end. And I can’t tell you. I was longing for that day yesterday.... I don’t know how many of the people who are among our experts setting policy, I don’t know how many of them have been broke. I don’t know how many of them have been where 22 million Americans are, without a job, without any income, and unemployment compensation that just will not get it done. I don’t know how many. There may be some. I’m sure that the law of averages would dictate some have been there. But I don’t know how many. Trump has been there, by the way. Trump has been at the edge of the cliff looking over it. His survival techniques are a fascinating story and why they’re not going to damage him ultimately with every effort they’re gonna mount on this.... And I think that way too many people in some positions of authority and power really don’t face dire economic circumstances like an increasing number of the American people do. It worries me. As I say, I’ve been there, and it’s scary to me, just the memories of being in that circumstance. And it was a number of different times for me. It’s scary to remember it. But it enables me to understand what people are going through and how it cannot go on. It simply can’t...."

That's the Rush Limbaugh perspective (from yesterday's show).

Also: "Do you realize whatever the length of time this task force has been up and running there has not been one subversive leak, not one? Not a single subversive leak.

Slate: "The protester who was arrested in Raleigh was charged because she, like everyone around her, had violated public health orders by flaunting social distancing measures."

I'm reading "What the People Organizing 'Reopen the Businesses' Protests Are Thinking/A movement started in part by small-business owners hoping to save their shops has spiraled into something much different" by Molly Olmstead in Slate, and I'd like to take instruction on what people the author doesn't like are really thinking but I got hung up on that one sentence.

I mean, how exactly would you "violated public health orders by flaunting social distancing measures"? Did the authorities forbid people go about proclaiming Whoa! Look at me! I am 6 feet away from everybody — at least! 6 feet, I tell you!! I am so appropriately distant! I am the Queen of Distance!?

Aside from that flaunt/flout gaffe, Olmstead says there are 2 different kinds of motivation for these protests — preserving local businesses and protecting personal freedom. The personal-freedom people tend to be more "stridently political," while the business-oriented folk are "more collaborative and conciliatory."

Why is Trump encouraging protests that put pressure on Governors when he just got done imposing a duty on them to follow a carefully structured process before reopening?

Yesterday, Trump's tweeted "LIBERATE MINNESOTA!," "LIBERATE MICHIGAN!" an "LIBERATE VIRGINIA, and save your great 2nd Amendment. It is under siege!"

And the Governor of Washington, Jay Inslee, said, "The president is fomenting domestic rebellion and spreading lies even while his own administration says the virus is real and is deadly, and that we have a long way to go before restrictions can be lifted.”

At yesterday's Task Force press briefing — transcript — Trump was asked how tweeting "encouraging liberation" — "fomenting domestic rebellion" — "squares with the sober and methodical guidance that you issued yesterday." Good question!
Donald Trump: Well, I think we do have a sobering guidance, but I think some things are too tough. And if you look at some of the states you just mentioned, it’s too tough. Not only relative to this, but what they’ve done in Virginia with respect to the Second Amendment is just a horrible thing. They did a horrible thing, the governor, and he’s a governor under a cloud to start off with. So, when you see what he said about the Second Amendment, when you see what other states have done. No, I think I feel very comfortable. Go ahead.
That seems to say that some Governors have overdone the repressiveness of the shutdown and relieving the excesses of shutting down is different from the reopening process. For example, in Michigan, there was an arbitrariness to what you could and couldn't buy in stores that were open (e.g., liquor and lottery tickets but not plant seeds and paint). Governors can amend their shutdown orders — Wisconsin's Governor just extended our shutdown but changed some rules (you can play golf now) — without entering into the phases of reopening described by the Task Force.

Trump gets a second question and — though he's a bit inarticulate — I'm pretty sure my interpretation of what he's asserting is correct:
Speaker 8: Thank you, Mr. President. Just to be clear, when you talk about these states, Michigan, Minnesota, Virginia, do you think that they should lift their stay at home orders or can you talk—

Donald Trump: No, but I think elements of what they’ve done are too much. It’s just too much. You know the elements because I’ve already said, but certainly a Second Amendment and Second Amendment having to do with the state of Virginia. What they’ve done in Virginia is just incredible. Okay, please.
Of course, there's plenty of reason to see a subtext. He's still campaigning for reelection, and he's talking to his people. He can't do his rallies anymore — not for a while anyway — and these protests are Trump rallies of a sort. Trumpsters coming out in force and cheering for freedom and gun rights.

In fact, Trump talked about his longing for old-style rallies. He was asked at yesterday's briefing about a statement from his campaign that said there would be more rallies before the election, and he said, he hoped to do rallies. They're "great for the country" and "an important part of politics actually."
There’s nothing like it. So I certainly hope we can have rallies. We’ll find out. I don’t like the rallies where we’re sitting like you’re sitting. I mean, you’ve got many reporters outside trying to get into this room, and I come in, I’m looking at this room, and I see all this. It loses a lot of flavor. It loses to me, a lot of flavor....

"[R]esearchers estimate that the range of people who may have had the virus to be between 48,000 and 81,000 in the county of 2 million — as opposed to the approximately 1,000 in the county's official tally..."

"... at the time the samples were taken. 'Our findings suggest that there is somewhere between 50- and 80-fold more infections in our county than what’s known by the number of cases than are reported by our department of public health,' Dr. Eran Bendavid, the associate professor of medicine at Stanford University who led the study.... The initial data is the first to provide greater clarity about where a community is in the pandemic."

From "Antibody research indicates coronavirus may be far more widespread than known/Of 3,300 people in California county up to 4% found to have been infected" (ABC News).

"Trump could have made a case that the WHO was slow to speak firmly about the possible human-to-human transmission."

"But he puts the onus on the WHO to investigate when it is largely dependent on information provided by member countries. (Leave aside the fact that Trump kept praising China’s transparency. If he had been more publicly critical, it might have forced China to respond more appropriately.) But Trump really gets over his skis when he claims that the WHO 'publicly endorsed the idea that there was not human-to-human transmission happening' and that the WHO said it was 'not communicable.' The WHO said initially that there was 'no clear evidence.' But by Jan. 14, a senior official said they could not rule out human-to-human transmission given the experience with SARS. That statement was made only two weeks after the WHO first learned of the new virus. It’s almost a Four-Pinocchio claim but not quite. The WHO could have highlighted the human-to-human transmission sooner than it did and pressed China for more information. Trump, of course, could have done the same — and failed to do so, for weeks longer. Trump earns Three Pinocchios."

Writes the WaPo fact-checker Glenn Kessler.

I got there via "WaPo Fact Checker Glenn Kessler Morphs Into WHO Apologist in Ridiculous Fact Check on Trump" by Sister Toldjah (at Red State), which is near the top of my favorite source for new news links, Memeorandum.

IN THE COMMENTS: That "Trump really gets over his skis" prompted Danno to write:
Kessler a ski jumper? Laughable. But maybe someone should strap some skis on Kessler and release him from the largest ski jump in existence. Now that would be fun to watch.
Is "over his skis" a reference to ski jumping? I looked it up and fell right into the most famous "out over his skis" in history — spoken by Barack Obama and about — of all people — Joe Biden:
A few weeks ago, when Barack Obama was called upon to explain whether Joe Biden was officially authorized to endorse gay marriage, the president explained, “He probably got out a little bit over his skis, but out of generosity and spirit.”...

[T]he phrase’s metaphorical use seems to have begun in the finance world. Its first non-skiing print usages came in the early nineties, in publications like Investment Dealers’ Digest. For instance, a 1991 article quoted a “market source” describing a race between Goldman Sachs’ and Lehman Bros.’ preferred stock desk. “Someone said [Lehman] couldn’t get a clean legal opinion on it. They may have been out over their skis a little bit with their structure.”...

[W]herever Obama picked it up, it’s a way of taking someone down a peg without being too terribly harsh. Who ever thought a rousing defense of the right for gay couples to marry would be couched in such a bro-ish metaphor?
Hmm. Interesting. But I still don't know if "out over his skis" refers to ski jumping or ordinary downhill skiing. I'm guessing it's the latter — simply because the ski jumpers I've seen on TV do this...

... which is to say that getting "out over your skis" seems to be what you're supposed to do. Kessler left out the "out," by the way, so I think he was out over his skis in the use of trite slang.

Anyway — to extend the metaphor — maybe if the skier looks out over his skis it's because his sport is ski jumping and you're thinking of downhill. That needs some work, but I offer it as an alternative to the usual "Trump is paying 4D chess."

April 17, 2020

"We will be okay."

Found, today, on a park bench...



Open thread. Talk about whatever you like.

The press briefing...

Bob Dylan gives us another new song — "I Contain Multitudes."

Got a tell-tale heart, like Mr. Poe
Got skeletons in the walls of people you know
I'll drink to the truth and the things we said
I'll drink to the man that shares your bed
I'll paint landscapes and I'll paint nudes
I contain multitudes...

I sing the songs of experience, like William Blake
I've got no apologies to make
Everything's flowing all at the same time
I live on a boulevard of crime
I drive fast cars, while I eat fast foods
I contain multitudes

Pink Pedal Pushers, Red Blue-Jeans
All the pretty maids, and all the old queens
All the old queens, from all my past lives
I carry four pistols and two large knives
I'm a man of contradictions, I'm a man of many moods
I contain multitudes...
ADDED: "Pink Pedal Pushers" is an old Carl Perkins song — listen here. "Red Blue Jeans" is Gene Vincent — here.

AND: "Pretty maids" might refer to this Eagles song. Dylan's previous song, "Murder Most Foul" contained the names of 2 of The Eagles ("Play Don Henley, play Glenn Frey").

I noticed a TikTok trend — young women lip-synching to a short clip of Trump's voice — sometimes with what I perceive as a real appreciation for Trump's comic stylings.

I'll put this after the jump because TikTok embeds don't play well with some browsers.

Anyway, I think all these are very funny — both because of Trump and because of the woman who is adopting his voice. I think the first 2 women genuinely appreciate Trump. The third might be more of a Trump antagonist, but you'll like it even if you love Trump (or maybe you won't!).

One thing I like about these is that — as I've said a few times and have thought all along — there's something womanly about Trump. And I'm not saying that as an insult. He often displays machismo or seems to do the voice of a mob boss, but not all the time. He has this softer lilt that comes through some of the time, as I think these women know:

These last 2 days on Twitter, Trump has savaged Nancy Pelosi.

"Stocks surged after a report said a Gilead Sciences drug showed some effectiveness in treating the coronavirus..."

"... giving investors some hope there could be a treatment solution that helps the country reopen faster from the widespread shutdowns that have plunged the economy into a recession....  Gilead shares jumped more than 10% after STAT news reported that a Chicago hospital treating coronavirus patients with remdesivir in a trial were recovering rapidly from severe symptoms.... Gilead itself... cautioned that anecdotal reports are not enough to determine yet whether the drug will be an effective treatment."

CNBC reports.

There's also the Task Force plan — with the federal definition of "gates" and the "phases" and the Governors handling the details. Doesn't that generate hope of reopening?

"I spoke to the commissioners yesterday — almost I guess of every sport — and many of them are going to be starting without the fans."

"So, it will be made for television — the good old days, made for television, and it’ll go that way. And then, fans will start coming in, maybe they’ll be separated by two seats and then ultimately we want to have packed arenas when the virus is gone. We’re going to have packed arenas and we’re going to be back to enjoying sports the way they’re supposed to be."

Said Donald Trump at yesterday's press briefing — full transcript here.

How to defend celebrities who get caught flouting the coronavirus rules we're all expected to take seriously?

The NYT seems to be leading the way here:

"‘Corona-Shamed’: George Stephanopoulos, J. Lo — Maybe You?/Ivanka Trump, Chris Cuomo and all kinds of private citizens are getting roasted on social media for perceived failures of public hygiene" (by Katherine Rosman).
But now... [t]he web is especially alight with finger-pointers: people who are genuinely concerned about public health but also, perhaps, with pent-up fears, frustrations and extra time on their hands. Call it “corona-shaming.”...
"The Seductive Appeal of Pandemic Shaming/I can’t control who gets sick or when we might return to something that looks like normal. But judging a random guy on the sidewalk? That I can do" (by Jennifer Weiner).
But with that impulse [to engage in public shaming] comes a different fear — the fear of being that white lady of a certain age who would like to speak to your manager. The fear of being Coronavirus Karen....

As the lockdown continues, are the Karens becoming even more Karen-ish? Has the virus started the Night of the Living Karens? As everyone scrutinizes and side-eyes and embraces the mandate Snitch on Thy Neighbor, are we all Karens now?...

Be the Karen... who uses her power... for good instead of evil; who protects the noncompliant, instead of getting them in trouble; who believes that we’re all in this together....
This is what you can call shame shaming.

"I’m hoping this moment launches a change in the way we raise and train all our young, at all ages. I’m hoping it exorcises the tide of 'safetyism,' which has gone overboard."

"The virus is another reminder that hardship is woven into the warp and woof existence. Training a young person is training her or him to master hardship, to endure suffering and, by building something new from the wreckage, redeem it."

Writes David Brooks in "The Age of Coddling Is Over/Learning what hardship has to teach us" (NYT).

That reminded me of a discussion here on the blog on April 5th. Excerpt:
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...?...  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.
Is "snowflakeism" the same as "safetyism"?

Here's how Brooks introduced his term:
Over the past decades, a tide of “safetyism” has crept over American society. As Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt put it in their book “The Coddling of the American Mind,” this is the mentality that whatever doesn’t kill you makes you weaker. The goal is to eliminate any stress or hardship a child might encounter, so he or she won’t be wounded by it.
I've read that book, and I have it in searchable form. I can see that "safetyism" is used prominently, but do Lukianoff and Haidt ever say "snowflakeism"? No, they only use the word "snowflake" once, in their summing up paragraph at the very end:
As far as we can tell from private conversations, most university presidents reject the culture of safetyism.... From our conversations with students, we believe that most high school and college students despise call-out culture and would prefer to be at a school that had little of it. Most students are not fragile, they are not “snowflakes,” and they are not afraid of ideas. So if a small group of universities is able to develop a different sort of academic culture—one that finds ways to make students from all identity groups feel welcome without using the divisive methods that seem to be backfiring on so many campuses—we think that market forces will take care of the rest.... Entire towns and school districts will organize themselves to enable and encourage more free-range parenting. They will do this not primarily to help their students get into college but to reverse the epidemic of depression, anxiety, self-injury, and suicide that is afflicting our children. There will be a growing recognition across the country that safetyism is dangerous and that it is stunting our children’s development.

April 16, 2020

At the Sunrise Café...


... you can talk about whatever you want.

The actual sunrise time today was 6:14. Photo taken at 6:16.

The press briefing.

Watch live here.

ADDED: Trump is announcing a new policy called “Opening Up America Again.”

We’re opening “one careful step at a time.” We’ve “passed the peak in new cases.” We’ll “shelter the highest risk individuals,” continue with “vigorous hygiene.”

He’s stressing that the states are different, and states that need to remain closed will be “allowed” to do that. States can work together and “harmonize” their efforts.

Outbreaks will be identified and “put out... rapidly.”

AND: It’s a structure of “gates” and “phases” that I will not try to summarize, but basically states must satisfy criteria and then they can move into a phase, with 3 phases outlined.

The first questions zero in on sports. When can we get back to the spectator arenas?

"After privately suggesting to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin that he be allowed to formally sign the checks, Trump settled for having his name printed in the memo section..."

"... according to administration officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations. The placement of Trump’s name on the stimulus checks was taken out of the hands of the IRS early in the process, according to two government officials. The plan has been closely held within the IRS, and Commissioner Charles Rettig has not discussed it on his daily calls with his top executives, senior agency officials said. When the decision came down from the Treasury Department late Monday that the first batch of paper checks would include 'Donald J. Trump' on the memo line, it was announced to just five senior IRS officials. The IRS, already tasked with quickly disbursing hundreds of billions of dollars in payments to Americans, is now rushing to prepare checks that bear Trump’s name.... While several senior Trump administration officials said they did not know where Trump got the idea for putting his name on the stimulus checks, many said they were not surprised by the move. Trump has long exhibited a desire for featuring his signature prominently on objects, including newspaper clippings, stock market charts and even Bibles."

From "Trump denied he wanted his name on stimulus checks. Here’s how it happened" (WaPo).

ADDED: Maybe I didn't spend enough time reading this article, but I still don't know "how it happened." Also what is the "it"? Is it that the name ended up on the checks or that Trump really did want his name on the checks and caused it to happen?

"For miles, thousands of drivers clogged the streets to demand Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) ease restrictions and allow them to go back to work."

"They drowned downtown Lansing, Mich., in a cacophony of honking. They blared patriotic songs from car radios, waving all sorts of flags from the windows — President Trump flags, American flags and the occasional Confederate flag. But in the massive demonstration against Whitmer’s stay-at-home executive order — which they have argued is excessive and beyond her authority — the pleas from organizers that protesters to stay in their vehicles went unheeded. Many got out of their cars and crashed the front lawn of the capitol building, with some chanting, 'Lock her up!' and 'We will not comply!'" — WaPo reports, with this video:

Background on the strict and confusing order:
Confused shoppers found they could buy liquor and lottery tickets on a trip to the grocery store, but couldn’t visit the vegetable seed aisle or gardening center. The order required large stores to shut down plant nurseries and rope off sections where carpet, flooring and paint were sold, provisions that conservatives found both arbitrary and harmful to business owners.
It would be nice to consider the constructive things people might think of doing when they are confined to their homes. Paint and garden supplies would help people keep a positive outlook and also actually improve homes. If the Governor had observed and listened and tweaked the order when arguments about arbitrariness arose, she would not have been so vulnerable to these charges of "petty authoritarianism."

Meanwhile, WaPo is encouraging its readers to distance themselves from the deplorables who won't follow orders. Confederate flags? Really? The Michiganders who want to plant a vegetable garden are — what? — racists? This is just stoking divisiveness. The enemy is a virus. People need to work together.

"It’s very hard for a person to quarantine in a home and other people not to get infected. To do it in a home where a person is bringing you dishes, bringing you food, even if they’re wearing a mask and gloves, that virus can live on some surfaces up to two days."

Said Governor Andrew Cuomo, expressing empathy for his brother and sister-in-law, quoted in "'It just breaks my heart': Chris Cuomo says his wife, Cristina, has coronavirus, too," published in The Washington Post, which makes no mention of the incident over the weekend in which Chris Cuomo and his family were enjoying the outdoors together on beachfront real estate that did not even include a house — let alone a room where Chris could have been doing the kind of quarantine Andrew was talking about.

I can't believe Governor Cuomo is not aware of that news, published prominently in multiple articles in the New York Post. Why is Andrew risking his credibility to cover for his brother?!

"My gut says that what Reade alleges did not happen. My head instructs that it is within the realm of possibility..."

"... and fairness requires acknowledging that. And there is another point to bear in mind: Double standards work in both directions. Those who disbelieved and diminished Christine Blasey Ford face the challenge of explaining why they seem so much more eager to credit Tara Reade’s account."

Writes Ruth Marcus in "Assessing Tara Reade’s allegations" (WaPo). Marcus wrote a book about Christine Blasey Ford and concluded that she was telling the truth. This column is (or purports to be) Marcus's effort to not be a hypocrite.
Outrage over misbehavior only by those with whom we have ideological differences is not righteous — it is hypocritical. Skepticism about accusations only when they are made against someone with whom we are ideologically aligned is not high-minded — it is intellectually dishonest.

And yet. Reflexive acceptance of any and all allegations of sexual misconduct against any man is not staunch feminism — it is dangerous credulity that risks doing terrible injustice to the accused. #BelieveAllWomen was a dumb hashtag and a dumber approach to inevitably complex, fact-bound situations. I have always tried to argue in favor of fact-finding first, conviction later, whether in the court of public opinion, in the Senate confirmation process or elsewhere....
I won't detail Marcus's assessment of the evidence in the Reade and Blasey Ford cases, but I wanted to point to something said in the comments over there. This combines 3 different commenters:
Women of a certain age, and Ms. Reade is one, know that we all wore pantyhose in those days in DC.... I have difficulty in thinking a female staffer on the Hill in the spring of 1993 was not wearing hose with a business skirt.... I'm a retired physician and a woman. I've done a lot of pelvic exams in my life and I honestly don't see how a standing man could reach under a standing woman's layers of clothes and insert a finger without groping, fumbling and cooperation.... Especially if she was wearing pantyhose....

"Contact tracing has helped Asian countries like South Korea and Singapore contain the spread of the virus, but their systems rely heavily on digital surveillance..."

"... using patients’ digital footprints to automatically alert their contacts, an intrusion that many Americans would not accept Massachusetts is opting for an old-school, labor-intensive method: people.... The idea of training a corps of contact tracers is emerging in many places at the same time, as leaders think ahead to the point when social distancing constraints will be lifted.... It is built around one-on-one telephone interviews of newly diagnosed patients and their contacts, so that subjects must answer the phone when it rings.... The downside of human contact tracing is that it is expensive, can overlook contacts a subject may not recall, and, some argue, is too slow for a fast-moving virus.... Within the next two hours, the case investigator will aim to reach the patient by phone and compile a list of every person he or she had been in close contact with for 48 hours before the onset of symptoms. The names of the contacts — the expectation is 10 people per new case — will then be passed to contact tracers, who will attempt to reach each one by telephone within 48 hours, calling back three times in succession to signal the call’s importance. For now, tracers are not leaving messages or call back numbers...."

From "An Army of Virus Tracers Takes Shape in Massachusetts/Asian countries have invested heavily in digital contact-tracing, which uses technology to warn people when they have been exposed to the coronavirus. Massachusetts is using an old-fashioned means: people" (NYT).

Reading the headline, I thought that article would be more of a pitch to go to digital surveillance, but it's promoting hiring huge numbers of contract tracers. Does that seem likely to work well in America? The Times doesn't come out and say it, but one might expect Americans to rankle at digital surveillance. The Times is politically correct enough not to lean heavily into the notion that surveillance is an "Asian" approach, but the implication seems to be there. The corollary is that the personal, individual connection is more suited to Americans.

But is it?! It's all about phone calls — phone calls from unknown numbers. Do we even answer the phone when we don't know the caller? I don't.  And what's your reaction when a call comes through without showing the caller's number — especially if they call back 3 times and never leave a message? I would never answer that call. Would you? Would the average American?

The article begins with an anecdote about a caller who not only gets the phone answered, but talks to a woman for 45 minutes. The 2 of them "giggled and commiserated." So... I'm sure some people pick up and love to talk to a stranger about their personal predicament. But I don't believe that's the way most of us Americans are using the phone these days.

The NYT should lay out the digital surveillance option and let us judge for ourselves whether it's superior to these hordes of human telephoners. If I'm protected from digital surveillance, then explain to me why the government that wants to call me on the telephone has my number? If you already can get to my number, then maybe when it's a matter of life and death, you should just go ahead and do the digital surveillance needed to trace the contagion and spare me the nonsense of a nice lady calling on the phone to giggle and commiserate with me for 45 minutes.

IN THE COMMENTS: I Have Misplaced My Pants identifies the worst flaw with the personal approach to contacts tracing:

April 15, 2020

At the Wednesday Night Café...


... you can talk all night.

"As a student, Dr. Conway cultivated his acknowledged lifelong preference for being lazy, playing games and doing no work."

"He could be easily distracted by what he called 'nerdish delights.' He once went on a flexagon binge... [working with] 'polygons, folded from straight or crooked strips of paper, which have the fascinating property of changing their faces when they are flexed.' He built a water-powered computer, which he called Winnie (Water Initiated Nonchalantly Numerical Integrating Engine).... Hired at Cambridge as an assistant lecturer, Dr. Conway gained a reputation for his high jinks (not to mention his disheveled appearance). Lecturing on symmetry and the Platonic solids, he might bring in a turnip as a prop, carving it one slice at a time into, say, an icosahedron, with its 20 triangular faces, eating the scraps as he went.... Dr. Conway invented a profusion of games — like Phutball (short for Philosopher’s Football, which is a little like checkers on a Go board)... [He] published the Monstrous Moonshine conjecture, investigating an elusive symmetry group that lives in 196,883 dimensions.... Asked by a reporter... about his life of the mind, he replied: 'What happens most of the time is nothing. You just can’t have ideas often.'... He gave over his summers... to teaching at math camps [where] his talks were advertised vaguely as 'John Conway Hour, NTBA' (Not to Be Announced). He would take topic requests from students and deliver an extemporaneous lecture. Math, Dr. Conway believed, should be fun. 'He often thought that the math we were teaching was too serious.... to him, fun was deep... he wanted to make sure that the playfulness was always, always there.'"

From "John Horton Conway, a ‘Magical Genius’ in Math, Dies at 82/He made profound contributions to number theory, coding theory, probability theory, topology, algebra and more — and created games from it all. He died of the coronavirus" (NYT).

At the Lunchtime Café...


... it's still sunrise in the photographs.

I caught that view at 6:21. The actual sunrise time was 6:15. I almost overslept it! Woke up and looked at the clock at 5:50. Very late for me!

Trump wanted to start a White House radio talk show.

This idea came up in March, just before the announcement of the European travel ban. The idea would be "to quell Americans’ fears," the NYT reports. He'd have an open line — no screening — and talk with ordinary people — for 2 hours, every day. But he rejected the idea because he didn't want to encroach on Rush Limbaugh.
On Monday, Mr. Limbaugh argued that the “shutdown” was “a political effort to get rid of Donald Trump in the election this November” — as well as a Democratic ploy to “keep people fed without them having to go to work” and to “fine them for going to church.”

Mr. Limbaugh, a frequent golf partner of Mr. Trump’s in Palm Beach, Fla., has been candid and proud about his direct line to the president....

Polling shows that the vast majority of Americans support a national stay-at-home order, but Mr. Limbaugh’s audience — in other words, the president’s base — shares his agitation about jump-starting the economy....
So Limbaugh is helpful to Trump saying things Trump shouldn't say (but might be tempted to say on the radio).
On Friday, a caller [to Limbaugh] from Prescott, Ariz., wondered if experts were urging the shutdown of the economy as a way to model the potential effects of legislation intended to combat climate change. “Isn’t this kind of like a dry run of the Green New Deal?” he asked.
What would Trump say to that? I don't know, but I wanted to look up and see what Rush said. Here:

"He said, 'Who the hell are you?! I can do what I want!'... He just ranted, screaming, 'I’ll find out who you are!'"

"I said to him, 'Your brother is the coronavirus czar, and you’re not even following his rules — unnecessary travel'... He just began to boil more. He said, "This is not the end of this. You’ll deal with this later. We will meet again." If that’s not a threat, I don’t know what is... I hate bullies."

Said the fat-tire biker identified as "David," quoted in "‘I hate bullies’: Bicyclist verbally attacked by Chris Cuomo fires back" (NY Post).

David is a resident of the town, and he was able to accuse Cuomo of "unnecessary travel," because there is no residence built on the property Cuomo owns there, just a steel frame. And Cuomo was — according to David — hanging out with his wife, another woman and 3 kids. That's not following the rules!

The state of Trump's view — as of yesterday — that his "authority is total."

As I've said, I think Trump's rhetoric is a device to shift responsibility over to the governors and to facilitate a patchwork, decentralized reopening of the economy. The claim that the President's "authority is total" was made at the April 13th press briefing, so now I want to look at  the April 14th Task Force Press briefing and see what — if anything — may have changed after a day of knocking him around for what was widely perceived as an outrageous power grab:
Donald Trump: The plans to reopen the country are close to being finalized and we will soon be sharing details and new guidelines with everybody. I will be speaking to all 50 governors very shortly and I will then be authorizing each individual governor of each individual state to implement a reopening and a very powerful reopening plan of their state at a time and in a manner as most appropriate.
By saying he will be "authorizing" the governors to take over the decision-making and implementation of the reopening, he's not stepping back from the claim of power. In that formulation, he has the power, but he's going to delegate it to the Governors.

If you're sitting around watching TV news commentary about our coronavirus predicament...

... and I don't recommend that you do... here's a drinking game you can play... not that I recommend drinking... either seriously or in a game... maybe just pay attention and — like us — exclaim in delighted outrage whenever this happens:

Somebody who means to say "open the economy" says "open the government."

It's telling! And it happens a lot!

"A British woman in a long-term relationship with a 92-year-old German chandelier has been told that her attraction to historic light fittings is not considered to be a protected sexual orientation."

"The press regulator, Ipso, made the ruling after Amanda Liberty, a woman from Leeds in her mid thirties, complained about an article in the Sun mocking her public declaration of love for Lumiere, her name for an intricate lamp she bought on eBay. She argued that the newspaper’s article breached the regulator’s code of conduct which requires publishers to avoid prejudicial or pejorative references to an individual’s sexuality. Liberty identifies as an ‘objectum sexual’ – an individual who is attracted to objects. She objected to being included in an end-of-year article by Sun columnist Jane Moore, which nominated her for a 'Dagenham Award (Two Stops Past Barking)' prize, simply because of her sexual attraction to Lumiere.... The complaints panel at the press regulator sided with the newspaper, saying that they acknowledged that the article was considered to be 'offensive and upsetting' by Liberty but that Ipso do not cover issues of taste and decency."

The Guardian reports.

"Ipso" is the Independent Press Standards Organisation, "the largest independent regulator of the newspaper and magazine industry in the UK. It exists to promote and uphold the highest professional standards of journalism, and to support members of the public in seeking redress where they believe that the Editors' Code of Practice."

"Object sexuality..."
... or objectophilia is a form of sexual or romantic attraction focused on particular inanimate objects. Individuals with this attraction may have strong feelings of love and commitment to certain items or structures of their fixation. For some, sexual or close emotional relationships with humans are incomprehensible. Some object-sexual individuals also often believe in animism, and sense reciprocation based on the belief that objects have souls, intelligence, and feelings, and are able to communicate.
Lots of people love things. But when is the love sexual?

"How on earth do you pretend that Joe Biden’s character is not instantly newsworthy? He’s the presumptive nominee of the Democratic Party for president."

"He was the vice president of the United States for eight years. He’s been a front-page news figure since the 1980s. Thought experiment: Imagine that an allegation came forward against Ken Starr. We all know that, because Starr was involved in pursuing the Lewinsky story, any whiff of sexual impropriety would instantly be framed as a hypocrisy story even long after Starr has left public service. Biden chaired the Hill-Thomas hearings in 1991; how is that not the same thing? We were constantly told that the Kavanaugh allegations should be judged by a low bar because the hearings were 'a job interview' and he’d be confirmed to a powerful, life-tenured job. Well, presidents have a lot more power than any individual Supreme Court justice, including the power to appoint lots of life-tenured federal judges and justices. Isn’t this Biden’s job interview?"

Writes Dan McLaughlin in "The New York Times Knows Nobody Believes It about Biden, Kavanaugh, and Sexual Assault" (National Review).

In my view, the Christine Blasey Ford and Tara Reade accusations are at just about exactly the same level in seriousness, importance, and credibility. The obvious difference is which political party supports the accused. If you don't treat them the same, you're showing that you're doing partisan politics. It's what we saw in the 90s with Anita Hill and Paula Jones. I know I've treated like cases alike on a principled basis and I have done it for decades. But I don't see too many other people stepping up to that challenge.

"My mom was like, 'Amy’s called her son "genital."' And I was like, 'What are you talking about?'"

Said Amy Schumer, explaining why she had to change the name she and her husband had given their baby son, The Independent reports.

The original name was Gene Attell Fischer. Attell was in honor of the comedian David Attell. Apparently, it took them months to notice the unfortunate near homophone, "genital." They changed the middle name to David.

By the way, does Ron DeSantis notice that his name sounds like Rhonda Santis? Apparently not, since he could easily call himself by his full name Ronald DeSantis (or Ronald Dion DeSantis or R. Dion DeSantis or Dion DeSantis).

ADDED: Meade observes that  R. Dion DeSantis sounds like "Hard On DeSantis."

AND: I was looking for... I forget what... and I ran across this Amy-and-children video:

That really bothered me. I get the humor, but I don't think children should have been used in making the video. I started out being bothered just by the adult "bob" hair (wig?) on the one little girl. I ended up being quite upset that the girls were talking about sex.

"The decision to have the paper checks bear Trump's name, in the works for weeks, according to a Treasury official, was announced early Tuesday to the IRS's information technology team."

"The team, working from home, is now racing to implement a programming change that two senior IRS officials said will probably lead to a delay in issuing the first batch of paper checks. They are scheduled to be sent Thursday to the Bureau of the Fiscal Service for printing and issuing."

According to The Washington Post (reprinted at The Hour, linked by Drudge). This is, we're told, "the first time a president's name appears on an IRS disbursement."

ADDED: The sentence quoted in the headline is poorly written. "The decision to have the paper checks bear Trump's name" was suddenly announced on Tuesday. It was not "in the works for weeks." The paper checks were "in the works for weeks," and this new decision caused delay. This is the kind of writing mistake that happens when you try to crush a lot of information into one sentence.

ALSO: Is it so odd that a leader would put his name on the money? It made me think of the Biblical story where Jesus figured out how to answer an attempted gotcha question from his antagonists:

Good morning. I've been out to see the sunrise, and now I'm back...


... gazing into the internet, waiting for the bloggable things to rise out of the murk. It seems to happen every morning, but that doesn't mean it always will.

April 14, 2020

At the Sunrise Café...


... you can talk until tomorrow morning.


The photos were taken at 6:28 this morning. The actual sunrise time was 6:17.

"I think the press has been in a death spiral that the president participates in, which hurts both of them."

"I think that the questions are often combative and gotcha. His responses, I think at times, are beneath what he should be doing... He should be there for 10 or 15 minutes off the top to deliver the big headlines, answer a few questions, and then leave the rest of it to Vice President Pence and to the folks on his team — the experts on his team.... I don't think it helps the president, in the long run, to be in hand-to-hand combat with any member of the media, and I think also the media has some measure of responsibility as well for some of the things that they do — so, unfortunately, I think they're both hurting the situation here."

Said Chris Christie on "The View" today.

I noticed that because the name Chris Christie was trending on Twitter.

"US chain McDonald's has apologised after a sign telling black people they were banned from entering a branch in southern China prompted outrage online..."

"... following reports of discriminatory treatment towards Africans in the city. Tensions have flared between police and Africans in the southern metropolis of Guangzhou after local officials announced a cluster of COVID-19 cases in a neighbourhood with a large migrant population. As the row escalated, posts widely shared online showed a sign at fast food chain McDonald's saying black people were not allowed to enter the restaurant...."

France24 reports.

Can you explain Trump's "Mutiny On The Bounty" tweet? I can!

I'm not in the mood to write a big long thing right now, but I think this is not all that hard. Use lateral thinking, and remember it's a show — a movie is a show and politics is a show. Trump is enjoying the show. That might be in bad taste, considering all the death and fear of death, but he's doing it all the same.

I'll just sketch out my theory. Trump wants the governors to take responsibility and to do what works within each one's particular state. They're acting as though they are rebelling, and he'll stand his ground as the captain of the ship, insisting on his authority, so they can look like mutineers for the pleasure of the theater audience. It's an exciting and invigorating thing to watch. And the governors get the political cover they need to do what he probably would like to tell them straightforwardly to step up and do.

There's a lot of risk and pain ahead as we attempt to figure out how to get back to something like normal. For a while there, it seemed that Trump's antagonists were holding him responsible for everything. They're not doing that anymore. They've switched to outrage over his statement that the President's "authority is total." And now they're rooting for the Governors to seize authority.

What a performance!

"Kondo begins her workday by spritzing the air with an aromatherapy spray to clear her mind."

"(This particular day, she used a blend of cardamom and black pepper oils, lemon and sandalwood called Motivation Mist: Now or Never, which she sells on her website.) 'I read somewhere that of our five senses, our sense of smell is very important and affects the brain and relaxes our mind,' Kondo says. This ritual makes her feel like she’s 'shifting gears into a work mode.'"

Possibly the dopiest paragraph in WaPo today — from "Marie Kondo has advice for living and working at home in a pandemic."

I have almost no sense of smell, so the emphasis on smelling the right thing annoys me. And I read it right after this other smell-and-coronavirus offering from WaPo: "What it’s like to suffer from the coronavirus’s weirdest symptom."
"I could literally bite into an onion like it was an apple. And there was just nothing there. It was just absolutely bizarre."... They settled in for a joyless 10 days of putting food in their mouths and then swallowing it — "eating" would be the wrong word for it, because eating is a pleasure. This was mechanical. [She] bothered with it less and less. "There was no point,” she says. “Even if I had a craving for something and I had that item right in front of me, there was no satisfying it because we couldn’t taste it."
Jeez. All right. Have a little pity on the people who have this experience all the time, and you have my sympathy for your coronavirus. Stay alive. I mean, really, who cares about "weird" right now? But I guess it's a struggle for the newspapers to keep writing news stories when nobody's out there doing anything, and everything must be about coronavirus, including the fulfillment of the craving for fluff (which tastes like marshmallow, to those who have a sense of smell-taste).

What can we say of the brains of those afflicted with a lack of smell? Unaffected? Unrelaxed?

Maybe this will help: 12 minutes of Obama.

The news is that now — after all these months — after every other Democrat has withdrawn from the race — he is endorsing Joe Biden.

I only watched the first 1/4, but I take it that out of everyone who's left in the race — Joe Biden and Donald Trump — Obama picks Joe Biden. Noted!

At yesterday's Task Force press briefing, Dr. Fauci and President Trump teamed up to fight the interpretation that Fauci is at odds with Trump and Trump wants to fire him.

You saw the conflict created in the media after Fauci gave an obvious, truthful, and not really controversial answer to a gotcha question aimed at him on "State of the Union." I'd seen the "State of the Union" interview and thought it was nothing, the kind of nothing that can be made into something, and I was too jaded to talk about it yesterday. I'd blogged about the Fauci interview on Sunday, emphasizing something else about it, and I didn't want to take the bait. Here's the snippet of the interview that became raw material for anti-Trump media:
TAPPER: Do you think lives could have been saved if social distancing, physical distancing, stay-at-home measures had started third week of February, instead of mid-March?

FAUCI: You know, Jake, again, it's the what would have, what could have. It's -- it's very difficult to go back and say that. I mean, obviously, you could logically say, that if you had a process that was ongoing, and you started mitigation earlier, you could have saved lives. Obviously, no one is going to deny that. But what goes into those kinds of decisions is -- is complicated. But you're right. I mean, obviously, if we had, right from the very beginning, shut everything down, it may have been a little bit different. But there was a lot of pushback about shutting things down back then.
Trump himself poured fuel on the controversy when he retweeted this thing that happened to have #FireFauci at the end of it.

I blogged that yesterday, here, but didn't feel like saying anything about it. I was in my resistant mode.

Later in the day,  I watched the press briefing, and then I wanted to talk about it, but I'm only getting around to it now.

Anyway — to the transcript of the Task Force press briefing:

The NYT has a long article about the "upset" "significant victory" of the "liberal challenger" to the "Trump-backed incumbent" of the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

Link. Excerpt:
The challenger for the court seat, Jill Karofsky, ousted the conservative incumbent, Justice Daniel Kelly, in a contest with broad potential implications for voting rights in Wisconsin’s November general election. Justice Kelly became just the second incumbent State Supreme Court justice to be ousted at the polls since 1967. President Trump had boasted that his endorsement of Justice Kelly had unnerved Democrats in the state....

The decisive Democratic win offered a signal that the party, highly energized and mobilized heading into 2020, could organize and execute a winning get-out-the-vote program against strident Republican efforts to limit voter turnout in a narrowly divided state widely expected to be crucial in this fall’s presidential election....

Wisconsin Democrats spent the last week in a state of fury, angry that Republicans had forced in-person voting and risked spreading the coronavirus.
If Kelly had won, that fury would have spiraled upward.

"Many readers suggested that 'biker' is just another word for a motorcyclist, not a cyclist."

From a discussion in Bicycling magazine, "Cyclist or Biker? Here’s What Our Readers Had to Say":
“Have you ever seen a biker bar completely surrounded by bicycles? Bikers ride motorcycles, cyclists ride road bicycles, and mountain bikers ride mountain bikes,” said Instagram user @sdotdrisc.
Hm. So he used the word "bikers" for mountain bikers, but seems to insist that the word "mountain" stay attached to it. No shortening.
“Bikers are more rad, cyclists are more fast,” replied Instagram user @b._.stutts....

“A cyclist is what anyone who rides a bike calls themselves and someone else. A biker is what anyone who doesn’t bike calls someone who does bike,” said pro cyclist Ellen Noble, who goes by the handle @ellenlikesbikes.

At the end of the day, Rich Sieck (@rsieck44) might’ve said it best: “A cyclist logs many miles mostly on pavement. A biker flies up and down mountains in the dirt. Either way you do it, you’re awesome!”
The topic came up in the context of my post about Chris Cuomo railing about his encounter with a "jackass, loser, fat tire biker." The comma after "loser" was in the New York Post's transcription, and it's confusing, making it seem as though Chris Cuomo's sins included fat shaming. A better transcription would be: "jackass, loser fat-tire biker." There's a lot of discussion about fat-tire bikes over there, and I assume Cuomo was irked by the fat-tiredness because the "jackass" in question was biking on the sand of the beach where he was rich enough to own a house.

Chris Cuomo is feverish as hell and he's not going to take it anymore.

All because a biker confronted him when he was out of his house while infected with the coronavirus!
When the biker confronted him, Cuomo said he’d wanted to respond, getting heated when he detailed how the guy “didn’t know the rules” and how he’d made sure to take social-distancing measures.
NO! Social distancing isn't enough when you actually have the virus! Cuomo was endangering everyone, perhaps thinking the rules don't apply to him because he's a celebrity.
But “here I am in an almost powerless position against this asshole because I’m a celebrity and he’s allowed to say whatever he wants to me. And I have to take it or he’s gonna call the New York Post and lie about something and then I’m going to have to deal with it,” Cuomo continued.

The anchor then alluded to a caught-on-tape incident last August, when he launched into a profanity-laced rant against a man who called him “Fredo.” “I have to tolerate people’s opinion about me because I’m a public figure,” Cuomo said. “I don’t want to do that, I don’t think its worth it to me.”
He's arguing that he can't have the freedom a non-celebrity has — the freedom to get into an angry  confrontation with a stranger. Out of fear that the biker guy — that "jackass, loser, fat tire biker" — would go to the press and report the shockingly bad behavior, Cuomo chose to rant about the entire experience on the air and to go on about how he hates his job:

April 13, 2020

At the Monday Night Cafe...

... you can talk about whatever you want.

"Hours before results in Wisconsin’s controversial primary were expected to be reported, a conservative-leaning group is going up with a six-figure national ad buy..."

"... taking aim at what it describes as 'brazen attempts to manipulate the election system for partisan advantage' by some Democratic politicians and liberal activists who it says are 'exploiting the coronavirus pandemic,'" Fox News reports.

Here's the ad:

MORE TO COME: The results of last week's election are set to come out at 4 p.m. Central Time.

THAT IS: The results are going to begin to appear. It's after 4 now and nothing's up yet. You can look for it here.

UPDATE: The liberal candidate for the Wisconsin Supreme Court has been declared the winner. This should take the edge off criticism of the way the election was conducted.

"In the fall of 2014, Greta stopped eating....Greta had her first panic attack one day in September, when the family was baking cinnamon buns..."

"... and her parents encouraged her to eat some. When Greta refused, Svante and Malena yelled at her to obey. Their daughter, Malena writes, let out 'an abysmal howl that lasts for over forty minutes.'... On the recommendation of doctors, the family started keeping a list on the wall of how much she ate every day and how long it took her to eat it. ('Breakfast: 1/3 banana. Time: 53 minutes.') If the consistency of Greta’s gnocchi wasn’t perfect, she rejected it. Too many gnocchi on a plate and she was overwhelmed. ('Lunch: 5 gnocchi. Time: 2 hours and 10 minutes.') Greta stopped speaking with anyone but the members of her immediate family... In early 2015, Greta finally received a set of diagnoses: Asperger’s, high-functioning autism, and obsessive-compulsive disorder, as well as selective mutism. She started taking an antidepressant called sertraline. But, Malena writes, 'What happened to our daughter can’t be explained simply by a medical acronym.' Instead, Greta was simply exhibiting the only rational response to the world around her: 'In the end, she simply couldn’t reconcile the contradictions of modern life.'... Malena does not pinpoint the moment when climate change became Greta’s particular obsession; nor does she question the rightness of her daughter’s response. 'Greta has a diagnosis, but it doesn’t rule out that she’s right and the rest of us have got it all wrong,' she concludes. Greta sees our carbon dioxide 'transforming the atmosphere into a gigantic, visible garbage dump.' The hamburger on her plate is no longer food but 'a ground up muscle from a living being with feelings, awareness and a soul.'"

From "How Greta Thunberg Transformed Existential Dread Into a Movement" by Emily Witt (in The New Yorker).

At the Monday Lunch Café...


... flow wherever you like.

"There’s this talk about unity as this kind of vague, kumbaya, kind of term. Unity and unifying isn’t a feeling, it’s a process..."

"There’s also this idea that if we all just support the nominee that voters will come along as well... I don’t think this conversation about changes that need to be made is one about throwing the progressive wing of the party a couple of bones.... The whole process of coming together should be uncomfortable for everyone involved — that’s how you know it’s working. And if Biden is only doing things he’s comfortable with, then it’s not enough.... If we’re not talking about paths to citizenship for undocumented people, and if we’re just talking about policy changes of 5 or 10 percent — especially when you look at something like climate change — it’s not about moving to the left.... I do not feel a choice in adhering to my principles and my integrity, and being accountable to the movement that brought me here. But also, I don’t want another term of Trump.... I just want to tell the truth and I want to feel good about the truth."

From "Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Has Never Spoken to Joe Biden. Here’s What She Would Say. In an interview, Ms. Ocasio-Cortez said she intended to support the presumptive Democratic nominee, but the 'process of coming together should be uncomfortable for everyone involved'" (NYT).

ADDED: Interesting that she wants the “coming together” to be “uncomfortable,” but she wants the “truth” to feel good. If uncomfortableness is how you know the coming together is “working,” as she says, why wouldn’t you also see uncomfortableness as a test of truth? To say you want the truth that makes you feel good suggests that you don’t want the truth but some notion of “your” truth, which you wants to tell. And you’d like it to make other people uncomfortable.

Ethnic speculation.

ADDED: I clicked through on the link to see what counts as "Germanic," and the answer made me laugh: "'Germans' are defined as people who marked their ethnic origin as 'German' on the Census survey in 1990 and/or 2000."

Sonnet 73.

"A small study of chloroquine, which is closely related to the hydroxychloroquine drug that President Trump has promoted, was halted in Brazil..."

"... after coronavirus patients taking a higher dose developed irregular heart rates that increased their risk of a potentially fatal arrhythmia. The study, which involved 81 hospitalized patients in the city of Manaus, was sponsored by the Brazilian state of Amazonas. Roughly half the participants were prescribed 450 milligrams of chloroquine twice daily for five days, while the rest were prescribed 600 milligrams for 10 days.... Patients in the trial were also given the antibiotic azithromycin, which carries the same heart risk. Hospitals in the United States are using azithromycin to treat coronavirus patients, often in combination with hydroxychloroquine."

The NYT reports the disappointing news.

"I’ve seen a lot of pieces about couples co-quarantining, but what I haven’t seen is a piece about significant others who don’t live together."

"My boyfriend and I live about an hour apart and until quarantine hit we were spending our weekends together. Now, he’s nervous about us infecting each other. I don’t know how to handle this, especially because all of my friends with significant others are still seeing them."/"The good news is that if you’re both self-isolating without roommates or other people, you should be fine to see each other and spend the weekends together, etc. You can consider yourselves to be a two-person household."

From "Will Single People Ever Have Sex Again?/How To Plague: Is it OK for couples who live separately to see each other — and what’s wrong if one of them refuses? Our advice column for life under the coronavirus" (at BuzzFeed News).

The idea expressed here isn't limited to sexual relationships. Can't any 2 households "consider" themselves a single household once they've been isolated for, say, 2 weeks? I had that question and went looking for the answer and found that sex-oriented discussion. But the same reasoning would apply to wanting to spend time with friends or family. I'm not seeing much talk about this proposition, perhaps because the experts and politicians don't trust us to reason our way through this and think we need big, blunt, concrete rules. And yet, as the discussion turns toward easing our way back to something like normal life, this seems like the sort of thinking that should encouraged. If we can trust people to think for themselves. I'm not that sure we can. People will justify doing the things they want to do. But perfection isn't needed. Some disease will be passed along, whatever we do, and the goal has never been to stop all transmission, just to slow it way down. So maybe start giving people some principles to follow and encourage us to move carefully toward interaction with our fellow humans.

"Trump retweets #firefauci tweet, raising speculation of a frayed relationship..."

Fox News reports.

Here's how it looks on Twitter:

"But during this coronavirus crisis, these farmworkers are living with a peculiar irony: they are now considered both illegal and essential."

"Based on guidelines distributed by the Department of Homeland security, they have been included on the list of 'essential workers' who 'have a special responsibility to maintain [a] normal work schedule.' As a result, many employers have provided farmworkers with letters identifying them as 'essential' in order to protect them while traveling to and from the workplace. Those letters do not, however, protect them from deportation."

From "The Irony of Being Essential, But Illegal/The people who grow, harvest, and process our foods deserve a pathway to citizenship" (Washington Monthly).

If you think that's ironic, think about why it's not ironic at all. It's exactly what you'd expect.

"South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem said during a Saturday news briefing that Smithfield employees accounted for more than half of the active coronavirus cases in the state."

"About 240 employees are sick, she said, out of roughly 430 active cases in the state. Because of that, she and the mayor of Sioux Falls recommended that Smithfield suspend operations for at least two weeks."

From "One of the largest pork processing facilities in the US is closing until further notice" (CNN Business)("The Sioux Falls, South Dakota, facility accounts for 4% to 5% of the country's pork production and employs about 3,700 people, according to Smithfield").

"Speaking Moistly."

Background: "Edmonton musician riffs on Justin Trudeau's cringe-worthy 'speaking moistly' gaffe" (CBC News). The musician, Brock Tyler, is super-nice about it:
"You know, you have to hand it to Justin Trudeau...He just immediately owned the moment as something that was just really ridiculous and fun.... People are really looking for something that's a distraction but also speaks to what we're all thinking about and facing every day at home... I thought it was a really special moment."

April 12, 2020

The Easter sunrise was entirely drab...


... and I'm used to that. I can take it. Then suddenly... at long last, a burst of green...



(This post is tonight's "café" — that is, you can talk about anything you like.)

"Ms. Reade, 56, told The Times that the assault happened in the spring of 1993. She said she had tracked down Mr. Biden to deliver an athletic bag..."

"... when he pushed her against a cold wall, started kissing her neck and hair and propositioned her. He slid his hand up her cream-colored blouse, she said, and used his knee to part her bare legs before reaching under her skirt. 'It happened at once. He’s talking to me and his hands are everywhere and everything is happening very quickly,' she recalled. 'He was kissing me and he said, very low, "Do you want to go somewhere else?"' Ms. Reade said she pulled away and Mr. Biden stopped. 'He looked at me kind of almost puzzled or shocked,' she said. 'He said, "Come on, man, I heard you liked me."' At the time, Ms. Reade said she worried whether she had done something wrong to encourage his advances. 'He pointed his finger at me and he just goes: "You’re nothing to me. Nothing,"' she said. 'Then, he took my shoulders and said, "You’re OK, you’re fine."' Mr. Biden walked down the hallway, Ms. Reade said, and she cleaned up in a restroom, made her way home and, sobbing, called her mother, who encouraged her to immediately file a police report. Instead, Ms. Reade said, she complained to Marianne Baker, Mr. Biden’s executive assistant, as well as to two top aides, Dennis Toner and Ted Kaufman, about harassment by Mr. Biden — not mentioning the alleged assault. The staff declined to take action, Ms. Reade said, after which she filed a written complaint with a Senate personnel office. She said office staff took away most of her duties, including supervising the interns; assigned her a windowless office; and made the work environment uncomfortable for her. She said Mr. Kaufman later told her she was not a good fit in the office, giving her a month to look for a job. Ms. Reade never secured another position in Washington.... Ms. Reade tried to get legal and public relations support from Time’s Up... [which] gave her a list of lawyers with expertise in such cases. She said she contacted every single one but none took her case...."

From "Examining Tara Reade’s Sexual Assault Allegation Against Joe Biden/Ms. Reade, a former Senate aide, has accused Mr. Biden of assaulting her in 1993 and says she told others about it. A Biden spokeswoman said the allegation is false, and former Senate office staff members do not recall such an incident" (NYT).

"On the same day that the New York metropolitan area had the highest number of deaths they had, when you look at the admissions, the hospitalizations, the intensive care, and the need to intubate..."

"... that not only has flattened; it's starting to turn the corner. So, that's where we're hopeful. And it's cautious optimism that we're seeing that decrease. And if you look at the patterns of the curves in other countries, once you turn that corner, hopefully, we will see a very sharp decline. And then you can start thinking about how we can keep it that way and prevent it from resurging, when you're starting to think about a gradual reentry of some sort of normality, some rolling reentry. So, you're trying to balance two things. You want to make sure you don't do something prematurely and precipitously. At the same time, you pay attention to the need to try and get back to normal.... It is not going to be a light switch that we say, OK, it is now June, July or whatever, click, the light switch goes back on. It's going to be depending where you are in the country, the nature of the outbreak that you have already experienced, and the threat of an outbreak that you may not have experienced.... Obviously, New York... is going to be very different from Arkansas... and very different maybe from some places on the West Coast, like Washington state, which have been successfully able to prevent that big spike.... We are hoping that, at the end of the month, we could look around and say, OK, is there any element here that we can safely and cautiously start pulling back on? If so, do it. If not, then just continue to hunker down...."

Said Anthony Fauci, interviewed this morning on Jake Tapper's "State of the Union" (full transcript).

"He grew up in Bethel, Connecticut, a poor rural village in which survival demanded cunning, wit, and ruthlessness—traits known collectively at the time as 'Yankee cuteness.'"

"Barnum was proud of his upbringing, which encouraged in him an insatiable appetite for wealth from the moment he learned to count.... At Barnum’s christening in 1810, [his maternal grandfather] 'gravely handed over' a gift deed to 'Ivy Island,' five remote acres that his grandson was to inherit upon reaching his majority. For the next decade, as Barnum tells it, he was 'continually hearing' about how he owned 'one of the most valuable farms in the State'—from his grandfather, parents, even his neighbors, all of whom warned him against the perils of immodest wealth. 'Now Taylor,' said his mother, 'don’t become so excited when you see your property as to let your joy make you sick.' When Barnum finally treks to his inheritance at the age of ten, he discovers that Ivy Island is a waste of muddy bogs plagued by hornets and snakes. He shrieks and runs home."

From "American Humbug" (NY Review of Books).

This is a review of a book called "Barnum: An American Life." The review ends:
The great danger to democracy today comes not from marks slow to spot a humbug but from a public made cynical to the point of believing that everything, and everyone, is a humbug, especially the humorless class of credentialed experts whom Barnum took such joy in ridiculing. In the end, though, it’s a distinction without a difference. Too credulous or too incredulous—you’re a sucker either way.
So... I guess... in a world of uncertainty, you've got to get your credulousness somewhere in the middle. That made me think — vaguely — of a famous quote that appeared in my head as He who will believe in anything believes in nothing. Google understood my groping and set me straight. It's the other way around! Those who believe in nothing believe in anything. I considered believing that it's one of those A = B so B = A situations, but that's the kind of mistake you can only make if you dabble in logic.

I kind of like my version. What's the bigger problem — believing in nothing or believing in anything? I say it's believing in anything. Nothing is a good start. (Better than nothing is a high standard.)

Anyway, the famous quote is about a specific belief in nothing: "When people stop believing in God, they don’t believe in nothing — they believe in anything." The quote tends to be misattributed to G.K. Chesterton.

Yesterday, I was listening to the car radio and this came on — Chris Cornell singing the old Prince song "Nothing Compares to You":

The singer's love interest is comparable only to nothing. It's intended as the supreme compliment.

"Well, the treadmill you’ve been on for decades just stopped. Bam! And that feeling you have right now is the same as..."

"... if you’d been thrown off your Peloton bike and onto the ground: What in the holy fuck just happened? I hope you might consider this: What happened is inexplicably incredible. It’s the greatest gift ever unwrapped. Not the deaths, not the virus, but The Great Pause. It is, in a word, profound.... What the crisis has given us is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see ourselves and our country in the plainest of views.... If we want to create a better country and a better world for our kids, and if we want to make sure we are even sustainable as a nation and as a democracy, we have to pay attention to how we feel right now. I cannot speak for you, but I imagine you feel like I do: devastated, depressed, and heartbroken. And what a perfect time for Best Buy and H&M and Wal-Mart to help me feel normal again. If I could just have the new iPhone in my hand, if I could rest my feet on a pillow of new Nikes, if I could drink a venti blonde vanilla latte or sip a Diet Coke, then this very dark feeling would go away.... What is about to be unleashed on American society will be the greatest campaign ever created to get you to feel normal again. It will come from brands, it will come from government, it will even come from each other, and it will come from the left and from the right.... This is our chance to define a new version of normal, a rare and truly sacred (yes, sacred) opportunity to get rid of the bullshit and to only bring back what works for us, what makes our lives richer, what makes our kids happier, what makes us truly proud. We get to Marie Kondo the shit out of it all.... But only if we resist the massive gaslighting that is about to come. It’s on its way. Look out."

Writes Julio Vincent Gambuto in "Prepare for the Ultimate Gaslighting/You are not crazy, my friends" (Medium).

"As European countries gingerly move to ease their lockdowns, Denmark’s first phase — beginning on Wednesday, when schools and day care centers reopen — will be measured in tape."

"Headmasters are scrambling to follow detailed government instructions on hygiene and social distancing to avoid setting off a surge in new cases. They will use tape measure and barriers in playgrounds to partition groups, as up to five children will be allowed to play together without mixing with other groups. An animated film released by the Danish Health Authority cautioned children that while they’ve all been 'really cool' in avoiding the virus, some things will be different when school reopens after four weeks. They may have math class in the playground, the video says, and there won’t be 'too many high fives' for now. A full reopening in Denmark is still months away, but getting children out of their parents’ way will ease the burden on those working from home."

From "In Easter Mass, Pope Speaks of ‘a Contagion of Hope’ Amid Coronavirus: Live Coverage/Japan’s leader posted a video of himself petting a dog as he urged residents to stay home. Russia reported its largest daily increase in new cases since the start of the outbreak" — the NYT collection of coronavirus updates.

I'm interested to see how that distancing at school works for Denmark. Who can figure out in advance what risks and potential benefits there are? Who can even assign a weight to the problem of children getting in the way of parents who are forced into working at home? How can you decide that 5 children make an acceptable play group — but no more than 5? It's an experiment, and I hope it goes well.

I wondered how to say "really cool" in Danish (and I don't think I've ever given a thought to the question of how to say anything in Danish).

It's Easter — so catch the contagion of hope and keep being virkelig cool.