April 25, 2020

At the Sunrise Café...


... you can talk all night.

That's how the sky looked at 6:04 this morning. The actual sunrise time was 5:59. It was the first day this year when the sun rose before 6. We're in the part of the year where the sunlight proportion of the day increases quickly — almost 3 more minutes each day. But how early does the sunrise get? The earliest is 5:17. That will happen on June 10 through June 19. The daily change in the light is only a few seconds that close to the solstice. I started my running for the sunrise on September 9th last year, when the sunrise came at 6:31, which was also the sunrise time on April 5th. So since April 5th, each day has been the earliest day I've gone out for the run. What makes it a little challenging is that the sunset is so late. I had no trouble getting up before 5 in the dark months, when the sun sets before 5. It's much harder in the light months, when the sun sets at 8 and even later. The latest it gets is 8:41. And twilight isn't over until 9:16. To get 7 hours of sleep and make it out in time for a 5:17 sunrise, you have to get to sleep a half hour after twilight. That's a bit rigorous!

"Taking a different approach to other nations contravenes jantelagen, the Scandinavian societal rule that forbids sticking your neck out or being noticeably ambitious."

"'If this succeeds, the first casualty will be jantelagen,' Annie said. 'We’ll be so pleased with ourselves.' Yet as the death toll rises, a significant number of people believe Sweden may have made a fatal error of judgment.... The state claims that the curve of infections has flattened. But as the weather warms up there are fears that the numbers will rise sharply if partygoers ignore the rules. For Plan B and other venues, their future livelihood may depend on their ability to enforce social distancing while still holding public events. 'I hope they don’t impose more rules,' said Ellen. 'Otherwise the summer could be ruined.'"

From "Sweden: the young dance at a distance amid growing fears about fatal coronavirus misstep/In a world on lockdown, the country has so far refused to introduce harsh public restrictions" (in The London Times).

Jantelagen — I'd never heard of that! It means the Law of Jante. Jante is the name of a fictionalized town in a novel by Aksel Sandemose called "A Fugitive Crosses His Tracks." Sandemose — who was was Dano-Norwegian — was satirizing the culture of Nordic countries. Sandemose identified 10 rules these people were following:

"The coronavirus has been brutal for people with Fitbits, particularly those of us who might have been branded at one time or other as 'compulsive' or, worse still, 'crazy.'"

"I have a perfect record step-wise, and am not about to break it for a raging pandemic. I can’t! If I’m out after midnight when the streets are deserted, I fail to see how I’m hurting anyone. It’s definitely creepy though, the emptiness. If I were driving through the city, looking for someone to rob, I’d definitely choose myself — who wouldn’t? I’m small. I’m alone. I’m maybe fast for a 63-year-old but that’s not saying much. A loris in a full body cast is fast for a 63-year-old. That’s why I decided a few weeks back to leave my wallet at home, and just take a twenty. That way I can be robbed, but not of my hard-to-replace identity card with a picture of a weary tortoise on it."

From "I sneak outside to a New York in which I am the only person" by David Sedaris in the London Times. When did David Sedaris move to New York City? Last I looked, he was somewhere in England.

Anyway, I wanted to read this so much that I subscribed to the London Times — just for this one thing. Now, I'm exploring the London Times, and it's going to be one of my regular stops.

Get ready to see this blog highlighting things like "guzzling biccies as we gawp at teddies." What does it mean??
During this time of unprecedented national angst, Britons are seeking comfort in a television show about broken teddy bears....
As for "biccies" — I guessed what that might mean, and then I looked it up, and I was right: cookies!
[I]t now appears socially acceptable for “wine o’clock” — or cocktail hour — to begin whenever the television is switched on.

"Though the Intercept story doesn’t confirm that the Larry King caller was indeed Reade’s mother, some biographical details do match up."

"The caller and Reade’s mother, who died in 2016, lived in San Luis Obispo County in August 1993, and Reade would have just left Biden’s office around the time of the call. Reade told the Intercept in previous interviews that her mother had called into the Larry King Show, though she couldn’t recall the date...."

From "New Evidence Suggests Tara Reade’s Mother Knew of Allegations in 1993" (New York Magazine).

Here's the Intercept article.


"But I get tired of my role as the initiator. So then I go quiet, sometimes for many weeks, and … don't hear from some of my friends..."

"... then miss them, want to see them, and … I cave, and initiate coffee, drinks at my house, or a walk. Nearly always my overtures are reciprocated; I believe they are genuinely glad to hear from me... Even though I am a happily married woman with (not small) children, I may simply crave more friend time than my peer group. Or maybe I just go after what I want or need, not a bad thing... Do I just suck it up and accept that I'm the initiator?"

A question to the advice columnist at WaPo. The questioner never considers the possibility that these other people don't want to spend time with her, but they don't have the nerve to say "no" when asked, and they don't understand why she never gets a hint. The advice columnist — Carolyn Hax — also excludes this possibility.

Maybe I'm wrong, but if I were in that situation and had gone through multiple sequences of waiting for reciprocation and initiating again, I would interpret it to mean that the friend wasn't really a friend and let go. I wouldn't continue to "believe they are genuinely glad to hear from me."

ADDED: I see I used "reciprocation" in a different way from the letter writer, who said, "Nearly always my overtures are reciprocated." She meant only that her invitations were accepted. I'm using reciprocation to mean that on another occasion the other person take the initiative and makes an invitation. If you invite me to a dinner party, I'm not reciprocating by attending. I have to do my own dinner party and invite you. Big difference.

"But Friday’s unusually succinct update came a day after Trump ignited another controversy for suggesting that doctors should determine whether an 'injection' of household disinfectants..."

"... such as bleach and isopropyl alcohol, could be used to kill Covid-19 in humans who contract the virus. Trump later claimed he was 'asking a question sarcastically… about disinfectant on the inside.'... Trump has been so eager to deliver good news to the American public, according to a senior administration official, that some White House staffers have presented their boss with upbeat findings that have yet to be vetted.... In an exchange on Thursday, Trump cited 'a very nice rumor' that heat and sunlight can kill the novel coronavirus. At previous briefings, he has also hyped the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine as a potential promising treatment even though its effectiveness against Covid-19 remains inconclusive. Recently, several White House aides began urging the president to make the briefings far shorter and to only approach the podium to deliver announcements or tout victories, while leaving the technical aspects to the numerous health officials who typically join him at the dais.... Trump has resisted such advice for weeks, viewing the daily briefings as an ideal venue for him to connect with his supporters and perform his favorite tricks. In the absence of campaign rallies or other outlets for his message, Trump has used the briefings to needle his political opponents, smack reporters and air grievances.... Even after campaign aides briefed him on a series of unsettling polls about his appearances, Trump continued making the case privately that his sky-high television ratings would help him trounce Biden in November...."

From "Trump grapples with a surprise threat: Too much Trump/Some allies worry the president is damaging his reelection prospects with his dominance of the briefing room during a public health and economic crisis" (Politico).

Perform his favorite tricks.... like sarcasm?

Claiming something is sarcasm when it didn't much strike anybody as sarcasm seems to be a new trick, and I don't think he should be practicing it in front of a gigantic audience of hundreds of millions of people — especially people who are struggling through something serious and hoping for something to feel hopeful about. Even if he'd practiced that particular sarcastic move in small clubs for years and honed the wording and delivery, I don't think it would ever have been right for the White House stage. And I appreciate Trump's spontaneity and rhetoric. You can see that in my posts over the last few years. But not everything works, and sarcasm is a bad choice in the Task Force briefing context. It mixes false statements in with the truth, but you're supposed to get it, because it's  funny. Fortunately, the move backfires.

And that's assuming it he was telling the truth when he called it sarcasm, which I don't think he was. But assuming... Let's assume that when he said, "I see the disinfectant... is there a way we can do something like that by injection inside... it’d be interesting to check that so that you’re going to have to use medical doctors with, but it sounds interesting to me," he could have leaned more heavily into the sarcasm and said "I see the disinfectant kills the virus, so why don't we just inject the disinfection right into the patient?! That sounds like it just might work! How about all you doctors get on my brilliant idea right away and divert resources into experiments?! I'm sure some of these crazy reporters would love to volunteer to have Clorox injected right into them. Come on, you paragons of ethics, roll up your sleeves." Then we'd all see the sarcasm. So is that what Trump meant to do, but in a subtler style?

I don't believe it, but as I said, it backfires. Trump isn't the only one who gets to use humor. Social media blew up with jokes about Trump and the injected disinfectant. And then he drastically shortened the next press briefing. It wasn't so fun anymore. I'm glad that check on his power worked. Freedom of speech is not just for Presidents. And humor coming from a person wielding immense power — taking advantage of a captive audience — is problematic. I think Trump is a fantastic standup comedian. I enjoy his performances. But some jokes fail.

And some things that are not jokes get called jokes after the fact, which is what I think happened here. Trump undercuts his own reputation as a humorist when he labels one of his non-humor statements as humor. So why did he do that? Desperation? I told you yesterday how I thought he'd try to deal with disinfectant-injectiongate.
1. He'll say it's "fake news"... They said I recommended injecting bleach.... Who would say that?...

2. He'll rephrase his idea so it's situated in a context that makes some sense... how feasible is it to kill the virus once it does get inside the body?...

3. He was just asking the question of the expert, drawing him out....
But he didn't do any of those things. He did something I didn't even think of, calling it sarcasm. It's a little demoralizing to those of us who have been giving him a sympathetic listen. Maybe I'm demoralized because I didn't find myself on the inside, with the people who understood the sarcasm. Did anyone understand it as sarcasm?

In March 2019, I went into some detail about Trump's use of sarcasm — laid on very thickly in front of a very sympathetic audience:

The NYT revives the old "Is it art?" debate for Plague Times: "a case can be made that quarantine nude selfies are art."

I'm reading "The Nude Selfie Is Now High Art/It has become an act of resilience in isolation, a way to seduce without touch" by the novelist Diana Spechler in the NYT.
Though the debate about art versus pornography has never been settled, a case can be made that quarantine nude selfies are art. 
Yes, but is it high art, as the headline asserts. This issue strikes me as nonsense. I don't even accept that nudes are pornography...
... nor do I accept that something is either pornography or art and can't be both. And I don't accept that something becomes more artistic because it's "an act of resilience in isolation." Routine masturbation could be called "an act of resilience in isolation."
Some of us finally have time to make art, and this is the art we are making: carefully posed, cast in shadows, expertly filtered. These aren’t garish below-the-belt shots under fluorescent lighting, a half-used roll of toilet paper in the background....
Wait. I think the edgy, gritty quality is more artistic. I think using a lot of bullshit — "carefully posed, cast in shadows, expertly filtered" — is banal and sentimental and less likely to qualify as art. It sounds as though Spechler is talking about people who are making a special effort to look pretty and using computer tools to flatter themselves. That's low art, at best. The headline promised high art.

I'm skipping over a lot of material, including talk of great painters (Goya, Van Gogh), because ultimately Spechler's own words undercut the argument. The naked selfies of the lockdown don't deserve (or need) elevation to the status of "high art." She says:
Though it might require a bit of squinting to see pandemic-era nude selfie-snapping on a par with Basquiat, geniuses hold no monopoly on the instinct to self-preserve. Or on the yearning to be witnessed. Sending a nude selfie is a request to be witnessed — not objectively, but through rose-tinted (or smooth-filtered) lenses....
That's just saying everyone has feelings and does some things that express those feelings. When is the evidence of an expression of feeling art? Is the product of routine masturbation — done as an act of resilience in isolation — an artwork?

Plenty of people are lonely, frustrated, and burdened with extra time. That's actually not the most profound feeling in the world. And "Look at me!!" is even less profound. It's not saying anything interesting or original. It's an expression. Fine.

"The Onion was NEVER fake news. It's just news written by a time traveler with a horrible sense of humor."

Someone tweets, looking at this Onion headline from March 25th:

April 24, 2020

At the Mayapple Café...


... you can talk about anything you want.


We drove up to the Wisconsin Capitol to see the anti-shutdown rally...

... and from the completely closed car, I was able to get some photographs.







Very few masks. No noticeable effort at distancing. Peaceful crowd with a simple message: We love freedom and businesses need to be open.

Flags I saw: American, Gadsden, Trump, and pirate.

"Inherited inequality is bad enough. But it’s the geographic concentration that is really turning America into a caste society."

"Affluent people used to be spread around: owning the local bank or factory, sending their kids to the local schools. Now those of us in the top 20 percent of earners are concentrated in talent-rich zones around New York, D.C., the Bay Area, etc. The already advantaged build rich communities and multiply one another’s advantages even more. It takes a village to raise a Stanford grad. You don’t have to drive very far outside these top 20 percent communities to find yourself in a different universe. In February I drove from Manhattan Beach, Calif., to Watts in South Central L.A. and Compton, where I spent a few days interviewing residents."

Writes David Brooks in "Who Is Driving Inequality? You Are" (NYT). I see that you can join him for a discussion of this (or anything) here:

"Now celebrities think: 'The general public needs to see my face. They can’t get to the cinema — I need to do something.'"

"And it’s when you look into their eyes, you know that, even if they’re doing something good, they’re sort of thinking, 'I could weep at what a good person I am.' Oh dear."

Said Ricky Gervais, quoted in the NYT.

Peace... You matter...

Rocks found in the Lakeshore Preserve yesterday and photographed by Meade...



... who took some trouble to line up my yellowness.

"Wisconsin’s decade-long partisan war will once again be on display Friday, as right-wing protesters prepare to mass outside the State Capitol in Madison to assail Mr. Evers and the restrictions he put in place to curb the spread of the virus...."

"Thousands of people have indicated on Facebook that they will attend, making it potentially the largest gathering so far in a nationwide series of protests against stay-at-home restrictions.... 'This seems to have become a proxy war for the state Republican Party and it does have a zombie Tea Party feel to it,' said Charlie Sykes, a longtime conservative talk radio host in Milwaukee who left the airwaves at the end of 2016 and has since turned against Trump-era Republicans. 'This will energize them to think that they’re back on the offensive. They didn’t miss a beat from losing that Supreme Court election and this all seems about mobilizing and firing up the base.'... The organizers of the Madison rally and the two others held last weekend have gone to great lengths to describe themselves and their events as nonpolitical, despite ample evidence that the state’s Republican leadership is intricately involved. They are also trying to prevent the gatherings from becoming a platform for other conservative causes, or from appearing like de facto Trump campaign rallies....  'All indications are that these are manufactured protests,' [Madison Mayor Satya] Rhodes-Conway said. 'They are seeking attention. I think they are getting more attention than they deserve.'"

The NYT reports.

Madison's David Blaska writes:
This just in from the good folks at the New York Times: ‘Reopen Wisconsin’ is FAKE!

Ersatz. Astroturf. Piltdown Man. Hitler’s Diary. Jussie Smollet. No one really thinks America should begin to reopen from the novel coronavirus lockdown! Why, it’s only good common sense that Chicago and Detroit should open a full month before Wisconsin’s North Woods — May 26 for Wisconsin; April 30 for Illinois and Michigan....

Here’s how you know higher powers are NOT behind Friday’s Reopen Wisconsin rally: the dumfuks — a minority of a minority to be certain — will cater to the news media’s biases. They will hoist battle flags, show off their firearms, display placards of Tony in an SS uniform, and eschew face masks. A well financed and managed rally would stay on message. This one will not....

I loved today's NYT crossword — thought it was especially enjoyable... full of challenging, interesting words...

... but my favorite NYT crossword blogger, Rex Parker, hated it:
Before I was half done, I had exclaimed "what?" or else audibly groaned something like half a dozen times. This thing was stale the second I bit into it (i.e. at TIETACK), and though parts of it are decent, the overall taste was unpleasant, for sure. Fitting that it has ARCHAISM in it, because it felt old and ... old. In a bad way. In the way where ... like in the olden days, when you just had to know random biological trivia or you were ****ed. BRISTLECONE PINE? SHAGBARK? News to me and *real* news to me, respectively. Take your botanical fetish back to the Maleskan era, thank you kindly....
Wait! My favorite thing was bristlecone pine. The clue was: "Tree that's among the oldest known life forms on earth (4,800+ years)." How can that be a mere "fetish"? There's a kind of tree on earth that was alive in 2700 B.C. — the end of the Early Dynastic Period in Egypt, the time of the mythical Yellow Emperor in China and the construction of the Caral metropolis in Peru...
No trace of warfare has been found at Caral: no battlements, no weapons, no mutilated bodies. Shady's findings suggest it was a gentle society, built on commerce and pleasure. In one of the temples, they uncovered 32 flutes made of condor and pelican bones and 37 cornetts of deer and llama bones. One find revealed the remains of a baby, wrapped and buried with a necklace made of stone beads....
I knew bristlecone pine because I had just read the January 20th New Yorker article "The Past and the Future of the Earth’s Oldest Trees/Bristlecone pines have survived various catastrophes over the millennia, and they may survive humanity" by Alex Ross. A great read!

"Kaine brought good and solid credentials. But the difference between a Cory [Booker] and Tim Kaine could’ve closed the enthusiasm gap."

"Looking back on it, it’s fair for people to ask if we should’ve factored enthusiasm more into it."

Said Minyon Moore, a political activist who worked on the VP selection process with the Hillary Clinton campaign, quoted in "Black Leaders Want a Black Woman as Biden’s Running Mate. But Who?/Among black leaders close to Joe Biden, a commitment to selecting a woman is not enough. They have publicly and privately pushed him to select a black woman to fuel black voter enthusiasm" (NYT). The "enthusiasm" she's talking about is the enthusiasm of black voters.

From the Wikipedia article on Minyon Moore:
Minyon Moore graduated from Boston University's Film School with a certificate in digital film-making... Together with Donna Brazile, Leah Daughtry, Tina Flournoy and Yolanda Caraway, Moore is a member of the informal group the "Colored Girls," described by political columnist Matt Bai as "several African-American women who had reached the highest echelons of Democratic politics." Governor Howard Dean, former chair of the DNC, who had one of his dinners with the Colored Girls on the night of the 2014 midterm elections, said their perspective was important. "They’re very rare Washington insiders who understand the rest of the country," Mr. Dean said. "That’s part of what makes them so valuable. These women have not lost their connections with where they came from." In 2018, Moore, Brazile, Daughtry, and Caraway published For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Politics, a joint memoir and history of their time in politics.
The title of that memoir strongly suggests that their choice of that particular racial term was influenced by the 1970s play, "For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide / When the Rainbow Is Enuf." The playwright, Ntozake Shange, has said that she used that word "so her grandmother would be able to understand it."

Back to the question of picking a running mate. It's hard to believe, in retrospect, that Hillary picked Tim Kaine. It's hard even to remember him. But — for whatever reason — she resisted the pressure to choose an African-American running mate. Perhaps she wanted to go all-out stressing her potential status as the first woman President. What's the good of complicating the diversity messaging with the idea of the first black Vice President when we're succeeding the first black President?

In that light, you can see why Joe Biden is more susceptible to the pressure to pick a black person for his running mate. He's already committed to picking a woman, but there have been women vice presidential candidates twice before, and it's already a step down from last time to have the woman in the secondary position. It's not a very exciting Diversity! celebration. It's just another instance of an old white man — a boring party stalwart — trying to add what he lacks. The only way for Biden to do anything different from what McCain did — and what Mondale did 30 years ago — is to make that woman he's promised to pick a black woman.

So the interesting question is whether Kamala Harris or Stacey Abrams is the better pick. Now that I've posed the question, I think the answer is obvious, but I'll do a poll before I reveal my answer. And I do realize that there's some talk about Michelle Obama. I'm not seeing that as a real possibility, and I want to keep this poll simple:

Assuming Joe Biden decides he must pick a black woman as his running mate, which choice is the smarter choice for him?
pollcode.com free polls

The evidence that Trump suggested injecting disinfectant as a treatment for Covid19.

I watched the press briefing live yesterday, and — with no prompting from anti-Trump media — I thought I he'd said something sort of like that but not really.

Today, the fever is raging. It looks like this:

From the transcript:
Bill Bryan [head of the science and technology directorate at the Department of Homeland Security]: We’re... testing disinfectants readily available. We’ve tested bleach, we’ve tested isopropyl alcohol on the virus specifically in saliva or in respiratory fluids and I can tell you that bleach will kill the virus in five minutes. Isopropyl alcohol will kill the virus in 30 seconds and that’s with no manipulation, no rubbing....

Donald Trump: .... I see the disinfectant, where it knocks it out in one minute. And is there a way we can do something like that by injection inside or almost a cleaning because you see it gets in the lungs and it does a tremendous number on the lungs, so it’d be interesting to check that so that you’re going to have to use medical doctors with, but it sounds interesting to me. So, we’ll see....
He did say "something like that." Not: go ahead and put bleach or isopropyl alcohol into your bloodstream. I immediately thought of ethyl alcohol. People put that stuff into their bloodstream all the time. And there's a folk belief out there that alcohol is a treatment. I've seen that quite a few people in Iran have died trying to use alcohol this way.

Later in the briefing, a reporter said to Bryan: "The president mentioned the idea of a cleaner, bleach and isopropyl alcohol emerging. There’s no scenario where that could be injected into a person, is there?"

Bryan brushed off the question: "No, I’m here to talk about the finds that we had in the study. We don’t do that within that lab at our labs."

Trump stepped in: "It wouldn’t be through injections, [inaudible] almost a cleaning and sterilization of an area. Maybe it works, maybe it doesn’t work, but it certainly has a big effect if it’s on a stationary object."

I have the feeling Trump talks to his experts like this a lot. He gets ideas. He experiences what we call lateral thinking. And he just blurts out his idea. He doesn't self-censor, so he comes across like a child. And he gives his antagonists rich raw material to use against him.

ADDED: There has long been a theory out there in social media that drinking bleach is a defense against coronavirus. Here's a Politifact debunking from all the way back in January:

The surprising news is that he had a greeting card.

"After Page Six reported that the Yankee legend [Mickey Mantle] once slipped a female journalist a greeting card mid-interview, that read 'Wanna f– k?,' we’re told that he also once thew up while having sex with Angie Dickinson" (NY Post).

ADDED: He "thew up." He talked like that while drunk.

AND: I think I have the explanation for why Mantle had a greeting card. I think women slipped him notes, and it was a woman who wrote "Wanna fuck?" in a greeting card. He had it in his pocket and thought it would be funny to hand it to the reporter. And — who know? — maybe it will get a yes. Basically: He regifted it!

April 23, 2020

At the Fritillaria Café...


... you can talk all night.

That's in our garden. But I do have a sunrise photograph too. Overcast. A bit dim...


But still nice to be out and running at 6 in the morning. The photo was taken at 6:08.

"In my teaching, I’ve always used the Socratic method, which means calling on dozens of students during the class hour, and engaging them in dialogue with me and with each other."

"I’ve found that this is not harder to do on Zoom, and in some respects it’s easier, and better. Facial expressions are closer and more legible. The difference in volume between those who speak loudly and those who respond quietly is minimized. Students seem less self-conscious and less intimidated than they did in a room of a hundred people, perhaps because speaking on a screen doesn’t feel too different from FaceTime conversations they’re used to having with friends... [T]he give-and-take of the one-on-one exchange feels both urgent and viable. There’s something strangely more intimate about online teaching, which makes the attention to each student feel more live and personalized, not less. This new intimacy surely has something to do with the change of setting, which has afforded glimpses into home life and has meant some erosion of strict divisions between professional and personal, between public and private. As my class studied the Supreme Court’s doctrine on the privacy of the bedroom, they could see each other onscreen sitting in bedrooms.... In the past, like many female professors, I have probably expended extra energy holding up boundaries to keep signs of vulnerability at bay. During this period, though... it’s possible that the relaxing of appearances humanizes these institutions.... We might think of our online efforts as mere shadows of the real thing. But those performances are also heightening our senses for teaching and learning. The breaking through of imperfection, messiness, sadness, and struggle might bring us all to a different appreciation of our own humanity, showing through the screen."

From "Finding Real Life in Teaching Law Online" by Harvard lawprof Jeannie Suk Gersen (in The New Yorker).

This is the teacher's experience of becoming more vulnerable on camera. Not all teachers are going to be so sanguine about the exposure — the close-up photography of the face, the view into one's own home. And then what of the students, who have far less control over the discussion, and, usually, much more confined living space? Socratic discussion can be stressful for the students, and now every other student is looking right into their face, ready to detect twinges of fear and realization of knowledge gaps and able to make screen shots.

As for the similarity to FaceTime... not only is it FaceTime with a whole huge group, there shouldn't be an assumption that everyone is comfortable doing FaceTime conversations. Some people hate FaceTime.

Anyway, I'm glad Gersen is finding the good in what is a necessary substitute for the real thing, but she's leaning toward saying it is the real thing — the real thing plus, better than the cold, hierarchical classroom. We thought we were distancing, but really, we were becoming so much more intimate....

"Imams Overrule Pakistan’s Coronavirus Lockdown as Ramadan Nears."

"The government gave in to clerics’ demands that mosques be allowed to stay open during the Islamic holy month. Now critics are asking who’s in charge."

NYT has a headline and subheadline that don't cohere. If the imams have the power to "overrule," then the government didn't "give in." If the government "gave in," then the imams were only petitioning the government for relief. From the article, it seems that the latter is correct, so it's the subheadline that is accurate:
As Ramadan drew closer, dozens of well-known clerics and leaders of religious parties — including some who had initially obeyed the lockdown orders — signed a letter demanding that the government exempt mosques from the shutdown during the holy month or invite the anger of God and the faithful. On Saturday, the government gave in, signing an agreement that let mosques stay open for Ramadan as long as they followed 20 rules, including forcing congregants to maintain a six-foot distance, bring their own prayer mats and do their ablutions at home.... 

Museum challenges other museums to show us your "creepiest object."

Click through to see responses. Example:

On coronavirus lockdown in L.A., Curt Smith of Tears for Fears plays "Mad World" with his daughter Diva.

I thought this was a really nice contribution to the music of the lockdown. The father/daughter interaction is charming. I had to look up the age of the beautiful daughter, which I thought could have been anything from 9 to 29. It's 20.

Here's the original Tears for Fears version of the song (from 1982). Smith is the lead singer, but the other guy, Roland Orzabal, wrote the words.

The most famous version of the song is this, by Gary Jules, which Smith evokes in his new version. Any other examples of that — someone has a song that he's done one way, then another person comes along and does it very differently, and the first guy takes to singing his own song the way it was done in the cover version?

"Obviously, the FDRLST employees are not literally being sent back to the salt mine. Idioms have, however, hidden meanings."

"In viewing the totality of the circumstances surrounding the tweet, this tweet had no other purpose except to threaten the FDRLST employees with unspecified reprisal, as the underlying meaning of ‘salt mine’ so signifies."

Wrote Judge Kenneth Chu, quoted in "The Federalist Publisher’s Tweet Was Illegal: Labor Board Judge" (Bloomberg Law), about a tweet by FDRLST Media chief Ben Domenech. It's considered a minor violation and the remedy is only that the company must give the employees notice of the violation and tell them they have the right to unionize.

Interestingly, Domenech doesn't have to delete the tweet. Here it is:

I don't know how old Chu is or how old the workers at The Federalist are, but Domenech is 38, which is 3 decades younger than I am, but I want to tell you about the idiom "back to the salt mine," as I understand it, which has to do how it was used in the mid-20th century, when it was common. I don't think it's common today. Domenech sounds like a much older person and he's using what I see as a cornball locution. It's completely out of touch to threaten workers like that. I'm not quarreling with the judge's rejection of the argument that it's just a joke.

Anyway, "back to the salt mine" — at least in the old days — used to be something people said when they were going to work. It didn't mean they had a bad or onerous job or that they hated their job. It was a lighthearted hyperbole — a way to say "I'm going to work." It often meant that the job was easy. It's a type of corny exaggeration that men years ago would say with a smile — like calling your wife "the old ball and chain."

I have no idea if Domenech had the right colloquial feeling for the old expression. He wrote "send you back to back to the salt mine." Seems like he's mixing the expression up with something else. And it was a dumb thing to say. Don't scare employees about their right to unionize!

"When you add $600 to the national average unemployment payment... the replacement rate goes from 38 percent to almost exactly 100 percent."

"In other words, that amount is what it would take for Congress to replace what the average American worker receiving unemployment would have earned.... Unemployment benefits are typically meant to keep people afloat but stay low enough to incentivize them to find a job. Now, when seeking work may be both fruitless and dangerous, the incentives have nearly reversed.... And a $600 flat amount, rather than one relative to each person’s income, on top of a state’s usual benefits, is perhaps the simplest possible policy to enact.... While an extra $600 a week is enough to replace 100 percent of the average national income, the added benefit will differ depending on where people are and what they typically earn.... A person who earns close to the average weekly wage will roughly get their salary replaced on unemployment, but low-wage workers who lose their jobs are more likely to end up making greater amounts than they were before...."

From "The $600 Unemployment Booster Shot, State by State" (NYT). At the link, a graph shows the states in order of how much the new benefit exceeds the income replacement level. At the top of the chart is Maine, where the unemployed are getting an amount that looks like about 125% of the average income in the state. Before the $600 bump, the payment was something like 48% of the average income. At the bottom of the chart is Maine's next door neighbor New Hampshire, where it looks like the payment is 88% of the average income of the state. That really isn't that big of a discrepancy, but the average income figure doesn't tell you the extent to which low wage earners are doing especially well (or the extent to which higher paid workers are getting into trouble meeting their regular expenses).

One commenter over there says: "I would like to see an article that shares both sides of the story on this. My husband is a small business owner of an essential business that he has built for 40 years. He is now having a hard time getting his few employees back to work because they are making more on unemployment. As I do understand the concept, it will, in the long run, put these small businesses out of business."

Yes, the extra $600 is premised on the idea that the incentive to get back to work is inapplicable because people aren't supposed to work. But what about those working in "essential" businesses? How do low-paid workers there feel seeing that they could make more money by not working? We often like to think that people want to work. Trump frequently repeats that people want to get back to work. But if your job isn't intrinsically rewarding to you and you could make more money not working, would you want to get back to work? Maybe you would.

The small business owner — like that commenter's husband — has an opportunity to see who has a strong work ethic and a dedication to the company. That may be worth remembering when the $600 add-on is taken off and everyone wants to come back. In the meantime, however, he is suffering, and it must be demoralizing to see that people don't want to support the company that had given them their jobs. Maybe some of the fault is with the owner: Why didn't he foster a spirit of loyalty to the company, when he had the chance?

"I love these people. I know the people from spas and beauty parlors, tattoo parlors. Bikers for Trump, a lot of tattoos. I love them, I love these people."

"And barbershops, these are great people, but you know what? Maybe you wait a little bit longer until you get into a phase two. So, do I agree with him? No, but I respect him and I will let him make his decision. Would I do that? No. I’d keep them a little longer. I want to protect people’s lives, but I’m going to let him make his decision. But I told him I totally disagree. Okay?"

Said Trump, at yesterday's Task Force press briefing, expressing his disagreement with the Governor of Georgia. I enjoyed "I love these people... Bikers for Trump, a lot of tattoos. I love them, I love these people."

Trump's disagreement with the Governor is cagey. It combines reaching out — with love — to the people who want to be free — free to seek bodily adornment — with respect for federalism:
I told the governor of Georgia, Brian Kemp, that I disagree strongly with his decision to open certain facilities, which are in violation of the phase one guidelines for the incredible people of Georgia. They’re incredible people. I love those people. They’re great. They’ve been strong, resolute. But at the same time, he must do what he thinks is right. I want him to do what he thinks is right, but I disagree with him on what he’s doing, but I want to let the governors do. Now if I see something totally egregious, totally out of line, I’ll do. 
Interesting usage of "do" — let the governors do... I'll do.... It saves a lot of time going into the governmental details. And he's eager to get back to his paean to the people — the Trump people:
But I think spas, and beauty salons, and tattoo parlors, and barber shops in phase one, we’re going to have phase two very soon, is just too soon. I think it’s too soon. And I love the people. I love those people that use all of those things. The spas, and the beauty parlors, and barber shops, tattoo parlors, I love them. But they can wait a little bit longer, just a little bit, not much, because safety has to predominate. We have to have that. So I told the governor very simply that I disagree with this decision, but he has to do what he thinks is right.
We have to do safety first, but if the Governor sees things a different way, then he has to do what he thinks is right. Trump is letting the Governor make the call... or is he? I think he wants the Governor to go first, to start to do whatever he thinks is right, but as the Governor thinks about what is right, he now knows Trump thinks it's wrong, and maybe Trump will step in somehow if he makes the wrong choice.

Later, Trump is asked about his conversation with Governor Kemp:
What did he say to you when you said you strongly disagreed with him? And for gym owners and tattoo parlor artists and barbers in Atlanta and Georgia generally, would you to advise them to listen to you and not to their governor?
The question doesn't completely make sense. Business owners can listen to their Governor and hear that they are free to open, but that does not require them to open. Just as Trump is leaving the decision whether to remove the restrictions to the Governor, the Governor deciding to remove the restrictions would only be leaving the decision to the individual, and the individual can think for himself, and that thinking can take into account what he's heard from the President.

But that's how I — a law professor — think about federalism and levels of decisionmaking. What Trump said was:
Look, I’d like them to listen to their governors, all of their governors. I have the right to do if I wanted to clamp it down, but I have respect for our governors. 
There's that distinctive "do" again. The right to do. He's saying he has the power to override the Governor's decision, but he wants the Governors to go first and maybe they'll get it right. He puts some pressure on the Governor to get it right:
They know what they’re doing. I think… And as you know, Brian Kemp, governor of Georgia, I worked very hard for his election. He beat their superstar. He beat the superstar of their party. I think you could say I helped a lot. Michelle Obama, Barack Obama, Oprah Winfrey, they all went in. They campaigned for him very hard, and he lost. 
He lost? The "superstar" in question was Stacey Abrams.
[Kemp] also was way down in the primary and ended up winning the primary after I came out and endorsed him. So, a lot of good things and there’s a lot of good feeling between myself and Brian Kemp. I like him a lot. I happen to disagree with him only in time and timing.
Then he turns away from Kemp and toward the people. The quote I put at the top of this post appears at this point in the transcript. And think about what that means to Kemp. Trump just got done saying You got elected because I came down there and connected with the people. And then suddenly he's directly connecting with the people, showing how he does it. I know these people. I love them.

Has Kemp backed down yet?

ADDED: It's best on video:

April 22, 2020

At Arthur's Café...

New leaves for Arthur

... you can see what's new.

"First Amendment rights are really pretty cool. There’s a lot of sacrifice we’re asking… in order to save lives. Some people may not get the message and focus on what’s being taken away."

Said Governor Tony Evers, quoted in "'Reopen Wisconsin' protest permit denied; organizers say it’ll happen anyway" (Madison365).

Here's something I wrote in October 2013, "Scott Walker gives up fighting for the permit requirement for protests in the Capitol":
Under pressure from an ACLU lawsuit.
Under the new rules, groups must notify the DOA of a gathering of 12 or more people two business days before the event takes place. The notification may be sent by phone, email, in person or by a state form, according to the statement. There is no limit on the number of notifications groups and individuals can submit.
That's a good resolution of the problem. There's a long tradition of spontaneous protests in the Wisconsin Capitol building, and the permit requirement interfered with it. Yeah, sometimes the protests get way out of hand, and the building does require security that varies when a lot of people show up at once, but focus on those real issues. Don't have a policy that's designed — or seems to be designed — to suppress spontaneity.
As for this week's protest — the organizers of the protest seem mostly concerned about getting access to the Capitol so they can use the bathrooms or at getting an outdoor permit so that
portable bathroom companies will work with them. But the Capitol building is closed and won't be opened and, as for the outdoors, the Department of Administration (DOA) says the planned protest "poses a hazard to the safety of the public." So the permit was denied.

Click on this WaPo link to see a photograph of Chuck Schumer exiting the Senate chamber while holding an N95 disposable respirator in his hand, with his middle finger on the inside...

... and walking past a woman — an assistant or guard of some kind? — who is wearing a disposable surgical mask.

Here: "House pushes toward historic change in voting procedures as pandemic sidelines Congress."

Such an unpleasant look for him. Either wear the mask or don't. And why are these people using the medical supplies and not the washable cloth mask they tell us to wear? And how inept is it to put your finger on the inside? That's actually quite gross even in times of plentiful supplies.

I've already been thinking that much of this mask business is theater, but they're not even getting the theater right.

I've saved the image — a photo by Patrick Semansky/AP — in case WaPo thinks better of its choice and replaces it.

I'm not going to call Schumer an idiot — the way Trump haters call Trump an idiot — because I happen to know that he scored a perfect 1600 on the SAT and was his high school's valedictorian. He went to Harvard undergrad and for law school. I'm seeing his IQ estimated at 170. He's super-smart. There's no doubt about it. I'm watching what he does, and he's not taking the risk of contagion too seriously. He's in a vulnerable group too — he's 69 years old (the same as me).

Having written that, I wanted to see what IQ people assign to Donald Trump. Of course, it's all over the place. He's an idiot! He's a genius! But at Quora, I found this interesting answer — by Tony Reno in June 2017 — to the question "To all those with IQ above 135, how high do you suspect Donald Trump’s IQ to be?"

"Virtual Rope Line with Vice President Joe Biden."

I went looking to see what Biden might be doing — just on my own going to his YouTube channel. I see this went up yesterday. I don't know how these people were chosen or how the editing was done (other than that they missed the opportunity to edit out Biden's touching his nose with his hand at 0:58):

Honestly, I didn't make it past 1:29. I felt I got it and there was nothing more to get. The idea is that Joe Biden is a nice person who takes the time to show empathy.

Okay. I scrolled to the end, and he made pitch for continuing this "ropeline." I was told I could participate if I went to joebiden.com/ropeline — but you have to "Sign Up to Join a Future Virtual Ropeline," and that requires you to give not only your name and email address but also your mobile phone number. I'm not doing that, but then again there is no way I would want to appear on a YouTube split screen talking to a political candidate, though I'll concede that Joe Biden comes across as a nonthreatening interlocutor.

Maybe like me, you will misinterpret this Hot Air headline.

Remember: Do not laugh in the presence of pain and death! You must never laugh. At least cover your mouth.

Here's the link to the article about what the Swedish Public Health Agency has estimated.

"My initial reaction when I learned of Peterson’s drug dependency and near-death experience was that his career in public was over."

"After all, many in the media have been eager to see him fail for the past couple of years and it seemed like he had in fact failed in some sense," wrote John Sexton at Hot Air a couple weeks ago. I'm reading that today because I was wondering what ended up happening to Jordan Peterson and would he ever come back. (A Facebook friend had written something that struck me as Jordan Peterson-y.)

Sexton links to Peterson posts at Instagram where we see that Peterson is working on a new book — which seems to be called "Beyond Order" — and he's playing with a remote controlled toy car (and wearing shorts):

"[W]ith the lower face covered and, often, eyes shaded by sunglasses, the usual signposts of character are hidden. The mask becomes the first signifier of the individual."

"And that means it will also become a sign of aspiration, achievement — and inequality....  [I]t is hard to avoid the nagging sense that designers are exploiting fear born during a pandemic for their own ends (and profit), and that consumers are using what is a medical necessity, one that is the most visible representation of the pain and isolation currently shared by so many, in a decorative way. Capitalist opportunities often emerge from times of trauma. This may be one of them. But that doesn’t make the origin story any less uncomfortable.... Yet you can’t argue with the need for masks, or that many of the companies making them are doing so because there is little other option: No one is buying the clothes they make, and to create something — anything — for sale is to create a lifeline for employees and suppliers...."

Writes the NYT fashion critic Vanessa Friedman in "Should Masks Be a Fashion Statement?/Capitalist opportunities often emerge from times of trauma. That doesn’t make the origin stories any less uncomfortable."

The usual topics for the fashion critic are also not happening right now, and she too must create something — anything — for sale. Here, she addresses masks and veers into the critique of capitalism. Anyone want to buy that?

I'm more interested in the loss of the "usual signposts of character" — that is, the human facial features — and the psychological effect this has on us as we venture out in public. I don't see how anything about a mask can do much good as a substitute "signifier of the individual." We're really just talking about the pattern on the fabric. Where's the income inequality in that? Brand names like "Gucci" over your mouth? Why is Friedman worried about such lame inequality signaling when what we are losing is the ability to see human faces?

And let me argue with "you can’t argue with the need for masks." When did that become beyond argument?! Just a few weeks ago, the authorities were telling us we didn't need masks at all. Now, we're supposed to accept the necessity and not even talk about it?! Maybe in NYC the need to cover up is too plain to discuss, but out here in the heartland, there are places where you can go out and walk around for miles and keep 10+ feet between yourself and anyone else. I do it every day, and I'm living in a city.

To answer the question in Friedman's title, masks — if you've got to wear one or choose to wear one — should be any kind of statement you want to make. It's bad enough to have to cover your mouth and to lose the ability to smile and frown and snarl and purse.

"Ventilation systems can create complex patterns of airflow and keep viruses aloft, so simply spacing tables six feet apart — the minimum distance that the C.D.C. advises you keep from other people..."

"... may not be sufficient to safeguard restaurant patrons.... [A]ll of the people who became sick at the restaurant in China were either at the same table as the infected person or at one of two neighboring tables. The fact that people farther away remained healthy is a hopeful hint that the coronavirus is primarily transmitted through larger respiratory droplets, which fall out of the air more quickly than smaller droplets known as aerosols, which can float for hours....  An air-conditioning unit next to Family C blew air in the southward direction across all three tables; some of the air likely bounced off the wall, back in the direction of Family C.... 'We conclude that in this outbreak, droplet transmission was prompted by air-conditioned ventilation,' the authors wrote. 'The key factor for infection was the direction of the airflow.' Harvey V. Fineberg, who leads the Standing Committee on Emerging Infectious Diseases and 21st Century Health Threats at the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine... said restaurants should be mindful of the direction of airflow in arranging tables."

From "How Coronavirus Infected Some, but Not All, in a Restaurant/A limited study by Chinese researchers suggests the role played by air currents in spreading the illness in enclosed spaces" NYT.

From the comments over there: "The implications of this event reveal staggering problems for the commercial airline industry."

And, from a lawyer: "That air currents impact the movement of virus particles is an 'of course they do.' I spent many years litigating environmental and toxic tort cases, and needless to say we saw the spread of all types of toxic substances impacted by air currents, air handling equipment, temperature differentials within a building etc. Not really anything new here, other than they focused on a specific virus particle (SARS-CoV-2)."

ADDED: Maybe there are 2 kinds of people: The ones who will decide never to go to a restaurant again and the ones who will say I'm just going to take my chances. No, I'm thinking in that chance-taking set of people, there will still be an assessment of the chances. How crowded is the place, how far apart are the tables, are the servers masked, does it look like they are sanitizing, is there subtle air circulation, or do they have a conspicuous air conditioner mounted on the wall and bearing down on the diners?

April 21, 2020

At the Sunrise Café...


... you can talk 'til dawn.

“Photographer Julia Keil decided to turn the camera on herself, making a series of self-portraits inspired by paintings, the cinema or other photographs.”

Nice work... at BBC.

ADDED: My favorite is Picasso's Blue Period. Be sure to scroll down to that.

"Joe Biden Starts General Election Nearly $187 Million Behind Trump/New fund-raising figures show the depth of the financial hole in which Mr. Biden finds himself against a president and Republican Party that have built up a huge war chest."

Headline at the NYT.
The sheer size of Mr. Trump’s early advantage creates a unique set of financial and political pressures for Mr. Biden. He must find ways to both expand his appeal to small online contributors and attract huge seven- and eight-figure checks to the outside super PACs supporting him — all while sheltered in his Delaware home because of the coronavirus....

The current cash gap at the presidential level is especially striking because down-ballot Democrats in key House and Senate races have been out-raising their Republican rivals.... The good news for Democrats is that March was Mr. Biden’s best fund-raising month of the campaign by far, raising $46.7 million. The bad news: His pace slowed markedly in the second half as the pandemic gripped the nation and froze the economy....

Mr. Trump and his shared committees with the R.N.C. raised $63 million in March and entered April with a combined $244 million in cash on hand. Mr. Biden and the D.N.C. had $57.2 million in the bank, after accounting for unpaid debts....
The Times article ends with a quote from Robby Mook, who was Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager: "If money was the key, 2016 would have gone very differently." The obvious retort to that is that Donald Trump was great at getting by on less money, and you're facing Donald Trump again.

"You held rallies in February and in March..."/"Oh, I don’t know about rallies. I really don’t know about rallies...."/"You held a rally in March"/"I don’t know. Did I hold a rally? I’m sorry. I hold a rally. Did I hold the rally?"

That's a little back-and-forth between "PBS NewsHour" reporter Yamiche Alcindor and Donald Trump — from yesterday's Task Force press briefing (transcript here).

Was Trump still holding rallies in March? I had to look it up. His last rally was March 2d. (That happens to be the day when I went to the store for the last time. I was stocking up on food in anticipation of at least a month of seclusion.)

After vaguely wondering about rallies, Trump shifted the subject to actions he took in January. And that was — he said — when Nancy Pelosi was "holding a street fair...  in San Francisco in Chinatown to prove... that there’s no problem." Trump's action in January was to cut off (some) travel from China, but he still gathered big crowds together for those rallies in February and early March.

Trump moved on to the subject of what a great economy he'd built up and how hard it was to close it down. But he closed it down.

Then, in his characteristic style, he ended with optimism: "But you know what I say to you? We’re going to rebuild it, and we’re going to rebuild it better, and it’s going to go faster than people think. I built it once. I build it a second time."

And he proceeded to call on Chanel Rion with One America News, who, I think, can be counted on for a friendly question. Look at this softball:
Going back to the topic of friendship and bipartisanship, Americans with the exception of Pelosi, Schumer and even Romney, Americans have seen an unprecedented chapter of bipartisanship and cooperation on the political landscape. On a personal note, what has been the most significant signal that your relationship with Democrats [inaudible] level have changed for the good of America?
Trump proclaimed it a "great question" and it turned out to be the last question. The answer was long, first claiming that there is "bipartisanship," then veering to Nancy Pelosi, who is, he said, "very nasty":

"In 1972, the Supreme Court ruled that the Sixth Amendment guarantees a right to a unanimous jury – but that defendants in state trials do not have such a right."

"[Monday], by a vote of 6-3, the justices reversed course, holding that the Sixth Amendment establishes a right to a unanimous jury that applies in both federal and state courts. The ruling is significant not only for the inmates who were convicted by nonunanimous juries in Louisiana and Oregon, but also for the extent to which the justices were deeply splintered as they debated whether and when to overturn longstanding precedent.... Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote for the majority, in an opinion that was joined in full by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer and in part by Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Brett Kavanaugh....  Kavanaugh filed a concurring opinion that focused on his views on the application of stare decisis to this case.... [The question is whether the precedent is] 'not just wrong, but grievously or egregiously wrong'... whether the prior precedent has 'caused significant jurisprudential or real-world consequences'... [and] whether people have relied on the earlier decision... Justice Clarence Thomas... wrote separately to argue that this right applies to the states through the 14th Amendment’s privileges or immunities clause, rather than the due process clause. Alito’s dissent [premised on stare decisis] was joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and (for the most part) Justice Elena Kagan...."

Writes Amy Howe at SCOTUSblog.

You might enjoy the NYT "Daily" podcast with Adam Liptak discussing the decision. He thinks that Justice Kagan joined the dissent because she cares about preserving other precedent, specifically the abortion-rights cases.

I was glad to see that 1972 case (Apodaca) overruled. It was always a stumbling block when trying to teach this area of constitutional law (the "incorporation" doctrine). I always tried to convey an understanding that the cases and doctrine — right or wrong — make sense. Whether you yourself would have decided the case the same way, you need to work to see how it made sense to the judges who decided it. All the effort I put into trying to understand Apodaca so I could express the sense of it coherently to students! If only I could have seen into the future and been able to say: Don't worry about Apodaca — it will be overruled in 2020.

Here's the full text of the new case, Ramos v. Louisiana. From the Gorsuch opinion:

"The very features that make New York attractive to businesses, workers and tourists — Broadway, the subway system, world-class restaurants..."

"... and innumerable cultural institutions — were among the hardest-hit in the pandemic. And they will take the longest to come back. Half of the hotels in the city are not operating, and with no reliable forecast for when tourists might return, many may stay shut. Nearly the same portion of the city’s smallest businesses — some 186,000 shops employing fewer than 10 people — could fail, city officials fear.... Large and midsize companies... are thinking about how to use their existing office space when workers cannot be packed together as tightly, and questioning how much they should be expected to pay for it. 'Because of the need for social distancing, that space is far less valuable.... We’re all going to need more space, or use it less.'... [W]orkers from around the country and the world would think twice about relocating to the city — for at least a few years — and... those already here might move out.... Swiftly shutting down the city’s more than 25,000 restaurants and bars was one thing. But getting customers back may not be a matter of simply allowing them to reopen, even with servers in masks and gloves and diners ordering from an app on their phones.... [T]ourists are not likely to come back to a closed city, and the sorts of activities that draw crowd and visitors — parades, performing arts, museums, sports, festivals — are likely to be among the last parts of the local economy to reopen...."

From "'I Don’t Think the New York That We Left Will Be Back for Some Years'/The features that made the city’s economy distinctive — Broadway, restaurants and museums — were hard hit and will take the longest to come back" (NYT).

From the comments over there:
Lets all hope that the pre-virus Manhattan will not return. It was a place of excess, a playground for the uber-rich, where middle class people could work but not live. $500 jeans with engineered rips in the knees, insipid Jeff Koons sculpture made by "assistants" selling for millions while sycophantic curators belly up to donors who treat art like commodities. Our whole society, not just NYC, needs structural change. Our economy needs to work for everybody, not just hedge fund managers and silk stocking law firms. We need a health care system which delivers quality care to all. Why have we given up on an America which delivers on its promise to all?

Trump weaponizes Nancy Pelosi's ice cream.

This Trump campaign ad — "'Let them eat ice cream' — Nancy Antoinette" — went up yesterday:

"Yesterday, the Biden campaign unveiled an ad—filled with menacing images of Chinese soldiers—claiming that 'Trump rolled over for the Chinese.'"

"It follows another spot, paid for by the pro-Biden super PAC American Bridge 21st Century, depicting the incumbent as a stooge for Beijing. 'Everyone knew they lied about the virus—China,' a narrator declares, against the backdrop of a fluttering Chinese flag. 'President Trump gave China his trust.' On Friday, the Biden adviser Antony Blinken told reporters that 'the president praised China and President Xi more than 15 times.'... Trump has made China the primary scapegoat for his failures. His supporters are running ads under the hashtag #BeijingBiden. So Biden and his strategists are meeting fire with fire. They’re answering the charge that the former vice president is soft on China by saying that Trump is.... The implication of Biden’s new ad is that... Biden would boss the Chinese around. This is a jingoistic fantasy. China is a rival superpower run by an authoritarian and fiercely nationalistic regime.... In suggesting that Biden could bludgeon China into submission—in a phone call, no less—the Biden campaign is peddling a lie about how public-health cooperation with China actually works.... Were the Biden camp’s anti-China ads a surefire winner with voters, Machiavellians might justify them as a necessary evil. But for Democrats, posturing as more anti-China than the GOP is a poor long-term bet.... [I]n trying to out-jingo the GOP, Democrats will alienate their Millennial activist base.... By attacking Trump for being insufficiently nationalist rather than being insufficiently internationalist, Biden is hastening a geopolitical confrontation that threatens progressive goals..."

From "The Utter Futility of Biden’s China Rhetoric/The Democratic candidate tries to out-hawk Trump, but trying to beat Republicans at their own game is pointless—even dangerous" by Peter Beinart (in The Atlantic).

Here's the ad Beinart is talking about:

For less friendly look into Biden's vulnerability on China, there's this Trump ad from April 9th:

And here's something Trump said on April 18th: "Maybe Sleepy Joe Biden’s gonna win. And if Sleepy Joe Biden wins... China will own the United States."

"I’d take her in a heartbeat. She’s brilliant. She knows the way around. She is a really fine woman. The Obamas are great friends. I don’t think she has any desire to live near the White House again."

Said Joe Biden, quoted at KDKA Pittsburgh.

"South Korean officials have been forced to deny that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is gravely ill following suspected heart surgery..."

Forbes reports.
Various rumours about the state of the leader’s health have emerged from South Korean lawmakers, including claims that he underwent heart or ankle surgery, to rumours he may be infected with coronavirus, Rep. Yoon Sang-hyun said....

[A] list of potential successors... includes sister Kim Yo Jong, his estranged brother, and his aunt....

"In light of the attack from the Invisible Enemy, as well as the need to protect the jobs of our GREAT American Citizens, I will be signing an Executive Order to temporarily suspend immigration into the United States!"

Trump tweeted last night, reported in "Coronavirus Live Updates: Trump Says He Will Suspend Immigration" (NYT).
In recent weeks, the Trump administration has said that health concerns justified moving swiftly to bar asylum seekers and undocumented immigrants from entering the country, alarming immigration advocates who have said that Mr. Trump and his advisers are using a pandemic to broaden hard-line policies.

Under the kind of executive order the president described, the Trump administration would no longer approve any applications from foreigners to live and work in the United States for an undetermined period of time — effectively shutting down the legal immigration system in the same way the president has long advocated closing the borders to illegal immigration.

Workers who have for years received visas to perform specialized jobs in the United States would also be denied permission to arrive, though workers in some industries deemed critical could be exempted from the ban, people familiar with the president’s decision said.....
ADDED: At Twitter, responses to Trump's tweet are accusations of racism. For example, from WaPo's Jennifer Rubin: "No doubt Trump's base is primarily motivated by racism. This is why Trump does this. Every. Damn. Time."

April 20, 2020

At the Orange Glow Café...


... you can talk all night.

"Smithfield Foods Is Blaming 'Living Circumstances In Certain Cultures' For One Of America’s Largest COVID-19 Clusters."

Buzzfeed News reports.
It’s hard to know “what could have been done differently,” a Smithfield spokesperson said, given what she referred to as the plant’s “large immigrant population.”

“Living circumstances in certain cultures are different than they are with your traditional American family,” she explained. The spokesperson and a second corporate representative pointed to an April 13 Fox News interview in which the governor of South Dakota, Kristi Noem, said that “99%” of the spread of infections “wasn’t happening inside the facility” but inside workers’ homes, “because a lot of these folks who work at this plant live in the same community, the same buildings, sometimes in the same apartments."...

"On Monday, [Governor] Evers announced the Badger Bounce Back plan, which largely aligns with guidelines unveiled last week by President Donald Trump's administration..."

"... and is aimed at reducing the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths to a point that the state can begin a multi-phase process of reopening businesses. 'I am jazzed and hopeful about this plan,' Evers said Monday. 'While being safe at home continues to be very important, this plan is an all-out war on the virus and it begins the process of preparing our businesses and the workforce to begin the important planning that will result in a safe and logical phase in of our economy.'... Under the plan, which was drafted following Trump's Guidelines for Opening Up America Again, reopening the state will occur in three phases: Phase One allows restaurants to reopen with best practices including guest limitations and social distance requirements, removes retail restrictions, reopens K-12 schools and allows gatherings of a maximum of 10 people. Phase Two allows bars and non-essential businesses to reopen with best practices in place, allows post-secondary schools to consider reopening and gatherings up to 50 people would be allowed. Phase Three would eliminate the social distancing requirement, as well as mass gathering bans and would allow businesses, schools and daycare facilities to return to normal operations....  Evers said Monday he is aware of the [planned April 24th] protest and supports the right to gather at the Capitol, but also reminded residents to maintain proper social distancing to prevent additional transmission of the disease — which will allow the economy to reopen sooner."

The Wisconsin State Journal reports.

Sounds good to me. I like seeing a Democratic Governor accept the Trump Guidelines and work carefully to apply them to our local conditions. And I hope the protesters appropriately distance themselves from one another.

Why can't we all — Republican, Democrat, whatever — be jazzed and hopeful?

"Indeed, a number of exiles fell to scowling under the palms.... The composer Eric Zeisl called California a 'sunny blue grave.'"

"Adorno could have had Muscle Beach in mind when he identified a social condition called the Health unto Death: 'The very people who burst with proofs of exuberant vitality could easily be taken for prepared corpses, from whom the news of their not-quite-successful decease has been withheld for reasons of population policy.'... Such doleful tales raise the question of why so many writers fled to L.A. Why not go to New York, where exiled visual artists gathered in droves? ... [T]he 'lack of a cultural infrastructure' in L.A. was attractive: it allowed refugees to reconstitute the ideals of the Weimar Republic instead of competing with an extant literary scene.... Thomas Mann... lived in a spacious, white-walled aerie in Pacific Palisades... He saw 'Bambi' at the Fox Theatre in Westwood; he ate Chinese food; he listened to Jack Benny on the radio; he furtively admired handsome men in uniform; he puzzled over the phenomenon of the 'Baryton-Boy Frankie Sinatra,' to quote his diaries. Like almost all the émigrés, he never attempted to write fiction about America...."

From "The Haunted California Idyll of German Writers in Exile/Wartime émigrés in L.A. felt an excruciating dissonance between their circumstances and the horrors unfolding in Europe" by Alex Ross (The New Yorker).

Nate Silver wonders about the "weird dynamics" of the red state/blue state difference... but is he picturing it right?

It seems to me, he's assuming the conditions of contagion are the same in red and blue states and only the politics are different.

But I think the reason the red states are getting closer to reopening is that there's good reason to think that it can be done carefully and that — with some distancing, a lot of masks, lots of hand-washing and sanitizing, and containment — the number of new cases can be kept down. And there are blue states and blue cities — notably New York City — where the same approach won't be enough, because people go to work on the subway and ride in elevators together.

But Silver looks ahead and imagines red states screwed by their own ignorance of science and blue states looking way smarter and — what does he mean by "weird dynamics"? Is he hoping it will become painfully, wretchedly clear that the red-state people are deplorable?

ADDED: I'm seeing some of my Madison Facebook friends saying shockingly nasty things about the people who want to reopen — for example, visualizing them submerged in a "coronavirus infused hot tub."

Edgy humor... tweeted by Trump.

"Oil that is scheduled to be delivered in June fell 12 percent Monday to about $22 a barrel, but at the same time a benchmark to be delivered next month was essentially deemed worthless."

"Owing largely to a quirk in the way that oil prices are set, the May benchmark actually fell into negative territory, suggesting people who had oil to sell were willing to pay to have it taken off their hands. The problem is that the United States is running out of places to store its oil, which is already being stockpiled on barges at sea and in any nook and cranny companies can find in their facilities. Traders are now worrying that even this space is running out. Under futures contracts, West Texas Intermediate — the American benchmark for oil prices — is delivered to Cushing, Okla., but investors are worried that there will be no place there to put it."

The NYT reports.

Abandoned toy binoculars at 6:26 a.m.