Thursday, May 28, 2020

Priorities

From the Washington Post:

One hundred thousand Americans dead in less than four months.

It’s as if every person in Edison, N.J., or Kenosha, Wis., died. It’s half the population of Salt Lake City or Grand Rapids, Mich. It’s about 20 times the number of people killed in homicides in that length of time, about twice the number who die of strokes.

The death toll from the coronavirus passed that hard-to-fathom marker on Wednesday, which slipped by like so many other days in this dark spring, one more spin of the Earth, one more headline in a numbing cascade of grim news.

Nearly three months into the brunt of the epidemic, 14 percent of Americans say they know someone who has succumbed to the virus.

At the moment, Trump’s attention is elsewhere.

Trump is preparing to sign an executive order Thursday that could roll back the immunity that tech giants have for the content on their sites, according to two people familiar with the matter.

Trump’s directive chiefly seeks to embolden federal regulators to rethink a portion of law known as Section 230, according to the two people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe a document that could still evolve and has not been officially signed by the president. That law spares tech companies from being held liable for the comments, videos and other content posted by users on their platforms.

So the most important thing for him right now is to muzzle his critics.

What the hell is wrong with us?

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Fatal Attraction

From TPM:

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) pounced on a golden opportunity on Tuesday after President Donald Trump threatened to pull the 2020 Republican National Convention out of Charlotte, North Carolina if that state’s Gov. Roy Cooper (D) didn’t allow full attendance at the convention amid COVID-19.

“With world-class facilities, restaurants, hotels, and workforce, Georgia would be honored to safely host the Republican National Convention,” Kemp tweeted. “We hope you will consider the Peach State, @realdonaldtrump!”

The Georgia governor wasn’t the only Republican to swoop in amid Trump’s clash with Cooper.

Florida GOP chair Joe Gruters threw his hat in the ring several hours after the President issued his threat on Monday.

“The Republican Party of Florida would welcome the opportunity to host the Republican National Convention,” Gruters said in a statement. “Florida is committed to ensuring a safe, secure and successful event for President @realDonaldTrump and all attendees.”

And Texas GOP chair James Dickey made a similar offer on Monday during an interview with the American-Statesman.

“Texas would welcome President Trump and the RNC Convention,” he said.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is all in favor having both conventions here.

Gov. Ron DeSantis said Tuesday the political conventions for both major parties would be great for Florida’s coronavirus-damaged economy as President Donald Trump has suggested moving the planned Republican convention out of North Carolina.

“Heck, I’m a Republican, it’d be good for us to have the DNC (Democratic National Convention) in terms of the economic impact when you talk about major events like that,” DeSantis said while in Miami to announce two appointments to the Florida Supreme Court.

DeSantis was asked about Trump tweeting Monday about possibly moving the Republican convention from the Spectrum Center in Charlotte because North Carolina wasn’t reopening fast enough amid the virus.

Yeah, the most important thing is to revive the economy by endangering the lives of the citizens of the state and brown-nosing Trump because he’s the lead lemming of their political future.

Florida’s tax structure relies on tourism and convention business, so naturally attracting thousands of people from out-of-state is good for the state’s coffers.  Unfortunately, you can’t really raise a lot of money from people that are sick and dying unless you’re in the healthcare business.  That would be Rick Scott, the former governor and now senator who made his fortune by running a scam healthcare business.

I got really tired of hearing how “pro-life” the Republicans are and how the Democrats are the ones who were going to implement “death panels” with Obamacare.  But it seems that the GOP is the one that is sick to death of it.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Childproofing America

Tom Nichols writes in The Atlantic:

So many mysteries surround Donald Trump: the contents of his tax returns, the apparent miracle of his graduation from college. Some of them are merely curiosities; others are of national importance, such as whether he understood the nuclear-weapons briefing given to every president. I prefer not to dwell on this question.

But since his first day as a presidential candidate, I have been baffled by one mystery in particular: Why do working-class white men—the most reliable component of Donald Trump’s base—support someone who is, by their own standards, the least masculine man ever to hold the modern presidency? The question is not whether Trump fails to meet some archaic or idealized version of masculinity. The president’s inability to measure up to Marcus Aurelius or Omar Bradley is not the issue. Rather, the question is why so many of Trump’s working-class white male voters refuse to hold Trump to their own standards of masculinity—why they support a man who behaves more like a little boy.

I am a son of the working class, and I know these cultural standards. The men I grew up with think of themselves as pretty tough guys, and most of them are. They are not the products of elite universities and cosmopolitan living. These are men whose fathers and grandfathers came from a culture that looks down upon lying, cheating, and bragging, especially about sex or courage. (My father’s best friend got the Silver Star for wiping out a German machine-gun nest in Europe, and I never heard a word about it until after the man’s funeral.) They admire and value the understated swagger, the rock-solid confidence, and the quiet reserve of such cultural heroes as John Wayne’s Green Beret Colonel Mike Kirby and Sylvester Stallone’s John Rambo (also, as it turns out, a former Green Beret.)

They are, as an American Psychological Association feature describes them, men who adhere to norms such as “toughness, dominance, self-reliance, heterosexual behaviors, restriction of emotional expression and the avoidance of traditionally feminine attitudes and behaviors.” But I didn’t need an expert study to tell me this; they are men like my late father and his friends, who understood that a man’s word is his bond and that a handshake means something. They are men who still believe in a day’s work for a day’s wages. They feel that you should never thank another man when he hands you a paycheck that you earned. They shoulder most burdens in silence—perhaps to an unhealthy degree—and know that there is honor in making an honest living and raising a family.

Not every working-class male voted for Trump, and not all of them have these traits, of course. And I do not present these beliefs and attitudes as uniformly virtuous in themselves. Some of these traditional masculine virtues have a dark side: Toughness and dominance become bullying and abuse; self-reliance becomes isolation; silence becomes internalized rage. Rather, I am noting that courage, honesty, respect, an economy of words, a bit of modesty, and a willingness to take responsibility are all virtues prized by the self-identified class of hard-working men, the stand-up guys, among whom I was raised.

And yet, many of these same men expect none of those characteristics from Trump, who is a vain, cowardly, lying, vulgar, jabbering blowhard. Put another way, as a question I have asked many of the men I know: Is Trump a man your father and grandfather would have respected?

Or to put it in simpler terms, would they want to country to be run by someone who has yet to demonstrate the maturity of your average teenager?

Recent events have caused me to look back at how I grew up and what was expected of an adult versus what was tolerated as an adolescent.  Even growing up in the 1960’s, when the free-wheeling culture of love, peace, and tie-dying changed the rules of child-rearing, I knew that there was a difference between what I could get away with as a kid as opposed to my responsibilities as an adult.  Even then I expected our leaders to be the grown-ups in the room, dealing with the dangers that lay out there and protecting us from them while we listened to rock and roll and experimented with everything from… well, you get the idea.  The image that Mr. Nichols speaks of — the stoic and strong while silent man — didn’t mean unfeeling and impermeable, but they also knew that there was a time when the expectations of duty went beyond their own family.  It wasn’t limited to men only.  I can think of many of the women in my own life and those of my friends who showed that the realization that adulthood meant more than independence and the right to buy a drink.  They may not have been molded in the John Wayne image, but there was the standard that immaturity and acting out was not to be tolerated.

The Constitution states that the president needs to be at least 35 years old.  When that document was written, 35 was considered to be middle-aged; life expectancy wasn’t much longer.  Now 35 is barely post-adolescent (for the record, I turned 35 in 1987 with one more year yet to go in grad school).  But it isn’t the chronological age that matters; it’s whether or not the person who is president has ever grown up.

Donald Trump is unmanly because he has never chosen to become a man. He has weathered few trials that create an adult of any kind. He is, instead, working-class America’s dysfunctional son, and his supporters, male and female alike, have become the worried parent explaining what a good boy he is to terrorized teachers even while he continues to set fires in the hallway right outside.

The danger is that we may not survive the antics of this dysfunctional child.

Monday, May 25, 2020

Philip Williams – 1926-2020

Dad and Tupper in 1954

He loved animal jokes. Take any story about a priest, a rabbi, and a pastor walking into a bar and recast it with a fox, a squirrel, and a raccoon, and he’d be rolling on the floor. There was something about the gentle world of “The Wind in the Willows” and the adventures of Winnie the Pooh in the Hundred Acre Woods that told us what a gentle and humble man he was: giving, loving, flawed, human, and who tried his best to do what he could for his family, his friends, and his community.

There are so many memories that he created with us. Teaching his children how to sail, taking us to baseball and football games, teaching us how to play golf, taking us skiing, sharing the little things that brought him joy, and giving of himself in ways that we didn’t realize until we were older, and setting examples for his children and how to raise their own children. Yes, of course we had our struggles; no family or marriage lasts nearly seventy-two years without them. He had disappointments and made mistakes. He would be the first to admit them. But through it all, the basic goodness of my father withstood it and came through to the other side.

He and Mom raised four children who could not be any more different from each other, and yet there’s something of him in all of us aside from the DNA. I know that for myself, my love of a good story about sailing and an appreciation of a quiet afternoon listening to the Tigers on the back porch or taking a walk to go bird-watching came from his side of the family. It melded well with the appreciation for jazz and certain art forms that I got from Mom to become what I am. I know my path through life probably wasn’t what he envisioned, but through it all I knew I had his support, guidance, and love.

He loved us all, even when we mocked him for it. In the middle of one our many raucous family “discussions,” he would plead with us to “love one another,” as if that would solve all our problems. We even found a sign that hung over our kitchen fireplace with that plea on it. But I think he gets the last word because when you get right down to it, that’s all he ever wanted for us. He welcomed the new members of the family: husbands, wives, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren with nothing but unconditional love.

I am glad I was able to see him a few weeks ago through the dance of pixels and electrons of Zoom. All of us were there on the screen, and Dad looked pretty good for someone in his condition.  He waved to us and said he loved us. I hoped against hope that it would not be the last time I saw him; that after this was all over I would get to be with him and share the two books I sent him: “Swallows and Amazons,” the books from his childhood that he shared with me and taught me to love good writing and sailing, and the “Field Guide to the Birds” by Roger Tory Peterson, the book that we shared when we walked through the woods or watched them at the bird-feeders. Those books were on the shelf in his room when he slipped away. That was as close as I could be to him, and it was all I could ask.

One last thing: Hey, Dad, did you hear the one about the fox, the squirrel, and the raccoon? It’s a really good one.

Love, Philip.

Memorial Day

I grew up in Perrysburg, Ohio. It’s a small town, a suburb of Toledo, and when I was a kid in the 1950’s and ’60’s, it fit all of the images that small towns in the Midwest have: tree-shaded streets, neat homes, lots of churches, and a main street — Louisiana Avenue — with little shops like the drug store with the fountain, the dime store, the barber shop, the hardware store, the bakery with the smell of bread baking and the sweet scent of icing, and the bank with the solid stone exterior. They’re all still there, just under different names now, and my parents, who still live there, still call the drug store by its old name, even though it’s changed owners and become a jewelry shop. In the winter the Christmas decorations line the street, and each Memorial Day there is a parade that starts at the Schaller Memorial, the veterans hall, and proceeds up Louisiana Avenue, taking a turn when it reaches the Oliver Hazard Perry Memorial (“We have met the enemy and they are ours…”) and marches down West Front Street past the old Victorian homes that overlook the Maumee River.

When I was a kid the parade was made up of the veterans groups like the American Legion and the VFW, and platoons of soldiers and veterans, including, through the 1970’s, the last remaining veterans of World War I. They wore their uniforms and their medals, and those that couldn’t march sat in the back seat of convertibles, waving slowly to the crowds that lined the sidewalks. They were followed by the marching band from the high school, the color guard, the Cub Scouts, the Boy Scouts, the Girl Scouts, the drum and bugle corps, floats from church groups, all of the city fire equipment, antique cars, and the service groups like the Shriners, the Elks, and the Kiwanis Club. After the last float came all the kids on their bicycles decorated with streamers, bunting, flags, and all the patriotic paperwork we could muster. My friends and I would try to outdo each other, and it had less to do with patriotism than it did with seeing how many rolls of red, white, and blue crepe paper we could thread in between the spokes of our wheels.

I was about ten or so on one Memorial Day when I spent a lot of time getting my Schwinn Racer ready for the big parade. It was a perfect day; the sky was a sparkling spring blue and all the floats, cars, and fire trucks were gleaming in the sun as the parade organized on Indiana Avenue in front of the Memorial Hall. The high school band in their yellow and black uniforms marched in precision as the major led off with a Sousa tune, and as the parade slowly made its way down the avenue we could see the crowds along the sidewalks waiting and waving. As we waited our turn we wheeled our bikes in circles, just like the Shriners in their little go-karts, and finally we got the signal that it was time for the kids to roll. There was an organized rush to lead off, and then we were slowly pedaling down the street, waving to everybody outside the library, the Chevy dealership, even the people lined up on the roof of the pizza parlor. I looked for my dad shooting movies with the 8mm camera, but didn’t see him. Oh, well, it didn’t matter; we were supposed to meet at the home of friends who were hosting a post-parade picnic in their backyard. Their house was at the end of the parade route, so that was the perfect place to pull out of the parade and have the first of many Faygo Redpops that summer.

But for some reason I stayed with the parade, on down West Front, and then up West Boundary and past the gates of Fort Meigs Cemetery. The floats and the fire trucks were gone, but what was left of the parade — the color guard and the veterans — went through the gates and along the path. There was no music now, just a solemn drumbeat keeping a steady muffled tapping. The color guard turned at a small stone memorial, and then past it to a gravesite where a family was gathered; a mother in a black dress, a father in a grey suit, and a teenage son and daughter, looking somber and out of place. The grave was still fresh, the dirt mounded over, the headstone a simple marker with a flag. A minister spoke some words, and then the color guard snapped to attention. A volley of rifle fire, then Taps, and then a tall young soldier in dress blues handed a folded flag to the mother, who murmured her thanks and tried to smile.

I suddenly realized that I felt out of place there with my gaudily-patriotic bike and my red-white-and-blue striped shirt. No one noticed me, though, and when the people started to slowly move away from the gravesite and back to the entrance, I followed along until I was able to ride slowly back to our friends’ house, park my bike with all the others, and find my parents, who probably hadn’t even noticed that I was not there with all the other kids running around and playing on the lawn.

Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images.

This post originally appeared on May 25, 2009.

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Sunday Reading

An Incalculable Loss — The front page of today’s New York Times.

Instead of the articles, photographs or graphics that normally appear on the front page of The New York Times, on Sunday, there is just a list: a long, solemn list of people whose lives were lost to the coronavirus pandemic.

As the death toll from Covid-19 in the United States approaches 100,000, a number expected to be reached in the coming days, editors at The Times have been planning how to mark the grim milestone.

Simone Landon, assistant editor of the Graphics desk, wanted to represent the number in a way that conveyed both the vastness and the variety of lives lost.

Departments across The Times have been robustly covering the coronavirus pandemic for months. But Ms. Landon and her colleagues realized that “both among ourselves and perhaps in the general reading public, there’s a little bit of a fatigue with the data.”

“We knew we were approaching this milestone,” she added. “We knew that there should be some way to try to reckon with that number.”

Putting 100,000 dots or stick figures on a page “doesn’t really tell you very much about who these people were, the lives that they lived, what it means for us as a country,” Ms. Landon said. So, she came up with the idea of compiling obituaries and death notices of Covid-19 victims from newspapers large and small across the country, and culling vivid passages from them.

Alain Delaquérière, a researcher, combed through various sources online for obituaries and death notices with Covid-19 written as the cause of death. He compiled a list of nearly a thousand names from hundreds of newspapers. A team of editors from across the newsroom, in addition to three graduate student journalists, read them and gleaned phrases that depicted the uniqueness of each life lost:

“Alan Lund, 81, Washington, conductor with ‘the most amazing ear’ … ”

“Theresa Elloie, 63, New Orleans, renowned for her business making detailed pins and corsages … ”

Ms. Landon compared the result to a “rich tapestry” that she could not have woven by herself. Clinton Cargill, assistant editor on the National desk, was Ms. Landon’s “editing co-pilot,” she said. Other key players in the project were Matt Ruby, deputy editor of Digital News Design; Annie Daniel, a software engineer; and the graphics editors Jonathan Huang, Richard Harris and Lazaro Gamio. Andrew Sondern, an art director, is behind the print design.

Marc Lacey, National editor, had warned Tom Bodkin, chief creative officer of The Times, that the milestone was coming. “I wanted something that people would look back on in 100 years to understand the toll of what we’re living through,” Mr. Lacey said in an email.

For the front page of the paper, two ideas stood out: either a grid of hundreds of pictures of those who had lost their lives to Covid-19, or an “all type” concept, Mr. Bodkin said. Whichever approach was chosen, he said, “we wanted to take over the entire page.”

The all-type concept came to the fore. Such a treatment “would be hugely dramatic,” he said.

The design references that of centuries-old newspapers, which Mr. Bodkin is keenly interested in. For many years after The Times started publishing in 1851, there were no headlines, in the modern sense.

“It was kind of running text with little subheads,” Mr. Bodkin said, describing newspapers in the mid-1800s.

Mr. Bodkin said he did not remember any front pages without images during his 40 years at The Times, “though there have been some pages with only graphics,” he said, adding, “This is certainly a first in modern times.”

Inside the paper, the list continues, threaded with an essay by Dan Barry, a Times reporter and columnist. But mostly there are names. More names, and more lives lost.

Doonesbury.

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Friday, May 22, 2020

Happy Friday

Here’s some Friday catblogging for you.  My housemate is testing out his new old camera — he collects and uses such classics as Leicas and Hasselblads from the 1960’s through 1980’s — and in this case, he’s using Sombra as his model.  She does not look quite ready for her close-up.

In other news, the pollen count is through the roof around here and my sinuses are in full flood. My temperature is in the normal range; I just have to make it through the deluge that always occurs when the trees are having sex.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Sowing The Whirlwind

We haven’t heard from Charlie Pierce in a while.

First, in Oregon, a devotee of the QAnon lunacy won the Republican nomination to run against incumbent Senator Jeff Merkley. From the Washington Post.

Jo Rae Perkins bested three other candidates to win the GOP nomination…In a video posted to her Twitter feed Tuesday night, Perkins declared that she supports the conspiracy theory, which revolves around “Q,” an anonymous Internet user claiming to be a government agent with top security clearance. “Where we go one, we go all,” Perkins said in the video, reciting a QAnon slogan. “I stand with President Trump. I stand with Q and the team. Thank you Anons, and thank you patriots. And together, we can save our republic.”

It did not start with Trump and it will not depart with him. The Republican Party is a bag of monsters.

Then there is the Q-Poll, the national numbers from Quinnipiac University. We ordinarily don’t post on polls here at the shebeen. They are the ultimate shiny object. This one, though, is worth noting, because it is a snapshot of a campaign that really isn’t happening, and the numbers therein are not at all good for the incumbent.

Former Vice President Joe Biden leads President Trump 50 – 39 percent in a head-to-head matchup in the election for president, according to a Quinnipiac University national poll of registered voters released today. That’s up from the 49 – 41 percent lead Biden held in an April 8th national poll, but the change is within the margin of error. Democrats go to Biden 88 – 5 percent, Republicans go to Trump 87 – 8 percent, and independents go to Biden 47 – 36 percent.

“What does the 11 point Biden lead tell us? At best for Team Trump, it says voter confidence in President Trump is shaky. At worst for them, as coronavirus cases rise, Trump’s judgement is questioned – and November looms,” said Quinnipiac University Polling Analyst Tim Malloy.

Bear in mind that Biden did little more during this polling period than issue the occasional message from his man cave in Delaware. Meanwhile, the president* has been all over television doing his own unique brand of presidentin’. Dark and rancid smears. Intimations of plots and scheming from The Deep State. Ginning up anger and fighting with his own government. However, this poll clearly indicates that the country’s actual pessimism is far outpacing the president*’s ability to create it to his advantage.

More than two months into the coronavirus crisis in the U.S., President Trump’s job approval rating ticks lower. 42 percent of voters approve of the job President Trump is doing, while 53 percent disapprove. That’s compared to a 45 – 51 percent job approval rating he received in April, his highest ever. On the president’s response to the coronavirus, 41 percent of voters approve and 56 percent disapprove. That is down from a 46 – 51 percent approval rating in April. On the president’s handling of the economy, 50 percent approve while 47 percent disapprove, compared to a 51 – 44 percent approval in April. On his handling of healthcare, although underwater, the president receives his highest approval rating ever, a negative 41 – 54 percent. In April he received a negative 39 – 54 percent approval.

Pessimism all around. 81 percent of respondents are afraid that the country will collapse into an economic depression. Almost half of them say the pandemic has affected their mental health. About 87 percent of them believe that a “second wave” of the pandemic is at least somewhat likely to occur. The country doesn’t need this guy’s help to feel bad about itself any more. He talked about American carnage in his inaugural address. He had no idea what that really looks like.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Back To The Office

For the first time since March 18, I’m going to the office.

It’s not for full-time (I’m a part-timer anyway), and it’s mainly just to see where we are with various projects, but it’s a start.  We’re taking all sorts of precautions: face masks, screens around the cubes in the open area, and it will be just a few of us.  School is over for the year.

But sunrise is coming.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020