Men are going to get us all killed

One of the more interesting sociological observations during Covid is the number of times I’ve been out running errands and we’ll see what is clearly a couple where the woman is wearing a mask, but not the man.  Ugh.

Political scientist Dan Cassino with some data showing the drop-off in mask-wearing among men:

Ugh– men.  But, maybe, the problem is just that men are more likely to be Republicans,  In part, but…

“men focused on their gender identity.”  So, it really is toxic masculinity that is killing us.  Get over it dudes!

Quick hits (part II)

1) My friend Joe insisted that I read this and really sit with it.  I’m not sure I’m smart enough to fully appreciate it (I also think, honestly, it could probably have been written more clearly for a lay audience).  I think what it is saying, though, is that if we actually allow for the speed of light to be faster than the speed of light, we can unify our theories of relativity and quantum mechanics without quantum stuff being so weird.  Which is pretty cool.

2) A friend just posted on FB a photo of her wearing a mask with a valve.  Fortunately have not seen many of these around on my excursions, but definitely seen a lot of on-line ads for them.  We should definitely not be selling masks with valves for general use right now.  (They do almost nothing for source control).

3) I get that there are some people who are surely overly-optimistic about how fast we’ll have a vaccine and just how effective it will be. But, you can also be too damn pessimistic, too.  I hate this, “this guy said we might not have an HIV vaccine and people laughed at him and now he’s a Covid vaccine skeptic.” You really don’t have to be an epidemiologist or virologist to appreciate what a unique challenge HIV is (because, I do, thanks to some reading) and the fact that everything we know about SARS-COV2 tells us it is far more amenable to a vaccine than HIV.

4) OMG– enough with the SJW’s.  JK Rowling responded to a “people who menstruate” tweet by basically saying, “you mean women?” and all the headlines are “anti-trans” and “transphobic.”  Sorry, if arguing that just using the phrase “women” instead of “people who menstruate” makes you transphobic… well…

5) Personally, it’s going to be a while before I eat inside a restaurant.  But, I might be persuaded by this (seriously).

A man and a woman dine under plastic shields in Paris on May 27. (Thibault Camus/AP)

6) Enjoyed this Public Policy Polling take on some of their recent state polling:

PPP has consistently found Democrats leading in the Arizona, Colorado, Maine, and North Carolina Senate races which should be enough for a majority next year. States like Iowa expend the battlefield and provide the potential for a more robust majority.

PPP released one of the only public polls for this week’s primary in Iowa and correctly found Greenfield winning by a landslide.

-In a Texas survey done for the Texas Democratic Party, we found Joe Biden and Donald Trump tied in the state at 48. Only 46% of voters approve of the job Trump is doing to 50% who disapprove. A Quinnipiac University survey released this week showed the state a toss up as well.

One particularly notable finding in the Texas poll is that Biden leads 53-41 among voters under 45…and 51-46 among voters between 46 and 65 as well. The only thing keeping Trump in the game is a 59-38 lead with seniors. That huge generational split means Democrats are going to start winning important elections in Texas some day…and it could even be this year…

-In a North Carolina survey this week we found Joe Biden with his biggest lead in the state so far this year at 49-45. We also found there’s room for him to grow- Donald Trump has a -62 approval rating with the undecideds and they’re supporting Roy Cooper by 43 points for Governor and Cal Cunningham by 31 points for Senate.

This is a trend we are seeing in most of our polling- the voters who don’t know how they’re going to cast their ballot for President are generally younger Democratic leaning voters who don’t care for Joe Biden. That is probably the most important voting bloc for this fall- if they continue to decline to support Biden the race may be close. If they end up deciding he’s good enough, the election may approach landslide territory.

7) This is good, “Police Attacks Fueled by Violent Ideology of Grievance”

The “thin blue line” flag is the known symbol of a social, cultural, and political movement that is inextricably linked to the country’s current unrest. The flag is the centerpiece in a world of merchandise and policing philosophy, all built around the idea that the police are an embattled tribe of warriors, maligned and reviled by a nation that fails to appreciate their unique importance. The blue line is a reminder that much of the policing community sees itself as separate from the rest of society — and as the nation has witnessed in recent days, in video after shocking video, this well-armed population, imbued with the power to deprive citizens of life and liberty, does not take kindly to those who challenge its authority.

“What we’re talking about here is a worldview that says that police are the only force capable of holding society together,” Alex Vitale, a professor of sociology at Brooklyn College and author of “The End of Policing,” told me. The view turns on the notion that “without the constant threat of violent coercive intervention, society will unravel into a war of all against all,” he explained. Seen through this lens, “authoritarian solutions are not just necessary, they’re almost preferable.”

In the wake of Floyd’s killing, with protests in every state in the union and U.S. security forces at every level called to respond, the country is now witnessing what years of militarized conditioning, training, and culture have wrought: a nationwide protest movement running up against a nationwide police riot…

Time and again, American law enforcement’s response to dissent has followed a pattern, German explained, with police cracking down on movements for racial, social, and environmental justice, while giving violent white nationalists who beat people in the street a free pass. “We already see that there is this dynamic where the police officers view people who protest police violence as enemies they can use further violence against,” he said. “Particularly in protests, it’s not just that the police want to arrest somebody who’s a problem,” German said. “They want to mete out punishment.”

8) Great Planet Money story… yes, police unions lead to more violence against non-white residents.

9) Great thread on “How can a virus leave some people without any symptoms and kill others?”

10) You should read this whole thread from Lily Maon on the upside of partisan sorting, but this part is key:

Also, just amazing that 59% of Republicans basically deny the legacy of slavery.

Quick hits (part II)

1) Damn it just completely sucks how journalistic norms are hijacked, time and time again, for Republican ends.  Margaret Sullivan, “The media is helping Trump turn the bogus ‘Obamagate’ into the 2020 version of Clinton’s emails”

It’s becoming clear that journalists never fully reckoned with the mistakes of 2016 campaign coverage. We know this because they seem poised to repeat them.

As you may recall, the news media — from Fox News to the New York Times and plenty of others across the political spectrum — managed to make the relative molehill of Hillary Clinton’s dicey email practices into a daily obsession, roughly equal to the mountain of Donald Trump’s financial and personal transgressions.

Well, don’t look now but this is happening again before our eyes. Its name this time is “Obamagate.” That’s a moniker that, in President Trump’s outraged tweets, is rendered in all capital letters, but let’s not.

This vaporous, apparently made-up offense, according to Trump, is the political crime of the century — and, heck, last century too, because he claims that it makes the 1970s Watergate scandal look like child’s play.

As best as he’s even attempted to spell out, it supposedly involves a deep-state conspiracy by the former president and his allies to undermine Trump by being informed of the identity of the private citizen having covert and legally questionable discussions with the Russian ambassador — a citizen who turned out to be Trump’s national security adviser designate Michael Flynn.

Despite the fact that this practice is legal and normal, the nonscandal around it is getting plenty of attention.

2) Good God this Trump judges are just the worst and an absolute embarrassment to our legal system and the rule of law.  Mark Joseph Stern and Dahlia Lithwick:

 So it’s deeply troubling to see a burgeoning new trend among conservative jurists during Donald Trump’s presidency: the interjection of purely political hot takes into supposedly impartial judicial opinions. This phenomenon isn’t limited to Trump appointees. Some Trump judges have already mastered this art, but it seems to have caught on among some state judges who appear to be gunning for a promotion to the federal judiciary.

The latest example comes from Michigan, whose court of appeals blocked a ban on vaping products in the state on Thursday. Judge Mark Boonstra—an appointee of former Republican Gov. Rick Snyder—joined the majority opinion striking down the ban. But he tacked on a separate 13-page polemic attacking Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s orders shutting down schools and nonessential businesses while limiting travel within the state. Whitmer has become the target of ire from the president as well as armed protesters who have occupied the state Capitol, forcing the Legislature to shut down due to safety concerns. Boonstra is now pouring gasoline on the fire. His concurrence included an ominous proclamation: “Totalitarianism has no place in America. Has it arrived? Well, that’s a question for another day.” While pretending to take no position on this apparently open question, Boonstra then cited far-right outlets to support his thinly veiled accusation that the governor has perhaps brought “tyranny” to Michigan.

3) Jay Rosen, “The plan is to have no plan”

The plan is to have no plan, to let daily deaths between one and three thousand become a normal thing, and then to create massive confusion about who is responsible— by telling the governors they’re in charge without doing what only the federal government can do, by fighting with the press when it shows up to be briefed, by fixing blame for the virus on China or some other foreign element, and by “flooding the zone with shit,” Steve Bannon’s phrase for overwhelming the system with disinformation, distraction, and denial, which boosts what economists call “search costs” for reliable intelligence.

Stated another way, the plan is to default on public problem solving, and then prevent the public from understanding the consequences of that default. To succeed this will require one of the biggest propaganda and freedom of information fights in U.S. history, the execution of which will, I think, consume the president’s re-election campaign. So much has already been made public that the standard script for a White House cover up (worse than the crime…) won’t apply. Instead, everything will ride on the manufacture of confusion. The press won’t be able to “expose” the plot because it will all happen in stark daylight. The facts will be known, and simultaneously they will be inconceivable.

“The plan is to have no plan” is not a strategy, really. Nor would I call it a policy. It has a kind of logic to it, but this is different from saying it has a design— or a designer. Meaning: I do not want to be too conspiratorial about this. To wing it without a plan is merely the best this government can do, given who heads the table. The manufacture of confusion is just the ruins of Trump’s personality meeting the powers of the presidency. There is no genius there, only a damaged human being playing havoc with our lives.

4) For now, NC State is adopting what seems to be the growing university consensus– early start, no breaks, finish by Thanksgiving.  I think the limiting student travel to/from campus during breaks definitely makes sense, but this whole thing being predicated on a late Fall wave seems more than dicey to me.  Trying to predict when waves of the virus may come, more than a few weeks out, seems like a real fool’s errand.

5) And damn does McSweeney’s nail what we’ve been hearing till this week:

Dear Students, Faculty, and Staff —

After careful deliberation, we are pleased to report we can finally announce that we plan to re-open campus this fall. But with limitations. Unless we do not. Depending on guidance, which we have not yet received.

Please know that we eventually will all come together as a school community again. Possibly virtually. Probably on land. Maybe some students will be here? Perhaps the RAs can be let in to feed the lab rats?

We plan to follow the strictest recommended guidance from public health officials, except in any case where it might possibly limit our major athletic programs, which will proceed as usual.

We understand you may have concerns about the University’s future, but we will take this time to emphasize that academic terms are merely units of time, and here at the University, we strongly believe in the concept of time.

In this time, more than ever, it is time for strong, decisive action.

We have decided to delay our decision.

It is our decision to delay our decision so we can decide on our decision at a later decided time.

We will make our final decision on campus reopening on a date no later than the day our closest competing universities announce their decisions and no earlier than the day after we cash your fall tuition deposit checks.

The University is here for you in this trying time. If you have any questions not answered by this email, please do not hesitate to re-read this email.

The University

6) Very nice, straightforward piece from Business Insider on assessing your Covid risks.

“The general principle should be: Outside is better than inside; open is better than closed; fewer is better than more people; and stay away from sick people,” Dr. Erich Anderer, a neurosurgeon and founding member of the North Brooklyn Runners group, told Insider.

7) Also, on average, Americans are much more cautious and concerned about risks than one might gather from the media.  Good polling here in the Post:

8) Okay, there’s value in a personal essay from a parent of a young adult who had a very scary case of Covid.  But, put it in context and enough of the fearmongering, “My Son Survived Terrifying Covid-19 Complications: If schools reopen, how many kids won’t?” because all the data so far suggests the answer to her question is… very, very few.

9) If we commit to it, we can totally due the contract tracing that’s so important to controlling Covid outbreaks.  Paterson, NJ shows how it’s done.

10) Derek Thompson with the strategies we should take to be safe inside.

11) Great stuff from Frum, “The System Failed the Test of Trump: The story of recent years is of institutions that were unable to constrain the presidency.”

Have you ever known anyone swindled by a scam? It’s remarkable how determined they remain to defend the swindler, and for how long—and how they try to shift the blame to those who tried to warn them of the swindle. The pain of being seen as a fool hurts more than the loss of money; it’s more important to protect the ego against indignity than to visit justice upon the perpetrator. We human beings so often prefer a lie that affirms us to a truth that challenges us.

Americans are living now through the worst pandemic in a century and the severest economic crisis since the Great Depression. At every turn, President Donald Trump has made the crises worse. Had somebody else been president in December 2019—Hillary Clinton, Jeb Bush—fewer Americans would have met untimely deaths; fewer Americans would now be unemployed; fewer businesses would be heading toward bankruptcy.

On the eve of the 2016 election, a Pulitzer Prize–winning columnist opined in The Washington Post: “If Trump wins, he’ll be held more or less in check by the House and Senate, because that’s the way our system of government is set up. Not even Republicans are eager to follow Trump’s lead.”

I cite that column—published under the headline “Calm Down. We’ll Be Fine No Matter Who Wins”—not to single it out, but precisely because it was so un-singular. The keepers of the institutions could imagine Trump testing the system. They could not imagine the system failing the test.

And yet fail it did. The story of the Trump years is a story of institutions that failed. The Department of Justice failed. The inspectors general failed. Congressional oversight failed. The national-security establishment failed. The courts failed. Trump has done things that no previous American president would ever have dared, that no previous president sank low enough even to imagine. Sometimes he was stopped, more often not. But whether stopped or not in any particular case, he has never ceased pressing ahead to do even worse the next time.

The only check remaining is that of the 2020 ballot box. Not Trump alone, but the great political party behind him, is working to ensure that election is as unfree and unfair as possible. In that effort, they have mobilized the active or tacit support of millions of Americans.

12) Good stuff from Pew, “Trust in Medical Scientists Has Grown in U.S., but Mainly Among Democrats”

Chart shows growing partisan differences over trust in medical scientists and scientists since the COVID-19 outbreak

Chart shows wide partisan differences on the role of testing and spread of coronavirus

I don’t even know what to say about a political party that engages in so much rejection of science.  They are surely not rejecting it when they go to the doctor or drink their treated municipal water.

13) Drum asks whether face shields might be better than cloth masks.  Would be great to have some more research on this as they are surely a lot more comfortable over hours of use.

14) Drum also makes the case for a good mask-wearing PSA.  Hell yeah!!  I’m actually quite frustrated by the lack of these.

15) I’ve recently become a huge fan of Bob Wachter.  Gotta love his twitter bio, “Career: What happens when a poli sci major becomes an academic physician.” Here he is on “the science and politics of masks.”

16) This Noah Smith twitter thread is amazing.  It’s a compilation of the best of twitter threads on Covid of the past week (I feltd good that I had already seen so many of these).  So much good stuff.

17) Local “experts” think swimming pools this summer are a bad idea.  But, I think that is under the presumption they will operate as normal (obviously, most places opening up are not operating as normal.  Glad the NPR experts label is a low risk.  I will be going to the pool.


18) I read a great twitter thread on best scientific discoveries of the past decade.  Lots of people mentioned Homo Naledi.  I remembered reading about this a few years ago, but had not really appreciated what an amazing discovery this was.  Now I do.

19) Loved this “micromorts” perspective on Covid risks:

Fortunately, there are tools for assessing risk that can help us put the daily torrent of numbers in perspective. I found the best way to communicate the level of risk was to put it in terms that allowed easier comparison to other, more familiar, risks. One could then talk, for instance, about how dangerous living in a contaminated city was compared to smoking a pack of cigarettes a day.

The average American endures about one micromort of risk per day, or one in a million chance of dying, from nonnatural causes, such as being electrocuted, dying in a car wreck or being struck by an asteroid (the list is long).

Let’s apply this concept to Covid-19.

Using data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, New York City experienced approximately 24,000 excess deaths from March 15 to May 9, when the pandemic was peaking. That’s 24,000 more deaths than would have normally occurred during the same time period in previous years, without this pandemic. This statistic is considered a more accurate estimate of the overall mortality risk related to Covid-19 than using the reported number of deaths resulting from confirmed cases, since it captures indirect deaths associated with Covid-19 (because of an overwhelmed health care system, for example) as well as the deaths caused by the virus itself.

Converting this to micromort language, an individual living in New York City has experienced roughly 50 additional micromorts of risk per day because of Covid-19. That means you were roughly twice as likely to die as you would have been if you were serving in the U.S. armed forces in Afghanistan throughout 2010, a particularly deadly year.

The quality of data varies from state and state, and continues to be updated. But for comparison, using the C.D.C. data, Michigan had approximately 6,200 excess deaths during this same time period. That is roughly the same risk of dying as driving a motorcycle 44 miles every day (11 micromorts per day). Living in Maryland during this time would be roughly as risky as doing one skydiving jump a day for that duration (7 micromorts per jump).

20) A lot of talk about Vitamin D and Covid.  Good summary the issue at WebMD.  Does seem quite likely that Vitamin D deficiency will be more likely to set you up for a bad case of Covid.  But Vitamin D deficiency is already not great and we’ve not actually done anything about it as a society.  But, maybe fear of Covid could work on that and lead to fewer bad cases at the margins.

21) Really good piece on how we’ve misunderstood what Sweden is actually doing, but I especially liked this part:

But even if Sweden’s policy of allowing businesses to open and people to move out and about is not that different from some policies American states have or will soon implement, there’s been one major difference: the schools. Schools for children up to age 15 have remained open, all the way down to daycares and preschool. “That makes a world of difference,” Trägårdh told me. “It’s a gender issue.”

Sweden has one of the highest rates of female participation in the labor force for rich countries. Forcing young children to stay home would put many mothers in a bind or even knock them out of the workforce entirely.

“Closing down schools works well if you are in a well-to-do, middle-class family that has a house and a garden and can afford to have one person staying at home,” Trägårdh said. “That may not look like a doable proposition if you are a single parent or do not make a lot of money.”

Shutting down daycare and schools could increase risk as well, Angner explained, by leading working parents to turn to their own parents for help. “If you close daycares, then either one parent has to stop working or grandma or grandpa shows up,” he said. But since the elderly are most at risk, it was even more important to keep schools and daycares open.

Quick hits (part I)

1) With the end of Game of Thrones being a year ago, Wired re-pushed this piece on two approaches to storytelling and how GoT got all messed up in it’s final season:

It all comes down to how stories are crafted, and for that, we need to start with two different types of writers: plotters and pantsers. Plotters create a detailed outline before they commit a word to the page. Pantsers prefer to discover the story as they write it—flying by the seat of their pants, so to speak. Both approaches have their advantages. Since plotters know the story in advance, it’s easier to create tight narratives with satisfying conclusions. But that amount of predestination can sometimes make characters feel like cogs in service of the story. Pantsers have an easier time writing characters that live and breathe. They generate the plot by dropping a person with desires and needs into a dramatic situation and documenting the results. But with the characters in charge, pantsers risk a meandering or poorly paced structure, and they can struggle to tie everything together.

To be clear, the advantages of each are not guarantees. And plotters can write memorable characters, while pantsers can write thrilling sequences. The differences usually smooth themselves out over successive drafts anyway. Where the effect can be pronounced is in an ongoing television or book series, since the beginning of the story gets released and digested by the public while the rest is still being written…

Still, the approach to storytelling changed in the third act, and an audience can feel that happening. We fell in love with one kind of show, but that’s not the show that’s ending. No amount of spectacle or fan service is satisfying if we don’t buy how the characters got there. Treating the journey as equally important to the destination is how you get conclusions that feel earned, and it’s how characters stay alive after they’ve met their fates.

Endings invite us to consider the story as a whole; where it started, where it went, and where it left us. And we can feel the gaps as this one comes to a close.

2) Damn I love this headline of the latest Thomas Edsall, “When the Mask You’re Wearing ‘Tastes Like Socialism’”

The chart — documenting findings from two Pew surveys, one conducted April 7-12, the other April 29-May 5 — shows that in a matter of three weeks, Republican voters shifted from a modest majority (51-48) concerned that the restrictions would be lifted too quickly, to a similarly modest majority (53-47) concerned that the restrictions will not be lifted quickly enough. Democrats, on the contrary, went from a decisive majority who feared (81-18) that restrictions would be lifted too quickly to an even stronger concern (87-13).

3) Some malls will probably never re-open.  A good look at how it’s not really just the internet that’s been killing malls.

4) I saw an ad for “plant-based butter” the other day and thought, “ummm, margarine?”  Basically, yes, and fancy marketing, but a little more complicated.

5) Thanks to JW for sharing how professors are thinking about trying to stop cheating in an on-line only world  Fortunately for me, my course material is readily adaptable for take-home exams as that’s how I’ve been doing most of my finals for years.  Having the book/notes in front of you will not let you actually understand how polarization of media bias really work in 75 minutes.

6) When reading Emily Oster’s great piece on Covid this week, I came across something she wrote last year on parenting.  Was so glad to finally see an honest take on infant sleeping (pretty sure I wrote a post years and years ago complaining about our non-sensical binary approach to safe sleeping– found it!):

In the U.S., for example, official safe-sleep guidelines decree that parents not sleep in the same bed with their babies (commonly called co-sleeping), out of concern about higher rates of sudden infant death syndrome and suffocation. The policy message against co-sleeping is very clear, and very dire; when my daughter was born there was a brief controversy around a set of anti-co-sleeping advertisements, which equated bed sharing with allowing your infant to sleep next to a kitchen knife.

When I wrote my recent book, Cribsheet, I spent a lot of time with the data on co-sleeping. And I ultimately came to agree with the official guideline, in the sense that I believe the evidence shows a higher risk of infant mortality when parents share their bed with their infant. But the story’s not as simple as Big Baby would have you believe.

Co-sleeping is especially dangerous when accompanied by parental smoking, heavy drinking, or pillows and fluffy covers on the bed. In a safe sleep environment there is still a risk, but it is fairly small compared with other risks people take regularly (such as driving their children in a car). Seeing these risks for what they are, some parents might decide that co-sleeping (as safely as possible) is what works for their family.

The typical argument against framing risk in this way goes like so: Assuming there is a risk, even a very small one, we should tell people to avoid it. By informing parents that the risk is small, we normalize this behavior, making it seem okay. The same argument applies to the formula-mixing example at the start of this piece: Sure, the risk of bacteria is small, but it’s not zero, so why not tell parents to just boil the water?

But some infants simply will not sleep on their own. Despite parental best efforts at swaddling, white noise, rocking, tiptoeing out of the room, etc., some three-week-old babies will always wake up within a few minutes of being put down alone. In this situation, what’s a parent to do? Remember that Big Baby also tells parents that sleep is incredibly important for the developing brain (which it is). And consider that if baby’s not sleeping, Mom and Dad aren’t sleeping, and if Mom and Dad aren’t sleeping, they’re probably stressed—and perhaps clumsy with that boiling water.

It is easy to say, “Do the safest thing, it’s only a few months, it ends,” but where do people get the resources to survive these few months? When parents set out to do everything by the book, too often they ultimately muddle through, making choices at random. They co-sleep by accident: They try to stay awake and end up snoozing with the baby on a sofa (much more dangerous). Or  parents try to split the night between them and then both drive to work the next day exhausted.

If parents understood that the risks of co-sleeping (in a safe sleep environment) are small, more of them might do it—just like if they understood that the risks of using room-temperature water for formula are small, they might do it. The simple fact that resources are limited means the alternative might be worse.

7a) Just found out a whole book that takes down all the “appeal to nature” fallacies we rely upon.  But… but… chemicals!!

7b) Meanwhile, I’ve got a neighbor-friend who’s been telling me all about his crazy cleans/detox.  I just nod and don’t say anything negative and then discuss science with my boys as we continue along with our walk afterwards.

8) Paul Waldman on “Obamagate” and “unmasking” and horrible journalism:

So the fact that Obama administration officials saw intelligence reports saying the Russian ambassador was talking to an American about sensitive matters regarding the relationship between the two countries and asked “Who is this American who’s negotiating with the Russians?” (it turned out to be Flynn) can be characterized not as what those officials absolutely should have done, but as the heart of a sinister conspiracy.

The people who are feeding this lunacy—Trump himself, Republican politicians, media figures—all understand this perfectly well. But their project is built on the assumption that their target audience, the great mass of conservative voters, is ignorant and easily misled. They have seldom been given cause to think otherwise.

So they scream “Obamagate!” and give the topic wall-to-wall coverage on Fox News, in the hope that the end result will be that while most people won’t have much of a grasp on the details, they’ll remember that Obama and Biden tried to frame Trump and victimized his aides, just as all they grasped in 2016 was that Hillary Clinton was a corrupt schemer. As former Trump adviser Steve Bannon once said, the strategy is to “flood the zone with shit,” to pour so much misinformation into the media that the truth loses any importance.

Here’s the dilemma we in the media often find ourselves in: Trump will make some fantastical claim, and because he’s the president, everyone reports it. Some of the most important news outlets reflexively do so in an even-handed way that gives automatic credence to the charge. One could imagine the headline: “Trump Says Obama Killed Kobe Bryant With Ebola; Former President Denies.” With Trump’s charge immediately amplified by the conservative media, legitimate news organizations feel they have no choice but to spend time debunking the claim, the result being that the story is given even wider circulation. Most Americans just hear that there was something about Obama killing Kobe Bryant.

Unfortunately, except under the most extraordinary of circumstances, there is never a story that is widely understood in all its nuance by the public as a whole. The best we can hope for is that despite its limited capacity for attention and understanding, the public winds up reaching an accurate conclusion despite the attempts to mislead it.

But it often doesn’t work out that way, and Republicans are very practiced at engineering the opposite result. Experience has taught them that the variables that would matter in a more rational world—Is there any evidence for the charge they’re making? Is it relevant to the question of who should be president? Does it actually reveal something about the Democrat in question?—don’t actually matter at all.

9) Interesting piece on how right-wingers pushed “believe all women” instead of “believe women” as a feminist trap.  Also, probably don’t believe Tara Reade.

10) NYT piece about children seeing grandparents and if you are keeping a safe enough quarantine before doing so.  I really don’t like that the expert advice here mentions a variety of super-low risk encounters like “delivery driver” and potentially jogging to close to another person.

So as a first step, think about human contacts, big and small, by every member of the household. How many times did someone go to a store? Did you meet up with a friend for a walk? When you jog, how close are you to other runners? At the park, did your children run up to another child before you could stop them? Is a teenage boyfriend dropping by the house? Do you always wear a mask? Do your children?

“If you’re a family and you have some leakage in your quarantine protocol — if you had to go to the grocery store, for instance, delivery people came over, other people entered your house — any time you have a break in that protective bubble I would be extremely cautious,” said Dr. Soe-Lin.

11) An interesting argument that the key to safe re-opening is not social distancing, but isolation of those diagnosed with Covid.

12) A pretty compelling argument that traveling in airplanes does not actually spread a lot of disease.

You don’t get sick on airplanes any more than anywhere else. Really, you don’t.

If you think this is preposterous or even dangerous to suggest during a pandemic, consider this fact: The ventilation system requirements for airplanes meet the levels recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for use with covid-19 patients in airborne infection isolation rooms.

Before we go any further, let’s make one thing clear: Airplanes are certainly vectors of disease, efficiently transporting infectious people around countries and the globe. This is obviously critical in terms of outbreak control for covid-19. But the fact that airplanes help spread disease across geographies does not mean that you are necessarily at risk during flight. There are fairly simple things you can do, if you do need to travel, to reduce the odds of getting sick.

Billions of people travel by plane every year, yet there have only been a handful of documented disease outbreaks attributable to airplanes in the past 40 years. If planes made you sick, we would expect to see millions of people sick every year attributable to flights. We haven’t seen it because it’s just not happening.

Consider one study that examined a passenger with tuberculosis on an airplane. It found that the median risk of infection to the other 169 passengers on the airplane was between 1 in 10,000 to 1 in a million. Wearing a mask, as some airlines now require, reduced the incidence of infection another 10-fold.

There’s a reason the risks are low. The required aircraft systems do a really good job of controlling airborne bacteria and viruses.

To get technical, airplanes deliver 10 to 12 air changes per hour. In a hospital isolation room, the minimum target is six air changes per hour for existing facilities and 12 air changes per hour for new. Airplanes also use the same air filter — a HEPA filter — recommended by the CDC for isolation rooms with recirculated air. Such filters capture 99.97 percent of airborne particles.

13) The Mount St Helens eruption was definitely one of the more memorable events of my childhood (I was 8).  Enjoying reading about it 40 years later, “Forty Years Later, Lessons for the Pandemic From Mount St. Helens: The tensions we now face between science, politics and economics also arose before the country’s most destructive volcanic eruption.”

14) Good stuff from Radley Balko, “The last days of a covid-19 prisoner”

It isn’t clear why Charles Hobbs was arrested in January. More than 20 years ago, a judge gave him five years probation for a crime that required him to register as a sex offender in one of the most restrictive counties in the country. He had no criminal record prior to that, and until January, his only subsequent arrests were for failing to register in 2007 and 2014. An attorney for his family says those arrests occurred when Hobbs temporarily moved in with a girlfriend and failed to notify the county where she lived.

When the coronavirus pandemic began to sweep the country, a judge ordered him released from jail and placed in home confinement, given his multiple underlying conditions of congenital heart failure, kidney failure and hypertension. But for reasons that also aren’t clear, that never happened. Last month, he caught the virus, and his condition deteriorated until a fellow prisoner found him unconscious. He was revived and transferred to another cell with other prisoners who had tested positive for covid-19. He got sicker and ultimately died alone in a Miami hospital on May 2.

15) Good stuff from Jonathan Safran Foer.  Truly hard to disagree, “The End of Meat Is Here: If you care about the working poor, about racial justice, and about climate change, you have to stop eating animals.”

16) In a very similar vein, Wired goes all in (and you know I’m with them!) on a plant-based meat future, “Let’s Rebuild the Broken Meat Industry—Without Animals: Covid-19 has laid bare many flaws of industrialized animal agriculture. Plant- and cell-based alternatives offer a more resilient solution.”

17) You know the real shame of it is that the horrible, horrible people who make-up rape allegations for personal gain do so much damage to the vast majority of rape victims who are actual victims.  Also sucks that it completely ruin an innocent person’s life.

19) You can’t just “re-open” an economy in an active pandemic.  Politico, “Reopening reality check: Georgia’s jobs aren’t flooding back”

20) Great stuff from the Henry Blodgett and David Plotz newsletter, which I’m now quite the fan of (always been of fan of Plotz).  “‘Reopening’ won’t fix the economy. Beating the virus will.”  It’s full of charts and links that all come down to this all-important fact:

Reopening is an important and meaningful step. But even when everything is open, our economy won’t recover until people feel safe resuming their normal lives.

Quick hits (part II)

1) Terrific twitter thread from Noah Smith on the coming Higher Ed apocalypse.  I’d like to think his dire predictions are wrong, but every one of them strikes me as supported and well-reasoned.  I’ve argued that we have too many over-priced, mediocre liberal arts colleges, but I sure don’t want to see a ton of them go belly-up at once.

2) This is fabulous, “We could stop the pandemic by July 4 if the government took these steps”

There is already a bipartisan plan to achieve this; we helped write it. The plan relies on frequent testing followed by tracing the contacts of people who test positive (and their contacts) until no new positive cases are found. It also encourages voluntary isolation, at home or in hotel rooms, to prevent further disease spread. Isolated patients would receive a federal stipend, like jurors, to discourage them from returning to workplaces too soon.

But our plan also recognizes that rural towns in Montana should not necessarily have to shut down the way New York City has. To pull off this balancing act, the country should be divided into red, yellow and greenzones. The goal is to be a green zone, where fewer than one resident per 36,000 is infected. Here, large gatherings are allowed, and masks aren’t required for those who don’t interact with the elderly or other vulnerable populations. Green zones require a minimum of one test per day for every 10,000 people and a five-person contact tracing team for every 100,000 people. (These are the levels currently maintained in South Korea, which has suppressed covid-19.) Two weeks ago, a modest 1,900 tests a day could have kept 19 million Americans safely in green zones. Today, there are no green zones in the United States.

Most Americans — about 298 million — live in yellow zones, where disease prevalence is between .002 percent and 1 percent. But even in yellow zones, the economy could safely reopen with aggressive testing and tracing, coupled with safety measures including mandatory masks. In South Korea, during the peak of its outbreak, it took 25 tests to detect one positive case, and the case fatality rate was 1 percent. Following this model, yellow zones would require 2,500 tests for every daily death. To contain spread, yellow zones also would ramp up contact tracing until a team is available for every new daily coronavirus case. After one tracer conducts an interview, the team would spend 12 hours identifying all those at risk. Speed matters, because the virus spreads quickly; three days is useless for tracing. (Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C., are all yellow zones.)

A disease prevalence greater than 1 percent defines red zones. Today, 30 million Americans live in such hot spots — which include Detroit, New Jersey, New Orleans and New York City. In addition to the yellow-zone interventions, these places require stay-at-home orders. But by strictly following guidelines for testing and tracing, red zones could turn yellow within four weeks, moving steadfastly from lockdown to liberty.

Getting to green nationwide is possible by the end of the summer, but it requires ramping up testing radically. The United States now administers more than 300,000 tests a day, but according to our guidelines, 5 million a day are needed (for two to three months). It’s an achievable goal. Researchers estimate that the current system has a latent capacity to produce 2 million tests a day, and a surge in federal funding would spur companies to increase capacity. The key is to do it now, before manageable yellow zones deteriorate to economically ruinous red zones.

3) “Obamagate” is, more than anything, an abomination in the functioning of the modern media.  It needs to stop.  Aaron Blake, “Trump’s playbook on ‘Obamagate’ is extremely — and dubiously — familiar”

4) This is soooo pathetic and depressing, “Masks and Emasculation: Why Some Men Refuse to Take Safety Precautions: They think it makes them look weak, and avoiding that is evidently more important to them than demonstrating responsible behavior”

5) And more good stuff on social norms and masks.  Love the explicit smoking analogy, which I have made:

Similarly, the first wave of evidence about the harms of smoking focused on damage to the smokers themselves and had no effect on smoking in public spaces. People thought individuals had “the right to harm themselves,” says psychologist Jay Van Bavel of New York University. “It really started to change once we realized the consequences of secondhand smoke. Do you have a right to damage kids at school, your colleagues at work or the staff at a restaurant?” So far 28 states and Washington, D.C., have said the answer is no and passed comprehensive smoke-free-air laws.

“Social norms can change rapidly,” says social psychologist Catherine Sanderson of Amherst College, “and it doesn’t take everybody.” In an online experiment conducted by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania, subjects engaged in social coordination to assign names to an object. The tipping point for achieving enough critical mass to initiate social change proved to be just 25 percent of participants. “They become the social influencers, the trendsetters,” Sanderson says. “You get this sweep.”

Leadership is critical, however, which is why behavioral scientists were so alarmed by the recent examples of Vice President Mike Pence and President Donald Trump refusing to wear masks during public appearances. “They are the primary people who are setting norms, especially when it’s on television or in the news,” Van Bavel says. Those politicians are flouting the advice of their own public health officials. In early April the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officially recommended “wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.” It did not help, however, that the new recommendation conflicted with earlier statements from officials suggesting that masks were ineffective or should be left for medical professionals, who needed them more…

Barriers remain. The politicization of masks in the U.S. might mean that some areas of the country will never adopt them entirely. And endemic racism has led some young black men to fear that they will be mistaken for criminals if they wear masks in stores.

Once masks become the norm in most places, however, donning them will not seem odd or alarming, says psychologist Alexander Todorov of Princeton University, who studies facial expression. “People compensate. When they meet on the street, there is more gesticulation. People engage in strategies to make sure that they’re being understood.”

I don’t think we’re going to get there, though.  At least not without real leadership from all sectors of society, and right now we’re getting none.

6) Also, on the topic of the media utterly failing us– the horribly disproportionate coverage of the protests:

In the last few weeks, protests against state lockdowns and social distancing measures have seized national headlines. The wall-to-wall coverage might give the impression that what we’re seeing is a powerful grassroots movement in the making.

But research we just conducted on protest attendance and media coverage shows something different: This massive media coverage has in fact been out of proportion.

A comprehensive look at the social distancing protests reveals that they have been small in terms of both the number of participants and locations. As one official in the administration of Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) tweeted about a protest in Annapolis on April 20, “There were more media inquiries about this than there were participants.”

Our count confirms this impression. As of May 3, we counted 245 protests throughout April and early May against social distancing and related restrictions. In contrast, notable recent uprisings numbered in the hundreds of protests throughout the country in a single day, including Lights for Liberty against the detention of immigrants on July 12, 2019 (699), the climate strikes of September 20, 2019 (1184), pro-impeachment rallies on December 17, 2019 (599), and the fourth Women’s March on January 18 of this year (267).

The social distancing protests have also drawn modest crowds, with between 35,000 and 47,000 total attendees reported across all events combined through May 3. In comparison, a single protest against the governor in Guaynabo, Puerto Rico, brought out upward of 250,000 on July 21, 2019. Hundreds of thousands turned out for PRIDE marches in June 2019 and the September 2019 climate strike. The Lights for Liberty protests exceeded 100,000, and December’s pro-impeachment rallies exceeded 75,000.

These numbers are backed up by recent polling that shows widespread national support for lockdowns to prevent the continued spread of the coronavirus.

Yet anti-Trump protests with far more attendees in a single day than all of April and early May’s #ReOpen events (as they have been called) passed with far less attention in the national press.

My take?  Working the refs worked.  Cover these protests and prove that you are not really the “liberal” media.

7) This is good, from bestselling author Richard North Patterson “The Pandemic and the GOP’s Science Problem: The party’s uneasy relationship with science goes back decades.”

“It’s hard to know,” writes Max Boot, “exactly when the Republican Party assumed the mantle of the ‘stupid party.’” But one might look to the 1970s as the gateway to a politically calculated dismissal of scientific knowledge.

Having allied with evangelicals over social issues, the GOP’s political class found it expedient to honor fundamentalists’ most fundamental premise: creationism. Evangelicals flocked—and the GOP became an anti-evolutionary haven. As recently as last year, Gallup found that 55 percent of self-identified Republicans—as compared to 40 percent of the general population—agree with the statement “God created human beings pretty much in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years or so.”

Conservative media vilified evolutionary science. “Everybody that believes in Darwinism is corrupt,” pronounced Rush Limbaugh in 2010. “Liberals love anything that allows them to say there’s no God.”

It’s no longer just the party’s base that professes disbelief in evolution. In 2011, presidential candidate Jon Huntsman tweeted: “I believe in evolution and trust scientists on global warming. Call me crazy.” Within the GOP, it was. By 2016, eleven of the serious GOP presidential aspirants were on the record as refusing to opine on evolution or rejecting it outright. A twelfth—Jeb Bush—said it shouldn’t be taught in public schools. (Interestingly, Donald Trump seems not to have been asked about his beliefs on evolution—or, at the least, not to have given a coherent answer.)

This progression fed a widening attack on knowledge rooted in what GOP strategist Stuart Stevens labels his party’s “toxic fantasies”: “Government is bad. Establishment experts are overrated or just plain wrong. Science is suspect.”

One additive, the anti-vaccination movement, combined a distrust of science, an adamant libertarianism disdainful of public health, and an insistence on parental rights often rooted in fundamentalism. From Kentucky to Oregon to California, anti-vaxxers like Michele Bachmann became an ardent minority within the party.

The World Health Organization lists opposition to vaccines among the top ten threats to global health. But here’s Trump in a presidential debate: “Just the other day . . . a child, a beautiful child went to have the vaccine, and came back, and a week later got a tremendous fever, got very, very sick, now is autistic.”

Creationism and anti-vaccinationism did not, in themselves, transform federal policy. But disdain for science, once unleashed, spreads its political contagions.

8) Good stuff on reopening:

As circumstances have evolved, so has my thinking. We have survived the surge in hospitalized cases and suffered immense economic trauma. The full lockdown made sense weeks ago. But the situation is changing, and more data on the virus are now available to inform our next steps. The choice before us isn’t to fully lock down or to totally reopen. Many argue as though those are the only options.

As a physician, I firmly believe that the primary goal of our reopening strategy should be to maximize the number of lives saved. But virus mitigation can take many forms, ranging from effective to excessive. Extreme forms of mitigation can have diminishing returns. Projections of the death toll produced by the current economic shutdown are often politically motivated, but the effects on human life are real…

So what does a new, safer status quo look like? It looks different in different parts of the country. Not all reopenings are created equal. Areas with continuing outbreaks or rising cases should postpone nonessential activity, and those with a declining case trend should engage in some basic practices.

We need universal masking. China gives the earliest preview of a reopened society after a harsh wave of the virus. And while the Chinese Communist Party has not been honest about its coronavirus handling, Chinese doctors and citizens have largely been transparent. I recently called some prominent Chinese doctors to ask why they believe the infection is being controlled in most of their country. In their clinical judgment, they believe the main reason is universal masking.

Spend more time outside. Since April, we’ve learned a lot about indoor versus outdoor transmission of the coronavirus. Early on, we closed parks and told people to stay inside their homes. But studies have since shown that being outdoors with appropriate distancing carries a lower risk of getting the infection than being indoors. These findings have implications for restaurants and other businesses and activities that are able to use outdoor areas. Yoga and other fitness activities should resume outside when possible. Similarly, instead of having someone to your home for a meal, consider having a meal in your yard or at a park, six feet apart…
We must prioritize safeguarding nursing homes. Throughout April, several studies using antibody testing found that asymptomatic infections are 10 to 20 times more common than previously observed, lowering the true case fatality rate. The data also taught us that young, healthy Americans have a fatality rate similar to that of the seasonal flu. Deaths among those young and healthy are rare. (In fact, community immunity from seasonal viruses is often achieved through younger people developing antibodies.) About one-third of all Covid-19 deaths in America occurred among nursing home residents. In New Jersey, half of all deaths have been among long-term-care residents or workers. Nursing homes are often short-staffed and the last in line when it comes to getting needed resources…
Protect those at high risk. The data show that those with pre-existing medical conditions such as diabetes, lung disease or a weakened immune system are among the most vulnerable. Based on the degree of their risk and the prevalence of the virus in the region, we should advise these high-risk individuals, particularly the elderly, to avoid interactions with others until the risk of contagion is extremely low. This approach aligns with the White House’s return-to-work road map that shelters high-risk individuals until Phase 3, even as many businesses are reopened.

9) This was a nice piece on trying to take a look at giving thoughtful, serious, risk assessment to various activities from hanging in the backyard with friends to letting your kids bike with a friend.  We need more of this.  But we need more of this that acknowledges to kids biking outside is very low risk, not intermediate risk.  And that doesn’t assume the 10 people who came to your backyard are all hanging out with a different 10 people during the week.  I actually learned from my son that my wife disapproves of me talking to a neighbor, outside, usually 8-10 feet apart, 2-3 times a week because he is still working every day.  As you know, I’m obsessed with the science of transmission and will definitely take my chances with outdoor conversations at a good distance.

10) If you saw anything about the new Title IX regulations there’s a good chance it was the hyperbolic overly-liberal version where Betsy DeVos just allowed rape on campus.  Not so.  Harvard Law professor Jeanne Suk Gersen has been better on this issue than anybody and she takes a solid, thorough look at the new regulations:

It was unclear, however, precisely what aspects of the regulations were so extreme and alarming. Uncharacteristically for the Trump Administration, the Education Department, in crafting the regulations, engaged with a large range of public comments and concerns—from schools, advocates for survivors, and advocates of due process—and the regulations reflect that engagement. They are not exactly as I would wish, but they clarify the rights of both victims and the accused in a way that is likely to lead to improvements in basic fairness. The suggestion that even the most controversial provisions of the regulations allow rape with impunity speaks to a disturbingly large gap between reality and rhetoric on the topic—one that is particularly important to address, so students do not get the false sense that they should not bother to report assaults…

More than any specific commands, the government’s threat to withdraw federal funding from schools that did not comply with its Title IX guidance caused schools to attempt to please the government, by devising new practices, policies, and procedures that aimed to make it easier for victims to report assaults and to prevail in campus complaints. Soon, some advocates of fair process, among them law professors at Harvard (myself included), the University of Pennsylvania, and Cornell, raised concerns that the pressure to protect victims had led to an overcorrection: accused students were facing expulsion or suspension without fair procedures to defend against disciplinary charges. In many cases, accused students were not being given the complaint or identities of witnesses, and not being shown the evidence or the investigative report. Since 2011, hundreds of accused students have sued their schools for using unfair disciplinary procedures, and have won court judgments or received settlements. Courts have held that, just as it is sex discrimination under Title IX for schools to treat female victims of sexual assault unfairly, it can also be sex discrimination under Title IX to treat males accused of sexual misconduct unfairly…

The new regulations free schools to do some things that previously were prohibited or understood to be disfavored. The Obama Administration clearly stated its belief that compliance with Title IX required the use of the preponderance standard for sexual-harassment cases, because any higher standard would, by design, tilt toward the accused. The new regulations allow schools to choose between the preponderance standard or the higher “clear and convincing evidence” standard, which would demand heavier proof to find that the accused is responsible. But, because schools are not required to shift away from their current use of the preponderance standard, it will be surprising if many do. Prior guidance had discouraged schools from using informal resolution, such as mediation, for sexual-assault allegations, but the new regulations allow schools to offer the option, as long as the accused is not an employee, both parties voluntarily agree to it, and the process is led by a trained facilitator. There is a legitimate worry that schools could pressure victims into informal processes, which cost less than formal ones. But many victims who might not report sexual misconduct, owing to a reluctance to unleash a lengthy investigation or a harsh penalty, may be more willing to seek the school’s help because of the availability of an informal option. And many accused students, who might fight the acceptance of responsibility in an adversarial or punitive framework, may be more willing to give a desired apology and make amends.

11) Good stuff from Jeffrey Goldberg, “The Conspiracy Theorists Are Winning: America is losing its grip on Enlightenment values and reality itself.”

12) Sean Trende with some good points, “The Costly Failure to Update Sky-Is-Falling Predictions”

We could go on – after being panned for refusing to issue a stay-at-home order, South Dakota indeed suffered an outbreak (once again, in its meatpacking plants), but deaths there have consistently averaged less than three per day, to little fanfare – but the point is made.  Some “feeding frenzies” have panned out, but many have failed to do so; rather than acknowledging this failure, the press typically moves on.

This is an unwelcome development, for a few reasons. First, not everyone follows this pandemic closely, and so a failure to follow up on how feeding frenzies end up means that many people likely don’t update their views as often as they should. You’d probably be forgiven if you suspected hundreds of cases and deaths followed the Wisconsin election.

Second, we obviously need to get policy right here, and to be sure, reporting bad news is important for producing informed public opinion. But reporting good news is equally as important. Third, there are dangers to forecasting with incredible certitude, especially with a virus that was detected less than six months ago. There really is a lot we still don’t know, and people should be reminded of this. Finally, among people who do remember things like this, a failure to acknowledge errors foments cynicism and further distrust of experts. The damage done to this trust is dangerous, for at this time we desperately need quality expert opinions and news reporting that we can rely upon.

13) Finally have gotten around to watching HBO’s Succession.  Four episodes in and I really, really like it (and thanks to JCD who pushed this harder than anybody).  I especially love the theme song.  Apparently, the composer is really pretty amazing.


Quick hits (part I)

1) Great stuff from Jon Bernstein on how Trump, regardless of what’s in his heart, is acting like a president who doesn’t care about being re-elected.  And that’s a big part of why he’s performing so poorly.

It’s becoming more and more obvious that President Donald Trump has simply stopped dealing with the coronavirus pandemic, and has no particular plan for confronting its economic fallout either. In both cases, he’s pretty much substituted wishful thinking for action. The Atlantic’s David Graham had a good item about this disengagement earlier in the week, followed by one from Ezra Klein arguing that “the White House does not have a plan, it does not have a framework, it does not have a philosophy, and it does not have a goal.”

What surprised me was political scientist Lee Drutman’s conclusion, based on Klein’s article, that “the debate over what to do has polarized with depressing haste, because ‘winning’ in Washington is not defeating the virus, but winning the next election.” I argued a bit with Drutman on Twitter about this, but it’s worth a longer discussion. My basic sense is that Trump isn’t nearly concerned enough with winning re-election, and that the current catastrophe is in part a consequence of that.

There’s no way to know what’s really in the president’s mind. But we can compare his actions with what a president determined to be re-elected would probably do. A lot of Trump’s critics have claimed that he’s deliberately risking American lives by boosting the economy to improve his chances in November. And it’s true that he seems concerned mainly with re-opening businesses these days. But there are at least two reasons to doubt that this preference is due to the election. For one, public-health experts and economists broadly agree that opening too soon will be a disaster. For another, even if there is a trade-off, there’s no particular reason to think that restoring jobs at the cost of more illness and death will be a good electoral deal for Trump.

At any rate, the evidence that Trump has an economic plan is just as weak as the evidence that he’s engaged in dealing with the coronavirus.

What I think is more likely is that Trump simply isn’t finding this aspect of the presidency very much fun. You might remember when President George H.W. Bush declared that he didn’t like broccoli: “And I haven’t liked it since I was a little kid and my mother made me eat it. And I’m president of the United States, and I’m not going to eat any more broccoli!” Trump acts this way about doing most of the mundane jobs of the presidency. Thus his newly invented scandal, “Obamagate.” As the New Yorker’s Susan Glasser points out: “For Trump, spending the week attacking Obama, no matter what the subject, is the political equivalent of retreating to his bedroom and hiding under the blanket. It’s his safe space, his comfort zone.” Except it’s not so much a political equivalent as it is a retreat from politics altogether, along with the duties and responsibilities of his office.

A politician who desperately wanted re-election would’ve been hard at work, from the moment he or she was alerted to the danger, attempting to contain the pandemic and limit the economic damage, and would persevere no matter what the setbacks, never wavering in an effort to produce the policy results that might lead to a big win in November. Such presidents might sacrifice the long term for the short term, as Lyndon Johnson did in goosing the economy in 1964, or Richard Nixon did in 1972. But they would never just give up when things went wrong.

That’s not this president. That’s not Donald Trump.

2) I’m increasingly of the belief that talking is a major factor in spreading Covid-19.  Want to talk to somebody indoors?  Wear a mask– period.

3) This personal essay from Political Science professor, Dannagal Young is soooo good, “I was a conspiracy theorist, too: I know why people turn to conspiracy theories in uncertain times. I did the same when my husband had a brain tumor.”

4) Why the hell are we still sticking absurdly long swabs all the way through your nose to the throat?!  If you fly into Hong Kong, you self-administer a saliva test.

5) Good twitter thread on indoor Covid transmission.  Stop talking and wear a mask.

6) I really think a lot of the “oh, not, we’re not going to have immunity is needless fearmongering.’  The latest, “T cells found in COVID-19 patients ‘bode well’ for long-term immunity”

7) Lots of new reporting casting doubt on Tara Reade.  To me, “believe women” means take them seriously.  I long ago took her claims seriously and decided that they were probably not true.  Chait summarizes the current state of the case.  I have no doubt Bernie dead-enders will not give up on this (it’s coming from there, not the Republicans), but I think this will largely fade away.

8) You think it’s tough at their for regular journalists (it is)?  But, damn, sports journalists these days.  I love good sports journalism (though, there’s so much mediocre), so this really sad.

Sports journalism, once a mainstay of daily newspapers and local TV news across the country, already was teetering from the upheavals of the digital era. But while many news organizations have taken a severe financial hit in recent months, sports departments have been devastated by the novel coronavirus, which has wiped out sports schedules and media advertising revenue virtually simultaneously.

Furloughs and layoffs have hit sports staffs seemingly everywhere, from the Miner in Kingman, Ariz., to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review to the New York Post. Sports Illustrated cut nine employees, further gutting its staff after some 40 editorial employees were let go last year. Even onetime digital darlings such as SB Nation, one of the earliest and most successful sports websites, have not been immune. The Vox-owned outlet announced furloughs in April affecting nearly its entire staff of national writers.

“We face a new reality, precipitated by the pandemic. To achieve necessary cost savings … there will be consequences to people’s income and livelihood resulting from the actions we are implementing today,” Jim Bankoff, the CEO of Vox Media, said in a memo to staff.

Without live games for the foreseeable future, the grim new reality has forced many in sports journalism to confront difficult questions about what their storied profession will look like even when they do resume — from what kind of budgets they will have to work with to what kind of access they will have to coaches and players.

9) Tom Pepinsky ran the regression models on wearing a mask and, “Yes, wearing a mask is partisan now.”

As a continuing part my collaborative work on the politics of COVID-19 in the United States with Shana Gadarian and Sara Goodman, we recently asked a random, representative sample of 2400 Americans if they are wearing masks in public. Here is what we found from logistic regressions that adjust for a full set of dummies for age, race, gender, marital status, income, education, urban-rural, and state fixed effects.














Adjusting for those differences, Democrats are more than 20 percentage points more likely than Republicans to (75% versus 53%) to report wearing masks in public.

10) Some cool social science, “The effect of messaging and gender on intentions to wear a face covering to slow down COVID-19 transmission”

We find that men less than women intend to wear a face covering, but this difference almost disappears in counties where wearing a face covering is mandatory. We also find that men less than women believe that they will be seriously affected by the coronavirus, and this partly mediates gender differences in intentions to wear a face covering (this is particularly ironic because official statistics actually show that men are affected by the COVID-19 more seriously than women). Finally, we also find gender differences in self-reported negative emotions felt when wearing a face covering. Men more than women agree that wearing a face covering is shameful, not cool, a sign of weakness, and a stigma; and these gender differences also mediate gender differences in intentions to wear a face covering.

Men are sooooo lame!

11) On the Michael Flynn case, Drum is so right on this whole “perjury trap” issue:

Are you wondering why I haven’t said anything yet about the Mike Flynn affair? It’s simple: I don’t care. Flynn is a minor player in a minor tiff that happened three years ago. It barely even matters who’s “right.” Here’s all you really need to know:

  • When the FBI asked Flynn about his phone calls with the Russian ambassador, Flynn lied about them. That’s a felony.
  • Now the Department of Justice says the FBI was out of line even asking about this. It was just a setup. Therefore the charges should be dropped.

Fine. Like I said, I don’t really care if Mike Flynn goes to jail. Still, I have a question. The Justice Department is basically saying the FBI engaged in a perjury trap. That is, they surprised Flynn with questions he wasn’t expecting in hopes of getting him to lie. Then they’ve got him on charges of lying to a federal agent.

So here’s my question: the FBI does this all the time. It’s loathsome behavior, and I would be delighted if the Flynn case led to a wholesale reckoning with perjury traps. But I don’t think that’s in the cards. In fact, I’m willing to bet that the Justice Department has never in its history pulled back from a perjury trap voluntarily and announced that they’re really sorry it happened. Have they?

12) Dahlia Lithwick, “Refusing to Wear a Mask Is a Uniquely American Pathology: The obsession with individualism and the misinterpretation of constitutional freedom collide into a germy mess”

 As Lydia Denworth put it in Scientific Americanone of the reasons the wearing of masks has never become a norm in America is that the impulse to think collectively about disease was never necessarily fully integrated: “The point is that masks do not just protect the wearer, they protect others. Such community-minded thinking fits with collectivist cultural norms in some parts of Asia, where masks are routinely worn when one is sick—and where there is more experience with serious epidemics.”

This may even explain why some root their refusal to cover up in religious arguments, also swept in under the First Amendment. An Ohio lawmaker, Republican state Rep. Nino Vitale, declined to wear the mask required by his state’s Department of Health director, because, as he explained in a Facebook post last week, “This is the greatest nation on earth founded on Judeo-Christian principles. One of those principles is that we are all created in the image and likeness of God. That image is seen the most by our face. I will not wear a mask.” His logic was uniquely illogical: “No one is stopping anybody from wearing a face mask. But quite frankly everyone else’s freedom ends at the tip of my nose. You’re not going to tell me what to do and there’s a lot of people that feel that way.” The idea that God wants to see our faces so very badly that we should be allowed to harm and possibly kill everyone with whom we come in contact is a uniquely self-regarding view of religious faith. But if one believes that the self is the only meaningful actor in a democracy, or a theocracy, it perhaps stands to reason…

The simplest explanation for the insistence that wearing masks is for thee, but not for me, rests in the fundamental narcissism of Donald Trump, and the booming cottage industry on the part of right-wing media in so-called vice-signaling—the performative acting out of malice and cruelty toward the weak. The more complicated answer, it seems, is that in a country founded on a long mythology of the Lone Ranger, Batman, Zorro, and Captain America, the mask has somehow come to signal invisibility, and the death of rugged individualism—perhaps even more so because everyone is now wearing one. For those who have come to feel devalued, degraded, left behind, or shunted aside, being asked to hide one’s face must be the ultimate act of public cruelty. If we have come to believe that each of us is only as important as our ability to be seen and heard, the mask must make that erasure complete. It’s not just the toxic myth of rugged individuals pitted against government and the weak that is gutting us. It’s the poisonous notion that unless we are being seen acting out rugged individualism, we don’t even exist.

13) Good and important stuff from Greg Sargent,

The latest developments in the Michael Flynn case should prompt us to revisit one of the most glaring failures in political journalism, one that lends credibility to baseless narratives pushed for purely instrumental purposes, perversely rewarding bad-faith actors in the process.

News accounts constantly claim with no basis that new information “boosts” or “lends ammunition” to a particular political attack, or “raises new questions” about its target. These journalistic conventions are so all-pervasive that we barely notice them.

But they’re extremely pernicious, and they need to stop. They both reflect and grotesquely amplify a tendency that badly misleads readers. That happened widely in 2016, to President Trump’s great benefit. It’s now happening again.

Republican senators have just released a declassified list of Obama administration officials — including Trump opponent Joe Biden — who requested information that ended up “unmasking” Flynn during the transition.

Trump and his campaign have seized on this to further their claim that the Russia investigation was corrupt, and that Biden was key to that. Trump rails that this “unmasking is a massive thing” that raises new questions about Biden’s role.

Meanwhile, Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale insists this illustrates “the depth of Biden’s involvement in the setup of Gen. Flynn to further the Russia collusion hoax.”

This is steaming nonsense. But news accounts are reporting on this in purportedly objective ways that subtly place an editorial thumb on the scale in favor of those attacks.

For instance, the Associated Press ran this headline: “Flynn case boosts Trump’s bid to undo Russia probe narrative.” Axios told us:
Biden’s presence on the list could turn it into an election year issue, though the document itself does not show any evidence of wrongdoing.

CNN informed us that this is “the latest salvo to discredit the FBI’s Russia investigation and accuse the previous administration of wrongdoing.” …

But here’s the problem: These formulations do not constitute a neutral transmission of information, even though they are supposed to come across that way.

The new information actually does not “boost” Trump’s claims about the Russia investigation or “discredit” it. And if there is “no evidence of wrongdoing,” then it cannot legitimately be “turned into an election issue.”

There’s no way to neutrally assert that new info “boosts” an attack or constitutes a “salvo” or is “becoming an issue.” The information is being used in a fashion that is either legitimate or not, based on the known facts. Such pronouncements in a from-on-high tone of journalistic objectivity lend the dishonest weaponizing of new info an aura of credibility.

14) This 538 piece really annoyed me, “Why Some Democrats May Be Willing To Look Past The Allegation Against Biden: Democrats aren’t uniformly progressive on #MeToo issues.”  It offered a number of theories, but never even broached the fact that Tara Reade’s credibility is extremely problematic.  You can be for #metoo, think we need to do more to believe women, and also think that the balance of the evidence suggests that Tara Reade is not being truthful.

Quick hits (part II)

1) Vox with a piece on reading classic novels during quarantine.  Interestingly, I’ve been giving Moby Dick a go.  It’s described as a “hard read” here.  If, by that it means, absurdly long sentences and absurdly long gaps in forward plot movement, then, definitely.  I’m sticking with it about a chapter a night, but I’m a big believer that classics should not actually be “hard” to read.  That’s why Tolstoy is the greatest.  Enjoyable reading that has more insight into the human condition than any other author I’ve ever read.  You don’t need overly-complicated sentences or wandering digressions for that.

2) Laura McGann spent a long time covering Tara Reade and has some interesting thoughts:

All of this leaves me where no reporter wants to be: mired in the miasma of uncertainty. I wanted tobelieve Reade when she first came to me, and I worked hard to find the evidence to make certain others would believe her, too. I couldn’t find it. None of that means Reade is lying, but it leaves us in the limbo of Me Too: a story that may be true but that we can’t prove…

There’s another issue at play, which Biden supporters and critics of Reade have pointed to in response to her allegation. A year ago, Reade went to mainstream, national outlets including the Times, the Post, and the Associated Press. It was in the middle of a competitive Democratic primary. She had no obvious connection to any candidate. And if voters or the party pushed Biden out, it was unclear who would benefit.

This year, Reade has emerged as an ardent Bernie Sanders supporter, with a much more damaging story to tell about Biden, who is now the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee. She went public with the rape accusation on a podcast sympathetic to Sanders and followed up with Ryan Grim of the Intercept, an outlet that has been consistently critical of Biden.

A few weeks before Reade spoke to Halper, she replied to a tweet from Grim seeming to tease that a story was coming.

3) Love this NPR feature on how your state is doing on Covid testing.  Hooray for NC!

4) Oh man, this Vox piece on the havoc Covid is wreaking on the food supply chain was tough.  Making it worse than ever for the animals.  It’s enough to make me close to renouncing meat all together (I’m pretty much down to pepperoni and occasional chicken– and boy am I waiting for Beyond Chicken).

This context should put your missing hamburger into perspective. The plight of these workers is just the starting point in a chain of crises the coronavirus is creating in America’s food supply. The shuttered meatpacking plants have created a bottleneck in the system through which most meat in the United States must flow in order to get ground beef to Wendy’s, chicken breasts to your local grocery stores, bacon to the nearby diner now trying to run a takeout business, and so on.

Things get really tricky on the other side of that bottleneck, where thousands of farmers have planned the lives of their animals around a schedule that terminates at those meatpacking facilities. If those plants aren’t operating, it’s not like they can just keep the cows, chickens, or pigs in a nearby field.

“If you hold them, they gain weight and you have to feed them, and that’s expensive,” Mary Hendrickson, a rural sociologist at the University of Missouri, told Recode. “And if they gain too much weight, then they’re going to be too big to be processed in these very standardized meat plants, like Smithfield.”

“So you might try to hold them up” and keep the animals waiting in a feedlot, Hendrickson added. “Or you’re going to kill them, euthanize them.”

Now imagine this at scale. According to Jayson Lusk, an agricultural economist at Purdue University, the meat processing capacity in the United States is down by about 40 percent. In the pork industry alone, that amounts to 200,000 pigs that won’t get sent to slaughter, because the meatpacking plants that would process them are closed or otherwise unavailable. If nothing else changes, those 200,000 excess pigs a day become a million pigs a week with nowhere to go but a mass grave.

5) Just another day in America, “High school senior, mother say large group of armed people, including off-duty deputy, terrorized them in their home”  Of course you can figure out the races of the people involved :-(.

6) Hilariously and depressing predictable, “Nearly Half of Men Say They Do Most of the Home Schooling. 3 Percent of Women Agree.”

7) I’ve never met Ohio State political scientist Alex Wendt, but now I really want to.  Interesting interview on how we should take UFO’s seriously.  Really.

8) NYT on Flynn, Barr, and the gross politicization of the justice department

To Mr. Barr, these reforms were obstacles to a vision of a virtually unbound executive. For decades, he has pushed to give presidents — Republican presidents, anyway — maximum authority with minimal oversight. In a 2018 memo criticizing the Russia investigation, he argued that the president “alone is the Executive branch,” in whom “the Constitution vests all Federal law enforcement power, and hence prosecutorial discretion.” For the attorney general, that discretion includes cases involving the president’s own conduct.

If you’re having trouble distinguishing Mr. Barr’s vision of the presidency from the rule of a king, you’re not alone. “George III would have loved it,” said Douglas Kmiec, who led the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel under Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.

“Bill Barr’s America is not a place that anyone, including Trump voters, should want to go,” wrote Donald Ayer, who served as deputy attorney general under the first President Bush. “It is a banana republic where all are subject to the whims of a dictatorial president and his henchmen.”

Bill Barr’s America is the one we’re now living in. The Justice Department, in the midst of a presidential campaign, has become a political weapon.

9) Vitamin D is no cure for Covid, but it sure looks like you don’t want to be really low heading into an experience with the disease.

10) Great stuff from Jamelle Bouie:

The vast majority of these protesters — like the vast majority of those who want to prematurely reopen the economy — are white. This is in stark contrast to the victims of Covid-19 (who are disproportionately black and brown), as well as those who have lost their jobs as a result of the pandemic (who are also disproportionately black and brown), as well as those who have been or will be forced to work — or work more — as a result of reopening (the service workers and laborers who are again disproportionately black and brown).

It’s true that not every racial disparity speaks to some deeper dynamic of race and racism. But this one does. I don’t think you can separate the vehemence of anti-lockdown protesters from their whiteness, nor do I think we can divorce their demands to “reopen” the economy from the knowledge that many of those most affected belong to other racial groups. It’s not so much that they’re showing racial animus (although some are), but that their conception of what it means to be “free” is, at its root, tied tightly to their racial identity…

If whiteness has meant the right to control and to be free from control, then it is easy to see how racial identity might influence the reaction to the lockdowns among a certain subset of white Americans.

More than just burdensome, the restrictions become an intolerable violation of the social contract as these Americans understand it. They run against the meaning of their racial identity, of the freedom and autonomy it is supposed to signify. And they resolve the violation by asserting the other aspect of white freedom, the right of control.

You can see this play out on the ground, in the protests, and you can see it play out on the national stage. President Trump has both encouraged anti-lockdown protesters — using the language of liberation to do so — and issued an executive order bringing meatpacking facilities under the purview of the Defense Production Act, which would allow him to force meatpacking workers — again, a disproportionately black and brown work force — back on the job despite the threat of infection, illness and death.

Likewise, when Rebecca Bradley, a Supreme Court justice in Wisconsin, compared the state’s stay-at-home order on Tuesday to Japanese internment during World War II, she was making a statement about who deserves autonomy and who doesn’t.

The great irony, of course, is that this conception of freedom, situated within racial hierarchy and meant to justify deprivation and inequality, has always been impoverished when compared with an expansive, inclusive vision of what it means to be free. And in the particular context of a deadly pandemic, the demand to be free of mutual obligation is, in essence, a demand to be free to die and threaten those around you with illness and death. Most Americans, including most white Americans, have rejected this freedom of the grave. But among the ones who haven’t are the people leading our government, which means that this “freedom” remains a powerful — and dangerous — force to be reckoned with.

11) On an encouraging note, maybe monoclonal antibodies will save us.  Seriously.  This could be the killer therapeutic we need.

12) And this is really cool, “Scientists have discovered a microbe that completely protects mosquitoes from being infected with malaria.”

Quick hits

Look, it’s not all Covid edition.

1) Some interesting new social science:

We propose an explanation for the most prevalent form of democratic breakdown after the Cold War: the subversion of democracy by incumbents. In both democratization research and democracy promotion practice, the public is assumed to serve as a check on incumbents’ temptations to subvert democracy. We explain why this check fails in polarized societies. When polarization is high, voters have a strong preference for their favorite candidate, which makes it costly for them to punish an incumbent by voting for a challenger. Incumbents exploit this lack of credible punishment by manipulating the democratic process in their favor. Our analysis of an original survey experiment conducted in Venezuela demonstrates that voters in polarized societies are indeed willing to trade off democratic principles for partisan interests and that their willingness to do so increases in the intensity of their partisanship. These findings suggest the need to re-evaluate conventional measures of support for democracy and provide an answer to a fundamental question about its survival: When can we expect the public to serve as a check on the authoritarian temptations of elected politicians?

2) Ezra Klein on Congressional Democrats:

In my conversations with congressional Democrats, they bristled at the idea that they should take the zero-sum approach to policymaking that they perceive Republicans as having taken when Obama was president.

“There is enormous suffering, and if we do not respond with the boldness and the scale that this crisis demands, then that suffering will continue,” says Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA). “I think it’s important for us to not allow ourselves to be pulled into a place where we don’t define the agenda, given that we are in the position of really defining where the solution is going to land.”

For Democrats, an ideological asymmetry has become a strategic asymmetry. Democrats want to convince the country of the government’s worth. Republicans want to convince the country of the government’s worthlessness. If Washington collapses into dysfunction and paralysis now, when the country needs it most, congressional liberals don’t see that as helping their long-term effort to rebuild trust in public institutions.

“It’s like the old saying that Republicans believe the government is incompetent and then get elected and prove it,” says Schatz. “They don’t want the federal government to work and we do. That’s what’s going on here, and I don’t have a quick, facile solution to it. If we engage in a zero-sum game, we’ll just accelerate the death spiral that is Grover Norquist and Mitch McConnell and the Koch brothers’ dream.”

3) Eric Boehlert on the press and Biden and Tara Reade:

Rushing to anoint the “hypocrite” label to Joe Biden, large parts of the Beltway media are stressing that a 27-year-old allegation of sexual assault against Biden is an awful lot like the decades-old allegations that were lodged against then-Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh during his confirmation hearing in 2018. At the time, Debra Ramirez and Christine Blasey Ford offered detailed accounts of being assaulted by Kavanaugh in high school and in college. The claim today is that if Democrats didn’t believe Kavanaugh’s denials then, how can they believe Biden now, and aren’t they playing politics with claims of sexual assault?

Insisting the two cases are the same, the press wants to portray the Biden story as a case of the #MeToo movement boomeranging on Democrats, revealing them as being two-faced. There’s a huge hole in this comparison. Unlike Kavanaugh, Biden hasn’t lied about almost every facet of the distant claim of sexual assault the way the Republican jurist did. Kavanaugh shattered all precedent and falsified his way through his confirmation hearing, likely perjuring himself in the process.

In order to secure his lifetime appointment to the Court, and facing specific, multiple and credible allegations of sexual assault, Kavanaugh lied about witnesses; he lied about corroboration; he lied about friendships; he lied about parties. He also lied about Maryland’s drinking agevomiting, his yearbook, his accusers, Yale, and drinking — he lied about that a lot. (Separately during his confirmation hearing Kavanaugh lied about his childhoodfederal judges, warrantless wiretaps, his nomination selection, and stolen emails.) “Republicans know Brett Kavanaugh lied under oath,” Armanda Marcotte wrote at Salon. “They just don’t care.”

That’s the simple truth about what happened with Kavanaugh. But journalists today who are trying to tag Biden and Democrats as hypocrites forcefully ignore that central fact…

Why is the D.C. press today glossing over the fact that Kavanaugh lied his way his confirmation hearings? They’re just being consistent. The sad fact is much of the press glossed over Kavanaugh’s lying in real time, back in 2018. (“Kavanaugh Lies His Way Through Confirmation” was not a common headline.) Committed to the premise that Republicans are mirror opposites Democrats, they just occupy a different spot on the political spectrum, the Beltway press for the last decade has refused to acknowledge how radical the modern day GOP has become, and specifically under Trump how the party now revolves around ceaseless lying.

Flashback to 2017, when Republicans were yet again trying to kill Obamacare, and trying to do it by offering up their own alternative: What unfolded was likely the first time a political party try to pass landmark social policy legislation by categorically misstating almost every key claim about the bill. No, the GOP House bill did not protect people with pre-existing conditions. It did not protect older Americans from increased insurance costs. It did not mean everyone would be charged the same for insurance. And the bill wasn’t “bipartisan.”

4) Good stuff on how brand names become generic.

5) Covid in nursing homes is a huge problem.  Jon Cohn on what to do about it.

6) This is quite good, “10 key lessons for the future to be learned from fighting Covid-19”

7) Every time you think you can find a pattern across countries that explains Covid there’s another country that breaks the damn pattern.  It’s really tough.  A simple vesion:

8) Really, really interesting piece on how the discovery of germs transformed parenting— in a bad way!  And great references to a terrific work of non-fiction, Deborah Blum’s Love at Goon Park:

The dread of an unclean kitchen carried into the nursery. Deborah Blum, in her book “Love at Goon Park: Harry Harlow and the Science of Affection,” says physicians began to warn mothers and other caretakers about the risk of any physical affection.

John B. Watson, a preeminent psychologist in the early 20th century and president of the American Psychological Association, went so far as to tell parents that showing physical affection to a child could have harmful psychological effects.

“When you are tempted to pet your child, remember that mother love is a dangerous instrument,” Blum quotes him as saying. Watson warned of “serious rocks ahead for the over-kissed child.”

Watson’s behaviorist views — built on the Pavlovian notion that much of human and animal behavior is reflexively conditioned by stimulus and reward — reflected a widespread belief that the bond between mother and child arose only from a need for food. A child needed a sterilized bottle of milk from his caretaker and little more, or so the thinking went.

“All of it, the lurking fears of infection, the saving graces of hygiene, the fears of ruining a child by affection, the selling of science, the desire of parents to learn from the experts, all came together to create one of the chilliest possible periods in child-rearing,” Blum writes.

For the record, the wire monkey experiments saved us.

9) So, this was kind of interesting, “What Makes People Charismatic, and How You Can Be, Too” but having been around some genuinely charismatic people they are overdoing in on how much you can learn to be yourself.

The first pillar, presence, involves residing in the moment. When you find your attention slipping while speaking to someone, refocus by centering yourself. Pay attention to the sounds in the environment, your breath and the subtle sensations in your body — the tingles that start in your toes and radiate throughout your frame.

Power, the second pillar, involves breaking down self-imposed barriers rather than achieving higher status. It’s about lifting the stigma that comes with the success you’ve already earned. Impostor syndrome, as it’s known, is the prevalent fear that you’re not worthy of the position you’re in. The higher up the ladder you climb, the more prevalent the feeling becomes.

The key to this pillar is to remove self-doubt, assuring yourself that you belong and that your skills and passions are valuable and interesting to others. It’s easier said than done.

The third pillar, warmth, is a little harder to fake. This one requires you to radiate a certain kind of vibe that signals kindness and acceptance. It’s the sort of feeling you might get from a close relative or a dear friend. It’s tricky, considering those who excel here are people who invoke this feeling in others, even when they’ve just met.

The truth is, immodestly, I do pretty well on all of these.  But I don’t actually consider myself a particularly charismatic person (again, having been around some people who just radiate charisma) so I really do think there’s something ineffable not captured here.

10) Good stuff from Matt Grossman, “Missing Conservatism? Just Wait for a Democratic President”

But if history is a guide, conservatism will rise again under a new Democratic president — featuring the same concerns about overweening government, accelerating social change and American decline. Liberals will cry hypocrisy as Republicans complain about spending under a Democrat, but the pattern reflects the unique form that American conservatism takes: as a reactionary backlash rather than an alternative governing platform.

The conservative movement has perennially stimulated resistance to liberalism, frequently incorporating new cultural issues and voters. But conservatives have been unable to guide Republican presidents to implement a policy agenda beyond lowering taxes and building the military. Despite gaining working-class constituencies, Republicans are not offering tangible solutions to rural poverty, family breakdown, rising drug addiction or deindustrialization.

Yet Republicans should have no trouble reinterpreting the current moment. Even if Mr. Trump is encouraged today, he may later be accused of departing from orthodoxy. A future Mike Pence campaign can simultaneously sell the nationalist pride he shares with Mr. Trump, his disappointment at some betrayals of conservative principles and his commitment to finally follow through. The same plan of resurgence has worked for generations.

11) Pretty good evidence that investing in air conditioning in schools would make a nice contribution to student learning.

12) Great stuff from David Wallace-Wells:

By March 30, the overwhelming majority of U.S. states had issued stay-at-home directions — in many cases, those directions had already been in place for weeks. Which means that by April 30, one month later, anyone who had caught the disease before the lockdowns began should have already passed through the entire life cycle of the disease, either recovering or dying, and that all the new cases we are currently seeing are the result of infections since the shutdown. On April 30, after a month in which new cases ranged between 25,000 and 30,000, there were 29,500 new reported cases.

In all likelihood, the future course of the disease won’t follow an unmitigated trajectory — at least some amount of additional testing will allow us to control the spread a little more effectively, and presumably treatments will arrive that will at least lessen the lethality of the disease somewhat, if not dramatically. And so it is possible, perhaps even probable, that we will not again exceed the peak of daily deaths reached just this week, even after “opening up” — that social-distancing guidelines, phased reopening, better hygienic practices, and improving treatments will keep the total number of cases at any one time from surpassing that 2,700-per-day figure. But while they have dominated talk about the state of COVID so far, peaks are most important when assessing how acute a medical crisis is or will become, and especially how best to plan for and allocate care. The total volume of cases is a much more significant signal in terms of the ultimate toll of the disease — that is, not the height of the curve at its peak but the area underneath the curve as it stretches out not just through the summer but into the fall and possibly into 2021 and even 2022.

13) So there’s basically a Chinese black-market version of Remdesivir that is amazingly effective in curing cats from an otherwise deadly feline coronavirus.  Seriously.  But remdesivir won’t submit it for approval for this:

According to Pedersen, Gilead worried that the cat research could impede the approval process for remdesivir. Because GS-441524 and remdesivir are so similar, any adverse effects uncovered in cats might have to be reported and investigated to guarantee remdesivir’s safety in humans. Gilead’s caution about generating unnecessary cat data is standard industry practice. “One of the rules in drug development is never perform a test you don’t have to, if the results could be problematic,” says Richard Sachleben, a retired pharma-industry researcher. (Gilead declined to comment for this story.)

For Pedersen, the explanation was hard to accept. “It was a blow,” he said. “It hits you very hard, especially when you didn’t see any reason for it.” He still published the studies, as academic researchers do, and results became public in 2018 and 2019.

14) I just now came across this from December, but, oh man is this NYT magazine feature on avalanche school so good.  Basically comes down to people get killed in avalanches not because of snow, but because of cognitive biases.

15) Elizabeth Rosenthal is the best health care reporter out there for my money (really, you just have to read American Sickness) so when she writes about what Covid has to say about America’s health care system, you should read it:

Our system requires every player — from insurers to hospitals to the pharmaceutical industry to doctors — be financially self-sustaining, to have a profitable business model. As such it excels at expensive specialty care. But there’s no return on investment in being primed and positioned for the possibility of a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic.

Combine that with an administration unwilling to intervene to force businesses to act en masse to resolve a public health crisis like this, and you get what we got: a messy, uncoordinated under-response, defined by shortages and finger-pointing.

No institutional players — not hospitals, not manufacturers of ventilators, masks, tests or drugs — saw it as their place to address the Covid-19 train coming down the tracks. Meanwhile, the Trump administration, loath to deploy the Defense Production Act, did so only sparingly and slowly, mostly relying on back channel arm-twisting and “incentives” like forgiving liability to get business buy in. That’s because in the current iteration of American health care, tens of thousands of people dying is not incentive enough.

Let’s look at the failures…

In the past quarter-century, we have evolved a reimbursement system that showers cash on elective and specialty care and discourages hospitals from serving the health needs of society. That is true even though two-thirds of our hospitals are tax exempt because they — in theory — perform community benefit. In a functioning health system, pandemic preparedness and response would be part of the expected job. In the 1980s when H.I.V./AIDS was overwhelming hospitals in New York, treating those patients was simply part of each system’s obligation — though some did so far better than others.

All this doesn’t necessarily mean that we need a government-run health system or should eliminate all market influence in health care. In fact, Medicare for All would not by itself solve the above problems, since it’s mostly a payment system that largely relies on providers to come through with services when needed.

But the Covid-19 stress test has laid bare a market that is broken, lacking the ability to attend to the public health at a time of desperate need and with a government unwilling — in some ways unable — to force it to do so. This time around, thousands of stalwart medical professionals have answered the call to treat the ill, doing their best to plug the longstanding holes that the pandemic has revealed.

Whether it’s regulated or run by the government, or motivated by new incentives, the system we need is one that responds more to illness and less to profits.

16) Thomas Edsall asks why isn’t a wannabe authoritarian “riding high” amidst the pandemic.  Because, Trump is is just amazingly awful at being pesident.  So, so bad.  Also, as much as he has authoritarian tendencies (a lot) he’s even more averse to learning and hard work, which, presumably, helps those with authoritarian tendencies succeed.

17) Great NYT interactive feature looking at how safe various establishments (e.g., gym vs. coffee shop) are depending on how crowded and how long people stay.  Also, on a per/sq foot basis, Chik-Fil-A does killer business.

18) I don’t believe Tara Reade, but even if I did, I would soooo be with Linda Hirshman, “I Believe Tara Reade. I’m Voting for Joe Biden Anyway.”

Suck it up and make the utilitarian bargain.

All major Democratic Party figures have indicated they’re not budging on the presumptive nominee, and the transaction costs of replacing him would be suicidal. Barring some miracle, it’s going to be Mr. Biden.

So what is the greatest good or the greatest harm? Mr. Biden, and the Democrats he may carry with him into government, are likely to do more good for women and the nation than his competition, the worst president in the history of the Republic. Compared with the good Mr. Biden can do, the cost of dismissing Tara Reade — and, worse, weakening the voices of future survivors — is worth it. And don’t call me an amoral realist. Utilitarianism is not a moral abdication; it is a moral stance.

Utilitarianism arose from the Industrial Revolution, a time of terrible economic inequality and abuse. It was intended to make a moral claim for the equality of all creatures who can feel pain and experience pleasure.

Weigh it: Don’t a few extra cents for each worker matter more than the marginal dollar for the boss? Weigh it: Won’t the good for all the Americans who will benefit from replacing Donald Trump with Joe Biden, including the masses of women who will get some crumbs, count for more than the harm done to the victims of abuse?

19) Be an optimist and live longer!  Ummm, hooray for me, but I didn’t actually choose to be this way.  But, I’ll happy take it when I’m 85+ :-).

20) So this was really cool: “There’s Something Special About the Sun: It’s a Bit Boring:The sun seems a little less active than hundreds of similar stars in our galaxy, which could play a role in why life exists in our solar system.”

21) Birds are smart.  And the smartest birds are the most flexible ones.

Rufous treepies, birds in the crow family native to South and Southeast Asia, usually eat insects, seeds or fruits. But some of them have learned to eat fire.

Well, not exactly, but close. At a small temple in the Indian state of Gujarat, the caretakers regularly set out small votive candles made with clarified butter. The birds flit down to steal the candles, extinguish the butter-soaked wicks with a quick shake of their heads and then gulp them down.

This willingness to experiment with new foods and ways of foraging is an indicator of behavioral flexibility, and some scientists think it is evidence that certain species of birds might be less vulnerable to extinction.

“The idea is that if a species has individuals that are capable of these novel behaviors, they’ll respond with changes in their behavior more easily than individuals from species that do not tend to produce novel behaviors like that,” said Louis Lefebvre, a professor at McGill University in Montreal and an author on the study. “The idea is pretty simple. The problem was to be able to test it in a convincing way.”

22) If you can stand to face the horror head-on, “34 days of pandemic: Inside Trump’s desperate attempts to reopen America”

Quick hits (part I)

Now, featuring a fair amount of Non-Covid 🙂

1) WP editorializes, “Tech firms must prove that digital contact tracing is worth the privacy intrusion.”  My take: it is.

Relying also on precise location information, as states such as North Dakota and Utah are already piloting, might assuage some problems, but conjures up a new set of privacy harms. It’s almost impossible truly to anonymize such data, or to compare two people’s paths without some potential for identification. A Massachusetts Institute of Technology group proposes redacting carriers’ location trails to mitigate the risk, instead encrypting each individual time-stamped location. These data, the researchers write, could even be publicized to help civilians see hot spots in their area, not to mention used by public health officials to spot outbreaks and assess where they might ease restrictions.

It’s tempting. But more invasive strategies have their downsides. See South Korea, where amateur investigators attempted to sniff out and shame the infected based on government-released information. That same worry here could spook people out of even getting tested. Other countries have taken more draconian measures — such as the scannable codes China assigns its citizens based on the likelihood they’ve been exposed. These determine whether someone can enter a building or leave home at all.

Making the most difference may require eroding the most protections, and right now no one really knows how much of a difference tech-centric contact tracing can make in the first place. Everyone is looking for a miracle, but the inventors promising one must prove their proposals are more than moonshots. Then they should explain to the rest of us why the proposals are worth it.

Nobody is asking for a “moonshot” here.  Until we have a widely available vaccine, every little bit that helps 1) slow transmission, and 2) reduce disease severity should be our goal.  And this would seem to have the potential to make a meaningful impact on disease transmission.  And, yes, the lives saved from that are worth a bit less digital privacy.

2) I really liked this in Politico “Admit It: You Are Willing to Let People Die to End the Shutdown: The question is how many and how soon. In the pandemic, everyone is a moral relativist.”

The pandemic highlights a different way of understanding relativism. It is not that values are no more than a matter of taste, in the way that you like pistachio but I like vanilla. It is to acknowledge—in a way our politics usually does not—that any important value is inevitably, at key moments, in competition with other important values. Individual liberties are in tension with public order. Respect for tradition is in tension with tolerance for diversity. And, yes, averting some number of tragic deaths from coronavirus is in tension with the need for a much larger number of people to resume life—sometime after it is no longer reckless to do so but sometime before it is perfectly safe.

An honest brand of politics, which we urgently need, admits the tension and tries in good faith—with reference to evolving evidence and with acknowledgment of uncertainty—to resolve it in the public interest. A dishonest brand of politics, of which we are wearily familiar, assumes a pose of superiority and certitude, and cares about evidence mostly as it can be deployed as a weapon or shield in a partisan argument that began long before the issue at hand and will continue long after.

Yes.  The reality is that some level of deaths is acceptable.  What we have now is too high.  What happened in NYC is way too high.  But we’ve clearly decided that .1% fatality rate for the flu is okay.  To some degree, we have to decide what that’s going to be for Covid.

3) Good stuff with Carl Bergstrom (one of my favorite new twitter followings) in the Guardian:

You’ve been teaching a course and have co-written a book about the concept of bullshit. Explain what you mean by bullshit?

The formal definition that we use is “language, statistical figures, data, graphics and other forms of presentation that are intended to persuade by impressing and overwhelming a reader or listener with a blatant disregard for truth or logical coherence”.

The idea with bullshit is that it’s trying to appear authoritative and definitive in a way that’s not about communicating accurately and informing a reader, but rather by overwhelming them, persuading them, impressing them. If that’s done without any allegiance to truth, or accuracy, that becomes bullshit.

We’re all used to verbal bullshit. We’re all used to campaign promises and weasel words, and we’re pretty good at seeing through that because we’ve had a lot of practice. But as the world has become increasingly quantified and the currency of arguments has become statistics, facts and figures and models and such, we’re increasingly confronted, even in the popular press, with numerical and statistical argumentsAnd this area’s really ripe for bullshit, because people don’t feel qualified to question information that’s given to them in quantitative form.

It requires a lot of discipline to argue really hard for something but also be scrupulously open about all of the weaknesses in your own argument.

But it’s more important than ever, right? A really good paper will lay out all the most persuasive evidence it can and then in the conclusion section or the discussion section say, ‘OK, here are all the reasons that this could be wrong and here are the weaknesses.’

When you have something that’s so directly policy relevant, and there’s a lot of lives at stake, we’re learning how to find the right balance.

4) Really, really liked this on Dan Crenshaw (GOP Congressman who does a great job pretending he’s all about intellectual honesty and civility at the same time he is a Trump defender) in the Bulwark:

In a new book out this month, a Republican member of Congress offers one of the most brutal and surgical eviscerations of President Trump’s leadership style that has been put to print.

“The problem with today’s society is that it is swelling with the wrong role models,” he writes. “Abandoning traditional heroes for new and exciting villains who represent self-indulgence, loud-mouthed commentary, angry fist-shaking activism, or insulting spitfire politics.”

This is, he says, infecting our entire society, which “has grown out of control often at the expense of logic, decency, and virtue.” We now “mock virtue without considering how its abandonment accelerates our moral decay” and “don a mantle of fragility, of anger, of childishness, and are utterly shameless in doing so.”

“A culture characterized by self-pity, indulgence, outrage, and resentment is a culture that falls apart,” he argues.

On Earth 2, this may have been the launching pad for a courageous and ambitious primary campaign that stands up for virtue in the face of our fragile, angry, childish, shameless, self-indulgent, loud-mouthed, insulting, self-pitying, and resentful president.

Here on Earth 1, the book is called Fortitude and its author is Rep. Dan Crenshaw, one of the most visible defenders of Donald Trump…

And then there’s the fact that before Crenshaw’s political fortunes required a baseline level of Trumpitude, he candidly assessed Trump’s failings himself, writing on Facebook that the then-candidate was an “idiot” whose rhetoric was “insane” and “hateful.”

Such assessments are no longer convenient for the former Navy SEAL who at first pitched himself to voters as a McCain-style antidote to the bitter partisanship that defines Trump’s Washington.

Eighteen short months later Crenshaw has found himself as part of a colloquy of pleasers jockeying for a spot at the pinnacle of Trump’s GOP with a path to succeeding the president in 2024. (That is, should Trump’s children or Trump himself take a pass on the race.)

He has ingratiated himself by putting on a masterclass in anti-anti Trumpism, using his considerable debate skills to spar with the worst excesses of the left and savage what he argues is media bias against Trump. At key inflection points, such as the Charlottesville white supremacist rally, Crenshaw has risen to defend Trump and suggest that anyone who thinks that the leader of the free world’s words and behavior matter is lacking nuance and seriousness.

In Fortitude, a book ostensibly about courage in the face of adversity, Crenshaw demonstrates that the values instilled in him as a SEAL that he believes will save the country apply to everything except his own political career…

In the story Dan Crenshaw tells himself, he sees himself as a good man, a rational man, a man who can make the world a better place by staying in it and fighting for truth and virtue. All of that may be true. But there’s just one catch: The price of admission is that Crenshaw must put one large, but inconvenient, truth in a box over to the side. And he must never open it, or even speak about it.

Because if he does, the insane, hateful idiot who leads the political cult Crenshaw belongs to will excommunicate him and force him out of public life.

So this is Crenshaw’s choice:

Say out loud the second part of the thoughts he holds in his head. And be consigned to exile with Mia Love and Jeff Flake and Mitt Romney and the others.


Fudge the truth about Trump and subject himself to the most devastating mental state he can imagine: One where he is helpless to stand up to someone who isn’t half the man he is, who is the embodiment of everything that he thinks is wrong with our society, who in any other circumstance he would regard with disdain. But have the chance to make a difference.

5) So, you probably saw this about an Alaska school board and some books:

An Alaska school board removed five famous — but allegedly “controversial” — books from district classrooms, inadvertently spurring renewed local interest in the excluded works.

“I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” by Maya Angelou, “Catch-22” by Joseph Heller, “The Things They Carried” by Tim O’Brien, “The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald, and “Invisible Man” by Ralph Ellison were all taken off an approved list of works that teachers in the Mat-Su Borough School District may use for instruction.

The school board voted 5-2 on Wednesday to yank those works out of teachers’ hands starting this fall. The removed books contained content that could potentially harm students, school board vice president Jim Hart told NBC News on Tuesday.

“If I were to read these in a corporate environment, in an office environment, I would be dragged into EO,” an equal opportunity complaint proceeding, Hart said. “The question is why this is acceptable in one environment and not another.”

I just couldn’t let that last quote from an elected official go with comment as it is monstrously stupid.  Hmmm, it’s almost like, I dunno… context matters!!

6) Drum on his Covid beliefs.  I don’t actually agree with all of them, but I really liked this:

However, we still have very little idea of which countermeasures provide the biggest bang for the buck. School closings? Stay-at-home orders? Mask wearing? Restaurant shutdowns? It’s critically important that we try to get a handle on this. If, for example, it turns out that schools can be re-opened with only small effects as long as we keep doing everything else, that would relieve a mountain of pressure from a lot of people…

I don’t especially blame Donald Trump for not endorsing lockdowns and quarantines and so forth until mid-March. In this, he was probably following expert advice fairly reasonably. What I do blame him for is: not planning for the worst case when he had the chance during February; consistently providing the country with bad information about vaccines and cures and bleach and so forth; declining to take testing seriously; turning the entire operation into a partisan crusade; using the month of April to fire up his base to “liberate” red states; wasting time blaming China and WHO and Democrats and governors for his own mistakes; putting Jared Kushner in charge of an important task that needed someone experienced and competent; and just generally acting like a buffoon the entire time. Please note that this is not an exhaustive list.

7) So, this was fascinating that almost all pigeons in the Northeast corridor are the same species.  Except Boston.  “The East Coast is made up of two pigeon genetic megacities, and a patch of Connecticut seems to be what’s keeping them apart.”

8) Zoom definitely has it’s uses and I’ve been using it a lot.  But definitely no subsitute for the real thing.  And definitely cognitively just weird.

Not only does this mess with our perception, but it also plays havoc with our ability to mirror. Without realizing it, all of us engage in facial mimicry whenever we encounter another person. It’s a constant, almost synchronous, interplay. To recognize emotion, we have to actually embody it, which makes mirroring essential to empathy and connection. When we can’t do it seamlessly, as happens during a video chat, we feel unsettled because it’s hard to read people’s reactions and, thus, predict what they will do.

“Our brains are prediction generators, and when there are delays or the facial expressions are frozen or out of sync, as happens on Zoom and Skype, we perceive it as a prediction error that needs to be fixed,” said Paula Niedenthal, a professor of psychology at the University of Wisconsin at Madison who specializes in affective response. “Whether subconscious or conscious, we’re having to do more work because aspects of our predictions are not being confirmed and that can get exhausting.”

9) Now this is one super-cool evolution story.

 But by proving how a lizard would try to grit its way through hurricane-force winds with sheer grip strength, those whimsical experiments led Dr. Donihue, now at Washington University in St. Louis, and a team of other researchers to a profound suggestion: Extreme weather events may bend the evolutionary course of hundreds of species. A paper published Monday in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences offers deeper evidence of their earlier finding.

Across Central and South America and the Caribbean islands, scientists found that lizards with larger toe pads seem to be more common in areas that have been hit by storm after storm in the last 70 years. That suggests that severe but fleeting cataclysms don’t just leave lasting scars on people and places. They also reshape entire species.

First came Hurricane Irma, a screaming maelstrom of 160-mile-per-hour winds. Two weeks later came Hurricane Maria. When Dr. Donihue returned, trees were down and lizards were scarce. On average, he found the surviving anoles seemed to have much bigger, grippier toe pads than the population had averaged before, as if those with less sticky feet had been carried away by the storms.

That initial finding came out with the leaf blower videos. But the team kept digging. Eighteen months after the storm, Dr. Donihue went back to Turks and Caicos a third time to find a new generation of lizards scampering across new plant growth. Those carefree children of the survivors had kept their parents’ generation’s bigger toe pads.

10) Love the Ear Hustle podcast literally produced inside San Quentin prison.  So good.  This week had a great story of a former inmate who was sentenced to Life Without Parole at 18 for murder and completely turned his life around in prison.  Great to see that California recognized the utter folly of locking a man like this up forever.  I was especially drawn to the story as he is Steven Green.

11) I haven’t been following the Flynn pardon stuff to closely except to know that it’s utterly absurd.  Also, it is pretty funny that Republicans are shocked(!!) that law enforcement lies and coerces to get their way.  And it’s perfectly legal.  Ummm, welcome to America’s criminal justice system, conservatives.

12) So, totally out of left field, but quite interesting, the disastrous and failed re-branding of Tropicana orange juice in 2009.

13) UVA Center for Politics with a great analysis of the key 2020 Senate races.

14) Don’t call me a hypocrite, but I just don’t find Tara Reade a credible accuser of Joe Biden.  Here, a former prosecutor makes the case.  Also, in an entire lengthy public career (where he was sometimes too touchy and sometimes too in personal space), nobody else has made an allegation remotely similar to Reade’s.  And in a Senate where the staff always knows who the “good guys” are and who to watch out for, Biden was widely known as a good guy:

►Lack of other sexual assault allegations. Last year, several women claimed that Biden made them uncomfortable with things like a shoulder touch or a hug. (I wrote a column critical of one such allegation by Lucy Flores.) The Times and Post found no allegation of sexual assault against Biden except Reade’s.

It is possible that in his 77 years, Biden committed one sexual assault and it was against Reade. But in my experience, men who commit a sexual assault are accused more than once … like Donald Trump, who has had more than a dozen allegations of sexual assault leveled against him and who was recorded bragging about grabbing women’s genitalia.

Also, sorry, but the pathological love for Putin from Reade?

15) And Brian Beutler in his newsletter:

I wrote about the whole controversy at length here a couple weeks ago, and my thinking hasn’t really changed. The allegation just isn’t strong or substantiated enough to assume Biden’s guilt or call on him to step out of the race—at least as it stands. And as it stands—even if the Archives finds no complaint, as Biden seems confident it won’t—it’s also basically unfalsifiable. Which means absent new inculpatory evidence, or evidence of Reade’s deceit, we’re going to be left about where we are. Without ironclad closure, this controversy will become part of a larger mythology of liberal hypocrisy among left-wing critics, many of whom seemed more interested in embarrassing Democrats, or in smearing them, than in the truth of the matter. Yes, many Democrats have in recent years espoused a standard of deference to female accusers that makes their continued support for Biden a bit awkward. But I don’t think there’s much actual hypocrisy here. Lindsey Beyerstein has wise words to offer on this score. A moment of reckoning may await Biden and the liberal establishment in the future, but it hasn’t arrived, and hopefully it will not.

16) And here’s the great tweet he just linked:

17) And while I’m at it with newsletters, great stuff from Eric Boehlert: “”The insults don’t matter” — ABC reporter gives Trump a pass on vicious media attacks”

Asked on CNN’s “Reliable Sources,” why reporters don’t get up and walk out of the briefing room when Trump launches one of his name-calling tirades, Karl insisted, “The insults don’t matter.” He added, “Who cares if the president is going to make personal attacks on us, the reporters in that room?” The claim that “insults don’t matter” is quite amazing. It’s the media voluntarily creating new, separate standards for the Trump era, and giving him a hard pass.

Karl, who serves as the president of the White House Correspondents Association and just released a new book, Front Row at the Trump Show, was echoing a familiar claim that journalists should never become the story, and that when the focus is on the press the real news is being missed. It’s a mantra used for generations and it often made sense. “As a reporter, the last thing you want to do is to turn this into a story about yourself,” Karl recently told the Hollywood Reporter, while discussing Trump.

That cover story doesn’t hold today because we have a ruler who has made it plain that he wants to destroy public faith in newsgathering for purely political purposes. In three years has launched more ugly, damaging attacks on the free press in America than the previous 44 U.S.  presidents, combined.

Now is not the time to hide behind the claim that “insults” don’t matter, that it’s irrelevant how the President of the Untied States behaves in public, and to ignore how he’s running a textbook authoritarian propaganda campaign to destabilize the free press.

This country has operated on a premise of acceptable, decent behavior among public officials, and especially the President of the United States, for more than two-and-a-half centuries. Trump has gleefully obliterated all those standards. The idea that his rancid behavior, which is signified by the insults he hurls at reporters, doesn’t matter, represents a deeply misguided way of looking at the damage Trump has done to this country, and specifically our public life.

“To me, I don’t care if he criticizes reporters or if he criticizes me. That is not what’s important or relevant,” Karl recently stressed.

Is Karl signaling to all future presidents that it’s fine if they call journalists nasty, unpatriotic people, as Trump does? Karl can’t possibly think that’s okay. What Karl is really saying is, there are no rules for Trump and we’re simply not interested in holding him accountable. Instead, journalists want to make sure they keep their “front row” seats to the Trump “show.”

Does anyone think that if a President Hillary Clinton or President Barack Obama had filled their press briefings with nasty name-calling, labeling the press “enemies of the people,” that the White House press corps would have spent years collectively shrugging their shoulders and chalking up the ugly attacks as Clinton and Obama personality quirks?

18) While learning about Covid this week, I also learned the latest on Zinc and the common cold.  I’ve actually been persuaded by the evidence for years, but I loved that this study really breaks it down to the type and amount of Zinc.

19) Maybe llama blood holds the key to the next amazing treatment.  Seriously.

20) Interesting stuff on how much Covid spread may be dependent upon crowds:

Ever since a new coronavirus emerged in China late last year, public health experts have debated why it was so dangerous. Now, as we consider how to reopen communities in the United States and across the world, we’re learning that the closer people live and work together, the more threatening and deadly the virus can be.

Models we created at PolicyLab at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and the University of Pennsylvania, tracking and forecasting outbreaks in 211 counties in 46 states, as well as in the District of Columbia, revealed that crowding and population density, whether in densely populated areas in New York City or a meatpacking plant in South Dakota, are the most important factors in determining the havoc the virus can wreak.

After we accounted for age distribution and health issues, it was clear that risk not only of infection but of death broke between two groups: those in densely crowded areas, and everyone else. Large, densely populated areas like New York and Chicago had nearly twice the rate of transmission in the first two weeks of their outbreaks than the least densely populated areas we are tracking, like Birmingham, Ala., or the metro area of Portland, Ore.

Yes, we did find that warming spring temperatures in some areas are helping to reduce transmission, but that effect is dwarfed by the impact of population density in our largest cities, particularly in the North.




Changing the psychology of masks

Until this past month, I haven’t really thought much about surgical masks either way.  Obviously, the general idea is that we are to protect us from what we breathe in, but, since I never really thought much about it it was really easy to make the switch (as we clearly should in the case of Covid) to think about the mask as protecting others from what I breathe out and, honestly, more importantly (because I’m only one person) protecting me from what everybody else is breathing out.  

A month ago when it was hard to even get a cloth mask I went to the store, kept my distance, and took an intellectual interest in mask-wearing percentages.  Now I take it damn seriously.  While wearing my own mask, of course, I try and keep extra far from anyone not wearing a mask and see them as a threat to my health. This got me thinking, that it really shouldn’t be too hard to convert more people to this way of thinking as easily as it came to me, once I was educated on the topic.  Again, a few clear PSA’s and elite cues could do a lot here.  Part of me wonders… forget social solidarity, just scare people?  Like, if most people where mildly afraid to be around other people without masks indoors, that would be a lot of positive and potent social pressure for people to wear masks.  People would see a sign at a grocery store “masks required” and not think, “damn, they are taking away my liberty” but, rather, “oh, good, I don’t have to worry about anybody breathing Covid onto me.” 

Can we do this?  Is this psychological shift possible at the scale we need.  ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.  But surely worth trying.

The impediment?  Pathetic men like Donald Trump and Mike Pence.  Loved this post on mask wearing and toxic masculinity:

Why the reluctance to model safe behavior? My research with Jennifer Berdahl and others suggest one critical reason, which is that appearing to play it safe contradicts a core principle of masculinity: show no weakness. In short, wearing a mask emasculates.

The refusal to wear a mask undermines the message that the rest of us should take safety precautions. But that’s the least of the problem. Leaders who are more concerned with preserving a macho public image put our lives at risk as they prove their manhood by showing resistance to experts’ opinions, hypersensitivity to criticism and constant feuding with anyone who seems to disagree with them.

In our research, the show-no-weakness principle manifests by acting like you always know the answer. Admitting uncertainty or that you rely on anyone else’s opinion seems “weak.” Trump’s resistance to experts’ advice stems from a constant need to demonstrate that “I alone can fix it.”…

The coronavirus has laid bare just how strongly some male leaders value projecting a tough, macho image, even at the risk of contracting or spreading coronavirus. President Trump, a germaphobe known to hate shaking hands even in the best of times, ostentatiously continued to press the flesh well into March. Why? It’s the same reason that Trump, in 2017, courted danger from a different corona, making a show of staring at the sun during an eclipse. Defying experts’ warnings about personal danger signals “I’m a tough guy, bring it on.”

Yikes.  Clearly so true.  And tough to counter.  But, just maybe, if enough of us adopt the posture of “alright, tough guy but I don’t need you breathing your potential Covid on me!” we can get past this.  

Bring on Don Draper for the mask campaign.  And, actually, speaking of which, I did just see this.  I Imagine Draper would’ve come up with something more elegant, but, definitely gets the point across:


Quick hits (part II)

1) Brian Beutler with a very good take on what the Democrats need to be doing politically.

It may seem callous to think about politics in the midst of a pandemic that has millions of Americans secluded at home and wondering if they’ll see their next paychecks. But President Trump’s fumbling and flawed response to coronavirus is a reminder that elections have consequences that can be devastating and deadly. This is not just any election year—it’s perhaps the most important election in American history, and Democrats cannot ignore the politics of the moment.

After the terrorist attacks of 9/11, Democrats put politics aside to line up behind a Republican president. Republicans responded by using the attack as a cudgel to bully the nation into war and bludgeon Democratic candidates for being soft on terrorism. Democrats must do all we can to ensure that the next time our country faces a national emergency, there is a Democrat presiding over a government staffed by experts, instead of an administration run by Fox News Green Room rejects who are sourcing ideas from Facebook.

In other words, we cannot make the same mistakes again.

2) James Fallows on the need to stop covering Trump’s appalling press conferences.

3) Chait with a good take on the Senator stock-selling scandal:

The trading scandal is, in this sense, a perfectly characteristic act. Last month, Burr became convinced the coronavirus posed a terrifying public-health and economic threat. Yet the Trump administration was still pursuing a denialist line in the hope it could prop up the stock market. So Burr worked out the contradiction as he usually does. He privately warned a group of affluent, well-connected insiders that the virus was far more dangerous than Trump allowed. Publicly, he toed the line, touting Trump’s vigilance in leading the United States, which was “better prepared than ever before to face emerging public health threats, like the coronavirus, in large part due to the work of the Senate Health Committee, Congress, and the Trump administration,” as he wrote in a cheerful Fox News op-ed. Behind the scenes, Burr was dumping his stock portfolio, selling between $628,000 and $1.72 million in 33 transactions.

4) Jay Rosen on the need for the press to fundamentally change how they are covering Trump.

Donald Trump’s public statements have been unreliable. And that is why today we announce that we are shifting our coverage of the President to an emergency setting.

This means we are exiting from the normal system for covering presidents— which Trump himself exited long ago by using the microphone we have handed him to spread thousands of false claims, even as he undermines trust in the presidency and the press. True: he is not obliged to answer our questions. But neither are we obligated to assist him in misinforming the American people about the spread of the virus, and what is actually being done by his government.

We take this action knowing we will be criticized for it by the President’s defenders, by some in journalism, and perhaps by some of you. And while it would be nice to have company as we change course, we anticipate that others in the news media will stick with the traditional approach to covering presidents.

This we cannot in good conscience do.

Switching to emergency mode means our coverage will look different and work in a different way, as we try to prevent the President from misinforming you through us. Here are the major changes:

* We will not cover live any speech, rally, or press conference involving the president. The risk of passing along bad information is too great. Instead, we will attend carefully to what he says. If we can independently verify any important news he announces we will bring that to you— after the verification step.

5) Adam Serwer is right, “Donald Trump’s Cult of Personality Did This: The autocratic political culture that has propped up the Trump administration has left the nation entirely unprepared for an economic and public-health calamity.”

6) And Paul Waldman is right that Trump is constitutionally incapable of expressing empathy.

7) And, back to a theme here, Jennifer Senior, “Call Trump’s News Conferences What They Are: Propaganda:Then contrast them with the leadership shown by Andrew Cuomo, Justin Trudeau and Angela Merkel.”

8) Andrew Ross Sorkin: we need a government bridge loan to everyone.  Hugely expensive, but sounds like about what we need:

The Covid-19 crisis will take time to be solved by science. The economic crisis can be solved right now.

With President Trump proposing to send $1,000 checks to every American and industries, like the airlines, lining up for bailouts, there is a better way to arrest the panic.

I chronicled the 2008 financial crisis and spent the past week on back-to-back telephone calls with many of the experts who crafted that bailout, as well as the programs put in place after 9/11, Katrina, the BP oil spill and other crises. Now here is a thought experiment that could prevent what is quickly looking like the next Great Recession or even, dare it be mentioned, depression.

The fix: The government could offer every American business, large and small, and every self-employed — and gig — worker a no-interest “bridge loan” guaranteed for the duration of the crisis to be paid back over a five-year period. The only condition of the loan to businesses would be that companies continue to employ at least 90 percent of their work force at the same wage that they did before the crisis. And it would be retroactive, so any workers who have been laid off in the past two weeks because of the crisis would be reinstated.

The program would keep virtually everyone employed — and keep companies, from airlines to restaurants, in business without picking winners and losers.

It would immediately create a sense of confidence and relief during these tumultuous times that once the scourge of the coronavirus was contained, life would return to some semblance of normal. It would also help encourage people to stay home and practice social distancing without feeling that they would risk losing their job — the only way to slow this disease.

The price tag? A lot. Some back-of-the-envelope math suggests that many trillions — that’s with a “t” — of dollars would go out in loans if this crisis lasted three months, possibly as much as $10 trillion. That’s half the size of America’s gross domestic product. And assuming 20 percent of it is never repaid, it could cost taxpayers hundreds of billions if not several trillions. I get that. But with interest rates near zero, there is no better time to borrow against the fundamental strength of the U.S. economy, spend the money and prevent years of economic damage that would ultimately be far, far costlier.

9) A must read from Aaron Carroll and Ashish Jha, “This Is How We Can Beat the Coronavirus
Mitigation can buy us time, but only suppression can get us to where we need to be.”

Because of this, some are now declaring that we might be on lockdown for the next 18 months. They see no alternative. If we go back to normal, they argue, the virus will run unchecked and tear through Americans in the fall and winter, infecting 40 to 70 percent of us, killing millions and sending tens of millions to the hospital. To prevent that, they suggest we keep the world shut down, which would destroy the economy and the fabric of society.

But all of that assumes that we can’t change, that the only two choices are millions of deaths or a wrecked society.

That’s not true. We can create a third path. We can decide to meet this challenge head-on. It is absolutely within our capacity to do so. We could develop tests that are fast, reliable, and ubiquitous. If we screen everyone, and do so regularly, we can let most people return to a more normal life. We can reopen schools and places where people gather. If we can be assured that the people who congregate aren’t infectious, they can socialize.

We can build health-care facilities that do rapid screening and care for people who are infected, apart from those who are not. This will prevent transmission from one sick person to another in hospitals and other health-care facilities. We can even commit to housing infected people apart from their healthy family members, to prevent transmission in households.

These steps alone still won’t be enough.

We will need to massively strengthen our medical infrastructure. We will need to build ventilators and add hospital beds. We will need to train and redistribute physicians, nurses, and respiratory therapists to where they are most needed. We will need to focus our factories on turning out the protective equipment—masks, gloves, gowns, and so forth—to ensure we keep our health-care workforce safe. And, most importantly, we need to pour vast sums of intellectual and financial resources into developing a vaccine that would finally bring this nightmare to a close. An effective vaccine would end the pandemic and protect billions of people around the world.

All of the difficult actions we are taking now to flatten the curve aren’t just intended to slow the rate of infection to levels the health-care system can manage. They’re also meant to buy us time. They give us the space to create what we need to make a real difference.

10) I don’t know who Thomas Pueyo is, but this “hammer and the dance” analysis on Covid hits many of the same points and seems like a long, but essential read for anybody else on the semi-obsessed side of “what do we do about this?”

11) Interesting contrarian take from a public health expert that argues we are doing to much destruction of our economy relative to the benefit we’re getting. It’s really similar to my initial, frustrated, take along the lines of “can’t we just isolate and the old and vulnerable, do everything we can for them, and let the rest of us live our lives?”  I came to, frustratingly, admit, that that approach is probably not enough.  But, interesting to see it argued for in the NYT.

The clustering of complications and death from Covid-19 among the elderly and chronically ill, but not children (there have been only very rare deaths in children), suggests that we could achieve the crucial goals of social distancing — saving lives and not overwhelming our medical system — by preferentially protecting the medically frail and those over age 60, and in particular those over 70 and 80, from exposure.

Why does this matter?

I am deeply concerned that the social, economic and public health consequences of this near total meltdown of normal life — schools and businesses closed, gatherings banned — will be long lasting and calamitous, possibly graver than the direct toll of the virus itself. The stock market will bounce back in time, but many businesses never will. The unemployment, impoverishment and despair likely to result will be public health scourges of the first order.

I think maybe this would have been okay if we could get enough damn tests.  It’s really so much about the lack of tests, which may well come to be the single greatest public health failing in US history.

12) Very much relatedly, Reuters, “Special Report: How Korea trounced U.S. in race to test people for coronavirus”

And watch this.  Going to finish off with a run of non Covid!

13) Democrats really, truly do believe in good government (not just power) far, far more than Republicans.  That’s an important asymmetry. Great case in point– Virginia Democrats just stripped themselves of the power to gerrymander.

14) Nice look at why it’s Bernie “Bros” and not “Sis’s” i.e, why do women support Bernie less.  Short version– not clear!  But, it did link to an article I almost forgot I had written way back when.

15) I admit, I especially liked this, “Your Kids’ Coach Is Probably Doing It Wrong” article because throughout I was able to say… ummm, not my daughter’s coach! (i.e., me).

16) The latest research suggests Alcoholics Anonymous really does work pretty well and quite cost effectively.  And, I definitely need to share that, as I wrote positively about this Atlantic article five years ago which very much argues against AA.

17) It’s the cool kid thing to do to make fun of Thomas Friedman, but I quite liked this column of his, “Joe Biden, Not Bernie Sanders, Is the True Scandinavian”

Third, Senator Sanders, do you believe the free enterprise system is the best means for growing jobs, the economy and opportunity — or do you believe in more socialist central planning? I ask because I have often heard you praise Scandinavian countries, like Denmark, as exemplars of democratic socialism. Have you ever been to Denmark? It’s democratic but not socialist.

Denmark is actually a hypercompetitive, wide-open, market economy devoted to free trade and expanding globalization, since trade — exports and imports — makes up roughly half of Denmark’s G.D.P.

Indeed, Denmark’s 5.8 million people have produced some of the most globally competitive multinationals in the world, by the names of A.P. Moller-Maersk, Danske Bank, Novo Nordisk, Carlsberg Group, Vestas, Coloplast, the Lego Group and Novozymes. These are the very giant multinationals Sanders constantly rails against.

As the former Danish prime minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen once remarked in a speech at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government to those who might not fully grasp the Danish model: “I would like to make one thing clear, Denmark is far from a socialist planned economy. Denmark is a market economy. The Nordic model is an expanded welfare state, which provides a high level of security for its citizens, but it is also a successful market economy with much freedom to pursue your dreams and live your life as you wish.”

It is through these engines of capitalism, free trade, economic openness and globalization that Denmark has managed to become wealthy enough to afford the social safety net that Sanders rightly admires — as do I: access for all to child care, medical and parental leave from work, tuition-free college, a living stipend, universal health care and generous pensions.

Yep.  This is why I always strongly preferred “capitalist to my bones” Elizabeth Warren.  Free markets, properly regulatedare amazing engines of human progress.  And we can and should share the fruits of that progress widely.  But the key is to use capitalism for the public good, which we are completely failing to do here in America, but many European countries seem to have figured out.

Quick hits (part II)

More from obsessively reading about the Corona Virus so that you don’t have to :-).

1) Eric Levitz is no fan of Biden, but gets that Bernie supporters will simply need to vote for him in November:

Progressives and socialists would be wise to build their own independent institutions and cultivate their own mass base of support. But they should also recognize that they do, in fact, have a profound stake in seeing Joe Biden prevail over Donald Trump this November. For low-income people in Louisiana and Kentucky, the stakes of elections between moderate Democrats and far-right Republicans can be life and death. There is no party in U.S. politics right now that is committed to achieving truly universal health care as quickly as logistically possible. But there is one party that is demonstrably committed to expanding public health insurance, and one that is similarly committed to shrinking it. The tens of thousands of Americans who’ve secured Medicaid as a result of Democrats beating Republicans in elections are worth fighting for; as are the Virginians who will no longer have to ration their insulin because Ralph Northam beat Ed Gillespie; as are the undocumented New Yorkers who can now drive legally because Andrew Cuomo beat Marc Molinaro. To abstain from two-party competition in the contemporary United States is to forfeit ripe opportunities to improve the lives of our nation’s most vulnerable people.

2) I think this “never Biden” contingent will be much smaller in November, but, basically, a lot of people hate that they are stuck with this binary choice.  But, they just are.  It’s Trump or the Democratic nominee and a vote for anybody, but the Democratic nominee or a non-vote serves to keep Trump in office.

3) Very nice guide to the what social distancing actually means.  Also interesting that even the experts are not quite in agreement as to what, precisely, this should mean.  E.g.,


Watson: Those are more one-on-one interactions. I think there’s a lower likelihood that exposure is going to occur that way. I don’t think that’s a big concern.

Cannuscio: I would say hold off on your haircut and then when you go back, when it’s clear that we have vanquished this foe, everybody please give your hairdresser extra, extra tips. I hope that policies will be put into place to protect the paychecks of people who will suffer during this period.

4) Meanwhile, I think a social distancing plan that says, basically, don’t let your kids play with their friends is taking this too far.

5) That said, we still don’t have a very good handle on how well the virus spreads before symptoms and the asymptomatic spread may be the scariest part.

6) In happier times, we could focus more on the brutal academic job market for PhD’s.  To some degree, this results from a horrible mis-aligning of incentives whereas universities have great incentive to churn out PhDs (and even create new programs) while there just aren’t the jobs for all these people.  Meanwhile, people keep pursuing this because if you are one of the lucky ones who gets a tenure-track professor job, it’s just an amazing job to have.

7) Even before Covid-19 may have doomed Trump’s presidency, Biden’s performance so far has provided plenty of reason to think well of his chances against Trump.  John Cassidy:

The results from Tuesday’s primary in Michigan, a state that Trump carried in the 2016 general election by eleven thousand votes, provided the strongest evidence yet that Biden’s electoral strategy may be a viable one. Having already scored important primary victories in South Carolina and other Southern states, where black voters form the biggest portion of the Democratic electorate, the former Vice-President defeated Bernie Sanders by a sixteen-point margin in Michigan, where, according to an exit poll, whites without college degrees were the largest single voting bloc…

Of course, you can’t directly translate the results of a Democratic primary to a general election, where the voting pool is much bigger and more conservative. In 2016, about 4.8 million people voted in the general election in Michigan, compared to 1.2 million who voted in the Democratic primary. But you can’t ignore the results of primary elections, either. “You have to be careful about the signal-to-noise ratio, but there is certainly some signal there,” Ruy Teixeira, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress and an expert on electoral demographics, told me on Wednesday. “It seems to fit the proposition that Biden is putting forward. If I was part of the Trump campaign, I’d be a little concerned.”

That might be an understatement. In a recent analysis of what it will take to win the Presidency in 2020, Teixeira and a colleague, John Halpin, pointed out that in November, 2016, whites without college degrees made up about forty-four per cent of the electorate, making them the largest single group, and Trump carried them by more than twenty points. In 2020, Trump is once more basing his campaign on appealing to these voters and getting more of them to turn out. The good news for the Democrats—and the worrying thing for the President—is that they don’t need to eliminate Trump’s advantage with white working-class voters, which would be a huge task. Given the Democrats’ advantage in other demographics, merely restricting Trump’s advantage with that group to more manageable levels could be sufficient to carry Biden to the White House. [emphasis mine]

8) You know where we have the opposite of social distances?  Jails, prisons, and courtrooms.  We need to do so much better here.  As Emily Bazelon succinctly puts it, “Our Courts and Jails Are Putting Lives at Risk.”

9) Susan Rice on how to avoid a worst-case scenario.

Yet, there is still limited time to avoid the worst-case scenario if the White House moves very quickly.

Most immediately, the federal government must make millions of test kits available to all who need them at no cost to patients, including by calling on the W.H.O to help. It must speed the preparedness of hospitals and health care workers to ensure there are sufficient beds, ventilators and protective equipment to treat the imminent influx of the very ill. To fully engage the Federal Emergency Management Agency and accelerate the deployment of critical resources, the president should declare a national emergency now. (Mr. Trump declared a national emergency and announced several other steps to speed coronavirus response and testing at a news conference Friday afternoon.)

Next and critically important, the federal, state and local governments must swiftly mandate rigorous social distancing. To the greatest extent possible, all Americans should avoid sizable gatherings and crowded places, especially older adults and those with underlying health conditions. Not only should the sick and those close to them stay home, but we all should avoid concerts, large religious gatherings, sporting events, conferences and the like. Major league sports and the N.C.A.A. have led by example. School closings, as disruptive and costly as they are, can be critically important in limiting community spread.

Aggressive social distancing is our last key tool for slowing the spread of the coronavirus in the United States. If cities and states can “flatten the curve” of infections so that hospitals and health systems are not overwhelmed, we can better treat the very ill and delay the onset of many infections into a period when there are therapeutic treatments and a vaccine.

The severe economic impacts of the coronavirus must be relieved through urgent financial support to workers, caregivers, small businesses and the uninsured, as well as to companies. Paid leave, food assistance, affordable testing and treatment, and increased unemployment insurance are among the many accommodations Congress and the administration must immediately enact to assist the most vulnerable.

10) Very good one on “flattening the curve.”

11) Great Monkey Cage piece from Neil Malhotra on how short-term thinking is endemic to politics.  This is going in the Public Policy syllabus

So why is the United States so poorly equipped for a mass pandemic? Much of the answer plausibly lies in politicians’ incentives. Having the federal government prepare for crises may be incredibly good value for money. But politicians get few or no benefits from doing so, since voters don’t reward them for being ready. This is why…

Despite the clear efficiency of investing in preparation rather than response, prevention spending has decreased over the decades — while response spending has increased. Why has the federal government spent its money so poorly?

The answer lies in electoral incentives. We find that presidents who deliver relief spending after a disaster get a larger share of the votes in the next election. Specifically, if the incumbent party increases relief expenditures in a county from $1 per person (the 66th percentile for spending in the data) to $10 per person (the 93rd percentile in the data), the incumbent party will gain about 0.77 percentage points more in the next presidential vote. But there is a flat relationship between prevention spending in a county and presidential vote share — in other words, there’s no increase at all. This creates a clear incentive for government to not invest much in prevention, and instead to send help when disaster strikes.

12) Yeah, I’ve heard we all sit too much.  But, no, I will be taking up squatting.

13) Want to boost your immune system to fight off Covid-19?  Nothing at all surprising.  Eat right, exercise, reduce stress, and get enough sleep.

14) Good stuff on underlying medical conditions and susceptibility to Covid-19.

15) Conor Friedersdorf with a thoughtful and thorough look at the role of sexism in Warren’s downfall.

16) Twitter is all lit up with this WP story about the bumbled and awful Coronavirus response.  I haven’t had a chance to read it yet, but surely a good use of some of your time on Sunday.

The economy was grinding to a halt. Stocks were in free fall. Schools were closing. Public events were being canceled. New cases of the novel coronavirus were popping up across the country.

And then, on Wednesday, the day the World Health Organization designated the coronavirus a pandemic, Jared Kushner joined the tumult.

President Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser — who has zero expertise in infectious diseases and little experience marshaling the full bureaucracy behind a cause — saw the administration floundering and inserted himself at the helm, believing he could break the logjam of internal dysfunction.

Kushner rushed to help write Trump’s widely panned Oval Office address to the nation. His supermodel sister-in-law’s father, Kurt Kloss, an emergency room doctor, crowdsourced suggestions from his Facebook network to pass along to Kushner. And Kushner pressed tech executives to help build a testing website and retail executives to help create mobile testing sites — but the projects were only half-baked when Trump revealed them Friday in the White House Rose Garden

Kushner entered into a crisis management process that, despite the triumphant and self-congratulatory tone of public briefings, was as haphazard and helter-skelter as the chaotic early days of Trump’s presidency — turning into something of a family-and-friends pandemic response operation.

The administration’s struggle to mitigate the coronavirus outbreak has been marked by infighting and blame-shifting, misinformation and missteps, and a slow recognition of the danger. Warring factions have wrestled for control internally and for approval from a president who has been preoccupied with the beating his image is taking.

18) Thoughtful and interesting piece on public closings from a physician who wrote a book about the 1918 epidemic.  I was especially interested in the uncertainty on the efficacy of school closings.

19) Helaine Olen, “Coronavirus is an indictment of our way of life”

Our moment of crisis is decades in the making, the endgame of decades of embracing the idea that we are not interconnected, that it is each man and woman for themselves. The results are all around us: Income and wealth inequality soared. When a global financial crisis occurred in 2008, the government bailed out the banks and financial service sector, while allowing millions of American households to go into foreclosure. The rich got even richer, while almost everyone else fell behind. A majority of people say they cannot come up with $1,000 in a pinch without resorting to credit.

Intent on extracting wealth for an ever-smaller elite, we failed to invest. Corporations put money into stock buybacks, not into their employees or research. School funding fell, and our infrastructure — well, it’s a solid D+, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers. Roads are filled with potholes, and bridges literally fall down…

ut the fault is not Trump’s alone. Too many of us were deluded, convinced that we ourselves would be fine while others suffered around us. But it was absurd to think money could protect us from all danger. Viral diseases don’t check your wallet before striking, and they find you at Hamptons summer houses and hidden bunkers alike.

We are all connected. We all need to take on the task of rebuilding our society and putting protections in place so that when the next the crisis comes, we are ready to take it on. That looks like Medicare-for-allPaid sick leave. A strong unemployment system — one that covers gig workers — so that people losing their jobs don’t run out of money almost immediately.

That’s not a radical left agenda, it’s one that protects all of us. It also happens to be humane. And if we do it, some good will come out of this terrible calamity. The world will almost certainly never be the same. It’s in our power to make it a better one than before.

20) David Wallace-Wells lets loose:

This is not how a functioning society responds to a crisis. And while it is important to keep in mind that even the worst-case scenarios for COVID-19 stop far short of producing total social and political disarray — producing merely widespread death and suffering and an almost incalculable burden on our already stretched-thin medical capacity — it is nevertheless astonishing, and horrifying, just how quickly we have arrived here, almost totally distrustful of the civic institutions we expect to protect us.

And how did we arrive here? Part of it is, of course, Trump, who has so accelerated the decades-long Republican war on government, which is to say good governance, that it can now seem the only two people actually working in the federal government are Jared Kushner and Stephen Miller (who, by the way, jointly wrote the speech the president gave last night). Part of it is the long story of neoliberalism, which has taught us all that we make our political mark on the world through consumer choice and individual behavior, that we shouldn’t expect much but economic management from government, and that citizens are meant to be unleashed into unemcumbered markets. Part of it is even deeper cultural transformation, involving growing distrust of institutions and authorities and the growth of a kind of casually paranoid style of go-it-alone American life, as was so memorably documented in Chris Hayes’s The Twilight of the Elites. And part of it is, I think, in the term Ross Douthat has deployed in the title of his new book, “decadence” — the ancient imperial cycle of rising power and competence followed by avarice and narcissism and shortsightedness, but accelerated, in the case of the U.S., for a hypermodern age.

Barely more than two decades ago, the United States saw itself as a kind of eternal and all-powerful empire — the indispensable nation. It would have seemed laughable, then, to be told that China would have produced a far better and more comprehensive pandemic response — a shamefully superior response. But today, distressingly, we take that relative failure for granted, and don’t expect to outperform the Chinese on matters like these, let alone South Korea or Singapore. What feels new is that we are doing worse even than Italy, where in the past few days hundreds have died and where they are now rationing critical-care devices between patients who need them — deciding, between two people who will die without support, which one has a better chance of surviving with the machine and giving it to them. We are well behind Italy and seem somewhat closer in the effectiveness and coordination of our response to Iran, where it’s estimated millions may be infected, including many senior figures in government. When countries like these are desperate, they now turn to China, which is sending a huge supply of necessary equipment and human resources to Italy. The United States used to play that role not that long ago. Now, in this crisis and future ones, who will help us?

21) And, we’ll leave on the most damning note from Derek Thompson, “America Is Acting Like a Failed State”

Throughout the world, the most effective responses to the historic threat of the coronavirus have come from state governments. China imposed a lockdown of tens of millions of people in Wuhan and other cities. In Singapore, the government built an app to inform citizens how to contain the virus and what public spaces to avoid. South Korea opened a number of drive-through centers to accelerate diagnostic testing.

But in the United States, the pandemic has devolved into a kind of grotesque caricature of American federalism. The private sector has taken on quasi-state functions at a time when the executive branch of government—drained of scientific expertisestarved of moral vision—has taken on the qualities of a failed state. In a country where many individuals, companies, institutions, and local governments are making hard decisions for the good of the nation, the most important actor of them all—the Trump administration—has been a shambolic bonanza of incompetence.

It might seem hyperbolic to compare the U.S. government to a failed state that cannot project its authority or adequately ensure the safety of its population. But for much of the past month, the White House has shown an inability to do either.

The Trump administration has failed to perform the most basic function of a state during a pandemic—which is to accurately assess the threat. While South Korea is reportedly conducting 10,000 tests a day, lawmakers learned on Thursday that the U.S. has conducted only 11,000 coronavirus tests in total. (For the U.S. to catch up to South Korea on a per capita basis, it would need to conduct 65,000 tests daily.) But the coronavirus caught the Trump White House flat-footed. The administration fired the U.S. pandemic-response team in 2018. It ignored early warnings from epidemiologists; refused to waive regulations that impeded early testing; and botched its initial COVID-19 testing kits.

The White House has also failed in its basic role to protect the public by communicating accurate and useful information about public health and hygiene.

22) Exactly 21 years ago today, I defended my dissertation :-).

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