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29.May 2020 Permanent URL to this day's entry

A relentless grind of despicable acts Permalink to this item

That phrase in the first line of the op-ed from law professor Peter H. Schuck grabbed me, as the nutshell description of the current administration. Trump’s ‘Horrifying Lies’ About Lori Klausutis May Cross a Legal Line, is his headline. A legal line that doesn't depend on Senate Republicans to enforce, and doesn't have to wait for his departure (or removal) from office. (Unless the Supreme Court is now willing and able to repudiate the unanimous decision of William Jefferson CLINTON, Petitioner, v. Paula Corbin JONES?)

Meanwhile, as Minneapolis burns, Tweeter-in-chief is seething about Twitter finally taking baby steps to (a) call bullshit on him, and (b) note—just a note!—that some of his messages are glorifying violence.

Three years ago, Jesse Duquette captured the scene pretty well in The Daily Don on Facebook, including the most quintessential of +rumpian quotations: "I don't know if I'll do the fighting myself or if other people will." As if Cadet Bonespurs would ever put up his dukes. Snopes took the trouble to fact-check our cartoon presidency, right down to professional liar Sarah Huckabee-Sanders' Gaslighting Supreme: “The president in no way, form, or fashion has ever promoted or encouraged violence.” You don't say.

"Vote as if your life depends on it, because it does."
- Tony Schwartz

Gallows humor is currently a growth industry, and Frank Rich estimates that Trump vs. Twitter is No Contest, "the bland 'get the facts' labels ... are but tiny snowballs buried in his daily avalanche of lies." I appreciated the link to Tony Schwartz' piece on Medium, The Psychopath in Chief. A cautionary tale from +rump's autobiographer, to help us prepare for what is coming at us.

"So what does all this tell us about how we can expect Trump to behave going forward? The simple answer is worse. His obsession with domination and power have prompted Trump to tell lies more promiscuously than ever since he became president, and to engage in ever more unfounded and aggressive responses aimed at anyone he perceives stands in his way."

The guy for whom "Godwin's law" is named, Mike Godwin, weighs in on the idea of social media putting reins on the sociopath: The Trump-Twitter War Shows That Section 230 Can Work Beautifully. "Without Section 230’s protections from liability for what its users post, Twitter likely would have felt compelled to censor Trump entirely."

27.May 2020 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Reigniting the dream of space Permalink to this item

Tuned into the Launch America live stream on YouTube while the two astronauts were tapping their way through preflight and the talking heads were talking, keeping 6 feet apart from each other. "SpaceX CEO and Chief Engineer" Elon Musk came on and said stuff, and I was thinking about what a fascinating guy he is, brilliant, innovative, and sometimes seeming a bit unhinged. Would I want to be on top of "his" rocket? IDK. But I see that you can be an astronaut and wear glasses, that's interesting. My headline above is what Musk said today is about. Here goes.

Describing the touchscreens and buttons the pilots have to work with, and giving us a view of them, I'm thinking those affordances are a little close together for poking with gloves on. There's one honest-to-god lever in front of them, that's the one for "abort."

When they ran through the comm checks, it sounded like it was someone else identified as "Chief Engineer" for today's flight. Sounds good. Hatch closed, leak check good. Less than 2h from launch, "weather permitting." (It's raining, lightly.)

Speaking of useless baggage, here's a live view of Air Force One coming in with our Spectator-in-Chief abord. "No doubt he's looking through the window."

From the live feed!

Update: The weather did not cooperate. They had an "instantaneous launch window," couldn't wait another 10 or 20 minutes to see if things would improve. Dang it.

26.May 2020 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Lacunae Permalink to this item

One of our bookshelves

Twenty years by months (plus one for the mid-month start) is 241 issues of this here ISSN #1534-0007, which may or may not be dutifully archived in the world's library system. I see the WayBackMachine missed almost the whole first year, and then skipped around to collect 436 snapshots from April, 2001 to last December. As they say, that's "the number of times was crawled by the Wayback Machine, not how many times the site was actually updated." And, almost never the "final" word, which would be at or near the end of the month. Stepping back through my monthwise URLs, I see it's that same end-of-the-line month, /blog/201912.html that is the most recent capture. In that case, at least, they grabbed two copies, one on January 4, 2020, and another on February 15. (Perhaps there were after-the-fact corrections, as I sometimes make. Or perhaps not.) For my seldom-altered site "splash" page at the top, I see there's a barrage of captures this year, February through April. Almost three dozen... identical snapshots.

Robots! What are you going to do? It's a reminder to keep my backups up-to-date, at least. has a ton of work to do, and I have no idea how they keep up with even a first approximation. The top tag line says "more than 439 billion web pages saved over time," which, at fifty or more per capita, you see I'm already taking up more than my share of the lot. It's just as well I didn't make each daily entry an item; there have been 5,072 of those (counting this one), and some days with multiple entries.

My reason for looking was to see which interesting book(s) I'd featured in the sidebar, on the way to updating my personal list of interesting books, and sure enough, Andrew Blum's The Weather Machine; A Journey Inside the Forecast needed to be added. Thankfully, I'd done a more complete write-up here on the blog last July, with plenty to refresh my memory.

24.May 2020 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Let's be smart, and kind. Permalink to this item

Here's an amazing minute and a half video of one of the most respected Governors in the Union, Doug Burgum of North Dakota (and a charismatic sign language interpreter), with a simple, and really good idea: Let's be smarter, kinder, more empathic, and more understanding.

It's so strange to have almost all of our leaders and health officials on the same page, but one, the potent force of chaos and disruption at the top.

“If someone is wearing a mask, they’re not doing it to represent what political party they’re in or what candidates they support,” Burgum said, before his voice began breaking. “They might be doing it because they’ve got a 5-year-old child who’s been going through cancer treatments. They might have vulnerable adults in their life who currently have covid, and they’re fighting.”

22.May 2020 Permanent URL to this day's entry

What's shaking? Permalink to this item

Latest Earthquakes view from USGS

Kind of fascinating to check in with the USGS to see what's happening. There's a couple dozen west of Tonopah, which I don't think I could've placed on the map without help ("southwesterly") even though it lives on in song (with Tehachapi and Tucumcari). I see it's halfway between Reno and Las Vegas along the Nevada-California angle, and just south of Hawthorne, which I remember from an overnight in 1974, the day before the transmission ran dry. Foreshocks, a 5.3 yesterday evening, and then aftershocks, continuing to an M4.4 and M4.2 at the other end of a line, the Basin & Range province readjusting itself.

The larger map shows overnight's big event was an M6.1 a hundred miles off Cabo San Lucas, in the jaggedy Gulf of California Rift Zone. Highly recommend this 3 minute diversion from IRIS ("Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology," a bit of a stretch), Gulf of California: Earthquakes & Tectonics, complete with zipper, and 20 million year-animation.

Earthquakes view from USGS

But "as usual" in the last two months, I'm here to see the "Shake Creek swarm" (I'm calling it), started with an M6.5 the evening of March 31 (local time), and followed by a long train of hundreds of aftershocks, including 30 in the last week. The M4.4 yesterday morning at 5:33:50 MDT was big enough for some friends in Boise to feel. Maybe it woke us up? Without rising to conscious attention. That was on the north flank of Cape Horn Mountain, above the top of the Stanley Basin, and where Marsh and Bear Valley Creeks come together to make the Middle Fork of the Salmon River. 158 quakes M2.5+ in the last 30 days, now just over 600 in 7½ weeks.

18.May 2020 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Stop me if you've heard this one already Permalink to this item

Middle of May, 1980, I was hitchhiking from Moscow to Anacortes, Washington, where I was to skipper a two week sailing trip in the San Juans. Got a late start on Saturday, and made it as far as Dusty (!), slept rough by the side of a little side road, across from a horse pasture. Sunday morning, caught what seemed like just the ride I needed from a fellow headed to see friends in Ellensburg, figured I might get where I was going by mid-afternoon. He was driving a brand-new Mazda RX-7, so whooee.

We stopped at the gas & groc in Othello, I went inside for breakfast and before I'd done that, my driver came into get me. "Come on out and look at this big storm that's coming," he said. I went outside, looked at what was coming, and without a moment's hesitation, said "Mt. St. Helens blew up."

I'd never seen a wall of billowing ash headed my way before, but I knew one when I saw it. Smaller-scale eruptions had been making news since March, and this was obviously the Big One.

We had places to go, drove toward it, under it, still in clear air, as the ash covered half the sky started to turn day into night. I could see lightning in the clouds through his sunroof. We stopped to close up the sunroof (still in clear air), and I realized the clouds were billowing, billowing, billowing as they rolled east and came down toward us.

We drove on, into the ash as it reached the ground, the daylight blotted down to a sliver behind us to the east and then blotted out. It was darker than the blackest night I can remember, in the middle of the day. Down the long grade to the Columbia, I didn't realize we were going downhill, driving along a two-lane road at 25 mph or so, following the fog line to stay on the road. Oh, here's the Columbia River! And the freeway. We crossed the bridge, he said "maybe we should stop in Vantage," I said nothing until we were past the exit. "That was it, back there," I said, definitely not wanting to stop in Vantage.

Where SIX INCHES of ash fell that day. A very good place not to stop.

I wondered how long it might last. As in, how many days. We had the windows and vents closed tight, I moistened a bandanna to breath through as we drove.

Up to Ellensburg, where State Troopers had closed down the highway (just a dozen miles or so further would have got me clear!), a stop at a grocery store to ask directions to find my driver's friend's place. Everyone seemed dazed by what was happening. His friends were watching the event on TV. I walked through town to the bus station, as the sky had lightened to a weird twilight, ash still falling, some guy out washing his car, absurdly. The bus station was confusion; no buses were going anywhere. No one was going anywhere. I eventually got a ride to the (Presbyterian?) church on the east side of town where word was they would put up stranded travelers. Another wave of ash came through, blackened the sky completely, and then there was just a sliver of color to the east for the sunset. Spent the night at the church, they fed us dinner, showed a movie.

The next morning, I walked into town, breakfast at a café and a ride out in a rattling jeep, just after they reopened the highway. A short way up I-90, sure enough, we were out of the ash. I was a whole day late in Anacortes, and my crew waiting for me were hopping mad, never mind my story of going through a volcanic eruption.

Forty years ago today.

Don Wilson photo, Anderson's Scenic Postcards

17.May 2020 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Weeklong rampaging lurch Permalink to this item

Friday's report from the NYT team starts with "even by President Trump’s standards, it was a rampage" which makes me wonder about standards. Let alone +rumpian "standards." Are we grading him (and his followers) on the curve now? Yes, yes, we expect insanity, inanity, but even for him, this.

The idea of our IMPOTUS "demanding" that his predecessor "answer questions before the Senate" about the federal investigation of admitted liar Michael T. Flynn conjures up some wild, made-for-TV moments. "Even by President Trump's standards."

The president who knows nothing, thinks he knows everything, can do nothing, says "I alone can fix it," takes no responsibility at all, thinks he can command everyone, anyone, to do anything.

"Far from a one-day onslaught, it was a climactic moment in a weeklong lurch by Mr. Trump back to the darkest tactics that defined his rise to political power. Even those who have grown used to Mr. Trump’s conduct in office may have found themselves newly alarmed by the grim spectacle of a sitting president deliberately stoking the country’s divisions and pursuing personal vendettas in the midst of a crisis that has Americans fearing for their lives and livelihoods."

What else does he have? "The growth-and-prosperity theme of his campaign disintegrated," they note, beggaring understatement. “They wiped out my economy!” maybe he said, and why wouldn't he? They! Wiped out! My!

"Mr. Trump and his campaign were going on the offensive in nasty ways in an attempt to shift the attention of the public away from him and onto other targets, and ultimately onto Mr. Biden. ...

"Mr. Trump has instruments available to him in 2020 that he did not have as a candidate four years ago — tools like a politically supportive attorney general, a Republican-controlled Senate determined to defend him and a vastly better financed campaign apparatus that has been constructed with the defining purpose of destroying his opponent’s reputation."

Tools like Bill Barr! And the demons inside his head projecting his own faults and predilections onto others, sure that Obama "was personally involved in a plot against him," because that is exactly what +rump would do. Has done. It's just possible that "an overwhelmingly negative" campaign might not get the job done this time, when "voters are likely to be looking for a combination of optimism, empathy and steady leadership at a moment of crisis unlike any in living memory."

Can you imagine? Any one of those coming from +rump? Of course, you cannot.

Rose Garden reader board

14.May 2020 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Blogiversary Permalink to this item

20 years ago today, I put up my first post on this blog. No headline, no hyperlinks, no RSS, no ads, just one sentence:

This is what those thousands of years of evolution were all about: being able to share our thoughts with a million other humans.

The world and the new millennium were shiny and new, and it seemed like wonderful things were happening, and I was playing my microscopic part in helping them along (even if my readership never quite got up to a million). "Search is hot" I said a couple days into the adventure, stating the kind of obvious. There was a joke about paper clips, and yay, that link to the BBC is not dead. I suppose a lot of the old ones will be, even that day #3 item on my own site, whoops, although I have kept the content connected, and alive for multiple hosting plans.

The HTML is hand-fashioned with gvim and a short stack of macros I've been using for all this time, the software tying it together my perl script that wraps dailies into monthlies with the blogroll and stuff, an RSS feed if you can find that orange rectangle, and know what it's for. Still a wild jumble of facts, opinions, utility, humor, images, politics, religion, economics, engineering, life. Here's to the next 20, if technological civilization and I survive that long!

Smoke plant, in the rain

Mind the gap Permalink to this item

[Margaret Mead on what we learn from studying, immersing in another culture (in Culture and Commitment, Doubleday, 1970), Jeanette's handwritten interpretation on both sides of a small note.]

Among observations on continuity of cultural style: explanations persist even in face of new information, new experiences. Unstable times affect memory and ability to learn, absorb new information; disturbing events [Vietnam war's crimes against Vietnamese and US loss, disgrace... then return of trade relations after communist takeover we fought to prevent] are forgotten... certainly the cause-to-results forgotten. (See p. 31 top) Maintaining identity, one's sense of who we are in relation to others, is reinforced when challenged.

What's remembered are details that reinforce the rightness of one's own sense of self.

Conflict-laden, punishing child-rearing and experiences are curiously persistent. That which is unnamed, undescribed—habits of structuring lives—are the most characteristically persistent.

Aspen, rain

There was a review of "Miss Mead" (as they referred to her back then), John W. Aldridge, and Sidney Hook in the New York Times, by Edgar Z. Friedenberg, now under Mead's title, Culture and Commitment, in the reconstructed archive. (You should refer to the TimesMachine image copy; the transcription has lacunae from scanning failures.) The original shows the three book titles "taken together," and Mead's subtitle: "A Study of the Generation Gap." The review started on page 123 of 493 of the Sunday, March 8, 1970 paper.

"Culture and Commitment" presents the texts of a series of lectures delivered at the American Museum of Natural History in March, 1969, in celebration of its centennial. Miss Mead has herself been more than 40 years professionaly concered with the processes—critical to anthropology—by which culture is transmitted from one generation to another..."

And that was the near sum of positive things Friedenberg had to say about Mead, before going on to deride her "little book" (it's 113 pages), which "adds very little to the literature on intergenerational conflict." Despite "several works of real distinction" back then, one by someone whose name you don't remember, the genre "seems already too voluminous." (His own work, The Vanishing Adolescent came out from Beacon Press in 1959, perhaps he thought he'd said all that needed to be said?)

Mead's elaboration on the changes between generations wrought by variations in the "prevalent rate of social change" are wrapped up as "say[ing] nothing at all about the moral or political content of intergenerational conflict," you know, back when morality was a thing, and a while before Richard Nixon's and Henry Kissinger's war crimes had been revealed. "The result is wholly non-controversial and makes no specific demands," he tut tuts before noting that "in structure [the book] resembles "A Christmas Carol," and oh by the way "the world has become as loveless, commercial and tawdry as Christmas itself." It makes you feel a little sorry for the reviewer.

He's more animated by Aldridge's "much more shrewdly" observing, and his being "both more curious and more original in his insights than most," in describing "the failure of the young." The critic loves a critic, but he then critiques Aldridge: "his self‐appointed task of challenging the 'pieties and pomposities of the youth movement' seems grotesque."

"It is quite true that one need not be “the most intelligent, sensitive, morally scrupulous, and generally magnificent generation ever to grace human history” in order to protest these atrocities. The point is, rather, that one needs to be among the least sensitive and morally scrupulous generations ever to grace human history in order to put up with them without protest; and this Mr. Aldridge's generation—as his book rather clearly illustrates—has managed to achieve marvelously."

That was not the end of "marvelous" achievements by the least morally scrupulous among us, eh.

It's perhaps too easy to gloss over the unrest of the time, when assassination was the most potent political force going, the ashes of rioting in major cities across the country were still smoldering, student protests roiled universities, and the My Lai massacre was under investigation, a year away from its conclusion identifying Lieutenant William Calley Jr. as the scapegoat, earning him a life sentence that would turn out to be 3½ years of house arrest. (Hello, Paul Manafort!) Less than two months after this obscure triptych was filed, Ohio National Guardsmen would gun down four students at Kent State University.

For his part, I see Edgar Zodaig Friedenberg had some well-received books of his own, before decamping the same year as his review to Canada in protest of the Vietnam War, and to spend his last three decades in Novia Scotia. While we're spinning through the time machine, here's Friedenberg talking to Studs Terkel, which is interesting, to hear the timbre of their voices, and their accents, and talking about "kids these days" and "playing it cool," sixty years ago, when I was not yet old enough to be "young" myself. They lamented young people not being active enough, ten years before they became too active for the liking of some.

The "he" and "him" and "himself" supposedly signifying for all youth now clanks in my ear. Was it really all-encompassing back then? I don't think so. I think men talked about themselves as if they were all that mattered. When women were to be discussed, they would be brought up in particular (and generally, they weren't brought up). After a friendly conversation, that's a wrap:

"No pat answers were given, but avenues of exploration were offered."

13.May 2020 Permanent URL to this day's entry

The day the Earth stood still Permalink to this item

Ages ago, April 24, Jonathan V. Last pointed out some economic truths: We Cannot “Reopen” America. "No matter when government stay-at-home orders are revoked, the American economy will not reopen. Because the source of the economic shock is not government orders. It's the pandemic."

He quotes from Nick Eberstadt's even more ancient (not quite a month-ago) thoughts about the shape of things to come in post-pandemic world, written from the "fog of war" phase of the calamity, as he puts it. Talk of post-pandemic seems more premature now than it did in mid-April, never mind the sun and flowers coming out. We all remember pre-pandemic, more or less, you know, February and January and stuff. And now we're trans-pandemic, which is not going to be post-pandemic by Easter, nor by Pentecost. (I had to look that up. May 31. Followed by the Ninth Week in Ordinary Time, go figure, and as if.) Anyway, what Eberstadt said:

"[M]any remain trapped in the mental coordinates of a world that no longer exists."

The markets yo-yo between drunken celebrations over $trillions of stimulus to the morning hangovers narrated by a president rage-tweeting from his own personal Twilight Zone. You can't have a "V-shaped recovery" when the start side is vertical, Timmy-down-the-well. "Economic normalcy within months" is less likely than our current president suddenly experiencing empathy, or his son-in-law effectively managing a supply chain. And all that doom and gloom is here in the richest nation on Earth, give or take.

"[T]the situation for the populations of low-income countries—and for least-developed, fragile states—could prove positively catastrophic. Not only are governments in these locales much less capable of responding to pandemics, but malnourished and health-compromised people are much more likely to succumb to them. Even apart from the humanitarian disasters that may result directly from raging outbreaks in poor countries, terrible indirect consequences may also lie in wait for these vulnerable societies. The collapse of economic activity, including demand for commodities, such as minerals and energy, will mean that export earnings and international remittances to poor countries are set to crash in the months ahead and remain low for an indefinite period."

Way out here in Idaho, we have a freewheeling Lt. Governor with time on her hands, and she is whingeing about our Governor trying to protect the state's citizens with stay-at-home orders, and shutting down non-essential businesses.

With local headlines including a local food plant being shut down after employees tested positive for Covid-19 (after a nearby beef processing plant had a couple dozen workers with the virus, but "plant operations will continue as normal," wut?), the prediction of broad risk of Covid-19 at wildfire camps this summer, and especially that one about virus spikes could emerge weeks after US economic reopenings, here comes Janice McGeachin firing for effect with an op-ed, calling on Idahoans to "Ameliorate Government's Heavy Hand."

When your inside is out, and your outside is in, then your outside is in when your inside is out, so come on. Come on, it's such a joy, come on, it's such a joy. Come on, make it easy, come on, make it easy. More cowbell.

Update: We haven't had any shootouts at the Crash-N-Burn. Yet. But oh, Texas, we so admire you being "willing to die" for your freedom to be stupid.

8.May 2020 Permanent URL to this day's entry

We're going to be in this pandemic a while Permalink to this item

Anderson Cooper just turned "big picture" into a verb. "If you could just kind of big picture your assessment where we are with this virus right now?" Fragmented responses in every country, and jurisdiction. "We don't have a unified approach," his guest responded.

Could we possibly have a less capable administration in D.C. to respond to this crisis? First it was the preposterously magical "15, down to zero" dream, stirred in with "by April, it will go away," and "like a miracle."

There have been many way stations of absurdity from Mardi Gras, through Lent, "spring break" and here past Easter, and we have not resurrected ourselves out of the woods. Mike Pence figured "Memorial Day" would do it, two weeks ago yesterday, showboating on Fox News with Geraldo. Gentleman, start your engines! Do holidays make you think of miracles?

CNN's interview with Laurie Garrett, author of The Coming Plague in 1994 (!) is worth the 20 minutes to watch. She's figuring maybe Memorial Day 2022 or 2023; long after the TrumPence Circus will have packed up and left town, we can hope. But talking about the administration's "strategic goal" seems wildly generous. Their strategic goal is to do whatever it takes to stay in power.

Garrett's best case scenario: we get a "home run" vaccine that doesn't need refrigeration and works in one dose with no side effects, and it doesn't require a syringe to administer. Faster than we've ever developed a vaccine before. More probably, 4 or 5 years from now, every "single aspect of our life will have changed."

Screen shot from CNN

Watch as Garrett's eye roll turns into a whole-head roll when Cooper asks her this: "In all your research on pandemics ... did you ever imagine that the federal government's response would be what it has been?"

Fortunately, "just part of the editing process" for the CDC Guidelines was to have a 17 page document leaked to the media: good information, very specific detail about getting through the road we're on, with interim guidance for child care programs; for schools and day camps; for churches; for employers with vulnerable workers; for restaurants and bars; for mass transit administrators. Guidelines for (re)opening, safety and hygiene, monitoring and preparing, and for closing, if needed, phase by phase.

Having the CDC *not* in charge during this pandemic is the New, New Thing. It's the single most toxic symptom imaginable for our current bout with Sociopathic Narcissistic Personality Disorder: IMPOTUS was hell-bent for "good numbers" to continue his ride on the prosperity he inherited, so that he can enjoy another term of adulation of mobs, Secret Service protection, free helicopter rides and a Stay-Out-Of-Jail Attorney General covering his backside.

7.May.2020 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Shopping day Permalink to this item

First Thursday (I'm sure of it now), time to save a buck on a big bag of coffee at Grocery Outlet, and whatever else looks good. I managed to kill everything on my list and the center of the sunny morning there and at our local Winco. More people were wearing masks than I expected; not all people. More staff than I remember last week. Distancing seems to be more natural to everyone, with or without their faces covered, but then midweek, midmorning, it wasn't crowded either place. There's a new sneeze panel up between the paired bagging areas at the end of the Winco checkout conveyors, and no gal was barking up my heels like last week, but I did see the end of a little snit just outside the entrance on my way in.

Unmasked, middle-aged gal—was that Little Miss Sunshine again?!—was expressing her contempt and/or disgust at a young woman wearing a mask, and carrying her baby (with a mask), and as I went in and about my business, I was wondering how that got going, and just what is wrong with someone who would pick a fight with a woman carrying a baby at a grocery store.

When I was done and rolling with my cart, one fellow not in a mask smiled at me, and I don't know if I smiled back or not, but I did think about how nobody can see whether you're smiling, or snarling, when you have a mask over your mouth and nose.

And it wasn't a revelation, but more of a confirmation, that wearing a (home-made, folded bandanna) mask, when I'm wearing glasses really stresses me out, because it's hard to control leakage past the top edge, and my glasses fog up, and walking around unable to see is n.g.

Yes, thankyouverymuch, I know leakage is bad, the whole idea is to breathe through the mask, but without that metal strip bent around the arch of the nose, at least, these things just don't seal. Mouth breathing down and out is limited, and also not satisfactory mitigation. Taking my glasses off periodically helps, but I don't want to be fussing with my face or them, either.

Part of the motivation to stay calm and carry on was on the radio between stops, NPR science reporter Rob Stein with the details of a Harvard analysis for Morning Edition. "Without enough testing, there's no way to make sure you can spot new infections quickly, and keep the virus from roaring back in places where it's under control, or protect places that haven't been hit hard yet, because the virus is still out there, and most people are still vulnerable."

From Idaho Reports, May 6, 2020

Idaho remains on the low end of the case and death count, but we're not in the group of 9 states deemed to be doing enough testing, with less than a third the daily testing estimated to be needed. "Some states that are already relaxing their social distancing restrictions, such as Georgia, Texas and Colorado, are far from the [testing] target." Which is to say, we're running an experiment on ourselves.

"States should also see a consistent decline in the number of cases, of two weeks at least, according to White House guidance," before it's safe to open things up. (That's the White House guidance that the White House is planning to ignore.) Idaho's ramp up in cases looks pretty damn steady to me, even with our under-testing. The NYT's graph of new reported cases in the state shows it way down from the peak last month, but still rather steady. With social distancing measures in place. And a lot less testing than we need.

NYT datagraphic, new cases in Idaho

FIRE READY AIM Permalink to this item

There will be more to say about blogging in this 20th anniversary edition of the monthly, but it seems my reticulating attention has been getting sent to my Twitter feed more than this medium, in between other tasks and distractions. It loops back to the early days, and month #0, when blurbs were short, pictures were small, and we were temporarily relocated to California. The internet was still kind of shiny and new, even though the shine had come off the dot com bubble. It was the time between the popping, and the disintegrating membrane washing the economy into the gutter. And it was pre-9/11. It's not easy to cast the mind back into what the Before Time was like.

I've put out a couple dozen tweets since the last post here, Saturday. (It's Thursday now. I think.) The three minute message from President George W. Bush, with a call to unite. "Empathy and simple kindness are powerful tools of national recovery. ... We rise or fall together." (The +rumpian reply was to whine that GWB had not rushed to his defense during his sham impeachment trial, after the House identified sufficient high crimes to justify his removal.) Larry Kudlow insisting he was right before he was so obviously wrong. Jay Rosen's observation that 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."

There are, of course, tax changes buried in the CARES Act that could be worth millions to the +rump-kushner crime family, and the media are reporting on the bumbling amateur hour effort of slim jim applying his "business acumen" to rounding up PPE and stuff.

A week ago, US deaths had reached nearly 63,000. This morning 73,435. It's like there were three 9/11s in the past week. But IMPOTUS thinks "our economy is going to be raging" and he thinks everything is about his endless campaign to be president, which he has shown us he can never really be.

Andy Slavitt's thread this morning details how there was, actually, a plan, but "we just decided not to stick to it." It seemed too hard. The weather got too nice. Testing and contact tracing is difficult. Who likes wearing a mask in public? The nation's top disease investigators wrote a step-by-step plan and the adminstration shelved it.

Parscale's tweet, with a Death Star GIF

But Brad Parscale, he is a man with a plan for Don the Con. "For nearly three years we have been building a juggernaut campaign (Death Star)," he wrote on Twitter this morning. "It is firing on all cylinders. Data, Digital, TV, Political, Surrogates, Coalitions, etc."

"In a few days we start pressing FIRE for the first time."

Ok, it's weird how it's simultaneously firing on all cylinders like a gasoline engine from 1918 and he's about to start pressing FIRE for the first time. And it's weirder still that he's thinking in DEATH STAR terms just now (carried away by May the Fourth I guess), as the nation has been riveted on the death toll from the pandemic for the past month and a half. March 31, we had less than two 9/11s in total. Now it's three a week, and the endless campaign is ready to press FIRE FIRE FIRE FIRE FIRE.

2.May 2020 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Long walk through opinions Permalink to this item

The one reliable marker of time is the arrival of the Sunday newspapers and the reminder that we are now one week further behind in keeping up. One of the older April Sundays' NYT was as crisp as if it had been ironed, and I thought well, I should at least look at my three favorite sections, a little. But before that, last Sunday's, before another Sunday. There were several excellent pieces I want to say something about, or at least tweet, or send to the right friend.

One can, of course, search by title keyword and author, and find it in a moment, but I went to the home page and clicked on "Opinion" and the long page was all in May. SHOW MORE brought another day's worth. SHOW MORE. MORE. MORE. And oh, so many interesting headlines, yes I want to read that, and that, and that. I had a railful of tabs and I was just back to Monday.


There's the judge who won in Wisconsin, Jill Karofsky, and the principle more important than winning. An invitation to learn what a spacewalk can teach you about isolation. And finally, SHOW MORE stopped showing more, with the oldest date April 26. Huh. Looks like I'll have to use Search after all.

Excerpt of the centuries-old engraving

Unsurprisingly, last Sunday's opinions are dated still earlier, and "Orhan Pamuk plague novels" is a rifle shot through the pulped forest. What the Great Pandemic Novels Teach Us, summarized in the subhead: "People have always responded to epidemics by spreading rumor and false information, and portraying the disease as foreign and brought in with malicious intent." (In case that point needs emphasis, Michelle Cottle's opinion that Republicans, It’s Too Late to Back Away From Trump, notes the 57-page memo from a top party strategist is mostly about "tips, talking points, timelines and background data geared toward making this crisis All About China.")

But out of the bleakness of death closing in around us, there is the possibility of solidarity, and humility. Written from Istanbul, by a 2006 Nobel Prize winner who is working on a novel himself, "Nights of Plague." (Who knew? His country's best-selling writer.)

The images are better (and more numerous) in the online version. The engraving from Daniel Defoe's "A Journal of the Plague Year," depicting Quaker Solomon Eagle in an eye-catching get-up for prophesying "evil tidings" in 1665 London leads.

What you don't have online is the serendipitous juxtaposition of Diana Spechler's The Nude Selfie Is Now High Art, but now that you know it's next door, you can see its better online images, too, including Goya’s “La Maja Desnuda,” painted around 1800, the garden of delights depicted in a manuscript, circa 1470, the “Venus of Hohle Fels,” speaking to us from prehistory out of a cave in Germany, Frida Kahlo's post-surgery “The Broken Column,” and Pablo Picasso’s “Self Portrait Facing Death,” 1972. That last one kind of gets us right now, and for as famous as P.P. and his images are, not one I'd ever seen.


Tom von Alten
ISSN 1534-0007