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May 03, 2020


There will be a lot of broken habits that will slow if ever, to recover.

If Millinals survive the stress of learning how to cook, they may be slow to return to eating out. Both because of the perceived, even if a reduced risk and some of them wanting to cook now that they've learn how.

And there may be fewer kids returning to public schools. Some parents are no doubt dying to get their kids back in school. But some parents will have discovered other ways for their kids to get educated. They will discover that schooling is not necessarily the same as educating. They'll find alternatives like homeschooling, online schooling, unschooling, ala carte schooling.

Disasters often hit the reset button for a lot of things. Before Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans had some of the worse schools in the country will little hope of meaningful improvement. Now their schools are almost 100% charter. Not the best schools in the country but a lot better than what they replaced.

A lot of people will discover that they like working at home and will resist returning to offices no matter how safe.

Off topic, but since this is the most recent post -- numbers for US and UK updated in the "For hsh" graphs through 5/3.

I've owned Berkshire Hathaway stock several times thru the years ..... just got back in a few weeks ago.

Warren Buffet decision to invest heavily in airlines stocks was one of the head-scratchers of his career.

For decades, he had sworn he would never put money in the airlines. It is the most cyclical industry going and when tough times hit their totally leveraged assets sit on the ground, moldering as their bankers fidget.

He would figuratively spit on the floor when the subject came up in interviews.

Then around 2015-16, he changed his mind, saying the airlines, like the Chicago Cubs, had just, he hoped, put a bad century behind them and seemed to have become more of a value growth industry.

My theory is that as Buffet and Munger began to bring younger money managers on board during the last decade to groom them for the inevitable succession in the Berkshire conglomerate, he got talked into something.

Now, like the Cubs, he's changing the lineup again.

1. From lj's 2nd link (with the usual disclaimer that I haven't read the whole thing carefully...yet):

The border county of Cavan now has the highest number of cases relative to its population, even though it is only the 25th largest county by population in Ireland.

Is there any logic to this sentence at all?

2. And then, good luck figuring out what a "caretaker taoiseach" is, a concept that seems to render the Irish even more convolutedly verbose than they normally are. E.g. here and here.

3. Other than that, if Warren Buffett says (in lj's first link) that the outbreak could have an “extraordinarily wide” range of possible outcomes, who am I to prognosticate?

4. Clearly I'm getting punchy, so it's time to stop.

Even the mighty sage of Omaha blunders now and then, I mean he's ONLY 89 years old. Give him time.

Gives me hope.

The airline play is rather odd. Buffet made a big name (and lots of money) on fundamentals analysis...good solid earnings growth, Low P/E, solid undervalued assets, stolid but sound management vision, nothing fancy. The airline industry has historically been the exact opposite...remember the days of Howard Hughes? I'd have rather bet the farm on cocoa futures.

But even Buffet can run out of investment opportunities as the ginormous size of his portfolio made it more difficult to distinguish his strategy from that of an ordinary index fund.

A pity Pablo Escobar didn't go public. Now there was a value play. Strong sales, fantastic earnings, no debt, free cash flow off the charts, and when the end came...a great short opportunity.

There will be salvage in the wreckage....always is. I confidently predict the market will go up or down.

Now their schools are almost 100% charter. Not the best schools in the country but a lot better than what they replaced.


Ya' don't say!

Grifters gotta' grift!

You can't be serious.

I keep thinking about the "How does one become a janitor?" scene in Breakfast Club. One thing I think will be different is that the value of sanitation will be more appreciated. I've mentioned it before on this blog, but I ponder the value of effective cleaning practices in shared spaces, be it in offices buildings or public places. What unnecessary costs have been avoided over, I don't know, the last century or so by janitorial work?

I can imagine custodial jobs becoming more technical in nature, with more training and knowledge being required and more rigorous standards applied. I would like to think more pay would come with all of that.

Perhaps a similar line of thinking would apply to other jobs as well. "Working people" (a debatable term, I know) should be paid better for a number of reasons. Maybe I'm just looking for silver linings.

Just a couple initial items off the top of my head.

I expect a lot of business travel to get reconsidered. Initially, companies stop doing hardly any of it -- hey, it's a big plus for the sacred-to-MBSs bottom line. (Except the part that is just an executive perk, of course.) Then, after a few years, they start to figure out that some kinds of team building/networking/etc. just work better in person. Especially the stuff that comes out of serendipitous side conversations. The organizations which figure it out first will tend to be the ones that thrive.

In addition, lots of companies discover that they don't really need all the office space they have. Lots of jobs can be done just fine from home, and maybe the employee comes in a couple times a month. But it will take some major adjustments on the part of low level managers. Because they can't watch how people work; they'll have to manage by objective.

Commercial office space becomes a drug on the market. At least until it gets repurposed.

One up side to more virtual meetings? Race becomes less of a factor in evaluations and promotions, just because a voice alone is less likely to set off unconscious biases. (And it's far easier to cultivate a different accent than to change your looks.)

A lot of people are discovering that they have from 1-3 hrs more in the day--not commuting. For many this will be hard to give up.

I think a lot of business travel will go away, and a lot of meetings (especially if it is "here is our speaker") move online. I've just observed one that in its original form might have have 200 people, instead got 4000 worldwide.

bobbyp, yes. The thing is, with charter schools, upper class families are able to negotiate the system and make sure that their kids don't lost out. But for the ones who do not have that privilege, it doesn't happen, except for the rare case that then 'proves' that people can pull themselves up by their bootstraps if they just pull hard enough.

And I don't mean to crap on wj's optimism, but I'm teaching here in Japan and I'm amazed at how many teachers are demanding that students turn on their videos. I see the same dynamic happening in evaluations and promotions because not seeing faces means that the power relationship is diminished and people who would have the largest unconscious biases are not going to want to give up being able to see their subordinates.

This is a development


I joked that this would be a nice little earner for the UK government, you charge people for their immunity passport. Of course, this presumes a lot of things, like people don't get reinfected, transmission is contained. Honestly, if there is a way to monetize it, I'm sure some shithole will do it.

the company i work for has already unnecessary canceled biz travel through all of next year.

oh proof reading...

...has already canceled unnecessary biz travel ...

Regarding the subject of lj's link:

The presumptions are monstrous from the getgo, considering this:


This is going to be a long, hard slog during which Casey Stengel's peculiarities of the mind will manifest.

All of us are going to turn out like Jimmy Piersall, running the bases backwards exhibiting facial tics.

National Jewish Hospital in Denver just down the street from me is offering Covid-19 antibody tests for $92, as of late last week.

You must have an appointment and they can only be made online. No phone calls.

They open up appointments every few days for the few following days.

Thus far, no luck, and in fact a friend of my ex wife said she was putting her credit card information in when the site informed her all of the appointments were taken.

The total lack of a mediating human voice, even one dispensing false comfort, as a result of the now fully and forcibly (What? Because it's not government, but instead the "free" market that forced this "efficient" change upon us, it's somehow NOT force without choice? Pure American dog shit drivel!) intact technological trend (and it's going to get worse) to eliminate verbal interaction and then call the technology "interactive" is Orwellian, Kafkakian and Joseph Helleristic all rolled into one.

This waiting for, what, resolution, while fucking crazy malign animals in the White House rampage their ideological fetishes while using Covid-19 as cover.

Before any other "changes" are made to our lives, the one change that is going to happen is that those ilk will be fucking stopped, one way or the other.

And the less pretty that way is will be fair warning to any follow-up republican filth about governing going forward.


Meanwhile, just to IMAGINE getting a blood test to MAYBE supply some possible scientific footing for KNOWING something about one's own medical condition, and that without some unacceptable margin of error is, well, the stress I can only compare to the pilots and crews manning the bombing missions in Joseph Heller's "Catch-22".

You think you are nearing some end, or even possibly a vague outline pointing toward an end of uncertainty, and then disembodied words on a screen tell you, the whys and wherefores left to your own vivid imagination, that your possibly fatal missions have been extended yet again.

The only possible soothe is to move cocktail hour to yet again an earlier time during the day, but so as not to interfere with exercise hour, the reading hours, etc.

Anyway, I'm about to don my masked, gloved, and hooded ninja assassin get-up and venture out for provisions.

The elevator (now limited to one person or one family per ride) in my building now sports sanitary soap dispensers. I'm thinking of hanging my tooth brush in there too to remind me to brush before I leave home, the leaving routine being so unfamiliar from recent disuse.

Maybe they'll install a vanity mirror in there too.

How about a bidet? I fear the landlord may be thinking in the long term that the elevators could double as fully equipped bathrooms and wondering if they could save money by removing the bathrooms IN the apartments.

After all, things will change, won't they?

This time, I hope to remember to wash my hands before dressing, so I don't have to turn around in the hallway and take everything off, wash them, and then re-dress, like some chimerical combination of the hapless Inspector Clouseau and the art thief he is tracking.

Dressed as I am, I feel that I should be sneaking into Target via a skylight and lowering myself via Mission Impossible spider cable into the aisle of cleaning products, and taser a grandmother as she tucks the last box of Kleenex under her arm, repair to the bathroom to strip and reveal the tuxedo I'm wearing underneath, and then box of tissue in hand, waltz out the front door like David Niven heading to his villa in Monaco with the stolen Renoir.

Yes, things could be much worse.

I could be a mother in Africa slogging eight miles to the under-supplied, under-doctored clinic to petition someone regarding which of seven deadly diseases my children are near dying of.

Yeah, it could be worse, or better:

I could be John Wilkes Booth:


What a shit show nightmare.

First, disinfect the Lincoln Monument. It hasn't been so misused in all its history by viral vermin.

Then, tear down the monument and the Statue of Liberty.

Allow one last viewing and entry before the destruction for real Americans, but keep conservatives and republicans at savage gunpoint from participating and further shitting on us.

The monuments are disgraced, ruined by the subhuman anti-American conservative movement.

Give me a fucking break, or give me Death!

Fuck off conservatives. You will be punished.

Masks are for pussies, it's just the flu, it's the calm before the cytokine storm of full-scale insurrection:


There will be World War III nuclear war with China within three years if we don't stop the conservative vermin in the White House and the Chinese people do not stop the conservative vermin in Peking.

I will elaborate on that later this week.

We are about to engage in the greatest blind diplomatic stupidity, and we are doing it without a credible diplomatic corps, instead being led by Rapture-craving, Death-loving murderous fake Christians in thrall to a sadistic lout, since Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated.

The worldwide conservative nationalist confederacy is rushing toward the destruction of the human race.

A good start to firing a shot across their bow would be for the Brazilian people to rise up and kill Bolsonaro and his murderers in Brazil as an example, an out-of-town rehearsal, of what vengeful chaos is coming to the rest of them.

Biden in a coma, brain dead, with multiple indictments against him for sexual assault and a ham sandwich moldering greenishly on his untouched lunch tray is in that vegetative state better government than what we have now, or rather haven't.

It IS a binary choice.

We are about to engage in the greatest blind diplomatic stupidity, and we are doing it without a credible diplomatic corps,

On the contrary, we have a pretty good diplomatic corps. They're being ignored by the morons making our foreign policy currently, but they (mostly) haven't gone away. For which the next President will, I expect, be profoundly grateful.

Give me a fucking break, or give me Death!


A rallying cry for the times we find ourselves in.

The future is a country which features socio-demographic metrics like "excessive death" and "deaths of despair".

Oh wait, that's now.

One other change: our view of what constitutes an "essential job" will change. In places like Florida, for example, giving tatoos will be "essential."

And we have this:

A federal judge in Wisconsin ruled that strip clubs are entitled to emergency aid from the government, allowing them to start applying for loans today.
Good to know what small businesses are important.

Give me a fucking break, or give me Death!


This made me laugh too.

On the contrary, we have a pretty good diplomatic corps.

Alas, wj, friends in the know (non-lefties, at that) tell me that your foreign service has been so hollowed out of senior and even to some extent mid-level expertise, that it will take two or three generations (and I quote) to repair the damage, even assuming the right conditions, i.e. the election of a non-moron whose appointees understand what a diplomatic corps is actually for.


Read it and weep.

It's more 'give me what I want or I might shoot you'.

A City in Oklahoma Ends Face Mask Requirement After Store Employees Were Threatened

Scratch the 'might'.

From bobbyp's link, echoing what I said the other day:

The best guide to understand this has nothing to do with the disease itself. It’s Jonathan Metzl’s Dying for Whiteness, featuring patients literally dying of preventable diseases telling the author they would rather die than have Obamacare. These people aren’t just willing to let other people die so they can their “freedom.” They are willing to LET THEMSELVES DIE so they can have their “freedom.” Whether it is gun culture or health care or whatever else, there are huge numbers of Americans who are OK with death for others and even themselves if it makes them feel more secure in their own twisted ways–about race, about America, about hearing English in the buffet line. This is the America we have been dealing with for a very long time. So of course we aren’t going to do what it takes to limit this crisis. What ever made anyone think we would? And if Hillary was president, we’d probably be seeing even more protests over the shutdown, led by top Republican officials seeking to win this November.

I think the tone and volume of the protests against restrictions in Maine are almost surely worse because the governor is a woman.

I can't help but think about what kind of world I brought my children into. It's hard to know where this is all going. We may be looking at the worst crisis since the Great Depression, and we have the worst president possibly in the history of the nation.

I just finished reading "Dying of Whiteness", and it doesn't quite "feature patients literally dying of preventable diseases telling the author they would rather die than have Obamacare."

It's worse than that, and Metzl is a very gentle interlocutor.

It features patients literally on public assistance of one kind or many kinds or another, including Medicare and in some instances Medicaid, trailing oxygen canisters and IV drips, dying of preventable (though some prevention is going thanks to commie pinko fucking me) diseases telling the authors all sorts of dumb fucking shit.

Guns, suicide, no health insurance, opioids, and the No Mask of the White Death, Covid-19, given time, will do their demographic damage to the Republican Party.

Why, if the victims, who deserve our utmost empathy and our government handouts, were of any other race than proud white, we'd be calling it a cultural and racial pathology, but there is no political correctness like the kid gloves these folks are handled with.

They have elegies written about their victim hood.

They are Rosa Parks on a pogo stick wielding six guns.

Hillary would have been President for a shorter time than William Henry Harrison. If her terminal snivels and syphilis during the campaign didn't get her, a republican bullet surely would have in short order.

Alas, wj, friends in the know (non-lefties, at that) tell me that your foreign service has been so hollowed out of senior and even to some extent mid-level expertise, that it will take two or three generations (and I quote) to repair the damage, even assuming the right conditions, i.e. the election of a non-moron whose appointees understand what a diplomatic corps is actually for.

Following up on this - I have multiple contacts with some connection to State and the other big FP departments. They all report that senior staff have left and that junior staff are not becoming senior staff because there is no one who can give them performance evaluations. The junior staff are working short-handed, have not been given any raises or promotions, and are not getting any guidance from farther up the chain.

And these are not just people working in small countries, either.

Our FP is structurally and functionally in ruins.

GftNC and nous, thank you for the education. My usual optimism had led me to underestimate (easy to do, unfortunately) just how much damahe Trump and his boys have done there.

The anti-Nostrodamus of our evil benighted times actually formed these words with the soft tissue inside his full of shit republican gob:

"Well, I don’t want to get too far ahead of the story, Jake,” Kudlow said."


Forget it, Jake.

It's Chinatown.

Kevin Drum's hands are shaking.

That happens when you have a cancer damaged immune system and conservative republicans are gleefully and sadistically trying to murder you.


Someone should OUTLAW the wearing of facemasks in gun stores.

And mandate that customers lick each others eyeballs, also, too.

For FREEDUM! of course.

Third Russian Doctor Falls From Hospital Window After Coronavirus Complaint

What about outlawing carrying guns in face mask stores?

Oh, we don't have any of those latter beasts, priorities in the supply chains being what they fucking are.

Fauci and his colleagues should remain on the first floor of the White House and the NIH and the CDC and stay away from the windows and elevator shafts, accidental deaths being what they fucking are in our increasingly fascist conservative Russian and American world.

A song for America today.

Makes me want to cry.

The present is a foreign country. Of course, the victim trying to uphold the law was a nigger:


Aimee Mann has a song for that too:


No wisdom, no saving, only vengeance.

We can't get tested, we can't find toilet paper, we can't find hand wipes, but the White House just found and ordered 100,000 body bags.

Put THEM in those bags.

Fuck you, conservatives.

Mike DeWine of Ohio is one of those typical conservative republicans who learn their child is gay and has AIDS and decides to come in from the conservative a hard rain is gonna fall, as the bootstraps turn out to be a physically impossible bullshit platitude.


I was born in Ohio, as were both of my parents.

It has always been a hotbed of racism and antisemitism.

Where do you think I got my rabbit ears?

No doubt DeWine's conservative republican political career profited and capitalized from those dark right wing fuckings for decades, but now he's up against it and shows signs of being human.

Hooray for performance art. Not Olivier, but I don't know ..... Bill Bixby?

We'll take it, but you can blow out the candles without me.

Mike DeWine of Ohio is one of those typical conservative republicans who learn their child is gay and has AIDS and decides to come in from the conservative a hard rain is gonna fall, as the bootstraps turn out to be a physically impossible bullshit platitude.

I got no problem with that. FWIW, my impression is that DeWine has been pretty much on the ball through the whole COVID thing. In any case, whether soon or late, well done Governor De Wine.

In other Ohio-related news, today is the 50th anniversary of the Kent State shootings. My wife grew up in northeast OH - Akron and Stow - and was an undergrad at Kent on the famous day. One of the young women killed was an acquaintance of hers.

For whatever reason, we can't seem to figure anything out without somebody getting shot, or dying unnecessarily from illness, or whatever. Somebody's gotta die before we wise the fuck up.

I suspect that, in the foreign country of the future, it'll probably be no different.

It's not what you thought When you first began it You got what you want Now you can hardly stand it, though By now you know

It's not going to stop
It's not going to stop
It's not going to stop
'Til you wise up

A truly American tune. Or maybe just human.

What i think is that we're gonna drain this whole dumb-ass "you're not the boss of me" America First clown show to the very dregs before we wise the fuck up.

And then I don't know what the future looks like.

Tonight I'm thinking of the familly of Calvin Munerlyn, security guard at a Dollar Store in Flint MI, who was shot dead because he asked the wife of some gun-happy patriot to put a mask on while she shopped.

It's not going to stop
Until we wise up

There is no reason for any of us to believe that, in the foreign country of the future, any more of us will have wised up than have done so by now.

Thanks for the reminder of Kent State, russell. My sister taught there in later years, and I've been with her to the parking lot with the markers noting where the students who were killed that day fell. Can't walk past without crying, not just for them but for the stupidity of it all.

COVID-19 #'s have been updated through today in the other thread.


I'm going to be interested to see if the big conferences, conventions, trade shows make a comeback. I used to get sent to the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), the second biggest trade show in Vegas. For a tremendous number of the smaller equipment companies, those four days are make-or-break for their business for the year: they took orders for as much as 75% of their annual dollar volume. I also got sent to a lot of odd little technical conferences. The sessions were all well and good, but the most valuable part was the chance to catch one of the speakers at the bar where you could take turns scribbling on a piece of paper and putting odd ideas together.

God only knows what new PhDs in the social sciences will do if the ASSA meeting in January disappears.

THanks Charles, I just wrote to them.

Michael, I'm wondering about similar things here in Japan. My Japanese is pretty much in person Japanese. Over the phone, it's a lot worse, written without context, it might was well be baby talk. (there are a lot of things involved in that, not all of them on me btw)

So I'm trying to do all the things that I normally do at my university thru phone or email or god help me LINE. It's also hampered because I'm pointing out things that they often don't see and so assume that I as a foreigner, am just misunderstanding something. The new first years came in and we got two lists of names in chinese characters with the Japanese hiragana gloss, one for each 'kumi' which is half of the cohort, divided to provide some ease in scheduling and other things. Thru a mistake of cut and paste, one of the students on the first list had the same last name as a student on the other list and was exactly the same number in the list, but they had copied the first name of the other student (who was the opposite sex) into the first students name. I pointed this out and got told that yes, those were the first names, and I said no, they aren't right. Finally, after 15 minutes on the phone, I had to take a picture with my camera of the list, circle the offending name and send it to the office. It gets to a point of 'why don't you believe me when I tell you something'

But that rant aside, despite the image of a hi tech wonderland that Japan likes to sell, beyond toliet seats, it isn't really. Everything really gets done on personal connections and so called 'nemawashi' or root building. So not having face time not only makes things painfully slow, it really disadvantages people who are not completely within the system.

Early in all this, there was a story of a chinese phd student who died. He or she had tried to call 911 several times, but they couldn't understand the person and they were discovered dead. That's a dramatic example, but think of all the day to day interactions that are supposed to seamlessly be transferred to phone or computer and think about the people who are being left out. Depressing.

Any bets on when or how we get back to something recognizably "normal" are now inoperative: a leaked presentation by the CDC predicts the curve to go skyhigh in the next couple months.

200,000 more cases and 3,000 more deaths PER DAY.


Because we f*cking well "re-opened" too soon.

lj and CharlesWT -- wow, at first I thought only a couple of ObWi posts were listed on that Yglesias page. But there are lots of them! Including at least one of mine. I've written to them to. WTF?

Thanks, Charles.

I might write Matt (whom I don't know). Linkedin or Twitter? Any suggestions from you up to date types?

To return to the OT, in the (post-Trump) future the US will again be an important factor in the world. Because we're big enough that all we really need to do is show up. But never again will we be the go-to player, whenever something big happens. Because once everybody loses the habit....


If I try to channel optimism... If the rest of the world picks up all the balls that the US is currently dropping, and if the US can live with not being BMoC, we might be able to scale back our militarist jonez to a sustainable level and free up some budget space for taking care of our domestic problems.

Won't happen, I know, but that's what my optimistic fantasy would look like.


Uh oh, time to mind my manners - we got company.


In the foreign country that is the future, we may see more things like this and this.

Which might not be a bad thing.

Those two stories, russell, have me thinking that the future of the US may look something like the Hanseatic League, filtered through a layer of dysfunctional federalism.

Long ago, in the different country that was the past, one of my friends went on a lament, while we watched a kids' baseball game, that included this question: "When did we stop being 'citizens' and start being 'consumers'?"

I was reminded of that plaintive cry when I finally had to walk away from the incessant drumbeat of headlines and rants about "reopening the economy."

With Tony P. in mind, I observe that at least the transformation from citizens to consumers still framed us as individuals. Now we're not even that. Now we've been subsumed into a nebulous collective metaphor that stands in for the generation of wealth and profit, which we are here to serve, and which matters more than any number of deaths you could count.

The framing of the "reopening" in public discourse makes it seem like there's some rational relationship between it and the course of the epidemic beyond a toddler-like impatience with sticking with something hard, and helping everyone through it from our unimaginably large store of collective wealth.

There is no such rational relationship. We are going to have a bloodbath.

From Wendell Berry's poem "The Mad Farmer Liberation Front," which I'm sure I've quoted here many times:

When they want you to buy something
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know.
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute....

I used to think his phrase "die for profit" was a metaphor. Stupid me.

I don't read the NYT much, but...just in case it seems like I'm overreacting. At least I'm not alone, fat consolation that is.


Re russell's examples and nous's comment... I have long said the US needs something official bigger than a state and smaller than the national government. Binding interstate compacts are legally possible on a limited range of topics, but are hard to get approved. Examples where regional control might be more appropriate include management of the electric grid, fire policy (both before and after fires occur) in the vast currently-national forests, flooding in various river basins that span states.

hsh -- good, pithy summary.

Aaand in other news:

NYT Coronavirus Live Updates: As Threat of Virus Persists, Trump Administration Signals It Will Wind Down Task Force


REPORTER: Why won't you let Fauci testify before the House?

TRUMP: "Because the House is a set up. The House is a bunch of Trump haters ... they, frankly, want our situation to be unsuccessful, which means death."

The proof that this is not a spoof:


well sure, but China.

The proof that this is not a spoof

Self-parody is one of the Trump administration's core competencies.

But even before Trump said it explicitly, it was obvious from the fact that they were fine with Fauci testifying before the (Republican-run) Senate. It was just the House that he had no time for.

Yes, wj, I realised that. But listen to what he's actually prepared to say out loud

He's had a lifetime of not being held accountable. (Or responsible.) As a result of which, he doesn't feel the need (and has never acquired the habit) of self-censoring his words. The rest of us have learned that it is best not to say some things out loud. He hasn't.

Some other comments on the future, specifically the future of business in America:

The issues regarding warehouse workers at Amazon (and everybody else with warehouses; Amazon's certainly not unique) have been around for quite a while. But the current situation is bringing them into stark relief.

Which, I think, is going to be true more broadly: even in parts of our lives which are not directly seeing much impact, we are going to be looking at what is there really. Rather than just being comfortable with "how things are" as a matter of habit.

For instance, how will the legal profession change, now that anyone anywhere in the country can log on and listen to Supreme Court oral arguments? And the attorneys don't have to be in Washington for that either. Suddenly, being close to DC isn't the huge deal it has been. (I note also that, instead of just interrupting, the justices waited to get called on before speaking. And that Justice Thomas actually asked several questions, which doesn't hardly ever happen.)

Graphs updated to today. It's depressing.

There seems to be a rhythm to this experience, discoverable only as we go along. Settling in for the long haul requires a different sort of determination than the early weeks did, I find.

“This too shall pass” is a a very imprecise proposition. I had a mindset of “This isn’t the end of the world” that has become more and more dependent on how to define the end of the world. I still have hope that a breakthrough in a treatment or vaccine will put an end to this to a large degree, with so many of humanity’s brightest minds focused so intensely on it, but it’s certainly not just going away. And I’m more doubtful about how soon it gets tamped down before things start falling apart in a significant way.

The short version: I’m getting more and more worried about how bad things will eventually get.

Graphs updated to today. It's depressing.

Tuesday's a bitch.

Some may think this is an overreaction, but as the Buchanan joke goes, all this sounds a lot more natural if you hear it in the original German...

Don't know if any one wants to work on their German, but fortunately Natascha Strobl put this up in English.


via LGM

And Wisconsin's Republican chief justice just dismissed a coronavirus flare up because it only impacted people who work in meat packing plants and not "the regular folks."

can we declare the GOP an enemy of the people yet?

can we declare the GOP an enemy of the people yet?

Hey, maybe they actually have gotten tired of winning -- just like Trump said they would. And are pulling out all the stops to get some respite.

Becausem let's face it, you've gotta be trying hard to lose (and probably suicidal) if you're trash-talking the Packers in Wisconsin!

can we declare the GOP an enemy of the people yet?

We (humans, primates, vertebrates, animals, eukaryotic organisms) have always been at war with viruses.

The GOP is now filled with species-traitors. Treat appropriately.

I hear that filling their lungs with chlorine bleach can be a very effective technique.

The border county of Cavan now has the highest number of cases relative to its population, even though it is only the 25th largest county by population in Ireland.

If variations are random, one would expect outliers to be small counties.

I play bridge. It's a game which can be played online: the game is different without the social contact, and the triggers for concentration are missing, but some other aspects work better than face-to-face.

Not surprisingly, online play has exploded. The platforms are struggling to cope with demand. People like me who've been reluctant to play online have accepted reality.

This is never going back. Bridge clubs have many elderly members, and the playing environment, involving shared equipment, is ideal for transmission of respiratory-tract infections. Even when we restart regular meetings some will stay at home for safety's sake, and the remaining numbers may not be sufficient to cover overheads. Online sessions will continue as a major part of the club game.

we've started playing euchre on-line.

it's better in person, though. it's less fun to yell at your partner for not reading your mind correctly when you have to type it in.

We started playing a game called Codenames with friends before social distancing. It's a fun game to play over some drinks. We started playing on line by having someone put a photo of the cards on google docs and editing it as they got covered after teams would make their guesses. That would be viewed on one device, with a group video chat on another. The clue-givers (or "spymasters" in game parlance) would have to be paired up in the same location, so couples would be on opposite teams and give clues at the same time.

We started using the on line version of the game recently, and it's way easier logistically. Now two people in different locations can both be spymasters and don't need to have a collocated partner, but couples in the same room do still have to be on opposite teams and give clues on the same rounds because they necessarily will both know whose cards are whose. But you have to trust the people who are playing alone because they could select the spymaster option and reveal which cards each team is trying to guess.

Anyway, if you're looking for something to keep group video chats fun and lively, Codenames is a really good option. It has a good balance between being engaging and allowing for some interspersed casual chit chat. If you're drinking, it's funny to watch the debate and reasoning degrade as teams are trying to agree on which cards to guess.

I've recently become aware of the new wacko conspiracy theory "Plandemic." I'm actually not sure if it's just one conspiracy theory or if it's a name being used for a number of loosely related conspiracy theories. I don't want to click on any links to delve into the details, but from what's readily available in previews, it's really out there.

I don't know how so many people - people I've been friends with for years - can believe such ridiculous crap. It's really disheartening. I don't want to think they're stupid, but it's hard not to. **does not compute**

I hadn't seen any of that yet. Is it because I'm not on Facebook?

My head hurts.

Is it because I'm not on Facebook?

Well, you'd be more likely to have seen it if you were, but it's circulating more generally. It seems the main "Plandemic" is a youtube video from Dr. Judy Mikovits, who has credentials but a very checkered past. It's got something to do with a vast global conspiracy involving various elites trying to control us.

Why people will believe stuff like that over the simpler possibility that people like Dr. Mikovits are kooks, I don't know.

holy crap.

Fauci has 'killed millions since 1984' !

i lasted through about two minute of "Plandemic: the movie". the crap is far too dense to get through.

Amusing commentary from (which I just found via google, so not a blanket endorsement of this source):


1. Why people believe crazy things – Over the past two months, I have been receiving a steady stream of crazy conspiracy-laden emails—far more than usual. These range from your typical anti-vaccine nonsense to “5G data networks causes coronavirus” to the idea that the entire pandemic (or, excuse me, “plandemic”) is a well-coordinated hoax by some shadowy international cabal looking to… I don’t know, make lots of money, or something.

Many other readers have emailed me over the past month saying that they are alarmed at how many of their otherwise smart, well-adjusted friends and family have gone looney tunes recently and bought into this nonsense. They have asked me what it is about these theories that is so appealing. Why do smart people put their brain on hold while they check the other line for a few months?

Fortunately, I, too, was once 16 years old and believed every theory I read on the internet. So I kind of feel I understand where these people are coming from. As with most human behavior, conspiracy theorizing doesn’t appeal to us on an intellectual level, it appeals to us on an emotional level. And once you understand that, it all starts making a lot more sense.

Conspiracy theories originate from:

A) A Desperate Need for Certainty – Human minds are meaning machines. When something good happens to us, we demand to know why. When something bad happens to us, we also demand to know why. The better or worse the thing that happened, the more powerful the instinct to deduce the reason and cause.

The problem is that many of the most impactful events in human history can happen for no apparent reason. This drives the human mind bananas. The idea that millions of lives can end or be changed forever (and it was not consciously decided or controlled by some outside force) is just inconceivable to our brains on some level. We don’t like randomness because randomness means uncertainty and uncertainty means we’re not safe.

Therefore, we all have an extremely strong emotional urge to make sense of calamities in a way that gives someone or something conscious control of that event. The easiest way to do this is to find the people or groups who are most likely to benefit from said calamity. Generally, in crises, uber-wealthy people and governments benefit the most. They also have the most power to begin with. Ergo, most people’s minds have a strong gravitational pull towards believing that uber-wealthy people and governments must therefore be orchestrating the calamity in some way.

But the fact is that even the most competent individuals and governments are horribly inefficient and inept in most cases. Remember the first maxim of Negative Self Help — humans suck. You could add an addendum to that by saying, “Humans suck; human organizations suck even more.” I don’t care if you’re the CIA, the NRA, the Gates Foundation or the Hare Krishnas — human organizations are generally slow, wasteful, incompetent, and woefully unaware of the consequences of their actions. The idea that thousands of people could coordinate perfectly—in secret!—to accomplish some nefarious goal is insane, at least to anyone who has actually dealt with other humans in a significant capacity.
B) Feelings of Moral and Intellectual Superiority – When you believe something most other people don’t, you experience a sense of superiority and righteousness. You feel pity and outrage at the uninformed masses—outrage that you must become a great martyr to help save humanity from its blindness.

Ah, how dramatic!

If the craving for certainty attracts one to a conspiracy theory, the false sense of moral superiority cements it. Not only do you get to know why the virus spread, but you get to feel sorry for the confused masses. You get to be angry that more people don’t “open their eyes” or “wake up.” You get to argue really, really intensely on social media, or with some dickhead with a newsletter, that nooooo, if only you understood.

Basically, people hold onto conspiracy theories for the same reason they root for the underdog in sports, or they pick the most obscure film or band to be their favorite music, or they try to join secret clubs—the exclusivity grants them a feeling of importance.

The tragedy of all of this is that attacking these people for their beliefs makes them more determined. “Of course you’d attack me! The truth is too much for you to handle!” And on and on the false sense of importance goes.
C) Lack of Critical Thinking – I’ve always found it funny that governments can hardly pay for a toilet without it leaking to the press in some way, yet we’re supposed to believe that tens of thousands of people coordinated across the planet and not a single person broke the silence?

Or, how about the purported motive of most conspiracy theories is some form of “Rich guy wants to be even richer!”

Well, what the fuck? Why doesn’t he just invest in Amazon. I mean, given how long it would take to plan and execute a pandemic, that’s probably just as lucrative and you don’t have to kill millions of people!

Generally, I’ve found that conspiracy theorists are unable to think two or three moves ahead on the chess board. They fail to detect the difference between evidence and conjecture, what is fact and what is opinion. I’ve also noticed they’re just bad at math. For instance, they look at a situation with vaccines where you might have 37,000 deaths and 200 million lives saved, and because 37,000 is a really big number, they just assume it’s bad… without considering the fact that it’s 0.0018% of the number of lives saved.

But most importantly, conspiracy theorists just strike me as intensely lonely. To be able to believe such outlandish things about human nature, to assume that vast organizations can coordinate in such ways, and to see that amount of raw evil in the world… this seems only possible for someone who doesn’t get out nearly enough. Go talk to a couple of government officials and spend a few months in a corporate hierarchy. You will quickly see that they could hardly organize a children’s parade, much less build network towers that beam viruses into people around the globe simultaneously.
So, what do you do with a person who believes in a conspiracy theory? I think the best thing you can do is simply state facts while trying to relate to them on an emotional level. You can challenge their claims. But do it patiently, respectfully. Be kind. They will lash out emotionally—because, after all, conspiracy theories are about emotions, not logic—and they might call you names, say you’re evil, feel sorry for you, etc., etc.

But you’re not going to change their minds in one go. No, instead you must pepper them with information and perspective, and then just let it all take hold in the soil of their minds, like seeds of rationality.

And eventually, when these people do come out and start experiencing the world in all of its complexity and ambiguity, those seeds will sprout. And they will (hopefully) realize that, yes, they were being a dumbfuck.

And the world will rejoice.

the "Dr" who is the subject of the "Plandemic" movie is a lunatic anti-vaxxer, and she has a history (predating this pandemic) of being paranoid about Fauci.

good stuff.

a well-coordinated hoax by some shadowy international cabal looking to… I don’t know, make lots of money, or something.

Well, it seems to be being used to make lots of money for Trump supporters at least. See outfits like Blue Flame Medical -- which is flagrant enough that even the Trump Justice Department has opened a criminal investigation.

The "plandemic" crowd seem to have a combination of apophenia, poor critical reading skills, poor media literacy, strong confirmation bias, strong out-group tribal identity, and a worldview with a non-falsifiable core belief system.


I knew a guy in Salem a while back, probably in the mid-80's. He lived in a SRO joint around the corner from where I lived.

His name was August, and his rent was subsidized as Section 8 housing, and he had avoided military service under a Section 8 discharge. So, the number 8 loomed large in his thinking, as a kind of numerological tutelary being.

The ozone layer stuff was a thing then, and he mis-heard that as the "low zone" layer. So he imagined it as some ethereal area that occupied the space between heaven and earth, and thought that the holes in it were causing unwanted channels between our world and the heavenly one. He saved up the foil from cigarette packs and would draw diagrams illustrating this on the non-shiny side.

He ate a lot of apples, because that was the fruit in the garden of Eden. But he had somehow come to believe that it was necessary to eat the whole fruit, including the core and seeds, to get the full benefit.

August would save drinking straws and fold them into triangles, which he distributed around Salem wherever he went.

A friendly, harmless, robustly and vividly insane neighborhood character. I enjoyed hanging out with him. He could whistle louder than anybody I ever met.

Didn't know there was a name for his particular genius for finding connections where none really exist. Sorry to see the degree to which it, in a less harmless form, has become mainstreamed.

August could probably host a TV show nowadays. Maybe even run for office.

He could whistle louder than anybody I ever met.

Funniest sentence of the day.

The bit that cracked me up was "numerological tutelary being."

He could whistle louder than anybody I ever met.

Funniest sentence of the day.

The bit that cracked me up was "numerological tutelary being."

Both wonderful. Plandemic, eh? The things one learns on ObWi - it's not just good for acronyms and IT slang. I'd never heard of it either, but then I too am a Facebook refusenik.

It's got something to do with a vast global conspiracy involving various elites trying to control us.

Freemasons? Jews? Illuminati? Really, one is spoilt for choice with the various scapegoats at one's disposal. And if one of them doesn't work out, you move on to the next one (and people have been, all my life).

An artistic take involving holes in the sky.


Don't forget Gresham's Reverse Gas Law wherein it is confidently affirmed that since carbon is heavier than oxygen, global warming is a hoax...otherwise we would all be suffocating.

Certainly, if you try inhaling carbon (presumably carbon dust), suffocating is the kindest way to put it. But then, if you are the owner of a coal mine, presumably you think it's no problem if your miners inhale carbon dust -- those OSHA regulations are just Federal overreach.

This NYT opinion piece by Linda Hirshman headlined I Believe Tara Reade. I'm Voting for Joe Biden Anyway: the importance of owning an ugly moral choice. seems pretty close to what my view would be, if I had a vote in the US. Interesting on the Lewinsky/Clinton issue too, I thought.


Funniest sentence of the day.

He was very proud of his whistling prowess, and would demonstrate it at the drop of a hat, any place and any time.

It was startling.

An artistic take involving holes in the sky.

That guy seems like a kinder gentler version of these maniacs.

Yes. I read that essay also. Cause for pause as they say.

Interesting on the Lewinsky/Clinton issue too, I thought.

I agree with Hirshman that even if you believe Tara Reade, you should vote for Biden anyway. However, I think Reade is an unreliable witness, and that matters. It's not victim-blaming to question a person who is not trustworthy. I know that's problematic in sexual abuse cases, but I still feel that way, so whatever.

That said, I still agree with Gloria Steinem's article, which did not throw Lewinsky under the bus. Maybe we've now "graduated" to a place where young women have to be treated as children because of "power dynamics", but certainly in the '90's, adult women who thought they were consenting to (in fact initiating) a sexual relationship were actually believed to have had the agency to consent. I haven't changed my mind on this, at least regarding people in the '90's, a place where I lived as a seemingly adult woman (which now, I find out, I was not).

I've mentioned my deep regard for the way Monica Lewinsky has picked up her life after having been abused by Ken Starr and a lot of other people. She and Bill made a mistake by having an affair. However, Clinton should absolutely not have resigned. That was an early example of the right-wing machine digging into whatever dirt they could manage to find, true or not. I don't trust a freaking thing they do or say, not the intent, not the substance, not the result.

From the Hirshman piece: Democratic primary voters knew all about Mr. Biden’s membership in that boys’ club when there was still time to pick someone else. Alas.

This kind of thing is why I'm sick to death of pundits. "Democratic primary voters" are mostly ordinary people who aren't political junkies, and many of whom were either not born or still children at the time of the Clarence Thomas hearings. The quote strikes me as a vast generalization pulled out of thin air, as if the entire electorate lives in the rarefied bubble of NYT-level pundits talking to each other.


Meanwhile, I was bemused by Priest's and russell's links to metal artists. I tried to figure out what they were up to by reading their own words, and was still at sea. This article gave me (maybe?) a bit of a clearer picture of Clark Ashton, anyhow. Very interesting.

the entire pandemic (or, excuse me, “plandemic”) is a well-coordinated hoax by some shadowy international cabal

You laugh, but TRUMP is one of the key figures in the cabal.

His "cofefe" tweet was the signal to release the virus...and did anyone connect the dots?1??

1. I'm even more cranky and contrary than usual these days. Sorry about that.

2. hsh's 2:08 passage is full of interesting passages and aspects, one of which is that there are quite a few things in it that could be said about almost anyone, not just conspiracy theorists. Esp. right now. Like, "You get to be are constantly angry that more people don’t 'open their eyes'..."

3. A church is suing Maine's governor over her emergency order barring in-person worship. This reminds me of another reason why the incessant drumbeat about "the economy" is depressing. It isn't just "the economy" that's affected by the situation. It's the entire range of human activities: churches, schools, bridge clubs, sports, parks, sewing circles... But none of that is important now that we're just commodities (borrowing from hsh).

4. The restaurateur in Bethel opened again yesterday and I assume today, without a valid health license. He says he's just going to pay the fines.

Full disclosure, Clark is a buddy of mine, for 19 years, and through Clark I'm friendly with Bill Torpy, the AJC writer, been to some epic St. Patrick's Day parties at his family's house. Big vats of homemade corned beef, and a build-your-own beverage station for Irish Car Bombs, appropriately located in the garage.

I do a decent job as a docent when I take visitors to get a look at his yard/sculpture garden, got a lot of the wording of his patter down, but can't match the Augusta accent. Metro Atlanta (mostly justified) is not considered an exciting tourist destination, but Druid Hill, to use his affectation, is a true "you won't see this anywhere else" spot.

Priest -- that's pretty cool.

The pics of the scultpures have raised up something that's nagging at the edge of my memory, like -- I'm sure I've seen a place like this, only much more modest, in Maine. If I ever dredge up what the echo is, I'll toss it into a comment.

But meanwhile, the sculture itself, and Clark's rather high-flown language about it (on the website) brings to mind The Garden of Cosmic Speculation in Scotland, which I would never have heard of (and have certainly never seen), except that it's featured in The Long Way Home, one of my favorite mysteries by the Canadian writer Louise Penny. That book also made me acquainted with the paintings of Clarence Gagnon, which are a feast for the eyes.

Graphs updated in the other thread. I don't know why I'm still bothering, since as hsh pointed out, Worldometer is now showing a line for 7-day averages. But it has become something of a ritual for me, a way of insisting on a reality that a significant segment of the US has decided to pretend isn't happening, or isn't important.

Had to google Irish car bomb cocktails


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