How to force the White House to provide the sates with COVID-19 supplies.

Gould and Pozen writing in Slate:

‘Our constitutional tradition gives us hardly any tools to address what is happening now: a president who has proved unwilling or unable to meet a genuine disaster with decisive action. The Constitution’s preamble speaks of promoting the general welfare and providing for the common defense, but courts have never read this language to create enforceable duties. Nearly all U.S. constitutional rights are so-called negative rights against government interference, not positive rights that force public officials into action. And unlike many other democracies, our Constitution lacks a “no-confidence” mechanism that could allow a poorly performing president to be replaced immediately with a more effective one.

The upshot, in this case, is a kind of invisible breakdown in our constitutional system. If Trump had taken strong steps over the past two months to limit the spread of COVID-19, those steps could have been tested for conformity with individual liberties, federalism principles, and the separation of powers, as well as relevant statutes. Yet by jeopardizing our national security through inaction, Trump has insulated himself from legal scrutiny or accountability.

Only one institution can remedy this breakdown. In area after area where government intervention might be useful, Congress has the power, under Article I of the Constitution, to compel the executive branch to act.

Recognizing as much, congressional Democrats have introduced bills that would require the executive branch to oversee the production of specific quotas of N95 face masks, face shields, and ventilators. The Defense Production Act of 1950 already empowers the president to do what is “necessary to create, maintain, expedite, expand, protect, or restore production and deliveries or services essential to the national defense,” but Trump did not utilize this power at all until March 27 (he invoked it again last Friday), and even then in a limited manner that falls far short of what many experts recommend. The new bills would give him no choice but to press harder….’

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Asymptomatic Cases Could Be Spreading COVID-19 More Than We Thought

Stephanie Lee writing in BuzzFeed:

‘an emerging body of data suggests that there are probably a significant number of infected people who don’t have symptoms but are likely to be transmitting the virus. Since they may not know that they’re sick, they may be taking fewer precautions than people with symptoms.

Researchers still don’t know how common these cases are or how much they are driving the pandemic. On Monday, the director of the CDC told NPR that the number of asymptomatic individuals “may be as many as 25%.”…’

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Why this crisis is a turning point in history

 

2020 14 jgray miles illo new

John Gray writing in The New Statesman:

‘The deserted streets will fill again, and we will leave our screen-lit burrows blinking with relief. But the world will be different from how we imagined it in what we thought were normal times. This is not a temporary rupture in an otherwise stable equilibrium: the crisis through which we are living is a turning point in history. 

The era of peak globalisation is over. An economic system that relied on worldwide production and long supply chains is morphing into one that will be less interconnected. A way of life driven by unceasing mobility is shuddering to a stop. Our lives are going to be more physically constrained and more virtual than they were. A more fragmented world is coming into being that in some ways may be more resilient….’

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Wear a face mask in public to slow COVID-19, says CDC — ‘I don’t think I’m going to be doing it,’ says Trump

Via Boing Boing:

‘President Donald Trump said on Friday that the Centers for Disease Control will soon officially begin recommending the public use of non-medical, non-surgical grade masks to slow the spread of COVID-19.

“You don’t have to do it. … I don’t think I am going to be doing it,” Trump said about wearing a face mask, during his announcement that the CDC now recommends people wear face masks.

“We’re healing,” the president added, without evidence….’

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Why Martha McPhee Carries a Notebook Everywhere

The novelist, writing in Wirecutter:

‘As it turns out, my notebooks—with their pressed flowers, theater-ticket stubs, different colors of sand glued onto the page, the shells, old photographs that have tumbled out of drawers—are like that red wheelbarrow, beside the white chickens, upon which so much depends. William Carlos Williams, as poet and medical doctor, would have appreciated what neuroscientists call the efficacy of writing on paper. Besides offering a sense of control, paper and pens and anything else we take to it helps us make sense of things. Students who take lecture notes by hand retain and understand the information more deeply than those who take notes on computers because something beautiful and mysterious happens when we relinquish speed to the human pace of thought, physicalized on the page.

But that’s not why my notebook comes with me everywhere. I take it with me because it helps me track the uncharted territory of the present moment. In this act of gathering—scrawls about things noticed on the way to a store, the playbill for my son’s brief acting career, glue-sticked to the page—I’m forced to slow down and tend to the parts that evoke a whole. Sometimes they plant the seed for an idea that I might write about later on. But mostly, I relish in the quiet engagement of pen on paper, my hand working with my brain to create something concrete and real, something that can’t be deleted in an instant after it is read….’

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Google knows if everyone in your county is actually staying home or not

Kate Cox writing in Ars Technica:

‘The entire world is scrambling to mitigate the novel coronavirus pandemic. By now, a majority of US states are under some kind of stay-at-home order, with governors nationwide asking or requiring non-essential businesses to close and everyone to plant their butts at home as much as possible.

As the disease continues to march its way across the country and the globe, though—as of this writing, there have been more than 250,000 US diagnosed cases—officials, regulators, and we the work-from-home masses are all wondering: are we all actually complying with these new rules, or is it still chaos on the streets out there somewhere?

Google has unfathomable reams of data from billions of individuals worldwide, and it has pulled some of that location information together into community mobility reports to try to answer that question. Here’s the good news: by and large, trips to virtually everywhere that isn’t “home” have dropped a whole lot.

To make the reports, Google used location data from any account that has opted into allowing Google to store location history. The company’s services have billions of active daily users, so even if only a minority of users allowed location use, it would still create an enormous data set. Google broke down locations into six broad categories: Retail and recreation, such as malls, restaurants, and museums; grocery and pharmacy, which includes farmer’s markets and food warehouses along with supermarkets and drugstores; parks, including local, national, and state parks; transit stations; workplaces; and residential.

The reports, which so far go through March 29 (last Sunday), are broken down by country. For the United States, Google has also provided state-level reports which show data at the county level. While there’s a fair amount of variation, the trend across the board shows a huge drop in non-essential travel and significantly reduced travel in the grocery and pharmacy category as well. The “residential” category is also up across the board, showing that people are staying home.

The regional reports are more robust for urban centers than rural ones, simply because more densely populated areas have more data for Google to draw from. For example, Kings County, New York—better known as the borough of Brooklyn—has a population of about 2.5 million packed into its borders. That’s a large enough data set for Google, which found that Brooklyn residents are indeed making significantly fewer trips through transit stations and to retailers. Travel to workplaces is also down, likely due to a combination of people working from home where possible and being laid off or furloughed where not….’

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Incredibly Comprehensive Statistical Personality Test Shows Which Fictional Characters You Are Most Similar To

UnknownVia Digg:

‘Covering 121 questions and 400 characters, this “which character are you” test from Open-Source Psychometrics Project isn’t your regular BuzzFeed personality quiz.

What it is instead is an extremely extensive test that gives you an understanding of which fictional characters you are most similar to with a level of detail uncommon for most personality quizzes. There are different versions of the test — the most comprehensive version requires you to answer 121 questions while the standard version only comprises 28 — but for each version, you answer questions about yourself by moving a slider between two adjectives and gauge where your personality falls on the spectrum. The test then matches your personal assessment with the personality profiles of different fictional characters, which are compiled from data from user surveys….’

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