Contagion: Commonalities Among Epidemic Diseases

UnknownNicholas Bagley:

‘A couple of weeks ago, my wife (also a law professor) and I wrapped up the final session of a seminar that we co-taught called Contagion. We wanted to offer an introduction to the outbreaks of infectious disease that have reshaped American life and law.

…Really more of a book club than a formal class, we focused on a different disease each time we met: cholera, Spanish flu, polio, AIDS, SARS, and Ebola.

…The class …had a surprising coherence. Every disease provokes its own unique dread and its own complex public reaction, but themes recurred across outbreaks:

  • Governments are typically unprepared,, and resistant to taking steps necessary to contain infectious diseases, especially in their early phases.
  • Local, state, federal, and global governing bodies are apt to point fingers at one another over who’s responsible for taking action. Clear lines of authority are lacking.
  • Calibrating the right governmental response is devilishly hard. Do too much and you squander public trust (Swine flu), do too little and people die unnecessarily (AIDS).
  • Public officials are reluctant to publicize infections for fear of devastating the economy.
  • Doctors rarely have good treatment options. Nursing care is often what’s needed most. Medical professionals of all kinds work themselves to the bone in the face of extraordinary danger.
  • In the absence of an effective treatment, the public will reach for unscientific remedies.
  • No matter what the route of transmission or the effectiveness of quarantine, there’s a desire to physically separate infected people.
  • Victims of the disease are often thought to deserve the affliction, especially when those victims are mainly from marginalized groups.
  • We plan, to the extent we plan at all, for the last pandemic. We don’t do enough to plan for the next one.
  • Historical memory is short. When diseases fall from the headlines, the public forgets and preparation falters.

Not every one of those themes was present for every disease; the doughboys who died of the Spanish flu, for example, were not thought to deserve their fate. But the themes were persistent enough over time to establish a pattern.

The books we assigned were outstanding. If you want to learn about the intersection of infectious disease, history, and public health, you could do worse than to start with them:

  • Charles Rosenberg, The Cholera Years: The United States in 1832, 1849, and 1866.
  • Alfred W. Crosby, America’s Forgotten Pandemic: The Influenza of 1918.
  • David Oshinsky, Polio: An American Story.
  • Randy Shilts, And the Band Played On.
  • Thomas Abraham, Twenty-First Century Plague: The Story of SARS.
  • David Quammen, Ebola: A Natural and Human History of a Deadly Virus.
  • Laurie Garrett, Ebola’s Lessons: How the WHO Mishandled the Crisis….’

Via The Incidental Economist

Why the silent spread of coronavirus might actually be a good sign.

502805 5’In China, the death rate has been reported as zero in children under 10 and very low, 0.2 percent, in healthy adults. Unfortunately, the rate is far higher, as high as 14.8 percent, in the sick and elderly (though as is always the case in outbreaks like this, it is hard to know how many of these older and often chronically ill hospitalized patients died with COVID–19, not of COVID–19). The reported overall death rate of 2 percent is essentially a weighted average of these numbers.

So what does the case of a young and otherwise healthy patient contracting the disease despite no obvious exposure to a contagious source patient imply? That there are likely many asymptomatic cases in our communities already.…’

Via Slate

Big media is covering up Trump’s terrifying incoherence in a time of emergency

Screen Shot 2020 02 27 at 11’Wednesday’s briefing was arguably the most abnormal moment yet in a profoundly abnormal presidency.

But top news organizations, rather than accurately representing Trump’s alarming behavior, made it sound like nothing untoward happened at all.

They made it sound like some real news was made: That Trump put Vice President Mike Pence in charge of the government’s response to the coronavirus; that the president urged calm.

But even the Pence “news” appears to be a sham, and a clusterfuck: In addition to being basically a fuck-you to the medical community — given Pence’s proud defiance of scientific truths — it was apparently a last-minute decision based on political optics that blindsided Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, who at the same time insisted that he was still in charge.

This one really wasn’t hard. It was obvious to anyone listening to Trump’s rambling, often incoherent, self-centered, stream-of-consciousness ad-libbing – much of it straight out of his political rallies — that:

Trump had no real understanding of what he was talking about.
He had no sense of what was required of him as president.
He sees this as being all about him.
There are only so many things that can come out of his head.…’

Via Press Watch

R.I.P. Freeman Dyson


The man behind the sphere is dead at 96:

’Freeman Dyson, a physicist whose interests often took him to the edge of science fiction, has died at the age of 96. Dyson is probably best known for his idea of eponymous spheres that would allow civilizations to capture all the energy radiating off a star. But his contributions ranged from fundamental physics to the practicalities of using nuclear weapons for war and peace. And he remained intellectually active into his 90s, although he wandered into the wrong side of science when it came to climate change.…’

Via Ars Technica

You Are Likely to get the New Coronavirus

Unknown‘Testing people who are already extremely sick is an imperfect strategy if people can spread the virus without even feeling bad enough to stay home from work.

[Harvard epidemiologist Mark] Lipsitch predicts that, within the coming year, some 40 to 70 percent of people around the world will be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19. But, he clarifies emphatically, this does not mean that all will have severe illnesses. “It’s likely that many will have mild disease, or may be asymptomatic,” he said. As with influenza, which is often life-threatening to people with chronic health conditions and of older age, most cases pass without medical care. (Overall, around 14 percent of people with influenza have no symptoms.)

Lipsitch is far from alone in his belief that this virus will continue to spread widely. The emerging consensus among epidemiologists is that the most likely outcome of this outbreak is a new seasonal disease—a fifth “endemic” coronavirus. With the other four, people are not known to develop long-lasting immunity. If this one follows suit, and if the disease continues to be as severe as it is now, “cold and flu season” could become “cold and flu and COVID-19 season.”…’

Via A Vaccine Won’t Stop the New Coronavirus – The Atlantic

Where’s the Savior?

BloombergRobin Varghese:

’IN JOKES AND THEIR RELATIONSHIP TO THE UNCONSCIOUS (1905), his three-hundred page book on humor, Sigmund Freud shares his favorite yuks, none of which are funny to begin with, and then proceeds to slowly murder them by explaining their punchlines. The book is so turgid that modern interpreters sometimes argue that the whole enterprise is itself a kind of meta-joke, which may be true, but still doesn’t make it funny. Reading the book in the election year of 2020, however, one bit stands out. Freud describes it as “an American anecdote”:

Two not particularly scrupulous businessmen had succeeded, by dint of a series of highly risky enterprises, in amassing a large fortune, and they were now making efforts to push their way into good society. One method, which struck them as a likely one, was to have their portraits painted by the most celebrated and highly paid artist in the city, whose pictures had an immense reputation. The precious canvases were shown for the first time at a large evening party, and the two hosts themselves led the most influential connoisseur and art critic up to the wall upon which the portraits were hanging side by side, to extract his admiring judgment on them. He studied the works for a long time, and then, shaking his head, as though there was something he had missed, pointed to the gap between the pictures and asked quietly: “But where’s the Savior?”

Getting this joke, such as it is, presumes familiarity with an implied reference: depictions of the crucifixion, wherein the savior (i.e., Christ), famously hangs on the cross between two thieves. Even then, it’s not really laugh-out-loud funny. It is, however uncannily relevant. As we find ourselves in the quickening of our election season, we Americans are increasingly being asked to contemplate the prospect of voting for one of two unsavory businessmen. Redemption is nowhere to be found in this forced choice between two scoundrels; the savior isn’t even absent. The daylight between Mike Bloomberg and Donald Trump can be measured in the rays of sun that shine out of a billionaire’s ass.…’

Via n+1

This isn’t an election: It’s a civil war, and our side isn’t necessarily winning

UnknownLucian Truscott IV:

’Trump is letting us know that he and his base don’t think of this as an election. It’s a civil war. They want to turn the clock back to the time that Negroes knew their place and women were happy making biscuits in the kitchen and employers could pay their workers anything they wanted and the question of who got to vote was decided by a few white men in a smoke-filled room. 

Look around you. With William Barr at the Justice Department and Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch on the Supreme Court and Senate Republicans voting in lockstep with Mitch McConnell, living in Donald Trump’s America feels like the South won the Civil War. If we don’t get our shit together and drive him from office at the ballot box in November, we’ll lose this one, too.

Trump made use of an enemy foreign power, Russia, to win election in 2016, and if what the intelligence community told the Congress this week is correct, he’s in the process of doing it again. There won’t be any investigation of foreign interference this time…

The stunning thing is, Trump keeps getting caught and nothing happens…

Donald Trump is who he always was: a mobbed up grifter from New York who learned from his father that you can welch on debts, pay people off and game the system, and when you get caught, walk away. If you’re outrageous enough about it, people will be so stunned they are unwilling or unable to act. Trump’s old pal Roy Cohn was a past master at this. I covered him while I was on the staff of the Village Voice. He used to travel around the country giving speeches in smaller cities to Republican gatherings that were all impressed they could get Roy Cohn to come to Sheboygan or Zanesville and speak at their fundraisers. He would meet a local banker over rubber chicken and talk him into a signature loan for 50 or 100 grand, and he’d take the money and stiff them every time. He was sued over and over again by these little local banks, and he never paid a cent. 

Trump also learned from Roy Cohn that you can steal stuff in plain sight and get away with it if you just say “Fuck you” loudly and often enough. I think that’s what Trump is doing to the whole country. He’s saying, “Fuck you. I never believed in your democracy, I never believed in your capitalism, I never believed in your establishment, and look what I did! I got elected president! Fuck you! I’m going to take everything I want! I’m going to fly Air Force One anywhere I want, and I’m going to play golf more often than Arnie Palmer, and I’m going to bellow racism and lies at my rallies, and I’m going to jack up the Secret Service for rooms at my resorts, and I’m not going to pay a fucking cent and what are you going to do about it? I’m going to call Vladimir Putin on the phone and I’m going to get him to help me steal another election, and fuck you.”

That’s Trump’s philosophy in a nutshell: do whatever you want and say “Fuck you.” He’s getting away with it the same way he got away with stiffing contractors and welching on bank loans and going into bankruptcy and taking out more loans and when they come due saying “Fuck you.” 

I think we stand a chance to beat him, but we’ll have to dig ourselves out of a deep, deep hole when he’s gone. Some of us never will: The children ripped from their mothers’ arms at the border, the voters who will go to the polls and be turned away, the poor who will go hungry when their food stamps are cut, the land and water and air that will be despoiled, the species that will go extinct, the companies that will fail, the women whose health clinics will close, the hopes that will be dashed and gone away forever.


Trump’s Presidency Will End Someday. What if He Won’t Go?

OriginalBarbara McQuade, Former U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan:


For nearly 250 years, presidents have respected the law. Even when electoral defeat has been unexpected and ignominious, presidents have passed the baton without acrimony. In a sense, perhaps this is the central achievement of the American system: to have transferred power peacefully from one leader to the next, without heredity to guide the way.

That a president would defy the results of an election has long been unthinkable; it is now, if not an actual possibility, at the very least something Trump’s supporters joke about. As the former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee tweeted, President Trump “will be eligible for a 3rd term due to the illegal attempts by Comey, Dems, and media , et al attempting to oust him as @POTUS so that’s why I was named to head up the 2024 re-election.” A good troll though it may have been, Huckabee is not the first person to suggest that Trump might not leave when his presidency ends.

…If Trump were inclined to overstay his term, the levers of power work in favor of removal. Because the president immediately and automatically loses his constitutional authority upon expiration of his term or after removal through impeachment, he would lack the power to direct the U.S. Secret Service or other federal agents to protect him. He would likewise lose his power, as the commander in chief of the armed forces, to order a military response to defend him. In fact, the newly minted president would possess those presidential powers. If necessary, the successor could direct federal agents to forcibly remove Trump from the White House. Now a private citizen, Trump would no longer be immune from criminal prosecution, and could be arrested and charged with trespassing in the White House. While even former presidents enjoy Secret Service protection, agents presumably would not follow an illegal order to protect one from removal from office. Although Trump’s remaining in office seems unlikely, a more frightening—and plausible—scenario would be if his defeat inspired extremist supporters to engage in violence. One could imagine a world in which Trump is defeated in the 2020 election, and he immediately begins tweeting that the election was rigged. Or consider the possibility, albeit remote, that a second-term Trump is removed from office through impeachment, and rails about his ouster as a coup. His message would be amplified by right-wing media. If his grievances hit home with even a few people inclined toward violence, deadly acts of violence, or even terrorist attacks against the new administration, could result.…’

Via The Atlantic

Why Mount Shasta is the new Roswell

UntitledImage’Mount Shasta in California has become a nexus of conspiracy theories and unusual events. The latest viral sensation from the area has been a UFO-shaped object that appeared in the skies above the potentially active volcano peak of 14,179 feet on the morning of February 12th.

Upon closer look, this was not an alien spaceship but a beautiful lenticular cloud, the kind that is often shaped like lentils or UFOs, depending on your perspective. It was so convincing, however, that the U.S. Forest Service had to deny its extraterrestrial origins in a statement.

Mount Shasta… has seen its share of lenticular cloud sightings, leading to its status as a new focal point for alien hunters much like Roswell, New Mexico. The latest UFO cloud quickly became a social media sensation, as you can see in these posts of the enigmatic formations:

Mount Shasta has also seen other unusual happenings, with a mysterious side hole that appeared over 10 years ago becoming the subject of a documentary. Its sudden emergence connected with local legends about a lost continent of Lemuria supposedly hidden under the mountain. This mythical kingdom would be there along with its capital city Telos.…’

Via Big Think

The Archaeobotanist Searching Art for Lost Fruit

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’…[I]t wasn’t until a few years ago that Dalla Ragione, an agronomist and Perugia native, realized that local works of art contained precious clues into Italy’s lost biodiversity. By combining clues from artwork, ancient manuscripts, and oral histories, she was able to identify hundreds of Renaissance-era fruits. She now grows many of them in a 20-acre farmstead as an outdoor museum of Italy’s past.…’

Via Gastro Obscura

The Cinema of Inadvertence, or Why I Like Bad Movies

UnknownPhil Christman: 

’We bad-movie watchers have our own anticriteria, the sorts of badness we prefer. Some of us use the term “bad movies” to mean, simply, films that emerge from a supposedly lowbrow genre, or films that are stylized in the manner we tend to label “camp.” (Road House from 1989 is this kind of bad movie, and is very good at being one.) Some of us prefer movies that are exploitative and tacky but, in a Nietzschean way, supposedly more alive than respectable ones. Renata Adler referred to the cult around such movies as “the angry trash claimers,”1 a term by which she probably intended to indict Pauline Kael, whose “Trash, Art, and the Movies” could serve as a manifesto for this sort of criticism.2 The rock critic Lester Bangs, in an endearing essay about Ray Dennis Steckler’s delirious 1963 horror film The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies, practices Angry Trash Reclamation, arguing that the film’s apparent innocence of good taste gives it a kind of “lunar purity.”3…’

Via The Hedgehog Review

We’re Reading the Coronavirus Numbers Wrong

18paulos superJumboNew York Times opinion piece from a mathematician…

…points out that both the numerator and the denominator of the case fatality rate — the number of deaths and the total number of people infected — may be deceptive. Ascribing causes of death can be tricky, with both false positives and false negatives. And various factors make for inaccuracy in the total number of infected people. Some are treated without having been formally tested. Some may be infected but showing no symptoms, including those still in the lengthy incubation period of the virus.

Further distortions are created by the way these numbers are determined by medical officials and presented by the media. Definitions of infection have been changed on the fly, causing immediate and misleading statistical — but not real — shifts. Underreporting may be deliberate, for policy reasons, or more mundane, e.g. due to changes in the availability of test kits. A dramatic increase in daily deaths may seem ominous but, in context of an increase in the number of newly infected people over the same interval, may actually represent lower lethality than previously thought. 

These uncertainties point out the limitations of “constant on-the-nose” reporting of statistics, a “shortsighted approach that’s difficult to resist.” 

As of Tuesday, the case fatality rate of COVID-19 appeared to be about 2.5 percent. That’s in keeping with what it was, for example, from the beginning of the outbreak up to Jan. 28. By comparison, the case fatality rate for the seasonal flu in the United States ranges between 0.10 percent and 0.18 percent. For SARS, it’s about 10 percent and for MERS, about 35 percent. For Ebola, it has varied between 25 percent and 90 percent, depending on outbreaks, averaging approximately 50 percent.

And so based on what we know so far, COVID-19 seems to be much less fatal than other coronavirus infections and diseases that turned into major epidemics in recent decades. The operative words here are “based on what we know so far” — meaning, both no more and no less than that, and also that our take on the situation might need to change as more data come in.
Remember, too, that even if only a small percentage of the people infected with COVID-19 die in the end, the death toll in absolute numbers could still be dreadful if the total population of infected turns out to be very large.

Today I Learned: Not Everyone Has An Internal Monologue

Inner monologue today main 200207 4d46901579dc7c852595dba24e9868e7 fit 760w‘I would tell them that I could look at myself in the mirror and have a full blown telepathic conversation with myself without opening my mouth and they responded as if I had schizophrenia. One person even mentioned that when they do voice overs in movies of people’s thoughts, they “wished that it was real.”…’

Via Inside My Mind

As a psychiatrist this fascinated me. Interestingly yesterday I saw a patient who presented having just gotten into some trouble for talking to himself. He said that the antipsychotic medication he was happy to take because it was otherwise helpful to him has prevented him from having an inner dialogue, so he had begun to need to speak his thoughts aloud to ponder things. I had never heard of such a medication effect and puzzled over what to make of it. Then today I read this!

Credibly Accused

Unknown‘Search lists of U.S. Catholic clergy that have been deemed credibly accused of sexual abuse or misconduct….’

Via ProPublica with thanks to Sean Bonner, who comments,

‘This info has been heavily guarded by the church so this is a really valuable resource. It’s light on details but it’s useful for confirmation and research.’

‘The Real Lesson’ Of Donald Trump’s Pardons

Jeffrey Toobin:

Unknown’CNN’s chief legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin suggested “the real lesson” of President Donald Trump’s clemency blitz on Tuesday was “a story of creeping authoritarianism.”

“Authoritarianism is usually associated with a punitive spirit — a leader who prosecutes and incarcerates his enemies. But there is another side to this leadership style,” Toobin wrote in a comment piece for The New Yorker, where he is also a staff writer.

“Authoritarians also dispense largesse, but they do it by their own whims, rather than pursuant to any system or legal rule,” Toobin continued. “The point of authoritarianism is to concentrate power in the ruler, so the world knows that all actions, good and bad, harsh and generous, come from a single source.”…’

Via HuffPost

Donald Trump ‘offered Julian Assange a pardon if he denied Russia link to hack’

3286’The extraordinary claim was made at Westminster magistrates court before the opening next week of Assange’s legal battle to block attempts to extradite him to the US, where he faces charges for publishing hacked documents. The allegation was denied by the former Republican congressman named by the Assange legal team as a key witness.

Assange’s lawyers alleged that during a visit to London in August 2017, congressman Dana Rohrabacher told the WikiLeaks founder that “on instructions from the president, he was offering a pardon or some other way out, if Mr Assange … said Russia had nothing to do with the DNC [Democratic National Committee] leaks.”…’

Via The Guardian

Flying solo: Ravens by photographer Masahisa Fukase

Ravens by Masahisha Fukas 002’’The depth of solitude in these photographs makes me shudder,’ runs the afterword to Ravens, a little-known photobook by Japanese artist Masahisa Fukase. Full of darkness and foreboding, the British Journal of Photography (in 2010) nevertheless named it the best photobook of the past 25 years ……’

Via The Guardian

People Born Blind Are Mysteriously Protected From Schizophrenia

UnknownThese findings suggest that something about congenital blindness may protect a person from schizophrenia. This is especially surprising, since congenital blindness often results from infections, brain trauma, or genetic mutation—all factors that are independently associated with greater risk of psychotic disorders.

More strangely, vision loss at other periods of life is associated with higher risks of schizophrenia and psychotic symptoms. Even in healthy people, blocking vision for just a few days can bring about hallucinations. And the connections between vision abnormalities and schizophrenia have become more deeply established in recent years—visual abnormalities are being found before a person has any psychotic symptoms, sometimes predicting who will develop schizophrenia.

’A myriad of theories exist as to why—from the blind brain’s neuroplasticity to how vision plays an important role in building our model of the world (and what happens when that process goes wrong). Select researchers believe that the ties between vision and psychotic symptoms indicate there’s something new to learn here. Could it be that within this narrowly-defined phenomenon there are clues for what causes schizophrenia, how to predict who will develop it, and potentially how to treat it?…’


As a psychiatrist treating more than my fair share of patients with schizophrenia, I had never realized this but, no, I have never had a congenitally blind schizophrenic patient!

Never Say Wolf

UntitledImageHow taboo language turned the wolf into a monster:

’ “Listen to them, the children of the night. What music they make!”

So says Count Dracula to the hapless Jonathan Harker in Bram Stoker’s novel. Dracula is talking about the wolves howling in the valley below his castle in the Carpathian mountains. This is the moment in the novel when Harker begins to feel the first twinges of fear.

The howl of the wolf, and the fear that accompanies it, sounds across millennia. Comparing the mythologies of cultures that descended from ancient European tribes, wolves loomed large in their minds. There are myths of heroes brought up by wolves, of great wolves who will devour the sun, of wolves guarding the underworld, and of warriors taken over by the spirit of wolves. Archaeological digs at Krasnosamarskoe, in the steppes north of the Black and Caspian seas, have given us clues that early peoples sacrificed, and even ate, dogs and wolves. Art and collected oral literature from across Asia and Europe hint of coming of age rituals where young men would wear wolf-skins, and live lawlessly on the land, almost becoming more terrifying than the wolves themselves.

When he used the phrase “the children of the night,” Dracula was following an ancient tradition. He was avoiding the word “wolf.” In many societies, words have power, the power to summon what they name. This idea probably emerges from rituals that took place in preparation for the hunt. It was a way of calling prey so the hunt would be successful. But if words can summon prey, they can also summon danger.

Speakers had to find ways of referring to wolves without naming them. The word for wolf becomes taboo: It shouldn’t be said. Instead, the magic of summoning through a name can be tricked. By changing the sound of the word, by using another word, perhaps borrowed from another language, or by using a descriptive phrase rather than the word itself, speakers could talk of wolves, but avoid the dangerous word itself.

We can see these strategies of avoiding taboo words in English. People change the sound of words like “Hell!” or “Christ!” into “Heck!” or “Crumbs!” We have borrowed the French word “toilet” to avoid naming the place where we defecate. When the denizens of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books use the phrase “You-Know-Who” for Voldemort, Rowling is appealing to the ancient magic of taboo.

Languages change. As people move across landscapes, their languages develop in different ways. They encounter new peoples, with different languages, and this can lead to a transformation in how people speak. But some words in languages change because the original term is avoided. Taboo, tightly tied to culture, has wrought radical changes in the original term for wolf in the languages of Europe. Like a werewolf changing its skin, the word for wolf has warped across the centuries, often in quite unexpected ways, as it traveled through the continent.…’

Via Nautilus

Why Philosophers Should Study Indigenous Languages

Smith 360x450 0

’I believe there is much to be learned philosophically from the study of languages that are spoken by only a small number of people, who lack a high degree of political self-determination and are relatively powerless to impose their conception of history, society, and nature on their neighbours; and who also lack much in the way of a textual literary tradition or formal and recognisably modern institutions of knowledge transmission: which for present purposes we may call “indigenous” languages.

This is of course going to be a hard sell, given that the great majority of Anglophone philosophers do not even recognize the value of learning German, Latin, Arabic, Sanskrit, or Chinese, and believe that they can penetrate as deeply as one might possibly go into fundamental philosophical questions from a standpoint of monolingualism.…’

Via 3 Quarks Daily

Why I keep product and service reviews to myself

Unknown‘Adding online ratings is contributing to a feedback industrial complex…’

Via Washington Post

When I buy something online, the transaction is money for goods. The seller has no right to expect I’ll donate my marketing efforts to them. You might argue that if one relies on online product reviews in making purchase decisions one ought to contribute. But I don’t.

An Unsettling New Theory: There Is No Swing Voter

ImagesWhat if everything you think you know about politics is wrong? What if there aren’t really American swing voters—or not enough, anyway, to pick the next president? What if it doesn’t matter much who the Democratic nominee is? What if there is no such thing as “the center,” and the party in power can govern however it wants for two years, because the results of that first midterm are going to be bad regardless? What if the Democrats’ big 41-seat midterm victory in 2018 didn’t happen because candidates focused on health care and kitchen-table issues, but simply because they were running against the party in the White House? What if the outcome in 2020 is pretty much foreordained, too?…’


The Worst Thing About Trump’s Unhinged Victory Strut Wasn’t Trump Himself

‘Trump is Trump. While he stepped beyond where has gone before in many respects during Thursday’s “celebration,” it hard to say that no one saw this coming.

But the complicity of those in attendance — the most powerful people within the Republican Party — is what was truly astounding. Yes, the Republican Party threw in its lot with Trump (and his forced takeover of it) long ago. But to sit by or even celebrate while Trump used the White House as a combination of a campaign venue, or a bathroom wall on which to write his darkest thoughts about those who oppose him, was beyond unforgivable….’

Via CNNPolitics

Ferlinghetti’s prescient 2007 poem, “Pity the Nation,” describes actual SOTU, 2020


Lawrence Ferlinghetti 2012“PITY THE NATION” (After Khalil Gibran)

Pity the nation whose people are sheep
And whose shepherds mislead them
Pity the nation whose leaders are liars
Whose sages are silenced
And whose bigots haunt the airwaves
Pity the nation that raises not its voice
Except to praise conquerors
And acclaim the bully as hero
And aims to rule the world
By force and by torture
Pity the nation that knows
No other language but its own
And no other culture but its own
Pity the nation whose breath is money
And sleeps the sleep of the too well fed
Pity the nation oh pity the people
who allow their rights to erode
and their freedoms to be washed away
My country, tears of thee
Sweet land of liberty!…’

Via Boing Boing

Disney heiress says Kobe Bryant ‘was not a god’ in lengthy Twitter thread about rape allegations

Fb7197f21ffff33d28f9bc24422ff2f6’Disney heiress Abigail Disney spoke out in two-dozen tweets Saturday about the late Kobe Bryant’s 2003 rape allegations. 

The allegations never made it to trial, and though Bryant said the sex was consensual, he eventually apologized to his accuser, The New York Times reported.

Disney said Bryant could be mourned but said people should not “deify him because he was not a god.”

…”OK, time to bite the bullet and say something,” Disney said when she began her Twitter thread early Saturday morning. “If you don’t like it, just stop following. First of all, yes, it IS my business because I’m a woman who has herself been assaulted and spent my life knowing, loving and feeling for women for whom it’s been so much worse.”…’

Via Yahoo! News

Someone Just Edited The Senate’s Wikipedia Page In The Most Savage Way

’The United States Senate was formerly the upper chamber of the United States Congress, which, along with the United States House of Representatives ― the lower chamber ― comprised the legislature of the United States. It died on January 31, 2020, when senators from the Republican Party refused to stand up to a corrupt autocrat calling himself the president of the United States, refusing to hear testimony that said individual blackmailed Ukraine in order to cheat in the 2020 presidential election.…’

Via HuffPost

Singapore exhibit bleakly shows dystopian future of flooding and scarcity due to climate change

Unknown’At Singapore’s ArtScience Museum, the 2219:Future Reimagined exhibition “ invites visitors to explore our world as it changes over the next 200 years.” The first room of the exhibition is titled “Mitigation of Shock, Singapore,” based on a previous installation in London by the design studio. 

“Mitigation of Shock, Singapore” shows a vision of domestic life 50 years out, when rising ocean levels have flooded cities, and people are forced to grow their own foods and turn to alternative sources of nutrition as global supply chains collapse. The creators noted that the installation, which is a prototype of a future apartment, isn’t necessarily what it thinks will happen, as much as it is one possible outcome based on evidence. 

The earlier London installation showed an apartment in a future London ravaged by climate change in 2050, only 30 years into the future. The two installations were similar, but they received very different reactions. Visitors to the London exhibit were angry and upset, while in Singapore, visitors thought the prediction was too optimistic…’

Via Business Insider

“Shit-Life Syndrome,” Trump Voters, and Clueless Dems

35856745925 78a4e0b631 c 768x512’Bruce Levine in Counterpunch:

Getting rid of Trump means taking seriously “shit-life syndrome”—and its resulting misery, which includes suicide, drug overdose death, and trauma for surviving communities… Trump got the shit-life syndrome vote. Will Hutton in his 2018 Guardian piece, “The Bad News is We’re Dying Early in Britain – and It’s All Down to ‘Shit-Life Syndrome’” describes shit-life syndrome in both Britain and the United States: “Poor working-age Americans of all races are locked in a cycle of poverty and neglect, amid wider affluence. They are ill educated and ill trained. The jobs available are drudge work paying the minimum wage, with minimal or no job security.” The Brookings Institution, in November 2019, reported: “53 million Americans between the ages of 18 to 64—accounting for 44% of all workers—qualify as ‘low-wage.’ Their median hourly wages are $10.22, and median annual earnings are about $18,000.”

For most of these low-wage workers, Hutton notes: “Finding meaning in life is close to impossible; the struggle to survive commands all intellectual and emotional resources. Yet turn on the TV or visit a middle-class shopping mall and a very different and unattainable world presents itself. Knowing that you are valueless, you resort to drugs, antidepressants and booze. You eat junk food and watch your ill-treated body balloon. It is not just poverty, but growing relative poverty in an era of rising inequality, with all its psychological side-effects, that is the killer.” Shit-life syndrome is not another fictitious illness conjured up by the psychiatric-pharmaceutical industrial complex to sell psychotropic drugs. It is a reality created by corporatist rulers and their lackey politicians—pretending to care about their minimum-wage-slave constituents, who are trying to survive on 99¢ boxed macaroni and cheese prepared in carcinogenic water, courtesy of DuPont or some other such low-life leviathan. The Cincinnati Enquirer, in November 2019, ran the story: “Suicide Rate Up 45% in Ohio in Last 11 Years, With a Sharper Spike among the Young.” In Ohio between 2007 and 2018, the rate of suicide among people 10 to 24 has risen by 56%. The Ohio Department of Health reported that suicide is the leading cause of death among Ohioans ages 10‐14 and the second leading cause of death among Ohioans ages 15‐34, with the suicide rate higher in poorer, rural counties.…’

Via 3 Quarks Daily

The Law and Wuhan Coronavirus

The law versus wuhan coronavirus 1050x700‘…Such Diseases are Political as Well as Biological’:

Like the Woman coronavirus, three quarters of infectious diseases are zoonotic, i.e. originating in animals and then jumping over to infect humans. These include many of the scariest diseases we face or have faced, including AIDS, Ebola, SARS, and the 1918 influenza pandemic. Zoonotic diseases cannot be eradicated by population-based public health measures such as vaccination, even once a vaccine is developed, because they persist in animal reservoirs. Some argue that environmental law should be used to reduce the risk of future zoonotic outbreaks by regulating potential sources of zoonoses such as ‘wet markets’, factory farms and confined feedlots, and wild animal importation. Warnings about tourism to hotspots should be much more vigorous.

Via JSTOR Daily

The Russian Conspiracy Theory That Won’t Die

Unknown’An unsolved mystery such as the Dyatlov Pass incident would no doubt rile up truthers in the United States, but the Russian obsession with the incident is above and beyond American internet-forum debates on Area 51 and the chupacabra. Whereas U.S. conspiracy theories often develop on the fringes of public life—a line that has admittedly been blurred in the Donald Trump era—conspiracy-mongering is mainstream in Russia, a country in which 57 percent of the population believes the Apollo moon landings were a hoax.…’

Via The Atlantic

The Timeless Isolation of Wilderness Solos

UnknownBeing There:

Thanks to Kottke for pointing to Mark O’Connell’s take on the experience of the wilderness solo, spending 24 or more hours essentially doing nothing alone in the woods:

‘When you’re actually in it, the reality of the solo is, at least at first, one of total boredom. I cannot stress enough how little there is to do when you have confined yourself to the inside of a small circle of stones and sticks in a forest. But it is an instructive kind of boredom, insofar as boredom is the raw and unmediated experience of time. It is considered best practice not to have a watch, and to turn off your phone and keep it somewhere in the bottom of a bag so as to avoid the temptation to constantly check how long you’ve been out and how long you have left. And as you become untethered from your accustomed orientation in time — from always knowing what time it is, how long you have to do the thing you’re doing, when you have to stop doing it to do the next thing — you begin to glimpse a new perspective on the anxiety that arises from that orientation. Because this anxiety, which amounts to a sort of cost-benefit analysis of every passing moment, is a quintessentially modern predicament.…’

Via The Guardian

So What Exactly is a PHEIC?

’The World Health Organization met today and declared the coronavirus from Wuhan (2019-nCoV) a public health
emergency of international concern, or PHEIC.

This does not mean that we’re all going to die, or that the disease is out of control. Rather, it means that the virus is crossing international borders in a way that requires countries to work together to prevent the situation from getting any worse.…’

Via Lifehacker

A quick history of why Asians wear surgical masks in public

Rtrl964The reality is that the woven-cloth surgical masks provide minimal protection from environmental viruses anyway. (Surgeons use them to protect patients from their mouth-borne germs, not the other way around.) But the masks’ actual prophylactic utility is, in a way, secondary to other reasons they’re being worn, which is why they’re likely to become more common in the future—even among non-Asians….

The bottom line is that in East Asia, the predilection toward using face-coverings to prevent exposure to bad air is something that predates the germ theory of disease, and extends into the very foundations of East Asian culture. In recent years, however, mask-wearing has become rooted in new and increasingly postmodern rationales…

Studies have found that among many young Japanese, masks have evolved into social firewalls; perfectly healthy teens now wear them, along with audio headsets, to signal a lack of desire to communicate with those around them. This is particularly true for young women seeking to avoid harassment on public transit, who also appreciate the relative anonymity the masks provide.

’Masks are even becoming an element of East Asian style: In Japan, surgical masks bearing chic designs or the images of cute licensed characters can be purchased in every corner drugstore, while last month at China Fashion Week, designer Yin Peng unveiled a line of “smog couture” clothese paired with a variety of masks, from Vader-esque ventilators to whole-head riot-gear rebreathers.…’

Via Quartz