Bryce Dallas Howard, star of The Help, shares things to watch that are not The Help

If you’ve taken a gander at Netflix over the past few days (lol of course you have), you may have noticed that The Help has made its way into the platform’s top 10 most popular titles. Yes, the movie in which Octavia Spencer feeds Bryce Dallas Howard a pie filled with actual shit (coincidentally the only scene in the movie that’s worth a shit), has become one of the most-viewed titles on Netflix in the wake of ongoing nationwide protests in support of Black Lives Matter—which unfortunately makes sense, given that The Help is one of those movies about racial injustice created by and for white people, not unlike Green Book or Driving Miss Daisy. It’s incredibly important for white people to educate ourselves about systemic racism, but a fictional narrative film made by white people and told from the perspective of a white character is neither enlightening nor particularly instructive.

Via AVClub

Will the Banks Collapse?

Imagine if, in addition to all the uncertainty surrounding the pandemic, you woke up one morning to find that the financial sector had collapsed. To hear more feature stories, get the Audm iPhone app. You may think that such a crisis is unlikely, with memories of the 2008 crash still so fresh. But banks learned few lessons from that calamity, and new laws intended to keep them from taking on too much risk have failed to do so. As a result, we could be on the precipice of another crash, one different from 2008 less in kind than in degree. This one could be worse.

— UCBerkeley law professor Frank Partnoy writing in The Atlantic

“The Perfect Avatar of Elite Incompetence for Our Times”

Jared Kushner is not yet 40, and was a newspaper publisher and commercial real estate magnate in New York City before he became a major player in Trump’s administration. (He remains a slumlord, in Maryland.) He has a degree from Harvard and a J.D./MBA from New York University; his father, a New Jersey real estate titan and convicted felon, donated generously to both institutions prior to Jared’s admission. Kushner himself is by all accounts ambitious and hardworking, but also a cipher—a climber and a sycophant, a snob, someone who isn’t quite filled in. Ivanka Trump has said that her dream man was Christian Bale’s portrayal of Patrick Bateman in Mary Harron’s American Psycho; the man she married, in 2009, is a milder, ganglier, edited-for-television version. As it happened, her father’s chaotic and relentlessly paranoid administration proved the perfect environment for a sufficiently labile and servile nullity to rise quickly.

Via The New Republic

Bated Breath Dept.

Wave of new polling suggests plummeting Trump support

‘The coronavirus pandemic, a severe economic downturn and the widespread demonstrations in the aftermath of the death of George Floyd in police custody would pose a serious political challenge to any president seeking re-election. They are certainly posing one to President Trump.

His approval rating has fallen to negative 12.7 percentage points among registered or likely voters, down from negative 6.7 points on April 15, according to FiveThirtyEight estimates. And now a wave of new polls shows Joe Biden with a significant national lead, placing him in a stronger position to oust an incumbent president than any challenger since Bill Clinton in the summer of 1992…’

Via New York Times

The psychological impact of future facial masking

As Rachel Sugar writes in Vox, masks have become a way of life and, by almost all expert accounts, it is almost certain that the future will be masked. Especially with the economy ‘reopening’ and people spending more time in public settings, masking should increase.

Apart from the physical discomforts (especially during stifling weather), the most jarring changes will be the psychological. People now have decreased access to important nonverbal aspects of communication and everyone feels more removed. Judging feelings from seeing only the top half of the face makes even strong emotion seem more muted. (We already know this from psychological studies of women in veiled societies and infants whose mouths are obscured by pacifiers.) Unfortunately, this is more true of some more emotions, such as happiness or sadness, than for fear or anger, which are “upper face emotions.” What will  the impact be of a cultural shift in the ability to perceive some emotional expressions more easily than others? In my psychiatric work during the pandemic, I have found it more difficult to reassure patients without their seeing my smile. Furthermore, there may be new impediments to one of the ways people resonate emotionally — by matching or mimicking the facial expressions of one’s opposite number in a conversation. I have written extensively about the mirror neuron system in FmH over the years, which probably form the neurological basis of person perception and empathy. For instance, “because of the mirror neuron system, smiles are literally neurologically contagious, and so are the good feelings associated with them…” We may be interfering with the hardwired human capacity for empathy. “Now there are new ways to misunderstand each other…”

This may have more of an impact in “melting pot” societies like that of the U.S. with ancestral diversity, looser social norms, and thus the need for as many cues as we can get to know how someone feels and how they will react. In more culturally homogeneous societies, it is arguably easier to know what people are feeling.

I have also, by the way, been concerned with the impact of facial coverings on communication with hearing impaired people who have depended on lipreading. I wonder if it will be possible to develop transparent masks that would be as comfortable to wear and as effective in droplet filtering as current opaque varieties.

It may be necessary (and I have found myself doing so) to switch increasingly to verbal in place of nonverbal reactions, e.g. chuckling rather than smiling. People may become more gestural with their hands or physical movements such as nodding. It is also possible that we may become more skilled at reading the minute expressions in the visible parts of others’ faces which we used to overlook. We may shift toward more eye contact.

It would be interesting to do psychological studies of Asian societies where masking became more common in advance of the West since the SARS and bird flu epidemics earlier in the 21st century or even, to some extent, other pandemic respiratory illnesses early in the 20th century. Of course, the research designs would have to be very clever, as arguably cultural differences in emotional expression between Western and Asian cultures may be more substantial than those between masked and unmasked in the same culture. Only peripherally related, Dutch author (and former editor of The New York Review of Books) Ian Buruma, in his 1984 book Behind the Maskargued that cultural taboos have always functioned like a figurative mask against the expression of hedonistic emotion in Japanese culture.

So, after CoViD, masks may become as commonplace as watches or sunglasses, originally only functional necessities but evolving into fashion accessories. Besides, with the current upsurge in mass demonstrations, widespread facial masking may put a dent in the surveillance society by impairing facial recognition technology.

CoViD may be a vascular disease, which could explain a lot

‘Months into the pandemic, there is now a growing body of evidence to support the theory that the novel coronavirus can infect blood vessels, which could explain not only the high prevalence of blood clots, strokes, and heart attacks, but also provide an answer for the diverse set of head-to-toe symptoms that have emerged.

The most perplexing things about a disease that has proved vexing, deadly, and ‘unprecedented in many ways’

“All these Covid-associated complications were a mystery. We see blood clotting, we see kidney damage, we see inflammation of the heart, we see stroke, we see encephalitis [swelling of the brain],” says William Li, MD, president of the Angiogenesis Foundation. “A whole myriad of seemingly unconnected phenomena that you do not normally see with SARS or H1N1 or, frankly, most infectious diseases.”

“If you start to put all of the data together that’s emerging, it turns out that this virus is probably a vasculotropic virus, meaning that it affects the [blood vessels],” says Mandeep Mehra, MD, medical director of the Brigham and Women’s Hospital Heart and Vascular Center.

In a paper published in April in the scientific journal The Lancet, Mehra and a team of scientists discovered that the SARS-CoV-2 virus can infect the endothelial cells that line the inside of blood vessels. Endothelial cells protect the cardiovascular system, and they release proteins that influence everything from blood clotting to the immune response. In the paper, the scientists showed damage to endothelial cells in the lungs, heart, kidneys, liver, and intestines in people with Covid-19….’

Via Elemental

My friend chose an assisted death in Switzerland. Her dying wish was to tell you why

‘Shortly after 11 a.m. on December 16, 2019, Cindy Siegel Shepler drew her last breath in a spartan room in Basel, Switzerland.

The 62-year-old American twisted a knob on her IV pole and soon fell asleep for the last time.
I had stayed with her and her husband David in Knoxville, Tennessee, for their last three nights at home before they left for Basel. And I spoke to her for the last time about 12 hours before she died.

Cindy had been forced to give up a high-powered corporate career at age 35 and struggled for decades with a handful of painful diseases. She spent much of her time seeking new treatments and advocating for medical research, knowing she might never benefit from her labors.

When it finally became clear that no drug could relieve her intense suffering, she chose voluntary assisted death, a procedure that’s not legal in her home state.

Her dying wish was for me to tell her story, with the hope that it would help the cause of all Americans one day having access to this kind of death with dignity….’

— Via CNN

Former Harvard psychiatrist Lance Dodes on Trump’s ‘paranoid rage’: The president wants to ‘turn America into a police state’

SNAP1

 

‘In an effort to understand Donald Trump’s downward spiral of violence, paranoia, and other obvious mentally pathological behavior, I recently spoke with Dr. Lance Dodes, whom I have interviewed on several previous occasions. He is a retired assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and now a training and supervising analyst emeritus at the Boston Psychoanalytic Society and Institute.

In this conversation, Dodes warned that Donald Trump is a sociopath (defined as psychopathic personality type) who will do anything to stay in power. Dodes also spoke about Trump’s use of the term “dominate,” and what it tells us about his desire to control the American people, the country’s elected officials, the military and other institutions of power by any means necessary. Dodes also issued an ominous warning about Trump’s character and behavior, warning that our president is a moral weakling, coward and bully who will continue to lash out at any and all people who he feels have wronged or disrespected him. Trump’s ultimate desire, Dodes says, is to put his boot on the neck of everyone on the planet….’

— Via Alternet.org

Say This Isn’t the End

Original
... say we live on, say we’ll forget the masks
that kept us from dying from the invisible,
but say we won’t ever forget the invisible
masks we realized we had been wearing
most our lives, disguising ourselves from
each other. Say we won’t veil ourselves again,
that our souls will keep breathing timelessly,
that we won’t return to clocking our lives
with lists and appointments. Say we’ll keep
our days errant as sun showers, impulsive
as a star’s falling. Say this isn’t our end

... say I’ll get to be as thrilled as a boy spinning
again in my barber’s chair, tell him how
I’d missed his winged scissors chirping
away my shaggy hair eclipsing my eyes,
his warm clouds of foam, the sharp love
of his razor’s tender strokes on my beard.
Say I’ll get more chances to say more than
thanks, Shirley at the checkout line, praise
her turquoise jewelry, her son in photos
taped to her register, dare to ask about
her throat cancer. Say this isn’t her end

... say my mother’s cloudy eyes won’t die
from the goodbye kiss I last gave her, say
that wasn’t our final goodbye, nor will we
be stranded behind a quarantine window
trying to see our refracted faces beyond
the glare, read our lips, press the warmth
of our palms to the cold glass. Say I won’t
be kept from her bedside to listen to her
last words, that we’ll have years to speak
of the decades of our unspoken love that
separated us. Say this isn’t how we’ll end

... say all the restaurant chairs will get back
on their feet, that we’ll all sit for another
lifetime of savoring all we had never fully
savored: the server as poet reciting flavors
not on the menu, the candlelight flicker
as appetizer, friends’ spicy gossip and rich,
saucy laughter, sharing entrées of memories
no longer six feet apart, our beloved’s lips
as velvety as the wine, the dessert served
sweet in their eyes. Say this is no one’s end

... say my husband and I will keep on honing
our home cooking together, find new recipes
for love in the kitchen: our kisses and tears
while dicing onions, eggs cracking in tune
to Aretha’s croon, dancing as we heat up
the oven. Say we’ll never stop feasting on
the taste of our stories, sweet or sour, but
say our table will never be set for just one,
say neither of us dies, many more Cheers!
to our good health. Say we will never end

... say we’ll all still take the time we once
needed to walk alone and gently through
our neighborhoods, keep noticing the Zen
of anthills and sidewalk cracks blossoming
weeds, of yappy dogs and silent swing sets
rusting in backyards, of neat hedges hiding
mansions and scruffy lawns of boarded-up
homes. Say we won’t forget our seeing
that every kind of life is a life worth living,
worth saving. Say this is nobody’s end

... or say this will be my end, say the loving
hands of gloved, gowned angels risking
their lives to save mine won’t be able to
keep me here. Say this is the last breath
of my last poem, will of my last thoughts:
I’ve witnessed massive swarms of fireflies
grace my garden like never before, drawn
to the air cleansed of our arrogant greed,
their glow a flashback to the time before
us, omen of Earth without us, a reminder
we’re never immune to nature. I say this
might be the end we’ve always needed
to begin again. I say this may be the end
to let us hope to heal, to evolve, reach
the stars. Again I’ll say: heal, evolve, reach
and become the stars that became us—
whether or not this is or is not our end.

Richard Blanco via The Atlantic

After 6 Months, Important Mysteries About Coronavirus Endure

‘Some of the most critical things that scientists and public health officials have yet to understand:

  • How many people have been infected.
  • The amount of virus it takes to make you sick.
  • Why some people get so much sicker than others.
  • The role of children in spreading the virus.
  • When or where the new coronavirus started spreading.
  • How long you’ll be immune after infection…’

— Via The New York Times

The rise of American authoritarianism

‘…Authoritarians, as a growing presence in the GOP, are a real constituency that exists independently of Trump — and will persist as a force in American politics regardless of the fate of his candidacy.

If Trump loses the election, that will not remove the threats and social changes that trigger the “action side” of authoritarianism. The authoritarians will still be there. They will still look for candidates who will give them the strong, punitive leadership they desire.

And that means Donald Trump could be just the first of many Trumps in American politics, with potentially profound implications for the country.

It would also mean more problems for the GOP. This election is already showing that the party establishment abhors Trump and all he stands for — his showy demagoguery, his disregard for core conservative economic values, his divisiveness.

WE MAY NOW HAVE A DE FACTO THREE-PARTY SYSTEM: THE DEMOCRATS, THE GOP ESTABLISHMENT, AND THE GOP AUTHORITARIANS
But while the party may try to match Trump’s authoritarian rhetoric, and its candidates may grudgingly embrace some of his harsher policies toward immigrants or Muslims, in the end a mainstream political party cannot fully commit to extreme authoritarian action the way Trump can.

That will be a problem for the party. Just look at where the Tea Party has left the Republican establishment. The Tea Party delivered the House to the GOP in 2010, but ultimately left the party in an unresolved civil war. Tea Party candidates have challenged moderates and centrists, leaving the GOP caucus divided and chaotic.

Now a similar divide is playing out at the presidential level, with results that are even more destructive for the Republican Party. Authoritarians may be a slight majority within the GOP, and thus able to force their will within the party, but they are too few and their views too unpopular to win a national election on their own.

And so the rise of authoritarianism as a force within American politics means we may now have a de facto three-party system: the Democrats, the GOP establishment, and the GOP authoritarians.

And although the latter two groups are presently forced into an awkward coalition, the GOP establishment has demonstrated a complete inability to regain control over the renegade authoritarians, and the authoritarians are actively opposed to the establishment’s centrist goals and uninterested in its economic platform.

Over time, this will have significant political consequences for the Republican Party. It will become more difficult for Republican candidates to win the presidency because the candidates who can win the nomination by appealing to authoritarian primary voters will struggle to court mainstream voters in the general election. They will have less trouble with local and congressional elections, but that might just mean more legislative gridlock as the GOP caucus struggles to balance the demands of authoritarian and mainstream legislators. The authoritarian base will drag the party further to the right on social issues, and will simultaneously erode support for traditionally conservative economic policies….’

— Amanda Taub writing in Vox

What America can learn from Nordic police

‘The Nordic countries… have both enormously smaller police departments and prison systems than the United States, and much less violent crime, especially murders. Emulating their basic approach could allow American cities to cleanse themselves of police abuse and still enjoy lower crime….’

— Via The Week

Death due to sleep deprivation is linked to the gut

The morbidity and mortality of sleep deprivation has long been recognized. A new study in the journal Cell by researchers from the Harvard Medical School finds that some of the damage may be mediated by an unexpected culprit — oxidative stress caused by a buildup of the molecules called reactive oxygen species (ROS) in the gut. In sleep-deprived fruit flies and mice, at least, the effects can be reversed, even with continuing sleep deprivation, by aggressive use of any of 11 various antioxidants including melatonin, lipoid acid, and NAD. These antioxidants did not extend the lifespan or improve the health of non-sleep deprived control subjects. 

 

— Via Big Think

The neurobiology of social distance: Why loneliness may be the biggest threat to survival and longevity

‘Never before have we experienced social isolation on a massive scale as we have during the evolving COVID-19 pandemic. A new paper published in the journal Trends in Cognitive Sciences explores the wide-ranging, negative consequences that social isolation has on our psychological well-being and physical health, including decreased life span. The paper was co-authored by Associate Professor Danilo Bzdok (McGill University and Mila Quebec Artificial Intelligence Institute) and Emeritus Professor Robin Dunbar (University of Oxford)….’

— Via Neuroscience News

Psilocybin Seems to Turn Down ‘Ego Center’ in Brain

The claustrum, a thin sheet of neurons deep within the cortex with extremely rich and global input and output connections to myriad other brain regions, has been suspected by neuroscientists of being the seat of consciousness. Because of its location in the brain, the claustrum has been difficult to access or assess. Now a new study from Johns Hopkins, utilizing a new functional MRI (fMRI) technique developed for the purpose, demonstrates a downturn in activity in the claustrum after psilocybin use as compared with taking a placebo. This may be the neural basis of the reduced sense of self or ego, and feeling of connection to the cosmos, in psychedelic experiences. Now the researchers plan to examine claustral activity in various psychiatric disorders such as depression and psychosis as well as assess the effect of other psychedelic substances on its function. 

— Via Psych Central

Police brutality: A historian explains how racist policing took over US cities

Khalil Muhammad, a professor of history, race, and public policy at Harvard Kennedy School and author of the book The Condemnation of Blackness: Race, Crime, and the Making of Modern Urban America, documents a century of systemic police racism in America. Essentially, he explains that, after the abolition of slavery in 1865, white supremicists in the South quickly turned to an ideology that criminalized expressions of black freedom, economic and social rights. In a vicious circle, the resultant higher rates of black incarceration reinforce the idea of black criminality, resulting in more incarcerations, etc. We saw the relentless consolidation of a set of facts ‘proving’ that black people have a crime problem. Those who were not imprisoned could be kept working in a subordinate way perpetuating their exploitation. 

The idea of black criminality justified segregation, especially after the great migration northward, where justice tended to rely more on policing rather than its vigilante basis in the South. Black people in white spaces became presumptively suspect and ipso facto policing black communities was necessary to prevent crime and protect white privilege in America.

— Via Vox

Mandela’s Sermon

Blessed are the dehumanized
for they have nothing to lose
but their patience

False gods killed the poet in me. Now
I dig graves
with artistic precision

© 2002, Keorapetse Kgositsile

Via Poetry International

Covid-19 Can Persist at Least Several Months

Interesting article by one of my favorite science writers, Ed Yong, in The Atlantic starts out as a review of the “long-haulers” whose Covid symptoms don’t get better as expected. As an aside keep in mind that this does not mean that symptomatic people are still contagious, i.e. shedding virus. One of the big things we still don’t know about this disease are which symptoms come directly from viral devastation of various organs and which from the resultant immune response from the body.

But the interesting part of the article for me is Yong’s mapping of long-haul Covid infection to so-called medical gaslighting — the profession’s downplaying of patients’ physical complaints as being “all in their head” or caused by stress, especially in women and, as Yong points out, in communities of color. There is a long history of mysterious illnesses — most notably chronic fatigue syndrome (myalgic encephalomyelitis in the UK) and fibromyalgia — of unclear causes, debilitating chronic symptoms, and no clear treatments.

Clusters of ME/CFS have followed many infectious outbreaks and even those medical professionals who take them seriously and do not dismiss them as purely psychiatric syndromes may be forgiven for failing to recognize that they probably cannot be reduced to being merely longterm or chronic variants of their mother diseases. Long ago I wrote a book chapter on controversial syndromes on the medical-psychiatric borderline. I focused on chronic fatigue syndrome and was guilty as charged myself, reviewing the data that it was essentially chronic Epstein-Barr virus infection. And in recent years I have lectured and taught about what some of us have described as chronic Lyme disease. Not that I am any kind of expert on these conditions. In fact, that is exactly the point — that this should be in the domain of the immunologists or infectious disease specialists rather than the psychiatrists. It is too soon to see if my non-psychiatric colleagues will begin sending post-Covid patients to us to treat postviral syndrome symptoms as if they are “just” emotional reactions.

Dealing with a novel medical condition which the world had never seen even six months ago should humble healthcare providers by highlighting how much we operate in the realms of mystery and ignorance. On the front lines, the dizzying pace of refining our approach in the face of such a moving target has been unprecedented. The unfortunate cases in which Covid infection appears to simply not go away may actually help us to finally realize that there may be a common syndrome affecting some with systemic infectious diseases. Much as we have stopped diagnosing or teaching about chronic Epstein-Barr, we should perhaps stop considering entites like “chronic Lyme” or “long-haul Covid” to be distinct entities and acknowledge the commonalities.

Several teams of investigators are already planning studies of Covid infection survivors to see if any become ME/CFS patients. A unifying conception would help stigmatized patients and might actually point the way to elucidating underlying mechanisms that might facilitate therapeutic interventions, And, established as having real, albeit complicated, causes, maybe psychiatrists like me should stop considering them to be in our province, the province of “all in the head”, at all? Mental health providers are going to have their hands full as it is helping with the devastating neuropsychiatric and emotional consequences of this pandemic.

As Yong concludes:

Perhaps COVID-19 will … galvanize an even larger survivor cohort. Perhaps, collectively, they can push for a better understanding of neglected chronic diseases, and an acceptance of truths that the existing disability community have long known. That health and sickness are not binary. That medicine is as much about listening to patients’ subjective experiences as it is about analyzing their organs. That being a survivor is something you must also survive.

Effrontery Without Limits: Trump Presumes to Speak for George Floyd

‘Hopefully George is looking down right now and saying, ‘There’s a great thing that’s happening for our country,’” President Trump said in the Rose Garden Friday, celebrating a May unemployment report that showed “only” 21 million people — 13.3 percent of the workforce — out of work.

“This is a great day for him, it’s a great day for everybody,” Trump continued. “This is a great, great day in terms of equality.”

For about the millionth time in the past four years, America asks: What the hell is he talking about?

Trump has long presumed to speak for the dead and their thoughts as they “look down” at us. But implying, as Trump appeared to do, that George Floyd is having “a great day” in the afterlife because of the May jobs report? Trump’s effrontery has no end….’

— Dana Millbank writing in The Washington Post

Unidentified law enforcement officers

A dangerous new factor in an uneasy moment: 

‘After more than a week of unrest, tension in a number of major U.S. cities has eased. The vandalism and looting that had often used large, peaceful protests as cover have faded; the eruption of violence at protests appears to be less common. The Associated Press reports that active-duty members of the military who were moved into Washington to help keep order would be moved back out, though that decision was later reversed.
But it wasn’t only components of the Defense Department that had been brought to the nation’s capital to help with the “domination” that President Trump sought to display in the wake of the turmoil. Washington residents have also been confronted with a number of other heavily armed law enforcement officers who share an unexpected characteristic: Neither their affiliation nor their personal identities are discernible….’

— Via Washington Post

How to Identify Visible (and Invisible) Surveillance at Protests

‘For decades, EFF has been tracking police departments’ massive accumulation of surveillance technology and equipment. You can find detailed descriptions and analysis of common police surveillance tech at our Street-Level Surveillance guide. As we continue to expand our Atlas of Surveillance project, you can also see what surveillance tech law enforcement agencies in your area may be using.

If you’re attending a protest, don’t forget to take a look at our Surveillance Self-Defense guide to learn how to keep your information and digital devices secure when attending a protest.

Here is a review of surveillance technology that police may be deploying against ongoing protests against racism and police brutality….’

— Via Electronic Frontier FOundation

Civil disobedience is not our problem

“Civil disobedience is not our problem. Our problem is civil obedience. Our problem is that people all over the world have obeyed the dictates of leaders…and millions have been killed because of this obedience… Our problem is that people are obedient all over the world in the face of poverty and starvation and stupidity, and war, and cruelty. Our problem is that people are obedient while the jails are full of petty thieves…and the grand thieves are running the country.”

— Howard Zinn

Will Trump leave?

Imagine that it’s November 3, 2020, and Joe Biden has just been declared the winner of the presidential election by all the major networks except for Fox News.

It was a close, bitter race, but Biden appears to have won with just over 280 electoral votes.Because Election Day took place in the middle of a second wave of coronavirus infections, turnout was historically low and a huge number of votes were cast via absentee ballot. While Biden is the presumptive winner, the electoral process was bumpy, with thousands of mail-in votes in closely fought states still waiting to be counted.

Trump, naturally, refuses to concede and spends election night tweeting about how “fraudulent” the vote was.We knew this would be coming; he’s been previewing this kind of response for a while now. One day goes by, then a few more, and a month later Trump is still contesting the outcome, calling it “rigged” or a “Deep State plot” or whatever. Republicans, for the most part, are falling in line behind Trump. From that point forward, we’re officially in a constitutional crisis.

This is the starting point of a new book by Amherst College law professor Lawrence Douglas called Will He Go? Trump and the Looming Election Meltdown in 2020. According to Douglas, a scenario like the one above is entirely possible, maybe even probable. And if nothing else, we’ve learned in the Trump era that we have to take the tail risks seriously. Douglas’s book is an attempt to think through how we might deal with the constitutional chaos of an undecided — and perhaps undecidable — presidential election.

Via  Vox

Trump Tweets QAnon Conspiracy Theory Message Amid Unrest

‘President Trump reposted a message amid national unrest on Sunday expressing support for the pro-Trump QAnon conspiracy theory, a movement the FBI considers a potential domestic terror threat. In his tweet, Trump quote-tweeted a May 30 tweet from “Sean Cordicon,” a QAnon conspiracy theory promoter. Cordicon’s tweet included a Trump rally highlight reel and a message to his audience that they are “the calm before, during, & after the storm.” Cordicon’s tweet appears to be a reference to “The Storm,” a QAnon concept that imagines Trump and the military suddenly arresting and either executing or imprisoning top Democrats. Trump responded to the tweet with a one-word message of his own: “STRENGTH!” …

Trump’s retweet of the “storm” message was taken as proof by QAnon believers that the arrests were about to begin, with one popular QAnon account tweeting “Here we go.” Earlier on Sunday, Trump declared that he would designate left-wing antifascist “antifa” demonstrators as terrorists. But QAnon believers have committed a number of alleged crimes, having been charged with two murders, a terrorist incident, and two child abduction plots, among other crimes….’

— Via The Daily Beast

Thousands of Species Are Fleeing to Earth’s Poles en Masse, And a Pattern’s Emerging

‘Drawing together 258 peer-reviewed studies, researchers compared over 30,000 habitat shifts in more than 12,000 species of bacteria, fungi, plants, and animals. We know that global warming is forcing many animals around the world to flee their normal habitats, but now, an exhaustive analysis has shown marine species are booking it for the poles six times faster than those on land….’

— Via Science Alert

Spell to Be Said against Hatred

Until each breath refuses they, those, them.
Until the Dramatis Personae of the book’s first page says, “Each one is you.”
Until hope bows to its hopelessness only as one self bows to another. Until cruelty bends to its work and sees suddenly: I.
Until anger and insult know themselves burnable legs of a useless table.
Until the unsurprised unbidden knees find themselves bending. Until fear bows to its object as a bird’s shadow bows to its bird. Until the ache of the solitude inside the hands, the ribs, the ankles. Until the sound the mouse makes inside the mouth of the cat. Until the inaudible acids bathing the coral.
Until what feels no one’s weighing is no longer weightless.
Until what feels no one’s earning is no longer taken.
Until grief, pity, confusion, laughter, longing know themselves mirrors.
Until by we we mean I, them, you, the muskrat, the tiger, the hunger.
Until by I we mean as a dog barks, sounding and vanishing and
sounding and vanishing completely.
Until by until we mean I, we, you, them, the muskrat, the tiger, the
hunger, the lonely barking of the dog before it is answered.

— Jane Hirshfield

The anger behind the George Floyd protests, explained in 4 charts

Even though one ex-police officer has been charged in the Minneapolis murder of unarmed George Floyd the eruption of anger around the country has continued because they are not about that one crime but rampant police violence without consequences. A recent analysis found that 99% of police killings from 2014-2019 did not result in officers even being charged, let alone convicted of a crime. During those years, there have been consistently been in excess of 1,000 killings — across race of victim — by police per year. In other words, little has changed appreciably despite years of protest and advocacy. 

Per capita, black Americans are the most likely victims, nearly three times as likely to be killed as whites, as well as much more likely to have been unarmed when shot. In many cities, the rate of police killings is higher than the rate of violent crimes. 

Protests against police killing of unarmed black men have been numerous and at times long-lived, giving rise to the Black Lives Matter movement and other advocacy efforts. Some studies have shown that the resulting oversight measures, e.g. chokehold and stronghold bans, have indeed had some impact.

But not enough. A black man in America has a 1 in 1000 chance of being killed by the police. Is there anything protesters can do other than draw attention to this problem that does not seem to be going away? 

Many advocates argue that no change can come about until policies are put in place weakening police unions, and ensuring police cannot be militarized or demilitarized at the whim of the president of the United States. The decision to offer police military equipment is not made at the local, but federal level. And police union officials, who often shape the rules police officers are governed by, are voted in by officers in the union — not by the public.

The officer who has been charged with the murder of George Floyd was still on the job after 18 prior complaints. And 99% of officers are not charged following a killing. With these odds and the years of frustration they have ignited, there is little recourse other than to continue to take to the streets. 

— Via Vox

Institutionalized Racism: A Syllabus

Smoke billowing over Tulsa, Oklahoma during 1921 race riots.

 

‘The United States has seen escalating protests over the past week, following the death of George Floyd while in custody of the Minneapolis police. Educators everywhere are asking how can we help students understand that this was not an isolated, tragic incident perpetrated by a few bad individuals, but part of a broader pattern of institutionalized racism. Institutional racism—a term coined by Stokey Carmichael (later known as Kwame Ture) and Charles V. Hamilton in their 1967 book Black Power: The Politics of Liberation in America—is what connects George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery with Philando Castile, Eric Garner, Emmett Till, and the thousands of other people of color who have been killed because they were black in America….’

— Via JSTOR

Unexplained Phenomena Keep Suggesting the Universe Isn’t What We Thought

Is the Universe playing fair with us?

‘This notion of universal laws, known as the cosmological principle, has produced centuries of theory and has so far been borne out by astronomical observations. The model of an isotropic universe helps explain crucial phenomena such as the homogeneity of the cosmic microwave background, the oldest light in the universe, as well as the apparent expansion of the universe at a uniform rate.

“The cosmological principle is, in more tangible terms: Is the universe playing fair with us?” explained Robert Caldwell, a professor of physics and astronomy at Dartmouth College, in a call. “Are the laws of physics the same everywhere? Or is there a preferred location in the universe?”

While most evidence suggests the universe is playing fair, there are also many cosmic wildcards that seem to clash with the cosmological principle. Just within the past few months, for instance, two teams of physicists published completely different observations of anomalies in the universe that hint at potential variations in fundamental laws and forces….’

— Via VICE

The problem with comparing health care workers to soldiers on Memorial Day

‘While images of health care workers running into death may seem “beautiful” to some, frequently hailing health care workers as heroes and praising our sacrifices suggests that our lost colleagues were expected to be human collateral damage in the fight. As if the California nurse who ran into a code blue to save a patient and died from lack of PPE is a martyr whose tragic death should be celebrated. In reality, as we’ve argued before, none of us chose to be in this position. Rather, we have been thrust into roles where we have to risk ourselves and our families, largely because leadership has failed, and continues to fail, to protect us….’

— Via Vox

If you have a problem figuring out whether you’re for Biden or Trump, then you ain’t a woman

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Trump spreads sexist insults about Hillary Clinton, female Democrats

‘On Saturday, President Donald Trump shared a series of sexist insults and personal jibes about prominent female Democrats. 
The tweets, by a failed conservative congressional candidate, were aimed at Hillary Clinton, Stacey Abrams, and Nancy Pelosi. 
Trump has a long record of aiming sexist insults at female critics. 
His campaign has doubled down on spreading insults and conspiracy theories about opponents in the wake of the president’s faltering response to the coronavirus….’

— Via Business Insider

I am a simple potato guardian who needs my Second Amendment rights

‘ “We’re going after Virginia with your crazy governor. … They want to take your Second Amendment away. You know that right? You’ll have nobody guarding your potatoes.”
— President Trump, to farmers assembled at the White House

I am a potato guardian. This is the only life I have known. Here is my tale, one no doubt familiar to you, just as the concept of a person who guards potatoes in Virginia is familiar….’

Alexandra Petri in The Washington Post

Wingnut Update

QAnon Is More Important Than You Think

‘QAnon is emblematic of modern America’s susceptibility to conspiracy theories, and its enthusiasm for them. But it is also already much more than a loose collection of conspiracy-minded chat-room inhabitants. It is a movement united in mass rejection of reason, objectivity, and other Enlightenment values. And we are likely closer to the beginning of its story than the end. The group harnesses paranoia to fervent hope and a deep sense of belonging. The way it breathes life into an ancient preoccupation with end-times is also radically new. To look at QAnon is to see not just a conspiracy theory but the birth of a new religion….’

— Via The Atlantic

Wingnuts’ Latest

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More than 40% of Republicans think Bill Gates will use COVID-19 vaccine to implant microchips, survey says:

‘A survey from Yahoo News and YouGov finds that the conspiracy theory is popular among Fox News viewers, Republicans and Trump voters.

— Ian Sherr writing on CNET

Brazil: The coronavirus is hitting indigenous communities hard

‘The mortality rate is double that of the rest of Brazil’s population, according to advocacy group Articulation of Indigenous Peoples of Brazil (APIB) which tracks the number of cases and deaths among the country’s 900,000 indigenous people.
APIB has recorded more than 980 officially confirmed cases of coronavirus and at least 125 deaths, which suggests a mortality rate of 12.6 percent — compared to the national rate of 6.4 percent….’

— Via CNN

6 months on, Trump hasn’t completed his physical. The White House won’t say why.

‘In November 2019 — six months ago this week — Trump began what the White House described as “portions” of his third physical during a two-hour examination at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.

That visit to Walter Reed was unannounced and remained shrouded in secrecy for two days as the president remained out of public view and as the White House declined to answer questions about it.

The president’s physician, Dr. Sean Conley, later wrote in a memo released by the White House that Trump’s “interim checkup” had been “routine.” Conley at the time said a “more comprehensive” examination would occur this year and that the president’s labs and exam results would be released in a corresponding report.

At 73, Trump is the oldest person to be sworn in for his first term as president.

Questions about Trump’s health are newly relevant, given his announcement this week that he is taking hydroxychloroquine to ward against contracting the coronavirus. The president described it as a “two-week regimen,” which ends today. Trump has repeatedly promoted the anti-malarial drug as a coronavirus treatment despite multiple warnings about its dangers….

A president’s annual physical typically occurs at the beginning of a new year. Trump’s 2019 exam was conducted in February, and his 2018 physical was conducted in January. It is uncommon for a president to complete a routine physical exam months apart and in multiple stages.

“As a part of granting a president as much power as we do, he has the obligation to demonstrate that he is well or, if he is not, to let us know exactly what is amiss,” said presidential historian Michael Beschloss…’

 

— Via NBC News

A doctor shares steps he’ll review to decide when and where it’s safe to go out and about

William Petri, immunologist and professor of medicine at the University of Virginia reminds us that our individual behavior affects not only our own health, but that of others. These are just careful common sense, in a sense they shouldn’t even have to be stated:

— correlate level of risk-taking to data on incidence of new COVID-19 infections in the community

— extra caution if you or those with whom you will visit have risk factors for severe infection, such as age >65 or serious medical conditions

— attentiveness to knowledge about the virus’ modes of transmission

— mask-wearing, avoidance of touching surfaces, avoidance of touching face, frequent handwashing

— staying outdoors, limiting time indoors with others, social distancing

— mask wearing, avoidance of venturing out and risking infecting others if experiencing fever, cough or other symptoms of a viral syndrome

— Via The Conversation

The Dream of “Disconnected Psychology”

‘A thought-provoking paper proposes a way to advance psychology: by encouraging researchers to ignore previous work in the field.

The piece is called Unburdening the Shoulders of Giants: A Quest for Disconnected Academic Psychology and it appeared in Perspectives on Psychological Science.

According to author Dario Krpan, academic psychology is failing to fully explore the space of possible theories. In other words, it is stuck in an intellectual rut (or ruts)….’

— Via Discover

Is America too libertarian to deal with the coronavirus?

Is America too libertarian to deal with the coronavirus? – Vox:

‘Keith Humphreys, a Stanford University professor who works on addiction and public health policy, argued in a viral Twitter thread last week… that a lot of his public health colleagues weren’t thinking seriously enough about the cultural obstacles that might undercut the country’s efforts to test, trace, and isolate Americans. He later penned a Washington Post column drawing out his arguments in a little more detail.

Humphreys’s basic claim is that any plan we adopt, no matter how wise, is useless without “widespread political consent” from American citizens. And the obsession with individual liberties in America, coupled with a general distrust of government, poses an enormous challenge to even the best conceivable plan….’

— Via Vox

How the Black Death Gave Rise to British Pub Culture

 

‘By the 1370s, though, the Black Death had caused a critical labor shortage, the stark consequence of some 50 percent of the population perishing in the plague. Eventually, this proved a boon for the peasantry of England, who could command higher wages for their work and achieve higher standards of living. As a result, the alehouses that were simply households selling or giving away leftover ale were replaced by more commercialized, permanent establishments set up by the best brewers and offering better food.

The burial ceremony of a monk in a 14th-century English convent. DE LUAN / ALAMY
“The survivors [of the Black Death] prioritized expenditure on foodstuffs, clothing, fuel, and domestic utensils,” writes Professor Mark Bailey of the University of East Anglia, who also credits the plague for the rise of pub culture, over email. “They drank more and better quality ale; ate more and better quality bread; and consumed more meat and dairy produce. Alongside this increased disposable income, they also had more leisure time.”…’

— Via Atlas Obscura

Why Ahmaud Arbery’s killing was a lynching

 

‘A video recorded his last moments. In it, two white men with guns corner him as he runs near their parked pickup truck. One shoots him three times, twice in the chest. The other man is a former officer with the local police department. Both men, a father and his son, were free until that video went viral on May 5. It took 74 days after Arbery’s death before the men were put in jail and charged with murder; they now face possible federal hate crimes charges.

The video brought a level of attention to Arbery’s killing that it had not attracted until then. It also sparked national anger: People were — and are — furious that an arrest had taken so long, that police appear to have empowered one of the suspects to act as a vigilante, that a small and interconnected local criminal justice community appeared uninterested in a full investigation, and, most of all, that another young, unarmed black man had been killed over nothing….’

— Via Vox

Dept of American Idiocy (cont’d)

20b5591b ebda 450c 83e6 68407f3fc2d0The press touts a coronavirus milestone as the global count passes 5 million. Of course, the count bears the same relationship to the realities as Plato’s shadows on the cave wall. Alex Madrigal in The Atlantic covers the evidence that the CDC is making a crucial error in counting cases, underestimating fatality statistics upon which governors have been basing their reopening decisions

Imperfect as the statistics are, The WHO reported (WSJ) the largest single-day increase in infections since the outbreak began, about 40% of them in the U.S. A research team from the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, which uses cellphone data to track social distancing and forecast pandemic trends, warns that hotspots throughout the South suggest danger of a second wave (Washington Post) over the coming four weeks in, among other places, Dallas, Houston, Florida’s Gold Coast, and throughout Alabama. Cases are also already rising in parts of the Midwest. 

Our cognitive machinery evolved with a risk-averse bias so as not to be miss dangers that threaten survival through false optimism. It is better to prepare for the possibility that that shadow at the mouth of the cave is a marauding predator, even if it is from a leaf blowing by, than to get eaten because you lulled yourself with a false sense of security. Of course, our evolutionary machinery has been challenged by the fact that, in this case, the predator is an abstraction rather than a beast with a face. Abstraction is certainly beyond the cognitively impaired elected (and impeached) president and his anti-intellectual mob of followers.

 

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One might argue, in a social Darwinist way, that people are entitled to make their own risk assessments, either to learn heuristically from the consequences or succumb. At some points since the emergence of CoViD, I speculated that we would see divergent mortality rates between red and blue regions of the U.S., for example. The problem is, of course, that during an epidemic, your idiocy jeopardizes me, my loved ones, many other innocents, as well as yourself, epidemiologically. To paraphrase a great social philosopher, “A child of five would understand this. Send someone to fetch a child of five.” 

Scarborough Spots Moment Trump Hurt 2020 Chances More ‘Than Any Democrat Ever Could’

One can only hope:

‘Joe Scarborough on Tuesday pointed out when he believes President Donald Trump did the most damage to his 2020 reelection campaign.

According to the co-host of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” Trump likely doomed himself in April and May when he pondered injecting disinfectant to treat COVID-19, talked about taking an unproven cure and declared war on various government agencies and “every doctor or every scientist or every person who had spent their entire life planning for this moment when it came to vaccines.”…’

— Via HuffPost

Is Trump now screwing himself as he’s done to the country?

Hydroxychloroquine as Microcosm:

‘For anyone who treats medical evidence seriously, assesses risk, and acts prudently, Trump’s decision to take a potentially hazardous drug prophylactically is crazy. But it fits with the conservative-media ecosystem that launched Trump’s political career, and in which he continues to marinate, preferring it to hard data and unpleasant truths. Right-wing outlets are full of advertising in which program hosts tout the benefits of this or that snake-oil supplement: mysterious pills with magical oils, or supercharged-vitamin regimes. Trump, who contemplated launching a talk-radio show this spring, is emulating this. He has often treated the presidency as more like a media platform than a leadership position, and now he has the dubious product endorsements to match. (Last week, the FDA also issued a warning about an instant COVID-19 test that Trump has energetically touted.)

Trump said a White House doctor had prescribed the medicine. “A White House doctor—didn’t recommend—no, I asked him, ‘What do you think?’ He said, ‘Well, if you’d like it.’ I said, ‘Yeah, I’d like it. I’d like to take it.’” A little later, the White House issued a statement in which Sean Conley, the Navy officer who serves as the president’s physician, confirmed that Trump was taking the drug and explained, through what seemed like gritted teeth, the process: “After numerous discussions he and I had regarding the evidence for and against the use of hydroxychloroquine, we concluded the potential benefit from treatment outweighed the relative risks.”

It’s absurd that Trump would take the drug despite the many risks when he has also declined to take more commonsense measures such as wearing a mask and gloves, as Olivia Nuzzi has noted. Part of that is selfishness: Trump is terrified about getting the disease himself, but is cavalier about other people getting it, and masks are mostly useful for protecting other people from getting infected.
But a large chunk is also symbolism. Trump reportedly believes that wearing a mask is a sign of weakness and is unpresidential; Trump allies such as the writer R. R. Reno have been more explicit in claiming that it is unmasculine and cowardly. Wearing a mask is certainly passive, and Trump likes to be seen as active and bold, even if that means taking an unproven putative miracle drug….’

— David Graham writing in The Atlantic

9 Words Formed by Mistake

‘Of all the ways that words come into being—descent from ancient roots, handy neologisms, onomatopoeia, back-formations that make sense, borrowings from other languages—one type stands out from the rest: words that are formed by mistakes. We’re talking here about words formed by what linguists call “false division,” “misdivision,” or “metanalysis”; it’s what happens when the spelling or sound of a word is split in the wrong place, often when the word has jumped from one language to another and is subject to the gravitational pull of new phonetic combinations. Let’s take a look at a few….’

Via Merriam-Webster

How Pandemics End

‘According to historians, pandemics typically have two types of endings: the medical, which occurs when the incidence and death rates plummet, and the social, when the epidemic of fear about the disease wanes.
“When people ask, ‘When will this end?,’ they are asking about the social ending,” said Dr. Jeremy Greene, a historian of medicine at Johns Hopkins….’

— Via The New York Times Magazine

How long will the Covid-19 pandemic last? We need immunity data to find out.

How long will the Covid-19 pandemic last? We need immunity data to find out. – Vox:

‘If immunity lasts a couple of years or more, Covid-19 could fade in a few years’ time. If immunity wanes within a year, Covid-19 could make fierce annual comebacks until an effective vaccine is widely available. While there’s hope that a vaccine will become available, it’s not a given. The vaccine could also be less than perfectly effective. Manufacturers could struggle to produce enough of it.

Immunity is one key to understanding the duration of this pandemic. Here’s what we know about it so far, and how scientists can crack the mystery for good….’

— Via Vox

Netflix’s ‘Extraction’ is being called out for its Bangladesh yellow filter

Netflix’s ‘Extraction’ is being called out for its Bangladesh yellow filter:

‘ON APRIL 19, Netflix shared a new trailer for its recently released Chris Hemsworth film Extraction, which takes place in Bangladesh. The trailer depicts the high-octane methods used to film the movie (a cameraman attached to the front of a car moving at high speed, for instance). But the trailer had an unexpected consequence: Viewers quickly noticed that the footage of the movie being filmed looked normal while the final cut of the film has a distinct, and off-putting, yellowish tint.

There’s a phrase for this distinct color palette: It’s called yellow filter, and it’s almost always used in movies that take place in India, Mexico, or Southeast Asia. Oversaturated yellow tones are supposed to depict warm, tropical, dry climates. But it makes the landscape in question look jaundiced and unhealthy, adding an almost dirty or grimy sheen to the scene. Yellow filter seems to intentionally make places the West has deemed dangerous or even primitive uglier than is necessary or even appropriate, especially when all these countries are filled with natural wonders that don’t make it to our screens quite as often as depictions of violence and poverty….’

— Via Matador

Doctors in need of mental health treatment fear licensing hurdles

Killing Our First Responders:

 

‘Young doctors are planning funerals — their own. They are intubating patients — their colleagues. And they are hearing bedside monitors beep and fall flat over and over again in a single shift, only to return to more of the same in the next shift, and the next, as they find their years of training unequal to the awful challenges of the covid-19 pandemic.

Last month, a prominent Manhattan emergency room doctor, Lorna Breen, died by suicide after describing the horrific events she had witnessed while fighting the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. Her death highlighted what some of us in the mental health community have known since the start of the crisis: that the psychological impact of what is happening in American hospitals will stay with us long after the immediate crisis subsides and that among those most affected will be health-care workers. All agree that we should focus on how to help them seek the care they may need, but little has been said about the barriers that can discourage them from reaching out — or that a significant barrier is medical licensing.

The pandemic has provoked fear in doctors and nurses. They’re scared, not just because they so often can’t save the lives of covid-19 patients, but because they can’t always protect themselves and their families from infection. Those like Breen who lead a hospital department probably feel most the additional burden of having to keep their colleagues safe and fight for protective equipment. National shortages, coupled with the highly contagious nature of this virus, have resulted in workers and vulnerable relatives getting sick and, in some cases, dying. No doctor imagines having to treat a colleague; confronting our own mortality and safety in the workplace on a daily basis is something none of us were taught in medical school. It makes the mundane experience of going to work terrifying and even traumatic.
 
 
The toll that trauma and post-traumatic stress puts on the body is well-established. We’ve also known for some time that trauma can change the structure and chemical makeup of the brain. It hijacks the brain’s ability to reason and activates our most primal emotional responses. It should come as no surprise, then, that there is a proven link between trauma and suicide. While we do not know the specific circumstances of Breen’s challenges — she had also contracted the virus herself — we do know that her experience in the hospital, as relayed by her father and sisterin the news media, is the experience of countless other health-care workers who remain on the front lines and, consequently, face the same risk. The common symptoms of trauma include avoidance of reminders of the traumatic event, nightmares with similar themes, flashbacks and intrusive memories, critical self-evaluation, guilt, negative mood, anxiety, panic attacks and detachment or dissociation. When these symptoms go untreated, sufferers become vulnerable to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), other serious disorders and, yes, suicide.

Early treatment is essential to the prevention of a potentially debilitating, if not deadly, outcome, but physicians, in particular, face elevated levels of scrutiny when disclosing any form of mental health treatment to state licensing boards. For many doctors, the repercussions they may face introduce a significant obstacle. About 90 percent of state licensing applications include a question about a physician’s mental health, and some even ask questions about past diagnoses, such as depression or anxiety, that may have occurred before medical school. This goes against the recommendation of the American Medical Association and has been cited in studies as a significant reason that physicians are reluctant to seek mental health care.

Although there is no reason to believe that psychiatric diagnosis or treatment poses a risk to patients unless the physician has very serious ongoing symptoms, answering yes to these questions often leads to further questions. The state licensing board can require all of your medical and mental health records, including intimate details about your upbringing, your family and your spouse that you may have divulged in private psychotherapy sessions. Your license may be contingent upon sharing these records.

Moreover, after sharing your records, the board can then dictate further evaluation and possibly send a physician to a Physician Health Program (PHP). Initially started to assist physicians through tough times, some PHPs have earned a poor and even malignant reputation over the years, partly because they have financial arrangements with select institutions across the country. PHPs reportedly send physicians to these institutions — at their own expense — for costly cash-only evaluations that sometimes last several weeks. After the evaluation, the PHP may require supervision of the physician’s practice of medicine, a workplace monitor whose job it is to report back to the PHP about the “troubled physician,” or order random check-ins even without any specific evidence of current impairment.

Once a PHP requires this evaluation, the physician is trapped. If you don’t enter into a contract with the PHP to fulfill whatever requirements have been outlined, you risk permanently losing your medical license. Many physicians caught in what some believe to be a corrupt PHP system have written about their experiences, and others who know how this system works have advocated for these doctors, but PHPs still exist and physicians still fear them…’

 

— Kayla Behbahani and Amber Thompson writing in The Washington Post

The 1918 Flu Pandemic Killed Millions. So Why Does Its Cultural Memory Feel So Faint?

701ad6ec 804b 460a 8aab 9b727dd2cd79Literary scholar Elizabeth Outka finds the pandemic between the lines in literature.:

Historians have by and large felt that the event, despite killing 50-100 million, left little impact on culture and public memory. Many argue that it was overshadowed by the concurrent experience of WWI. But in late 2019 literary scholar Elizabeth Outka published Viral Modernism: The Influenza Pandemic and Interwar Literature, arguing that while only a handful of writers addressed the pandemic explicitly it was foundational for the work of luminaries such as T.S. Eliot, Virginia Woolf, and W.B. Yeats. 

Diseases are recorded differently by our minds than something like a war. By their nature, diseases are highly individual. Even in a pandemic situation, you’re fighting your own internal battle with the virus, and it’s individual to you. Many, many people in a pandemic situation may be fighting that same battle, but it’s strangely both individualized and widespread…

 
It’s difficult to memorialize a pandemic, because disease makes people feel helpless, and there’s very little we can do to make meaning from it. With war, even if you disagree with the war, you could at least argue about whether the death was worth it. Did this sacrifice keep a soldier’s family safe? With an infectious disease, if you die, your family is more likely to die. There’s no sacrificial structure to build around a loss of this kind. It’s simply tragedy.

My specialty is literature, and literature is especially good at capturing these elements of disease that are difficult to represent. Our bodies’ perception of the world depends on the health of the body and the experiences of that body. There’s that sort of invisible, strange conversation that happens between the body and the mind. Literature can capture that.

For instance, Yeats’ canonical 1919 poem The Second Coming, generally read as c capturing the postwar zeitgeist and the political upheaval in Ireland, was written while his wife was convalescing from near-death from the virus while pregnant at a time when the death rate among pregnant women was up to 70%. ‘Now, did Yeats have this at the top of his mind when he was writing the poem? We don’t know, but it certainly captures that horror, and that delirium.’ And Woolf, who was ill with the virus herself, showed the subtle ways the flu still affected Mrs. Dalloway’s eponymous main character long afterward. Outka also finds reflections of survivor guilt in characters with experiences of pandemic loss in several works, and ‘there’s not any place to put it.’ . 

— Via Slate

I recently read one estimate that, by the time the death toll reached around half a million here in the US, on average everyone will have experienced the death of someone they knew from coronavirus. Will we have any place to put that?

McDonald’s Workers in Denmark Pity Us

Nicholas Kristof:

‘Put it this way: More than 35,000 Americans have already died in part because the United States could not manage the pandemic as deftly as Denmark…

[P]aradoxically, while Americans on both left and right often think of Scandinavia as quasi-socialist, Scandinavians flinch at that characterization. They see themselves as simply pursuing market economies, just with higher taxes and greater social benefits than the United States.

Danes pay an extra 19 cents of every dollar in taxes, compared with Americans, but for that they get free health care, free education from kindergarten through college, subsidized high-quality preschool, a very strong social safety net and very low levels of poverty, homelessness, crime and inequality. On average, Danes live two years longer than Americans….’

— Via The New York Times

Why Does Meatpacking Have Such Bad Working Conditions?

As coronavirus outbreak hotspots, the focus has been on the awful conditions and low wages in meatpacking plants even before the pandemic. The work is largely done by immigrant and underprivileged workers with few other job opportunities and the gospel is that it is doomed to be bad. Conditions are familiar to anyone who read Upton Sinclair’s muckraking novel The Jungle, but after WWII unionization, closely aligned with the civil rights movement, brought wages and working conditions considerably uphill, in line with other blue collar industries. However, in the 1960’s, in a shift made possible by transporting meat in refrigerated trucks instead of trains, the industry began moving to more rural areas, undercutting the unions’ militant urban powerbase. Meanwhile, new production techniques reduced the skill required of slaughterhouse workers, and recruitment of Latin American immigrants ensued in the 1990s and 2000s. Thus, working on the killing floor became a death sentence. 

— Via JSTOR

The case for taking UFOs seriously

Seriously?

It’s not exactly clear what the recently released Pentagon UFO videos show, but Alexander Wendt, professor of international relations at Ohio State University, thinks “the odds [of their extraterrestrial origins] are high enough that we should be investigating it. It’s as simple as that.” (Later in the interview he gives his estimate of the odds as 51-49!)

‘It’s possible they’ve been here all along. And that’s something that I’ve been thinking about lately, which is a bit unsettling. Because it means it’s their planet and not ours. They could just be intergalactic tourists. Maybe they’re looking for certain minerals. It could just be scientific curiosity. It could be that they’re extracting our DNA. I mean, who knows? I have no idea. All I know is that if they are here, they seem to be peaceful…’

He argues that there is a taboo about studying UFOs because their reality calls into question the modern state’s reliance on an anthropocentric worldview. (He admits that this does not address the reluctance of the private sector and non-state actors.) 

‘…[I]f ETs were discovered, it would be the most important event in human history. If it became known, it could be a very dangerous event in the sense that we might see a collapse of state authority. We might see chaos. The possibility of contact with a civilization that has vastly more knowledge than we do is exciting and terrifying and unpredictable. My feeling is that if they’re here, they’re almost certainly peaceful, because if they were not peaceful they would have wiped us out a long time ago. They can probably do it very quickly. So my assumption is they don’t mean any harm… Sure, it’s possible they’re on a surveillance mission. But people have been reporting UFOs for at least 80 years, and that’s a really, really long surveillance mission. And also, why would they want to conquer us? That’s like us conquering ants…But it’s still the case that society could implode or destabilize as a result of colliding with ETs…’

Wendt attempts to explain the perhaps curious fact that the ETs have neither remained completely clandestine nor openly revealed themselves and “landed on the White House lawn”. Whatever the answer is, he concludes: ‘… I guess I will say this: Montezuma could’ve prepared a lot better for Cortes than he did, had he only known Cortes was coming.’

— Via Vox

White House suppresses CDC guide to reopening America without killing everyone

‘The Trump administration has blocked the Centers for Disease Control from releasing a detailed guide on to how to reopen public spaces. The 17-page report was titled “Guidance for Implementing the Opening Up America Again Framework” and was intended to help business, churches, schools and local governments recover from the coronavirus pandemic without endangering public health.

No reason was given for suppressing the document, which was leaked to and summarized by the AP, but Trump and Republican allies have stated that reopening the economy must be done quickly, even if it results in many more deaths….’

— Via Boing Boing

Housekeeping

Which do you find more useful. The attribution (“So-and-so writing in such-and-such a source”) in bold header type at the head of the article, or the older-style “Via such-and-such a source” at the bottom after the blockquote? If you’ve noticed, I have been vacillating  between the two and, be it as it may that consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, the inconsistency is bothering me. Your comments are welcome…

Study using human brain tissue shows herpes link to Alzheimer’s

adobestock_250192751-768x432-1The new study, reported in StatNews, is the first evidence of an association between herpesvirus HSV-1 and Alzheimer’s Disease using a lab model of a brain. Brain-like tissue infected with HSV-1 became riddled with amyloid plaques, one of the characteristic pathological findings in post-mortem studies of Alzheimer’s patients’ brains, along with tangles of tau protein. The plaques and other pathology that are generally thought to cause the disease may be the brain’s defensive response to viral infection long before the onset of symptoms. Amyloid is known to be antimicrobial but can disrupt brain structure and function. The finding may revitalize research on the connection between infectious agents and Alzheimer’s, a sort of backwater area of investigation, and the possibility that antiviral medications might offer treatment or prevention potential.

I am not a virologist, but it seems clear that some caution about these findings is indicated. The literature has see-sawed back and forth in recent years about whether viral etiologies are likely or not. Algorithms to analyze RNA and DNA sequencing data, and thus findings about viral presence in affected brains, can differ. More than 50% of us are estimated to be infected with HSV-1, far in excess of the proportion who will develop Alzheimer’s Disease. Indeed, non-demented patients may have considerable amyloid plaque at autopsy as well. The presence of higher levels of DNA strands of HSV-1 in postmortem studies of Alzheimer’s brains was first observed around 30 years ago but proving causality has not been easy. More recent studies have contradicted that findingas well, as well as putative links between Alzheimer’s and other herpesvirus or non-herpes viral genomes.

(Props to Abby)

New piece of Alzheimer’s puzzle found

Via Neuroscience Stuff:

‘Two years after discovering a way to neutralize a rogue protein linked to Alzheimer’s disease, University of Alberta Distinguished University Professor and neurologist Jack Jhamandas has found a new piece of the Alzheimer’s puzzle, bringing him closer to a treatment for the disease.

In a study published in Scientific Reports, Jhamandas and his team found two short peptides, or strings of amino acids, that when injected into mice with Alzheimer’s disease daily for five weeks, significantly improved the mice’s memory. The treatment also reduced some of the harmful physical changes in the brain that are associated with the disease.

“In the mice that received the drugs, we found less amyloid plaque buildup and a reduction in brain inflammation,” said Jhamandas, who is also a member of the Neuroscience and Mental Health Institute.

“So this was very interesting and exciting because it showed us that not only was memory being improved in the mice, but signs of brain pathology in Alzheimer’s disease were also greatly improved. That was a bit of a surprise for us.”…’

R.I.P. Michael McClure,, 87

 

New York Times obituary:

‘Michael McClure, who at 22 helped usher in the Beat movement as part of a famed poetry reading at the Six Gallery in San Francisco, then went on to a long and varied career as a poet, playwright, novelist and lyricist, died on Monday at his home in Oakland, Calif. He was 87.
His wife, Amy Evans McClure, said the cause was complications of a stroke he had last year.

Mr. McClure was one of the poetry readers at the Six Gallery, a former auto repair shop that had been turned into an art gallery, on Oct. 7, 1955, a date that Beatdom magazine, marking the 60th anniversary of the event, called “arguably one of the most important dates in American literature.”
To an audience of perhaps 150 people (the number varies in the tellings), Mr. McClure read a poem called “For the Death of 100 Whales,” said to have been inspired by a report that bored American soldiers stationed in Iceland had amused themselves by shooting a pod of whales. But he and the other readers — Philip Lamantia, Gary Snyder and Philip Whalen, with Kenneth Rexroth as M.C. — were overshadowed by the sixth man on the bill, Allen Ginsberg….’

The Mystery of the Hunt

It’s the mystery of the hunt that intrigues me,

That drives us like lemmings, but cautiously— The search for a bright square cloud—the scent of lemon verbena—

Or to learn rules for the game the sea otters

Play in the surf.

It is these small things—and the secret behind them

That fill the heart.

The pattern, the spirit, the fiery demon

That link them together

And pull their freedom into our senses,

The smell of a shrub, a cloud, the action of animals

—The rising, the exuberance, when the mystery is unveiled.

It is these small things

That when brought into vision become an inferno.

— Michael McClure (2011)

Trump’s disastrous ABC interview illustrated why he usually sticks with Fox News

The event foreshadows the White House policy ahead: There is no serious, coordinated plan to tackle the crisis. Instead, Trump will spend the summer trying to convince his supporters to ignore the data and believe that he turned the coronavirus crisis into an economic success story. That means opening up businesses, even though no expert believes that will help the economy. At the same time, it’ll cause more Americans to die.

Trump, gallingly, has decided to put his bogus campaign message before the health and safety and lives of Americans. As he said earlier Tuesday: “Will some people be badly affected? Yes.”
“Well, I’ll be honest, uh, I have a lot of things going on”

During the interview with Muir, Trump tried to deflect questions about his administration’s failures with regard to obtaining personal protective equipment and deploying an effective coronavirus test by pinning blame on former President Barack Obama. This talking point is absurd, but he has largely gotten away with making it during press briefings.

It took Muir just one question to demonstrate that Trump has no defense beyond deflection.

“What did you do when you became president to restock those cupboards that you say are bare?” he asked.

“Well, I’ll be honest, uh, I have a lot of things going on,” Trump began, in a soundbite tailor-made for an attack ad. “We had a lot of, uh, people, that refused to allow the country to be successful. They wasted a lot of time on ‘Russia, Russia, Russia’ — that turned out to be a total hoax. Then they did ‘Ukraine, Ukraine,’ and that was a total hoax. Then they impeached the president for absolutely no reason.”

…None of that was reassuring. But the most terrifying part of the interview came at the beginning, when Trump acknowledged that American lives will have to be sacrificed for the sake of reopening the economy.

Asked by Muir if “lives will be lost to reopen the country,” Trump didn’t try to deny it.

— Aaron Rupar writing in Vox

What Goes On In a Proton? Quark Math Still Conflicts With Experiments.

baryonfluxtubes_1160_cObjects are made of atoms, and atoms are likewise the sum of their parts — electrons, protons and neutrons. Dive into one of those protons or neutrons, however, and things get weird. Three particles called quarks ricochet back and forth at nearly the speed of light, snapped back by interconnected strings of particles called gluons. Bizarrely, the proton’s mass must somehow arise from the energy of the stretchy gluon strings, since quarks weigh very little and gluons nothing at all.

Physicists uncovered this odd quark-gluon picture in the 1960s and matched it to an equation in the ’70s, creating the theory of quantum chromodynamics (QCD). The problem is that while the theory seems accurate, it is extraordinarily complicated mathematically. Faced with a task like calculating how three wispy quarks produce the hulking proton, QCD simply fails to produce a meaningful answer.

via Quanta Magazine

Discriminating against our older selves

‘Although largely unnoticed by mainstream media, something significant has happened with the rise of COVID-19: the marginalization of older Americans. Scorn for elders is now on full display. Some blame them for the shelter-in-place guidelines. Some even say they should be offered up as a sacrifice for the good of the country.

But the coronavirus affects everyone. It’s true that hospitalization and mortality rates increase with age, but a March report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows young adults take up more ICU beds than the very old. This may evolve as the pandemic ensues. However, it highlights the potential issues in ageist assumptions. So why portray only older adults as vulnerable?

…We are professors of gerontology at the University of Southern California. We ask anyone who considers themselves polite, socially aware and considerate of others to rethink the common, casual use of the stereotypical phrases that refer to age. Many people do value and respect the experience of older adults, of course; only by being aware of the implications of our word choices and behaviors can we start to adjust our prejudices….’

— Carolyn Cicero and Paul Nash, writing in The Conversation

“Live and Let Die” played for Trump during factory tour

live-and-let-dieRepublicans broadly agree that mass deaths are an acceptable sacrifice in the effort to “reopen” an economy savaged by the coronavirus pandemic. This approach got its media moment yesterday as Trump toured a mask factory to Paul McCartney’s classic hit Live and Let Die.

“They blasted “Live and Let Die” while Trump walked around a Honeywell plant today in Arizona without a mask,” writes Aaron Rupar on Twitter. “It’s hard to believe this clip is real.”

71,000 dead as of today.

I keep seeing liberal folks accusing the right of hypocrisy, especially with respect to abortion. This is pointless, because they don’t care. We’re at the threshold of a sea change, where many right-wingers ditch pro-life rhetoric in favor of blunter, more sectarian weapons. “All life is sacred” was a lie its own proponts hardly pretended to believe in the first place, so why honor it after they abandon it? The post-Roe political reality of “it’s not her body anyway” is coming.

— Rob Beschizza, writing on Boing Boing

Beginning with the End

final_dadu_emergence_print_v2_4_23-2048x1191-1‘In this essay, Roy Scranton asks what we mean when we say “the world is ending.” Examining the nature of the narratives we tell ourselves about the future, he explores what revelation may be before us.

…Existence has no shape but change, and history is one damned thing after another…’

via Emergence Magazine

Children Are Falling Ill With a Baffling Ailment Related to Covid-19

Via New York Times:

‘Since the coronavirus pandemic began, most infected children have not developed serious respiratory failure of the kind that has afflicted adults. But in recent weeks, a mysterious new syndrome has cropped up among children in Long Island, New York City and other hot spots around the country, in an indication that the risk to children may be greater than anticipated.
The number of children in the United States showing signs of this new syndrome — which first was detected in Europe last month — is still small. None is known to have died, and many have responded well to treatment.
No solid data yet exists about how many children in the United States have fallen ill with what doctors are calling “pediatric multisystem inflammatory syndrome.”…’

What to Know About That New Paper Claiming the Coronavirus Is Becoming More Contagious

Ed Cara writing in Gizmodo:

‘A preliminary scientific paper on covid-19—detailed by the Los Angeles Times on Tuesday—is sure to unnerve people. It argues that the world is now dealing with a mutated, more contagious form of the coronavirus that causes covid-19 than the version that originated in China. But scientists we spoke with are skeptical of the paper’s conclusions….’

Trump Is Unraveling

‘In case there was any doubt, the past dozen days have proved we’re at the point in his presidency where Donald Trump has become his own caricature, a figure impossible to parody, a man whose words and actions are indistinguishable from an Alec Baldwin skit on Saturday Night Live.

President Trump’s pièce de résistance came during a late April coronavirus task-force briefing, when he floated using “just very powerful light” inside the body as a potential treatment for COVID-19 and then, for good measure, contemplated injecting disinfectant as a way to combat the effects of the virus “because you see it gets in the lungs and does a tremendous number on them, so it’d be interesting to check that.”

But the burlesque show just keeps rolling on.

Take this past weekend, when former President George W. Bush delivered a three-minute video as part of The Call to Unite, a 24-hour live-stream benefiting COVID-19 relief. …Bush made a moving, eloquent plea for empathy and national unity, which enraged Donald Trump enough that he felt the need to go on the attack.

But there’s more. On the same weekend that he attacked Bush for making an appeal to national unity, Trump said this about Kim Jong Un, one of the most brutal leaders in the world: “I, for one, am glad to see he is back, and well!”

Then, Sunday night, sitting at the foot of the Lincoln Memorial for a town-hall interview with Fox News, Trump complained that he is “treated worse” than President Abraham Lincoln. “I am greeted with a hostile press, the likes of which no president has ever seen,” Trump said.

By Monday morning, the president was peddling a cruel and bizarre conspiracy theory aimed at MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough, a Trump critic, with Trump suggesting in his tweet that a “cold case” be opened to look into the death of an intern in 2001.

I could have picked a dozen other examples over the past 10 days, but these five will suffice. They illustrate some of the essential traits of Donald Trump: the shocking ignorance, ineptitude, and misinformation; his constant need to divide Americans and attack those who are trying to promote social solidarity; his narcissism, deep insecurity, utter lack of empathy, and desperate need to be loved; his feelings of victimization and grievance; his affinity for ruthless leaders; and his fondness for conspiracy theories….’

— Peter Wehner, writing in The Atlantic

Related:

Anne Applebaum: The rest of the world is laughing at Trump (The Atlantic)

George T. Conway III: Unfit for office (The Atlantic)

George Packer: We are living in a failed state (The Atlantic)

The mysterious disappearance of the first SARS virus, and why we need a vaccine for the current one but didn’t for the other

SARS-CoV-1 was more aggressive and lethal than SARS-CoV-2. However, SARS-CoV-2 spreads faster, sometimes with hidden symptoms, allowing each infected person to infect several others. The current estimate is about three, but we scientists won’t know the real number until we can test a lot more people, and can understand the role of people without symptoms.

The most important difference is that contact tracing – or finding out who was exposed to someone infected with the virus – was relatively easy: Everyone had severe symptoms in two to three days.

With SARS-CoV-2, it takes about two weeks for symptoms to appear, and many people don’t have any symptoms at all. Imagine asking someone whom they had contact with for the last two weeks! You can accurately remember most people you had contact with for the past two days, but two weeks? This critical tool for pandemic control is very challenging to implement. This means that the only safe thing to do is to maintain quarantine of everyone until the pandemic is under control.

— Marilyn Roossinck, environmental microbiologist at Pennsylvania State University, writing in The Conversation

Asian Giant ‘Murder’ Hornet Reaches the U.S.

Plague Upon Plague: Mike Baker writing in The New York Times:

‘With queens that can grow to two inches long, Asian giant hornets can use mandibles shaped like spiked shark fins to wipe out a honeybee hive in a matter of hours, decapitating the bees and flying away with the thoraxes to feed their young. For larger targets, the hornet’s potent venom and stinger — long enough to puncture a beekeeping suit — make for an excruciating combination that victims have likened to hot metal driving into their skin.
In Japan, the hornets kill up to 50 people a year. Now, for the first time, they have arrived in the United States….’

Justin Amash just announced an exploratory committee for a bid for the White House

Jane Coaston writing in Vox:

‘Rep. Justin Amash (I-MI), a libertarian House representative and frequent critic of Donald Trump’s presidency, announced his intention on Tuesday to launch an exploratory committee to examine a run for the Libertarian Party presidential nomination.

…Conservatives (and libertarians) are divided on the potential of Amash’s run, with some arguing that Amash could take valuable votes away from Democratic nominee Joe Biden and help Donald Trump. The actual research on third-party voters is a little complicated. Because so few Americans vote third party, it’s often hard to say if they have a real impact on the outcome of the race. But it’s certainly a get for the Libertarian Party. Candidate Jacob Hornberger told Reason Magazine that an outside candidacy could help the Libertarian Party. “When these people come in from outside the party, it provides a prestige factor.”…’

Some totally non-sarcastic praise of Trump’s comic genius

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Dana Milbank writing in The Washington Post:

‘In conventional usage, sarcasm, from the Greek “sarkasmos,” or sneer, means to use irony in a cutting way — often enthusiastically stating the opposite of what one means. But like all pioneers in the field of comedy, Trump has shifted the boundaries so that “sarcastic” means, roughly, “a term applied retroactively to something I wish I hadn’t said.”
For example…’

Combination of Foods We Eat May Affect Dementia Risk

Janice Wood writing in PsychCentral:

‘Researchers found that while there were few differences in the amount of individual foods that people ate, overall food groups or networks differed substantially between people who had dementia and those who did not have dementia.

“Processed meats were a ‘hub’ in the food networks of people with dementia,” said Samieri. “People who developed dementia were more likely to combine highly processed meats such as sausages, cured meats, and patés with starchy foods like potatoes, alcohol, and snacks like cookies and cakes.

“This may suggest that the frequency with which processed meat is combined with other unhealthy foods, rather than average quantity, may be important for dementia risk. For example, people with dementia were more likely, when they ate processed meat, to accompany it with potatoes and people without dementia were more likely to accompany meat with more diverse foods, including fruit and vegetables and seafood.”…’

Republican Groups’Scathing Anti-Trump Ads

Lee Moran writing in HuffPost:

‘Two conservative groups that are working to defeat Donald Trump in the 2020 election released online ads Friday attacking the president’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Lincoln Project, of which conservative attorney George Conway (the husband of White House counselor Kellyanne Conway) is a prominent member, released this video asking which kind of American its viewers would like to be ― one, like Trump, who demands, or one who makes sacrifices.

Republicans for the Rule of Law, meanwhile, shared a minute-long video of Trump musing during Thursday’s task force briefing about injecting disinfectant to combat the virus. Trump claimed Friday he was being sarcastic.

“50,000 people have died. This is our president,” read the text at the start of the clip. It ended with the words: “Unfit. Unwell. Unacceptable.”…’

Trump goes into hiding

Oliver Darcy writing in CNN:

‘It looks like President Trump is going into hiding — from the press, that is. Facing an avalanche of controversy over his bizarre comments on sunlight and dangerous comments regarding disinfectants, the President held a record short briefing Friday evening (sans Drs. Anthony Fauci and Deborah Birx), abruptly ending it after 22 minutes of statements without taking any questions from the press.

On CNN, Wolf Blitzer called Trump “chicken” and said he was “probably afraid” of the grilling he was all but certain to face over the “flat lie” he told the day before regarding disinfectants. Later in the night, Anderson Cooper, who argued Trump was guilty of “Soviet”-like spin for pretending his comments were sarcastic during a bill signing, said he “cut and ran” because he knew he’d face hard questions.

CNN and other news organizations, including Axios which broke the news, reported Friday eveningthat there has been an effort among White House aides to stop holding daily coronavirus briefings. And the schedule released for Saturday shows no briefings scheduled…

The move comes after Trump even started receiving criticism from Fox. When he tried to claim that he was merely being sarcastic with his disinfectant remarks, anchors like Neil Cavuto and Bret Baier pushed back. “Wow, that is a little unsettling,” said Cavuto. “Got to clarify this. The president was not joking in his remarks yesterday.” And Baier said Trump “clearly stepped in it” and did not appear to be joking…’

Donald Trump, American Idiot

Umair Haque writing in Medium:

‘Immortalized in a song by a SoCal punk band, the American idiot is a figure everyone knows — and Americans, too often, don’t want to admit exists. When I say everyone, I mean everyone. Everyone in my dog park, everyone in the world.

Consider, for a moment, the actions of the American President since the beginning of the pandemic.

— Denying there was one

— Passing an inadequate stimulus bill

— Obstructing any kind of national strategy

— Encouraging “lockdown liberation” protesters

— Cutting funding for the WHO

— And finally, telling people to…drink Lysol

That, my friends, will be remembered as one of the textbook examples of what it means to be an American idiot.

So what does it mean, really? This morning at the dog park, I got ribbed by Massimo and Ben for the above. Yesterday, when I was at the dog park, I got asked, puzzled, by Wolfgang, the funny and gentle German, if it was really true: did Americans carry guns to Starbucks? I looked at him like a deer caught in the headlights of an approaching freight train. Then I nodded and shrugged. “But why?!” he asked, astonished.

He had a point. The point is made to me every single day now, in baffled conservations, in bewildered questions, in shocked and stunned observations: what the hell is wrong with Americans? Are they really this crazy? They can’t be. But they keep on…so are they? What the?

The world, you see, looks at America, and sees something very different than Americans do. It doesn’t just see a lunatic demagogue telling people to drink Lysol after cutting funding for the WHO. It sees a nation of people quicker to carry a gun than read a book, who’ll happily deny their neighbor’s kids healthcare but go to church every Sunday, who predictably, consistently vote against any improvement to their standards of living…which by now have reached standards that people in most of the rest of the world literally don’t believe, and neither do Americans.

If I tell you, for example, the simple fact that a 15 year old boy in Bangladesh now has a higher chance of making it to old age than an America, would you believe me? And yet…it’s true.

American life is made up of a series of abuses and exploitations and degradations that shock the rest of the world — all of it, not just some of it. You’re a kid, and you go to school, where armed, masked men burst in, and fire fake bullets at you — “active shooter drills.” Maybe you go into “lunch debt.” When it’s time to go off to college — good luck, it’s going to cost as much as a home. Therefore, you can forget about every really owning much, because you’re trying to pay off a series of mounting debts your whole life long. By middle age, like most Americans, you’re simply unable to make ends meet — who can, when going to the hospital can cost more than a mansion? Therefore, forget retirement — it’s something that vanished long ago. Maybe you’re working at Walmart in your old age, maybe you’re driving an Uber — but you’re still where you always were, being exploited and abused for pennies, to make the ultra rich richer.

Nobody — and I mean nobody — in the rest of the world thinks this is sane, normal, or desirable. Nobody. It’s so far right that even the hardest of European right eschews such a social model. The left, of course, points out how badly capitalism has failed — and it’s right. America is off the charts — a society so far into collapse that it can’t see normality at all anymore. It doesn’t even appear to vaguely remember that it’s not OK for everyone, more or less, to be exploited their whole lives long.

That brings me back to the American idiot. I don’t say the above to write a jeremiad, but to explain the American idiot to Americans, which is a job that I think sorely needs doing. Not for any lack of trying, perhaps — but certainly for a lack of success.

“The American idiot” isn’t an insult. It’s a term with a precise and specific meaning. The Greeks called those only interested in private life “idiots” — that is what the term really means. So it is for Americans.

What unites those “lockdown liberation” protesters, Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, McKinsey and Co running concentration camps, and Faux News?They are all in it for private gain. There is no sense of a common wealth or of a public interest or a shared good whatsoever. In fact, even that’s an understatement.

This way of thinking stems from Ayn Rand, who was an acolyte of Nietzsche’s harder, later more embittered thinking, and to it, the idea of any kind of common good is itself a lie. To even imagine a common good or public interest is to do damage. To what? To the Uberman. To the Zarathustra. To the “master morality”, which must dominate the “slave morality”, is the world is to be fair…’

Biden Predicts Trump Will Try To Delay Election To Help Chances Of Winning

silhouette of statue near trump building at daytime
Photo by Carlos Herrero on Pexels.com

Christina Cabrera writing in TPM:

‘Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden said on Thursday that he anticipated President Donald Trump trying to pull some kind of scheme to push back this year’s election in order to boost his own chances of victory.

“Mark my words, I think he is gonna try to kick back the election somehow, come up with some rationale why it can’t be held,” Biden said during a Q&A at a virtual fundraising event.

He noted Trump’s refusal to fund the U.S. Postal Service, which is struggling under the weight of the COVID-19 pandemic, as lawmakers across the country push for mail-in voting to keep the virus from spreading….’

Wildlife Photographer Christina Mittermeier on the White Rhinos:

wr.‘Please step forward in support of @olpejeta, home to the last two northern white rhinos on the planet. There’s an opportunity right now to win a trip there yourself! For a donation of just $10, the winner will get to go on safari to meet the rhinos. Ami will also give you a private photography workshop there. She is one of my favorite people in the world and one of my favorite photographers. I know that she will be an exceptional teacher. You will also gain firsthand knowledge about the incredible efforts to save rhino and other species from extinction. The trip will be scheduled only when it’s safe to travel. Please donate at omaze.com/safari.

 

Where Have All the Heart Attacks Gone?

Harlan Krumholz, M.D., professor of medicine at Yale:

As we fight coronavirus, we need to combat perceptions that everyone else must stay away from the hospital. The pandemic toll will be much worse if it leads people to avoid care for life-threatening, yet treatable, conditions like heart attacks and strokes.

via New York Times

You Can’t Go Home Again: Inside Wuhan’s Postsurge Return to Life

undefinedSo far, Wuhan’s answer has been to create a version of normal that would appear utterly alien to people in London, Milan, or New York—at least for the moment. While daily routines have largely resumed, there remain significant restrictions on a huge range of activities, from funerals to hosting visitors at home. Bolstered by China’s powerful surveillance state, even the simplest interactions are mediated by a vast infrastructure of public and private monitoring intended to ensure that no infection goes undetected for more than a few hours.

But inasmuch as citizens can return to living as they did before January, it’s not clear, after what they’ve endured, that they really want to. Shopping malls and department stores are open again, but largely empty. The same is true of restaurants; people are ordering in instead. The subway is quiet, but autos are selling: If being stuck in traffic is annoying, at least it’s socially distanced.

via Bloomberg