Monday, December 28, 2020

New York Times op-ed magazine, "Let's Start Over" after pandemic -- not so much as you think


Home-made pinball-baseball stadium from the 1950s

 The New York Times on Dec. 28 had a magazine-sized op-ed, “Let’s Start Over”.

The rag is in four sections.

One is Politics, Education, Feminism, and Work (Bruni, Mehta, Brooks, and Petersen).

Bruni says that Biden will test if we can bounce back from our floor of collective common decency.

Mehta pretty much echoes John Fish’s video “The Mundanity of Online School”, and notes that the point of education, getting beyond the obsession with SOL’s when I was subbing and regarding grades as a kind of cryptocurrency, has been in flux for decades.  But minority kids are doing poorly in online school.  You get the impression that school systems could hire a  (YouTuber) John Fish or Tyler Mowery, themselves not much older than high school students, to do all their online AP English for starters.

Feminism has been blown apart by the disruptions, as moms carry the heaviest loads of all.

The future of work will be flexibility, desk sharing, people renting their own little local offices, a certain decentralization away from the cities, and even more melding of entrepreneur, gig worker, and employee.

Part Two is Friendship, Conversation, and Sex (compare to the age of AIDS)

Part Three is Sports, Travel (Mzezewa), and Food.  I am particularly concerned about the crimp on personal mobility, so individualized as it was for my own life, as something that the virus evolved on top of.  (We just couldn’t keep it out of China.) You might need a good “reason” to fly personally in the future.

Part Four is Literature, Fashion, and Cities (Manjoo), which in western countries are going to seem even more challenged.  But that’s what I thought when I left New York City for Dallas at the end of 1978.

The end result of all these essays seems to be, not as radical as I would expect.

Sunday, December 27, 2020

Non-profits distribute books in remote Arctic areas

Sheep Slot Rapids, Firth River, Ivvavik National Park, YT


 Here is another story about distribution of books to the needy, especially children’s.

It is “Special Delivery: Thousands of Books”, by Charlie Locke, describing “The Neediest Cases Fund”.

These books go to the small libraries in Alaska and the Yukon.

The two nonprofits assisting  were the Alaska Fishing Relief Effort and First Book.

Yukon scene, Wikipedia embed, click for attribution 

Saturday, December 26, 2020

Phishing emails target author novel drafts and even screenplay scripts or treatments


The Angelino Hotel on the 405

Well, authors’ book manuscripts have been stolen by phishing, mainly from well-known fiction or other popular writers with longer series, through email, Elizabeth A. Harris and Nicole Perlroth write in the New York Times.

This has also happened with screenplays, in popular franchises or when there is controversy already.

Generally, publishers (and agents)  will communicate with authors through secured emails, with DocuSign, much like financial institutions. 

 Something I have talked about on the movies blog, I think, for scripts: Generally, you have to go through a third party agent to talk to an established studio or production company.  (Now you know what Wilshire Blvd is for.)

west hollywood

  The Internet may have loosened that up on the lower budget end. 

Friday, December 25, 2020

LA Times reports on uneven attempts to help independent bookstores


my books

The Los Angeles Times has a story by Dorany Pineda, about independent bookstores holding Gofunde campaigns to hang on during this extended pandemic.  This is particularly bad in the LA area with the unexpected severity, given the warmer climate.  The store in question is Brentwood’s Diesel.

According to a linked story, thriller author James Patterson (“Along Came a Spider”) has donated $500000 to well-organized fund to save bookstores. He reportedly partnered with Reese Witherspoon and wound up with a “” site, but Squarespace reports that the website has expired (has not been renewed).

I have visited a couple of indie bookstores, including one in rural Maryland last January before the full extent of the coming pandemic was appreciate (see Jan. 20, 2020, the visit took place Jan 16).  

I have, since 2012, gotten numerous calls from my own POD publishers about buying copies of my books in volume and setting up events in bookstores myself, rather than “lazily” depending on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.  That would also mean credit card processing myself (which technically I have on one of my Wordpress sites).  In that case, support of independent bookstores would make sense. 

The idea also goes along with the idea that authors (and independent websites) should show commercial viability if they are to remain in the public space, even if the owners’ motivation is personalized speech and not just financial. That’s an idea that may be starting to get traction. People need jobs, not just speech and ideology!

John Fish had been working with Booktuber (and Bryan Stevenson) in Canada and the US before the pandemic.  Here's a funny story about the Capitol Hill Bookstore in Washington DC, 

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Exclusive Audiobooks (ACX) create moral controversy


My physical books

Mark Pearson has an important piece on “The harmful impact of audible exclusive audiobooks”.  

Authors are sometimes encouraged to sign up with the Audiobook Creation Exchange (ACX) for higher royalties, but have to give the exchange exclusive rights for sales. It's rather like an 800 number 

This winds up depriving local libraries and independent bookstores access to the books, which might be particularly harmful during the pandemic lockdowns.

The group Fight for the Future offers a petition against the practice. 

Saturday, December 19, 2020

"How to Publish a Book on Amazon" as explained by Martin Goldberg


snow flurries, northern VA

Martin Goldberg (aka Economic Invincibility, see Dec 10 post) has an interesting video on how to self-publish on Amazon (“How to Publish a Book on Amazon”).  He is mostly interested in Kindle Direct Publishing, which incorporates what we used to call Create Space.

The process seems to be quite a bit simpler than going through an Author Solutions company like iUniverse or Xlibris. 

Martin likes to write out his text longhand before typing.  In this case, there is no separate typesetting, it appears.  Microsoft Word is used essentially for the typesetting.

I would recommend at least using Microsoft Publisher for typesetting.  Right-aligning the columns makes a book look more professional (you can do that in Word, but it is not as good.)  Also, you can get a product called Grammarly to help edit. 

You definitely need to have another pair of eyes copyedit your book.  Typically, for a 100,000 word book expect that to cost around $500.  Amazon eliminated its own editorial support (which was located in South Carolina) in early 2019, as I recall.

I do wonder if terms of service or subject matter issues could become more sensitive for Amazon in the future, given our polarized and relentless socially divided climate.

Friday, December 18, 2020

Foreign Policy asks "Can America Recover" and looks hard at the Chinese Communist Party

Beijing skyline from northeast 4th ring road

The January-February 2021 (dead of winter) issue of Foreign Affairs is certainly eye-catching/

At the bottom there is a caption, “Can America Recover?”.  It comprises seven essays.

I’ll mention two of them. 

To Stop a Pandemic: A Better Approach to Global Health Society”, p. 36. By Jennifer Nuzzo.

The author says that the western world was “singularly unprepared” for a pandemic of this nature.  It would be hard to anticipate in advance how a respiratory virus could seem to cause very trivial illness in most people exposed, yet fill up hospitals and morgues quickly – it spreads that quickly before someone has noticeable symptoms (and many more people than we realize never have symptoms).  And a troubling percentage of people who recover from milder cases have residual complications (long haulers). The idea that a respiratory virus does such damage to blood vessels sounds novel.  But there are many other bizarre viruses out there.  It’s just that this one is new. 

At the end, she warns that an even worse virus is conceivable – maybe one that is slow and that causes dementia in everyone.  It is impossible to avoid the possibility that a foreign power could design a pathogen.  Indeed, the behavior of SARS_CoV2 sounds imagined to undermine western individualism and to reinforce personal sacrifice for the group as in communist countries.

David W. Blight has an essay on p. 44, “The Reconstruction of America: Justice, Power, and the Civil War’s Unfinished Business”.  Indeed, the period right after the war (as in “Gone with the Wind”) was more radical in its interventionism in the South than most of us realize. But Blight discusses the Radical Republicans, who made strides between 1866 and 1868 (leading to Johnson’s impeachment), pressed for a “civil rights act” and engineered the 14th Amendment with its refinement of individual rights and the use of the incorporation doctrine.

On p. 78 there appears an 18 page essay “The Party that Failed: An Insider Breaks with Beijing”, by Cai Xia.

The author worked as a writer for the Chinese Communist Party establishment, for over a decade. She lived in a world where you don’t originate your own thinking but sell the ideology of others. Sometimes in doing her propaganda work she was forcefully isolated. The CCP tried to invent a doubletalk to invent a statist capitalism that still belonged to “the people”.  But rather than talking about workers as an exploited class, it could make something of Maoist thinking about poverty-sharing and radical purity on a personal level.  She talks about the coverup of the death of Lei Yang in 2016.

She talks about being interrogated about her writings in more recent years.

She was caught away from home by the pandemic.  Authorities wanted he to come home but she would not.  But all of her assets were frozen.  

Vijay Gokhale has a December 18 FP article about China’s commitment to ideological manifest destiny, “China is Gnawing at Democracy’s Roots Worldwide”, The Communist Party is putting ideological battles first.

Wikipedia embed of Beijing eastern skyline, click for attribution. 

Saturday, December 12, 2020

USA Today huge piece: “It may not have started here, but the novel coronavirus became a U.S. tragedy” (aka "American Virus")


New York City, 2015

Gus Garcia-Roberts, Erin Mansfield, and Caroline Anders provide a very detail account of the history of COVIS19 in the United States, Dec. 11, 2020.  It is very well illustrated with lots of fancy insets.

The title is “American Virus: It may not have started here, but the novel coronavirus became a U.S. tragedy”.

The article starts out by noting many more specific infections and even deaths in the United States as early as December 2019.  The death in California Feb 6 of a woman who had exposure to people who traveled from China, to a heart rupture, is mentioned.

It also notes the incredible volume of flights from China, especially Wuhan, to the rest of the world, including the US West Coast. But the East Coast was seeded a lot by flights from Europe, especially Italy.

The article notes how the virus percolated for at least three months in the United States, before life “as we know it” suddenly caved in, during the middle of March 2020. People had no concept of how mitigation would be handled and how many lives would be crushed permanently.

The article follows one particular family in Chicago in detail.

Friday, December 11, 2020

Washington Post booklet story about a laid-off Walt Disney World cast member


near Epcot, Orlando, 2015

The Washington Post Magazine has a feature-length story today, heavily illustrated with photographs, “I Didn’t Make It”, about a Disney World waitress, called a “cast member”, who had worked there for fourteen years.  She had emigrated from Brazil in 2006. She has two daughters, one of whom is autistic.

The layoffs came in late October with “Dear Cast Member” letters.

The article is by Greg Jaffe, photos by Eve Edelheit, videos by Drea Cornejo.

The severity of Florida’s second wave, when people went indoors for air conditioning, and now the third wave, have apparently led the layoffs to be permanent.

Yet, in six months or so, business might be close to normal again if the vaccination program works.

Toward the end of the enclosed video the woman says she always knew she was in a very privileged position for a very special company.

The article did not link to a personal fundraising page.

Thursday, December 10, 2020

"The Truth about Mussolini and Fascism", by Martin Goldberg

Has seven 1 a


Author: Martin Goldberg 

Title: The Truth about Mussolini and Fascism

Publication: Self, 2020, ISBN 978-8697759745, 114 pages, Introduction plus 7 chapters, over 500 endnotes.  Review is based on the printed version;  right margins not-aligned. 

The author has a YouTube channel under his own name, and it used to be called “Economic Invincibility”. Generally his perspectives on how individuals should behave given the polarization and anger of our times sounds pretty sound to me.  He sounds like a conservative, although he says he is not; be is willing to challenge over investment in individualism and isolated personal responsibility, able to criticize Jordan Peterson’s idea of “clean your room”.

Apparently, he was born in Italy but raised in the US.  He apparently has a career in software support, and bought a house “somewhere in the South” (I think it’s Florida).

He says he spent eleven years working on this book, to clear up what he say are misconceptions about fascism in Italy.  When it started, the far Left (that is communists) were doing destruction on ordinary people, which the “fascists” stopped.  Stalin was seen as the big threat.   He says Mussolini and his team, so to speak, put an end to slavery in Ethiopia.

He says that World War II (and probably I) as motivated by the oppression caused by the western nation’s financial system.

The last chapter has the attention-getting title “The Fascist legacy”.  The last sentence is “Sometimes tyranny is a vessel of peace, and freedom the herald of war”.  He does not really connect directly the experience of Italy with everyone today.  But once can presume some things.  Everyone grows up in some kind of community, which should envelop a family. The sustainability of the community matters.  Population demographics, and low birth rates in more affluent people leads to unhealthful dependence on foreign sources of manual labor (as if this sounds like a bit of autarky).  In a sense, this sounds like the conservative side of critical theory, because your extended community / country could commit or have recently committed wrongs that you personally could be assessed for (that sounds like reparations).  Fascism, even when “soft” (like Hungary, Poland. Etc today) presumes people have some moral obligation to remain fit, and to take care of others immediately around them (the “natural family”) rather leave it to the rest of the world.  Fascism would seem to contradict over-investment in personal self-concept or agency (although less so than communism) outside of a structure place in society. On pp 10-11, the author cites writings saying that the individual exists but his purposes must be circumscribed by the needs of the overall state or nation. 

Here is a YouTube link where he describes his book.  Listen to the end where he explains his publication and circumstances. His view of self-publishing, stated near the end, deserves note.  He no longer shows his own face as he used to, even though he is around thirty and looks quite fit physically, don’t know why.  He does not seem to like to have videos embedded, so I will just give his link.  I have embedded the Khan Academy’s account of Mussolini, which is similar.

Picture: Embed from Wikipedia, Mussolini and his Blackshirts 

Tuesday, December 01, 2020

"How we can stop the spread of COVID-19 by Christmas", in Time, by Michael Mina at Harvard (article review)


Michael Mina has a major article in Time, Nov. 17, “How we can stop the spread of COVID-19 by Christmas”.  Mina is a professor of epidemiology at the Harvard Medical School in Cambridge, MA.

Mina explains how antigen tests work (compared to the PCR) and are a test of contagiousness (not as sensitive as the PCR – and note that there is recent controversy about the latter and cycle counting – see the International Issues blog).

He also says you would need about 50% voluntary compliance from individuals and families for this to break the reproduction of the virus (R0 way below one, and bringing down the dispersion by getting enough people to forgo gatherings or large events if they test regularly).

Other implementations would probably require some automated contact tracing and communications to health departments. Software to communicate test results to smart phones exists already.

Sunday, November 29, 2020

New Yorker column: "How China controlled the coronavirus" by Peter Hessler -- it was very draconian

Sichuan Library

The New Yorker has a long article in the Aug 17 2020 issue in its “Reporter at Large” column, “How China controlled the coronavirus” with the subtitle “Teaching and learning in Sichuan during the pandemic”, by Peter Hessler, who was teaching in China, in Chengdu during the early days of the pandemic. 

He does report the severity of the lockdowns, which could be enforced by committees that regulate the lives of individuals and families in a communal fashion not done in western countries.  Sometimes families were locked into their apartments.  Hessler's account leaves the impression that China really has controlled the virus, and won a propaganda victory in the world for the disciplines imposed by communism. 

You get the impression that China and other oriental countries are much more demanding of citizens with regard to public health because they have more endemic infectious disease, partly because of their longstanding agricultural practices to reduce past famines.

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Major paper on the physics of aerosols, coronavirus and masks (and certain materials)

Laurie Garrett has shared a paper from “Physics of Fluids” by Sanjay Kumar and Heow Pueh Lee, “The perspective of fluid flow behavior of respiratory droplets and aerosols through the facemasks in the context of SARS-CoV2”, link  Oct. 2016

The paper presents a lot of mathematic proofs and derivations.

But in general it discusses how you can predict the effectiveness of various masks in stopping transmission. Look particularly at the illustration on p. 32.

Transmission may be enhanced by dry air, which allows water in droplets to evaporate and for aerosol droplets to become smaller.

Laurie Garrett noted that silk is considered a useful material in masks.

There is a paper from Canada (Emily Chung et al) recommending that masks incorporate polypropylene. It is possible to put them into homemade masks. 

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Wired story liked by Snowden about Operation Car Wash

Rio De Janeiro - Rafael Defavari


Darren Lucaides offers a booklet-length story in Wired, “The Scammer Who Wanted to Save His Country”, a story that Edward Snowden likes.

In 2019, Glenn Greenwald was contacted with a trove of hacked messages about corruption among Brazil’s leaders in thwarting left-wing parties before an election.  They suspected the Russians.  “The truth was much less boring”.

Much of the chicanery involved Telegram and processes that many “average users”, even corporate ones, probably don’t involve themselves in.  The operation is described in Wikipedia as Operation Car Wash Telegram chat leaks in Brazil.”  A lot more sophisticated than a Zoom meeting. Greenwald had reported this in the Intercept in 2019. 

Greenwald appears in the Laura Poitras film “CitizenFour” (Movies, Oct. 27, 2014).  He is well known for his same-sex marriage in Brazil.

The article has a paywall, and my browser didn’t remember the sign on (or the pw expired).  Wired sent me a special link, which is a strange way to do it.

Wikipedia embed of Rio, click for attribution 

Sunday, November 22, 2020

"Censored Planet: An Internet-Wide Longitudinal Censorship Observatory": telecoms and hosts may be required to censor, just like social media platforms


Take a look at “Censored Planet: An Internet-Wide,Longitudinal Censorship Observatory”, by Ram Sundara Raman, Prerana Shenoy, Katharina Kohls,  and Roya Rnsafi, abstract link, leads to PCF of paper, 66 pages;  this is a scientific, mathematical paper.

The article is introduced by University of Michigan News, “Extremely aggressive censorship spreads in the World’s democracies”.   The article is headed by a 3-D gif called itself “Censored Planet”.

The summary does mention less democratic countries like Poland and some African countries, but in general, most EU countries are passing laws requiring ISP’s (apparently the telecom hosts, not just the social media companies, and I would wonder about about web hosting companies) to block traffic involving sex trafficking or abuse (comparable to FOSTA).  Infrastructure to do such censoring in the United States is said to be in place.

I am reminded of the EU Copyright Directive, with its mandatory filtering requirement (practically speaking). 

 I'll give the URL of the SPLC which may be involved in deciding whom to censor. But it is dangerous to allow one organization (which may be politically one-sided, toward the Left) to decide who can be removed from the Internet. 

Monday, November 16, 2020

Long NYTimes piece, "I'm an E.R. Doctor in New York, None of Us Will Ever Be the Same"


Here’s another New York Times almost “oculus-like” booklet, from April 14, “I’m an E.R. Doctor in New York, None of Us Will Ever Be the Same”, subtitled, “A Covid Diary: This is what I saw as the pandemic engulfed our hospitals.”  It’s ironic, I saw this article the day before Moderna’s announcement.  The article is by Helen Ouyang, April 14, 2020.

This was a doctor from Pakistan, who made a stop in Italy, and gave an account of the sudden horror in Bergamo around the first of March. In New York, he watched the patients accumulated quickly in mid March.

It’s hard to imagine people able to breathe normally in line to get into an emergency room.

It’s even harder when your own friends, in Zoom meetings, seem not to have gotten it, or a few report very mild symptoms that resolved quickly. 

The virus seems to target people who live in large households with continual exposure, with jobs requiring them to be in contact with the public, or with poor health or unfortunate genetics   Native Americans seem to be particularly vulnerable. 

Sunday, November 15, 2020

“How the World’s Biggest Slum Stopped the Virus”, Dharavi (in Mumbia); Bloomberg

Dharavi Slum in Mumbai


Bloomberg Features offers a bookletHow the World’s Biggest Slum Stopped the Virus”, by Ari Alstedtler and Dhanyi Pandya

The slum is Dharavi in Mumbai, India, where much of the population is very transient.

The idea seems to be very flexible, very people-centered contact tracing.

Wikipedia picture from slum, click for attribution. 

Thursday, November 12, 2020

“A Fiscal Cliff: New Perspectives on the U.S. Federal Debt Crisis”, from the Cato Institute


Cato Books has published “A Fiscal Cliff: New Perspectives on the U.S. Federal Debt Crisis”, 504 pages, by John Merrifield and Barry Poulson. Amazon has a link. 

The Cato Institute, on Nov. 11, held a virtual book forum, link with details, with the two authors, as well as Chris Edwards, moderated by Jason Kuznicki.

Wolf Blitzer, on CNN, did some programs around the end of 2011 called “The Fiscal Cliff”, at a time of threatened government shutdowns and particularly at least two major brushes with failing to extend the debt ceiling, which the panel did not discuss today.

Barry Poulson talked about “debt fatigue”, and maintains that the business cycle should ultimately balance budgets, but making up deficits from recessions with surpluses in good years.  In fact, as I recall, Bill Clinton left office with a surplus, which got blown away by 9/11 (not mentioned in the forum). He gave examples of failed countries, like Argentina.

Other ideas mentioned included forcing states and localities to deal with their own debts, without bailouts (remember NYC in 1975).

Late in the presentation, the panel recognized the catastrophe of COVID but seemed not to take it too seriously.  They said future generations will have their own catastrophes to pay for (climate change?) wo we shouldn’t pass COVID on to them.

Possibly you could propose a lot of jawboning on wealthier people (especially with inheritances) to support those thrown out of work themselves.  Many aspects of our lives (like the performing arts as we have known them) could be gone forever when we come out of the pandemic.  

The possibility of immediate means testing of Social Security would come to mind as an idea.

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

"The Office of Historical Corrections", a new kind of fiction book? (preview)

Joumana Khatib offers a review in the New York Times of a somewhat unusual book, “The Office of Historical Corrections”, by black author Daniella Evans, from Riverhead.  It shows her with her black cat, Betty Davis (who is rather like one of Louis Rossmann’s cats on YouTube). It’s a little pricey now on Amazon.

The book has an unusual format. It has a novella, which is eponymous with the book title, and six short stories.

The novella concerns an employee of a fictitious bureaucracy whose job it is to leave “clarification” notes all over the country.

One of the stories concerns a black student maligned for a flag but supported by a libertarian group.

My own DADT III book (2014), is a little bit comparable, in that it contains a non-fiction section (essentially seven essays, five of which are numbered as chapters, and are based on autobiographical topics), and a fiction section, with an introduction and three stories.  The middle story is based on my time in Army Basic in 1968; the other two, set 40 years apart, are parallel road trips leading to very different conclusions, but they could be paired to make a clever independent “A24-style” film.

In high school English in tenth grade (1959) we had a unit on short stories, and had to know the stories in detail for the test.  I’d love to give a test on my books.  Short stories are supposed to be unary in concept, analogous to short films.  I wonder if this collection by Daniella is on John Fish's reading list. 

Tuesday, November 03, 2020

"Will He Go? Trump and the Looming Election Meltdown in 2020"; Vox interviews Lawrence Douglas; maybe in 12 hours we'll know???


Law professor Lawrence Douglas lays out an alarming scenario in his book "Will He Go? Trump and the Looming Election Meltdown in 2020."

Sean Illing interviews him for Vox in this article.  

The book is brief (160 pages) and comes from the publisher “Twelve”, which I believe Sebastian Junger has used.

The biggest problem seems to be that a battleground state could send in competing results.  But federal law says the governor’s certification is what counts (which in Michigan, would be Democratic). Even Amy Coney Barrett would have to concur with that.

All major factcheckers are reporting today that it is normal for some states to be uncertain as to electoral outcome for several days up to a few weeks (2000, Florida) for an outcome if it is very close.

However, Trump seems obstinate because his “base” counts on him to protect them from “expropriation” by others (on the Left). 

Monday, November 02, 2020

NYTimes gives an illustrated booklet on how masks work

 Several writers and artists (Or Fleisher, Gabriel Gianordoli, Yulia Parshina-Kottas, Karthik Patamjali, Miles Peyton, and Bedel Saget) explain in detail how different kinds of masks work.

The title is “Masks Work. Really. We’ll Show You How”. 

The staged illustrations show droplets, aerosols, and virus particles, and how they intersect various fabric layers of masks.   There is a curious geometric illustration of the random fiber patterns of the N95.

The N95 seems to be the best mask, and we should have a national effort to make them for everyone. Men would lose their beards.  They have to fit right.

Saturday, October 31, 2020

Gene Weingarten: "Can We Ever Be One Country Again?" in The Washington Post Magazine


The Washington Post Magazine for Sunday Nov. 1, 2020 offers a perspective by Gene Weingarten,
"Can We Ever Be One Country Again?"

Weingarten is the author of “One Day”, an examination of a random day in America, Sunday, Dec. 28, 1986  (Blue Rider Press, 2020).

The online title (for this Perspective) is “In Search of Healing” with the subtitle “America is facing one of the deepest divides in our history – and no matter who wins the election, a difficult path forward”.  

He starts out with a sketch of Rob O’Neill, who was one of the Navy SEALs who participated in the raid of Abbottabad, Pakistan, to take out Osama bin Laden.

Then the article goes on to present O’Neill as a Trump supporter, rigid individualist who sees socialism and forced conformity to authority (despite his own experiencing it in the military) as an existential personal threat.  It sort of tracks to the ironies of my own military service 1968-1970.

The piece later describes Trump as a man in need of “sycophantic admiration.”

The article describes a historian Daniel Walker Howe, who sees todays divisions as more intense than any time since the 1850s. History, he says, but is not about individuals but about grand sweeps of “public sentiment”.

The article goes on to people’s unwillingness to change their minds, their “selfishness” which seems like a contradiction to tribalism.

He goes into ethnic antipathies, and then gets to discussing Bob Woodward’s account of Trump’s holding back on the coronavirus, and then the account of what Trump supporters are like. He finally talks to a mathematician “Dan” who analogizes todays divisions to imaginary numbers.

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Atlantic piece by Applebaum wants citizens to go overboard in volunteering to monitor the elections themselves

Here’s a big article in the Atlantic by Anne Applebaum, “The Election Is in Danger, Prepare Now”, with the subtitle, “A Citizen’s Guide to Defending Democracy”.  

She wants citizens to make the effort to vote in person if at all possible.

She wants you to work the polls (if not is a medical risk group, or maybe if you are on the edge of one).

She wants you to drive people to the polls.  Just open the car windows and make them sit on the rear passenger back (well, what if there are several).  Do you make them wear masks?

She wants people to volunteer virtually to help voters in battleground steps.

I voted by mail in Virginia Sept. 25 (the first day possible) and did not need a witness (despite the instructions on the envelope, I conferred with the state's website). 

I worked the polls for the primary March 3 (the day the other candidates collapsed for Biden), but backed out of Nov. 3 after talking to the county officials on the phone.  They thought they would have enough workers under 70 (with laid-off people working ).  They have many more young people as election judges than ever before. 

It links to a similarly strident article by David Litt.

Sunday, October 25, 2020

Politico Magazine: "A Day-by-Day Guide to What Could Happen If This Election Goes Bad"


Garrett M. Graff has a full magazine-length booklet for Politico today, illustrated by Daniel Zender, “A Day-by-Day Guide to What Could Happen If This Election Goes Bad”, from a series called “The Friday Cover”, with the subline “Election Experts game out the chaos that could unfold in the minutes, hours and days after the last ballot is cast”, link

Some of the risks are (1) voting is extended (2) false of premature claims of victory (this one is a biggie) (3) Armed groups mobilize (no, far Left, you don’t want to “abolish the police”) (4) The Justice Department intervenes (5) Hackers undermine results (6) Ballots turn up late (7) a counting collapse (8) legitimate fraud is uncovered (8) vote counters are intimidated or attacked (9) Supreme court challenge that stops a count or ultimately decides the election (10) Trump or Biden refuses to accept the legitimacy of the results (11) state or local officials refuse to certify results (12) Electors revolt or are replaced (13) The winner is incapacitated or dies (14) Congress chooses a president (15) Trump refuses to leave office.

Why did the Republican party have to implode in 2016?

Saturday, October 24, 2020

Pete Buttigieg's new book "Trust: America's Best Chance" (NY Times preview)

Palace Theater, Morris Performing Arts Center, in South Bend


The New York Times Book Review gives us a review and sneak preview of Pete Buttigieg’s “Trust: America’s Best Chance”.

The review describes the pressure Pete felt writing the book, right after he dropped out of the race on March 2, the day before I was to work the Virginia primary, just as the pandemic was about to explode in the United States.  And the book is already a "best seller". 

A quick look at the prologue shows that Pete looks at decades of history as defined by critical events:  9/11, the 2008 financial collapse, Obama’s presidency and an unequal recovery, Trump’s election based on resentment, and now the pandemic.  But he doesn’t mention the pandemic until talking about the wave of protests stemming from historically systemic racism.

His first chapter starts out by talking about unit cohesion in his own stint in the military.  This sounds like it will be interesting reading for me.  I could compare this to my own experience writing “Do Ask Do Tell” in 1995-1997.  But I was not a recognized celebrity.  This gives me cause to ponder.  I have to read Zakaria and Feiler.  I never became a best seller, although I believe that I did become a hidden influencer, and that itself is controversial. 

The new book is relatively short (224 pages), from Liveright.

In 2019 Pete authored “Shortest Way Home”, from the same published, longer, about the rebuilding of South Bend.

Picture: Wikipedia, Performing Arts Center in South Bend.  I wonder how it will recover from the pandemic. Embedded picture, click for attribution.  I don't recall being in South Bend; I have been in Fort Wayne (and spend a summer in Indianapolis in my first job in 1970). 

Thursday, October 22, 2020

WSJ: "In Xi Jingping's China, Nationalism Takes a Dark Turn": so does a formal social credit system

China Senate House

 Chao Ding and Liza Lin have a booklet-length illustrated article in the Wall Street Journal, “In Xi Jingping’s China, NationalismTakes a Dark Turn”.  The article links in turn to a Jonathan Cheng article, “China’s Economy Is Bouncing Back – and Gaining Ground on the U.S,”

The main article develops the idea of a unary state loyalty to the nation, on top of statist capitalism, that sounds like an admixture of communism and soft fascism.  And, knowing the treatment of the Ugyhur Muslims, it is racist.

China does have a definite “social contract” policy for individuals expressed through its social credit system (still evolving) and suppression dissent, because it believes that unearned fame and wealth will erase the best motives for people to behave.

And it appears that China’s authoritarian handling of the pandemic did squelsh it – but we aren’t sure about whether there are hidden outbreaks, or whether their vaccine (which they have given to their military) really works.  China can claim that its communitarian ideology is superior to the West in responding challenges from the natural world requiring citizens to deal with hardship and sacrifice equitably.

At the very least, since China’s delay in admitting the problem in early January led to such a catastrophe for the rest of the world, they should be lending their knowledge of vaccines and medications that actually have worked.

The father and son Barrett Channel keeps giving a glowing report of life in China for people who behave.

Picture: The Great Hall of the People in Beijing, Wikipedia embed, click for attribution.

Saturday, October 17, 2020

Putnam's "The Upswing" builds on "Bowling Alone"

Yuval Levin reviews another book about communitarianism, “The Upswing: How America Came Together a Century Ago and How We Can Do It Again”, by Robert Putnam with “social entrepreneur” Shaylayn Romney Garrett, from Simon and Schuster, 465 pages. 

I was not aware that this is a sequel (or perhaps rewritten expansion of) Putnam’s “Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of the American Community”, a book that I vaguely remember being discussed (2020) but apparently never reviewed and read (when I was living in Minneapolis and still employed by ING-Reliastar, right after Y2K).  It was from the same publisher, but longer.

It was two world wars and depression in between that brought us together, to the point that we could actually fight effectively with a segregated military at D-Day with “the greatest generation”.  That was a paradox that never made much sense in the 1990s when we were debating gays in the military – and I enjoyed being in the thick of it.  We go back to Gary Senise’s performance as “Truman” on HBO.’

The “We” Putnam apparently talks about seemed predicated on hierarchy and legacy tribalism, that could hardly be expected to last.  The best arguments for Civil Rights (and shortly thereafter “gay rights”) were indeed individualistic.

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Washington Post: 2 booklets, on (1) how we can use coronavirus genetic code changes for contact tracing (2) the risks taken by workers for all of us


The Washington Post has a major booklet-like insert today, “Scientists have a powerful tool for controlling the coronavirus: Its own genetic code”. 

Partly illustrated like a comic book (in “ScienceVille”), it then goes into how you can compare mini-mutations within patients to trace spread.

For example, if different people who test positive in a school have different strains, the spread was not within the school, and you don’t have to close the school.

There is a comment by Oppenheimer48 that seems serious for considering the Moderna vaccine.  He says “spike protein is uniquely dangerous … coronavirus passed blood brain barrier and antibodies (are) formed that cross react with myelin protein” causing MS and spinal paralysis. He asks where lipid-coated mRNA goes.

Ironically, Avi Schiffmann’s short film “The Central Dogma of Biology” from June 2019, reviewed July 1, 2020 on the Movies blog here, seems to touch on that point at the end.

The article links to two others stories, about an outbreak in a meatpacking plant, and about spread from the Boston Biogen conference in February.

I’m going to also list here another booklet in the WPost, “24 Hours in the Lives of American Workers” on the risks they have to today.

Monday, October 12, 2020

Children's publishers want black characters; more on fundraisers for independent bookstores during COVID

Recently some media outlets (I think it was Good Morning America) mentioned that publishers were looking for children’s books specifically with role model black characters  (see June 13, 2020 posting also).

This is not my own forte but Heathline Parenthood has some suggestions for consumers, here

Another topic worth noting is that independent community bookstores have been doing crowdfunding fundraisers to stay afloat during shutdowns.  There is a comprehensive article from Publisher’s Weekly last April. 

Bonfire has a typical fundraiser selling merchandise. 

Saturday, October 10, 2020

Nature Immunology has a disturbing COVID article: "Extrafollicular B-Cell Responses Correlate with Neutralizing Antibodies and Morbidity in Covid-19"


Nature Immunology has a very detailed article on coronavirus immunology that sounds critical. It’s long title is “Extrafollicular B-Cell Responses Correlate with Neutralizing Antibodies and Morbidity in Covid-19”, by Matthew C. Woodruff and other contributors.

The article is very long with many illustrations.  It seems to imply that in some people, robust neutralizing antibodies may lead to destructive auto-immunity somewhat resembling the mechanisms of systemic lupus erythematosus.  The tendency may be more pronounced in African Americans (AA).  That observation might be met by noting that some sub-Saharan countries in Africa have much less COVID than expected, and that might be because of cross cellular immunity from other pathogens.

It also notes that asymptomatic people often have low neutralizing antibodies, as if the body didn’t care much that the virus is there.  Unlike influenza, the coronavirus does not seem to be cytopathic everywhere (although I would wonder about claims that virus turns the nuclei of heart cells to dark matter).  There are many reports of lung and heart damage detected even in some asymptomatic patients several weeks after the positive test.  It’s not clear how widespread this is.

I heard on CNN that about 60% of the college students at the University of Wisconsin remained asymptomatic. It’s not clear how healthy they are.  The other 40% allegedly usually had mild symptoms.  But apparently they infected their elders as hospitalization is rising quickly in Wisconsin.

 Knowridge has a similarly disturbing report on how SARS-CoV2 attempts to disable the human cellular immunity alarm system (although anecdotally it seems as though a lot of people can deal with it).