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). 

Friday, October 09, 2020

Atlantic: "The Rise of the Three-Parent Family", and it could put social pressure on singles


The Atlantic has a major story on Sept. 24, 2020, “The Rise of the Three-Parent Family” by Angela Chen. The URL reads “how to build a 3-parent family”.

The practice of setting up trio legal agreements has been developing for some time, especially in the San Francisco Bay Area, but has not been well known. It was discussed this morning (Oct. 9) on ABC Good Morning America.

The article gives a biographical story of Jay, who says he is asexual, but is still the biological father of a child of a married couple with whom he shares legal custody.  It is not clear how many states allow this.

Jay had written a senior thesis on what differentiates sexual from non-sexual relationships (it would be nice if The Atlantic could link to a pdf of that thesis).

The article doesn’t get that much into co-parents who are not biological parents at all (possibly gay men especially).  My perception is that the concept could be used to encourage more people to share the cost of child rearing given so much economic and social inequality, and it could be encouraged to cross racial lines (it could be viewed as an anti-racist idea).

On the other hand, it bemuses the conservative idea of the traditional two-parent family.

Thursday, October 08, 2020

"First Book" provides books for low-income students, especially during pandemic


I got an email from a group called “First Book” this evening. 

Their website is here

The organization appears to buy children’s or text books at huge volume discounts to give to children in virtual learning environments during the pandemic, especially those without adequate Internet.

It appears that individuals or trusts can facilitate these purchases with donations.

Picture: Olney Theater (MD) 

Thursday, October 01, 2020

"12 Step Recovery Program for White Conditioning": Yup, there really is such a guide.


There is a 74-page booklet PDF “12 Step Recovery Program for White Conditioning”.  This comes from a Webinar given by a woman named Combs, and was actually used at the University of Minnesota.

Dr. Karlyn Borysenko analyzes the document and asks “What could possibly go wrong?”

Such anti-individualistic self-effacement.  It sounds like hazing.