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1
Surly Newz / Thoughts on Re-opening schools
« on: July 11, 2020, 06:15:59 AM »
I found this on a friend's Facebook page. It is one of the most thoughtful discussions of the ins and outs of this issue from a parent's perspective.
Yeah, Facebook, home of the Mau Mau nation.

PARENTS WITH SCHOOL AGE CHILDREN:
Wow - this  artical I just read (written by someone in Fairfax County, Va) has me rethinking a number of my thoughts on school restarting in the fall. It’s well worth the time to read if you dare to challenge your thinking, as CCPS has same options on the discussion board. If you have school aged children, please read:

From Joe Morice, daughters in 8th & 10th grade in the Centreville Pyramid:
To our fellow FCPS families, this is it gang, 5 days until the 2 days in school vs. 100% virtual decision. Let’s talk it out, in my traditional mammoth TL/DR form.

Like all of you, I’ve seen my feed become a flood of anxiety and faux expertise. You’ll get no presumption of expertise here. This is how I am looking at and considering this issue and the positions people have taken in my feed and in the hundred or so FCPS discussion groups that have popped up. The lead comments in quotes are taken directly from my feed and those boards. Sometimes I try to rationalize them. Sometimes I’m just punching back at the void.

Full disclosure, we initially chose the 2 days option and are now having serious reservations. As I consider the positions and arguments I see in my feed, these are where my mind goes. Of note, when I started working on this piece at 12:19 PM today the COVID death tally in the United States stood at 133,420.

“My kids want to go back to school.”

I challenge that position. I believe what the kids desire is more abstract. I believe what they want is a return to normalcy. They want their idea of yesterday. And yesterday isn’t on the menu.

“I want my child in school so they can socialize.”

This was the principle reason for our 2 days decision. As I think more on it though, what do we think ‘social’ will look like? There aren’t going to be any lunch table groups, any lockers, any recess games, any study halls, any sitting next to friends, any talking to people in the hallway, any dances. All of that is off the menu. So, when we say that we want the kids to benefit from the social experience, what are we deluding ourselves into thinking in-building socialization will actually look like in the Fall?

“My kid is going to be left behind.”

Left behind who? The entire country is grappling with the same issue, leaving all children in the same quagmire. Who exactly would they be behind? I believe the rhetorical answer to that is “They’ll be behind where they should be,” to which I’ll counter that “where they should be” is a fictional goal post that we as a society have taken as gospel because it maps to standardized tests which are used to grade schools and counties as they chase funding.

“Classrooms are safe.”

At the current distancing guidelines from FCPS middle and high schools would have no more than 12 people (teachers + students) in a classroom (I acknowledge this number may change as FCPS considers the Commonwealth’s 3 ft with a mask vs. 6 ft position, noting that FCPS is all mask regardless of the distance). For the purpose of this discussion we’ll say classes run 45 minutes.

I posed the following question to 40 people today, representing professional and management roles in corporations, government agencies, and military commands: “Would your company or command have a 12 person, 45 minute meeting in a conference room?”
100% of them said no, they would not. These are some of their answers:

“No. Until further notice we are on Zoom.”
“(Our company) doesn’t allow us in (company space).”
“Oh hell no.”
“No absolutely not.”
“Is there a percentage lower than zero?”
“Something of that size would be virtual.”

We do not even consider putting our office employees into the same situation we are contemplating putting our children into. And let’s drive this point home: there are instances here when commanding officers will not put soldiers, ACTUAL SOLDIERS, into the kind of indoor environment we’re contemplating for our children. For me this is as close to a ‘kill shot’ argument as there is in this entire debate. How do we work from home because buildings with recycled air are not safe, because we don’t trust other people to not spread the virus, and then with the same breath send our children into buildings?

“Children only die .0016 of the time.”

First, conceding we’re an increasingly morally bankrupt society, but when did we start talking about children’s lives, or anyone’s lives, like this? This how the villain in movies talks about mortality, usually 10-15 minutes before the good guy kills him.

If you’re in this camp, and I acknowledge that many, many people are, I’m asking you to consider that number from a slightly different angle.
FCPS has 189,000 children. .0016 of that is 302. 302 dead children are the Calvary Hill you’re erecting your argument on. So, let’s agree to do this: stop presenting this as a data point. If this is your argument, I challenge you to have courage equal to your conviction. Go ahead, plant a flag on the internet and say, “Only 302 children will die.” No one will. That’s the kind action on social media that gets you fired from your job. And I trust our social media enclave isn’t so careless and irresponsible with life that it would even, for even a millisecond, enter any of your minds to make such an argument.

Considered another way: You’re presented with a bag with 189,000 $1 bills. You’re told that in the bag are 302 random bills, they look and feel just like all the others, but each one of those bills will kill you. Do you take the money out of the bag?

Same argument, applied to the 12,487 teachers in FCPS (per Wikipedia), using the ‘children’s multiplier’ of .0016 (all of us understanding the adult mortality rate is higher). That’s 20 teachers. That’s the number you’re talking about. It’s very easy to sit behind a keyboard and diminish and dismiss the risk you’re advocating other people assume. Take a breath and think about that.

If you want to advocate for 2 days a week, look, I’m looking for someone to convince me. But please, for the love of God, drop things like this from your argument. Because the people I know who’ve said things like this, I know they’re better people than this. They’re good people under incredible stress who let things slip out as their frustration boils over. So, please do the right thing and move on from this, because one potential outcome is that one day, you’re going to have to stand in front of St. Peter and answer for this, and that’s not going to be conversation you enjoy.

“Hardly any kids get COVID.”

(Deep sigh) Yes, that is statistically true as of this writing. But it is a cherry-picked argument because you’re leaving out an important piece.
One can reasonably argue that, due to the school closures in March, children have had the least EXPOSURE to COVID. In other words, closing schools was the one pandemic mitigation action we took that worked. There can be no discussion of the rate of diagnosis within children without also acknowledging they were among our fastest and most quarantined people. Put another way, you cannot cite the effect without acknowledging the cause.

“The flu kills more people every year.”

(Deep sigh). First of all, no, it doesn’t. Per the CDC, United States flu deaths average 20,000 annually. COVID, when I start writing here today, has killed 133,420 in six months.

And when you mention the flu, do you mean the disease that, if you’re suspected of having it, everyone, literally everyone in the country tells you stay the f- away from other people? You mean the one where parents are pretty sure their kids have it but send them to school anyway because they have a meeting that day, the one that every year causes massive f-ing outbreaks in schools because schools are petri dishes and it causes kids to miss weeks of school and leaves them out of sports and band for a month? That one? Because you’re right - the flu kills people every year. It does, but you’re ignoring the why. It’s because there are people who are a--holes who don’t care about infecting other people. In that regard it’s a perfect comparison to COVID.

“Almost everyone recovers.”

You’re confusing “release from the hospital” and “no longer infected” with “recovered.” I’m fortunate to only know two people who have had COVID. One my age and one my dad’s age. The one my age described it as “absolute hell” and although no longer infected cannot breathe right. The one my dad’s age was in the hospital for 13 weeks, had to have a trach ring put in because she could no longer be on a ventilator, and upon finally getting home and being faced with incalculable time in rehab told my mother, “I wish I had died.”
While I’m making every effort to reach objectivity, on this particular point, you don’t know what the f- you’re talking about.

“If people get sick, they get sick.”

First, you mistyped. What you intended to say was “If OTHER people get sick, they get sick.” And shame on you.
“I’m not going to live my life in fear.”

You already live your life in fear. For your health, your family’s health, your job, your retirement, terrorists, extremists, one political party or the other being in power, the new neighbors, an unexpected home repair, the next sunrise. What you meant to say was, “I’m not prepared to add ANOTHER fear,” and I’ve got news for you: that ship has sailed. It’s too late. There are two kinds of people, and only two: those that admit they’re afraid, and those that are lying to themselves about it.

As to the fear argument, fear is the reason you wait up when your kids stay out late, it’s the reason you tell your kids not to dive in the shallow water, to look both ways before crossing the road. Fear is the respect for the wide world that we teach our children. Except in this instance, for reasons no one has been able to explain to me yet.

“FCPS leadership sucks.”

I will summarize my view of the School Board thusly: if the 12 of you aren’t getting into a room together because it represents a risk, don’t tell me it’s OK for our kids. I understand your arguments, that we need the 2 days option for parents who can’t work from home, kids who don’t have internet or computer access, kids who needs meals from the school system, kids who need extra support to learn, and most tragically for kids who are at greater risk of abuse by being home. All very serious, all very real issues, all heartbreaking. No argument.
But you must first lead by example. Because you’re failing when it comes to optics. All your meetings are online. What our children see is all of you on a Zoom telling them it’s OK for them to be exactly where you aren’t. I understand you’re not PR people, but you really should think about hiring some.

“I talked it over with my kids.”

Let’s put aside for a moment the concept of adults effectively deferring this decision to children, the same children who will continue to stuff things into a full trash can rather than change it out. Yes, those hygienic children.

Listen, my 15 year old daughter wants a sport car, which she’s not getting next year because it would be dangerous to her and to others. Those kinds of decisions are our job. We step in and decide as parents, we don’t let them expose themselves to risks because their still developing and screen addicted brains narrow their understanding of cause and effect.

We as parents and adults serve to make difficult decisions. Sometimes those are in the form of lessons, where we try to steer kids towards the right answer and are willing to let them make a mistake in the hopes of teaching better decision making the next time around. This is not one of those moments. The stakes are too high for that. This is a “the adults are talking” moment. Kids are not mature enough for this moment. That is not an attack on your child. It is a broad statement about all children. It is true of your children and it was true when we were children. We need to be doing that thinking here, and “Johnny wants to see Bobby at school” cannot be the prevailing element in the equation.

“The teachers need to do their job.”

How is it that the same society which abruptly shifted to virtual students only three months ago, and offered glowing endorsements of teachers stating, “we finally understand how difficult your job is,” has now shifted to “screw you, do your job.” There are myriad problems with that position but for the purposes of this piece let’s simply go with, “You’re not looking for a teacher, you’re looking for the babysitter you feel your property tax payment entitles you to.”

“Teachers have a greater chance to being killed by a car than they do of dying from COVID.”

(Eye roll) Per the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), the U.S. see approximately 36,000 auto fatalities a year. Again, there have been 133,420 COVID deaths in the United States through 12:09 July 10, 2020. So no, they do not have a great chance of being killed in a car accident.
And, if you want to take the actual environment into consideration, the odds of a teacher being killed in a car accident in their classroom, you know, the environment we’re actually talking about, that’s right around 0%.

“If the grocery store workers can be onsite what are the teachers afraid of?”

(Deep breath) A grocery store worker, who absolutely risks exposure, has either six feet of space or a plexiglass shield between them and individual adult customers who can grasp their own mortality whose transactions can be completed in moments, in a 40,000 SF space.
A teacher is with 11 ‘customers’ who have not an inkling what mortality is, for 45 minutes, in a 675 SF space, six times a day.
Just stop.

“Teachers are choosing remote because they don’t want to work.”

(Deep breaths) Many teachers are opting to be remote. That is not a vacation. They’re requesting to do their job at a safer site. Just like many, many people who work in buildings with recycled air have done. And likely the building you’re not going into has a newer and better serviced air system than our schools.
Of greater interest to me is the number of teachers choosing the 100% virtual option for their children. The people who spend the most time in the buildings are the same ones electing not to send their children into those buildings. That’s something I pay attention to.
“I wasn’t prepared to be a parent 24/7” and “I just need a break.”
I truly, deeply respect that honesty. Truth be told, both arguments have crossed my mind. Pre COVID, I routinely worked from home 1 – 2 days a week. The solace was nice. When I was in the office, I had an actual office, a room with a door I could close, where I could focus. During the quarantine that hasn’t always been the case. I’ve been frustrated, I’ve been short, I’ve gone to just take a drive and get the hell away for a moment and been disgusted when one of the kids sees me and asks me to come for a ride, robbing me of those minutes of silence. You want to hear silence. I get it. I really, really do.

Here’s another version of that, admittedly extreme. What if one of our kids becomes one of the 302? What’s that silence going to sound like? What if you have one of those matted frames where you add the kid’s school picture every year? What if you don’t get to finish the pictures?

“What does your gut tell you to do?”

Shawn and I have talked ad infinitum about all of these and other points. Two days ago, at mid-discussion I said, “Stop, right now, gut answer, what is it,” and we both said, “virtual.”
A lot of the arguments I hear people making for the 2 days sound like we’re trying to talk ourselves into ignoring our instincts, they are almost exclusively, “We’re doing 2 days, but…”. There’s a fantastic book by Gavin de Becker, The Gift of Fear, which I’ll minimize for you thusly: your gut instinct is a hardwired part of your brain and you should listen to it. In the introduction he talks about elevators, and how, of all living things, humans are the only ones that would voluntarily get into a soundproof steel box with a potential predator just so they could skip a flight of stairs.
I keep thinking that the 2 days option is the soundproof steel box. I welcome, damn, beg, anyone to convince me otherwise.

At the time I started writing at 12:09 PM, 133,420 Americans had died from COVID. Upon completing this draft at 7:04 PM, that number rose to 133,940.
520 Americans died of COVID while I was working on this. In seven hours.

The length of a school day.

2
Surly Newz / Breaking news! Civilization collapsed.
« on: June 29, 2020, 09:51:39 AM »
Breaking news! Civilization collapsed.


For those who have been fearing that things have gotten so crazy that civilization might collapse, take heart! It has already happened. You have survived. We are now in the ruins of civilization. Each action we take, large or small, is shaping the new world that will grow up out of the ruins of this one.

In 1851 Arthur Schopenhauer wrote, “We should see the scientific, literary and artistic Zeitgeist declared bankrupt about every thirty years: for during this period the errors contained in it have grown to such proportions as to crush it by the weight of their absurdity, while the opposing view has at the same time been strengthened by them.”

This is what has happened. This time it’s not a world war that swept away the previous civilization, it’s a deadly viral storm. But it has already killed more Americans than World War II. It is laying the foundation for the next world. It already has changed the world, fundamentally, at its core.

In America, in the world at large, we were ready for big change. We had outgrown the last cycle of history. The old system became ingrown, with useless vestigial organs, overburdened with baggage from the past, old ways of doing things that were outmoded, ineffectual, due for overhaul.

Michael Moore in 2016 reported that many of the people who voted for Trump didn’t particularly like him or agree with him, but were just so frustrated with the political system they wanted to throw a bomb into it. And Trump, probably even more so than many of his supporters would have actually wanted, came through with that promise. He has blown it all up.

So here we are in the ruins. And many people will confess to you now that they don’t want to go back to the old normal, even if it were possible. And it clearly is not. Every day we get further away from that old normal, that now-extinct world, and the new world continues to take shape around us.

It’s a volatile time, a time when there is tremendous energy crackling in the air, like an electrical storm, but not the regular meteorological kind, but rather a storm in human affairs.

It is a time that is ripe for new ideas, new ways of doing things. It seems that if someone has a good idea, now is a good time to come forth with it. The world has been exploded into fragments, and as the pieces fall back to earth and the dust clears, we will see that the foundation of the new world has been laid while our eyes were blinded by flying debris, while most of us were not aware that the old world was just a ghost.

The global viral attack that has beaten humanity into submission has brought to mind a term I have not heard for a long time: Noosphere. The concept was developed by the Jesuit Priest, paleontologist and philosopher Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, and the Russian-Ukrainian geologist and geochemist Vladimir Vernadsky in the 1920s. It refers to the realm of mental activity, the field of consciousness that surrounds the earth.

Linguistically, the word “noosphere” is analogous to terms from the earth sciences: atmosphere (air), hydrosphere (water) and lithosphere (land). The term “biosphere” was coined in 1875 by geologist Eduard Suess, to refer to the realm of living things on the surface of the earth.

Vernadsky saw the noosphere as the third stage of the earth’s development after the geosphere (inanimate matter) and the biosphere (biological life).

The term “cybersphere” came much later, after the development of the field of cybernetics in the 1940s. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, it refers to the realm of information technology and electronic communication, especially the Internet.

The emergence of the cybersphere amplified the evolution of the noosphere. It created an infrastructure for a sort of world brain, which we now experience through the Internet.

Now the global pandemic of COVID-19 has provided a focal point for the world’s consciousness.

Never before the emergence of COVID-19 has so much of the world’s consciousness been focused on one single thing. If the noosphere is the layer of mental activity in the world, surely it reached a new level of development with the shockwave launched by COVID-19.

That’s what put us in a new world. Now were are watching the manifestations of that change unfold. The Black Lives Matter movement was catalyzed by the death of George Floyd, but it represents an explosion of anger, frustration and heartbreak of countless such incidents going back centuries.

This explosion leading to a new level of intensity and focus in civil rights consciousness happened in the midst of the COVID crisis that we’re still in the middle of. Whether it could have happened without the COVID crisis no one can know. But the explosion of the long-simmering issues did actually happen in the aftermath of the shockwave that COVID shot around the world, in the new environment created by the pandemic.

The change is already manifest. Now we are just watching the chain reactions of that seismic shift in human affairs.

The new civil rights movement took place in what is already the new world created when COVID shattered the old one.

Here we are.

It’s going to be really interesting.

David Cogswell publishes HeadBlast.

3
Surly Newz / A Trifle
« on: June 25, 2020, 02:30:39 PM »
In the scheme of things this is a trifle, but I thought I'd put it out here anyhow.

When not arguing on the Diner, I have been in the habit off watching a lot of sports TV. I have followed sports for years, and indeed it has been interesting to watch how sports channels like ESPN have coped with a dearth of live sports.

Much of the discussion has centered on how ,major sports leagues are going to restart their seasons, or in the case of baseball or there NFL, start their seasons. The NBA is scheduled to start up in some manner of "bubble" in Orlando in July. MLB is supposed to start in July as well. the NFL typically starts after Labor Day, yet the opening exhibition game (the Hall of Fame game in early August) has already been cancelled.

My question is, given the increasingly desperate news from the south and west, do you think these seasons will start? And if so, will they complete their seasons?

Covid has already cut like a hot knife through butter through the rosters of several SEC football teams, such as LSU, last year's collegiate national champions.

the Covid news keeps getting worse:
A Devastating New Stage of the Pandemic
The U.S. has seen more cases in the past week than in any week since the pandemic began.

https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2020/06/second-coronavirus-surge-here/613522/

Texas pauses reopening as hospitals inundated with 'explosion' of COVID-19 cases
“The last thing we want to do as a state is go backwards and close down businesses," Gov. Greg Abbott said.

https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/texas-governor-pauses-state-s-reopening-due-spike-new-covid-n1232118

U.S. hits highest single day of new coronavirus cases with more than 45,500, breaking April record
https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/u-s-hits-highest-single-day-coronavirus-cases-36-358-n1232065

White House Official: Americans Will “Just Have to Live With” Massive Coronavirus Surge
https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2020/06/larry-kudlow-americans-just-have-to-live-with-covid-19.html

The Coronavirus Pandemic Is Out of Control in the U.S.
The country just recorded its worst day of coronavirus cases yet.

https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/k7q7ww/the-coronavirus-pandemic-is-out-of-control-in-the-us

There are more. this is just a sampling from what came over the transom today.

If the NFL doesn't start, or starts and ends quickly, I have to think that even Uncle Fud will notice, and reality will come to Trump country. It's easy to dismiss the complaints of inner city types, because a) racism, b) the gay that won't wash off, and c) Nancy Pelosi. But when folks are no longer able to slip into a beery seven-hour stupor in front of the TV because of the Covid, I find myself wondering if that won't be the final blow to break Trump's impenetrable base of 40 per cent approval. Because then they will have to notice.

The Diner forum is not a home for sports fans, AFAIK.  Any other thoughts on this, or am I the only person here who muses about this?

4
Surly Newz / Structural Racism in the FSoA
« on: June 25, 2020, 10:57:34 AM »
Here's a really good article exploring some of the themes under recent discussion.

Rather than atonement and reckoning, the United States offered war and conquest as a way to forge national unity. In fact, war became America’s ideal form of atonement, a way to deal with the past by fleeing forward into the future, by recycling the traumas caused by the last war into new wars.

Imperial expansion, including the ongoing dispossession of Native Americans, allowed the United States to continue its great evasion, its ability to take social conflicts that seemed irresolvable in the here and now and imagine their resolution in the there and then: there beyond the line of settlement, and then when the United States wins the West or opens the China market.


We've run out of empire, and free land to dispense to veterans, and the birds of American history have come home to roost.


Slavery, and American Racism, Were Born in Genocide
Martin Luther King Jr. saw something essential about our nation: Imperial expansion west over stolen Indian land shaped and deepened the American Revolution’s relationship to slavery.



Trail of Tears, Robert Lindneu (1942). (Courtesy of the National Library of Medicine)


By Greg Grandin

January 20, 2020

Last August, The New York Times Magazine introduced The 1619 Project, under the direction of Nikole Hannah-Jones. As an “ongoing initiative,” The 1619 Project “aims to reframe the country’s history by placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the very center of our national narrative.”

Praise came fast, and then the backlash, especially against the claim that the nation’s true founding should be dated not to the 1776 American Revolution but to 1619, when the first group of 20 to 30 enslaved Africans arrived in North America and were sold to Jamestown settlers. The editors and authors of 1619 are working in the cockpit of Trumpism, with racism and inequality renascent, so their dark take on US history is understandable. But here’s Martin Luther King Jr. in 1963 writing near the top of the mountain. Liberalism was seemingly triumphant, on the cusp of passing historic civil rights legislation. If ever there was a moment to put forward an optimistic view of US history—of a country about to fulfill its “promissory note” of equality—this was it. Still, King feels compelled to point out the “broader dimensions of the evil” of US history, of its “myth” of equality:

Our nation was born in genocide, when it embraced the doctrine that the original American, the Indian, was an inferior race. Even before there were large numbers of Negroes on our shore, the scar of racial hatred had already disfigured colonial society. From the sixteenth century forward, blood flowed in battles over racial supremacy. We are perhaps the only nation which tried as a matter of national policy to wipe out its indigenous population.

Expectedly, much of the criticism of The 1619 Project comes from political conservatives. But a group of liberal historians reacted harshly as well, among them Princeton’s Sean Wilentz, who, along with four other esteemed scholars—James McPherson, Gordon Wood, Victoria Bynum, and James Oakes—sent a letter to the Times demanding a retraction of the claim, made by Hannah-Jones, that “one of the primary” causes of the American Revolution was that colonists “wanted to protect the institution of slavery.” Wood, Oakes, McPherson, and Bynum also gave extended, critical interviews about the project covering a wide range of topics: colonial history, the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln’s views on race, Thomas Jefferson’s late-in-life turn toward pro-Southern extremism, the relationship of ideas to politics and economics, and the links between capitalism and slavery. Wood and Oakes, especially, objected to Hannah-Jones’s argument that the American Revolution was fought to defend slavery, and Wilentz, in a comment to The Atlantic, took exception to her remark that African Americans fought for their rights “largely alone.”

Striking is what was not discussed, and that’s what King noted in 1963: indigenous subjugation. The historians mentioned above said not a word, either in their collective letter or in their extensive interviews, about the dispossession of native peoples, the destruction of their societies, and their deportation west.

The omission is odd. For whether their criticism was motivated by a desire to defend a Whiggish narrative of liberal progress (Wilentz’s position) or insist on a stronger focus on political economy (Oakes’s concern), indigenous subjugation is key to understanding the history here being debated. Imperial expansion west over stolen Indian land shaped the American Revolution’s relationship to slavery. Expansion west drove the dynamism of the United States economy. And expansion west ignited slavery’s vast and rapid postrevolutionary growth, and allowed for its endurance, long past its abolition in every other country in the Americas (save for Brazil and Cuba), accounting for its deep and lasting imprint on US political culture, economics, and institutions.

American revolutionaries might have argued over slavery, and what place unfree labor would have in a republic founded on the ideal of liberty. But there was one thing that nearly all agreed on: the right to move west. British Americans, before their break with London, chafed at what was called the “Proclamation Line.” Running along the crest of the Alleghenies, the demarcation was made by the British Crown after its 1763 victory in the Seven Years’ War against France, as an effort to sequester white settlers on the Atlantic Coast. With British subjects already moving through the mountain passes, the policy became a major source of resentment against colonial rule. Settlers—the “overflowing Scum of the Empire,” as a British governor described the drifters and squatters who rushed down the Mississippi Valley—wanted land, which brought them into deadly conflict with Native Americans. In 1763, for instance, the Scotch-Irish Paxton Boys rampaged through Pennsylvania, murdering over a dozen Conestoga, scalping their victims, mutilating their corpses, and breaking up their communities (Dwight D. Eisenhower’s great-great-great grandfather, Hans Eisenhauer, was a Pennsylvania Indian killer during this time).

Behind the scum and squatters were speculators, many of them high-born Virginians, including George Washington, Patrick Henry, and Thomas Jefferson, but they included New Englanders as well, such as Benjamin Franklin. The prohibition on westward expansion is “truly antiamerican,” said one frustrated speculator of Westminster’s ban. If it remained in place, enormous investments would be rendered worthless. Washington already claimed millions of acres of Western land, and, sensing the policy would eventually be abandoned, sent his agent west into the forbidden zone “under the guise of hunting game” to stake out more claims. “It must fall,” he said of the Proclamation Line. It fell, with the revolution he led.

Not just material interests drove settlers west. The United States was founded on the idea that the ability to move wasn’t just a natural right but a condition of all other natural rights, a guarantor of many different kinds of virtue. Franklin provided an early political economy: Unlike in Europe, “labour will never be cheap” as long as farmers can continue moving west. James Madison offered a political theory: “Extend the sphere,” he said, and you’ll dilute factionalism and mitigate economic conflict. And Jefferson, two years before his draft of the Declaration of Indepedence, presented a moral history: Our “Saxon ancestors,” Jefferson wrote, “left their native wilds and woods in the North of Europe” and “possessed themselves of the Island of Britain.” As they did so, no German prince presumed to claim “superiority” over them. By what law, then, did the Crown presume to stop colonists from settling “the wilds of America”?

The American Revolution answered: none at all. The new nation came into the world doubling its size. The treaty recognizing the independence of the original 13 colonies ceded to them the territory between the Alleghenies and the Mississippi. The United States then proceeded to move swiftly—as if weightless, as the Mexican diplomat and writer Octavio Paz put it—across the West.

What would have happened if the United States had stayed confined, either east of the Alleghenies or of the Mississippi? What if the new nation hadn’t used its full federal apparatus to cleanse its eastern lands of Native Americans? Counterfactuals are a mug’s game, which historians anyway like to play (even if many consider them an invalid form of historical reasoning). Economists, though, have no problem with asking “What if?” The Berkeley economist Bradford DeLong isolated some variables and built a model that suggested that a “little America…penned behind the Appalachians would probably have seen its living standards and productivity levels not growing at 1% per year from 1760 to 1860 but shrinking.” Wages, as a result, would have been lower than they actually were, which would have decreased European migration somewhat but not much, considering the direness of rural life in Europe.

“A large chunk of America’s pre-1860 visible growing prosperity,” DeLong concluded, “was based not just on African-American slavery, but also on ‘Amerindian removal.’”

The history of chattel slavery would have been different in “little America.” With large numbers of immigrants working for lower wages, in a more constricted economy, fights over the moral meaning of labor, free and slave, which the historians who criticize The 1619 Project make much of, might have come to a head earlier. Or maybe not. For without taken indigenous land to expand into (land that was used as collateral for loans to finance buying more slaves and building more plantation, which in turn contributed to the growth of the cotton, real estate, finance, and insurance industries), slavery probably wouldn’t have transformed into the even larger monstrosity that it did become. Many Northerners and Southerners, Gordon Wood says, sounding wistful, as if he wishes he were living in little America, “thought slavery was on its last legs and that it would naturally die away.” And maybe the racism forged in a rump slavery would itself be a rump, and wouldn’t have had the lasting impact that it did.

But “big America” is what we got, thanks to a “national policy to wipe out its indigenous population,” as King noted in 1963. The United States flew over the continent like a whirligig, with not one “removal” but hundreds of removals, not one Trail of Tears, but many, with massacre after massacre, until Native Americans were reduced. This expansion—the acquisition of Florida, the Louisiana Purchase, Jackson’s Indian removal, the incorporation into the union of Texas, founded as a slaver’s utopia, and Oregon, founded as a white supremacist arcadia, and the taking of a third of Mexico—delayed a political reckoning with slavery, even as it provided the conditions for the robust progression of slavery. By the 1850s, chattel slavery had, in big America, insinuated itself into national life, into politics, law, philosophy, medicine, the new science of mental health, culture, city planning, and of course economics, in ways that, as The 1619 Project argues, last till today. It was during the Jacksonian period of imperial expansion, Indian removal, and the fast growth of slavery that a minimalist interpretation of the Constitution’s regulatory and fiscal power, and a maximalist interpretation of its war power, took shape—an interpretation that to a large degree remains regnant.

Indian removal opened the floodgates, allowing, as one legal theorist would describe the Age of Jackson, “an irresistible tide of Caucasian democracy” to wash over the land. King Cotton extended its dominion through the South, creating great wealth, along with greater forms of racial domination over both enslaved and free blacks. At the same time, Native Americans were driven west, and the white settlers and planters who got their land experienced something equally unprecedented: an extraordinary degree of power and popular sovereignty. Never before in history could so many white men consider themselves so free. Jacksonian settlers moved across the frontier, continuing to win a greater liberty by putting down people of color, and then continuing to define their liberty in opposition to the people of color they put down.

The 1846 war on Mexico deepened the associations of white skin with supremacy, dark skin with subjugation, and expansion with freedom. The nation’s elites “placed their most restless and desperate citizens upon the throat of Mexico,” as the historian Paul Foos described the looting, civilian murder, and terror that US troops—comprised of state militia volunteers and Army regulars—inflicted on Mexicans. Mexico put up more of a fight than the US politicians who plumped for the war said it would. As fighting dragged on for nearly two years, US soldiers committed crimes on Mexicans so terrible that, as General Winfield Scott, commander of US forces, said, they made “heaven weep.” The war was fought in an extremely decentralized manner, with officers’ barely exercising control over their troops, who experienced the violence they committed on Mexicans and Native Americans—“the repetition of the most heinous offenses, murder, rapine, robbery, and rape,” as one US newspaper described them—as a form of liberty.

The United States won the war, and many veterans returned east, to New England’s manufacturing towns or to New York’s Bowery, their battle-hardened racism working its way into local politics and into organizations that were potentially egalitarian, such as labor associations, and the Free Soil movement. Others went west, into California and up into Oregon. Armed with federally supplied rifles, an ample stock of bullets, and the promise of bounty land, they understood Western settlement to be a sequel to the war they had just won, and the genocide that took place on the Pacific Coast its last, long battle. “A war of extermination,” the first US Anglo governor of California predicted in 1851, “will continue to be waged between the races, until the Indian race becomes extinguished.”

Others spread out into the Midwest, into Kansas and Missouri, carrying their blood-soaked entitlement with them. War with Mexico simultaneously delayed and worsened the sectional crisis. In this sense, then, imperial expansionism served as both valve and throttle, with each conflict simultaneously venting the hatreds produced by the last while creating the conditions for the next.

The scholars who criticized The 1619 Project rightly argue that the moral debates, economic conflicts, and complicated politics of the Civil War shouldn’t be easily dismissed. There’s heroism, exercised by people of all colors, to be appreciated, which today might help us climb out of our current abyss. But it’s also important to recognize the way in which imperial expansion, including the ongoing dispossession of Native Americans, allowed the United States to continue its great evasion, its ability to take social conflicts that seemed irresolvable in the here and now and imagine their resolution in the there and then: there beyond the line of settlement, and then when the United States wins the West or opens the China market.

It wasn’t just the localized power of Southern elites that ended radical Reconstruction, the closest this nation came to having an honest reckoning with the consequences of slavery. In the struggle between North and South over the direction of a postbellum nation, access to Western lands played a decisive part. As the historians Boyd Cothran and Ari Kelman write, Northerners and Southerners in the years after the Civil War found “rare common ground” on the need to acquire more ground. They agreed on nearly nothing, only that the “Army should pacify Western tribes.” White Southerners bitterly opposed Reconstruction, and especially the hated Freedmen’s Bureau, but they came together with Northerners “on the subject of Manifest Destiny.”

It was too soon, in the 1870s and ’80s, for Confederate officers to be admitted into the Union Army, though Southerners fought as privates, corporals, and sergeants in Western campaigns. The South wasn’t fully reincorporated into the nation’s military structure until the War of 1898, fought against Spain for control of Cuba, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines. Former Confederate officers rallied for that war, using it as an opening to fold, ideologically, the South back into national history. “Cast a glance backward,” said Alabama’s Representative Joseph Wheeler, a Confederate cavalry officer, in a speech on the House floor just before shipping out to Cuba, and “reflect.” American history was one long war, he said: first for the frontier against the “wild beasts and savage Indians”; then the American Revolution, followed by the War of 1812 and the War on Mexico. Into this stream of progress Wheeler slipped the Civil War, when “a million brave men” flew “to arms,” not to fight against their Northern brethren but for their understanding of freedom. The liberation of Cuba would be the next chapter in the procession. The US flag and the Confederate flag flew side by side, as they would continue to do in every war to come.

The overseas frontier—wars and military occupations in Cuba, the Dominican Republic, the Philippines, Nicaragua, and Haiti—acted as a prism, blurring together the color line that existed at home and abroad. Southerners, in each military occupation and prolonged counterinsurgency they fought, could replay the dissonance of the Confederacy again and again. They could fight in the name of the loftiest ideals—liberty, valor, self-sacrifice, camaraderie—while putting down people of color. The body count in the Caribbean and Pacific was high. Hundreds of thousands died through the 1930s, either directly at the hands of US soldiers or from disease, famine, and exposure. Letters from soldiers, first in the 1898 campaign and then later in Nicaragua, Haiti, and the Dominican Republic, are notably similar, lightheartedly narrating to family and friends how they would shoot “niggers,” take “nigger scalps,” lynch “niggers,” release “niggers” into the swamp to die, water-torture “niggers,” and use “niggers for target practice.”

As Southerners steadily took the lead in the US military campaigns outward, all the dread, resentment, and hate generated by that campaign “poured back within the frame of the South itself,” as the Southern writer W. J. Cash wrote in his 1941 classic, The Mind of the South, and blended together. Over there, foreign enemies could be called niggers, and over here, domestic enemies—labor, farmer, and civil rights organizers, both people of color and their white allies—could be called subversives and anti-American: Many of the white vigilantes who led the terror campaign against black communities, in places like Wilmington, North Carolina, in 1898; Elaine, Arkansas, in 1919 (where veterans, with help from the US Army, slaughtered 237 sharecroppers for trying to organize a union); or the 1921 Tulsa massacre, were veterans.

Rather than atonement and reckoning, the United States offered war and conquest as a way to forge national unity. In fact, war became America’s ideal form of atonement, a way to deal with the past by fleeing forward into the future, by recycling the traumas caused by the last war into new wars.

We are going to need a bigger project, of the kind that Martin Luther King Jr. laid out in 1963. By focusing on the horrors inflicted on Native Americans, by arguing for the unprecedented nature of removal, King was doing more than adding yet another oppressed group to history’s pantheon of victims. Rather, he was reaching for a holistic understanding of how racism is historically reproduced down the generations.

“We elevated” the war against Native Americans “into a noble crusade,” King said, founding our national identity on Indian killing. Imperial expansion became a way of life, one that reinforced deep-seated pathologies and provided mythic justification for a volatile, racialized individualism. Imperial expansion led to alienation, social isolation, free-floating aggression, and fantasies that life was an endless game of cowboys and Indians, played out in all the nation’s endless wars. King, who by this time considered himself a socialist, hoped to build a movement that would achieve the “mass application of equality to jobs, housing, education, and social mobility.” He was acutely aware of the structural barriers to that goal. But he was also attuned to the psychic barriers that blocked full social equality.

Hannah-Jones writes that African Americans mostly “fought back alone.” King said much the same thing when he described nonviolent civil rights activists who faced jeering mobs with an “agonizing loneliness.” King here wasn’t talking about a lack of white allies, or individual isolation. He was talking about the loneliness that comes from fighting for social justice in a nation that is deeply, militantly, antisocial. “There is,” he said, “an individualism that destroys the individual,” that denies the interdependency of existence.

Starting around the early 1960s, King began to use the idea of the social frontier to put forward a counter value structure, an alternative to an ideal of freedom forged in centuries of subjugating people of color. African Americans, he said, confronted a reality “as harsh and demanding as that of the pioneer on the untamed frontier.” That harshness forged character and weeded out frivolity; it sharpened “knowledge and discipline…courage and self- sacrifice.” For King, then, nonviolent resistance was more than a tactic. The ability to fight on the “social frontier,” to forge a path through the “wilderness of segregation” without losing oneself to justifiable anger, without giving in to rage or the despair of loneliness, he said, contained the embryo of an alternative society, a way to free the nation from its past, to overcome its cultish adherence to frontier violence and create a beloved, social community.

Then came Vietnam, and King confronted his own agonizing loneliness. First for staying guiltily silent, not wanting to break his productive, for a time, alliance with the Democratic Party. And then, after he spoke out, when he was abandoned by people he thought were his allies and friends.

King started to publicly criticize the war in 1966. His cri de coeur came on April 4, 1967, when he gave his “Beyond Vietnam” speech in Riverside Church in Manhattan, to an overflow crowd of thousands. There, King didn’t just condemn the US war in Southeast Asia. He condemned all of it: the country’s long history of expansion, its “giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism,” and a political culture where “profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people.”

King wasn’t just breaking with the Cold War liberal consensus, which conditioned support for civil rights at home on backing anti-communism abroad. Rather, his protest entailed the refutation of an older, more primal premise. The nation was founded on the idea that expansion was necessary to achieve and protect social progress. Over the centuries, that idea was realized, again and again, through war. Extending the vote to the white working class went in hand with Indian removal; the military defeat of the Confederacy by the Union Army didn’t just end slavery but also marked the beginning of the final pacification of the West, with the conquered frontier continuing as an important basis of Caucasian democracy. Millions of acres were distributed to veterans. By the time African Americans started entering the armed forces in significant numbers, with the war of 1898, there was no more frontier land to hand out. But military service remained one of the country’s most effective mechanisms of social mobility, for African Americans as well as for working-class people in general, with the G.I. Bill of Rights providing education, medical care, and homeownership to veterans. King’s dissent, therefore, signaled a schism in US politics worthy of his namesake.

To “go beyond Vietnam” didn’t just mean splitting from the New Deal coalition by demanding an exit from Southeast Asia. It meant breaking with the devil’s bargain that social progress could be achieved in exchange for support for imperial expansion. King well understood that while war made some progress possible, it also threatened progress, activating the backlashers, revanchists, and racists who run through US history. For all that war turns reform into a transactional arrangement (some suffragists, for instance, traded their support for Woodrow Wilson’s war in exchange for his support for their right to vote, as did some trade unionists for his support for labor rights), and for all that imperial expansion worked as a safety valve (helping to vent extremism outward), it also created the aggressive, security- and order-obsessed political culture that King gave his life fighting against.

King was punished for his dissent. Many of his allies, black and white, abandoned him. Others attacked him. The Washington Post essentially gave King notice that his services would no longer be needed. “He has diminished his usefulness,” its editors said. Meanwhile, the FBI stepped up its campaign of surveillance and harassment against King and his family. This campaign had been running since at least 1962, and not one of King’s white allies of considerable influence—not John Kennedy, not Robert Kennedy, not Lyndon Johnson—ever ordered the bureau to stand down. That’s what it means to “fight alone.”

A prophet outcast, King continued, during the last year of his life, to speak out against the war. He put forth, in a series of sermons and press conferences, a damning analysis. Imperial expansion abroad, he argued, quickened domestic polarization. The “flame throwers in Vietnam fan the flames in our cities,” he said; “the bombs in Vietnam explode at home.” Racists killing brown people abroad became more racist. Opponents of war at home became more militant. Imperial expansion had long served to vent domestic extremism outward. But at some point, the vent would stop working. “There is such a thing as being too late,” King said in his Riverside Church speech, warning that the United States, even if it did try to reverse course, might not be able to steer away from self-destruction. “Over the bleached bones and jumbled residues of numerous civilizations are written the pathetic words, ‘Too late.’” King was executed a year to the day after that speech.


5
Surly Newz / The Jordan F. Peterson Bleach Enema Thread
« on: May 21, 2020, 07:12:45 AM »
Standing this up at the expressed request of Eddie: a thread devoted to his intellectual lodestar, a scholar who sounds like a stupid person's idea of what a smart person should sound like. And best of all, it's a Medium article. Seek, and ye shall find. No, don't thank me. Enjoy, buckos.


Dr. Jordan Peterson: How History Becomes Twisted
How unqualified figures can make wild claims about past events and people.




Taken from WikiCommons

This morning, I was sitting in my house, scrolling through Twitter, as I usually do, when I came upon a video made by Dr. Jordan Peterson. The video in question wasn’t published on his personal Youtube account but was instead posted on a fan account. The video, titled How Hitler was Even More Evil Than You Think, has just short of three million views. The title itself is nothing to scoff at. Hitler was evil, of course. What is intriguing, however, is how well received the video was despite Dr. Peterson’s lack-luster understanding of the Nazis and the historical discipline.

One of the main issues that I have with Peterson's approach to history is his application of Swiss Psychiatrist Carl Jung’s psychoanalytical principles. In his lecture, Peterson cites Jung as the means by which he comes to his conclusion. Under this principle, if you can’t determine why someone is doing something, look at the outcome, and infer the motivation. This approach, is, at its core, poor historical scholarship. Jung’s approach, while perhaps useful in an individual setting, does nothing beneficial for the historical record. Jung’s principle, and by extension Peterson’s, assumes that the historical figure in question has control over the outcome of their actions — both in the short and long term. In Hitler’s case, he was not in control, as he lost the war. Jung’s approach also removes the need for primary and secondary sources as evidence for historical claims, which is a critical component of historical research.

Taken from the University of Washington Tacoma

Historical records, both primary and secondary, allow for proper historical context and provide historians with invaluable resources for contextualizing past events. To remove the use of said documents and sources is to remove the modern historical methodology itself. By doing this, unqualified figures can make wild claims about past events or people. Dr. Jordan Peterson is especially guilty of this, as he applies a principle that requires a base set of unsupported assumptions and beliefs about a person’s control over the world. In this case, Hitler.

Dr. Jordan Peterson’s lecture on Hitler

<a href="http://www.youtube.com/v/jMqQBLZwRIE" target="_blank" class="new_win">http://www.youtube.com/v/jMqQBLZwRIE</a>

Peterson also attempted to portray Hitler as devoid of reason and motivated to pursue a policy of mass-induced mayhem at the expense of the German war effort, attributing it to the metaphysical Mark of Cain. He does this by casting aspersions on Hitler’s planning of the Final Solution, arguing that it would be better for the Nazi war effort to enslave the Jewish population rather than murder them. This is where Jordan Peterson reveals another issue with his argument; he is ignorant about the subject he is discussing. The Nazis did enslave the Jewish population along with many other “undesirables” that they wanted to cast aside. Indeed, many early concentration camps were near places of industry, such as factories and quarries. Sachsenhausen is a perfect example of this.

Peterson’s approach, aside from being blatantly reductionist and lacking in facts, fundamentally misrepresents Hitler’s views on race and racialized hierarchy. Hitler was concerned with the establishment of a stratified racial hierarchy, with Jews removed from the system entirely and the supposed “master race,” Aryans, composing the dominant position within the German state. Hitler and his followers were not secretive about their intentions, nor were they ambiguous about what was at the core of their ideology. In his infamous Reichstag speech, dated January 30th, 1939, Hitler said the following:

“Today I will be once more a prophet: if the international Jewish financiers in and outside Europe should succeed in plunging the nations once more into a world war, then the result will not be the Bolshevizing of the earth, and thus the victory of Jewry, but the annihilation of the Jewish race in Europe!”- Adolf Hitler.

This speech is particularly significant to Hitler’s political worldview, as it was a speech that serves as both a reminder of Hitler’s fanatical antisemitism but also helps to reveal how he handled political conflict in general. The address was given in response to negotiations between Hermann Göring and George Rublee of the United States. Rublee, the Chairman of the Intergovernmental Committee for Refugees, was attempting to have Hitler, and by extension, the Nazis ensure Jewish migrants had enough money and property with them when they were deported. Rublee and others in the United States insisted on this to prevent the refugees from being penniless and becoming a public charge. This, in turn, hindered negotiations, as the Germans were unwilling to transfer Jewish property to their rightful owners, as it would redirect resources from its rearmament project. Thus, this speech reveals Hitler’s willingness to threaten the Jewish population to put greater pressure on American operatives to take Jewish refugees and prioritized military concerns above the property rights and well-being of Jews in German territory.

From this perspective, it becomes clear that Hitler’s worldview was not one of blind mayhem for mayhem’s sake. Instead, his worldview was one of order through a racialized hierarchy. This hierarchy, as Hitler would have seen it, was not possible with Jews in Germany and, more broadly, in the world. The Jewish populace, as Hitler saw them, were not just another identity to be considered and respected, but were a subversive force that threatened the German people.

If Peterson’s core argument were to be accepted into contemporary history, it would remove the Nazi’s ideology from the equation entirely. In doing so, Peterson’s thesis would provide many with the petty comfort that the Nazis were an aberration in human history, that we couldn’t become like the Nazis, but we can, and some of us already have.

Image of Neo-Nazis taken from video by YouTuber, Shaun.

To be fair to Dr. Peterson, I am not calling him a Neo-Nazi. He is nothing of the sort, but even good-willed people can give credence to the very evil which they seek to condemn. Dr. Peterson is trying to challenge the historical consensus and to get people to think in a new way; he should be commended for that.

That said, it is one thing to try and challenge the historiography., but that does not mean anybody who makes said challenge is correct in their interpretation or that their approach is sufficient to overturn consensus. Peterson still faces a burden of proof which he has yet to meet with the required evidence. And when dealing with something as sensitive as the Nazi party’s leader, Peterson should take more care to meet that standard. He knows better.

After all, he doesn’t have that PhD for nothing.




Even for Peterson, this is pretty dumb. Sources: the other white meat.

6
Energy / Herd Immunity For Thee, Daily Tests For Me
« on: May 19, 2020, 08:07:20 AM »




From the keyboard of Surly1

Follow us on Twitter @doomstead666

Like us on Facebook



 






Originally published on the Doomstead Diner on May 19, 2020



"There is no genius there, only a damaged human being playing havoc with our lives."



 â€• Jay Rosen  





The Trump Administration has decided to embrace the herd immunity strategy as a means to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic. Oh, they haven't told you. There was no formal announcement– nothing so honest. The same stratagem once presented as an option to Boris Johnson as a means for the UK to deal with the raging infection, then rejected as altogether too expensive in terms of human lives and strain to the NHS, has been embraced by the Trump administration as policy. Superseding their own previous public guidance, Trump has exhorted state governors to "open up" their states, and encouraged armed gaggles of low-T cosplayers to take to the streets to demonstrate for their own impending illness and demise.



Meanwhile, in the last weeks, a Trump valet and a spokesperson for Mike Pence were diagnosed as Covid-19 positive. Trump's primary concern was messaging: the idea that the notion of Covid-19 stalks the White House would undercut his message that the outbreak is waning and states should begin reopening. Re-election is job one, and re-opening the country is the foundation upon which that effort will be built.



Even though you still can't get a test after several months, the White House has been deploying rapid-result tests for the virus, including testing members of the press corps. Thus, testing for me but none for thee.



Thousands are dying each week, the economy is cratering, and the jackal in charge has no idea what he is doing. All that matters is his impending re-election campaign, and it doesn't really matter how many thousands of muppets have to shoveled into the incinerator to achieve that.



And Trumpsuckers love him for it. Quoted in The Guardian, here's Lee Snover, a Republican party chair a key Pennsylvania swing county, who lost her father to Covid-19, and whose husband was hospitalized with the disease:




“It spread through my entire family,” Snover said.



Trump stands accused of driving up the coronavirus death toll by downplaying the public health threat and urging the country to “reopen” too quickly. But Snover does not see the president as having failed her family.



“I don’t think people give him enough credit,” she said. “If you think about what a businessman he was, and how much he loved that booming economy, do you know how hard it was for him to shut the country down? That was hard. So I give him credit for that.”



At times it has appeared that the pandemic, which has already taken at least 90,000 lives in the United States and wreaked havoc with the economy, would also destroy support for Trump, and his chances for reelection. But interviews with longtime Trump supporters in Northampton county indicate the extraordinary durability of backing for the president among his base.




Trump has punted responsibility to state governors, saying they are "on their own." He has abdicated the roles of leadership, planning and unified purchasing that might be the useful functions of the federal government, while retaining the right to second guess any decision they make. 



Trump makes much of the fact that the US had administered the most tests (11.5M as of this writing), but only a little over three percent of the total population. We learned this week that, despite swaths of the country shutting down for two months, the U.S. is barely further along in terms of testing, and experts say that there's no realistic way to return to normal without doubling or tripling the number of tests administered every day.



So why are we not further along? Where are the tests? They went to Jared:




Kushner, it turns out, is reportedly one of the people directly responsible for the country's extreme delays in rolling out tests when the outbreak started. That's according to the Financial Times, which recently published a deep-dive into the Trump administration's chaotic and denial-plagued coronavirus response. One of Donald Trump's confidants, who's regularly in touch with the president, put the blame squarely on Kushner, saying, "Jared had been arguing that testing too many people, or ordering too many ventilators, would spook the markets and so we just shouldn’t do it. That advice worked far more powerfully on [Trump] than what the scientists were saying. He thinks they always exaggerate."




So if you are one of the numerous Americans who still can't get a Covid test, thank the smooth-cheeked porcelain-doll Dauphin and Trump scion. Jared's fecklessness is given proper shrift in an article by George Packer in the June Atlantic that details how this country's wan response to the pandemic has revealed a beggar nation in utter chaos:




Like a wanton boy throwing matches in a parched field, Trump began to immolate what was left of national civic life. He never even pretended to be president of the whole country, but pitted us against one another along lines of race, sex, religion, citizenship, education, region, and—every day of his presidency—political party. His main tool of governance was to lie. A third of the country locked itself in a hall of mirrors that it believed to be reality; a third drove itself mad with the effort to hold on to the idea of knowable truth; and a third gave up even trying…




And the "purest embodiment of political nihilism is not Trump himself but Jared the "Disruptor:".




In his short lifetime, Kushner has been fraudulently promoted as both a meritocrat and a populist. He was born into a moneyed real-estate family the month Ronald Reagan entered the Oval Office, in 1981—a princeling of the second Gilded Age. Despite Jared’s mediocre academic record, he was admitted to Harvard after his father, Charles, pledged a $2.5 million donation to the university. Father helped son with $10 million in loans for a start in the family business, then Jared continued his elite education at the law and business schools of NYU, where his father had contributed $3 million. Jared repaid his father’s support with fierce loyalty when Charles was sentenced to two years in federal prison in 2005 for trying to resolve a family legal quarrel by entrapping his sister’s husband with a prostitute and videotaping the encounter.




Imagine that Thanksgiving dinner.





So when his father-in-law became president, Kushner quickly gained power in an administration that raised amateurism, nepotism, and corruption to governing principles. As long as he busied himself with Middle East peace, his feckless meddling didn’t matter to most Americans. But since he became an influential adviser to Trump on the coronavirus pandemic, the result has been mass death.



In his first week on the job, in mid-March, Kushner co-authored the worst Oval Office speech in memory, interrupted the vital work of other officials, may have compromised security protocols, flirted with conflicts of interest and violations of federal law, and made fatuous promises that quickly turned to dust. “The federal government is not designed to solve all our problems,” he said, explaining how he would tap his corporate connections to create drive-through testing sites. They never materialized. He was convinced by corporate leaders that Trump should not use presidential authority to compel industries to manufacture ventilators—then Kushner’s own attempt to negotiate a deal with General Motors fell through. With no loss of faith in himself, he blamed shortages of necessary equipment and gear on incompetent state governors.





To watch this pale, slim-suited dilettante breeze into the middle of a deadly crisis, dispensing business-school jargon to cloud the massive failure of his father-in-law’s administration, is to see the collapse of a whole approach to governing.





But for those of us who live out here in flyover country, it's back to normal. Open the beaches, open the bars, open the barber shops, and second wave be damned.





Writing in Pressthink, journalism observer Jay Rosen gets it exactly correct– Trump's plan is to have no plan:




The plan is to have no plan, to let daily deaths between one and three thousand become a normal thing, and then to create massive confusion about who is responsible— by telling the governors they’re in charge without doing what only the federal government can do, by fighting with the press when it shows up to be briefed, by fixing blame for the virus on China or some other foreign element, and by “flooding the zone with shit,” Steve Bannon’s phrase for overwhelming the system with disinformation, distraction, and denial, which boosts what economists call “search costs” for reliable intelligence.



Stated another way, the plan is to default on public problem solving,and then prevent the public from understanding the consequences of that default. To succeed this will require one of the biggest propaganda and freedom of information fights in U.S. history, the execution of which will, I think, consume the president’s re-election campaign. So much has already been made public that the standard script for a White House cover up (worse than the crime…) won’t apply. Instead, everything will ride on the manufacture of confusion. The press won’t be able to “expose” the plot because it will all happen in stark daylight. The facts will be known, and simultaneously they will be inconceivable




Not only is the plan to have no plan, but to question the objective reporting og events. Part of the non-plan to "prevent the public from understanding the consequences of that default" is to question the numbers. Last week Deborah Birx loudly said that 'there is nothing from the CDC that I can trust' in a White House coronavirus task force meeting. Hers was the first sortie in a wholesale assault on the methodolgy used by the CDC and others in tabulating the death toll. How long before Hannity, Limbaugh and the other attack dogs of the right join in the attack?



The truth seems to be that Birx and others fear that the CDC's data-tracking system was inflating coronavirus statistics like death rates and case numbers. Recent research indicates that COVID-19 deaths have been severely undercounted, both in the US and around the world, particularly in the early stages of the pandemic. Texas reported its highest single-day increase in new COVID-19 cases as restaurants, salons, and cinemas open to the public, And in other early-opening states, GOP Governors are actively cooking the books in their respective states. 



Even now, if you are one of the ghouls who checks the daily totals (and I am), a gap has opened up between the statistics reported by the Johns Hopkins COVID-19 Dashboard by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering, and the Worldometers web site. After tracking together for the last several months, the Johns Hopkins numbers are running behind the Worldometers numbers. Whether this is a momentary anomaly or represents a symptom of a greater discrepancy, I cannot tell.





How about the costs? Meanwhile, New coronavirus cases in Germany almost tripled within 24 hours — less than a week after the country started reopening — as it considers an 'emergency brake' to reinstate harsher lockdowns. We are also told thst Texas is showing a spike in cases. Hard to tell what is happening in the New Confederacy, as Governors and state Health departments slow-walk the numbers and play statistical games to change the subject. But time will tell; it always does.





banksy 07-flower-thrower-wallpaperSurly1 is an administrator and contributing author to Doomstead Diner. He is the author of numerous rants, screeds and spittle-flecked invective here and elsewhere. He lives a quiet domestic existence in Southeastern Virginia with his wife Contrary. Descended from a long line of people to whom one could never tell anything, all opinions are his and his alone, because he paid full retail for everything he has managed to learn.



7
Surly Newz / The Sickness in Our Food Supply
« on: May 14, 2020, 07:52:03 AM »
The Sickness in Our Food Supply



Michael Pollan June 11, 2020 Issue


“Only when the tide goes out,” Warren Buffett observed, “do you discover who’s been swimming naked.” For our society, the Covid-19 pandemic represents an ebb tide of historic proportions, one that is laying bare vulnerabilities and inequities that in normal times have gone undiscovered. Nowhere is this more evident than in the American food system. A series of shocks has exposed weak links in our food chain that threaten to leave grocery shelves as patchy and unpredictable as those in the former Soviet bloc. The very system that made possible the bounty of the American supermarket—its vaunted efficiency and ability to “pile it high and sell it cheap”—suddenly seems questionable, if not misguided. But the problems the novel coronavirus has revealed are not limited to the way we produce and distribute food. They also show up on our plates, since the diet on offer at the end of the industrial food chain is linked to precisely the types of chronic disease that render us more vulnerable to Covid-19.

The juxtaposition of images in the news of farmers destroying crops and dumping milk with empty supermarket shelves or hungry Americans lining up for hours at food banks tells a story of economic efficiency gone mad. Today the US actually has two separate food chains, each supplying roughly half of the market. The retail food chain links one set of farmers to grocery stores, and a second chain links a different set of farmers to institutional purchasers of food, such as restaurants, schools, and corporate offices. With the shutting down of much of the economy, as Americans stay home, this second food chain has essentially collapsed. But because of the way the industry has developed over the past several decades, it’s virtually impossible to reroute food normally sold in bulk to institutions to the retail outlets now clamoring for it. There’s still plenty of food coming from American farms, but no easy way to get it where it’s needed.

How did we end up here? The story begins early in the Reagan administration, when the Justice Department rewrote the rules of antitrust enforcement: if a proposed merger promised to lead to greater marketplace “efficiency”—the watchword—and wouldn’t harm the consumer, i.e., didn’t raise prices, it would be approved. (It’s worth noting that the word “consumer” appears nowhere in the Sherman Anti-Trust Act, passed in 1890. The law sought to protect producers—including farmers—and our politics from undue concentrations of corporate power.)1 The new policy, which subsequent administrations have left in place, propelled a wave of mergers and acquisitions in the food industry. As the industry has grown steadily more concentrated since the 1980s, it has also grown much more specialized, with a tiny number of large corporations dominating each link in the supply chain. One chicken farmer interviewed recently in Washington Monthly, who sells millions of eggs into the liquified egg market, destined for omelets in school cafeterias, lacks the grading equipment and packaging (not to mention the contacts or contracts) to sell his eggs in the retail marketplace.2 That chicken farmer had no choice but to euthanize thousands of hens at a time when eggs are in short supply in many supermarkets.

On April 26, John Tyson, the chairman of Tyson Foods, the second-largest meatpacker in America, took out ads in The New York Times and other newspapers to declare that the food chain was “breaking,” raising the specter of imminent meat shortages as outbreaks of Covid-19 hit the industry.3Slaughterhouses have become hot zones for contagion, with thousands of workers now out sick and dozens of them dying.4 This should come as no surprise: social distancing is virtually impossible in a modern meat plant, making it an ideal environment for a virus to spread. In recent years, meatpackers have successfully lobbied regulators to increase line speeds, with the result that workers must stand shoulder to shoulder cutting and deboning animals so quickly that they can’t pause long enough to cover a cough, much less go to the bathroom, without carcasses passing them by. Some chicken plant workers, given no regular bathroom breaks, now wear diapers.5 A worker can ask for a break, but the plants are so loud he or she can’t be heard without speaking directly into the ear of a supervisor. Until recently slaughterhouse workers had little or no access to personal protective equipment; many of them were also encouraged to keep working even after exposure to the virus. Add to this the fact that many meat-plant workers are immigrants who live in crowded conditions with little or no access to health care, and you have a population at dangerously high risk of infection.

When the number of Covid-19 cases in America’s slaughterhouses exploded in late April—12,608 confirmed, with forty-nine deaths as of May 11—public health officials and governors began ordering plants to close. It was this threat to the industry’s profitability that led to Tyson’s declaration, which President Trump would have been right to see as a shakedown: the president’s political difficulties could only be compounded by a shortage of meat. In order to reopen their production lines, Tyson and his fellow packers wanted the federal government to step in and preempt local public health authorities; they also needed liability protection, in case workers or their unions sued them for failing to observe health and safety regulations.

Within days of Tyson’s ad, President Trump obliged the meatpackers by invoking the Defense Production Act. After having declined to use it to boost the production of badly needed coronavirus test kits, he now declared meat a “scarce and critical material essential to the national defense.” The executive order took the decision to reopen or close meat plants out of local hands, forced employees back to work without any mandatory safety precautions, and offered their employers some protection from liability for their negligence. On May 8, Tyson reopened a meatpacking plant in Waterloo, Iowa, where more than a thousand workers had tested positive.

The president and America’s meat eaters, not to mention its meat-plant workers, would never have found themselves in this predicament if not for the concentration of the meat industry, which has given us a supply chain so brittle that the closure of a single plant can cause havoc at every step, from farm to supermarket. Four companies now process more than 80 percent of beef cattle in America; another four companies process 57 percent of the hogs. A single Smithfield processing plant in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, processes 5 percent of the pork Americans eat. When an outbreak of Covid-19 forced the state’s governor to shut that plant down in April, the farmers who raise pigs committed to it were stranded.

Once pigs reach slaughter weight, there’s not much else you can do with them. You can’t afford to keep feeding them; even if you could, the production lines are designed to accommodate pigs up to a certain size and weight, and no larger. Meanwhile, you’ve got baby pigs entering the process, steadily getting fatter. Much the same is true for the hybrid industrial chickens, which, if allowed to live beyond their allotted six or seven weeks, are susceptible to broken bones and heart problems and quickly become too large to hang on the disassembly line. This is why the meat-plant closures forced American farmers to euthanize millions of animals, at a time when food banks were overwhelmed by demand.6

Under normal circumstances, the modern hog or chicken is a marvel of brutal efficiency, bred to produce protein at warp speed when given the right food and pharmaceuticals. So are the factories in which they are killed and cut into parts. These innovations have made meat, which for most of human history has been a luxury, a cheap commodity available to just about all Americans; we now eat, on average, more than nine ounces of meat per person per day, many of us at every meal.7 Covid-19 has brutally exposed the risks that accompany such a system. There will always be a tradeoff between efficiency and resilience (not to mention ethics); the food industry opted for the former, and we are now paying the price.

Imagine how different the story would be if there were still tens of thousands of chicken and pig farmers bringing their animals to hundreds of regional slaughterhouses. An outbreak at any one of them would barely disturb the system; it certainly wouldn’t be front-page news. Meat would probably be more expensive, but the redundancy would render the system more resilient, making breakdowns in the national supply chain unlikely. Successive administrations allowed the industry to consolidate because the efficiencies promised to make meat cheaper for the consumer, which it did. It also gave us an industry so powerful it can enlist the president of the United States in its efforts to bring local health authorities to heel and force reluctant and frightened workers back onto the line.


Daniel Acker/Bloomberg/Getty ImagesWorkers processing pork at a Smithfield Foods plant, Milan, Missouri, April 2017

Another vulnerability that the novel coronavirus has exposed is the paradoxical notion of “essential” workers who are grossly underpaid and whose lives are treated as disposable. It is the men and women who debone chicken carcasses flying down a line at 175 birds a minute, or pick salad greens under the desert sun, or drive refrigerated produce trucks across the country who are keeping us fed and keeping the wheels of our society from flying off. Our utter dependence on them has never been more clear. This should give food and agricultural workers a rare degree of political leverage at the very moment they are being disproportionately infected. Scattered job actions and wildcat strikes are beginning to pop up around the country—at Amazon, Instacart, Whole Foods, Walmart, and some meat plants—as these workers begin to flex their muscle.8This is probably just the beginning. Perhaps their new leverage will allow them to win the kinds of wages, protections, and benefits that would more accurately reflect their importance to society.

So far, the produce sections of our supermarkets remain comparatively well stocked, but what happens this summer and next fall, if the outbreaks that have crippled the meat industry hit the farm fields? Farmworkers, too, live and work in close proximity, many of them undocumented immigrants crammed into temporary quarters on farms. Lacking benefits like sick pay, not to mention health insurance, they often have no choice but to work even when infected. Many growers depend on guest workers from Mexico to pick their crops; what happens if the pandemic—or the Trump administration, which is using the pandemic to justify even more restrictions on immigration—prevents them from coming north this year?

The food chain is buckling. But it’s worth pointing out that there are parts of it that are adapting and doing relatively well. Local food systems have proved surprisingly resilient. Small, diversified farmers who supply restaurants have had an easier time finding new markets; the popularity of community-supported agriculture (CSA) is taking off, as people who are cooking at home sign up for weekly boxes of produce from regional growers. (The renaissance of home cooking, and baking, is one of the happier consequences of the lockdown, good news both for our health and for farmers who grow actual food, as opposed to commodities like corn and soy.) In many places, farmer’s markets have quickly adjusted to pandemic conditions, instituting social-distancing rules and touchless payment systems. The advantages of local food systems have never been more obvious, and their rapid growth during the past two decades has at least partly insulated many communities from the shocks to the broader food economy.

The pandemic is, willy-nilly, making the case for deindustrializing and decentralizing the American food system, breaking up the meat oligopoly, ensuring that food workers have sick pay and access to health care, and pursuing policies that would sacrifice some degree of efficiency in favor of much greater resilience. Somewhat less obviously, the pandemic is making the case not only for a different food system but for a radically different diet as well.

It’s long been understood that an industrial food system built upon a foundation of commodity crops like corn and soybeans leads to a diet dominated by meat and highly processed food. Most of what we grow in this country is not food exactly, but rather feed for animals and the building blocks from which fast food, snacks, soda, and all the other wonders of food processing, such as high-fructose corn syrup, are manufactured. While some sectors of agriculture are struggling during the pandemic, we can expect the corn and soybean crop to escape more or less unscathed. That’s because it takes remarkably little labor—typically a single farmer on a tractor, working alone—to plant and harvest thousands of acres of these crops. So processed foods should be the last kind to disappear from supermarket shelves.

Unfortunately, a diet dominated by such foods (as well as lots of meat and little in the way of vegetables or fruit—the so-called Western diet) predisposes us to obesity and chronic diseases such as hypertension and type-2 diabetes. These “underlying conditions” happen to be among the strongest predictors that an individual infected with Covid-19 will end up in the hospital with a severe case of the disease; the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have reported that 49 percent of the people hospitalized for Covid-19 had preexisting hypertension, 48 percent were obese, and 28 percent had diabetes.9

Why these particular conditions should worsen Covid-19 infections might be explained by the fact that all three are symptoms of chronic inflammation, which is a disorder of the body’s immune system. (The Western diet is by itself inflammatory.) One way that Covid-19 kills is by sending the victim’s immune system into hyperdrive, igniting a “cytokine storm” that eventually destroys the lungs and other organs. A new Chinese study conducted in hospitals in Wuhan found that elevated levels of C-reactive protein, a standard marker of inflammation that has been linked to poor diet, “correlated with disease severity and tended to be a good predictor of adverse outcomes.”10

A momentous question awaits us on the far side of the current crisis: Are we willing to address the many vulnerabilities that the novel coronavirus has so dramatically exposed? It’s not hard to imagine a coherent and powerful new politics organized around precisely that principle. It would address the mistreatment of essential workers and gaping holes in the social safety net, including access to health care and sick leave—which we now understand, if we didn’t before, would be a benefit to all of us. It would treat public health as a matter of national security, giving it the kind of resources that threats to national security warrant.

But to be comprehensive, this post-pandemic politics would also need to confront the glaring deficiencies of a food system that has grown so concentrated that it is exquisitely vulnerable to the risks and disruptions now facing us. In addition to protecting the men and women we depend on to feed us, it would also seek to reorganize our agricultural policies to promote health rather than mere production, by paying attention to the quality as well as the quantity of the calories it produces. For even when our food system is functioning “normally,” reliably supplying the supermarket shelves and drive-thrus with cheap and abundant calories, it is killing us—slowly in normal times, swiftly in times like these. The food system we have is not the result of the free market. (There hasn’t been a free market in food since at least the Great Depression.) No, our food system is the product of agricultural and antitrust policies—political choices—that, as has suddenly become plain, stand in urgent need of reform.

—May 12, 2020

8
Surly Newz / After the 'Rona
« on: April 25, 2020, 04:59:43 AM »

Standing up a thread for how life will change after the coronavirus. If there is an after.

This is from Fast Company, so it is biased toward the go-go world of American business, and has a technological slant. But useful nonetheless. 

Even though they touch on health care, not a whisper about the elephant in the room.

All the things COVID-19 will change forever, according to 30 top experts
Tech exec, VCs, and analysts on the pandemic’s lasting impact on how we live, work, and think.




We’re four weeks into the massive time-out forced on us by coronavirus. Many of us have spent much of that time trying to get used to the radical lifestyle change the virus has brought. But we’re also beginning to think about the end of the crisis, and what the world will look like afterward.

So it’s a good time to round up some opinions about how the pandemic might change how we think about various aspects of life and work. We asked some executives, venture capitalists, and analysts for thoughts on the specific changes they expected to see in their worlds.

Naturally, many of them tended to see the aftermath of the COVID-19 crisis in optimistic terms, at least when it comes to their own products, ideas, and causes. And at least some of them are probably right. But the general themes in their comments add up to preview of what might be ahead for tech companies and consumers once the virus is no longer the biggest news story in the world.

The responses below have been edited for publication.

Working from home becomes the new normal

Matthew Prince, CEO of Cloudflare
The pandemic has resulted in what is effectively the largest “work from home” experiment ever conducted in human history . . . We’re seeing the effect on the internet, in terms of traffic patterns that are shifting. People are accessing more educational resources online for their kids; finding unconventional ways to connect with coworkers, friends, and family; and employers are being more flexible in how they respond to employee needs through more dynamic, cloud-based technology. I think we’ll see these shifts last well beyond the immediate fallout of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Jared Spataro, corporate vice president, Microsoft 365
This time will go down as a turning point for the way people work and learn. We have a time machine as China navigates its return back to work—and we’re not seeing usage of Microsoft Teams dip. People are carrying what they learned and experienced from remote work back to their “new normal.” We’re learning so much about sustained remote work during this time.

Remote hiring of technical talent will become the norm.”

Vivek Ravisankar, HackerRank
Jeff Richards, partner at the venture capital firm GGV Capital
I travel over 200,000 miles per year for work. Now that doing board meetings, interviews, and other mission-critical meetings via video chat has been normalized, will I reduce my travel? I don’t know, but I definitely think it’s a behavior shift that will stick. In the past, if you joined via video, you were thought of as “mailing it in.” Now it’s become an accepted form of participation. Net/net, I still think we’ll see corporate travel [come back], as nothing is better than an in-person meeting with a customer or exec hire candidate. But for routine meetings, I think we are going to see a lot more video. I also think Zoom has crossed the rubicon from “corporate” to “consumer” as everyone in my family age 5-75 now knows how to use it. That’s a game-changer.

Tim Bajarin, principal analyst at Creative Strategies
We talked to CIOs recently, and they told us that they are becoming more comfortable with at least some of their staff working from home. Two CIOs even quantified it by saying they might consider letting as much as 25% of their staff work from home. That would mean less people in the office, and in turn, possibly less demand for office space. I believe that this could signal the death of open space work environments. The experience with COVID-19 will for years make people more aware of working in shoulder-to-shoulder open offices where it is easy for viruses to spread.

Eva Chen, CEO at Trend Micro
The COVID-19 experience will . . . build our courage to adopt new patterns to fix antiquated processes. As a result, organizations will ditch the notion of having a big office and revert back to a small-town model of working in cluster offices with more remote work. Even more so, company “headquarters” will be located in the cloud, shifting how we protect enterprise data in the virtual cloud and how we secure data from more diverse endpoints.

Sampriti Ganguli, CEO of the social venture firm Arabella Advisors
We are . . . all becoming “BBC Man,” meaning our kids and dogs routinely rush our meetings. We’ve probably crossed the chasm between what is acceptable in the office and what is acceptable at home, and in many ways, these more intimate moments allow us to have deeper and more meaningful connections as humans. I don’t think we’re going back to a world of working mostly from offices anytime soon, and as such, there are new business norms that work for home and work.

Steve Case, cofounder AOL, CEO and chairman of Revolution
[We] believe the COVID-19 pandemic will encourage people—entrepreneurs, investors, and employees—to consider opportunities outside of the coastal tech hubs. People who have been considering a move, to tap into the sector expertise (healthcare, food and agriculture, etc.) that exists in many parts of the country, or for a lifestyle change, or to be near family and friends, may choose this moment to relocate, accelerating a talent boomerang, and helping emerging startup cities rise. On top of that, the increased willingness to accept remote working as a viable arrangement following this prolonged work-from-home period will further propel this trend.

Vivek Ravisankar, CEO and cofounder of programming-challenge platform HackerRank
Remote hiring of technical talent will become the norm, accelerated by the normalization of remote work. This is a win-win for the economy and the talent pool, as it allows companies to fill positions quickly with qualified talent and opens up high-paying tech positions to developers everywhere. We were already seeing the shift toward prioritizing skills over pedigree in hiring. That will now evolve to skills over geography, making our tech talent pool more diverse, and our businesses and economy stronger.

AJ Shankar, CEO and cofounder of Everlaw
In the modern work environment, real-time communication mediums like chat allow for a certain blurring of the line between personal life and work life, an “always-on” mentality. But now, in a COVID world, that line has never been more blurred: There is no physical separation at all. So I predict that expectations around availability will change—for the better. For employee-friendly companies, evening hours will ultimately revert to family or personal time, as they should. This won’t happen automatically; a change in mindset and process is required.

The digital migration accelerates

Stan Chudnovsky, VP of Messenger, Facebook
It’s becoming more clear every day that the way people are using technology to spend quality time with loved ones, engage with businesses, and perform their jobs is fundamentally shifting to a new normal. Loved ones who hadn’t seen each other in years are now seeing each other daily, people are getting creative with virtual happy hours and keeping up with their formerly “physical” lives with shared workouts and virtual birthday parties on products like Messenger. Of course, there will be some tough consequences when we come out the other side of this, but I believe the growing acceptance of technology to help us feel connected will have lasting benefits.

Michael Hendrix, partner and global design director, Ideo
Right now, the virus seems like an accelerator for digital change that was already underway . . . the surprise has been to see the resistance to this digital change suddenly evaporate. What organizations resisted for a decade is now core to survival and innovation. It is exciting, because this digital mindset will persist, and it is highly unlikely companies will try to return to what worked prior to the pandemic.

We could get to a state of nearly universal online access at home.”

Sal Khan, Khan Academy
Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss, CEO and president (respectively) of cryptocurrency exchange Gemini
The pandemic has forced the government to intervene in the economy in ways that are completely unprecedented. The Faustian bargain of money printing and debt accumulation will cause people to reevaluate fiat currency regimes altogether. At some point, people will start to question the value of the dollars they hold and what will happen when the inevitable day of debt reckoning arrives.

Alex Farr, founder and CEO of voice tech company Zammo
Using videoconferencing is not only going to become a more common part of life due to this pandemic—the way it shows up through our tech devices will multiply. At work and at home, we’ll ask voice assistants to call our client, our boss, our mom, our friends, and on command, Alexa, Google Assistant, Siri, etc., will take us right to those live video conversations.

Will Cathcart, head of WhatsApp
As people have been forced physically apart we’ve seen them make far more video calls on WhatsApp than ever before. These are intimate and private conversations that people expect no one else should see–no different than if you were talking in person. Not criminals, not hackers, not even a company. I believe that our shared experience of being physically isolated from one another will cause us to appreciate and value the privacy and security that comes with end-to-end encryption even more than we did before.

Education goes virtual

Simon Allen, CEO of McGraw-Hill
The change we are seeing right now in education is not something that is likely to revert back to “normal” in the fall. Although teachers will always be integral to the education process, there will need to be continued flexibility and agility when it comes to things like the delivery of content, testing, and grading. I expect that we will see an increase in blended learning environments that include learning in both the physical classroom setting and online.

Adam Enbar, CEO of Flatiron School
Right now, educators are relying on Zoom and Slack to teach and engage with students. We’re realizing it’s falling short in replicating the classroom experience, but the truth is that it was never meant to be a substitute. In fact, no ed-tech tool or platform can or should replicate the in-person classroom; tech’s role is to create new experiences altogether. Nothing spurs innovation like people experiencing problems. When things are back to normal, Zoom and Slack usage will go down—and that’s okay. Instead, we’ll see a boom in technology that is built by entrepreneurs looking to create entirely new experiences custom to the remote education or work experience.

Sal Khan, founder and CEO of educational nonprofit Khan Academy
The need for online access and devices in every home is now so dire that it may finally mobilize society to treat internet connectivity as a must-have rather than a nice-to-have. We’re already seeing governments, school districts, philanthropists, and corporations step up to close the digital divide. If this continues to happen, we could get to a state of nearly universal online access at home.

Healthcare confronts some old problems

Dr. Claire Novorol, cofounder and chief medical officer, Ada Health
The adoption of digital health tools—from assessment services to telemedicine—has rapidly accelerated, with healthcare organizations across the world looking to digital solutions to support their efforts against the pandemic, and health tech companies keen to rise to the occasion in support of healthcare payers, providers and patients alike. It’s clear that we are witnessing a step-change in the adoption of digital health solutions, and that this has long-term potential. The healthcare industry will be greatly affected by the coronavirus pandemic, and we can expect digital health technologies to form an essential part of the way forward.

Pat Combes, worldwide technical leader, healthcare and life sciences at AWS
The biggest barrier to ensuring doctors have the most complete medical history on any patient, at every point of their care, is the lack of interoperability among systems, preventing data and electronic health records from following a patient throughout their care journey. Bringing this information together is a manual and time-consuming process. But, this is one of those pivotal moments in time when we have an opportunity to identify and work to fix the underlying problems that plague our system, with so many researchers, health systems, governments, and enterprises pooling efforts and data to better understand and combat COVID-19.

Ara Katz, cofounder and co-CEO, Seed Health
At a time when misinformation is especially rampant, and in many recent cases, dangerous, it is imperative that those working in science collectively steward and uphold a standard for how information is translated and shared to the public. COVID-19 is a reminder of how science informs decisions, shapes policy, and can save lives. The antidote to this current infodemic may be as important to our collective future as a vaccine.

Harry Ritter, founder and CEO of wellness professional community Alma
There will be a monumental shift in attitudes toward mental health. [S]ociety, having experienced this collective trauma and grief, will develop new levels of empathy and a willingness to talk about mental healthcare as an essential part of healthcare in ways we have not seen before. Employers are already seeing how emotional well-being is factoring into their workforce’s ability to perform under stress. Ideally they will come out of this better able to recognize their obligation to prioritize mental healthcare as an employee benefit.

Peter Chapman, CEO and president, quantum-computing company IonQ
Within the next 12 to 18 months, we’re expecting quantum computers to start to routinely solve problems that supercomputers and cloud computing cannot. When humanity faces the next pandemic, I’m hopeful that a quantum computer will be able to model the virus, its interactions within the human body that will drive possible solutions, and limit the future economic damage and human suffering.

Venture capital hunkers down

David Barrett, CEO and founder of Expensify
The COVID-19 crisis has swiftly exposed the fragile underbellies of many companies, especially those in tech that have been propped up by huge funding rounds and strategies that require massive monthly burn rates. They’re now teetering on the edge of collapse, with most facing layoffs across the board and some searching for buyers as a last resort. On the other hand, profitable companies . . . are simply tightening their belts and carrying on with business (mostly) as usual. Going forward, investors’ mindsets and qualifications about what constitutes a truly “valuable” company will change. Rather than focusing on the quantitative aspects like funding rounds and revenue, investors will place a greater emphasis on the qualitative aspects, such as an organization’s structure, team, culture, flexibility, and profitability.

Restaurants might permanently link up with delivery service platforms or expand their reach via ghost kitchens.”

Will Lopez, Gusto
Sean Park, CIO & cofounder at venture platform Anthemis
COVID-19 has put a sudden halt on fast money and “FOMO” investing, forcing the VC industry to slow down, resist the inclination to follow the herd, and refocus on more robust due diligence and analysis. Thesis-driven investors will be able to take the time to spend a month or two (or three) to really get to know the team, understand the business model, capital structure, and the market before closing a deal.

Transportation rebounds, and evolves

Michael Masserman, global head of policy and social impact, Lyft
As we look to the reopening of cities, people will be looking for affordable, reliable ways to stay socially distant while commuting, including turning to transportation options such as ride share, bike share, and scooters. There will also be an opportunity for local governments, as well as key advocates and stakeholders, to consider reshaping our cities to be built around people and not cars.

Avi Meir, cofounder and CEO, TravelPerk
Countries and regions will emerge from lockdown at different paces, leading to “corridors of travel” between destinations opening back up one by one. We’re already beginning to see early signs of a modest pickup in travel again in Asia Pacific, as the local pressure of the virus lessens. When travel does begin to resume, domestic travel will be first. For most countries, that means taking a train, not least because they’re less crowded.

Manufacturing gets a wake-up call

Ed Barriball, partner in McKinsey’s Manufacturing and Supply Chain Practice
In the short term, companies are concerned about the shortages of critical goods across the supply chain, and some are looking for alternative sources closer to home. In the long term, once we emerge from the current crisis, we expect businesses and governments to focus on better quantifying the risks faced and incorporating potential losses into business cases. These businesses will model the size and impact of various shock scenarios to determine actions they should take to rebuild their supply chains and simultaneously build resilience for the future. These actions could include bringing suppliers closer to home but could also include a range of other resilience investments.

Amar Hanspal, former CEO at Autodesk and now CEO at Bright Machines
This pandemic will have a lasting impact . . . on the way physical products are made. Customers I talk to are grappling with supply chain and factory disruptions across the globe. This has been a wake-up call to manufacturers. The current way of building products in centralized factories with low-cost labor halfway around the world simply can’t weather storms of uncertainty. Moving forward, factories and supply chains will require, and businesses will mandate, much more resilient manufacturing through nearshoring and even onshoring, full automation, and software-based management.

New thinking changes old businesses

Sarah Stein Greenberg, executive director of the Stanford d.school
In times of great uncertainty, the most critical skill is to be able to adapt as conditions change. This is a kind of ambidexterity: focusing on surviving in the current moment while you also build toward thriving in a future that will look different. To get there, successful leaders are creating and holding space in organizations for people to be generative, despite the challenging and stressful environment. Drawing from one of the fundamental strengths of design: by separating the process of generating ideas from critiquing and selecting them, we are seeing organizations and individuals rewarded with a far wider range of potential solutions.

Will Lopez, head of accountant community at HR platform Gusto
COVID-19 isn’t the end of brick-and-mortar stores—they’re vital to our communities and our economy—but the way they operate will change. This crisis will force small businesses that have historically relied on foot traffic as their main source of income to develop alternative revenue streams so they can weather the next major event. For example, many restaurants might permanently link up with delivery service platforms or expand their geographic reach via ghost kitchens, and more boutiques will develop an online presence that reaches beyond their local neighborhoods.


9
Surly Newz / The Trump Slump
« on: March 23, 2020, 01:57:18 PM »
Dow sheds another 3% after coronavirus stimulus bill fails in Senate for a second time

Stocks fell sharply on Monday as U.S. lawmakers failed to push through massive fiscal stimulus to curtail the economic blow from the coronavirus. Talks are ongoing, but investors believe the longer Washington waits, the greater the damage to the economy.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed 582.05 points lower, or down 3.1%, at 18,591.93, its lowest closing level since November 2016. The S&P 500 slid 2.9% to 2,237.40. The Nasdaq Composite was down just 0.3% at 6,860.67 as investors began making small bets on technology stocks.

For a second time in less than 24 hours, a bill that would authorize giant fiscal spending to stimulate the economy failed to clear a key procedural hurdle. Earlier on Monday, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told CNBC’s Jim Cramer that Congress was “very close” to getting a fiscal package done, noting it must be pushed forward “today.”

“We’re using some of the funds we have, but we need Congress to approve additional funds today so that we can move forward and support American workers and the American economy,” Mnuchin said.



Read the rest here:
https://www.cnbc.com/2020/03/22/stock-market-futures-open-to-close-news.html

10
Bugout Plans / Panic at the Costco
« on: March 16, 2020, 09:30:29 AM »




That-Was-The-Week-That-W-That-Was-The-Week-473964gc2smFrom the keyboard of Surly1

Follow us on Twitter @doomstead666

Like us on Facebook



 



 






Originally published on the Doomstead Diner on March 15, 2020



 “Who needs four horsemen when one will do just fine?”  â€• Charlotte Hale, Westworld  



 





There are two schools of thought as to the consequences of the current coronavirus pandemic:



1) This is the BIG ONE.  The US is still in "no data, no problem" mode. Ten days behind Italy. Watch for a near-vertical spike when testing begins and denial ends.



2) This is NOT the BIG ONE. While the "infectabliity" factor oif the disease is ten times greater than the flu, its lethality is relatively low, aside from the elderly, the sicks, and the poors. Making the disease a gift to the capitalists by way of reducing overhead. "Buy the fucking dip, 'cuz nothing matters."



Most of us who frequents sites like Doomstead Diner would agree that whether you’ve been personally touched by coronavirus or not, one is well-advised to  be prepared with essentials to weather an interruption of several weeks in business-as-usual (BAU.) But many people do not, and have neither the interest nor means to prepare for much except tomorrow.. Homeland Security’s emergency and disaster prep site, ready.gov, suggests: “Store a two-week supply of water and food,”  Prepper types think in terms of months– two, six, 12 months. The site also advises checks of any prescription drugs to ensure a continuous supply and a refill of nonprescription drugs, which is Prepping 101.



So with my son-in-law arriving and our household down to its last sixpack of TP, I decided to make a Costco run– one of the most desperate actions of my life. It was absolutely shithook berserkers. I had no idea I was about to take my life in my hands until an overweight woman on a motorized shopping cart decided that I was an unnecessary obstacle between her and the tinned chicken. I escaped with my skin intact, but a couple of old folks left in my wake may have be hurt.



I didn't look back.



When people fail to develop a plan about what they actually need in advance, a natural response is to snap up things they don’t need and will never use as a hedge against future uncertainty. So there is a great deal of unplanned panic buying.  Costco is crowded on weekends, and I had been there amidst crowds, but had never seen it as crowded as March 13. Many cleaning supplies were also completely plundered and not on offer. There is also sheer price gouging opportunism, as you'll see below.



Now I have a better idea why.



After six weeks of denial, dithering and deception, Fat Orange has found that you can't bully, intimidate or gull a novel coronavirus as easily as, say, a US Senator.



In the absence of clear leadership frorm an administration who views the pandemic as a distraction from its re-election marketing message, the states have taken the lead. We've decided to Cancel Everything. The effort is to limit exposures, meaning avoiding crowds and preventing the sort of spike in exposures and sicknesses that overwhelms hospitals and health care systems, as in Italy. "Social distancing" is the new watchword, and it overlays perfectly with my preferred lifestyle, which is heavy on "leave me the fuck alone."



Here's a reasonably complete list of Coronavirus closures: List of events, sports, and more canceled amid COVID-19 fears. Even NASCAR postponed a couple of events, which may sink in with the doorknob-lickers.



Covid-19 is everywhere. It will be everywhere it has not yet reached. As a "novel" virus, we have no built-in "herd immunity." And it will change our lives in ways we cannot predict.





How did it come to this?



The approach of the Trump regime to date has been, "no data, no problem." Trump's approach from jump has been to minimize the problem, mock the sufferers, game the numbers, and blame Obama. (If you'd like to check that assertion, someone already has: A Complete List of Trump’s Attempts to Play Down Coronavirus. You're welcome.) You are quite correct to note that any lead time the US may have had has been squandered in fecklessness. Countries from Singapore to South Korea are managing to test large portions of their populations, but in the US we've administered 11,000+ and turned away God knows how many more.





The other day, I heard the governor of Ohio say they probably had 100,000 active cases working in that state alone. Today, the Ohio Department of Health believes 100,000 Ohioans are carrying coronavirus, confirmeing that. In Virginia, within a week we've gone from two reported cases to 45 reported cases and one death.  There is even a case now in RE's Alaska, The Last Great Frontier.



For his part, Trump tells a nation terrified of coronavirus that none of this is his fault. At a news conference last week, Trump lied, insulted reporters, and explicitly refused to take responsibility for his own actions when directly asked.




.At one point, Trump was asked about the admission of Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, that our lag in testing was “a failing.” And he was asked if he takes responsibility for this failure.



Trump’s response: “I don’t take responsibility at all.”



The president claimed that “we were given a set of circumstances and we were given rules and regulations and specifications from a different time,” and this existing legal infrastructure “wasn’t meant for this kind of event with the kind of numbers that we’re talking about.”



It’s an astonishing claim, and it’s astonishing because Trump has spent the better part of his term dismantling the federal government’s pandemic fighting infrastructure.









And why can't you find your bleach, wipes, and cleaning supplies? The Hand Sanitizer You Can't Find Is In This Putz's Garage. Because someone decided to make a market out of your misery.  "Retail arbitrage" has created individuals who have found in this global panic a route to becoming real jerks, inspired by news of the potential for over 1 million American deaths to turn a handsome profit.




The current pandemic isn’t one specific person’s fault, but there are individuals who have found in this global panic a route to becoming a real jerk.



Chief among them is Tennessee’s Matt Colvin who, with the aid of his brother Noah, was inspired by news of the potential for over 1 million American deaths to turn a handsome profit.



The retired Air Force technical sergeant is the new face of price gouging, thanks to a profile in Saturday’s New York Times. Beginning March 1st, Colvin, whose primary income is reselling collected goods on sites like Amazon, hit the road and bought as much hand sanitizer as he could find. For a while, the money was rolling in. But when his prices soared, Amazon, eBay and other marketplaces rightly shut him and his fellow panic profiteers down. He estimates he now has 17,700 bottles of the virus-killing ooze, as well as hand wipes and all the other highly sought after materials you can’t find in a store right now. The cleaning products are collecting dust.




This is the kind of behavior you get when so-called "conventional morality" is replaced by worship of the free market. "Retail arbitrage" sounds so much classier than "rapacious price gouging" and "disaster capitalism."



Karma, your table is ready. 





#StayTheFuckHome

A Movement to Stop the COVID-19 Pandemic



The absence of Federal leadership and the resultant blamestorming has failed us in preventing the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. Slow reactions, public appeasement policies, and an urge to stabilize the economy to preserve re-election prospects (to say nothing of the need to impose "message discipline" via Mike Pence on the experts) are keeping them from taking the measures it takes to protect millions from this disease. It is time for us, and up to us, as citizens to take action now and do our part to "flatten the curve" and fight COVID-19.



Putting it bluntly: #Stay The Fuck Home! Wash your hands frequently! And stay away from Costco.



Stay safe.





banksy 07-flower-thrower-wallpaperSurly1 is an administrator and contributing author to Doomstead Diner. He is the author of numerous rants, screeds and spittle-flecked invective here and elsewhere. He lives a quiet domestic existence in Southeastern Virginia with his wife Contrary. Descended from a long line of people to whom one could never tell anything, all opinions are his and his alone, because he paid full retail for everything he has managed to learn.



11
Diner TV / The Lincoln Project: "Grifters"
« on: March 14, 2020, 04:10:45 AM »
Just found this and enjoyed it.

Several days ago, Mike Bloomberg’s political operation let it be known to the media that if Senate Republicans launch a sham investigation into the phony Hunter Biden scandal, Bloomberg would retaliate by running TV ads exposing the very real scandals of Donald Trump’s kids. The Senate then backed down, and Bloomberg hasn’t gone there. But now a different entity has.

The Lincoln Project, run by Republicans who oppose Donald Trump, just debuted this devastating TV ad aimed at Donald Trump’s kids:

<a href="http://www.youtube.com/v/A_cyQE36DTU" target="_blank" class="new_win">http://www.youtube.com/v/A_cyQE36DTU</a>


12
Surly Newz / A Diner Public Service: Trump Golf Count
« on: February 15, 2020, 04:55:51 PM »

TRUMP GOLF COUNT:247*

Cost to Taxpayer: About $128,000,000**


FIND OUT MORE

*Daytime visits to golf clubs since inauguration, with evidence of playing golf on at least 115 visits. Our last recorded outing was on February 15, 2020. Click on complete data table for a list of Trump's outings, or view our breakdown of total costs.

**Read about the new GAO report on the cost of Trump's trips to Mar-a-Lago.

Why we are doing this


"I'm going to be working for you. I'm not going to have time to go play golf." --Donald J. Trump, August, 2016

Our President made a promise to the American people. Here we track his fulfillment of that promise. You can view our full list of Trump's golf outings here, and see this explanation for more information. Or just watch this video to hear it straight from the President himself.

CONTINUE

Just the Facts, the Real Facts

Fun Stats


Days Trump has spent at Mar a Lago:

120

Cost of flights to Mar a Lago (29 so far):*

~$56,540,000

Days Trump has spent at Bedminster:

75

Cost of flights to Bedminster (23 so far):*

~$18,375,500

Trump has visited his clubs once every this many days since his inauguration:

4.6

Projected visits to golf clubs in four years:

319

Projected visits in eight years:

638

Total times Obama played golf during his eight year Presidency:

306

*Cost estimates for Trump's travel to Mar a Lago and Bedminster are from The Washington Post. At this point the number of flights to Bedminster is one more than common counts of his "visits" because of an extra round trip on Air Force One to return to the White House for six hours during the weekend of July 4, 2017. See trumpgolfcount.com/displayoutings for up-to-the-minute details about golf outings and trumpgolfcount.com/displayflights for a list of Trump's flights to Florida and New Jersey.


13
Surly Newz / The Great Culling
« on: February 13, 2020, 10:32:09 AM »
This is a new thread that will feature articles consistent with the thought that at least some elites are pursuing a depopulation agenda that is not publicly known but actively pursued.

While I have been brooding about this for some years after tripping across the odd article about GMOs, plastics load, poisoned water and such, this thread was actively inspired by this article:
Jeremy Grantham warns eventually only the rich will procreate as chemicals leave the poor sterile

And the corresponding Diner Forum thread here:
http://www.doomsteaddiner.net/forum/index.php/topic,9921.msg183460.html#msg183460

New Study Finds GMO Corn Makes Rats Infertile
Unlike GM corn, non-GMO corn doesn’t cause sterility




By Christina Sarich
Posted On July 1, 2015


Read more: https://naturalsociety.com/new-study-finds-gmo-corn-makes-rats-infertile/#ixzz6DrNNnAFs
Follow us: @naturalsociety on Twitter | NaturalSociety on Facebook

Still think GMOs and their non-GMO counterparts are equivalent? Think again. Unlike GM corn, non-GMO corn doesn’t cause sterility. A new study released by Egyptian scientists found that rats fed a GMO diet suffer from infertility, among other health issues.

Researchers from the Food Technology Department, Faculty of Agriculture, Department of Anatomy and Embryology, and Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Suez Canal University, Ismailia, Egypt, have found that several unsavory changes occur when rats were fed GM corn.

The rats’ organs/body weight and serum biochemistry were altered, indicating potential adverse health and toxic effects.

“GM corn or soybeans leads to significant organ disruptions in rats and mice, particularly in livers and kidneys. In addition they found other organs may be affected too, such as heart and spleen, or blood cells. The kidneys of males fared the worst, with 43.5% of all the changes, the liver of females followed with 30.8%”

Additionally, by day 91, many of the rats fed a GM diet were completely sterile.

As reported by Sustainable Pulse:

In the third study, histopathological examination was carried out on the rats fed the GM maize, and the results were compared with rats fed non-GM maize. The study found clear signs of organ pathology in the GM-fed group, especially in the liver, kidney, and small intestine. An examination of the testes revealed necrosis (death) and desquamation (shedding) of the spermatogonial cells that are the foundation of sperm cells and thus male fertility – and all this after only 91 days of feeding.”

Read: GMO Soy Linked to Sterility, Birth Defects, Infant Mortality

How long do you think this effect will take to show up in human beings who eat GM food?

The study abstract reads:

“This study was designed to evaluate the safety of genetically modified (GM) corn (Ajeeb YG). Corn grains from Ajeeb YG or its control (Ajeeb) were incorporated into rodent diets at 30% concentrations administered to rats (n= 10/group) for 45 and 91 days…General conditions were observed daily…and serum biochemistry were measured. The data showed several statistically significantdifferences in organs/body weight and serum biochemistry between the rats fed on GM and/or Non-GM corn and the rats fed on AIN93G diets. In general, GM corn sample caused several changes by increase or decrease organs/body weight or serum biochemistry values. This indicates potential adverse health/toxic effects of GM corn and further investigations still needed.”

This study simply corroborates previous findings, proving the same deleterious effects. Russian biologist Alexey V. Surov and his colleagues found that Monsanto’s genetically modified (GM) soy, grown on 91% of US soybean fields, leads to problems in growth or reproduction – in many cases, causing infertility. Animals who ate GM soy were sterile by the third generation.

Years ago, Natural Society unveiled proof that hamsters fed Monsanto’s GM soy for two years had growth and development abnormalities, and also – became sterile.

If you don’t see a pattern here, you might need to look again.


14
Medicine & Health / Coronavirus: Trumpvirus
« on: February 11, 2020, 04:25:09 AM »
Going to stand up a thread about coronavirus.

Hereis a look at the headlines on the front page of ZeroHedge this morning...


15
Surly Newz / Dave Barry’s Year in Review 2019
« on: December 30, 2019, 06:27:47 AM »
Dave Barry’s Year in Review 2019
Impeachment. Brexit. Greenland. Can we say anything good about this year? Nah.




[html]

It was an extremely eventful year.

We are using “eventful” in the sense of “bad.”

It was a year so eventful that every time another asteroid whizzed past the Earth, barely avoiding a collision that would have destroyed human civilization, we were not 100 percent certain it was good news.

We could not keep up with all the eventfulness. Every day, we’d wake up to learn that some new shocking alleged thing had allegedly happened, and before we had time to think about it, the political-media complex, always in Outrage Condition Red, would explode in righteous fury, with Side A and Side B hurling increasingly nasty accusations at each other and devoting immense energy to thinking up ways to totally DESTROY the other side on Twitter, a medium that has the magical power to transform everything it touches, no matter how stupid it is, into something even stupider.

Fact: This year O.J. Simpson got a Twitter account, and the reaction of nearly a million people was: “What? The attention-seeking psychopath who got away with murdering two innocent people wants followers? Count me in!”

Speaking of attention-seeking psychopaths: The epicenter of the year’s eventfulness was of course Washington, D.C., an endlessly erupting scandal volcano, belching out dense swirling smoke plumes of spin, rumor, innuendo, misdirection and lies emitted by both sides, A and B — or, if you prefer, B and A — filling the air with vicious rhetoric, always delivered with the pious insistence that OUR side, unlike the OTHER side, is motivated not by ego, power-lust, greed or hatred, but by a selfless desire to Work for the American People.

Meanwhile, from out beyond the Capital Beltway, the actual American people warily watched the perpetual tantrum that was supposed to be their government. And more and more their reaction, whatever side they considered themselves to be on, was: Nah.

Which is pretty much how we feel about 2019 in general. And not just because of politics. There was a continued general decline of human intelligence, as epitomized by the popularity of increasingly elaborate “gender reveal” events. Originally these involved simply cutting open a cake that had been dyed with food coloring, but they have escalated to the point where this year they resulted in — we are not making this up — a fatal explosion and a plane crash. It is only a matter of time before a major city is leveled by a pink or blue mushroom cloud.

Can we say anything good about 2019? Was there any positive news, a silver lining, a reason to feel hopeful about the future — to believe that we, as Americans, can recognize our common interests, overcome our differences and work together to build a better tomorrow, for ourselves, for our children and for the world?

Nah.

Anyway, before we shove 2019 down the garbage disposal of history, let’s take one look back and remind ourselves why we want to forget this train wreck of a year, starting with …

JANUARY

… which begins with the federal government once again in the throes (whatever a “throe” is) of a partial shutdown, which threatens to seriously disrupt the lives of all Americans who receive paychecks from the federal government. At issue is the situation at the Mexican border, which either is or is not a Crisis depending on which cable news network you prefer. President Trump wants a high concrete wall, but at the moment there is only enough money for a sternly worded south-facing billboard.

Finally the president and Congress reach a temporary budget agreement that will not address the border situation but will enable them to resume spending insane amounts of money that the nation does not have until such time as they are able to reach a permanent budget agreement enabling them to continue spending insane amounts of money that the nation does not have, this being the primary function of our federal leadership.

Meanwhile in the Robert Mueller investigation, which feels like it began during the French and Indian War, a grand jury indicts longtime Trump confidante and professional lunatic Roger Stone on a number of charges, including that he threatened to kidnap another witness’s therapy dog, Bianca (really). This news elates the courageous guerrilla fighters of the Resistance, who since 2016 have been evading the fascist authorities by hiding out underground, constantly on the move from CNN panel to CNN panel. The Resisters see the Stone indictment as a sure sign that Mueller is getting ready to release his much-anticipated report, which will prove, at last, that Trump colluded with the Russians and then, at last, it will be IMPEACHMENT TIME, BABY.

In the Robert Mueller investigation, a grand jury indicts longtime Trump confidante and professional lunatic Roger Stone on a number of charges, including that he threatened to kidnap another witness’s therapy dog, Bianca (really).

Abroad, Britain is in turmoil over “Brexit,” which is a very important thing we should all endeavor to learn about.

In sports, the Los Angeles Rams win the National Football Conference championship game after the referees, on a critical play, fail to notice when a Rams defensive back attacks a New Orleans Saints receiver with a chain saw. Responding to the ensuing outrage, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell says he will “conduct a thorough review of league policy regarding power tools,” adding that “New England is scheduled to win the Super Bowl anyway.”

In other sports news, the Clemson football team defeats Alabama to win the college national championship and is rewarded with an invite to the White House for a classy shindig. “I served them massive amounts of Fast Food (I paid), over 1000 hamberders,” tweets the president, who by his own admission has a genius-level IQ.

Speaking of intelligence: The burning question of whether the nation is capable of producing a social media craze even stupider than last year’s Tide Pod Challenge — in which YouTube dimwits sought to impress other YouTube dimwits by eating compressed laundry detergent — is answered in the affirmative (“yes”) when Netflix is forced to issue a cautionary tweet to people who are inspired by the movie “Birdbox” to take the Birdbox Challenge, in which YouTube dimwits engage in everyday activities — including driving — while blindfolded. Meanwhile, as a polar vortex grips the nation, other YouTube dimwits are injuring themselves attempting to demonstrate that it is cold outside by flinging pots of boiling water into the air.

From somewhere beyond our solar system hostile aliens are monitoring all this and concluding that they need not waste energy exterminating humanity, as we’re doing fine on our own.

Speaking of hostile, in …

FEBRUARY

… President Trump, despite suffering from bone spurs, goes to Vietnam for a second summit with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un. After a one-on-one closed-room meeting, the two leaders agree via hand gestures that next time they should definitely bring interpreters.

In domestic politics, Virginia is rocked by a series of scandals involving elected Democratic state officials, originating with the publication of a 1984 photo from Gov. Ralph Northam’s medical-school yearbook showing a man in blackface. Northam initially says he is “deeply sorry” for appearing in the photo; the next day, however, he calls a news conference to declare that he does not believe he is in the photo, although he does recall one time that he was in blackface, that being when he entered a dance contest dressed as Michael Jackson and did the moonwalk. Northam further asserts that he won the contest, and at the request of a reporter appears to be on the verge of demonstrating to the press corps that he can still moonwalk, only to be stopped by his wife. We are not making any of this up.

As pressure builds on Northam to resign, Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax prepares to succeed him, only to become embroiled in a scandal of his own when he is accused of sexual assault. The third person in line is Attorney General Mark Herring, who, several days after calling on Northam to resign for wearing blackface, issues a statement admitting that as a college student he wore blackface when he went to a party as rapper Kurtis Blow. We are still not making this up.

At this point Virginia’s political leaders realize that if they keep moving down the chain of succession they’re going to wind up with a Labrador retriever as governor or, worse, a Republican. And just like that the Great Virginia Scandals Scandal of 2019 goes “poof.”

Winter storms blast the Midwest, causing havoc in Iowa as snowdrifts close major highways and strand hundreds of Democratic presidential contenders in rural communities with limited supplies of voters. In one harrowing incident, a farmer and his family are trapped inside their home for six hours while Cory Booker pounds on the front door, demanding to be let in so he can outline his plan to reduce income inequality. “We tried to escape by the back door,” the farmer later tells reporters, “but Amy Klobuchar was waiting out there with a seven-point program to rebuild America’s infrastructure.”

In business news, Amazon (whose CEO, Jeff Bezos, owns The Washington Post) cancels plans to build a huge corporate campus in New York City, citing local political opposition and the fact that Amazon’s vice president for business development, during a visit to the site in Queens, was carried off by what a company spokesperson described as “a rat the size of a Volkswagen Jetta.”

Abroad, “Brexit” continues to be a very important thing with many significant developments.

In sports, the New England Patriots, led by 63-year-old Tom Brady, defeat the Los Angeles Rams, 13-3, in a Super Bowl featuring one touchdown and 14 punts. During the national anthem, TV cameras clearly capture Patriots coach Bill Belichick pouring liquid from a bottle labeled “SEDATIVES” into the Rams’ Gatorade, but the NFL referee crew fails to notice. Asked about this after the game, Commissioner Roger Goodell says, “To be honest, I was watching Netflix.”

Several weeks after the Super Bowl, Patriots owner Robert Kraft is charged in connection with a police sting operation in Florida at the Orchids of Asia Day Spa (motto: “Where Your ‘Day’ Lasts About 90 Seconds”). Kraft will ultimately avoid jail time after his lawyers convince a judge that he is in the line of succession for the governorship of Virginia.

At the 91st Academy Awards, the Oscar for best picture is awarded to “Goodfellas,” which came out in 1990 but never should have lost to “Dances With Wolves.”

Speaking of being overdue, in …

MARCH

… Robert Mueller finally delivers his report to Attorney General William Barr, who promises to release it to the public “as soon as we have blacked out the sex parts.” The cable news networks prepare for the release by bringing in panels of distinguished legal authorities to declare that the report means exactly the opposite of whatever the distinguished legal panels on the enemy networks are declaring it means.

In other political developments, President Trump, faced with mounting hostility from congressional Democrats, spends several days vigorously attacking ... John McCain. For the record, McCain (A) was a Republican and (B) died in 2018. Nobody can say for certain whether the president (A) is playing some kind of four-dimensional political chess or (B) has the reasoning skills of a Chihuahua on meth.

The Iowa state legislature considers a bill that would fund construction of a border wall around the state to stop the influx of Democratic presidential hopefuls, now estimated at several dozen a day. “It’s a humanitarian crisis,” says one legislator, his voice rising in alarm. “They’re swarming all over the state, barging into pancake breakfasts. Many of them die within days from pancake bloat, but THEY JUST KEEP COMING.”

Abroad, “Brexit” continues to be a matter of grave concern, and for good reason.

The higher education community is rocked by scandal when federal prosecutors charge 50 people, including test administrators, wealthy parents and college coaches, in connection with a widespread bribery and fraud scheme to get students admitted to some of the nation’s most prestigious universities. In one particularly egregious case, Yale admitted Trevor Buncombe-Plotzner IV, who supposedly was recruited to play varsity badminton, despite the facts that (A) Yale does not have a varsity badminton team and (B) Trevor is a cat.

In an official statement, the Association of College Admissions Officers says: “Bribing coaches to get unqualified applicants admitted is completely unacceptable. The correct way is to give a large sum of money directly to the college.”

In a controversial legal development, actor Jussie Smollett, who was indicted by a grand jury for allegedly faking a hate crime against himself, has all charges droppedby Chicago prosecutors following a review of the evidence by an NFL officiating crew.

Speaking of legal matters, in …

APRIL

… Attorney General Barr finally releases the Mueller report, which accomplishes two things:

⋅ It finally settles, to everyone’s satisfaction, all of the controversies surrounding the 2016 presidential election.

⋅ It proves that oysters speak German and can play the trombone.

Just kidding! In fact the Mueller report does neither of these things, although it comes closer to the second accomplishment than the first. The pro-Trump people say the report proves there was no collusion; the anti-Trump people say it proves Trump obstructed justice, which means that it is, at last, IMPEACHMENT TIME, BABY. Both sides emit thousands of impassioned tweets, which go unread by the American public, which long ago moved on to “Game of Thrones.”

In other political news, Joe Biden launches his estimated 17th presidential campaign, with the slogan: “Let Uncle Joe Give You a Great Big Hug.” Biden immediately becomes the leader of the crowded Democratic field based on the fact that his name sounds vaguely familiar.

As millions of people around the world watch in shock and disbelief, the iconic Notre Dame cathedral in Paris is ravaged by flames after being struck, in what appears to be a deliberate act of provocation, by a North Korean missile.

Elsewhere abroad, “Brexit” continues to be a vitally important thing.

In science news, some astronomers at a party, after several rounds of tequila shots, take a blurry snapshot of a flaming gas-stove burner and release it to the news media, claiming that it’s the first-ever photograph of a black hole. The photo instantly becomes worldwide news, much to the delight of the astro-pranksters, who begin work on a plan to pass off a dental X-ray as the Loch Ness Monster.

In golf, Tiger Woods wins his fifth Masters tournament, catching and passing leader Francesco Molinari after two of Molinari’s shots — on the 12th hole and then again on the 15th — hit NFL referee crews that have strayed onto the fairway.

In entertainment news, “Avengers: Endgame” breaks box office records, proving that now, more than ever, people crave stories about time-traveling superheroes using magic stones to defeat a genocidal intergalactic warlord with no neck.

Speaking of long-running dramas, in …

MAY

… Robert Mueller resigns as special counsel, saying that he plans to return to private life and “whimper in the fetal position.” In his final statement, he clears up any lingering confusion about his investigation by noting that the Justice Department cannot charge the president with a federal crime, adding, “not that I am, or am not, saying, or not saying, that the president did, or did not, do anything that was, or was not, illegal. Or, not.”

Congressional Democrats, firm in their belief that the American public wants nothing more than to continue refighting the 2016 election until the Earth crashes into the sun, take Mueller’s statement as a call for IMPEACHMENT TIME, BABY.

For his part, Trump emits a tweet stating, quote: “Russia, Russia, Russia! That’s all you heard at the beginning of this Witch Hunt Hoax…And now Russia has disappeared because I had nothing to do with Russia helping me to get elected.” This wording seems to suggest that the president thinks Russia helped him to get elected, so a short while later he clarifies his position by telling reporters, “No, Russia did not help me get elected.” And thus the matter is finally laid to rest.

In sports, the Kentucky Derby is won by Country House after the apparent winner, Maximum Security, is disqualified for trampling an NFL officiating crew on the backstretch.

As far as we are aware, none of this has anything to do with “Brexit.”

On the domestic political front, disgraced former New York Congresscreep Anthony Weiner is released from a halfway house and, in a sincere display of remorse, announces that he is running for president.

Just kidding! In fact Weiner is one of the estimated four Democrats not running for president. Among those entering the race is New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, who, having solved all of his city’s problems, announces that he is running under the campaign slogan “This Slogan Is Currently Out of Order.” De Blasio heads for Iowa, where he quickly surges to 13,357th in the Des Moines Register/CNN poll, just behind swine dysentery.

In sports, the Kentucky Derby is won by Country House after the apparent winner, Maximum Security, is disqualified for trampling an NFL officiating crew on the backstretch.

Speaking of violence, in …

JUNE

… tensions in the Mideast, which have been escalating for over 3,000 years, escalate still further when Iran attacks two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman, then shoots down a U.S. spy drone. In retaliation, President Trump orders a military strike against Iran, only to call it off at the last minute when he is advised that it could result in serious damage to a golf course.

In other presidential action, Trump travels to England, where, in his role as leader of the United States on an official visit to America’s greatest ally at a critical time, he attacks ... Bette Midler. In a tweet emitted at 1:30 a.m. London time, the president describes Ms. Midler as a “Washed up psycho.” Fox News confirms this.

Later in the month Trump becomes the first sitting U.S. president to set foot in North Korea, where he and Kim Jong Un engage in denuclearization talks, capped off with a ceremonial Prisoner Shoot.

This seems like a good place to mention “Brexit.”

Meanwhile as the 2020 U.S. presidential race heats up, several hundred Democratic presidential contenders gather in Miami for the first major debates. The front-runner is Joe Biden, but he suffers a setback when Sen. Kamala Harris, in what is clearly a planned attack, points out that Biden is wearing his pants backward. Biden’s staff hastily releases a statement explaining that the former vice president “thought it was Friday.” Also getting a lot of attention is Marianne Williamson, who qualifies for the debates based on the number of campaign donations she received from other dimensions.

For his part, President Trump launches his 2020 reelection bid with a rally in Orlando attended by 246 million people, as confirmed by Fox News.

In entertainment news, James Holzhauer’s record-breaking victory streak on “Jeopardy!” finally comes to an end when, in the Final Jeopardy round, he is flagged for a face mask violation by an NFL officiating crew.

San Francisco, always on the forefront, becomes the first U.S. city to ban exhaling, which according to scientists is a leading cause of carbon dioxide. Meanwhile the city of Riviera Beach, Fla., pays nearly $600,000 in bitcoin to hackers who paralyzed the city’s computer system by attacking it with “ransomware,” which is sort of like a Windows update except that at least there’s somebody who knows how to fix it.

Speaking of Internet menaces, in …

JULY

… President Trump, having dealt with the existential threat to the nation that is Bette Midler, turns his attention to four Democratic first-term members of Congress known as “The Squad,” tweeting that if they hate America so much they should “go back” to where they come from. Critics note that three of the four were born in the very same nation as Trump, not to mention the fact that the “go back” thing is an old racist taunt, leaving the president with no decent course of action but to issue an apology. So of course that is not what he does. What he does is tweet additional criticisms of The Squad, along with the assertion that “I don’t have a Racist bone in my body!” (The exclamation mark proves it’s true!)

The president also finds time in his busy July schedule to issue tweets attacking — among other targets — Baltimore, the Federal Reserve, the mayor of San Juan, CNN, the mayor of London, Paul Ryan, Fox News (!) and Sweden, but if we’re going to go into detail on every single one of the president’s Twitter beefs we will never get through this year. Suffice it to say that the Resistance is so frantically busy refuting Trump tweets — this being the activity that consumes 99.9 percent of the Resistance’s time and mental energy — that toward the end of the month prominent Democrats find themselves reflexively defending the integrity and moral righteousness of Al Sharpton.

In other political news, an exhausted-looking Robert Mueller makes his 237th appearance before the House Kabuki Theater Committee, and the entire nation tunes in, except for those parts of the nation located outside of Washington, D.C. Mueller says little that is new, generally limiting his answers to “yes,” “no” and, when an aide pokes him awake, “ouch.” Under questioning, Mueller seems surprisingly unfamiliar with his own team’s report, at one point stating, in response to a question, that he had never heard of any “Vladimir Putin.”

Trump declares that the hearing proves the whole investigation was a WITCH HUNT! Congressional Democrats say it proves that it is IMPEACHMENT TIME, BABY. Bears continue to poop in the woods.

In the second round of Democratic debates, front-runner Joe Biden is still the main target of the other candidates, but he does a better job of defending himself, delivering several well-crafted retorts written in Sharpie on his forearms.

In federal action, White House and congressional negotiators set side their mutual loathing long enough to agree on a bipartisan budget deal that will enable the government to continue spending insane amounts of money that it does not have. Thus the pesky problem of uncontrolled federal spending is disposed of until after the 2020 election, freeing our leaders to focus on more pressing issues, and of course tweet about them.

Abroad, a person named “Boris,” who apparently styles his hair with a commercial leaf blower, becomes prime minister of England, a development that very likely could have something to do with “Brexit.”

On the escalating Middle East tension front, the United States says it shot down an Iranian drone in the Strait of Hormuz. In response, Iran’s ambassador to the United Nations claims he will produce documentation proving that “Strait of Hormuz” can be rearranged to spell “Him Fart Zoo Rust.”

In sports, the superb U.S. women’s national soccer team, following years of hard work and sacrifice, wins its fourth World Cup and a first prize of $4 million, or about $200,000 per player. Later in the month, a 16-year-old high school student named Kyle Giersdorf wins a Fortnite video-game tournament. His prize — really — is $3 million. “I’m so happy,” says Kyle. “Everything I’ve done in the grind has all paid off and it’s just insane.”

It is, Kyle. It really is.

The news turns grim in …

AUGUST

… when the nation is shocked by two horrific mass shootings, which spur a Serious National Conversation about gun violence, in which sincere and committed individuals on both sides — at long last — openly and honestly talk to people on their own side about how stupid and evil everybody on the other side is. This goes on for several days, after which the shootings drift out of the news until it’s time for the next Serious National Conversation.

Conspiracy theories swirl in the wake of the death of millionaire pedophile Jeffrey Epstein, who allegedly committed suicide in a New York City federal prison cell despite supposedly being under the close supervision of an NFL officiating crew.

In financial news, the Dow Jones industrial average flits up and down like a butterfly on meth as investors try to figure out what President Trump’s mood is at any given minute regarding the trade war with China, which is caused by China unfairly forcing U.S. consumers to buy low-cost Chinese-made electronics instead of traditional American brands such as Philco. The president’s main strategy in fighting this war is to impose tariffs on Chinese imports, which means U.S. consumers have to pay more for them. Take THAT, China!

Another bee buzzing around in the presidential bonnet during August is Greenland, which Trump decides the United States should try to purchase, since it has a strategic location and is potentially the source of more than 70 percent of the world’s supply of frostbite. It turns out, however, that Greenland belongs to Denmark, which for some reason wants to keep it. “We’re not for sale,” states Greenland’s minister of education, culture, church and foreign affairs, whose name — we are not making this up — is Ane Lone Bagger.

It is not immediately clear where Ane Lone Bagger stands on “Brexit.”

Meanwhile the American Midwest faces an unprecedented humanitarian crisis as Nebraska, Wisconsin and Minnesota struggle to absorb waves of Iowans fleeing the worsening disaster in their home state, which is overrun with Democratic presidential contenders demonstrating their likability by eating fried things on sticks. Joe Biden remains the front-runner in Iowa despite the fact that, to judge from his remarks at campaign events, he believes he is in Belgium.

In other August news, Popeyes introduces a chicken sandwich to compete with Chick-fil-A’s chicken sandwich. Also there are massive pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong and the Amazon rainforest is burning, but the Battle of the Chicken Sandwiches definitely generates more excitement.

Speaking of excitement …

SEPTEMBER

… begins with President Trump facing a major crisis involving the crucial issue of whether Alabama was, or was not, ever actually threatened by Hurricane Dorian. The crisis erupts on Sept. 1, when, with Dorian moving toward the U.S. mainland, the president tweets that Alabama is among the states that will “most likely be hit (much) harder than anticipated.” Minutes later the National Weather Service in Birmingham responds with a statement that “Alabama will NOT see any impacts from #Dorian.”

At this point the president acknowledges that he made a minor mistake, thus laying the issue to rest and freeing everyone to focus on more important matters.

Ha-ha! That would never happen. Donald Trump did not get where he is by allowing himself to be corrected about the weather by any so-called “National Weather Service.” The president mounts an intensive, multi-day, multi-tweet offensive on the Alabama issue, highlighted by an Oval Office meeting with reporters during which he displays a week-old National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration map proving conclusively that Alabama was in fact threatened by a black line that was obviously added to the map by an inept amateur with a Sharpie.

The crisis continues for several more days, with the president refusing to back down or drop the subject, very much the way Winston Churchill, in the darkest hours of World War II, stood firm when England, alone, faced the menacing forces of the National Weather Service.

Bill de Blasio drops out of the Democratic presidential race, bitterly disappointing the residents of New York when they learn that Bill plans to resume mayoring them.

Speaking of dire threats: CNN’s special seven-hour “town hall” broadcast on the global climate crisis attracts a nationwide audience estimated at nearly 30 viewers, counting household pets. Ten Democratic presidential candidates present their plans for saving the planet, which include strictly regulating or banning fossil fuels, nuclear power, red meat, plastic straws, fracking, white meat, cars, lightbulbs, barbecues, capitalism, farting, grayish meat, babies and airplane flights that are not transporting Democratic presidential candidates. The highlight of the night comes when Joe Biden develops a weird red eyeball as a result of being hit by a tranquilizer dart fired by his staff to prevent him from suddenly hugging a CNN moderator. This debate is followed by another debate later in the month. Or maybe it was the same debate, and we all fell asleep for a while in the middle. There is no way to tell.

Bill de Blasio drops out of the Democratic presidential race, bitterly disappointing the residents of New York when they learn that Bill plans to resume mayoring them.

In international news (we are counting Canada as a foreign country) Canadian Premier Justin Trudeau is embarrassed by the publication of yet another photograph— this is the third time — of him wearing blackface. The good news for Justin is that this moves him up to fourth in the line of succession for the governorship of Virginia.

Meanwhile in Great Britain, “Brexit” continues to cause everybody over there to be quite agitated, for British people.

As September draws to a close, President Trump finds himself facing what could prove to be his biggest single crisis of the entire month when a whistleblower accuses him of improperly pressuring Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in a July phone call to investigate Joe Biden and Joe’s son Hunter’s connections with a Ukrainian energy company, which at one point was paying Hunter $50,000 a month, apparently for his expertise in the field of receiving large sums of money.

In a surprise move, Trump orders the release of a rough transcript of the call, which proves conclusively whatever you want it to prove depending on whether you are on Side A or Side B. Congressional Democrats declare that it is a Smoking Gun, which means that, at last, it is IMPEACHMENT TIME, BABY, AND THIS TIME WE REALLY MEAN IT. Trump declares that this is just another WITCH HUNT and emits an unusually high volume of tweets in which he sounds increasingly like a derelict arguing with himself in an alley next to a convenience store, but not as coherent.

While all this is happening the U.S. budget deficit approaches $1 trillion, but everybody in Washington is way too excited about the Impeachment Drama to even think about it.

The excitement continues in …

OCTOBER

... when Washington whips itself into a frenzy the likes of which it experiences only once every two or three weeks as a consensus begins to develop among the courageous Resisters of the Resistance that it really is DEFINITELY ALMOST NEARLY IMPEACHMENT TIME AND WE ARE REALLY NOT FOOLING AROUND ANYMORE. The Democrats, led by Rep. Adam Schiff, a man who — this is merely an observation, not a criticism — would not look out of place popping up from a prairie-dog hole, accuse Trump of breaking the law in the Ukraine phone call, while Trump defenders insist that technically there was no quid pro quo, in the same sense that, in “The Godfather,” the severed horse’s head in the movie producer’s bed was technically not a threat.

The president’s defense strategy is to tweet several times per hour, sometimes with most of the words correctly spelled, that the call was PERFECT and everyone should READ THE TRANSCRIPT! Apparently he is unaware that everyone already did. Along the way the president reaches a historic milestone, sending out his 11,000th tweet as president, eclipsing the record held by Grover Cleveland.

For the Democrats, there is good news and bad news. The good news is that Trump’s poll numbers are down. The bad news is that the Democrats are ... the Democrats. Their front-runner, Joe Biden, continues to struggle on the campaign trail, as exemplified by an appearance at a 7-Eleven store in Waterloo, Iowa, during which he addresses the Slurpee machine as “your excellency.”

Poised to eclipse Biden is Elizabeth Warren (campaign slogan: “She Is MUCH Smarter Than You”) with her Medicare-for-all plan, which she says will cost $20.5 trillion, with the “.5” proving that she has this thing figured out right down to the penny. Warren says her plan will not raise taxes on the middle class because all the money will come from greedy corporations, greedy billionaires, greedy gold-pooping unicorns and various cost efficiencies, which of course is what the federal government is famous for.

In foreign affairs, Trump surprises everybody, possibly including himself, by suddenly pulling U.S. troops out of Syria, thus throwing the region into even more turmoil than usual, which is a lot of turmoil. During the confusion, U.S. forces conduct a daring raid that results in the death of Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, thus removing him from the line of succession for the governorship of Virginia. And of course no discussion of foreign affairs would be complete without some mention of “Brexit.”

Meanwhile California, plagued by out-of-control wildfires, widespread power blackouts, spiraling housing costs, decaying infrastructure and a worsening homelessness epidemic, becomes the first state to enact a law banning the sale of fur products.

In sports, Simone Biles becomes the first gymnast to perform a floor routine that requires clearance from the Federal Aviation Administration. In another “feel good” sports story, the New York Yankees, with by far the highest payroll in baseball, complete an entire decade without even getting into the World Series. Meanwhile concern mounts over the state of NFL officiating after a Lions-Packers game in which, late in the fourth quarter, the teams play two consecutive downs without a single penalty being called. “It won’t happen again,” vows Commissioner Goodell.

Speaking of mounting concern, in …

NOVEMBER

… it is finally IMPEACHMENT TIME FOR REAL, ALMOST, as the House Committee on Endless Squabbling holds a classic congressional hearingpalooza featuring Bombshell Testimony, Gaveling, Points of Order, Yielding of Time, False Civility, Really Long Questions That Are Not Actually Questions and all the other elements that would make for riveting drama if everybody on the planet didn’t already know the outcome, specifically that the Democrats would conclude that the president committed impeachable offenses, and the Republicans would conclude that he didn’t. When it’s all over, the public remains divided exactly as it was between the people who loathe Trump and the people who loathe the people who loathe Trump. Meanwhile bears continue to etc.

There is one positive impeachment-related development, which occurs when Rep. Eric Swalwell, appearing on MSNBC, makes the following statement: “So far the evidence is uncontradicted that the president used taxpayer dollars to help him cheat [GIANT FART SOUND] an election.” This results in several days of spirited debate on Twitter concerning the issue of whether Swalwell cut the cheese (he denies it) with people of all political persuasions weighing in on #fartgate in the closest thing we have had to a genuinely open-minded national conversation in years.

Conan, a Belgian Malinois who was injured in the Delta Force raid that resulted in the death of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, is invited to the White House, where President Trump, in recognition of the heroic dog’s service to the nation, appoints himsecretary of the Navy.

In other political news, Mike Bloomberg joins the Democratic presidential field, declaring that “what America needs, now more than ever, is a rich, aging, white male New Yorker with a huge ego.”

On the economic front, Popeyes resumes production of chicken sandwiches, and consumers resume assaulting one another over them, because if a $3.99 wad of heavily breaded chicken on a bun is not worth getting injured or even killed over, then what is?

Tesla CEO Elon Musk introduces an all-electric “Cybertruck” featuring sophisticated technology and a striking resemblan


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