Adventus

"The central doctrine of Christianity, then, is not that God is a bastard. It is, in the words of the late Dominican theologian Herbert McCabe, that if you don’t love you’re dead, and if you do, they’ll kill you."--Terry Eagleton

"...doesn't philosophy amount to the sum of all thinkable and unthinkable errors, ceaselessly repeated?"--Jean-Luc Marion

“The opposite of poverty is not wealth; the opposite of poverty is justice."--Bryan Stevenson

Thursday, April 30, 2020

Here It Comes Again


The second wave of the Spanish Flu in 1918 was deadlier than the first wave.  That there will be a second wave of the coronavirus is almost a given.

The Irony of American History


Mitch McConnell recently floated the idea that some states should go bankrupt, an idea he didn't exactly walk-back so much as refuse to press forward.  His statement had done what he wanted it to do.

As David Frum pointed out in response, there is a reason states cannot file bankruptcy while cities can:  sovereignty.  Under our system, states are sovereigns.  That does not mean, nor carry the connotation even in law, that states are mini-kingdoms with divine right to rule (the way most Americans think of "sovereign").  It means they have authority of their own, if not complete autonomy.  The United States is a sovereign nation, but the common interpretation of the Constitution that creates the federal government is that it places limits on the power of that government.  So at no level in our constitutional republic does sovereign mean "do what you want, God's got your back."

In that Constitution, bankruptcy (like copyright) is an authority reserved to the federal government (largely to insure uniformity of application across 50 states.  Congress has the "Commerce Clause," but the bankruptcy provision makes any laws on the subject solely the authority of the federal government.  That puts the federal government, through the courts and the bankruptcy provision in the U.S. Code, in charge of those who seek bankruptcy protection under federal law.  And make no mistake:  bankruptcy law puts the court and the creditors in control of the bankrupt estate.  So the federal government can take control of a municipality, if that municipality seeks bankruptcy protection.  But cities are not sovereigns; only states are.

See the problem?  Placing states under federal authority, even through a bankruptcy judge (who is not an Art. III judge, so not as highly placed in the judicial pecking order; but with sweeping powers and literally world-wide jurisdiction.  A bankrupcty judge has authority over all the assets of the bankrupt, wherever they may be.), would be to remove, or at least reduce, their sovereignty.  This is, of course, the argument for why the U.S. is not subject to the court in the Hague, or to any international tribunal.  Whether we should be or not is another subject for another day, but the argument is that we will not endanger our national sovereignty in such tribunals.  Nor should the states endanger theirs in bankruptcy court, a court which only the federal government can control.

Trump's argument here, although he is too dim to recognize it, is of a piece with McConnell's.  I doubt either of them think of it this way, in fact.  Mostly they just see an opportunity to play partisan politics, red states v. blue states.  Trump is trampling the sovereignty of the states whenever he insists "sanctuary cities" be brought to heel and forced to assist ICE.  Those cities cannot obstruct ICE's lawful activities (anymore than I can obstruct a policeman's conduct of his duties), but they don't have to help them, either; and that's what a "sanctuary city" is:  one where law enforcement doesn't help ICE do its job.  There's nothing illegal or unconstitutional in it, because states are sovereign and don't have to do the bidding of the federal government.  States have to comply with the constitution (and so can't have segregated schools, or do anything on an impermissible basis such as racial discrimination), but that's the Constitution that's being enforced.  Bankruptcy law may be reserved to the federal government by the Constitution, but the provisions of that law are determined by Congress, and Congress cannot direct the states, directly or indirectly.  Immigration law is also set by Congress, but Congress cannot direct the states to enforce those laws.

What Trump is demanding is bad and needs to be repudiated.  What underlies the claims he, and McConnell, are making, is worse, and more clearly needs to be repudiated.  And it needs to be repudiated because it is becoming a pattern in the GOP.

I wrote most of that yesterday, then never posted it, and it got buried in a landslide of posts.  Then tonight, this happened:


Yes, Torabi is right, McCarthy is "giving" governors authority they already have (it's an old, old story). But the assumption behind McCarthy's statement is that states have no sovereignty that the federal government doesn't give them.  For the same reason, Trump can withhold funds from states with sanctuary cities; or he thinks he can.  The 10th Amendment stands in his way, but now they'd just as soon ignore it.

Have we just come full circle?  All the arguments created for the civil rights movement and the War on Poverty and the civil rights laws, have now become the tools of the conservative movement, which has acted for sometime now as if it were the usurper of power, rather than the holder of it.  Maybe power is in the eye of the beholder, and the power you have that I think illegitimate, is the power I should have because you are illegitimate.  But where once "states rights" was a battle cry for defying the actions of the federal government, now the people who carried that banner in support of "Dixie" and as a polite way of saying "white superiority," have come full circle themselves, and declare the federal government (or at least the White House and the Senate) are supreme over the states.

History is full of such ironies; but that doesn't mean they shouldn't be given due attention.

Now, wait a minute....


Yeah, there's always a tweet:

But Flynn's argument is that his lawyers screwed up and misled him and he was framed!  Framed, I tell ya!  Except:

And let's just back up a minute and remember where this all started:

In December 2017, Flynn struck a plea deal with special counsel Robert Mueller’s team — pleading guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with the Russian ambassador, and agreeing to cooperate. Everything seemed to be going according to plan with this, and prosecutors recommended Flynn get no prison time as his sentencing approached in December 2018.

Surprisingly, though, at that hearing, the judge in Flynn’s case, Emmet Sullivan, raked Flynn over the coals, saying he felt “disgust” and “disdain” for what Flynn did and strongly suggesting he might give Flynn some prison time. However, Sullivan offered Flynn the opportunity to delay his sentencing to get credit for further cooperation with the government, and Flynn jumped at the chance.
So Flynn was getting off easy, but not easy enough! And yet he was never charged with lying to the Vice President.  He struck a deal and admitted to lying to the FBI.

So how is what Pence thinks about what Flynn meant to do relevant to anything?

Except, of course, the Audience of One, who is probably going to pardon Flynn and Stone (but never Manafort, it would seem) at least before January 20, 2020.  We really need to amend the Constitution.  This pardon power is definitely a dangerous relic of an expectation of more enlightened minds in office.

Pixie Dust!


Having had parents living in such facilities for 5 years, I am quite familiar with how they operate and what the problems of distancing and stopping contagion are.  And I have to say, short of having a vaccine, I have no idea what "new measures" could be reasonably taken to protect the residents (and staff, who are practically residents as they are in the building 16 hours a day) could be.

Especially from these clowns.

Tens of...tens of...protestors....


I read somewhere "hundreds" were protesting at the Michigan State House.  This looks like 50 or so.  I've seen more people at a Harry Potter book release party, back in the day when that was a thing.

The bad part is that they are armed.  The odd part is that they are in the State House.  Even in Texas they wouldn't be above to get through the doors of the Capitol with guns.  And what is proves is:  people got nuthin' else to do.

The sad part will be when half of them come down with covid-19.  Nobody deserves that.

Good Job, Donnie Trump!


Really!  Good job!  👍✓

Monster.  Ghoul.  Sociopath.

"It's a good life!"


The view from atop a pile of corpses:

“And you know, we’re the leader – in this case, the leader of the world. And we’ve done better – if you look at our deaths, if you look at mortality rates, if you look at the things – we’re, in fact, I’m going to get a chart, because it’s maybe the most impressive thing, right? How we’ve done,” Trump declared.

“We’re right at the top – meaning top in a positive way – of those charts,” Trump said, which is false.
The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the world is:  3,255,424.  The number in the U.S. is 1,800,000. The global death count is 230,803.  The U.S. death count is 62, 444.  In other words, we have over half the total number of cases in the world, with a population of only 327,000,000, and over one-quarter of the total number of deaths in the world.  And the POTUS thinks this is a good thing.

A real good thing, Anthony.


Is it going to include Clorox?


President Lysol speaks:

“I’m not overpromising, I don’t know who said it, but whatever the maximum is, whatever you can humanly do, we’re going to have,” Trump said, “and we hope you’re going to come up with a good vaccine. Johnson & Johnson, Oxford, lots of different great companies, representatives of our country in some ways. [National Institutes of Health] is working very hard and doing a terrific job. No, I hope you’re going to have a vaccine, and we are going to fast-track it like you’ve never been seen before, if we come up with the vaccine. I think they probably will.”

“You know is in charge of it, honestly, I am,” he added. “I’ll tell you, I’m really in charge of it. I could say somebody else, I will say we are dealing with, as you know, the general and the admiral. We are very much in charge. I think probably more than anything, I am in charge. I’m the one that gets blamed, I get blamed anyway. Don’t forget, if we come up with a vaccine in record time, they’ll say I should have done it faster. We have a lot of good possibilities.”
Yeah, this guy is "in charge":

Except when he can blame Obama.

A nation worries, and waits for November.

"No Man Is an Island"


Picking this up from Thought Criminal, and my first response is:  "At least Sartre understood he was part of humanity, part of the whole":

... There are competing things which are all good like happiness and truth.  For example, we sacrifice some happiness when we accept the truth that we're not going to have life after death.  Should we tell other people that they're not going to live after they die?   It probably will reduce their happiness on the other hand truth has a value of its own how do you balance truth and happiness there isn't any algorithm for balancing that.   I think you just have to accept that there is  no postulate that allows you to judge how much happiness you're willing to give up for how much truth.

Even people who accept all this will say, all right we're not going to agree on what is the good but at least we can agree on the fundamental principle of morality that something like Rawls original condition [I think he meant "Original Position"]  that we should not treat other people worse than we treat ourselves. Rebecca [Goldstein] was saying something like this that everyone equally deserves whatever is good, happiness or whatever it is.  That's not the way I feel either.   And I think it's probably not the way most of you feel if you think about it because. I could probably increase the total amount of happiness by making my family live on rice and beans and live in a one room apartment and just barely keep enough money to keep us alive and healthy and send all of the rest of the money to poor parts of the world where it would do to me.  I'm not going to do that I'm not going to ....  and I well, I'm not confessing immorality.  I'm saying that my moral feelings tell me I should be loyal to my family.

Similarly when my university tries to recruit a bright young star in physics I suppose I could calculate,  well,  he could do more good for some other university and the greater good would imply we shouldn't go after him let some other university go after him. I don't care, I care about my university I'm loyal to my university similarly.  So there loyalty is a value it's not an absolute value I wouldn't cause, like Edward the Third,  I wouldn't cause the hundred years war to advance the interests of my family.  But it is one of these things where we have no algorithm for balancing loyalty against distributive justice.

And I think we have to live with that.  I think we have to live with the fact that although we can reason and try to uncover what our moral feelings are.   And if we get into that I think a very good example would be arguing about abortion ...  maybe I'll come back to that in the discussion.

We can reason, the reasoning uncovers how we feel morally and perhaps allows us to identify areas of agreement so we can cooperate with each other and bring about what we want.

I think in the end we have to live with not having a moral philosophy that really works in a decisive way.  I think we have to live the unexamined life.  I think this is part of the tragedy of the human condition just like we have no absolute way of determining that Mozart is better than Led Zeppelin we feel it but it's not something that we can argue,  we can rationally show.  We have to live with the fact that...  this came up yesterday.... when we discover the fundamental laws of physics from which all in some sense follows, that all other principles follow,  we won't know why they're true.  This is something that we have to accept, that the position of human beings is tragic and part of the tragedy,  that there  is no way of deciding moral issues on the basis of - well there is no way of deciding moral postulates which should govern our actions.  And in fact we don't have moral postulates that govern our actions when we behave morally. 
Even the playground ethics of the "trolley problem," where an extreme and unworldly example is posited as if it revealed profound truths about the world (rather like Coyne's attempt to say physics somehow explains why I love my wife or would act to protect my children) is superior to this drivel.  But the worst part of it is, it posits a vacuum in which all persons act solely for their own interests, and damn the consequences or the rest of humanity (or the world; Sartre confined himself to humanity.  Judaism and Christianity start, not with being my brother's keeper, but with Genesis 1, where humankind is said to be the keeper of creation.  Cain and Abel come much later.)  What Coyne posits is a form of utilitarianism that would appal Bentham, and what he gets wrong about Rawls is, well, almost the entire book in which Rawls posits his "original position" (an attempt to turn the "Golden Rule" into something derived solely from self-interest.  Then again, the Golden Rule makes no mention of the God of Abraham, unlike Micah 6:8, which is remarkably similar.).  This is a fine display of the chop-logic of the bluntly ignorant who don't want their beautiful minds cluttered with the complications of real thought and substantive reasoning.  For all their appeals to reason, people like this don't do much of it, and aren't very good at it when they do.

Part of the real failing is Coyne's assumption that moral reasoning leads to simple "do's" and "don't's" and when it can't do that, it has failed at its central mission.  He assumes we will determine the fundamental laws of physics, from which all understanding will flow (a semi-Hellenistic assumption, although Socrates and even Aristotle were never so foolish as to advance it; Socrates, in fact, argued that we really can't ever know anything, especially about what is true).  He assumes not knowing you will live into eternity and after death diminishes happiness (a reductio ad absurdum a first-year philosophy student would look stupid espousing).  He assumes he's discovered something new, or profound, or insightful, when his only basis for such "insight" is his ignorance, which he clutches to himself like a security blanket.

No, moral postulates don't "govern" our actions when we behave morally, any more than laws govern our actions when we behave legally.  All of us understand the rules:  don't cheat, don't lie, don't take what isn't yours, don't kill people.  Some of us ignore those rules, or figure they don't apply to us; most of us accept the wisdom of them, the grace, the necessity.  Are we "governed" by these things?  The idea assumes we would rather run riot and act as selfishly as possible, given the chance.  It's the premise of post-apocalyptic movies where social order breaks down and everyone is a criminal under the skin.  It makes for Hollywood spectacle, but in real life?  The people in the SuperDome in New Orleans after Katrina didn't set up post-civilization horrors; they took care of the young and the old and each other. The people in Houston during Harvey brought out boats and water skis and rescued strangers.  We weren't "governed" by morality to do these things; we were linked by our humanity.  Some did it because they were Christians, some because it was "the right thing to do."  Being "governed" didn't enter into it.  So there's one false assumption.

There are so many in Coyne's statement they are hardly worth mentioning.  If he starved his family and gave the money to the poor that he saved, is there a morality that says he should do that?  Which one?  The Golden Rule?  Rawl's Theory of Justice?  Micah 6:8?  The teachings of the Nazarene?  Where does Coyne get that extremist nonsense?  It's the flip side of Dan Patrick imagining the deaths of the elderly will lead prompt a new Millenium of wealth and prosperity for their grandchildren, or the foolishness of thinking ideas like "the trolley problem" represent real ethical concerns.  Would that the world were so simple in its systems.  And yet Coyne takes no responsibility for those systems and what they provide him, but take from others.  "Blow you, Jack, I got mine!," is his morality, but since it's not a morality, since it can't "work in a decisive way," he bears no responsibility.  It's a selflishness that Donald Trump and mob bosses and tyrants would applaud.  And Coyne is no better than them:  they think they are right, if not good, too.

In the end Coyne wants to reduce the questions of life to postulates, and so determine how much happiness you are willing to give up for how much truth.  Is it true he loves his wife and family?  Can he prove it by a postulate?  If not, how does he prove it?  How does he know?  He wants to say he is not involved at all in humanity, and to protect that posture he declares his family simply an extension of his ego.  He cares about them in their relationship to him and not, apparently, for any other reason.

At least, not for any reason for which he can posit a moral postulate.

"People are too damned expensive!"


And there's too damned many of 'em!

“We would have significant loss of life, we would lose many elderly, that would reduce burdens in our defunct Social Security System, health care cost (once the wave subsided), make jobs available for others and it would also free up housing in which we are in dire need of,” Turnage wrote in the post that has since been deleted. “We would lose a large portion of the people with immune and other health complications. I know it would be loved ones as well. But that would once again reduce our impact on medical, jobs, and housing.”

Isn't the only difference between this GOP flunky and Mitch McConnell is that this GOP flunkie is being more honest about the GOP position?  I mean, especially since he said this in his defense:

He said his post was “not malicious, or racist” and had “nothing to do with money or business.” Rather, he was simply stating what he believed was happening to the Earth through the global pandemic.
....
Turnage later said his comments were misunderstood. “I believe in ecological balance,” he said. “Our species is out of symbiosis with the rest of the planet. We have a disease … a virus, that if it ran its course, it would bring us back into a closer balance. I didn’t say people should go out and get infected.

See, he's not evil.  He's Thanos, without the stones.

"Call the names....call the names....call the names...."


Today:

In a rampage of over 40 tweets the President lashed out, tweeting or retweeting about: his former National Security Advisor, fired and disgraced convicted felon Michael Flynn (a lot); former FBI Director Jim Comey, whom he also fired; his Senate acquittal; meat processing plants; Iowa Pork; Iowa; “The Do Nothing Democrats!”; BP America; a GOP Congressman’s attack on Joe Biden; a help wanted link; a right wing extremist pundit’s claim journalists never apologize, after one did the day before – which Trump tweeted; a Sexual Health Counselor’s tweet attacking CNN; Sweden; CNN’s Don Lemon; MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough; MSNBC’s Brian Williams (a lot); CNN (a lot); a lie that Hillary Clinton’s campaign colluded with Russia; “FAKE POLLING”; Roger Stone; Comcast; and a Happy Birthday message to a GOP Congressman.
He is a very busy man.

Too busy to note the passing of almost 61,000 Americans killed by the coronavirus currently still in pandemic spread across the country.

"Why Now?"


That is quite a long thread, and you're welcome to review it.  Having posted about the Biden "scandal" tangentially, I'm just gonna leave this much here, and move on.

That's the main one, because he makes some interesting points.  Without going into the weeds of the details (which he does, and if you're interested, they are well laid out in the column), a couple of points that stayed with me.  First was this: (there are substantiating links in the original to both statements):

A year ago, Tara Reade accused former Vice President Joe Biden of touching her shoulder and neck in a way that made her uncomfortable, when she worked for him as a staff assistant in 1993. Then last month, Reade told an interviewer that Biden stuck his hand under her skirt and forcibly penetrated her with his fingers. Biden denies the allegation.

Which I mention because the change in the story links to this:
Compliments for Biden. In the 1990s, Biden worked to pass the Violence Against Women Act. In 2017, on multiple occasions, Reade retweeted or “liked” praise for Biden and his work combating sexual assault. In the same year, Reade tweeted other compliments of Biden, including: “My old boss speaks truth. Listen.” It is bizarre that Reade would publicly laud Biden for combating the very thing she would later accuse him of doing to her.

Rejecting Biden, embracing Sanders. By this January, Reade was all in for presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. Her unwavering support was accompanied by an unbridled attack on Biden. In an article on Medium, Reade referred to Biden as “the blue version of Trump.” Reade also pushed a Sanders/Elizabeth Warren ticket, while complaining that the Democratic National Committee was trying to “shove” Biden “down Democrat voters throats.”

Despite her effusive 2017 praise for Biden’s efforts on behalf of women, after pledging her support to Sanders, Reade turned on Biden and contradicted all she said before. She claimed that her decision to publicly accuse Biden of inappropriately touching her was due to “the hypocrisy that Biden is supposed to be the champion of women’s rights.”
A lot of the analysis is of allegations like this, and that's the kind of analysis often assailed by #MeToo proponents.  The column deals with that, too, but I leave that to the column.  What strikes me is that this attack is undoubtedly political, else why make it 27 years after the fact, and change the story when the first version wasn't salacious enough? (There's also the fact that the first version fits ths pattern of behavior Biden is well known for, while the second version sounds more like Donald Trump took over Biden's soul one day, on a lark.)  And this answers my first question, "Why now?"

So does this:

Ultimately, the question is a political one, not a moral one.  Must the President be a moral exemplar and, if the Reade allegations are true, must we reject Biden?  In what, favor of Donald Trump?  Our political system doesn't allow another option.  The people who objected to Hillary Clinton on whatever grounds each voter had, gave us Donald Trump, who, on moral grounds, should have been driven from our shores.  But we don't get the option in November of "None Of The Above."  If we measure the two men on the scales of morality, the balance clearly favor Biden, imperfect as he may be.  But is this even a relevant issue, given the state of the country and of our leadership?

I don't see how.

As I Was Saying

Too many people on Twitter think it runs the world. George Conway is right; this isn’t a distraction, because Trump isn’t playing chess. He’s not even playing checkers. He’s just ranting.

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

The Charming Thing...

...about this thread us not the analysis by Mr. Wittes, although that makes the short but sweet thread worth reading. It’s the replies by bots and people who don’t understand a word of what he says.and think their ignorance is their strength. They read the FBI notes as proof of something they aren’t, but that’s because they reshape everything to suit their fantasy that they are in charge.   That’s no surprise either. No, the charming thing is that they think Twitter is the fulcrum to their lever to move it.

Really, it’s laughable. These clowns earnestly think they have power. Yeah, Trump may pardon Flynn. But as a matter of law, accepting the pardon means accepting your guilt.

Donald Trump, Stable Political Genius






Oh, and:

Of course.

We put a business man in the White House, after all.

Another day, another hour (or two)


a)  because sovereignty means shit, unless you're a red state.

b) because Trump can't do anything else about it.  Which is probably as good a reason as any to broadcast these things, because tomorrow you know he's gonna say he didn't say that.

Or it was sarcasm.


"Many months" would put him stuck in the White House since the first of the year.  Most states didn't start "stay-at-home" orders until late March.  That's only been six weeks ago, at best.  Children have this concept of time, not 70 year olds.

Of course, he thinks the coronavirus is just going to vanish into thin air.  Meanwhile, earlier today:

Wait for it....


He's still using a pile of corpses as a stage to declare:  "VICTORY!"  And when it isn't Jared In Charge (lordelpus!), it's people like this giving Trump advice:

The primary economic engines of Colorado are oil production (dead hereafter and for a long time; I know people in the field in that state); tourism (Denver has a major virus outbreak because of it in the ski resorts last winter), and agriculture (well, and Coors beer).  Which of those are going to make Colorado an economic leader in the third and fourth quarters? (and when you think of Arizona?  Tourism.  Nevada:  tourism.  South Carolina:  tourism.  Utah:  I got nuthin'.  Mining?  Washington?  Seattle and coronavirus?  Florida:  tourism and alligators? Nebraska: wheat?  Missile silos?)

Who are these clowns?

This Does Not Mean...


... Jared Kushner will actually do anything.  I mean:  what has he done so far?

Clearly the peak has passed and we must return to business as usual!  Yes?

Or it's just Trump's way of coping because he's so plainly and utterly incompetent and out of his depth.  And you don't need a fact-checker to work that one out, especially since Trump can get tested every day if he wants, and can limit who comes near him as much as he likes.  Even ordinary Americans who aren't paying much attention understand that much.

Ask Siri for statistics on how many 20-year olds die of flu-induced strokes, or how many flu victims suffer permanent lung damage thereafter.  I'll wait.

And to prove there truly is no bottom, none at all:
In a sales pitch that absolutely no one has asked for, the White House Gift Shop is selling COVID-19 commemorative coins, emblazoned with slogans like “World vs The Unseen Enemy” and “Everyday HEROES Suited Up.” As the deadly virus continues to kill thousands of people and cripple daily life for most Americans, the privately-run White House store is asking buyers to fork out $100 (reduced from $125!) to commemorate the “historic moment.” One coin has an image of a COVID-19 spore superimposed on a world map, while a second coin features an empty White House podium with the names of the coronavirus task force members surrounding it including President Trump, Vice President Pence, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and medical experts Drs. Deborah Birx and Anthony Fauci. 

And yes, it's real.
I have to go lie down.  The world is far too much with me, late and soon.

As Goes Texas...


Rick Wilson recently noted, in a tweet, that for Florida to go for the Democratic POTUS candidate, that candidate needs to be leading in Florida polls by at least 10 points.  I'm sure he's right, and I'd say the same thing about Texas.

I'd also say that Biden has barely been able to campaign, while Trump has been on TV 2 hours or more a day since Easter.

I really think he needs to be on TV as often as possible.  I also think the Democratic Party in Texas needs to work like they could win Texas, or they just won't win Texas.  But if Trump were to lose Texas, it would be a helluva shot at the GOP (then again, who imagined Trump would follow 8 years of Obama?).

Well, and:

West Texas light crude trading in negative numbers, especially if it happens again, is going to put the Texas economy in the crapper even worse than coronavirus has done.  That is never gonna work in favor of the incumbent.

Stop me if you've heard this before


So, first, can Trump absolve meatpacking plants of liability under the DPA?  I honestly don't know.  Nobody else does either:

Worker safety experts say such an order would prevent local health officials from ordering meat companies to use their the most effective weapon available to protect their employees from the coronavirus — closures. They also fear that it would also undercut newly issued federal health guidelines designed to put space between plant workers. Trump has not publicly explained which provisions within the act he will rely on to compel plants to remain open or grant companies protection from workplace safety requirements.

Meat packing plant employees are unimpressed:

"All I know is, this is crazy to me, because I can't see all these people going back into work," said Donald, who works at Tyson's Waterloo, Iowa, facility. "I don't think people are going to go back in there."

Donald asked to be referred to by his first name only. He is currently recovering after testing positive for the virus.

"I'm still trying to figure out: What is he going to do, force them to stay open? Force people to go to work?" he asked.

And they shouldn't be:

Trump on Tuesday told reporters that “there’s plenty of supply”, but that supply chains had hit what he called a “roadblock”. The order is meant to lift the block in shielding companies from liability from a previous lack of safety measures or protective equipment.

Sure, you may lose a hand, but people gotta get their Big Macs!  This is a crisis!  That calls for a return to a 19th century work environment!  But what has Trump called for so far?  Nothing:

“This is more symbolism than substance,” said Steve Vladeck, a law professor at the University of Texas. “He’s opening the door for the executive branch to take some far more specific actions vis-à-vis the meat plants, but the order itself doesn’t do anything.”

While the order does not explicitly mandate that plants stay open, it could allow the Department of Agriculture to potentially force meat companies to fulfill orders from retailers, effectively keeping them in some capacity.

Lobbyists for the meat industry said the executive order, which invoked the Defense Production Act, was significant because it created federal guidelines for the steps plants needed to take to prevent the virus from spreading. Until now, meat plants have been forced to close based on a patchwork of regulations from local and state health departments. The meat industry has warned that closures could threaten the U.S. supply of beef, pork and other products.

“It’s now a partnership between federal agencies and state and local officials to ensure everything is done to keep workers safe,” said Julie Anna Potts, the chief executive of the North American Meat Institute, a trade group for beef, pork and turkey packers and producers.

Still, the order does not address some critical questions such as whether the plants should test all their workers for the virus before reopening. Some plants have reopened without widespread testing.
From the same people who brought you "Anyone Who Needs A Test Can Get One" and "An Economy Rockin' by July!"

What could go wrong?

When none of the witnesses saw anything...


....are there any "witnesses"?  Or:  does Christina Cauterucci realize her argument is being undercut by the editors at Slate?  Or is it just a bait 'n' switch to get you to read her article?  What is it about Slate and legal matters, anyway?


The Witness Who Saw Nothing

Reporting on sexual assault too often relies on testimony from people who weren’t there.
Now first I have to say reporting is not testimony.  Nobody answers a reporter's questions under oath. So there is no "testimony" involved in these stories about whether or not Joe Biden sexually assaulted  Tara Reade in the 1990's.  But there is the problem of "witnesses" when no witness saw anything, and the strongest witnesses are dead people (Reade's mother) and a friend.  Their only "evidence" is hearsay, which courts generally (there are more exceptions to the rule than applications of it) exclude for perfectly sound reasons.  The problem of no witnesses at all seems to be one Ms. Cauterucci is oblivious to; and even her editors know it.

Let me be clear:  I'm not arguing for or against Joe Biden, or accepting or rejecting the claims made by Ms. Reade.  But Cauterucci seems to want all claims (there is no evidence of anything, nothing has gone to a court of law) decided in favor of the accuser, and no questions about the accusations to be deemed credible.  If Ms. Reade were in court, even the claim that it is her mother's voice on the recording from 1993 would be a question of fact to be determined by the jury, not by Ms. Reade's assertion.

Here is Ms. Cauterucci's argument in gist:

Over the past few days, multiple new reports have corroborated Tara Reade’s claim that Joe Biden sexually assaulted her when she worked in his Senate office in the 1990s.
....
The Business Insider piece also quotes several people who confidently refute Reade’s claims. 

It's the latter, she argues, that is the problem here.  Why?  Basically, it's bad journalistic practice.

It does no service to the truth to quote people who say their failure to witness abuse is evidence of the absence of abuse, unless the alleged victim claims those specific people witnessed her abuse. Writers might want to show they did due diligence in their reporting, but sources that don’t offer new information go unmentioned in final drafts all the time. (There’s also a big difference between quoting someone who solely speaks to her own experience and someone who makes a broad assumption of innocence based on that limited perspective.) An allegation of a sexual violation that involves two people doesn’t demand clueless character witnesses. Only an exhaustive search through Biden’s Senate papers, which the University of Delaware will not release until two years after Biden exits public life, could help prove or disprove the existence of the sexual harassment complaint Reade said she filed—not the testimonies of a self-selecting group of people who agree to say on the record that they never saw it.

So, sexual harassment allegations are just like theft allegations.  Except in the latter, without evidence the theft actually took place, and that the accused was in possession of the stolen property, there is no "evidence" of the crime.  That's not a standard Cauterucci wants to apply to sexual harassment, however.  And complaining about "evidence of absence of abuse" assumes there was abuse, and the burden is on the accused to prove an absence of it.  However, sexual harassment especially is usually proved by a pattern of conduct and the testimony of a number of victims:  that's how Bill Cosby and Harvey Weinstein ended up behind bars on sexual assault charges.  Allegations are not evidence, either; so an investigation that finds some people say they heard about it, and others say they never saw any such thing happen or had reason to suspect such behavior, is perfectly admissable in a court of law.

But Ms. Cauterucci doesn't want to hold to the standards of a court of law; apparently she much prefers the standards of gossip and innuendo.  What service to the truth is that?   Even outside the courtroom we usually think it fair to demand a bit more than that. And if Reade did file a sexual harassment claim, what then?  Does that prove her allegations, and refute the information (it's still not testimony) of the people who stand by Joe Biden's character and their experience working with him?  

Well, a jury sitting as a trier of fact might think so; but they might not, too.  And that vexes Ms. Cauterucci mightily, apparently.  So much so that even the editors at Slate understand the weakness of her argument.  Sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.  Witnesses who don't see anything are not terribly strong witnesses, no matter which party they are asked to remark on.

The Two Months of Magical Thinking


Joan Didion, so far as I know, coined the term "magical thinking."  Well, let's say she popularized it.  She used it in reference to the year after the death of her husband and the near-fatal illness of her daughter, and the trauma she went through.  She meant basically the denial of reality that helped her cope.

When the POTUS is denying reality, it's really an even greater concern than whether or not he uses sarcasm correctly, or actually said the words "5 million tests."

"If you're so smart, how come you're not rich?"


(and yes, again, you have to be this old (points again at self) to get THAT reference.  Punks!)

So, here's the thing


Microbiologists fret about bacteria on every surface of everything your come in contact with.  Well, a few do.  Lawyers are trained to assume the worst case and do everything they can to prevent it or prepare their client for it, just in case.  However, the analysis in this article about the November election starts off with the most unlikely scenario possible (the state legislatures decide to appoint electors for the Presidential election as they see fit), a true "Constitutional crisis" that no legislature would ever try to engage.  And then it plunges on to this:

One of the hottest issues now in litigation, which was not on the radar until about two months ago, is that in the one-third of states which require an excuse to be able to vote by mail, what counts as a valid excuse? Some states have said that if you're worried about getting the coronavirus and you don't want to be out in public, that's a good enough excuse. Others, like Texas, are fighting that. Their attorney general is threatening criminal prosecution against people who would claim fear of the coronavirus as a reason to want to vote by mail. So that's being litigated now. I actually think litigation is a good thing now, because it's better to have clarity about what the rules are well in advance.

To be fair to Ken Paxton, the link in the article provides information that directly refutes that statement about Texas and criminal prosecutions:

“We conclude that, based on the plain language of the relevant statutory text, fear of contracting COVID-19 unaccompanied by a qualifying sickness or physical condition does not constitute a disability under the Election Code for purposes of receiving a ballot by mail.”

The very end of the threat from the Texas AG’s office says, “Please note that as discussed above this response is not an official opinion of the Office of the Attorney General issued under section 402.042 of the Texas Government Code, nor is it an exhaustive memorandum of law; rather, it is an informal letter of legal advice offered for the purpose of general guidance.”

Paxton wrote a letter to Stephanie Klick, chair of the Texas House Committee on Elections.  As AG he was giving an opinion on the statute, an opinion I disagree with.  But he wasn't, as he said in the letter, giving an official opinion of the Office of the Texas Attorney General.  Such opinions do not have the weight of law, but can give persons and entities, including government agencies, legal cover when there is a dispute about how Texas law should be applied absent a court precedent.  As I mentioned before, the issue of absentee ballots in the time of coronavirus is before a state court.  If that court rules against Paxton's interpretation, even an official opinion of the AG's office would fall to the court order.  So what Paxton wrote was literally nothing more than "an informal letter of legal advice." It's not even "threatening criminal prosecution," as it was portrayed in the media.  Not that Paxton is bothered by that misrepresentation, mind you.  Voter suppression is usually done by suggestion, not direct action.

But you know, if we're gonna run in circles, scream and shout, we should at least know what we're worried about, and have those facts right.  And I still hold with my opinion, and the opinion of Harris County Clerk (largest county in Texas, and deep blue now):  nobody is ever going to investigate someone who checks the box on the form that claims a "disability" means they need a mail-in ballot.  It's not really the same thing as insurance fraud on an injury claim, after all.

Tricksy medias, preciousss!


Trump yesterday:

Time Magazine:

Five hours later, when a reporter asked Trump at the White House if the country would reach five million daily tests, as the Harvard study recommended, Trump responded: “We’ll increase it, and it’ll increase it by much more than that in the very near future.” Asked to clarify if he meant the U.S. would “surpass 5 million tests per day”, Trump said, “We’re going to be there very soon.”

CNBC:

President Donald Trump said Tuesday the U.S. will “very soon” run 5 million coronavirus tests per day, even as the lack of testing remains an obstacle for many states anxious to reopen for business.

“We’ll increase it, and it’ll increase it by much more than that in the very near future,” Trump said when a reporter asked if he’s confident the U.S. will reach 5 million tests per day, as some health experts say would be required to “reopen” the country.

CBS, citing the official White House transcript:

Reporter: "Did I hear you saying you're confident you can surpass 5 million tests per day?  Is that —"

President Trump: "Oh, well, we're going to be there very soon.  If you look at the numbers, it could be that we're getting very close.  I mean, I don't have the exact numbers.  We would've had them if you asked me the same question a little while ago because people with the statistics were there. We're going to be there very soon.  We're really — we're really doing — I mean, I watched your report on NBC today and it was an incorrect report, because we're really doing a great job on testing..."

But he just answered a question about 5 million tests without ever saying the words "5 million tests," so it's a "media trap."

CNBC, again:

“Somebody came out with a study of 5 million people. Do I think we will? I think we will, but I never said it,” Trump claimed during an event at the White House on Wednesday. “Somebody started throwing around 5 million. I didn’t say 5 million,” the president insisted, adding, “Well, we will be there. But I didn’t say it. I didn’t say it.”

CBS, again:

On Tuesday when a reporter asked in an East Room event whether the U.S. would surpass 5 million coronavirus tests per day, the president said that's coming "very soon." But on Wednesday, the president claimed he never said that, blaming a "media trap."
Tricksy medias.....

MAGA?


1 million people sick or infected is a good thing?  Why, because we have plenty of bleach supplies available in the national disinfectant depository?  It sounds bad, but it really isn't?

And when we hit 1.5 million cases, it'll be even better?

Pictures. Words. Anyway....


Actually, it's worse:  they're calling it "victory."  And it turns out there's another connection to Vietnam:


Yeah, something like that, only in reverse:*

More deceit, really.  SNAFU, and all that.

*and yes, you have to be this old (points finger at head) to get that reference.

There's Never 100% Agreement on Anything

Yeah, we're screwed


"I always find that we see the leading indicators, and often the media sees the lagging indicators," Kushner said. "But ... I'm very confident that we have all the testing we need to start opening the country [under the administration's guidelines]."
Yeah, right:

Admiral Brett Giroir, the assistant secretary of health who is in charge of the government’s testing response, said during an interview on Tuesday morning that “there is absolutely no way on Earth, on this planet or any other planet, that we can do 20 million tests a day, or even five million tests a day.”

Since the beginning of the year, the Administration has conducted 5.7 million tests in total, he said. And while the government has made strides in increasing the number of tests being performed in recent months, the White House’s new “blueprint” for testing, rolled out on Monday, currently plans to double current COVID-19 testing. Giroir plans to hit 8 million per month by next month.

The tally would still fall short of what a Harvard University study said is necessary to safely restart public life. The 56-page “roadmap” published last week by a group of experts said the U.S. needed to be capable of carrying out at least 5 million tests a day by early June, and 20 million per day by late July, in order to reopen the economy. Giroir called the assessment “an Ivory Tower, unreasonable benchmark,” that wasn’t needed, based upon current modeling projections, and that couldn’t be supported by current technology. 
Giroir can argue with Harvard all he wants.  Considering what this virus does to people (now with blood clots!  New and improved!), I favor the "ivory tower" benchmark.  Too many people in my family are prone to blood clots now, they don't need the added risk of a virus.  But neither of those people is on the same planet as Jared Kushner.

He also decried "the eternal lockdown crowd" making "jokes on late night television" about the administration, reiterating that his focus is getting Americans back to work. 
How's that workin' out for ya?

“We are acting in conjunction with workers at Amazon, Target, Instacart and other companies for International Worker’s Day to show solidarity with other essential workers in our struggle for better protections and benefits in the pandemic,” said Daniel Steinbrook, a Whole Foods employee and strike organizer.

“These workers have been exploited so shamelessly for so long by these companies while performing incredibly important, but largely invisible labor.”
The labor action comes as workers and organizers say Amazon, in particular, has not been forthcoming about the number of Covid-19 cases at its more than 175 fulfillment centers globally.

Jana Jumpp, an Indiana Amazon employee, along with her small team of fellow Amazon workers, has over the last month tallied Covid-19 cases at Amazon warehouses in the U.S. According to Jumpp, there have been at least 500 coronavirus cases in at least 125 Amazon facilities.

Jumpp suspects that the number is much higher, but says this is what she and her team have been able to directly confirm through their sourcing, which includes screenshots of internal company texts and voicemails to employees when cases have arisen, in addition to messages received from Amazon workers on private Facebook groups. The numbers, which have not been previously reported, are the most comprehensive to this point. 
Doesn't sound like the people who are already working are that anxious to restart your economy, Jared.

Meat processing plant workers are concerned about President Donald Trump's executive order that compels plants to remain open during the coronavirus pandemic. Some say they expect staff will refuse to come to work.

"All I know is, this is crazy to me, because I can't see all these people going back into work," said Donald, who works at Tyson's Waterloo, Iowa, facility. "I don't think people are going to go back in there."

Donald asked to be referred to by his first name only. He is currently recovering after testing positive for the virus.

"I'm still trying to figure out: What is he going to do, force them to stay open? Force people to go to work?" he asked. 

Sorry to be the one to tell you, but that pesky 13th Amendment says you can't force people to work.  And on the subject of testing, we're still way behind the power curve no matter what lies your father-in-law spews:

I want the economy to recover.  I want my daughter and her boyfriend/future husband, to be able to earn a living.  I want the restaurants and stores around me to reopen, for their sake.

What I don't want is round 2 of the Spanish Flu epidemic of 1918; because it was worse than round one.  And this virus is worse than the Spanish Flu, in so many ways.  And the economic impact of so many poeple getting sick is going to be far worse than anything the "eternal lockdown crowd" could ever do to you.

Putz.

This Is Your Brain on Trump


No wonder people who track him closely start coming unglued.  I'm in favor of newspapers and other media outlets just printing/playing his verbatim remarks like this.  Any restatement of this kind of babble reduces it to something sensible, which it clearly isn't.

And what's "objective" about that?

"Hope Is Not A Plan"

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Let Me Just Say....


"Being enforced" is doing a lot of heavy lifting in that sentence:

Major US movie theaters say they do not plan on reopening until the summer, despite Georgia authorizing cinemas to resume screenings on Monday, and Texas planning to follow suit.

Social distancing rules are being enforced in those two states.
Greg Abbott, governor of Texas Our Texas, announced yesterday that if anyone violates his orders on social distancing and reopening businesses (which are allowed to have only 25% capacity of person (customer?  employees?  both and a little bit of neither?) are subject to fines for doing so.  In the same press conference he said Harris County (3rd largest in the nation, largest in Texas Our Texas) cannot, however, impose any fines on people violating the new county ordinance to wear masks in public.

Texas counties have the authority to pass ordinances enforceable by law.  The Governor of Texas Our Texas has no authority to issue "executive orders" which have the force of law and can result in fines. Not only is his "order" unconstitutionally vague (25% of capacity is calculated how?  And who does it cover?  All persons?  Customers?  Employees plus customers?  And which headcount is official?*), it's unenforceable.  Indeed, it sounded in the press conference like he was picking up on Harris County's language because he answered a question about the mask ordinance (no, they can't do that) but picked up the amount of the fine for not wearing a mask and attached it to his order, just to prove he was the authority, not a county judge (which is a constitutional office in Texas, just like the Governor's office.  Yes, we have a weird constitution.).

But are the Texas Rangers and the sheriff's deputies and constables and local police all going to be patrolling places of business to "enforce" social distancing with a pre-approved double yardstick and a book to write out citations when they calculate how many people are in the building?  No, of course not.

The rules are mostly being enforced by popular consensus.  There are no cops at the checkout counters making sure you stay back from the person checking out at the moment.  There are no Texas Rangers standing by the door keeping track of how many went in and how many came out so more can go in.  It's gonna be a mess in some places and not so bad in others.  I have a friend who owns a bookstore who will be sending books to me for the foreseeable future, since I'm not about to enter her charming but tiny place of business (I will miss that).  I don't want to go to a theater, even if all seats have to be purchased on-line and they limit the number who can watch the movie.  Too many people in the bathroom, for one thing (one more person would be too many.  Urinals are not set up for social distancing, nor are the sinks.).

This whole business is crackpot.  Consider Dan Patrick's (I know, he's my nemesis now) assertion we should all go to work and take one for the economy.  Well, more people get sick than die, by a large margin.  What of the sick?  Who cares for them, and who pays for that care?  According to Robert Reich:

An estimated 9.2 million have lost their employer-provided health insurance.

So if we really start spreading this thing around, potentially some percentage of 9 million people could be in healthcare with no way to pay for it.    And back to that whole issue of suffering and who allows it:

The Remotes among us should be concerned, and not just because of the unfairness of the Covid-19 class divide. If the Essentials aren’t sufficiently protected, the Unpaid are forced back to work earlier than is safe, and the Forgotten remain forgotten, no one can be secure. Covid-19 will continue to spread sickness and death for months, if not years to come.

That is happening already, Reich argues, for the "Forgotten" (racial minorities, prisoners, etc.  And prisoners includes prison guards, let us not forget).  And it's only going to get worse; even Bill Kristol sees that:
If that happens (and it is happening now, for the "Forgotten"**), if we decide money is more important than people, first:  is that evil?  And if it isn't, why not?  Second:  who is to blame?  God?  Or us?

*As was pointed out on local news tonight, Abbott's "executive order" (he likes that, it sounds Presidential and official!) says some businesses in Texas (bars, gyms, etc.) "shall refrain" from opening.  Which ain't the same thing as "shall remain closed until further notice."  The latter might be enforceable in court; the former sure as hell ain't.  Abbott is a lawyer, he knows this.

**Word is this is also happening in South Korea, where much of the stoop labor is done by non-Koreans, who live in what amount to ghettoes.  Koreans kept their distance from each other and drove the virus spread down, but it thrived among the laboring class to which most Koreans don't give a second thought.  And from there it is spreading in South Korea again.  So the next time somebody complains about prisoners being released from jails to control the spread of the virus, remind them there is a practical, as well as moral, aspect to the issue.

Well of course it’s international flights

And I could tell you this, and the closest I’ve ever been to a campaign was to donate to Beto.
Not to disparage Rick Wilson, but this ain’t rocket surgery.
UFO’s are SO “X-Files.”

That's just disturbing.

While that is a lesson:  Trump will never run out of reasons why he is not responsible.  He is only worthy of praise, never of blame.

Discussing the economy on Twitter, or, Future's so bright!




I think this is likely as business reopen in places like Texas, and customers either don't come back, or get scared away (a little contagion'll do it).  I don't see large venues like malls and movie theaters opening soon, especially places like Alamo Draft House, which serves food and has a bar in the lobby (or any multiplex with lots of screens and lots of customers walking around at any given time).  Even closing the bar won't cut back on the ticket holders wandering the building, as well as waitstaff.  And with sharply limited attendance, what's the point of opening the kitchen?  Probably cost more than they'd recoup.  I'm not sure there's any benefit to non-food service theaters, either.  Most of their money comes from selling popcorn, but they can't have crowds gathering around hastily trying to buy the food before the picture starts.  So why open at all?

Malls won't even bother.  The big one across the street from me, how do they regulate how many people are in the building?  There's an open air "mall" a short distance away.  How do you regulate who's on the sidewalks or in the stores?  And what if crowds scare people away (they will me, for some time)?

And in a situation like this:

The virus will police the business.  Probably police them right into bankruptcy, in fact.  We still face the intractable problems:  we can't close business for the duration.  We can't reopen businesses until we have a vaccine.  Even widespread testing doesn't mean much, even with ground level one-on-one tracing, because the next person you meet could be an asymptomatic carrier; or you could be, since your last test.

We're gonna go through hell, one way or the other.  I'm lucky; I'm semi-retired and my "company" has told me to work from home for the rest of the year.  But this is gonna be the shit, no matter what we do.

It's some catch, that Catch-22.