May 8, 2020

Posted by orrinj at 6:55 PM


AP Exclusive: Top White House officials buried CDC report (JASON DEAREN, 5/08/20, AP)

The decision to shelve detailed advice from the nation's top disease control experts for reopening communities during the coronavirus pandemic came from the highest levels of the White House, according to internal government emails obtained by The Associated Press.

The files also show that after the AP reported Thursday that the guidance document had been buried, the Trump administration ordered key parts of it to be fast-tracked for approval.

The trove of emails show the nation's top public health experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention spending weeks working on guidance to help the country deal with a public health emergency, only to see their work quashed by political appointees with little explanation.

The document, titled "Guidance for Implementing the Opening Up America Again Framework," was researched and written to help faith leaders, business owners, educators and state and local officials as they begin to reopen. It included detailed "decision trees," or flow charts aimed at helping local leaders navigate the difficult decision of whether to reopen or remain closed.

White House spokeswoman Kayleigh McEnany said Friday that the documents had not been approved by CDC Director Robert Redfield. The new emails, however, show that Redfield cleared the guidance.

Posted by orrinj at 6:40 PM



Despite recently reopening businesses amid an impressive decline in new coronavirus case, the South Korean government has issued a nationwide health advisory for bars and nightclubs to close down for 30 more days after health officials tracked 13 new cases to a single person who attended five nightclubs and bars in the country's capital city of Seoul. [...]

Officials think he may have come in contact with over 1,500 people during his night out. City officials are now using CCTV and credit card records to help identify visitors and are encouraging them to self-isolate and immediately report any coronavirus symptoms to local hospitals.

Posted by orrinj at 6:28 PM



Approximately 15 white men, including an individual who appeared to be an officer, gathered on the front porch of a home belonging to a black family in Rocky Point, North Carolina on Sunday night demanding entrance. At least two of the men were allegedly armed.

The group was operating under the belief that an individual named Josiah, a student at Topsail High School in Pender County, was a resident at the home. Allegedly, the men wanted to speak to Josiah concerning the whereabouts of a girl that had gone missing that evening. Among the members of the alleged group were the girl's father and an off-duty bailiff for the New Hanover County Sheriff's Department.

Just bustin up a chiffarobe.
Posted by orrinj at 2:22 PM


Robert Caro writes, and waits, during the COVID-19 outbreak (HILLEL ITALIE, 5/08/20, AP)

The historian had been hoping to visit Vietnam in March as part of his research for his Johnson book, but postponed the trip. He needs to looks through some papers in the Johnson presidential library in Austin, Texas, but is resigned to waiting indefinitely. "That's a great frustration," he acknowledged.

Meanwhile, he is so immersed in one section of the last Johnson volume, set during 1967, that he is not leaving for his more rural and presumably safer home on Long Island until he's done. The section, he says, "is as long as many books," a description his many readers would find easy to believe.

Caro began the Johnson books in the mid-1970s, around the time he turned 40. He has completed four volumes, totaling more than 3,000 pages, and has outlived many of his key sources. He was loathed by some Johnson loyalists for his second book in the series, "Means of Ascent," which presented Johnson as a boorish man and a singularly ruthless and unprincipled politician. But the mood shifted after Vol. III, "Master of the Senate," published in 2002 and a defining chronicle of Johnson's legislative genius that politicians today still study.

His most recent book, "The Passage of Power," came out eight years ago this month. Its story ended in mid-1964, with Johnson on the verge of passing an extraordinary run of legislation that had many celebrating him as a fulfiller -- and even exceeder -- of the hopes and vision of the assassinated John F. Kennedy.

But by 1967, when Joan Didion wrote "the center was not holding," the country and Johnson's presidency were unraveling. Riots devastated Detroit and Newark, New Jersey, among other cities; hundreds of thousands of troops were in Vietnam; inflation was taking hold and Congress was resisting continued funding for his Great Society domestic programs.

"He's in a moment of crisis," Caro says. "I'm trying to show in this section of this book what it's like to be president of the United States when everything is going wrong." [...]

"Bob has an unusually devoted following among readers because he has a powerful narrative voice that lends high drama to everything that he describes," fellow historian Ron Chernow wrote in an email to the AP. "Those who don't read biography imagine that great length is a deterrent. But genuine readers of biography crave stories on an epic scale and that Bob always delivers reliably and brilliantly."

In the new book, Caro plans a takeout on what it was like to be elderly before the passage, in 1965, of Medicare. Talking about his section on 1967, he explains that Johnson had once been confident that the country could fight wars both home and abroad -- defeat the North Vietnamese overseas and conquer poverty in the United States.

By 1967, "he's found out that he's wrong, although he doesn't admit that he's wrong," Caro said.

Posted by orrinj at 1:44 PM


Could Hitler Have Invaded America? Not Without Alien or Divine Intervention (Peter Suciu, 5/08/20, nATIONAL iNTEREST)
Posted by orrinj at 1:33 PM


New polling data show Trump faltering in key swing states--here's why (William A. Galston, May 8, 2020, Brookings)

Some portions of this coalition--white evangelical Protestants and white men with less than a college education--are rock-solid. But there is evidence that other groups are beginning to waver. For example, President Trump defeated Hillary Clinton among voters 65 and older by 7 points, 52-45 percent, in 2016. In the latest NBC/WSJ poll, by contrast, Biden led Trump by 9 points, 52-43. Because seniors vote at a higher rate than any other age cohort, the shift in this group alone could be enough to sink the president's prospects in closely contested states.

As Trump pushes to reopen the economy, seniors, who overwhelmingly give priority to defeating the coronavirus over getting back to work, are registering their disapproval. As commentators have noted, the pandemic has driven a wedge between retirees and less educated middle-age workers, who cannot work remotely and depend on a regular paycheck. The president needs to retain the support of both these groups, but he is finding it hard to please one without antagonizing the other.

Trump's troubles do not end here. Continuing a trend first evident in the 2018 midterm elections, he is losing ground among white working-class women, who supported him by a 27-point margin in 2016. Because opinion among college-educated voters has hardened against the president since he took office, he needs strong majority support among the entire white working class to prevail. Working-class men will not be enough; he must get the votes of their spouses and daughters as well.

Although it is impossible to know for sure why white working-class women are deserting President Trump, some hypotheses are consistent with the evidence. Women attach a higher priority to health issues than do men and may be disappointed that the president does not seem to care as much about these issues as they would like. Women are more likely than men to believe that the economy is reopening too quickly and that the president's public statements during the crisis have been inconsistent and even harmful.

Posted by orrinj at 1:23 PM


It Only Took 36 Hours Before State Investigators Knew They Had to Arrest Ahmaud Arbery's Killers (Trone Dowd, May 8 2020, Vice)

"I can't answer what another agency did or didn't see," Georgia Bureau of Investigation Director Vic Reynolds said during a press conference Friday morning. "Considering the fact that we hit the ground running Wednesday morning, and within 36 hours we had secured warrants for two individuals for felony murder, I think that speaks volumes for itself and that the probable cause was clear to our agents pretty quickly."

Posted by orrinj at 9:53 AM

THE TRUMP BRAND (profanity alert)

The 'Boogaloo Bois' Are Bringing Their AR-15s and Civil War Ideology to the Lockdown Protests (Tess Owen, May 8 2020, Vice)

A report by the Tech Transparency Project last month identified 125 Facebook groups that were dedicated to "boogaloo," and more than 60% of those had been created between February and April. On those pages, shitposting, racism and anti-government memes intermingle. That's typical for Boogaloo pages, according to a February report by the National Contagion Research Institute (NCRI), which tracks how hate moves from the internet into the real world.

"While many still use the boogaloo meme jokingly, an increasing number of people employ the phrase to incite an apocalyptic confrontation with law enforcement and government officials or to provoke ethnic warfare," NCRI wrote.

The incident in West Odessa, Texas, was just the latest example of extremists, including boogaloo bois, taking up arms in response to lockdown orders.

On Thursday, Colorado police said they were investigating threats of civil war made against health centers. "We the people' are DONE with this [*******]," one person wrote in an email, according to local news outlets, "and you're about to start a hot-shooting no [*****] civil war."

And last Friday, federal agents arrested Bradley Bunn, a 53-year-old man in Loveland, Colorado, for possession of pipe bombs, which he said he'd planned to use against law enforcement if they raided his property in the middle of the night (a possible reference to Lemp). Local news outlets identified him as a member of a militia, and reported that he'd planned to attend an armed lockdown protest.

Following Bunn's arrest, according to the Site Intelligence Group, which tracks extremist activity, misinformation about an impending FBI raid on armed protesters began circulating on 4chan and far-right Telegram channels -- with some users encouraging armed resistance.

Also last week, heavily armed men with long guns stormed Michigan's capitol, joining hundreds of conservative protesters who were demanding an end to stay-at-home orders. Some state lawmakers had shown up to work that day with bulletproof vests on in anticipation of violence.

On May 1, armed militia men also showed up to protest lockdown orders in Richmond, Virginia. The same day, armed men promoting boogaloo protested in Raleigh, North Carolina. They had responded to a "call to arms" issued by a Facebook group called "Blue Igloo" (a homophone for boogaloo). "They're called guns," one person wrote in response to the event page, the Triad-City-Beat reported. "Show up ready to use them. I'm tired of this [****]. I'm not going to any more protests unless serious men come and are ready to defend our lives and liberties."

And earlier in April, police in Texas arrested Aaron Swenson, a self-proclaimed "boogaloo boi" who was Facebook live-streaming his search for a police officer to "ambush and execute." He, too, was upset about Duncan Lemp's death.

The day after Lemp was killed, Swenson changed his Facebook profile picture to a photo of himself in a Hawaiian shirt, and an armored vest, and the hashtag #HisNameWasDuncan, according to a Buzzfeed report.

They should be taken at their word and crushed.
Posted by orrinj at 9:48 AM


Poll: Majority of Israelis oppose West Bank, Jordan Valley annexation plans (Middle East Monitor, May 8, 2020)

According to the poll results, more than 40 per cent of the respondents opposed the annexation plan and preferred a permanent two-state solution with the Palestinians, while only 26 per cent supported it.

The poll results showed that 22 per cent favour unilateral disengagement from the Palestinians, while only 36 per cent of the Likud Party supporters supported the annexation plan.

Posted by orrinj at 9:38 AM


The agonizing story of Tara Reade: I started reporting on Tara Reade's story a year ago. Here's what I found, and where I'm stuck. (Laura McGann,  May 7, 2020, Vox)

Reade told me that a senior aide told her Biden liked her legs and that he wanted her to serve cocktails at a fundraiser for him, a request she found demeaning and declined. When she later complained to others in the office that Biden would put his hands on her shoulder, neck, and hair during meetings in ways that made her uncomfortable, she says she was blamed and told to dress more conservatively. Within a few months, she said, her responsibilities had been stripped and she felt she was being pushed out of the job. She went back home to California deflated. [...]

Last year, Reade encouraged me to speak with a friend of hers who counseled her through her time in Biden's office in 1992 and 1993. The friend was clear about what had happened, and what hadn't.

"On the scale of other things we heard, and I feel ashamed, but it wasn't that bad. [Biden] never tried to kiss her directly. He never went for one of those touches. It was one of those, 'sorry you took it that way.' I know that is very hard to explain," the friend told me. She went on: "What was creepy was that it was always in front of people."

I wanted to break this story. Badly. About half a dozen women had stepped forward around the time I spoke with Reade to say they were bothered by how Biden had touched them at events. I wrote a column praising them for staring down the political media that had given him a pass for all those years. Reade's story took these complaints further -- showing how even lower-grade inappropriate conduct can have real consequences for a woman's career, an important subject that we still don't talk about nearly enough.

I knew I wasn't the only reporter Reade was talking to. The New York Times had three reporters on the story, she told me. On April 3, the day after we first spoke, she texted me four times. She wanted to know when I planned to publish, and she warned me that other outlets were getting ready to do so.

That day, the Union published an article with her story. This happens sometimes. It's happened to me, many times. You fight for a story that would be explosive if you could prove it, but you can't. I continued reporting on her story for a few more weeks after the story broke, but I didn't get enough. Vox did not publish anything about Reade in 2019. Neither did the major outlets that I know were pursuing the story, including the Times, the Washington Post, and the Associated Press.

In March 2020, Reade resurfaced with a new allegation, which she told on The Katie Halper Show. In addition to her account of her experience with office staff, Reade said that in 1993, Biden forced an unwanted sexual encounter on her. She said Biden pushed her against a wall on the Capitol grounds, kissed her, and then digitally penetrated her -- all against her will.

Biden's campaign did not respond publicly to Reade's claims in 2019. On May 1, Biden answered questions about the allegations for the first time on MSNBC's Morning Joe. He denied all of Reade's claims and underscored his denial of the sexual assault allegation. "I'm saying unequivocally, it never, never happened," he told host Mika Brzezinski.

Three aides whom Reade said she approached about her complaints in 1993 told the New York Times that they also dispute her account. "I never once witnessed, or heard of, or received, any reports of inappropriate conduct, period -- not from Ms. Reade, not from anyone," said Marianne Baker, Biden's longtime executive assistant. "I have absolutely no knowledge or memory of Ms. Reade's accounting of events, which would have left a searing impression on me as a woman professional, and as a manager."

When Reade's story reemerged in a new form, I went through my reporting notes and interview transcripts from a year ago. [...]

Reade's latest allegation is far more serious and comes in a far more fraught political context. The story that both she and her corroborating witnesses are telling has changed dramatically. This leaves me -- all of us -- in an agonizing place. I've written many articles through the Me Too era. It's unrealistic to demand "perfect" victims. And, like most who come forward with allegations of sexual misconduct or assault, Reade has suffered for speaking out. In several exchanges this year and last year, she's shown me disturbing messages she's received online.

As my colleague Anna North writes, there has long been an ambiguity in the Me Too movement. The rallying cry has been to "believe women." But the acts of journalism that have driven the movement forward have been built on extraordinary amounts of evidence: They usually include not just consistent corroboration but oftentimes multiple stories, stacked on top of each other. Taking on powerful men over these issues was unthinkable just a few years ago. It's required herculean effort.

Reporters who've succeeded in forcing powerful men to be held to account relied on an incredible amount of reporting to do it.

For example, Irin Carmon, who, along with Amy Brittain exposed Charlie Rose for an alleged decades-long pattern of sexual harassment, had pursued the story for years. When their exposé appeared in the Washington Post, it was built on accusations from eight women, three on the record. Carmon and Brittain found consistency across the women's stories and strong corroboration of each account:

There are striking commonalities in the accounts of the women, each of whom described their interactions with Rose in multiple interviews with The Post. For all of the women, reporters interviewed friends, colleagues or family members who said the women had confided in them about aspects of the incidents.

Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein fell in 2017 after Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey of the New York Times published the accounts of dozens of women who said Weinstein had assaulted or harassed them over the previous 30 years. Ronan Farrow published another story shortly after in the New Yorker, an account that included 13 accusations of sexual assault, three of them rape. All three reporters have gone on to write books about the incredible lengths they went to in order to get the story.

Eight women have now said they've been made uncomfortable by Biden in public settings. Reade is the lone woman to accuse him of sexual assault. This is a situation out of her control, but it means that reporters can't build a story about Biden around a pattern of behavior, where multiple accusers boost one another's story. Instead, reporters are looking at Reade's account in isolation -- and that account has changed.

Posted by orrinj at 9:24 AM


Death of the office: As the pandemic leaves offices around the world empty, (Catherine Nixey, JUNE/JULY 2020, The Economist)
In the spring of 1822 an employee in one of the world's first offices - that of the East India Company in London - sat down to write a letter to a friend. If the man was excited to be working in a building that was revolutionary, or thrilled to be part of a novel institution which would transform the world in the centuries that followed, he showed little sign of it. "You don't know how wearisome it is", wrote Charles Lamb, "to breathe the air of four pent walls, without relief, day after day, all the golden hours of the day between ten and four." His letter grew ever-less enthusiastic, as he wished for "a few years between the grave and the desk". No matter, he concluded, "they are the same."

The world that Lamb wrote from is now long gone. The infamous East India Company collapsed in ignominy in the 1850s. Its most famous legacy, British colonial rule in India, disintegrated a century later. But his letter resonates today, because, while other empires have fallen, the empire of the office has triumphed over modern professional life.

The dimensions of this empire are awesome. Its population runs into hundreds of millions, drawn from every nation on Earth. It dominates the skylines of our cities - their tallest buildings are no longer cathedrals or temples but multi-storey vats filled with workers. It delineates much of our lives. If you are a hardworking citizen of this empire you will spend more waking hours with the irritating colleague to your left whose spare shoes invade your footwell than with your husband or wife, lover or children.

Or rather you used to. This spring, almost overnight, the world's offices emptied. In New York and Paris, in Madrid and Milan, they ready themselves for commuters who never come. Empty lifts slide up and down announcing floor numbers to empty vestibules; water coolers hum and gurgle, cooling water that no one will drink. For the moment, office life is over.

Even before coronavirus struck, the reign of the office had started to look a little shaky. A combination of rising rents, the digital revolution and increased demands for flexible working meant its population was slowly emigrating to different milieux. More than half of the Ameri­can workforce already worked remotely, at least some of the time. Across the world, home working had been rising steadily for a decade. Pundits predicted that it would increase further. No one imagined that a dramatic spike would come so soon.

It's too early to say whether the office is done for. As with any sudden loss, many of us find our judgment blurred by conflicting emotions. Relief at freedom from the daily commute and pleasure at turning one's back on what Philip Larkin called "the toad work" are tinged with regret and nostalgia, as we prepare for another shapeless day of WFH in jogging bottoms.

But we shouldn't let sentimentality cloud us. Offices have always been profoundly flawed spaces. Those of the East India Company, among the world's first, were built more for bombast than bureaucracy. They were sermons in stone, and the solidity of every marble step, the elegance of every Palladian pillar, were intended to speak volumes about the profitability and smooth functioning within. This was nonsense, of course. Created to ensure efficiency, offices immediately institutionalised idleness. A genteel arms race arose as managers tried to make their minions work, and the minions tried their damnedest to avoid it. East India House, in which Lamb worked, could give call centres a run for their money in the art of micro-managing. At the start of the 19th century, the company introduced an attendance book for employees to sign when they arrived, when they left and every 15 minutes in between. Not that it proved much use. "It annoys Dodwell amazingly," wrote Lamb. "He sometimes has to sign six or seven times while he is reading the newspaper."

Posted by orrinj at 9:11 AM


Actually, the Orange Man Is Bad: And that's kind of the point. (TIM MILLER  MAY 8, 2020, The Bulwark)

We sit at the most consequential moment in a generation and it is now clear that it is not the case that President Trump doesn't want to change his behavior. It's that he is congenitally incapable to moderate it even for a single day.

The malignant self-obsession and childish vitriol only scratches the surface of the man's flaws. His compulsions aren't hidden or covered up. They are broadcast for the entire country to see, for hours on end, every day, late into the night.

Here is where the final corruption takes place. Trump's behavior is so far outside the realm of acceptable that even his supporters have been forced to concede it.

And so, because they are unwilling to abandon Trump, they have chosen to embrace his vile abnormality and wear it as a badge of honor, turning it into a rallying cry to attack anyone who is bothered by the behavior.

"Orange Man Bad," they say.

As if, by taking ownership of this fact, it somehow invalidates it.

To these Trump supporters, and cos-play non-supporters, it is only the simpleminded folk who cling to the superstitious belief that a bad man having the most important job in the world is a serious concern. Those of us who are bothered by the insane ravings of a narcissistic imbecile aren't able to see the big picture.

The view of these sophisticates is that yes this man is bad, but also maybe having him in charge can be . . . not bad. Maybe even good. For as bad as President Orange Man is, there are more pressing matters that serious people must consider.

For instance: What if a daytime CNN anchor uses hyperbole?

Or a Washington Post columnist publishes a tweet that contradicts a tweet she tweeted three years ago?

What if, somewhere in the universe, there is a liberal who needs to be owned?

Are Republicans and conservatives--and even conscientious non-Trump supporters--supposed to obsess over every little thing the leader of the free world says and does and ignore the bigger game that's afoot?

Just because 2,000 Americans are dying from a pandemic every day?

Get real, bro.

This conceit is endlessly fascinating to me. It's the old debate trick of performatively conceding the lesser point in order to win the broader point--but in reverse. Trump's people concede the most significant matter just so that they can argue the ephemera.

So they employ the MAGAfied "Orange Man Bad" retort on social media as a way of stepping over his badness to address something else, rather than engage with it.

Posted by orrinj at 8:50 AM


Why Trump Reaches for Nativism to Fight a Virus--and How to Respond (Rachel Kleinfeld, MAY 08, 2020, Carnegie Endowment)

On April 20, President Donald Trump announced on Twitter a plan to "suspend immigration" in light of the coronavirus pandemic, setting off a policy scramble that resembled the 2017 effort to carry out his campaign calls for a "shutdown of Muslims entering the United States." By the time he sent that tweet, his administration had already spent weeks trying to rename the new coronavirus the "Chinese virus"--despite the fact that implicitly blaming Asians and Asian Americans for the spread of the virus has led to a dramatic increase in violent hate crimes.

Given Trump's track record, some Americans rightly feared that he would use the pandemic to rationalize discriminatory policies and fuel nativist rhetoric. Trump's insistence on labeling the coronavirus as foreign echoes past nativist moments when diseases such as cholera, polio, and smallpox were linked to immigrants. So what can we learn from this, and how can Americans respond? In "Resisting the Call of Nativism," we assess democracies' experiences with nativism to offer advice--and warnings--for dealing with politicians who suggest some citizens are less equal than others.

Nativists are not simply voters who favor reducing immigration or desire an official national language; those are legitimate questions on which well-meaning people might disagree. Rather, nativists believe nationality is inherently based on race, ethnicity, or religion. This understanding of who counts as a "real" citizen leads them to propose second-class citizenship for some groups and to try to keep members of those groups out of the country. Nativists reject the full democratic participation of groups they deem undesirable, treating their policy preferences and beliefs as illegitimate. For example, Trump's July 2019 tweets telling four Congresswomen to "go back [to the...] places from which they came" made a direct appeal to nativism, suggesting the Congresswomen are not real Americans because they are not white.

Of the group of primary voters who propelled Trump to the Republican nomination, 77 percent thought one must be Christian to be "truly American" and 47 percent believed one must be of European descent.

Posted by orrinj at 8:46 AM


The Enduring Romance of the Night Train: The beguilements of the sleeper car have never seemed sharper than on the eve of a global lockdown. (Anthony Lane, May 4, 2020, The New Yorker)

But why take a night train at all? Why not fly, drive, or apply to your nearest genie for a magic-carpet ride, preferably with a seat on the aisle? The best reason was supplied by my godfather, who was a military attaché in Moscow during the nineteen-eighties. If he wished to go to Leningrad by train, tickets would be issued to him only for travel at night. Daylight, which might have afforded a view of sensitive installations, was off limits.

Lesser mortals, with duller jobs, have three reasons to choose a sleeper train. The first of these is logistical. Say you work at the Stock Exchange in Milan. You have a meeting booked for Tuesday, September 8th, this year, in central Paris, at noon. (Because you are an optimist and a tough guy, and because you are currently hiding in your apartment, subsisting on macaroni from your pantry, and no longer able to take your shirts across town to be laundered by your ninety-year-old mother, you expect to remain virus-free.) You have a choice: air or rail? Air means an early start, with a taxi to Milan's Linate Airport, and the 08:25 Alitalia flight on Tuesday morning. Eighty-five dollars in coach, but, hey, someone else is paying, and the idea of being divided from the proletariat by a nylon curtain still gives you a weird kick, so a business seat it is. Three hundred and fifty bucks.

To go by rail, by contrast, involves dining at home, then catching the ten-past-eleven on Monday night, from Milan's central station. Again, your own space, with a sleeping compartment to yourself, will be expensive, at two hundred and seventy dollars. If you don't mind sharing with another man, however, the price plummets to ninety-three dollars. A steal. Unfortunately, you do mind, since that other man, in your shuddering imagination, is sure to be a catarrhal insomniac with complex gastric issues and featherlight fingers. A stealer.

So, in terms of cost, the plane and the train match up. The same goes for arrival times: 09:50 at Orly Airport, or thirteen minutes earlier at the Gare de Lyon, not far from the Place de la Bastille. And there's the rub. Most night trains insert you into the core of a city, whereas planes deposit you, at best, on the outer rind. A cab into Paris from Orly (or, more irritating still, from Charles de Gaulle Airport), at rush hour, is the antithesis of fun, and you may not fancy the schlep by public transport. Alight from the night train, though, and you will find le Tout-Paris, ready to greet you. Being in no hurry, you amble along the platform to breakfast in a restaurant so royally gilded, on the walls and ceilings, that the yolk of your poached egg will shine like the sun.

The second reason to travel by night train is flygskam. The word means "flight shame" in Swedish, and denotes the guilt that gnaws--or should rightfully gnaw--at your vitals when you realize that, by nipping from Berlin to Ibiza on EasyJet, say, for a skull-jolting weekend on the dance floor, you will, however indirectly, hasten the bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef. If you can spread the shame, forcing celebrities to charter their own yachts in a fit of conscience, so much the better. The vice of flying, thus exposed, has spawned a reciprocal virtue: tågskryt, or "train brag," as practiced by those who not only swap the skies for the railroad but, having made the sacrifice, go on Instagram and tell their friends about it.

The science is solid. If our Milanese broker flies to Paris (a distance of around four hundred miles), he will--not personally, of course, unless he asked for a second helping of osso buco the night before--release one hundred kilograms of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. That's not counting the taxi rides to Linate Airport at one end and from Orly at the other, probably in a fuming snarl of traffic. Should he go overnight by train, the journey will be more circuitous, and maybe thirty miles longer, but the CO2 output will be under four kilos. That's quite a difference, and it's genuinely hard to spot a downside, unless it's the annoying halo of ethical self-satisfaction atop our traveller's head.

Will flygskam have any lasting effect on commercial enterprise? The signs are (or were, before the advent of covid-19) distinctly promising. A new Nightjet train from Vienna to Brussels, established by Austrian Federal Railways, or Ö.B.B., and lauded by its C.E.O., Andreas Matthä, as "an eco-friendly travel option to the E.U. capital," had its inaugural run on January 19th. A serious journey, at just over fourteen hours. Ö.B.B. estimates that the rest of its night network has already saved the world twelve thousand short-haul flights a year: a delicious irony, given how greedily the budget airlines have eaten into train travel in recent decades. Further resurrections lie ahead, not least new sleeper services from Vienna and Munich to Amsterdam, slated for December of this year. One can but hope that such enviable schemes, intended to address the climate crisis, will not be stopped in their tracks by the rival plight through which we currently sweat.

The third reason to choose a sleeper train--and the most compelling--is no more practical than the taste of a peach. At stake, you might say, is a sense of latent adventure. Although it is unlikely, as you clatter through the night, that anything of note will befall you, the prospect that it could feels ever present, just out of sight beyond the next curve of the track. To remain awake to that possibility, even as we're meant to be sleeping, is the privilege that beckons some of us back, year after year, to this awkward and beguiling locomotion.

No wonder trains and movies make such cozy bedfellows--so cozy that a train zipping through the darkness, with windows illuminated, actually looks like a strip of film. Plots, laid down on rails, dash ever onward; anticipation rises like steam. Consider Claudette Colbert, in "The Palm Beach Story," who falls in with the rowdy millionaires of the Ale and Quail Club. Sweeping her up as a mascot, and boarding the 11:58 from Penn Station with a pack of hounds, they think nothing of firing their shotguns at crackers, tossed up by a bar steward like clay pigeons. As for Hitchcock's "The Lady Vanishes," the lady in question is a grandmotherly secret agent, who, before she disappears, daubs her name on the misted window of the dining car. A ridiculous method, in any other time and place, of leaving your mark; on a night train, though, it seems only right and proper.

If you don't believe me, you have to believe Cary Grant. In "North by Northwest" (more Hitchcock), he boards the Twentieth Century, from New York to Chicago, without a ticket. By chance--or so he thinks--he meets Eva Marie Saint, first in the corridor and then in the dining car, where he orders a Gibson and, on her recommendation, the brook trout. The two of them return to her compartment, where, during a police inspection, she conceals Grant in the foldaway top bunk. Later, as daylight fails, they lean against the wall of the compartment and kiss, over and over, her hands caressing the back of his neck. "Beats flying, doesn't it?" he says to her. Sure does.

Posted by orrinj at 8:28 AM


Classical Liberals vs. National Conservatives in the Age of Coronavirus (JOSEPH LOCONTE, May 8, 2020, National Review)

Despite their differences, liberalism's right-wing critics are united in their fierce antagonism to John Locke, whose doctrine of government-by-consent inspired the American Revolution and informed the Founding. According to Yoram Hazony, the Jewish philosopher and author of The Virtue of Nationalism, Locke's account of human nature amounts to "a far-reaching depreciation of the most basic bonds that hold society together." Similarly, Patrick Deneen, a Catholic political scientist and author of Why Liberalism Failed, denounces Locke's theory of consent as "one of liberalism's most damaging fictions," a solvent of community, morality, and religious belief. [...]

Locke's critics, who often appear not to have read his actual works, see only mindless and clawing consumption at the root of his worldview. But the Second Treatise leaves no doubt about the divine prerogative and the moral obligations that flow from it: Our equality "by Nature" forms "the foundation" of "that obligation to mutual love amongst men" and "the duties they owe one another," namely, "the great maxims of justice and charity." Locke then cites the golden rule to insist upon "a natural duty" to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. In a slap at political absolutism, he invokes the authority of the God of the Bible: "For men being all the workmanship of one omnipotent and infinitely wise Maker . . . sent into the world by His order and about His business; they are His property, whose workmanship they are made to last during His, not another's pleasure." Locke's conception of human flourishing ultimately depends upon his belief that every person is endowed by God with creative powers and is called -- in freedom -- to engage in meaningful, honorable, productive work.

The fact that Locke grounds rights in Christianity makes the attacks bizarre enough, but even more demented is treating him as the originator.  After all, even Magna Carta, which requires the participation of the taxed in decisions about taxation, states that it is just recognizing ancient liberties. But, the fatal hammer blow is that the Founders hadn't read nevermind depended on Locke's Second Treatise.  Indeed, when they cited him at all it was for his essay on human understanding.

Posted by orrinj at 8:11 AM


'Stunning efficiency': For certain corners of Wall Street, dealmaking is happening faster than ever. That could mean a permanent lifestyle change for some investment bankers. (Alex Morrell, May. 8th, 2020, BI)

Far from gumming up business, the shift to remote work, a notion that many bank execs would've scoffed at pre-crisis, has actually facilitated greater productivity. In the age of the coronavirus, Wall Street bankers -- already notorious for long hours spent curating a white-glove experience for clients -- are finding they can provide even closer attention and care from afar. 

It turns out, when you take away the time spent at airports and restaurants, and when Zoom calls can be arranged in minutes, investment banking moves at a lightning-quick pace.

"We're able to get calls and work done extremely quickly because, as I said, nobody is at their kid's ballgame or out for dinner or on an airplane or at a board meeting," Ken Moelis, founder and CEO of Moelis & Co., said on the firm's first-quarter earnings call, according to a transcript from financial-data platform Sentieo. "When we've gotten calls to come up with ideas and help people, we had everybody on the phone just 5 or 10 minutes later. It's a stunning efficiency." 

The story is the same at PJT Partners, according to founder and CEO Paul Taubman, who said the absence of distractions like traveling and coordinating meetings has meant they're working harder and spending more time with clients than before. 

"We're not traveling, we're not spending all the time coordinating meetings. We're just getting on phone calls, video conferences, exchanging messages with clients," Taubman said. "And I think we're able to spend a lot more time for every minute of every hour, and every hour of every day, engaging with clients without any wasted time. So I think it's also enabled us to be far more intense and far more efficient."

The dynamic has played out in capital markets practices as well. For bankers tasked with sourcing and advising clients on debt deals, the shift to remote work has been fairly seamless -- especially since most of the action thus far has been dominated by sophisticated companies that frequently travel the bond markets. 

"The fact that you can't travel and you're sitting home in front of your screen with video-conference capability, with the ability to get on phone calls, it's incredibly, incredibly efficient with frequent issuers and sophisticated issuers," Richard Zogheb, global head of debt capital markets at Citigroup, told Business Insider.

Capitalism only cares about the ever more efficient creation of wealth.  Travel is an inefficiency, whether to work or to a client's workplace.

Posted by orrinj at 7:57 AM


Trump blocks national testing program -- why? Because tests make us "look bad" (DAN FROOMKIN, MAY 8, 2020, Press Watch)

On Wednesday, Trump explained himself with an extraordinarily revealing quote -- one that included both a lie and a confession.

"In a way, by doing all this testing we make ourselves look bad," Trump told reporters on Wednesday,

It was a lie because the number of tests administered in the U.S. -- currently about 7 million -- is tiny compared to the actual need.

It was a confession because Trump was acknowledging what many of us have perceived all along: He sees testing as a matter of his own political health rather than an urgent question of public health.

The context of his comment was also revealing, because he was speaking entirely about the public perception of the problem rather than the problem itself -- and he started off, as usual, by ascribing ill intent to the media for accurately reporting its extent.

Increased testing would demonstrate how many more of us have been infected than we now know, showing how much less deadly the virus is than feared.  As a political matter, it would help speed reopening if we could send folks back to work who already have antibodies.

Posted by orrinj at 7:54 AM


Coronavirus originated in bats, WHO says, but scientists also see link to cats, ferrets and pangolins (JANICE KEW, JOHN LAUERMAN, AND BLOOMBERG, 5/08/20, Fortune)

The virus probably arrived in humans through contact with animals raised to supply food, though scientists have yet to determine which species, he said. Studies have shown that cats and ferrets are susceptible to Covid-19, and dogs to a lesser extent, he said, adding that it's important to find out which animals can get infected to avoid creating a "reservoir" in another species.

Questions about the origin of Sars-CoV-2, the virus that has caused the pandemic, have burned hotter since U.S. President Donald Trump suggested that it came from a lab in China. Scientists who have studied the issue maintain that the virus originated in an animal, and probably entered the human population in November.

Posted by orrinj at 7:50 AM


The 'Hard Hat Riot' of 1970 Pitted Construction Workers Against Anti-War Protestors (Angela Serratore, 5/08/20, SMITHSONIANMAG.COM)

In the days after May 4, 1970, the date the Ohio National Guard killed four unarmed Kent State University students protesting the Vietnam War, anti-war activists were galvanized. In demonstrations held across the country, the protestors mourned the deaths of their compatriots but also felt emboldened to continue the fight to end a war that had no end in sight. They sought to show the rest of the world (and themselves) that they weren't alone--that millions of people agreed the war must end, and that the administration of President Richard Nixon be held accountable.

The next day, college students in New York City gathered with nearly 1,000 demonstrators to protest at the United Nations. In the wake of the massacre rapidly becoming a national flashpoint, Mayor John Lindsay, who had spoken against the war at the 1968 Republican National Convention, ordered the flag at City Hall flown at half-mast in the Kent State students' memory. The backlash began soon after.

On May 6, protesting students at City College met resistance from a small group of construction workers, some of whom self-identified themselves as Vietnam veterans, a preview of what would come later that week. Two days later, hundreds of local students gathered in the morning for a memorial demonstration in Lower Manhattan, eventually moving towards Federal Hall, the historic site where George Washington first took the oath of office as President. At this spot, in front of a statue of Washington, the protestors reiterated their commitment to ending the war. Then, chaos descended on the peaceful scene, as nearly 200 construction workers arrived at the protest bearing patriotic signs and, according to a New York Times report on the incident, chants of "All The Way, U.S.A." and "Love It or Leave It."

The workers quickly pushed through a line of mostly indifferent police officers to get to the protestors, charging at, according to the Times, students who closely resembled the stereotypical longhaired hippie that had come to symbolize opposition to the war. About 70 people were injured in the scuffle. The construction workers marched on through the narrow streets of the Financial District towards City Hall, where they sang the Star-Spangled Banner and demanded that Mayor Lindsay raise the flags to full-mast; they eventually got their way.

It's natural for the left to misread Kent State,, which simply demonstrated how sick Americans were of the activists.

Posted by orrinj at 7:47 AM


Would You Let The Government Track Your Smartphone If It Meant We Could Reopen Sooner? (DAVID H. FREEDMAN, 05/08/20, Newsweek)

 To avoid more emergency-room disasters like the one that overwhelmed New York City in April, public-health officials must act aggressively to stop small outbreaks before they develop into big ones. The key, experts say, is contact tracing. For each new COVID-19 case, health care workers would develop a list of people the patient might have interacted with before symptoms developed. Then they would contact each one and recommend self-quarantine.

Contact tracing was used effectively during previous outbreaks, notably HIV/AIDS. With COVID-19, inquiries wouldn't be as intrusive as questions about sexual partners, of course, but they would reach many more people--in a country where citizens take to the streets over such assaults against their liberty as the closing of hair salons and gyms. With the coronavirus infecting tens of thousands of people each day, tracking down all those contacts would take an army of health care workers: about 100,000, says the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security.

Technology, the thinking goes, might help automate the process. It's worked in South Korea, which achieved COVID-19 numbers that are the envy of much of the world: as of early May, it logged fewer than 11,000 cases, in a population of 50 million, and just over 250 deaths--or 1/16th the U.S. per capita case rate, and 1/300th the death rate. More than 20 countries, including most of Asia, have already been enlisting cellphones to help identify those who might have been exposed to the infection, so those people can self-isolate or get cleared by a test. America, with its vaunted technology industry, is a laggard.

Posted by orrinj at 7:31 AM


The Blacklist and the Making of High Noon (Loren Kantor, 5/07/20, splice today)

In 1946, when screenwriter Carl Foreman began outlining his new script for a revisionist Western, the Allies had just won the war and the United Nations was a new entity. Foreman wanted to write an allegory about the need for world unity to defeat unchecked aggression and uphold democracy. The story would be about a lawman recruiting local townspeople to help fight a gang of violent outlaws.  [...]

As Foreman toiled on the High Noon screenplay, the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) held public hearings into communist infiltration of Hollywood. HUAC ignored Foreman in their first round of hearings in 1947. "I was a very unimportant little fellow," Foreman said. But as his career grew in prominence, HUAC took notice. In 1951, Foreman received a pink letter in the mail. It was a subpoena commanding him to appear before the committee. Foreman had two choices: confess his communist past and provide names of fellow travelers or plead the Fifth and refuse to answer questions. Option one meant humiliation; option two was career suicide.

As he contemplated, his High Noon screenplay took a new direction. It became an allegory about the blacklist. Marshall Will Kane (Gary Cooper) was Carl Foreman. The outlaws gunning for the Marshall were the HUAC members threatening Foreman's livelihood. The cowardly citizens of the small town were Foreman's Hollywood peers who refused to protest the blacklist. "As I was writing the screenplay, it became insane," Foreman said. "Life was mirroring art and art was mirroring life... I became the Gary Cooper character."

The Cold War gained momentum and national sentiment turned against the so-called "reds in Hollywood." Ten prominent filmmakers (the Hollywood Ten) were convicted of contempt of Congress and sentenced to a year in prison. Stanley Kramer, the producer of High Noon, had a difficult decision. He'd started his own production company and was on the verge of a distribution deal with Columbia. He knew if he publicly supported Foreman, he'd his risk his studio deal.

Foreman tried to convince Kramer to resist the committee. Kramer urged Foreman not to plead the Fifth as if he had something to hide. Kramer felt this would cast shade on everyone involved with High Noon. The two old friends became enemies. By the second week of production, Kramer told Foreman to hand in his resignation and sell his stock options in the film. Foreman refused. He wanted to see the film through to the end. He also didn't want to testify before HUAC as someone who'd lost the support of his peers.

Foreman was fired. But Fred Zinnemann, the film's director, and Gary Cooper, the star, objected. In addition, Kramer learned that Foreman never signed a contract deferring his film salary. This meant Bank of America, who was financing the film, could cut off the funding needed to complete production. Kramer had no choice but to rehire Foreman as writer and associate producer. According to Foreman, Kramer told him, "Well, you've won." They met for several hours but their friendship ended that day.

On September 24, 1951, Foreman drove to the Los Angeles Federal Building to testify in front of HUAC. When asked if he was a communist, he said he'd signed a loyalty oath for the Screen Writers Guild stating he was not a communist party member. "That statement was true at the time and is true today," he said. Committee members asked if he'd been a communist prior to 1950. He invoked the Fifth and refused to answer. He also refused to supply names of other communists.

The Communists were, of course, the violent outlaws who aggressively opposed democracy and the closest thing to a Will Kane character from the era is Whittaker Chambers.   

There was another example of this phenomenon on this week's Rewatchables about Groundhog Day, which discussed the "surprising" fact that the film's afterlife is driven by its conservatism/religiosity as much as by the humor (but I reiterate).  

Posted by orrinj at 6:59 AM


Why Michael Flynn Is Walking Free (DAVID A. GRAHAM, 5/07/20, THE ATLANTIC)

When Flynn, the newly minted national security adviser, got in trouble with the law, he quickly took up the standard playbook of white-collar criminals in pre-Trump America. When the FBI caught him lying, Flynn copped a plea and agreed to cooperate with the government in exchange for a lesser sentence.

Only after that December 2017 plea deal did Flynn grasp the new reality: Cooperating with authorities might get you off easy, but staying loyal to the president will get you off entirely. So even though he'd already pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI, Flynn changed his mind, tried to withdraw his plea, and began fighting the prosecutors he'd promised to help tooth and nail.

It was a bold move, the sort of unorthodox strategy for which he'd become famous as an intelligence officer. And today it paid off, as the government moved to drop all charges against Flynn. The reversal, from confessed felon to scot-free, is a microcosm of how dramatically the rule of law has weakened during the Trump administration.

...General Harris gets to prosecute him now.

Posted by orrinj at 6:40 AM


White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany called Trump an 'inauthentic Republican' and slammed his comments on Mexican immigrants as 'racist', 'hateful' and 'not the American way' back in 2015 (MARLENE LENTHANG, 5/07/20,  DAILYMAIL.COM)

She gave a scathing criticism in response to Trump's controversial statement that Mexico was sending 'rapists' to the US and immigrants were bringing drugs and crime to the country.

'To me, a racist statement is a racist statement."