Category Archives: Politics

“Dilettantism raised to the level of sociopathy”: Jared Kushner and the glass floor

The glass floor is a term for the support systems that keep talentless rich people from failing (more here): they keep getting multiple chances when they fall on their face, they get legacy admissions into top college, they have rich friends and family who can finance their business ventures or give them jobs. Case in point, Jared Kushner: merely by being Trump’s son-in-law he’s now heading the White House pandemic response despite a complete lack of qualifications and a conviction he’s smarter than the experts. As Michelle Goldberg puts it, “Kushner has succeeded at exactly three things in his life. He was born to the right parents, married well and learned how to influence his father-in-law. Most of his other endeavors — his biggest real estate deal, his foray into newspaper ownership, his attempt to broker a peace deal between the Israelis and the Palestinians — have been failures.” (her column provides the quote in this post title).

But that’s not how Jared sees it: when he was in real estate, he became a master of multi-tasking who could take a call in the middle of college class, send a plumber to fix the problem and never break a sweat. Wow, that’s what we need for fighting COVID-19 (as someone notes at the link, if the guy running a $10 million portfolio has to be the one calling the plumbers when a toilet breaks, that’s a sign of mismanagement, not talent). And providing us with deep insight such as “The notion of the federal stockpile was it’s supposed to be our stockpile … It’s not supposed to be state stockpiles that they then use.” (the linked article says yes, it actually is).

But he’s not the only dimwit who distinguished themselves last week. Gov. Brian Kemp of Georgia insists he only just learned that seemingly healthy people can be COVID-19 carriers. As this has been discussed in the news for a couple of months, either Kemp’s really stupid or he’s trying to CYA his inept responses. Or maybe both, because as a CYA this is pretty stupid. Heck, he got into office by voter suppression, maybe he figures he doesn’t have to be competent.

Smarter, but equally odious conservatives are working on using the current crisis to get state funding for churches (a liberal pastor protests) and to create a de factor national abortion ban.

Not so smart: reporters who continue writing that Trump is becoming a great leader at last. Jared’s his pandemic point man, remember? And Trump’s response to criticism is still misogynistic bile (some detailed examples here).

And lets not forget the Republicans who continue to enable Trump’s stupidity and narcissism.

So was Sen. Kelly Loeffler just incredibly lucky that her investment managers sold off stocks in businesses that tanked after the pandemic hit? While I’m skeptical, the article at the link points out some of the sales (Facebook stock for instance) don’t seem to take advantage of what Loeffler knew was coming.

And while he’s not COVID-19 relevant, I’ll just mention law school professor Adrian Vermeule. He’s a conservative Catholic (adult convert) whose deep thoughts include that atheists who swear oaths cannot be trusted because, you know, they don’t believe in God. And he thinks it’s time to ditch individual rights and freedom in favor of a nice authoritarian government that will dictate to us for our own good. The government’s “subjects” will soon learn to thank them!

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Hey Democrats, why not let Republicans pick your candidate?

This is an argument that periodically turns up on right-wing blogs and even some mainstream punditry: Republicans hate voting for Trump. They’d happily vote for a Democrat, but dang it, why do we have to pick socialists and ultra-liberals? If you’d only pick someone acceptable to the Republican Party, then you could get all their votes!

Someone in an FB discussion informed me that she really doesn’t want to vote for Trump, so if the Democrats vote for someone other than the “trash” they keep nominating. Setting aside that I don’t believe her (I hear far too many “hey, I don’t really support Trump even though I’m aggressively defending everything he does” arguments), I think selecting our candidates based on what Trump voters want is a laughably bad idea.

First off, let’s remember that in 2016 (and also 2000) we did indeed pick someone the majority of voters wanted, so where’s her issue? We were clearly more in tune with the American electorate than Republicans were. So who cares what they think?

Second, this person claims she’s planning to vote for Trump in 2020 if Dems don’t field a better candidate. Because of Trump’s obsessive fear of looking bad, the government downplayed the threat and the number of affected and avoided encouraging testing. Now President Tinybrain is insisting he took it seriously from the first (and he doesn’t take any responsibility for what went wrong) and he’s really, really knowledgeable, to the point all the doctors are in awe of how well he’s grasped it. Trump is literally getting Americans killed, but apparently that’s not an issue for her.

Third, sorry, the vast majority of Republicans are not going to vote for any Democrat acceptable to Democrats. The Republican orthodoxy is that they want a WASP-run America, whether by keeping out non-white immigrants or repressing non-white and liberal votes. They’re ranting against the “Chinese virus” rather than questioning their leader’s incompetent response. They may wring their hands over children being put in cages but like one friend of mine said, “they shouldn’t have broken the law” as though that’s the only moral issue. They’re fine with a man accused of attempted sexual assault being on the Supreme Court. For some of them, it’s a plus. As John Scalzi says, they may not be white supremacists, but they’re okay voting for one. There is no way they’re going to vote for any Democrat the Democratic voters would vote for (Biden, as a kind of low-key centrist, comes closest, but I doubt he’ll do it).

And why the hell is it our responsibility to pick a candidate they want to vote for? You never hear this argument in reverse: a lot Democrats don’t want to vote for Biden (at this point he looks like a certainty), so if Repubs would just nominate a pro-choice, pro-gay rights, pro-woman candidate, maybe we wouldn’t have to. But nobody makes this argument because it’s Democrats who are always portrayed as the extremists who need to move to the center.

No, we don’t.

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Bonus news from the age of pandemic

A few links that didn’t make it into yesterday’s post —

Trump and Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer locked horns. Now she says vendors who’ve contracted with the state to provide medical supplies are backing out. The right-wing is on Trump’s side.

Part of the deal reached on the stimulus bill was that it provided oversight for the billions going out to businesses. Trump’s just going to ignore that. And the EPA is going to help businesses by not enforcing environmental law.

Right-wing bullshit artist Candace Owens insists we should just accept “some people will die” instead of government doing anything. And Isaac Chotiner interviews law professor Richard Epstein about his theory that coronavirus is no big — because who knows better than a lawyer about this stuff, right? — and rips it to shreds.

It’s commendable that Trump sent personal protective equipment to China to help deal with coronavirus … except he did it while he was denying the problem here, and now we have a shortage.

And the AP debunks coronavirus myths.

And here we Superman social-distancing when he becomes contagious. Art by Curt Swan.

#SFWApro. All rights to image remain with current holder.

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More COVID-19 thrills and thoughts!

“The U.S. may end up with the worst outbreak in the industrialized world.” — From an Atlantic article about where the U.S. screwed up, what we should do now, and what the possible outcomes are. They’re not necessarily catastrophic. Yet. But they could be.

“Donald Trump’s response has been so predictable. He has not changed. He has not grown. He has not admitted errors. He has shown little humility.” — the BBC on what COVID-19 reveals about America. As I’ve said to a couple of people, “apocalypse” in the original Greek meant a revelation. It’s going to show a lot of people for who they are. Of course it’s not much of a revelation when right-wingers decide God is punishing America for the same things they don’t like (in this case The Gays — Arizona conservative Rep. Andy Biggs likewise voted against the coronavirus package because some of the benefits apply to gay couples). Or that Ann Coulter lies.

But on the other hand, there’s Kent Taylor, CEO of Texas Roadhouse: he’s foregoing his salary and his bonus and using the money to support restaurant staff. And a few Trump devotees have had the sense to challenge him on this; they’re still scum, but I’ll give them credit for getting one thing right.

•”Panic never helps. Panic implies that you lose your mind, and that in a war — even a war against a microscopic enemy — gives aid and comfort to the enemy. When you panic, you don’t think rationally, and in times of crisis, rational thought is the greatest weapon you could possibly have.” — from an interview with author Max Brooks.

*I wrote this morning about why blaming China is inaccurate and racist, but I’m not surprised that concept is taking hold on the right. In some people’s eyes it absolves Trump of blame; I’ve had a couple of people Trumpsplain that closing the borders proves he was on top of things from the first. And for others it gives them an enemy to punish, which makes them happy, happy, happy. Tom Cotton (who believes that if someone violates the sanctions on trading with Iran, we should be able to imprison their families without trial) now says ““China unleashed this plague on the world and there will be a reckoning when we’re on the back side of it.” Bigots are likewise unsurprisingly jumping on the hate-China train.

However the sudden swing of the right to declare it’s better if some of us die than the stock market drop any further did startle me some. Apparently Trump is freaking out about his election chances (and possibly that his hotels are now hemorrhaging money) so he wants social distancing over by Easter. The federal government can’t override states that impose stay-in-place orders but of course Trump saying it’s no big might undercut them. And it will let him blame the states when the economy tanks, a tactic he’s using already.

Like good little toadies, multiple politicians and pundits have taken it a step further, declaring it’s better we lose a few million people than make the economy slump any further. Of course there are alternative approaches, like having the government help people, but that’s anathema to conservatives: better people die than turn to the government! While some of them say they’d willingly sacrifice themselves, I take it as a given they’re lying, or confident they have the money and connections to get medical care (like these guys).  It’s the little people who must sacrifice. After all I know they’re  lying about how us older folks are willing to sacrifice ourselves so Trump’s hotels can get back in business. Though as Jeet Heer says, if these folks’ grandparents are living, they’d better watch their back.

Then we have Christian publisher Steve Strange declaring earlier this month that the coronavirus would end March 28. Antisemite shitbag Rick Wiles declares COVID-19 is targeting Jews. And megachurch pastor Rodney Howard-Browne blaming it on Jews (“globalist … money cartel“), Bill Gates, China, the communist controlled media, Big Pharma and by implication Satan (he strongly implies that a vaccine would be the Mark of the Beast). Or it’s simply that Americans have sex before marriage.

To end on an upbeat note, here’s a Sheldon Moldoff cover that shows the importance of self-quarantining even back in 1962.#SFWApro. All rights to image remain with current holder.

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Yes, calling COVID-19 the Chinese virus is harmful and racist

The standard argument I keep hearing is that “Chinese virus” is totally nothing to do with racism, it’s just a description, like the “Spanish” flu. And I’m sure some people using the term aren’t using it as anything but a description, so they assume it’s harmless.

It isn’t. For Trump’s administration and a lot of his acolytes in the media, it’s deliberate racism. And when people echo their terminology, we further their agenda.

This is not a new issue. WHO said back in 2015 that sticking geographic names on disease is bad as it can stigmatize races or nationalities, something we’re currently seeing Chinese-Americans dealing with. Even something like “swine flu” can leave people thinking they should avoid eating pork or killing their livestock, causing more economic problems.

And the names aren’t as descriptive as we think. According to John Barry in The Great Influenz, “Spanish Flu” probably began in the U.S. It got its name because most of the countries with initial cases were under wartime censorship. Spain wasn’t censoring the media as much so the first news reports of Horrible New Disease! came from Spain, ergo Spanish Flu.

Or consider syphilis: “The inhabitants of today’s Italy, Germany and United Kingdom named syphilis ‘the French disease’, the French named it ‘the Neapolitan disease’, the Russians assigned the name of ‘Polish disease’, the Polish called it ‘the German disease’, The Danish, the Portuguese and the inhabitants of Northern Africa named it ‘the Spanish/Castilian disease’ and the Turks coined the term ‘Christian disease’. Moreover, in Northern India, the Muslims blamed the Hindu for the outbreak of the affliction. However, the Hindu blamed the Muslims and in the end everyone blamed the Europeans.”

Possibly “Chinese flu” is a totally rational choice of name, untainted by a desire to shift blame or racist considerations …nah.

The arguments that OMG it could maybe possibly conceivably have come from a Chinese bioweapon lab! are also in a tradition of racist/nationalist arguments. When the Spanish flu hit, there were stories it was a German bioweapon; there were also rumors tubercular Germans were sneaking off submarines and into New York crowds and infecting people. And of course, racists have long invoked warnings that Those Minorities are disease-bearing subhuman filth. The Bigot in Chief has made this argument himself about Mexicans.

Scientists say in the case of COVID-19, it’s a product of nature. If it was a bioweapon it could just as easily be a Russian attack on China, or a U.S. attack that got out of control, or hey, Alpha Centauri trying to destroy humanity before they colonize Earth. One wild-ass baseless guess is as good as another.

Calling it the Chinese virus serves multiple purposes for the gutless man-baby in the Oval Office, currently sniveling that it’s unfair he’s actually being held responsible for his failures. Most presidents would worry, like Trump, about how a pandemic would affect their re-election chances, but they’d realize the best solution is to fix the problem. Trump’s only real concern is protecting his brand by lying or shifting the blame.

“Chinese virus” feeds red meat to the part of his base that’s happy to hate foreigners, particularly nonwhite ones. Anti-Asian bigotry hasn’t been as prominent in recent years as hating Hispanics, but dormant doesn’t mean gone. Stories of Chinese Americans being spat on, insulted and blamed for the virus remind me a lot of the late 1980s when Japan was suddenly our economic superior and some Americans had shit fits (it was Pearl Harbor all over again, a deliberate attack on America by the fiendishly cunning Oriental devils!).

It allows President Man-Baby to pretend it’s not his fault. He’d like us to ignore his manifest self-serving incompetence over the past two months and blame China instead. A recurring argument on Twitter and FB is that Trump closed the borders, ergo he flattened the curve! How dare people say he’s a bigot instead of a savior?
Well, because his border closings have always been about bigotry, though mostly against Muslims. And we’ve had multiple accounts of patients not getting quarantined as they returned from overseas, and Trump’s initial decision not to stop travel from the UK when he restricted travel from Europe (UK has a Trump resort). But the worst of the Republican base wants to believe Trump is infallible and awesome so being told it’s the damn foreigners who are really responsible and the Shit-Gibbon saved us will make them happy.

Now consider Fox host Tucker Carlson’s argument: “The Chinese coronavirus really is Chinese. It arose in that country for the same reason American businesses have sent so many of our jobs there – lack of health and safety standards and endemic corruption. China did this to the world and we should not pretend otherwise. That’s not xenophobia. It’s true. The most bitter irony of all of this is that a few years from now, when every last victim of this virus has recovered or been buried, the Chinese government can easily grow stronger because of this disaster. And America can grow weaker.”

Note the phrasing that China “did this to the world” — despite the Chinese government’s appalling handling of the problem, that’s pretty loaded. Not to mention phrasing it in Clash of Civilization terms — China’s growing stronger, we’re growing weaker! And they Did It To Us.

Keep in mind, Trump is the incarnation of endemic corruption. His administration is weakening all sorts of health and safety standards. And we could easily argue that Trump did this to the country. But Trump’s a rich white supremacist right-wing white man so Carlson applies different rules.

And finally, there’s the fact that people all over America have decided if it’s the “Chinese virus” then Chinese Americans must be at fault. Never mind whether they’ve ever lived in China or traveled there or have any emotional connection to the country, it’s their fault! They deserve to be assaulted, insulted condemned and despised (see the link earlier). And if there are no Chinese in Kansas, Kansas must be safe.

A lot of the vectors in this country will be white simply because we have so many white people in this country. But the people who shriek and curse at Chinese Americans (or ordinary Chinese who happen to be over here) would be outraged if anyone started treating all white people as if they were collectively guilty (heck, a lot of Trump voters whinge at being held responsible for putting him in office). White people are entitled to be judged individually; non-whites get collective guilt.

So yeah, calling it Chinese flu is harmful and it’s racist. Q.E.D.

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We fight pandemics with the government we have. Too bad.

In the UK, “he United Kingdom’s Conservative Party unveiled a plan to keep British workers paid and employed for the duration of the coronavirus crisis. The Tory proposal would effectively cover 80 percent of sidelined workers’ salaries, while forbidding employers who accept the government’s help from laying off staff. The policy closely resembles one implemented by Denmark’s Social Democrats, except that Boris Johnson’s wage-replacement rate is slightly more generous than the Danish left’s. Although the Conservatives have a well-earned reputation for sacrificing Britain’s vulnerable on the altar of deficit reduction, even they recognize that social welfare must take precedence over budgetary concerns in the context of a historically sudden and deep economic crisis. On Friday, Tory chancellor Rishi Sunak announced that there would be no limit on the funding available for covering workers’ wages.”

In the US, the Republicans aren’t offering anything that generous, or that will guarantee firms that get money from the government don’t just lay off workers anyway (it could, however, be great for corporations). Trump wants to end social distancing as soon as possible so the economy can restart. And Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick told Tucker Carlson that if 70somethings have to die as a result, that’s okay — he’s in that age range and he’d gladly do it to keep the economy running for his grandchildren (left unsaid was that in his position, he’ll have considerably better care than millions of people, and that the economy is increasingly shitty for people who aren’t rich).

I remember when Republicans denounced Obamacare because it would set up “death panels” that would ration healthcare and condemn seniors to death. I’m sure we’ll see the same outrage now … oh, who am I kidding?  This is what we have taking point in the pandemic. It’s in Republicans’ own interest we have neither mass deaths nor economic collapse, but their opposition to government actually helping ordinary people runs to deep. God help us all.

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Sen. Richard Burr is human feces

I didn’t think NC’s Senator Burr could sink lower in my estimation but it turns out three weeks ago he was warning well-connected constituents that COVID-19 could be Spanish Flu bad — and said nothing to anyone else. And then sold off $1.6 million in stocks, particularly in the travel industry. So did Sen. Kelly Loeffler. Sen. Ron Johnson sold between $5 and $25 million in stock in a family-owned company that makes plastic for the medical device market — but he voted against government aid during the current crisis because having millions of Americans die is not reason to take action.

In more COVID-19 news:

Rand Paul holds up federal aid for the COVID-19 crisis.

Salon argues Trump’s lies about COVID-19 have become so blatant, the media should preface his statements with reminders he’s a liar.

A right-winger argues that if we give people money for the problems caused by coronavirus, next thing we’ll be paying welfare to trans people. Rep. Andy Biggs similarly opposes covering same-sex couples with the COVID-19 relief bill.

QAnon believers continue to fantasize the virus is just a cover for Trump to destroy his enemies … like Oprah Winfrey.

“Never mind that Republican leaders are among the most highly educated on the planet; it’s just that they now feel compelled to embrace ignorance as a cost of doing business.” — and right now, that’s not working out well.

And in other links (a little random, due to clearing out bookmarks last week).

“The chief pathologist was altering his deputy’s reviews to show them as concurring with all of Levy’s diagnoses, ” — a grim look at how a VA physician misdiagnosed patients for years.

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp got his position through vote suppression. Now he’s simply canceling a state Supreme Court election to pick his own judge.

The pros and cons of automatic voter registration.

The role of luck and past success in measuring future success.

What happens when Google Maps gives a house the wrong address?

Roy Moore may have missed out on the Senate but the bigoted theocrat sexual harasser is pushing for the Supreme Court to overturn its gay marriage decision.

Betsy DeVos thinks students who attend shitty for-profit schools that defraud them (you know, like Trump University), shouldn’t get student-loan forgiveness. The Senate’s voted to overturn the rule (including ten Republicans, but not NC’s senators) but will it pass Trump?

” I couldn’t imagine a publishing and media world that made Afrofuturism legible. This is how imaginations are colonized” — Michele Berger on Afrofuturism and the gaps in imagination it fills.

Ben Shapiro, one of the mainstream media’s “cool” conservatives, lies that no major Republican figure ever embraced birtherism.

American right-wingers love calling COVID-19 the Chinese coronavirus. China thinks it’s an American disease.

Two Pennsylvania public defenders criticized the system — so the county fired them.

You know who thought literacy was good? Communists!

The number of homeless in Helsinki is dropping steadily.

What do you know, giving poor people money can produce good results.

The drawbacks to electing the sons of the rich to the White House.

Vox looks at the decline of the suit. Fast Company looks at women’s suits in politics.

I remember when women’s restrooms came with a women’s lounge attached.

What makes Nancy Drew such an icon — and so hard to adapt to the screen?

Words about feelings for which there is no English equivalent.

How Donald Trump once killed the USFL football league.

Who invented the TV dinner?

Jack Kirby’s Julius Caesar!

Frederick Douglass’ vision of a post-Civil War America.

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No I don’t get how you felt about Obama

One of the right-wing responses to liberal revulsion at Trump is “now you know how we felt for eight years of Obama!” I’ve seen it several times over the years; recently someone posted on FB to the effect that they had to sit through Obama saying the U.S. wasn’t the greatest, most exceptional country in the world. He apologized for stuff we’d done wrong. Disgusting! Now we have Trump, a true patriot who does what he says he will (which is, of course, not true).

Gotta say that no, in point of fact I have no idea how they (and “they” here refers to “a significant portion of Republicans but not necessarily all”) felt. Yes, we both saw a president we despised, but the reactions are very different.

I’m furious because Trump bans immigrants just for being Muslim. They were upset because Obama didn’t hate and discriminate against Muslims enough.

I despite Trump separating families, putting children in cages and denying them basic levels of protection (and no, Obama did not do worse). They were upset because Obama wasn’t more anti-immigrant and anti-Hispanic.

I hate the Trump administration siding with the religious right on issues from abortion to gay rights (all of which would be the same under any Republican administration of course). They hated Obama because he didn’t show them the same favoritism.

It’s not like Obama was perfect, but many of the things I hated about his administration — drone strikes killing innocent people, failure to prosecute CIA torture — I hate about Trump, and would have hated no matter which Republican got into office (it’s not like any of the would be better than Obama about such things). Trump voters are fine with all that, even though they never gave Obama credit for them. They gave Obama no credit for being a good, faithful family man and Christian; in fact their interest in having elected officials who were moral and Christian started dropping during the Obama years.

My loathing of Trump is based on things he’s actually done: family separation, graft, abandoning the Kurds, anti-immigrant bias, sexual assault, making loyalty to him the supreme qualification for public service in his administration. Among the reasons they gave for hating Obama during his presidency were, let’s see … He was secretly Muslim. Secretly gay. Michelle Obama was a man. He was going to start a race war against whites. He was going to lock up conservatives in FEMA concentration camps. He was an Islamofascist sleeper agent. He was a Communist sleeper agent. He was the secret love child of Malcolm X! Obamacare death panels would decide who got life-saving treatment and who didn’t! None of that was reality.

So no, I don’t know how they felt about Obama. And I’m quite happy I don’t, because what they were feeling wasn’t anything healthy.


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I am not a doctor, nor did I sleep at a Holiday Inn last night—

(If you’re reading this post when that joke is no longer comprehensible, sorry) — but here’s a roundup of posts about our current COVID-19 crisis.

So we’re now officially in a pandemic. And President Tinybrain has declared “I don’t take responsibility” for being unprepared despite his gutting the CDC’s pandemic prevention budget (with more cuts proposed) and bungling our response. And making that medical marvel Jared Kushner (who needs time to research it) his point man. Failing to use existing tests for the virus. Massively behind on testing. And tanking the stock market (which is unimpressed by his calls for calm). Heck his own staff had to contradict his big speech.  We’re doing less well than Italy and South Korea; we’re a wealthy failed state. And it’s overwhelmingly Trump’s fault (“More people will get sick because of his presidency than if someone else was in charge.”) because he’s both egocentric and inept. And a liar. None of which would change if this was, in fact, unleashed from a Chinese bioweapon facility (of which there’s no evidence): he still failed by every possible standard.

He’s kicking people off food stamps at a time when many people might lose pay or jobs. And using the pandemic to justify handouts to oil companies (whose primary problem is the oil market, not coronavirus). But not allowing states to use Medicaid funding for this crisis. And suspending Medicare and Social Security payroll taxes benefits the rich more than the poor.

In a sane world, he’d be gone in November, guaranteed. But quite aside from possible Russian interference, vote suppression and the Republican advantage in the electoral college, his followers have their rationalizations for supporting him already in place (once again I recommend Altemeyer’s The Authoritarians for insight into the need to belief the Great Leader). If we slow the spread and it isn’t a massive U.S. problem, that proves he was right and the fear was just a dempanic. If it goes very bad, it’s a Chinese/Democratic/Deep State/liberal/Satanic plot against God’s chosen president. Trump himself claims it’s a foreign virus and his immigration restrictions are saving us. Either way, they’ll agree it’s not his fault. They certainly won’t think this says anything bad about the U.S. because we’re the greatest country in the world, just by default (that mantra is the equivalent of the participation trophies people are always mocking). Never mind how badly designed our medical system is for this threat even with the monster at the door.

And Trump followers will have plenty of support for that view:

Jerry Falwell Jr. claims it’s a North Korean bioweapon.

It’s a cover to blindside the Satanic pedophile conspiracy that Trump’s about to arrest them. In the Qanon world everything that goes wrong is just a cover for the imminent arrests; that they never happen doesn’t faze anyone.

Satan is targeting Christians with COVID-19 because they won’t take the Mark of the Beast.

Social distancing proves you have no faith in God!

Rod Dreher is outraged a teacher would criticize students for racists reactions to the pandemic.

Rush Limbaugh says COVID-19 is no more dangerous than hurricanes, which aren’t dangerous at all.

Alex Jones is hawking toothpaste he claims kills coronavirus.

If China gave Christians more freedom God would stop the outbreak.

Now, useful or interesting articles:

What you need if you’re quarantined at home.

Consumer Reports’ COVID-19 FAQ.

The Intercept argues the stock market slump is not the real issue.

Kentucky voted for Andy Beshear as governor instead of anti-vaxxer Matt Bevin. Good choice.

The Poynter Institute salutes the media for first-rate journalism in a crisis.

What if we tackled climate change as seriously as the rest of the world is taking COVID-19?

Twenty activities to occupy you while stuck at home. Or take a virtual museum tour.

A Portland distillery is turning alcohol waste into hand-sanitizer and giving it away. Other distilleries are doing similarly.


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Short story authors Patricia McKillip and Jesus, plus more books!

I was pleased to discover Patricia McKillip’s short-story collection DREAMS OF DISTANT SHORES includes her short novel Something Rich and Strange, (though without the original Brian Froud illustrations) as getting it used would have been pricey. Unfortunately, while the story of two lovers captivated by male and female sea deities is vividly written, it ends on a Western Union (give a hoot! Don’t pollute) I could have done without, even though I have the same view. In other stories Medusa becomes an artist’s muse, a witch’s spirit inhabits a wooden mermaid and two lovers discuss the impossible while hiding in a bathroom. Overall very good.

SHORT STORIES BY JESUS: The Enigmatic Parables of a Controversial Rabbi by Amy-Jill Levine is an interesting enough look at Jesus’ parables it makes me want to go back and reread the Gospels (and I will, though I may look for something other than my old KJV first). Levine argues that the allegorical interpretations of the parables — the shepherd with the missing sheep is God yearning for the sinner to repent — don’t make sense: the straying sheep doesn’t repent, the shepherd has to drag it back to the flock, and isn’t it the shepherd’s fault if his charges wander off (ditto the parable of the lost coin, as coins are completely unable to repent going astray). Some interpretations, Levine argues, get downright antisemitic by arguing the message is Christian compassion vs. Jewish intolerance (a Jewish scholar herself, she goes into some depth on how these theories misread the law). Levine is less effective at offering a “real” interpretation, but as her point is that we should push beyond the obvious and comfortable readings, handing me an interpretation might be counter-productive. Thought provoking.

LIBRARIES IN THE ANCIENT WORLD by Lionel Casson shows that libraries go back at least to the Assyrian king Asshurbanipal, who built his own personal royal library (which provides the source for much of the Sumerian literature still extant, but had very little effect on later library developments (like the inventions in The Ancient Engineers, his library was a personal project nobody else followed up on). As a result, library history really doesn’t get started until the Greeks, who founded the Library of Alexandria (during the Ptolemy dynasty’s reign over Egypt) and multiple others, and introduced a novel idea of alphabetization to order the books. One thing that surprised me was that ancient libraries weren’t purely scholastic: literacy was high enough that there was a serious demand for popular literature in Greece and Rome, and later Byzantium.

I’ve read a lot of books filled with dense academese, but in writing THE CULTURAL LIFE OF INTELLECTUAL PROPERTIES: Authorship, Appropriation and the Law Rosemary Coombe takes it to new heights with phrases such as “Despite the epistemological bankruptcy of the metaphors of possessive individualism” so I had no qualms skipping large chunks of this and skimming the rest. That’s unfortunate, as I like reading about copyright and intellectual property law and Coombe does have some interesting points about how this sector of law increasingly favors the corporation over the public. If Coca-Cola licensing its logo to T-shirt or towel manufacturers doesn’t hurt the trademark, for instance, why does an unauthorized use of the trademark the same way “dilute” the mark (it’s not as if Coke is endorsing the quality of the shirts). Why is it that the International Olympics Committee’s trademark on “Olympics” isn’t harmed by countless groups and organizations using the word but has to be protected from a Gay Olympics? Why do stars get to trademark their public image when it’s often based on countless other performers (though Coombe gets the facts about one lawsuit involving the Marx Brothers’ image wrong). Despite those gems, Coombe’s opaque writing made it impossible to care about whatever insights into post-modern individualism and its relation to this topic might be.


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