Mar 1, 2020

This thread has been created for discussion on themes relevant to Reason and Science for which there are not currently any dedicated threads.

If you would like to refer back to previous open discussion threads, the three most recent ones can be accessed via the links below (but please continue any discussions from them here rather than on the original threads):




138 comments on “OPEN DISCUSSION MARCH 2020

  • Welcome to the March 2020 open discussion thread.

    If you wish to continue any of the discussions from earlier Open Discussion threads, please do so here rather than there.

    Thank you.

    The mods

    Report abuse

  • The dangers to other people from the fundamentalist know-it-all mindset, are becoming only too obvious in some places. (South Korea)

    The country has reported 3,730 cases and 21 deaths so far. More than half of all infections involve members of the Shincheonji Church of Jesus, a fringe Christian group.


    This seems to have started with 61 year old woman who refused to be taken to hospital

  • It’s beginning to look like Washington state is ground zero for the coronavirus in the USA. Reporting by the WaPo suggests the virus has been spreading for 6 weeks or so but undetected because of the lack of test kits available.

    A second person has now died and the fear is that many more cases are out there about to manifest. Also further down in the story are a number of patient’s testimonies about not even being able to get tested for CV in hospital because their symptoms were not “severe” enough to meet CDC guidelines. The government response to this disease has been truly clueless.

    Report abuse

  • Let’s not forget next time Trump claims he’s doing a great job on the CV epidemic that in 2018 he sacked the entire Pandemic Response Team and never replaced them and also in the same year defunded the CDC to the point they were only able to assist 10 out of 49 other countries with contagious epidemics.

    Report abuse

  • Hello lovely people,

    I’ve been away for a while and I was surprised to return and find that the drain covers over the UK 2019 election were still off in February.  Yes it stinks, I was just surprised you guys hadn’t got to the fatberg yet.  The basic problems were foreign, decidedly anti-British, interference (an effort mostly directed at switching voters off – as seen in the turnout figures) and a traditional privately-held Mass Media tactic of appealing to a false dichotomy of political tribalism.

    The rest of this post was attempted in February – but wa somehow diverted into some kind of Net-Limbo.  Thank you to the Mods for rescuing it.

    Setting aside that the report from Parliament’s Intelligence Security Committee (ISC) may actually make a good case for saying that foreign interference in the 2016 Brexit referendum makes the result void, AND foreign donations to the Conservative Party means the 2019 election was conducted under entirely false premises … [hereinafter: The Stolen Election] … I was hoping to hear about privacy.

    I’m not holding my breath: TB (the stupidest Prime Minister Britain will ever have … tune in in 3 months and watch me eat those words) proved that political expediency and spin will overrule all moral scruples in a pinch – and BoJo gives every indication of being TB’s illegitimate offspring.  I must be getting old, I didn’t even swear.  Prepare for another WMD debacle, followed by another Cambridge Analytica (‘nothing to see here, move along now’).

    Okay, I’ll kick this off.

    I’ve been busy trying to catch up on what’s happening regarding privacy.  I tried Zucked by Roger McNamee in which he basically denounces Facebook.  It’s old news to anyone who has actually been awake in the last 15 years, and McNamee has a habit of repeating himself almost word-for-word.  Not recommended.

    I’m now reading the end of Harvard Professor Shoshana Zuboff’s Surveillance Capitalism.  Her book is incredibly long; like McNamee she would have greatly benefited from an editor.  On the other hand Zuboff does at least have a clear vision that encompasses the root details of the problems and the high level strategies – both of the surveillance operatives (Goolie, Faceache, Twatter, Am-zomb and so on) and what our response should be.

    By-the-by, if you see Zuboff’s Surveillance Capitalism in the shops and think “uh-oh the TLDR version”, look her up on YouTube.  She has given several talks where she outlines the basics.  However, long though it is (530 pages), the book does need, and deserve, to be read by a lot more people.  Think about it: It’s an hour or two out of your life to learn about what is probably the most important thing going on in the World today – the systematic, and largely secret, undermining of human rights and democracy.  Without action this thing will threaten your children, grandchildren and democracy more powerfully than any perceived threat from any other quarter.

    My gripe with both authors is that neither really explains what privacy is, or how our data is a part of us – an integral part, like a leg.  We would feel violated if someone simply walked up to us and grabbed us by our genitalia (there’s a political angle there somewhere … no it’s gone), yet we do not feel like that about the data we generate simply by living our lives in the World of today.  This is because it’s intangible.  But just like losing a leg, losing control over our own data can have devastating, life-polluting, consequences.

    Does anyone know of a publication that does cover this angle?  I need to have something to recommend to friends and family.  I have now given my copy of Zubof’s footstool to my Daughter.  I do not have high expectations.

    My biggest concern is that we may already be too late.  Unlike Zuboff I cannot be hopeful.  After The Stolen Election, my trust in the very existence of democracy in my own country has been severely shaken.  Electorates in the English-speaking countries are already showing signs of being so effectively manipulated that I do not believe it is a stretch to say the UK has become the second Suzerain State of the new US Aristocracy.

    The second?  Oh yes, the US came first – though on this occasion I don’t believe anyone envies them.

    The Republican Party response to Trump’s impeachment was brazen.  It showed a complete change from the US that I knew when I was growing up – a country where the rule of law – and the Constitution in particular – were almost deified.

    My best guess is that the Republicans know where the next Cambridge Analytica is.  If that doesn’t give you long pause for thought it should.


  • Hi Stephen.


    Currently laid up with man-flu and snivelling. As the worst symptoms of the associate self-pity thankfully depart I’ve decided to start Surveillance Capitalism.


    She’s setting out a big stage. But the starting foundations of neoliberal economic theory seem bang on and riveting. I suspect I’m going to be speed reading it especially when she goes into personal annecdote-as-metaphor, but I have to agree this is one of the most important topics we all have to face up to.

    Part of this interest is guilt having spent the last year working on the “smart phone for the home majig” (I can’t reveal the details or the client/customer). Part is to find out why we don’t see the emergence of (at least clunky) alternates to the smarts, without the skimming off of data.

    Cloud based smarts get early AI wins by using real people in very low cost countries to enact some of the not yet ready AI actions. But soon enough the tec is being properly automated into SoCs (system on chips) and duplicated around the Pacific Rim. It will spill out into the maker/free software communities and small companies will begin to offer Smart systems with guarantees of actual self-data ownership and VPN linkage into private communities. There will be a premium to pay, but like ad-free streaming we may prefer this. Yes it’ll always lag behind the curve but smart kids may find a satisfactory source of income along with the satisfaction of modest anarchy.

    Report abuse

  • Well it seems like the fix is well and truly in against Bernie as both Mayor Pete and Amy Klobuchar drop out of the race and endorse Biden. I wonder what he promised them both. Meanwhile Joe’s mental issues are getting steadily worse. Trying to quote from the Declaration of Independence yesterday to a group of voters he got as far as “We hold these truths to be self evident. All men and women created by…go…. you know, the thing.” Yikes. I guess he was grasping for the word equal, or maybe god, but in any case women aren’t mentioned in that line in the Declaration. It says “all men are created equal”. Later when asked by an interviewer which states he thought he could win today he thought Alabama was a possibility despite it not being one of the states voting today. Of course these peccadillos pale into insignificance compared to what’s wrong with Trump. He seemed barely conscious at a press call yesterday, rambling, sniffing again like a cocaine addict.

    Later on he called the first man to die from coronavirus in WA “a wonderful woman”.

    He lambasted Obama when he proposed leaving 8,400 troops in Afghanistan saying that all the troops needed to come home. He’s just struck (supposedly) a peace deal with the Taliban which leaves 8,600 troops there so not quite as good as the Obama deal. The Taliban were back fighting the very next day though.

    Four more people died from the coronavirus in WA yesterday while the moronavirus in the white house bragged about the great job he was doing and how early and quickly he reacted to it. Two dozen white house officials, congressmen and others, speaking anonymously gave interviews saying that the WH response to the virus is chaotic, bungled, too late and too slow and utterly incompetent. Trump has now opined that the virus will go away in April, like magic. I think he’s confusing the virus with March.

    Report abuse

  • In #4 above I mentioned the difficulty patients have had getting tested for CV. It now turns out this was because with only one lab in Atlanta being authorised to conduct tests and either no test kits or faulty test kits being sent to other labs the CDC guidelines were that only patients with both the symptoms AND known contact with either China or someone from China were to be tested. How completely crazy. Finally the FDA have relinquished the emergency rule about approved labs and are approving all labs and hospitals that can do the test themselves to start doing so. At least a month too late but hey. So now a rash of new cases is being found in WA. Officials there believe that hundreds of people have already been exposed. I will guess it’s actually thousands.

    Report abuse

  • Hi Phil [#9],

    Currently laid up with man-flu and snivelling. As the worst symptoms of the associate self-pity thankfully depart I’ve decided to start Surveillance Capitalism.

    A very good diversion from self-pity.

    She’s setting out a big stage

    Yees, I think that’s part of her problem.  People are never going to read the nitty-gritty if they’re too diverted.  Also, many people really aren’t equipped to handle big pictures – many of us have difficulty identifying with people outside our own local area.

    … the starting foundations of neo-liberal economic theory seem bang on and riveting

    You’ll discover that, even though she quotes Marx, Zuboff suspects only coincidence between neo-liberalism’s retrograde procreation of market economics and surveillance capitalism.  Now, regular visitors here will know that I am not a fan of Marx or, indeed, lefty politics in general.  But, even I balked at that; market economics and venture capital in Silicon Valley doesn’t equate to a recipe for a neo-liberal handle on the development directions and uses of new tech?  Really?

    I’m going to be speed reading it especially when she goes into personal annecdote-as-metaphor

    I did too – it is Zuboff’s most wasteful literary device.  They take far too long, and they add too little of the understanding.  This was my main reason for putting out a request to anyone who might know of a better book.

    Keep reading, it’s a slog but worth it in the end.


    Report abuse

  • Two excellent videos worth watching on Youtube from David Pakman today. 1st he interviews a psychiatrist specialising in neurological conditions about Trump’s mental health issues. The symptoms apparently fit frontotemporal lobe dementia which happens as the frontal lobes atropy and shrink. Symptoms include:

    personality and behaviour changes – acting inappropriately or impulsively, appearing selfish or unsympathetic, neglecting personal hygiene, overeating, or loss of motivation
    language problems – speaking slowly, struggling to make the right sounds when saying a word, getting words in the wrong order, or using words incorrectly
    problems with mental abilities – getting distracted easily, struggling with planning and organisation

    2nd video shows Trump at a WH meeting with medical experts to discuss Covid-19. Captain stupid who of course always thinks he knows more about everything than anyone else suggests in the absence so far of an actual Covid vaccine giving Covid patients “a really solid flu shot”, so not one of the cheap flu shots but a good one, one of the expensive ones. The experts opine this will not help SEEING AS IT’S A COMPLETELY DIFFERENT ILLNESS YOU CLUELESS FUCKWIT!!!!

    Report abuse

  • I can’t say I’m unhappy about seeing the last of Chris Matthews who resigned over harassment allegations. I never watched his own show but saw him many times as a guest on other people’s and my general impression was “shouty and arrogant”.

    Report abuse

  • Scary thought for the day. Now that Pete Buttigieg has dropped out, Joe Biden is the youngest of the three men running for president. and Joe is 77.

    Regardless of who gets nominated, I’m putting all of my hope eggs in the basket of his/her running mate.

    Report abuse

  • Vicki

    I’m putting all of my hope eggs in the basket of his/her running mate.

    I’m hoping for a dynamic running mate too and a brilliant and competent cabinet chosen by whoever wins but now, the morning after super Tuesday I’m consoling myself and lowering the bar of my hope for progressive change. Stability and decency is what I need to hope for now. A Biden Presidency would deliver that.

    In my bluest of blue states, how in the hell did Biden beat our own Massachusetts state Senator Warren and Bernie who has a wealth of affection here? This morning I’m taken completely by surprise by these results. This is the end of issues that I care about. It’s about disposing of the crazy stupid Ahole who currently resides in the oval office.

    If it’s gonna be Biden on the ticket in November he has my vote but resentfully so.

    Report abuse

  • Looking on from the other side of the Atlantic, it feels quite tragic.

    From my perspective as a European for whom democratic socialism is not just desirable but, for most of my life, perfectly normal, I feel an enormous urgency for the US to change, and change quite drastically. It’s such an outlier country, in so many respects: to many of us in Europe, it looks like a country obsessed with a) corporate profit and b) a laissez-faire approach to society that would have shamed even the Victorians. As a country (and *of course* I am generalising: *of course* what I’m about to write does not apply to all Americans; and I’d also add that the UK is following hot on your heels, and getting hotter all the time, so I’m aware we have our own issues on this front), it seems to have no real sense of mutuality, shared responsibilities, no sense of us all being in this together. The national goal seems to be to amass as much personal wealth as possible and to hell with everyone else. It’s the last country I would look to for leadership when it comes to progressive politics, but absolutely top of my personal list of countries that are desperately in need of them.

    So to me it’s heartbreaking and really quite desperate that solid, progressive, apparently credible candidates for the presidency – Sanders, Warren – candidates who really would strive to start moving the country in a markedly more compassionate, fairer direction that would work to the benefit of all rather than just the wealthiest – are considered too revolutionary to get elected (even against Trump, for goodness’ sake!!). And so the best we can hope for is – as Laurie rightly points out – stability and decency: yes, an end to the horror of the last 4 years, and certainly a huge improvement on the current president, but pretty much just tinkering around the edges of the underlying social and political issues.

    I seem to wish the American people a better, kinder future than most of them wish for themselves. As a certain orange Twitterer might put it: SAD!

    Report abuse

  • Welp, Bloomberg’s out and is endorsing Biden. It looks like they’re all ganging up on Sanders (again).

    Maybe it’s not such a bad thing…if Biden defeats Trump, Sanders can stay in the Senate and keep Biden’s heels to the fire.

    I only hope Sanders gets behind the nominee as vocally as possible.

    Report abuse

  • But he’s old!  They all are, and it’s scary! ~sigh~


    You know what else is really, really, really, old?  Everything you’re fighting for… and who’s been fighting for it longer than you? ~sigh~


    Report abuse

  • I knew Biden would be our candidate.  But I wanted Texas to give Sanders the win. It seemed like a win that would add even more momentum to our swing left. Texas can go blue.

    Report abuse

  • Sean

    At this point I don’t care if Sanders and Warren are a century old. How can I give one minute of fretting over that with every disaster that we’ve had so far with this revolting present administration? Today I read on twitter that Trump wants to cut regulations on nursing homes at the very moment we have a pandemic knocking on our doors! I want to link to it but I deleted it in a fit of rage. There’s no limit to his selfish stupidity and those around him who are the same. Trump and his super capitalists all around him are in a grab all mode and don’t care who suffers from that but Bernie, Warren and Biden are too over the hill? Who cares. What’s the worst that can happen? They’ll die in office and the VP will take over. We’ve been through that several times before and it went well enough. Better by far than another four years of the devastation of the far right/aggressive fundamentalist Christian agenda.

    Even if I knew our next progressive President wouldn’t make it the whole four years I’d still prefer that choice to more of the current catastrophe.

    Report abuse

  • Marco

    I agree with everything you said in #18.

    I suppose you need to state that you’re generalizing and that it doesn’t apply to all Americans, etc. but I for one do want you and others to be blunt about the feelings and observations that you communicated above. I’ve lived outside of US in North Africa and for extended periods in Europe. I have friends in France, England and Family and friends in Canada and I have a good idea of what me and my fellow Americans are missing out on. It’s a lot. It’s important quality of life stuff. I can hardly contain my disappointment and aggravation over the unbelievable number of Americans who are satisfied and in fact perfectly pleased to be denied the benefits that others in Canada, Europe and other locations take as their rights as citizens and residents! It’s shocking how easily they are led down the rosy path to poverty and ignorance.

    I’m completely and utterly disappointed. Seething in bitter resentment.

    If the Senate remains in Republican control after November I can’t even hope for that tinkering on social issues that you mentioned above. I won’t bet a dime on it.

    Report abuse

  • 24
    Michael 100 says:

    I agree with most if not all of what’s being said here this morning, especially what LaurieB wrote in the last paragraph of # 23. 

    While it’s easy to get bogged down in the details of the campaigns, it important to remember how the US government really works.  In very few matters can the President accomplish anything without the acquiescence of the other two branches of the government.  The president can propose legislation but unless both houses of the congress pass that legislation, it never becomes law.  Any law passed by congress and signed by the president must withstand scrutiny by the courts.

    If the American people elect a president from one party, and a congress from the opposite party, very little will change.  I’ve never understood how people can vote for candidates of both parties – in my entire voting life, I have never voted for a Republican.  Even though the party structure is weaker than in other times, the political parties still control the agenda in Washington.  The Majority leader of the Senate, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, decide who the members of the various committees are in their respective Houses.  Unless a bill is passed out of Committee, it is dead.  The Leaders decide which bills will be submitted for votes on the floors of their respective houses.  One House can pass all the legislation it wants to, but unless the leader of the other House schedules a vote, the proposed law rots on the leader’s desk.  Therefore, the ability of the president to work with the leadership of the congress is more important than nearly anything else.  In my life time, the most skillful president in this regard was Lyndon B. Johnson who, before he was President, had been the Majority Leader in the Senate.  On the other hand, President Obama was extremely popular among the people, and had great ideas, but our very good friend Mitch McConnell declared that he and his majority senate party would obstruct anything that Obama proposed.  (By the way, when politicians in Washington refer to someone as a “very good friend,” it is usually a polite way of saying that the one being referred to is the south end of a north facing horse.)  As far as legislation is concerned, I suspect that Biden and Sanders will accomplish very similar goals.  Likewise, if the congress passes bad legislation, both candidates would exercise their veto power in very similar ways.

    In addition to getting legislation passed, however, the President has other vitally important duties that most people don’t think of.  The President appoints United States Attorneys for each of the judicial districts in the country.  It is the US Attorney who decides who will be prosecuted for crimes – will the emphasis be to prosecute tax cheats or kids from the ‘hood who deal drugs because they don’t have the skills for meaningful work.  It wasn’t President Obama, nor will it be President Biden or Sanders, who appointed Matt Whitaker to be the US Attorney for the Southern District of Iowa.  The President appoints the heads of all the administrative agencies, not the least of which is the Social Security Administration.  The President appoints the heads of departments such as the State Department, Defense Department, Department of Labor, Department of Education, Department of Housing and Urban Development, Department of Agriculture, Department of Energy, &c.  Most importantly, the President appoints members of the judiciary – District Courts, Courts of Appeals, and the United States Supreme Court.  Again, the acquiescence of Congress is vital – remember Merrick Garland whose nomination to the High Court was blocked by our very good friend in the Senate.  When Trump took office, he was able to fill a record number of judicial vacancies that Obama had been unable fill.  In all these appointments, I suspect that Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders will appoint equally acceptable people, just as what’s-his-name, has been making horrendous appointments.

    The point of all this is that while I like Bernie Sanders, I’m not afraid of Joe Biden – there was a time when Joe Biden was considered the most progressive Democrat since Franklin Roosevelt.  I think either will make a good President and their success will depend on the Congress that is elected with them.  I just hope that the voters will understand how important all of their votes are, not only for the president, but for the other federal and state offices as well.  And I hope the next Secretary of the Department of Education mandates civics classes to be taught in all primary and secondary schools in this country.

    Report abuse

  • So Bloomberg has thrown the towel in after spending $500 million. Warren can’t be far behind despite her protestations. Then Joe and Bernie will duke it out. It’s looking like Joe at the moment but a week is a long time in politics. It really doesn’t matter much as long as Trump goes. All this democrat hand wringing and whining needs to stop. Just get behind whoever wins and make sure they beat agent orange. The worst possible democrat president is a million times better than the best possible republican one.

    Report abuse

  • I don’t see anyone whining, Arkrid. Certainly don’t see anyone saying they won’t vote for the Democrat if they don’t get their first choice of candidate (no one here, at least). That would indeed be preposterous, given who the alternative will be and how much is at stake.

    But that’s not to say both the Democratic front runners would be equally desirable, and until one or other of them has been definitively selected, it’s not “whining” or “hand-wringing” to express a preference for one or the other, or to point out that one of them would (at least try to) shake things up a lot more than the other.

    Personally, I’d prefer to see Sanders win the presidency … but I’d also prefer to see whichever of them stands the best chance of winning selected as the Democrat nominee; and at this point it’s not clear to me which of the two that will be – I’ve seen arguments both ways.

    Both Sanders and Biden, if elected, would prevent the horror of a 2nd Trump term and, like you, I’d give my full support to whichever of them was nominated if I had a vote. But that doesn’t mean it wouldn’t make any difference which of them it was.

    Report abuse

  • 27
    Michael 100 says:

    Marco #26:  “I’d give my full support to whichever of them was nominated if I had a vote. But that doesn’t mean it wouldn’t make any difference which of them it was.”

    That reminds me of a line I’ve heard in several stump speeches.  These sorts of stories always begins “… my father always said … ” or “… someone once told my father…” The speaker is usually citing a long family history of being a dyed-in-the-wool Democrat: 

    “Someone once told my father that he’d vote for the devil himself if he was a Democrat.  Dad responded:  ‘Well maybe, but not in the primary.'”


    Report abuse

  • “Someone once told my father that he’d vote for the devil himself if he was a Democrat.  Dad responded:  ‘Well maybe, but not in the primary.’”


    I think I can live with that!


    Report abuse

  • What would a Sanders presidency mean for NASA – is it likely Artemis would be cancelled or put on hold? Not that Trump’s 2024 planned return to the moon looks realistic though.

    I understand American people’s health and welfare is the priority for Sanders, but would he be supportive of the private sector – Elon Musk and Space X efforts?

    I am guessing Sanders would switch NASA’s focus to climate monitoring and increase funding for other environmental agencies.

    I haven’t got anything against Sanders, but I just wondered what people think about this?

    Report abuse

  • If I may, I’d like to switch gears from politics for a few…


    I’ve become fascinated by the concept of inherited behavior in higher animals, but I’m struggling with the actual mechanics of learned behavior becoming instinctive behavior.  Based on my admittedly novice understanding,  the Baldwin effect may be insufficient to explain the following condition:


    Right now in America there are people breeding “Pointing Labradors” for use in bird hunting.   In my research there is no indication that the Labrador breed ever held point on game, as traditional pointing breeds do.  That I can tell, less than 100 generations of Labradors have had a focus on holding a point on game.  Yet a significant percentage of pups from a “pointing” sire and/or dam can reliably be counted on to hold a point without being instructed by a trainer or without any evidence of imprinted behavior from the parent dogs.


    I’m aware of the pliability of domesticated animals, and particularly dogs.  The Baldwin effect, as I read it, is an evolutionary condition where an animal can adapt to a changing environment to access more food, therefore enhancing its survival in a classic Darwinian sense.  But to avoid Lamarkian evolution theory, these behaviors are understood to be at some level imprinted versus being inherited.  That does not seem to be the case here, as there are no external stressors present and a pup exhibiting this behavior could be demonstrated to not ever have a chance to see a parent and therefore imprint.


    So what am I missing?  If 30 to 40% of pups express a seemingly genetic trait, what is the mechanism?  100 generations is far too short a time for an adaptive response.  Are any of you aware of other studies that could shed some light?  Any insight is appreciated.

    Report abuse

  • Chief justice John Roberts has just issued a written rebuke to Chuck Schumer following his comments about conservative justices paying a terrible price if they strike down Roe v Wade. Roberts decried his comments as “dangerous” and said the supreme court justices would continue to do their jobs without fear or favour.

    Really John? So no favouring of republican applicants and conservative causes at all then? Your corrupt court votes 5-4 every damn time along partisan lines no matter what the case being heard is. You would also I believe be the same justice Roberts who let republican senators eat, sleep, play with fidget spinners or just fuck off and leave during the impeachment trial without saying a damn thing and not a peep out of you when Trump tweeted that Ginsberg and Sotomayor should recuse themselves from hearing any case relating to him.

    So don’t piss on my leg and tell me it’s raining. Your feeble pretences at being impartial fool no one. You’re a partisan hack like the other 4 right wing justices and I hope the next administration increase the number of justices and fill the new spaces with liberals so your own voice doesn’t count anymore. Lifetime appointments need to end as well.

    Report abuse

  • I see Elizabeth Warren has dropped out of the race for the Dem. nomination.

    It was inevitable, I guess, given how far behind the other two she’s been of late, but I’d still have loved to see her in the White House.

    Might either Biden or Sanders choose her as his running mate? I hope so, but am too out of it to judge. Laurie, Vicki, Michael (and anyone else in the US): what do you think?

    Report abuse

  • For all the warm and fuzzy statements that come out of the Supreme Court about how friendly they all are behind the scenes and one big family, etc., I fail to see how that’s possible given the other statements that come from them that are in complete conflict with that.

    Yes Vicki, a double standard for sure! It reveals just how deep Roberts is into the right wing mentality. I wonder if there’s any possibility of his having a neutral stance on anything now.

    Schumer is currently apologizing for his strong language in his comment.

    What I think Schumer is alluding to is explained by Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer:

    In particular, this book considers two sets of questions. The first concerns the public’s willingness to accept the court’s decisions as legitimate. When the Court interprets the law, will the other branches of government follow those interpretations? Will the public do so? Will they implement even those Court decisions that they believe are wrong and that are highly unpopular? Many of us take for granted that the answer to these questions is yes, but this was not always the case. Part 1 uses examples from our nation’s history to show how, after fragile beginnings, the Court’s authority has grown. It describes how the Court was given the power to interpret the Constitution authoritatively, striking down congressional statutes that it finds in conflict with the Constitution. And it goes on to describe several instances where Supreme Court decisions were ignored or disobeyed, where the president’s or the public’s acceptance of Court decisions was seriously in doubt. These examples of the Court’s infirmity -perhaps startling today – demonstrate that public acceptance is not automatic and cannot be taken for granted. The Court itself must help maintain the public’s trust in the Court, the public’s confidence in the Constitution, and the public’s commitment to the rule of law.

    From Making Our Democracy Work, A Judge’s View. By Stephen Breyer. Pages xii and xiii

    From the same book, pages 1 and 2:

    Subsequent chapters present historical snapshots of how, in fits and starts, the Supreme Court came to be accepted and trusted as a guardian of the Constitution. The cases presented include an example in which the president and the State of Georgia refused to implement a Court decision protecting the Cherokee Indians; the example of Dred Scott, where the Court itself, misunderstanding the law, its own authority, and the likely public reaction, refused justice to an individual because of his race; and an example in which the president had to send troops to Little Rock, Arkansas, because so many people there, including the governor, refused to comply with the Court’s decision in Brown v. Board of Education, holding segregated schools unconstitutional. These examples help us understand the importance and the value, the uncertainty and the pitfalls, that predate today’s widespread acceptance of Court decisions as legitimate. They help demonstrate that public acceptance is not automatic, and that the Court and the public must work together in a partnership of sorts, with mutual respect and understanding.

    If a right wing Court along with their own president and congress made an aggressive move to outlaw abortion here, I don’t doubt that there would be serious backlash and I don’t doubt there could be refusal to comply with the decision as Breyer describes in his book as having happened in the past at least three times on major decisions by the Supreme Court. I don’t doubt that Schumer was far off the mark on that statement.


    Report abuse

  • 36
    Michael 100 says:

    Marco #34.  The choice of a vice presidential candidate has always been somewhat of a mystery to me.  Why did Hillary Clinton choose Tim Kane, or why did John McCain chose Sara Palin? Most VP candidates, especially those on the loosing side, usually fade quickly from view.  I guess the VP candidate is suppose to attract a large number of voters from either a geographic area or an ideological wing of the party,  but I suspect that the candidates political advisers have a lot to say about it.  I have read that the reason John Kennedy chose Lyndon Johnson to be VP was because J. Edgar Hoover, who was director of the FBI, insisted on it — and Hoover had enough “information” in his files that JFK was forced to accept Hoover’s advice.  The other contested VP contest I know of was in 1944 when FDR was nominated for his fourth term.  Henry A. Wallace was the VP in the 3rd administration, and I believe FDR wanted him to continue in the 4th.  It was known that FDR was in poor health and that the VP was likely to be the next president.  However, Wallace was considered too liberal by the Southern Democrats who were opposed to Wallace’s views on desegregation.  In spite of the best efforts of the liberal wing of the party, Harry Truman was chosen and of course became president when FDR died.  After Truman became President, he angered the Southerners when he desegregated the military, which set the stage for the 1948 campaign  That was the election when everyone was sure that Thomas E. Dewey would defeat Truman, and newspapers were already printed before the results of the election were final.  In addition to Truman and Dewey, Strom Thurmond ran as a “Dixiecrat” and Henry A. Wallace ran as a progressive.  Wallace came in 4th — I don’t think he carried a single state.  Not only was Wallace’s racial views problematic for him, but he refused to reject the endorsement of the Communist party, or at least of various communist groups, which caused him problems for the rest of his life.

    Report abuse

  • Marco

    I’d love to see Warren as a VP running mate for either Biden or Sanders. Would make sense for Biden. He’s strong in the South. She could hand him the Northeast and progressives in other locations. I’d feel better about voting for Biden if I knew she was waiting in the wings.


    Report abuse

  • Michael 100:  I hope someone with the appropriate expertise will address the question raised in #31 above.

    I agree!  Firstly someone would have to do the research on the claims made, either the research, or the account of it missed something, or Darwin was wrong.  Without prejudging, I know what I believe (irony intended).

    Report abuse

  • Marco #34

    Laurie, Vicki, Michael (and anyone else in the US): what do you think?

    I love Warren. It’s too bad she dropped out before Ohio’s primary; she would have got my vote.

    That said, I don’t think she would be the best idea for a running mate. Age is a factor in this election, and the running mate, IMO, should offset that. My choice for the nominee’s running mate would be Klobuchar.

    Report abuse

  • It is, Sean. I hope that whichever of Biden and Sanders gets the nomination, he’ll choose a woman as his running mate for VP. It’s ludicrous that, in 2020, being a woman should still be an obstacle to power.


    Report abuse

  • Hi Jeff [#31],

    Regarding the concept of inherited behaviour: It is my understanding that animal behaviour is best studied from the perspective of its physiology (how a living thing is ‘constructed’ for want of a better term) and its environment – at least to begin with.  This can then be enhanced by adding observations: Inter-species examples, intra-species examples and statistical analysis of such observations.

    In the above, behaviour that is learned could only be called learned where learning had clearly taken place.  Ideally that would mean actually observing examples of one species where learning a fact or skill was observed in some, but not all, species members – and a process by which ignorant members of that species learned that skill or fact.  In order to achieve that you would also have to be certain that the candidate skill or fact is perceived by the species being studied in the same way as the human observers perceive it.  For example: If I observe a bird using a stone to crack open a snail’s shell then I might be tempted to conclude that the bird knows (a) that the snail inside the shell is food and (b) that the bird cannot eat the snail with the shell on.  However, it is only when I see multiple birds of the same species repeating his activity, and eating the snail (or feeding snails to its young perhaps) that I know that the hypotheses a and b are close enough, true enough, to how the birds see their world to go the next step.

    The next step might be to hypothesise that opening a snail shell is a skill which some birds have, and of which others are ignorant.  To do that I would have to go to where there are snails and birds and make lots of observations – enough to convince not just me, but any sceptic that might question my results.  I would have to see birds of the same species (again, ideally): Ignore snails even though they are a rich and abundant food source, eat snails if they fall in their way (e.g. by stealing from the skilled birds) but not opening the shells themselves and opening snail shells using a repeated and recognisable technique (stone as hammer, stone as anvil, or some such).

    At no point, in the above, have we seen learning become instinct.  To do that we would need to keep an even larger record (a large percentage of a snail-opening bird species living within flying distance of the snail location), over several generations, in order to observe that a significant percentage of the young birds, each year, no longer need to learn how to open shells. Even then we could not say for sure that shell-opening had become instinctive – we would have to test for numerous other possibilities – are newer generations faster learners (so fast we don’t see it)?, are newer birds eating more snails because other food sources are becoming more scarce thus skewing our figures?, are snail-opening ignoramuses disadvantaged?, do they learn other skills?, do they exhibit other learned and/or instinctive behaviours?, what is happening in their wider environment that might drive changes in behaviour? … and so on.

    Let’s say that we have all our ducks in a row, we’ve studied and recorded all of the above for 20 generations (of bird) and we have results that show that this species’ most recent generation, as a species not as a collection of individuals, can now open snail shells without reference to any other individual from the first day it can fly down to the place where the snails can be found.  Have we demonstrated that learning has become instinct.  That’s a rhetorical question only, and the answer is no.

    In the case of the Labrador we have a breed of dog.  The domesticated dog is a species that has been shaped by another species (us) – which in biological terms means we are, and have been, a significant part of their environment – for many thousands of years.  Labradors were specifically bred (artificially evolved by direct human intervention) to be retrievers – that is: Labradors were bred by human hunters to retrieve creatures that were hunted down by our ancestors in situations where it would be difficult to find the fallen prey on our own.  Dogs are also, at heart, a pack animal.  Dogs observe each other closely, mostly for reasons more related to pack hierarchy and mating opportunities than for learning new skills – though note that learning of a kind, in a dynamic situation, is implied by a pack hierarchy and by taking advantage of fluctuating opportunities of any kind.  Also species closely related to dogs show clear signs that hunting in packs is partly instinct and partly learned.

    It is no stretch to say that Labradors know birds, where birds are, know us humans and in specific instances know what we’re doing and what our motivations are.  They also show signs of treating us as high-hierarchy in their personal ‘packs’ and as anyone who has ever seen a dog show knows: They can learn.

    For Labradors to make the step from retriever to pointer (from fetching prey to pointing out which direction to hunt) is not exactly a mighty leap in skill-set.  These things are related – some would say indivisible – for a wild dog.

    J: “I’m struggling with the actual mechanics of learned behaviour becoming instinctive behaviour … ”

    I agree.

    Although there are cases of evolution that have been put forward as support for the Baldwin effect, I remain sceptical.  It is more likely that learning has evolved as a short-term survival (and/or flourishing) behaviour as a sideline from developing a larger brain (going back to our studies of physiology). As I understand it, in humans, the most broadly supported (and interlocking) hypotheses favour an interpretation of human evolution that posits our ancestors grew larger brains as a side-effect of eating meat more regularly (higher calorie content versus other hunter-gatherer options) and, therefore, the need to hunt which (to be a more successful survival strategy) works best when individuals works as teams (packs, or tribes) that can communicate (both of which appear to require larger brains).  A virtuous circle, if you will allow.

    J: “Based on my admittedly novice understanding … ”

    You’re not alone.

    J: ” … the Baldwin effect may be insufficient … ”

    I think this is your problem: Baldwin’s hypothesis that learned behaviour can drive evolutionary change seems to be evidenced in some cases, but, it is a difficult thing to be sure.

    Even if my birds were benefiting in some way by eating snails – to the extent that they out-bred their ignorant and hard-of-learning brothers and sisters in their own species – what we have observed is only that learning is a more powerful survival strategy in that particular environment than whatever was being employed by those who did not learn.  The snails and shells are a distraction, though they provide the evidence, they are distracting us from what is really going on.

    If the later generations of birds favoured snails more and more that might suggest that they were developing a preference for snails as food – perhaps even an instinctive preference.  However, the development of that trait (if indeed it is instinctive) as a phenotype directly evolved from learning is not proven.

    At best, we can hypothesise that the fact that later generations prefer snails as food, and demonstrate what appears to be an instinctive ability to open the snails’ shells, is probably behaviour that is the result of previous generations feeding almost exclusively (perhaps even forced to, by environmental change) on snails and, thereby, evolving (in parallel with, but not connected to, the trait of learning) an instinct for snails as food – including opening the shells as merely the first stage of ingestion.  This could thus be evidence of an indirect connection between one trait and another but does not demonstrate that learning a skill (earlier generations learning to open shells) leads directly to instinctive behaviour (observing later generations demonstrating an apparently instinctive ability to open shells).

    In every case that I can think of a coincidence of a short term useful phenotype and an evolving longer term phenotype or, learning and new phenotype development as an indirect connection, are both far more plausible then a direct connection between a learned phenotype and an instinctive one.  My reasoning here is that, like you Jeff, I know of no mechanism by which learned behaviour becomes instinctive behaviour.  It’s not just that there is no demonstrated structure in genetics or brains where we could even begin to start looking for such a link – it’s also that a direct link would surely throw up far more observable instances (in particular because it’s promoted as a successful survival phenotype in its own right).  A preponderance of data wouldn’t prove Baldwin’s hypothesis, but it would, surely, suggest it far more strongly than we actually observe and many more examples would probably give us more of a hint as to where to look for the mechanism(s) – but as things stand I don’t know that we have even that.  I may have just demonstrated some significant ignorance here – if anyone out there knows of a direct connection please let me and Jeff know.

    Disclaimer: As I’m not an expert – I should point out that I have not studied Baldwin’s hypothesis in detail – it may be that this hypothesis actually only posits an indirect link.  If so, I apologise to any biologists that might come across my ramblings.

    J: “Right now in America there are people breeding “Pointing Labradors” for use in bird hunting”

    Dogs such as Labradors have had their instinctive abilities to hunt birds on the ground attuned to human needs using close species-to-species co-operation (which in dogs is an extension of their instinctive pack hunting instincts, instincts they had before they lived with humans) over many generations.  Labradors have also been bred (artificially evolved) to accompany human hunting parties.  Dogs learn – it is almost certainly a trait that made them valuable hunting partners for our early ancestors – one of the things that cemented our millennia-long bond.  It is no surprise to me that Labradors can be pointers – knowing how to efficiently find and indicate the location of prey is merely a part of dogs’ instinctive hunting abilities.  Sharing that knowledge is a part of their pack instincts which has meant communicating with humans for their livelihoods for uncountable generations.

    J: “In my research there is no indication that the Labrador breed ever held point on game, as traditional pointing breeds do … ”

    I suggest it is probable that Labradors have always had this gene, but unexpressed, and that the core abilities of being able to track prey where humans cannot were central instincts in their survival tool kit long before they met humans.  Breeding Labradors as retrievers may have had the effect of not favouring pointing and, as you rightly note, other breeds were available for pointing so our ancestors did not worry.

    J: “If 30 to 40% of pups express a seemingly genetic trait, what is the mechanism?”

    Long-suppressed genes are known to re-surface in later generations – it’s where we get the term throwback from after all.  I suggest that as many generations of Labrador have been bred in recent centuries without limiting their breeding to retriever expertise (because they were only pets, not working dogs) that this is likely to favour suppressed genes that would, otherwise, have been further suppressed by human preferences choosing breeding partners.

    J: “100 generations is far too short a time for an adaptive response”

    Not if the trait was always there and merely suppressed by human intervention.  This is also more likely given that we’re discussing a more fundamental, physiological, aspect of dogs than learning.

    My two penneth worth.


    Report abuse

  • Thanks for that extremely erudite answer Stephen!  Perhaps I’m smarter than I think, but I had the idea that the answer might be somewhat along those lines, though I had to do considerable re-reading and dictionary consultation to really follow what you wrote.

    Long-suppressed genes are known to re-surface in later generations

    I have always understood that it is impossible to train an animal to do something if the genetic scaffolding to support that behaviour does not exist.  For instance animals that are traditionally solitary, cannot be trained to act in a pack, or to respect a human leader.  Unless the genetic propensity to do something similar is contained in their genome, training won’t work. (A devil, a born devil, on whose nature/ Nurture can never stick’ (Tmp. IV:i 188-189)).

    Intelligent animals can be trained to adapt their existing genetic propensities, to use as the base for similar behaviours required by their human masters. Managed, selected breeding can also produce desired, or sometimes unexpected results, which may be useful to humans (vide Siberian foxes,

    Anyone who has ever owned a dog can vouch for the fact that the delightful companion, who provides consolation and love in times of despair, can unexpectedly turn vicious wolf in the right (wrong?) circumstances.  You never know what they are thinking, and that is why a dog should never be left alone with a small child.

    But I digress.  Long suppressed genes are still lurking around, and there are obviously control systems which suppress them, or allow them to be expressed.  In  some individual animals physical features or character traits are more, or less, dominant.  Anyone who has children can vouch for the fact that the same couple can produce offspring with very different appearance and personalities; familial traits which you would never have suspected in one child suddenly appear out of nowhere, perhaps with maturation or due to a change in physical/emotional circumstances.

    Inside every child lurks an ape, and inside every dog lurks a wolf, and it only takes famine, flood or war to bring out the demon.

  • Hi eejit [#45],

    If you’re smarter than you think you are then, yes, you’re smarter than you think you are – assuming that the Dunning-Kruger effect also works the other way 😉

    Thank you for such high praise.  I’m afraid I really didn’t do my homework this time around (I normally spend a lot of time researching that kind of post because it’s a learning opportunity – and I do love to learn) and did it pretty much off-the-cuff.  I was half expecting to come back and find I’d been thoroughly roasted by Richard himself!

    I agree with pretty much everything you said – though I have never owned a dog myself.



    Report abuse

  • On Feb 28th in last month’s thread I posted that the USA had so far only tested a pathetic 459 patients for CV. At the same time the UK had tested 7,000 and South Korea 65,000. Those figures have now risen to SK 140,000 and UK 25,000. And in the USA? Well sadly the answer is nobody knows. The CDC website had a real time counter which showed the number of tests conducted but that was abruptly deleted last week, undoubtedly as part of Trump and Pence’s attempt to manage the propaganda rather than the actual disease. Research by the WaPo suggest the number is still only about 2,000 tests as facilities and test kits are seriously limited. All Trump cares about is his own future and getting re-elected so he’s forcing his people to downplay the risk and spread of the disease. The CDC wanted a special warning to the elderly to be broadcast advising them to stay at home and wash their hands more often. The request was refused. Trump even refused to let infected passengers on a cruise ship disembark for treatment because he didn’t want their number to increase the official tally of infected people in the USA and go on “his” record.

    In the 3 year horror story that the Trump presidency has been for us all the moment that sticks in my mind is him dropping the umbrella on the steps of Air Force 1. “I don’t need this anymore. I’ll just dump it. Someone else can clean up my mess”. I think that umbrella was a metaphor for the American people and how much he cares for any of them apart from maybe Ivanka.

    So how is this criminally negligent response from the Trump administration really affecting people? The mortality rate in China has been about 2%, similar to the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic, and China didn’t handle things very well either, at least at the start. However the mortality rate in the USA to date is over 4%. The reason is that only people with the most acute symptoms are being tested due to shortage of resources and for many of them it’s simply now too late for treatment. Estimates of the first year death toll in the USA are around the 40,000 mark going by previous pandemics but the incompetent response so far might lead that number to be much higher. You can also bet that the poor and non-insured will come off worst as many won’t be able to afford to get tested or treated.

    Finally, to round off the bad news. A survey just found that people who identified as Democrat were over twice as likely to evaluate the CV epidemic as serious and a cause for concern as people who identified as Republican. The reason is that Republican news sources like Fox are simply not covering the virus or telling the truth about it so as to protect Trump’s election chances. The proletariat are literally being sacrified on Trump’s altar. He said he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue. Well he’s now actually going to be killing people, possibly by the thousands, rather than keep them properly informed. Even after 3 years of behaviour so disgusting we can barely absorb it we still need to be reminded that there is no bottom to the barrel. A million American lives matter about as much to him as that umbrella. Never forget that.

    Report abuse

  • Terrifying, and so sad to witness the social and moral ruination of a once spectacular country.  A Republic which could have been everything wonderful, declining into self-inflicted sleaze, callousness and auto delusion.

    Report abuse

  • 50
    Michael 100 says:

    I think it was in Walter Isaacson’s biography of Albert Einstein that I read that Einstein became really discouraged with the United States during the McCarthy era.  If I remember correctly, Isaacson made the point that Einstein had forgotten about the United States’ ability to self-correct.

    This country has always had wide swings of the pendulum.  See  The same people who twice elected Barack Obama, turned around and voted for Donald Trump – although I keep reminding myself that Hillary Clinton got three million more votes than Trump did.  First, they voted for Ronald Reagan and George Bush only to follow up and vote twice for Bill Clinton.

    While the it seems pretty dark at this moment, I’m hesitant to despair.  For all its faults – and I’ll be the first one to point out those faults – my sense is not to underestimate the ability of the United States to recover from the Trump era.  I wholeheartedly agree that the Trump presidency has been a horror story on wheels, and it’s going to take some time to recover from the damage he and his administration have foisted on the country and the world, nevertheless we’ve recovered from disasters, political and otherwise, before, and we’ll recover from Trump.  The important thing is to keep forging ahead.  If nothing else, we can use this time as an opportunity to point out the dangers of ignorance encouraged by religion and the crooks (politicians and/or clerics) who use it to pick the pockets of those who swallow its poison.
    Progress happens, but as Ms. Rothman points out in the article cited above, “… a pendulum cannot do on its own.  We stand beside the pendulum, human. We are the ones who can reach out to grab the swinging mass of history. We must cradle it carefully, thoughtfully, before we decide to release it—because when we do, it will swing again. Swinging, we can only hope, is better than hanging still.”

  • The trouble with taking a long view of history, is that it doesn’t help those who are suffering in the short term. I had the good fortune to be born in the immediate post-war period.  I benefited from  health care, very good quality council housing, nursery education, thorough primary education, academically stringent secondary education and rigorous university, all provided free, or almost free, by the state.  Those advantages have stayed with me for my whole life.  My two older siblings who lived through Hitler’s war had less advantages and found life more difficult.

    Young people today, who are suffering the continuing effects of long-term ultra-right politics, leave university with huge debts, are unable to obtain mortgages, or even find affordable rental accommodation, and are at the mercy of the gig economy.  Many more of them have degrees than in my day, but they find that this no longer gives them a livable salary, or even a reliable job.

    It’s not much help to them that eventually the political and economic systems will correct themselves; by the time they do the environment will be on the point of collapse, they will be looking into old age without owning their own homes, a decent pension, or even access to health care.  God knows what will be their children’s situation.

    Report abuse

  • I have no doubt that climate change will be important in relation to the  mutation and spread of pathogens, however I remember when the polio virus cut a swathe through the world, also the asian flu and its heirs and successors too numerous to name or even remember.  In historic times The Black Death spread like wildfire, as did syphilis, smallpox, measles in the Americas and Australia, tuberculosis and cholera.  One of the factors in all of these pandemics, perhaps the main one, was world trade and exploration; even in the age of sail travel was a remarkably efficient carrier.

    Report abuse

  • The first computer simulations are now out of how the coronavirus is expected to spread. It is predicted to peak towards the end of this year with around 100 million people infected and 2 million deaths. About 4 million infections and 80,000 deaths should be in the USA if the containment action there is as good as the world average. With Trump in charge it could be far worse.

    The UK has just announced a £30 billion package to deal with coronavirus. The USA with 5 times the population has so far allocated only $8 billion or about £6 billion. Proportionally about a 1/25th response. One fifth of the money for 5 times the population. More action is of course desperately needed but any legislation will need the Dems on board as they control the House and Trump refuses to speak to or even be in the same room as Nancy Pelosi since she ripped his speech up or Chuck Schumer since he got impeached. So while Trump seethes and sulks in his room it’s Mnuchin who’s been delegated to negotiate with Chuck and Nancy and then report back to dear leader. That should slow progress down even more. Clusterfuck much??

    The Dow is now down over 20% since last month’s record high and so officially into a bear market. In conjunction with the virus and the oil price war it’s the perfect storm for Trump’s re-election year so I’m actually feeling pretty chipper about things for a rare change.

    Report abuse

  • The first computer simulations are now out of how the coronavirus is expected to spread. It is predicted to peak towards the end of this year with around 100 million people infected and 2 million deaths.

    Where are these prediction figures being sourced from?

    I am trying to stay optimistic. Here in S.E. Asia the death rate is still quite low.

    Let’s hope warmer weather in northern hemisphere countries will slow down the spread.


    Report abuse

  • After weeks of decrying the coronavirus as a hoax, nothing to worry about, only a foreign problem, some sense of urgency was apparently instilled into Trump by his advisors that real leadership needed to be shown in the face of collapsing stock markets, Italy going into lockdown, an oil price war and the WHO declaring the situation a pandemic and excoriating the lack of action from some (hint hint) quarters. So the burning question became this. When he’s trying his absolute hardest, in the knowledge that this is a critical emergency and moreover could make or break his re-election chances, can Trump step up and show he’s in control. So he declared that he would address the nation at 9 pm last night and the jury is now in on his performance. The answer is an emphatic no. The worst speech by a president ever, it caused more confusion than it resolved and markets are crashing even harder again this morning.

    First Trump himself. He can be either upper Trump, possibly after snorting sudafed or cocaine, where he’s manic, sweating, talking fast or he can be downer Trump where’s he’s lethargic, confused, vacant. Last night he was very much downer Trump but with added weird. He was sniffing badly and his right eye was almost closed, whether from injury, illness, substances or something neurological is unknown but it resulted in him glaring at the teleprompter through his left eye like Mad-Eye Moody in Harry Potter. He struggled mightily to read the basic English of the speech, delivering it all in a flat monotone like a computer voice, no timing or phrasing of the sentences. He mispronounced words, stuttered and fluffed a couple of times as what he was saying confused him and created weird gaps part way through sentences, presumably when he got to the end of a line and was trying to find the start of the next line. Judged purely on quality of oration it was catastrophic. However the content was even worse.

    Much of the speech was the usual boasting and self congratulating that he just can’t stop no matter how serious the situation. He praised his own response to the virus, painted it as the fault of the Chinese and Europeans because he so desperately needs a scapegoat for his own inadequacies. He said that this was not a financial crisis just a short term glitch. He said he’d agreed with insurance companies that there’s be no co-payments for Covid treatment but this later had to be corrected that it was only for Covid tests. He also announced a travel ban on all travel from Europe except the UK which caused a further shitstorm of confusion as it wasn’t clear if this meant goods as well as people and which parts of Europe. After several corrections and announcements on twitter it seems it’s only people and only the Schengen part of western Europe. Officials in the countries concerned have been blindsided as nothing had been discussed with either them or the airlines first.

    Like his appalling mispronounced speech in India it was clear that he’d not practiced this speech at all and that whoever wrote it hadn’t proof read it properly to avoid the confusions. As I type this trading is suspended yet again as the Dow crashes by 8%. The markets have realised that Trump’s incompetence is incurable and the ship is rudderless. This must surely be the final nail in the coffin of his re-election chances. If the Dems can’t hammer him to death now then they don’t deserve to win.

    Report abuse

  • So what could a proper president have done last night instead of boasting, blaming and banning travel? Most of Europe apart from Italy has very low infection rates and zero deaths. The disease is already well established in the USA, it’s just that so few people have been tested the severity of it is as yet unknown. Banning less infected people from Europe won’t change anything while Americans pass it on to each other anyway.

    What would have put a lot of people’s minds at rest would have been the promise of free testing AND treatment for everyone. The insured get any copayments covered and the uninsured get the lot paid for. Also paid sick leave on the government dime so no one has to starve while they’re self isolating or their company is shut down. Most important is to fix the lack of test kits so the scale of the problem can be uncovered and planned for, plus early testing means early treatment and fewer deaths.

    As the disease spreads and hospital staff catch it from patients the country is going to run out of nurses, doctors, beds and equipment. China had to build new hospitals which they did in a matter of days. I would suggest that officials in the USA start looking for every available building that might be suitable for emergency care and planning on how to equip them at short notice.

    Report abuse

  • After the first couple of days falls in the stock markets I posted that this was just the start of the rout. Dow is now down 26% from last month’s high. FTSE is down 30%. A big correction was overdue anyway given the length of the bull run we’ve had for 11 years. I think we’ll see at least 45% falls before this is over. On the first day of the collapse I contacted my broker to get my account live again. I haven’t invested for many years but as soon as the dust has settled it will be time to get invested again. Canny folks will be able to double their money if they get back in at the right time.

    Report abuse

  • 62
    Michael 100 says:

    I just heard that a significant majority of “evangelicals” think Trump is the epitome of morality. I think that shows the failure of their institutions to teach the meaning of the word “morality”.

    Report abuse

  • There was a run on our grocery stores today here in the North of Boston area. Whole aisles stripped bare. Mob scene.

    That speech Trump made last night set off a panic here.

    My mom’s nursing home is on lockdown now. Only medical personel allowed inside. All the nursing homes in this area the same.

    Report abuse

  • A superb speech by Joe Biden on Thursday showing incompetent Trump just what being presidential actually means.

    He was clear, calm, authoritative and honest. No sign of mental deterioration there. He also just listed every idea I suggested in #60 above.

    That speech is going to do the Biden campaign more good than every debate, every fundraiser, every campaign rally. It’s the first time in 3 years we’ve been reminded of what it’s like to have a normal human being in the Oval Office. It was also a really smart and clever way of hitting Trump harder than he’s ever been hit before. Biden was basically saying that Trump is unfit for purpose so even though I’m not president yet I’m going to stand up and take the lead in this coronavirus fight that Trump refuses to provide. He’s saying to voters compare and contrast Trump’s appalling incompetent robotic speech on Wednesday with my one today then decide who you want leading your country.

    Report abuse

  • @Arkrid #65

    For me, the single most telling difference was which one actually looked people in the eyes. It’s such a simple thing, yet speaks volumes about a person’s character. Trump’s body language, the hunched shoulders and/or crossed arms, has always struck me as defensive and insecure.

    Report abuse

  • Vicki #67

    Trump always puts me in mind of a toad: squat, dense, hunched up, blank-eyed, ugly, damp and cold. I actually quite like toads; it’s just in humans it’s such a repulsive combination.

    I’m not a fan of fantasy or horror novels, but Trump is such a monstrous incubus, so outrageously unfit for the position he holds, that I sometimes feel we’ve wandered into one by mistake. It still feels impossible that the Trump presidency can really be A Thing.

    I see he’s now refusing (or claiming to be refusing, at least) to be tested for CV, despite having been photographed standing right next to the Brazilian government aide known to have it. What kind of message does that send out to the public about the need to take CV seriously and to act responsibly to protect ourselves and others? “Monstrous incubus” is beginning to feel like an understatement.

    Report abuse

  • quarecuss

    I guess the difference is that Toad of Toad Hall, for all his inflated ego and his impulsiveness and his conviction he always knows best, and the horrible consequences of all that, does at least have some capacity for humility and for acknowledging his mistakes – once things have got bad enough, anyway – and is therefore, at heart, also lovable.

    Toad of Trump Hall, on the other hand …

    Report abuse

  • 71
    Michael 100 says:

    Arkrid Sandwich #65.  Thanks for the link to the Biden speech.  I hope the video goes viral.

    I’ve seen a lot of elections.  There always seems to be a moment when the outcome of the election becomes clear – Michael Dukakis riding in the tank with the weird looking helmet; George H.W. Bush looking at his watch; the October announcement by the FBI director that the Clinton investigation would be reopened.  Biden’s speech may mark the exact moment that points to his victory.

    Biden really looked presidential, what he said was clear and realistic.  At least twice, Biden said the solution was to “lead with science.”  He called for the rebuilding of the government so that this and unknown future crisis can be met – the Republicans always want to dismantle government and then are unprepared for a crisis, no matter what kind, financial, international incident, or health catastrophe.

    I wish there was a way for the entire Trump government to resign and elections to be held today.  That’s the advantage of a parliamentary system over the American form of government.

    Report abuse

  • Yes Arkrid, the speech stunk of that psychopath, Steven Miller and his hatred of furriners. The boasting and self-congratulations was sickening.

    I was back out again today trying to get food supplies. It’s a grabbing mob scene. Shortages in all grocery stores. While I was at it I saw Trump on TV out the corner of my eye bragging about how he’s going to cut the interest rate on student loans. WTF will that do?!

    People are grumbling that we’re all on our own with this thing. Nobody to help us. Whether that’s true or not it’s a bad thing for millions of Americans to believe that.

    Report abuse

  • Marco #68

    I always think of Trump as a giant orange bullfrog but clearly we are picking up on similar things. He has a facial expression when he’s trying to mimic affection that’s a closed mouth smile, no teeth showing, chin jutting out and he pulls back the corners of his mouth to make the smile, or grimace, as I think of it, wider and wider until he looks like a bullfrog swallowing a beetle. He made this face to Melania during a presser some time ago on her birthday I think and this awful rictus grimace was meant to indicate love which if course he is incapable of feeling.

    He’s also incapable of learning. A shocking display of arrogance and stupidity in the Rose Garden earlier as Trump took questions from the press. He denied any responsibility for there being no test kits. He’s actually tweeted twice so far that it’s Obama’s fault. Then a black, female reporter had the temerity to ask him if he took any responsibility for shutting down the Pandemic Response Team in 2018. “That’s a nasty question” replied Trump as are all questions from black females in his mind. He then went on to deny even knowing anything about it and tried to blame someone called Tony whoever Tony was.

    If all of that wasn’t nauseating enough Pence then took the stand and launched into several minutes of the most puke making sycophancy you’ve ever heard. Dear leader’s “decisive action”, “forged a seamless bond with first responders”, “masterful leadership”. I really don’t know how Pence sleeps at night or continues to call himself a christian. When asked about the confusion that Trump’s Oval Office speech had caused Pence replied he hadn’t seen any confusion just before becoming completely confused himself about who was and wasn’t allowed to travel to and from Europe.

    Report abuse

  • On occasion throughout time a few muster the courage to speak out against the swelling tide of deceit that seeks to overwhelm the norms we have all come to expect.  It has been a rare occurrence to see a very select company of persons who are willing to speak truth to power at any cost and I felt this to be a notable occasion.  

    I hope you find it as refreshing as I did to hear a loud clear voice of admonishment to those who pretend to uphold the highest ideals while missing the mark widely.  The link will be self explanatory in showcasing Superior court justice James Dannenberg calling out Supreme Court justice John Roberts for his pandering to partisan proposition generally while suggesting a bipartisan court that has no existence in reality.



  • Arkrid #75

    “That’s a nasty question” replied Trump as are all questions from black females in his mind.

    When are we Americans going to quit falling for Trump’s drama-queen claptrap?

    I, for one, would like to hear an answer–not his opinion of the question. To be fair, though, he doesn’t limit his high school dramatics to only black females. Candidate Trump gave the exact same response to Cokie Roberts, among others.

    In fact, reporters could easily use that response as a red flag, tagging the subject as worthy of deeper investigation.

    Report abuse

  • Arkrid Sandwich says:

    I really don’t know how Pence sleeps at night or continues to call himself a Christian. When asked about the confusion that Trump’s Oval Office speech had caused Pence replied he hadn’t seen any confusion just before becoming completely confused himself about who was and wasn’t allowed to travel to and from Europe.

    Cognitive dissonance, self-deception, self-delusion, interpretative Humpty Dumptyism,  and Dunning-Kruger confidence, are well known features of fundamentalist thinking habits!

    Report abuse

  • I wonder how long it will be before Trump denies that he refused to meet with Pelosi because he was sulking and claims all the credit for the coronavirus relief bill and then also claims that Dems tried to obstruct it?

    BTW, every Dem in the House voted for Pelosi’s bill. 40 Repubs voted against it. God forbid that poor people should get free virus testing. That’s evil socialism.

    Report abuse

  • Arkrid Sandwich says:

    God forbid that poor people should get free virus testing. That’s evil socialism.

    Those green-card Americans who might be infected, are returning from European countries which are banning large public gatherings and  are going into lock-down. –  Those Americans ARE getting tested at US airports.

    Admittedly they are having to crowd together for hours in queues to wait for the tests because of Trump’s late about turn on the subject and the lack of preparation at the airports!
    US airports have been thrown into chaos as new coronavirus health screening measures for people returning from Europe come into force.
    Long queues formed as travellers waited for hours for the screenings before passing through customs.

    Report abuse

  • Our emergency departments already ARE shitshows with more patients there than is capacity to treat them. Patients are lined up in the overcrowded hallways on stretchers waiting for a treatment room to clear. You’ve got elderly helpless patients next to addicts detoxing.  Lots of people of unknown status walking around. You can’t leave your people alone there, they could be robbed. The last time my mom’s blood pressure went through the roof she never did get a treatment bay open up. My brother and I took turns sitting there on a chair near her stretcher the whole time. She was in the hallway on a stretcher for almost two days and then finally got a bed on the medical floor.

    There is no way our ER departments could deal with the kind of patient load that will come of this virus. They can’t even deal with our daily patient load as it is.

    Oh and I’m not talking about a disadvantaged location here…My mom lives in quite a snooty area.


    Report abuse

  • I have just managed to finish reading A Universe from Nothing by
    Lawrence M. Krauss. Thanks to the people on here who recommended it – I really enjoyed it and learnt a lot. It has been a good distraction from current events.

    Parts of the book were hard for me to follow at times, but overall it is written in an accessible and humourous style. I think I got the key argument of the book – in quantum physics, particles can exist outside of normal measurements of time and space. They do come into existence from nothing and that nothing is unstable. This my basic interpretation!

    Report abuse

  • Well I was rather hoping that up here in northern Scotland we wouldn’t get affected too much by the Tom Hanks virus. At least from the point of view of catching it. I live on a remote farm, or next to one anyway, the car is off the road so I don’t get out or even want to much and groceries come every couple of weeks courtesy of Asda in a green van and get dropped off at my back door. I log in to my Asda account online, pick a delivery slot, usually next morning, order what I want and job done. At least that’s the usual plan. Last night I signed in. Not a single delivery slot to be had until next Friday. Everyone is so scared of catching the virus in public they’re all ordering online now and the system can’t cope. Not enough vans or drivers. I can just about manage until Friday but even so, toilet paper was out of stock and bottled sparkling water was rationed to 6 bottles.

    WTF is with this obsession about hoarding toilet paper? I could manage perfectly well without toilet paper at all if I had to. I’ve got a pile of old newspapers in the kitchen which I line the cat’s litter tray with and I could wipe my arse with those if necessary. My grandad used old newspaper all his life. It did get me thinking last night about what would happen if the food supply just dried up completely though. What if there had been no delivery slots at all, as far forward as it would let me scroll? That was a scary thought so I ordered a bunch of tinned food like baked beans and pilchards and new potatoes I can survive on for a while if the freezer ends up bare. It ended up as the most expensive online order I’ve ever placed. £140 instead of usually well under £100 for a bi-weekly shop. So I suppose I’m guilty of hoarding a bit too.

    Report abuse

  • I just saw this in the news today. Retail sales in China currently are down 20% on the same time last year. Holy crackers. If that’s a portent for a global phenomenon we’re in for a huge recession or even depression. I may revise my stock market fall estimate of 45% to a larger number. It’s already 35% in the UK on the FTSE 100.

    Report abuse

  • Arkrid

    That farm of yours sounds very good right about now. 🙂

    Toilet paper is a great luxury in this life as is kleenex tissues for noses, sanitary products for menstruation, and disposable diapers. These are recent inventions in the Homo sapiens timeline. Very recent. If all the paper based items listed above vanished into thin air, I want you to know that we will be just fine. A little inconvenienced but seriously, just fine.

    I know this because, as I’ve mentioned here before, I lived for years in North Africa where none of those products existed.

    Newspaper could be a decent enough substitute for toilet paper but can you keep an adequate supply for a large family for an extended period? I doubt it. Here’s the practical substitute. Keep all of those personal water bottles. Fill them with tap water and line them up all around the inside of the bathroom walls on the floor. Use as many as you’ve got. After using the toilet grab a bottle and slosh water on your undercarriage until clean. Fluff the water around with one hand to direct it precisely. Go straight to sink and wash hands vigorously.

    The rule in N. Africa is; use left hand to do this necessary cleaning. Use the right hand for eating. This is why that part of the world hates lefties; they might screw up this important system. haha.

    Cloth diapers and cloth sanitary products are how humans have dealt with body fluids for 99.9% of our existence. Back to basics.

    Report abuse

  • Arkrid – #90

    We haven’t removed anything, and there’s nothing in our Spam or Awaiting Moderation folders.

    There are comments by you at #88, #89, #91 – are you quite sure that none of those are the missing post?


    Report abuse

  • Laurie B   92

    I’m left handed but I’ve always wiped my bum with my right hand.  A few months ago I injured my right and had to use my left, but I found it really difficult.  No one ever taught me to use my right hand, I just did it naturally.  I wonder if the reason lies somewhere in embedded, genetically platformed,evolutionarily-derived,  self-preservation behaviour – or is that just shite?

    Report abuse

  • eejit


    It’s shite.

    But they can’t tolerate any screw up in that system. The consequences for a mix up would be dire. They mostly eat out of a common large platter together – being of a bedouin past they can’t haul a massive dinner service for twenty around! So you can see why they’d be harshly vigilant on the hand washing and separation of hands by task thing. Now that I think about it, kids rarely eat out of the same big bowl service as the upper status bunch do. That’s for the best. Little kids must be a risk of contamination. Adorable little vectors.

    But handedness is interesting, isn’t it?

    I’m mostly left handed but write with the right. I asked mom if someone switched me over forcefully and she says it never happened, just I’ve got a neurological disability which explains why I’m the only lefty liberal in the entire clan. :-(,   😀

    It’s interesting to speculate why left handedness persists. I read somewhere that there’s a big advantage to guys (and women?) in fighting behavior. A left handed punch does appear to come out of nowhere. Very tough to guard against a left handed punch and the recipient can find themselves rolling around on the ground very quickly. Would this be enough advantage to maintain this trait at about 10% in the population?

    I’ll tell you how lefties use that advantage in a fight. In the beginning when it’s mouthing off and a shove or two they lead with the right, which is what the opponent expects. Then when the leftie has a clear shot he slams the opponent with the left and down they go.

    Just when I start to think that humans are an exalted species I watch a couple of guys start a fight which might evolve into a brawl, and I reassess my opinion; we’re a bunch of apes.


    Report abuse

  • I read somewhere, years ago, that there’s actually no such thing as left-handedness.  People are usually born right handed, but for some genetic reason, some people do not have working genes which determine this.  Left handed people are never totally left handed; I used to hit fours and sixes with a right handed stance, I took a boxing guard right handed, and I use a knife and fork right-handed, but a spoon left-handed.

    The theory was that laterality in non right-handed people is a matter of happenstance.  In the womb the first thumb they shoved in their mouth was either left or right, that determined domination, up to a point, but the choice of hand in the tasks learned in childhood or after, still contains a large measure of lateral chance.

    An interesting corollary of this is that ten percent (a bit less actually) of right-handed people are actually not true right handers, and that actually 20% of us are so-called”left-handed”.  When I mention the above theory, there is always someone who claims to be  right-handed, but performs some tasks left-handed.  I can never convince them otherwise!

    I started school in 1951, a year or so after the British Dept of Ed directed that children’s laterality should not be changed, as was the previous custom.  So I was lucky.

    A higher than expected proportion of star batsmen and baseball strikers are left-handed, but this could be because bowlers/pitchers find them difficult to deal with.

    Report abuse

  • We can watch how different countries manage to flatten the curve as it unfolds here…


    There are many interesting features apart from the slope. Flats and jumps may suggest an uncoordinated assessment process. It certainly cannot be real.

    Are Southern European and French double kiss greeters more at risk? Japanese remote bowers less? Certainly stronger community identitifiers like Japan can be trusted to more uniformly do the right thing given the warnings….

  • eejit

    A higher than expected proportion of star batsmen and baseball strikers are left-handed, but this could be because bowlers/pitchers find them difficult to deal with.

    Interesting. I was just going to ask about dominance in sports that I don’t know about. In American baseball a lefty pitcher is valuable for the same reason. They’re difficult to deal with and so is a lefty hitter.

    The theory was that laterality in non right-handed people is a matter of happenstance.

    But do you find families with a strong lefty streak? Significantly more lefties than other families?

    I started school in 1951, a year or so after the British Dept of Ed directed that children’s laterality should not be changed, as was the previous custom.  So I was lucky.

    I’d like to talk to someone who was switched to right handed writing from left handed preference. How long does it take to accomplish the switch? Do they ever really feel comfortable? Do they achieve a good penmanship? If they make a decent conversion in right handed writing, do they switch other fine motor tasks like hand sewing? Which hand will thread a needle? Is there a window of time when a child can switch over from one hand to another in the same way there is a window of opportunity for learning languages with a perfect accent?

    Does handedness or dominant leg have any significance in European football (soccer)?

    Report abuse

  • I’m told that for offensive players we would want right leg kickers on right side of field and lefty kickers on the left side. Correct? How often do we see exceptions to that? Is there substantial effort made in coaching to strengthen the weak leg? Or they just position players based on that dominant leg as it is.

    Report abuse

  • I am not sure if Messi has mixed dominance or it is because his left leg is the stronger one for striking and passing.

    A left footed footballer is an advantage for playing the mid left field. Natural left footed players are rarer so stand more chance of getting fielded if they are on a team.

    I was always told I had two left feet when playing football :/

    Report abuse

  • It’s being variously reported that Bernie Sanders has either suspended his campaign or is assessing it in the wake of his latest defeat. Sounds to me as if those announcing he’s pulled out of the race are jumping the gun somewhat, but either way, it seems pretty clear that that will be the ultimate outcome, whether it happens today or in a few days’ time.

    And already I’m seeing tweets from some of his supporters saying that in that case they’ll find a 3rd party candidate to vote for and #NeverBiden, and honestly, I want to bash their heads together.

    Maybe it’s just that I’m used to the UK’s barmy First Past The Post electoral system, which means that those of us who don’t live in safe seats of our own political persuasion mostly end up voting for whichever candidate stands the best chance of defeating the candidate we *least* want to win. It’s a crackers system, wholly indefensible, in my view, but it does teach you the art of tactical voting.

    And how any Sanders supporter can contemplate splitting the anti-Trump vote just because they don’t like Biden is utterly beyond me and, frankly, I’d say it makes them as bonkers as the Trumpers.

    I’d have liked to see a really bold, radical Democrat nominee, too, but not as much – nowhere near as much – as I want to see Donald Trump defeated.

    Report abuse

  • 107
    Michael 100 says:

    Marco # 106:  I couldn’t agree with you more.  Although I like Bernie Sanders, I think that Joe Biden will make a very acceptable president.  Biden’s, or any president’s, ability to accomplish anything will depend on the Congress that we elect.  If we return Republicans to the Senate, our very good friend Mitch McConnell will fight anything that Biden proposes, and will block as many judicial appointments as possible.  Nevertheless, I am sure that Biden will rebuild the government and restore respect for the United States that Trump has squandered.  Those who claim they will vote for a third-party candidate rather than for Biden should remember when people voted for Ralph Nader rather than for Al Gore – the result was that the Nader people handed the white house to George W. Bush.
    It took Obama 8 years to undo the damage caused by G.W. Bush (remember the great recession?).  It took Trump about 10 minutes to undo the progress that Obama began, and it will take Biden 4 years to undo Trump’s damage.
    I’m sure that Sanders will do everything he can to get Biden elected.  I just hope Sanders’ supporters listen to him and don’t give Trump a 2nd term.

    Report abuse

  • Will appreciate very much if anyone takes the effort to suggest counter measures against Moral Policing and Hindu religious extremism in India, which not only hinders the development of scientific temper among people but is also oppressive towards women.  Conservative parties in the country frequently try and recruit the youth to implement their ideas in the name of  ‘Cultural Nationalism’, often advocating even violence to meet their objectives. An useful link is given below (don’t hesitate to check the full Wikipedia page):

  • Another nice op-ed from Maureen Dowd, “Thank God The Doctor Is In” as a tribute to Dr Fauci’s tireless work. My favorite section:

    Donald Trump, the ultimate “me” guy, is in a “we” crisis and it isn’t pretty. The president is so consumed by his desire to get back his binky, a soaring stock market, that he continues to taffy-twist the facts, leaving us to look elsewhere —

    Report abuse

  • Vicki

    Trump’s press conferences only serve to put on daily display the fact that in a time of national emergency we have a selfish, ignorant, completely incompetent person at the helm. His supporters who previously were unconcerned with his choice of incompetent, corrupt cabinet appointments and other administrators at the highest levels of government are now going to see the disastrous effects of anti-science, religious fantasy thinking in the middle of a medical catastrophe.

    All that talk of how the stock market was going strong and their personal portfolios were climbing higher every day- How’s it going now?! Thanks to Trump & Co. compromising our science experts at the highest levels of federal government we are left in a very weak state in the battle against the Covid virus. All those glorious stock portfolios were achieved at quite a high price for the rest of this country, but do the high rollers even care one bit? I doubt it.

    Now Republicans are concerned that big business will suffer and are bargaining for big bailouts but as usual are scoffing at “lazy” “opportunistic” poor and middle class Americans looking for “handouts”.

    How many times can they say “Let them eat cake” and get away with it? This is disgusting.

    Report abuse

  • How many times can they say “Let them eat cake” and get away with it?

    I suspect that Republican mantra will become less and less effective as Americans notice the depleted supplies of ‘cake’ on the grocery shelves.

    For the record, I do not watch or listen to his press “conferences.” I put quotes around that word because it implies an exchange of ideas, and that is far from what is actually occurring. Why put myself through something that adds no value?

    I get my daily information from more trusted media sites and my own place of work–a hospital.

    Report abuse

  • Vicki

    I do not watch or listen to his press “conferences.” 

    It’s for the best. There’s no usable information there and in fact it leaves one completely aggravated and more worried than before it.

    I’m not sure what results the lack of “cake” in the aisles will bring on.

    Report abuse

  • A friend has emailed me this superb article this morning: 
    The whole piece is excellent, but this paragraph, in particular, stood out for me:

    Modern politics is impossible to understand without grasping the Pollution Paradox. The greater the risk to public health and wellbeing a company presents, the more money it must spend on politics, to ensure it isn’t regulated out of existence. Political spending comes to be dominated by the dirtiest companies, ensuring that they wield the greatest influence, crowding out their cleaner rivals. While no one has a commercial interest in the spread of coronavirus, the nature and tenor of the governments these interests have built impedes state attempts to respond quickly and appropriately.

    As an analysis of where the UK, the US and Australia are at, and why that’s where we’re at, I don’t think the article can be bettered. It also expresses perfectly why I find myself moving significantly further to the Left, politically, than I ever have before: I don’t pretend to have the solutions, but I am increasingly convinced we’ll never find them until we ditch the rampant capitalism and the libertarianism that emerges from it.
    If you only read one article today …

    Report abuse

  • This seems like an excellent initiative, given the lack of widespread Covid-19 testing going on and therefore lack of clarity about actual numbers.

    We’ve launched COV-CLEAR for everyone to share their own anonymous case reports. It doesn’t matter whether you’ve been tested for the virus, or not yet. Everyone’s story counts. If we all do this together, we can inform each other, our health systems, and governments about the true picture of what’s going on in our communities.
    Then, in a matter of weeks we will know what the best tests are for both infection and immunity. By sharing our anonymous Covid stories, we’ll be able to prioritise these tests to those of us who need it first. We’re doing this to get back faster to our patients, parents, work and lives.
    This is open, free, non-commercial and absolutely confidential. We’ve started it in the UK, with a focus on healthcare practitioners and carers for the elderly. But this is for everyone. Already, we’ve already received community case reports from all over the world, which, putting privacy first, will help every citizen, researcher and government.


    Report abuse

  • 115
    Michael 100 says:
    The above link is to a very interesting but disturbing article by George Packer.  The article, the cover story of the April issue of The Atlantic, is entitled:  The President Is Winning His War on American Institutions, How Trump is destroying the civil service and bending the government to his will.
    When Donald Trump won the presidency, my reaction was:  no matter how bad you think it will be, it will be worse — sometimes I think I was optimistic.  Remember when we all thought the adults in the room would protect us from the worst of Trump’s ignorance and incompetence?  Well, after three years, the adults have all left while Trump is still there.  Dedicated public servants have been driven out and replaced by Trump loyalists—individuals who are loyal either for ideological or personal gain, sometimes both.  How this was accomplished is the subject of this article.   
    Packer writes in detail how Trump used “his instinct for every adversary’s weakness, his fanatical devotion to himself, his knack for imposing his will, his sheer staying power,” and “the advanced decay of the Republican Party,” to undermine the Department of Justice and the State Department.  But every department of the federal government has been adversely affected. Packer points out that more than 1,000 scientists have left the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Agriculture, and other agencies.  Almost 80 percent of employees at the National Institute of Food and Agriculture have quit. The Labor Department has made deep cuts in the number of safety inspectors, and worker deaths nationwide have increased dramatically, while recalls of unsafe consumer products have dropped off.
    Four years is an emergency. Eight years is a permanent condition.  Quoting Tom Malinowski, Dem. Congressman from New Jersey, Packer wrote:  “Things can hold together to the end of the first term, but after that, things fall apart … I can’t even wrap my head around what that would be like.”  
    Packer’s article is quite long, but well worth the time it takes to read.  Like a train wreck, it’s difficult to look away — the tragedy is, we are all passengers on the train.  


    Report abuse

  • A couple paragraphs from that same article:

    The people who eventually turned up to run Trump’s federal government were nothing like MacWilliams, Zaidi or the other public servants Lewis met. They are more like intellectually limp versions of the arrogant “Big Swinging Dicks” Lewis described on the Salomon trading floor. Many government positions remain unfilled, but those who are in office are there not by dint of intelligence or expertise, but through cronyism and loyalty to Trump.
    “The woman who ran the Obama department’s energy-policy analysis unit received a call from Department of Energy staff telling her that her office was now occupied by Eric Trump’s brother-in-law,” Lewis writes (Eric is Donald’s son). “Why? No one knew.” Trump’s people, Lewis makes clear, are largely inept and animated by greed, anti-government ideology and a “commitment to scientific ignorance”. Trump himself is, in Lewis’s view, “the single worst business manager that’s ever occupied the office. He’s obsessed only with himself, he doesn’t manage anything.”

    Report abuse

  • 119
    Michael 100 says:

    While the Trump people are “animated by greed, anti-government ideology and a ‘commitment to scientific ignorance.’”, I don’t think they are “largely inept.”  They know exactly what they are doing, and, from their perspective, they are doing it well.  Their goal is to undo all of the New Deal programs and the reforms that were made in all the Democratic Administrations since FDR. They have no respect for the law, and they are willing to crush anyone who gets in their way. The reason they are so anti-science is that science gets in their way of squeezing every last kopeck out of the ground and into their pockets.  They also want to ignore the wall of separation between church and our state (keep in mind Christopher Hitchens’ warning that fascism is the political arm of the right wing of the Catholic Church which has now joined forces with the likes of Franklin Graham and Jerry Falwell).  While Trump gives the impression of being a terrible manager, as Packer points out – Trump has a knack of weathering the storm and winning the day – he’s like the Viet Cong who lost every battle and won the war.  Any other president would have been undone by all the pre-election revelations “grab ‘em by the…,” failure to pay taxes, history of cheating everyone who did business with him, &c), by the Mueller report, by the impeachment, by the total collapse of the economy, et cetera ad nauseum, but here we are afraid that he may be reelected.

    Report abuse

  • Michael 100

    I don’t think they are “largely inept.” 

    Ohhh, jeeze, you’re much more generous than I am on that one. I think every member of the cabinet is in way over their heads. I agree that they’re doing a hell of a good job checking off their items on their ideological checklist but the business of running a high level government position? Nah.

    One thing we know about cronyism and nepotism is that they serve the boss and the friend/family member who gets hired. The shareholder/taxpayer takes the loss due to the filling of a position with someone who has no qualifications to serve in it. This is why nepotism is unethical.

    nepotism = corruption and leads to failure.

    Trump has been a useful and convenient idiot for the corrupt psychopaths who jerk him around like a puppet. He can’t think his way out of a paper bag.

    Report abuse

  • 121
    Michael 100 says:

    LaurieB, I think the Trump Administration gives the impression that they are in over their heads, but that’s because we think the government should work for the benefit of the people whereas they see the government as an enemy standing in the way of their ability to amass wealth and power.  Trump’s cabinet and advisers are despicable, but people like William Barr, Mike Pompeo, Steve Mnuchin, Mick Mulvaney, Rudolph Giuliani, etc. are very competent when it comes to achieving their goals.  They seem incompetent to us because we have different priorities.  They are not interested in running the government, they want to dismantle it or at least render it ineffective.  We are concerned for the health, education, and welfare of the population (silly us), they are interested in amassing wealth and power for themselves, and they don’t care how many people they must crush in that pursuit.  Nor do they care how many people suffer as a consequence of their criminal greed.  In my opinion the focus should be on their intentions, not their competence.  They are not stupid, they are evil.  The frustrating part is that they never seem to be held accountable for the damage they cause – and they cause an enormous amount, but their bank accounts never seem to suffer when they cause a global financial catastrophe, or a war or an inadequate response to pandemic.  For every Bernie Madoff who sees the inside of a penitentiary, how many more live in multi-million-dollar apartments in New York and other world capitals?  I agree that Trump seems like a “useful and convenient idiot” but let’s never forget that he managed to convince enough of voters to win the presidency (not the election).  He’s not an idiot – he just plays one on TV.            

    Report abuse

  • 123
    Cairsley says:

    Michael #121

    … I agree that Trump seems like a “useful and convenient idiot” but let’s never forget that he managed to convince enough of voters to win the presidency (not the election).  He’s not an idiot – he just plays one on TV.

    Have you taken into account the considerable help that Donald Trump received from Vladimir Putin and the latter’s various representatives and agents during his presidential campaign and into his term of office? When I consider Mr Trump, I do not see a capable man who is competent at anything. Yes, he can walk and, I assume, dress himself and use a knife and fork correctly and so on, but those abilities belong to the great range of competences that do not merit attention in this context. He claims to be the best businessman around, yet one has to recall how many bankruptcies he has gone through. There is good reason to suspect that his dishonesty about his tax details and his dread of their ever being revealed to the public are due to the evidence that these would provide of his not being the amazingly successful “billionaire” that he has always made himself out to be, and perhaps also of his indebtedness to certain Russians. Having received his wealth from his father, he may even have lost at least as much of that as he has managed to make through business transactions. Indeed, he may well be financially beholden to such gentlemen as Mr Putin in consequence of his desperate need to maintain his flaunted “billionaire” lifestyle. It may not be relevant that Mr Trump started talking in early childhood, but his talking in interviews and speeches and other contexts reveal his level of competence at other, much more significant activities that do not reflect favorably on him as someone in high public office. One only has to listen to him speaking in public for five minutes to know that ignorance, conceit, mental and physical laziness and insouciant mendacity are hallmarks of what passes for his character. Nowhere is there evidence of any notable competence in his performance of any task (signing his name on a document in his absurd playschool style seems to be his idea of doing something praiseworthy). No, Michael, Mr Trump won the presidency with considerable help from his Russian friends, who had long wanted to have him elected to that office as part of their ever-flexible plan for undermining American power. Before his presidential campaign reached its final success, the Republican Party leaders, seeing how their various unconstitutional objectives could be advanced under a Trump presidency, threw their support behind him too, doing all the things they do best to stymie the US electoral systems. Mr Trump did bring to the process the narcissist’s knack for appealing to people’s desires and prejudices and playing on their fears and aversions in order to get them to vote for him; and, unfortunately, there is a frightening proportion of the American public who lap up such manipulatively attractive talk without a moment’s thought. And thus it was that he won the presidency — no competence required. Indeed it was because of his notable lack of competence in anything, combined with his susceptibility to the Dunning-Kruger effect, that Mr Putin saw in him a candidate for the US presidency particularly well suited to Russian interests. It is the same lack of competence and self-knowledge that more recently rendered him acceptable to the Republicans, including the gentlemen you mentioned, whose interests and goals have in the last decade or two become worryingly opposed to democracy, constitutional secularism and even the rule of law. In short, my estimation of Mr Trump is closer to LaurieB’s, though I agree with you about the other Republicans — they are evil and they are good at achieving their evil objectives.

    Report abuse

  • I read a good op-ed from astronaut Scott Kelly on tips for dealing with SIP (shelter in place). One of his ideas was keeping a journal. At first, I disregarded the idea, but the more I think about it, the more intriguing it becomes for three reasons.

    First, the obvious venting of a new and potentially frustrating situation.

    Second, it might be interesting to track the changes.  For example, this is my first week working from home, and so far, I’ve been sticking to a work schedule. But I’m starting to make small changes unique to the situation. How is my mindset/pace going to change in the coming weeks?

    Third, the journal would make for a fascinating read 5 or 10 years down the road.

    Report abuse

  • Vicki

    I think that’s a good idea. When we’re all dead and gone, a few generations hence, journals could be an interesting read. I’d be interested to read a journal written by someone who lived through the 1918 Spanish flu and I’ve been interested in reading about the various plagues that terrorized Europe and the Mediterranean region too.

    It’s so interesting to think about biological features that result in some degree of immunity to some people and in some vulnerability to others and what consequences come of that. These complex and powerful immune systems that we have are being put to the test under some increased selective pressure now. In the presence of fear and tragedy we can’t help but be interested in the far reaching consequences that will come of this.

    A few weeks ago I went up to my attic and brought down a quilt top that I sewed with the help of my grandmother in 1995. She’s been gone for many years and every time I went to the attic and saw the quilt top sitting there I felt so guilty for not finishing that quilt. A couple days ago I finished hand quilting the whole thing, a couple blocks per day. I only wish she could see it finished. Now I’ll give it to my four year old granddaughter with a label that says it was started in 1995 by her grandmother and great great grandmother together and finally finished during the period of confinement brought on by the corona virus of 2020.

    I’ve been invited to join an online book discussion group using Zoom. Should be interesting. We’re reading the novel Circe by Madeline Miller. Not a book I would’ve chosen but at about 10% through, I can say that I’m enjoying it. Let’s see how the online discussion group goes on April 1. Maybe more book groups would be better off online in the future even when there’s no microbial threat anymore. I wish this website would start one that reads some science books. Wouldn’t that be entertaining in this time of seclusion?! Hint hint…

    Report abuse

  • Laurie’s Quilt #125

    Long ago, I was a great fan of an Australian Broadcasting Corp programme The Coming Out Show, which claimed to be the world’s first regular, feminist, mainstream broadcast.  I remember one show devoted to female handcrafts, knitting, embroidery, lace-making, sewing etc.

    In those days such things were regarded in feminist circles as being retrograde activities, confining women to domesticity and general enslavement.  Several feminists on the show described how they were embarrassed and kept their handicraft passions quiet, especially from the sisterhood.  However the conclusion reached in the programme is that the domestic arts are the only creative activities  entirely created by women and thus they were halal, at least in terms of feminism.

    I suppose the modern view would be to do what you like and enjoy it.  And what a beautiful treasure to give your granddaughter,  I buy mine ice-cream!

    Report abuse

  • eejit

     such things were regarded in feminist circles as being retrograde activities, confining women to domesticity and general enslavement.

    Heh, ridiculous. Does knitting hold women in domestic slavery? Does sewing restrain us in perpetual pregnancy? Does drawing limit us to teaching and nursing?

    It’s a case of did A cause B or did B cause A?

    The forces of oppression are more mighty than a crochet hook.

    Those arts and crafts that are typical to women must have saved their sanity and delivered a sense of accomplishment when the prospects of higher education and challenging careers with a paycheck at the end of week were unlikely.

    When I think of all the skills that transferred down generations of women to me I know how lucky I am. I learned to sew clothing over the course of fifteen years, starting with simple doll clothes and all the way to sewing coats, pants and even bathing suits as a teen. My mother and grandmother were excellent seamstresses and I assume that theirs were too. Quilts are an easy and satisfying talent/skill because although they are a practical item in the household, they are much more about using fabric to produce a work of art. Some of the old quilts I’ve seen done by women of modest means were made from scraps left over from sewing their own clothes and those of their children are delightfully creative and show a high level of sewing skill. In contrast, if you visit a  quilt show with a judged competition you can see modern works of art that are worth a very large amount of money for the artistic statement they communicate.

    Now in this time of involuntary seclusion I draw on all of those hobbies and skills that those women of the past handed down. I’m well into the next full sized quilt. The pattern is Double Wedding Ring.

    Both of my daughters are proficient with a needle, thread and sewing machine and I’m passing on the sewing skills to my granddaughter. She is working on scissor skills, threading a needle and hand sewing in a straight line.

    This virus with its mounting death toll obviously has me feeling maudlin when I think of the grandparents, aunts and uncles who have been and will be lost to their families and all of the lifetime of talents, skills, stories and knowledge that they pass along to younger generations in the course of a lifetime. When I think of times that members of our older generation died, I felt like someone shot a cannonball through my safety net. Like there was a unique history book, one of a kind and someone just took and through it into the ocean never to be read again with all of its stories lost for all time.

    I hope I won’t be writing any eulogies in the near future but who knows how this will end?

    Report abuse

  • Excellent post!  I agree with every word, but it is unfortunate that these wonderful skills are often not being passed on through the generations.  It’s easier to go and buy something cheap, manufactured somewhere in a sweat-shop in Asia.

    Report abuse

  • My daughter at uni, is a third, then second then third wave feminist. (It won’t get better without me, Dad.) She is also a keen knitter. I have a fabulously evil squid she knitted for me hanging always looking over what I type.

    She organised a big exhibition of art pieces for an FGM charity in London, the centre piece being the most comprehensively erotic quilt on a bed, which I can safely leave to your imagination knowing it won’t be matched. Among other pieces were some from her mum’s group, PEGWhitstable. Profanity Embroidery Group.

    The medium only adds…

    Report abuse

  • eejit

     It’s easier to go and buy something cheap, manufactured somewhere in a sweat-shop in Asia.

    Heh, yes it’s certainly easier to drive a couple of miles and buy a mass produced bed quilt for several dollars and if you’re looking for a bed blanket or a couch snuggly then that’s the right thing to do! The big arty hand made quilts that take months of design and hand sewing should be displayed like any other art piece, not rumpled and smeared with ketchup, drool and chocolate sauce.

    I have my Walmart fleece snuggly on my couch, just so, and those quilts are stacked up and arranged as decorative displays. So there’s a perfect compromise!

    One difference between my generation and the young people today is that I had no easy access to constant socializing like they do with social media. Our parents kept us busy with chores, school and what free time we had was taken up with reading, playing with toys, church on Sunday and visits to relatives after that, and crafting skills were learned as adults around us engaged in that and drew us into it. But if there was such a thing as the internet back then, I’d have been all in, just like kids and teens today.

    It’s not easy to drag kids and especially teens away from easily accessed instant delivery of socializing with peers. If left to their own devices I believe they’d happily all go off to an island of teens all together and recreate a teen Lord of the Flies society.

    They say that kids and teens who grow up in families that are devoted readers and keep books all around in the house become good devoted readers themselves and maybe it’s the same for art and crafts.

    Boredom and sloth wasn’t tolerated by the elders in my family (the devil’s workshop…) and I never saw any of them laying around doing nothing. All of those skills that they transferred to us are what they filled their spare time with and now I do too. Back then, an exclamation of “I’m bored!” was answered with “Well good because that toilet needs scrubbing!” or “Oh good because that garage needs cleaning!” So how many times would a kid make the mistake of making their boredom known?! Better to grab a book, crochet project, woodwork project, throw a ball around, and find amusement in anything to avoid cleaning that toilet!

    I consider it my own responsibility to entertain myself and be productive at the same time and this is a value that has been passed down through many generations now.

    Feel free to challenge me on my prideful description of the Protestant work ethic that’s alive and well in this New England yankee as others in a certain other culture have already done. In some places “work” is a four letter word and my ideas are abhorrent to them. It has crossed my mind that entropy will have its way with us in the end.

    And now, after reading Phil’s comment #132, we may have the answer to the challenge of dragging the kids away from electronic socializing and applying their brainpower to the creative arts!

    Report abuse

  • vicki 124

    One of his ideas was keeping a journal. At first, I disregarded the idea, but the more I think about it, the more intriguing it becomes for three reasons.

    with all the talk about gentleman jack recently

    i watched first episode last night

    a journal is central to the whole story

    and what a journal!

    Report abuse

Leave a Reply

View our comment policy.