Thursday, March 26, 2020

School's In Session

My next newspaper column:
This coronavirus is becoming a great teacher, exposing the falsehood of Republican shibboleths handed down through the decades, starting with Ronald Reagan, and still believed. For example, their Senators’ first-attempt bailout package was “trickle-down” at its worst, unregulated gifting of the wealthy, crumbs for the needy. Democrats managed to make it somewhat better.
Equally important, the virus is confirming the vulnerabilities of human nature. 
Regarding the first, it’s possible, seeing the lack of preparedness and initial governmental inaction, the Republican party will finally regain its sanity. Till then, it’s easy to show how “modern” Republican philosophy has brought us here. Writing from the inside, a few lifelong conservatives have done just that. Here’s an excellent example, presented to edify Trumpists.   
The linked article spells out the roots of their current national leadership failures. If we’re to handle things better next time around, today’s Republican leaders must retire their disregard for science, expertise, education, international cooperation, and good government. Then, improbably, they might even apply it to the more existentially devastating and economically challenging threat of climate change. 
Unlikely. Even now, they cling.    
Which brings us to the other viral unmasking: the blindness of half of humanity. With eons of evolution behind it, that may never change. Something fundamental separates humans into two very different world-views: for simplicity, call them liberal and Trumpic. Responses to the corona crisis make the distinction visible from blocks away. People maintaining separation in lines: liberal. People ignoring it: Trumpic. The latter is the equivalent of idiots in pickup trucks coal-rolling people in electric cars. 
Humans separate along willingness to accept difficult challenges and deal with them, versus the desire for easy answers and pretense. What better demonstration is there than Trump’s “news” conferences and campaign rallies, rife with fake news and false promises? It explains why, despite the damage he’s doing, supporters eat up everything Trump says, including his claim that “no one could see this coming.” Except for the intelligence warnings he’d been receiving and ignoring for months, and despite which DHS ended its preparedness program. Trump’s half of humanity wants to be lied to. Which tells us who the real “snowflakes” are.  
Trump’s predictably pathological first response to Covid-19 was to pretend it away; just Democrats and “fake news” trying to take him down (because everything is always about him.) Trumpists were happy to believe. Similarly, his response to the climate crisis is to say it’s a hoax and, in order to prove it, to take actions that are making it worse. Trumpists love that, too. God gave us Trump, Trump says not to worry, turn off brain. Same with his rallies: Easy answers, gut reactions, thought not required. It’s a dangerous, but effective, positive feedback loop. 
That cerebral software is pre-loaded, and has been exploited by demagogues like Trump throughout history: make people distrust expertise and education, provide scapegoats, and they’ll demand to be fed pabulum. The more of it they consume, the more they’ll reject truth-tellers and follow the liars. 
Worried about the effects of sheltering on his reelection, Trump, who, even in crisis, can’t stop his infantile tweeting, is ready to have us return to dangerous behavior. Other Republican leaders, too, arguing, because they’re only about money, that people should be willing to die for the economy. 
Unconcerned for the people he’d put at risk, Trump wants the country “opened up” by Easter. Experts don’t. Intelligent governors, concerned for their citizens and not themselves, don’t. Will Trump try to convince people to ignore their local leaders? And if they do – in red states, one assumes, and the red parts of blue states – and if some get sick and die, will he tell us again, “I take no responsibility”? For them, or the Colorado man who killed himself taking Trump’s touted cure?  
Covid-19 has turned America into a massive social experiment; a test to determine whether liberalism or Trumpism is our future, and what that future will look like. Red state governors and their like-minded citizens are ignoring the warnings of science. Laughing them off. Coal-rolling themselves. Blue states and the thoughtful among their citizens are paying attention, for their own and for the greater good. 
Liberalism vs. Trumpism. Cuomo and Inslee vs. Trump and Rand Paul. In the next few months, we’ll learn about ourselves, about our national sense of community, and in what direction “American exceptionalism” is headed. Especially those who survive the culling. 


  1. My sardonic side is driven to speculate whether this is a Darwinian moment for a certain political party...

  2. Nothing sardonic about it, Skyriver. I'm someone who solidly supported the GOP from 1988 to 2009, and I've had the same speculation myself. What turned me against them was the way they handled the Great Recession and, later, their sabotaging McCain by manipulating him into picking Palin as his running mate. The latter is strictly my personal theory for which I don't have any supporting evidence, so I won't bear any ill will about it being characterized as cockamamie or something considerably saltier.

  3. Well Sky....We have the same

  4. Smooth,

    Another YouTube channel worth checking out: Bryan Tyler Cohen. He's not as cerebral / analytical as Chris Hayes, but still a good commentator.

  5. Well-stated as usual, Doctor... thanks! I just had a long phone convo with my amazingly smart and connected 18-year-old grandson who lives in Virginia, and he is filled with pessimism and nihilism to the nth degree. He hand his friends are all Bernie supporters and feel like they will vote third party or not vote at all if Biden gets the nomination. I tried to explain how doing that is giving tRump a second term, and his perspective is 'So what... it's all gonna crash down on us anyways, why not let it crash and start over?' Given that his POTUS has essentially cancelled his Senior Prom, high school graduation, his summer of competitive marching band events and even his new restaurant job, I reckon I can't blame his fatalistic perspective. He knows tRump is a dumpster fire but has no faith anything well ever get better with the Dems in the WH. It's gonna be a challenge getting the yoots to Vote Blue Regardless in November, and we have our job cut out for us. I will continue to gently work on him because I don't wanna be an Angry Old, but he's sharp and knows I ain't blowing sh*t at him. The quest continues...

  6. That's pretty horrifying, Oblio, but entirely unsurprising. I've figured Bernie's would largely see things that way. Maybe you can convince them that another four years of Trump will be too late to fix climate change, and that if they ever have kids, the poisons he's unleashed in the food and water and air may well kill them.

    But kids that age just can't see beyond themselves. Not unlike Trump. It's pretty damn depressing. And if Trump wins by a slim enough margin that Bernie voters staying away made the difference, feel free to punch him in the nose.

  7. I just can't not pass this one along:

  8. That just about sums up the level of what passes for Trump's leadership, skyriver.

    The Seattle Times reports today that Trump's big announcement about using the War Powers Act to force GM to make ventilators is just pure BS posturing and self-promotion. GM and Ventec, a ventilator manufacturer in Bothell, had already been collaborating to start GM production this next week!

    "You go to fight a pandemic with the president you have,
    not the president you might want or wish to have at a later time.”

  9. I wonder if he would even send troops to defend the Left Coast if we were invaded.

  10. This might become a useful reference if the Atlantic keeps it maintained:

    "All the President’s Lies About the Coronavirus"
    An unfinished compendium of Trump’s overwhelming dishonesty during a national emergency

  11. Interesting Atlantic link, but I question how many of the instances they cite are outright lies vs. plain old dumbassery.

    For practical purposes, it doesn't matter that much: Trump is guilty of both, and they both not only don't help, but have the potential to actually cause harm, particularly in the context of the coronavirus emergency. Lies vs. dumbassery may be a mere matter of semantics, but I have enough English teachers in my family tree that semantics, in my view, falls under the category of non-trivial issues.

  12. "Dumbassery" seems to me to connote a degree of pass granting in the sense of "Well, he just isn't very well informed." But he's a lazy ass who doesn't give a rip about anyone outside of family, so when he's just spewing crap at us he's intentionally trying to invent false narratives.

    So, I agree — it is definitely a non-trivial issue, and one that may be worse than outright lies which can usually be fact-checked.

  13. Doc SL said:

    > But he's a lazy ass who doesn't give a rip about anyone outside of family, so when he's just spewing crap at us he's intentionally trying to invent false narratives.

    There's a big difference between passive ignorance (as in just not having learned something yet) vs. willful ignorance (refusing to learn something in spite of being informed that one's understanding is contrary to fact). I would give even Trump a pass for the former, but he speaks far more often out of the latter. How about titling him "willful dumbass"? Of course, that would be in addition to "malicious liar".

  14. Now this is bipartisan...lmao

    "President Trump called Massie a “third rate Grandstander” and proposed to “throw Massie out of Republican Party!”

    Joining in bipartisan revulsion, former secretary of state John Kerry shared Trump’s tweet and added: “Congressman Massie has tested positive for being an a--hole. He must be quarantined to prevent the spread of his massive stupidity.”

  15. searcher of wisdom and truthMarch 28, 2020 at 8:17 PM

    I was pleased that Pope Frances publicly issued a message to Rome and the world (Urbi et Orbi) special address yesterday to everyone concerning the covid-19 menace. He instructed us to trust God's love and to follow his commandments for a just result.
    I am also angry that the Impeached-One continues to advise us to trust himself to lead us through the dark days coming. And, it troubles me that he flaunts his pseudo religious affiliations with many followers and their leaders who are politically aligned to his regime. I do not see any evidence that his behavior is compatible to the message and living example commanded from the Savior.

  16. I just want to add...

    I am seeing wayyyyy toooo many businesses asking for handouts.

    This is why it's just lame...

    You own a business through good times and bad. Not just during the good times.
    When the bad times come, it's nobody's interest but yours that's at stake. Yes, it sucks, but, it's not my responsibility to bail you out. Get a loan like the rest of us. Fail and close shop like the rest of us. File bankruptcy like the rest of us.


    The fact that you hire people does not make you special in any way, shape or form. Get off your high horse. You are not a "job creator" any more than you are a "job eliminator". You are a business owner who profits off the backs of your employees. If you weren't making money off your employees, you'd let them go. Put them at your beckon call. So they have no life and constantly wait for you to call because you need a hand. Being "on call" means being ready 24/7/365 for "the creator" to yank you back into work. Nevermind it's your kids birthday. Tell "the creator" no and you are looking for a job the next week. Your hours are cut. You get a nasty "creator" to look at and forced to listen to about how you are not "a team player".

    The tax rate for businesses is now "permanently" at 21%. Reality check! Your employees are the ones making the sacrifices. They pay far more in taxes than "the creator" does. You just got a 1.5 trillion dollar tax cut! You are about to get more taxpayer money 2.2 trillion and that will rise to 6+ trillion before long, so get over yourselves.

    Employees can't organise, go on strike or simply not show up. They have no lobbyists. They certainly can't complain to "the creator". Minimum wage has been stagnant for 40 years! Why? Because 'the creator' has made sure of it. Crying "poor me" because people are not willing to work for less to save your profit margins. Because people are not machines that don't need to be paid. That never ask for time off.

    The newspaper asking us for donations or it'll disappear! Sorry! Sound Publishing can support themselves or close their doors. Ask for a bailout. We taxpayers love bailing out companies. Right?

    So it's give me your money directly or indirectly, but just give me your money so 'the creator' doesn't suffer at all. Or suffers less.

    To all the "job creators" business owners. Quit whining and man up. You are not as important as you think you are. If anything, you are a burden on society because you think it's all owed to you. Because your lifestyle requires the generosity of people who work just to survive. And trying to survive one 2.35 and hour plus tips is pawning off your responsibilities. Requiring employees to rely on the generosity of customers to pay rent. Expecting 7 bucks an hour to suffice. Because calling in sick, car issues etc. will get you fired or hours cut, layed off, bullied in the workplace etc.

    "The creators" are just now figuring it out. It's a two way street and you are not special, in fact, you are the problem.

  17. Give PGICOTUS some credit,
    $25,000,000 for the Kennedy Center?(right on the Chappaquidick, I mean Potomac, what is it with Kennedy's and water?)
    I know I'd rather see a nice Opera/Ballet instead of some boring medicine and ventilators.
    In fact, they could even have the 2021 Oscars early, umm, maybe Easter Weekend, have the usual cast, Nicholson(OK, maybe not Nicholson), Tom Hanks, Madonna, Meryl Streep, even let "Sleepy" Joe give Hank's wife a neck massage, while the cast of "Hamilton" does a number...

    Frank "No Virus ever called me Cracker"

  18. Again, what is "PGIC", please? An insult? Something sarcastic? An adoratory acronym courtesy of people who bowed and prayed to the orange god they made?

    Unless I hear any indication otherwise, I'm going to stick by my initial guess of its standing for "Plutocrat Gork In Charge". :-P

  19. @ Mythigator
    OTUS-I'd tell you but...

    now for a really hard one...aren't you glad EICSSOTUS(Peace be upon Him)
    isn't in charge(hint, EICSSOTUS would invite the Corona Virus to the Rose Garden for a Corona)
    I made a funny,


  20. Thanks, Frank.

    Yeah, the "OTUS" part was pretty obvious. The "PG" part I missed because I've been majoring on the First Sociopath's cognitive shortcomings, rather than his amorality.

    I'll puzzle out "EICSS" at my leisure. :-)

  21. Trump just now accused NY of lying about how many ventilators they will need. Good thing they don't need Javelin missiles...

  22. Well Sky...The time of reckoning is near. If 'they' sue FOX...It might bring them to their knees.

  23. This is the way we should be handling this...

  24. One last snippet...This dude is after my own heart and gives me hope a salty Devil Dog like me can be mayor!

    I'd vote for this dude to be POTUS any day of the week. We got "Mayor Pete" *barf*...We should have had this dude instead!

  25. yeah, right, Governor Richie Aprile(and for @ Mthygiator:
    Richie Aprile is a recurring character portrayed by David Proval on the HBO TV series The Sopranos. He was capo and led the Aprile crew.)
    has no idea how 20,000 ventilators(At least PGICOTUS gets the words right, remember EICSSOTUS's "Get that patient a Breathalyzer!")
    ended up in a warehouse in NEW JERSEY...
    and during training, I remember vaguely hearing about a time (help me out here Sid!)
    when gas passers actually passed gas themselves, by hand, instead of farming it out to Draeger/Ohmeda..
    not that hard of a concept, bag, mask, squeeze every 10 seconds, good for the forearms...
    something even a Surgeon might be able to do...

    Frank "I quit smoking for this?"

  26. Howdy, Smooth ...

    Another Chris Hayes video. This one, in a dark-humor sort of way, ties in to the "School's in Session" column title:

    Evangelical Pastor Reopens University, 12 Students Display COVID-19 Symptoms

    This is about Jerry Falwell, Jr. and Liberty University. Now, in fairness, considering what we know about the incubation period for coronavirus, 12 students displaying symptoms doesn't necessarily mean they all got infected after the school was reopened. There's probably no way to know for sure, but my guess is that they were infected before they left campus for spring break. Even so, reopening was a foolish move on JFJ's part and grossly inconsiderate toward the surrounding community.

    In case anyone here isn't familiar with TEH comment forum history: I have for a long time denounced evangelical church leadership as fools, suckers, and hypocrites (among other less polite terms) for supporting Trump. ks challenged me to come up with some names, if I was going to repeatedly issue such thundering denunciations. After some brief online searching (seriously, it did NOT take long), I came up with nine, and JFJ's was among them. The list has since grown by a couple more.

    With these latest events, if I treated this list as though I were the 1930s FBI reviewing the "Public Enemies" list, JFJ would be a strong candidate for No. 1.

  27. Howdy!

    Yes, I happened to see that. Recently this con artist was arrested for holding church services. He'll be found guilty...

  28. A more serious "get educated" video ... Dr. Rohin Francis of the UK offers an analysis of COVID-19 that's worth its weight in platinum:

    If there's ever a book called How to Tell the Truth with Statistics, this gentleman deserves a mention at the very least.

    His YouTube channel is called Medlife Crisis. From the looks of his video list, he seems to spend a lot time debunking bad science and other assorted BS that's peddled online, both at YouTube and elsewhere.

  29. Good video, Mythigator.

    As far as I know, there isn't a book titled "How to Tell the Truth with Statistics", but a paper by that title was published in 2014 in the Journal of Collaborative Healthcare and Translational Medicine:

    "How to Tell the Truth with Statistics: The Case for Accountable Data Analyses in Team-based Science"

    Remarkably pertinent. It's open access.

  30. For Doc SL:
    Superb article on what China is doing to the world. I like the part where it reads 1/3rd of the problem is the worldwide use of Concrete.
    This is a statistic few venture forth, as it isn't a popular one with those who think we need new infrastructure.

  31. Thanks, 'Anonymous' :-).

    Most people are completely unaware of the enormous energy consumption and its CO2 production required to make cement, and of the additional CO2 released by CaCO3 reduction. I wasn't until my work got me involved in the process industries.

    That work took me to China the late 90s. On a 2 hour drive on an older road, I could see what looked like a new, parallel highway under construction. I commented to my host and he explained that the highway was nowhere near completion, and that it would be torn down because the cement was bad. So, for China and other countries where graft is more prevalent, human corruption adds incrementally to atmospheric CO2.

    Thanks for allowing the diversion, Sid.


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