Sunday, September 27, 2020

Weapon of Wealth Destruction

Saddam Hussein and Donald Trump have a key area in common. Saddam didn't want to cooperate with the UN weapons inspectors, because he feared a public finding that he didn't have weapons of mass destruction: his ability to intimidate enemies would be gone. Donald Trump didn't want to cooperate with the wealth inspectors -- the Internal Revenue Service -- because he feared a public finding that he didn't have any wealth (as the New York Times tax returns revelations show). His ability to impress signifier-susceptible voters would be gone (James Poniewozik wrote a book about this). 

Friday, September 25, 2020

It's too late for a fence

Back in March and April, when there was a lot of bewilderment about the coronavirus, Tomás Pueyo introduced the vivid terminology of The Hammer and the Dance for the sequence that would be needed to get the pandemic under control. Even if the prescription was never exactly followed, it's a useful way to describe a cluster of severe measures early on, and then a more protracted phase of adjustments after that. Pueyo has now written a New York Times sequel calling for a "fence" -- based on the apparent movement of the virus from country to country and around cities and counties within a country. So if we restrict these kinds of movements, we restrict the virus. 

Maybe. But consider the following. We're now almost 10 months into the pandemic. The virus is everywhere. When we see new infection surges, these aren't infection surges from travel. They're local surges from social activity, aggravated by non-compliance with social distancing. The "fence" would have to be within a city to be effective, and there have to be at least a minimal consensus about what behaviour needs to be restricted on the infected side of the fence, and how this would be enforced (Madrid clearly lacks both at the moment).  

The ultra environmentalist mantra -- "we are the virus" -- is true. There is no possible fence, except the one that magically moves around with us, the zone corresponding to social distancing. But social distancing became uncool in June. And there seems to be little willingness to adopt it again, across all age groups. It's going to be a long winter. 

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Virtue of Parliament

There are many odd aspects to the "Kent Access Permit" revelation in the House of Commons today, although whether it's actually surprising depends on how much attention you were paying to "experts" about Brexit. But among the odd things: Michael Gove didn't even mention the permit in his opening statement. It was only revealed as part as a response to a follow-up question from Damian Green:

Damian Green (Ashford) (Con) I can assure my right hon. Friend that the so-called Saxon wall on the Ashford site is in fact a myth: it is not Saxon and it is not holding up work. The prospect of 7,000 trucks queuing to cross the channel will send a chill through my constituents, because we know the disastrous effect that has on all the roads in Kent. I very much support my right hon. Friend in his work to prepare the road haulage industry for the end of the transition period, but may I ask about the Government’s own preparations and specifically the smart freight system that he mentioned, which is essential for the smooth running of traffic across the channel? Can he give a guarantee that that system will be fully up and running and operational from January?

Michael Gove My right hon. Friend makes a number of very important points, and I am grateful to him for clearing up the point about archaeology, which I failed to address in my response to the hon. Member for Leeds West (Rachel Reeves), but his expertise in this area is greater. My right hon. Friend is absolutely right that we want to avoid the level of congestion that this reasonable worst-case scenario sets out, and he is also absolutely right that that requires people to work together. It requires not just the haulage industry, but in particular those goods exporters who commit goods to haulage to be ready in time. Part of that is the smart freight system, which has been developed and is being shared with business. We want to make sure that people use a relatively simple process to get what will become known as a Kent access permit, which means that they can then proceed smoothly through Kent because they have the material required. If they do not have the material required, through policing, ANPR cameras and other means, we will do our very best to ensure that his constituents are not inconvenienced.

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Could not happen today

From Studies in World Christianity / Volume 25, Issue 3 / The Origins of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal in the United States: Early Developments in Indiana and Michigan and the Reactions of the Ecclesiastical Authorities by Valentina Ciciliot --

In the spring of 1973, Fr Michel Dubois, a priest from Belgium, was introduced to The Word of God charismatic community in Ann Arbor, Michigan, as someone who had come from Europe to experience the Catholic charismatic renewal in person. He stayed with community members in their homes, attended prayer meetings, met with a variety of small groups and participated in seminars. Only at the end of his approximately five-day visit did he reveal to everyone his true identity: Cardinal Léon Joseph Suenens, archbishop of Malines–Brussels and primate of Belgium, and one of the four moderators of Vatican II. Few in the community knew who he was, and his plan for anonymity worked well enough that he was able to have a personal encounter with this new movement in the US, known at that time as Catholic Pentecostalism (later it was widely known as the Catholic Charismatic Renewal, hereafter CCR).

Why, you ask, is the proprietor of this blog looking up this kind of stuff? Because while Republicans seem to be trying to bait Democrats into making Amy Coney Barrett's Catholicism an issue, it's the charismatic part that's going to be interesting if that ends up as a line of questioning. 

Friday, September 18, 2020

Written long before Coronavirus, fits very well with Coronavirus


Worried about the status of his ski-season European gabfest invitations


Saturday, September 12, 2020

Coronavirus observation

We are where the WHO feared back in February that we would be if widespread mask-wearing became a major plank of pandemic strategy: masks have a become a substitute, not a complement, for other pandemic precautions formerly known as social distancing. Public health measures have targeted the more obvious non-distancing arenas (e.g. restaurants) but all sorts of social consumption and social leisure activities have popped up in their place -- not to mention the Veblen intersection of those two activities: conspicuous consumption. 

"But we're wearing masks!"

Hope you're all geared up for a winter of home-schooling.

Al Qaeda agrees that 9/11 was about Israel

Mike Pence at the White House Israel / Bahrain recognition announcement

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Mr. President, I can think of no more fitting tribute to the heroes that were forged on this day 19 years ago, and all the heroes that were forged on battlefields ever since, than to see this peace agreement announced today. 

Saturday, September 05, 2020

Outside avocado toast land

Excellent Wall Street Journal article on successful corporate adaptations to Coronavirus concludes:

Christy Johnson, who left her job as a consultant at McKinsey when her daughter was born, said many talented professionals are overlooked because they can't work 60 to 100 hours a week out of offices in New York or San Francisco. She started Artemis Connection, which provides business strategy advice to midsize companies, to tap this underutilized pool. All 40 of her employees work from home, from California to Wisconsin to Turkey. 

"If you go to nonurban areas, there's amazing talent hanging out," she said.