Thursday, April 30, 2020

Cate Blanchett's Books

Not just Ms. Kate's.

This is cool. When I'm watching the news, especially CNN (since Fox is frequently on the conspiracy side these days, especially Ingraham and Hannity), I love looking to see what's on people's book shelves.

I've counted a least three people who've had Ron Chernow's Hamilton on their shelves. It's easily recognizable so I always look to see if it's up there. Tells you a lot about a person, since Hamilton the musical is de rigueur for progressive coastal elites (and their wannabe worshipers in the leftist media).

In any case, at the New York Times:

Bibliophiles do not approach bookshelves lightly. A stranger’s collection is to us a window to their soul. We peruse with judgment, sometimes admiration and occasionally repulsion (Ayn Rand?!). With celebrities now frequently speaking on television in front of their home libraries, a voyeuristic pleasure presents itself: Are they actually really like us?

Blanchett owns all 20 volumes of the Oxford English Dictionary, man!

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Bill de Blasio is Stoking Anti-Semitism

From Batya Ungar-Sargon, at the Forward, "De Blasio is stoking anti-Semitism. He’s not alone."

Demi Rose in Skimpy Bikini-Bottom Only

At Taxi Driver, "Demi Rose Topless in Only a Thong While Wet."

BONUS: "Rita Ora Braless While Crouching in an Open Field," and "Bella Thorne Braless Wearing a Tight White Wifebeater."

Marooned in Marin is Back!

There's not too many local independent bloggers left these days, especially since Twitter exploded over the last decade as the "comment board" of choice for the Internets fever swamp trolls. Even John Hawkins, of Right Wing News fame, hung up his keyboard a couple of years back after Facebook purged his advertising, killing his revenue stream.

See, "A (Part Time) Return to Blogging...":
I have to say that President Trump has greatly exceeded my expectations in the three plus years he has been President. He is not a "movement conservative," as Ronald Reagan was. But, President Trump certainly has been the most conservative President since Reagan. I would argue that, until Trump, our nation has suffered under two Bushes, one Clinton, and Obama of a deficit of leadership where we have become too willing to surrender our sovereignty to globalism. What has happened with COVID-19 should be a wake-up call that we cannot rely on other nations, especially those who are Communist or hostile regimes, for vital things like medicines. Thank goodness President Trump has made us energy independent so we will not have to rely on overseas oil from a region where there are regimes hostile to America.
Also, "Democrats & Media Sycophants Kick & Scream as Trump Lays Path to Reopen US Economy."

Wonderful Ms. Katie

On Twitter:

Brad Pitt is the Man

I love this guy.

The skit's not that funny, actually, but the context is. Dr. Fauci wanted Pitt to impersonate him on 'SNL' and got his wish.

Fauci's came under intense fire from conspiracy-minded bottom-dwellers, and a while back he got a majority security upgrade, including armed federal marshals taking posts outside his home. 

At HuffPo:

And 'SNL':

Newport Beach Votes to Keep Beaches Open (VIDEO)

At LAT, "Newport Beach council votes to keep beaches open, despite crowds and rebuke from Newsom."

And CBS News 2 Los Angeles:

Kat Dennings

See, "Leaked Pics of Kat Dennings."

More here, "Kat Dennings The Busty Actress."

Amazon Sales: Pools, Spas, and Supplies


At least folks can swim in their own backyards during the lockdown, man.

At Amazon, Shopping for Pools, Spas, and Supplies.

Plus, Kaufman – 100% Cotton Velour Striped Beach & Pool Towel 4-Pack – 30in x 60in, and AmazonBasics Cabana Stripe Beach Towel - Pack of 2, Navy Blue.

Also, Outdoor Patio Synthetic Backyard Poolside Garden Black Rattan Wicker Chaise Lounge Chair Cushioned Set Adjustable with Armrest (Set of Two, Royal Blue), and Best Choice Products Adjustable Outdoor Steel Patio Chaise Lounge Chair for Patio, Poolside w/ 5 Positions, UV-Resistant Cushions - Beige.

More, SKINNY TUMBLERS 4 Colored Acrylic Tumblers with Lids and Straws | Skinny, 16oz Double Wall Clear Plastic Tumblers With FREE Straw Cleaner & Name Tags! (Clear, 4).

Still more, Coleman 24-Can Party Stacker Portable Cooler.

And, Fujifilm FinePix XP130 Waterproof Digital Camera w/16GB SD Card - Sky Blue.

Also, Banana Boat Sunscreen Ultra Sport Performance, Broad Spectrum Sunscreen Spray - SPF 30 - 6 Ounce Twin Pack.

BONUS: Sports Illustrated Swimsuit: 50 Years of Beautiful Hardcover.

Hilary Mantel, Bring Up the Bodies

At Amazon, Hilary Mantel, Bring Up the Bodies: A Novel.

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Everyone Loses in the U.S.-Chinese Clash?

I was just skimming through my old copies of Foreign Affairs and came across this piece, from last year, by Weijian Shan.

It's amazing how quickly it's out of date, and badly wrong, considering the corona epidemic and its effects. President Trump has always been a nationalist on trade, and while he's been woefully uneven on China --- both praising and disparaging Beijing, often during the same press conference --- the strategy that Shan denounces is exactly what the U.S. should pursue.

Here, "The Unwinnable Trade War: Everyone Loses in the U.S.-Chinese Clash—but Especially Americans":

The trade war has not really damaged China so far, largely because Beijing has managed to keep import prices from rising and because its exports to the United States have been less affected than anticipated. This pattern will change as U.S. importers begin to switch from buying from China to buying from third countries to avoid paying the high tariffs. But assuming China’s GDP continues to grow at around five to six percent every year, the effect of that change will be quite modest. Some pundits doubt the accuracy of Chinese figures for economic growth, but multilateral agencies and independent research institutions set Chinese GDP growth within a range of five to six percent.

Skeptics also miss the bigger picture that China’s economy is slowing down as it shifts to a consumption-driven model. Some manufacturing will leave China if the high tariffs become permanent, but the significance of such a development should not be overstated. Independent of the anxiety bred by Trump’s tariffs, China is gradually weaning itself off its dependence on export-led growth. Exports to the United States as a proportion of China’s GDP steadily declined from a peak of 11 percent in 2005 to less than four percent by 2018. In 2006, total exports made up 36 percent of China’s GDP; by 2018, that figure had been cut by half, to 18 percent, which is much lower than the average of 29 percent for the industrialized countries of the Organ-ization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Chinese leaders have long sought to steer their economy away from export-driven manufacturing to a consumer-driven model.

To be sure, the trade war has exacted a severe psychological toll on the Chinese economy. In 2018, when the tariffs were first announced, they caused a near panic in China’s market at a time when growth was slowing thanks to a round of credit tightening. The stock market took a beating, plummeting some 25 percent. The government initially felt pressured to find a way out of the trade war quickly. But as the smoke cleared to reveal little real damage, confidence in the market rebounded: stock indexes had risen by 23 percent and 34 percent on the Shanghai and Shenzhen exchanges, respectively, by September 12, 2019. The resilience of the Chinese economy in the face of the trade war helps explain why Beijing has stiffened its negotiating position in spite of Trump’s escalation.

China hasn’t had a recession in the past 40 years and won’t have one in the foreseeable future, because its economy is still at an early stage of development, with per capita GDP only one-sixth of that of the United States. Due to declining rates of saving and rising wages, the engine of China’s economy is shifting from investments and exports to private consumption. As a result, the country’s growth rate is expected to slow. The International Monetary Fund projects that China’s real GDP growth will fall from 6.6 percent in 2018 to 5.5 percent in 2024; other estimates put the growth rate at an even lower number. Although the rate of Chinese growth may dip, there is little risk that the Chinese economy will contract in the foreseeable future. Private consumption, which has been increasing, representing 35 percent of GDP in 2010 and 39 percent last year, is expected to continue to rise and to drive economic growth, especially now that China has expanded its social safety net and welfare provisions, freeing up private savings for consumption.

The U.S. economy, on the other hand, has had the longest expansion in history, and the inevitable down cycle is already on the horizon: second-quarter GDP growth this year dropped to 2.0 percent from the first quarter’s 3.1 percent. The trade war, without taking into account the escalations from September, will shave off at least half a percentage point of U.S. GDP, and that much of a drag on the economy may tip it into the anticipated downturn. (According to a September Washington Post poll, 60 percent of Americans expect a recession in 2020.) The prospect of a recession could provide Trump with the impetus to call off the trade war. Here, then, is one plausible way the trade war will come to an end. Americans aren’t uniformly feeling the pain of the tariffs yet. But a turning point is likely to come when the economy starts to lose steam.

If the trade war continues, it will compromise the international trading system, which relies on a global division of labor based on each country’s comparative advantage. Once that system becomes less dependable—when disrupted, for instance, by the boycotts and hostility of trade wars—countries will start decoupling from one another.

China and the United States are joined at the hip economically, each being the other’s biggest trading partner. Any attempt to decouple the two economies will bring catastrophic consequences for both, and for the world at large. Consumer prices will rise, world economic growth will slow, supply chains will be disrupted and laboriously duplicated on a global scale, and a digital divide—in technology, the Internet, and telecommunications—will vastly hamper innovation by limiting the horizons and ambitions of technology firms...

Blue Angels Cockpit Cam

Seen just now on Twitter:

Corona Bursts U.S. College Education Bubble

Lots of students want their money back, especially at those elite private colleges.

From Rana Foroohar, at the Financial Times, "Coronavirus bursts the US college education bubble: Soaring fees, worthless degrees and dicey investments have hurt the economy":

Bubbles are bursting everywhere and America’s most prestigious export — higher education — won’t be immune. Universities are like landlocked cruise ships: places with all-you-can-eat buffets and plenty of beer, but almost no way of social distancing.

Many colleges are considering running online classes into the autumn and beyond. But that requires additional resources that most are ill equipped to afford. Even before coronavirus, 30 per cent of colleges tracked by rating agency Moody’s were running deficits, while 15 per cent of public universities had less than 90 days of cash on hand.

Now, with colleges shuttered, revenues reduced, endowment investments plunging, and the added struggle of shifting from physical to virtual education, Moody’s has downgraded the entire sector to negative from stable. The American Council on Education believes revenues in higher education will decline by $23bn over the next academic year. In one survey this week, 57 per cent of university presidents said they planned to lay off staff. Half said they would merge or eliminate some programmes, while 64 per cent said that long-term financial viability was their most pressing issue. It’s very likely we are about to see the hollowing out of America’s university system.

US universities are world class. But the system as a whole is in trouble. Cost is a big part of the problem. I’ve written many times about the US’s dangerous $2tn student debt load. Soaring tuition fees, worthless degrees and dicey investments made by both universities and the government have become a huge headwind to economic growth and social mobility.

If you don’t believe me, take it from the New York Fed, which two years ago called out student debt and the dysfunctions of higher education as problems for the overall US economy. That’s a sad irony, given that a college degree is supposed to increase wealth and productivity. Unfortunately, the US system of higher education — like healthcare, housing, labour markets and so much else in America today — is bifurcated. Those with fancy brand-name degrees from top schools do great. So do many who attend high-quality, low-cost community and state programmes...
Keep reading.

Remote Learning Is Breaking Parents

This is too true. My 18 year old is trying to graduate high school, and this remote learning has been tough for him --- and my wife and I.

At NYT, "With Schools Shut by Coronavirus, Remote Learning Strains Parents":
Daniel Levin’s son, Linus, 7, was supposed to be doing math. Instead, he pretended to take a shower in the living room, rubbing a dry eraser under his arms like a bar of soap, which upset his 5-year-old sister, distracting her from her coloring.

As much as he tried, Mr. Levin, who lives in Brooklyn, could not get Linus to finish the math. His hopes for the reading assignment were not high, either.

“He’s supposed to map out a whole character trait sheet today,” Mr. Levin said one day last week. “Honestly, if he writes the name and the age of the character, I’ll consider that a victory.”

Ciarra Kohn’s third-grade son uses five different apps for school. Her 4-year-old’s teacher sends lesson plans, but Ms. Kohn has no time to do them.

Her oldest, a sixth-grader, has eight subjects and eight teachers and each has their own method. Sometimes when Ms. Kohn does a lesson with him, she’ll ask if he understood it — because she didn’t.

“I’m assuming you don’t, but maybe you do,” said Ms. Kohn, of Bloomington, Ill., referring to her son. “Then we’ll get into an argument, like, ‘No, mom! She doesn’t mean that, she means this!’”

Parental engagement has long been seen as critical to student achievement, as much as class size, curriculum and teacher quality. That has never been more true than now, and all across the country, moms and dads pressed into emergency service are finding it one of the most exasperating parts of the pandemic.

With teachers relegated to computer screens, parents have to play teacher’s aide, hall monitor, counselor and cafeteria worker — all while trying to do their own jobs under extraordinary circumstances. Essential workers are in perhaps the toughest spot, especially if they are away from home during school hours, leaving just one parent, or no one at all, at home when students need them most.

Kindergartners need help logging into Zoom. Seventh-graders need help with algebra, last used by dad circa 1992. “School” often ends by lunchtime, leaving parents from Long Island to Dallas to Los Angeles asking themselves the same question: How bad am I if my child plays Fortnite for the next eight hours?

Yarlin Matos of the Bronx, whose husband still goes to work as a manager at a McDonald’s, has seven children, ages 3 to 13, to keep on track. She spent part of her stimulus check on five Amazon Fire tablets because the devices promised by the city’s Education Department had not arrived.

Ms. Matos, a psychology major at Bronx Community College, said she must stay up late, sometimes until 3 a.m., trying to get her own work done.

“I had a breaking moment where I had to lock myself in the bathroom and cry,” she said. “It was just too much.”

Laura Landgreen, a teacher in Denver, always thought it strange that she sent her two sons, Callam Hugo, 4, and Landon Hugo, 7, off to school rather than home schooling them herself.

She doesn’t find it strange anymore. “My first grader — we would kill each other,” she said. “He’s fine at school, but here he has a meltdown every three seconds.”

“I need to teach other children,” she said...

Monday, April 27, 2020

Studs Terkel, Hard Times

At Amazon, Studs Terkel, Hard Times: An Oral History of the Great Depression.

Newport Beach Looking to Shut Down After Weekend Surge of Visitors (VIDEO)

It was bound to happen. The crowds have been massive, it not completely out of control, sheesh.

At CBS News 2 Los Angeles:

Joe Biden 'Credibly Accused' of Sexual Assault (VIDEO)

At AoSHQ, "Tara Reade's Former Neighbor Comes Forward to Say Reade Made the Same Allegation in the 90s," and "#DropOutBiden Hashtag Trends as Democrats "Grapple" With the Fact That Their Candidate Is Credibly Accused of Rape."

Jennifer Delacruz's Hot Monday Forecast

Here's the beautiful Ms. Jennifer, forecasting from home, for ABC News 10 San Diego:

Scientists Have Recreated Medieval Battles to Solve Debate Over Ancient Bronze Swords

At Instapundit, "I Love This":
Researchers commissioned the creation of seven bronze swords using traditional methods, then tested them out with the help of local experts used to setting up medieval combat reconstructions, applying techniques from the Middle Ages.

By analysing the marks and indents left on the weapons by the mock battles, and comparing them with a close-up study of 110 ancient Bronze Age swords found across Great Britain and Italy, the team was able to show that the patterns of wear did indeed match up with real combat techniques – indicating these weapons weren’t just ceremonial items...

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Playmate Iryna at the Beach

Here's the phenomenal lady again, pushing boundaries.


Also, fully nude here, sheesh.

Cal State Fullerton is One of First in the Nation to Announce Fully Online Education for Fall Semester

I'm waiting to hear if my college is going to full online instruction in the fall. Our summer session for 2020 is already set for fully online remote teaching. It's a matter of time before more local colleges make such announcements, and so far Cal State Fullerton is the first in California.

At the Orange County Register, "Cal State Fullerton to start fall semester with virtual classrooms":

Cal State Fullerton plans to start the fall semester with virtual classrooms and will gradually ease restrictions when it is safe to do so, officials said Monday, April 20, in a virtual town hall for faculty and staff.

“We are assuming in the fall we will be virtual,” Provost Pamella Oliver said. “And of course, that can change depending on the situation, depending on what happens with COVID-19. But at this point that is what we are thinking.”

Oliver said the decision came amid a number of concerns, including the state’s ability to do sufficient testing and case tracking for the coronavirus to make sure it is safe to lift the shelter-in-place order for faculty, staff and students.

As for plans to gradually open the 40,000-student campus, the university must be able to ensure adequate physical and social distancing and also take into account that there could be spikes of the virus in the future that would require flexibility, she said.

The town hall, moderated by CSUF spokeswoman Ellen Treanor, also included President Fram Virjee, Vice President for Student Affairs Harry Le Grande and David Forgues, vice president of human resources, diversity and inclusion, answering questions from faculty and staff. Another virtual town hall for students is scheduled for Wednesday.

When making the decision to reopen, the university will heed the advice of state officials, the Chancellor’s Office, the Orange County Health Agency and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Forgues said.

The campus will look much different at that time, he said. Masks, gloves and other protective gear will be required or highly encouraged. Workplaces and classrooms will be configured based on social distancing, and faculty and staff may be required to work on a rotation or staggered hours or days, he said...
Still more.

Encinitas Cracks Down on Beachgoers (VIDEO)

Following-up, "Cooped-Up Coastal Californians Swarm the Beaches."

Authorities down in San Diego country are not cool. At all.

At 10 News San Diego:

Cooped-Up Coastal Californians Swarm the Beaches

When I'm out at the beach, I don't want worry about wearing a mask and "social distancing" at least six feet from everybody. What's the fun of it, unless you're going down there by yourself? Which I do sometimes now that I'm in my older years.

But as a teenager? No way. You're not going to quit putting sunscreen on your girlfriend's booty, nor stop throwing her in the water. Who wants that?

In any case, the verdict's still out on how well visitors kept to the state's social distancing protocols.

Meh. People are cooped-up and just want to have some fun in the sun, and enjoy a little freedom.

At LAT, "Ventura and Orange County beaches fill up as people seek relief from the heat and weeks of staying home."

Saturday, April 25, 2020

Did Coronavirus Hit Earlier?

In January, I had the worst flu I've every had. I was down for at least a week, laid out in bed, only drinking Seven-Up and eating Cheesehead string cheese sticks now and then.

My oldest son keeps saying I had COVID then, but my symptoms were classic flu-like. Just major, major cough and congestion, and I was expectorating the super yucky dark green mucus. I literally thought I was going to hospital, although I wasn't in much pain beyond the coughing, which was harsh.

Anyway, I just sent my son this piece, and he's yucking it up, telling my he's 95 percent sure I had corona, lol.

At NYT, "Amid Signs Coronavirus Came Earlier, Americans Ask: Did I Already Have It?":

New revelations have left people wondering about ailments early this year. Doctors are thinking back to unexplained cases. Medical examiners are looking for possible misdiagnosed deaths.

CHICAGO — In January, a mystery illness swept through a call center in a skyscraper on Michigan Avenue in Chicago. Close to 30 people in one department alone had symptoms — dry, deep coughs and fevers they could not shake. When they gradually returned to work after taking sick days, they sat in their cubicles looking wan and tired.

“I’ve started to think it was the coronavirus,” said Julie Parks, a 63-year-old employee who was among the sick. “I may have had it, but I can’t be sure. It’s limbo.”

The revelation this week that a death in the United States in early February was the result of the coronavirus has significantly altered the understanding of how early the virus may have been circulating in this country. Researchers now believe that hidden outbreaks were creeping through cities like Chicago, New York, Seattle and Boston in January and February, earlier than previously known.

The new timeline has lent credence to a question on the minds of many Americans: Did I already have the coronavirus?

The retroactive search is happening on many levels. People who had suffered dreadful bouts with flulike illnesses are now wondering whether it had been the coronavirus. Doctors are thinking back to unexplained cases. Medical examiners are poring over their records looking for possible misdiagnosed deaths. And local politicians are demanding investigations.

Brian Gustafson, a coroner in Rock Island County, Ill., said he had no capability to perform post-mortem coronavirus tests, but firmly believed that coronavirus deaths and illnesses were missed across the country during weeks, early this year, when the authorities believed the virus was mainly overseas.

Included in Mr. Gustafson’s suspicions of an undercount: himself. He is convinced that he had the coronavirus in January, when he was so crushingly tired and feverish, he could scarcely summon the strength to walk to the bathroom from his bed.

“I think it was here long before we knew it,” said Mr. Gustafson, who is also a nurse and said he believes that he contracted the virus from one of the recently deceased people who was brought to the coroner’s office long before anyone in Illinois was looking for positive coronavirus cases. “That’s the only logical thing I can think of.”

Some people have spent part of their days sheltering at home going over the details of their bouts with what could have been the coronavirus. In Rothschild, Wis., Tommie Swenson and his girlfriend, Tammy Swikert, keep thinking of the illness they contracted during the winter that spread widely through their village of 5,000 people.

It was nothing like the flu, said Mr. Swenson, a retired truck driver. Milk and soda tasted funny, or like nothing at all. He could barely sleep at night, he had such a rattling cough and felt a crushing weight on his chest.

“We talk about it all the time,” Mr. Swenson said. “What if we did have the coronavirus? Are we immune to it now, or are we going to catch it again? What does this mean?”

Infectious disease experts say the answer is complicated. Many believe that between five and 20 times more people have been exposed to the coronavirus than have tested positive, and there is a growing body of data to support that...
Still more.

I never lost my sense of taste or smell, so I'm still not convinced I had it. But no doubt there were corona deaths way before anyone appreciated the seriousness of the pandemic, or its deadliness.

To Survive, Independent Bookstores Get Creative

I'm actually enjoying working from home. I needed a break anyway. I was having anxiety attacks at the beginning of the semester, unrelated to corona, and my teaching was suffering from the decline of my health --- a first in my career.

And while there's no replacement for the dynamic interaction of the classroom setting, I've adapted pretty well to teaching online. Things have been going surprisingly well with my teaching, considering I've never done remote instruction before. I'm kind of proud of my progress. Frankly, it's been mostly self-learning. The training for distance education on my campus was extremely limited --- literally two hours of training on Canvas and faculty members were sent out on their own, the very week of the campus lockdown, to sink or swim.

In any case, amid all the lockdowns and social distancing, I miss going to bookstores perhaps the most. That, and stopping off at the sports bar in the afternoon to quaff an IPA and read a novel before heading home.

The bars will open back up, especially those that offer curbside pickup for food and alcohol orders (like B.J.'s Pizza in Irvine).

I'm not so sure about bookstores, though. In addition to Amazon, I've been buying books at my local favorite, the Bookman in Orange.

In any case, at Business Week, "Independent Bookstores Get Creative to Survive the Long Lockdown":

After several days of hunkering down at home in late March, this reporter decided it was time to seek out a few literary diversions to keep the coronavirus blues at bay—some novels for myself, mysteries for my 13-year-old, a nonfiction thriller for a friend’s birthday. Learning that Walden Pond Books, my favorite independent bookstore in Oakland, Calif., was closed but still taking orders for pickup, I phoned in my list and rode my bike to the normally laid-back shop. On the door was a very unmellow admonition: a cardboard sign blaring “DO NOT TOUCH DOOR HANDLE!!”

After putting on yellow rubber kitchen gloves, I knocked on the window, then stood several feet back. Soon a lone employee wearing a mask cracked open the door and asked for my name. I whispered it. A few minutes later, he reappeared carrying a brown paper bag and handed over the sanitized goods. Before taking it, I looked furtively around, half expecting to see cops.

“Two-thirds of my staff is laid off right now,” says Paul Curatolo, Walden Pond’s co-owner and manager, explaining the reason behind the shop’s speakeasy-like pickup strategy. “I can’t pay them for work I don’t have. But for every day that we’re closed, we are getting more phone calls.”

With much of the nation under strict stay-at-home orders, independent bookstores—which rely largely on foot traffic, browsing, and impulse buying—are struggling like never before. Amazon .com Inc. has long dominated book sales, and many independent shops are Luddite operations that lack robust websites, much less e-commerce operations.

To survive, they’ve had to get inventive in a hurry. Like Walden Pond, many are taking orders over the phone, then providing curbside pickup similar to the virus-impacted restaurants operating carryout only. Wheatberry Books in Chillicothe, Ohio, has launched a virtual storytime for children. Magic City Books in Tulsa is shipping curated “literary care packages” and announced a series of virtual author events. And scores of others, including Taylor Books in Charleston, W.Va., are turning to fundraisers via GoFundMe to stay afloat.

While the number of independent shops in the U.S. belonging to the American Booksellers Association is now more than 1,800, up from about 1,400 in 2009, the business is often fragile even in the best of times. Now the trade group warns that the Covid-19 crisis has put some of its members in grave danger, and many have embraced e-commerce in a bid to weather the long shutdowns.

“There’s been a drop in overall book sales as most bookstores are closed to the public right now, except for deliveries and curbside pickup, but a significant increase in online sales,” says Allison K Hill, chief executive officer of the booksellers’ association. “The online sales aren’t very profitable, though, as the cost to manage them is high and the margin is thin. Many independent bookstores will be dependent on government relief, fundraising, and support from their communities to survive.”

Many independent shops don’t have the staff, or the bandwidth, to constantly update websites, much less manage the inventory, shipping, and customer-service challenges that an e-commerce expansion brings...
Keep reading.

When the Bookman lost its lease at its Tustin Avenue location sometime back, the owners opened up a GoFundMe page to help finance the move to a new location. It took a while, but the store did reopen about a year ago at its current location on West Katella Avenue.

I picked up a book the other day. The store offers curbside pickup. You order by phone or online, and then phone ahead when you're ready to pick up. I got over there to pick up and the guy comes out with a mask on to hand me my book. It was unwrapped. I kicked in a large tip on top of the price, and sometime in the next few days I'm going to make a huge donation of books I'm currently cleaning out of my library.

That's the best I can do right now, other than to make more cash donations. Bookman's not opening up a GoFundMe page this time around, or if so I haven't heard about it. I don't know if a second time around would save the business.

So, support your local bookstores folks. Who knows how long the big corporate chains will last? Barnes and Noble might be going the way of Borders before you know it.

Coronavirus Slams the Behemoths of the Retail World

For department stores, things may never be the same --- particularly for those that survive.

At NYT, "The Death of the Department Store: ‘Very Few Are Likely to Survive’":

American department stores, once all-powerful shopping meccas that anchored malls and Main Streets across the country, have been dealt blow after blow in the past decade. J.C. Penney and Sears were upended by hedge funds. Macy’s has been closing stores and cutting corporate staff. Barneys New York filed for bankruptcy last year.

But nothing compares to the shock the weakened industry has taken from the coronavirus pandemic. The sales of clothing and accessories fell by more than half in March, a trend that is expected to only get worse in April. The entire executive team at Lord & Taylor was let go this month. Nordstrom has canceled orders and put off paying its vendors. The Neiman Marcus Group, the most glittering of the American department store chains, is expected to declare bankruptcy in the coming days, the first major retailer felled during the current crisis.

It is not likely to be the last.

“The department stores, which have been failing slowly for a very long time, really don’t get over this,” said Mark A. Cohen, the director of retail studies at Columbia University’s Business School. “The genre is toast, and looking at the other side of this, there are very few who are likely to survive.”

At a time when retailers should be putting in orders for the all-important holiday shopping season, stores are furloughing tens of thousands of corporate and store employees, hoarding cash and desperately planning how to survive this crisis. The specter of mass default is being discussed not just behind closed doors but in analysts’ future models. Whether or not that happens, no one doubts that the upheaval caused by the pandemic will permanently alter both the retail landscape and the relationships of brands with the stores that sell them.

At the very least, there is expected to be an enormous reduction in the number of stores in each chain, which once sprawled across the American continent like a pack of many-headed hydras.

Department store chains account for about 30 percent of the total mall square footage in the United States, with 10 percent of that coming from Sears and J.C. Penney, according to a January report from Green Street Advisors, a real estate research firm. Even before the pandemic, the firm expected about half of mall-based department stores to close in the next five years.

Even as they have worked to transform themselves for e-commerce with apps, websites and in-store exchanges, the outbreak has laid bare how dependent the department stores have remained on their physical outposts. Macy’s said on March 30 that after closing its stores for nearly two weeks, it had lost the majority of its sales.

The Commerce Department’s retail sales report for March, released last week, was disastrous. Overall retail sales numbers for this month are expected to be even worse, given that some stores were open for at least part of March.

Retailers have begun taking extreme measures to try to survive. Le Tote, a subscription clothing company that acquired Lord & Taylor last year from Hudson’s Bay, said in a memo on April 2 that the chain’s entire executive team, including the chief executive, would be let go immediately. It also suspended payments of goods to vendors for at least 90 days, citing “immense pressure on our liquidity position.”

Macy’s, which also owns Bloomingdale’s, extended payment for goods and services to 120 days from 60 days and, according to Reuters, has hired bankers from Lazard to explore new financing. Jeff Gennette, the chief executive, is forgoing any compensation for the duration of the crisis. The company was dropped from the S&P 500 last month based on its valuation.

J.C. Penney has hired Lazard, the law firm Kirkland & Ellis and the consultancy AlixPartners to explore restructuring options, according to two people familiar with the matter, and confirmed that it skipped an interest payment on its debt last week. It is expected to make a decision on what to do, including potentially filing for bankruptcy, within a few weeks, one of the people said.

But none of them were in as immediate dire straits as Neiman Marcus, which has both an enormous debt burden — about $4.8 billion, thanks in part to a leveraged buyout in 2013 by the owners Ares Management and the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board — and a raft of expensive rents in the most high-profile shopping destinations, signed during boom times.

In late March, Neiman stopped accepting new merchandise and furloughed a large portion of its approximately 14,000 employees as the rumors of bankruptcy began to swirl. Its chief executive, Geoffroy van Raemdonck, announced that he was waiving his salary for April. The brand denied to vendors and its own employees at its sister brand Bergdorf Goodman that it was engaging advisers to explore a bankruptcy filing, but on April 14, S&P downgraded Neiman’s credit rating. Last week, the retailer did not make an interest payment that was due on April 15, angering bondholders and further fueling suspicions that a bankruptcy filing was imminent. A spokesperson for Neiman Marcus declined to comment...
Still more.

Danielle Mason


Friday, April 24, 2020

Ann Althouse Visits Madison Anti-Shutdown Rally

See, "We drove up to the Wisconsin Capitol to see the anti-shutdown rally...... and from the completely closed car, I was able to get some photographs."

PHOTO CREDIT: Ann Althouse on Flickr.

Bridget Phetasy's 'Dumpster Fire'

She's a crazy chick! Remember she posted topless shots previously.

See, "Bridget Phetasy Posts 'Tasteful Nudes' at Patreon for Money, and Responds to Her 'Haters' With Topless Photo on Twitter."

And her topless nude shot here.

Megan Parry's Scorching Weather Forecast

It's 91 in Irvine right now ---- we're pumping the air conditioning! Screw the global warming freaks!

Here's the beautiful Ms. Megan, for ABC News 10 San Diego:

Gordon Chang, The Coming Collapse of China

Gordon Chang's the nicest guy. I met him at the David Horowitz West Coast Retreat back in 2001.

At Amazon, Gordon Chang, The Coming Collapse of China.

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman's Bizarre Interview with Anderson Cooper (VIDEO)

Look, everybody wants to open back up the economy, and I'd love to hit the roulette tables at New York New York myself (to say nothing of scarfing dinner across the way at MGM's fabulously delicious buffet). But this lady's whacked.

Honestly, let's open back up safely. Soon, yes, but safely.


BONUS: At CBS News, "Americans prioritize staying home and worry restrictions will lift too fast — CBS News poll."

LBCC Loses Nearly $2 Million Amid Coronavirus

Yeah, but my college is expected to get $14 million from the Care package passed by Congress. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

At the Long Beach Press-Telegram:

Sheer Lindsey Pelas

On Twitter:

Click the photo to see the whole package, whoa.

The American Social Distancing Farce

From Michelle Malkin, "The Grand Farce of American Social Distancing":
We are not a serious country. America’s “social distancing” campaign has gone both too far and not far enough. The restrictions and guidelines are arbitrary, irrational and unevenly applied.

While children’s swings and slides are now crime scenes, golf courses and pickleball courts in my city are wide open.

Weed and booze stores are considered “essential.” Ice cream, dessert joints and fast-food outlets with takeout and delivery services are still operating. But family-owned, sit-down restaurants that have been staples in our community have been forced to shut their doors after decades in business.

Barbershops and hair salons here were ordered to close three weeks ago, but government employees on landscaping crews who cut grass — like the ones I’ve seen all crammed together in a city truck — are still earning paychecks subsidized by the taxpayers sidelined from their jobs in the name of safety and public health.

In my state, and across the country, private gyms have been forbidden spaces for the masses for weeks. But if you’re a celebrity or Beltway elitist, you can still stay in shape while sanctimoniously taping public service announcements telling everyone else to stay at home.

Jennifer Lopez and Alex Rodriguez have been racking up social media clicks by sharing cozy family quarantine videos and coping tips from their multi-million-dollar Florida mansion. “We all need to take care of ourselves, mentally and physically, and also be respectful of the health and well-being of others. At a time when people need to stay apart, we can still find other ways to feel togetherness. Stay connected, and most importantly, stay safe,” Rodriguez tweeted to his 1.2 million fans. Yet, last week, the power couple was caught by paparazzi exiting a Miami gym whose front-door sign read: “This gym is not open. Stay home stay safe.”

Actors Mario Lopez and Mark Wahlberg have also become quarantine time favorites, sharing dance routines, home workouts and homeschool scenes to show their commitment to self-isolation. But last week, the buff Hollywood bros ventured out to a posh Los Angeles F45 Training facility to tape a partner workout together (with a two-person film crew) that they told their viewers to replicate in their apartments or backyards...
Keep reading.

The Beautiful Jackie Johnson Enjoying Motherhood and Nature

I miss her nightly weathercasts as CBS News 2 Los Angeles

But she's posting updates to Twitter on her post-weathercaster career as a beautiful and loving mother:

Danielle Gersh's Scorching Weather Forecast

It was 86 degrees at 11:00am this morning when I went out to Walmart for a few things. We've been running the air conditioning all day. A preview of a long, hot summer ahead.

Here's the lovely Ms. Danielle, for CBS News 2 Los Angeles, reporting from home during social distancing:

The Strange Post-Social Distancing Purgatory

From Juliette Kayyem, at the Atlantic, "After Social Distancing, a Strange Purgatory Awaits":
Over the past week, I’ve been informally contacting friends and colleagues in a variety of fields—sports, travel, architecture, entertainment, arts, the clergy, and more—to ask them how their world might look after social distancing. The answer: It looks weird.

We will get used to seeing temperature-screening stations at public venues. If America’s testing capacity improves and results come back quickly, don’t be surprised to see nose swabs at airports. Airlines may contemplate whether flights can be reserved for different groups of passengers—either high- or low-risk. Mass-transit systems will set new rules; don’t be surprised if they mandate masks too.

Changes like these are only the beginning. After most disasters, recovery occurs days or weeks or a few months later—when the hurricane has ended, the flooding has subsided, or the earth has stopped shaking. Once the immediate threat has abated, a community gets its bearings, buries its dead, and begins to clear the debris. In crisis-management lingo, the response phase gives way to the recovery stage, in which a society goes back to normal. But the coronavirus crisis will follow a different trajectory.

Until scientists discover a vaccine, doctors develop significantly better medical treatments, or both, people all over the world will be working around, sharing space with, and sheltering from a virus that still kills. The year or years that follow the lifting of stay-at-home orders won’t be true recovery but something better understood as adaptive recovery, in which we learn to live with the virus even as we root for medical progress.

During this strange purgatory, places such as schools will be governed by direct orders from public officials, and large corporate employers will have tremendous influence on work-related norms. But Americans spend a good amount of our life and money in other spaces. After basic needs are addressed or met, what will it be like to be you?

Face shields—not masks, but clear plastic full-face shields—will be required for fans at sports games or concerts, to the extent that those happen at all. Golf could become the sport of choice as it’s easy to maintain distance and is outdoors. Not coincidentally, the PGA Tour announced plans this week to restart its season in June.

In some of the rosier scenarios, COVID-19 testing and tracking become widespread enough that most businesses can stay open...
Still more.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Alison Weir, The Six Wives of Henry VIII

At Amazon, Alison Weir, The Six Wives of Henry VIII.

How Deep Cleaners Kill the Coronavirus

At Popular Mechanics, "Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, we need biohazard cleanup crews now more than ever. These heroes might be the only ones who can disinfect the world back to normal":
Cory Chalmers’s cleaning team looks a lot like Stormtroopers out for a raid.

“We’ve got the white Tyvek suits, the full-face respirators,” Chalmer tells Popular Mechanics. And, of course, the pièce de résistance: electrostatic guns loaded with sodium troclosene, a disinfectant that, when dissolved in water, creates a fine mist of chlorine gas. The guns give the sodium troclosene particles a static charge that makes them cling to objects. When Chalmers and his gang of Galactic Empire cleaners want to disinfect something, all they have to do is point and shoot...
Keep reading.

Via Glenn Reynolds, at Instapundit.

Monday, April 20, 2020

Ruchir Sharma, The 10 Rules of Successful Nations

Just out on March 31st, at Amazon, Ruchir Sharma, The 10 Rules of Successful Nations.

Less Than Zero: U.S. Oil Prices Drop to Negative Territory as Markets Crash

Following-up, "Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Deletes Tweet Cheering Crash of Oil Markets."

Summary at WSJ, "U.S. Oil Costs Less Than Zero After a Sharp Monday Selloff."
U.S. oil futures plunged below zero for the first time Monday, a chaotic demonstration that there was no place left to store all the crude that the world’s stalled economy would otherwise be using.

The price of a barrel of West Texas Intermediate crude to be delivered in May, which closed at $18.27 a barrel on Friday, ended Monday at negative $37.63. That effectively means that sellers must pay buyers to take barrels off their hands...
More at NPR, "Free Fall: Oil Prices Go Negative."

And at CNBC, "Stock market live Monday: Stocks drop more than 1.5%, oil turns negative, stay-at-home stocks rise."

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Deletes Tweet Cheering Crash of Oil Markets

See, at Memeorandum, "AOC cites need to ‘play hardball’ on coronavirus relief packages, in push for $2,000 per month payments."

And NYDN, "Ocasio-Cortez deletes ‘absolutely love to see it’ tweet about oil price crash amid conservative outrage."

And on Twitter:

Never let a crisis got to waste. Sigh.

Big Ones of the Day

At Drunken Stepfather, "TITS ON INSTAGRAM OF THE DAY."

And Katerina Hartlova on Twitter:

'The Haunted California Idyll of German Writers in Exile'

This is amazing, at Althouse, quoting an article at the New Yorker, "'Indeed, a number of exiles fell to scowling under the palms.... The composer Eric Zeisl called California a 'sunny blue grave'":
"Adorno could have had Muscle Beach in mind when he identified a social condition called the Health unto Death: 'The very people who burst with proofs of exuberant vitality could easily be taken for prepared corpses, from whom the news of their not-quite-successful decease has been withheld for reasons of population policy.'... Such doleful tales raise the question of why so many writers fled to L.A. Why not go to New York, where exiled visual artists gathered in droves? ... [T]he 'lack of a cultural infrastructure' in L.A. was attractive: it allowed refugees to reconstitute the ideals of the Weimar Republic instead of competing with an extant literary scene.... Thomas Mann... lived in a spacious, white-walled aerie in Pacific Palisades... He saw 'Bambi' at the Fox Theatre in Westwood; he ate Chinese food; he listened to Jack Benny on the radio; he furtively admired handsome men in uniform; he puzzled over the phenomenon of the 'Baryton-Boy Frankie Sinatra,' to quote his diaries. Like almost all the émigrés, he never attempted to write fiction about America...."

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus

The guy's a Marxist.

At Discover the Networks:
* Ethiopia’s former Minister of Health and Minister of Foreign Affairs.

* Was elected Director-General of the World Health Organization in 2017.

* Nominated Robert Mugabe, the Marxist former president of Zimbabwe, to serve as a WHO Goodwill Ambassador in 2017.

* Purposely covered up three separate outbreaks of cholera in Ethiopia, so as to avoid the impact that a public admission of a cholera epidemic might have on tourism and on his party’s public image.

* Was alleged to have helped facilitate a systematic genocide targeting the Amhara people of Ethiopia.

* Was accused of complicity in the commission of “crimes against humanity.”

* Served as a propagandist on behalf of Beijing in a massive coverup of China’s role in unleashing the deadly worldwide coronavirus pandemic in 2019-20.
And FrontPage Magazine, "The Legacy of a Marxist failure – Dr. WHO":

Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus is the name of the top global health official. But what do we know about this man?  The globalization-favoring leftist mainstream media has been silent, apparently reluctant to investigate the total lack of qualifications of this man for the role. 
They give him the moniker of “Doctor”, but he is not really a doctor at all. In fact, he is the first World Health Organization Director-General without a medical degree.

He has never cured a patient in his life. He has a diploma in public health, but even this could not cover his dangerous incompetence as Ethiopia’s Health Minister.

There is growing unhappiness with this man following the disastrous virus crisis. Prominent US senators Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio joined the global call for Doctor WHO’s removal.

Rubio accused him, with reasonable cause, of pandering to Communist Beijing who, through the office of Dr. WHO, misled the global community. Tedros echoed China’s false claim that the virus had no human-to-human transmission.

In other words, he was the global mouthpiece for Chinese lies.

Former US Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, tweeted about Tedros’s unquestioning promotion Chinese lies. “This was posted by the WHO on January 14, that the WHO found no clear evidence of human-to-human transmission of the coronavirus.”

The World Health Organization didn’t find any because they didn’t look. Tedros Adhanom simply chanted China’s disinformation.

President Trump imposed a travel ban on Chinese entering the United States in late January. He is no medical expert. Trump was right. The World Health Organization under Tedros was wrong.

In February, Tedros, the Chinese front man at the World Health Organization, continued to say there was no need to impose travel restrictions on China. He insisted that measures to restrict travel and trade were “unnecessary” in trying to halt the spread of the virus.

This as hospitals and cemeteries were filling with the victims of the Chinese pandemic.

Because Tedros echoed China’s lies, the global communities lost vital weeks in evaluating and fighting the pandemic to the cost of 100,000 lives and widespread economic ruin, a global ruin that is benefiting China’s Belt and Road foreign and economic global policy. 
Not only does China have a global responsibility to come clean, so does the WHO. But who is going to keep their feet to the fire? The United Nations? Forget it!

In early April, while the China pandemic was raging from country to country, China was elected to sit on the UN Human Rights Council panel, a committee that decides who is a human rights abuser. Any bets that China will be excluded from such a list no matter how many of their citizens were abused, silenced, welded into infected apartment buildings to die, or made to disappear throughout China’s national epidemic.

In February and March, as the world was reeling from the Chinese virus, Tedros continued to praise the Beijing regime.

In February he said, “I was so impressed with my meeting with President Xi and his commitment to take serious measures to prevent the spread of the virus to other countries.”

What “serious measures” was he referring too? We haven’t seen any...
Keep reading.

Trump Opens Space for Business

From Glenn Reynolds, "IT’S PAYWALLED, BUT I’VE GOT A PIECE IN THE WSJ WITH TAYLOR DINERMAN ON THE TRUMP SPACE PUSH: Trump Opens Outer Space for Business: An executive order and a prospective treaty aim to make celestial mining an attractive investment":
President Trump acted two weeks ago to bring about the kind of 21st century that we expected in the 20th. If all goes well, it will open the way for mankind to become a true “multiplanet species,” as Elon Musk puts it.

An April 6 executive order, “Encouraging International Support for the Recovery and Use of Space Resources,” is meant to spur a new industry: the extraction and processing of resources from the moon and asteroids to facilitate settlement of the solar system. With this order, Mr. Trump ended an era of legal uncertainty in outer space and laid the foundation for international cooperation on American terms.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration plans a manned moon mission in 2024, followed by a “sustained lunar presence.” The U.S. National Space Council, led by Vice President Mike Pence, has been quietly working on an international agreement known as the Artemis Accords, which would clarify the 1967 Outer Space Treaty and provide a solid basis for private enterprise to operate on the moon, Mars and beyond.

The Outer Space Treaty, to which the U.S. and all other major countries are parties, bars “national appropriation” and sovereignty over the moon and other so-called celestial bodies, declaring that they “shall be the province of all mankind.” Some have read into that provision a prohibition on the private appropriation of resources. The executive order rejects that position: “Outer space is a legally and physically unique domain of human activity, and the United States does not view it as a global commons.” . . .

The Trump order also rejects the 1979 Moon Treaty, which was intended to supplant the Outer Space Treaty. The Moon Treaty purports to ban private exploitation of space resources and mandate that any such activity take place under the supervision of an international authority with a rake-off going to Third World governments. President Carter initially supported the pact, but facing popular opposition, the Senate never took up ratification. Mr. Trump’s statement specifically notes that only 17 of the 95 members of the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space have ratified the Moon Treaty. None have a major space program.

As a follow up to the executive order, the administration has been quietly preparing the Artemis Accords, which it plans to present first to America’s partners on the International Space Station—Canada, Europe, Japan and Russia—and later to other nations. Parties would “affirm that the extraction and utilization of space resources does not constitute national appropriation under Article 2 of the Outer Space Treaty.” . . .
I love the smell of sovereignty in the morning.

Still more at the link.

Diarmaid MacCulloch, All Things Made New

At Amazon, Diarmaid MacCulloch, All Things Made New.

Sunday, April 19, 2020

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Social Distancing in College Classrooms

I really don't know how this is going to work.

First, given reports of the last few days, and especially the news of the Harvard study indicating social distancing may be needed well into 2022, I'm not sure colleges will even be back in the classrooms.

Second, though, how are colleges supposed to do this? At my school, we have enrollment in each class capped at 40 students, which is a full classroom. You're not going to be able to distance students within the class. Either class maximums have to lowered by about half, or teachers are going to have to double their teaching loads, which won't happen.

Man, all of this is crazy.

At the Los Angeles Times, "Social distancing in a classroom? Newsom suggests major changes when schools reopen":

Although campuses are likely to reopen in the fall, the school day may unfold in starkly different ways, California Gov. Gavin Newsom said Tuesday, suggesting staggered start times, “reconfigured” classrooms that allow for social distancing and some continuance of online learning.

The governor said that physical distancing and other precautions against transmission of the coronavirus could remain in place for a lengthy period at schools after stay-at-home orders are lifted and California begins to gradually reopen.

School district leaders will need to begin considering a host of safety measures, he said.

“Can you stagger the times that our students come in so you can appropriate yourself differently within the existing physical environment — by reducing physical contact if possible, reducing the congregate meal, dressing issues related to PE and recess?” Newsom said. “Those are the kinds of things — those are the kind of conversations we’re all going to be having over the course of the next number of weeks and the next number of months.”

“We need to get our kids back to school,” he added. “I need to get my kids back to school. We need to get our kids educated.”

Such precautionary measures would have a profound impact on the experience of school for the state’s 6.1 million students in kindergarten through 12th grade as well as for students attending college. Since early to mid March, virtually all schooling in California has become “distance learning,” typically involving students and teachers interacting online.

The biggest concern has centered on the effect of the altered learning environment for students who lack computers, adequate broadband or suitable study conditions at home. Many school districts are loaning out computers and arranging for internet access. Los Angeles Unified is spending $100 million on computers and broadband hot spots for its students — 80% are members of low-income households.

State Supt. of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond said he’s encouraged by the governor’s optimism, the incremental progress in the fight against COVID-19 and the early thinking on reopening schools. All the same, he said, schools need to “continue working on distance learning,” make the most of the current school year and look at using the summer to address academic issues.

On Monday, L.A. schools Supt. Austin Beutner announced that campuses in the state’s largest school system would remain closed through summer, with online courses available. District officials also said Monday that no student would receive a failing grade for spring classes...
My college is also having online summer classes, and faculty are waiting to hear what's going to happen for the fall semester.

Keep your fingers crossed.

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Katie Bell, Laid Back

An amazing woman, dang!

Hilary Mantel, Wolf Hall

At Amazon, Hilary Mantel, Wolf Hall.

Competition, the Coronavirus, and the Weakness of Xi Jinping

From Minxin Pei, at Foreign Affairs, "China’s Coming Upheaval":

Over the past few years, the United States’ approach to China has taken a hard-line turn, with the balance between cooperation and competition in the U.S.-Chinese relationship tilting sharply toward the latter. Most American policymakers and commentators consider this confrontational new strategy a response to China’s growing assertiveness, embodied especially in the controversial figure of Chinese President Xi Jinping. But ultimately, this ongoing tension—particularly with the added pressures of the new coronavirus outbreak and an economic downturn—is likely to expose the brittleness and insecurity that lie beneath the surface of Xi’s, and Beijing’s, assertions of solidity and strength.

The United States has limited means of influencing China’s closed political system, but the diplomatic, economic, and military pressure that Washington can bring to bear on Beijing will put Xi and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) he leads under enormous strain. Indeed, a prolonged period of strategic confrontation with the United States, such as the one China is currently experiencing, will create conditions that are conducive to dramatic changes.

As tension between the United States and China has grown, there has been vociferous debate about the similarities and, perhaps more important, the differences between U.S.-Chinese competition now and U.S.-Soviet competition during the Cold War. Whatever the limitations of the analogy, Chinese leaders have put considerable thought into the lessons of the Cold War and of the Soviet collapse. Ironically, Beijing may nevertheless be repeating some of the most consequential mistakes of the Soviet regime.

During the multidecade competition of the Cold War, the rigidity of the Soviet regime and its leaders proved to be the United States’ most valuable asset. The Kremlin doubled down on failed strategies—sticking with a moribund economic system, continuing a ruinous arms race, and maintaining an unaffordable global empire—rather than accept the losses that thoroughgoing reforms might have entailed. Chinese leaders are similarly constrained by the rigidities of their own system and therefore limited in their ability to correct policy mistakes. In 2018, Xi decided to abolish presidential term limits, signaling his intention to stay in power indefinitely. He has indulged in heavy-handed purges, ousting prominent party officials under the guise of an anticorruption drive. What is more, Xi has suppressed protests in Hong Kong, arrested hundreds of human rights lawyers and activists, and imposed the tightest media censorship of the post-Mao era. His government has constructed “reeducation” camps in Xinjiang, where it has incarcerated more than a million Uighurs, Kazakhs, and other Muslim minorities. And it has centralized economic and political decision-making, pouring government resources into state-owned enterprises and honing its surveillance technologies. Yet all together, these measures have made the CCP weaker: the growth of state-owned enterprises distorts the economy, and surveillance fuels resistance. The spread of the novel coronavirus has only deepened the Chinese people’s dissatisfaction with their government.

The economic tensions and political critiques stemming from U.S.-Chinese competition may ultimately prove to be the straws that broke this camel’s back. If Xi continues on this trajectory, eroding the foundations of China’s economic and political power and monopolizing responsibility and control, he will expose the CCP to cataclysmic change.


Since taking power in 2012, Xi has replaced collective leadership with strongman rule. Before Xi, the regime consistently displayed a high degree of ideological flexibility and political pragmatism. It avoided errors by relying on a consensus-based decision-making process that incorporated views from rival factions and accommodated their dueling interests. The CCP also avoided conflicts abroad by staying out of contentious disputes, such as those in the Middle East, and refraining from activities that could encroach on the United States’ vital national interests. At home, China’s ruling elites maintained peace by sharing the spoils of governance. Such a regime was by no means perfect. Corruption was pervasive, and the government often delayed critical decisions and missed valuable opportunities. But the regime that preceded Xi’s centralization had one distinct advantage: a built-in propensity for pragmatism and caution.

In the last seven years, that system has been dismantled and replaced by a qualitatively different regime—one marked by a high degree of ideological rigidity, punitive policies toward ethnic minorities and political dissenters at home, and an impulsive foreign policy embodied by the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), a trillion-dollar infrastructure program with dubious economic potential that has aroused intense suspicion in the West. The centralization of power under Xi has created new fragilities and has exposed the party to greater risks. If the upside of strongman rule is the ability to make difficult decisions quickly, the downside is that it greatly raises the odds of making costly blunders. The consensus-based decision-making of the earlier era might have been slow and inefficient, but it prevented radical or risky ideas from becoming policy.

Under Xi, correcting policy mistakes has proved to be difficult, since reversing decisions made personally by the strongman would undercut his image of infallibility. (It is easier politically to reverse bad decisions made under collective leadership, because a group, not an individual, takes the blame.) Xi’s demand for loyalty has also stifled debate and deterred dissent within the CCP. For these reasons, the party lacks the flexibility needed to avoid and reverse future missteps in its confrontation with the United States. The result is likely to be growing disunity within the regime. Some party leaders will no doubt recognize the risks and grow increasingly alarmed that Xi has needlessly endangered the party’s standing. The damage to Xi’s authority caused by further missteps would also embolden his rivals, especially Premier Li Keqiang and the Politburo members Wang Yang and Hu Chunhua, all of whom have close ties to former President Hu Jintao. Of course, it is nearly impossible to remove a strongman in a one-party regime because of his tight control over the military and the security forces. But creeping discord would at the very least feed Xi’s insecurity and paranoia, further eroding his ability to chart a steady course...
Keep reading.