Thursday, May 28, 2020

Economic Relief Programs Will Soon End, and Then Watch Out for the Coming Political Earthquake

This is interesting, and it's almost exactly what I've been thinking since the lockdown started in March.

Even before classes ended and we went to online instruction --- for about a week --- I was starting my sections everyday with the Wall Street Journal on the overhead projector, showing the huge front-page charts of the crash of the Dow Jones Industrial Average. It was shocking at the time, and I told my students it was reminiscent of the Great Depression.

While the Crash of '20 is different, it's certainly going to bring about some fundamental changes in politics, and frankly I don't think Trump is a shoo-in for reelection, no matter how bad Biden is. That said, if leftists keep burning down cities all summer long, Trump can run on an aggressive "law and order" platform, highlighting racial issues, as he's did with illegal immigration in 2016 to victorious effect.

At WSJ, "The Covid Political Earthquake":

The political press is preoccupied with the electoral implications of the virus crisis, and pundits insist the 2020 election will be about the Trump daily soap opera. But an emerging cultural and economic time bomb is about to explode. There has never been a wider gap between average Americans’ perception of their own economic situation and the reality of it. America could soon have its most combustible political environment in recent history.

Something that should alarm everyone: Neither the stock market nor the political preferences of those who have been hit hardest by this Covid-induced economic crisis have fundamentally changed since the crisis began. The American economy has shed more than 30 million jobs in the past eight weeks, and poll numbers haven’t moved an inch. According to Gallup, President Trump’s approval rating was 49% on Feb. 16, with 48% disapproving. Three months and the largest job loss in American history later, those numbers are exactly the same: 49% to 48%.

How is that possible? Is the political climate so partisan that the loss of your livelihood can’t change your political perspective? To some extent that could be true. But most of America is living in an illusion that masks the inevitable pain of this pandemic.

To the credit of the president and Congress, the Cares Act was passed before many Americans missed paychecks. The administration distributed the cash quickly enough that Americans had access to expanded unemployment compensation and a direct payment before their financial situation became dire. For the 40% of people making under $40,000 who have lost their jobs since March, according to Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell, the Cares Act ensured that their financial situation isn’t worse than it was in February. In some cases, it’s better, thanks to the $600-a-week unemployment bonus.

Much of economically vulnerable America has been insulated from economic reality. A recent Washington Post poll shows that 77% of those who lost their jobs believe they will be heading back to the same jobs following the health crisis. Pew Research reports that 68% of Americans who lost their jobs are concerned about reopening the economy too early, rather than too late.

In short, if your family hasn’t lost a loved one to Covid-19, your bank account probably looks basically the same, and you believe your job is awaiting your return, the past 10 weeks have been an extended inconvenience. Your political views are still informed by the same economic inputs that formed them in February.
Still more.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Randall Jacobs Obituary

Althouse blogged it, "'Uncle Bunky... spoke in a gravelly patois of wisecracks, mangled metaphors, and inspired profanity that reflected the Arizona dive bars, Colorado ski slopes, and various dodgy establishments'..."

Venice Beach Skatepark Reopens

The skaters pulled together to clean out the sand, which the city had dumped there hoping to crush the independent spirit of the locals.

Class Differences in Education

At NYT, "College Made Them Feel Equal. The Virus Exposed How Unequal Their Lives Are":

The political science class was called “Forced Migration and Refugees.” Students read accounts of migrants fleeing broken economies and seeking better futures, of life plans drastically altered and the political forces that made it all seem necessary.

Then suddenly, the subject matter became personal: Haverford College shut down and evicted most students from the dormitories as the coronavirus spread through Pennsylvania.

Like many college courses around the country, the class soldiered on. The syllabus was revised. The students reconvened on a videoconferencing app.

But as each logged in, not everyone’s new reality looked the same.

One student sat at a vacation home on the coast of Maine. Another struggled to keep her mother’s Puerto Rican food truck running while meat vanished from Florida grocery shelves. As one young woman’s father, a private equity executive, urged the family to decamp to a country where infections were falling, another student’s mother in Russia couldn’t afford the plane ticket to bring her daughter home.

“Now Russia is about to close its borders,” Sophie Chochaeva told her classmates, in the days before the country did. She was one of 135 students still on campus, in a dorm room she called “the cozy foxhole,” as the world outside became a ghost town. “This crisis is exposing that a lot of people don’t have anywhere to go.”

The outbreak of the coronavirus — and the accompanying economic devastation that has left 10 million people almost instantly unemployed — has put America’s class divide on full display. Gig employees were the first to suffer, with many of their jobs vanishing without unemployment benefits. Office employees retreated to work-from-home arrangements while janitors cleaned the buildings they fled and delivery workers brought packages to their doorsteps.

But college was meant to be different. For decades, small liberal arts schools like Haverford, a short ride from Philadelphia, prided themselves on being the “great equalizer,” offering pedigrees not just to the scions of East Coast elites but also to the children of first-generation immigrants. Scholarships filled in for family money. Students ate the same cafeteria food in the morning and bunked in the same creaky beds at night.

No longer — at least not while the virus spreads through the country.

“It’s as though you had a front-row view on American inequality and the ways in which it was disguised and papered over,” said Anita Isaacs, the course’s professor who has taught political science at Haverford since 1988. The first gulf war, the Sept. 11 attacks, the Great Recession — she had seen them all through the eyes of her students.

“There’s been nothing like this before,” she said.

Several nights before the class was to reconvene online in late March, Professor Isaacs received an email from one of her teaching assistants, Tatiana Lathion, a college senior whose parents own the food truck. Their source of income was on the verge of liquidation as stay-at-home orders loomed in Jacksonville, Fla., where they lived.

“I’m not sure my savings will allow them both to survive this quarantine and still keep the business,” she wrote. She said she was thinking of getting a part-time job at a grocery store.

Wasn’t college supposed to get her away from all that?

“I have this panic moment that it’s literally for nothing now,” Ms. Lathion wrote to her professor.

Ms. Lathion had not thought she would attend college...
Still more.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Memorial Day Weekend at Lake of the Ozarks

This is just wild.

At NYT, "After Crowding at Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri Officials Urge Quarantine":

After large crowds gathered at the Lake of the Ozarks over the Memorial Day weekend in defiance of Missouri’s social distancing guidelines, officials in two states urged those visitors to quarantine for two weeks, or until they tested negative for the coronavirus.

The visitors “showed no efforts to follow social distancing practices,” the St. Louis County Department of Health said in a statement on Monday, issuing a travel advisory for people who had been to the popular destination spot.

Video footage from one gathering showed a large crowd of people, most of them in bathing suits and without face masks, at a pool with music blaring overhead and yachts docked at a marina behind them. The videos spread widely on social media over the weekend.

“It’s irresponsible and dangerous to engage in such high risk behavior just to have some fun over the extended holiday weekend,” Lyda Krewson, the mayor of St. Louis, said in a statement on Tuesday.

“Now, these folks will be going home to St. Louis and counties across Missouri and the Midwest, raising concerns about the potential of more positive cases, hospitalizations, and tragically, deaths,” she said. “It’s just deeply disturbing and threatens the progress we’ve all made together to flatten the curve.”

The Kansas department of health on Tuesday echoed that statement and urged state residents who had been there and did not observe social distancing practices to voluntarily self-quarantine for two weeks.

“The reckless behavior displayed during this weekend risks setting our community back substantially for the progress we’ve already made in slowing the spread of Covid-19,” Dr. Lee A. Norman, the agency’s secretary, said in a statement. “If you traveled to Lake of the Ozarks over the weekend, we urge you to act responsibly and self-quarantine to protect your neighbors, co-workers and family.”

On Tuesday, Gov. Mike Parson of Missouri said on Twitter that “there were some poor decisions that were made.”

“When social distancing is not followed, it is potentially dangerous for EVERYONE,” he said. “That said, the Lake of the Ozarks is a small sample of Missouri. While poor choices were made by some at the lake, there were many other Missourians across the state who did make safe and responsible choices over the holiday weekend.”

There have been at least 12,296 known cases of the coronavirus in Missouri, according to a New York Times database. As of Tuesday morning, at least 694 people had died...
Still more.

Monday, May 25, 2020

Old Trapper Beef Jerky

I've been grubbin' this stuff like crazy lately. Yum!

At Amazon, Old Trapper Beef Jerky 10oz, Naturally Smoked, Old Fashioned Original (Pack of 1).

And the large size, Old Trapper Old Fashioned Double Eagle Beef Jerky - Traditional Style Real Wood Smoked - 1 Jar (80 Pieces).

Jennifer Delacruz's Memorial Day Forecast

It's lovely, mild weather for Memorial Day today, but Ms. Jennifer's still doing her forecasts from home, and a lot of would-be beach-goers will be foregoing a day in the sun today as well.

At ABC 10 News San Diego:

Friday, May 22, 2020

Jose Saramago, Blindness

At Amazon, Jose Saramago, Blindness.
A city is hit by an epidemic of "white blindness" which spares no one. Authorities confine the blind to an empty mental hospital, but there the criminal element holds everyone captive, stealing food rations and raping women. There is one eyewitness to this nightmare who guides seven strangers-among them a boy with no mother, a girl with dark glasses, a dog of tears-through the barren streets, and the procession becomes as uncanny as the surroundings are harrowing. A magnificent parable of loss and disorientation and a vivid evocation of the horrors of the twentieth century, Blindness has swept the reading public with its powerful portrayal of man's worst appetites and weaknesses-and man's ultimately exhilarating spirit. The stunningly powerful novel of man's will to survive against all odds, by the winner of the 1998 Nobel Prize for Literature.

'I'm afraid a lot of these stores are going to go out of business. I see that Pier 1 died, but I couldn't understand how it could still be around after all these years. What was all that junk they were selling? Did anyone need anything they had on offer?'

That's Althouse on the economy, "'Retailers that have spent years trying to get customers to linger, in hopes they’ll buy more than they need, are reimagining their stores'..."

Lee Smith, The Plot Against the President

At Amazon, Lee Smith, The Plot Against the President: The True Story of How Congressman Devin Nunes Uncovered the Biggest Political Scandal in U.S. History.

Heat Wave Coming

Well good --- folks need to get out to the beach.


'Empty L.A.'


Thursday, May 21, 2020

The Day Coronavirus Nearly Broke the Financial Markets

At WSJ, "The March 16 stock crash was part of a broader liquidity crisis that threatened the viability of America’s companies and municipalities":

An urgent call reached Ronald O’Hanley, State Street Corp.’s chief executive, as he sat in his office in downtown Boston. It was 8 a.m. on Monday, March 16.

A senior deputy told him corporate treasurers and pension managers, panicked by the growing economic damage from the Covid-19 pandemic, were pulling billions of dollars from certain money-market funds. This was forcing the funds to try to sell some of the bonds they held.

But there were almost no buyers. Everybody was suddenly desperate for cash.

He and the deputy, asset-management executive Cyrus Taraporevala, had spoken the night before, wrestling with how investors would respond to an emergency interest-rate cut from the Federal Reserve.

Now, they had their answer. In his 34 years in finance, Mr. O’Hanley had weathered plenty of meltdowns, but never one like this.

“The market is fearing the worst,” Mr. O’Hanley told him.

March 16 was the day a microscopic virus brought the financial system to the brink. Few realized how close it came to going over the edge entirely.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average plunged nearly 13% that day, the second-biggest one-day fall in history. Stock-market volatility spiked to a record high. Investors struggled to unload even safe bonds, like Treasurys. Companies and government officials were losing access to the lending markets on which they rely to make payroll and build schools.

Prime money-market funds that are owned by big institutional investors and buy a lot of short-term corporate debt—normally safe and boring—had outflows of $60 billion in the week ending that Wednesday, financial-data firm Refinitiv said, among the worst ever. Some $56 billion in client money fled bond funds.

Interest rates on short-term corporate debt surged, peaking on March 25 at 2.43 percentage points above the federal-funds rate—the highest it has been since October 2008, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.

The financial system has endured numerous credit crunches and market crashes, and memories of the 1987 and 2008 crises set a high bar for market dysfunction. But longtime investors and those who make a living on Wall Street say mid-March of this year was far more severe in a short period. Moreover, the stresses to the financial system were broader than many had seen.

“The 2008 financial crisis was a car crash in slow motion,” said Adam Lollos, head of short-term credit at Citigroup Inc. “This was like, ‘Boom!’ ”

A barrage of government programs has since pulled the system back from collapse. This account of what happened on one of the worst days the financial markets have ever seen, from many of the executives, money managers and Wall Street veterans who lived it, shows why the rescue effort was so urgent.

The Federal Reserve set the stage for the downturn on Sunday, March 15. Most investors were expecting the central bank to announce its latest response to the crisis the following Wednesday. Instead, it announced at 5 p.m. that evening that it was slashing interest rates and planning to buy $700 billion in bonds to help unclog the markets.

Rather than take comfort in the Fed’s actions, many companies, governments, bankers and investors viewed the decision as reason to prepare for the worst possible outcome from the coronavirus pandemic.

A downdraft in bonds was now a rout.

Mr. O’Hanley was in a good position to see the crisis unfold. His bank provides vital, if unheralded, administrative and bookkeeping services for most of the world’s biggest investors, and runs its own trillion-dollar money manager.

Companies and pension managers have long relied on money-market funds that invest in short-term corporate and municipal-debt holdings considered safe and liquid enough to be classified as “cash equivalents.” They function almost like checking accounts—helping firms manage payroll, pay office leases and move cash around to finance their daily operations.

But that Monday, investors no longer believed certain money funds were cash-like at all. As they pulled their money out, managers struggled to sell bonds to meet redemptions.

In theory, there should have been some give in the system. U.S. regulators had rewritten the rules on money funds in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, replacing their fixed, $1 price with a floating one that moved with the value of their holdings. The changes headed off the panic that could ensue when a fund’s price “breaks the buck,” as one prominent fund had in 2008.

But the rules couldn’t stop a panicked assault like this one. Rumors circulated that some of State Street’s rivals would be forced to prop up their funds. Within days, both Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Bank of New York Mellon Corp. stepped in to buy assets from their money funds. Both firms declined to comment.

This was bad news for not only those funds and their investors, but also for the thousands of companies and communities dependent on short-term loan markets to pay their employees. “If junk bonds back up, people can rationalize that away,” Mr. O’Hanley said. “There’s very little ability to rationalize trouble in cash.”

A debt-investing unit of Prudential Financial Inc., one of the largest insurance companies in the world, was also struggling with normally safe securities.

When traders at PGIM Fixed Income tried that Monday to sell a batch of short-term bonds issued by highly rated companies, they found few takers. And banks were reluctant to step in as intermediaries.

“The broker-dealer community was frozen,” said Michael Collins, a senior fixed-income manager at PGIM. “It was as bad as at any point during the great financial crisis.”

Across the country in Southern California, the head of the debt-trading desk at investment firm Capital Group Cos., Vikram Rao, tried to make sense of the dysfunction.

Mr. Rao, who was working remotely that Monday, walked down the 20 steps to his home office at 4:30 a.m. to discover the debt markets were already in disarray. He started calling the senior Wall Street executives he knew at many of the big banks.

Executives told him that Sunday’s emergency Fed rate cut had swung a swath of interest-rate swap contracts in banks’ favor. Companies had locked in superlow interest rates on future debt sales over the past year. But when rates fell even further, the companies suddenly owed additional collateral.

On that Monday, banks had to account for all that new collateral as assets on their books.

So when Mr. Rao called senior executives for an explanation on why they wouldn’t trade, they had the same refrain: There was no room to buy bonds and other assets and still remain in compliance with tougher guidelines imposed by regulators after the previous financial crisis. In other words, capital rules intended to make the financial system safer were, at least in this instance, draining liquidity from the markets.

One senior bank executive leveled with him: “We can’t bid on anything that adds to the balance sheet right now.”

At the same time, the surge in stock-market volatility, along with falling prices on mortgage bonds, had forced margin calls on many investment funds. The additional collateral they owed banks was also booked as assets, adding billions more.

The slump in mortgage bonds was so vast it crushed a group of investors that had borrowed from banks to juice their returns: real-estate investment funds.

The Fed’s bond-buying program, unveiled that Sunday, had earmarked some $200 billion for mortgage-bond purchases. But by Monday bond managers discovered the Fed purchases, while well-intentioned, weren’t nearly enough.

“On that first day, the Fed got completely run over by the market,” said Dan Ivascyn, who manages one of the world’s biggest bond funds and serves as investment chief at Pacific Investment Management Co. “That’s where REITs and other leveraged-mortgage products started getting into serious trouble.”

That Tuesday, UBS Group AG closed two exchange-traded notes tied to mortgage real-estate investment trusts. By Friday, a mortgage trust run by hedge-fund firm Angelo Gordon & Co. had warned its lenders it wouldn’t be able to meet its obligations on future margin calls...
Still more.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Tara Westover, Educated

At Amazon, Tara Westover, Educated: A Memoir.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Benjamin J. Cohen, Currency Statecraft

Following-up, "China and the Future of the Dollar."

From my former professor and mentor at UCSB, Dr. Benjamin J. Cohen, Currency Statecraft: Monetary Rivalry and Geopolitical Ambition.

China and the Future of the Dollar

From Henry Paulson, former U.S. Secretary of the Treasury, at Foreign Affairs, "The Future of the Dollar: U.S. Financial Power Depends on Washington, Not Beijing":

In late March, global financial markets were collapsing amid the chaos of the novel coronavirus pandemic. International investors immediately sought refuge in the U.S. dollar, just as they had done during the 2008 financial crisis, and the U.S. Federal Reserve had to make huge sums of dollars available to its global counterparts. Seventy-five years after the end of World War II, the primacy of the dollar has not waned.

The enduring dominance of the dollar is remarkable—especially given the rise of emerging markets and the relative decline of the U.S. economy, from nearly 40 percent of world GDP in 1960 to just 25 percent today. But the dollar’s status will be tested by Washington’s ability to weather the COVID-19 storm and emerge with economic policies that allow the country, over time, to manage its national debt and curb its structural fiscal deficit.

The stature of the dollar matters. The dollar’s role as the primary global reserve currency makes it possible for the United States to pay lower rates on dollar assets than it otherwise would. Equally significant, it enables the country to run larger trade deficits, reduces exchange-rate risk, and makes American financial markets more liquid. Finally, it favors U.S. banks because of their enhanced access to dollar funding.

That the dollar has maintained this stature for so long is a historic anomaly, particularly in the context of a rising China. The Chinese renminbi (RMB) has by far the greatest potential to assume a role rivaling that of the dollar. China’s economic size, prospects for future growth, integration into the global economy, and accelerated efforts to internationalize the RMB all favor an expanded role for the Chinese currency. But by themselves, these conditions are insufficient. And China’s much-touted successes in the realm of fintech—including its rapid deployment of mobile payment systems and the recent pilot project by the People’s Bank of China to test a digital RMB—will not change that. A central bank–backed digital currency does not alter the fundamental nature of the RMB.

Beijing still has major hurdles to overcome before the RMB can truly emerge as a primary global reserve currency. Among other transformative measures, it needs to make more progress in moving to a market-driven economy, improve corporate governance, and develop efficient, well-regulated financial markets that earn the respect of international investors so that Beijing can eliminate capital controls and turn the RMB into a market-determined currency.

Washington should be clear-eyed about what is actually at stake in the competition with China. The United States should maintain its lead in financial and tech innovation, but there is no need to exaggerate the impact of a Chinese digital reserve currency on the U.S. dollar. Above all, the United States must preserve the conditions that created the dollar’s primacy in the first place: a vibrant economy rooted in sound macroeconomic and fiscal policies; a transparent, open political system; and economic, political, and security leadership abroad. In short, sustaining the dollar’s status will not be determined by what happens in China. Rather, it will depend almost entirely on the United States’ ability to adapt its post-COVID-19 economy so that it remains a model of success...
Fuck China. The more the U.S. can do to weaken that communist kleptocracy the better.

Keep reading.

Jessica Chastain

We watched ""IT Chapter Two" last night. I love Jessica Chastain, and there's a to-die-for "wet t-shirt" scene at start of the film, man.

Photos at the Fappening.

And see, "44 Pictures of Jessica Chastain Will Drive You Frantically Enamored With This Sexy Vixen."

Nadia Rusu from Ukraine

At Editorials Fashion Trends, "Nadia Rusu by Artem Stisovyak."

Kayla Gratzer

At Drunken Stepather, "KAYLA GRATZER OF THE DAY."

Will Leftists Be Able to Stop Reopening?

At Issues & Insight, "Americans Are Re-Opening. Will Dems Be Able to Stop Them?":

Weary of more than two months of lockdowns, lost jobs, vanished income, and emotional distress, Americans are practicing a bit of Irish Democracy, shopping, dining out, gathering, and trying to carry on as before the pandemic arrived without approval from authorities. It was bound to happen.

As has been widely noted, we were initially told that we needed to shut down and shelter in place so that we would “flatten the curve” of infection growth to prevent the health care system from being overwhelmed by people sick with COVID-19. That benchmark was met a little more than a month into the lockdowns. Time magazine reported in late April that “The U.S. Has Flattened the Curve.” This New York Times chart clearly shows that the flattening began early last month.

Yet many Americans are still under shelter-in-place orders, some of which have been extended. We hate to use a cliche, but politicians have been moving the goalposts. Flattening the curve isn’t good enough. They want to keep people home until there’s a vaccine; or science, which has sadly become a loose term that means whatever the user wants it to, has established an effective treatment; or maybe until there are zero coronavirus cases.

This has rankled more than a few. The masses are fed up with huddling in their homes and are yearning to breathe free.

The center of the “resistance” might be, oddly enough, in California, which has three “Free Counties.” Sutter and Yuba, just north of Sacramento, and Modoc, in the state’s far northeast corner, have reopened without Gov. Gavin Newsom’s approval. More counties quickly followed, rushing, reports the Sacramento Bee, “to persuade state health officials they are ready to reopen key segments of their local economies on a fast-track basis.”

In Southern California, Orange County engaged Newsom in a bitter battle over reopening beaches there. Newsom closed the shoreline when he saw photos that he didn’t like of people on the sand in Newport Beach. County Supervisor Michelle Steel called it an “act of retribution against Orange County.” But beachgoers eventually won by kicking up such a fuss that Newsom and state authorities were pressured into making a decision they otherwise would not have made.

Meanwhile, Michiganders are chafing under the boot of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who has issued arguably the harshest lockdown orders in the country, and has even extended to May 28 her initial closure order for some businesses. The capital in Lansing has been the site of demonstrations by some deeply restless, and in many cases angry, protesters.

“We haven’t had any bloodshed yet,” one member of a Facebook group called Michiganders Against Excessive Quarantine recently wrote.

We hope there is none. But tempers are short. One man has already been charged with making death threats against Whitmer and the state attorney general. And we’ve seen members of the Michigan Militia swear they aren’t going to allow law enforcement to arrest an Owosso barber who reopened his business because he had no other income. How long can she hold back demands for freedom — in America?
Still more at that top link.

Monday, May 18, 2020

Michael T. Osterholm, Deadliest Enemy


At Amazon, Michael T. Osterholm, Deadliest Enemy: Our War Against Killer Germs.

Fearmonger Fauci

I like Dr. Fauci. Axios had a good comparison between Fauci and Dr. Birx yesterday. See, "Why Deborah Birx is the real power doctor."

But I get why people have a problem with him.

See Michelle Malkin, "Protect Your Family from Fearmonger Fauci":

This Mother’s Day weekend, my family defied government pandemania. We drove out east from Colorado Springs to the tiny town of Calhan for a lovely little hike in the purple-and-gold-hued Paint Mines archeological district. Unmasked, we basked in the sunshine, fresh air and freedom. The park was teeming with moms like me who put family bonding over “social distancing.”

We were not alone — and that was a glorious thing.

There is nothing public health fossil Dr. Anthony Fauci can do or say to stop me from making the best choices for my children’s health, sanity and resilience. He appeared before the Senate on Tuesday to heckle states like Colorado not to get back to business — back to life — too soon and too quickly. “Needless suffering and death” will occur, he told The New York Times. “I think we better be careful (that) we are not cavalier in thinking that children are completely immune from the deleterious effects,” he testified.

Irked by Kentucky GOP Sen. Rand Paul’s very necessary reminder that no federal infectious disease bureaucrat is the “end-all” decider of our fate, Fauci warned against reopening schools because children in New York are “presenting with COVID-19 who actually have a very strange inflammatory syndrome, very similar to Kawasaki syndrome.”

How dare you accuse us parents of being “cavalier” with our children’s health, Fauci, when you are scaring them with dubious, unverified claims connecting a few cases of an alleged mystery pediatric disease to the coronavirus?

How dare you toss around so cavalierly the uncorroborated specter of “Kawasaki syndrome” (a rare but treatable disease) while untold numbers among the 57 million K-12 students suffer from the effects of panic-induced anxiety, depression, phobias and isolation?

Here are some actual facts about Fauci’s Kawasaki hype: Peer-reviewed studies over the last several years have identified multiple theories of the inflammatory disease’s etiology, including genetic factors, environmental triggers, superantigens, bacterial infections and viruses. A blinded, case-control retrospective study on kids at Children’s Hospital in Denver investigating whether one strain of human coronavirus infection was a factor among Kawasaki syndrome patients “failed to demonstrate an association.” The Mayo Clinic diseases and conditions information website states that “scientists don’t believe the disease is contagious from person to person.” Moreover, the Mayo Clinic states: “Kawasaki disease is usually treatable, and most children recover from Kawasaki disease without serious problems.”

The truth is that Fauci is misleading American families and educators through arrogant acts of both omission and commission. The Kawasaki lie is not his first or last lie. Before he embraced masks for all, he smugly dismissed the measure in March during a “60 Minutes” interview because it would “make people ‘feel’ a little bit better, and it might even block a droplet, but it’s not providing the perfect protection people think that it is.”

Now, he says, face coverings “should be a very regular part” of our daily lives.

Dutiful reporters ignore the flip-flop, slavishly acting as stenographers for Fauci and the rest of the dishonest “deep state.” “Masks are here to stay,” The Washington Post Lifestyle section chirped last week. To which I say:

Hell, no.

As a responsible parent and citizen, I will not let terror rule my children’s lives. I speak from heart-wrenching personal experience over the past five years as my teenage daughter, already battling chronic pain and joint hypermobility requiring multiple surgeries, also suffered from severe clinical OCD that left her unable to do mundane things — like use a public bathroom, eat out at a restaurant or ride in a crowded vehicle. She lost friends. She fell into depression. Her physical and emotional health deteriorated. She was homebound, helplessly trapped in the worst kind of self-imposed lockdown...
Still more.

Anthony Beevor, The Battle of Arnhem

Ed Driscoll posts the New York Times book review here, "BOTCH ON THE RHINE."

And at Amazon, Anthony Beevor, The Battle of Arnhem: The Deadliest Airborne Operation of World War II.

Perfect Country Girls

Seen on Twitter:

Sexy Robin Holzken

For Sports Illustrated Swimsuit:

Reopening Las Vegas

Interesting video, at CNN:

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Graduations, Campus Classes Canceled by Coronavirus Shock College-Town Economy


The coronavirus pandemic has turned vibrant faculty cities throughout the U.S. into vacant ones.

This weekend was purported to be one the busiest of the 12 months for companies in Blacksburg, Va., as mother and father, grandparents and well-wishers converged in town to have fun the 2020 graduates of Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State College.

As an alternative, town of 45,000 stays in quiet repose, pining for its college students to return. It has been a protracted two months for Blacksburg and different communities prefer it, because the pandemic robbed them of their fundamental supply of economic vitality.

What is going on in Blacksburg is enjoying out in cities from Ithaca, N.Y., to Pullman, Wash., the place the pandemic hasn’t solely shut down many businesses but in addition emptied out faculty campuses. The losses are particularly painful in locations which have leaned on universities to lure well-paying jobs and business to communities that may in any other case lack each.

“We’ve all the time had the posh of being insulated from the traditional ebbs and circulate of the economic system,” mentioned Mike Soriano, a Virginia Tech grad who owns 4 Blacksburg eating places, together with Champs Downtown Sports activities Bar & Cafe. The college moved its spring and summer time phrases to on-line lessons. “And with the uncertainty of the autumn, it’s made issues tough to mission,” he added.

Massive schools and universities make use of hundreds, purchase native items and companies and draw tens of hundreds of scholars and guests to their shops, eating places and accommodations. Their presence has shielded native communities from each long-term financial shifts and short-lived recessions. In locations like Blacksburg, enterprise cycles flip predictably with the seasons: It will get busy within the spring, slows in the summertime after which roars to life in September.

Now, Blacksburg enterprise house owners look anxiously towards the autumn, the potential of in-person lessons and the destiny of seven residence soccer video games which have reliably stuffed lodge rooms, bars, eating places and outlets.

“Soccer and commencement is when you can also make cash,” Mr. Soriano mentioned.

Virginia Tech is answerable for greater than half of Blacksburg’s economic system, producing about $1.2 billion in annual earnings, in keeping with an evaluation by researcher Emsi Labor Market Analytics. One among each two jobs is supported by the college, its college students and guests, in keeping with Emsi estimates.

As of January, the college had 9,742 workers, together with full-time and part-time college, employees and wage employees, a college spokesman mentioned.

Median family earnings within the Blacksburg space totaled $50,313 in 2018, in keeping with U.S. Census Bureau knowledge. Whereas that’s under the Virginia median of $72,577, Blacksburg’s earnings has grown sooner than its state general—8.6%, in contrast with 3.6%—since 2010, in keeping with a report by Previous Dominion College.

“As you progress west in Virginia, the inhabitants is much less dense, extra rural,” mentioned Robert McNab, an economist at Previous Dominion, who research the Virginia economic system. The area relies on agriculture, mining and forestry moderately than the manufacturing and data know-how discovered within the state’s city areas.

“Virginia Tech’s location permits it to work as a catalyst for financial growth,” he mentioned. “And it’s in a position to entice analysis funding and investment to part of Virginia that may not in any other case obtain a lot consideration.”

About 39% of Blacksburg’s domestically generated income comes from taxes on meals, lodge stays and different gross sales, mentioned Marc Verniel, Blacksburg’s city supervisor.

Blacksburg Transit has been carrying 300 to 400 riders a day just lately, down from greater than 20,000 a day when the college is in session, Mr. Verniel mentioned. He estimates the house soccer video games carry 400,000-500,000 guests to Blacksburg every fall. And when college students come again in September, they hurry to native shops to furnish flats and dorm rooms.

“We couldn’t have imagined an financial disaster that took the college out,” he mentioned.

There may be extra at stake than one season of retail gross sales. Companies are frightened that some college students received’t be prepared for on-campus lessons this fall, and others would possibly by no means make it to Blacksburg in any respect. Some college students would possibly choose to remain residence. And worldwide college students face journey restrictions and new immigration insurance policies.

This spring, Virginia Tech had almost 35,000 college students, together with 28,000 undergrads. Some 8,250 of the undergrads come from someplace aside from Virginia, and 1,962 of them are worldwide college students, in keeping with the college spokesman.

If the drop in enrollment persists, it could possibly be more durable for Blacksburg and different faculty cities to develop science and tech-oriented companies wanted to broaden their economies...
Is it just me, or is this piece less well-written than the normal article you'd find at the august WSJ, purportedly the main competitor to NYT?

Read the full article here, if you still have a hankering.

Diarmaid MacCulloch, Thomas Cromwell

At Amazon, Diarmaid MacCulloch, Thomas Cromwell: A Revolutionary Life.

Jennifer Delacruz's Monday Forecast

She's still doing forecasts from home.

At ABC 10 News San Diego:

Online Despair, Loneliness and Camaraderie at UCSD

Some like remote online teaching. Others not so much.

At the San Diego Union-Tribune, "Reddit diaries: Online courses are stirring despair, loneliness and camaraderie at UCSD."

Large Crowds at Virginia Beaches

The beaches are closed, but folks are fed up with this lockdown.

WWII Veterans Hard Hit by Coronavirus

Well, some of these old whippersnappers are pushing 100. Darn right they're getting hammered by this disease, and it's a shame.

At the Des Moines Register:

Saturday, May 16, 2020

What Will Be Left of Retail?

Who knows? Won't nobody know anything until all this lockdown stuff stops happening.

At NYT, "When Shoppers Venture Out, What Will Be Left?":

The coronavirus pandemic dealt another crushing blow to retailers in April. Now the question is what the sector will look like as the economy reopens — and how much permanent damage has been inflicted.

Retail sales fell 16.4 percent last month, the Commerce Department said Friday, by far the largest monthly drop on record. That followed an 8.3 percent drop in March, the previous record. Total sales for April, which include retail purchases in stores and online as well as money spent at bars and restaurants, were the lowest since 2012, even without accounting for inflation.

Some of the declines in individual categories were staggering. Restaurants and bars lost half their business over two months. At furniture and home furnishings stores, sales were off by two-thirds. At clothing stores, the two-month decline was 89 percent. Increased sales from online retailers didn’t come close to offsetting the downturn elsewhere.

April could prove to be the bottom for sales. The March figures were helped in part by panic buying, and stores were generally open for the first half of the month. Most states have begun to lift barriers to commerce and movement, and many economists expect spending to rise in May as people venture out.

But in contrast to the nearly vertical drop, any rebound is likely to be gradual. Big states like New York and California remain largely under lockdown, and businesses face significant restrictions elsewhere. Even as businesses reopen, there is no guarantee that customers will return in numbers previously seen.

And the financial system may be an added source of vulnerability as the economic downturn places strains on households and businesses, the Federal Reserve said Friday.

“It’s probably fair to say the worst is over in terms of a collapse, unless there are waves of new outbreaks,” said Jim O’Sullivan, chief U.S. macro strategist for TD Securities. “But how fast does it come back? The short answer is none of us really know.”

The downturn appears to have left lasting scars on a retail industry that was already struggling. J. Crew and Neiman Marcus have filed for bankruptcy protection, followed Friday by J.C. Penney, a 118-year-old chain with more than 800 stores and nearly 85,000 employees.

Surveys show that many Americans still fear the virus and are wary of crowded places. Epidemiologists and public health officials say those concerns are well founded: Anthony S. Fauci, the government’s top infectious-disease expert, told a Senate committee this week that rushing back to normal life could “trigger an outbreak that you may not be able to control.”

Even if Americans feel comfortable returning to stores, they may not have as much money to spend, since millions have lost their jobs...

Friday, May 15, 2020

Los Angeles Goes Stir Crazy During Lockdown

Danny Trejo's a national treasure.


James Jones, From Here to Eternity

At Amazon, James Jones, From Here to Eternity: A Novel.

Morning Hangover



Britney Spears on Tik Tok

She's amazing.

Watch on Tik Tok, "Yes folks you end up doing karaoke by yourself when you’re that bored …. singing to George Michael !!!!!"

And on Twitter:

'Reporters are expected to work in dangerous places. I just never figured the White House to be among them...'

Well, he does admit it's a cushy job.

An interesting inside take on reporting from the White House:

John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath


At Amazon, John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath.

Surprise: The Wealthy Fled New York City as the Coronavirus Broke Out

Yeah, big surprise here.

At NYT, "The Richest Neighborhoods Emptied Out Most as Coronavirus Hit New York City":

Hundreds of thousands of New York City residents, in particular those from the city’s wealthiest neighborhoods, left as the coronavirus pandemic hit, an analysis of multiple sources of aggregated smartphone location data has found.

Roughly 5 percent of residents — or about 420,000 people — left the city between March 1 and May 1. In the city’s very wealthiest blocks, in neighborhoods like the Upper East Side, the West Village, SoHo and Brooklyn Heights, residential population decreased by 40 percent or more, while the rest of the city saw comparably modest changes.

Some of these areas are typically home to lots of students, many of whom left as colleges and universities closed; other residents might have left to care for friends or family members across the country. But, on average, income is a strong simple predictor of a neighborhood’s change: The higher-earning a neighborhood is, the more likely it is to have emptied out.

Relatively few residents from blocks with median household incomes of about $90,000 or less (in the 80th percentile or lower) left New York. This migration out of the city began in mid-March, and accelerated in the days after March 15, when Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that he was closing the city’s schools.

The highest-earning neighborhoods emptied first.

“There is a way that these crises fall with a different weight on people based on social class,” said Kim Phillips-Fein, a history professor at New York University and author of a book about how New York changed during the fiscal crisis of the 1970s. “Even though there’s a strong rhetoric of ‘We’re all in it together,’ that’s not really the case.”

These estimates are based on data provided by Descartes Labs, a geospatial analysis company.

Descartes Labs used anonymized smartphone location data to find a large sample of New York City residents — not commuters or tourists — based on where they lived during a two-week period in February. They then analyzed their aggregate movements as the pandemic hit and whether they had left the city. The sample was about 140,000 residents, including residents from nearly every populated census tract in the city.

Smartphone location data is imperfect. It misses people who don’t own a smartphone. It requires guesses about who is a resident rather than a visitor or commuter. It relies on the kinds of apps that track and transmit a user’s precise location. And it is unlikely to be perfectly representative of the general population.

But it can be more useful than other methods to measure quick changes in population on a large scale...
Interestingly, that 420,000 who left is the exact same number of all the Chinese who flew into the country before President Trump banned flights from China.

Keep reading.

Thursday, May 14, 2020

The Naked Dress

That's Rose McGowan at the 1998 MTV Video Music Awards. Man, that was crazy, and way ahead of the naked zeitgeist of today, lol.

Two decades before the #MeToo movement, Rose McGowan wore a beaded dress and black G-string on the VMA red carpet as a personal political statement. “It was my first public appearance after being raped. And I thought, it was kind of like Russell Crowe and Gladiator when it comes out in the ring and he’s like, ‘Are you not entertained?’” she told Jameela Jamil during an interview for the actress’ I Weigh series. In her memoir, Brave, McGowan stated that the dress was “a reclamation of my own body after my assault”...
Click through for the full-size photo

Brenna Spencer

On Twitter:

Unmasking the Deep State

At the Other McCain, "The ‘Deep State’ Unmasked: Joe Biden Targeted Trump Aide Gen. Flynn."

Also, bombshell at AoSHQ, "Oh Wow: Devin Nunes Says That Criminal Referrals Are Coming. Not Just for the FBI/CIA Coupists. But for Mueller's Team of 13 Angry Democrats."


Timeline of FBI's FISA Abuse

At the Epoch Times, an amazing newspaper, "Timeline of FBI’s FISA Abuse in Trump Campaign Investigation":

In its pursuit of establishing surveillance on the Trump campaign, the FBI turned its attention to Trump campaign adviser Carter Page in the spring of 2016, culminating in the issuance of a FISA warrant—which allows for some of the most intrusive spying methods on an American citizen.

As part of this process, the FBI relied extensively on the flawed Steele dossier, leading an FBI legal counsel to note that this was “essentially a single source FISA.”

A report issued by Department of Justice (DOJ) Inspector General Michael Horowitz reveals a surprising number of details on how this process developed, as well as numerous problems with the evidence that was presented to the FISA court.

Important information was at times altered or not properly shared with the DOJ.

Here we provide a comprehensive timeline of details from the inspector general’s report, describing how the FBI rushed to spy on the Trump campaign and the flaws in its case...
Click through to see the whole thing, with an amazing graph of the timeline. I had to register by email, but apparently you get 20 "free" articles a month, which is the most for any pay-walled newspaper I've seen.


At WSJ, "The Flynn Unmaskers Unmasked":

When news stories appeared in early 2017 about Michael Flynn’s conversation with Russia’s ambassador to the U.S., these columns wondered how Mr. Flynn’s call was so widely known. The names of private U.S. citizens caught on tape by U.S. intelligence are supposed to be “masked” so their privacy is protected.

Well, now we know. GOP Senators Chuck Grassley and Ron Johnson on Wednesday released a declassified list of Obama Administration officials who in their waning days in power “unmasked” the conversations of Mr. Flynn, who was set to become President Trump’s National Security Adviser. It seems everyone but the night janitor wanted to know who Mr. Flynn was talking to.

A stunning 39 separate officials snooped on Mr. Flynn’s conversations with foreign actors, lodging nearly 50 unmasking demands between Nov. 30, 2016 and Jan. 12, 2017. Our sources say the nearly dozen redacted names on the list are likely intelligence types—who might have a legitimate interest in knowing who their foreign targets were speaking to in the U.S. But most of the rest are partisan officials who had no business spying on their successors.

The list includes then White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, then Vice President Joe Biden, and then Secretary of Treasury Jacob Lew. Ambassador to the U.N. and Obama confidante Samantha Power made no fewer than seven requests, though she told Congress she had no recollection of unmasking Mr. Flynn.

Mr. Flynn was unmasked by at least four U.S. ambassadors, six Treasury officials, and people connected to the Energy and Justice departments and NATO, among others. Then FBI Director James Comey, then CIA Director John Brennan and then Director of National Intelligence James Clapper also made the list. This means they had access to the transcripts of any phone conversations Mr. Flynn had with foreign sources as he prepared to take power.

The media cordon sanitaire that protects Democrats will say this is no big deal because unmasking is routine and legal. But if the masking rule means nothing in practice, why pretend it exists?

The Flynn unmasking is important because it occurred amid a media frenzy over supposed Trump campaign collusion with Russia. Leaks to the Washington Post about the conversations between the Russian ambassador and both Mr. Flynn and soon-to-be Attorney General Jeff Sessions were played up as central to the collusion scandal. They caused Mr. Sessions to recuse himself from the Russia probe and Mr. Flynn to be fired. While unmasking isn’t illegal, leaking intelligence is.

There are other dots to connect. Documents released last week show that former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates first learned about the Flynn wiretapping from no less than President Barack Obama in a Jan. 5, 2017, Oval Office meeting. At least one of the unmaskers must have told Mr. Obama.

The dates of the unmaskings raise further questions. The FBI’s interest in Mr. Flynn was supposedly triggered by conversations starting Dec. 29, 2016. Yet Mr. Flynn was first unmasked a month earlier—shortly after Mr. Trump named him security adviser.

The McDonough unmasking takes place on Jan. 5, 2017—the day of the Oval Office meeting at which Mr. Flynn was discussed. Mr. Biden’s unmasking request was made on Jan. 12, 2017—the day the Washington Post reported on the Flynn-Russia conversation. Mr. Biden has some explaining to do.

All of this is fodder for U.S. Attorney John Durham as he tries to unmask the origins of the Russia collusion political ambush...

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Woman Wears Mask in Photoshoot


Supposedly this is her Instagram page.

Reopening Bookstores

I've been thinking a lot about this, especially for this summer when I'm not teaching, where I'm mostly cruising around to bookstores and libraries, before stopping into the sports bar to read with a couple of I.P.A.s.

At NYT, "For Bookstore Owners, Reopening Holds Promise and Peril":

Last fall, Kyle Hall’s bookstore was destroyed by a tornado. This spring, it was almost wiped out by a pandemic.

For the past two months, ever since Texas ordered nonessential businesses to shut down, Mr. Hall, the manager and co-owner of Interabang Books in Dallas, has taken one unprecedented step after another to keep the store open. In March, Interabang transformed from a brick-and-mortar shop into an online retail business. When the stay-at-home order was lifted at the end of April, it became a curbside takeout operation. Staff members redesigned the storefront display, cramming 100 titles in the window so that customers could browse at a safe distance.

“We called it the bookstore bakery case,” Mr. Hall said. “That was strange, but in a week we got used to it.”

Then the state’s orders changed again, and retailers were told they could open at 25 percent their usual capacity. Interabang’s staff reorganized the layout of the 2,000-square-foot space and put markers on the floor to signal how far apart customers should stand. This past weekend, around 150 customers came to shop, most wearing masks.

“We felt like, if the governor is going to allow businesses like ours to reopen, and doing business was permissible, then we wanted to do it,” Mr. Hall said.

Even as health experts working with the Trump administration warned a Senate panel on Tuesday against reopening the country too quickly, the U.S. retail sector is beginning to get back to business. As some states allow a handful of businesses to reopen and other regions charge ahead full throttle, it is an experiment for bookstore owners and other retailers attempting to strike a balance between staying afloat and keeping workers and customers safe.

“The staff resoundingly said, ‘We are not ready,’” she said.

Among retail businesses, bookstores, especially smaller independent stores, face particular challenges as they navigate reopening. Many indies occupy cramped spaces with warrens of bookshelves, and serve as community centers and cultural outposts as much as retail operations. Book lovers often come in to linger, browse and chat with the staff about what to read next, all behaviors that in a pandemic are potentially life-threatening.

Some booksellers are now in the awkward position of having to disappoint eager customers. Malaprop’s in Asheville, N.C., told subscribers to its newsletter that even though the state had cleared bookstores to open, it would remain closed until at least May 19. When it reopens, shoppers will be allowed to visit by appointment only, to limit the number of people in the store, and face coverings will be mandatory.
Still more.

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Anthony Fauci Warns of 'Needless Suffering and Death' (VIDEO)

He actually toned it down in his testimony today, but he's not kowtowing to President Trump.

At CNN and NYT:

Los Angeles County to Maintain 'Stay-at-Home' Order Through July

Lots happening in California.

The Cal State system announced that all 23 campuses will teach online in the fall. (My school's already announced it's going to all remote instruction next semester.)

And Gavin Newsom's under pressure to lift the lockdown and get the economy rolling again, but the health numbers are not looking good. See, "As coronavirus deaths mount, California still very much in danger zone."

And L.A. County's not taking any chances, "L.A. County ‘with all certainty’ will keep stay-at-home orders in place through July":
Los Angeles County’s stay-at-home orders will “with all certainty” be extended for the next three months, county Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer acknowledged during a Board of Supervisors meeting on Tuesday.

Ferrer, though she didn’t issue an official order, said that timeline would only change if there was a “dramatic change to the virus and tools at hand.”

“Our hope is that by using the data, we’d be able to slowly lift restrictions over the next three months,” she said. But without widely available therapeutic testing for the coronavirus or rapid at-home versions that would allow people to test themselves daily, it seems unlikely that restrictions would be completely eased.

Ferrer’s comments came shortly after Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, warned Congress that states that push too quickly to ease orders could undo progress that would trigger an outbreak. Fauci said a 14-day decline in cases is the major checkpoint that states should meet before reopening.

In L.A. County, confirmed cases and deaths have continued to rise, even though beaches in the county are set to reopen on Wednesday, just days after the county lifted restrictions on hiking trails, parks and golf courses and allowed curbside pickup at nonessential businesses. But Ferrer warned Tuesday that further loosening of the rules will be slow.

But how people can use the sand will look different. Face coverings will be required when not in the water, and sunbathing won’t be allowed. Only active recreation — surfing, running, walking and swimming — will be permitted. Coolers, chairs, umbrellas and any of the other accessories that typically dot the shoreline should be left at home.

The update to L.A.'s stay-at-home orders comes as officials try to satisfy two needs: restarting the economy under a new normal while also ensuring that the resurgence in activity doesn’t upend progress in the fight against the coronavirus...

Monday, May 11, 2020