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Author Archive for JOHN ADAMS

‘Gaslighting on a massive scale’

“This is gaslighting on an enormous scale, and means until people eventually get sick or their family members get sick, the communities hit hard, they won’t believe it, and then it will be too late,” said [Dr. Celine] Grounder. “The problem is there’s a lag period from the time that somebody’s infected and starts to develop symptoms a couple days later. We don’t see people get severely sick and need to be hospitalized and in ICUs until a week into disease, and talking about probably one to two weeks of lag time from the time somebody’s exposed at least before you start to see hospitalizations and then another couple weeks before you start to see deaths.”

Via ‘Gaslighting on a massive scale’: Doctor warns Trump is lying us into a COVID disaster.

Friday Catblogging: Cat Tower Project

Ekta Joshi writes This Japanese firm has created a functional four story luxury building for cats:

If you’re a cat parent and don’t mind pampering your furball silly, here’s what you need to lay your eyes on! The ultimate play toy cum lounge for your kitty – we’re talking about the mega-luxe “cat tower mansion” created by renowned Japanese construction firm – Mitsubishi Estate Residence.

Designed as a high-rise condo for a cat, the luxurious cat home is created by a team led by cat-lover and licensed architect Akiko Ishimaru. It features a tall scratching strip on one of the exterior walls and a window for your cat to peep out of. On the inside, it features several levels, each boasting a structure of its own.

Daily Bread for 7.3.20

Good morning.

Friday in Whitewater will be mostly sunny with scattered afternoon thundershowers and a high of eighty-nine. Sunrise is 5:22 AM and sunset 8:36 PM, for 15h 14m 17s of daytime.  The moon is waxing gibbous with 96.5% of its visible disk illuminated.

Today is the one thousand three hundred thirty-third day. 

On this day in 1863, the Union is victorious on the final day of the Battle of Gettysburg.

Recommended for reading in full —

Catherine Rampell writes The U.S. job market is still in very bad shape. Just wait until the fiscal time bomb goes off:

First, even with these [June reported] gains, U.S. payrolls are still deeply in the hole. Second, these official government numbers are based on a snapshot from mid-June, and more recent data suggest the recovery has either stalled or deteriorated since then. And, third, a major fiscal time bomb is about to detonate.

You may have a sense that things are still quite bad, given that the unemployment rate remains higherthan it ever was during the Great Recession. To help visualize just how far in the red the country is, take a gander at the Scariest Jobs Chart You’ll See All Day. It plots the trajectory of job changes in this recession alongside those from previous postwar downturns (and subsequent recoveries).

The horizontal axis shows months since the most recent employment peak of a given business cycle. The teal line plots the Great Recession. Until recently, the depth, duration and sluggish recovery from the Great Recession had put all other postwar downturns to shame.

Now look at the red line, which represents the awful situation the country is experiencing.

Things are so much worse than even the Great Recession that the red line almost doesn’t fit on the same chart as the others. It starts with a near-vertical downward drop, followed by a short spike upward.

Again, it’s fantastic that the hiring trend has, in fact, turned upward. But there are still 14.7 million, or about 10 percent, fewer payroll jobs than there were at the start of the pandemic recession. And as you can see, even if job growth continues at what President Trump calls “rocket ship” pace, the economy still has a long way to go before reaching an acceptable altitude — that is, until U.S. payrolls are anywhere near pre-pandemic levels.

Jeremy Schwartz and Perla Trevizo report He Built a Privately Funded Border Wall. It’s Already at Risk of Falling Down if Not Fixed:

Tommy Fisher billed his new privately funded border wall as the future of deterrence, a quick-to-build steel fortress that spans 3 miles in one of the busiest Border Patrol sectors.

Unlike a generation of wall builders before him, he said he figured out how to build a structure directly on the banks of the Rio Grande, a risky but potentially game-changing step when it came to the nation’s border wall system.

Fisher has leveraged his self-described “Lamborghini” of walls to win more than $1.7 billion worth of federal contracts in Arizona.

But his showcase piece is showing signs of runoff erosion and, if it’s not fixed, could be in danger of falling into the Rio Grande, according to engineers and hydrologists who reviewed photos of the wall for ProPublica and The Texas Tribune. It never should have been built so close to the river, they say.

How Twitter Evolved From Startup To President Trump’s Megaphone:

America Grows More Diverse, Integration as Important as Ever

William H. Frey writes that The nation is diversifying even faster than predicted, according to new census data:

The U.S. Census Bureau has just released its last batch of race-ethnic population estimates in advance of the 2020 census, with data indicating that the national headcount will reveal a more diverse nation than was previously expected. The new estimates show that nearly four of 10 Americans identify with a race or ethnic group other than white, and suggest that the 2010 to 2020 decade will be the first in the nation’s history in which the white population declined in numbers.

Over the decade’s first nine years, racial and ethnic minorities accounted for all of the nation’s population growth, and were responsible for population gains in many states, metropolitan areas, and counties that would have otherwise registered losses due to declines in their white populations. And while the U.S. and more than half of its states have shown absolute declines in populations under age 25, such declines were largely due to white losses among the youth population. These declines would have been even greater were it not for youthful gains among racial and ethnic minorities, especially the Latino or Hispanic population.

….

The new data shows that, by 2019, the white population share declined nearly nine more percentage points, to 60.1%. The Latino or Hispanic and Asian American population shares showed the most marked gains, at 18.5% and nearly 6%, respectively. While these groups fluctuated over the past 40 years, either upward (for Latinos or Hispanics and Asian Americans) or downward (for whites), the Black share of the population remained relatively constant.

These are big changes in a short time. The mere fact of these changes, and the mere acknowledgement of them, cannot possibly be all that is required in a just society.  Karen Attiah’s observation that society should assure freedom of integration rather than simply acknowledging diversity remains a lodestone.

Daily Bread for 7.2.20

Good morning.

Thursday in Whitewater will be partly sunny with a high of eighty-nine. Sunrise is 5:21 AM and sunset 8:36 PM, for 15h 15m 09s of daytime.  The moon is waxing gibbous with 90.9% of its visible disk illuminated.

Today is the one thousand three hundred thirty-second day. 

The Whitewater Fire Department meets at 6:30 PM via audiovisual conferencing.

On this day in 1863, the Battle of Gettysburg continues into a second day:

Union forces repulsed a series of attacks. That night, Union Major General George Meade held a council of leaders to decide what to do next. Lieutenant Frank Haskell, of Madison, was present when they voted to “allow the Rebel to come up and smash his head against [their position] to any reasonable extent he desired, as he had to-day. After some two hours the council dissolved, and the officers went their several ways.”

Recommended for reading in full —

Hannah Denham reports Top CEOs say business fallout from coronavirus will extend through 2021:

Business Roundtable surveyed 136 members about their projected sales, capital spending and hiring for the next six months. The CEO Economic Outlook Survey fell to 34.3 in the second quarter, the lowest reading for the composite index since the same three months of 2009, according to a report released Monday. But it’s well above the all-time low of -5.0, set during the first quarter of 2009 at the height of the Great Recession.

The group’s members include the CEOs of Apple, JPMorgan Chase and Chevron, among others. The poll, taken from June 1 to June 22, reflected the economic fallout of the novel coronavirus, which ushered the United States into recession as businesses and factories were forced to shut down or curtail operations to stem its spread. More than 47.3 million Americans have filed jobless claims since March.

 Justin Lahart writes Brace for an Autumn of Discontent:

That much has become more clear over the past week, as new Covid-19 cases surged in several states that had been among the earliest to begin reopening their economies. The possibility that the novel coronavirus will be well enough contained by the end of the summer that there can be a general return to business-as-usual is looking slim.

Investors need to recalibrate their expectations of what the economy will look like through the end of the year. This goes beyond debating whether the recovery will be a V, a W or a U, and considering instead the details of what everyday life could look like. Consider what might happen across three dimensions: Work, school and social gatherings.

It is difficult for people in many jobs to work together safely, and that will still be true in the fall. Sitting cheek-to-jowl in an office, for example, is too risky now, and will likely be viewed as such by many employers and employees, possibly until there is a vaccine. So desks will be reconfigured, partitions will go up, and many business places won’t be able to accommodate as many workers as before, leading to staggered shifts and work-from-home arrangements where people will only come in a few times a week.

Wisconsin family saves a swimming bear who got its head stuck in a cheese ball tub:

Barriers to Substantive Change in a Small Town

Several recent posts here are FREE WHITEWATER are, collectively, a cautionary series on the difficulty of effecting substantive change in Whitewater, Wisconsin. One might want change; realism demands a clear-eyed assessment of its likelihood. Other towns might have better (or even worse) odds; Whitewater is not, by definition, another town.

A listing of challenges, with selections from, and links to, the posts that describe them —

A Reliance on Commuting Professionals Who Choose to Live Elsewhere: 

In effect, Whitewater has a focus group of hundreds of professionals who are telling government and business that they do not wish to live in Whitewater under status quo conditions. These hundreds aren’t buying what’s on offer….Community relations do not happen at a distance of fifteen miles – they happen at a distance of fifteen feet.

See The Commuter Class.

Most Mentoring Is Poorly Conducted: 

Many will be less attached to the community (as they’ve freely chosen to live elsewhere for housing, activities, etc.). Some will see that they’re working in a community whose residents cannot fill all the available professional positions (and so come to see the community as dependent). Some will look on the community merely as a job opportunity and so come to look for other opportunities if any moment in the community goes poorly. Others will look on the community merely as a job opportunity and so bend easily to bad local ideas simply to retain employment.

See Mentoring.

Whitewater’s Leaders Haven’t Encouraged Substantive Change:

These last dozen years have seen a Great Recession, opioid epidemic, economic stagnation, repeated incidents of sexual harassment, a pandemic, and now another recession. Whitewater has been deeply affected during this time (over the last decade, she has more poverty than before), but her governmental approach has been mostly business as usual, with the occasional – and brief – rhetorical nod to national conditions and movements.

If most of the same policymakers haven’t ventured farther than rhetoric (if that far) after so many significant events, they’re not likely to do so now. 

See Built Against Substantive Change.

Major Officials Have Not Been Hired as Agents of Significant Reform:

It’s likely that candidates are asked for no more than slight improvements, and a more polished approach, than their predecessors. There’s almost certainly an emphasis on not embarrassing the hiring body, while simultaneously fulfilling stakeholders’ wishes.

What’s improbable is that a candidate is asked to make substantive, root-and-branch changes. Changes like that would necessarily call into question longtime stakeholders’ own records.

See Candidates’ Expectations.

Whitewater’s Demographics Leave the Notion of a Common Community Perspective Unlikely (for Now):

When one considers the cohort of traditional working age adults in the city, it’s both much smaller (24%), and – itself – heterogenous by race, ethnicity, and socio-economic status. In most places, including any town near Whitewater, the 25-64 age bracket would be a larger percentage of the community. For Whitewater, it’s only about a quarter of the town’s total population.

It’s fair to say that even a generation ago the city was significantly less diverse.

Many of Whitewater’s politicians and appointed officials erroneously speak and write about the town as though it were more homogeneous. It’s simply mistaken to speak to that smaller group (itself dissimilar in some fundamental characteristics) as though they, themselves, were the whole town.”

See Quick Observations on Whitewater’s Demographics.

It’s much easier to talk (or issue press releases) about change than to bring it about.

Daily Bread for 7.1.20

Good morning.

Wednesday in Whitewater will be partly sunny with a high of eighty-eight. Sunrise is 5:21 AM and sunset 8:36 PM, for 15h 15m 56s of daytime.  The moon is waxing gibbous with 83.4% of its visible disk illuminated.

Today is the one thousand three hundred thirty-first day. 

On this day in 1863, the Battle of Gettysburg begins.

Recommended for reading in full —

Heather Long and Andrew Van Dam report Pay cuts for millions of U.S. workers worsen the pain of pandemic:

At least 4 million private-sector workers have had their pay cut during the pandemic, according to data provided to The Washington Post by economists who worked on a labor market analysis for the University of Chicago’s Becker Friedman Institute.

Workers are twice as likely to get a pay cut now than they were during the Great Recession, according to the group’s analysis of data from the payroll processor ADP. Salary cuts are spreading most rapidly in white-collar industries, which suggests a deep recession and slow recovery since white-collar workers are usually the last to feel financial pain.

Companies have also trimmed employee hours, leaving many hourly wage workers with leaner paychecks as well. More than 6 million workers have been forced to work part time during the pandemic even though they want full-time work, Labor Department data show.

“I have Fridays off but I would rather have the money,” said Iezzi, who has seen her weekly paycheck at a New Jersey air conditioning business fall from $720 to $576.

Widespread pay cuts are highly unusual. In downturns, firms typically lay off workers rather than dealing with the administrative challenges and morale effects of slashing pay across the board. But as the United States faces the worst economic crisis since the Depression era, some business leaders have tried to save jobs by cutting pay between 5 and 50 percent. The median wage reduction was 10 percent, economists who worked on the Becker Friedman Institute study found.

Lauren Bauer, Wendy Edelberg, Jimmy O’Donnell, and Jay Shambaugh write Who are the potentially misclassified in the Employment Report?:

The potential misclassification issue has arisen because the number of workers who are “absent from work due to other reasons” has spiked in an unusual way since March 2020. Observers have noted that many of those people should probably have been recorded as “on temporary layoff” and thus be counted as among the unemployed. To the degree that is the case, a more accurate measure of the unemployment rate is higher than the official measure.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) categorizes people as employed or unemployed based on how they answer questions about their work status during a single reference week. The agency counts people as employed if they worked during the week or were employed but absent from work due to vacations or illness or “other reasons.” In a typical month, a small fraction of people report being “absent from work due to other reasons.” The misclassification issue has arisen as the survey instruments deployed by BLS to collect data on labor market conditions have largely remained unchanged.

To improve the quality of the data, BLS has taken steps in recent months to improve the accuracy of recorded responses. However, it is important to note that historically, BLS has not edited responses post hoc and has always declined to reclassify respondents, which would amount to interference with the data.

 Tonight’s Sky for July:

Biden Wisely Adopts a Version of McKinley’s Front Porch Campaign

Michael Scherer reports that Joe Biden rises with a less-is-more campaign:

Biden has made no secret of his own thinking on the matter. “The more that Donald Trump is out the worse he does. I think it is wonderful that he goes out,” Biden joked Saturday at a virtual event for Asian American and Pacific Islander voters. “I’m being a bit facetious because it is dangerous what he is doing at his rallies. But look at it: His numbers have dropped through the floor.”

It’s a sensible strategy: there is nothing more injurious to Donald Trump’s standing among reasonable people than the words and actions of Donald Trump.

 

Quick Observations on Whitewater’s Demographics

It’s common in films and books that small towns, even small college towns, are described as homogeneous. There may be a few eccentric characters here or there, but the town so described (and imagined) is seldom a diverse one.

Whitewater is more diverse than those places, and diverse in a way that leaves no group a truly dominant influence in the city.

The actual demographics of the city show how narrow is the cohort that presumes it represents the whole community. From the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, 2014-2018 averages, considering only age —

Total population:  14,766

0 – 19 years:           4,577  (31%)

20 – 24 years:         5,460  (37%)

25 – 64 years:         3,476  (24%)

65 and over:           1,254  (8%)

Although Whitewater’s population skews heavily toward youth (68% under twenty-five years old), this cohort, itself, is heterogenous by race, ethnicity, and socio-economic status.

When one considers the cohort of traditional working age adults in the city, it’s both much smaller (24%), and – itself – heterogenous by race, ethnicity, and socio-economic status. In most places, including any town near Whitewater, the 25-64 age bracket would be a larger percentage of the community. For Whitewater, it’s only about a quarter of the town’s total population.

It’s fair to say that even a generation ago the city was significantly less diverse.

Many of Whitewater’s politicians and appointed officials erroneously speak and write about the town as though it were more homogeneous. It’s simply mistaken to speak to that smaller group (itself dissimilar in some fundamental characteristics) as though they, themselves, were the whole town.

And yet, and yet, that happens all the time among a small faction in Whitewater. It’s not wrong to write, so to speak, about the time Muriel lost her left thumb to a rabid chipmunk, but most people in Whitewater wouldn’t have heard of Muriel, and many of those probably wouldn’t have known that chipmunks could turn rabid. 

In a different small town – certainly in film, perhaps somewhere in reality – every resident would have known Muriel, and her unfortunate encounter with a diseased rodent would have had a personal meaning.

Whitewater reached the point (many years ago, truly) where the idea of a single, shared community outlook is more mirage than reality. Yet communications in the city haven’t pushed far beyond the demographically unrealistic (and lazy) assumption that residents have a single, shared set of perceptions and memories.

There is a difference between noticing diversity and recognizing diverse perspectives.

Daily Bread for 6.30.20

Good morning.

Tuesday in Whitewater will be partly sunny with scattered afternoon thundershowers and a high of eighty-nine. Sunrise is 5:20 AM and sunset 8:37 PM, for 15h 16m 41s of daytime.  The moon is waxing gibbous with 73.7% of its visible disk illuminated.

Today is the one thousand three hundred thirtieth day. 

The Whitewater Common Council meets via audiovisual conferencing at 3 PM

On this day in 1864, Pres. Lincoln grants Yosemite Valley to California for “public use, resort and recreation.”

Recommended for reading in full —

Elizabeth Spiers writes Trump’s ‘silent majority’ isn’t a majority, and it’s far from silent:

The Trump team’s declaration that a silent majority lurks, ready to return Trump to the White House, is at odds with almost everything else the president says and does. His efforts to make it harder to vote by opposing voting by mail in the middle of a pandemic, and his repeated claims that Democrats are plotting election fraud, suggest a distinct nervousness about the majority’s true will. He appears to be laying the groundwork for explaining away a Democratic victory in November, as the result of deception and trickery. On June 22 he tweeted, in typical fashion: “RIGGED 2020 ELECTION: MILLIONS OF MAIL-IN BALLOTS WILL BE PRINTED BY FOREIGN COUNTRIES, AND OTHERS. IT WILL BE THE SCANDAL OF OUR TIMES!” In a system where success usually depends on grasping what a majority of the electorate wants, the sound strategy might be to reach out from one’s base to voters in the middle. Trump instead is heavily invested in the assumption that his enthusiastic minority will determine the outcome — even if it means that the people who don’t like him are prevented from voting.

The rhetoric serves a purpose. Even a few hardcore Trump supporters must be wondering now about the 13.3 percent unemployment rate, for example. By assuring his core supporters that they represent a large, cohesive group of Americans who share similar grievances — and, more importantly, common enemies, notably Democrats and the media — he helps to keep his base in line. Silent-majority rhetoric makes the grievances seem more legitimate.

Trump’s gambit for the election, in the face of falling support, is to convince the extremists that they are the true voice of the nation, even though every bit of empirical evidence indicates otherwise. He’s gaslighting his base. That explains why he’s still brandishing county-level maps of the 2016 electoral college results drenched in red and relying on misinterpretation to make it look like a mandate. (Trump won a majority of America’s acres, not votes.) Trump’s core supporters don’t need overwhelming evidence that they’re a majority to believe it; they just need to see a few good omens to maintain the faith.

 Carl Bernstein reports From pandering to Putin to abusing allies and ignoring his own advisers, Trump’s phone calls alarm US officials:

In hundreds of highly classified phone calls with foreign heads of state, President Donald Trump was so consistently unprepared for discussion of serious issues, so often outplayed in his conversations with powerful leaders like Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Erdogan, and so abusive to leaders of America’s principal allies, that the calls helped convince some senior US officials — including his former secretaries of state and defense, two national security advisers and his longest-serving chief of staff — that the President himself posed a danger to the national security of the United States, according to White House and intelligence officials intimately familiar with the contents of the conversations.

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Republican Voters Against Trump: Bill, a Veteran from Iowa

While not a member of a political party, one can still sympathize with – and support – the many thousands of Republicans each day who reject Trumpism.  Bill, a veteran from Iowa, is one of them:

“This is not what supporting and defending the Constitution means to me and other military veterans… I hope you will vote for Joe Biden”

Are you a Republican, ex-Republican, or Trump-voter who won’t support the president this November? Share your story here: https://rvat.org/tell-your-story.

Local Portents on Addressing the Coronavirus

The Whitewater Unified School District, like every other district in the area, has choices to exercise about holding classes during this pandemic. The district recently sent an email link to a survey soliciting parents’ views, and the new district administrator and veteran school board will soon have important decisions to make.

Over in the Jefferson School District, local reporting tells the tale of that community’s sentiments — Survey: yes to face-to-face instruction, maybe on protections:

The upshot: Most families are eager to return to face-to-face instruction, but opinions are mixed on what kind of protections should be put in place to keep students and staff members safe while the pandemic still is ongoing.

One might think that the combination of face-to-face instruction without definite (and enforced) public health protocols would be a mistake, but there’s no surprise that this is likely to be the view in most school districts nearby.

The greater surprise would be if a school district in this area adopted policies that were firmly in line with the best national and state public health guidance.

A reasonable guess: some parents will find that their school districts teach science rather than practice it.