Author Archive for JOHN ADAMS

An Empty-Headed Man’s Next Gig

Updated with a longer – and so more revealing – video of Kushner’s vapidity.

When Jared Kushner is finished impairing America’s response to a pandemic, he’ll need something else to do.

Wisconsin still has the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, and in small Wisconsin towns like Whitewater one finds development hucksters, business leagues of landlords & bankers, self-described public relations experts, and assorted media relations types.

A platitudinous, lightweight man like Kushner would fit right in with such local groups. If anything, he’d probably be inspirational to them.

These groups should ring Kushner soon – he’s likely to be in high demand as a guest speaker among such organizations.

Daily Bread for 4.3.20

Good morning.

Friday in Whitewater will be partly cloudy, with scattered showers, and a high of sixty-one.  Sunrise is 6:30 AM and sunset 7:24 PM, for 12h 53m 46s of daytime.  The moon is a waxing gibbous with 72.4% of its visible disk illuminated.

Today is the one thousand two hundred forty-second day.

On this day in 1865, the Union Army captures the Confederate capital: “The brigade containing the 19th Wisconsin Infantry was the first to enter Richmond on the morning of April 3rd. Their regimental flag became the first to fly over the captured capital of the Confederacy when Colonel Samuel Vaughn planted it on Richmond City Hall.”

Recommended for reading in full —

 Philip Rucker and Robert Costa report Commander of confusion: Trump sows uncertainty and seeks to cast blame in coronavirus crisis:

In the three weeks since declaring the novel coronavirus outbreak a national emergency, President Trump has delivered a dizzying array of rhetorical contortions, sowed confusion and repeatedly sought to cast blame on others.

History has never known a crisis response as strong as his own, Trump says — yet the self-described wartime president claims he is merely backup. He has faulted governors for acting too slowly and, as he did Thursday, has accused overwhelmed state and hospital officials of complaining too much and of hoarding supplies.

America is winning its war with the coronavirus, the president says — yet the death toll rises still, and in the best-case scenario more Americans will die than in the wars in Vietnam, Korea, Afghanistan and Iraq combined.

The economy is the strongest ever and will rebound in no time, he says — yet stock markets have cratered and in the past two weeks a record 10 million people filed for unemployment insurance.

As Trump has sought to remake his public image from that of a skeptic of the pandemic’s danger to a savior forestalling catastrophe and protecting hundreds of thousands of people from a vicious contagion, he also has distorted the truth, making edits and creating illusions at many turns.

Jeremy Peters reports Alarm, Denial, Blame: The Pro-Trump Media’s Coronavirus Distortion:

Talk show hosts and prominent right-wing writers criticized other conservatives who took the threat seriously. “Drudge has a screaming headline,” Rush Limbaugh announced on Feb. 26, referring to Matt Drudge and his website. “Flight attendant working L.A.X. tests positive. Oh, my God, 58 cases! Oh, my God. Oh, my God.” For years, Mr. Limbaugh has encouraged his audience to be suspicious of science as one of his so-called Four Corners of Deceit, which also include government, academia and media.

On Feb. 27, Mr. Hannity opened his show in a rage. “The apocalypse is imminent and you’re going to all die, all of you in the next 48 hours. And it’s all President Trump’s fault,” he said, adding, “Or at least that’s what the media mob and the Democratic extreme radical socialist party would like you to think.” His program would be one of many platforms with large audiences of conservatives — 5.6 million people watched Mr. Hannity interview the president on Fox last week — to misleadingly highlight statistics on deaths from the seasonal flu as a comparison.

On Feb. 28, Mr. Limbaugh read from an article from The Western Journal, a website that was blacklisted by Apple News last year for promoting articles Apple determined were “overwhelmingly rejected by the scientific community.”

An ancient Antarctic rainforest:

Dr. Rishi Desai Delivers the Truth to Fox News Viewers

Ed Mazza reports that

A doctor’s no-holds-barred analysis of coronavirus testing shortcomings is going viral – not just because of his blunt talk but because of where he made his case: live on Fox News.

Dr. Rishi Desai, chief medical officer of the Osmosis website, vigorously shook his head “no” as Fox News host Martha MacCallum mentioned, as President Donald Trump has, that there were supposed to be millions of tests available. She also said people were still waiting for a quick test for COVID-19.
Desai responded with a fact-check.

“Yeah, they’re working on it,” he said. “They should’ve been working on it for months.”






Daily Bread for 4.2.20

Good morning.

Thursday in Whitewater will be partly sunny with a high of fifty-eight.  Sunrise is 6:32 AM and sunset 7:23 PM, for 12h 50m 54s of daytime.  The moon is a waxing gibbous with 61.2% of its visible disk illuminated.

Today is the one thousand two hundred forty-first day.

On this day in 1865, defeat at the Third Battle of Petersburg forces the Army of Northern Virginia and the Confederate government to abandon Richmond.

Recommended for reading in full —

Glenn Kessler and Salvador Rizzo write Fact-checking President Trump’s marathon news conference:

We inherited obsolete tests.”

There were no tests for the novel coronavirus, which only emerged in China late in 2019, so tests had to be developed specifically by countries starting in January. Trump appears to be referring to a system in place that relied on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to take the lead in developing the tests. But a still-unspecified manufacturing problem caused the CDC to distribute flawed tests to state and local health departments. On top of that, having the CDC take the lead, rather than the private sector, was inappropriate for the task of testing potentially hundreds of thousands of people.

Two former Trump administration officials had warned on Jan. 28, in a Wall Street Journal article, that the CDC was not up to task and the private sector needed to be engaged. But the Trump administration waited another month before it fast-tracked the development of tests by private companies.

“I can only say that we are doing more than anybody in the world by far. We are testing highly accurate tests.”

Trump often makes this misleading claim about the level of testing in the United States. It is accurate when looking only at raw numbers. But the key indicator is tests per capita, which gives a read on the share of the population that has contracted the disease.

A crowdsourced tally provided by the Covid Tracking Project says the United States has tested 1.1 million people as of March 31. That represents about 1 in 297 people. Italy, for example, has a smaller population and a lower number of total tests, but it tested about three times as many people on a per capita basis: 1 in 133.

Bill Glauber reports Wisconsinites approve of government actions to stem coronavirus outbreak, new Marquette poll finds:

The big numbers: 86% said it was appropriate to close schools and businesses, and 51% strongly backed legislation directing cash payments to individuals, while 28% somewhat approved the measure.

Democratic Gov. Tony Evers was rated highly for his response to the crisis, with 76% approving of his handling of the issue, including a strong majority of Republicans.

 Opera Singer Serenades Residents at Senior Living Facility:

Daily Bread for 4.1.20

Good morning.

Wednesday in Whitewater will be partly cloudy with a high of fifty.  Sunrise is 6:34 AM and sunset 7:22 PM, for 12h 48m 01s of daytime.  The moon is in its first quarter with 50.7% of its visible disk illuminated.

Today is the one thousand two hundred fortieth day.

On this day in 1945, the Battle of Okinawa begins.

Recommended for reading in full —

Toluse Olorunnipa, Josh Dawsey, Chelsea Janes, and Isaac Stanley-Becker report Governors plead for medical equipment from federal stockpile plagued by shortages and confusion:

As states across the country have pleaded for critical medical equipment from a key national stockpile, Florida has promptly received 100 percent of its first two requests — with President Trump and Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis both touting their close relationship.

States including Oklahoma and Kentucky have received more of some equipment than they requested, while others such as Illinois, Massachusetts and Maine have secured only a fraction of their requests.

It’s a disparity that has caused frustration and confusion in governors’ offices across the country, with some officials wondering whether politics is playing a role in the response.

Governors are making increasingly frantic requests to the Federal Emergency Management Agency for materials. State and congressional leaders are flooding FEMA with letters and calls seeking clarity about how it is allocating suddenly in-demand resources such as masks, ventilators and medical gowns.

David Beard writes that The Scourge of Coronavirus Brings Out Bright Spots of Humanity:

The woman in her 80s was holed up in her car for 45 minutes outside an Oregon supermarket, waiting for the right person.

She cracked the window when Rebecca Mehra approached on March 11. Almost in tears, the woman in the car told Mehra that she was terrified of catching the coronavirus, that she and her husband next to her had no family nearby—and asked if Mehra could spare them the risk of stepping outside by accepting cash to buy groceries for them.

Mehra took a $100 bill and a grocery list from the woman, got the groceries (canned goods, toilet paper), put them in the trunk, and returned the change.

“Frankly most people I know would have done the same thing I did. I was just in the right place at the right time,” said Mehra, who spoke to CBS News affiliate KBNZ after more than 11 million people shared her story. In the days since, severe restrictions on public gatherings have hit almost everyone and everywhere, and reports of selfless acts of support and community care have grown.

 How Social Distancing During The COVID-19 Pandemic Looks From A Satellite:

Jared Kushner, Slumlord Millionaire, Wants the Rent ‘ASAP’

AJ Vicens reports As the Coronavirus Hit, Jared Kushner’s Company Told Renters to Take Action to Pay “ASAP”

On Thursday, March 19, Westminster Management—which is owned by the Kushner Companies and boasts of holdingmore than 20,000 apartments across six states—sent residents in at least one property a notice about rent collection—but it wasn’t about giving them a break on rent, nor did it include any reference to the unfolding COVID-19 crisis, according to emails and other correspondence reviewed by Mother Jones.


Two days later, on March 21, the company sent another email to residents. While it acknowledged the global pandemic by saying the company hoped “you all stay safe and healthy in these challenging times,” it went on to tell tenants to sign up for the new payment platform “asap.” Despite the request for prompt action on payment, the email told residents the management company was running on limited resources and that, due to the need to prevent contact between staff and residents, rent-payers could expect fewer services and directed that anything beside emergency maintenance requests should wait “until the situation has improved.”

Trump’s son-in-law has the ignoble distinction of being one of America’s worst slumlords. The Kushner family built their wealth on the backs of low-income tenants. See also The Beleaguered Tenants of ‘Kushnerville’ (‘Tenants in more than a dozen Baltimore-area rental complexes complain about a property owner who they say leaves their homes in disrepair, humiliates late-paying renters and often sues them when they try to move out. Few of them know that their landlord is the president’s son-in-law).

An episode of the Netflix series Dirty Money describes the Kushner family’s greed.

Daily Bread for 3.31.20

Good morning.

Tuesday in Whitewater will be cloudy with a high of forty-three.  Sunrise is 6:36 AM and sunset 7:21 PM, for 12h 45m 07s of daytime.  The moon is a waxing crescent with 40.2% of its visible disk illuminated.

Today is the one thousand two hundred thirty-ninth day.

On this day in 1998, the Milwaukee Brewers play their first game as a National League team (away against Atlanta).

Recommended for reading in full —

Rick Barrett and Jeff Bollier report Coronavirus has hit Wisconsin dairy farms especially hard — some farmers may even have to dump milk:

Dairy has been hit the hardest from the loss of business from restaurants, schools and the hospitality industry. About one-third of Wisconsin dairy products, mostly cheese, are sold in the food-service trade.

“The coronavirus outbreak has caused milk prices to drop down to unprofitable levels this spring, right when we need money to buy supplies for the spring planting season,” said dairy farmer John Rettler of Neosho, president of FarmFirst Dairy Cooperative in Madison.


In February, farmers’ milk prices were slowly returning to profitable levels after having  been stuck in the basement for more than five years.

“Since the coronavirus pandemic began, all of that optimism has disappeared,” Rettler said. “Now, farmers are simply looking for ways to ensure their milk continues to get picked up in the coming weeks as the situation continues to play out.”

From dairy barns to grain fields, farmers have endured a long stretch of low commodity prices, partly brought on by a glut in world production. About 820 Wisconsin dairy producers called it quits in 2019 alone, a rate of more than two per day, and the trend hasn’t slowed in recent months.

 Conservative evangelical Michael Gerson writes Jerry Falwell Jr.’s coronavirus response shows his staggering level of ignorance:

After learning of Jerry Falwell Jr.’s decision to partially reopen Liberty University, my thoughts turned to the biblical account of Balaam’s ass.

According to the Hebrew scriptures, the children of Israel were on the verge of engulfing another Bronze Age tribe. Lacking recourse to the United Nations, the Moabites turned to a diviner named Balaam to curse the Israelis. But on the way to the cursing, Balaam’s conveyance, an ass, saw an angel blocking the path ahead, turned hard into a wall and crushed Balaam’s foot. Unable to see the celestial creature himself, a frustrated Balaam beat his ass. But God permitted the wounded animal to speak, mock her rider and explain the divine roadblock. The eyes of a chastened Balaam were finally opened and he took the Israeli side. And the rest is Middle East history.

Students at Liberty University are more likely than most to understand the specialness of this biblical lesson. It is one of the few stories in which Falwell should not be assigned the part of an ass. For that matter, he does not even deserve the role of Balaam, who at least was open to instruction. Instead, Falwell has charged the angel straight on and — in defiance of nearly all public health experts — reopened the Liberty dorms in the middle of a pandemic. Now, according to the New York Times, at least one student has tested positive and several more have shown coronavirus-like symptoms.

 Open Source Textbooks Save Students $1 Billion:

USNS Comfort Arrives In New York Harbor

Via Reuters:

The USNS Comfort, a 1,000-bed U.S. Navy hospital ship, arrives in New York Harbor and docks on Manhattan’s west side after departing Norfolk, Virginia.
The Comfort will treat non-coronavirus patients, including those who require surgery and critical care, the Navy said.

Hospitals in New York City have been overrun with patients suffering from COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the virus.

‘Come Meet the Biggest Fool in America’

Conservative Jonathan V. Last, writing at The Bulwark, invites readers to Come Meet the Biggest Fool in America. In part of an email newsletter sent to subscribers today, Last rightly excoriates economist Richard Epstein for minimizing the risks from the coronavirus pandemic.

Last writes (yes, a pun) that

I mention all of this as a wind up to this extraordinary interview in the New Yorker with the Hoover Institution’s Richard A. Epstein.

On March 16, Epstein published a piece arguing that all existing COVID-19 models were fundamentally flawed because they failed to talk into account “standard Darwinian economics.” The result, Epstein concluded, was that the total number of deaths from the outbreak in the United States would be of the order of magnitude of 500.

I am not going to link to his original piece, because it is one of the most irresponsible essays I’ve ever seen from a serious person.

What I want to push you to, instead, is his interview, because in it he betrays a truly astonishing combination of ignorance and confidence.

He talks about “weak” and “strong” forms of the coronavirus. There is no “weak” or “strong” version of this virus.

He claims that the novel coronavirus “[tends] to weaken over time.” There is no evidence for this. None.

He claims there are no known examples of viruses which do not “weaken” over time. To pick just two: Neither SARS nor ebola have mutated over time in such a way as to weaken.

And over and over Epstein talks about his “sense” of this or his “sense” of that while making iron-clad predictions and dismissing modeling and science that he does not understand.

But what marks Epstein here most deeply isn’t that he’s wrong about so much of the basics of how infectious diseases work. It’s his total confidence that he has full command of all the relevant knowledge—that he cannot possibly be missing anything and that it is the entire rest of the world—almost literally everyone else on the planet who does this for a living—who is wrong. The hubris is breathtaking.

Toward the end of the interview Epstein tries to bluster his way out by saying that he’s willing to bet “a great deal of money” on his claims and that he’s willing to debate anyone, anywhere, at any time.

The problem, of course, is that math doesn’t care about debates.

In his original piece, Epstein asserted that the world would see roughly 50,000 deaths, total, from COVID-19 and the United States would see 500.

He later revised that figure, saying that while the global 50,000 would hold, the United States would see between 2,000 and 2,500 deaths.

As of this morning, we have 35,019 confirmed deaths globally and 2,513 deaths in America. Both figures are still accelerating.

Epstein says he wants to wager “a great deal of money” on his predictions. Well, whether he understands it or not, he wagered his career on them. And he’s already lost.

Indeed, after reading Epstein’s interview with the New Yorker, economist Justin Wolfers writes of Epstein: “I have never seen someone demolish a scholar’s reputation as savagely as Richard Epstein demolishing his own.”

Epstein’s seventy-six; he should have stopped writing no later than at age seventy-five.

Broadband Gaps

There’s a story over at Wisconsin Watch that reports on the broadband gap in rural Wisconsin communities. Peter Cameron reports Broadband gap leaves rural Wisconsin behind during coronavirus crisis (‘Wisconsin’s dearth of high-speed internet in rural areas makes virtual schooling, remote health care and working from home even more difficult’):

Already, Wisconsin lags behind the national average in broadband coverage. An estimated 43% of Wisconsin’s rural residents lack access to high-speed internet, compared to about 31% of rural residents nationwide, according to the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin.

“We have such a long ways to go,” said state Sen. Jeff Smith, a Democrat who has tried unsuccessfully to increase the state’s investment in broadband. “And now this is going to be one of the things that comes out of this (crisis) when we’re all done: ‘I guess we shouldn’t have dragged our feet for so long, and now we’d better get serious about it.’ ”

Whitewater from most rural communities because there is a university campus in town, and for many of the city’s residents who are students, broadband is simply an ordinary part of life. I’d guess – and only guess – that broadband is less common outside of the campus than some might think.

Some residents likely use mobile phones for internet access. The speed of local mobile connections, the data imitations on mobile plans, and the size of phone screens would mean that those residents’ internet experiences would look nothing that of others who use a dedicated broadband modem. I’m sensitive to this gap – there’s a profound difference between writing while using multiple connections & devices and thinking everyone else has that same experience. They certainly don’t. Whitewater is not a homogeneous community – it’s a small city of different, smaller communities, not all of whom have the same experiences.

There’s a way in which Old Whitewater likes to imagine – pretend, really – that they’re all of the town. They’re not – demographically, they’re not even all of the half of the non-student part of the town.

These years since the Great Recession have left many rural towns with uneven prospects, over-written statements from development men notwithstanding.