Lazy Caturday Reads

Otto Moller: White Red Black Cat

Good Morning!!

We’re heading into the long Labor Day weekend, as schools around the country prepare to reopen and flu season approaches. Schools that have already opened are fighting coronavirus outbreaks. In other words, a covid-19 perfect storm could be approaching.

The Washington Post: Coronavirus updates: Labor Day could fuel another rise in infections if people aren’t cautious, experts say.

Local officials and health experts say they worry that gatherings during Labor Day weekend — the first long weekend for students who have returned to classrooms across the country — could lead to a repeat of the national surge of coronavirus infections that followed Memorial Day if people don’t follow health guidelines.

This weekend presents challenges that didn’t exist earlier this summer, including schools resuming and a wider spread of infections overall, said Thomas Tsai, a researcher at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, who partnered with Google to publish a forecast model for infections.

The Old Actress, Max Beckman

“In some ways we’re entering Labor Day with a more volatile mix than we did before Memorial Day,” he said. “We have masks and treatment, but we’re starting with a much higher base of cases, and we’re still seeing new hot spots rise across the country.” [….]

Infections swept through the Sun Belt after Memorial Day, straining health-care systems in Texas, Florida, Arizona and other states as record numbers of people fell ill in those places. Tsai said the rise was attributable to a rushed reopening in Southern states where testing and contact tracing weren’t yet in place, inconsistent mask mandates and increased travel due to the holiday.

The Washington Post: Covid-19: A bad flu season colliding with the pandemic could be overwhelming.

Doctors and health officials are urging Americans to get vaccinated against influenza in record numbers this fall to avoid a dreaded scenario: flu colliding with a raging coronavirus pandemic.

They worry that tens of millions of ­flu-related illnesses could overwhelm hospitals, doctor offices and laboratories that test for both respiratory illnesses.

Symptoms of flu and covid-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, are similar.

“When someone presents to a physician with fever, cough, malaise, unless it’s one of the few things peculiar to covid-19, like a loss of smell, it’s hard to tell them apart when both are circulating in the community,” said Benjamin D. Singer, an assistant professor of medicine at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine and a pulmonary critical care specialist at Northwestern Memorial Hospital.

It doesn’t have to be this way. If people wear masks and follow social distancing recommendations, we could even reduce the number of flu cases.

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Still Life With Cat

“This fall and winter could be one of the most complicated public health times we have, with the two coming at the same time,” Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said in a recent interview on the JAMA network.

“On the other hand, I’m an optimist. If the American public heeds the advice that we said about face covering and the social distancing and the hand-washing and being smart about crowds, this could be one of the best flu seasons we have had,” Redfield said. “And particularly if they do one more thing, and that is to embrace the flu vaccine with confidence.”

Unfortunately, we’ve already seen that many people–particularly Trump cult members and some young people–aren’t going to bother with these prevention strategies.

The Washington Post: Experts project autumn surge in coronavirus cases, with a peak after Election Day.

Infectious-disease experts are warning of a potential cold-weather surge of coronavirus cases — a long-feared “second wave” of infections and deaths, possibly at a catastrophic scale. It could begin well before Election Day, Nov. 3, although researchers assume the crest would come weeks later, closer to when fall gives way to winter.

An autumn surge in covid-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, would not be an October surprise: It has been hypothesized since early in the pandemic because of the patterns of other respiratory viruses.

“My feeling is that there is a wave coming, and it’s not so much whether it’s coming but how big is it going to be,” said Eili Klein, an epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine….

By Ernst Ludwig Kirchner

Respiratory viruses typically begin spreading more easily a couple of weeks after schools resume classes. Although the pandemic has driven many school districts to remote learning, there is a broad push across the country to return to something like normal life.

The Labor Day holiday weekend is a traditional time of travel and group activities, and, like Independence Day and Memorial Day, could seed transmission of the virus if people fail to take precautions. And viruses tend to spread more easily in cooler, less humid weather, which allows them to remain viable longer. As the weather cools, people tend to congregate more indoors.

I plan to continue staying home most of the time and wearing my growing collection of masks anytime I leave my apartment. That’s not difficult for me, because I enjoy solitary activities like reading and I’m past the days when I enjoyed going to parties or otherwise mixing with large groups of people. But I’m worried about what is going to happen when kids return to school and bring home the virus to the older people they live with.

The fallout continues from the Atlantic article about Trump’s disrespect for the military. A couple of examples:

Bess Levin at Vanity Fair: Donald Trump, Human Parasite, Has Also Said Soldiers Missing In Action Should Be Left For Dead.

…shortly after The Atlantic story was published, the Washington Post reported that a former senior administration official confirmed that Trump regularly made disparaging comments about veterans, in addition to this choice take on soldiers missing in action:

In one account, the president told senior advisers that he didn’t understand why the U.S. government placed such value on finding soldiers missing in action because they had performed poorly and gotten caught and deserved what they got, according to a person familiar with the discussion.

Also, he thinks he deserves a badge of honor for making up a foot injury to get out of the draft:

Trump believed people who served in the Vietnam War must be “losers” because they hadn’t gotten out of it, according to a person familiar with the comments. Trump also complained bitterly to then Chief of Staff John F. Kelly that he didn’t understand why Kelly and others in the military treated McCain, who had been imprisoned and tortured during the Vietnam War, with such reverence. “Isn’t he kind of a loser?” Trump asked, according to the person familiar with Trump’s comments.

Girl with cat, by Paula Modersohn-Becker

NBC News: Trump often sees an American landscape of ‘losers’ and ‘suckers.’ Analysis: The Atlantic’s report that the president callously dismissed dead American soldiers stands to reinforce his past disregard for sacrifice.

It’s believable because Trump has called so many of his fellow Americans, including military veterans, suckers, losers and the like. The story challenges Trump’s political narrative that he is a winning deal-maker who is so infuriated by the sacrifices Americans have been forced to make — in misbegotten wars and bad trade deals — that he gave up his own comfortable lifestyle to stand in and fight on their behalf. In this telling, they are good people who deserve a selfless champion like him.

Giving up his private life netted Trump the most powerful office in the world. He characterizes that as sacrifice, but the personal payoff was huge.

If it’s true that Trump believes people who sacrifice the most for causes greater than themselves — soldiers who laid down their lives — are losers, what does he think of the many hardworking American doctors and nurses who rushed into hospitals to treat coronavirus victims? What does he think of the police officers whose public service he commends so often? What does he think of farmers who kept putting on “Make America Great Again” hats when his trade war with China squeezed their profits and forced the government to give them subsidies to continue operating?

Rep. Ruben Gallego, an Arizona Democrat and Harvard graduate who served in a Marine infantry battalion during the Iraq war, said Trump simply doesn’t get the concept of sacrifice for the greater good.

“The man has no honor, and can never understand the millions of men and women that serve with honor for their country,” Gallego told NBC News. “I served with and buried men that even in a thousand lifetimes Trump couldn’t come close to matching their honor, courage and commitment.”

Peter Strzok has a book coming out next week, and I think I might want to read it. The New York times: Ex-F.B.I. Agent in Russia Inquiry Says Trump Is a National Security Threat.

A former senior F.B.I. agent at the center of the investigations into Hillary Clinton’s email server and the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia defends the handling of the inquiries and declares President Trump a national security threat in a new memoir, while admitting that the bureau made mistakes that upended the 2016 presidential election.

Harijs Ebersteins, Portrait of an Elegant Lady with Her Black Cat

The former agent, Peter Strzok, who was removed from the special counsel’s team and later fired over disparaging texts he sent about Mr. Trump, has mostly kept silent as the president and his supporters have vilified him.

But Mr. Strzok’s new book, “Compromised,” a copy of which was obtained by The New York Times ahead of its publication on Tuesday, provides a detailed account of navigating the two politically toxic investigations and a forceful apologia of the bureau’s acts. Mr. Strzok also reveals details about the F.B.I.’s internal debate over investigating the president himself, writing that the question arose early in the Trump presidency and suggesting that agents were eyeing others around Mr. Trump. Mr. Strzok was himself at first opposed to investigating the president.

But in a scathing appraisal, Mr. Strzok concludes that Mr. Trump is hopelessly corrupt and a national security threat. The investigations that Mr. Strzok oversaw showed the president’s “willingness to accept political assistance from an opponent like Russia — and, it follows, his willingness to subvert everything America stands for.”

Mr. Strzok’s insider look serves as a counter to the efforts by Mr. Trump and his allies to discredit the Russia investigation. Attorney General William P. Barr has appointed a veteran prosecutor to review the conduct of the F.B.I., Mr. Strzok and others for possible misconduct and bias.

The Justice Department inspector general, Michael E. Horowitz, found the bureau had sufficient reason to open the inquiry and found no evidence of political bias.

Anne Applebaum interviewed Strzok at The Atlantic: ‘Who’s Putting These Ideas in His Head?’ The former FBI agent Peter Strzok worries that Americans will never learn the full story about Trump’s relationship with Russia.

Strzok has always argued that he, James Comey, and the rest of the FBI tried, from the beginning, to treat both of these cases apolitically: They were focused on following the law. But after the Department of Justice released some private texts in which he was critical of President Donald Trump, he was accused not just of bias, but of seeking to deliberately discredit the president. Strzok, who also worked on Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team in its early months, became a hate figure for everyone who sought to distract the public from the facts about Russia’s intervention and the Trump team’s eager embrace of it. “I have devoted my adult life to defending the United States, our Constitution, our government and all our citizens,” Strzok writes in the introduction to Compromised: Counterintelligence and the Threat of Donald J. Trump. “I never would have imagined—could not have imagined—that the president of the United States, the most powerful man in the world, would single me out with repeated attacks of treason, accusing me of plotting a coup against our government.”

Woman with a Siamese-Catm by-Kees Van Dongen

As I read Strzok’s book, I found myself unexpectedly angry, because his narrative exposes an extraordinary failure: Despite multiple investigations by the FBI, Congress, and Mueller’s team, Americans have still never learned the full story about the Trump campaign’s relationship with Russia or Trump’s own decades-long financial ties with Russia. Four years have passed since the investigation began. Many people have been convicted of crimes. Nevertheless, portions of reports produced by Mueller, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, and others remain redacted. Investigations are allegedly ongoing. Details remain secret. Meanwhile, valuable FBI time and money were spent investigating which email server Hillary Clinton used—a question that, as it turned out, had no implications for U.S. security whatsoever.

Strzok himself was not exactly reassuring: He does not believe that Trump’s true relationship with Russia was ever revealed, and he now worries that it won’t ever be. It’s not clear that anyone ever followed up on the leads he had, or completed the counterintelligence investigation he began. He doesn’t say this himself, but after speaking with him I began to wonder if this is the real reason the Department of Justice broke with precedent in his case by not just firing a well-respected FBI agent but publicly discrediting him too: Strzok was getting too close to the truth.

Head over to The Atlantic to read the interview.

Have a safe and enjoyable Labor Day weekend, Sky Dancers! Let’s hope Trump goes off to one of his golf courses and leaves us alone for a few days.

38 Comments on “Lazy Caturday Reads”

  1. bostonboomer says:

    From the Strzok interview:

    Applebaum: The issue in your book that bothered me the most was the imbalance of resources and attention in 2016 to the FBI’s counterintelligence investigation of Trump, and the FBI’s investigation of Clinton’s email. In your book, you make a striking observation: “If Clinton’s email had been housed on a State Department system, it would have been less secure and probably much more vulnerable to hacking than it was on her private server.” Yet you also say that the case involved dozens of talented people who could have been working on other, more important cases—like, for example, the investigation into the Trump campaign. It looks to me like the FBI gave this case such a high priority because of pressure from Congress.

    Strzok: Once we opened that investigation, which I think was a defendable decision, it was incumbent on us to do a thorough job. That’s true of every investigation. But in this case, we were looking at the presumptive Democratic nominee for the president of the United States, and we all knew this was going to be unpacked and disassembled, looked at up and down and back and forth.

    Applebaum: Exactly. You spent months focused on a secondary problem with no real national-security implications, because you knew that there would be scrutiny from the Republican media and the Republican Congress.

  2. bostonboomer says:

    The Guardian: Trump calls for Fox News journalist to be fired for report on war dead scandal.

    The Atlantic magazine published a story which described how Trump said he cancelled a visit to pay respects at an American military cemetery outside Paris in 2018 because he thought the dead soldiers were “losers” and “suckers”. Other outlets confirmed the news and detailed more incidents of Trump’s insulting attitude to American soldiers.

    Among those was the Fox News national security correspondent, Jennifer Griffin, who confirmed in a Twitter thread that Trump called soldiers “suckers”, had questioned why anyone would want to become a soldier and had not wanted to honor war dead at the Aisne-Marne cemetery in France.

    Amid furious denials of the story from the White House and Trump allies, Griffin’s reporting probably touched a nerve as it came from the usually reliably pro-Trump Fox News, whose conservative leanings and pro-Trump opinion show hosts are reliable cheerleaders for the president.

    In a tweet Trump said: “Jennifer Griffin should be fired for this kind of reporting. Never even called us for comment. Fox News is gone!”

    • dakinikat says:

      Most of the actual reporters at Fox probably don’t want to lose their credibility to always hyping Trump propaganda still. Not every one is right wing idiot shill like Tucker Carlson and Lou Dobbs.

    • NW Luna says:

      Trump’s attack on Griffin was a bridge too far for her colleagues, seven of whom took to Twitter over the weekend to defend her.

      “Jennifer @JenGriffinFNC is a great reporter and a total class act,” wrote Baier, the network’s chief political anchor.

      “Jennifer Griffin is the kind of reporter we all strive to be like,” said national correspondent Bryan Llenas. “She’s courageous, smart, ethical, fair and a class act. She’s earned the trust of viewers throughout a distinguished career and is credibile.”

      “@JenGriffinFNC is a terrific reporter and a wonderful colleague,” State Department correspondent Rich Edson wrote.

      “I’ll forever stand by @JenGriffinFNC,” said senior news producer Rocco Aloe.

      “Jennifer Griffin is all you want in a journalist and a friend,” wrote senior field producer Yonat Friling. “She’s smart, courageous, she strives for professionalism and the truth. I am so proud to be her colleague.”

  3. dakinikat says:

  4. Beata says:

    Exquisite paintings, BB! Art and cats, two of my favorite things.

    An alarming number of positive Covid tests are being reported here on campus. One fraternity has a 88% positivity rate. The university has been extremely irresponsible, putting the entire city at risk. Fall classes should have been online and students should have stayed home.

    Like so many people, I am staying inside most of the time and just going outside into the yard. We are having lovely weather. My SO does the shopping, etc.

    I urge everyone to get their flu shots this year. Take good care of yourselves! I will be getting my flu shot next week, earlier than usual.

    Have a peaceful weekend, Sky Dancers. I love you all.

    • bostonboomer says:

      I’m glad you liked the paintings, Beata. I heard yesterday that Indiana is opening bars soon. That is madness. Our governor says bars won’t open until there is a vaccine.

      • Beata says:

        Gov. Holcomb cares more about the economy than public heath. It is madness. Our Democratic mayor has done a fairly good job keeping the city from having a major Covid outbreak. His mother-in-law died of Covid a few months ago and both his wife and her brother were hospitalized with the virus. But the mayor can do very little to stop the university from infecting the rest of us. It’s a university town. They really run it.

  5. bostonboomer says:

    • Beata says:

      Keeping their tuition, of course! All universities should have had online courses only until there is a vaccine.

      • dakinikat says:

        There were tons of complaints that teaching on line wasn’t worth the tuition. Well, if the universities would have made sure their faculty and online platforms were ready they sure would be just as worth while as the students skip class all the time for ground courses and the enrollment levels are set lower for on line. Drives me nuts. As long as you have the right platform and the profs with good degrees and the ability to write curriculum handle that there really is not that much difference because classrooms are just like on line meetings and the interaction isn’t all that different.

        • Beata says:

          Totally agree, Dak. Most faculty I know wanted the university to be online only this year but the administration was opposed. And many students complained that being online robbed them of the “college experience” ( which mainly means partying until you pass out in your own vomit ). People are VERY angry at the administration and that includes faculty and staff. They and their families are at risk. It’s all about the money. That’s the sad truth.

          • Beata says:

            Of course, large outbreaks are happening in colleges and universities across the country. These are institutions of higher learning. They know better and they should do better. This did not need to happen.

          • NW Luna says:

            All in all, a good online course gives the student the same material as in person, and with less distraction. For adult students it saves the expense and time of commuting.

            If students are irresponsible enough to present health threats to others, they shouldn’t be at college.

          • quixote says:

            Have to argue with some of the points made here. I’ve been involved with developing and teaching online classes or classes with online components since the late 90s. So, from the beginning. I started out a 100% missionary for online ed. The more I worked with it, the less so.

            Yes, really good software tailored to the subject matter helps a lot, as does plenty of time for the teacher to engage with, tutor, help, and moderate the students. Administrators usually see online ed as a way to save money, when in reality it’s *more* expensive if done right, so usually there’s neither good software nor faculty time.

            Because of how humans process information, online study works best for advanced students who are filling in gaps in their knowledge. The closer to a beginner the student is, the worse the outcomes. Unavoidable consequence: not suited to schools for much at all, except for some subjects for some high school students. Doesn’t even work well in basic subjects for college students, at least not usually. (Excellent course design and lots of faculty time can compensate to some extent.)

            And, obviously, doesn’t work at all for anything with a practical component: biology labs, chemistry, physics, geology, microbiology, etc, etc, etc labs, performance arts, fine arts.

            Anyway, tl:dr; beautifully summarized in this drawing:

          • NW Luna says:

            Hmmm. All my experience with classes & online classes over the last 25 years has been at the graduate level. That, and being an introvert, may explain my opinion. I also hate team projects because in nearly all cases I can do them faster and better by myself. I must not be the typical student.

            I do agree that online classes demand more time from the instructor to do a good job.

          • quixote says:

            (Aargh. Can’t get the drawing to display. Working on it.)

            You and me both, Luna. And, no, very def not typical students! That’s why I used to be 100% in favor. But the more people-not-like-me I taught, the more it became clear that it wasn’t for everyone.

            Dakinikat, as an economics prof, a subject that’s a bit less hands-on than others, may well find online ed less frustrating.

          • quixote says:

            (Nope. Can’t get image. Uploaded to dakiniland. Could a kind mod get it into that comment?)

          • dakinikat says:

            Also, a lot of the on lines are all about funneling money to the overhead and not to actually finding teachers who have vast experience in their subject area and in curriculum development. Most have a number of advanced degrees on line and haven’t gone through the rigor of a doctorate program where they make you teach and those of us that teacher forever follow your ass until you do it right. I’ve been hoping that the stricter regs will help but the Betsy took over and who knows now? It could work but it’s really not a place for the best in brightest that I’ve found

          • Beata says:

            Q, I definitely agree about hard science classes requiring labs. From what I have heard from friends at universities that decided early on to go online, classes requiring labs are an exception and are being taught in-person. How exactly this works, I am not sure. The idea seems to be that these students are already used to wearing masks in class and are therefore more responsible. Is that assumption true? I don’t know.

            Some music classes could be taught online, I think. Ballet, probably not. Theater, maybe in some form. Fine arts could be, as long supplies are available. My mother was a professor of fine arts and I could see her teaching online if necessary.

            Are these options optimal? Maybe not but we are living in a time that requires adaptability and even sacrifice for the greater good, something few 18-21 years seem to know much about.

          • Beata says:

            Few 18-21 year olds is what I meant to say.

          • dakinikat says:

            All of the problems of both modalities tend to be with the administration imho.

          • quixote says:

            Yup. Admin is about 90% of the problem. Almost always.

  6. NW Luna says:

    If people wear masks and follow social distancing recommendations, we could even reduce the number of flu cases.

    Absolutely, BB! That would reduce the flu cases and the flu deaths, which number in the tens of thousands every year.

    • Beata says:

      For years, Asian students here have been wearing masks during flu season. They take viruses seriously.

      • quixote says:

        Re your question earlier about whether science students are sensible. Hysterical laughter. ‘Nuff said. The way they’re doing labs at the college I’m familiar with is they’re pretending to social distance while wearing masks. It’s not going to work. I give it 3 weeks at most before they have to go back to all-virtual.

        • Beata says:

          Yeah, when friends told me about how these labs were supposed to work, I admit I thought good luck with that!

  7. NW Luna says:

    Professor’s death after collapsing in virtual class is a ‘sad reminder that the virus is real,’ friend says

    About 40 students were watching Paola De Simone’s virtual lecture about 20th century world history when she stopped interacting with the slides. When they noticed the professor in distress and struggling to breathe, they asked for her address to call an ambulance, but she did not respond, Ana Breccia, who was participating in the virtual class at the time, told The Washington Post in a WhatsApp message on Friday. Breccia, 23, said at one point, De Simone seemed to contact her husband, and students stayed with her on the call until her husband arrived.

    The 46-year-old college professor, who taught at the Argentine University of Enterprise in Buenos Aires, died Wednesday, shortly after collapsing during the virtual class, according to Clarín, Argentina’s largest newspaper. The professor, whose Twitter account has since been deleted, had posted on Twitter last week that her coronavirus symptoms had persisted for weeks.

  8. NW Luna says:

  9. NW Luna says: