Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Europe, Before and During Coronavirus

European culture is undergoing a makeover. At the least, it should be. Writing in National Review Spanish journalist Itxu Diaz offers before and during pictures of European cultural concerns. What, he asks, did European intellectuals, media giants and even politicians think were important prior to the coronavirus pandemic? Has the virus held a mirror up to European culture, allowing its denizens to see themselves as the woke fools that they really are? We can always hope.

To be somewhat more charitable, we could say that coronavirus might be an occasion for Europe to come to its senses, to dispense with the woke stupidities it has been indulging and to take a tentative step toward reality.

Diaz explains:

A month ago, while the coronavirus was invading the Old Continent, we Europeans were busy with much more important matters than ‘a little flu.’ In early March, Spain’s Communist government was focused on passing its aberrant “sexual freedom law.” With a name like that, you might think that we Spaniards have been procreating by pollination for 2000 years. Meanwhile, the Swiss press, strangely enough, seemed intent on overthrowing the Spanish monarchy, as if we hadn’t had enough of church-burning and coldblooded murder at the hands of the Second Republic. And a few days earlier, on March 2nd, the big issue in Switzerland was a referendum to pass a law banning any comments or attitudes against gay-friendly policies. It brings to mind the warning that Gómez Dávila, Colombian intellectual, gave us towards the end of the 20th century: “Despite what they teach us today, easy sex isn’t the solution to all our problems.”

Fancy that, sexual freedom is not going to solve our problems. Diaz next takes a look around the rest of Europe. He finds that the media has been preoccupied with the rants of a seventeen-year old Swedish truant. Oh yes, the Dutch government was hard at work on a pro-euthanasia bill:

In Sweden, Germany, and half of Europe, the front-page news on March 7th was another issue: (again) Greta Thunberg’s statements about the need to impose measures that reward women over men. It was around those days that the Dutch government announced a bill that would allow the euthanasia of any elderly person “tired of living.” It comes as no surprise that the Netherlands doesn’t seem too concerned about this coronavirus business. The last we heard from Holland is that the official channels are telling people: “Don’t bring weak patients and old people to hospital.” Looks like they’re only interested in saving the lives of young people. I guess they’re more photogenic and look better on postcards of tulip fields.

And the European press was also debating another very, very important issue: whether and how transgender athletes could participate in the Olympics:

Also during the first week of March, almost the entire European press devoted rivers of ink to discussing whether two transgender athletes should compete in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics as men or women. One of Europe’s many progressive newspapers began this momentous debate thus: “Well into the 21st century, there is still much to be done on issues like racism, sexism and religion. And even on sexual identity.” These are classic phrases for an unserious mind; they never fail. If you want to know if someone is a charlatan, just listen out for the expressions, “Well into the 21st century” and, “There is still much to be done.”

Diaz next surveys the scene is Germany and Scotland:

In Germany, at the beginning of March, the controversy that dominated the nation was whether to erect a huge statue of Lenin in a small North Rhineland town. Interesting. Perhaps it was to scare the virus off. But Scotland is definitely my favorite. As the pandemic began to spread dramatically, the main debate in Scotland was the imperative need for a new government law to provide free tampons and sanitary pads. The issue went beyond Scotland and was the subject of some very intellectually dense op-eds in the broader European press. It was clear that the festival of incompetence and unicorn politics was to go on right up until the last minute before cataclysm.

As the epidemic was becoming a pandemic, where was the United Nations? You guessed it, the UN was leading the fight against the climate.

Diaz writes:

On March 10, with 118,100 diagnosed and 4,262 dead from coronavirus in Europe, the U.N. held a press conference . . . to commit to the political and economic fight against the climate emergency!


Thus, secretary-general Antonio Guterres trumpeted a report at us, saying that climate change acceleration will trigger heat and dengue deaths in Africa, and cause drought and flash floods in countries such as Spain, without explaining how it’s possible to die from thirst and drown at the same time.

The pandemic has discredited many pet leftist causes. Will the woke legions of the left learn the lesson. Will they recognize the extent to which their preoccupations were merely symptoms of their cultural decadence? And will they see the extent to which they are out of touch with reality?

In just ten days, we discovered that neither the tampon issue, nor the participation of transsexuals in the Olympic Games, nor the climate emergency were real problems, nor emergencies, nor anything of the sort. They were just fictitious problems, the pastimes of a generation that hadn’t known tragedy.

Of course, Diaz is reporting from Spain, now ruled by a Social Communist government. As you know, Spain counts among the nations that are leading the world in coronavirus deaths. How did the government help the virus to infect people? And, no, that sentence was not a mistake. Would you believe, the government told everyone to participate in a rally for feminism on March 8:

 But probably the most vile reaction has been that of the Social Communist government in Spain, which encouraged Spaniards to participate massively in the March 8 feminist rallies, the next day hiding reports that the coronavirus was already out of control in the country — something they may well have to answer for in court. Vice President Carmen Calvo said at the time that to attend the demonstrations was a moral obligation for all Spaniards: “what is at stake is the life” of many people.

The results should have been predictable:

She [Calvo] was referring to violence against women, I think. It goes to show that Sanchez’s government only tells the truth by accident. Yes, many people’s lives were at stake, as we have unfortunately found out. Now Calvo is recovering from coronavirus, as are most of the members of government who took part in the demonstrations. Of course, the Spanish do not seem to be worried about the government’s taking a few days holiday: It’s worse when they’re actually on the job. The government is currently returning 650,000 defective coronavirus tests bought a few days ago. The president appeared on TV to show them off last Saturday, saying: “These are approved tests and that is very important, very important.” They don’t work. They weren’t from an approved Chinese supplier. Spain has been ripped off. A joke going around here in Spain says: “I took the government’s coronavirus test and… it’s a girl!”

Diaz continues to note that France and Germany have been touting their ability to manage the crisis. And yet, it appears that both countries are lying about the number of cases of the virus. We are all appalled to know that China has been lying about the number of cases. We hear about it all the time in our media. But, France and Germany doing the same thing… who would have thought it:

Even so, until a few days ago, Germany and France both boasted about their good crisis management. However, the truth is that lying does not solve the problem: We now know that neither Germany nor France is counting the deaths from coronavirus that occur outside of hospitals, and that the Germans don’t call it “death from coronavirus” if the patient had a previous illness.

Apparently, Europe is not quite as great as it thinks. As Italy and Spain overtake China in coronavirus cases and in mortality, it could take a lesson from Diaz and remark that its jejune preoccupations, both cultural and political, signal nothing more than a failure to launch, a failure to grow up, a failure to function as adults. So, Europe is being offered the chance to see the absurdity of its past and to undertake a makeover.

Europe, whose nations had staked everything on an all-powerful state that could protect its citizens from all evil, has been cruelly disappointed. The future is uncertain. But what is certain is that death and poverty are two words that will stay with us for a long time. Europeans now miss having competent governments, cohesive civil societies, responsible economic administrations, and citizens capable of giving their lives for others — that is to say, citizens with values. The same values that were deliberately excluded in the European Constitution in order to please the extreme left-wing secularists.

Monday, March 30, 2020

The Decline and Fall of New York City

It’s a local sport, though it has recently lost its comedic edge. Will New York City survive? Joel Kotkin has asked the question in a searing column on the Big Apple, and we feel obliged, writing from our aerie, to address it. (via Maggie’s Farm)

On one side, New York City has become the epicenter of America’s fight against the coronavirus. Surely, it did not help that New York’s Mayor de Blasio recommended that city dwellers go on with their lives as though nothing were. On another front, he and New York’s governor have been emptying prisons… the better to save the lives of murderers and rapists… but also to put the rest of the city at risk.

New York’s amateur auxiliary police force, the Guardian Angels, had been out and around, and their leader Curtis Sliwa reports on some of what he has seen. Lisa Schiffren quotes Sliwa on her Facebook page:

The Guardian Angels have had to lockdown Penn Station. There are no police. Anarchy prevails. At the top of the escalators at 32nd and 7th Ave. 8 big guys , fresh outta of Rikers, are starting fights and shaking people down. 4 transgendered prostitutes, fresh outta Rikers, are doing tricks for a dollar in the men's room. The illegals who were not here last week have arrived. They don't have the money for their weekly rent for a room, and without work, they are out in the streets. They are from Peru, Ecuador and Mexico. They are armed with knives to protect themselves from the others. Then there are the EDP's, the drug addicts and alcoholics. Finally the elderly. Women and Men in their late 70's. It reminds me of what's it's like in Jail. And I know because I've been locked up. It's Bad and it's getting worse. There are no homeless outreach workers from the city. And there are no THRIVE men or women doing interventions for the mentally ill. It is ANARCHY.

So, policy counts. The leftist trend toward releasing prisoners, the better to lower the crime rate, seems to have accelerated during the pandemic, the better to increase the crime rate

But, there’s more. Since New York, Kotkin points out, is densely populated, it is a perfect breeding ground for the virus:

Pandemics naturally thrive most in big cities, where people live cheek by jowl and are regularly exposed to people from other regions and countries. Like COVID-19, the bubonic plague came to Europe on ships from the Orient, where the disease originated. As historian William McNeill noted, the plague devastated the cosmopolitan centers of Renaissance Italy far more than the backward reaches of Poland or other parts of central Europe.

Being away from people, driving around in your own car, and having neighbors you know, all have clear advantages when it comes to avoiding and surviving contagion. Even the urban cognoscenti have figured this out. Like their Renaissance predecessors during typhus and bubonic plague outbreaks, contemporary wealthy New Yorkers are retreating to their country homes where they struggle with the local townies over occasional short supplies of essentials.

The salient question is, will they want to come back to New York City after the virus has passed?

Besides, Kotkin notes, New York was experiencing difficulties before the virus arrived. Given that it is led by a radical leftist moron named Bill de Blasio, has a school system directed by an idiot of a chancellor named Richard Carranza, and has seen one of its districts represented in Congress by a notably ignorant bartendress named Alexandria, Ocasio-Cortez, it should come as no surprise. After all, electing AOC cost Queens its Amazon hub. Surely, this signalled that New York was in decline. 

In the long run, the extraordinary concentration of COVID-19 cases in New York threatens an economy and a social fabric that were already unraveling before the outbreak began. The city’s job growth rate has slowed and was slated to decline further, noted the New York City Independent Budget Office. Critically, New York’s performance in such high wage fields as business services, finance, and tech was weakening compared to other American metros. Half of all the city’s condos built since 2015 lie unsold as oligarchs, drug lords, celebrities, and others lose interest in luxury real estate now that cash, much of it from China, is drying up.

Importantly, Kotkin notes that average people have been fleeing America’s great cosmopolitan metropolises, New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco:

Even before the virus hit, large urban centers like New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago were losing population; over 90% of all population growth since 2010 had taken place in the suburbs or exurbs. Even millennials, as demonstrated in a Heartland Forward report, are moving away from the supposed “magnets” of New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago, to the sprawling cities and towns in the middle of the country. Renowned demographer William H. Frey of the Brookings Institution indicates that the greatest net migration losses in recent years has occurred in New York. The growth in the migration of such prized workers is now two to three times faster in Salt Lake City, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, and Grand Rapids than in regions around New York, Los Angeles, or Washington, D.C.

For young people, New York City is basically unaffordable. Evidently, young people seek out cities where they can mingle with their peers. The more their peers abandon the Big Apple, the less attractive it will appear to be. Besides, telecommuting has now become more and more normal, so why would you pay New York rents when you can pay Nashville rents and still do your New York job. Then again, now long will it be before New York banks relocate many of their operations to more tax friendly states:

 New technologies make it increasingly easy for companies to work far from the dense megacities and will get a further boost from the coronavirus—which underlines the dangers of crowded urban spaces to workers and companies alike, while further normalizing the virtual office. The experience of a quarantined telecommuting workforce will likely give added momentum to a process that one British writer has described as “counter-urbanization.” For firms connected by the internet, it increasingly makes sense to locate in suburban regions and smaller towns that are generally safer, cleaner, and less expensive than big cities.

Perhaps more importantly, New York City suffers from an extreme of inequality. As I have noted, 1% of the population pays 40% of the taxes. In no world is that sustainable: mainly because the hyperrich will eventually get tired of seeing their tax dollars misused.

Surely, New York’s failing educational system, the one that makes it impossible to send children to public schools, thus forcing parents to choose expensive private schools or to move out of the city, contributes mightily to the loss of a middle class:

In the vision of the late Jane Jacobs, New York served as a place of opportunity for the middle and working classes. But this role has diminished markedly over the last 30 years. In the 1980s and ’90s, deregulation helped expand the city’s financial industry, attracting a massive influx of capital and talent. Yet as e-finance and business services burgeoned, the economic diversity once provided by older industries, notably manufacturing and local retail, slowly evaporated.

And then there were the politicians. Under Rudy Giuliani and Michael Bloomberg New York seemed to be making a comeback. And yet, Bloomberg’s luxury city policy ultimately aggravated the wealth differentials.

Under Rudy Giuliani, the city overcame the violence and disorder that made it seem utterly ungovernable in the 1970s. By being willing to take on public employees, advocacy groups, and the media, Giuliani helped make the city a safer and somewhat more efficient place; a net positive to most New Yorkers.

Michael Bloomberg, Giuliani’s mayoral successor, built on these achievements, but with a distinctly more elitist focus: Bloomberg’s vision was of a “luxury city” concentrated in Manhattan and fashionable parts of Brownstone Brooklyn—a city for billionaires like himself.

This approach may have worked well for New York’s elites, but that can’t be said for a large portion of the city. Today the top 1% in New York are taking in over 40% of the city’s income—about double the top 1-percenter income share nationally in the United States—while much of the city’s population find themselves left behind. Even the epicenter of gentrification, Brooklyn, actually got poorer in the first decade of the new millennium.

Of course, the wild wealth disparities in New York contribute to the rising crime rate. People on the bottom rungs of the income ladder cannot reasonably believe that they can attain to what the 1% has. They cannot reasonably remain in New York and live a productive middle class life. So they resort to crime, to taking what others have. Or else, they vote for politicians who promise to impose punitive taxation on the rich.

This reflected in large part a precipitous fall in middle income jobs—those that pay between 80% and 200% of the median income. Over the past 20 years, such jobs barely grew in New York, while such employment soared 10 times as quickly in Texas cities and throughout much of the South and Intermountain West. Of the estimated 175,000 net new private sector jobs created in the city since 2017, fewer than 20% are paying middle-class salaries. Amid enormous wealth, some 40% of working families now basically live at or near the poverty line. For most New Yorkers, the “luxury city” was not glamorous, but more resembled a version of Detroit—a place largely without hope. In the process, the primarily middle-class New York I knew as a young man has slowly evaporated. Since the 1970s, the middle orders’ share of the city population declined from more than 60% to 48%. Economic research shows this decline to be among the fastest in the country. While Bloomberg’s “luxury” city thrived, poverty became more entrenched and evident. As The Atlantic recently noted, Manhattan now suffers conditions where “the homeless shelters are full, and the luxury skyscrapers are vacant.”

And now, New York City is suffering under Bill de Blasio. I quote Kotkin’s analysis at length… not least because he is, as I understand it, a Democrat:

Bloomberg’s successor, Bill de Blasio, who ran against the notion of “two New Yorks,” ultimately managed to only accelerate the city’s social unraveling. De Blasio’s policies on policing, notably bail reform, have engendered a noticeable rise in crime, including on the subways. If the virus doesn’t get you on your evening commute, it’s possible that a mugger will.

The spread of contagions in a starkly divided city, lacking the glue of its formerly tenacious and now greatly embattled middle class, will be accelerated by the growth of the homeless population on New York’s streets. These populations—exposed to the elements and living in often crowded, unhygienic conditions—can be breeding grounds for rats and all sorts of diseases, some of them distinctly medieval, such as typhus, and many of which will arguably be far more dangerous than coronavirus.

As working parents fear sickness and crime, the prospects for their children have been further eroded by de Blasio’s systematic, ideologically driven assault on the city’s education system. Charter schools, critical to retaining middle- and working-class families, are getting steamrolled by teachers unions and city administrators. The biggest losers here are usually innercity poor children, of which nearly 70% are black and Hispanic. At the same time, the mayor, along with New York City Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza, have been working assiduously—in the name of racial justice—to undermine the merit-based schools like Stuyvesant and Bronx Science, which remain magnets for primarily working-class Asian children. Equally critical is the fact that the city’s once thriving Catholic schools, long a bastion of working-class upward mobility, face rapidly declining enrollments. The assault on the city’s schools by the mayor makes it far less attractive both to middle-class residents and to businesses.

Put it all together, and it is difficult to see how New York City survives in its current form. Pandemic or not, the conditions for New York’s decline and fall have been developing for quite some time now. It’s less a question of whether than of when… New York ceases to become the world class city it once was.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Treating the Coronavirus

For those who are tracking the progress of treatments for the coronavirus, here is a recent scientific paper on the use of that anti-malarial drug… from French physicians. One understands that since President Trump touted the value of hydroxychloroquine, certain governors want to ban its use as a treatment.

Anyway, here is the paper’s title.

And, here is the summary of the results:

We need an effective treatment to cure COVID-19 patients and to decrease the virus carriage duration. In 80 in-patients receiving a combination of hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin we noted a clinical improvement in all but one 86 year-old patient who died, and one 74 yearold patient still in intensive care unit. A rapid fall of nasopharyngeal viral load tested by qPCR was noted, with 83% negative at Day7, and 93% at Day8. Virus cultures from patient respiratory samples were negative in 97.5% patients at Day5. This allowed patients to rapidly de discharge from highly contagious wards with a mean length of stay of five days. We believe other teams should urgently evaluate this cost-effective therapeutic strategy, to both avoid the spread of the disease and treat patients as soon as possible before severe respiratory irreversible complications take hold. 

Searching for Meaning in the Time of Pandemic

Since David Brooks has set out to discover the meaning of it all, especially the meaning of the pandemic, we should know, to a high degree of certainty, that we should not go searching for the meaning of a disease.

Didn’t Susan Sontag say as much in her book Illness as Metaphor? As Ian Buruma reminds us, Sontag pointed out that once you start making illness meaningful, once you fold it into a guilt-punishment narrative, you will start thinking that you can stop it by inflicting punishment on those responsible.

There has always been a strong temptation among humans to lay the blame for epidemics on more fanciful things than fleas, rats or other carriers of deadly viruses. The idea of divine punishment is almost invariably lurking in the background. The Black Death was seen by many Christians in Europe as divine retribution for human greed, fornication and blasphemy. But usually punishment falls on one’s enemies. God punished the Egyptians with 10 plagues because they refused to liberate the Jews.

Today, everyone considers that China is at fault. And certainly China bears considerable responsibility. Wuhan officials failed to understand the virus and did not take early action against it. And yet, we ought at the least to be able to distinguish between errors made by bureaucrats and an intentional act to infect the populations of both China and the world. To say, as one thinker has, that China is an arsonist, is to say that that nation  intentionally sent the virus to invade the West. 

The alternative, which we have discussed in prior posts and which we will discuss in subsequent posts, has it that Western Civilization is engaged in competition with China and the East, for civilizational dominance. In the matter of the invasion of the West and the will to destroy it, examine the effect of Muslim migration in Western Europe.

Buruma is correct to warn us against this effort to fold the virus into a narrative. If only because, those who are consumed by a narrative tend to set out to affix blame and to punish. This makes them inferior competitors. And when they fail to stop the virus by their punishment regime, they have a serious problem.

Thus, Buruma says:

President Trump and some of his allies have made a point of calling the coronavirus a “Chinese virus,” the “Wuhan virus” or, simply, a “foreign virus.” Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas even suggested the Chinese had devised the virus as a biological weapon. They would like us to believe that the disease is like a foreign invasion, an alien attack on the people of the United States.

The reality of the virus is biomedical. And the response involves government and business. The role of a leader is to take charge of the situation. In New York City the mayor and the medical authorities were telling people to go out and socialize, to have a good time. Will anyone hold them responsible for the fallout of that advice? On the other hand, New York’s governor Cuomo has inspired some level of confidence, if only because he appears to be in charge of the situation.

In truth, President Trump has inspired some confidence for putting himself in front of the pandemic, by facing the press every day. Much has been made of the lack of equipment needed to fight the virus, but we are beginning to learn that government bureaucracies at the CDC and the FDA have been slow to move against the virus.

As for the Democrats, they have been doing everything in their power to render the Trump administration ineffective and dysfunctional. At the time when the  coronavirus first appeared in China, the Democratic Congress was mired in its impeachment hoax, a wasteful and useless exercise in political posturing.

As for President Trump, his Achilles heel is as it always has been: poor communication skills. Trump thinks out loud, and thus confuses people and the situation. Opining about a quarantine for New York and surrounding states was simply irresponsible, suggesting poor communication skills. 

Anyway, those are what matters, in civilizational competition and crisis management,

Brooks, who pretends to be a moral philosopher, but who is, in his own words, a “narcissistic blowhard” wants to fold it all into a theological narrative of suffering and redemption.

The reason, he whines, is that it would otherwise all be meaningless. I would note that the solution to the crisis lies in science and in social organization, not in concocting a new guilt-punishment narrative. The latter counts as a distraction, or it harkens back to an old time when we did not have science-- as in the time of the bubonic plague. We know how that worked out.

Examine what Brooks says:

It can all seem so meaningless. Some random biological mutation sweeps across the globe, murdering thousands, lacerating families and pulverizing dreams.

Life and death can seem completely arbitrary. Religions and philosophies can seem like cruel jokes. The only thing that matters is survival. Without the inspiration of a higher meaning, selfishness takes over.

Of course, this is mental drool. One can certainly prescribe a higher meaning, but the alternative is not selfishness, but science and organization.

The word “meaning” is anything but redolent of meaning. It is used and misused by thinkers large and small. One does well not to compare the current crisis to the Holocaust, so naturally Brooks does so. He quotes survivor Viktor Fankl:

Viktor Frankl, writing from the madness of the Holocaust, reminded us that we don’t get to choose our difficulties, but we do have the freedom to select our responses. Meaning, he argued, comes from three things: the work we offer in times of crisis, the love we give and our ability to display courage in the face of suffering. The menace may be subhuman or superhuman, but we all have the option of asserting our own dignity, even to the end.

Obviously, we have far more freedom of action today than we would have if we were locked up on a concentration camp. 

But, Brooks is not finished drooling. He wants us all to tell better stories. In particular, he wants us to see suffering as the royal road to redemption. Again, this is theology. Take it for what it’s worth. At the very least, it ought to take place within the context of a religious institution. Still, we are not going to manage the crisis or to compete against China by telling stories. 

I’d add one other source of meaning. It’s the story we tell about this moment. It’s the way we tie our moment of suffering to a larger narrative of redemption. It’s the way we then go out and stubbornly live out that story. The plague today is an invisible monster, but it gives birth to a better world.

In fact, we do not know whether or not the plague will give birth to a better world. Seeing such an outcome as inevitable might very well distract us from the task of building such a world. 

Now, Brooks is correct to note that a divided nation, a nation where politics has become a blood sport will have trouble organizing to fight a plague.He suggests that we define ourselves too much by our careers, when the truth is probably that we do not value work sufficiently. We are too busy telling stories and getting in touch with our feelings.

As for his point that the plague might produce new social organizations, it contains a germ of truth, as long as we do not believe that this requires creativity. It requires efficient management, but it also requires, as noted in the case of Italy, a population that is willing to obey the dictates of authority.

This particular plague hits us at exactly the spots where we are weakest and exposes exactly those ills we had lazily come to tolerate. We’re already a divided nation, and the plague makes us distance from one another. We define ourselves too much by our careers, and the plague threatens to sweep them away. We’re a morally inarticulate culture, and now the fundamental moral questions apply.

In this way the plague demands that we address our problems in ways we weren’t forced to before. The plague brings forth our creativity. It’s during economic and social depressions that the great organizations of the future are spawned.

But, Brooks cannot resist the temptation to say something that is truly dopey. He suggests that we find solace in the fact that people around the world can now sing and dance together:

Already, there’s a new energy coming into the world. The paradigmatic image of this crisis is all those online images of people finding ways to sing and dance together across distance.

Those videos call to mind that moment of Exodus when Miriam breaks into song. “It is the dance that generates the light,” Avivah Gottlieb Zornberg writes, “the women produce an energy in the light of which all participate equally in the presence of God.”

One might also evoke another festive moment in the Bible, in Exodus, 32, when the Israelites, led by Moses's brother Aaron, backslid into pagan idolatry and produce festivities around a golden calf. When Moses saw that people were running wild and had become a laughing stock, he destroyed the golden calf. Eventually, God sent a plague to punish those who had strayed from the monotheistic faith.

Anyway, what we need to recover is the sense of belonging to one nation, and to feel proud to belong to one nation. This requires small gestures of care and concern. It does not require what Brooks calls deep conversations about profound metaphysical matters:

I was on another Zoom call with 30 Weavers, and each one of them had begun some new activity to serve their neighbors. One lady was passing out vegetable seeds so families could plant their own vegetable gardens. Others are turning those tiny front-yard libraries into front-yard pantries. Some people are putting the holiday lights back up on their houses just to spread some cheer. You can share your social innovation here.

There’s a new introspection coming into the world, as well. Everybody I talk to these days seems eager to have deeper conversations and ask more fundamental questions:

Are you ready to die? If your lungs filled with fluid a week from Tuesday would you be content with the life you’ve lived?

Do you believe that envisioning your lungs filling with fluid will provide inspiration or meaning?

Here is his conclusion:

So, yes, this is a meaningful moment. And it is this very meaning that will inspire us and hold us together as things get worse. In situations like this, meaning is a vital medication for the soul.

This is obviously blather, purported to be profound. Since Brooks does not know what meaning is, and certainly does not know the meaning of meaning, we can only suspect that it involves something theological, like redemption. Don't worry about dying, don't worry about the end of civilization as we know it: you are on your way to Heaven.

While this shift in focus might work for Brooks, who has a job that seems not to be affected by the pandemic, it will be cold comfort to those who have lost their jobs. 

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Is Biden Going Down?

Tara Reade’s account of being sexually assaulted by Joe Biden has been gaining some traction. Given Biden’s doddering performance as the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, many Bernie supporters have been leading the charge against him. They do not want to nominate another loser to run against Donald Trump.

Among the great ironies of the situation is the simple fact that Biden has led the political charge against sexual harassment. He has promoted the idea, appealing because it does not require anyone to reason, is that we should always believe women. We tried to contact Emmett Till for a reaction. So far, he hasn’t gotten back to us.

Anyway, Robby Soave explains the Biden hypocrisy (via Maggie’s Farm). One doubts that mere hypocrisy will hurt his chances in a political party now defined by sanctimonious hypocrisy:

When it comes to #MeToo sexual misconduct issues, former Vice President Joe Biden, the Democratic Party's presumptive 2020 presidential nominee, has made it no secret where he stands: automatically believe women.

"For a woman to come forward in the glaring lights of focus, nationally, you've got to start off with the presumption that at least the essence of what she's talking about is real," said Biden during the confirmation hearings for Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who faced accusations that as a teenager he had assaulted a woman at a party.

As vice president, Biden played an important role in the Obama administration's efforts to compel colleges and universities to take sexual violence more seriously—and to adopt policies that limited the due process rights and presumption of innocence for the accused. In recent years, his rhetoric on these issues has been in lockstep with #MeToo activists.

For those who did not watch the Reade interview, posted here yesterday, Emily Jashinsky has kindly transcribed it verbatim in The Federalist:

[She] called me in and said, ‘I want you to take this to Joe. He wants it. He wants you to bring it, hurry.’ And I said, ‘Okay,’ and it was a gym bag. She said ‘take the gym bag.’ She called it athletic bag. And she said he was down towards the Capitol and he’ll meet you. So I went down, and I was heading down towards there. And he was at first talking to someone, I could see him at a different distance and then they went away. And then we were in like this side area. And he just said, ‘Hey, come here, Tara.’ And then I handed him the thing and he greeted me, he remembered my name. And then we were alone, and it was the strangest thing. There was no exchange really. He just had me up against the wall. And I was wearing a skirt and, you know, business skirt, but I wasn’t wearing stockings. It was kind of a hot day that day and I was wearing heels. And I remember my legs had been hurting from the marble, you know of the Capitol, like walking. So I remember that kind of stuff. I remember I was wearing a blouse and he just had me up against the wall. And the wall was cold. It happened all at once. The gym bag, I don’t know where it went. I handed it to him, was gone. And then his hands were on me and underneath my clothes. He went down my skirt, but then up inside it, and he penetrated me with his fingers. He was kissing me at the same time and he was saying something to me. He said several things, and I can’t remember everything. I remember a couple of things. I remember him saying first before, like, as he was doing it, ‘Do you want to go somewhere else?’ And then him saying to me when I pulled away, he got finished doing what he was doing, and I kind of was pulled back and he said, he said, ‘Come on, man. I heard you liked me.’ And that phrase stayed with me because I kept thinking, what I might have said, and I can’t remember exactly if he said ‘I thought ‘or if ‘I heard’ but it’s like he implied like that I had done this like, I don’t know. And for me, it was like everything shattered in that moment because I knew we alone. It was over, right? He wasn’t trying to do anything more. But I looked up to him. He was like my father’s age. He was this champion of women’s rights in my eyes, and I couldn’t believe what was happening. It seemed surreal. I just felt sick because he, when he pulled back, he looked annoyed. And he said, something else to me that I don’t want to say.* And then he said, I must have looked shocked, and he grabbed me by the shoulders. I don’t know how I looked, but I must have looked something because he grabbed me by the shoulders and he said, ‘You’re okay, you’re fine. You’re okay, you’re fine. ‘ And then he walked away and he went on with his day. And what I remember next is being in the Russell building, like where the big windows are, in the stairs by myself. My body, I was shaking everywhere because, it was cold all of a sudden, I was, I don’t know, I felt like I was shaking just everywhere, and I was trying to grasp what had just happened and what I should do, or what I should say. But I knew it was bad because he was so angry. Like when he left, I could feel, you know how when you know someone’s angry, they don’t necessarily say anything. Like he smiles when he’s angry. And you can just feel it emanating from him.