Trump And Nuclear Secrets-A-Lago

Peace in the Valley

It would be irresponsible not to speculate, right?

First: in case you missed it…

Devlin Barrett and Carol Leonnig report:

A document describing a foreign government’s military defenses, including its nuclear capabilities, was found by FBI agents who searched former president Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence and private club last month, according to people familiar with the matter, underscoring concerns among U.S. intelligence officials about classified material stashed in the Florida property.

Some of the seized documents detail top-secret U.S. operations so closely guarded that many senior national security officials are kept in the dark about them. Only the president, some members of his Cabinet or a near-Cabinet-level official could authorize other government officials to know details of these special-access programs, according to people familiar with the search, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe sensitive details of an ongoing investigation.

(click here to continue reading Material on foreign nation’s nuclear capabilities seized at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago – The Washington Post.)

What it is

Wikipedia lists eight countries with nuclear weapons in their own arsenal, US, Russia, United Kingdom, France, China, India, Pakistan and North Korea. Israel is probably the ninth, but refuses to publicly comment. There are also nations that allow other countries to store nuclear weapons1 though this is probably not as valuable information to sell, as presumedly the nation hosting the weapons already knows about it. 

Oh sure, why else would Trump want such a document? He’s long been known both as averse to reading and pro “transactional”. He wouldn’t have undertaken the effort and risk to evade government safeguards to steal all these sensitive documents without having a plan for selling the information in the future. He didn’t steal thousands of pages just to read them at his leisure.

So which country is this about? And who is the potential purchaser? Per the clues in the above cited Washington Post article and elsewhere, probably not the United States.

Putin would probably pay a lot to know what the US knows about Russia’s nuclear archive, and would probably like to know about all the other nuclear powers too.

China, the same. Are there US nukes on Taiwan still?

I don’t think the UK or France would be in the market for info on other nuclear powers, the US remains their ally, and the US has plenty of intelligence it shares with allies.

I’m not sure Trump knows much about Pakistan and India, nor would he have learned much over the years.

North Korea is certainly a prime Trump partner, they would find some way to pay Trump for information about all other nuclear states.

Israel is a very likely subject, there are plenty of potential purchasers for information about Israel’s nukes: every wealthy Middle Eastern kingdom, Syria, Russia, Egypt, plus many more.

Will we ever know? If Trump’s bumbling lawyers keep bumbling, maybe? 

Footnotes:
  1. Italy, Germany, who knows where else []

One China Policy Is Polite Fiction

Up To 10-1-11, Number of People Dump Chinese Communist Party

One China Policy is polite fiction, at best. A nation of millions simply does not vanish because their antagonistic neighbor wants them to.

The island democracy governs itself, but China claims it as its territory. Rumors of Pelosi’s visit launched a geopolitical firestorm amid escalating tensions between the U.S. and China.

The Taiwanese government has operated separately from the mainland since nationalists fled there after losing the civil war to communists in 1949. Thirty years later, the U.S. switched diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing, adopting what’s known as the “One China” policy, in which Washington acknowledges Beijing’s position that Taiwan is a part of China. However, the U.S. has never supported China’s claim of sovereignty over Taiwan and maintains a substantial, though unofficial, relationship with the island.

Pelosi penned an opinion piece published by the Washington Post upon her arrival citing the Taiwan Relations Act as establishing a commitment to Taiwan’s democracy and defense, adding, “We must stand by Taiwan, which is an island of resilience.” She said Taiwan is under threat by the government in Beijing economically, in cyberspace, and potentially by military force.

By law, the U.S. is obligated to provide Taiwan with weapons and services. But the U.S. policy of “strategic ambiguity” keeps open the question of whether it would intervene in the case of a military invasion by China. The Biden administration has been accused of mixed messaging on this, after Biden said on multiple occassions that the U.S. would come to Taiwan’s defense; a sentiment the White House walked back.

The Chinese government remains adamantly opposed to any official exchanges between Taiwan’s government and other foreign governments, and views official American contact with Taiwan as an indication of support for its independence.

(click here to continue reading House Speaker Nancy Pelosi lands in Taiwan : NPR.)

Bank of China

The issue, besides military posturing, is economics. American businesses rely heavily upon both China and Taiwan, any additional escalation will be devastating to economies of the world. 

From the People’s Republic of China perspective, One China policy is akin to Putin’s One Russia policy, namely that everywhere Russia once held territory, it should take it back, by force if necessary. The PRC hated Hong Kong when it has democracy so took action to crush independent Hong Kong, and hates that Taiwan is thriving capitalist democracy right across the Taiwan Strait. There is real danger that the PRC has plans to invade Taiwan, or otherwise attack it, and they should be stopped.

 

From Speaker Pelosi’s OpEd:

Today, America must remember that vow. We must stand by Taiwan, which is an island of resilience. Taiwan is a leader in governance: currently, in addressing the covid-19 pandemic and championing environmental conservation and climate action. It is a leader in peace, security and economic dynamism: with an entrepreneurial spirit, culture of innovation and technological prowess that are envies of the world.

Yet, disturbingly, this vibrant, robust democracy — named one of the freest in the world by Freedom House and proudly led by a woman, President Tsai Ing-wen — is under threat.
In recent years, Beijing has dramatically intensified tensions with Taiwan. The People’s Republic of China (PRC) has ramped up patrols of bombers, fighter jets and surveillance aircraft near and even over Taiwan’s air defense zone, leading the U.S. Defense Department to conclude that China’s army is “likely preparing for a contingency to unify Taiwan with the PRC by force.”

The PRC has also taken the fight into cyberspace, launching scores of attacks on Taiwan government agencies each day. At the same time, Beijing is squeezing Taiwan economically, pressuring global corporations to cut ties with the island, intimidating countries that cooperate with Taiwan, and clamping down on tourism from the PRC.

In the face of the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) accelerating aggression, our congressional delegation’s visit should be seen as an unequivocal statement that America stands with Taiwan, our democratic partner, as it defends itself and its freedom.

(click here to continue reading Opinion | Nancy Pelosi: Why I’m leading a congressional delegation to Taiwan – The Washington Post.)

Benevolent Ass N

The PRC cannot back down at the moment due to domestic politics, but let’s all hope1 that cooler heads prevail. Not many truly want a war in Asia. A more likely outcome will be military displays off the coast of Taiwan and bluster. And bluster. And bluster…

Pentatonic Performer (Probably)

The Guardian U.K.

China has strongly objected to Pelosi’s visit, with a foreign ministry spokesperson warning on Tuesday afternoon that the US would be “held liable and pay the price for hurting China’s sovereignty and security interests”.

“Faced with reckless US disregard of China’s repeated and serious representations, any countermeasures taken by the Chinese side will be justified and necessary,” said Hua Chunying.

Earlier on Tuesday, Reuters reported several Chinese warships and planes had travelled near the median line – an unofficial border between China and Taiwan in the Taiwan strait. Citing unnamed sources, the report said the vessels had been in the area since Monday, while the latest flights occurred on Tuesday morning, prompting Taiwan’s air force to scramble its aircraft in response.

Taiwan’s defence ministry has earlier reportedly adjusted and strengthened its military’s combat readiness in response to the threat of China. According to the public broadcaster CNA, it had not formally changed the readiness level, which relates to two stages: the current regular staging, and wartime.

On Chinese social media on Tuesday there were multiple photos of dozens of tanks and other military vehicles on the streets in Xiamen, a Chinese city five kilometres across the water from the Taiwan island of Kinmen.

(click here to continue reading Taiwan and China step up military rhetoric as expected Pelosi visit looms | Taiwan | The Guardian.)

Footnotes:
  1. yes, yes, hope is not a plan []

Jan. 6 Hearing in Prime Time

No Puppet!

I am looking forward to this season finale of the Jan 6 Committee. Hope there is a second season airing this fall…

The NYT reports:

The House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol will hold its next public hearing on Thursday, returning to prime time for the eighth in a series of hearings that began in June.

The committee has spent more than a year investigating the events surrounding the riot. The forthcoming hearing is expected to focus on the 187 minutes during which President Donald J. Trump stood by while a mob of his supporters overran the Capitol, resisting repeated calls from those in his inner circle to tell the rioters to stand down.

(click here to continue reading How to Watch Tonight’s Jan. 6 Hearing in Prime Time – The New York Times.)

Alan Dershowitz’s Martha’s Vineyard Cancellation

Vineyard Coast

If you haven’t had an opportunity to read Isaac Chotiner’s interview with noted narcissist, flim-flam man, Alan Dershowitz, you should do so. I point out that The New Yorker still is the gold standard for fact checking, which is important to remember as you encounter the many parenthetical asides that seem to contradict Mr. Dershowitz’s fables of self-regard.

Isaac Chotiner, The New Yorker:

Alan Dershowitz became one of the most famous lawyers in America by representing high-profile clients such as Jeffrey Epstein, Mike Tyson, and O. J. Simpson, and enmeshing himself in political debates on subjects such as torture and the Israeli occupation. (He has defended both.) In recent years, however, his career has taken even more controversial turns, notably his public campaign against the Mueller investigation and his decision to join President Trump’s legal team. In 2019, Connie Bruck profiled Dershowitz for The New Yorker, and looked into allegations that he had sexually abused Virginia Giuffre, who was trafficked by Epstein. (Dershowitz denies the accusations.)

Dershowitz has lately been going on television and Twitter to discuss cancel culture, specifically how he has been shunned on Martha’s Vineyard, his longtime summer getaway. He even released the text of what he said was an e-mail from someone who had been beaten up on the beach for reading one of his books. I recently spoke by phone with Dershowitz, an emeritus professor of law at Harvard and the author of the new book “The Price of Principle: Why Integrity Is Worth the Consequences.” It was released last week and happens to be about the very subject of the e-mail he received: cancel culture, and an unwillingness to hear differing opinions. (He describes the book as “the story of my cancellation.”) During our conversation, which has been edited for length and clarity, we discussed what has happened to his social life since he defended Donald Trump, his fallout with Larry David, and why he compared the January 6th committee to McCarthyism.

(click here to continue reading Alan Dershowitz’s Martha’s Vineyard Cancellation | The New Yorker.)

Delightful.

Gov. Greg Abbott did not attend funerals for any of the Uvalde shooting victims

Dome of Texas Capitol Building - Ektachrome Holga

Governor Greg Abbott is as cold a human being in real life as he appears on television – cares for nobody, nobody cares much for him. If Texas is lucky, Abbott won’t win his re-election, but nobody is holding their breath. This is Texas after all.

Ariana Garcia, Chron reports:

Gov. Greg Abbott did not attend a single funeral for any of the 19 children or two teachers killed mass shooting at Robb Elementary School shooting in Uvalde, Texas on May 24, according to his schedule, which was obtained through an open records request by ABC News.

Abbott’s schedule from May 25 to June 14 indicates that his last visit to Uvalde was on June 5 to attend a community worship event at the Uvalde County Fairplex. However, missing from the schedule is any mention of Uvalde victim funerals. The last funeral held in Uvalde for victims was on June 16, when 11-year-old Layla Salazar was laid to rest.

“I don’t want this to sound like some political assault on him, but at the end of the day he hasn’t been there since Day 5, when the president came… We had a failed response on giving resources to families,” [state Sen. Roland] Gutierrez said. “He did not go to one single funeral—and quite honestly, many of the families didn’t want him there.”

Gutierrez’s statements align with recent statements from some of the shooting victims’ families. During a July 13 news conference, Angel Garza, father of 10-year-old victim Amerie Jo Garza, alleged that “since this happened, Gov. Abbott has yet to reach out.” Garza added that Sen. Ted Cruz, who also attended some prayer vigils for victims, similarly failed to reach out to victims’ families.

(click here to continue reading Gov. Greg Abbott did not attend funerals for any of the Uvalde shooting victims.)

Gov. Greg Abbott did not attend funerals for any of the Uvalde shooting victims

Elon Musk Vs. Twitter

Tweet!

For a while, I’ve considered Elon Musk a putz, but didn’t think he was evil. Recently, I’ve changed my mind

It seems he’s been hanging out too much with Peter Thiel, and now Musk is transitioning into one of those supervillains of the 21st C.E., like his good buddy Thiel.

Tesla Garage on Grand Ave

Maybe I’m simply a partisan, and a too frequent visitor to Twitter.com, but I don’t think Musk wants to help Twitter at all, and instead wants to destroy it.

Again, the Peter Thiel/Gawker model.

https://www.bloomberg.com/opinion/articles/2022-07-13/twitter-still-wants-musk-s-money

Yesterday Twitter Inc. sued Elon Musk in Delaware to hold him to his agreement to buy Twitter for $54.20 per share. Twitter’s lawyers are hoping for a quick trial in September, so that the deal can close on schedule in October. You can read Twitter’s complaint here. Here’s the gist of it:

Having mounted a public spectacle to put Twitter in play, and having proposed and then signed a seller-friendly merger agreement, Musk apparently believes that he — unlike every other party subject to Delaware contract law — is free to change his mind, trash the company, disrupt its operations, destroy stockholder value, and walk away. This repudiation follows a long list of material contractual breaches by Musk that have cast a pall over Twitter and its business. Twitter brings this action to enjoin Musk from further breaches, to compel Musk to fulfill his legal obligations, and to compel consummation of the merger upon satisfaction of the few outstanding conditions.

…The basic narrative beats will be familiar. Musk secretly bought a 9.1% stake in Twitter, violating securities laws in the process, then announced that stake and agitated to join Twitter’s board

…Musk announced that he wanted to buy Twitter because he thought there were too many spam bots. He sent in an unsolicited offer to buy Twitter, did no due diligence at all about spam bots, and asked Twitter for no representations about spam bots. He imagined that there were lots of spam bots, and he was eager to “defeat” them. And then the stock market went down, so now he is pretending that he was tricked into buying Twitter because they went around lying to him about how few spam bots there were. This pretext is bad

After New Abortion Laws, Some Patients Have Trouble Obtaining Miscarriage Treatment

I’ve Been Trying To Do What I Could

Speaking of things that make me depressed

After New Abortion Laws, Some Patients Have Trouble Obtaining Miscarriage Treatment:

Surgical procedures and medication for miscarriages are identical to those for abortion, and some patients report delayed or denied miscarriage care because doctors and pharmacists fear running afoul of abortion bans.

Following the reversal of Roe v. Wade, numerous states are enacting bans or sharp restrictions on abortion. While the laws are technically intended to apply only to abortions, some patients have reported hurdles receiving standard surgical procedures or medication for the loss of desired pregnancies.

The uncertain climate has led some doctors and hospitals to worry about being accused of facilitating an abortion, a fear that has also caused some pharmacists to deny or delay filling prescriptions for medication to complete miscarriages, providers and patients say. Last week, the Biden administration warned that if a pharmacy refuses to fill prescriptions for pills “including medications needed to manage a miscarriage or complications from pregnancy loss, because these medications can also be used to terminate a pregnancy — the pharmacy may be discriminating on the basis of sex.”

GOP, Ukraine and Russia

Section of The Berlin Wall

I am unable to fathom how the Republican Party of my youth, the die-hard anti-Soviet party of Ronald Reagan and George Shultz, has transformed into the Party of Putin. Not all of the current Republicans are on Team Putin instead of Team America, but there are so many! How did this happen? When did this happen? Did it occur because of Trump, or was it again a case of Trump just saying loudly what many said quietly?

Could it be that after the Citizens United decision, Russian billionaires started contributing heavily to various GOP SuperPACs? There have been allegations that the National Rifle Association collected money from wealthy Russian individuals and funneled it to various GOP senators, maybe this is more widespread than we know?

I am also sort of surprised that Rupert Murdoch is part of this collective. I’d have assumed that Murdoch, by virtue of his age, and Paleolithic Republican status, would also be anti-Russia, but assumptions would be wrong. Tucker Carlson, Laura Ingraham and others are consistently celebrating Putin on Murdoch’s propaganda channel.

What can Putin’s end game even be? If he installs a puppet government in Ukraine, how can anyone take it seriously? The Ukrainian people are not going to consider the Revolution of Dignity as an aberration, nor will they view Putin puppet Yanukovych as their legitimate leader.

Texas Abortion Law Requires Civil Disobedience In Response

I’ve been ruminating about the new draconian Texas anti-abortion law we discussed recently. I’m deeply disturbed by it, and its potential for damage to young mothers & fathers. Not every act of fornication should result in progeny1 which is the long term plan of these Christian Taliban zealots.

Birth control should be free as well, I expect the Christian Taliban to start exerting pressure on this next.

Metaphorical Zygote

Quoting from Lawrence Tribe:

If you suspect that a Texan is seeking to obtain an abortion after the sixth week of pregnancy, not only will you be able to sue the provider to try to stop it, but if you succeed, you’ll also be entitled to compensation. (And what’s known as the litigation privilege would likely protect you from a defamation claim even if you’re wrong.)

I have not yet made the time to read S.B. 8 closely, but can reports be made anonymously? If so, every liberal minded person in the entire world should file a report naming some conservative woman, or the wife and daughters of a conservative man. 

If reports cannot be made anonymously, there still must be a concerted effort to gum up the works, to throw a wrench in the gears so that the machinery of repression cannot move freely. Brave and dedicated women2 could claim to have abortions, whether or not they did, and report each other. If hundreds of thousands or even millions of women are being investigated by Ken Paxton’s Uterus Police™, they won’t be able to process them all.

We cannot let this madness continue.

Planned Parenthood could use your donation too:

Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed a new abortion ban into law

Sometimes referred to as the “heartbeat bill,” SB 8 is one of the most extreme abortion bans in the U.S. It would ban abortion in Texas at approximately six weeks — before most people even know they’re pregnant — with no exceptions for rape, sexual abuse, incest, and fetal anomaly diagnoses. For people with a regular menstrual cycle, that’s just two weeks after a missed period.

Abortion is still safe and legal throughout Texas and in all 50 states. Our health centers are open for patients to get the care they need, including medication and surgical abortion. Texas’ new abortion ban (SB 8) 8 is set to go into effect September 1, 2021, but we are now in court to challenge this extreme law.

 

(click here to continue reading Senate Bill 8 | Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas, Inc..)

Maybe the lawsuits will nip this vile legislative cruelty before it spreads across the nation, but we need a Plan B too…

Footnotes:
  1. and yes, speaking from personal experience, I am glad I came of age in a time after Roe v. Wade was settled law but before this current crop of zealots became powerful enough to impose their will on a reluctant public []
  2. and men as their allies []

The pre-internet Age Wasn’t So Long Ago

film Canister graveyard

Charles Blow:

In 1992, there was no MSNBC or Fox News, no Google, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or TikTok. Also, there weren’t many, if any, mainstream news organizations online. The Times didn’t start online publication until 1996, and then it was not the truly transformative force it would become.

(click here to continue reading Opinion | As the Press Weakens, So Does Democracy – The New York Times.)

I’ve been ruminating about 1992 lately1 – it was different from the current era in so many ways. Every paper I wrote for school was either long hand or on a typewriter. Nobody I knew owned a computer, nor a cellphone. Film cameras were the only kind of camera people owned. We had never heard of text messages, or websites, the list goes on and on. Such a radical shift in such a short period of time. Mostly for the better, but not always.

Model 1

Computer Consultants

Footnotes:
  1. as I go through my vinyl record time machine project []

It Is NOT against HIPAA to ask about covid vaccinations

HIPAA is woefully misunderstood, and I’ve encountered much wrong information about it during this pandemic. 

Eventually

winter birds, Cook County Forest Preserve

The Washington Post explains

Is it against HIPAA to ask about covid vaccinations? – The Washington Post:

HIPAA, also known as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, and its subsequently added Privacy Rule include provisions to protect a person’s identifying health information from being shared without their knowledge or consent. The law, though, only applies to specific health-related entities, such as insurance providers, health-care clearinghouses, health-care providers and their business associates.
That means that even if your friend, favorite restaurant or grocery store were to publicly share private details about your health, they would not be in violation of HIPAA because they aren’t one of the “covered entities,” Gatter said.

There are other federal and state confidentiality laws that may require employers and schools to protect your privacy. And, experts emphasized, there is nothing in HIPAA that bars asking people about their health — including vaccination status — or requiring proof that the information is accurate.
“It’s not really a prohibition on asking, it’s a prohibition against sharing,” said Kayte Spector-Bagdady, an associate director at the Center for Bioethics and Social Sciences in Medicine at the University of Michigan. The law, she added, “doesn’t mean you never have to tell anyone about your health information.”

HIPAA has become one of the “most misunderstood statutes in existence,” said Glenn Cohen, a Harvard Law School professor who is an expert on health law and bioethics. “People think it does a lot more than it’s actually doing.”

The misconceptions about the law likely stem from people widely using it in conversation as a “shorthand for privacy,” said Joshua Sharfstein, a public health professor at Johns Hopkins University. If someone is asked a question about their health that they view as intrusive, he said, they might say, “I can’t tell you because of HIPAA,” when what they actually mean is that they consider the information private.

Many people also seem to have a problem spelling HIPAA properly, and as one Twitter aficionado opined, perhaps this is a sign of long-haul COVID-19?

DoorDash adds $1.50 Vulture Capital Fee in response to Chicago’s cap on Delivery Fees

Corned Beef from Manny's Deli

Phil Vettel, Chicago Tribune reports:

A little more than two weeks ago, the Chicago City Council took a bite at third-party delivery-service fees, imposing a 15% cap on fees that sometimes reached 30% previously.

Tuesday… DoorDash announced the imposition of a “Chicago fee,” a $1.50 charge added to all orders placed at city restaurants.

The new fee is charged to customers, not restaurants, so is not affected by the Chicago ordinance.
Customers ordering through DoorDash saw a $1.50 “Chicago fee” added to their orders. By clicking on that fee, the following explanation appeared:

Chicago has temporarily capped the fees that we may charge local restaurants. To continue to offer you convenient delivery while ensuring that Dashers are active and earning, you will now see a charge added to Chicago orders.”

(click here to continue reading DoorDash adds $1.50 ‘Chicago fee’ in response to city’s cap – Chicago Tribune.)

A kind of fcku you to Chicago diners, I would say.

Chicago Alderman Scott Waguespack agrees with me:

“This disgraceful fee is an outright attempt to pass this IPO of $3 billion,” he said. “Just pile on more fees and pass their IPO; that’s the only thing I can think of.”

Calling it a Chicago fee might also cause customers to think the charge is a city charge, Waguespack said.

“They might think it’s the city dinging them for an extra $1.50,” Waguespack said. “It doesn’t say ‘DoorDash fee,’ it says ‘Chicago fee.’ I think that’s their intention — to stick it to the city.

“It’s that kind of vulture capitalism mentality — we can do it, so we’re going to do it,” Waguespack said. “The billions of dollars (via the IPO, if successful) isn’t enough; they have to take this too.”

Not Even Wondering

Especially in light of:

The sudden onset of the pandemic in March sent the restaurant industry into a death spiral. Working in a notoriously low-margin business, many couldn’t withstand weeks of limited or no indoor dining. As a result, about one in six restaurants nationwide has closed permanently, and as of September nearly three million restaurant workers had lost their jobs.

Under pressure to pay rent and retain workers, some restaurants turned more of their attention to delivery, particularly from app-based companies like DoorDash, UberEats and Grubhub. Few restaurants that hadn’t done delivery in the past had the time or money to create their own delivery service, which typically brings in less money than dining rooms, where customers are more apt to order more profitable items like appetizers, desserts or a second round of drinks.

These restaurants have quickly found that the apps, with their high fees and strong-arm tactics, may be a temporary lifeline, but not a savior. Fees of 30 percent or higher per order cut eateries’ razor-thin margins to the bone. And a stimulus package that would bolster the industry has stalled in Congress, even as states and municipalities enact new limits on both indoor and outdoor dining.

…the fees are also funding a consolidation among the four largest players that together represent an estimated 99 percent of delivery market share and which will give them greater pricing power.

Though still unprofitable, Uber this month completed its acquisition of Postmates in a $2.7 billion deal. And DoorDash, also a money loser, is going public this week with hopes of raising more than $3 billion from investors. DoorDash’s I.P.O. will net already wealthy investors billions in profits, particularly galling as restaurants wither.

Dan Raskin, an owner of Manny’s Deli in Chicago, said his greatest frustration was the companies’ unwillingness to share customer information with him. That means he cannot verify their claims that they are bringing him new customers. Worse, they appear to be using that data to create competing virtual restaurants — which have no dining rooms, offer multiple cuisines from one location and operate only on the apps.

(click here to continue reading Greg Bensinger | Apps Are Helping to Gut the Restaurant Industry – The New York Times.)

Hong Kong and COVID-19

Please avoid close contact with people who are sick

America didn’t have to have so many people die, as the example of Hong Kong proves…

This is the new normal in Hong Kong — both very different from before the virus and very different from an American-style lockdown.

Subway workers clean handrails frequently. Restaurants are open, with tables spaced five feet apart. Diners are often given a small paper bag in which to put their mask — so it doesn’t infect the table, or vice versa

Entrance to Hong Kong is limited mostly to residents, all of whom are tested and quarantined, even if the test is negative. And residents wear masks despite 90-degree heat. “They’re so hot,” Adrienne says. “But it feels second nature to me at this point.”

The most important point: Hong Kong’s strategy is working extremely well.

It hasn’t reported a new homegrown case in more than two weeks. Over all, only about 1,000 people — out of 7.5 million — have tested positive. Only four have died.

Via NYT newsletter.

IllinoisHelps is now spamming my cell phone

Meanwhile, in one US area roughly the same population size as Hong Kong:

The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) today announced 2,122 new cases of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Illinois, including 176 additional deaths.…Currently, IDPH is reporting a total of 65,962 cases, including 2,838 deaths, in 97 counties in Illinois. The age of cases ranges from younger than one to older than 100 years. Within the past 24 hours, laboratories have processed 13,139 specimens for a total of 346,286.

If only the US had competent leadership, and a president who trusted science and data, and we had ramped up testing back in February (or even January!)

The Terror and the Fascination of Pompeii

Cloudless Religions 93-12-08

Joan Acocella, The New Yorker:

Pliny’s eyewitness account of the 79 A.D. Vesuvius eruption tells us what happened, but the archeological remains conjure with agonizing intimacy the lives of those who perished.

[Pliny the Younger] wrote long letters to Trajan, asking whether he should do this or that. The letters took two months to arrive in Rome, and the answers took two months to get back. Reading them, you sense that Trajan often wished Pliny would just go ahead and make whatever decision seemed reasonable.

We do hear about some celebrated crimes: Agrippina, the Emperor Claudius’ wife, poisoning him in order to secure the succession for her son, Nero; Nero then killing Agrippina and also kicking his pregnant wife, Poppaea, to death. (That’s after he arranged for the poisoning of his stepbrother, Brittanicus.) Then, there’s Domitian, going off with, they say, whatever implement he had at hand, to terminate his niece Julia’s pregnancy, engendered by him. This, Dunn writes, inspired a locally popular ditty: “Julia freed her fertile uterus by many / an abortion and shed clots which resembled their uncle.” (Julia died from the procedure.) Next to such reports, the regular rubouts, as in the notorious Year of the Four Emperors, in 69 A.D.—Nero, to avoid execution, stabbed himself in the throat and was replaced by Galba, who was assassinated after seven months by the Praetorian Guard and succeeded by Otho, who ruled for three months before, faced with a rebellion, he committed suicide, yielding his place to Vitellius (soon murdered by the soldiers of Vespasian, but let’s stop there)—look like business as usual. Or they would seem so if they didn’t involve those little Cosa Nostra touches, such as a victim’s being found with his penis cut off and stuffed in his mouth.

(click here to continue reading The Terror and the Fascination of Pompeii | The New Yorker.)

Romans Discussing Motor Scooters 1993

I think I was 17 when I first read some Roman history, in a freshman level survey class at UT. I was amazed at how gossipy Suetonius’ Lives of the Twelve Caesars was. Such a contrast with the neutral tones of typical history textbooks, especially the ones that I had read in high school. Still fascinating…

Lyndon Johnson Considered Dropping a Nuclear Bomb On Vietnam

Seal Of The President of The United States

As part of a longer article about “Steel rain” cluster artillery, John Ismay writes:

The Army’s first generation of artillery cluster shells was born out of the service’s bitter experience facing human wave attacks in the Korean War. A top-secret postwar program at Picatinny Arsenal in New Jersey raced to create a new generation of weapons it called COFRAM, for Controlled Fragmentation Munition. The idea was to design artillery shells that broke open in midair, dispensing little grenades that exploded in more uniformly sized pieces than earlier munitions did. The key, they found, was to score the inside walls of the grenade body in a crosshatch type of design. (The M67 fragmentation hand grenade still in use today is a direct descendant of the COFRAM program.) By blanketing large areas with smaller munitions, they hoped human wave attacks could be defeated.

These COFRAM munitions stayed largely under wraps until early 1968, when President Lyndon Johnson panicked over the possibility of North Vietnamese forces overrunning the Marine base at Khe Sanh. The president discussed the possibility of using small nuclear weapons with Pentagon leadership to defend the base, but his commander in Vietnam, Gen. William Westmoreland, suggested that nukes would not be necessary.

(click here to continue reading An Old Army Myth That Went Unchallenged for Too Long – The New York Times.)

I can’t say I’ve ever read that particular factoid before – that LBJ was prepared to drop a nuclear bomb on Vietnam! I’d heard of rumors of Nixon considering this, but never Johnson. Perhaps I just missed this in all the history I’ve read. Still concerning.

Robert Caro's LBJ: The Passage of Power