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Reading: Pence struggles to defend the indefensible and please his disastrous boss | Richard Wolffe | Opinion | The Guardian

From Pence struggles to defend the indefensible and please his disastrous boss | Richard Wolffe | Opinion | The Guardian

A little light rhetorical analysis:

The American people I believe deserve credit for the sacrifices they have made for the health of their family, and their neighbors, our doctors, nurses, first responders.”

This kind of piously indignant pabulum is not a new performance for the current vice-president but rather something he perfected as a talkshow radio host in Indiana in the late 1990s. Pence styled himself as “Rush Limbaugh on decaf” which is just the kind of awshucks deception that is so vital to serving as a cardboard cutout behind Donald Trump’s shoulder.

In many ways, this was a three-way contest, between Harris, Pence and Trump. But only Pence cared about the Trump voice in his head. And that astonishingly loud, gasping voice constantly distracted Pence from the contest on stage.

It does not take much imagination to conjure up a world in which Pence is sworn into the presidency just before the people kick him out of office

For starters, Trump… could not shut his mouth on social media for the entire evening. This was of course a repeat performance of his debate with Joe Biden last week…/.

In truth, both candidates were equally matched debaters. Pence dodged everything about climate change. Harris dodged everything about packing the supreme court.

What was unequal was that Pence had to defend the indefensible: a disastrous and preventable death toll, a collapsing economy and a Covid-infected president.

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Reading: Annie Louisa Swynnerton: The Sense of Sight

From Annie Louisa Swynnerton: The Sense of Sight

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Reading: Redfield urged to leave CDC in blaze of glory—or forever be Trump’s toady

From Redfield urged to leave CDC in blaze of glory—or forever be Trump’s toady

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Reading: COVID-hit Trump back in hospital after drive to greet supporters | US & Canada | Al Jazeera

From COVID-hit Trump back in hospital after drive to greet supporters | US & Canada | Al Jazeera

Political theatre that shows trump still doesn’t get it.

Dr James Phillips, an assistant professor of emergency medicine at George Washington University, was among those criticising the drive-by, which he called “political theater”.

“Every single person in the vehicle during that completely unnecessary Presidential drive-by has to be quarantined for 14 days,” Phillips wrote on Twitter. “They might get sick. They may die.”

People with COVID-19 are generally required to quarantine for 14 days to avoid infecting others and the virus spreads more easily in indoor, confined environments.

“Beyond the ethical, clinical, epidemiological and health implications of this drive by, it shows a dire obsession with showing the public he’s still in control, creating a false sense of normalcy and trying to normalize a highly transmissible virus,” Dr Syra Madad, senior director of Special Pathogens at NYC Health + Hospitals, wrote on Twitter.

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Reading: More outsourcing troubles | academeblog.org

From More outsourcing troubles | academeblog.org

Eden Moglen quoted in Hank Reichman nails Zoom and the university administrators who have been pushing it in one go:

Here too the existing policies and practices are improvisations, based implicitly on the incorrect belief that there is no preferable technological alternative. Even if video-conferencing were a good way to teach law school, Zoom would be the worst possible technological choice.

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Reading: tax avoidance as an exploit | www.theguardian.com

From tax avoidance as an exploit | www.theguardian.com

> The billionaires don’t just exploit the loopholes. They also make them through pushing for ever-expanding exemptions from the tax burden they would otherwise pay. In Trump’s case, it is true in the most literal sense that he made the rules he benefits from. Trump’s major legislative initiative was a whole new tax cut tilted toward giving wealthy people like himself even more favorable treatment. It’s one thing to pay only your legal minimum but understand that the system is unfair. It’s quite another to be actively trying to make that system more grotesquely unequal.

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Reading: Historians Analyze the Danger of Trump | nymag.com

From Historians Analyze the Danger of Trump | nymag.com

Cold comfort. But history can offer little else.

Zilblatt said he once laughed off comparisons of the U.S. to the Weimar Republic, noting Germany in the early 1930s “had a major economic crisis and the trauma of millions of people dead in World War I.” However, while it’s not exactly the same, Zilblatt said Americans are nevertheless “suffering economically and from the trauma of death and being isolated” amid a recession and a pandemic that has left over 200,000 dead barely a month before Election Day.

Obviously, neither Hitler nor fascism is coming around the corner in the United States. But, the fact that such a comparison can even be considered by a serious political scientist with a straight face shows how far things have degenerated.

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Reading: Acedia: the lost name for the emotion we’re all feeling right now

From Acedia: the lost name for the emotion we’re all feeling right now

Ennui for the 2020s and beyond.

More than a label

Reviving the language of acedia is important to our experience in two ways.

First, it distinguishes the complex of emotions brought on by enforced isolation, constant uncertainty and the barrage of bad news from clinical terms like “depression” or “anxiety”.

Saying, “I’m feeling acedia” could legitimise feelings of listlessness and anxiety as valid emotions in our current context without inducing guilt that others have things worse.

Second, and more importantly, the feelings associated with physical isolation are exacerbated by emotional isolation – that terrible sense that this thing I feel is mine alone. When an experience can be named, it can be communicated and even shared.

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Reading: Trump was cued to his audience last Saturday

From Trump was cued to his audience last Saturday

CNN noticed that Trump was cued to the local audience last Saturday

“You have good genes, you know that, right?” Trump said at a recent campaign rally. “You have good genes. A lot of it is about the genes, isn’t it, don’t you believe? The racehorse theory. You think we’re so different? You have good genes in Minnesota.”

The President was speaking to a nearly all-White crowd in Bemidji, Minnesota, a city that’s about 80% White in a state that’s even more White.

It’s a small observation but an important one: One we’ve seen before.

The tack of playing racial politics by taking refuge in abstraction has a long history in Republican circles.

“You start out in 1954 by saying, ‘N****r, n****r, n****r.’ By 1968 you can’t say ‘n****r’ — that hurts you, backfires,” the Republican political operative Lee Atwater said in 1981. “So you say stuff like, uh, forced busing, states’ rights, and all that stuff. You’re getting so abstract now (that) you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is (that) Blacks get hurt worse than Whites.”

Trump and his defenders might say that the President was merely talking about genes. But depending on who was listening, he was talking about much, much more.

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Reading: White House-CDC tensions explode as Trump contradicts its leadership | Ars Technica

From White House-CDC tensions explode as Trump contradicts its leadership | Ars Technica

Ars details Thursday’s trump conceits in full, but I’m extracting just the health statements with the hope of spreading them far and wide.

But it was Redfield who worked the hardest to promote public health. Holding up his own face mask, he told the committee, “These are the most powerful public health tool we have.” He went on to repeat an earlier statement, that widespread use of masks for six to 12 weeks could bring the pandemic under control. “We have clear scientific evidence that they work,” he testified, saying they’re “more guaranteed to protect me against COVID than when I take a COVID vaccine.” His reasoning was that all vaccines fail to elicit an immune response at a measurable rate, whereas all masks provide at least some degree of protection.

Redfield also injected a large dose of reality when the topic shifted to vaccines. The Trump administration has appropriately begun planning for the widespread distribution of a vaccine as soon as one passes safety and efficacy trials. But the fact that current planning calls for distribution to begin just before the November presidential election has raised concerns about whether the timing might be motivated by politics rather than safety. And there’s clearly going to be a substantial gap between initial distribution and widespread availability.

Redfield decided it was time for the public to hear about the size of that gap. He said initial availability would be in the area of November-December but would only go to high-priority populations like health care workers and the elderly. The majority of the American public would probably have to wait for the third quarter of 2021.