The Nasty Politicization of COVID

Our cultural divide over the pandemic is turning us into worse people.

Writing at National Review, political consultant Ellen Carmichael contends that “Journalists’ Behavior over Luke Letlow’s Passing Is Abhorrent — and Telling.” She’s not wrong.

On Tuesday evening, Congressman-elect Luke Letlow’s (R., La.) family announced that he passed away at the age of 41 due to complications from COVID-19. He left behind a young family, including two small children, as well as a vast network of friends in Louisiana and Washington, D.C., all devastated by his passing.

Some progressive Twitter activists and left-wing reporters couldn’t wait to begin their grave-dancing. Letlow deserved to die, they mused, because he didn’t take COVID seriously enough. They scoured his online presence to find any proof that he engaged in so-called “denialism.” Some, such as Vox‘s Aaron Rupar, pointed to an October video where the then-candidate had the audacity to advocate for reopening the economy while maintaining state and federal precautions on coronavirus. Molly Jong-Fast of The Daily Beast also shared the video. Hundreds of their followers joined in, blaming Letlow for his own death and expressing that he was unworthy of pity because of his politics. For them, his death was further proof that those who dare propose policy prescriptions that differ from their own, no matter how rational or mainstream they may be, just have it coming to them.

Setting aside the lack of evidence for their claim that Letlow denied the dangerous realities of coronavirus, the COVID ghouls and scolds clearly see themselves as worthy and qualified judges of their fellow man. It is they who decide whether or not people act appropriately enough to be spared death by coronavirus. As Michael Brendan Dougherty recently put it, they feel empowered to “turn every sick person into either a blameworthy fool or a blameless victim,” an extraordinarily arrogant and inhumane view of human suffering.

In no other health circumstance would such brutality toward the afflicted be tolerated. We do not deem individuals who become sick by engaging in known “risky behaviors” — unsafe sex, abuse of alcohol, drug use, poor diet, smoking, dangerous driving — as deserving of pain and misery. So, mocking and haranguing those who become sick or die due to COVID-19, a novel virus from which we cannot possibly shield ourselves entirely, is unconscionable.

Now, the obvious rejoinder to this is that it’s neither “progressive Twitter activists” nor “left-wing reporters” who are primarily responsible for the politicization of the virus and our national response to it. From the very beginning, President Trump treated the pandemic as a public relations battle to be won rather than a public health crisis. He was literally claiming it to be a Democratic hoax as it began its spread throughout the country, resulting in Republicans being half as likely as Democrats to take the disease seriously. He, his party, and his propagandists at Fox News and elsewhere created an atmosphere where sensible orders to avoid public places are met with riots and requests to wear masks in grocery stores are met with fists.

Still, while I had never heard of Letlow before seeing news of his tragic death yesterday morning, it doesn’t appear that he was part of that movement. He reportedly dutifully wore his mask on the campaign trail. It seems the viciousness is just guilt by association.

Look no further than the death of my former boss, Herman Cain, whose death from COVID-19 complications was touted as proof Republicans denied the risks of the coronavirus (never mind that Cain had a lengthy track record in both speech and practice of taking the virus seriously). These are the same individuals who were downright jubilant when President Trump and many on his team contracted the virus but are seemingly silent about COVID-19 diagnoses of other leaders who also benefited from ample safeguards, such as Letlow’s delegation colleague Congressman Cedric Richmond (D., La.) who contracted coronavirus while campaigning for Democratic Senate candidates in Georgia this month.

Indeed, while Republicans like Rand Paul naturally caught flak—including from me—when they recklessly spread the disease to others, the fact of the matter is that this disease knows no politics. While incautious buffoons like Trump and Boris Johnson have contracted it, so have sophisticated liberals like Justin Trudeau. Alabama coach Nick Saban, who stood out for his campaign for mask-wearing in a state where it was taboo, ultimately got sick despite daily testing and intensive precautions. Public figures are simply at much higher risk given the demands of the job.

While I think Carmichael goes too far here,

Even among ordinary people, an individual’s desire to participate in day-to-day activities such as church services and dining out is enough cause to hector him for contracting the coronavirus. Prominent progressives, left-wing activists, and their media allies have routinely contended that if only Americans weren’t so stupid, selfish, and negligent — and in particular, if red-staters could abandon their silly notions of constitutional rights and their incessant desire to keep local businesses open — this pandemic would have been over a long time ago.

she’s likely right on the larger point: our frustrations over the cultural divide over this pandemic have led to too much moral preening and too little charitability toward our fellow citizens. Even liberal journalists will admit to making tradeoffs, thinking ten months of complete adherence to social distancing protocols too steep a price to pay.

I get seriously angry at those who ostentatiously wear their masks as necklaces, refusing to comply with the common courtesy of covering their noses as a sign of respect for others. But it may well be that we judge too harshly those who think visiting their loved ones for Christmas was worth the relatively small risk of infection.

Beyond that, a 41-year-old man is dead, leaving behind a wife and two small children. Surely, simple decency can prevail over politics in that situation.

FILED UNDER: COVID-19, Society
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Crusty Dem says:

    Letlow deserved to die, they mused, because he didn’t take COVID seriously enough.

    This is just bullshit. I haven’t heard a single “deserved to die”.

    Sharing videos of someone who died from COVID demanding reopening schools and businesses or not wearing a mask at indoor gatherings should be a public health reminder. I say “should be” because the people who won’t wear a mask or limit gatherings won’t listen to any reason whatsoever.

    ReplyReply
    25
  2. PJ says:

    Beyond that, a 41-year-old man is dead, leaving behind a wife and two small children. Surely, simple decency can prevail over politics in that situation.

    If the person who died was public person with a platform and a denier, who called it a hoax, argued that mandatory mask wearing was an example on the government opressing us, and so on, then no. Because that person would likely be responisible for other people, who might have small children, dying, people that we won’t hear about, because they will just be a number among the 350,798 dead.

    But I don’t know anything about Letlow, so it’s a general comment.

    ReplyReply
    8
  3. Kylopod says:

    I was among those who checked out his Twitter account before it was disabled, and while he did practice Covid safety precautions some of the time, there were other times when he was clearly flouting them. For example, there was a tweet from August showing him at an indoor lunch with some supporters. They were all sitting together at nearby tables, none of them wearing masks.

    And I will not let him off the hook for pushing for a quick reopening of the economy. He was advocating something that would objectively have led to more deaths. That’s not speculation, it’s a scientific fact.

    As I’ve said before, Covid denial exists on a spectrum. Many people who aren’t full-on denialists–calling it a hoax, claiming it’s no worse than flu, disdaining the use of masks at all times–have heavily minimized and downplayed the threat it poses. And Letlow doesn’t deserve the benefit of the doubt, when he represented a party where denial and minimization were rampant, where he did very little to push back against it beyond vaguely (but inconsistently) encouraging mask-wearing, and where he engaged in some of that minimization himself.

    We don’t know why he contracted it, and it’s true that many people have gotten it despite entirely responsible behavior. But there’s no question Letlow’s hands weren’t clean (figuratively speaking) in his public behavior or positions, and pointing that out doesn’t constitute dancing on anyone’s grave.

    ReplyReply
    25
  4. Mikey says:

    Look no further than the death of my former boss, Herman Cain, whose death from COVID-19 complications was touted as proof Republicans denied the risks of the coronavirus (never mind that Cain had a lengthy track record in both speech and practice of taking the virus seriously).

    This is complete bullshit–Cain was exceptionally vocal in his opposition to simple, effective measures like wearing masks–but I was reminded of a piece in the Washington Post by Ana Marie Cox (“Wonkette”) immediately following Cain’s death, and it applies now as well, I think.

    We can respect those mourning Herman Cain — and still talk about masks

    Tempting as it may be to point and laugh — or even just shrug and sigh — the best way to get people to treat Cain’s death as information and not potential propaganda is to recognize that some people really are in mourning, and even to join them in their sorrow. Humiliation changes no one’s mind, but shared suffering? That can make all the difference.

    When we try to convince people to wear masks or wash their hands, we’re not trying to win political arguments. We’re trying to solve a public health problem, one that affects all of us. And it’s not just morally questionable to suggest that people on the other side “deserve it” when they get sick, it’s self-defeating.

    ReplyReply
    15
  5. Teve says:

    Thursday, December 31, 2020 at 08:56
    Look no further than the death of my former boss, Herman Cain, whose death from COVID-19 complications was touted as proof Republicans denied the risks of the coronavirus (never mind that Cain had a lengthy track record in both speech and practice of taking the virus seriously).

    If you want to see photos of Herman Cain sitting shoulder to shoulder with thousands of maskless people at an indoor Trump rally, I can make that happen.

    my former boss, Herman Cain

    Surely this guy is objective.

    ReplyReply
    10
  6. JKB says:

    Where were these “riots” over the lockdowns? There were peaceful protests. The riots were Democrat supporters who even when protesting got directly into police officers’ faces maskless. No doubt you could find the odd fight at a grocery but I haven’t heard of them. Angry yelling, usually by the mask supporter, who is to ignorant to know yelling promotes them emitting. And it is easy for you to condemn since your children aren’t going hungry, your life’s work isn’t collapsing into bankruptcy, as you are happily getting full pay on the back of taxpayers who are being denied the right to make a living.

    ReplyReply
  7. Jen says:

    @JKB: Showing up to the State Capitol armed to the teeth to fuss about not being able to get a haircut, followed by DEATH THREATS and a kidnapping plot…you certainly do have a selective memory.

    There are plenty of reports out there about anti-maskers chasing down people, yelling at employees, spitting and coughing on others…I’m not sure why I am wasting my time with you, but your ridiculous suggestion that this is somehow violent pro-maskers vs. the kind and genteel “freedom” crowd is preposterous.

    No one should be politicizing this death. The simple facts are that the Congressman-elect was young, healthy, and with no pre-existing conditions and he succumbed to this disease. That he was less than diligent about mask use is something for his family to wrestle with, not us.

    ReplyReply
    29
  8. Thomm says:

    @Jen: see silly, they only harmed and threatened people, not property, so jkb and his ilk don’t care. Loss of capital is more important than loss of life dontchaknow.

    ReplyReply
    7
  9. Owen says:

    @JKB: “The riots were Democrat supporters who even when protesting got directly into police officers’ faces maskless. No doubt you could find the odd fight at a grocery but I haven’t heard of them. Angry yelling, usually by the mask supporter?”

    Maybe I have a different streaming service than you do, what I am seeing (and have seen in person) is the polar opposite.

    You imply that being asked to consider wearing a mask is causing a large portion of the population’s children to go hungry and life’s work to collapse into bankruptcy (score, no tax bills in bankruptcy). I think it is the result of a leaderless federal government response to a global pandemic, not providing leadership or assistance to a populace in crisis while whining about fiscal responsibility after driving the national debt to unprecedented levels.

    ReplyReply
    9
  10. Not the IT Dept. says:

    There are plenty of videos and photos of Letlow not wearing masks at political events and rallies. He may not have been a fanatic – personally, I never heard of the guy until his obits started appearing – but he was willing to play the game and then put on a mask when the cameras weren’t around, he was being less than honest with everyone. Which is about what I’d expect of most GOPpers trying walk an increasingly fine line.

    His local newspaper mentioned that his wife wore a mask all the time. Maybe she was an Independent.

    ReplyReply
    4
  11. Not the IT Dept. says:

    Make that “*if* he was willing to wear a mask…” The editing link has been removed or what?

    Also: JKB – nice try, loser. Sounding a little desperate this morning.

    ReplyReply
    5
  12. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @JKB:
    Several men were arrested for planning to kidnap and execute the Governor of Michigan. The same men had participated in an armed occupation of the Michigan Capitol intended to intimidate Legislators. Indeed, at least one session was cancelled because of the protests, and Legislators being afraid for their personal safety.
    JKB – If you have to lie to make your argument, your argument isn’t worth a damn thing.

    ReplyReply
    14
  13. Teve says:

    @Not the IT Dept.: The editing function exists in a quantum superposition. It is simultaneously there and not there until an observation is made, whereupon the wave function collapses and it is one or the other.

    ReplyReply
    6
  14. Teve says:

    @Jen:

    CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — New Hampshire’s Republican governor said Wednesday that he is canceling his outdoor inauguration ceremony next month because of public safety concerns — namely, armed protesters who have been gathering outside his home in the weeks since he issued a mask order.

    “My first responsibility is ensuring the safety of my family and our citizens” Gov. Chris Sununu said in a news release. “For weeks, armed protesters have increasingly become more aggressive, targeting my family, protesting outside my private residence, and trespassing on my property — an outdoor public ceremony simply brings too much risk. We do not make this decision lightly but it is the right thing to do.”

    In consultation with Attorney General Gordon MacDonald, Sununu said, he and Senate President Chuck Morse, acting House Speaker Sherm Packard and the Executive Council will be sworn in during a small ceremony Jan. 7. It will be attended by leaders of both houses of the Legislature and will be virtually attended by all other members. Sununu will deliver his inaugural address at 7 p.m. that day.

    For weeks, armed protesters have increasingly become more aggressive, targeting my family, protesting outside my private residence, and trespassing on my property — an outdoor public ceremony simply brings too much risk. 2/

    — Chris Sununu (@GovChrisSununu) December 30, 2020
    Protesters started gathering outside Sununu’s home in Newfields on Nov. 22 over his order, which had taken effect two days earlier, requiring masks to be worn in public spaces, indoors or outside, when social distancing isn’t possible because of the coronavirus pandemic. On Monday, local police issued summonses to nine people and arrested one of them under a new anti-picketing ordinance passed by the Newfields selectboard, on which Sununu’s brother sits.

    ReplyReply
    2
  15. Kathy says:

    This is when understanding gambling odds comes in handy.

    Any encounter with another person offers a chance of contagion, but this varies with various factors, such as distance, masks, length, etc. The big problem is we don’t know what the odds are, because we don’t know how many people are infected at any given time.

    The best precaution is still to limit contact as much as possible, on top of all other precautions.
    Contact should be limited to the strictly necessary. I realize this is hard and many of us fail at it. I wind up going to the bank to cash the petty cash fund now and then, for instance. I’ve risked getting coffee at Starbucks (until case loads started spiking again).

    Personally, I’m highly introverted and have few friends and fewer close relationships. I also dislike large gatherings, especially noisy ones. So it’s very easy for me to limit contact outside work and banking and grocery shopping.

    ReplyReply
    2
  16. Jen says:

    @Teve: Yep. Sleeping Dog and CSK and I all posted similar items last evening, shortly after the news came out.

    Sununu has also, like Mike DeWine of Ohio, faced a small contingency of nuts/idiots in the State House who have called for his impeachment, because of the mask mandate. You would think that the recent death of the incoming House Speaker (who died of Covid-19) would shut these idiots up. Nope. They are still going strong.

    ReplyReply
    3
  17. Modulo Myself says:

    For example, there was a tweet from August showing him at an indoor lunch with some supporters. They were all sitting together at nearby tables, none of them wearing masks.

    This is so irresponsible. A politician is going to be a huge spreader of Covid. He should have been wearing the mask for his supporters’ sake. I’m going to take a wild guess and say he wasn’t thinking about them at all. I don’t think people should be blamed for getting Covid, but there’s a type of selfishness that Americans treat as a blameless feature of life and it’s embodied in people not even thinking that masks are for the benefit of others. I wear a mask for my sake, and when I feel I don’t need it, I take it off, they think.

    ReplyReply
    4
  18. Michael Reynolds says:

    @JKB:
    Do us all a favor: see if you can’t, just once, just for kicks, say something here that is not a lie.

    ReplyReply
    14
  19. gVOR08 says:

    Republicans decided to do little or nothing about the epidemic and ran for office on it. FL Gov DeUseless prohibited local governments from implementing closures or mask mandates, has no apparent plan for distributing the vaccines beyond ignoring CDC guidelines for priorities, and is running on those actions. Moscow Mitch’s big priority in a COVID bill is to excuse his corporate masters from any responsibility for failing to take precautions to protect their workers. Trump, and Republicans generally have whipped maybe a quarter of the public into active opposition to common sense public health precautions. And a few journalists said things about Rep-elect Letlow that National Review can twist into “grave-dancing”, so bothsides, Democrats are politicizing the virus.

    I get really frustrated by the double standard. Republicans follow policies that threaten the world’s climate, weaken the nation’s democracy, threaten our health, and damage the economy. Dems have internal policy disputes and occasionally say nasty things. And forget National Review, or for that matter FOX and the rest, the supposedly liberal MSM treat both with about the same coverage and ire.

    ReplyReply
    15
  20. Modulo Myself says:

    Sununu has also, like Mike DeWine of Ohio, faced a small contingency of nuts/idiots in the State House who have called for his impeachment, because of the mask mandate. You would think that the recent death of the incoming House Speaker (who died of Covid-19) would shut these idiots up. Nope. They are still going strong

    There’s a prof at NYU–Mark Crispin Miller–who’s being threatened for his views about masks. What’s interesting is that he’s not only anti-mask. He’s anti-vax and anti-trans and thinks that the election was stolen from Trump. He says that though he doesn’t deny Sandy Hook happened there is some troubling scholarship about it. In short, he’s a crank who has been sucked into this ‘question authority’ internet wormhole that leads researching what really happened in Sandy Hook.

    With Trump gone, Republicans have lost a unifying force. Trump was popular, in an old-school TV show way. The Apprentice had something like 20 million viewers its first season. Nobody draws an audience now. I think a lot of conservatives are going to be sucked deeper and deeper into this parallel worlds.

    ReplyReply
    1
  21. OzarkHillbilly says:

    this pandemic would have been over a long time ago.

    Sure, pretending it doesn’t exist is how we are going to end it. Funny, that didn’t work for trump and 90% of the GOP.

    @Michael Reynolds: C’mon Michael, give him some credit here. He hasn’t told a lie here for 63 mins and counting now.

    ReplyReply
    5
  22. gVOR08 says:

    @Kathy:

    This is when understanding gambling odds comes in handy.

    This year has proven that almost nobody understands what “exponential” means. But it’s been obvious for years that most people can’t deal with probability. I think it ties into Reynold’s view that conservatism flows from lack of imagination. They’re unable to hold onto hypotheticals. A thing is true or it’s false, there’s no provisional belief.

    ReplyReply
    6
  23. wr says:

    “In no other health circumstance would such brutality toward the afflicted be tolerated. We do not deem individuals who become sick by engaging in known “risky behaviors” — unsafe sex, abuse of alcohol, drug use, poor diet, smoking, dangerous driving — as deserving of pain and misery.”

    If there was ever a dictionary definition of a bad faith argument — this coming from Brendan Michael Dougherty of National Review — this is it. These are people who wanted to build concentration camps for AIDS sufferers and whose entire reason for existence is to blame poor people’s bad habits for their poverty, sickness and death. How James can quote this without laughing is beyond me.

    ReplyReply
    21
  24. Kathy says:

    @gVOR08:

    But it’s been obvious for years that most people can’t deal with probability.

    Oh, absolutely.

    I don’t play blackjack, but the point can be illustrated with the rise of 6:5 payouts for a blackjack (an ace plus a face card or a ten), and the increasing rarity of the 3:2 payoff. A lot of players think the former is better, because 6 is way higher than 3.

    ReplyReply
    1
  25. @Mikey: At a minimum, Cain’s behavior at the Tulsa rally undercuts the claim she is making. He sent a very clear anti-mask signal that day and likely paid for it with his life.

    I take no joy in that, but to pretend like Cain was a role model on this subject is just not true.

    ReplyReply
    14
  26. R. Dave says:

    I think it’s important to preserve our humanity, both as individuals and as a society, by expressing (and endeavoring to actually feel) primarily sympathy for anyone who suffers and/or dies, whether or not we think they’re good people.* That said, though, for third parties like this National Review writer who aren’t personally affected by the loss and who only ever seem to find their humanity when the person suffering/dying is “one of their own” (see, e.g., Republican/conservative reactions to the crack epidemic vs. the oxy epidemic and “urban” poverty vs. “rural” poverty), I think utter disdain is the appropriate response.

    In other words, my sincere sympathies and condolences to Letlow and his family, and a hearty “go f*ck yourself” to Carmichael, National Review, and all the other selective moralists on the Right.

    * Likely an exception there for the death of true monsters like Hussein, Kim Jong Un, etc., but even then, I don’t think we should revel in their suffering even if we take a grim sort of satisfaction in their deaths.

    ReplyReply
    12
  27. DrDaveT says:

    Still, while I had never heard of Letlow before seeing news of his tragic death yesterday morning, it doesn’t appear that he was part of that movement.

    Nonsense. He was a Republican candidate. He made no effort to distance himself from his party’s clear position. To the contrary — he rode that platform to electoral victory. You can’t separate “that movement” from the Party, no matter how desperately you want there to be some daylight between them.

    ReplyReply
    14
  28. gVOR08 says:

    @DrDaveT: Oh no, no, no. Failing overwhelming evidence to the contrary, we must assume Mr. Letlow was a Reasonable Republican(TM). Don’t let the fact that there are only about three of those unicorns nationwide color your judgement.

    ReplyReply
    7
  29. Michael Reynolds says:

    We owe Republicans precisely nothing. Not kindness, not consideration, not the assumption of decency. They are, to a man or woman, people who support fascism, white supremacy and lies on an epic scale. They have hurt people, they have wounded this country, they have by their catastrophic stupidity contributed to the deaths of some portion of 350,000 Americans. I’m not yet sure the United States will survive what these people have done.

    Fuck them. Fuck every last one of them, including the ones @James and @Steven interact with and keep telling themselves are decent people. No, they aren’t decent people, they are Republicans and imagining a decent Republican is like imagining a tolerant member of ISIS, a generous slumlord or a thoughtful serial killer.

    The Republican Party is anti-American, anti-democracy, anti-freedom, liars, cheats, racists and scumbags. Fuck them.

    ReplyReply
    13
  30. Andy says:

    @Kylopod:

    And I will not let him off the hook for pushing for a quick reopening of the economy. He was advocating something that would objectively have led to more deaths. That’s not speculation, it’s a scientific fact.

    It’s a “scientific fact” that anything short of isolating every individual from everyone else for two weeks will lead to more deaths. No one is advocating for that or many other extremely restrictive policies that would actually prevent more deaths. No one is prioritizing the reduction of deaths above every other consideration.

    The reality is that Covid response is like anything else, there are always tradeoffs. Where one draws the line between which risks are warranted and which risks are unwarranted is not a “scientific fact” but a value judgment about relative harms.

    It’s pretty clear, for example, that reasoning about which things are “essential” and which things are not have as much to do with politics and values as science or even expert opinion. And it’s just simply obvious that “essential” is not going to be the same for everyone. Again, tradeoffs. In a large and extremely diverse nation of ~320 million, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that people will draw risk lines differently or think that some things are “essential” that others believe are not essential. People, especially journalists, ought to understand this basic reality and perhaps realize they haven’t cornered the market on the truth.

    Self-righteous assholes who condemn and legitimize schadenfreude against anyone advocating for anything other than their particular narrow view have zero moral authority to lecture anyone. They should be ignored.

    ReplyReply
    4
  31. Loviatar says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    Is James Joyner a Republican?

    What about Steven L. Taylor?

    —–

    Also, how do you identify a modern Republican?

    Is it only when they self-identify?

    or

    Is it by the policies they support, and their words and actions in support of those policies?

    or

    Is it a the modern hybrid, support the policies but complain about the methods used to implement the policies.

    —–

    What about those who while claiming to be moderates, centrist, etc. are willing to allow Republicans to act in a manner antithetical to our democracy? Are they Republican leaning, silent Republicans? What would you call them?

    ReplyReply
    2
  32. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Andy:

    Self-righteous assholes who condemn and legitimize schadenfreude against anyone advocating for anything other than their particular narrow view have zero moral authority to lecture anyone. They should be ignored.

    How about self-righteous assholes who refuse to recognize reality but insist on pretending that what we are facing are political differences on a par with how much to spend on education? Americans are dying but we shouldn’t be furious at the people doing everything they can to kill still more?

    Did you resist schadenfreude when Osama bin Laden was killed? He only killed 3,000 Americans. That’s our daily death toll now.

    And while you’re here, can you repeat your excellent lecture on how states should be handling vaccinations? Less than 3 million of a promised 20 million vaccinations have occurred. More people will die. But hey, federalism.

    ReplyReply
    9
  33. gVOR08 says:

    Following my rant about bothsides in the supposedly liberal MSM @gVOR08: WAPO was kind enough to provide an example. The article concerns two state legislators, one a D in FL and the other an R in PA who “were wrestling with how to repair the damage from a terrible year that had sapped their constituents’ trust in each other and their nation.” Turns out the D, who as a minority in the FL House has little influence on legislation, has turned to helping people, whether in her district or not, deal with the dysfunctional by design state unemployment system. The R, who is in the majority in PA and can affect legislation, is “building bridges” by supporting only the less looney toon challenges to the state’s election. Bothsides.

    To some extent I blame the inverted pyramid style. If challenged (as they are in comments) I expect the writers would point out they laid out the facts and allowed the readers to reach their own conclusions. But readers won’t read the whole article. As I understand it, the inverted pyramid, with the basic facts in the first few paragraphs, followed by details in more or less descending order of importance, evolved to make it easier for editors to cut for length and as a hedge against the telegraph failing to get the whole story through. But it also assumed a reader would skim the lede and maybe not read the whole story. A tendency heightened by lack of any pretense of narrative.

    NYT was notorious for writing deep dives into the Clinton foundation, citing any real or imagined possibility for corruption, then concluding in the next to last graph, long after everyone stopped reading, that there was no corruption. OMG!! a donor asked for an appointment with the Secretary of State, sotto voce, he didn’t get it. (While ignoring the actually corrupt Trump Foundation, apparently because in NY Trump’s corruption was old news.) Defending yourself by saying you told the truth by the end seems disingenuous when you use a style designed to discourage reading to the end. Not to mention the overt false equivalence in the first few graphs.

    ReplyReply
    9
  34. JohnMcC says:

    @Michael Reynolds: Mr Reynolds, let me introduce you to someone who has a very similar sort of concept of worth and value and who should live and who should die. General Phil Sheridan, this is Mr Michael Reynolds.

    ReplyReply
  35. gVOR08 says:

    @Loviatar: For myself, not presuming to speak for Reynolds,

    Is James Joyner a Republican? (lapsed, but in danger of relapse)
    What about Steven L. Taylor? (lapsed, if ever sincerely)
    Also, how do you identify a modern Republican?
    Is it only when they self-identify? (pretty much, or how they vote, if knowable or deducible)
    or
    Is it by the policies they support, and their words and actions in support of those policies? (They have no consistent policies. Are they, this week, for or against: deficits, Russia, free trade, immigration, etc.? As to their words and actions, speaking of the pros, not the base, if they’re lying they’re pretty likely Republicans.)

    ReplyReply
  36. Loviatar says:

    @gVOR08:

    What about people like George T. Conway?
    Wife of Trump advisor Kellyanne Conway, noted anti-trumper, founding member of the Lincoln Project. He is currently part of the group composed of more than a dozen members of the Federalist Society, which had been instrumental in selecting candidates for the Trump administration to appoint to federal courts.
    .

    So, how should we define Mr. Conway?

    More importantly, is he an ally?
    I’ve been told to hold my tongue, they’re our allies and they should not be held accountable for their occasional lapses (The Senate has confirmed 234 Article III judges nominated by Trump: three associate justices of the Supreme Court of the United States, 54 judges for the United States courts of appeals, 174 judges for the United States district courts, and three judges for the United States Court of International Trade.).

    Is he just a Republican or the modern hybrid; nodding silently, while tsk, tsking publicly?

    ReplyReply
  37. gVOR08 says:

    @JohnMcC: Instead of Sheridan, let’s talk Sherman, who did far more damage to the South. Sherman had worked and lived in the South. He loved the South. He also understood the South. He was explicit that they were doing something very stupid, and that being Southerners there was only one way to teach them to stop, and he was going to apply it upside their heads until they did.

    While @Michael Reynolds: rant is maybe not a recipe for effective political tactics, as analysis it’s hard to argue against. Maybe Republicans need a 2×4 up against the sides of their heads. Personally, I favor death by a thousand cuts.

    ReplyReply
    3
  38. Andy says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    If preventing covid deaths actually trumps every other concern, then perhaps the first thing we should do is stop letting wealthy people sit by the pool drinking all day while offloading their risk to those who can’t afford to stay isolated. That the vast majority of people complaining that the lockdowns are not sufficient are those who aren’t and wouldn’t be significantly affected by them is not at all surprising. If anything, the self-righteous and secure pajama brigade who scream online for policies that will hurt others should be forced to share the pain.

    And while you’re here, can you repeat your excellent lecture on how states should be handling vaccinations? Less than 3 million of a promised 20 million vaccinations have occurred. More people will die. But hey, federalism.

    You never were able to dispute the fact that the federal government is not resourced and equipped to do this, nor does it have the requisite knowledge to competently manage it. And you still can’t. If we’d done what you want – and federalize the entire process – the result would have been even worse. You claim we should be furious at people who want to kill off more Americans – well, federalizing vaccine distribution would do just that, kill more people. So I guess we should be furious at you for wanting more Americans to die.

    It’s the same reason the federal government can’t determine who is needy when it comes to stimulus checks or unemployment benefits. Do you want the feds to try take over the entire unemployment system too?

    You don’t seem to really understand how the federal government actually works. It’s definitely possible to federalize these functions, but doing so would take a decade or more of effort and planning. The belief that the federal government can suddenly turn on a dime and centrally manage vaccinations (or any other function that currently resides with states) is, at best, ignorant.

    ReplyReply
    3
  39. gVOR08 says:

    @JohnMcC: Instead of Sheridan, let’s talk Sherman, who did far more damage to the South. Sherman had worked and lived in the South. He loved the South. He also understood the South. He was explicit that they were doing something very stupid, and that being Southerners there was only one way to teach them, and he was going to apply it upside

    ReplyReply
    2
  40. Michael Reynolds says:

    @JohnMcC:
    I’m already a fan of Phil Sheridan. He, along with Grant and Sherman, saved the Union by recognizing the reality of modern war.

    Scorched earth sounds like something all right-thinking folks should oppose. But it saved the Union in 1864, and it saved Moscow in both 1812 and 1942.

    ReplyReply
    3
  41. Modulo Myself says:

    If preventing covid deaths actually trumps every other concern, then perhaps the first thing we should do is stop letting wealthy people sit by the pool drinking all day while offloading their risk to those who can’t afford to stay isolated. That the vast majority of people complaining that the lockdowns are not sufficient are those who aren’t and wouldn’t be significantly affected by them is not at all surprising. If anything, the self-righteous and secure pajama brigade who scream online for policies that will hurt others should be forced to share the pain.

    Or, you know give people who need it enough money to survive until is this over, but that would be too kind.

    ReplyReply
    9
  42. Andy says:

    And I should be clear here about my view. I don’t think there are absolutes when it comes to Covid and Covid policy. Tradeoffs cannot be avoided – anyone who claims otherwise and chooses a binary argument is deluding themselves or being dishonest.

    The question is not simply about more deaths vs less deaths despite claims to the contrary because the people who purport to be on the “less deaths” side are also making tradeoffs. After all, there are policies that are even more restrictive than what they support that would result in even less deaths. If “less deaths” is truly the only thing you care about then advocate for actual lockdowns, not lockdowns that, in reality, only affect about 40% of the economy and not the most powerful economic players.

    And just realize that there are even limits to that. And even the strictest protocols are no guarantee. Just look at the thousands of elder-care facilities that are now experiencing outbreaks despite actually being locked-down.

    I’ve mentioned before that I’m the legal guardian for my sister who had dementia and lives in a memory care facility. Since the Covid started in the spring I’ve been able to see her twice, and only one of those was face-to-face simply due to the fact that she had to move to another facility in June and I had to transport her.

    When she got to her new facility, it was like a military chemical-warfare operation – they sanitized everything she owned, even the bottom of her shoes when she entered the foyer. She had to have a negative covid test and be isolated for two weeks before she could move. Everyone at her facility wears N95 masks and PPE. They had the most restrictive protocols I’ve seen in an attempt to keep covid out of their population.

    Well, it wasn’t good enough. An outbreak started about six weeks ago. My sister caught Covid a month ago, but she was asymptomatic, fortunately. Other residents weren’t so lucky – 12 people have died at her facility alone and 51 residents and staff were infected. This all despite the strictest precautions to keep a vulnerable community safe. This isn’t an isolated incident, elder care facilities are having outbreaks all across the country.

    ReplyReply
    3
  43. JohnMcC says:

    This is why they call it an ‘epidemic’: Maria Salazar is a freshman R-party congresslady; she defeated Donna Shalala and was to be sworn in Sunday. She’ll miss that because she had an emergency trip to the ER with a ‘cardiac arrhythmia’ and was diagnosed as Covid positive. Thankfully it was not the Keontae Johnson kind of arrhythmia.

    ReplyReply
  44. Loviatar says:

    @gVOR08 / @Michael Reynolds:

    1000% agreement
    I believe we’re in the midst of a reappearance of the confederacy and as should have been learned the first time, you can’t compromise with confederates. President Lincoln went through how many generals before he figured that out? I believe we need, a General Grant and the strategy used to defeat the confederacy the first time. Total War

    ReplyReply
    1
  45. gVOR08 says:

    @Loviatar: Category error, Conway isn’t a Democrat or a Republican, he’s a mercenary. He and Kellyanne probably have a good laugh every night over how much money the two of them are collecting off the rubes.

    Let’s talk Steve Schmidt, just because it came out lately that between the election and mid December the Lincoln Project had raised 4.8 million. They spent 1.1 mil on independent political action and paid Schmidt 1.5 mil. Do you suppose Schmidt is loyal to the Democrats, the Republicans, or to the 1.5 mil? Which is presumably only the latest installment.

    They’re mercenaries. As long as they’re useful, you pay them, or allow them to grift in your name. And maybe a little longer to keep them from going over to the other side. But you never trust them. As to whether they’re Republicans or Democrats, where’s their next paycheck coming from?

    ReplyReply
    7
  46. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Andy:

    If preventing covid deaths actually trumps every other concern, then perhaps the first thing we should do is stop letting wealthy people sit by the pool drinking all day while offloading their risk to those who can’t afford to stay isolated.

    Or, we could invent something called a ‘government’ that supports those people whose hands are forced by poverty. While sitting by my pool and drinking copiously I might even be induced to support such entities with, let’s say, half of every fucking dollar I make.

    My youngest daughter works in a grocery store. I’ve offered to support her entirely so she doesn’t have to. But she feels an obligation to her employers, her fellow employees, and even the larger community. So she shows up, only to be subjected to racist horse shit because she’s Chinese and we all know it’s the ‘China Virus.’ And she and her fellow employees have to confront fucking assholes who can’t be bothered to wear a mask because freedom.

    Sp spare me the lectures on the working class. Long before I had a pool to sit by, I was working class. And my kid is working class. And if you don’t mind terribly I’m going to be a bit annoyed at people who threaten my daughter’s health, and the health of the people who work retail (like I did) or work in restaurants (like I did).

    As for federalism, we don’t live in that world anymore. It’s dead, Jim. It’s been dead for decades. States rely on the federal government because they’ve learned to rely on the federal government. When the federal government goes AWOL it’s an abdication of responsibility.

    ReplyReply
    9
  47. Andy says:

    @Modulo Myself:

    Or, you know give people who need it enough money to survive until is this over, but that would be too kind.

    Sure, and we have been though it hasn’t been sufficient in my view. But you can’t just give people money and have everyone stay home and do nothing. There is still work that needs to be done. People still need to eat. People may still need to do things that government money can’t replace. Everyone’s financial need and circumstances are different and the federal government doesn’t know who needs what (which is why it’s been giving money to the states and shotgunning it to individuals based on 2019 tax returns).

    Deciding what those things are and how to accomplish them inherently involves tradeoffs and risk analysis and, yes, politics. It can’t be avoided. And needs are not universal, so the idea that there can or should be a one-size-fits-all approach is just not how it works in reality.

    ReplyReply
    1
  48. gVOR08 says:

    @Modulo Myself:

    Or, you know give people who need it enough money to survive until is this over, but that would be too kind.

    Republicans claim to be all about free enterprise and capitalism. Why is it so hard to sell them then idea that we want people to close their businesses and refrain from going to work, so pay them to do what we want. Why is that so fwcking hard for Republicans to grasp.

    (Rhetorical question. It would throw out a lot of money with almost no chance of getting any of it back as campaign contributions.)

    ReplyReply
    2
  49. Loviatar says:

    @gVOR08:

    Category error, Conway isn’t a Democrat or a Republican, he’s a mercenary. He and Kellyanne probably have a good laugh every night over how much money the two of them are collecting off the rubes.

    George Conway was president of the Yale Law School’s Federalist Society, George Conway has always self–identified as a conservative and has defended conservative causes all the way to the Supreme Court. Does that make him a Republican? yes

    Is he a mercenary, no. An ally of convenience , yes. The difference is, his beliefs have never changed and his actions have stayed consistent in support of those beliefs. A mercenary has no beliefs other than their next paycheck. When its convenient for Conway to be an anti-trumper he loudly becomes one, when its convenient for him to support Trump he silently does.

    —–

    Kellyanne Conway and Steve Schmidt are mercenaries. We have no idea what their core political beliefs are, we do know they like to get paid.

    ReplyReply
    2
  50. Michael Reynolds says:

    Here’s how impossibly hard it would be for the federal government to distribute vaccine.

    “Hello, CVS, Wal Mart, Costco, Walgreens, Target? We’re sending you vaccine. Here’s how it goes: medical pros first, then old people. We’ll email details.”

    “Hello, USPS, FedEx, UPS? I’m gonna email you a list of CVS. Wal Mart, Costco, Walgreens and Target stores.”

    ReplyReply
    2
  51. Modulo Myself says:

    And needs are not universal, so the idea that there can or should be a one-size-fits-all approach is just not how it works in reality.

    Needs are actually universal. People need to eat and they need shelter, and in modern society, people need some sort of stable future, so that will have food and shelter in the future. This is why they work. Luckily, money is one-size-fits-all, and it’s about as universal as you’re going to get.

    But you’re right. Reality is about mystification and making it very very hard to talk about essentials rather than trade-offs or risk analysis or efficiencies or whatever middle-management boilerplate you want to use.

    ReplyReply
    3
  52. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Modulo Myself:

    Needs are actually universal.

    Particularly true since the need in this case is a single thing: vaccine. We’ve had ten goddamn months to prepare to distribute vaccine in a country with a 20 trillion dollar economy and a US Government that can literally print money. But federalism, because people are so much better served by the broke-ass health departments of Arkansas and Mississippi.

    ReplyReply
    7
  53. Modulo Myself says:

    @gVOR08:

    Because they believe that free markets and capitalism fulfill a psychological need that can’t be replaced by giving money for people to stay home.

    ReplyReply
    1
  54. DrDaveT says:

    @Andy:

    You never were able to dispute the fact that the federal government is not resourced and equipped to do this, nor does it have the requisite knowledge to competently manage it. And you still can’t.

    Speaking only for myself and not for Michael, I didn’t bother trying to dispute that “fact” because once you went there I realized we were arguing religion and not public administration.

    …Unless perhaps you are arguing that the Trump administration’s deliberate sabotage of the federal government has been sufficiently effective that the abilities of 4 years ago no longer exist? I could see an argument along those lines, but that hardly counts as a defense of administration handling of the pandemic.

    ReplyReply
    4
  55. Mikey says:

    @Michael Reynolds: I wouldn’t call this a failure of federalism per se. Centralized planning and coordination with execution pushed down to the lowest practical level would have been a very good way to do vaccine administration.

    But this isn’t that, at all. This is a simple abdication of leadership at the federal level, because Trump. It’s just like PPE and tests. Little planning, no coordination, just “you’re on your own, good luck.”

    Speaking of testing, there’s a piece in the NYT today that contains the following:

    “You’re killing me! This whole thing is! We’ve got all the damn cases,” Mr. Trump yelled at Jared Kushner, his son-in-law and senior adviser, during a gathering of top aides in the Oval Office on Aug. 19. “I want to do what Mexico does. They don’t give you a test till you get to the emergency room and you’re vomiting.”

    Mexico’s record in fighting the virus was hardly one for the United States to emulate. But the president had long seen testing not as a vital way to track and contain the pandemic but as a mechanism for making him look bad by driving up the number of known cases.

    There’s a lot more in the article, but this pretty much encapsulates Trump’s rationale. He didn’t care how many Americans died, he just cared about how he looked while they did.

    And there’s one word for that: evil.

    ReplyReply
    7
  56. Modulo Myself says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    This country has just spent a long time considering it to be virtuous and wise to piss on the idea of any public good. So it’s not surprising that when health care as a public good was at its most necessary it didn’t work.

    I mean, if there was a plan to distribute assault rifles to groups of people ranked by importance until the entire country each had its own AR-15, you better believe we would all have guns in two to three weeks.

    ReplyReply
    3
  57. Andy says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    Or, we could invent something called a ‘government’ that supports those people whose hands are forced by poverty. While sitting by my pool and drinking copiously I might even be induced to support such entities with, let’s say, half of every fucking dollar I make.

    As I alluded to with Modulo, money can’t substitute for everything. Presumably, you’re not a cyborg and still need to eat. Presumably, you still need power and water and other things as well.

    Food production and distribution, to focus on one example, still need to exist and that requires people. Somehow that food has to get from where it originates into your stomach. If you’re not willing to even go to the store then how are you going to get your food? And if you pay your daughter to not work, who is going to take her place at the store doing her job? Government money can’t do everything Michael.

    It’s fortunate for you that you are rich and can afford to give 1/2 of every dollar to the government and pay your daughter not to work at no real sacrifice to yourself. The nice thing about being rich is that money is fungible for so many things.

    Most people aren’t in that position.

    I can completely understand using the means you have at your disposal to privilege yourself and your family over others – that is human nature and we all do it to a certain extent. I don’t fault you, me, or anyone else for it. But avoiding personal risk for you and your family by paying others to take that risk for you is neither noble nor virtuous. But it’s at least defensible and understandable. (And full disclosure – I’m in a privileged position a well and my family income is covid-proof.) What is less defensible is performative online lecturing about what others must do and about what sacrifices others must make.

    ReplyReply
    2
  58. Kathy says:

    The bottom line, as far as I’m concerned, is that countries like New Zealand and Taiwan eliminated community transmission, and countries like South Korea have kept it down. And none of these places is a dictatorship or had to wreck their economy in the process.

    So we know it can be done, because it was done.

    ReplyReply
    12
  59. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Michael Reynolds: I leave you with the words of Sebastian Stark, the main character, portrayed by James Woods, of a TV show that I didn’t watch while it was on because the station didn’t come OTA where I was living:

    Truth is relative, pick the one that works.

    I have to assume that JKB lives by that advice.

    ReplyReply
    1
  60. R. Dave says:

    @Andy: I don’t think there are absolutes when it comes to Covid and Covid policy. Tradeoffs cannot be avoided – anyone who claims otherwise and chooses a binary argument is deluding themselves or being dishonest. The question is not simply about more deaths vs less deaths despite claims to the contrary because the people who purport to be on the “less deaths” side are also making tradeoffs.

    That’s true in an extremely abstracted kind of way, Andy, but in practical terms, differences in degree do at some point warrant being treated as differences in kind. When the issue at hand is whether to impose a complete, literal lockdown (as they did in Wuhan), yes, people of good conscience can reasonably disagree over the trade-offs involved, but when the issue at hand is whether to require masks in public, the “trade-offs” are so lopsided, I just don’t think that’s the same kind of debate.

    ReplyReply
    6
  61. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker: For the record, I know his character said it because I’m watching the show now on Hulu. So so show, but Jeri Ryan is on it, too, so that increases the interest some.

    ReplyReply
    1
  62. R. Dave says:

    @R. Dave: Arrrghh!!! I need the dang edit button back. So easy to mess up the formatting when typing on a tablet. In my last post, that first paragraph was meant to be a quote from Andy’s comment. Like this:

    I don’t think there are absolutes when it comes to Covid and Covid policy. Tradeoffs cannot be avoided – anyone who claims otherwise and chooses a binary argument is deluding themselves or being dishonest. The question is not simply about more deaths vs less deaths despite claims to the contrary because the people who purport to be on the “less deaths” side are also making tradeoffs.

    ReplyReply
  63. Gustopher says:

    Beyond that, a 41-year-old man is dead, leaving behind a wife and two small children. Surely, simple decency can prevail over politics in that situation.

    A 41 year old man who devoted his life to politics, supporting a party and a president that has abandoned decency. Are you suggesting that we not honor the choices he made in his life?

    He’s not a simple victim of a virus, he was a leader, attempting to set policy and influence others. And where it harms others and himself, it should be highlighted and even mocked if need be, to destroy that continuing legacy of harm.

    3,000 people die each day, but mostly silently and facelessly — and that silence is a very real problem, because it allows people to ignore the problem as it’s just someone else dying offscreen somewhere. Trump and his immediate contacts get treatments unavailable to everyone else, survive, and send a message that Covid is not so bad — and with that monocolonial antibody treatment, maybe it isn’t.

    Holding this man up as a poster boy of irresponsibility — mocking this dead man — puts a face to the pandemic, and shows that does kill the younger, healthier people, and that helps counter his parties message that it’s just the flu.

    He put himself into the political arena. He became more than simply a person by taking on a responsibility for others. He deserves a different treatment than an ordinary person because of that responsibility.

    ReplyReply
    7
  64. R. Dave says:

    @Michael Reynolds: We owe Republicans precisely nothing. Not kindness, not consideration, not the assumption of decency. They are, to a man or woman, people who support fascism, white supremacy and lies on an epic scale. They have hurt people, they have wounded this country, they have by their catastrophic stupidity contributed to the deaths of some portion of 350,000 Americans….Fuck them. Fuck every last one of them….

    Michael, this sentiment seems at odds with your more charitable attitude toward the same sort of people when the consequence of their support of / indifference to racism, fascism, etc. is getting “cancelled” online. It seems like maybe you’re just having different moral scripts triggered depending on how the issue is contextualized in a given conversation.

    ReplyReply
    3
  65. Andy says:

    @DrDaveT:

    Speaking only for myself and not for Michael, I didn’t bother trying to dispute that “fact” because once you went there I realized we were arguing religion and not public administration.

    Here are some facts for you:
    – The federal government couldn’t get the Obamacare website working in four years
    – It currently takes about six years just to define the requirements for a new weapons system
    – It takes 2-4 years just to implement a new administrative rule
    – Hiring a new federal employee can take up to a year (in my own case it was 13 months from the time I first applied until the day I started actually working).

    The sclerotic inefficiency and monumental lack of agility in our federal government is indisputable and legendary. So the idea that this same federal government can do an immediate 180 and completely redo the entire vaccine distribution system on the fly with no delays or negative consequences requires a level of faith that far surpasses any religion.

    “Hello, CVS, Wal Mart, Costco, Walgreens, Target? We’re sending you vaccine. Here’s how it goes: medical pros first, then old people. We’ll email details.”

    “Hello, USPS, FedEx, UPS? I’m gonna email you a list of CVS. Wal Mart, Costco, Walgreens and Target stores.”

    You really don’t know what you’re talking about. The vaccine is already sent, in the vast majority of cases, directly from the manufacturer to the actual location where it will be used. That is the easy party.

    The difficulty is managing and determining eligibility, determining how many doses are needed at what locations based on that eligibility, ensuring those locations have the necessary resources and personnel, providing oversight and monitoring to ensure black-market use is minimized, etc.

    The feds have money to cut checks to buy and transport the vaccine. They have the institutional expertise to provide guidelines for use and who should get it. That’s about it. The feds don’t:

    – have the information to determine how much vaccine needs to go each location
    – doesn’t have the personnel or resources to provide oversight
    – doesn’t have the ability to know which site needs resources and personnel.

    The system is what it is. The fiction that it can be quickly and simply federalized right now is fucking stupid. It would put the vaccine rollout into chaos and delay it significantly. It’s truly bizarre to hear you and others here complain about Republicans supposedly wanting to kill people when what you are advocating would do exactly that.

    ReplyReply
    3
  66. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Michael Reynolds: Who’s sending them the -70 C storage modules?

    But, hey, easy peasy lemon squeezy. All it takes is the firm leader who’ll lock Congress up until they balance the budget, too.

    ReplyReply
    3
  67. Gustopher says:

    @Andy:

    I can completely understand using the means you have at your disposal to privilege yourself and your family over others – that is human nature and we all do it to a certain extent. I don’t fault you, me, or anyone else for it. But avoiding personal risk for you and your family by paying others to take that risk for you is neither noble nor virtuous.

    As I type this, I have a delivery from my pharmacy scheduled to arrive. I’m paying someone else to expose themselves to the risk of going into the pharmacy. I do the same with groceries. I tip well, because I can, but that doesn’t change the very nature of what I am doing.

    But… I think everyone should be doing this. And that the groceries and the pharmacies and the places where people have to congregate for their necessities should be switched to curbside pick up, so the workers are exposed to fewer people and less risk of covid. And the people who are at higher risk of bad outcomes don’t have to run a gauntlet of covid every few weeks.

    Instacart is the closest I can get to that. A small number of dedicated shoppers taking the shopping for a larger number of people, cutting the risk of transmission at large marginally and for me significantly. But it’s a very poor substitute for a collective action (changing the groceries to curbside only) that would be more effective.

    Also, the shoppers need the work. And I tip enough that at least my order pays well, and probably covers a few people that can’t afford to tip well. So, there’s that.

    ReplyReply
    3
  68. Gustopher says:

    @R. Dave:

    It seems like maybe you’re just having different moral scripts triggered depending on how the issue is contextualized in a given conversation.

    It seems more like Michael had a friend “cancelled” in kid lit, saw danger to himself, and is a hypocrite. Danger to oneself is always bigger and more urgent than danger to others, after all.

    I mean that in the best of all possible ways — we’re all hypocrites in a lot of things, and where we have very strong, hard views we should perhaps look into the reasons we have those views and whether they are right or merely self-serving. I like Michael, and I suspect that he is not so rigid in the real world, and that when he says “fuck Republicans, fuck every last one of them” he is using a more narrow definition — hardcore Republican advocates perhaps.

    ReplyReply
    1
  69. Michael Reynolds says:

    @R. Dave:
    What are you talking about? Where is the conflict between, ‘we owe these assholes nothing,’ and, ‘it’s stupid and self-defeating to undercut free speech?’

    I believe in opposing evil. I also believe in freedom of speech. I despise religion, but believe in freedom of religion. I don’t like crowds, yet I believe in a right to freely assemble. I’m really not seeing the problem, unless it’s that you object to calling spades spades.

    @Gustopher:

    It seems more like Michael had a friend “cancelled” in kid lit, saw danger to himself, and is a hypocrite. Danger to oneself is always bigger and more urgent than danger to others, after all.

    I am in no danger. I quit kidlit years ago. The fact is that I deliberately picked a public fight with the cancel queens of kidlit, which would be an odd thing to do if I were quivering in fear. I picked that fight because I was right. I do that sometimes. As it happens I have publishers asking me to write more books and I’m blowing them off to do different things.

    I don’t need anything. I can retire right now and be fine as long as I don’t live too terribly long. (Unlikely given the whisky, the cigars, the sedentary habits.)

    Hard as it may be for you to believe, I have principles, among which are that I don’t dismiss the importance of the individual just because there’s some cause to be served, unless that cause is extremely compelling. I also believe in freedom of speech. And when I speak freely I don’t mush mouth it.

    As for the charge of hypocrisy, feel free to try, but you won’t be able to support that accusation.

    ReplyReply
    2
  70. Andy says:

    @Gustopher:

    But… I think everyone should be doing this. And that the groceries and the pharmacies and the places where people have to congregate for their necessities should be switched to curbside pick up, so the workers are exposed to fewer people and less risk of covid. And the people who are at higher risk of bad outcomes don’t have to run a gauntlet of covid every few weeks.

    Intuitively that sounds simple and reasonable. But think through how that would actually work in practice and I think it becomes a lot more difficult and complicated.

    Replace everyone in the grocery store with an employee “shopping” for you. The store will be just as crowded. Instead of a large number of people passing through a space for short periods of time, you’d have fewer people but they’d be spending much more time in closer proximity. Which is less safe? It’s not clear having grocery stores hire a bunch of new people to roam the aisles picking stuff out for online customers is better in terms of Covid risk.

    And there are the logistical and business issues. Stores are designed and set up to have customers pick their items, checkout, and immediately take them home. They are not set up to have items prebagged and sorted for mass curbside pickup where stuff may need to be stored (I’m thinking especially of perishables and frozen items). Stores will probably have to hire a bunch of new people. Maybe it’s different in your area, but where I live, the curbside selection is limited and some stuff is not available online.

    All those problems (and there are probably others) will require significant reconfiguration, investment, personnel, training, and other changes by grocery stores. And all those changes will cost a lot of money too – who is gonna pay for that? Especially when these changes will be rolled back in a few months as more people get vaccinated and the weather improves.

    In short, I am very skeptical that grocery stores have the infrastructure to scale from 10% curbside service to 100% curbside service. We’ve seen what’s happened with education trying to scale to 100% online learning and it hasn’t been pretty.

    To go back to my main point, we should be looking at and analyzing all the tradeoffs when looking at these options and making a rational decision.

    ReplyReply
    2
  71. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:
    We’ve had ten months to prepare. Ten months! To think about who gets the vaccine first when it comes.

    As for the freezers, do you honestly think the Kentucky state health department would be better at managing that than Wal Mart? I drove south after Katrina. Downed trees, freaked out people, gas shortages. I went to buy some stuff for a shelter at Wal Mart. You know what Wal Mart was doing? They were marking down prices. I could not believe what I was seeing.

    There is not a corner of this country that is not served by a Wal Mart store and it follows, by a Wal Mart warehouse and the whole Wal Mart distribution network.

    Here in California we have a capable health department which has no idea that I or my wife exist. Guess who does know, and also knows my age, my insurance, my other meds and general state of health? CVS.

    Ten months for a nation with a 20 trillion economy to prepare, a nation of airports, railroads and highways, and the solution is to count on broke local health departments? Yeah, I think we could have done better than hitting 15% of the announced goal.

    ReplyReply
    2
  72. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Andy:

    Intuitively that sounds simple and reasonable. But think through how that would actually work in practice and I think it becomes a lot more difficult and complicated.

    100% of my groceries and 90% of my pharmaceuticals are delivered. It is obviously harder to deliver to my house than to a curb. And yet, they not only manage to deliver – 35 items on 12/28, 33 items on 12/22, 41 items on 12/18, they do it while checking with me on every substitution, and within a two hour window.

    ReplyReply
    2
  73. Andy says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    100% of my groceries and 90% of my pharmaceuticals are delivered. It is obviously harder to deliver to my house than to a curb. And yet, they not only manage to deliver – 35 items on 12/28, 33 items on 12/22, 41 items on 12/18, they do it while checking with me on every substitution, and within a two hour window.

    It’s a question of scale. Sure, they can do that for a few customers – I’m skeptical they can do it for every customer – at least not without a lot of time and investment.

    Also Michael, I caught this thread when I was in a particularly sour mood. I don’t mean that as an excuse but as an explanation.

    So I do want to apologize for being much more of a dick in my responses than I aspire to be. Some of my comments were far too much ad hominem directed at you rather than focusing only on the merits, which wasn’t fair to you.

    Ok, I think I’m out of this convo. Have to gear up to celebrate the passing of a particularly shitty year, assuming we don’t die from an asteroid in the next few hours.

    ReplyReply
    5
  74. Mikey says:

    @Andy:

    Have to gear up to celebrate the passing of a particularly shitty year, assuming we don’t die from an asteroid in the next few hours.

    Don’t tease me.

    ReplyReply
    2
  75. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Andy:

    Also Michael, I caught this thread when I was in a particularly sour mood. I don’t mean that as an excuse but as an explanation.

    Thank God I never do that but remain at all times thoughtful and considerate.

    ReplyReply
    6
  76. R. Dave says:

    @Michael Reynolds: What are you talking about? Where is the conflict between, ‘we owe these assholes nothing,’ and, ‘it’s stupid and self-defeating to undercut free speech?’ I believe in opposing evil. I also believe in freedom of speech. I despise religion, but believe in freedom of religion. I don’t like crowds, yet I believe in a right to freely assemble. I’m really not seeing the problem, unless it’s that you object to calling spades spades.

    Well, perhaps I’ve misjudged your view of the cancel culture wars, but in those discussions, it often seems like you aren’t just defending the abstract principle of free speech despite your personal loathing for the evil of those being cancelled. You’ve talked about things like nuance, compassion, allowing for error and growth, differentiating between willful wrongs and those born of stupidity and ignorance, etc. On the other hand, in discussions like this one, where the person involved is contextualized as “a Republican who did X, Y or Z and is now suffering for it” rather than “some random individual who did X, Y or Z and is now suffering for it”, you tend to subsume that person into the undifferentiated mass of “Republicans” and express a very intense level of antipathy toward them. Yet, given the type of wrongs at issue, both situations likely involve more or less the same pool of people. That’s why it seems like different scripts (in the computer programming sense) might be getting triggered for you.

    Admittedly, though, the “scripts” thing is a bit of a pet theory of mine. I tend to think people’s emotional reactions to things are often less rational and reasoned than we like to believe and are instead very dependent on which particular set of heuristics / scripts get engaged due to context triggers. It’s like a lovable household pet that suddenly goes all feral on you because some stimulus triggered their predatory instinct, or a bunch of hooligans that might helpfully give you directions to the nearest bodega or beat the crap out of you steal your wallet depending on how the encounter is set up to begin with.

    ReplyReply
    4
  77. Teve says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    There is not a corner of this country that is not served by a Wal Mart store and it follows, by a Wal Mart warehouse and the whole Wal Mart distribution network.

    public-private partnerships can be damned effective. Many years ago I was working for Home Depot and there was a managers meeting days before a huge hurricane was about to hit. I asked one of the managers what they had talked about in the meeting, and he said, “coordinating with highway patrol and sheriffs. Corporate’s got 100 semis of lumber and bottled water that’s going to roll into Florida as soon as the Hurricane’s past.”

    ReplyReply
    1
  78. Mikey says:

    @Teve:

    public-private partnerships can be damned effective

    A few astronauts passing the New Year on the International Space Station would likely agree.

    ReplyReply
    2
  79. Gustopher says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    I am in no danger. I quit kidlit years ago. The fact is that I deliberately picked a public fight with the cancel queens of kidlit, which would be an odd thing to do if I were quivering in fear. I picked that fight because I was right. I do that sometimes. As it happens I have publishers asking me to write more books and I’m blowing them off to do different things.

    Danger to oneself and ones friends then. Danger nearby vs danger far away.

    There is a huge disconnect from your being so very bothered by a mob going after some twit for their offensive slurs, and what appears to be a strong desire for a mob to go after Republicans and the religious.

    I mostly square this by assuming you’re not really as harsh towards the R-word people as you claim to be, along with the levels of hypocrisy that is standard in people these days, rather than some special level. Your kid is trans(?)/nonbinary(?)/something-like-that, and is under attack, so it gets your hackles up when people use reasons that are also used as reasons to discriminate against your kid, so you’re quick to dismiss religion, etc.

    ReplyReply
    2
  80. Gustopher says:

    @Andy:

    Replace everyone in the grocery store with an employee “shopping” for you. The store will be just as crowded. Instead of a large number of people passing through a space for short periods of time, you’d have fewer people but they’d be spending much more time in closer proximity. Which is less safe? It’s not clear having grocery stores hire a bunch of new people to roam the aisles picking stuff out for online customers is better in terms of Covid risk.

    Right now the staff is exposed to a large number of people, all day, in close proximity, and invariably some of the “I got rights” idiots who don’t wear their masks.

    Instacart shoppers often manage three orders at once. I see no reason why the store’s additional staff cannot do similar, so we are cutting the total occupancy down, and putting them under better control with regards to masks, safe distances, etc. I’m not an epidemiologist, but that definitely looks like a situation where there is less danger (assuming a constant risk per person-hour of exposure, less people in the store is good, then the benefits of training and compliance with safety)

    Add in regular testing, and you’re identifying clusters sooner. Play around with schedules to effectively create work bubbles and you can minimize the blast radius of an outbreak. Segment staff into picking partial orders.

    And there are the logistical and business issues. Stores are designed and set up to have customers pick their items, checkout, and immediately take them home.

    They are set up like warehouses for stupid people who don’t know where things are. This is not a problem. Even if they still have some workers going to the checkout for customers, it’s not a big problem. As time goes on, you can refine steps.

    They are not set up to have items prebagged and sorted for mass curbside pickup where stuff may need to be stored (I’m thinking especially of perishables and frozen items).

    Storage for frozen and refrigerated goods is a problem — you can gain some refrigerated space by using the cold beer aisle and just selling warm beer, and there may be empty space available by not needing display space for frozen goods, or storing bags in the freezers in back. Insulated containers help, along with picking cold items right beforehand.

    Stores will probably have to hire a bunch of new people. Maybe it’s different in your area, but where I live, the curbside selection is limited and some stuff is not available online.

    You may not get your favorite flavor of Doritos. This is true. You will also be frustrated that the bananas are not the shade you like. I’m not saying that it won’t suck a bit. Charge extra for a more premium service, closer to instacart. Charge even more to have a livestream video chat with the guy picking your bananas.

    We would also need people to take phone orders.

    All those problems (and there are probably others) will require significant reconfiguration, investment, personnel, training, and other changes by grocery stores. And all those changes will cost a lot of money too – who is gonna pay for that? Especially when these changes will be rolled back in a few months as more people get vaccinated and the weather improves.

    This is where I think we need the government. To pay these increased costs. Because only the government isn’t trying to compete on price with tiny margins that would encourage cutting every corner.

    The individual can’t make this happen. At best you can have a marginal impact — my instacart shopper does three orders at once, and has a trivial impact on reducing spread through society. My instacart shopper also needs work, so I’m helping put food on their table.

    Also, weather doesn’t do a damn thing for virus spread. And this is something I’ve wanted since March, so we would have been talking well over a year.

    ReplyReply
  81. Jax says:

    @Andy: Happy New Year, my friend, I’m glad you still poke your head in every once in a while!

    Also, Happy New Year to all the OTB crew and commentariat!

    Hoping de Stijl checks in this weekend and hasn’t suffered COVID complications. Happy New Year to you, too, my favorite “Original” punk rocker!

    ReplyReply
    4
  82. Bob@Youngstown says:

    @Andy:

    You never were able to dispute the fact that the federal government is not resourced and equipped to do (vaccine distribution), nor does it have the requisite knowledge to competently manage it.

    However the Warp Speed (federal) team assured us repeatedly that they had this distribution program under well in hand. (General what’s his name).

    ReplyReply
    2
  83. Gustopher says:

    @Andy:

    The belief that the federal government can suddenly turn on a dime and centrally manage vaccinations (or any other function that currently resides with states) is, at best, ignorant.

    We’ve had a year. We’ve had candidate vaccines for most of that year — knowing the freezer requirements. We’ve had programs in place to buy up production on multiple vaccines in case one or more panned out. Trump has been promising a vaccine by November since August — the rampant spread did speed the efficacy testing, by the way…

    You’re saying that the government is incapable of doing several dry run vaccine distributions during that time? Learn where the process is going to fail, and have a few opportunities to improve?

    We’ve gone from “the military will distribute the vaccine” to “it’s the states responsibility and the federal government will drop off less than promised… good luck out there.”

    I don’t care about federalism one way or the other (ok, states seem pointless in our current society, and my preference would be to weaken them and strengthen county and federal governments). We don’t have time to reinvent the government infrastructure anyway. But we did have time to make sure that what we do have works, or at least discover the first few rounds of failures.

    And there’s no indication that this was done. Even though it would have been great politics — “second test of vaccine distribution readiness shows a 30% decrease in time to 1M doses per day, cuts spoilage down to 5%. President Trump is wrangling the Deep State into compliance!”

    The choices aren’t “the government does a shitty job” and “the government does nothing” — there’s always “the government does a less shitty job”

    ReplyReply
    2
  84. DrDaveT says:

    @Andy:

    Here are some facts for you:
    – The federal government couldn’t get the Obamacare website working in four years
    – It currently takes about six years just to define the requirements for a new weapons system
    – It takes 2-4 years just to implement a new administrative rule
    – Hiring a new federal employee can take up to a year (in my own case it was 13 months from the time I first applied until the day I started actually working).

    And this is why it takes literally years for FEMA to respond to an earthquake or hurricane, and… Oh wait. It doesn’t. Never mind.

    I’m reasonably sure I know more than you do about all of the “examples” you just cited above, and none of them have anything to do with (for example) the mission and authorities of the Public Health Service.

    Trump inherited a government perfectly capable of doing all the things you think it can’t do. If it can no longer do them, that is also Trump’s fault, not government’s.

    And even if devolution of authorities to the states were the best way to handle this crisis, that is not what this administration has been doing. Instead, it has been sending mixed signals, interfering in state operations, and generally guaranteeing that more people die. But that is not a failing of federal government; that is a failing of Republicans and Trumpists.

    ReplyReply
    2
  85. JohnSF says:

    @@Andy: Andy:
    Speaking as someone who once, many years ago, worked in a retail store warehouse; assuming you don’t just use the store customer side as the picking source for your orders, but use the store warehouse logistics to fulfill, it should be possible to avoid the storeside bottlenecks.
    I say “possible”: in UK the current (exploded since lockdown) Morrisons supermarket/Amazon model is just a human “remote shopper” “fulfiller” on the open shelves.
    Currently people doing their own shopping at Morrisons are trying to negotiate around hordes of Amazon fulfillers.
    Stupid. Inefficient. Silly. Bloody annoying.

    ReplyReply
  86. JohnSF says:

    The thing is, once you plug in the default assumptions of retailing into a distribution system it may work effectively.
    Or it may not.

    ReplyReply
    1
  87. Loviatar says:

    Its been sadly amusing watching all the replies to Andy. While everyone who replied had cogent, logical responses what they failed to take into consideration was that they were replying to a cultist. Not a Trumper, but a cultist of the mythical free market system, the cult that believes the government can do no right. The cult that puts private enterprise on a pedestal to the detriment of society.

    However, please continue to respond to Andy, continue to demolish his fantasies, because cultist take non-responses as agreement, as an acknowledgement that their wishful thoughts are legitimate.

    Happy New Year All.

    ReplyReply
    4
  88. Monala says:

    @DrDaveT: I don’t know about the bullet points 2-4, but the Obamacare website issues were fixed within a few weeks.

    ReplyReply
  89. mattbernius says:

    @Monala:

    I don’t know about the bullet points 2-4, but the Obamacare website issues were fixed within a few weeks.

    Another fun fact, the issue was with a private contractor who won the Obamacare bid who over-promised and under-delivered.

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2013/10/16/meet-cgi-federal-the-company-behind-the-botched-launch-of-healthcare-gov/

    ReplyReply

Speak Your Mind

*