Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for March 27th, 2020

Donald Trump Is Trapped

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Peter Wehner writes in the Atlantic:

For his entire adult life, and for his entire presidency, Donald Trump has created his own alternate reality, complete with his own alternate set of facts. He has shown himself to be erratic, impulsive, narcissistic, vindictive, cruel, mendacious, and devoid of empathy. None of that is new.

But we’re now entering the most dangerous phase of the Trump presidency. The pain and hardship that the United States is only beginning to experience stem from a crisis that the president is utterly unsuited to deal with, either intellectually or temperamentally. When things were going relatively well, the nation could more easily absorb the costs of Trump’s psychological and moral distortions and disfigurements. But those days are behind us. The coronavirus pandemic has created the conditions that can catalyze a destructive set of responses from an individual with Trump’s characterological defects and disordered personality.

We are now in the early phase of a medical and economic tempest unmatched in most of our lifetimes. There’s too much information we don’t have. We don’t know the full severity of the pandemic, or whether a state like New York is a harbinger or an outlier. But we have enough information to know this virus is rapidly transmissible and lethal.

The qualities we most need in a president during this crisis are calmness, wisdom, and reassurance; a command of the facts and the ability to communicate them well; and the capacity to think about the medium and long term while carefully weighing competing options and conflicting needs. We need a leader who can persuade the public to act in ways that are difficult but necessary, who can focus like a laser beam on a problem for a sustained period of time, and who will listen to—and, when necessary, defer to—experts who know far more than he does. We need a president who can draw the nation together rather than drive it apart, who excels at the intricate work of governing, and who works well with elected officials at every level. We need a chief executive whose judgment is not just sound, but exceptional.

There are some 325 million people in America, and it’s hard to think of more than a handful who are more lacking in these qualities than Donald Trump.

But we need to consider something else, which is that the coronavirus pandemic may lead to a rapid and even more worrisome psychological and emotional deterioration in the commander in chief. This is not a certainty, but it’s a possibility we need to be prepared for.

Here’s how this might play out; to some extent, it already has.

Let’s start with what we know. Someone with Trump’s psychological makeup, when faced with facts and events that are unpleasant, that he perceives as a threat to his self-image and public standing, simply denies them. We saw that repeatedly during the early part of the pandemic, when the president was giving false reassurance and spreading false information one day after another.

After a few days in which he was willing to acknowledge the scope and scale of this crisis—he declared himself a “wartime president”—he has now regressed to type, once again becoming a fountain of misinformation. At a press conference yesterday, he declared that he “would love to have the country opened up, and just raring to go, by Easter,” which is less than three weeks away, a goal that top epidemiologists and health professionals believe would be catastrophic.

“I think it’s possible. Why not?” he said with a shrug during a town hall hosted by Fox News later in the day. (Why Easter? He explained, “I just thought it was a beautiful time, a beautiful timeline.”) He said this as New York City’s case count is doubling every three days and the U.S. case count is now setting the pace for the world.

As one person who consults with the Trump White House on the coronavirus response put it to me, “He has chosen to imagine the worst is behind us when the worst is clearly ahead of us.” . . .

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Written by Leisureguy

27 March 2020 at 3:01 pm

Table-top generals

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Time Cross writes in the Economist 1843:

Draughts is a funky little café tucked into a railway arch in Islington, in north London. It has exposed brick walls, a bar stocked with trendy craft beers and a selection of comfy chairs. The toast is artisanal and the avocados are smashed. But the most striking thing is the shelves arrayed at the back of the café. They groan with board games – more than 700 of them, according to Russell Chapman, who works there. When it was founded in 2014, Draughts became London’s first dedicated board-game café.

All the old classics are there: Monopoly, Risk, Battleship, along with their memories of family arguments at Christmas. But the main draw for the patrons is a new generation of deeper, more involving – simply better – games that have been devised over the past couple of decades. At one table a group of people are playing Pandemic, a tricky, strategy game in which players are cast as doctors and scientists trying to save the world from four plagues. Their neighbours are engrossed in a game of Castle Panic, in which the defenders co-operate to defend a fortress from a horde of encroaching monsters.

A board-game café sounds like the sort of niche business that appeals only to hip millennials with a fondness for ironic nostalgia. But, on a Friday afternoon, the crowd is more diverse than that, with families and 50-somethings alongside the youngsters. Draughts is doing so well that its owners are now pondering opening another branch. It is just one beneficiary of a new golden age in board games.

The most popular games sell in their millions. Top of the list is Settlers of Catan, in which players compete to settle a fictional wilderness. It has shifted more than 20m copies since the first edition of 5,000 was released in Germany in 1995. Dominion, a medieval-flavoured card game, released in 2008, has sold 2.5m copies.

There are now competitions and a festival circuit for the most committed fans. In 2016 174,000 people streamed through the doors at International Spieltage, the industry’s flagship trade-show-cum-festival, held every year in the German city of Essen. GenCon, held in America, counted 208,000 people through the turnstiles in 2017. The UK Games Expo, held in Birmingham, has grown from 1,200 visitors in 2007 to 31,000 in 2017. The trend is global, but there are pockets of intense enthusiasm. One is Silicon Valley, where Settlers of Catan is an obsession among many. Reid Hoffman, LinkedIn’s founder and a board-game aficionado, says that Settlers of Catan is “the board game of entrepreneurship”. Earlier this year, Maybe Capital, a satirical game about the Valley, complete with discriminatory rewards for male and female players, was launched on Kickstarter, a crowd-funding site.

One reason for the tabletop-gaming boom is simply that the products have improved. The best modern games are sociable, engaging and easy to learn, but also cerebral, intriguing and difficult to master. The slow triumph of what used to be called “nerd culture” – think smartphone gaming and “Game of Thrones” on television – has given adults permission to engage openly in pastimes that were previously looked down on as juvenile. And the increasing ubiquity of screens has, paradoxically, fuelled a demand for in-person socialising. Board gaming is another example of an old-style, analogue pastime that, far from being killed by technology, has been reinvigorated by it.

The revival began in the 1990s, says Matt Leacock, an American game designer responsible for Pandemic, as the internet began spreading into people’s homes. Leacock was a programmer at Yahoo! at the time. Germany, he says, is the spiritual home of board-gaming. “For whatever reason there has always been a culture there of playing these things, of families sitting around the table at a weekend,” he says. The internet helped that culture spread: “I remember we used to rely on these little hobbyist websites that would do amateur translations into English of all the new German games that were coming out,” says Leacock. As with everything from Japanese cartoons to Jane Austen fandom, the internet helped bring together like-minded people all over the world.

Those early websites have blossomed into a thriving scene of  . . .

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Written by Leisureguy

27 March 2020 at 2:13 pm

Posted in Daily life, Games

EPA suspends enforcement of environmental laws amid coronavirus

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Rebecca Beitsch reports in The Hill:

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a sweeping suspension of its enforcement of environmental laws Thursday, telling companies they would not need to meet environmental standards during the coronavirus outbreak.

The temporary policy, for which the EPA has set no end date, would allow any number of industries to skirt environmental laws, with the agency saying it will not “seek penalties for noncompliance with routine monitoring and reporting obligations.”

Cynthia Giles, who headed the EPA’s Office of Enforcement during the Obama administration, called it a moratorium on enforcing the nation’s environmental laws and an abdication of the agency’s duty.

“This EPA statement is essentially a nationwide waiver of environmental rules for the indefinite future. It tells companies across the country that they will not face enforcement even if they emit unlawful air and water pollution in violation of environmental laws, so long as they claim that those failures are in some way ’caused’ by the virus pandemic. And it allows them an out on monitoring too, so we may never know how bad the violating pollution was,” she wrote in a statement to The Hill.

The EPA has been under pressure from a number of industries, including the oil industry, to suspend enforcement of a number of environmental regulations due to the pandemic.

“EPA is committed to protecting human health and the environment, but . . .

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Written by Leisureguy

27 March 2020 at 2:06 pm

Donald Trump Signals He Might Sacrifice Thousands of Americans to Restart the Economy

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David Corn writes in Mother Jones:

That didn’t take long. Donald Trump already seems to be growing tired and frustrated with doing the right thing.

After about two months of deadly delays and denials, Trump a week ago finally began pushing a public health initiative to counter the coronavirus pandemic, promoting the White House’s “15 Days to Slow the Spread” campaign, which called for social distancing, teleworking, and limiting social gatherings to 10 or fewer people. This was not as aggressive a stance as some public health experts urged, but it was far better than the message Trump conveyed on March 4, when he told Sean Hannity, “You know, we have thousands or hundreds of thousands of people that get better, just by, you know, sitting around and even going to work.”

Yet now it appears that Trump is considering pivoting from the expert-driven plan of containing the virus by minimizing social interactions. On Sunday night, he tweeted, “WE CANNOT LET THE CURE BE WORSE THAN THE PROBLEM ITSELF. AT THE END OF THE 15 DAY PERIOD, WE WILL MAKE A DECISION AS TO WHICH WAY WE WANT TO GO!” This seemed to suggest Trump worried that the strict measures taken to counter the pandemic and save lives might be causing too much economic pain.

Soon after, Trump retweeted a number of conservative activists who explicitly made this troubling point. One declared, “Correct. 15 days, then we keep the high-risk groups protected as necessary and the rest of us go back to work.” Another railed that the current measures were leading to the “Destruction of the economy.” A third said, “Flatten the curve NOT the economy.” And Trump also retweeted an unverified account apparently belonging to a Southern California sex counselor who proclaimed, “The fear of the virus cannot collapse our economy that President Trump has built up. We The People are smart enough to keep away from others if we know that we are sick or they are sick! After 15 days are over the world can begin to heal!” Here was Trump promoting the position that come next week those damn annoying and inconvenient social distancing practices should be dropped and the nation should just depend on citizens being able to sort out, on their own, how to avoid sharing the virus.

Meanwhile, the New York Times reported that “at the White House, in recent days, there has been a growing sentiment that medical experts were allowed to set policy that has hurt the economy, and there has been a push to find ways to let people start returning to work.” The story noted, “Trump has become frustrated with Dr. [Anthony] Fauci’s blunt approach at the briefing lectern, which often contradicts things the president has just said, according to two people familiar with the dynamic.” Fauci has been saying that severe social distancing measures will likely be required for weeks to come—longer than those 15 days Trump initially called for. That’s not going over well with the boss. And on Monday, the Wall Street Journal reported, “The White House is discussing easing social-distancing guidelines as early as next week as advisers and business leaders push President Trump to boost an economy beset by deepening job losses nationwide.”

Put all this together and a clear and harsh impression emerges: Trump is willing to weaken public health measures in order to try to prevent further economic damage. To put it crassly, he seems to care more about economic metrics than preventing the death of Americans. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

27 March 2020 at 12:55 pm

For those learning to cook

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I have some tips from my own experience. Go to this post, scroll down to the subheading “Prepare your meals from scratch—it quickly becomes enjoyable” and read from there. It contains lots of basic information.

Right now I’m cooking a mess of greens — well, several messes. “Mess” means “portion” or “meal” — thus the Army mess hall. This mess contains:

3 bunches thick scallions, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 large jalapeño, chopped small
about 1.5 tablespoons ground black pepper
about 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

I cooked that in the 6-qt pot until it cooked down, then I added:

1 lemon, diced
1 tomato, chopped
1 smallish bunch green kale, chopped
1 bunch red chard, chopped
3 baby Shanghai bok choy, chopped
1 largish bunch rapini, chopped
3/4 cup Kalamata olives
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

I cooked that, stirring from time to time, until the greens wilted, then covered the pot and simmered the greens for 20 minutes. The tomato I just happened to have on hand — well, the same is true of the Kalamata olives.

I’ll be eating these at two meals a day (at least), 1/2 cup = 1 serving.

Written by Leisureguy

27 March 2020 at 11:07 am

RazoRock and Rockwell

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A comforting shave to end the week: Everything shown works so well. There’s little more to add: it was the sort of shave that is just what I thought/imagined/hoped shaving would be like: warm, comfortable, fragrant, and in a way fulfilling.

Today will be a slow migration of items to their places (places, I should add, subject to revision). I solved the razor storage problem (they formerly resided in a razor drawer in the bathroom, but no such drawer in this bathroom) by make a little razor village on top of the dresser where they stand in serried ranks assembled.

Order emerging from disorder: a satisfying process — at least to me.

Written by Leisureguy

27 March 2020 at 9:13 am

Posted in Shaving

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