Saturday, December 31, 2022

A fan's guide to what is shaping college football bowl games

When I need to restore my soul, I've long watched massive numbers of these made-for-TV college athletic spectacles. There are something like 41 of them this year beginning December 16. Most are pedestrian, but a few are delights. All offer their moments and their quirks. 

But the structures that set the terms for them have changed pretty radically since I last indulged one of these seasonal bowl binges. I thought I'd share some observations and definitions of terms.

Of course, Division 1 NCAA football has long been a business, a Darwinian contest among sports administrators to showcase teams that will excite alumni donors. For decades, that meant attracting promising high school athletes with "scholarships" which rendered them something like indentured peons under all-powerful coaches, subsisting on the favor of their masters (almost all men) -- and perhaps their talent. This might lead to a continued athletic career at the professional level for a very few. And college degrees for about 73 percent of high level players -- slightly higher than their non-athlete peers. These graduation rates are something like 15 percent higher for white players than for black ones.

Legal challenges during last decade have reduced the power of college athletic administrators to keep players in penurious servitude and allowed some direct compensation to athletes from the schools, but even more from booster collectives. But it's the conferences that control the TV money and rake in big bucks.

And it's the NCAA and the conferences that shape post season (bowl) play. Over the next few years, all the accreted anarchic bowls will be sucked into the College Football Playoff National Championship. Forget iconic bowls like the Rose Bowl serving as contests between regions of the country. Which schools play where will be determined by "national standings," not accidents of history. This may make economic sense and even for some less-mismatched, but more exciting, contests, but something is lost.

Something else that has gone bye-the-bye is the expectation that college football players will give their all for their schools in post-season play. Players with strong NFL prospects routinely choose not to risk injury (or have their weaknesses highlighted) by "opting out" of bowl play. Just about every bowl game I have watched this year has begun with a recitation of a list of absentees "preparing for the NFL draft." This is understandable; football is these guys' ticket, not that degree in sports management.

And besides, coaches are doing the same -- jumping to the next job before the post season finishes. This might be one of the most surreal outcomes I've run across:

Wasabi Fenway Bowl - Cincinnati vs. Louisville, December 16
Cincinnati: Head coach Luke Fickell left for Wisconsin and won't coach in the bowl. Kerry Coombs will remain on staff under new coach Scott Satterfield and is the interim head coach for this game. ...  
Louisville: The Cardinals lost coach Scott Satterfield and a couple of assistants to Cincinnati. Deion Branch will work as the team's interim coach for this game. ...

College football players, their peon status newly loosened, play their own game of musical chairs. In theory, the NCAA has long defined eligibility for its athletes as four seasons in their sport, plus a "red shirt" year when they play little or not at all. Teams red-shirt (hold out) players for development or major injuries and sometimes can squeeze an additional year out through administrative legerdemain; this is why I keep hearing of "six year players." Also why one hears that some athletes are in graduate school for academics while still playing undergrad college sports.

And currently the newly implemented "transfer portal" allows college football players to jump from one academic institution to another, perhaps for a better deal, or better TV exposure, or to follow a preferred coach who made a move. The portal is a database of athletes hoping to make a jump. Until this was put in place, transferring students had to sit out a year at their new digs. No longer. The transfer portal rules are somewhat intricate and evolving. Players who have entered the portal can play in bowl games with their old college, but mostly don't. That's another list of opt-outs announced at the beginning of this year's games.

There's a heck of a lot of money in college football and its post-season. And so long as we don't, as a society, conclude that American football is too lethal to continue to attract masses of customers, there'll be young athletes who want in. I will miss the less blatantly commercial version of the college football post-seasion. But the new one will undoubtedly put on a grand show. Guess I'll have to learn all the new rules. It's more fun when I understand them, at least superficially.

Shards from the embattled republic: dysfunctions and fortunate deflections from 2022

An occasional list of links to thought provoking commentary on the condition our condition is in. I hope over the New Year's week to deliver some "shards" in three parts of which this is the first, more or less US-centric installment. 

... I diagnose my condition these days as "depleted." The four months of working to preserve a chance for democracy and freedom through the election has taken something out of me that awaits replenishment. Meanwhile, some offerings ...

Jonathan Chait from New York Magazine:
Despite everything, there is still a robust constituency in this country for leaders who are not overtly crazy.

Sarah Longwell, defenestrated Republican, publisher of The Bulwark, and addict of the wisdom of focus groups:
With Republicans embracing moral nihilism, Democrats should endeavor to seize the high-ground. Already, the parties are realigning not just on questions of policy, but on questions of character. ... I know our political culture is awash in cynicism these days, but there is still a market for decency. Something I heard over and over again from swing voters explaining why they couldn’t vote for Trump was, “How can I teach my kids how to be decent when the President of the United States behaves this way?” Plenty of Americans still crave moral leadership—or, at a minimum, elected officials they’re not embarrassed to have their children see on the news.

Eric Levitz at New York Magazine:
Whatever Democrats can do to facilitate labor organizing and increase access to higher education will simultaneously advance social justice and improve the party’s long-term electoral prospects.

Teri Kanefield at her own site, Books, Law, and Politics:
Democracy cannot be saved with autocratic means because the very act of adopting autocratic means destroys democracy. That’s what makes it hard. Democracy is saved with more democracy. Autocracy is created by rule-breaking. ... My advice: Ignore the rage merchants and learn to distinguish expert opinions from emotional reactions. Rage creates apathy and hopelessness and people who are apathetic and hopeless have a hard time finding the energy to do the work required to save democracy.... Learn to love rule of law with all its frustrations and imperfections. 

Jill Filipovic at The Guardian:
The American reaction to the supreme court’s radical decision on abortion rights is a telling hint of what’s to come. The court summarily taking away a fundamental, long-held, and oft-utilized civil right is incredibly uncommon; it hasn’t happened in my lifetime, or my mother’s lifetime. While most of the rest of the world is moving toward broader respect for human rights, including women’s rights, and expanding abortion alongside a greater embrace of democratic norms, the US is in league with only a tiny handful of nations in making abortions harder to get, and in newly criminalizing them. The nations that are cracking down on abortion rather than expanding abortion rights have one thing in common: a turn from democracy and toward authoritarian governance.

Tom Nichols at The Atlantic responding to Herschel Walker's Senate candidacy:
... the real problem lies with the voters. The Republicans are getting the candidates they want. This is not about partisanship—it’s about an unhinged faux-egalitarianism that demands that candidates for office be no better than the rest of us, and perhaps even demonstrably worse. How dare anyone run on virtue or character; who do they think they are? ... This is a tragedy of insecurity, because what it really means is that GOP voters don’t think very much of themselves. At some point, some of them may realize what they have done, but by then it’s too late. The only thing worse than making a mistake is admitting it was a mistake, and facing the humiliation of being a sucker.

Kevin Drum at Jabberwocking:
Practically all the evidence suggests the United States is fundamentally a strong country right now. Probably the strongest in the world, and with the brightest future. It's extraordinary to think of just how good a place it could be if only we could figure out a way to overcome the debilitating fear that so many people still have of progress and change.

Michael Gerson in the Washington Post
Many progressives feel cheated by a political system rigged by the Founders against them. Many religious conservatives feel despised by the broader culture and in need of political protection. In the United States, grievance is structural and is becoming supreme.

UniteHERE canvassers and voters they've delivered to polls
Perry Bacon Jr. at the Washington Post
The Democratic Party’s voters (not necessarily its leaders) are what we want America to be. They are diverse on a number of dimensions, unified around laudable goals such as reducing economic and racial inequality, and actively trying to make the United States the best nation it can be.

Carlos Lozada in the New York Times
One of the great questions of this time has always been whether Trump changed the country or revealed it more clearly. The answer is yes; it is both. He changed America by revealing it. On Jan. 6, Trump was the man who could win the country back for those who yearned for him long before they imagined him. If he can’t do it, someone like him will do. Or someone like him, perhaps, but more so.

Dana Milbank at the Washington Post
I admit I’ve thought about where my family might go if the worst happened here. But we’re not going anywhere. The only choice is to stay and fight for our liberal democracy. As my rabbi, Danny Zemel, put it on Kol Nidre: “If there is a Jewish message for our time, it is to support our great experiment with every fiber of our being.”... If it isn’t safe here, it won’t be safe anywhere.

Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo:
... history doesn’t end. We hear a lot about how we might lose our democracy in this election. No going back. That’s not how things work. We might lose it. Or, to be more specific, we might enter a period of degraded or superficial democracy in which the trappings and structures remain more or less in place but are fundamentally subverted. But if we lose it … well, then we’ll have to work on getting it back. This isn’t happy talk or Pollyannaish thinking. It’s reality. History doesn’t end. No matter how bad things get there’s a next day when you have to figure out what you do next. Nothing is ever fully solved or fully lost.

Happy New Year!

Friday, December 30, 2022

Friday cat blogging

Janeway has chosen a favored spot this winter. There is often heat from the furnace ...
but I'm convinced there's something alive to hunt in the duct work below. She just can't get at it! Patience doesn't serve the mighty hunter. There's more satisfaction when she rips apart spiders that unwarily wandered into the shower. She's a cat ...

Tuesday, December 27, 2022

Sign of the season ...

A tree falls on Bartlett Street. 

This post isn't really about seasonal tree litter, but about the delightful fact that the San Francisco Chronicle has developed a data department which explores measurable realities, fun and not-so-fun.

Hence this illustrated factoid:

For example, in a typical year, the city’s 311 hotline receives over 3,000 complaints about Christmas trees. Perhaps not surprisingly, 90% of those complaints happen between Dec. 26 and Feb. 7. People truly get fed up around mid-January. The most common day for Christmas tree complaints since 2015 was Jan. 18, with an average of 183 complaints each year.

The Chronicle, though depleted as almost all local news sources are, nonetheless has become a far more interesting vehicle under current leadership. The City is in a deep bust cycle; the Chron records this round in ways that might help us become a little better. 

Happy Xmas tree litter season to all!

Saturday, December 24, 2022

Abundant, uninvited, life

May all enjoy an abundant Christmas of unexpected joy!

Friday, December 23, 2022

Friday cat blogging

Janeway's response to the season is simple: wake me up when there is more light and warmth -- when all this is over. And don't you dare move that lap ...

She's got a point.

• • •

She might approve of these cat ladies:

Two Alabama women have been given suspended jail sentences last week after feeding stray cats and trapping them so they could be neutered, a common public health intervention to reduce stray numbers.

Beverly Roberts, 85, and Mary Alston, 61, of Wetumpka, Alabama, were sentenced to two years of unsupervised parole and a $100 fine each ...
There's a useful late life vocation ...

Thursday, December 22, 2022

It's the less educated who are fleeing churches

Here's a contemporary oddment that may be unexpected. Vast quantities of ink and pixels are devoted by sociologists and apostles of church growth about the decline of institutional religious participation in US life. But until Daniel Cox passed along this, I hadn't been aware of the divide pictured in this graph. 

Cox equates the education gap with class status.

It has long been presumed, and in some cases feared, that higher education—and the widespread availability of information and knowledge via the Internet—would undermine religious commitments. Actual evidence for this is lacking. While religious doubting has grown in recent years, the most educated Americans show up to services most often. Even as they report less certainty in their religious beliefs, they participate more regularly in worship services. Higher education appears to reinforce regular religious participation.

He equates ongoing religious attendance with family stability (seems likely) and general engagement in community life.

One thing that seems clear is that the decline of churches will likely make inequality worse. College-educated Americans are more active and involved in every sphere of American social and civic life, from book clubs and PTA meetings, to sports leagues and town halls. On average, they have more friends, broader social networks, and more extensive ties to the places where they live. ... Churches offer one way to bridge the gap, but fewer Americans are turning to them.

What this description omits is that the clubby communal culture of institutions which reinforce the class values of the comfortable might be off-putting to the more precariously situated among us. Less education does correlate with less social stability for some people.

I feel abundantly grateful to have happened into a religious institution which knows itself to have a particular vocation to those who have little materially.

Wednesday, December 21, 2022

Holiday amusements

On my break from compulsive blogging, I'm doing what gives me great delight at this season: recording and watching at least part of most of what we call the East Armpit college football bowls. These are contests between teams, obscure to me if not to themselves, that match moderately successful mid-range squads where very few players can have legitimate professional aspirations. The players and their fans care so much -- and enjoy spending their pre-holiday break in exotic locations: the Bahamas, Hawaii, Boise. 

Yes, that means Idaho on the blue "smurf turf". That one is the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl -- formerly the Humanitarian Bowl and the MPC Computers Bowl. I like the current sponsor better. Take a look at what they are selling:

Good fun from this sponsor.

Not good fun for San Jose State, but hey -- the guys got to travel to Boise ...

Tuesday, December 20, 2022

A city of lights

Before Russia invaded Ukraine, like probably most people reading here, I had never heard of the city of Mariupol. 

Only a year ago, someone made what I assume is a tourism-promotion video, celebrating a municipality that turned itself into a light show for Christmas. What is shown here is gone, blasted to bits, the survivors scattered, a city of about 400,000 people wiped away by conquest.

I am taking time to try to know more about this so-foreign part of Europe. Historian Timothy Snyder's fall lectures at Yale on The Making of Modern Ukraine are available in full and for free. In addition to being a language polymath, he's a charming lecturer. I highly recommend this series.

Saturday, December 17, 2022

Blog going on holiday schedule ...

It's a measure of how fixated I became on gas prices during the recent election that I knew I had to snap a picture when one San Francisco station broke through to $3.99 (cash/regular). I know that in most of the country this seems quite high, but still it seems a milestone here. I'm pretty convinced that for many people, gas prices are THE marker of the health of a dimly envisioned thing called "the economy." 

Obviously our responses to gas prices don't help us make the essential transition away from fossil fuels. We've got a lot of anxiety tied up in gas availability and prices, not entirely irrationally. We're just going to have to figure it out before we bake. And I actually think we will.

• • •

Meanwhile, my reaction to this irrational gas breakthrough reminds me that I'm still tired and a little traumatized from choosing to focus for four months so fiercely on winning one bit of a vital election. I need to give myself permission to take the next two weeks to decompress. I will probably post here, but only if I'm feeling it. May everyone enjoy whatever seasonal decompression, if any, comes their way!

Friday, December 16, 2022

Pollsters could do better

 The Los Angeles Times' David Lauter remarks:

The Suffolk University poll found that 65% of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents said they wanted “Republicans to continue the policies Trump pursued in office, but with a different Republican nominee for president,” compared with 31% who wanted Trump to run again.
This is the sort of conclusion that that tells me nothing. What do these voters think were Donald Trump's policies? As a candidate for re-election in 2020, he apparently insisted that the Republicans run without a party platform -- their only promise was to adhere to whatever their Orange King wanted.

  • Was it Trump's cruelty to migrants that they liked so much?
  • The tax cuts -- though unless they were millionaires they didn't get much?
  • Conservative judges? Probably, but other polls suggest that a lot of Republicans are unhappy with their Supremes allowing abortion to be made illegal.
  • Sucking up to Putin?

Inquiring minds want to know ... and want pollsters to ask better questions.

Friday cat blogging

Janeway seems as puzzled to encounter me at my eye level as I feel discovering that I'm being observed from a kitchen shelf.

Wednesday, December 14, 2022


San Francisco's private Jesuit university -- that's the University of San Francisco -- threw itself a $100,000 holiday party last evening -- and administrative and clerical staff represented by OPEIU Local 29 were on hand to remind guests that the administration is resisting paying a fair cost of living increase to these vital employees after taking advantage of savings from furloughs, benefit concessions, and unfilled positions during the pandemic emergency.

The university president, Fr. Paul Fitzgerald, could not escape this friendly welcoming party.
Members of campus unions including full time faculty, part-time faculty (that's Erudite Partner's union), and building and grounds workers joined the clerical staff.

Solidarity is beautiful.

Tuesday, December 13, 2022

Holiday cheer

I like beer. It feels a little transgressive to write that since Justice Kavanaugh made the phrase notorious during his appropriately contentious confirmation. I don't mean it in his inebriated way; I mean I like the taste of beer.

And not surprisingly, that means I have an enthusiasm for winter holiday beers. Not perhaps the most sophisticated choice, but certainly the most accessible of late, has been 21st Amendment Brewery's Fireside Chat.

As we came into the season, I looked out for the familiar illustration showing FDR enjoying a brew.

No such cans appeared on the shelves! What happened to Fireside Chat?

I finally realized that 21st Amendment has resigned its packaging to a more generic holiday theme.
Nice deer with magnificent antlers, but nothing distinctive. Did someone think they could enlarge the market by replacing the beloved Democratic president? Or by leaning into a nondescript winter theme? Or perhaps, have we arrived at a time when the previous image had become so rarely recognized as to get in the way of sales? I don't know.
The beer tastes much as before -- perhaps very slightly sweeter. I feel something has been lost, but that may be just me ...

Monday, December 12, 2022

"Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste ...."

The lament in the title is Shakespeare's characterization of old age in his play As You Like It

It's what immediately came to mind when, during dinner on Saturday, a fully formed crown popped out of my mouth. It was a compact little item.

So today I hied myself to my wonderful dentist. Turns out, the crown was attached to an implant post whose adhesive had gotten tired and given up.

He glued the crown back on its post and it should be good for 15 or so more years. 

This time, the aging was in my replacement hardware, not my original equipment. A comforting discovery.

Back to what I meant to do on this day ...

Sunday, December 11, 2022

Specific requests for the season of giving

As so many friends who see these posts know, I'm a longtime supporter of El Porvenir, a grassroots partnership between rural Nicaraguans and North Americans (and others) working to bring comprehensive clean water projects to the countryside.

This year, in this daunting season of fund appeals, the Nicaraguan staff (which is most all the staff) shared what they really need for Christmas.

* * *
* * *
I promise you that your donations go a long way in a country where people fix, repair, and carry on despite poverty and isolation from the world economy. El Porvenir offers many ways for those of us more fortunate to assist Nicaraguans. Let's get these hard working folks what they need.

Friday, December 09, 2022

Friday cat blogging

Janeway looks a little wary, doesn't she? She's peeking out from our loft, where she ran when a delivery person rang the doorbell. Though she's a dominating tiny terrorist much of the time, she can also be timid.

Thursday, December 08, 2022

A ground level view of what really happened in the 2022 Nevada Senate election

Matt Yglesias, an often intriguing, though grumpy, Democratic DC pundit, is a fan.
One of the 2022 results that surprised me was Catherine Cortez Masto’s successful re-election in Nevada.
He cites a Data for Progress study which claims that the most effective Democratic message in the past cycle was something like this, from her campaign:
I worked hand-in-hand with law enforcement to crack down on crimes and keep our communities safe. I led the fight to combat sex trafficking, helped protect victims of sexual assault, and passed legislation to combat law enforcement suicide. I’ve worked tirelessly to get law enforcement the support and resources they need to keep our communities safe.
And he maintains this sort of thing is what made her narrow victory possible. Well maybe. Her victory was close enough that every little bit helped. But having lived inside the UniteHERE/Culinary Union campaign that helped win the election for Cortez Masto, I feel a need to report there was so much more going on here.
• Crucially, Republican Senate candidate Adam Laxalt put himself at odds with a crucial majority of Nevada voters when in June, he "called the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision 'a joke' and said it’s 'sad' that Nevada is not anti-abortion." Cortez Masto's ad makers never let anyone forget this. Our canvassers would report they would be having conversations at the doors on other issues and then, almost as an afterthought, would be told the voter's decision would be based on "women's rights." Nevadans overwhelmingly support reproductive choice.
• Republicans everywhere wanted to run in these midterms against a purported wave of increasing crime. In much of the country that was just a means of scaring white suburbanites about all those dangerous dark people that live in big Democratic cities. Cortez Masto came by her answer to this attack honestly: she was a former state attorney general who had had good relations with law enforcement, advertised her endorsement by the respected retiring Reno police chief, and had brought a particular focus on the sex crimes perpetrated against women from her former job. 
• Sex trafficking and sexual assault have particular weight in Nevada. The state advertises itself to tourists as a transgressive playground where anything goes, where "what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas."  The state boasts state-licensed brothels. This does not promote a safe or respectful environment for ordinary working women. Cortez Masto's particular record of concern for women's public safety is all the more attractive in the Nevada context.
• Many working people in Las Vegas really are experiencing a very scary crime wave. Our canvassers in Nevada's only big city complained their own neighborhoods had become frightening, violent places since the pandemic. One day when a large group of them was gathering in a public park before taking off to knock on doors, they had to scatter to safety when an unconnected gang fight led to a shoot out on the same turf. It seems likely that appropriate fear of crime worked quite well for Republicans in Clark County/Las Vegas. Historically, Democratic statewide wins have depended on running up huge margins there to cancel out the state's deep red Republican rural counties. Didn't happen in 2022; the Dem margin in Clark just about equaled the Republican margin in the rurals. This made Reno/Washoe County the arena where the Senate race was decided.
• Like everywhere in the country, inflation was on the minds of voters. Especially inflation as evidenced by gas prices. When we arrived in July, regular gas was running close to $6 a gallon. I watched hopefully as the price dropped under $5 during the summer -- and watched in horror as it climbed back up to nearly $6 again in the fall. Would the price of gas doom our efforts?
• UniteHERE/Culinary Union canvassers listened to the people we met at the doors -- and realized there was another issue that was as important to voters as gas and grocery inflation. This was the rising cost of housing. Canvassers would try to contact a voter and be met with an eviction notice. Tenants around Reno were experiencing 35 and 40 percent increases. So the union added a petition to the canvass, seeking signatures asking politicians to enhance "neighborhood stability." The petition was greeted eagerly in Washoe and in Las Vegas. People felt heard and were eager to talk about housing scarcity. We put the issue of rents on the state agenda. Our candidates, including Cortez Masto, promised to seek solutions. I think we can trust that this approach helped encourage otherwise disinterested voters to cast a ballot in November. 
• Finally -- national media didn't realize that Cortez Masto was extremely fortunate in her opponent. Perhaps because Adam Laxalt was another former state attorney general, much of the national media didn't take in that he was as much a crackpot Trumpist election denier as were so many other candidates endorsed by the 2020 sore loser. Laxalt had been Trump's 2020 Nevada campaign chairman; he led a series of baseless lawsuits challenging the presidential result and continued to tell audiences that the results were "rigged." And it's an open secret in Nevada that this "Laxalt" adopted the Laxalt name opportunistically to try to inherit some of the respect that attached to longtime Nevada U.S. Senator Paul Laxalt, despite having been born named Domenici (it's complicated). The Laxalt family is offended by this appropriation, complaining that he “leveraged and exploited the family name.” They endorsed Cortez Masto. Adam Laxalt doesn't look like "a normie Republican" to Nevadans.
I found it telling that Sarah Longwell of The Bulwark who led focus groups of potential swing voters in most all of this year's battleground states, came away from her Nevada group surprised: "they just hate Adam Laxalt." 

Her surprise reinforces my sense that national commentators never had much of a clue about the dynamics in this Nevada election. There was so much more going on than they saw.

When elections are very close -- Catherine Cortez Masto won by a margin of 8000 votes among nearly one million cast, almost all of that margin from Washoe County/Reno -- the local features of the contest mattered. By finding, persuading, and turning out people who most likely would not have voted otherwise, UniteHERE canvassers were vital to this Senate victory. 

I take a lesson from all this. I know an enormous amount about this Nevada campaign; I know enough to be unsatisfied by most reporting about it. Perhaps all the other campaigns I read about need as much more nuance as this one does in order to get a useful understanding of what happened. That feels worth remembering.

Wednesday, December 07, 2022

Abortion in the 2022 midterms

This is a broad summary of how abortion issues played out, worth absorbing if you care about the future of reproductive freedoms under our right-dominated Supreme Court.

The available evidence from this past year is that the black-robed militants are out of step with the public, even in Republican-controlled states.

Reining in a runaway court will be the anti-fascist project of the next generation. Never doubt that we can do it, though it will demand diligence and focus.

Meanwhile, the victims of the crusade against women's bodily autonomy need our support. My friend Spike provides of a useful list of advocates and providers who could use any cash we have to share.

Tuesday, December 06, 2022

A Georgia Senator

He not only won. He seems to embody very decent threads from among the country's traditions. A majority of us still seem to have a yen for decency when it is on offer. How to enlarge that strain in our national cacaphony?

What it is really like to work on a campaign: reflections

Erudite Partner thinks about the experience of giving oneself over to political struggle in elections in "Living for Politics.

She describes in this article what it meant to work with workers of the hospitality union -- UniteHERE/Culinary -- on the Nevada campaign which ensured that Democrats would control the US Senate -- and reflects philosophically on what it means to have "a vocation for politics." 

Here she is, sharing the daily data -- the numerical record of the accomplishments our relentless canvassers -- with campaign leaders in a morning meeting.

Monday, December 05, 2022

On skipping the gym

I'm still delighting at being home in San Francisco's Mission District. And still tired. Truck encountered while on a morning stroll.

Saturday, December 03, 2022

Hoping for a good outcome for China's COVID test

Just about every source through which most of us consume international news keeps reminding us that contemporary China is a pretty awful place for human rights (think what seems a genocide of Muslim Uyghurs) and freedoms (think the destruction of democratic elements in Hong Kong and mainland China's nationalist threat to democratic Taiwan).

As Xi Jinping’s Zero COVID strategy appears to be failing, Americans and Europeans might think we have license to gloat. We suffered -- the Chinese can too.

I'm grateful to Adam Tooze for pointing out the conundrums and costs any Chinese government would face as Omicron breaks through and millions of Chinese people have had enough of ongoing tight restrictions.
A dictator’s embarrassment is generally a cause for celebration. But what if it also threatens a national tragedy and a bona fide global problem? ... now, only weeks after Xi’s triumphant party Congress, the zero covid policy is in crisis. The disease is spreading and China’s population is no longer willing to put up with it. ... One must profoundly admire the courage of the protestors and sympathize with the outrage and desperation triggered by successive waves of capricious lockdowns. ...
... [But] what is the policy alternative? The fact that abandoning zero COVID would be a blow to Xi does not make that the right policy. The dilemma facing Beijing goes beyond the question of Xi’s legitimacy. As ludicrous as zero COVID has come to seem, as oppressive and capricious as its intrusions are in the everyday lives of Chinese people, it has saved huge numbers of lives. And if Beijing were to follow the demand to abandon the policy, this would likely result in a public health disaster not just for the CCP but for China.
Omicron is less dangerous than Delta but its infectiousness is extremely high. If the pandemic is allowed to run unchecked, hundreds of millions of people will become infected. Even with a low rate of severe cases, China’s medical system will be placed under impossible strain, not just in a handful of cities as in 2020, but across the country. Hundreds of thousands of vulnerable people, if not more, will likely die.
It bears repeating that though China may be a remarkable economic success story, it is still a middle-income country and its welfare net and health care provision are fragile, especially in the countryside, where hundreds of millions of people still live. ... the figure of between 500,000 and 1.5 million deaths are predicted by most studies would ... be a shattering disaster.
... There are no simple answers. Xi’s regime is weighing huge risks. Anyone who imagines that that can be a matter of indifference to the rest of the world or is tempted to indulge in Schadenfreude has not learned the first lesson taught in February 2020 - what happens in Wuhan does not stay in Wuhan. ...
We adopt obliviousness to the human cost of China's peril at this moment at our own peril -- moral and material. Much as we loathe the Chinese government's abuse of its people, we should be hoping it can find a relatively gentle path forward as the coronavirus escapes the temporary fence the zero covid policy built for the last couple of years.

Friday, December 02, 2022

Friday cat blogging

Janeway understands that humans working in the kitchen need a superintendent. She's happy to volunteer. I remain slightly anxious that she'll jump down into the salad bowl, but so far, so good.

Thursday, December 01, 2022

Defiant voters

Charles Blow shares what voting felt like in Georgia when he cast his ballot in the run-off election between brain damaged Trumper Hershel Walker and U.S. Senator Rev. Rafael Warnock. Those of us who live in states that make it is easy to vote should be thankful for what we've won.

This is my second election cycle in Georgia, but I still can’t get used to the wait times to vote. It’s a voter suppression tactic in and of itself. It’s a poll tax paid in time. ... I lived more than 25 years in New York, where I took for granted that voting was a casual affair. 
... as I waited, something else occurred to me: Voter suppression is one of the surest cures for apathy. Nothing makes you value a thing like someone trying to steal it from you.
The line, and all the people patiently waiting in it, is a symbol of resilience and perseverance. It is a reminder that people will work hard to overcome obstacles to accomplish things they deem essential.
... These waits can disproportionately affect nonwhite voters. According to a report by Georgia Public Broadcasting and ProPublica before Election Day in 2020, a shrinking number of polling places “has primarily caused long lines in nonwhite neighborhoods where voter registration has surged and more residents cast ballots in person on Election Day.”
According to the report, the nine metro Atlanta counties “have nearly half of the state’s active voters but only 38 percent of the polling places.”
... People who defend voter suppression point to [high turnout] numbers as proof that their critics are simply being hyperbolic and creating an issue where none exists. But that is the opposite of the truth as far as I can see it. From my perspective, voters are simply responding with defiance to the efforts to suppress.
... I have nothing but disdain for the efforts to suppress the vote in my new home state, but I have nothing but admiration for the voters’ determination not to be suppressed.
Democracy is being saved by sheer force of will, by people climbing a hill that should never have been put in front of them.

My friends who worked with UniteHERE in Reno are now on the ground along with so many others, encouraging Warnock supporters to defy a system that wants to shut them out. We'll find out on Tuesday night whether defiant citizens can again prevail.