A few of these are not checked off yet, but just a few:
From the NYTimes:
Private equity firms use money provided by institutional investors like pension funds and university endowments to take over and restructure companies or industries. Private equity touches practically every sector, from housing to health care to retail. In pursuit of maximum returns, such firms have squeezed businesses for every last drop of profit, cutting jobs, pensions and salaries where possible. The debt-laden buyouts privatize gains when they work, and socialize losses when they don’t, driving previously healthy firms to bankruptcy and leaving many others permanently hobbled. The list of private equity’s victims has grown even longer in the past year, adding J.Crew, Toys ‘R’ Us, Hertz and more.
In the last decade, private equity management has led to approximately 1.3 million job losses due to retail bankruptcies and liquidation. Beyond the companies directly controlled by private equity, the threat of being the next takeover target has most likely led other companies to pre-emptively cut wages and jobs to avoid being the weakest prey. Amid the outbreak of street protests in June, a satirical headline in The Onion put it best: “Protesters Criticized For Looting Businesses Without Forming Private Equity Firm First.” Yet the private equity takeover is not technically looting because it has been made perfectly legal, and even encouraged, by policymakers.
An examination of the recent history of private equity disproves the neoliberal myth that profit incentives produce the best outcomes for society. The passage of time has debunked another such myth: that deregulating industries would generate more vibrant competition and benefit consumers. Unregulated market competition actually led to market consolidation instead. Would-be monopolies squeezed competitors, accrued political power, lobbied for even more deregulation and ultimately drove out any rivals, leading inexorably to entrenched political power. Instead of a thriving market of small-firm competition, free market ideology led to a few big winners dominating the rest.
And we can move beyond the myths of neoliberalism that have led us here. We can have competitive and prosperous markets, but our focus should be on ensuring human dignity, thriving families and healthy communities. When those are in conflict, we should choose flourishing communities over profits.
It’s funny because it’s true.
This just one of the fascinating examples in this article of how epidemiologists tracked down very specific examples of COVID-19 spread in different situations:
Some really great shoe-leather epidemiology demonstrated clearly the effect of a single asymptomatic carrier in a restaurant environment (see below). The infected person (A1) sat at a table and had dinner with 9 friends. Dinner took about 1 to 1.5 hours. During this meal, the asymptomatic carrier released low-levels of virus into the air from their breathing. Airflow (from the restaurant’s various airflow vents) was from right to left. Approximately 50% of the people at the infected person’s table became sick over the next 7 days. 75% of the people on the adjacent downwind table became infected. And even 2 of the 7 people on the upwind table were infected (believed to happen by turbulent airflow). No one at tables E or F became infected, they were out of the main airflow from the air conditioner on the right to the exhaust fan on the left of the room. (Ref)
From the June 2020 edition of The Atlantic.
Normally, I try and paraphrase the article I’m referencing, but this article makes so many powerful points, I can’t do that. Here’s the opening paragraph instead:
When the virus came here, it found a country with serious underlying conditions, and it exploited them ruthlessly. Chronic ills—a corrupt political class, a sclerotic bureaucracy, a heartless economy, a divided and distracted public—had gone untreated for years. We had learned to live, uncomfortably, with the symptoms. It took the scale and intimacy of a pandemic to expose their severity—to shock Americans with the recognition that we are in the high-risk category.
The crisis demanded a response that was swift, rational, and collective. The United States reacted instead like Pakistan or Belarus—like a country with shoddy infrastructure and a dysfunctional government whose leaders were too corrupt or stupid to head off mass suffering.
This is The Daily Beast’s take on what Trump really wanted to say at the State of the Union address:
The state of the union is…. pure, weapons-grade, uncut f**king chaos, and I am both unhinged and unbound from any consequence, ever. All the pretty words my speechwriters worked so hard on are a thin veneer over the seething mass of coming horrors. I have gambled our economy, compromised our security, and shredded our dignity, and I’ll do it again. My message to the American people: bend the knee. To my enemies: vengeance is coming.
“Bend the knee” That summarizes it all.
A retired Harvard psychiatry professor described President Donald Trump as “essentially a predator” and a “successful sociopath.”
Lance M. Dodes, MD, a former assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, is yet another mental health expert to call into question the president’s state of mind
“His focus on his personal benefit at any cost is why he’s a successful sociopath,” Dodes told Salon, adding that he can “see Donald for who he really is.”
“It’s very hard to get this across to the public, because every time people talk about him, they start out with the unspoken unconscious assumption that he’s basically like the rest of us,” Dodes told Salon.
“But in order to explain and predict Trump’s behavior, you have to begin with awareness that he is essentially a predator.
“Once you keep in mind that Trump lacks a conscience and lacks empathy, he becomes very easy to follow. Unlike normal people, who are complex, he’s basically running on a very simple and very disordered program.”
John M. Talmadge, MD, a physician and clinical professor of psychiatry at U.T. Southwestern Medical Center, wrote that Trump’s “mental impairment means he cannot think strategically or in abstract terms.”
“Trump does not have a vision or a plan, because he can think only in concrete, elementary, childlike, one dimensional terms,” Talmadge, who was commenting in a personal capacity, wrote.
“He does not process an abstract idea like American forces stabilizing a multilateral conflict with geopolitical implications.
“This Trumpian brain failure is hard for normal people to understand because for normal people, abstract thought is natural, baked in, largely unnoticed. Normal people see the consequences, assess risk, make rational decisions most of the time.”
An article about the emotional reaction to watching your country descend into blackness. Here are key some quotes:
When I contemplate the sort of illiberal oligarchy that would await my children should Donald Trump win another term, the scale of the loss feels so vast that I can barely process it….
Though the president will almost certainly be impeached for extorting Ukraine to aid his re-election, he is equally certain to be acquitted in the Senate, a tacit confirmation that he is, indeed, above the law. His attorney general is a shameless partisan enforcer. Professional civil servants are purged, replaced by apparatchiks. The courts are filling up with young, hard-right ideologues…
It’s like watching someone you love die of a wasting disease,” she said, speaking of our country. “Each day, you still have that little hope no matter what happens, you’re always going to have that little hope that everything’s going to turn out O.K., but every day it seems like we get hit by something else…
What’s going on in the government is so extreme, that people who have no history of overwhelming psychological trauma still feel crazed by this…
Democracy grief isn’t like regular grief. Acceptance isn’t how you move on from it. Acceptance is itself a kind of death.
From forbes.com Dec 5th 2019
When U.S. unemployment is at a 50-year low, why do so many people have trouble finding work with decent pay and adequate predictable hours? A new economic indicator—the US Private Sector Job Quality Index (JQI)—gives the answer: we have lots of jobs, but they are increasingly low-quality jobs
According to Nancy LeTourneau’s essay in the Washington Monthly:
We have to grapple with the fact that Christian nationalists are launching a “direct attack on democracy itself.” That is because real democracy poses a threat to the kind of authoritarianism they embrace. The roots of that were explained by William Barr during his speech to the law school at Notre Dame. He began by articulating his own view of human nature.
Men are subject to powerful passions and appetites, and, if unrestrained, are capable of ruthlessly riding roughshod over their neighbors and the community at large.
No society can exist without some means for restraining individual rapacity.
Barr goes on to suggest that, when the founders talked about self government, they didn’t mean what we think they did.
In the words of Madison, “We have staked our future on the ability of each of us to govern ourselves…”
This is really what was meant by “self-government.” It did not mean primarily the mechanics by which we select a representative legislative body. It referred to the capacity of each individual to restrain and govern themselves.
But if individual rapacity is the problem, what is the source of those restraints?
[T]o control willful human beings, with an infinite capacity to rationalize, those moral values must rest on authority independent of men’s will – they must flow from a transcendent Supreme Being.
In short, in the Framers’ view, free government was only suitable and sustainable for a religious people – a people who recognized that there was a transcendent moral order antecedent to both the state and man-made law and who had the discipline to control themselves according to those enduring principles.
When you combine that with the belief among Christian nationalists that the only true religion is Christianity, you have the antithesis of democratic pluralism. Instead, you have authoritarian theocracy. That loops us back to Franklin Graham and the rest of the court evangelicals, who take it upon themselves to define who is on God’s side and who is doing the work of the devil.
Years ago, Sara Robinson captured what it takes to leave that kind of authoritarian mindset.
We must never, ever underestimate what it costs these people to let go of the beliefs that have sustained them…Externally, it always means the loss of your community; and often the loss of jobs, homes, marriages, and blood relatives as well. Internally, it requires sifting through every assumption you’ve ever made about how the world works, and your place within it; and demands that you finally take the very emotional and intellectual risks that the entire edifice was designed to protect you from. You have to learn, maybe for the first time, to face down fear and live with ambiguity.
While the loss of community can be traumatic, the prospect of “sifting through every assumption you’ve ever made about how the world works” is overwhelming. As she points out, the entire edifice is designed to protect you from fear and the threat of ambiguity. For most people, scaling that one is too much to ask.