‘He pulled all the levers — the Hannity and Limbaugh disinformation machine — but in the end, even they couldn’t hide the mounting numbers of the sick and the dead. He tried to sell the market on his inverted reality — and this time, the attempt to create reality didn’t quite work, as the market cratered. Epidemics are like that. They are reality at its edgiest. This one finally called the con man’s bluff.’

Andrew Sullivan.

Having a Pun Field Day

NASA DATA SHOWS SOMETHING LEAKING OUT OF URANUS

URANUS IS LEAKING GAS

Richard ‘What’s in it for Me?’ Burr, Pride of North Carolina.

… North Carolinians don’t need an agency or committee of Burr’s peers to tell us what he did was inexcusably wrong. In a crisis that will define his state and country for years, the senator failed in his most fundamental duty, to serve and protect the people who elected him.

Now, everything he does will be colored by that failure. Republicans know Burr is an albatross, an example opponents will use throughout this election season to argue that too many in the GOP, especially the president, have seen COVID-19 through the lens of personal gains and losses. North Carolinians know that he will be a source of shame to our state.

Among Possible Immune System Strengtheners Against Coronavirus, UD is rooting for BCG…

… for family reasons. Her father, Herbert Rapp, spent most of his career (Branch Chief, Immunology, NIH) working with BCG as a possible treatment for some cancers; now, AAAS, Science Magazine, and Foreign Policy announce that clinical trials of BCG’s effectiveness against coronavirus will soon begin. (Here’s a 1972 New York Times article on cancer immunology and my father’s work. You need a subscription to read it.) Researchers will investigate whether it “can rev up the human immune system in a broad way, allowing it to better fight the virus that causes coronavirus disease and, perhaps, prevent infection with it altogether.”

It would be very gratifying to UD if her father’s decades-long faith in the significant immunogenic properties of BCG were confirmed in this globally powerful way. (“This was the heyday of immune therapy with bacteria called BCG Bacillus Calmette–Guérin,” recalls one of his colleagues. “Herbert J. Rapp deserves the credit for leading our laboratory’s efforts that led to successful immunotherapy in people with early stages of bladder cancer.”) But she’s her father’s daughter – she figures the chances of this are slim.

People are always learning the importance of skepticism the hard way, as in the current case of medical fraud Gregory Rigano, who has already seduced Fox News and the huckster in chief. Keep calm, and listen to Fauci.

**************

UPDATE: An allusion to UD‘s father’s work in today’s Bloomberg News:

[BCG is] a common immunotherapy for early-stage bladder cancer…

School Song, Liberty University

(Sing it.)

We will all go together when we go

What a comforting fact that is to know

Universal bereavement – what an inspiring achievement

Yes we all will go together when we go!

*******************

UPDATE: [C]lasses are now online, [but] repeated emails from the university to faculty members over the past week and a half insisted that all instructors must conduct their online classes from their campus offices, and that they are still expected to hold office hours and welcome students for face-to-face interaction…

Perhaps this is a debate over what it means for Liberty to be “open.” In his most recent statements, Falwell seems to be defining the term as opening the campus back up to all students and holding classes in classrooms. But the local and state officials and community members who have condemned Falwell’s decision seem to have a different definition: To them, a college campus full of thousands of people is an open campus, regardless of whether or not the classes it offers are being conducted online.

The question that everyone seems to have for Falwell is simple: Why? Why allow thousands of students, faculty and staff to congregate on campus when doing so goes against the guidelines of nearly every health organization in the Western world?

You know how little Jerry’s thinking: Only good things come to those who love the lord. If bad things happen to those same people, they didn’t truly love the lord, and for that they deserve punishment.

Snapshots from Home: UD Sniffs Out a Situation.


At noon today I walked the block and a half to the post office, where the haul was a package of way-medicinal smelling hand sanitizer La Kid ordered from Etsy, and a special issue of the Economist, and I passed no one at all on the way. But as I approached the train tracks and the back of the little Garrett Park station (this image shows the front), I smelled really strong marijuana coming from inside the shelter.

No biggie – you can do recreational weed in MD. But since the only sign of life around the station was a white CSX truck with no one in it – there’s a work project happening on our stretch of tracks – UD (who is much too polite to have peeked) figured the tokers must be bored CSX workers, waiting for some equipment before they can get back to work. Or maybe that’s what they do on their lunch break.

Scathing Online Schoolmarm Scathes through an Opinion Piece that Perfectly Expresses What Must, Amid the Coronavirus Outbreak, be Called the Suicidal Acceptance of Any Mindless Cult that Calls Itself a Religion.

“You can get away with the most extraordinary offenses to morality and to truth in this country if you’ll just get yourself called Reverend” remarked Christopher Hitchens of the founder of the only university in America that’s about to reopen. In an extraordinary opinion piece about perverse pockets of resistance to self-isolating, Candida Moss duly notes this country’s raving reverends, its potted pastors, the flagellants at the journal First Things; she mentions too the South Korean cult at the heart of that country’s epidemic… She fails to mention the sometimes violent ultraorthodox cults in Israel, Europe, and the United States, but we need to throw them in…

She lists all of these disease-spreaders with respect, with the understanding that of course all such people and groups qualify as upstanding Christians and Jews, our brethren, part of the beautiful world (as a word in her headline puts it), of “faith.”

*******************

Since we need to stop fanatics from killing us, let us examine precisely how ethically dense people like Moss help make this life-saving goal unreachable.

This week, as stores, restaurants and other businesses shuttered their doors to help stem the spread of coronavirus, a number of conservative Christians chose to frame their response to the pandemic in a different way: as an opportunity to choose “faith over fear.”

The rhetoric of that last phrase – an opportunity to choose – recalls Jack Gladney’s response to his wife’s choice, amid the “airborne toxic event” in White Noise, to regard the disaster as “a good time to cut down on fatty things.” To which Gladney responds:

I think it’s interesting that you regard a possible disaster for yourself, your family and thousands of other people as an opportunity to cut down on fatty foods.

Of course, the people Moss has in mind don’t really choose anything; they are proud submissives, majorly into suffering and dying for the lord or the chief rabbi or whatever. To them, the virus represents an opportunity to manifest submission. They’re not like hedonistic spring breakers; they’re compelled to prove something.

We’re talking snake-handlers here, many of whom die venomously while under the protection of the holy spirit – and I’m pretty sure Moss would extend the same ecumenical courtesy to snake-handlers that she extends to the Falwells.

Hers is a category error, not to mention a catastrophic mistake for humankind.

While religious activity may be an essential part of people’s lives, the assumption that social distancing equates to spiritual estrangement is up for debate. Should religious freedom be allowed to put the lives of the many at risk?

Religious; religious; spiritual; freedom – how kind of Moss to honor the kinkiest among us with these epithets. How kind of her to frame the problem of what to do with destructive masochists as a “debate.” Here are some better word choice suggestions from SOS: cultic; criminally negligent (I mean, let’s also honor with words like faith Christian Scientists who kill their kids: Or is Moss reserving judgment of isolation-resisters until they too kill family members?); stupid; socially toxic.

In her last paragraphs (how many readers will get to these?) Moss finally says the right stuff:

What is most frightening about these latest expressions of “religious freedom” is not just that they threaten to place others at risk, but that religious conservatives form a substantial part of Donald Trump’s voter base — his plan to reopen by Easter may be well timed to speak to them.

Now the phrase religious freedom gets the quotation marks it deserves; but Moss still considers fringe groups (think here of the Mormon church’s endless efforts to disaffiliate itself from backwoods polygamists fucking fourteen year olds for the lord) “conservative Christians.” Call them what they are, lady – disturbed reactionaries who damage the legitimate religions they parasitize, and who now threaten the health of nations.

******************

The attitude of religion to medicine, like the attitude of religion to science, is always necessarily problematic and very often necessarily hostile. A modern believer can say and even believe that his faith is quite compatible with science and medicine, but the awkward fact will always be that both things have a tendency to break religion’s monopoly, and have often been fiercely resisted for that reason. What happens to the faith healer and the shaman when any poor citizen can see the full effect of drugs and surgeries, administered without ceremonies or mystifications? Roughly the same thing as happens to the rainmaker when the climatologist turns up, or to the diviner from the heavens when schoolteachers get hold of elementary telescopes. Plagues of antiquity were held to be punishment from the gods, which did much to strengthen the hold of the priesthood and much to encourage the burning of infidels and heretics who were thought—in an alternative explanation—to be spreading disease by witchcraft or else poisoning the wells. We may make allowances for the orgies of stupidity and cruelty that were indulged in before humanity had a clear concept of the germ theory of disease. Most of the “miracles” of the New Testament have to do with healing, which was of such great importance in a time when even minor illness was often the end. (Saint Augustine himself said that he would not have believed in Christianity if it were not for the miracles.) Scientific critics of religion such as Daniel Dennett have been generous enough to point out that apparently useless healing rituals may even have helped people get better, in that we know how important morale can be in aiding the body to fight injury and infection. But that would be an excuse only available in retrospect. By the time Dr. Jenner had discovered that a cowpox vaccine could ward off smallpox, this excuse had become void. Yet Timothy Dwight, a president of Yale University and to this day one of America’s most respected “divines,” was opposed to the smallpox vaccination because he regarded it as an interference with god’s design. And this mentality is still heavily present, long after its pretext and justification in human ignorance has vanished.

‘Half of North Carolinians Call for Burr’s Resignation’

In retirement, he can keep busy humping his guns.

Ah. Just the name I wanted to see.

Scanning stories about America’s highest-profile insider trader, I saw that Rolling Stone (along with virtually every other media outlet) had a story about him. Let it be by Taibbi, I thought; let it be Matt Taibbi… No one’s as good on the very highest-level greed as Taibbi, famous for coining the term vampire squid (“[Goldman Sachs] is a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money.”).

So – click – and there he was. Zeyer vunderlekh. I haven’t read the piece yet. Let’s see…

Members of congress trading against a pandemic is as low as it gets.

Yes… that’s why The Onion took notice. Now we get a precis.

[T]he Senate’s Intelligence Committee chief was briefed by intel officials, actively reassured the public, dumped stock, whispered the real dope to rich connected folk, got busted by media, then feebly claimed he made financial decisions watching CNBC, before a seething public bracing for years of agony due to financial collapse. If there’s such a thing as a grand slam of political assholedom, Burr hit it.

LOL. I told you this guy was the best.

The coronavirus trading scandals may finally inspire enough public outrage to provoke change [in congressional insider trading laws] … [But if] not just one but many members of congress feel sufficiently bulletproof that they’re not scared of trading against a pandemic, how will the government ever deal with less obviously grotesque issues?

Terrence McNally, author of the great play, “Love! Valour! Compassion!”…

… has died at 81 of coronavirus.

The play/movie is hilarious, very very angry (AIDS is killing everybody), and supremely human. Here’s the famous monologue by Buzz, a musical theater fanatic (You can watch Nathan Lane perform it here, at 9:40):

                    

Perry, just once I would love to see
a "West Side Story"
where everyone gets it.
The Jets and the Shark
and Officer Krupke, too,
while we're at it.
What's he doing?
Sneaking away from the theater?
Get back here and die
like everyone else, you son of a bitch!
I wanna see a "Sound of Music"
where the entire Von Trapp family
dies in an authentic
alpine avalanche,
or a "Kiss me, Kate" where she's got
a huge cold sore on her mouth.
Oh, God.
"A Funny Thing Happened
on the Way to the Forum."
And the only thing
that happens is nothing!
And it's not funny!
And they all go down waiting!
Waiting for what?
Waiting for nothing,
like everyone I know
or care about is--
including myself.

Limerick.

The tall man gets grouchy

When he hears li’l Fauci:

An icon of science

Who’s out of compliance

And gives the world’s leader an ouchy.

Trimming the Photinia Villosa Planted in 1984…

… on the town right of way adjacent to my house, thank you for asking. The tree, beautiful and healthy, seems to have been ignored for thirty-six years, and UD decided it was time people got a chance to see it.

She has so far thinned and reshaped it so it looks like a tree rather than a tall wild bush (obviously she can only work on the first five feet or so); she is also contemplating removing various pointless little plants at its base. If you enlarge this picture,

you’ll see a weird broad bush/tree of some sort behind the photinia – I’ve tried getting rid of its many dead lower arms but some will need to be hatcheted, which I haven’t gotten around to.

And of course UD‘s doing far more outdoor work than this; but this has been her main activity today.

‘I’m making money, not losing it, but I guess jealous people have decided that becoming rich and powerful from a national tragedy is suddenly evil.’

The Onion captures one of UD‘s favorite memes – she’s covered it for years on this blog – the Criticism of any Form of Financial Activity is Merely Jealousy of Someone Richer than You Are meme. It’s been fun to quote Greg Mankiw, Eric Cantor, and Lawrence Kudlow (read the whole page) on the “politics of envy” over the decades.

Last time I checked, using sensitive information to enrich yourself at the expense of hundreds of millions of other people was totally fine.

Absolutely; and you can read article after article calling for the legalization of insider trading, a move blocked by the petulant resentment of the many against America’s winners. And now Burr’s getting sued over something that should be totally legit!

Alan Jacobson, a shareholder in Wyndham Hotels and Resorts, sued Burr in federal court on Monday, alleging that the senator used private information to motivate a mass liquidation of his assets. It is illegal for senators to use nonpublic information in conducting securities exchanges.

************

There’s something so bracingly, so utterly, so fundamentally human about pleasuring yourself at the thought of screwing the unwashed, of being first in line for goodie bags at events no one else even knows are happening… In a great piece of satire – The Christmas Letter – Gregg Easterbrook captured the pleasuring perfectly. Here’s how it begins:

What a lucky break that I’m in first-class on the plane back from Istanbul, because there’s room to take out the laptop and write our annual Christmas letter. My brand-new laptop receives wireless satellite Internet from anywhere in the world. While I was at the board of directors session during the Danube cruise, I pretended to be listening to the chairman but actually was using the laptop to watch Emily’s oboe recital on live streaming video from Chad’s digital minicam! So the world really is growing smaller. And if you haven’t gotten one of these new laptops, you should. Of course, now there’s a waiting list.

Of course, now there’s a waiting list. When these rare birds are captured, we can, like Diana Henriques, interview them; but the secrecy at the heart of their pathology makes it difficult to yield much.

Now that Burr’s been unveiled, he’s calling for an ethics investigation into himself because, in the immortal words of George Costanza, “if anyone had said anything to me at all [about how] that sort of thing is frowned upon…”

‘”I can’t jump in front of the microphone and push him down,” [Anthony] Fauci told Science Magazine on Sunday after being asked about Trump’s repeated assertions that China could have disclosed the discovery of the coronavirus up to four months ago. The disease first appeared in the central city of Wuhan in December.’

Eventually, everyone who voted for him will be cited for criminal negligence.

A Life Crowded with Incident, as Lady Bracknell Would Say.

Rand Paul Tests Positive for Coronavirus Days After His Father Dismissed Panic Over the Disease as a Hoax

Rand Paul Loses Part of Lung After Attack by Neighbor

Rand Paul Stops Unanimous Passage of 9/11 First Responders Funding Bill

Rand Paul, Angry Over Plagiarism Charges, Wants to Sword Fight

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Dr. Bernard Carroll, known as the "conscience of psychiatry," contributed to various blogs, including Margaret Soltan's University Diaries, for which he sometimes wrote limericks under the name Adam.
New York Times

George Washington University English professor Margaret Soltan writes a blog called University Diaries, in which she decries the Twilight Zone-ish state our holy land’s institutes of higher ed find themselves in these days.
The Electron Pencil

It’s [UD's] intellectual honesty that makes her blog required reading.
Professor Mondo

There's always something delightful and thought intriguing to be found at Margaret Soltan's no-holds-barred, firebrand tinged blog about university life.
AcademicPub

You can get your RDA of academic liars, cheats, and greedy frauds at University Diaries. All disciplines, plus athletics.
truffula, commenting at Historiann

Margaret Soltan at University Diaries blogs superbly and tirelessly about [university sports] corruption.
Dagblog

University Diaries. Hosted by Margaret Soltan, professor of English at George Washington University. Boy is she pissed — mostly about athletics and funding, the usual scandals — but also about distance learning and diploma mills. She likes poems too. And she sings.
Dissent: The Blog

[UD belittles] Mrs. Palin's degree in communications from the University of Idaho...
The Wall Street Journal

Professor Margaret Soltan, blogging at University Diaries... provide[s] an important voice that challenges the status quo.
Lee Skallerup Bessette, Inside Higher Education

[University Diaries offers] the kind of attention to detail in the use of language that makes reading worthwhile.
Sean Dorrance Kelly, Harvard University

Margaret Soltan's ire is a national treasure.
Roland Greene, Stanford University

The irrepressibly to-the-point Margaret Soltan...
Carlat Psychiatry Blog

Margaret Soltan, whose blog lords it over the rest of ours like a benevolent tyrant...
Perplexed with Narrow Passages

Margaret Soltan is no fan of college sports and her diatribes on the subject can be condescending and annoying. But she makes a good point here...
Outside the Beltway

From Margaret Soltan's excellent coverage of the Bernard Madoff scandal comes this tip...
Money Law

University Diaries offers a long-running, focused, and extremely effective critique of the university as we know it.
Anthony Grafton, American Historical Association

The inimitable Margaret Soltan is, as usual, worth reading. ...
Medical Humanities Blog

I awake this morning to find that the excellent Margaret Soltan has linked here and thereby singlehandedly given [this blog] its heaviest traffic...
Ducks and Drakes

As Margaret Soltan, one of the best academic bloggers, points out, pressure is mounting ...
The Bitch Girls

Many of us bloggers worry that we don’t post enough to keep people’s interest: Margaret Soltan posts every day, and I more or less thought she was the gold standard.
Tenured Radical

University Diaries by Margaret Soltan is one of the best windows onto US university life that I know.
Mary Beard, A Don's Life

[University Diaries offers] a broad sense of what's going on in education today, framed by a passionate and knowledgeable reporter.
More magazine, Canada

If deity were an elected office, I would quit my job to get her on the ballot.
Notes of a Neophyte