The True Face of Freedom Wears a Mask

Kwame Anthony Appiah in wsj, Sat/Sun Aug. 8 – 9, 2020:

What’s the iconic image of American freedom? To judge by countless rock and country songs, it’s rolling down the highway, possibly with the wind in our hair. Sure, there were comforts back home, but also expectations and obligations, and now, rockin’ down the highway, you’re free from all that.

But what does it take to roll on down the highway? Well, a highway, for starters. The federal government built the interstate highway system, using its constitutional prerogative of eminent domain hundreds of thousands of times to keep it straight, while collecting taxes to pay for its construction and maintenance. And then you can only speed down your lane because you know that the other cars are moving in the same direction. Governmental power, exercised through a veritable trailer-load of law, is what makes it possible to keep truckin’ on.

Minimal-state libertarians tend to revile regulations while prizing private property and the free market. But property rights are meaningless without legal procedures to sort out ownership and mechanisms of enforcement to protect it.


The piece is extremely long and takes up most of page C4 in tiny print, so self will resist quoting too much. The upshot is: There’s precious little freedom in the sick ward and less still in the graveyard.

Stay safe, dear blog readers. Stay safe.

Wednesday Backreading: The Haunted Room, Essay by Carole de Santi (Women’s Review of Books, vol. 26)

  • “Give her another hundred years . . . a room of her own and five hundred a year,” wrote Virginia Woolf in 1929, of the woman novelist. “Let her speak her mind . . . and she will write a better book one of these days . . .” — Virginia Woolf, A Room of Her Own

  • Woolf “knew very well that creative and intellectual freedom depend on material resources, and that women have always been poor . . . Despite bestseller rankings and lifestyle features, big advances, and superstardom, many women writers seem to be living hardscrabble creative lives. Even those whose ‘rooms’ are more like palaces are nailing down the floorboards, putting buckets under leaky roofs, and wondering how to keep the lights on, particularly those of the incandescent mind.” — Carole DeSanti, The Haunted Room

The Economist, 25 July 2020

Modest Changes in Behavior leads to “huge rises in coronavirus infections”: The Geometry of the Pandemic, p. 19

This article focuses on a model by Rajiv Rimal of Johns Hopkins University. And it’s a big, fat chunk of the article (maybe a third), longer than she usually manages to quote. But she wanted to share it. Knowledge is power!

When “American states began easing lockdowns . . . their caseloads were three or more times higher than in Europe, in part, argues Jarbas Barbosa of the Pan-American Health Organization, because most states never had full lockdowns. Texas had 1,270 new cases on the day its governor said restaurants could reopen: 44 per million. In Georgia, the rate was 95 per million. Disney World reopened the day before Florida announced a record 15,000 new cases in a day. Just as incredibly, in two-thirds of states, infections were rising when governors started to ease lockdowns. By contrast, France, Spain and Italy had 13-17 new cases per million when they began to re-open their economies and numbers were falling fast.

“On April 12th … 95% of the population was staying at home (leaving the house only for essential visits), with 5% ignoring lockdown rules. Based on those assumptions, his model predicts that Americans would have had 559,400 cases on that day — an accurate assessment (it actually had 554,849). On July 14th, Mr. Rimal assumed that 80% of the population was staying at home, i.e., only a gradual change. On this basis, his model predicts the country would have 1.6m cases, again not far off the actual number and confirming the impact of modest rises in activity. If people really altered their behaviour, the number would rise even further to 5.6m cases if the stay-at-home share drops to 60% and to 9.5m if it falls to 20%. In that worst case, America’s death toll could top 400,000. Such is the dark logic of geometric growth.”

The Economist concludes that “to drive the level of infection down to perhaps a tenth of what it is now (closer to European or Asian levels) … seems to require full lockdowns.”

Stay safe, dear blog readers. Stay safe.

A Word of Advice, Cousin

Brideshead Revisited, p. 36:

“None of these people you go around with pull any weight in their own colleges, and that’s the real test. They think because they’ve got a lot of money to throw about, they can do anything.

And that’s another thing. I don’t know what allowance my uncle makes you, but I don’t mind betting you’re spending double. All this,” he said, including in a wide sweep of his hand the evidence of profligacy about him. It was true. My room had cast aside its austere winter garments, and by not very slow stages, assumed a richer wardrobe. “Is that paid for?” (the box of a hundred cabinet Partagas on the sideboard) “or those?” (a dozen frivolous, new books on the table) “or those?” (a Lalique decanter and glasses) “or that peculiarly noisome object” (a human skull lately purchased from the School of Medicine, which, resting on a bowl of roses, formed, at the moment, the chief decoration of my table. It bore the motto Et in arcadia ego inscribed on its forehead.)

“Yes,” I said, glad to be clear of one charge. “I had to pay cash for the skull.”

“You can’t be doing any work. Not that that matters particularly if you’re making something of your career elsewhere — but are you? Have you spoken at the Union or at any of the clubs? Are you connected with any of the magazines? And your clothes!”

Advice for the Oxford Freshman

Book One, Chapter One:

  • ‘Change your rooms.’ — They were large, with deeply recessed windows and painted, eighteenth-century panelling; I was lucky as a freshman to get them. ‘I’ve seen many a man ruined through having ground-floor rooms in the front quad,’ said my cousin with deep gravity. ‘People start dropping in. They leave their gowns here and come and collect them before hall; you start giving them sherry. Before you know where you are, you’ve opened a free bar for all the undesirables of the college.’

 

Donald McNeil, New York Times Health Reporter

“If it were possible to wave a magic wand and make all Americans freeze in place for 14 days while sitting six feet apart, epidemiologists say, the whole epidemic would sputter to a halt.”

Self Writes 16th Century

Self wrote the below section in a tone deliberately deadpan. It’s from her novel, Camarote de Marinero: Voyages.

An archivist to a young missionary who is shortly to depart Spain for the Philippines (1597):

  • As regards your health. The only hospitals are in Manila. You will be ill, but there is no help. There are two seasons, the dry and the wet. Fever is common during the wet season.

The Telegraph: Boost Your Immune System Now!

Here’s the link The Telegraph sent out: Anna Magee’s Guide to Boosting Your Immune System.

Ignore POTUS speeches also. You’ll just end up more confused.

Look at flowers. Think Peace. Feel Love.

DSCN0443

Backyard, Redwood City, 7 a.m.

Stay tuned.

Sentence of the Day: Gaslighting

On Quora:

What is a single very detailed example of narcissist gaslighting that you have personally experienced first hand?

This is a very hard question to answer because gaslighting is like a symphony.

Hedgebrook to Self: There’s Always Centrum

Years ago, when Calyx Publisher Margarita Donnelly was still alive, she told self about Hedgebrook. She said, It’s the most magical place. But you can only go once. So don’t waste it.

Self had Hedgebrook, that tantalizing lure, in the back of her mind, for decades. Eventually, she started writing a novel. Then she thought: This could be finally be the project I can apply to Hedgebrook for.

She did not hear back on her application, for almost a year.

Wow, they must have tons of applications, self thought.

Finally, because her landlady was pressuring her to extend her lease, and self didn’t want to do that if she was going to Hedgebrook, she decided to call Hedgebrook.

“Umm, hello,” self said. “Have the results of next year’s residencies already been released?”

Impactful (maybe also painful) silence.

Who is this?

“Marianne Villanueva.”

Another long silence. “The results were announced six months ago. We’ll have someone call you.”

And that’s when self’s gut fell all the way to the bottom of her shoes.

Sure enough, someone did call to tell self she’d been rejected. Not wait-listed. Just flat-out rejected. “There’s Centrum, if you like the area,” said the caller.

“Oh,” self said. “Thanks so much for the recommendation.”

Stay tuned.

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