Saturday 8 August, 2020

Quote of the Day

”We retain the facts which are easiest to think about”.

  • B. F. Skinner

Musical alternative to the morning’s radio news

Paul Simon: Kodachrome (3min 33secs)


I wonder if this is the only popular song ever written about a brand of photographic film. When I was an analog photographer, I always used Kodachrome for 35mm and Ektachrome for 6×6. But looking back on those old slides, it’s the fidelity of Kodachrome that still strikes one. It was a terrific film.

It’s funny also to think how dominant Kodak was in its heyday. It more or less defined photography. And look what happened to it — more or less overnight.

In recent times, the hulk of the old company has taken to making PPE equipment. And its share price jumped 1500% a few days ago on news that Trump wanted to give it a $765m loan to help pay for factory changes needed to make pharmaceutical ingredients in short supply in the U.S. The loan has now been ‘paused’ pending an inquiry into alleged insider trading.

The TikTok farce

Trump’s antics over TikTok — not to mention his administration’s sudden interest in the ‘national security’ aspects of the tech industry — defy parody. Among other things, he’s been leaning on Microsoft to buy TikTok, or at any rate the bit of it that operates in the US. And then, at one point, he started saying that the US should get a cut on the transaction. Among other things, just imagine what that does to the idea of impartial regulatory scrutiny of corporate mergers and acquisitions.

In the end, I gave up following the story, on the grounds that it’s just part of Trump’s desperate attempt to harness anti-Chinese sentiment to boost his electoral chances in November. But I did enjoy Ian Bogost’s summing-up:

TikTok might be pleasant, or joyful, or even subversive. But it is also an app on your phone, on the internet, connected to data centers and driving both corporate amalgamation and transnational entrenchment. It’s a bummer, but nothing is ever just an app anymore. Maybe Microsoft will save TikTok, or maybe not. Either way, there aren’t better and worse options here, so much as worse and even worse ones.

Trump’s Axios interview with Jonathan Swan

I watched it so that you don’t have to. It was like one of those discussions you used to hear in saloon bars, back in the day when we could go to pubs.

Here’s a snatch from the transcript:

Jonathan Swan: (06:58) But here’s the question. I’ve covered you for a long time. I’ve gone to your rallies. I’ve talked to your people. They love you. They listen to you. They listen to every word you say, they hang on your every word. They don’t listen to me or the media or Fauci. They think we’re fake news. They want to get their advice from you. And so, when they hear you say, everything’s under control, don’t worry about wearing masks. I mean, these are people, many of them are older people, Mr. President.

Trump: (07:19) Well, what’s your definition of control?

Swan: (07:20) It’s giving them a false sense of security.

Trump: (07:21) Yeah. Under the circumstances right now, I think it’s under control. I’ll tell you what-

Swan: (07:25) How? 1,000 Americans are dying a day.

Trump: (07:27) They are dying. That’s true. And it is what it is. But that doesn’t mean we aren’t doing everything we can. It’s under control as much as you can control it. This is a horrible plague that beset us.

Swan: (07:39) You really think this is as much as we can control it? 1,000 deaths a day?

Trump: (07:43) Well, I’ll tell you, I’d like to know if somebody… First of all, we have done a great job. We’ve gotten the governors everything they needed, they didn’t do their job. Many of them didn’t and some of them did. Someday we’ll sit down. We’ll talk about the successful ones, the good ones. Look at that smile. The good ones and the bad. We had good and bad. And we had a lot in the middle, but we had some incredible governors. I could tell you right now who the great ones are and who the not so great ones are, but the governors do it. We gave them massive amounts of material.

Swan: (08:11) Mr. President, you changed your message this week, in terms of you canceled the Jacksonville convention, you said, “Wear a mask.” You’re saying that, “It’s going to get worse before it gets better.” It’s not something you’d like to say, I know. And you said that. The big question-

Trump: (08:23) By the way, not get worse like the original flow. You understand that.

Swan: (08:27) Well, I hope not. It’s a 1,000-

Trump: (08:29) But If you look, Arizona’s going down. Texas is going down, and Florida is going down.

Swan: (08:31) If I could just finish my question. The question is, even some of your own aides wonder whether you would stick to that message until Election Day, whether in a week or two, you won’t say, “Right, we’ve got to reopen again. We can’t do this stuff anymore.” That you’ll get bored of talking about the virus and go back to that sort of cheerleading.

Trump: (08:52) No, I’m not going to get bored. I never get bored of talking about this, it’s too big a thing.

Swan: (08:54) So will you stick to that message?

Trump: (08:54) And again, it should have been stopped by China, and it wasn’t.

Swan: (08:59) But now it’s here and you’re the President.

Trump: (09:00) We have it here.

And so it goes, on and on and on and on.

Covid: deaths and costs in context.

Two charts from Scott Galloway:


And his observation:

Donald Trump was right, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were mistakes. Mistakes that cost us almost 7,000 American souls, 208,102 Iraqi and 111,000 Afghan civilian lives, and $1.9 trillion (inflation adjusted). But Covid-19 will register an even greater toll of American blood and treasure. The response to the novel coronavirus would have been swifter and more disciplined if the pathogen had brown skin and worshiped a different god. Americans can’t seem to wrap their head around an enemy 10,000 times smaller than the width of human hair.

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