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Anonymous Obama Gets Some Ice Cream

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 17, 2020

Barack Obama’s A Promised Land comes out today and The Root’s Michael Harriot has a brief interview with Obama. The rest of the interview is meatier, but I like Harriott’s last question:

Q: You are a former president and you are unquestionably the predominant role model for a generation of Black people, both of which come with a certain amount of public scrutiny. But for one day, you get to be an anonymous, everyday American who can go anywhere you want and do anything. Describe that day.

A: You know, honestly, I’d just take a walk. Go to the grocery store. Go out to dinner with Michelle. Maybe get some ice cream. Around my second or third year in office, I’d have this recurring dream, maybe once every six months, where I’m walking down the street and head into a coffee shop or a bar or something and nobody recognizes me. It was great!

You can read the rest of his answer, including his thoughts on “the tyranny of selfie”. I watched the Pete Souza documentary The Way I See It the other day1 and the wildest scenes were the ones showing a young Obama on the Senate campaign trail just walking around with no one noticing or bothering him. He must miss those days for sure. But I bet it’s also fun to be able to get literally anyone you want on the phone in 30 seconds.

P.S. I haven’t read it myself yet, but I’ve heard from many folks that Jeffrey Goldberg’s lengthy conversation with Obama is worth checking out.

P.P.S. In their excellent 5-part series on Princess Diana, You’re Wrong About’s Michael Hobbes shared his theory that “fame is abuse” and I’ve been thinking about that in relation to every celebrity story I’ve read since.

  1. Pro tip: in the US it’s streaming for free on Peacock, NBC’s new streaming service.

No Evidence of Voter Fraud Reported by Election Officials Nationwide

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 11, 2020

The headline and first few paragraphs of today’s front-page story in the NY Times say it all: The Times Called Officials in Every State: No Evidence of Voter Fraud.

Election officials in dozens of states representing both political parties said that there was no evidence that fraud or other irregularities played a role in the outcome of the presidential race, amounting to a forceful rebuke of President Trump’s portrait of a fraudulent election.

Over the last several days, the president, members of his administration, congressional Republicans and right wing allies have put forth the false claim that the election was stolen from Mr. Trump and have refused to accept results that showed Joseph R. Biden Jr. as the winner.

But top election officials across the country said in interviews and statements that the process had been a remarkable success despite record turnout and the complications of a dangerous pandemic.

Of course, the Republicans have made no fraud claims about states where they did well. Every Republican who the media projected to be the winner has claimed victory on that basis. And if the Democrats were somehow cheating, wouldn’t they have done far better on down-ballot races — presumably hundreds of thousands of fake ballots for Biden would also have gone for Democratic Senate and House candidates as well? The whole thing is obviously absurd.

“Voting Trump Out Is Not Enough”

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 10, 2020

For the New Yorker, Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor writes that as much noise and pain that Donald Trump generated while he was in office, it can’t hold a candle to America’s systemic problems, which remain unaddressed by both major parties.

Like tens of millions of Americans, I voted to end the miserable reign of Donald J. Trump, but we cannot perpetuate the election-year fiction that the deep and bewildering problems facing millions of people in this country will simply end with the Trump Administration. They are embedded in “the system,” in systemic racism, and the other social inequities that are the focus of continued activism and budding social movements. Viewing the solution to these problems as simply electing Joe Biden and Kamala Harris both underestimates the depth of the problems and trivializes the remedies necessary to undo the damage. That view may also confuse popular support for fundamental change, as evidenced by Trump’s one-term Presidency, with what the Democratic Party is willing or even able to deliver.

Lessons from the Ancient World about the Political Collapse and Recovery of Self-Governing Communities

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 09, 2020

This is a fascinating post by historian Bret Devereaux, who specializes in ancient history (esp. Rome), that looks at ancient self-governing democracies and republics in the Greek and Roman world and describes how they fell into crisis and, crucially, how they were able to recover to avoid losing that self-governance.

But in that large sample size, we also get a sense of what solutions succeed and what solutions fail to hold together a self-governing community in these sorts of pressures. Beset by repeated political crises from 494 to 287 (known as the Struggle of the Orders), the Roman Republic repeatedly survived and grew stronger through compromise and by constructive, inclusive redefinition of the republic to include a broader range of people (not merely the patrician elite, but also the plebeian elite). In no small part, that success seems to have been motivated by the avowed need of elite patricians for the support of the plebeian commons in order to campaign, since the plebeians made up most of the army.

In stark contrast, the effort by conservative (in the general sense, not in the American sense) elements of the Roman senate to ‘hold the line’ and permit no compromise on questions of land reform and citizenship in the Late Republic led quite directly to the outbreak of civil war in 91 (with the Italian allies) and in 88 (between Romans) and consequently to the collapse of the Republic. Initially, the influence and raw power of the elite was sufficient to squash efforts at reform (including the murder of some prominent reformers), but in the long run the discontent those crackdowns created laid the fertile ground for the rise of demagogic military leaders to supplant the Republic entirely, culminating in first Caesar and then Octavian doing just that. In an effort to compromise on nothing, the Roman elite lost everything.

Devereaux then draws a parallel to the 2020 election:

In short, Joe Biden is running on a platform of compromise and a constructive, inclusive redefinition of the polity which explicitly welcomes past opponents to join him at the table. To me, reasoning from historical example, that seems like the correct answer to the current moment.

On the other hand, we have a different candidate (and current President) who is running on a promise to ‘win’ the stasis by main force, to dominate and to win, indeed, until he (or we) get tired of winning, to escalate the tensions to the final victory of the faction. This is exactly the approach that I think a sober reading of historical examples warns us is likely doomed to failure, regardless of what one thinks of the underlying policy aims (which might well have been achieved without the rhetoric and practice of escalation). I cannot help but think that, as happened in the last decades of the Roman Republic, rewarding this sort of rhetoric and behavior will produce more of it from both parties and put our republic on a dangerous path.

“America’s Next Authoritarian Will Be Much More Competent”

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 09, 2020

Citing international precedent and America’s anti-majoritarian systems, Zeynep Tufekci argues that the next authoritarian who runs for President will be much more competent and dangerous.

The Electoral College and especially the Senate are anti-majoritarian institutions, and they can be combined with other efforts to subvert majority rule. Leaders and parties can engage in voter suppression and break norms with some degree of bipartisan cooperation across the government. In combination, these features allow for players to engage in a hardball kind of minority rule: Remember that no Republican president has won the popular vote since 2004, and that the Senate is structurally prone to domination by a minority. Yet Republicans have tremendous power. This dynamic occurs at the local level, too, where gerrymandering allows Republicans to inflate their representation in state legislatures.

The situation is a perfect setup, in other words, for a talented politician to run on Trumpism in 2024. A person without the eager Twitter fingers and greedy hotel chains, someone with a penchant for governing rather than golf. An individual who does not irritate everyone who doesn’t already like him, and someone whose wife looks at him adoringly instead of slapping his hand away too many times in public. Someone who isn’t on tape boasting about assaulting women, and who says the right things about military veterans. Someone who can send appropriate condolences about senators who die, instead of angering their state’s voters, as Trump did, perhaps to his detriment, in Arizona. A norm-subverting strongman who can create a durable majority and keep his coalition together to win more elections.

You should also read Tufekci’s related thread, where she responds to some comments and criticism of the piece.

This isn’t some rare thing that just happened because of weird circumstances. This is a playbook that works. This is a global playbook on the rise. This is a playbook found in America’s past, too. Realism is the true basis for hope.

We have to keep pushing to make sure no populist authoritarians ever get their hands on the Presidency again.

Biden’s Plans for Halting the Unchecked Spread of Covid-19 in the US

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 09, 2020

This morning, the transition team for President-elect Joe Biden announced the members of his Covid-19 task force.

The list includes Rick Bright, the former head of the vaccine-development agency BARDA ousted by the Trump administration in April; Atul Gawande, the surgeon, writer, and recently departed CEO of Haven, the joint JP Morgan Chase-Berkshire Hathaway-Amazon health care venture; and Luciana Borio, a former Food and Drug Administration official and biodefense specialist.

Biden has cast the escalating Covid-19 crisis as a priority for his incoming administration. The task force, he said, would quickly consult with state and local health officials on how to best prevent coronavirus spread, reopen schools and businesses, and address the racial disparities that have left communities of color harder hit than others by the pandemic.

From Biden’s transition website, here’s the Biden-Harris administration’s seven-point plan to beat COVID-19 (which is the first item in the site’s “Priorities” menu). The seven points are:

  1. Ensure all Americans have access to regular, reliable, and free testing.
  2. Fix personal protective equipment (PPE) problems for good.
  3. Provide clear, consistent, evidence-based guidance for how communities should navigate the pandemic — and the resources for schools, small businesses, and families to make it through.
  4. Plan for the effective, equitable distribution of treatments and vaccines - because development isn’t enough if they aren’t effectively distributed.
  5. Protect older Americans and others at high risk.
  6. Rebuild and expand defenses to predict, prevent, and mitigate pandemic threats, including those coming from China.
  7. Implement mask mandates nationwide by working with governors and mayors and by asking the American people to do what they do best: step up in a time of crisis.

This looks like what the plan should have been from the beginning. Of particular note, under the point about testing:

Stand up a Pandemic Testing Board like Roosevelt’s War Production Board. It’s how we produced tanks, planes, uniforms, and supplies in record time, and it’s how we will produce and distribute tens of millions of tests.

Establish a U.S. Public Health Jobs Corps to mobilize at least 100,000 Americans across the country with support from trusted local organizations in communities most at risk to perform culturally competent approaches to contact tracing and protecting at-risk populations.

Over the past week, as Americans voted and then held their breath for the results of the election, over 750,000 Americans tested positive for Covid-19. Based on the current case fatality rate of 2.4%, over 18,000 of those people will die in the days and weeks ahead. Many more will suffer long-term health effects because of the disease and struggle emotionally, financially, and spiritually in the months ahead. I really really hope there’s enough of a spirit of togetherness and cooperation left in America for a science-based plan like this to work in controlling a disease that’s killed almost 230,000 people. We — all Americans — need this so so much.

FDR’s Second Bill of Rights

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 05, 2020

In his 1944 State of the Union address, President Franklin Roosevelt encouraged Congress to turn its attention to what he called “a second Bill of Rights”, legislation that would ensure all American citizens “equality in the pursuit of happiness”. Roosevelt argued that the United States had grown large enough and economically powerful enough to support this effort.

Here’s an excerpt from his address:

We have come to a clear realization of the fact that true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence. “Necessitous men are not free men.” People who are hungry and out of a job are the stuff of which dictatorships are made.

In our day these economic truths have become accepted as self-evident. We have accepted, so to speak, a second Bill of Rights under which a new basis of security and prosperity can be established for all — regardless of station, race, or creed.

Among these are:

- The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines of the nation;

- The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation;

- The right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will give him and his family a decent living;

- The right of every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad;

- The right of every family to a decent home;

- The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health;

- The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment;

- The right to a good education.

All of these rights spell security. And after this war is won we must be prepared to move forward, in the implementation of these rights, to new goals of human happiness and well-being.

After WWII, many countries in Europe came to similar conclusions and enacted reforms to offer these rights to their citizens. In America, aside from the significant efforts of the Johnson administration in the 60s, we went in different direction, doubling down on inequality in the pursuit of happiness.

Vote

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 03, 2020

Vote

I just got back from voting. (For Joe Biden, just to be clear.) I live in a small town in Vermont, so that means there was no line (it took five minutes from when I got out of my car to when I got back into my car) and no real or imagined threat to my desire to vote (bad Covid hygiene, protestors, armed poll watchers). It felt really safe; it felt like voting should feel everywhere in America but doesn’t. We have a lot of work to do to guarantee even basic voting rights for everyone in America, and I hope my vote today was a small step in that direction. (Vote artwork by Alexa Meade.)

What Do Foreign Media Correspondents Think of the US?

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 30, 2020

Media correspondents from all over the world spend months and years in the United States, reporting on our current events, politics, and culture. In this illuminating video from the New Yorker, several of them talk about what they think of our country. As outsiders, they’re able to see things that Americans don’t and can talk to people who may not otherwise feel comfortable talking to (what they perceive as) biased or corrupt American media. They’ve also observed an unprecedented level of division and are aware of the disconnect between America’s rhetoric about freedom and the sense that they’re reporting from a failed state.

“Liberty Doesn’t Mean Freedom to Infect Other People”

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 26, 2020

Paul Krugman writes about the harmful effects of “libertarianism gone bad, a misunderstanding of what freedom is all about” that have been made plain by the Covid-19 pandemic.

But you also see a lot of libertarian rhetoric — a lot of talk about “freedom” and “personal responsibility.” Even politicians willing to say that people should cover their faces and avoid indoor gatherings refuse to use their power to impose rules to that effect, insisting that it should be a matter of individual choice.

Which is nonsense.

Many things should be matters of individual choice. The government has no business dictating your cultural tastes, your faith or what you decide to do with other consenting adults.

But refusing to wear a face covering during a pandemic, or insisting on mingling indoors with large groups, isn’t like following the church of your choice. It’s more like dumping raw sewage into a reservoir that supplies other people’s drinking water.

Obama on the Struggle to Reform Healthcare in America

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 26, 2020

Barack Obama in the Oval Office

Barack Obama’s forthcoming memoir, A Promised Land, is coming out next month. The New Yorker is running an excerpt of the book, an account of his administration’s struggle to get the Affordable Care Act through Congress.

As time went on, though, it became hard to ignore some of the more troubling impulses driving the movement. As had been true at Palin rallies, reporters at Tea Party events caught attendees comparing me to animals or Hitler. Signs turned up showing me dressed like an African witch doctor with a bone through my nose. Conspiracy theories abounded: that my health-care bill would set up “death panels” to evaluate whether people deserved treatment, clearing the way for “government-encouraged euthanasia,” or that it would benefit illegal immigrants, in the service of my larger goal of flooding the country with welfare-dependent, reliably Democratic voters. The Tea Party also resurrected an old rumor from the campaign: that I was not only Muslim but had actually been born in Kenya, and was therefore constitutionally barred from serving as President. By September, the question of how much nativism and racism explained the Tea Party’s rise had become a major topic of debate on the cable shows-especially after the former President and lifelong Southerner Jimmy Carter offered up the opinion that the extreme vitriol directed toward me was at least in part spawned by racist views.

At the White House, we made a point of not commenting on any of this — and not just because Axe had reams of data telling us that white voters, including many who supported me, reacted poorly to lectures about race. As a matter of principle, I didn’t believe a President should ever publicly whine about criticism from voters — it’s what you signed up for in taking the job — and I was quick to remind both reporters and friends that my white predecessors had all endured their share of vicious personal attacks and obstructionism.

More practically, I saw no way to sort out people’s motives, especially given that racial attitudes were woven into every aspect of our nation’s history. Did that Tea Party member support “states’ rights” because he genuinely thought it was the best way to promote liberty, or because he continued to resent how federal intervention had led to desegregation and rising Black political power in the South? Did that conservative activist oppose any expansion of the social-welfare state because she believed it sapped individual initiative or because she was convinced that it would benefit only brown people who had just crossed the border? Whatever my instincts might tell me, whatever truths the history books might suggest, I knew I wasn’t going to win over any voters by labelling my opponents racist.

The harbingers of Trumpism throughout this piece are difficult to ignore.

A New Online Archive of 374 Treaties Between Indigenous Peoples and the United States

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 15, 2020

Sample pages of a treaty between indigenous peoples and the United States

Thanks to an anonymous donation, the US National Archives has digitized and put online their collection of 374 treaties between indigenous peoples and the United States (and its predecessor colonies). You can also explore maps and see which tribes are associated with which treaties. I am sure the meaning of the words on these pages is different depending on who you ask but being able access them freely is a benefit to everyone. (via @CharlesCMann)

Winter Is Coming. Is It Safe to Socialize Indoors?

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 12, 2020

In an article that The Atlantic classifies as “politics” rather than “science” or “medicine”, Olga Khazan explores why, more than 8 months into the pandemic, Americans still have little idea about the safety of gathering with others indoors.

For months now, Americans have been told that if we want to socialize, the safest way to do it is outdoors, the better to disperse the droplets that spew from our mouths whenever we do anything but silently purchase grapefruit. But in many parts of the country, this is the last month that the weather will allow people to spend more than a few minutes outside comfortably. And next month, America will celebrate a holiday that is marked by being inside together and eating while talking loudly to old people.

In a nutshell, the lack of federal support/guidance/action is the main reason why people are still so confused about what safety measures to take to reduce their Covid risk:

Still, Ranney says, this [Covid risk] app is the kind of thing the federal government really should have developed by now. It’s odd that in a wealthy, industrialized country, a random researcher is the one designing a tool to keep citizens safe from public-health threats, using data she scraped from a newspaper.

One thing that Khazan doesn’t really get into is the whole aerosols thing, which in my mind is something that most people are still not familiar with, many local & state governments are not taking into account w/r/t recommended safety measures, and requires different risk guidance about the safety of the indoors than if we were just dealing with fomites & droplets. Again, from the excellent Time magazine piece by aerosol chemist Jose-Luis Jimenez:

When it comes to COVID-19, the evidence overwhelmingly supports aerosol transmission, and there are no strong arguments against it. For example, contact tracing has found that much COVID-19 transmission occurs in close proximity, but that many people who share the same home with an infected person do not get the disease. To understand why, it is useful to use cigarette or vaping smoke (which is also an aerosol) as an analog. Imagine sharing a home with a smoker: if you stood close to the smoker while talking, you would inhale a great deal of smoke. Replace the smoke with virus-containing aerosols, which behave very similarly, and the impact is similar: the closer you are to someone releasing virus-carrying aerosols, the more likely you are to breathe in larger amounts of virus. We know from detailed, rigorous studies that when individuals talk in close proximity, aerosols dominate transmission and droplets are nearly negligible.

If you are standing on the other side of the room, you would inhale significantly less smoke. But in a poorly ventilated room, the smoke will accumulate, and people in the room may end up inhaling a lot of smoke over time. Talking, and especially singing and shouting increase aerosol exhalation by factors of 10 and 50, respectively. Indeed, we are finding that outbreaks often occur when people gather in crowded, insufficiently ventilated indoor spaces, such as singing at karaoke parties, cheering at clubs, having conversations in bars, and exercising in gyms. Superspreading events, where one person infects many, occur almost exclusively in indoor locations and are driving the pandemic. These observations are easily explained by aerosols, and are very difficult or impossible to explain by droplets or fomites.

The science is there — it’s the lack of connection between scientists, public health experts & officials, and the government that continues to be a problem.

One of President John Tyler’s Two Living Grandsons Just Died

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 05, 2020

Last weekend, Lyon Gardiner Tyler Jr. died at the age of 95. Remarkably, Lyon was the grandson of John Tyler, the 10th President of the United States. His brother Harrison Ruffin Tyler is still alive. Here’s what I wrote about the Tylers back in 2012:

John Tyler was the 10th President of the United States. He was born in 1790 and took office in 1841. His son, Lyon Gardiner Tyler, was born in 1853, when Tyler was 63 years old. In turn, Lyon had six children with two different wives, two of whom were Lyon Gardiner Tyler, Jr. and Harrison Ruffin Tyler (born 1924 & 1928 respectively, when Lyon Sr. was in his 70s).

John Tyler was born barely a year into George Washington’s first term and undoubtably met and even worked with some of the nation’s earliest political figures, including Thomas Jefferson and John Quincy Adams. Amazing to think that just three generations of the same family stretch almost all the way back to the founding of our country. It underscores just how young the United States is — after all, the last person to receive a Civil War pension just died back in June. You can check out more examples of The Great Span phenomenon here.

Totally Under Control

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 02, 2020

In secrecy over the past several months, filmmaker Alex Gibney has been making a documentary film about the US government’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic called Totally Under Control. He and co-directors Ophelia Harutyunyan and Suzanne Hillinger interviewed “countless scientists, medical professionals, and government officials on the inside” to produce the film.

Academy Award-winning filmmaker Alex Gibney, directing with Ophelia Harutyunyan and Suzanne Hillinger, interrogates this question and its devastating implications in Totally Under Control. With damning testimony from public health officials and hard investigative reporting, Gibney exposes a system-wide collapse caused by a profound dereliction of Presidential leadership.

Gibney previously directed Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room, Going Clear, and Zero Days (all excellent documentaries). The film comes out in theaters on October 13 and on Hulu on October 20.

The President Is a White Supremacist. And So Are You if You Support Him.

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 30, 2020

Last night in a debate with Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, Donald Trump, the actual President of these United States, not only declined to condemn white supremacy, he gave an order to an openly white supremacist group on national television. Here’s the quote and the video:

Proud Boys, stand back and stand by. But I’ll tell you what, I’ll tell you what. Somebody’s got to do something about antifa and the left. Because this is not a right-wing problem. This is a left-wing problem.

Stand by. Somebody’s gotta do something about antifa and the left. Proud Boy members knew exactly what Trump was telling them — it’s as plain as day. (I’ve grown weary of pointing out the parallels to Nazism and Italian fascism, so I’ll leave that as an exercise to the reader in this case. The answer may involve shirt colors.)

We’ve long passed the point at which everyone should understand in no uncertain terms that Trump is an authoritarian, racist, white supremacist (among other things). Hell, this is what many of his supporters like about him. But it should also be clear to his supporters, all of his supporters (especially the ones who hold their nose and support him because of Christian values or fiscal policy or abortion), that by voting for this man knowing what we all clearly know about him, you are a white supremacist. Period. I understand the perfect candidate doesn’t exist and that our system of voting requires us to compromise some of our values in order to support progress towards bigger goals, but good luck explaining that you voted for an actual white supremacist to your grandchildren someday (if you can stomach telling them the truth). Some values cannot be compromised.

The Unsettling Normalcy of Societal Collapse

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 28, 2020

Indi Samarajiva lived through the end of the civil war in Sri Lanka that killed an estimated 80,000-100,000 people over 30 years. He cautions that societal collapse can feel quite normal for many people — but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t happening. I Lived Through Collapse. America Is Already There.

I lived through the end of a civil war. Do you know what it was like for me? Quite normal. I went to work, I went out, I dated. This is what Americans don’t understand. They’re waiting to get personally punched in the face while ash falls from the sky. That’s not how it happens.

This is how it happens. Precisely what you’re feeling now. The numbing litany of bad news. The ever rising outrages. People suffering, dying, and protesting all around you, while you think about dinner.

If you’re trying to carry on while people around you die, your society is not collapsing. It’s already fallen down.

“I Feel Sorry for Americans”

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 28, 2020

Hannah Beech reports on how the United States1 is perceived by the outside world these days due to our poor response to the Covid-19 pandemic and the continuing failure of our political system.

Myanmar is a poor country struggling with open ethnic warfare and a coronavirus outbreak that could overload its broken hospitals. That hasn’t stopped its politicians from commiserating with a country they think has lost its way.

“I feel sorry for Americans,” said U Myint Oo, a member of parliament in Myanmar. “But we can’t help the U.S. because we are a very small country.”

The same sentiment prevails in Canada, one of the most developed countries. Two out of three Canadians live within about 60 miles of the American border.

“Personally, it’s like watching the decline of the Roman Empire,” said Mike Bradley, the mayor of Sarnia, an industrial city on the border with Michigan, where locals used to venture for lunch.

And I had to chuckle at this part:

“The U.S.A. is a first-world country but it is acting like a third-world country,” said U Aung Thu Nyein, a political analyst in Myanmar.

I made a similar observation after a trip to Asia in January: “America is a rich country that feels like a poor country.” I got a bunch of pushback on that statement but after the past eight months, the pandemic has laid America’s deficiencies bare for the whole world to see clearly.

  1. Even the name of the damn country seems like a hilarious anachronism these days. States, sure. But united? Lol.

The Approaching Crisis of the 2020 Election

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 24, 2020

This is an excellent piece in The Atlantic by Barton Gellman on The Election That Could Break America. Excellent and hair-raising. It outlines several of the ways that Donald Trump & the Republicans could disrupt the election process to produce an ambiguous outcome and use the chaos to retain the presidency.

The worst case, however, is not that Trump rejects the election outcome. The worst case is that he uses his power to prevent a decisive outcome against him. If Trump sheds all restraint, and if his Republican allies play the parts he assigns them, he could obstruct the emergence of a legally unambiguous victory for Biden in the Electoral College and then in Congress. He could prevent the formation of consensus about whether there is any outcome at all. He could seize on that un-certainty to hold on to power.

Trump’s state and national legal teams are already laying the groundwork for postelection maneuvers that would circumvent the results of the vote count in battleground states. Ambiguities in the Constitution and logic bombs in the Electoral Count Act make it possible to extend the dispute all the way to Inauguration Day, which would bring the nation to a precipice. The Twentieth Amendment is crystal clear that the president’s term in office “shall end” at noon on January 20, but two men could show up to be sworn in. One of them would arrive with all the tools and power of the presidency already in hand.

Read on for the details about how that could happen (voter suppression, mail-in voting, the “blue-shift”, the expired consent decree governing “ballot security” operations at polls, deploying the military to “Democrat-run cities” to “protect ballots”, hand-picked electors in Republican-controlled swing states). But Gellman is clear: some or all of this is going to happen.

Let us not hedge about one thing. Donald Trump may win or lose, but he will never concede. Not under any circumstance. Not during the Interregnum and not afterward. If compelled in the end to vacate his office, Trump will insist from exile, as long as he draws breath, that the contest was rigged.

Trump’s invincible commitment to this stance will be the most important fact about the coming Interregnum. It will deform the proceedings from beginning to end. We have not experienced anything like it before.

(As a quick aside, just yesterday, after Gellman’s piece was finalized, Trump again declined to commit to a peaceful transfer of power.)

I’m not a political scientist nor a therapist, but as someone who has been writing for years that Trump will never willingly leave office, I urge those of you who don’t want America to slide further into autocracy to acclimate yourself to the worst case scenario here so that you’re not completely devastated and immobilized when Election Day and then Inauguration Day comes and this shit happens. Don’t ignore this, optimistically rationalize it away, or stuff it deep down inside you; face it now, directly, and be prepared to assist in the fight for democracy and justice that’s coming.

Update: Here’s a thread by lawyer & author Teri Kanefield responding to The Atlantic piece that’s gotten some attention on Twitter.

First, remember that each state has rules that govern the certifying of their elections.

Yes, laws still matter.

The Trump legal advisor wants you to think they don’t.

Why? Because when enough people lose confidence in democracy, democracy will fail.

That’s why…a goal of active measures is to get you to lose confidence in democratic processes.

Trump is trying his best to get you to lose confidence in democratic processes.

He is trying to make you think he can pull this off.

New polls came out today showing that Trump is ten points behind nationally.

The Strongman needs you to think he’s strong. He doesn’t want you talking about the polls.

If he was winning, he’d want you talking about the polls.

There are some good details in there, but ultimately she’s really only talking about one aspect of the piece (the election certification) and it remains to be seen whether national polling during a pandemic and more than a month before the election will have anything to with reality when it comes to actual counted votes in a selection of swing states. As the 2016 election showed, all you really need is to bend things your way a little bit in a few states and you’ve got yourself an election or crisis or whatever. (via @heathr)

A Promised Land by Barack Obama

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 17, 2020

Cover of Barack Obama's book, A Promised Land

A Promised Land is a forthcoming memoir from Barack Obama that he says is “an honest accounting of my presidency, the forces we grapple with as a nation, and how we can heal our divisions and make democracy work for everybody”. Here’s the official description of the book:

In the stirring, highly anticipated first volume of his presidential memoirs, Barack Obama tells the story of his improbable odyssey from young man searching for his identity to leader of the free world, describing in strikingly personal detail both his political education and the landmark moments of the first term of his historic presidency — a time of dramatic transformation and turmoil.

Obama takes readers on a compelling journey from his earliest political aspirations to the pivotal Iowa caucus victory that demonstrated the power of grassroots activism to the watershed night of November 4, 2008, when he was elected 44th president of the United States, becoming the first African American to hold the nation’s highest office.

Reflecting on the presidency, he offers a unique and thoughtful exploration of both the awesome reach and the limits of presidential power, as well as singular insights into the dynamics of U.S. partisan politics and international diplomacy.

A Promised Land will be released November 17 but you can preorder it on Bookshop or for the Kindle.

Update: The Atlantic is running the adapted and updated preface to Obama’s book.

First and foremost, I hoped to give an honest rendering of my time in office — not just a historical record of key events that happened on my watch and important figures with whom I interacted but also an account of some of the political, economic, and cultural crosscurrents that helped determine the challenges my administration faced and the choices my team and I made in response. Where possible, I wanted to offer readers a sense of what it’s like to be the president of the United States; I wanted to pull the curtain back a bit and remind people that, for all its power and pomp, the presidency is still just a job and our federal government is a human enterprise like any other, and the men and women who work in the White House experience the same daily mix of satisfaction, disappointment, office friction, screwups, and small triumphs as the rest of their fellow citizens. Finally, I wanted to tell a more personal story that might inspire young people considering a life of public service: how my career in politics really started with a search for a place to fit in, a way to explain the different strands of my mixed-up heritage, and how it was only by hitching my wagon to something larger than myself that I was ultimately able to locate a community and purpose for my life.

You can even listen to Obama read the excerpt in an embedded audio player.

In Search of a Flat Earth

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 16, 2020

In Search of a Flat Earth is a documentary essay by Folding Ideas’ Dan Olson that starts out talking about people who believe the Earth is flat (and why it’s so difficult to convince them otherwise) but then takes a sharp turn toward a more recent and much more worrying conspiracy theory, QAnon. Lots of interesting information and observations throughout.

See also QAnon, Conspiracy Theories, and the Rise of Magical Thinking.

Rise Up. Show Up. Unite!

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 14, 2020

Rise Up. Show Up. Unite! poster

Rise Up. Show Up. Unite! poster

Rise Up. Show Up. Unite! poster

Rise Up. Show Up. Unite! poster

A group of creatives led by Jessica Hische are creating unofficial posters for the Biden/Harris campaign in order to increase visibility of the campaign.

Last week, I [Jessica Hische] had a good conversation with the Biden creative team. I shared that one of my concerns for the upcoming election was the lack of visible support for the campaign. There are a lot of folx within the creative world and beyond posting on social media about voting (a wonderful and necessary message), but few of those posts mention the candidates by name. It’s somewhat implied that if you’re promoting voting or voting rights that you’re likely voting Biden and encouraging a Biden vote, but it’s not explicit. There’s a “I guess I’ll vote for him if I have to” vibe throughout leftist social media, but exasperated resignation doesn’t get people to the polls.

From top to bottom, art by Jessica Hische, Mary Kate McDevitt, Lauren Hom, and Joanna Muñoz. You can participate by downloading a template that includes the Biden/Harris logo — you can find the link at the bottom of the article.

Living in a Conspiracy Nation

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 14, 2020

We are in a spectacularly unprecedented moment in our nation’s history. If you do not believe that is the case, perhaps these two recent news reports in completely sober (and even socially conservative) publications will persuade you. Charlotte Alter reports from my home state of Wisconsin for Time magazine:

In more than seven dozen interviews conducted in Wisconsin in early September, from the suburbs around Milwaukee to the scarred streets of Kenosha in the aftermath of the Jacob Blake shooting, about 1 in 5 voters volunteered ideas that veered into the realm of conspiracy theory, ranging from QAnon to the notion that COVID-19 is a hoax. Two women in Ozaukee County calmly informed me that an evil cabal operates tunnels under the U.S. in order to rape and torture children and drink their blood. A Joe Biden supporter near a Kenosha church told me votes don’t matter, because “the elites” will decide the outcome of the election anyway. A woman on a Kenosha street corner explained that Democrats were planning to bring in U.N. troops before the election to prevent a Trump win.

One in five. 20%. Alter continues:

This matters not just because of what these voters believe but also because of what they don’t. The facts that should anchor a sense of shared reality are meaningless to them; the news developments that might ordinarily inform their vote fall on deaf ears. They will not be swayed by data on coronavirus deaths, they won’t be persuaded by job losses or stock market gains, and they won’t care if Trump called America’s fallen soldiers “losers” or “suckers,” as the Atlantic reported, because they won’t believe it. They are impervious to messaging, advertising or data. They aren’t just infected with conspiracy; they appear to be inoculated against reality.

Democracy relies on an informed and engaged public responding in rational ways to the real-life facts and challenges before us. But a growing number of Americans are untethered from that. “They’re not on the same epistemological grounding, they’re not living in the same worlds,” says Whitney Phillips, a professor at Syracuse who studies online disinformation. “You cannot have a functioning democracy when people are not at the very least occupying the same solar system.”

Alter found conspiracy thinking on the left (Trump created Covid?!) but it was way more batshit crazy on the right:

On a cigarette break outside their small business in Ozaukee County, Tina Arthur and Marcella Frank told me they plan to vote for Trump again because they are deeply alarmed by “the cabal.” They’ve heard “numerous reports” that the COVID-19 tents set up in New York and California were actually for children who had been rescued from underground sex-trafficking tunnels.

Arthur and Frank explained they’re not followers of QAnon. Frank says she spends most of her free time researching child sex trafficking, while Arthur adds that she often finds this information on the Russian-owned search engine Yandex. Frank’s eyes fill with tears as she describes what she’s found: children who are being raped and tortured so that “the cabal” can “extract their blood and drink it.” She says Trump has seized the blood on the black market as part of his fight against the cabal. “I think if Biden wins, the world is over, basically,” adds Arthur. “I would honestly try to leave the country. And if that wasn’t an option, I would probably take my children and sit in the garage and turn my car on and it would be over.”

(At this point, you may want to take a short break, as I did, to either fully absorb this madness or to try to wipe your mind of it completely. Neither worked for me, but I did have a nice little stroll.) Ok, ready for round two? From The Economist, How construction workers in Ohio view the election:

“He’s done a great job, he’s got everyone back to work. I’m pretty much 100% for him,” said Kyle, a 30-year-old electrician. “He shoots his mouth off but at least that shows he’s honest,” said Jason, a pipe-fitter, who said he especially liked Mr Trump’s commitment to reducing the national debt. “He’s done more for our country than the past ten presidents put together,” said an older builder, Jeff, skimming wet concrete on a new road. “He’s made — who is it, China or Japan? — pay our farmers billions of dollars. He got health care done, which the Democrats could never do. He built the wall.”

None of this is true, aside from Trump shooting his mouth off. These lies aren’t as spectacular as the blood-drinking pedophilia, but in some ways they’re even worse because they’re so easily fact-checked (e.g. Trump has increased the national debt) but still believed.

Bonus items that I randomly ran across this morning: 1) A recent local news report on an anti-mask rally in Utah, where some folks assert that Covid-19 is a hoax and that asymptomatic carriers don’t exist (oh, and a woman draws a parallel between George Floyd not being able to breathe and people not being able to breathe with a face mask on). 2) The assistant secretary of public affairs at the Department of Health and Human Services, an actual government official, “accused career government scientists on Sunday of ‘sedition’ in their handling of the pandemic and warned that left-wing hit squads were preparing for armed insurrection after the election”.

I’ve said this several times before, but I keep coming back to this quote from Hannah Arendt:

If everybody always lies to you, the consequence is not that you believe the lies, but rather that nobody believes anything any longer. This is because lies, by their very nature, have to be changed, and a lying government has constantly to rewrite its own history. On the receiving end you get not only one lie — a lie which you could go on for the rest of your days — but you get a great number of lies, depending on how the political wind blows. And a people that no longer can believe anything cannot make up its mind. It is deprived not only of its capacity to act but also of its capacity to think and to judge. And with such a people you can then do what you please.

Fox News, talk radio, and Facebook — aided and abetted by clueless mainstream media outlets who feel the need to cover “both sides” equally — have been pounding away on Americans for decades, feeding them misinformation and hate. Trump ratcheted that rhetoric up, legitimized it with the office of the president, and is reaping the rewards — “with such a people you can then do what you please”.

Trump Supporters Should Face Negative Consequences for Their Actions

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 09, 2020

Trump Boat Sunk

Designer & writer Gabrielle Blair, creator of the popular Design Mom blog, on The Consequences of Your Actions.

It makes me sick to my stomach that you, a Trump supporter, ever read or watch or listen to anything I’ve created. This is true even if I know you in real life.

I see what you are trying to do. You want me to treat you like a decent human being. But you are not behaving like a decent human being.

A decent person doesn’t align themself with people who are proudly racist and who insist America doesn’t have a racism problem.

A decent person doesn’t align themself with people who believe viral right-wing stories on Facebook over trained journalists, who think Q is real, who think the pandemic is fake, who think the earth is flat.

Blair continues:

You want to vote for Trump and experience no negative consequences.

But that’s not an option.

One of the consequences of your actions? I do not respect you.

Leave them to their terrible art:

I want to see you shunned by every person and organization that doesn’t support Trump. No more access to their books, movies, products, music, events, artists & influencers — till you are left with nothing but Smashmouth concerts, and Ben Shapiro talking about his sex life.

(And just so I don’t get email about this, the boat image at the top of the page is photoshopped. It’s an example of what the kids today are calling a “meme”.)

The Next Reconstruction?

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 08, 2020

In The Atlantic, Adam Serwer writes about the parallels between the present moment and Reconstruction, the post-Civil War period where the biggest strides toward racial justice in America were taken. In response to the protests happening in American streets this summer, Trump pulled out Nixon’s “law and order” playbook but that move backfired on Trump, much like the way that Andrew Johnson’s push for the US government to remain white during the early years of Reconstruction did.

The shift that’s occurred this time around “wasn’t by happenstance,” Brittany Packnett Cunningham, an activist and a writer, told me, nor is it only the product of video evidence. “It has been the work of generations of Black activists, Black thinkers, and Black scholars that has gotten us here” — people like Angela Davis, Kimberlé Crenshaw, Michelle Alexander, and others. “Six years ago, people were not using the phrase systemic racism beyond activist circles and academic circles. And now we are in a place where it is readily on people’s lips, where folks from CEOs to grandmothers up the street are talking about it, reading about it, researching on it, listening to conversations about it.”

All of that preparation met the moment: George Floyd’s killing, the pandemic’s unmistakable toll on Black Americans, and Trump’s callous and cynical response to both.

Still, like Andrew Johnson, Trump bet his political fortunes on his assumption that the majority of white Americans shared his fears and beliefs about Black Americans. Like Johnson, Trump did not anticipate how his own behavior, and the behavior he enabled and encouraged, would discredit the cause he backed. He did not anticipate that the activists might succeed in convincing so many white Americans to see the protests as righteous and justified, that so many white Americans would understand police violence as an extension of his own cruelty, that the pandemic would open their eyes to deep-seated racial inequities.

“I think this country is at a turning point and has been for a little while. We went from celebrating the election of the first Black president in history to bemoaning a white nationalist in the White House,” Alicia Garza told me. “People are grappling with the fact that we’re not actually in a post-racial society.”

If the reaction to eight years of Obama was a white nationalist President, then maybe the reaction to that is, finally, the beginning of true racial justice and equality in America. But here is the big question:

In the past, the dream of remaking society has faltered when white Americans have realized what they would have to sacrifice to deliver freedom. The question now is whether this time is different.

And further:

Believing in racial equality in the abstract and supporting policies that would make it a reality are two different things. Most white Americans have long professed the former, and pointedly declined to do the latter. This paradox has shown up so many times in American history that social scientists have a name for it: the principle-implementation gap. This gap is what ultimately doomed the Reconstruction project.

A research paper on the principle-implementation gap puts it plainly:

White Americans accept equality as an ideal yet reject interventions designed to achieve that ideal.

Serwer goes on to say that the sticking point is often economic justice — versus the easier-to-swallow civic justice. Ok, just go read the whole thing before I quote it all. (via @michaelharriot, who called the piece “spectacular”)

Rick Steves’ The Story of Fascism

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 03, 2020

The Story of Fascism is an hour-long TV special from travel guru Rick Steves about the history of fascism in Europe, from its post-WWI rise in Italy and Germany to the defeat of the fascist powers in WWII to efforts by modern-day right-wing ideologues to revive it.

We’ll trace fascism’s history from its roots in the turbulent aftermath of World War I, when masses of angry people rose up, to the rise of charismatic leaders who manipulated that anger, the totalitarian societies they built, and the brutal measures they used to enforce their ideology. We’ll see the horrific consequences: genocide and total war.

Because Steves hosts a travel show, they visit some of the places where this history played out, including Nuremberg, Auschwitz, and Rome, talk to historians and tour guides, and discuss fascist and anti-fascist art, including Picasso’s Guernica.

The combination of the weighty subject matter and Steves’ jaunty TV voice is a bit jarring at first, but this packs a lot of information and context into an hour. There are obviously parallels throughout to contemporary leaders and their tactics, but check out Benito Mussolini’s mannerisms and facial expressions starting at 11:05 and see if they remind you of the current inhabitant of the White House. (via open culture)

Eric Godal’s Anti-Fascist Illustrations Updated for 2020

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 03, 2020

Piascik Anti Fascist

Piascik Anti Fascist

In the 1930s and 40s, artist Eric Godal drew some anti-fascist political cartoons that urged people not to listen to right-wing authoritarians who want to destroy and pillage society for their own ends. Godal, a German Jew, had escaped the clutches of Nazi Germany in the 30s and labored to warn America and the world about the fate of the Jews in Europe.1

Illustrator Chris Piascik has updated Godal’s drawings for 2020 to feature our own corrupt crackpot wannabe dictator. Calling Donald Trump a fascist is hardly controversial these days — he clearly is. What his supporters need to reckon with is: are they?

  1. Godal’s mother was able to get out of Germany on a boat but was denied entry to the United States as a refugee by the Roosevelt administration. She was sent back and eventually murdered in a Nazi death camp.

Using Conservative Logic to Defend History’s Greatest Monsters

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 31, 2020

Greg Larsen on Twitter this morning:

Name someone who is universally agreed to be evil (genocidal dictator, serial killer etc) and I’ll defend them and their actions using conservative logic.

Here are some of his responses, starting with serial murderer John Wayne Gacy:

Great now the left is trying to besmirch a man who literally worked at CHILDREN’S HOSPITALS helping to cheer up sick kids by being a clown! Is there any low that the left won’t sink to, attacking a children’s entertainer? It’s just sad.

Wile E. Coyote:

Convenient that the footage starts on Wile E Coyote but we don’t see what Roadrunner was doing before hand. So this violent antifa roadrunner could be speeding around, looking for trouble and violence and the footage starts right when the Coyote is defending himself.

Emperor Palpatine:

When a leftist opposes law and order you have to wonder their motivations. Seems to me the Empire brought peace to the galaxy and it was radical leftist terrorists that were destroying that peace. Why? Because they were sad that the government wasn’t giving them handouts?

Jack the Ripper:

Criticize him all you want, but in a way he was good for the economy. Books, films, tourism, a whole genre of entertainment sprung up around him. Think of how many lives he has saved an enriched by helping the British economy. Facts don’t care about your feelings.

Kim Jong Un:

Show me literally one photo, one piece of footage, literally anything of Kim Jong Un killing anyone, or doing anything bad to anyone. I’ll wait.

And SARS-CoV-2:

Literally the hardest working virus in 2020. Creating healthcare work, bringing people together, and by every measurable standard a raging success in the virus world but that doesn’t fit the leftist narrative of “success = evil”

(thx, mark)

Manifest Density and American Politics

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 28, 2020

I ran across this Facebook post by Shannon Welch the other day and while I don’t agree with some of it (more about that in a bit), I do think there’s something to her argument that the density of the place you grew up in or have spent a lot of time in has an effect on how you view the world, your neighbors, and your political situation.

So why does this matter? Because how you were raised and how you live has a huge impact on what matters to you from your politicians and your government.

Those I know that grew up in less dense areas had to be self-reliant. When calling 911 means you’re likely waiting 20 minutes or longer for police, an ambulance, or a fire truck. You have to be able to defend yourself, handle your own first aid, and rely on your neighbors to help in critical emergency situations. When I tell people in Southern California that where I grew up had volunteer firefighters and EMTs they don’t believe me.

The more rural you are, the less you rely on government entities for your day-to-day needs. The most rural have well water, septic systems, take their trash to the dump, if it snows, they have a vehicle that can plow, and the truly rural use propane for power and heat. They are not reliant on most services provided by the public utilities. They use guns as tools to protect their animals and their family from prey and from vermin. They do not really encounter homeless people, as even the poorest can usually find a shack to live out of and require a vehicle to get around. These people in less dense areas do not depend on the government to solve their problems. They’d prefer government stay out of their lives completely. Less taxes, less oversight, less being told what to do. To the rural, it seems like every time the government interferes in their life, they lose another freedom, and their quality of life diminishes.

Those I know that grew up in more dense areas are used to calling 911 to handle emergencies. Their streets are swept in the summer and plowed in the winter. Their trash is picked up on the same day weekly. They don’t have space for cars and tools, so they tend to take public transportation or walk. They call someone when something breaks that requires tools they don’t own. They are used to encountering the homeless on the streets as part of their daily life. The truly poor and homeless usually end up in cities as the services to help the sick, mentally ill and the poorest among us are more available in dense areas. So the wealthy interact with the poor in cities far more than they do in rural areas. Those in higher density areas are willing to pay for government services because they are a regular part of their daily lives and make life more manageable. Without these services, the quality of life they know would not exist.

But I don’t think the following is at all accurate though — perhaps a case of overstatement to prove a point:

I truly believe our population density experience matters more to our political views than education, income, race, gender or sexuality.

It’s Very Hard to Tear Down a Bridge Once It’s Up

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 20, 2020

Many people inside and outside the USPS have raised concerns over the past few weeks about changes implemented by new Postmaster General Louis DeJoy that could be interpreted as an attempt to sabotage the delivery of the expected surge in mail-in ballots this November. Two days ago, DeJoy issued a statement addressing these concerns:

I came to the Postal Service to make changes to secure the success of this organization and its long-term sustainability. I believe significant reforms are essential to that objective, and work toward those reforms will commence after the election. In the meantime, there are some longstanding operational initiatives — efforts that predate my arrival at the Postal Service — that have been raised as areas of concern as the nation prepares to hold an election in the midst of a devastating pandemic. To avoid even the appearance of any impact on election mail, I am suspending these initiatives until after the election is concluded.

He also promised that “mail processing equipment and blue collection boxes will remain where they are” and “and we reassert that overtime has, and will continue to be, approved as needed”. During a call with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi yesterday, DeJoy stated that “he has no intention of replacing the sorting machines, blue mailboxes and other infrastructure that have been removed”. Vice’s Aaron Gordon shared internal USPS emails that say sorting machines already removed or disconnected should not be reconnected:

Shortly after USPS Postmaster General Louis DeJoy issued a public statement saying he wanted to “avoid even the appearance” that any of his policies would slow down election mail, USPS instructed all maintenance managers around the country not to reconnect or reinstall any mail sorting machines they had already disconnected, according to emails obtained by Motherboard.

“I will not be setting that building on fire in the future,” says the arsonist as the building burns behind him. This reminds me of a story that Robert Caro told about Robert Moses in this interview.

I remember his aide, Sid Shapiro, who I spent a lot of time getting to talk to me, he finally talked to me. And he had this quote that I’ve never forgotten. He said Moses didn’t want poor people, particularly poor people of color, to use Jones Beach, so they had legislation passed forbidding the use of buses on parkways.

Then he had this quote, and I can still hear him saying it to me. “Legislation can always be changed. It’s very hard to tear down a bridge once it’s up.” So he built 180 or 170 bridges too low for buses.

We used Jones Beach a lot, because I used to work the night shift for the first couple of years, so I’d sleep til 12 and then we’d go down and spend a lot of afternoons at the beach. It never occurred to me that there weren’t any black people at the beach.

So Ina and I went to the main parking lot, that huge 10,000-car lot. We stood there with steno pads, and we had three columns: Whites, Blacks, Others. And I still remember that first column — there were a few Others, and almost no Blacks. The Whites would go on to the next page. I said, God, this is what Robert Moses did. This is how you can shape a metropolis for generations.

The situation here is reversed — e.g. “it’s very hard to rebuild a bridge once it’s torn down” — but the lesson is the same. If you take mailboxes off the streets and junk sorting machines, it’s difficult to put them back, particularly when everyone’s baseline shifts over the next few months and the decreased capacity and delays are normalized (and then exploited for political advantage). Destroying the United States Post Office would be far easier and cheaper than rebuilding it.