Saturday, January 23, 2021

Quarantine, Week 45: End of the Beginning

 It is going to be an horrific winter, but we now have hope: a fully armed and operational Dr. Fauci!  Ok, let's not overrate the man, the myth, the legend, but the fact that he can speak his mind now is a great portent of things to come.  Biden rolled out his COVID plan shortly after taking office, and it is full of sensible stuff that could have and should have been done last February: masks required on inter-state transportation (planes, trains, buses), masks on federal property, relying on FEMA and the Defense Production Act to provide labor and production, mobile vaccination teams, and so on.  So, the response will get better, but, alas, the bug is mutating and it is always exponential.  Government response is unlikely to accelerate in an exponential fashion. But again, the US is moving in the right direction domestically and internationally.

Inauguration day was terrific!  From the colorful coats to the most excellent poem by Amanda Gorman to the short but on target speech by Biden to the schadenfreude shots of Mitch and Pence sitting uncomfortably to Joe's herd of grandkids to the Tom Hanks show, it was a day to be enjoyed and savored.  This time, we really are not taking for granted that the meaning of democracy is the transfer of power from one administration to another, even if the outgoing one is so reluctant as to foster sedition and insurrection.  We made it.  No autogolpe.  Phew.  And no, impeachment is not going come to completion, as the GOP will remain cowards and refuse to convict a man who tried to throw away the very heart of democracy.  So, that's unfortunate.  The good news is that Cruz and Hawley may pay a price even if Trump does not.  

I am loving Biden's start.  While his appointments of the cabinet were a bit of a mess, the first steps this week have been great.  Tossing out awful people from various positions was a nice start.  Defenestration is really a handy word.  The executive orders to get back into the WHO and the Paris agreement, to extend protections to LGBTQ+, and so on were a healthy tonic.  The COVID relief package is far more progressive than I think the left expected--$15/hr minimum wage, greater tax credits and subsidies to poor families, the ability to get unemployment insurance if the alternative is being forced to do an unsafe job, and so on.  Thus far, one could complain they are not moving further than one would one, but they certainly are moving fast and in the correct direction.  

The filibuster news actually makes me happy.  Mitch thinks that it is dead, so he'd rather fight that fight on procedural issues than to fight it when COVID relief is attached.  So, sure, he gets to pick the timing, maybe.  But a dead filibuster is a necessary thing for Biden to do everything else he wants to do, pretty much.  Yes, the risk is there that if the Republicans get the Senate back, they would then be able to do what they want.  Well, Mitch and his kind would also get rid of the filibuster if it were convenient, so that threat does not move me anymore.

I had my second week of classes, and we are falling into a good rhythm.  Sure, the zoom link didn't work for everyone at first.  But once I cleaned that up, we had a good discussion.  The students were engaged, pushed me to think on some stuff, and mostly got it that Sam Huntington's ideas about civ-mil relations are almost as destructive as his ideas on ethnicity. 

The CDSN submitted the latest big grant application.  We should know the outcome by late March.  I will post about it in more detail if we get it.  But it is a big monkey off my back. Which allows me to focus on forthcoming CDSN stuff--the Capstone Seminar, the Post-Doc competition, the Diversity Council--and, oh yes, how to fix the paper that got rejected this week.  The reviewers gave us excellent feedback, giving us some guidance on how to fix some of the problems we knew we had and, alas, identifying other problems.  But once we fix these problems, not only will the article find a good home, but it will produce a stronger book.  And, yes, rejection is inherent in the enterprise.

The big news at home is that I finally bought a Kitchen Aid stand mixer.  Too late for winterfest cookie making, but the pandemic is not going to disappear soon, so the baking will continue.  Today's challenge--cinnamon bread.  I have not made many breads--the baking has focused on lots of other stuff instead.  But with great stand mixers, comes great responsibility to make breads.  Pics to follow.  Be well and be distant!

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