CSotD: Everybody’s got something to sell

Jack Ohman starts us off today by pointing out that Republican complaints that John Bolton is only offering to testify in order to sell books might be more compelling if they weren’t defending the biggest snake-oil salesman, grifter and shameless profiteer in major politics since the Teapot Dome.

Trump also sells books, and, as Ohman points out, pretty much everything else he can get his tiny hands on.

But let’s pretend for a moment that Donald J. Trump were a Benedictine monk, permitted only a cell with a straw mattress that would regularly be turned over to be sure he wasn’t hiding personal belongings.

John Bolton would not become the only person in the country with a product to sell.

I’m not advancing the cynical faux-wisdom that “they all do it.” I’m simply saying that there are damn few people out there who aren’t advancing one thing or another. If they aren’t selling it for money, they’re swapping it for prestige or power or status.

And watch those Puritans most critical of Bolton’s book sales and Hunter Biden’s directorship go straight from the Senate to the corporate trough.

Meanwhile, some genuinely good people have written books about their work and their efforts, or at least allowed other people to do so. Even Gandhi-ji did not avoid cameras and journalists.

Let me here make another observation: John Bolton is not Gandhi.


The point is that you don’t have to like him to find him useful.

A college friend became an FBI agent and told us about his babysitting of a key witness in, as it happens, one of those major anti-gangster cases that made Giuliani’s reputation.

It might sound romantic or, at least, fascinating to hang out with a genuine Mafia member for a few weeks, but Tommy finally got to the point where he told the guy that he wasn’t his friend and he didn’t like him and that he didn’t want to hear any more stories.

Most people of any prominence possess a lot of charm, but I could picture having had about enough of John Bolton.

Still, the gangster my friend was tending was necessary for the case and Bolton seems to have valuable information to offer the Senate.

Dismissing his potential testimony because he’s written a book is absolute nonsense and the only people who believe that argument are fools.

Those who pretend to believe it are in on the con, and there aren’t a lot of fools in the Senate.


So I chuckled at Adam Zyglis‘s cartoon, which is a use of the GOP mascot that is both wonderfully expressive and wonderfully silly. The look of dumb comfort on his face, plus his apparent indifference to his comfy bedding is simply inspired.

Again, it’s a matter of the elephant being in on the con. Suppression of evidence is not an accident, nor is it an honest attempt to finish up with this impeachment nonsense and get back to the important work of blocking House bills.

Clay Bennett suggests that, indeed, everyone is selling something, even those who don’t put down on paper what they’re trying to sell.

Don’t fret: Mitch is in little danger of becoming food insecure.


Elsewhere in the Universe

China wants an apology for this coronavirus cartoon by Niels Bo Bojesen that ran in the Danish newspaper Jyllands Posten, and the uproar is interesting on a couple of levels.

One is that, to most Westerners, there’s nothing particularly offensive in marking up someone’s flag to make a point, though it’s not hard to imagine at least a subgroup of Americans being offended over a cartoon from another country that took liberties with the Stars and Stripes.

But that linked article from China Daily, while expressing anger over the insult to their flag, focuses more on the insult suggesting that the Chinese government has not made sufficient efforts to control the spread of the virus.


Which makes you wonder what they’d think of Steve Breen’s cartoon, which not only suggests it but makes an absolute accusation.

As it happens, I dug into the story last week in order to write an explainer for young readers, and I didn’t find a lot of accusations that the Chinese government hadn’t moved to contain the coronavirus about as fast as you would expect, beyond running out of surgical masks early on so that people felt forced to stay home.

However, the NYTimes somewhat justifies Breen’s accusation, with a story that begins by saying that the Chinese government failed to act quickly until there were “thousands of infections and scores of deaths,” but then turns around and notes that

Compared to the very low bar set by the Chinese leadership’s secrecy and inaction during the SARS epidemic in 2002 and 2003, Mr. Xi has responded with speed and alacrity to the latest health emergency,

The story is a mix of praise and accusation, which cites media control as part of the problem, but also blames the sheer size of the nation and of its governing bureaucracy, before complimenting, however backhandedly, the Xi government for its response to a major challenge.

I’d add that I’m not sure where “We’re sure seeing a lot of flu” turns into “What the hell is this?” but I know it’s easier to spot that sort of problem in hindsight and from a distance.

Anyway, the Danish government is standing firm in citing their free press rather than apologizing, much less ordering the cartoon to be taken down, and Jyllands Posten itself issued a statement clarifying their stance, but not apologizing for it.

I would suggest that this seems more a cultural/political misunderstanding than an actual threat to the free press.

Also that there’s a certain irony or something in that Jyllens Posten wasn’t intentionally trying to insult anyone this time around.

Anyway, let’s all be cool like little Fonzies.

Just sneeze into your elbows, wash your hands and try not to get bent of shape without more cause than this.

All you really need is good lovin’


6 thoughts on “CSotD: Everybody’s got something to sell

  1. I have to admit, I found the flag cartoon a bit of a low blow. It’s not like viruses choose their travel destinations, and as noted, when does this morph from “You have the flu? Go home and rest” to “You have the flu? OMIGOD WE’RE ALL GONNA DIE!”

  2. In 2003, I had an attack of some kind of flu that had me staying close to the bathroom, which I visited 24 times in 24 hours, and not always for the same thing. Between visits, the TV news said that the Chinese had announced something called SARS. A couple of days later, Bush invaded Iraq, and we stepped onto a plane for China to adopt our daughter.

    Nobody called upon me to apologize for Bush, even on the long train trip we took, which was fine by me. I saw caricatures of him on the covers of humor magazines, and bought one or two for later. We watched the news in our hotel rooms, keeping tabs on the disease’s spread.

    By the time we were leaving Guangzhou for Hong Kong and then home, our guides had given us gauze masks. We learned somehow that if we were to wear them, everyone would assume we were already sick, so they stayed folded away. Before we could go to Hong Kong, they were giving us forms to fill out, swearing that we hadn’t seen a sick person, hadn’t heard a cough, and had never ever coughed ourselves.

    After I got home, following a series of hellish delays (O’Hare never actually said we’d be eight hours late, they just kept temporizing), I was rather tired, and I called in to work and asked my boss if I could take an extra day, which she said was fine. Later I got a call from our HR department, sounding a little embarrassed, saying that they didn’t think I was sick or anything, but would I mind taking an extra week with pay? I need not tell you how I replied. I also called my dentist and told them why I was putting off my appointment, and they were quite grateful.

    Then we all died. The end. Our daughter turns 18 next month.

  3. Actually, there may be a bit of location in this one, since they suspect it’s a human-to-animal crossover caused by eating bushmeat. On one hand, human-to-animal crossover is a major factor in some nasty diseases — and a reason indigenous people here were so vulnerable, since so few of them shared housing with animals the way Europeans did.

    OTOH, there is also a cultural thing in that if your Mandarin is accented, you can be dismissed as a rube in Beijing, so perhaps they’re only suggesting the wild meat theory because it happened in a provincial city.

    In any case, they moved pretty fast given the size of the nation, size of the population and the fact that it looked like flu until people started dying — and even then, it was older people and those with compromised systems, who might have died from common flu.

  4. I recently read a book about the 1918 flu pandemic, and it was terrifying. That particular influenza strain very possibly started in Kansas, and then was spread worldwide by troop movements.

    It acquired the moniker “The Spanish Flu” because not being a participant in the World War, the press in Spain was relatively open about the effects and casualties of the flu, while the U.S. and other warring countries suppressed the news in the in interest of national morale.

    My point is that influenza mutates very rapidly, and we are only one nasty mutation from another pandemic. We are hardly better prepared than our ancestors were 100 years ago. With world-wide air travel, we will not need a war for the disease to be spread very quickly. It could be spread virtually everywhere before we even became aware. In some of the worst cases of the 1918 flu, people were dead within 24 hours after showing symptoms of being sick.

    The Swine Flu scare back in the 1970s was because scientists at the time feared that the strain of flu they were seeing was very similar to the 1918 strain. Happily, they were wrong, but we may not be lucky forever.

  5. If you’ve never read Emily St. Johns Mandel’s book Station Eleven, this might not be the best time to do so. Or maybe it is 🙂

  6. The issue of mutating flu viruses is potentially being addressed by an attempt (currently in animal testing) to use llama-based antiviruses.

    As we’ve seen in cartoon images, the flu virus is basically a ball with shoots that are like little umbrellas. Our current anti-virals rest on the surface, which, unfortunately, is where the mutated aspect of the virus is.

    But while our anti-virals rest on a double strand, llamas have single strand, which because of its smaller size can slip past those “umbrellas”and reach the main body of the virus, which is relatively stable. So a llama-based anti-viral could be effective against a much, much broader array of flu viruses, possible all of them.


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