A Journal of the Plague Year 2020–chapter 144

The Wertheim Department Store, Leipziger Platz, Berlin.

Tuesday, September 8

Donald Trump seems to hate amazon.com and its owner, Jeff Bezos. Adolf Hitler hated the big-retail phenomena of his time: chain stores and department stores. But the similarity is only superficial. And the different motivation tells a lot about the two authoritarians.

Trump’s dislike of Bezos has MAGA man ready to destroy the U.S. Postal Service, which he believes unfairly allows Amazon favorable postal rates. The USPS should be charging Amazon “four or five times” the current rates, Trump said recently.

 Why? Because Amazon’s command of the consumer market is damaging mom-and-pop stores, maybe?

Well, that was the thinking of the Nazi Party in the 1930s. One of the Nazis’ constituent groups was small business, the Mittelstand. Germany’s 1933 Law for the Protection of Retail Trade prohibited the expansion of chain stores, and, over the next few years, more and more restrictions were placed on department stores. Early on, public authorities were forbidden to have public contracts with such stores, according to David Schoenbaum’s Hitler’s Social Revolution.

But while Trump might be able to make hay with the defenders of Main Street by railing against Amazon, he hasn’t really sought to do that. One gets the feeling that he hates Bezos only because Amazon’s owner is richer than Trump is. 

Recently, Forbes magazine published its richest guys list, with Bezos at the top for the third year in a row. Meanwhile, Trump’s net worth has dropped to No. 352 this year. “His net worth fell to $2.5 billion from $3.1 billion, as office buildings, hotels and resorts, have suffered during the pandemic,” according to news service Reuters.

Trump can’t stop himself. All he cares about is his own image—even when a bit of posturing against a capitalist behemoth could help him politically. All that matters to Trump is Trump! And shouldn’t that be enough for his rowdy MAGA backers?

For more comparison of Trump and Hitler see: chapter 138 and chapter 141 of this blog.

Dinner: Wine-braised chicken with artichoke hearts, couscous, and a lettuce and cucumber salad.

Entertainment: Nomad, a streaming video on writer Bruce Chatwin by director Werner Herzog. 

A Journal of the Plague Year 2020–chapter 39

The current season’s hot fashion accessory.

Thursday, April 16

One possible answer to yesterday’s quiz: Pangolin paprikash.

Today, we’ll be doing two loads of laundry. This, after all, is one reason we fled the city: It’s always crowded in our apartment building’s laundry room. There can be no social distancing, and I’ll bet few are wearing N-95 masks there. 

I’ve already run the vacuum cleaner in our bedroom and both bathrooms. Showering and shaving were major accomplishments, given that almost no one is going to be seeing me.

Emily is in the dining area, searching online for face masks. Two days back, she thought she had it figured out, but then something she read made her concerned that we’d need masks with better filters. So she’s still searching.

Many, many vendors have gone into the mask-selling trade. Lots are sold without filters–you have to get them separately somehow. (Vacuum cleaner HEPA filters or coffee filters are a possibility.) And most masks are being marketed as fashion accessories. They’re available in urban-guerrilla black, camo, distressed denim, floral patterns, with the American flag, in hospital green, and in red with white polka dots. There are masks with sports team logos, some with tropical motifs, dogs, little cats, and birds.

I desperately need a haircut, even though Emily thinks my unkempt coif is cool. Maybe I will order something from Amazon’s supply of hair clippers. Then, I could draft Emily to attend to my locks. Whoa. Many clippers are out-of-stock till late May.

As has been often pointed out now, truckers and shipping clerks are among the country’s most essential workers, making it possible for the rest of us to shelter in place. In addition to the Peapod grocery delivery, we’ve received two FedEx shipments of pharmaceuticals and three post-office deliveries–contact lenses, eye drops, and powdered milk. Whatever Trump may think, the post office folks are going above and beyond the call of duty, carrying packages right up to one’s door.

Meanwhile, Jeff Bezos, with his 11% of Amazon stock, has seen his fortune grow by $24 billion during the COVID-19 lockdown. Soon, he’ll be able to bail out the Fed singlehandedly.

And United Healthcare has made $5 billion in profits during the past three months, mostly because they haven’t had to pay for routine doctor visits and elective surgeries, which the public has avoided during the pandemic.

Who else is happy? In many places, taking the dog out for a walk is regarded as an acceptable reason for disregarding stay-at-home orders. But a National Geographic poll finds that hasn’t made a lot of difference to under-exercised canines: 25% of people are taking their dogs out for more walks these days, but 20% are going for fewer walks. At the same time, 43% are playing with their pups more and only 4% playing less.

Dinner tonight will be the frequently made lentil soup along with corn muffins and a lettuce and spinach salad.

Entertainment: Jeopardy and two episodes of another unsatisfying Finnish series, Deadwind.