EMANATIONS FROM THE EDGE: Who knows where the purity goes?


The Joshuas, plus Parks and King: "Purity of heart is to will one thing." We believe Abraham Lincoln said that!

Concerning our nation's moral purity, we return to the unfortunate claim we cited in yesterday's report. 

The claim was made by Shamus Khan, a Princeton sociology professor. Khan's statement appeared in a column in the Outlook section of Sunday's Washington Post.

Khan was discussing the unattractive ways of the hugely advantaged. Along the way, largely in passing, he offered this:

KHAN (12/20/20): Wealthy countries representing just 14 percent of the world’s population have used their resources and influence to capture 96 percent of Pfizer’s vaccine and 100 percent of Moderna’s, according to a report by Oxfam and other human rights organizations. These nations are even planning on stockpiling extra, just in case. And because of this, it’s estimated that billions of poorer people in less-advantaged nations will not receive the vaccine for years. This isn’t just a profound moral failure. It also means that as those poorer workers move around the world to do work like farming that keeps us all alive, the risk of localized outbreaks will increase.

Say what? Are wealthy nations hoarding the world's vaccine supply? Is our own country, the United States, one of those wealthy nations? 

Will people in other countries die while we argue about which of our own demographic groups should get vaccinated first? Skillfully, we clicked Khan's links in search of more detail.

Khan cited Oxfam in his piece. At the first link Khan provided, we encountered this:

OXFAM INTERNATIONAL (12/9/20): Nearly 70 poor countries will only be able to vaccinate one in ten people against COVID-19 next year unless urgent action is taken by governments and the pharmaceutical industry to make sure enough doses are produced, a group of campaigning organisations warned today. 

By contrast, wealthier nations have bought up enough doses to vaccinate their entire populations nearly three times over by the end of 2021 if those currently in clinical trials are all approved for use. Canada tops the chart with enough vaccines to vaccinate each Canadian five times. Updated data shows that rich nations representing just 14 per cent of the world’s population have bought up 53 per cent of all the most promising vaccines so far.

The organizations, including Amnesty International, Frontline AIDS, Global Justice Now and Oxfam...found that 67 low and lower middle-income countries risk being left behind as rich countries move towards their escape route from this pandemic. 

That "53 percent" figure made it sound like the situation isn't as bad as Khan may have suggested. That said, Khan also linked to a report from ABC News. Dual headline included:

SCHUMAKER (12/9/20): Rich countries are hoarding the COVID vaccine: Report / The poorest countries are getting trampled in the vaccine race.

While rich countries have purchased enough coronavirus vaccine doses to inoculate their populations three times over next year, 90% of people in poor countries won't be able to get the vaccine in 2021, according to a new report.

Doses of two of the most promising vaccines have been almost completely bought up by wealthy nations, with 96% of Pfizer's vaccine and 100% of Moderna's vaccine acquired by the rich, the report found.


While Kenya, Myanmar, Nigeria, Pakistan and Ukraine have more than 1.4 million COVID-19 cases between them, according to Johns Hopkins University, they'll only have access to vaccines through COVAX, the global vaccine sharing program.

Canada, on the other hand, which has only reported 432,870 infections, has cut direct deals with vaccine makers and purchased enough doses to vaccinate each Canadian citizen five times, the report found.

Canada was positioned as the villain in each of these reports. Our own country wasn't mentioned as one of the hoarder nations, but we're willing to take a wild guess.

Has Canada actually "purchased enough doses [from Pfizer and Moderna] to vaccinate each Canadian citizen five times?" Are we one of the other hoarder nations?

How accurate is Khan's presentation overall? We can't answer your perfectly sensible questions. 

Concerning Canada's alleged over-purchase, one thinks of past reports about our nation's ability, thanks to nuclear overkill, to obliterate various nations many times over. That said, we can't vouch for the claims in these reports, in large part for the reason we mentioned yesterday:

Most likely, we aren't going to see this topic discussed by our favorite news orgs. Even in Sunday's column, Khan mentioned this matter in passing. 

Khan was mainly concerned with the way wealthy parties in this country may try to crowd to the front of the vaccination line in this country. He's afraid this will happen as we all get vaccinated here, while the wretched around the globe are forced to sit and wait their turn.

Yesterday, we mentioned the fact that this state of affairs reminded us of a certain conversation we had a  long time ago. In fact, the conversation took place in the spring of 1965, at the end of our senior year in high school. 

The conversation involved the death of Dr. Tom Dooley, a medical missionary in Laos,  at the age of 34. More broadly, the conversation concerned our moral obligation, or lack of same, to the wretched of the earth—to less advantaged, suffering people found all over the world.

The other party in this conversation was wiser and saner than we were. That said, we've decided to skip the details of that conversation. The conversation was too personal, and the recollection of that conversation is a prized possession here.

That said, the suggestion that our failing nation may be hoarding the world's vaccine supply stands in contrast to the silly, solipsistic discussions we encounter, day after day, here in the streets of Our Town. 

We're very self-impressed in Our Town. Also, quite self-involved.

Without attempting to challenge the intentions of the writer, we'd say that one such discussion can be found right here, in the pages of New York magazine.  It involves ridiculous conduct by someone's across-the-back-fence neighbor—the kind of conduct which occurs, in various demographic settings, every single day of the week and sometimes twice on Sundays.

Other types of unwise conduct occur on a regular basis. It all depends on which examples of unwise conduct we choose to discuss in Our Town.

According to the New York report, a dispute was triggered this spring by an unwise neighbor in Montclair, New Jersey. Long ago and far away, we had a college roommate from that very town, though that's neither here nor there.

("Not only was John a great athlete, but he was always thinking out of the box, with great ideas on how to better society and the world at large.”)

As our nation was hoarding the vaccine supply, New York magazine was all wrapped up in that  dispute in Montclair. We thought about something Dr. King once said, even after his house had been firebombed. 

We thought about the moral and intellectual greatness of the astonishing Rosa Parks.

We thought about Barack Obama's comments on the Joshua generation. We thought about an enduring anthropological fact—we humans are all the same.

We humans! When we gain too much advantage, we tend to wallow in ourselves. In this respect, we're so-called "black and white together"—rather, black and white alike.

Even here within Our Town, our favorite stars aren't likely to talk about the hoarding of the world's vaccine supply and the concomitant dispensing of global death. Instead, our youngsters sometimes seem eager to set out in search of localized outrage:

Pretty much any outrage will do, as long as it serves Storyline.

We're silly and stupid and nobody likes us? We've been telling you that all year!

However one might judge that claim, the solipsism has perhaps been general here in Our Town of late. It seems to us that this helps explain why we in our frequently self-involved town just aren't hugely well liked.

Tomorrow: "Even their ministers..."


  1. ""Purity of heart is to will one thing." We believe Abraham Lincoln said that!"

    Why does Somerby do this? First, Soren Kierkegaard said this, not Abraham Lincoln (an oblique reference to a Bob Dylan song). Second, this is a tautology.

    Purity is used not to refer to morals but to chemistry. A pure solution is undiluted and contains one substance. If it has other substances, it is no longer pure, but a mixture.

    If you want to use this as an analogy to the heart, it is unusual to consider the heart the seat of will (willpower, strong motive directed toward a goal). It was seen as the seat of the soul from which will emanates in previous centuries but more recently is the seat of emotion, especially love and compassion.


    And that, in turn, has nothing to do with moral purity. So why start today's essay about Khan with such a sentence?

    Somerby's self-indulgence knows no bounds. It is as if he doesn't care whether his audience follows or not, this is just stream of consciousness blathering.

    But then we have yesterday's effort, where he bent numbers to convince readers that Michele Norris was being devious when it was his own contortions that were dishonest and misleading and just plain wrong -- but there was so much effort involved that one has to wonder why he worked so hard to attack Norris and defend the idea that there is no bigotry and black people are not undertreated for pain in medical settings (ignoring the rest of the medical literature in favor of a single question in a composite scale in a judgment study, not even a chart study of actual prescribing, of which there are many in the literature).

    Somerby is a dishonest hack and that is pretty clear, but his motives are less clear, except that they can be judged by who he supports, the ideas he repeats, and who his targets are in the media. He is Mao, dressed up in obscure references, propped up by his past defenses of Gore against right wing attacks. But it has been a long time since Somerby has uttered a liberal sentiment. And quoting Bob Dylan doesn't fool many people.

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  2. "We're silly and stupid and nobody likes us? We've been telling you that all year!"

    Indeed, you're stupid, dear Bob (and we mean it in the nicest way possible!), but your hitlerian bosses sure aren't. So, get out of the cult, dear Bob, if you still can...

    1. Phoning it in for the holidays, Mao?

  3. "The claim was made by Shamus Khan, a Princeton sociology professor."

    Shamus Khan is actually the Department Chair of the Sociology Department at Columbia University. I confirmed this by checking Columbia's Sociology faculty webpage. His book, "Privilege," was published by the Princeton University Press, which is an academic publishing house that accepts manuscripts from non-Princeton academics as well as Princeton faculty.

    The Washington Post article is behind a paywall, so I cannot determine whether this is Somerby's mistake or the Post misattributed Khan's affiliation based on the name of his publisher.

    Columbia is elite enough without Somerby stretching to place Khan at Princeton.

  4. "How accurate is Khan's presentation overall? "

    Shouldn't Somerby be asking "How accurate is Oxfam's presentation?"

    And then there is this: "Concerning Canada's alleged over-purchase, one thinks of past reports about our nation's ability, thanks to nuclear overkill, to obliterate various nations many times over. "

    It should be obvious that use of nuclear weapons as deterrents makes no sense in the context of covid vaccine because the virus is not a sentient being capable of being scared away by stockpiles of vaccine. Somerby threw this in but it is specious, given that stockpile is a term used in many situations, not just the cold war arms race. People stockpiled toilet paper at the beginning of the pandemic, for example.

  5. "As our nation was hoarding the vaccine supply, New York magazine was all wrapped up in that dispute in Montclair."

    Because the media is not allowed to talk about more than one thing at a time...

  6. After a lengthy repetition of the parts of Khan's opinion piece where he discusses hoarding by wealthy nations, Somerby ignores Khan's main point about rich people getting vaccinated first in the USA, and switches to calling liberals names instead. He never tells us why he bothered to quote from Khan at all, using snotty disparaging language without citing any actual complaint about his work. We are left feeling that Khan did something wrong when it seems like perhaps Somerby agrees with him about the moral wrong of hogging all the vaccine. Then he is lost in nostalgia, finally saying his memories are too personal to share with us, hinting at his own moral superiority along the way, before ending with the usual diatribe.

    This seems grossly unfair to Khan, who did nothing other than cite Oxfam and a news service, before talking about US priorities. In Somerby's mind, perhaps being black and a sociology professor at Columbia is crime enough to attract his disdain.

  7. "We're silly and stupid and nobody likes us? We've been telling you that all year!"

    Are we adolescent girls? Is being liked the only important thing in life?

    Somerby pretends to muse about moral purity and vaccines but then complains that we aren't well liked. Often being disliked is part of taking a moral stand and doing the right thing. The only people who care so much about being liked are narcissists such as Donald Trump, actors and actresses, and perhaps standup comedians.

  8. Gosh, I wonder who is being disliked in Somerby's column today? Is it Shamus Khan? And why is he disliked today? No reason is given beyond having quoted Oxfam...is it perhaps because he is a professor at Princeton? Is it because he is black and dares to talk about privilege (something Somerby said yesterday we cannot talk about as liberals without being performatively virtuous)? Is it because he books get published whereas Somerby's did not?

    Today Somerby illustrates that you do not have to do anything wrong to attract Somerby's ire. Just being black and caring about privilege and status in society (as a professor of sociology who studies such things) is enough to get you on Somerby's shit list.

  9. "Are wealthy nations hoarding the world's vaccine supply?"

    Incidentally, dear Bob, Pfizer's and Moderna's aren't the only vaccines in the world.

    Sputnik V, for example, is much less expensive, and, wikipedia tells me, it has already been requested by over 50 countries. Most of them, presumably, non-Western.

    This combination of pumped up outrage and liberal-guilt drama-queenishness... May I suggest, dear Bob, that it's a hallmark of liberal zombieism?

    1. Somerby hasn't told you, but the outrage is because Trump's wealthy friends are getting the vaccine, in place of those in the priority groups. Also see that article about how few Stanford physicians have gotten the vaccine, as opposed to Stanford bigwigs.

      And then there is Trump's failure to order more vaccine from Pfizer when it was offered to him. Americans are being told they must wait until July now because of Trump's disorganization.

    2. While we do sympathize with your phony dembot sufferings, dear dembot, unfortunately we are unable to share them: personally, we wouldn't want that shit even if they were offering to pay for it. You can have our dose.

    3. Thank you. I'll tell them you said so.

  10. Emanations from the Edge is a play on the title of Carrie Fisher's autobiographical novel Postcards From the Edge. Carrie Fisher would most likely not approve of anything Somerby says here. She is also a much better writer than Somerby, with a wonderful sense of humor. She was reputed to be the film industry's best "script doctor" as well as a Star Wars icon (Princess Leia).

    Somerby needs to keep his grubby fingers off the things other people care about. They aren't his to pollute with this Trump-apologist routine and liberal smear tactics.

  11. "MONTCLAIR, NJ- Montclair Police are calling recent acts in a neighborhood, in which a neighbor called the police following a disagreement over permits, a "dispute between neighbors."

    The interaction, which took place on Marion Rd. on Monday, was partially recorded, drew local police to the scene on Monday and sparked a brief protest the next day. Officers arrived at 12:23 p.m., police said.

    A woman named Susan Schulz, whom social media users are calling 'Permit Karen,' is alleged to have walked onto her neighbors property to question whether or not they had a permit for the work they were doing. She then accuses her neighbor, Fareed Nassor Hayat, an attorney and Law Professor at the City University of New York, of pushing her. His wife Norrinda can be heard off camera disputing those claims. Schulz then turns to her neighbors, who had come outside to watch the commotion. They were less than enthused to corroborate her claims. She then contacts the Montclair Police Department."

    From TAP into Montclair, a neighborhood news source.

  12. ‘That "53 percent" figure made it sound like the situation isn't as bad as Khan may have suggested.’

    Both pieces of data come from the Oxfam press release:

    “Updated data shows that rich nations representing just 14 per cent of the world’s population have bought up 53 per cent of all the most promising vaccines so far.”

    “So far, all of Moderna’s doses and 96 percent of Pfizer/BioNTech’s have been acquired by rich countries.”


    The stupidity here from Somerby is that he wouldn’t be writing about this if Khan’s piece hadn’t shown up in the Washington Post. In other words, he is only discussing it because it is being discussed in Our Town. But Somerby saw this as another opportunity to bash liberals because some other liberals weren’t discussing this, or were discussing other things.

    Somerby doesn’t care any more about the disadvantaged around the world anymore than he cares about black kids here at home. It is performative virtue signaling.

    And it’s probably a good thing that that other party in that conversation back in 1965 used the word “advantaged” and not “privileged”, or he/she would have been skewered by Somerby.

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