Categories
earth

Not a War–a Fire.

Lots of metaphors around these days. Fire is one of the better ones. Fire spreads; disease spreads. Fire is dangerous; disease is dangerous.

War doesn’t spread the same way, though its devastation does. It’s more targeted. It is man-made.

Nobody says, “Let’s let the fire burn, we can’t shut the economy down because of a little fire.” Good people don’t offer up grandparents in immolation.


The administration’s response to the fire, to the disease, has not been good. It has gotten marginally better, but threatens to get worse again. The response, and the disease. Which is the big problem with letting a big-time loser direct the fire department. Not good.

Places that do not heed the basic rule of fire safety—deprive it of fuel—will be scorched worse than those places that do. For a disease, human contact is spreading the embers to new fuel.

With developed diseases, like influenza, we have vaccines. That’s a controlled burn or a fire break. Sets some distance. People still get flu, but we try to make it harder for that particular fire to spread. With this new fire, it will take time to develop a vaccine. So we have to spread the fuel apart—social distancing.


As with fire, this disease will spread to any fuel it can reach. Different houses will burn differently. Some will be spared, others will collapse. These are human lives we’re talking about.

You don’t reopen until the fire has abated, until it’s under control. You don’t mess around with fire. Places that do will, with high probability, get burned. Already, due to Donald John Trump’s errors of judgment, more are sick than should be. And some probably getting sick because of his unfounded optimism. All these Republicans who have downplayed the threat, and their counter-culture media drones, they’re fanning the fucking flames. Morons.


Anyway, stay safe out there. Be thankful for the mail carriers, the doctors, the grocery workers, and, yes, the firefighters. Right now they’re all firefighters.

Donald John Trump is a firebug. Don’t listen to his lies. His job is to make sure all those firefighters are equipped, and that we’re doing all we can to stop the spread, but he’s not. That’s a failure.


As a side note, the term shelter-in-place refers to an immediate stoppage of nonessential movement during an acute emergency. Basically, during a shelter-in-place situation, unless the danger to you is greater where you are than the risk of moving, you shouldn’t. It applies to wherever you happen to be at the time of the order.

The orders being issued aren’t correctly described as shelter-in-place. They are stay-at-home. Nobody expects someone to start living out of their local gas station if that’s where they are right now. During a real shelter-in-place, one would be expected to stay at the gas station until the immediate danger had abated and the order lifted.

Categories
entertainment

Things to Fun During This (2020)

Here is a list of random things to fun. I know it’s not comprehensive, or even that great. But if you have kids that are in need of something to do, or are just a bored adult, maybe it’ll spark an idea of a decent way to stave off the boredom a bit. They’re all more-or-less adaptable to different age groups.

  1. Everyone in group finds one thing around the house, does a bit of online reading about it, and then does a 5-15 minute show and tell about it. Minimum time: 15 minutes + number of people × report lengths; average 30 minutes to one hour.
  2. Origami of various kinds. Requires paper, flat surface. Look up some various things to make with paper. Planes, swans, geometric shapes, boxes, all sorts. Minimum time: 30 minutes.
  3. Paper+trash basketball. Requires paper, unlined clean trashcan. Ball up a piece of paper and throw it in the trash. Repeat ad infinitum. Minimum time: 1 minute. Maximum time: Can you believe we just wasted an hour throwing balls of paper in the trash?! Educational opportunity: each participant must answer a topical query (e.g., geography, capital of a state) before they get throw.
  4. Bar tricks. Go online and look up match tricks and other small bar-bet tricks and go to town. Educational opportunity: teach kids to pour or mix drinks. Minimum time: ten minutes.
  5. Editor. Find random websites or other text content, and rewrite or edit it for spelling, grammar, tone, etc. Share your changes with the group. Minimum time: 30 minutes.
  6. Photo-editor. Same as previous, but using a program like GIMP or Photoshop. Add mustaches to famous people! Fun! Minimum time: 30 minutes.
  7. Gueeeess thaaaaaat Tuuuuune. Requires audio modification software, song files. Someone picks a song, slows it down, and plays it while everyone else has to guess what it is. Minimum time: 20 minutes.
  8. Counting games. Each round has a rule, like odds are replaced with animal names (bird, 2, dog, 4, …). Last person to make a mistake has to pick a rule for the next round. Minimum time: five minutes.
  9. Mad libs. Find a text, remove the nouns and modifiers and then replace them with your own! Minimum time: 20 minutes. (_Chilly_ _beans_. Find a _smurf_, remove the _ears_ and _feet_ and then replace them with your own!)
  10. Look for more ideas for tomorrow! Minimum time: five minutes.

Dunno. Maybe this helps. Seems like there are a lot of options, but there are a ton more where this came from.

Categories
society

On the Mirror of Infectious Disease

We are potential vectors. We are potential patients.

That’s true of us as individuals, and it’s true of our various social spheres: home and workplace, town and city, county, state, and nation.

Just as the infected individual has an immune response, so do our social collectives. We limit contact, we increase awareness.

COVID-19 is a danger because it is novel to our bodies. If we’d seen it before, we would be far less susceptible. But as society, we have seen infection before. We could choose to be far more prepared. Preparedness is a vaccine for the unknown.

Just as the individual’s circumstances prior to infection make a difference, so do the community’s. States that expanded Medicaid are more prepared than those who did not. States with large populations tend to have more experience with public health out of necessity that large numbers brings.

But state-prior-to-infection is only one part. How the body reacts, the circumstances of convalescence, is another. Again, we could be prepared, having more thorough plans, but we have a mixed bag. We don’t have a plan for the uninsured. We don’t have a plan for the wage worker. Maybe we’ll get one.

The main thing about infectious disease is that it can be planned for. It is messy either way, but it doesn’t have to be too messy. It is among the predictable disasters. We tend to do poorly with them all, only because we have not chosen to prioritize them, to practice them.

Most of that is the monetary decision, which the market has been correcting for. That, as a society, not as individuals, the choices were made. Build bombs, not hospitals. Build tax cuts, not infrastructure. Build oil rigs, not wind turbines. Build cars, not trains.

Each choice society makes has a consequence. Each individual in a society makes a choice, to go to a crowd in the midst of a plague or not. To isolate if they believe themselves exposed, or not.

Each society that makes a choice has a consequence. The town that gets sick or doesn’t. The county that funded its hospitals or didn’t. The state that expanded Medicaid or didn’t.

The bottom line: if you don’t like how this turns out in your neck of the woods, you should go vote in 33 weeks for other people who (maybe) will improve things for the next time around.

Categories
society

Branding in Runs for President

With the race now down to two candidates, it’s worth looking back. Why didn’t the other candidates get traction?

The main thing a candidate needs is a brand. But that brand has to be anchored in who they are, in their story. They aren’t starting from scratch.

You don’t get to pick who you are, but you do get to brand it. You get to emphasize the things that matter. And you also get to create your message, your style of campaign. You can have an angry campaign, a friendly campaign, whatever kind. That’s something that doesn’t have to be who you have been for years. The campaign part of it is new. It can be what you need.

There’s policy. It matters, but mostly as a sample for how you will approach issues. There are lanes—moderate, progressive, trade, populist, whatever. But you can build your own lane, if you approach it the right way. That’s the main goal of the brand: to stake out a path that runs by as many voters’ houses as you can.


None of that is to say the also-rans did not have good points. But they often failed to get that basic branding down. Which is also not to say that Biden and Sanders did.

You go to the grocery store, looking for some new breakfast cereal. You check the options, try some free samples, and walk out with the same old box of cereal. That doesn’t mean you love that cereal, or that its brand won you over again. It just means you didn’t find what you wanted, so you continued on with what you’re used to until something better comes along.

The biggest problem with running for president is that you have to make a lot of noise. Bloomberg dumped hundreds of millions of dollars in noisemaking. But his noise did not carry very much. For Sanders, his followers make a lot of noise, but they often piss off the neighbors.

That’s particularly true in a crowded field. The most recognizable members of a crowd are those on the ends or edges. Surprise: Sanders and Biden were, at least in some measure, at the edges of the crowd.

The goal of the brand for a campaign, particularly a crowded one where making lots of noise isn’t really a sound strategy (unless you can really crank the decibels up to massive levels) is to find a new edge of the crowd to be at. Something that makes people say “Okay, all those are the same, but this one is over here doing something different.”

So for now it looks like the party is going with the leading brand: Biden. Sanders still has a shot. As does a no-majority outcome. It’s up to the voters to decide if Sanders’ brand is stronger, if they find them about equal, or if the leading brand it is.


One issue is, in the South, the Democrats are largely anchored toward the moderate side of things by the Republicans’ strength. They don’t see the field from the same viewpoint, and so the brands are distorted from where they stand. At least part of the remedy is for national Democrats to look to strengthen state Democrats in the South, so that they can better see the field and vote for more progressive options.

The election comes in 34 weeks.

Categories
society

Whom to Vote for on Super Tuesday 2020

I’ll be voting this Tuesday. If you have primaries in your state, I hope you will, too.

Let’s start with a brief evaluation of each candidate.

Joe Biden

Lots of experience, most good, some bad. So far he remains the candidate that seems to have the broadest support, although it has taken a hit following the early contests.

Michael Bloomberg

Lots of business experience, with some political experience as mayor of NYC. A businessman first. Barely a democrat. Lots of baggage and lots of money. Not much of a debater.

Pete Buttigieg

A healthy mixture of experience for such a young candidate. But still light on experience for someone seeking the most essential executive position in the nation. Limited demographic support so far.

Amy Klobuchar

She’s experienced and Midwestern and has receipts to prove it. A moderate, to be sure. Unclear if there’s broader support.

Bernie Sanders

Also has experience. Also, a democratic socialist. Has a solid base of support, but so far not too broad (though promising returns in Nevada).

Elizabeth Warren

Experience, and a solid progressive. Trouble getting broad support.


If I went with the candidate I like the best, it’d be Warren. I don’t like the call to eliminate the filibuster—there are better ways of dealing with the obstruction in the Senate than that. But overall she’s well-rounded and the closest candidate still running who is a third way between the moderate branch and the left branch of the party. The only reservation with Warren is her relative lack of support in the polls.

If I went with the safest choice, it’d be Biden or Klobuchar or Buttigieg (in that order). Sanders is a bit of a risk, and moderate candidates are good bets for Democrats. Biden, despite some slips, had a decent debate this week—particularly for a mess of a debate. He still appears to have good, broad support. Klobuchar and Buttigieg are good options too, but with the need to consolidate the moderate vote, Biden is still the safe-ish choice. Klobuchar hasn’t moved up like she needed to, despite some momentum a few weeks back. Buttigieg might make a good candidate some day, but he still doesn’t have as much experience as one would like.

On the whole, if any of those three looked to be consolidating the moderate vote, it’d be the way to go. As it is, the best choice to do that is Biden. The main issue with the moderate lane is that it hasn’t consolidated, and none of the candidates have set themselves apart as the obvious choice. Biden is so only from inertia, not because he’s earned it in the campaign.

And finally, if the models hold, to avoid a messy convention, I’d go with Sanders. I don’t like a lot about his history toward socialist countries around the world (for the same reason I think the pro-Pinochet economist-types on the right are batshit: authoritarianism is poison to the human spirit whatever cloth it wears). I think there are more palatable versions of Medicare-for-All than his proposals. But I don’t think his presidency would be a leftist-version of the loser we have now.

The main thing that gives me pause is Sanders’ inability to show any kind of political awareness of where he sits compared to the party. He has shown no capacity to wield an olive branch. For all of Donald John Trump’s flaws, that is easily the biggest of all—that he doesn’t even try to be understanding or collegial. That’s a stark difference to the basic Democratic Party big-tent mores: that the various sides of an argument matter.

Republicans show no real care about their loser’s incapacity to try to understand others, but most Democrats would remain skeptical of a Sanders administration. That’s true even while they would still vote to elect him if he became the nominee. And maybe having both parties united in skepticism would be healthy. Dunno. But I do know it would take a lot of negotiating to get any domestic agenda passed—something that’s true regardless of the nominee, but especially so for Sanders.

The other thing with Sanders, one guesses, is that he still believes there’s some socialist revolution around the corner. I’ve said before I think the capitalist–socialist debate is antiquated, but especially is the notion that there’s some big swing waiting to happen where people come out of the woodwork to embrace socialism. That’s likely why Sanders keeps repeating support for even shreds of regimes like Castro’s—he doesn’t want to alienate these revolutionaries. But they don’t exist. It isn’t going to happen. The home for socialism in America is through the same meat-and-potatoes policies it has embraced since the Great Depression, not some alternate universe story where there’s a socialist NATO and a socialist Federalist society and so on.


That’s my dilemma. Three choices. I won’t spoil it by saying which way I went until next week. Mostly because I’m not entirely sure, myself (and want to see how South Carolina turns out).


One other matter worth addressing here is the notion that you should vote for a candidate simply out of excitement or love. The love in voting is for the nation, for democracy, not for the candidate. To the extent a candidate excites or enamors a voter, it is the candidate’s embrace of the common cause of humanity and self-governance, not some mystic quality. So, yes, vote out of love, but vote out of love for the USA.

There are 35 more weeks until the election.