Juneteenth

Today is Juneteenth: A day that commemorates when word of the end of the Civil War and the emancipation of the slaves reached Texas in 1865. As a friend wrote: “Though Robert E. Lee had surrendered at Appomattox over two months before, and what was left of the Confederate government had declared itself dissolved four weeks before, Texas had continued to hold out. The Confederacy west of the Mississippi was effectively governed by General Edmund Kirby Smith, who paid little attention to Jefferson Davis. (And so the area was often called “Kirby Smithdom”.) Kirby Smith finally surrendered his troops on June 2, and it had taken the Union several days to load a force under General Gordon Granger and sail it to Galveston. Once there, General Granger promptly issued his decree (on June 19, 1865), at last giving the freedom that the Emancipation Proclamation had declared at the beginning of 1863, two and a half years before.”

Thought the Civil War has been ended for over 150 years, and although Civil Rights and equality of all races is the law of the land, it appears that that message hasn’t penetrated across all of this country. There are still pockets where White Supremacy reigns or defacto exists, there exist a culture of white privilege and white superiority in law enforcement and so many other areas. Spreading the word of emancipation and equality didn’t end on Juneteenth — it just began. We need to keep spreading the message that equality of the races (and indeed, equality without qualification) is the law of the land, and that racism in any form has no place in this nation.

Let’s keep fighting for the equality that is the law.

Share

📰 Words Matter

The other day, I saw a post on Facebook musing on the phrase #BlackLivesMatter. It pointed out that this was a bad choice of phrase, as it invited the “AllLivesMatter” response. What was needed was something more active; the poster suggested #SaveBlackLives . The advantage, claimed the poster, was that this was less susceptable to “SaveAllLives” (for that is clearly not their position). Believing something matters is much weaker than actually wanting to save the lives.

I bring this up because of the current trending #DefundThePolice notion. The vast majority of people do not understand what that means: they believe (as evidenced by Trump’s recent tweets) that it means a desire to eliminate the police departments. But those who know understand that #DefundThePolice means to move away from the notion of militaristic “policing” as practiced today, to a position of community-based public safety. It means not having our police department be the first line of defense against mental illness and poverty based crimes. It means addressing the underlying problems that leads to the crime, and not meeting the symptom (the actual violation of the law) with violence and anger. It means having community-based officers working with, and being part of the community — not being an outside adversarial force.

Our words matter, and #DefundThePolice is misleading. May I suggest instead: #SafetyNotPolicing , or the positive spin: #FundPublicSafety or #FundCommunitySafety . We need to make it clear we want to go beyond “reform” of existing institutions and their cultures, to reformation and creation of new institutions, with new cultures focused on community engagement and safety.

Share

🗯️ Choosing Between Who You Have, Not Who You Wanted

Reading through my FB feed (the FB curated one), I see lots of posts from Bernie supporters who are pissed at his suspending his campaign, and who are pissed at Biden for who he is and who he isn’t. In their anger, I see them talking about voting third party or not voting at all.

Take your time and mourn the loss of your favorite candidate. We all have. We each had our favs, and except for a small number that were Biden supporters since Day 1, they are gone. But then think about this.

  1. By the time you reach a general election, the choice is rarely between who you want, but who you have. Every candidate will have flaws, and the choice boils down to not who is the best candidate, but who, amongst the candidates you have, is marginally better.
  2. I see a number of folks who are upset about Tara Reade’s claim of sexual assault against Joe Biden in 1993 and Biden’s failure to acknowledge it. For this reason, they say they will not vote or will vote third party. But you won’t find perfection, especially in politicians of Biden’s age who grew up before sexual harrassment was a term. Instead, look for patters. Biden has ONE claim, from over 20 years ago. Trump has more claims than you can shake a stick at, many of which are relatively current. Biden did something wrong once, and has not reoffended. Trump has a continual pattern of offense. So between those two choices, who has the better history?
  3. I see a number of folks who are upset at Biden’s position on M4A. But have you read that position? He’s not against M4A, per se, but he is against two things: (1) The cost of the proposals that are out there, and (2) the timing of the proposals that are out there. If a proposal got to his desk that actually covered the costs in a reasonable manner, he would likely sign it. But none of the proposals out there have done that, and unlike the current administration, he is concerned about the national debt and how we will pay for things. But more importantly, he wants healthcare coverage for people NOW. Instituting M4A will take years, and given Congress, won’t provide coverage for everyone until 5-10 years down the road. On the other hand, he can tweak Obamacare to provide a Medicare option for all who want it quickly, and he can get that through Congress. If people vote with their pocketbooks and choose Medicare, there is essentially Medicare for all, and if they do that, it is easier to convince Congress that the other options are not necessary. Think about things; don’t just circulate memes.
  4. The election is about so much more than Joe Biden, the man. It is about the administration that comes with them. Think about a Biden administration vs. a Trump administration. Who would be appointed to head the Federal agencies under each administration? Who will be appointed to judgeships and the Supreme Court? Who will listen to science? Who will listen to the experts, vs. the sound of their own voice? Who has the ability to work with Congress to get the bills needed to be passed passed?
  5. I’ve seen complaints that Biden is bland, and my answer is… so? We’ve had four years of a President who is far from bland, who believes everything must revolve around him, and who has us lurching and reeling from the craziness. Perhaps a bland respite for four years is what this country needs to regain its bearing. Get us back to normal, let Biden groom a VP that can do the real work of moving us forward. Think of Biden as that Interim President who will help the country heal from the Trump years (and yes, confront the changed reality due to Coronavirus). We can use that healing.
Share

😷 Why The Panic? It’s No Worse Than The Flu … Uh, No

I have a number of Conservative friends are who are making fun of the whole COVID-19/Coronavirus response. I’m sure you’ve got friends like that. The ones who insist that the name-your-flu-pandemic was worse. The ones who insist that events shouldn’t be cancelled; the high-risk population should just avoid going to them. The ones who believe this is just a conspiracy theory.

These folks are wrong. I’m taking a break from working at home to share why.

The charts in this post from Vox give a great summary of why the response you are seeing is warranted. In short:

  1. The virus is spreading rapidly. There are charts that explain this in the Vox post, but the updated SciVs podcast on the subject gives more detail, and it was an update of their first episode on the subject. Basically, there are standard equations that those who deal with epidemics use to predict the spread of an epidemic. These are governed by the R0 value of the disease. R0 a mathematical term that indicates how contagious an infectious disease is. It’s also referred to as the reproduction number. R0 tells you the average number of people who will catch a disease from one contagious person. It specifically applies to a population of people who were previously free of infection and haven’t been vaccinated. If a disease has an R0 of 18, a person who has the disease will transmit it to an average of 18 other people, as long as no one has been vaccinated against it or is already immune to it in their community.  The estimates of the R0 value for the Novel Coronavirus was 2.2: If one person gets it, they will infect on average 2.2 other people. Working from that number, 20 to 70% of the population of the world will be infected. That doesn’t mean they will get sick: people can have a mild or no response to this. But they can go around infecting others. Even if we’re a bit off on that number, we’re looking at 20-60%. The risk is manyfold: not just person to person contact. We now know the virus can remain in the air for 3 hours, and on some surfaces for 3 days. So being out and about where an infected person has been can be very risky — and even if you don’t get sick, you can bring it back with you.
  2. This disease is deadly for certain populations. If you are young and healthy, you’re just going to get something mild and spread it. If you are older, have underlying health problems: this could kill you or land you in an ICU. So how does this compare with the Flu? According to Vox:The Spanish flu of 1918-’19, the most horrific pandemic in modern times, focused mainly on the young. It had biological similarities to a flu pandemic in the 1830s that gave some older people in the 1910s limited immunity. Covid-19 is not like that. So far, deaths in China have been concentrated among older adults, who have weaker immune systems on average than younger people and have a higher rate of chronic illness. People of all ages with chronic medical conditions are also at higher risk. The risk of death is real for younger people as well, but older people have the most reason to take care. Vox also notes: “It is tempting to compare Covid-19 to a more familiar disease: the seasonal flu. After all, the flu also has mild symptoms for most people, and can be dangerous and lethal among vulnerable populations like the elderly. But as the case fatality data shows, there’s no real comparison. About 6 percent of people 60 or older infected with Covid-19 die, according to data we have so far; that’s over six times the fatality rate for elderly people infected with the flu. The overall case fatality rate is at least 23 times greater (the fatality rate has risen since this chart was made). The LA Times also has a good article explaining why this is a greater risk than the seasonal flu. A later Vox article notes the real risk for the elderly: “In Italy, a country with one of the world’s oldest populations, a March 4 analysis by the national health institute found that of the 105 patients who died from the virus, the average age was 81. This put a 20-year gap between the average age of people who tested positive for the virus and the deceased, the institute said. On Friday, an ICU physician in Lombardy — the epicenter of Italy’s outbreak — told JAMA there have been only two deaths of people under the age of 50.”
  3. Our hospitals could be overwhelmed. When COVID-19 is lethal, it is often due to secondary lung infections that require ventilation in a hospital. If the hospitals are full, that treatment isn’t possible. So our goal must be to keep the hospitals below full. How do you do that? Delay the infection rate, and #FlattenTheCurve. If you can reduce the rate at which people get the disease, we can respond and it will be less deadly. Thus, the orders for social distancing and the cancellation of all the events.
  4. But couldn’t those vulnerable just not go to those events?. Sure. But that’s not the real risk. Remember that R0 number. Remember also that people can have this disease, be contagious, but have mild or no symptoms. So those not vulnerable go to the event and either spread the disease and/or get infected and bring it back home. We want to curb the spread rate. This disease is more contagious that the normal flu, which has an R0 of 1.3.  The “Stomach Flu” (Norovirus) is 1.3 to 3.1; measles is 11-18; ebola is 2, zika is 3-6.6. This is 2.2-3.1. That’s bad. Remember also this is a new disease: there are no vaccines, there is no immunity from it.
  5. But Only A Small Number Have This. Actually, we have no idea how many people have this. You only know if someone has it if you test for it, and our testing has been woefully lacking. When China started testing everyone, their numbers jumped. So it is quite likely that a lot more have this than we know. That’s why President Trump’s delayed response was so bad: he delayed getting the testing done, which would have allowed us to contain the first few cases before they spread into the general population. It’s too late for that now.
  6. How Do We Fight This? The answers for most folks is easy: social distancing, to stay away from others who might have the disease and #FlattenTheCurveWashing your hands and using hand sanitizer. If you look at the science of the Coronavirus, it is surrounded by an oily protective layer. Soap destroys this layer and destroys the virus. I’m going so far as to wash not only my hands, but my face as well to get rid of anything that got there through accidental touching. The right hand sanitizers do something similar.
  7. We Can’t Do It Alone As this Atlantic article notes: “Right now, one of the most important things Americans can do is deploy measures like social distancing and self-quarantining, even if they do not feel sick and are not at risk of the worst effects of the disease, in order to “flatten the curve” (epidemiologists’ term for slowing down the natural progression of an outbreak). This requires a radical shift in Americans’ thinking from an individual-first to a communitarian ethos—and it is not a shift that is coming easily to most, especially in the absence of clear federal guidelines.” It goes on to note: “If you are privileged enough to skip an event or work from home, you may save a life—even though the life you save may not be your own. It might be the life of your cousin with cancer, or your colleague’s brother, who has diabetes.”

In closing, I’d like to leave you with this, which is in tribute to Spongebob Squarepants at the Dolby, which had its run shortened due to social distancing:

Spongebob Squarepants Wash Chart

Share

🗳 Biden or Bernie? Making a Decision to Move the Needle Forward

Boy, they are dropping like flies. They’re dropping left and … left and … left and … far left. So, unless you’re in Tulsi‘s camp, you’re left with two old white men: Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders. I know some Sanders supporters that indicate that they will not vote for Biden (although these points should be considered). I know people reluctantly voting for Biden who are unsure they could vote for Bernie. I have two things to say, especially to those groups:

  1. Ultimately, the progressive policies you want will come from Congress. Laws need to be a changin’, and that starts with Congress — which is why a Democratic (and progressive) Senate and House is critical. If Biden got a progressive bill from Congress, he would likely sign it. If Sanders got a bill that didn’t reflect his specific policies, would he sign it? I’m not sure. But here’s the key thing: If we don’t have both houses as Democratic, no progressive bills will be landing on anyone’s desk. What is important is moving that needle forward, even if it doesn’t go as far as we would like. The NEXT Democratic president can get it over the goal line if it is closer (and I’d love to see a pledge from both Bernie and Biden that they would be one-term presidents, given their ages). So we need to make sure we take BOTH houses.
  2. There’s a meme going around that makes a great point (which I’ve slightly modified): You’re not voting for President. You’re voting for who replaces Ruth Bader Ginsberg. You’re voting for the next Secretary of Education. You’re voting for who nominates Federal Judges. You’re voting for saving national parks. You’re voting for clean air and clean water. You’re voting for scientists to be allowed to speak about the climate crisis. You’re voting for what the President says on Twitter, and the image that is presented by the President of this nation to the world. You’re voting for housing rights. You’re voting for LGBTQIA people to be treated with dignity. You’re voting for non-Christians to be able to adopt and to feel like full citizens. You’re voting for the Dreamers. You’re voting so there will be Social Security and Medicare when you retire. You’re voting for veterans to get the care they deserve. You’re voting for rural hospitals. You’re voting so that someone else can have health insurance. You’re voting for PBS and the National Endowment of the airs. You’re voting to have a President that doesn’t embarrass this country in the community of nations. Your voting against an administration that only allows congruity with what they are thinking or saying, whether it is right or wrong, constitutional or not. You’re voting to restore us as a nation that respects the checks and balances in the constitution.

No Democrat is perfect. The nominee will not be perfect. They won’t pass your purity test. Both of them have non-problems that Trump will exploit as if they were real problems (Biden has the Ukraine; Bernie has that pesky “Socialist” label). Yet either of them will be better than four more years of Trump. Either of them will help move the nation to a more progressive point. Perhaps it may not be fully to where you want the nation to be. But remember the Pirkei Avot, which notes, “You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to desist from it.” We may not be able to elect that perfect candidate, and our nominee may not be whom we want to be. But we need to vote for them, in order to help make progress on the work. The subsequent administration can finish the job. We all know that voting for Trump, or sitting on our hands and not voting, will do nothing to move that needle forward. Further, if you do a partial ordering comparison of the candidates, any Democratic candidate is better than Trump (assuming you are not a Trump sycophant, in which case I’m unsure why you’re reading this).

“You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to desist from it.” Something great to remember this election.

P.S.: For those who are arguing that the moderates lost against Trump, given Hillary’s performance. You’ve fallen for the Trump narrative. Remember: Hillary Clinton WON the popular vote by a significant margin. She lost the Electoral College because of how she managed the ground game, writing off key states and losing their electoral votes. The issue is not the strength of the moderates or the progressives, but the strength of the machine, and the importance of not writing off ANY state in advance. We need to ensure that the Democratic nominee campaigns in all states, and gets out the Democratic vote in all states. Do that, and the Democrats will win — and that’s from the top to the bottom of the ticket.

P.P.S.: Please don’t construe this post as saying you should vote Biden (or vote Bernie) at this point. Until we reach the convention, campaign for the candidate you feel will be the best at the top of the ticket. But remember that the top of the ticket is only part of the story, and the essential thing is to get a Democrat in office to replace Trump, and to take a majority in both houses. Once we are past the convention, we need to remember that our goal is to move the needle forward, not to complete the work … and that either Biden or Bernie is better than the Donald.

Share

🗯️ Nice Doggy

Back in high school, lo those many many (many) years ago, I learned a phrase with respect to my favorite board game, “Diplomacy”: “Diplomacy is the art of saying “nice doggy” until you find a big enough stick.”

This phrase came into my head with the news of Mayor Pete dropping out of the Democratic primary field, and Joe Biden having a decisive win in the South Carolina primary. It connects with my reticence over Bernie Sanders as an eventual nominee. Let me explain.

Much as we may hate to admit it, America is not a country that loves, it is a country that hates. It started out in racism, and hasn’t yet moved past it. Oh, we Liberals like to believe that we have moved past it. We like to believe that the struggles for women starting in the early 20th century, the battle for civil rights in the 1960s, and the battles for gay rights in the 2000s have settled the issue and we have moved past the racism. But one look at Trump, and what his followers espouse on the Internet will quickly abuse one of that notion. Hate is rampant. Explicit and implicit bias is still there.

Further, we like to believe that we can wave a magic wand and it will disappear. Just by picking the right presidential candidate, we can move past all this hatred and usher in that perfect progressive society. We’ll do that by picking a perfect candidate, one that has no racist or problematic history. One wave, and (poof) society will be great again. After all, we saw how racism disappeared when we elected President Obama.

Diplomacy is the art of saying “nice doggy”, until you find a big enough stick.

Fact The First: The most important thing this election is to ensure a Democratic Senate and a Democratic House, with as large a majority as possible.

Fact The Second: The second most important thing this election is to elect a Democratic president and remove Trump, his croneys, and his sycophants. Why second? Because if we get the first, we have the means to at least remove Trump and his cronys, and hopefully get a more moderate Republican administration.

Fact The Third: The Democratic election majorities at the ballot box must be sufficiently large that the election cannot be contested; large enough that even if they throw out some number of votes, the election still gives a Democratic result.

The corollary of this third fact is that we must therefore convince the moderate Republicans (those who are fed up with Trump) to vote for Democratic candidates, in sufficient numbers to get that majority. That means we must run candidates that are not only palatable to the Democratic base, but to those in the middle. We want a repeat of the 1964 election, in terms of landslide against Trump and his policies.

Combine these facts, and you’ll find yourself saying “Nice Doggy”. We are not going to elect Bernie and magically get his splendiferous agenda. We’re not going to elect Liz and get all those plans. We’re going to get a compromise shaped by the House and the Senate, one that will likely be closer to the moderate policies — because it must be able to pass the House and Senate.

Saying “Nice Doggy” has shaped the field. It is why all the top candidates now are old white men — because old white men aren’t as scary. Well, Bernie might be in the fright mask, but I digress. It is why the Democrats might be coalescing around a moderate, even if Bernie ends up with the most delegates (but not a majority). Remember the implication of that: most delegates, but not a majority, means the majority of the party WANTS SOMEONE ELSE. They just couldn’t unify on precisely who — they just know who they don’t want it to be.

Saying “Nice Doggy” for the election also means the stick is coming. When the election is over, and an acceptable ticket is elected (Biden/Abrams, Sanders/Harris, etc.), then the work can really begin — the work of addressing the structural racism and classism in this country. But we can’t do anything if Trump and McConnell remain in charge. Hell, we can’t do anything even if Sanders is elected, and McConnell remains in charge.

Thus endeth this rant. And I didn’t even mention Amy.

Share

🗯️ Why I Don’t Mind Paying My Taxes

Today, one of my Conservative friends shared a meme complaining about taxes: about how our wages are taxes, how there’s sales tax, how there’s income tax, how there’s property tax, and so on. I responded and corrected all the factual errors in their post (such as thinking the Federal or State taxes in your paycheck are taxes, when they are really downpayments so you don’t have to write as large of a check when you do your Income Taxes, or how Social Security or Medicare taxes are payments on insurance policies, not really taxes). But it got me thinking about taxes, and the folks that complain about them.

I don’t mind paying my taxes. Sure, I wish they were lower, but they are part of the price I pay for living in society. Taxes pay for the roads I drive on, and the police that keep them safe. They pay for the fire fighters that help me if my house catches on fire; they pay for the emergency responds that help in an earthquake. They pay for the schools and the city infrastructure. They pay for public health services that keep everyone healthy (as the recent Coronavirus outbreak is showing). They pay for the armed forces that keep our nation safe, and they take care of all those forces who have done so much for this country. They help our farmers grow more crops, and help them through hard times. They help our seniors and the poorest citizens — they are doing good that I can’t do individually. They help us provide courts of justice. They help us provide standards for cybersecurity, and to make our systems safer. They provide weights and measures. They help monitor and grow the economy. They support housing and education for all. At least for now, they help keep our water and air clean. They support our wonderful national parks. They help guard our coasts and borders, and (of course) they fund our lighthouses and protect shipping.

These are all things that my taxes pay for, and I have no problem with that.

There are things that my taxes go for that I do have problems with — and I’m surprised the Conservatives seem OK with their taxes going for that. Under this President, my taxes go to line his personal pockets and fortunes, through trips to his commercial enterprises with those protecting him paying above market rates. I object to that. My taxes go to give tax breaks to corporations that could easily afford to pay the higher taxes — and who should, for they benefit from everything I listed above. Similarly, they give breaks to those who have more than sufficient wealth and don’t need (and often don’t want) the breaks. As such, they serve to increase the deficit. A gigantic deficit means, of course, that my taxes are going to pay interest and line people’s pockets. Although a small level of debt is good; growing the debt as we have is wrong.  So I object to the games that result in more of my taxes going to interest payments.

But in general: I’m glad to live in the society that we do, and I don’t mind paying taxes to have that society. I just wish we could do more.

Share

🗯️ Lunchtime Impeachment Thoughts

userpic=divided-nationReading the news while eating lunch brought up some general observations on the impeachment circus:

  • The Republicans need to think beyond this moment and this President, and consider very carefully about what they are doing and the precedent they are setting. Pendulums swing, and eventually they will be out of power. Do they want a Democratic president, whom they believe to be abusing their power, to be able to be tried for impeachment and suppress all evidence and arguments in Congress? Do they want that Democratic president to be able to withhold witnesses? If this had been Bill Clinton, or a President Hillary Clinton, how would they have felt? One would think, if they weren’t under the cult of personality around Trump, that they wouldn’t want to be setting this precedent for the Democrats to abuse in the future.
  • The voting public needs to watch this process carefully, and ask the question: If the President was innocent of these charges, why wouldn’t he be having those who can prove his innocence going in front of Congress to make the case? Why is he suppressing all witnesses and all exonerating information? These considerations won’t make any difference to those already under Trump’s cult of personality (his diehard base), nor will they make any difference to the diehard Democratic base. However, those Republicans moderates who have been tolerating this President need to ask themselves those questions: Why isn’t he out there bringing in counter-witnesses that prove his innocence? What is he hiding?
  • Lastly, all voters need to consider this circus when determining their votes for their House and Senate representation. Especially for the Senate: they took an oath to be bipartisan, and to objectively consider the evidence. What does this say about their trustworthiness when they fail to keep that oath: they fail to allow bi-partisan evidence to be presented, and they fail to objectively obtain and review evidence.

There may be a long game at play here. Even though this attempt to remove Trump may fail, it is likely that Democratic control of the House will remain, and the Democrats may take the Senate. If that happens, and if Trump is reelected, there will be more impeachment charges … and this time, the subpoenas will fly, and all the dirty details will come out (unless Trump finds some excuse for an emergency and suspends Congress — which he can do under the Constitution). If that happens, we need to be really scared (although that does not give the President the power of appropriations or to make laws).

Share