Category Archives: Essays

Essays

The Doctors are worried

“Unlike many countries in the world, the United States is not currently on course to get control of this epidemic. It’s time to reset,”

report released this week by Johns Hopkins University.

“If the nation does not change its course — and soon — deaths in the United States could be well into the multiple hundreds of thousands.”

report from the Association of American Medical Colleges

The Washington Post article citing these two reports is alarming, but not alarmist. Here are the reports:

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aamc-covid-19-way-forward-road-map

Reports like these are not sound bites or off-the-cuff comments. It takes time for these organizations to arrive at these conclusions and recommendations. These doctors have been worried for months.

Ungrounded opinion

Most critical thinkers recognize that opinions from this man have little to do with fact, wisdom, or analytical thinking. Most of the time you would do better deciding something with the flip of a coin than with reliance upon His Nibs. You can’t be sure if he’s lying, misinformed, or making it up for appearance sake. But you can be sure that he will take no responsibility for adverse outcomes.

No, we don’t really care if you disagree, but we do care if you start meddling and bullying better informed people.

My son’s experience provides two examples of what thoughtful, wise people are doing. His eldest returns to Tufts this fall. The president of Tufts is a medical doctor. The school has a complex and detailed strategy for COVID-19. It includes contagion control measures that limit the mixing of different groups of students, extensive testing and tracking for the outbreaks that will surely occurr, and contingency plans for controlling them.

My son is himself the head of a private high school with 125 students. They will be opening in the fall, and he has a complex and nuanced plan that is based upon contagion control measures, a four tiered contingency plan, and testing and monitoring.

So if these schools can do it, why can’t all schools? Here’s what investigative reporter Judd Legum says.

With confirmed coronavirus cases rising in dozens of states, school districts now have to decide whether to reopen schools in the fall. Los Angeles and San Diego unified school districts announced on Monday that they would only offer remote instruction in the fall. The two school districts, which together enroll about 825,000 students, issued a joint statement explaining the decision:

…One fact is clear: those countries that have managed to safely reopen schools have done so with declining infection rates and on-demand testing available. California has neither. The skyrocketing infection rates of the past few weeks make it clear the pandemic is not under control.

…This announcement represents a significant disappointment for the many thousands of teachers, administrators and support staff, who were looking forward to welcoming students back in August. It is obviously an even greater disappointment to the many parents who are anxious for their students to resume their education. Most of all, this decision will impact our students in ways that researchers will take years to understand.

Both districts hope to reopen their physical campuses sometime in the 2020-21 academic year. But, as they alluded to in their statement, the impact of the continued closure of schools could be severe. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) detailed some of the consequences:

The importance of in-person learning is well-documented, and there is already evidence of the negative impacts on children because of school closures in the spring of 2020. Lengthy time away from school and associated interruption of supportive services often results in social isolation, making it difficult for schools to identify and address important learning deficits as well as child and adolescent physical or sexual abuse, substance use, depression, and suicidal ideation. This, in turn, places children and adolescents at considerable risk of morbidity and, in some cases, mortality. Beyond the educational impact and social impact of school closures, there has been substantial impact on food security and physical activity for children and families.

Quoted from “Popular Information

The problem with His Nibs ungrounded opinion is that our children become pawns in this lethal test of wills. It looks like the hidden agenda in this political game is Betsy DeVoss’ desire to fund “faith based” schools with vouchers, thus fostering the teaching of religious dogma and pseudo-science like creationism.

Timeline of Covid-19

The Trump administration is doing its best to posture itself as blameless in the catastrophic lack of leadership and foresight that has led to the greater than necessary contagion of COVID-19. In the coming months it will be abundantly clear that failure to isolate, test, and track esposures has resulted in needless suffering and death.

This video and timeline well help us understand what was known and when. The coming election may hang upon how voters perceive the actions and inaction of those in office as this global pandemic developed.

New Books!

I’ve recently published two new books. Escape is a collection of short fiction in the crime and humor genres. Credible? explores how readers in the 21st century can know what’s real and true in media. Both may be purchased at a discount from the list price by visiting Lulu.com.

(Click Here for Lulu)

Credible? — Recognize the authentic…

Cover of Credible? book.

This book, Credible?, asserts that anyone can tell what’s authentic simply by close inspection of the content and knowing the source. These pages are chock full of practical insights and tools to sharpen your ability to sniff out media that distorts reality. These ideas are neither obscure or difficult to master, and none require research or fact-checking.

When it comes to discerning truth, our credulity is a factor. To be truly street-wise about media, a person must also be aware of their internalized values, beliefs, and personality traits. Drawing upon the insights of Jung and general psychology, the authors point the way to self-awareness that reveals hidden biases and our human tendency to be less skeptical about information that bolsters what we believe. These same insights also reveal how we unintentionally tune out information that might change our attitudes and opinions.

(Click Here for Lulu)

Escape Anthology

Tropical islands, small towns, and busy airports hold allure as getaways. But the promise of simple pleasures can hide unexpected perils.

MONEYMAKER
An elderly widow responds to a frightening robocall. The ensuing conflict to recover her lost savings ensnares her son and his family in an epic fight for financial survival.

DELIGHT
A casual happy-hour encounter turns embarrassingly intimate for a weary business traveler.

ESCAPE
A prosecutor battles a jailed drug dealer’s desperate efforts to get free with murderous consequences.

DUKE
An independent trucker down on his luck finds his guardian angel in the unlikely guise of a Harley-riding drifter.

HOLE
A curious pothole appears in an old man’s driveway and grows relentlessly through the summer afternoon becoming sinister as darkness approaches.

(Click Here for Lulu)

Coalescence?

All the candidates we are watching vie for limelight–each of them has his or her cohort of backers, and each of them presents issues that motivate some element of the liberal base to back them. My concern has been not knowing how these diverse followings can be fused into a groundswell of grassroots support.
Enter Tom from the shadows at the back of the stage, not from stage right, not from stage left. Kinda looks like he may have been there all along working as a grassroots organizer. Listen to this guy. He may have what’s needed…

Poverty – The Experience

Courier Times Photo
That’s me (unemployed) in line to get my lights back on. (Courier Times Photo)

I’ve never experienced real poverty. I’ve lived on a restricted budget as a college student and as a young married parent. I’ve never gone hungry, or been at risk of being homeless, or at my wits’ end about where to go or what to do simply survive.

But I got a glimpse of what it feels like by participating in a clever and realistic simulation presented by Bucks County Opportunity Council. The simulation lasted only an hour (four 15 minute weeks) but it drove many of the participants frantic with frustration.

We had to deal with bureaucratic delays and lines, lack of time and resources to do the basic things needed to pay bills, buy food, get to and from work, care for our children. We faced exploitation by payday lenders and banks.  We could easily imagine the plight of those in poverty, as we tried to juggle priorities and prevent eviction, utility shut-offs, missed meals. We experienced frustration, outrage, despair, and seething anger.  Little wonder that marriages fail, children get into trouble, and adults resort to crime. Life with few prospects and little hope can drive a person to desperation.

The take away is profound empathy for people who can’t make it without public assistance. They not only need help to survive, they need emotional support and encouragement in organizing to get on a path to self-sufficiency. Going it alone is a recipe for failure.

The Bucks County Courier Times writer James McGinnis described the experience well:

Poverty CT 181025

Don’t assume that those you love are above this situation.  Wages have not grown with the rest of the economy. In real dollars they have been flat for decades.  In the sixties we though that shelter should cost about 25% of a families income. Now families spend 30 to 50% to keep a roof over their heads. Recent surveys show that a shocking 80% of working families live paycheck to paycheck and have little or no savings. A $1,000 emergency becomes a crisis. Poverty is just one home accident or bit of bad luck away.

Each minimum wage job pays about $15,000 a year before taxes. It takes $60,000 a year for a family of 4 to live independently in Bucks County.

To make ends meet, an unskilled or semi-skilled person and their spouse might need three or four jobs. Minimum wage jobs rarely offer benefits or even stable employment. Nor are they easy or fun.

The MAGA Bomber

Thirteen small but potentially deadly bombs were mailed to left-leaning celebrities critical of President Trump. The reaction of media commentators and social media echo chambers will provide much for social scientists and journalism professors to study and write about in the future. The sequence of events as new facts emerged reveals how irrational people become when confronted by information that is not in harmony with their tribal beliefs.

View from the Left

Most of those not aligned with the right immediately blamed President Trump for publicly encouraging hate and violence and for conspicuously being slow and tepid about condemning it. They also noted that the characterization of leftist demonstrations as “violent mobs” deepens the fear and animosity felt by both sides.

One theme in several articles was “Stochastic Terrorism” – a theory that suggests that there are always a certain number of unstable people among any political group that may be moved to act by hearing rhetoric that suggests hate and violence. Thus, although no specific call to action was made, the law of averages kicks in, and a susceptible person commits an act of terror.

View from the Right

It was clear from the start that there was a partisan motive behind the targeting of the bombs. The right-wing commentators (Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh, among others) promptly seized the opportunity to speculate that it was a liberal plot, a “false-flag” ploy, invented on the eve of the midterm elections, to drive voters away from GOP candidates. “Republicans just don’t do these things,” Limbaugh opined.

The Accused’s View

As I write this, I don’t have a quote from the accused bomber himself.  His lawyer says that he saw Donald Trump as a father figure. His van is plastered with partisan pictures that extol GOP leaders and Trump, and show prominent Dems with cross-hairs superimposed. As it turns out, he is something of a celebrity at Trump’s rallies, having been frequently photographed enthusiastically waving placards.

It’s clear the accused is what he appears to be – an over-the-top right-wing zealot whose passions drive him. Fortunately, the bombs didn’t explode, and the bomber left fingerprints and DNA that authorities were able to trace. Although police sought to cover the van’s incriminating artwork, it was so over-the-top that several individuals came forward with photos made long before the bombing.

The Silence

Those who were pushing the idea of a left-wing conspiracy have fallen silent and turned their attention to other matters. The late night comics made jokes about everyone knowing that the Dems are not well enough organized to pull off such a conspiracy. But even the conservative Weekly Standard couldn’t resist calling out the lords of loud on their implausible false-flag spin of the bomb threats.

What’s to be learned?

I offer a video sent to me by a North Carolina GOP partisan. She evidently found it very persuasive and forwarded it to show me how she feels and what she finds credible. This video is viral in her network with over one million (1,000,000) views logged. What about it makes you skeptical?