Yankee Individualism fails

COVID-19 has been teaching us bitterly hard lessons. One lesson is how our implicit belief in the supremacy of individual personal choice can be suicidal.

We don’t have that individual right when our personal choice threatens others. In fact, it is a crime to recklessly endanger others by one’s unthinking behavior. The masks we all should be wearing are no more a protected personal choice than driving while drunk, or texting when at the wheel of a moving vehicle.

Nick Kristoff’s column Wednesday provides both the science and the social analysis that proves these points:

One of the interesting correlations Kristoff reports is the high compliance with mask use among residents of Hong Cong and the corresponding lower contagion despite their densely packed urban environment. It’s part of the culture to see the individual as part of his or her community. The Chinese culture values social cohesion and shuns much of the fierce individualism seen in America.

In recent weeks, some Americans have taken the stand that they have a God-given right to go maskless should they so choose. It’s not a new attitude. The same mentality rides motorcycles without a helmet while wearing flip-flops, boats without a life jacket, smokes, drives 80 in blinding fog, and flies light planes into threatening storm weather. We Americans do these things at great personal risk, and considerable risk to friends, lovers, and strangers.

It’s supported by our veneration of an image of the rugged individual – Ayn Rand’s John Galt. It’s the American pioneer homesteading in an isolated wilderness. It’s the cowboy hero who singlehandedly defeats evil hoards. It’s Rambo beating the odds – alone. It’s Superman. It’s Dirty Harry, driving fast, careening blindly over the hills in SanFranciso city streets launching his car free of the pavement, then gloriously blazing away at the bad guys with his powerful 44 magnum as bystanders dive for cover and his bullets shatter glass.

We assert we have a right to be stupid. But reality doesn’t care about what we believe about individualism or imagined free rights. We are only 4% of the world’s population and we already account for 25% of the world’s COVID-19 deaths. Our sociopathic Reagan/Rand philosophy of individualism is costing us dearly. And the despised “socialist-commie” conforming world is wearing their masks and surviving.

Loving your neighbor with no exceptions is not a socialist idea. If we could just do it better, maybe together we could salvage the economy and save some lives.

Don’t Blame Trump

The GOP with Trump as standard-bearer has been playing all of us. Those who have lost faith and had the veil lifted from their eyes are the most bitter critics of their former party.

Steve Schmidt, a longtime Republican strategist and now a founder of the anti-Trump Lincoln Project disagreed [with Trump’s assertion that COVID-19 will ‘fade away’]. He said in an interview this weekend on MSNBC that Trump has “brought death, suffering, and economic collapse on truly an epic scale. And let’s be clear. This isn’t happening in every country around the world. This place. Our place. Our home. Our country. The United States. We are the epicenter. We are the place where you’re the most likely to die from this disease. We’re the ones with the most shattered economy. And we are because of the fool that sits in the Oval Office behind the Resolute Desk.”  

The above quote is from Heather Cox Richardson’s blog. It is not all Trump’s doing. The GOP, Fox News, Sinclair Broadcasting, Facebook, and various allied PACs are consciously enabling and amplifying the disinformation that is causing foolish behavior by the ill-informed.  And there are many in the business press and business community who are prepared to put Wall Street ahead of Main Street for short-term economic benefit. The US has 4% of the world’s population and a quarter of the COVID-19 deaths worldwide. 

The political philosophy that says what’s good for Wall Street is good for the nation has morphed into a sociopathic political orthodoxy that condones gaming the system for private profit.

Consider these openly practiced anti-democracy strategies of today’s GOP:

  • Operation Red Map (Gerrymandered state legislative districts to thwart majority rule.)
  • Opposition to reform of political districting practices.
  • Urban Voter Disenfranchisement
  • Voter ID (Disenfranchisement of poor people who don’t have credentials of more privileged people.)
  • Opposition to Mail-in Ballots (Disenfranchise the working poor)
  • Opposition to Statehood for Puerto Rico and DC (populations likely not to vote Republican.)
  • Partisan stacking of the Courts by obstruction of the legislative process.
  • Obstruction of Anti-corruption Investigations.
  • Obstruction of Criminal Investigations for Political Reasons.
  • Public Health Disinformation (To get people going out shopping)
  • Opposition to reform of the Electoral College System that thwarts the popular vote in national elections.
  • Aggressive suppression of whistle-blowers.

The political philosophy that says what’s good for Wall Street is good for the nation has morphed into a sociopathic political orthodoxy that condones gaming the system for private profit.

Consider these openly practiced pro-inequality strategies of today’s GOP:

  • Opposition to progressive taxation (The poor pay a bigger percentage of non-discretionary income.)
  • Opposition to consumer protection legislation.
  • Opposition to Clean Air, Clean Water, and other environmental regulation on the basis that it hurts economic development.
  • Opposition to SNAP (food stamps) that help poor people eat properly.
  • Opposition to the Affordable Healthcare Act (Obamacare).
  • Opposition to price control of pharmaceuticals.
  • Subsidies to favored industries (fossil energy).
  • Environmental concessions to polluters (fracking, agrochemicals, etc.)

We know the values and character of people by their actions, not by their words.

And, sadly, the above lists are very incomplete, though they make the point clearly. You can easily think of additions. You will see more in daily news from Washington and Harrisburg if you look for them cloaked and disguised in the political spin.

Not out of context

One of the more common political propaganda ploys is to take a sound bite out of context and amplify it to unfairly characterize someone.  But when a Pulitzer winning economist writes an entire column using only embarrassing quotes from the leader of the GOP, you can’t say it’s yellow journalism.  

Why is it an economist’s column? Because the motive for all this mendacity is economic. We do need to find ways to carry on in the presence of COVID-19.  But not wearing a face mask and sociopathic political philosophy will not alter the reality.  The places that have reopened with poor public health strategies have squandered the advantage bought at such a high cost by mitigation.

And the GOP, like lemmings to the sea, is following His Nibs to Jacksonville! (They should ditch him for Romney.)

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.

Easter 2020

Hope is the traditional message of Easter and the world has never hungered more for good news of a path forward. Here are two messages to ponder:


Each of us has a role to play in bringing hope to the world. We are in this together. It’s up to us to get it right.

What You don’t know can kill

“It points to what we didn’t know at the time,” she said. “If we had had the information that is available now, the information that has become available after Winter Party as this pandemic has played out, we would have made a different decision.”

Rea Carey, executive director of the National L.G.B.T.Q. Task Force

As we chafe and grumble at the restrictions of self-isolation to prevent contageon of COVID-19, it’s important to remember that this virus is stealthy. None of the people who were partying in Florida suspected they were ill. They thought the virus was yet to arrive.

Now it’s evident that they contributed to its spread with lethal consequences. This stealthy contagion will continue after the coming peak of the epidemic and we’ll all need to be cautious until there are treatments and vaccines. What you don’t know can kill.


You probably saw the news that air pollution increases the risk of fatal outcomes with COVID-19. We have all experienced the surprising improvement in air quality with the shutdown of industrial operations and the reduced automobile traffic. In china it was dramatic.

It’s a wakup call. Fossil energy needs to be phased out and fracking’s cheap fuels are the economic enemy of renewables because they kill the market for innovative technology. Despite the adverse market effects both wind and solar have become competitive.

I’m pleased that journalists are picking up on the obvious.

Trust, Character, and Leadership

Walter Isaacson is a Pulitzer Prize-winning historian and presidential biographer. In this video he compares how past presidents handled major national threats with the current actions of our 45th president in meeting the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the following analysis the Washington Post reviews the first 70 days of the COVID-19 pandemic with attention to the consequences of the president’s decisions and actions.

in 2015 and 1016, nearly every editorial board in the US foresaw that Donald Trump was grossly unqualified and deeply unsuited to the responsibilities of the Presidency. Now all but the most partisan sycophants see COVID-19 events that prove they were right.

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.

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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.

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Escape Anthology

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

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.

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

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

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

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

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