Friday, April 24, 2020

Stopping the Virus and Halting the Descent to the New Dark Ages

a jumping off point
  •    Much has happened since the now well traveled February post, Descent Into The Dark Ages. (read it here) The acceleration of Covid-19 raised the stakes, underscored the case we made made and deepened the divide. It has now prompted a question humans may lack the capacity to answer.
  •     The 50th Earth Day passed, with cleaner air and a more resplendent Mother Nature than in decades, though she is giving evidence of a change of life and that too carry's questions and mortal consequence.
Lupine north of Cambria, Ca

 human frailty
   One of the planet's majestic locations has been off limits as we sequester to battle. 
    Here we share from our collection and though it is not being there, one draws solace, and empowerment from simply seeing what reigns at Yosemite in the High Sierra.
     So, we shall frame this conversation with images of the towering strength of nature. Our thoughts, like the human behavior we ponder, may borrow consequence or they may betray an incipient and temporal value especially when viewed between these frames and measured in such an exalted and dignified environment.  

we need data
   We do not know enough about the Covid-19 virus, or the why and how it attacks.
    We need data and an accelerated learning curve and with all dispatch and capacity! People at work on this say we need profiles to understand why it works differently on people. 
    The more we know, the more testing then becomes a piece of a targeted response. The global shutdown was the emergency panic button, because civil authorities, politicians and governments had not been paying attention. Scientists, journalists, authors, intelligence analysts and strategic thinkers warned us, and they were ignored. 
    There is a lot about this virus that is curious. It has made some think it could be an engineered virus or one that rapidly mutates. We just don't know. We need to learn about it. We urgently need to know how each of us, with our own specific biology, will react

and so what is the value of human life?
     In midst of this 21st Century pandemic, we begin to take measure. We compare when and how nations and their leadership reacted. And we are pushed to walk along the razor's edge of putting a relative value on life.
     How quickly do we "reopen" a devastated global economy? Fear of illness couples with fear of financial ruin for millions upon millions. Something has to happen and here again we measure how nations have responded. Who gets help, how quickly, efficiently, and in what proportion?
     This debate summons all of us to factor what is it worth? How quickly should we try to return to normal? It opens a debate about numbers. If the government provided more financial aid to everyday citizens, and small businesses, giving them more of a pad, could that delay the return to closer contact that in turn prompt's another outbreak? 
       We debate how much can the government afford? Is a payout now a way to avoid a larger economic crash? We are correct to ask why are huge and endowed institutions getting government funding? Why are large corporations, and successful businesses getting a bail out? Should those that avoid paying federal taxes get help? Should the Trump family business get aid?
       Dredged up is the old conundrum; Why do Republicans think first of business, and Democrats think first of individuals? 
        I wonder why and how have we turned human life into such a material and commercial pursuit?

    the divides
    There is no kind way to say this. Millions of Americans are unwise. They are poorly educated, bereft of a knowledge of history, uninterested in detail, have limited understanding of the complexity and nuance of government, get their "news" from dubious sources, often social media, were not schooled in critical reasoning, think of life as a kind of on going Super Bowl, live to be consumers, are identified as low information and yes, they can vote. 
     The most recent National Report Card found that only 15% of American 8th grade students had a "reasonable knowledge of US History." Education Secretary DeVos said "students can't discuss the significance of the Bill of Rights or point out a location on a map." We should be frightened by this. It is part of a multi year trend. So, perhaps I should say, millions of Americans are stupid.
a brewing storm
     So with that and this administration as a given, now factor in the push from business and the very real need to address the economic vitality of millions. In this mix, we frail,  imperfect and not so well informed bipeds undertake a calculus; what is an "acceptable" casualty rate to again turn on the engines of capitalism?
     The easier part of that, is how and when to pay for it. How much should government help? How hard should we press corporate, and some times untaxed wealth, to help make people whole. Those corporate empires need people to buy their goods or work for them. People come first. 
      The more dire questions is, what values most, life or the economy? I don't think humanity is up to that now, if ever?
     Military leaders have borne this awful math through history. Now that calculus jumps into the human drama in the disguise of what's good for business. Economic dislocation can prompt huge casualties of its own, and bring a human suffering and misery, so the mechanics of our governments and business sectors have to do something. But honestly, can we trust this government to make that decision? Can we trust the man who spends two hours an evening in some kind of insane performance to pull the trigger? He certainly is not up to it.
       Unprotected people protesting for opening the states, motivated by a tweet are part of an idiot storm. 
      A President, fit for the job, qualified and with the character of leadership would have made sure we, and the world, were better prepared. Doubt that? Consider the US response to all previous dangerous outbreaks.
       I worry that important issues, and aberrations that need "full on focus," may get kicked down the road, like so many other critical matters lost in the idiot storm since 2016.
     So, as we have sequestered, the earth is healing. And we've found new ways to live. We are learning lessons of freedom, restrictions and how to moderate the difference.     
     I've missed the human contact, and seek it, but not until we know more.

celebrating spring
Lana's garden, Cambria

I told my granddaughter this old Queen Anne's Lace is now a sparkler

Lana's Iris's 
My English grandmother and great aunts called them "flags."

Cheers to Hemingway! 
He demonstrates a good way to self isolate.

    Stay well. Take care of each other.

    See you down the trail. 

Saturday, April 18, 2020

"Love In The Age Of Virus..."

Tracking North and West from Top of the World Cambria

time to think
    Exile at home. With your calendar mostly scrubbed, have  you had more time to think? That could mean worry, dread, maybe compassion, thankfulness, love, or that you want a new couch, to paint the wall, or rearrange something. Things are different and changing out there, so is our perspective.
     Planet earth is breathing easier, and groaning less. Civilization has slowed and is on the verge of changes, the shape of which we can only imagine. Another nudge in our evolutionary trip. Our minds have been contorted and our thinking pushed to permutations. We have questions, the answers are missing in action.
     Philosophers, never over employed and who make a practice of thinking, that is what they trained to do, will tell you this is a time of inspiration, discovery, emergence. 

     I tell you it is time to pay attention to a tree, this tree.

San Simeon Creek Road, San Luis Obispo County, Ca

     Not sure which is most appropriate. I think of this tree as a teacher of Tolerance and Endurance.
     Every breathing soul on this planet knows more about tolerance and endurance than we did a month ago. We've watched unimaginable scenes in hospitals, death without family, overworked and under protected medical teams, a system unprepared and overwhelmed. We've been anxious and witnessed fear, loss, new stretches of grief and have seen an heroic sense of duty and selflessness, every day.
     We've also witnessed stupidity, deception, and the perfect illustration of wretched classlessness and incompetence.
 So, this old tree can teach us a thing or two.
              Look at what it has experienced in its lifetime.

    Landowners frequently run barbed wire fences near young trees, and nature runs its course. The wire imbeds in the growing tree.

  If the cosmic recycler tells me I'm not ready for heaven and have another lap to do on the blue planet, I might ask to come back as a tree or elephant. So, I'm one of those who think this must have hurt. This is a living thing, ingesting torturous and never ending barbs, almost to the core.
  The tree grew and stands tall and strong.

    For this fine tree, the "new normal must" have taken some getting used to, don't you think?
how will change look
    How do you think things will look and work on the other side of this planet closing virus?  No one has been here, so every expectation is valid. Still, there are some who study and calculate the imponderables.  
    Small business owners, working people, school children, and all of us are right to hope a "strong economy" can be reengaged. We are right to expect the federal government to make things better. 
    On the other side of Covid-19, supply chains and dependent retail operators may evolve how they function. Shoppers likely will behave differently.
     Sports, big venue events, concerts, travel, and education will adapt, shudder, and perhaps even shutter. 
     Extended care facilities and nursing homes face hard challenges. 
     Faith groups have adapted with video technology, holding together, while isolated. Zoom, Facebook, YouTube and other streaming could foreshadow a future where maintaining buildings and campuses is costly and a growing challenge.
     A new business sector is likely, specializing in sanitation, storage, and disinfecting. Fashion may respond with safe wear masks, cover ups and the like.
     Creatures of habit, we will accommodate what is required, grump and whine about some of it, but quickly try to find a groove and maybe even a rut again. 
     I'd like to see a change in politics, the disappearance of the professional. As we look for treatment or vaccine, we could look to "heal" politics. 
     If we take money out of the election calculus, some will leave the business and perhaps drag the money hustle of elections with them. Campaigns cost millions, annoy like hell, do little to enlighten, appeal to childish or brutish cues, and we don't need that. We also don't need the ideologues, one issue zealots, business lackeys, or egoists. 
     I'd like people to demand public servants, emphasis on servant, instead of most of what we've got now.

looking around outside

 Iris in Lana's garden, Cambria
 Poppies on the back hill
    Something that has not slowed nor isolated are the hummingbirds, almost drunken with frenzy around the Echium or Pride of Madeira.
     I hope you've had time to think and to pay attention to the signals from nature in the spring. Life returns.
     And pay attention to the trees in your life. 

     See you down the trail.

Saturday, April 11, 2020

Killing at the White House and A Letter to Joe

see the emerging beast
    It dawned on me as grand daughter Addie and I were playing "do you see it?" 
     When she looked closely she could indeed see a giant tan horse or a dragon emerging from the copse of trees. Can  we see the destruction in front of our quarantined eyes?
     We've witnessed a devolution of everything in we regard as normal. A sense of reality is being recoded. We may think we are helpless, but we are not. Let's go a little deeper into the woods.
      The awful norm that is apparent is the number of US citizens who are 1 pay check from disaster. That's wrong and it's a prescription for disaster.
     It is shortsighted of the money class to permit working Americans to reach desperate straights. Who will generate commerce, engage financial institutions, pay bills and taxes, keep companies afloat and enable bonus compensation, empower growing ROI's or fuel their jets, yachts, weekend homes and country clubs? 
     As the global economy has crash closed, the disparity in wealth can no longer be only talked about or ignored. The boot heel on the neck of working people could be a trigger for the looming depression. 
     The immoral financial distance between corporate boards and overlords, bankers and tax evaders and those who do the work, teach the kids, fight fires, protect safety, make things, fill orders, serve meals, and work in hospitals is obvious. It is stripped naked in front of our eyes and revealed for the evil it is. 
     To be strong, this nation cannot permit people who work  to be one pay check from disaster. Fat cat indifference should be criminal. Generations need a sense of hope in a good future, worth working for.

a new virus emerges
incompetence and stupidity
   A national rage is excusable in how the new and massive unemployed have been unable to get phone calls or computer links to process claims. The government is a cluster of bungling, floundering, and useless suits. 
    When will the funds flow, when will the stimulus checks be cut, when will applications and phones be available? Who knows?
    A digression-remember how some howled when the Obama healthcare Web launch had glitches? The screeching and Fox News drum beat made it seem the whole economy had shut down, that cities become ghost towns, people hiding inside, thousands dying.
     Where is the indignation from the quisling accomplices now? Don't you wonder what corporate interest or finance king Moscow Mitch is under the covers with? 
    The Trump mob is inept in such a way as to establish a new low for government failure.
     48% of American jobs are dependent on small businesses. Those small business owners are dying because the Trump regime can't figure how to get the emergency loans to them. Though the President has had no trouble in firing and destroying the careers of two Inspectors General, including the man who was to be the watch dog on how the $billions were to be distributed to Trump friends, corporate barons, Republican funders and the uber wealthy, and more than likely even his own family business.
      Trump has presided over a dismantling of the federal government by means of idiocy. He was unfit, unqualified and lacked the character to be President and he proves that daily.
       I have written that his personal leadership made us unprepared and ill-equipped. Donald J. Trump is responsible for the death of people who need not have died from this virus, how many hundreds or thousands we'll never know.
       I watch the news hoping to see Anthony Fauci and Chuck Schummer yank him out to the rose garden and beat him back and forth like a beach ball.
       If Nancy Pelosi were to shoot him, would you cry?

can you see the beast a little better?
    This beast before us is also us. This is touchy matter now. The truth is that our sheltering at home has helped reduce the spread, but at a huge cost. Two important elements about this-
     a) We all complied with somewhat draconian policy and for the most part, willingly. We abandoned personal freedom for a sense of greater good. But we were forced to so because of an incompetent government. That government did not plan or think and when they responded implications of impact and constitutional regard got short shrift.  
     b) You can expect to see a growing debate between capitalism and the Hippocratic oath. The economy has been devastated, but was there a better way to safeguard general health? As we go forward we are likely to see an amplification of this very hard issue. That hard conversation about who gets to live-who gets a ventilator- is a sample of the larger issue

it's been interesting seeing the homes of journalists, analysts, experts and entertainers

   An ancillary matter here is media coverage and what is best described as a kind of hysteria. 
    There has been extraordinary journalism and reporting in very difficult and challenging circumstances. Working from home has never looked so good, but there has been an insufficient analysis of the morbidity tables. I mourn the loss of any and hate to think a person's days were cut short. Still, of those who have died, what is the data with regards to co-morbidity or underlying illness, what is the age, how many were in terminal conditions, is there a way to know what was their life expectancy, how do the numbers, not the estimates but factual numbers compare with other virus outbreaks, what are the genetic factors/similarities of those who have died, what are the matches on generational vulnerability, and etc?
    Learning and rational analysis of this pandemic can equip us for a better response next time.
    We deserve leadership that looks at event horizons, integrating strategic reserve, medical preparedness, and health intelligence as part of the national security calculus. 
    Donald Trump was warned. Scientists and scholars have predicted this outbreak. He ignored it. He fired a pandemic expert from the National Security Council. We should never be in a place like this again.

the road forward

      It's paramount to break free from this Trumpian prison of incompetence, lies and madness.
     We are lucky he's such an idiot. A more clever would be dictator would not have deferred so much leadership to the states and Governors. Smarter fascist strongmen would not have said, "I am not responsible." 
    We are lucky the current Republican brain trust are such, poltroons, inside traders, pedophiles, ideologues, nazi pretenders, and bought and paid for fools. They're too busy patting themselves on the back about not convicting Trump, giving the rich a tax cut and for packing courts with intellectual lightweights and inexperienced "true believers" they missed a chance to have seized the kind of authority they might have. This is a vain crowd, motivated by money and access and are willing to grovel and kiss the fat man's ass to stay in his favor. They are not only quislings, they are without character and they behave like brown shirt lackeys. History will attest they are stupidly compliant. 

a memo to joe

    Joe Biden has been around Washington long enough to forget more than Trump could ever learn. I know traditional conservative Republicans who will vote for Joe. Anymore from this gang and you might well have an American revolution of revulsion. I mean in the streets. 
    Biden is an old hand. He knows both ends of Pennsylvania Ave and both sides of the street. He knows foreign affairs and he's a blue collar guy. He's a great choice for this time.
    Mr Vice President, sometime soon I'd like to see you, Amy, Bernie, Elizabeth, Andrew, Pete, Tom, Kamala, Corey, Julio, and Michael, together outlining the path forward, the recovery, the building of the future. Sharing a vision.
    Maybe you can get Presidents Obama, Bush, Clinton and Carter to chair a national recovery commission. Bring in Bill Gates to help you appoint a true team of the "best and the brightest" to build an actual plan, and strategy to rebuild this nation. 
    Perhaps you could call it the New Beginning, like the New Deal, New Frontier, New Society.

     what if sheltering at home violates social distancing?
   Thanks for enduring this. As bonus here's some fresh air.
A recent low tide revealed a mussel bed. No social distance observed here.

   Take care of each other. Stay well.

   See you down the trail. 

Saturday, April 4, 2020

Adjusting Exile

   Reading the historic view of this time of virus is a "ways off," and so is our return to normal, but how we are handling this has already started telling us a lot about who we are, how we respond to crisis, and what is our character.
    In our village teachers created a parade as their poster and balloon decorated cars circled through neighborhoods and students cheered from their home or from where their parents car had been parked along the route. 
    In St Louis a tuba and a trombone player march and play down the middle of their neighborhood each evening. People are connecting with Zoom cocktail parties, dinners and church services. 
    There are those nightly cheers for medical workers. Scenes of kindness, entertainment, resilience and humor fill our social media and television screens. 
     And there is the awful onslaught of the infection rate and the fatalities, and in the face of that, the bravery and sacrificial service of nurses, doctors, orderlies, technicians, administrators, janitors, dietitians  EMS staff. There is the struggle to get adequate supplies. 
     There is a difference in leadership, some governors and mayors quick to act, and others taking their cue from elsewhere.
     Already the facts have rendered the first assessments  that bestow and inform history's judgment. The divide is clear, especially in leadership.
         The World Mental Health Coalition has raised a challenge than should emerge into full blown public discussion.
      Donald Trump "is so severely mentally troubled that he is a great danger," says the Coalition that calls for his resignation or "complete removal."
      Yale School of Medicine forensic psychiatrist Dr. Bandy X Lee, the group's president has convened a panel to examine the Trump handling of the crisis. Dr. Lee is both an MD and a graduate of the Yale Divinity School, holding an MDiv, a Masters of Divinity.
       Veteran White House reporters and some who have  covered Trump since his real estate development days, say he now lives for the nightly briefing and his moment in the spotlight. That is how he defines being President. 
      These close observers say he is more interested in his "ratings" than in the crisis. They report only recently have those around him made him understand the severity of the disease, though he remains more focused on economic recovery because he sees that as a direct link to his re-election chances. Still, they note he grows bored with the Covid-19 crisis and he returns to grudges, payback and getting even with those who criticize him.
       His incompetence has killed people. His mental health affects a nation.

living with a quarantine
    A little bit that we can do to help you through these new rhythms is to take you along the trail here on the California Central Coast. Perhaps these will refresh your life in quarantine. 

    trail scenes
        San Simeon Creek
         California Poppies in their glory

       Wild mustard fields

lessons in social distancing


working on it

      As one of the signs from the "teacher's parade" read
"Take Care of Yourself, Take Care of Each Other." Another said it well, "Stay Strong!"

      See you down the trail.