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Member since: 2001
Number of posts: 18,889

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New York is Again Ground Zero. And Again, Americans are all New Yorkers.

(With the obvious exception of that Orange Florida Man, of course.)

I'm remembering some of my 9/11 thoughts about "Why New York?"

To a lot of people, New York is quintessentially America. Big and diverse, full of life and creativity, commerce and innovation, wheeling and dealing, entertainment and fashion.

Tourists go there. People looking for excitement and variety go there. People looking for opportunity go there. People looking for a stage to perform on, people looking for a stage to watch.

New York is to the vast narrative of America as "Hamlet" is to English literature... it's "full of quotes". Stuff everyone knows. The punchlines of the jokes, the accents, the Five Boroughs, the pols, the parks, the glitter and the grit.

Yeah, some of us want no part of the hustle and the bustle, but we love to look on from afar, we love to tune in on New Year's Eve and enjoy Times Square, or watch the late night shows with their quintessential New York datelines. We're proud of it, proud that the world comes to New York for business, for diplomacy, for entertainment, for inspiration.

Some of us grumble that America isn't like that, not at all, really... the "heartland" is bigger, yanno, has more people... just because those New Yorkers get all the attention, doesn't mean they speak for all of us. Some of us paint New York as the Great Babylon, the seat of All That is Wrong with Godless America... but there's probably more than a little protesting too much in that trope, too.

New York isn't the heartland, for sure.

But as I felt after 9/11, it is America's big, beating, lively, perhaps a bit hypertensive, but vital and all-embracing heart.

I remember that feeling, after 9/11... a sort of awed and proud and sorrowful discovery, as if the blow had landed in a place I'd never realized the importance of, to me, personally.

New York, New York... again the epicenter of an American disaster, again brought on not so much by its own big, brash Obvious Target status as by the incompetence and uncaring folly of greedy fools in Washington.

Just want you to know, Manhattan. Just want you to know, Queens, Staten Island. Just want the Bronx to know, and Brooklyn...

I love you. You matter to me. I gotcher back. You're my peeps.

The lights of Broadway and Times Square may be dimmed for now, the streets no longer a-bustle as you fight for survival.

But you are still that big, bright splotch on my mental map of America.

My heart is with you.

Keep fighting.

Your fight is our fight.

Live, dammit.


On the "Closing the Churches BAD" RW talking point:

(Disclosure: I am a believer, but I do not belong to any religion, sect, or congregation.)

I'm neutral on the whole "Church" thing, with possibly a slight "agin" bias, only because so many branches of organized religions have been so effectively co-opted by malignant grifters for power and/or wealth.

But I look at each congregation, regardless of doctrine or faith, in terms of two things: First, does it provide congregation members with meaningful spiritual experiences and support? (In crass terms, are they getting something of real value to them in return for their investment of belief, time, and usually money?) And second, does the congregation contribute anything positive to the community that has given it a tax exemption and a good many operational privileges just because it IS a religious organization?

Here's what I've seen so far in my own community:

Congregations that seem to have a resounding "YES!" answer to both questions are not holding live group worship services, and they are urging their members to practice safe social distancing and preventive hygiene. They are ALSO developing and deploying all kinds of ways to continue their 'mission' under these conditions- whether it's social media get-togethers, phone support trees, volunteer efforts to keep the elderly and vulnerable connected and supplied, whatever. They're not letting the technical "closure" of their building and their in-person services keep them from the essentials.

On the other hand, congregations that seem to be iffy in one or both of those questions, especially those that seem to rely heavily on in-person get-togethers to "pass the plate" and whip up the income stream for their particular shamans, are either finding ways to defy the prevention protocols and expose their members to transmission risk, or they're agitating for a quick end to the shutdowns.

Whatever anyone's conception of God/Supreme Being/Divinity is, it's pretty clear that it won't shrivel up and go away just because worshippers can't all come together in the same place and pass the plate once a week.


Has anyone here ever been in a medication trial? Because I have.

In the early aughts, my doctor asked if I would be interested in helping to test a new medication for the chronic condition I suffer from.

I said yes, of course... it's a miserable thing and if there is a chance at developing a better medication than the unpleasant, side-effect-ridden array currently available, it'll help millions, and I'd be proud to be part of that.

That was only the beginning. I had to schedule a two-hour screening appointment to answer questions and have a basic physical-plus-EKG to determine whether I was a suitable test subject.

Having cleared that hurdle, I had ANOTHER, more in-depth physical with a whole battery of tests (just about every kind of fluid the body secretes was sampled and examined, I think...) to establish baseline this-and-that.

Having completed that, I had to attend a 2-hour educational briefing on the trial itself, the medication protocol, "trigger" indicators for leaving the trial, etc. I was informed that there was no way for the doctor's office to know whether the medication they were giving me was active or placebo, so they would be treating me as though it were active.

I signed a bunch of paperwork, was given copies, plus a "guide" for test participants that included pretty much all the information that had already been given me in the briefing. Then I was given my first week's worth of dosage and a daily log to complete, and an appointment was scheduled for me to bring in the log, have a brief exam, and receive my next set of doses and log.

And that's how it went, for a couple of weeks. Since I know I'm extremely susceptible to the placebo effect, I was not too concerned when some side effect symptoms initially manifested. I logged them, but downplayed their impact/severity (on a scale of 1-10, I reported them as "3", but I was wrong to do that. They were beginning to really affect me.)

Finally, a few weeks in, my Dear Esposo sat me down and had a little talk with me. And demanded that I bring him along to the next weekly appointment.

By that time I was pretty miserable and I did not protest being pulled out of the trial, even though I wanted very much to be part of finding some wonderful new medicine.

My doctor was very apologetic that he hadn't probed deeper on those "3"s, and reassured me that in fact, I WAS an important part of the trial. Finding out how many people were made seriously miserable by the side effects was a critical function of the trial itself.

Fortunately none of the side effects I experienced resulted in any long-term or permanent damage.

But for anyone who thinks "human trials" is something that can be implemented quick n' easy with a telenovela ending, let me set you straight:

Human trials take time and effort and great skill to do correctly and yield accurate, reliable, and replicable results. The role of human subject is not easy or simple, and it imposes risks and often involves effort and pain.

This is a big part of why we only do human trials when the medications have been extensively tested in other ways, and why so many promising medications fail to make the grade in the human trials stage.

It's not something you can just... do.

Only a complete blithering ignoramus would think otherwise.

Oh, wait...


Nature has hit the "reset" button. It must change us. Forever.

This blue marble is only one node in an unthinkably vast network of life-nodes, each one unique and, probably, unfathomable to the others. (I cannot begin to imagine the life of a benthic organism among other benthic organisms...)

Homo sapiens is one species, one manifestation of life in this node, but we have had an outsize impact on the entire node. Anyone who doubts it, look at the air quality measurements over Milan the last two weeks.

Evolution has brought us to a point where our potential to live in dynamic equilibrium in this complex network has greatly outstripped our will to do so. We COULD be forming beneficial, comensal relationships with so much other life on this planet. We COULD be creating communities and networks of communities that support and benefit all members, and make the network of life stronger and more resilient.

Our intelligence, our invention, our altruism and compassion are there. Anyone who has felt the warmth and support of an amazing community experience, anyone who has stood on the edge of the Grand Canyon and watched a full moon rise, anyone who has experienced a surprise encounter with a joyful and welcoming cetacean, anyone who has developed a reverence for the divine diversity of life understands the potential rewards of such an existence.

Instead, we have chosen a distorted, pseudo-Darwinian individualism as the lodestar for human culture. We have prioritized hierarchy over collaboration, competition over cooperation. Our concept of "reward" is defined by two things- power and stuff. Neither of which will ever light up with joy at the sight of us entering a room.

And so we have degraded our planet, damaged its web of life, seriously harmed thousands of other strands in the web, to the extent of unbalancing the fundamental sustenance of all life- our climate, our air, our soil, our ecosystems, our water... everything.

But it's a resilient system. Complex, balanced, interwoven. There are millions of paths of impact for every action and reaction. Like all resilient systems, it has self-repair mechanisms.

And so it has, effectively, hit the "reset" button.

To prevent further damage, we need to go back and change system configuration, or we will get more and more Blue Screens at a faster and faster pace.

If we’re LUCKY, this will change our lives forever. It will make us think about how we look after one another, what we prioritize in shaping our economic structures, how we build a reward system that rebalances to “us” rather than “me”, and even redefining “us”.

We have a chance to change the system config.

If we’re smart, we’ll take it.

And yes, it will change our lives forever.

Open Letter to Congressional Leadership: Secure the Food Supply Chain NOW

Dear Speaker Pelosi and Congressional Leaders:

If you thought plague was a threat to our people, wait until famine conditions manifest.

Which they will, unless you and other functional government leaders begin working NOW to secure the food supply chain.

Right now we're seeing the first wave of impact on our food supply chain as thoughtful citizens stock up for a few weeks, anticipating less access to foodstuffs and/or trying to minimize their need to leave home and expose themselves and others in food vendor settings- grocery stores, gas/convenience stores, restaurant drive-through and pickup locations.

Right now, everyone understands that of course, there will be empty shelves and re-stock waits for some items.

Shortly, however, people will begin to worry.

About the 3rd-4th time they make a foray and find that there are STILL no tinned beans on the shelves, worry will escalate to anxiety.

Before anxiety escalates to panic buying, hoarding, etc., and the effects of the stay-in, quarantine, lockdown on the workforce seriously impacts the food supply chain, YOU MUST ACT.

And you must COMMUNICATE.

TELL US how the raw food/ingredient production sources are going to be helped to safely maintain production.

TELL US how the processing/packaging industry is going to receive assistance and monitoring to ensure it continues its function.

TELL US how the transportation and supply chain is going to be kept safe and functioning.

TELL US how the availability outlets are going to be assisted in maintaining their stocks, safe handling, and suppying the public.

Do this NOW.

No one else will, alas.

Certainly not the morons in charge of the Administration, the USDA, etc.

By thinking ahead NOW, you can prevent an even worse threat to our population than the pandemic.

Please act.


Bernie Sanders: What I'm sad about.

I voted for Bernie in the 2016 primary. I love so much about him. I am so grateful to him for pushing many of the issues I care about into the light, and advocating for creative, progressive solutions to some of our country's most intractable and engrained problems.

He's a fighter and there's been a need for that. He's focused, and there's been a need for that. He's a "no I WON'T sit down and shut up" guy, and there's been a need for that.

He's got nearly thirty years experience in the U.S. Congress, counting both houses, and connections to some of the most innovative progressive thinkers of our era. His campaigns have built up a considerable reservoir of potential leverage- call it nuisance value, call it grassroots power, call it ideological nous, whatever floats your boat.

As of last night, he had accumulated a fund of potential leverage that would have given him unprecedented momentum and influence in the direction of our next Democratic Congress and Administration.

But it looks like he's been in the bubble too long. I don't know whether he's in denial, or he's willfully miscalculating. But his "fight to the last ditch" stance is not only going to make a less-than helpful contribution to America's efforts to overcome the existential crises threatening us (especially his beloved 99%), it's squandering the very real chance he would otherwise have had to negotiate stronger progressive directions for a new Administration and Congress.

And I'm grieving that.

I know other voices will negotiating those directions. But Bernie could have brought so much leverage to combine with those voices.

Now he's at risk of creating more than a little backlash that might even impede that progress.

I wish he'd make other choices.

But clearly, he won't.


Campaigning During a Pandemic

How does a responsible candidate run a campaign during an escalating pandemic of a highly contagious disease whose transmission mechanism is not yet completely mapped and understood?

1. Stop having big public rallies. Instead, invite journalists and targeted supporters, via media, social media, and email, to sign up to attend a broadcast speech related to those targets' presumed interest areas (geographic or issue), and offer them the chance to submit questions and comments to be read during the broadcast. Rinse and repeat, endlessly.

2. Get off the campaign "trail" and target small groups in various geographic areas with a sequence of geographic-focused webinar-type Q&As and introductions, featuring the candidate, local campaign folks, and supporters, using teleconferencing and internet.

3. Close local physical offices and move to virtual campaign offices- and lots of them. Develop "cluster" email and chat groups to promote local supporters' communications.

4. Get creative with fundraising- ask supporters to pledge based on numbers of questions asked and answered at virtual events, for each day they spend in virtual or actual quarantine, for every public event foregone, etc.

5. Motivate supporters to participate voluntarily in efforts to help deal with the pandemic in their area - whether its healthy people delivering supplies to shut-ins or helping health care professionals monitor transmission chains via citizen science, or whatever emerges as 'more help needed' as treatment and vaccination options emerge, wearing your Candidate armband or sticker or whatever while you help out builds positive awareness.

Other ideas?

Post them in the responses.


Thinking about COVID-19

It doesn't do to overreact.

It doesn't do to deny or minimize.

For myself, and my dear ones here with me, we balance being in the age-related higher risk group, and having various otherwise-not-very-life-threatening chronic illnesses, against being in a fairly small, well-run city in a state with a Democratic government, and not being required by the structure of our daily lives to spend much time in potentially risky situations.

It's natural to think that way first, I suppose-- "What about me and people who would rely on me if they were sick?"

But then comes the next circle of thinking.

My elderly mother who lives far away in a big city in a large assisted-living apartment community. Sure, she's pretty healthy, but she's also over 90. And in a quarantine situation, my sister who lives nearest to her and who is pushing 70 would be unable to provide much assistance.

And then there's my ex, who's on her second-to-the-last chemo treatment for a recurrence of cancer. Her immune system is gravely compromised, they warned her to self-isolate as much as possible. Yes, she lives with our daughter, daughter's sweet husband, and our grandson, so she's not without resources, but... damn' she's vulnerable.

And so is my grandson, one of the most premature babies ever to survive in that big-city NICU ward in first decade of this century. Sure, he's grown and thrived, but he'll always have pulmonary issues and yep, that's a vulnerability factor, too.

And then there's my best friend, in another city. She's recovering from the second of two knee replacements in two years, in a downtown apartment, and reliant on public transportation to get to work, to the grocery store, everywhere.

The list goes on and on.

So yes, I might feel fairly optimistic about my own chances of making it through a major pandemic.

But I am not optimistic that all those I love most dearly will have the same chances.

Most of the people I love are on a spectrum from "living within modest means but without much cushion" to "reasonably okay in retirement." But a few are definitely "paycheck to paycheck, hand to mouth" and as the economy tanks they WILL experience pain.

Most of the people I love have some access to at least emergency and preventive care in more-or-less "normal" times but as these times get less and less normal and the threadbare rags of "The Best Health Care System in the World" (tm) shred and fall apart, someone I love is likely to have a serious, should-have-been preventable outcome.

I share this thinking because I know I'm not the only one who's running scenarios in the night watches, and ruminating during the commute, and speculating while showering.

Right now, of course, it's mostly those of us who are willing to interact with reality and to acknowledge factual information and science-informed awareness.

The ones who attend Trumpenjugend rallies are probably not quite there yet.

But as people around them, maybe people they know, maybe people in the next town or the workplace their kid works at get sick... they will start thinking, too.

Enough of them, having it smacked upside their thick heads, do that kind of thinking, and eventually a critical mass will be reached.

I do not think it will be a good day for the oligarchic greedheads and the Russian meddlers when that happens.

Of course, by that time all too many of us will have paid a tragic price.

But that day will come. And change will be in its wake.


So Who Gets MY Primary Vote?

(Not that it matters... NM doesn't vote until June. But still...)

After looking at the (minimal, you media fuckers... MINIMAL...) coverage of how difficult it was for people in communities of color to cast their votes in Super Tuesday states...

...Added to everything I've been noting down about efforts to disenfranchise, ignore, and/or "lose" the vote anyone who isn't middle-aged, white, and suburban over the last FOUR election cycles...

Anyone who promises to install Stacey Abrams as Chair of the FEC and give her a substantial budget and all the help she needs to fix the voting system gets my vote, done deal.

So far no one's stepped up on that one.

But the candidate who recognizes and makes concrete, trustworthy promises to COUNT EVERY GODDAMN VOTE is my candidate now.

Waiting to hear...


Democratic Primary voting should ALL be ranked-choice.

The Party should require it.

We implemented ranked-choice voting for local offices in our last municipal election and it was very effective. I admit I had some doubts, but it was much less difficult to implement than was initially feared.

It was particularly helpful in the case of a mayoral candidate who dropped out between the early voting and the final election. The next choice on each voter's ballot just moved up one choice level in the tallying process.

It sounds complicated, but the commission in charge of implementing it hired a PR firm to do some excellent resources- videos and booklets- to explain it, and held community meetings for people to ask questions and play a game version of the election to try it out.

As the process morphs from the days when people cared enough to attend Party meetings, participate in local, district, and state Party process, and do much of the vetting and early whittling-down of candidate slates that way, to the era when no one wants to have to do much more than look at media on their deevice screens and then cast a vote, we're going to have larger and larger candidate fields.

Ranked-choice voting is incredibly helpful, effective and, yes, transparent (if implemented, tallied, and reported properly) to winnow a field and make sure that everyone's voice is heard.

It would also help somewhat with the problem of people getting SO attached and SO passionate about one particular candidate that they get disgusted or turned off from the process if that candidate loses early or drops out.

In our last mayoral race I was able to look at a 5-candidate field and think not "which ONE do I have to throw all my energy and my vote into" but "Which one do I like BEST? And next-best? Who is my last choice?"

It gave me a very different perspective on the candidates and the election itself, and I think it resulted in the election of a mayor who had considerably more interest and support going into their first term, because while the winner might only have been 37% of the voters' first choice, they were more than fifty percent of the other voters' second choice and thirty-some percent of the other voters' third choice.

Ranked-choice voting would reduce intra-party rancor and division, provide a more effective and transparent way to reflect Democratic voters' preferences and concerns, and I really believe it would give our eventual nominee a much stronger, more united push behind them in the general election.

Just sayin'...


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