The Obamagate Reckoning Has Begun

 

Mollie Hemingway has a great piece up today encouraging journalists to do the right thing. We are still at the beginning of the Obamagate revelations. They have a chance to report it honestly. But the window won’t stay open forever. Soon the historical opportunity to be among the brave truth-tellers of our era will be lost, and anyone who didn’t take it will be left twisting in the wind, their professional reputation in tatters.

It’s not a question of “if” anymore, but “when.”

Unlike the Russia collusion fiction that was maintained by the Obama administration, holdouts in the Trump administration, and finally the Mueller special counsel posse, the spying and leaking campaign story is coming out with facts. Declassifications, court documents, and investigative reports have all shown the falsehood of the Russia collusion hoax and the truth of the spying scandal. More could be coming.

It was one thing to spin the Russia collusion hoax during a time of mass elite freakout. But now everyone knows it was false. The truth is an existential threat to journalists, which is why the more activist among them are scrambling to kill the story and paint it as a distraction. These reporters won book contracts, TV gigs, promotions, and political success by peddling the hoax. They truly can’t be honest about it.

But others who weren’t so complicit have a shot here. There is no getting out of this easy, so if there are any reporters who care about their reputation, much less the truth, they should get on the side of truth now.

She’s right. And, susceptible as I generally am to schadenfreude, today I’m not feeling it. Instead, I’m feeling sympathy for the terrible dilemma these people and their followers are in. I’ve gone through enough disillusionment in my life to know that it’s extremely painful. Some are looking at an absolutely devastating identity crisis. They’re going to have to face the fact that the worldview they’ve been operating by and staking their careers and much of their personal lives on is false. Friendships are about to go up in smoke. Marriages might fall apart. Some of them will be going from rich to poor and from popular to pariah.

And those are the lucky ones. Those are the ones with the fortitude and grace to choose hard reality over comfortable illusion. A lot more are about to make a conscious or half-conscious decision to stay deluded and act as willing propagandists and/or dupes of liars. They’re actually buying tickets for that long, black train. It’s terrible.

The good news for those who make it, though, is that there’s a whole lot of unanticipated goodness and joy at the end of the pain. It’s like childbirth in the Biblical verse. You’ve got the pain of labor, which feels unendurable while it’s happening, but then gets relativized into nothingness as soon as the baby’s in your arms.

Your typical leftist can’t imagine it right now, but Truth really is liberating. And there’s wonderful fulfillment and companionship to be had among the dissidents. Just ask Brandon Straka and his #walkaway followers.

Anyway, I’ll be saying prayers for them all in the days and weeks ahead: that they manage it, that they do the right thing, and that it won’t be impossibly hard. And I’ll be working to stifle my urge to triumph over them. Instead, I’ll think about ways to welcome them and help bind up their wounds, like other people did for me when I faced my own reckoning with Reality.

COVID-19 Symposium: Quit. Laid Off. Now I Run Web Conferences

 

I run web conferences. Yes, this is a full-time job and the company I work for is busier than ever. It’s nuts.

I wish I could say I planned for this because I’m a brilliant tactician but it’s really a combination of unusual events. I used to do accounting and collections and moved jobs in February and was quickly laid off as the new guy to save cash during the troubles. But I had a second job.

I’ve had a second job for years managing web conferences and audio conferences usually in the middle of the night for customers worldwide. This is what I do now and I’m happier than ever.

I’m smart but not brilliant and I refuse to participate in recessions, depressions, pandemics, or the end of the world. No thanks!

Member Post

 

Several times since @bobthompson (I think) recommended it to me, I’ve referred to the MedCram channel on YouTube as a source of good, up-to-date information on Covid-19. Much of it is directed at medical professionals and goes into biochemistry that I follow as best I can, but there is also a lot that is suitable […]

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Confessions of a Googlechondriac in the Age of Covid

 

“I’ll just stay here until this blows over… when were these sheets washed?”

Once you get on the back nine of life, you start looking over your shoulder. The space between doctor visits is measured in weeks and months and not years. The pharmacist starts to know you by name. And every achy area, any spot of discoloration, every spot of blood becomes a harbinger of doom.

Arguably, the internet is both the hypochondriac’s best friend and his worst enemy. There are dozens and dozens of medically themed websites with comment boards that are loaded up and ready to scare the crap out of you. “Dude?! Blood on your toothbrush? My wife’s uncle’s third cousin had that and he was dead of bone cancer in his jaw in three weeks! Three weeks!

And now there’s COVID-19, a novel virus which presents itself in novel ways. There are predominant symptoms to be sure, but there are also presentations that are unusual and show up in only two to three percent of patients. And if you’re north of 50 you can find one or two of those symptoms that describes something you’re definitely dealing with.

To make matters worse, technology has put some pretty powerful diagnostic tools in the hands of us amateurs. My 89-year-old father-in-law lives with us so I have the tools! Blood pressure cuff? Check. Blood glucose meter? Check. Pulse oximeter? Check. Scanning thermometer? Check. The desire to use them on myself 16 times a day? Check.

Some men are scared that their wives will find porn on their browser histories. Mine is full of medical porn. “What’s considered a temperature?” “How low can your pulse ox go before you’re dying?” “How accurate are the home readings on this?” “Does this sphygmomanometer make me look fat?”

Translation: I’m not a doctor but I play one on TV. I have my degree from WebMD!

The media, of course, preys on our fears and makes them worse. The more you read, the more you think you know, the worse you get. “You’re having dinner delivered… can you get COVID-19 from your pizza box?! Details at 11!”

“How many slices you want, honey?

“I don’t know. Did you take a Clorox wipe to that box first?”

The Coronavirus may, indeed, be a horrible way to die. It’s also a horrible way to live and every day I talk myself back from the edge. Every single day.

“Nice haircut!”

“I know. It will probably kill me. I had to leave the house to get it done.”

Now if you will excuse me I have work to do.

“Hey, Siri! What’s a perfusion index?”

Member Post

 

Since all the official and unofficial COVID-19 tracking websites are continuing to add data that for the most part fails to correctly inform our leaders of the next steps, let’s settle for memes today, shall we? I am sure you can post some as well in the comments. Let’s just call this a palate cleanser […]

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How Many People Are You Willing to Kill to Open the Economy?

 

Well, how many?

You tell me; How many more are going to die?

This study by Drexel University says that there would have been 233,000 more deaths if we didn’t self-quarantine.

Hmmm, let me see. “Based on models developed by epidemiologists working with the New York Times.” Now that’s a publication known for statistical prowess and unbiased scientific research. Did they also find that the virus was caused by racism? Does Drexel University not have its own statisticians and medical researchers? Why are they relying on the New York Times?

Ahh…I don’t know.

And, of course, every other model thrown at us during this fiasco has been incredibly accurate, right?

Well, no, but. . .

Does this story have any information on the methods they used to create the model? The dataset used? Who at the New York Times created the model and what their qualifications are? Who at Drexel University used the model and what their qualifications are? How about the people who reported this? Do we know if they even asked any of these questions?

No, but . . .

But it was a Scientific study released by a University, so SCIENCE!, right?

No! I mean . . .

And you can’t prove a negative, so it’s unfalsifiable. If you can’t prove it wrong, it’s got to be right. That’s the cornerstone of the scientific method, isn’t it?

I guess. Even so, if you open up, people are going to die.

And if we stay locked down, there will be no more deaths.

Of course not, don’t be silly.

So how many more if we open? You made the assertion.

I just know that Texas had more cases and more deaths the day after they opened up.

They had more cases because more people were being tested. Deaths occur an average of two weeks after diagnosis, so that has nothing to do with the loosening of restrictions.

If the economy opens up there will be more deaths!

Ok, I’ll agree with you. There will be more deaths, though you can’t say how many. And of course no one is going to die because of the economic disaster caused by the shutdown, right?

That’s a choice they make. The people who die of the virus don’t have a choice.

Are you talking about suicides?

No one has to kill themselves.

I’m sure all the depressed people out there will be glad to hear that. But I’m also talking about deaths from drug overdoses and domestic violence. Plus things like colonoscopies, mammograms, PAP smears, biopsies, CTs and MRIs are being put on hold because they’re “elective” procedures. But nobody is going to die due to a missed or delayed diagnosis, are they? And poverty doesn’t shorten life at all does it?

Okay, open the economy! You’ve just got to tell me which member of your family you are willing to sacrifice.

That’s easy. I’ll sacrifice myself to keep my kids and grandchildren from living in poverty and despair. Because I’m the person you’re trying to protect. It just seems odd that you’d throw all the “marginalized communities” under the bus to protect old rich white males like me. Thanks!

There’s just one thing I want to ask, Whoopie. You still have your job, your mansion, all your assets. Since you want poor people to suffer, what have you sacrificed to protect me?

 

The Duration: Nadir and Zenith

 

Thread: your lowest point, and your highest point. 

Nadir: early on. We’d drawn up a new will several months before, but it hadn’t been notarized. I went downtown to the big bank where I did my business, hoping Charlie was still around. 

He was my guy at the bank. A month away from punching his ticket. A few weeks before I’d dropped in for some business, and we’d wandered over the elevators, rode to the 50th floor to the office of an investment firm. The receptionist smiled – hey, Charlie! and gestured to a bowl of chocolates. We spent an enjoyable interval looking down at the city from the summit. As I said, Charlie was going to retire soon, and I got the idea he wasn’t looking forward to it, at all. He liked being useful. He liked having a place downtown. He liked the people he helped. He liked taking them up to the room in the clouds where they had chocolates and a marvelous view. Weren’t we lucky to be here?

By the way, he was out of the office in January for a fortnight: sick. Couldn’t breathe. Couldn’t stand. 

Worst flu he’d ever had, he’d said.

In January. 

Now it’s the early stages of the Serious Times. It was before the lockdown, but downtown had already emptied. I walked into the great banking hall. It was empty and dark. The offices off to the side where Charlie worked were locked, lights off. There were hastily-composed notices taped to the door telling you which branch downtown would be open. This was odd – the main bank, the proud central location, was closed? It was as if the front line had broken and we were told to regroup at a safer location.

It was a branch in the IDS center. I wasn’t wearing a mask; no one was, it was early March – but the mood was jangly, radioactive. Everyone kept their distance by instinct. The banker said they couldn’t notarize a will. There’d been issues. Charlie had said it’d be okay, and Charlie would have made it happen, but Charlie was gone and I’d probably never see him again. 

The next day I drove to the suburbs to my tax preparer’s office to drop off all my paperwork, and they’d said on the phone they had two notaries who could do it.

“It’s just a precaution,” I said to the woman at the front desk, “but heck, you never know.”

“Well of course!” she said. “Just makes sense. We’ve had two other clients come just for this too.”

 We kept our distance, by instinct. I laid the will out on a table in the conference room, and left. The notaries entered one at a time to sign. They left the room and hit the disinfectant. 

I gathered the papers and left, and felt relieved I’d gotten that done. I didn’t have to worry about my will anymore.

And that was the nadir. 

ZENITH

It was a the week before last. Late Friday night at the supermarket – which, in this case, meant 8:45, since they close early, presumably to hose everything down with bleach. I was picking up a few things for the weekend, and of course was duly masked.

I was in a good mood, I guess, because it seemed that the end of the lockdown was nearer than ever, and a good whiskey awaited me when I got home. The overhead music was set on 70s, and it wasn’t bad, but it reminded me how much I miss Muzak. I don’t mean the anodyne orchestrated versions of pop songs – you really don’t realize how banal the main melody of “Horse With No Name” is until you’ve heard it by the 101 Strings – but the peppy happy-shopping music of the 50s 60s and early 70s. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iNMx9F5acXs&list=PLRQKT-Cu2_2TM_k6gHwXw_t89H3OdhUKd

Anyway. When I reached the checkout counter the music was Elvin Bishop’s “Fooled Around and Fell in Love” (The radio cut, minus the searing guitar solo) and I noted that the woman bagging the groceries was singing along softly. She had to be 30+ years my junior. I started singing, too, and we looked at each other and kept singing and when it came to the big climactic shout “LOOOOOVE’S GOT A HOLD ON ME” we both belted it out at the top of our lungs. In the store! As if all the rules had changed! 

The two of us, utter strangers, rocking out from behind our masks – made me smile all the way home. The zenith isn’t the moment when it’s Over, because it won’t be for a while. It’s the moment when you realize you can be meaninglessly happy in an incident you couldn’t possibly have predicted, and that the world of humans, our random interactions and connections, is still as alive as ever. And perhaps, now and then, more so – because of The Duration. 

Time for the GOP to Clean House (Senate)

 

It is well past time for one of the best symbols of the GOP’s decades-long failure to either defend or advance our liberty or the Constitution to actually act and let the nearest camera come to him afterward, if at all. Lindsey Graham has pronounced that the Senate Judiciary Committee under his straight-ahead leadership will probe deeply into the matter of the “Russian Probe” and the continuing injustice done to General Flynn. It is just not clear if this will be right after he finishes with the full exposure of Hunter Biden which he bravely promised not that long ago.

I may stand to be corrected, and if of another opinion please feel free to suggest another time, but these short few days we are seeing now contain the worst direct, clear, and internal threats to both our liberty and Constitution since 1861. And a virus is not among them.

Without bothering to actually count them, there might well half of our states’ governors showing a growing infection by the germ of tyranny. And they seem to be enjoying the flush of fever coming from it.

A federal judge stands ready to assume the role of both the Judicial and Executive branches in direct defiance of the Justice Department, federal statue, and his own past rulings.

The Speaker of House has (in practice) decided that she will rule by fiat, writing bills running hundreds of pages and costing trillions of dollars with the House members of both parties banished to their home states. The constitutional damage done by the contents of this bill alone requires more than my simple typing skills to list.

It is now evident without question that the past administration not just spied on the presidential campaign of the opposing party but worked to undermine the new administration after the election, almost all in violation of federal law.

And I could go on. We haven’t even gotten to the media yet. A complete list would not only exhaust my abilities but distract from the point that it is time for the GOP itself to step up a fight with the intensity it takes for a moment like this. This bundle of efforts are not just dramatic and dangerous; they are overt and blatant.

There are plenty of candidates, but GOP Senators may be the one group who have consistently let us down the most. It has been said that the Senate is a club. And it certainly has been since progressives convinced the nation to abandon the selection of senators by the states themselves. The “direct election” of senators has mostly allowed those sitting in the “upper chamber” to be good club members for roughly 5 ½ years and then campaign for six months on the values of their states. Go back and replay all of John McCain’s campaign ads dealing with the border and immigration and then follow the twisting path of what he actually did when he had to choose between those ads and playing to the media as just one example.

I probably could go on to a Majority Leader who has certainly done some things in regard to judicial appointments (which anyone in his position should have done anyway) but is a disaster in regard to fiscal policy in addition to undermining the more conservative of his party. But then that would lead to such discussion of such characters as Alexander and Romney…

Over the last thirty years or so the House has at times had its good moments. But the GOP Senate was not been a champion for Reagan nor any real conservative cause since. Despite the fraudulent title given to Ted Kennedy, there have been few “lions“ in the Senate since the 17th Amendment.

Richard Grenell has been DNI for three weeks However long it has been, he has done more to force protection of our rights and the protection of the constitutional process than several unnamed senators combined over the last decade. But it has been a simple act of moral courage without bluster and camera mugging. As far as I know, he has not appeared on but a fraction of the news shows that Graham has during that time.

I appreciate the times when ole Lindsey does speak out with some authority. And it is always well-timed. But I have seen little follow-through. In the real world (I have found) that sooner or later tough talk requires some action even if you hadn’t planned on it. Rarely in the Senate is that the case.

Our times require real, focused, and determined action now. The ball is now in Senator Graham’s court for his part of that action. For all our sakes, I hope he follows through this time.

Note: After writing this Graham did appear on Mark Levin’s radio program and made a good try at promising real results by sometime in October which is an aggressive schedule. I intent to contact Graham’s office about this as well as both Texas senators on the Judiciary Committee.

The Democratic senators on the Committee are Leahy (VT), Durbin (IL), Whitehouse (RI), Klobuchar (MN), Coons (DE), Blumenthal (CT), Hiroso (HI), Booker (NJ) and Harris (CA). Good luck with those if you are damned enough to be represented by them. But give it a try if you will.

The remaining GOP senators are Grassley and Kennedy (LA), Lee (UT), Sasse (NE), Hawley (MO), Tillis (NC), Crapo (ID) and Blackburn (TN).

If they truly do their work with some determination it will a small step toward restoring the rule of law that one former president seems so concerned about, at least in public leaks.

The Marry Merry Month of May

 

All of my life, there have been aspects of May that made it quite merry, indeed. As a child, it featured wonderful events like The Last Day of School! It also meant that winter might actually be over in our high-altitude Rocky Mountain valley. We’d experience snow flurries sometimes on Memorial Day, but Old Man Winter was no longer in charge. There were always newborn foals, and calves, and lambs to enjoy. My closest sister was born on May 23rd, just 15 months after I was born the year before. She was the fourth child and fourth girl for my parents.

We also have two brothers and two more sisters, but we older girls did the work for years: milking cows, hauling hay, branding, shoveling, etc. etc. We became known as “those Welch girls” who could throw bales up on the wagon and lift milk cans as well as any boys our age. And, I’m not sure that some adults even knew us individually by name.

In 1974 I officially became an adult (turned 21 on February 23rd) and I got married in May. Mr. CowGirl and I both grew up there in that little valley, so the wedding announcement list was rather lengthy. I was pretty much throwing this wedding together in about six weeks because we’d sprung our relationship on our families as a surprise. We had both ended up living in California at the same time, had become “an item” and then, decided to just head up to the homeland and tie the knot. Maybe I was the only girl/woman of my time who hadn’t planned her wedding gala fifty times in her imagination and needed all the fancy fixings. But, since we had an abundance of relatives, mostly living there still, we knew we should have an event for the celebration.

Now, I do need to back up a bit…I’d had a crush on Mr. CowGirl since I’d first laid eyes on him in 6th grade. Before that year, I’d attended a one-classroom school, out by the farms. His home was in “town”—pop. 2000. So, we had not come into each other’s orbit until we were 11. However, my affections were not reciprocated. He and I attended junior high and high school in our class of 130 students. Everyone knew everyone. He had a few girlfriends, and by the time high school was finished, he and a certain girl had been a couple for over two years. Yes, I dated and had a couple of pretty good boyfriends, but waaay back in my brain, he was still The One. But, I had absolutely no anticipation, whatsoever, that I would ever be The One for him.

I left for college; he went…I don’t know. I didn’t keep track. Turns out he attended college briefly, then joined the Navy, and after a year of schooling in Tennessee, was stationed in San Diego. Well, now it was two and a half years after high school. My college attendance lasted three whole semesters, and then my roommate and I decided that we should move to San Diego, where her family lived. You can see where this is headed, right??

Suffice it to say, our paths managed to cross through another mutual friend from high school, and [music plays…butterflies rush through the air…and birds sing] we ended up deciding that we should get married! After one date. Yeah…there’s more, but it doesn’t matter here.

Here’s where the Merriness comes in. We sprung this on our families. None of them had even been aware that we’d become reacquainted, and now we were going to pull an entire wedding celebration out of the hat; so everyone was rather off-balance. We got the announcements mailed, and the church reserved. I asked my uncle, the newly ordained bishop, (a lay official in the Mormon church) to perform the ceremony. He was quite nervous, and especially so because the groom’s uncle was the leading church authority in the whole valley, and would be there, too. My almost-twin sister was to be the maid-of-honor, and everything was set to go.

The wedding day came. We stood there in front of my nervous uncle for his first opportunity to officiate in a wedding. He looked into Mr. CG’s eyes, and asked, earnestly, “Do you take [my younger sister’s name] to be your lawfully wedded wife?”

Mr. CG looked at him. There was a pause. Then he replied, in a calm, clear voice, “No. I want to marry [my name.]” The whole church erupted into laughter! I’m sure that my sister’s fiancée was also ready to object, if the groom hadn’t cleared things up first.

My poor uncle. This did not help calm him a bit. But! He took a breath, started the ceremony again, and this time used MY name in the vows. We successfully married one another and have lived happily ever after for 46 years today! And I’ve had a superb story to tell my students whenever someone has been peeved when I mistakenly called them by their sibling’s name, who had been one of my former students.

“Believe me,” I tell them, “I know that getting names right is really, really important.”

The bride and groom on May 17, 1974

Sister #1, the Bride (sister #3) and the Almost Bride (sister #4)

Ricochet COVID Symposium: A Veteran’s Organization Responds

 

My local Veterans of Foreign Wars post had been slowly but steadily getting its legs under itself after a few years of hard times. There were several years of younger generation leaders stepping up and the finances were looking solid. Of course, we had a century old building, but it was long ago paid for, owned outright by the local post incorporated for many years. The post had been instrumental in keeping the local Veterans’ Day parade alive and fresh, and was adding new events, like an Armed Forces Appreciation Day street festival on Armed Forces Day. Then COVID-19 lock down orders from the Arizona governor created a new set of challenges. The good news is that we were both in a fortunate posture and had a membership that would not quit.

The fortunate posture was a combination of years of careful stewardship and members’ dedication to get the post financially stable, along with a generous gift from an estate, motivated by the good work the post had been seen doing in the community. With that small financial cushion, we turned the state lock down of bars into a massive renovation effort in our canteen, the veterans’ organization term for an American Legion or VFW post’s watering hole. Since it holds a liquor license from the state, it is naturally subject to all relevant state regulations, including the order to close down for public safety.

As the slowdown and shutdown orders rolled out, our service officer screened requests from veterans with financial needs, passing those that made sense within our rules on to the leadership to seek approval for relief funding. In my present role, I was honored to cut the checks that were needed in time to do some good for veterans.

I was following the PPP announcements but had not dug into the details when a weekly call with my counterpart at the state level prompted a quick dive into our bank’s website. Here, I can report that Bank of America‘s web interface made sense and was easy enough to use without an accounting degree. I am also grateful to Intuit’s QuickBooks Online team for getting the key information about average monthly employee costs wrangled into a standardized and easy to understand report. That number is key, as you may only apply for 2.5 times that amount.

The logic is that you will pay 8 weeks of employee costs plus get the 0.5 to help cover utilities, the cost of keeping the business at the allowed minimal level of operations. Grabbing all the other documentation out of the QuickBooks system was very simple. As a result, we got our loan that we expect to turn into a grant in the expected amount in only a week.

Our post has only one employee, the bar manager on a W-2, with all our bartenders operating as independent contractors on 1099-MISC forms. We resolved from the outset to take care of our own. That meant spending down our savings on keeping our employee full time and keeping faith with our bartenders and janitors by paying them the usual shift minimum in return for a couple hours of helping deep clean and then take the place down to the drywall and underfloor. We had great help from volunteers in both the post and auxiliary membership.

The walls were stripped bare, scoured, patched, and spackled, then got two coats of new paint in a fresh color, making the whole place lighter. Cameras, speakers, wiring, and lighting were all freshened up, with all wires and cables neatly secured. Two high volume smoke eaters, that will scrub the entire room’s air volume every 6-10 minutes, were installed. The old tile and carpet flooring were ripped out. Sub-flooring weak spots were cut out and new plywood sheets cut, fitted, and secured. As I post this, there are large stacks of new laminate wood plank-style flooring, positioned to be installed in another day.

All in all, one of the oldest VFW posts in the region is poised to come out of the COVID-19 shutdown this next week with a completely revitalized space to welcome members, friends, and on special occasions the public, back to share their experiences.

Member Post

 

So amidst the pandemic and the attendant freak outs, I found “the” house. A Hamptons type cape with a view of the Atlantic and of NYC on the Jersey Shore of all places. It’s in Atlantic Highlands – the highest point in the Eastern seaboard and home to the Henry Hudson Spring from which the […]

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Covid-19 Symposium: The Full Costs

 

How is COVID-19 affecting me? First off, thankfully, no one I know has it or had it.

Financially, to the extent my family has been impacted, the impact has been positive. As much as I would rather “work from work” I am able to do my job from home and my company is about as solid as they come, being a regulated utility. My paychecks keep coming. My wife is a Registered Nurse, so of course, she’s working, not only that she’s picking up overtime hand over fist. So our income is close to double these past eight weeks. If that weren’t enough, some of our biggest expenses are pretty much paused (child care, parking, children’s organized activities).

I have some petty complaints. They aren’t much different than everyone else’s. I need a haircut. Working from home with a special needs four-year-old and only his 12-year-old brother to help is pure hell. I miss my parents. Both my wife and oldest son had birthday’s during the shutdown, they were disappointing.

The real complaints:

I had an uncle take his own life last weekend. Things like that don’t get discussed in all of this. From what I’m told, he couldn’t get appointments to see his doctors and so couldn’t properly manage the pain from various ailments he was suffering with and just succumbed to it. The media elites in the “Shutdown” chorus won’t talk about that though.

I’ve had follow-up appointments flowing from my hospitalization and surgery this winter canceled. The one with the orthopedic surgeon will likely be rescheduled after all of this. The one with the Infectious Disease doctors likely won’t.

But the biggest complaints are related to my youngest son. He had meningitis at birth which lead him to spend a week of his first ten days of this life on a ventilator in an induced coma. He has since been diagnosed with spastic diplegia cerebral palsy. He had been making tremendous gains in a lot of areas over the past year to 18 months since his diagnosis, thanks to having the right specialists, treatments, tools, and expectations. We’ve been watching his improvements slip slowly backwards over the past two months.

He needs to have new AFO’s. We can’t get in to have the molds taken. He’s had several sessions of speech therapy canceled. We had an appointment with Child Psychology, one that was going to go a long way in helping his mother and I decide on whether to enroll him in school this September on time or hold him back a year, canceled. We made the decision to hold him back the year, it feels right. God, I hope so.

The most crushing was that we had an appointment with a surgeon to discuss the possibility of SDR surgery. My wife is convinced it’ll help him. She’s convinced it will significantly improve his quality of life, for the rest of his life. I’m skeptical but was looking forward to finding out more. From what I know, the surgeons here like to do the surgery between the ages of 4 and 6 and are very skeptical of any benefits from it after six, well, that window is closing. It took us 6 months to get the appointment, will it take another six to get it rescheduled after the shutdown ends? And then what? Might he miss out on this surgery entirely because of COVID-19?

Our elites in the Shutdown Chorus want to weigh the risks of re-opening society as if the only costs of not are corporate profits and non-elite people’s jobs. I want the decision-makers to know that there are bigger costs. They also need to consider, in a lot of ways the younger a person is right now, the bigger cost they are paying to “flatten the curve.” But it’s largely the people who have already live their lives who stand to gain the benefits.

COVID-19 Symposium: I Just Want to See People

 

“I just want to see people,” says my 12-year old daughter during another family dinner. It’s been lovely to have so many dinners together, whereas often we would have been en route to or from different activities during dinnertime. Before coronavirus, my husband wouldn’t be home for dinner during the week. Now he’s not only always home, but he’s usually grilling dinner. Still, he’s frequently working after dinner and on the weekends. He can work from home, but he gets distracted by our presence. For our part, we are tired of having to be quiet most of the time. Our house feels too small to be a school, office, and music studio simultaneously (we still have online piano lessons and the oldest girls need to practice their band instruments for school). We have started wondering why we pay so much to live so close to an office that my husband can’t use. 

When the COVID-19 stay-at-home orders started, my husband’s office closed and his work-load evaporated. He managed to set up a home office in the basement, and he shifted his focus toward whatever clients needed in the uncharted, COVID-impacted business environment. Some of his previous work revived recently, but the shut-down has introduced significant uncertainty and anxiety. We have enjoyed occasional family movie and game nights, but many nights he is focused on emails or conference calls instead.  

I’m a so-called “stay-at-home mom” to three girls in third, sixth, and ninth grades. Thankfully, I have not had the stress of juggling work and parenting, along with overseeing “distance-learning.” With schools closed for the academic year at least, I feel quite vindicated in having decided not to work after a two-year part-time consulting job. It’s been 61 days since the schools closed in Virginia, but we started staying home from most gatherings in early March. My husband warned me of the seriousness of the new coronavirus throughout February, all while fighting off a strange respiratory illness that lingered into March.* Still, Governor Northam’s announcement on March 23 of school-closures and a stay-at-home order through June 10 shocked me. My mood on the afternoon of March 23 was not good.

This spring, we’re missing soccer teams, swim team practices and meets, a high-school band trip to Chicago, a spring break trip to visit my dad, and especially, seeing friends in person. We tried a Zoom play date for my youngest, but it was terrible. One daughter has been too shy to arrange FaceTime meetings with friends, but has started talking on the phone with a few friends recently. The lack of social interaction for my shy children has been very difficult, since they really require the kind of spontaneous connections that arise from school and sports. My youngest was especially sad and worried as her birthday approached in April. The woods have been our frequent refuge during this shut-down, so we headed into nature to commune with a few friends who were willing to meet us in-person, outside. It was as good as it gets during a pandemic, I suppose.

I’m so grateful to have three children who generally enjoy each other’s company, but they still miss their friends. Playing online games together is not a sufficient substitute for in-person friendships. However, this week I have noticed that some kids are out riding bikes together, with one other friend or in groups of siblings from two families. Earlier tonight, I saw lots of young people out jogging and walking in the warm sunshine, meeting for drinks in the park, and waiting in line for to-go drinks from the several bars and restaurants lining the Arlington Metro corridor.** I’d describe it as crowded, but I’d still say that many or most people were wearing masks and were standing at a reasonable distance from people outside their close friend or family group.

I don’t know how much longer people really will stay at home and away from each other, especially because being outside near other people in the sunshine seems healthier than isolation indoors. Even my father and my in-laws, who are in their 70s, don’t want to continue this extreme isolation. I have been concerned about my father, a widower of nearly two years, living alone and robbed of his normal social opportunities. He’s keeping busy and active with home-improvement projects, reading, and binge-watching murder-mysteries. He’s growing a goatee for the first time in his life, and he really needs a haircut! It upsets me that I cannot visit him in Delaware without quarantining somewhere for 14 days, even though I haven’t been anywhere indoors except the grocery store for months. I’d like to drive over for the day just to have a picnic with him, but I’m afraid of getting fined or arrested for coming with out-of-state plates.

Living in the country, my in-laws keep their distance from most people year-round anyway. They want to take reasonable precautions to stay healthy, but they also want to continue working and living life. They were planning to participate in an outdoor event in June, but it appears that the extension of Pennsylvania’s shut-down makes the event too risky. People cannot plan. My father-in-law bristles at being told what he cannot do. We can all relate. As one friend recently said, “it’s maddening.” Yes, it is.

* My husband got a COVID-19 antibody test and was negative. We don’t know anyone in Arlington who has or has recovered from the new coronavirus. 

** As of May 15, Virginia reports 977 deaths from COVID-19, including 1,534 cases and 71 deaths in Arlington county, where I live.

Countering Domestic Spies and Saboteurs in WWII

 

The Duke of Windsor was rumored to have been a Nazi collaborator, supposedly on their list to take Great Britain’s throne when the Nazis conquered Britain. He was not alone.

Hitler’s Secret Army: A Hidden History of Spies, Saboteurs, and Traitors in World War II, by Tim Tate reveals pro-Nazi collaboration was widespread in Britain before and during World War II. The rot of fascism pervaded England’s best and beautiful.

The existence of a British Fifth Column has long been held wartime scaremongering. Tate reexamined the issue using Home Office and Treasury Solicitor files declassified between 2000 and 2017. These records expose a widespread network of espionage, sabotage, and subversion conducted by British subjects during World War II.

As Tate explains, it was even legal in the war’s opening months. Espionage laws were repealed after World War I. Britain then had no laws against sedition, and treason only applied to British subjects.  This lack was one reason pro-Nazi foreign nationals were interned. Germans with British citizenship through marriage or nationalization escaped this net, however.

Some Nazi sympathizers belonged to the highest levels of British society, including peers of the realm. At least one was a Member of Parliament. His guilt was so certain he was interned at the pleasure of His Majesty’s Government through much of the war – while retaining his seat in Parliament and collecting his salary. Senior admirals and generals were involved, even planning a coup to replace the government when the Nazis landed. Anti-Semitism and fascist sympathy was rife among the upper classes.

Others were in the working class, naturalized and British-born. Some worked for pay, but most for ideological reasons, a belief in fascism’s socialism.

Tate shows how MI5 – Britain’s domestic counterintelligence agency – handled the issue. They took down the networks that sprang up, whether patrician or plebeian. They noticed a disturbing difference in punishments meted out. The best and beautiful escaped consequences, while those in the middle and lower classes were frequently sentenced to death.

This disparity so disturbed MI5 agents’ sense of justice they stopped bringing cases to court. Instead, they created a false-front operation, where they tricked traitors into delivering their intelligence to MI5 agents pretending to be Nazi spymasters. Eventually, they ran almost all would-be domestic spies, short-circuiting spying.

Hitler’s Secret Army is a fascinating look at a forgotten and obscure part of World War II. It is a history worth reading.

Hitler’s Secret Army: A Hidden History of Spies, Saboteurs, and Traitors in World War II, by Tim Tate, Pegasus Books, 2019, 474 pages, $29.95 (hardcover)

Looking for a good read? Here is a recommendation. I have an unusual approach to reviewing books. I review books I feel merit a review. Each review is an opportunity to recommend a book. If I do not think a book is worth reading, I find another book to review. You do not have to agree with everything every author has written (I do not), but the fiction I review is entertaining (and often thought-provoking) and the non-fiction contain ideas worth reading.

Member Post

 

Well, yesterday I was waiting in the line to get into the local Trader Joe’s, all of us masked and appropriately socially distanced.  The lady in front of me turned and, speaking through her stylish pink and blue mask, said “I am so glad to be saving lives.  Aren’t you?”  I replied “Well, I hope […]

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Quote of the Day: A Life of Play and Why I Joined Ricochet

 

I was a boy of vast enthusiasms and a fierce love of play. One entire summer we kids on the block played Monopoly almost every day. I also collected and shot marbles, bowled, shot pooldrew cartoons, collected baseball cards and E.C. comics, and read science fiction. (On the right, that’s me as a kid with my family when we lived near the Coliseum in LA)

Best of all were those afterschool sandlot ball games that went on until it grew too dark to play. I never wanted the play to end.

It never did. I grew up but the play continued; only the games changed. I used to think that Wordsworth’s oft-discussed idea, that “the child is father of the man,” was just more of the Romantic Era’s little-children-are-miniature-philosophers nonsense. But I see now that Wordsworth was exactly right, at least about this one idea. My adult diversions, at least, seem to have grown out of childhood play.

Running marathons as an adult grew out of the sandlot sports I loved as a child. Playing banjo and guitar as an adult grew out of playing trumpet in my junior high band. Inventing a board game to sell grew out of a summer of playing Monopoly. And my 50-year adult obsession, making things out of wood, grew out of the measuring, sawing, and nail pounding I did as a kid in order to make various roller-skate scooters and stick-built forts.

Of course, becoming an adult meant that I had to make a living. But I sure as hell didn’t want a job in which I would actually have to, you know, work. So I became a professor. (I never believed that being a professor was real work. My dad, a roughneck in the Signal Hill oil fields, worked. Teaching a poem by Robert Frost was like the engraving on a fancy rifle. It wouldn’t help you shoot straight, but it was pretty to look at and fun to show to your friends.)

Since reading had always been a pleasure and writing had always been a kind of diversion, the university was an ideal venue for adult play. It’s clear now, as I look back, why I specialized in England’s Neo-Classical Era. All of its major writers —Dryden, Swift, Pope, and Johnson — were satirists.

Even lecturing was always more fun than onerous. (I think of myself as an outgoing introvert.) It was always a fascinating challenge to see if I could figure out how to engage my students in learning and discussion. So I would sit up in my office for hours and try to figure out how to, let’s say, get my students involved with Pope’s Rape of the Lock. Most of my solutions involved, in some way or another, an oblique, droll, or humorous slant to the work in question.

I had a student come up after class one day and say, “Don’t you take anything seriously?“ I think he was implying that I didn’t. And you know, the kid was right.

I spent a lot of time drinking coffee in my corner office on the seventh floor of Faculty Hall. I was the Director of Humanities, so I only had to teach nine hours a week. The other 31 hours was largely up to me. No time card. No schedule outside of a few obligatory hours of office time for students. I had soft-landed in a place where I could play.

In my office, I had a pleasant view of my thickly wooded college town. On the desk in front of me, I had a cage with two hamsters, Swift and Pope, with one of those little wheels they like to run on. I had a fancy coffee maker on my desk and one of those little swinging metal ball things that is supposed to illustrate some kind of scientific principle. I had a giant crossword taped to the wall that took me two years to fill in.

If God is as serious as he usually comes across, I’m in big trouble.

Pretty young things, who returned my eager smiles with haughty disdain when I was a callow youth, now had every reason to be nice to me. I was finally sitting in the catbird seat.

All of this might suggest that I was easy on my students. In fact, I had a reputation as a hard grader, the kind you don’t want to take if you’re in love with your GPA. I once had a student, an older man about my age, come up after my writing class and ask, “How come you’re such a bastard?” I think the question was rhetorical, but he still caught me by surprise so I didn’t have a witty rejoinder. But I did come up with a killer of a comeback a mere hour later. Unhappily, no one has called me a bastard since, so my inspired rejoinder lies dormant — though always ready to spring forth and eviscerate anyone who dares call me a bastard again.

One time I did something that sounded adult and serious. Around 1980, I founded an organization called The Kentucky Philological Association. (I just Googled it and found that it’s still going strong, so it’s now about 40 years old.) But I wouldn’t have done it if it hadn’t been a lark and an interesting challenge to sit down and see if I could create an organization ex nihilo. Most everything is a game.

I was, however, never able to figure out how to make a game out of grading student papers. Analyzing student prose and writing comments in the margins is a slog, no matter how you slice it.

When I retired, I spent even more time playing. I started making arty jigsaw puzzles, wooden jewelry for women (not a big success), game boards, little humorous statues, and little coffins for one’s cremains. I sold all of these at Saturday Markets in Eugene and Portland. (Actually, I never sold a single one of the little coffins, which were a drag on the little coffin market.) With a steady retirement income, I had the luxury of making only things that pleased me. I’m now out of the business, but if you want to see some of puzzles, go here.

But finally, in my late 70s, even woodworking began to pall. I had finally burned out on making things out of wood — and most everything else. I was growing old.

What was I going to do? I’m an insomniac and I was accustomed to spending a good part of the night hours in my workshop designing and making things.

It was looking as though I would retire not just from my various enthusiasms, but also from life itself. I could see my future, an old man shuffling around the house in worn slippers until Time, that great destroyer, would finally turn me to dust.

Then about two years ago, I discovered Ricochet. Hello! The site was designed, I read, for those in the “middle to right” part of the political spectrum. That was me! Five bucks a month and there would actually be readers to read what I had written. And the readers and I could go back and forth. And I could make witty comments on other writers’ posts, and they would witty me right back.

By now you probably guess that I would turn Ricochet into a game. You were right. And I keep score. I keep track of how many people give me Likes. (My last post was a new PR, 53 Likes. What do you think of that?) I also have categories called Most Responses to a Post, Most Posts Elevated to Main Feed, and How Many Times I Topped Mrs. She in Likes When We Posted Around the Same Time. (Thus far, we’ve only posted around the same time only once. To my dismay, Mrs. She left me languishing on the Member Feed with a miserable six Likes, while she was promoted to the Main Feed with, I don’t know, a whole bunch of Likes. I stopped counting her Likes after she was promoted. So the score is right now is She 1, Forrester 0.)

At my advanced age, my old friends in the meat world were gradually disappearing, as is the nature of things, but I‘ve made new friends — or at least their artfully constructed projections of their real selves. I’ve gotten to know Quinn the quester, RushBabe the relentless, ‘hant the helpful, Mongo the manly, She the sheep lover, and GrannyDude the philosophic Unitarian preacher from Maine. There are more but I‘ve used up all the alliteration that I can think right now. (Actually, I ran out just before I got to GrannyDude.)

So Ricochet is a godsend. I thought that my life would end on a long boring slog. But no, there’s still time to play and Ricochet is my playground, probably my last one.

When I carved a happy face into the little box that will someday hold my ashes, I thought I did it on a whim and perhaps an amusement for my grandkids someday. Now I see that that happy face actually sums up my attitude toward life.

If my mom were still alive, I know what she would say: “Wiseacre to the end.“

DAY 118: COVID-19 Et Tu, National Geographic?

 

The screengrab above is from a special National Geographic presentation on the COVID-19 epidemic. There is a lot of good news hinted at in the image, but you wouldn’t know it from the way NG is playing it. For example – completely white space means no one, “0” people have died in that county. And tragic as deaths are, there is only a small fraction of the country that can be described as having a true health emergency. Nevertheless, in line with all the national media, NG is also taking the line that things are uncertain and the contest is still in doubt:

Over the course of April and into early May, the numbers hovered around 25,000 new cases per day, which indicates that the U.S. is riding steady in its peak. New cases are beginning to decline in hard hit areas such as New York City. But the steady overall tally for the nation means spikes are occurring elsewhere.

Assuming that tests are being deployed thoroughly, a regional growth in coronavirus cases signals a breakdown in one of those strategies, while a decrease suggests the virus is being controlled. Here are the top 10 states and territories that have experienced the greatest change—an increase or a decrease—in coronavirus cases and deaths per capita over the last seven days from the previous seven days.

I will ignore case counts because more testing means more cases without any relevant data as to the likelihood of severe illness or death. Sad to say (as I am a member of that group) but a disease that most threatens the population most likely to toddle off in the next decade or so and who is not a significant part of the productive workforce, does not constitute a public health emergency. A public health concern, for sure, but not the basis for draconian measures.

So here are the graphs from NG on the states with the greatest change over the last seven days.

First the increases:

Now the decreases:

Remember that an increase means a “breakdown” in control and a decrease means “the virus is being controlled.” There is a subliminal message in these graphs. Note that the grey segment in the background to the chart reflects the period of time that “stay-at-home” orders are in place. All of the states displayed as having the virus under control have those orders still in place while 3 of the 5 states displayed as having a “breakdown” in control do not have “stay-at-home” orders in place. Message: orders good, no orders bad.

Next, let’s examine the claims in detail by picking two of these states — one “increasing,” one “decreasing” — and comparing them. The two in each group closest in total population are Colorado in the “increase group” and Connecticut in the “decrease” group. Colorado ended its “stay-at-home” orders at the end of April; Connecticut has maintained the “stay-at-home” orders.

Uh oh. This is confusing. Now both are showing “decreases”? No, these charts only cases, not death. It is the text above the graph that talks about Colorado deaths increasing and Connecticut deaths decreasing. But look, when you compare the deaths per 100,000 people Colorado is at 20.8 while Connecticut is at 91.7 — four times as high as Colorado. So having a slight uptick in cases in Colorado is still a better position than a decrease in cases in Connecticut. Let’s take a look at the death rates per 100,000 in all of the greatest increase and decrease states over the last seven days:

States with Increasing Death

Deaths/100K Pop.

States with Decreasing Death

Deaths/100K Pop.

Delaware

28.5

New York

141.5

Colorado

20.8

New Jersey

114.1

New Mexico

12.1

Connecticut

91.7

Iowa

10.7

Rhode Island

45.3

Nebraska

6.5

Pennsylvania

34.6

So you can see the comparisons between these groups is fairly meaningless. To say nothing of the fact that the graphs are clean and legible and made to fit the same space even though the scales on the y-axis vary greatly.

The narrative from the media, including NG is that although things may have been worse, they are still bad, and getting worse wherever “stay-at-home” orders are not in place. And if those orders don’t remain in place there will be a second wave, possibly higher than the first. So be afraid. Be very very afraid.

But the people, or at least more and more of them, are not seeing it that way. I’ll admit that if you are a small business owner you want to see good news whether it is there or not. But I think the good news is there and is factual. NG pushes the case fatality rate which is bad if it were equal to the infection fatality rate. But it isn’t and won’t be.

It starts as a trickle and then a flood. The people will be free.

[Note: Links to all my COVID-19 posts can be found here.]

How Trump Wins

 

Democratic law professor Jonathan Turley has distinguished himself lately by standing up against the Media/Dem complex in defending Trump and Trump allies against the lawless Resistance. Today, though, he’s voicing a concern in the other direction.

On Friday night, President Donald Trump fired the State Department’s Inspector General Steve Linick in a troubling and potentially unlawful act.

…The firing of Linick when his office was reportedly investigating the alleged misuse of public resources by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is arguably in violation of federal law and in my view worthy of investigation by both houses. The Inspector General system plays a vital role in combatting corruption and abuse. The President’s actions against multiple inspectors general constitute one of the greatest challenges to that system since its founding.

I think he’s rather overstating the matter there. But let’s stipulate that it would be bad for a President to fire an Inspector General for political reasons. By all means, let’s investigate the firing. I’m okay with it not only because on principle it’s a good idea to safeguard oversight mechanisms, but because I’ve learned some things about Trump’s MO over the last three years.

Investigations into him invariably end up proving that he is innocent and his detractors are guilty. I’d bet dollars to donuts not only that Linick was not actually fired because he had launched a justified and disinterested investigation into dubious acts by Pompeo, but that Trump is holding in his shrewd hands reams of evidence proving that Linick is a deep state co-conspirator.

Time will tell.

Silver Linings

 

I am tired of rehashing all the things I am mad about. So I’d like to try something new: a positive post on all the great results of the Wuhan Virus lockdown. Here is my quickie list; feel free to quibble, condemn, or supplement!

1) A lot of marriages and families are stronger for spending real time together. Corollary results: 40% of parents say they are now more likely to homeschool (30% less-so). I have heard from many parents that they have gotten to know their kids much better, and are happier for it. The family is the core unit of Western Civilization, and our families have run a gauntlet. Adversity which does not kill us makes us stronger.

2) Many jobs are being done as well or better at home, reducing commercial rental costs for business, enhancing the “value add” of knowledge workers. This trickles down to less cost for goods and services over time, as well as higher quality of life for people who will spend less time commuting and who like their families.

3) Hopefully, we have a lot more skepticism about “science” and “experts” and the media going forward. This may, of course, be mere wishful thinking in my part.

4) Is it possible that we will emerge with more balanced perspectives about what is important? I do not mean “our health” — I mean our relationships.

Pile on!

The Pivotal Flynn (Part 2 of 3)

 

Random Observations Surrounding Flynn Case

Pence’s role. On the issue of Flynn’s phone calls, Mike Pence’s general affability was absent to the extent I think he greatly contributed to Flynn’s removal, a departure I’ve come to view as a disaster for both Mike Flynn and the Trump Administration (staff who remained and those who left like Flynn’s deputy K.T. McFarland described in a recent post by @susanquinn.)

Surely a seasoned politician like Pence could have found a way to smooth things over after he was embarrassed on national TV repeating an inaccurate statement regarding Flynn’s contacts with Russia as incoming NSA? He’s such a master at the calm answer, I’ve found myself thinking “It didn’t have to be this way” on the subject of Flynn’s departure.

“Flynn lied.” I don’t know why the discrepancy in Flynn’s statement(s) to White House or FBI. I am inclined to believe error either in translation (miscommunication that snowballed), recall, or judgment owing to a transition in which he was one of the few government-experienced team members. If deliberate, well then intelligence officers of Michael Flynn’s caliber often have good reason for misdirecting statements. Either way, Pence and the rest could have given him more benefit of the doubt though I acknowledge it may have seemed it was either him or the White House itself at the time. Offering up Flynn didn’t save the White House though, did it? Any more than Sessions recusing himself did. Adam Schiff, et al., made sure of it.

Lessons from Time. If there’s one thing the time since Flynn’s removal has shown, it’s how badly he needed to complete the plans he had for revamping the intelligence community, to include audits. Truth. Sunlight. Look at what’s happened just since Acting DNI Grenell put participants’ actual words/thoughts into the public. Who more than taxpayers who fund those agencies are more entitled to knowing whether their law enforcement/intelligence officials are crooks, to paraphrase Nixon? There’s not a doubt in my mind the man who taught F3EAD — Find Fix Finish Exploit Analyze Disseminate — had the knowledge and skill, the will to put a huge down payment toward, in Boss Mongo’s words:

shut[ting] down those that mean the United States ill…across military services, all different federal agencies [as one of] those sworn to protect these United States

In or out of uniform, Flynn was a man who very correctly understood that too many within US halls of power have few limits on what they will do to amass and keep that power. To him then and I imagine more than ever now, protecting the United States requires a “clean up on aisle five,” particularly of the intelligence community, to remind them it’s the American people who are the power. It’s time Americans remember that we allow our government to transfer authority — not power — between successive administrations and exercise it between the branches of government.

Though the more obvious and immediate reason for going after Flynn was to deprive the administration of perhaps its most experienced team member (with access and capability to discover what DOJ and the intelligence community were up to,) the real possibility of a genuine intelligence housecleaning for the first time in decades posed a much greater threat to continued institutional corruption. It boggles the mind what Barr and Durham with Flynn’s able assistance could have accomplished to renew Americans’ belief that Intelligence and Justice are integral parts of our government and not just words on a federal building or agency letterhead.

Part 2 of a three-part series. Part 1 and Part 3 here.