North Dakota is finally implementing a mask order. Almost 10% of their population has had the 'rona, and their current incidence is an astonishing 168 daily cases per 100K, and it's been growing exponentially for almost two months, and they're just now deciding to implement a mask order.
The thing about the pandemic is that at every stage, we know so much more than we did at the previous stage. I feel much more relaxed about classrooms and schools, and much more pessimistic about our ability to handle Thanksgiving safely.
I say this because it's not just that North Dakota is not just two months behind in issuing a mask order. They're two months behind building on nine months of information about Covid. That's what's so goddamn mind-boggling.
Every country has extremists. But seriously, do ours pick some of the dumbest hills to die on? Literally.
I have basically lost my ability to read novels over the recent past. But with the election in a less nerve-wracking spot, I read Mexican Gothic for my book club, and here's my two cents: I mostly liked it. It's a little unnecessarily grotesque at times.
But what a lost opportunity! The book starts out in high society Mexico City, in the 1950s, with a smart, glamorous protagonist. Then she quickly ends up at a haunted, isolated Victorian mansion full of English ex-pats, and the rest of the novel is mostly there. There are so many novels and movies set in Victorian mansions, and it would have been so delicious to read a book about a haunted house set in the 1950s high society Mexico City scene. I want the author to write that book, instead.
I guess just some good old Friday WTF, because I just keep circling the same collection of topics like a lazy buzzard. Also I note that I believe this particular category of post originated in the spring of 2016, when our heads were spinning with the sheer quantity of distinct streams of scandalous bile being projected by the president and his enablers. So cheers to almost four years of this shit.
The GOP's authoritarian turn, quantified. Their method seems to be a statistically more sophisticated form of "ask some experts how it looks to them," so maybe some underreaction to Dems and overreaction to Republicans is baked in? But it's not nothing. You can also use their data to make your own charts.
Of course we should take these with a giant serving of salt. But still: when they get to the "Issues and Attitudes" section, the results are just stupid. Everyone fills in their alignment with a candidate on every issue. There's none of the phenomenon that voters like progressive policies, but not progressive candidates.
Here is my theory: Most voters are voting based on policy, and they are voting the same way, for the same reasons, as they've done for the past 20 years. That part is not very interesting. Republican businessfolk are voting for lower taxes, sane liberals are voting for functional governments and humane policies. Evangelicals are voting against abortion. Etc. These are the people that are actually voting on policy. They don't care who the specific candidate is, as long as they'll fight for the right platform.
Of the 20% that would ever consider deviating from a single party, my theory is that this year, the theme is fear. Those that broke for Biden fear a Trump presidency more than they fear BLM protests. Those that broke for Trump fear black people and a sagging economy more than they fear Covid. (And believe that you can't prop up the economy with stimulus packages.)
This is definitely very different than 2008 and 2012, where Obama made the elections a referendum on charisma. I still think charisma is a very powerful lever, but neither candidate had much of it this time around.
I had this post planned pre-election, but didn't use it because everything seemed so urgent. Then post-election I didn't want distractions. Now I don't need them so much, but it's still a post, so.
1. I highly recommend this puzzle app, I Love Hue. It is very soothing. It feels nonverbal when you're solving the problems in a way that I find very comforting.
2. I've been trying different tracker apps, and I'm annoyed with a lot of them. First, most of them have a small monthly fee, and I'm not willing to pay that. A one time fee, okay. But not an ongoing subscription for something that is just a glorified Excel spreadsheet.
Second, there's the issue of whether the thing you're tracking is positive, negative, or neutral. A lot of the trackers are habit trackers, and they make you pick whether it's a positive habit or a negative habit. But some of the things I want to track - how many headaches am I getting per week? are they responding to tylenol? how often are the kids actually doing some behavior that I want to keep an eye on? - aren't actually good or bad. They're just things to track. (There was one app that made you phrase every item as a good thing, and that was even more annoying.)
Finally, I want stats and not a game, like Habatica or something.
I probably have opinions about interfaces and things, but I don't know how to articulate those. I like the idea of it not looking like an airplane control dashboard.
Right now I'm using Way of Life (which sounds so religious to me) and it's fine. It does force you to declare if each item is good or bad, though. It's not letting me shuffle the order of my items, though, so the ones that are most important to me are now getting buried at the bottom of the screen, and that is annoying me.
Nick S. writes: As I've been processing the election I've been trying to think about what can be done to improve things that I care about in the country. The obvious answer is to elect more Democrats and, while we're working on that, I've also been thinking about whether there's any way to build back some functional shared political culture.
I don't have any specific suggestions, but wanted to write up some of the things I've been mulling over.
I remember encountering the term "nutpicking" during the Bush years* and I thought it would catch on as a reminder to ignore the most obvious troll bait. Instead, it seems to have taken over the world. The sorts of rhetoric which had been the sign of random nutjobs became the rhetorical default for tweets by the 45th president or the Fox News Cinematic Universe.
Donald Trump may be the most malign manifestation of the Hunter S Thompson dictum, "when the going gets weird, the weird turn pro." He was able to completely remake the rules of political decorum. I realize those rules were always porus and incomplete, but it seems remarkable that, as Claire Malone, writes, "Over the course of the past five years, Americans were exposed to few political conversations of honesty or intellectual heft -- and tens of millions of us were relatively unbothered by that."
I don't know how this ends, but I'm interested in any reasons for optimism that we aren't stuck in a spiral of the political culture version of Gresham's Law -- that memes which can be generated quickly and cheaply will displace conversations which require more cost and effort to create.
I find my own thoughts echoing Malone's conclusion, "Once we get rolling, it's relatively simple to reveal the ugly truths of the world -- and to develop anger around them. It can be painful to realize your brother is a chauvinist, your cousin is bigoted toward religious people, or your mother is a racist. And that pain can drive us into the harbors of the like-minded. ... I'm rooting for a change but planning for a stasis."
* "... the increasingly common practice on the right (and yes, on the left, too) of cherry-picking random comments or hate emails to smear your entire opposition as raving nuts."
Heebie's take: Anything that veers into territory of making amends with Republicans is revolting to me. We have to govern this country, for practical reasons, and simultaneously the other political party will be the party of shitheads until they earn back a modicum of decency. Governing has to happen, and deals have to be cut in order to pass legislation, but we can cut deals with people while still considering them to be utter destructive shitheads.
On the nut-picking: I mean, there's a good-faith version and a bad-faith version. The good faith version is "Look what QAnon is spewing. Be on alert for them to try to get these ideas into mainstream discourse." The bad faith version is "We found a black guy who hates white people and that's why BLM is wrecking the cities." The left sometimes does the bad faith version, but the right mostly does the bad faith version.
Out of the election, into the coup, I guess. A stray thought I've had in response to some folks talking about the next authoritarian attempt being more competent, headed by someone less clownish, is to wonder if the clownishness isn't actually essential to the autocratic breakthrough, because it gives a patina of unseriousness to everything, which mutes the reaction to it. Aren't a lot of these autocrats and would-be autocrats in sorta democratic countries considered clowns, just until the moment they have power?
Another thought I've had lately is that if Joe Biden had murdered someone in the middle of Fifth Avenue, I still would have voted for him. So in a sense I understand those folks who voted for Trump, knowing full well what he is. But that doesn't tell me how to have a functioning country when there are 70 million of them, and a rigged system of apportionment.
Maybe some of you who do not live in the US would like a break from talking about the US?
I do have a question: how did Europe get so bad on Covid, so fast? I think of Europe as a place that has more trust in science than the US. I imagine them to be more consistent about mask-wearing and less likely to stake out a position as an ideological dumbass who is militaristic about their freedom to be an unchecked disease vector.
My impression about Covid at this point is that containment is driven by:
- consistent mask-wearing
- convincing people not to casually gather with friends and family indoors
- containing transmission of bars and restaurants.
(I understand that ventilation is huge in terms of managing spread from the point of view of the droplets, but it seems so expensive and cumbersome that I'm not clear that anyone is implementing ventilation solutions on any real scale. Certainly here institutions don't even seem to taking even the low-hanging fruit when it comes to improving ventilation.)
Is it just one of those things where ten different factors each contribute a little bit of momentum, and then you're in a tailspin? Where there's nothing specifically explanatory other than a little bit of Covid fatigue, cold weather pushing people indoors, it's hard to stay vigilant for months on end, and all these things were chipping away at containment until there was a critical tipping point?