2084

In his dystopian novel, 1984, George Orwell wrote that “Big Brother is watching.”  Will Big Brother still be watching us in 2084?  Currently, the United States has terabytes of the written and oral conversations of its citizens.  Homeland Security scours phone calls, e-mails, and social media searching for threats against the country.  Computer programs scan for words like nuclear war or shoe bomb.  Of course, government agencies don’t usually put the pieces together until after the horse leaves the stable.  Then they find evidence that warned about everything in complete detail.  They always have enough information after the fact to know who did it, but, in the end, the dastardly deeds still got done.  By the time they can act, the damage is already done.

Our government has the capability to digitize everyone’s telephone calls, but they don’t have the ability to process this incredibly vast amount of data.  Technology will give the government the tools to know everything, but man’s bumbling, the government’s well-known inefficiency, and just the vast quantity of the collected data will ultimately save us from the threat of Big Brother.

The difference between Big Brother in 1984 and now, was that in the book the government was constantly informing the citizens that Big Brother was watching.  Today, they are constantly denying that they are spying on their own citizens.  They only record your conversations, they say.  They don’t actually listen in on them, they say.  Become a political activist, though, and you can be sure that they’ll call-up every conversation, e-mail, and posting you’ve ever made looking for ways to discredit or imprison you.  Hit the gas when the traffic light turns yellow, and if you don’t make it across the intersection before the light turns red, you just might find a traffic ticket in your mailbox a few days later.  Big Brother may be a bureaucratic stumblebum, but he is indeed watching.

By 2084 we’ll have bigger problems than Big Brother, though.  I’m not just talking about Global Climate Change, either.  Hopefully, the brightest and the best will figure out ways to solve that problem, once we pull our heads out of our asses and realize that it is a real problem.  The big problem in 2084 is going to be jobs.  There aren’t going to be many.  There is going to be a severe job shortage, when artificially-intelligent robots are doing most of the work.

In the old days, we thought that having machines do all the work would lead to a utopia.  That was back when we all got long better.  Now, though, I think it will lead to dystopia, because we will not want to pay people for doing nothing, even when there is nothing to do.

Years ago, when you went to the supermarket, a clerk would have to check each item for a price and total them up on a cash register.  Then bar codes came in.  Now, cashiers can scan each item as quickly as the conveyor belt can move.  You can even do it yourself, and cashiers are no longer necessary.

The problem with labor-saving devices is that employees don’t share in the benefits.  Instead, the stores make more profit as employees are laid off. The quixotic will tilt at windmills and refuse to use the cashier-less checkout.  They will wind up on long lines as only one window will be open to the anti-self-scanners.  Their pleas to open up more windows will fall upon deaf ears, and their screaming children will eventually make them give up the battle.

Several hamburger restaurants opened recently with robot short-order cooks flipping burgers.  They even have built in sensors that detect the temperature of the burger and remove it from the heat when it is cooked to the exact perfect temperature.

Robot drivers will revolutionize the trucking industry, the taxi industry, and the automatic drivers will probably even have sidekick robots or drones to help them make deliveries.  Millions will be out of work, but the people who own the robots will be rich, very, very rich.  They’ll still hire a few live servants, just for the thrill of it, but robots will do all the major work.  There will be a few jobs for programmers in the robotics industry, but eventually AI will write better programs than the human programmers.

Robots will pick up the garbage, sweep the streets, work with hazardous material, and they do not need vacations or down time.  They might even recharge themselves automatically with solar power while they work. 

Rock N Roll will never die.  People will always want to hear live bands.  Some robot bands might form, but they’ll never be as good as live bands, even if they sound better.

Probably there will still be human dentists, but they might have robot hygienists and robot receptionists helping them out.  Robots will make your clothes and clean them.  There won’t even be jobs for shoeshine boys, because robots will do that too.

Baseball players, football players, and race-car drivers will probably still be in demand, because there would be little thrill in watching a robot crash or take a vicious hit.  Artists will be popular, because the rich will still like to collect art.  Poets might still be around too, and novelists and screenwriters.  Nobody wants computer-generated poetry or movie scripts.  Computer-generated actors will replace humans, though.  They are already here.  Plus, they have the advantage that Clint Eastwood can be a young Dirty Harry, or a cantankerous old man depending upon which one the director wants to use, and Clint Eastwood doesn’t even have to be on set.

When computers came in and you were able to do the work of 10 people, did your salary increase tenfold?  No, you might have gotten a small raise, while 9 of your co-workers reported to Unemployment.  As technology advances, there will be less and less work for humans to do, but laborers will not benefit from labor-saving devices.  Unemployment may reach 80-90%.

Will the ultra-wealthy pay a guaranteed minimum salary to everyone who is out of work?  Not willingly.  They are already fostering the idea that people who don’t work shouldn’t even get unemployment benefits.  What will happen in 2084 when there is little work?  Who will provide the unemployed with food, clothing, shelter, and a little entertainment, so that everyone can live in peace in a little utopia?  The government?  Not likely, since the governments will be broke, because corporations don’t pay taxes, and corporations will have all the money. 

Whoever owns the robots will get rich, and the rich will just get richer.  The poor will scratch out a living or die.

What can we do to prevent this?  We’re going to need a method of sharing the wealth.  We need more employee-owned businesses, and we need the rich to take a smaller piece of the pie.  Today, the ultra-rich who own sports teams, insure that they will make a healthy profit by instituting salary caps on the players.  Perhaps we will have to apply salary caps on the ultra-rich.  Let’s just say that we put an earnings cap at $1 billion a year.  Everything that is earn over that will go to provide for the have nots.  We have the numbers.  There are more non-billionaires than billionaires.  We can change the laws and “make America great again” for everyone.  The ultra-rich can feed the poor instead of feeding off them, and if they don’t like it, they can just get in their rocket ships and go to Mars.

Peace & Love, and all of the above,

Earl

Deny and Die

May be a cartoon of text that says 'RME COUNTERPOINT.COM caglecartoons.com After Michelangelo D aua 10 COVID ANTI- VAXXER'

I don’t need your stinkin’ vaccine,

I’ve got a tube of Hydroxychloroquine.

And I’m not scared of any infection,

‘Cause I’ve been chewing Ivermectin.

Don’t think that I’m a conspiracy nut,

just because I shine a light up my butt.

Go to a doctor? That’s a reach.

I’ll listen to Trump and drink my bleach.

Dr. Fauci can kiss my rump,

I take the same meds as Donald Trump.

It’ll all go away by Easter he cried.

So, there’s no way that over 600,000 died.

I get my news from watching Fox,

And a friend of my cousin who really rocks.

I won’t get vaccinated, so stop your yellin’

I don’t want balls the size of a melon.

I want you all to read my lips.

I won’t be injected with microchips.

I don’t want a vaccine reaction,

That turns me into a magnetic attraction.

So, keep your vaccine, because I won’t take it.

I’ve read your news and I know you fake it.

So, by the time, this poem you’ve read,

….

(unfinished because he turned up dead.)

Don’t be dead wrong. Get vaccinated.

Peace & Love, and all of the above,

Earl

Perspective

Insurrection: How Tump prepped his far-right army for years to invade the  Capitol - World News - Haaretz.com
Washington D.C. January 6, 2021

As I get older, I realize that I don’t have the physical or mental powers I had when I was young.  My health isn’t as good as it was.  My left hip is certainly weaker than it was in my youth.  Age does have one thing going for it, though, perspective.  I didn’t just read about history in books.  For the past 73 years, I lived it.  I’ve seen things.

After World War II, Russia annexed a bunch of countries as satellite countries.  The satellite nations of the Soviet Union were Bulgaria, Romania, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Poland, and East Germany, which all became communist and members of the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance.

Was it was wrong for the Soviets to forcibly control their “satellite nations,” and to refuse to let them be independent from Russia?  Did we feel that the Soviet Union was right in holding onto these countries?  Hell No.  We protested and wound up in a cold war with the Soviet Union.  President Reagan, echoed our feelings about the iron curtain at the Berlin Wall when he famously appealed to the Soviet Premier, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.”

By this same logic, though, it was wrong for the U.S. to use force to prevent the Southern States from seceding from the Union in 1860.  President Buchanan, a Constitutional lawyer, knew this and he let them go.  When Lincoln became President, though, the old wrestler chose rather to fight.  He wanted war, because he thought it would be won easily.

It’s also funny how he felt that the South had no right to secede from the Union, but West Virginia had every right to secede from Virginia?

Do you want to claim that the South took a vow to stay in the union when they ratified the Constitution?  Let me remind you that 41% of first marriages end in divorce, even though both parties take a sacred vow before God, Family, and Country to remain together in sickness or health, richer, poorer, etc. until death do they part.

Break-ups happen.  When Great Britain announced that it was leaving the European Union, did the European Union send troops into Britain to change their mind.  No, but Lincoln sent troops into the South to change their mind.  This presence of troops did force border states to remain in the union even though they had slaves and probably sided with the Confederacy.

There are those who scream that secession was not about State’s Rights.  It was about Slavery.  They say that the South seceded so that they could have slavery.  This is just a big lie.  The South already had slavery, and not only did they have it, but that “peculiar institution” was protected by the Constitution of the United States and the decision of the Supreme Court ( i.e. the Dred Scott decision).  Remaining in the Union would have protected the institution of slavery for decades, because to amend the Constitution requires the approval of ¾ of the States.  Before the South seceded, there were 33 states, 18 free and 15 slave states.  So, that means that 25 states would have to vote for any amendment to the Constitution.  The abolitionists were 7 states short.  The Institution of Slavery was, therefore, protected by the U.S. Constitution.  If Lincoln had allowed the 11 Confederate States to leave the Union, there would only have been 22 states in the Union, and they would only need 17 of those states to pass an amendment against slavery.  They had 18 states ready to pass such an Amendment.  The Civil War was not about ending slavery.  It was about punishing the slave holders.

If Lincoln’s chief goal was to end slavery, they could have ended it quickly with the approval of Congress and 17 states.  Instead, it was four years before the 13th Amendment was finally passed. 650,000 Americans were killed in the Civil War, and a century and a half later, resentment still exists between the two areas of the country.  Just look at all the Trumpees waving Confederate flags.

The Civil War was not fought to end slavery.  It was fought to preserve the Union.  Lincoln himself said, “If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it. And if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone, I would also do that.”  So, ending slavery was not The Great Emancipator’s main goal.  Preventing the South from leaving the Union was his primary goal.  Dominion by force over a weaker opponent was his goal.

Slavery was illegal in Mexico at the time.  If slavery was also made illegal in the Union States, the newly-formed Southern Confederacy would have instantly been between a rock and a hard place.  As long as the South stayed in the Union, though, the slaves couldn’t even run away.  The Fugitive Slave Law required that escaped slaves must be returned to their “masters.”  If the 13th Amendment had been pursued instead of Civil War, the Fugitive Slave Act would be revoked and slaves could have escaped to Mexico or the Union, without any risk of being returned to their “masters.”

When the South seceded from the Union, they did not attack it, nor declare war against it.  They didn’t storm Washington, D.C.  They resigned their positions in Government, left the North, and went home to form their own country.  The Northern armies chased after them.  South Carolina seceded from the Union on December 20, 1860.  The Union soldiers, however refused to leave Fort Sumpter, South Carolina.  That made them trespassers in the eyes of the Confederacy. Lincoln refused to pull the troops out and in early April actually attempted to reinforce the troops.  Shots were then fired on Fort Sumter on April 12th.  Nobody was killed.  (One horse died.)  When the union soldiers surrendered the fort, they were not taken as prisoners of war.  The South had not declared war on the U.S.  They sent the troops back North.  Then Lincoln declared war against the South, because he felt that with his superior army and factories he could whip the South in just a few short months.  The people of Washington even brought picnic lunches to watch the first battles.  Like we learned in Vietnam and the Middle East, though, it is not so easy to defeat a people who are defending their homeland.

Was slavery wrong?  Looking at it with modern eyes, of course it was.  Even back then, country after country was realizing that it was wrong and they were outlawing it (Haiti, 1793; Spain, 1811; Canada, 1819; Mexico, 1829; U.K., 1823; Sweden, 1847; Denmark, 1848; France, 1848; and Portugal, 1858).  But the south wasn’t fighting for slavery.  They already had that, and, like I said, it was protected by the Constitution of the United States.  They were fighting for freedom from the Union., freedom from a President that they felt was a tyrant, which may be why John Wilkes Booth yelled the motto of the State of Virginia, “Sic semper tyrannis,” when he shot Lincoln.  Thus, always to tyrants.

By the way, slaves were considered property back then.  So, when Great Britain outlawed slavery, they compensated the slave owners for their loss of property.  It cost England 20 million pounds sterling, but they bought every slave on British soil, and freed them instantly.  One of the big reasons that the South seceded from the Union was economics. Lincoln and the Abolitionists wanted to free all 4 million slaves in the South without giving slave owners a dime in compensation.  In 1862, Lincoln did, however, pay off slave owners $300 for every slave they had in Washington, D.C. only because he was embarrassed that there were slave auctions in the nation’s capital.

To put this in terms everyone will understand.  Imagine, that instead of buying a slave you just bought a brand new automobile and then the government overnight passed environmental legislation that outlawed gas-powered vehicles and they confiscated your car without giving you any compensation.  That’s what Lincoln was planning for the slave owners.

Similarly, if the government passed anti-gun legislation and confiscated all the guns, I’m sure there would be serious trouble, even if they compensated the gun owners.

So, in my many years on this planet, I have learned that history is simply his story, the story written by the winners.  If you read the writings on the left, the people who stormed the Capitol on January 6th were guilty of violent sedition against the United States. If you read the writings on the right, they were patriotic tourists.  The history will be written by the ultimate winners.  I’m glad that I have the perspective to take all my American history with a large grain of salt.

Peace & Love, and all of the above,

Earl

Friendship First

I still have friends, who went to school with me.  We hung out together and had fun for more than 60 years.  We don’t see each other very often anymore, but some of us stay in touch.

I still have friends who I was stationed with in Alaska or Germany.  We still see each other or stay in contact occasionally via e-mail.  We’ve all been friends for more than 50 years.

I still have friends from jobs I’ve held.  Some of those friendships go back to the Telephone Company 40 years ago.

What do they all these friends have in common?  They’re on the Internet.  It’s a great way to stay in touch with those who may be far away.  It does have its pitfalls, though.  One of them is “social media.”

Many of my friends helped me get home when I was drunk.  That’s only fair since many of them helped me get drunk in the first place.  My life has been a long party, and I have thousands of great memories of good times with all my friends.  I’ve actually had millions of good times, but my memory isn’t so good anymore.  The point is that my friends mean a lot to me, and I appreciate what their friendship has meant to me over many decades.

So why is it that my immediate reaction is “What an asshole…” when I read something they posted on Facebook that differs from my own political opinion?  For decades I never knew or cared what political party they belonged to.  We just enjoyed each other’s company.  For year’s my parents would cancel out each other’s vote in the Presidential election, as one was a Republican and the other a Democrat.  They finally agreed on a Conservative Goldwater, of all people.  They never fought about their political differences, though.  They never even argued about it.  Everyone was entitled to their own opinion.

But not anymore.  Politics has become a great divider.  It’s ironic when you think about it.  About 150,000,000 votes were cast in the last Presidential election.  So, everyone’s vote actually represented 0.00000067% of the final decision.  Therefore, looking at it in that mathematical perspective, who you voted for, made practically no difference in the final outcome of the election.  Why is it such a major determinant of who we choose as friends?

The folks at Psychology Today came up with a list of 13 qualities essential to friendship.

  1. I am trustworthy.
  2. I am honest with others.
  3. I am generally very dependable.
  4. I am loyal to the people I care about.
  5. I am easily able to trust others.
  6. I experience and express empathy for others.
  7. I am able to be non-judgmental.
  8. I am a good listener.
  9. I am supportive of others in their good times
  10. I am supportive of others in their bad times.
  11. I am self-confident.
  12. I am usually able to see the humor in life.
  13. I am fun to be around.

We each have an area where we can improve as friends.  I’m gonna start with trait #7, and see if I can get through a few more political posts on Facebook without cringing.  Decades of friendship must be remembered and taken into consideration, before I scream “What an Asshole” at the screen.

Peace & Love, and all of the above,

Earl

Make Me Proud

Some of the things I’ve written lately have offended a few people.  They didn’t like things I said about Republicans in general and Donald Trump in particular.  This issue will be different.  It will probably piss off everyone.

The Fourth of July is coming up and Americans will be celebrating their Independence from Great Britain.  I’m sure that I will hear plenty of patriotic songs that week.  I might even play a few myself on my “Jedi” Saxophone.  Many of the songs will be about the pride people have in America, the land of the free and the home of the brave.

I consider myself lucky to have been born in the United States, but, even though I served 4 years in the military, I am not proud of this country.  The United States is a land of violent hypocrites, and it goes all the way back to the Founding Fathers (and actually even further back).

Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence, which contained the words, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Thomas Jefferson owned over 600 human beings throughout the course of his life.

George Washington led the American army that won the War of Independence, and he became our first President.  He was uneasy with the institution of slavery and spoke frequently of his desire to end the practice.  However, at the time of George Washington’s death, he owned 317 slaves.

Seventeen of the 55 delegates to the Constitutional Convention owned a total of about 1,400 slaves. Of the first 12 U.S. presidents, eight were slave owners.

Haiti (then Saint-Domingue) formally declared independence from France in 1804 and became the first sovereign nation in the Western Hemisphere to unconditionally abolish slavery.  Slavery was not abolished in the United States until more than 60 years later, January 31, 1865.  Even then, the 13th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which aimed to abolish slavery, had a loophole that allowed slavery to remain legal.

Section I of the amendment reads:

“Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”

This “Exception Clause”, also known as the Punishment Clause, made it possible for slavery to be used as a method of punishment, allowing the government to legally subject people incarcerated all across the United States, from sea to shining sea, to be subject to forced labor.

The Prison Policy Initiative, a non-profit organization, estimated in 2016 that in the United States, about 2,298,300 people were incarcerated out of a population of 324.2 million. This means that 0.7% of the population was imprisoned.  This is not quite the land of the free.

In 2018, black Americans represented 33% of the sentenced prison population, nearly triple their 12% share of the U.S. adult population.  More than 150 years after slavery was supposed to be abolished, orange is the new slavery.

Forced labor in prisons is often built into “rehabilitation” or “educational” programs. Many who are incarcerated report being threatened with solitary confinement or longer sentences if they refuse to work. On top of this, incarcerated people are often paid little or nothing for their work, leaving them with almost no savings to help them re-enter society upon release, almost guaranteeing their return to prison.

Remember the almost two and a half million incarcerated Americans when you sing “I’m proud to be an American, where at least I know I’m free.” Lee Greenwood might not be singing that song if he wasn’t a white guy.

Besides America’s history of slavery, we also have a long history of being war mongers.  We love our wars and revere our warriors.  Twelve Presidents were Generals.

Listing our numerous wars, I won’t even count the Revolutionary War.  So, we’ll start with the War of 1812 (1812-1815).  I won’t count the many wars with Native Americans before the Revolution, but we do have to count the numerous Indian Wars between 1817 and 1898.  Then there’s the Mexican War (1846-1848).  Then, running out of other people to fight, we fought each other in the worst war in our history, the Civil War (1861-1865).  We went back to fighting the rest of the world with the Spanish-American War (1898-1902).  Then we graduated to World War I (1917-1918) and World War II (1941-1945).

World War II was the last time Congress officially declared war.   We did have the Korean War (1950-1953), but since 1945, the conflicts we’ve called “wars” have actually been congressional “authorizations of military force.”  John and Yoko Lennon said “War is over, if you want it.”  The United States says, War is over if we just rename it.

In 2013, the US Special Operations Command (SOCOM) had special operations forces (SOFs) in 134 countries, where they were either involved in combat, special missions, or advising and training foreign forces.  Since Geography is no longer taught in American schools, I bet that most Americans can’t even name 134 countries.

Anyhow, we had Vietnam (1964-1975), that Invasion of Grenada (1983), Desert Shield, Desert Storm (1990-1991), and now the granddaddies of them all the Global War on Terror, Operation Enduring Freedom, and Operation Iraqi Freedom (2001-probably forever).

We’ve even had a war against stupidity.  In 1929, the U.S. Supreme Court, in Buck v Bell came to an 8-1 decision that okayed the forced sterilization of stupid people, and other undesirables.  70,000 Americans were sterilized in the name of Eugenics, but, obviously, that didn’t end stupidity in this country.  Our little experiment in Eugenics may even have inspired Hitler.  Maybe that’s why his little plan to wipe out the Jews, didn’t instantly bring out our usual desire to get into another war.  We didn’t spring into action until an enemy with yellow skin showed up.  Then we showed them the rockets red glare and bombs bursting in air, two great big nuclear ones.

You’d think that all those wars would be enough bloodshed to satisfy even the most blood-thirsty people around, but no, when we Americans can’t find somebody else to kill, we just kill each other.

Mass shootings are incidents in which a shooter kills at least four victims. Using this definition, one study found that nearly one-third of the world’s public mass shootings between 1966 and 2012 (90 of 292 incidents) occurred in the United States.  Using a similar definition, The Washington Post reported 163 mass shootings in the United States between 1967 and June 2019.  If you ask someone if they heard about the latest mass shooting, they’ll probably ask you which one you’re talking about.  Lately, it seems that there have been a few every week, and you can’t tell your mass shootings without a scorecard.

As for your run-of-the-mill shootings, a total of 39,740 people were killed by firearms in 2018.  Some were suicides.  So, we don’t even stop with killing others.

All in all, it’s not really a history to instill pride.  If you want me to be proud of America, make me.  End discrimination.  Stop killing people.  Pass tough gun control laws.  Stop being the world’s #1 arms merchants, and work for peace.

Then maybe I’ll be able to sing along with you.

Peace & Love, and all of the above,

Earl

Humpty Trumpty

Humpty Trumpty promised a wall.

But Humpty Trumpty had a great fall.

He broke down completely and refused to admit,

That Biden won the election and Trumpty should quit.

Then while he was down and locked out of Twitter.

Cops seized what Rudy couldn’t flush down the shitter.

So, now we just wait as Grand Juries convene,

And we hope that Trumpty’s taxes will also be seen.

And Trumpty’s ties with Russia concern us, they do.

Will Putin put cameras in Joe’s bedroom, too?

Trump beat two impeachments, but he still wound up scarred.

Now, he hides out in Mar-A-Lago, the only place he’s not barred.

And, all the king’s horses and sycophantic friends.

Can’t put Humpty Trumpty together again.

They put back the hair, that was easy to do.

And only required a few tubes of glue.

The tiny hands were stapled to the end of his shirt,

And The Frankenstein they built, looked almost unhurt,

But the pressure of anatomy, pretty soon got ‘em,

And his Don’t Trust-Science friends F%^ked up his bottom.

They put his front, where his ass should be,

(An easy mistake, because he’s all ass to me.)

But, I still can’t figure out how the Trumpty fans missed it.

Surely, they knew his butt from all the times that they kissed it.

They painted him gold and gave him a wand.

A monument to all who had been by him conned.

Humpty’s brain was scrambled, but he still got down,

Before he left office and snuck out of town.

He gave Presidential pardons to all of his friends.

So, they could visit him in jail, when all of this ends.

Americans Pass Time

“The sun came out today.  We’re born again, there’s new grass on the field.”

I got back from a trip to New York in March of 2020, and I went into self-quarantine, as soon as I got back to Lancaster.  During this year, I only left my apartment when it was absolutely necessary, like when I ran out of liquor.  Even then, I always masked up and wore disposable gloves.  Shortly, after I got my second shot of the Covid vaccine, many of the government restrictions on masks and social distancing were lifted.  But, after a year of rarely ranging further than my front door, where the packages were dropped off by various delivery persons, I found myself not wanting to leave the house.

I went to the supermarket, for the first time in a year, last month.  Everyone was wearing a mask, and I was glad to comply with that minor inconvenience, to be able to pick up steaks, chickens, cheese, and other perishable things that online supermarkets don’t regularly deliver, things I haven’t had in a long time.  However, I haven’t been back to the supermarket since.  I make a shopping list now, but I just order what I can get online, instead of going.  It must have something to do with inertia.  An object in motion tends to stay in motion, while and object at rest tends to stay at rest, and I’ve been resting for over a year.  Like Morgan Freeman’s character, Red, in The Shawshank Redemption, I have become “institutionalized.”  I’ve been living in self-quarantine so long, that I’m used to it.  We feared social contact for so long that a mild form of Agoraphobia set in, not an extreme fear of the outside, just less interest in it.  All this was despite the months of yammering on about all the things I would do when restrictions were lifted.  Now that I could do what I wanted, I just didn’t feel like doing anything or going anywhere.

Most of the people I met in the past year were online.  All the courses I took this year were online.  I learned to play the e-sax and a few guitar chords from watching online videos.  No place to go, only meant no traffic to deal with, no buses to take, no rushing around.  Bars were closed, but liquor stores were open.  Medical Marijuana appeared on the scene, to ease my aching hip, even though I wasn’t walking anywhere.  The year 2020 could have inspired another Tale of Two Cities story from Charles Dickens.  I was the worst of times, but it had its moments.

But now, I’ve had both shots.  It’s time to shake off complacency, and get back to normal, normal.  To go outside.  To talk Face-to-face with people.  To be part of a cheering crowd.  …and The Lancaster Barnstormers came to the rescue.

Last week, the Barnstormers played their arch rival, the York Revolution, in a spring training game.  Admission was free, people, who had their shots, didn’t have to wear masks, and hot dogs were only a buck.  There was no excuse to sit around the house, any longer.  So, I finally got out of the house and spent 3 gloriously social hours at the ballpark.

It wasn’t very crowded, so social distancing wouldn’t have been a problem, but it wasn’t required.  The only change I noticed was that cash was no longer accepted.  Purchases had to be made using plastic.  It felt weird buying a $1 hot dog with a credit card.  So, I added some beers, every time, just so that some bank manager wouldn’t flag my purchase as unusual.

The score was 4-2 in favor of York, as they headed into the bottom of the 9th.  The Stormers put the tying runs on with only one out and the Blake Gailen came to the plate, representing the winning run.  He’s been on the club for ages, and he is the club’s all-time leading homerun hitter.  We held our collective breath as he swung.  A ground ball up the middle resulted in a double play.  Game over.  NB.  It still felt great just to get “out with the crowd.”

Peace & Love, and all of the above,

Earl

Six Degrees of Covid 19

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There is a parlor game called Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon.  The idea is to connect one actor with another actor via movies they have been in and other actors who have appeared in those movies.  The game is named after Kevin Bacon, because he has been in so many movies with so many other actors that you should be able to link him to any actor within six moves.  For example, if I wanted to connect Kevin Bacon to Ricard Dreyfuss, I could start off, Kevin Bacon was in Footloose with John Lithgow.  John Lithgow was in the World According to Garp with Robin Williams.  Robin Williams was in Good Morning Vietnam with Forest Whitaker, and Forest Whitaker was in Mr. Holland’s opus with Richard Dreyfuss.  For over a year now scientists have been playing a version of this game called Six Degrees of Covid 19.

There are two basic things to think about in any disease, the contagion rate and the mortality rate.  The contagion rate is important to scientist who are trying to trace a source of an infection.  They will try to find out who was in contact with their patient.  So, they might find out that their patient shared an elevator ride with an infected person, who, in turn, picked up the infection by sharing a subway car with an infected person, who may have picked up the infection at a movie theatre, where they sat by an infected person.  The mortality rate is the percentage of people who die from the disease.  So, heart disease is not infectious.  You could spend all day in a cardiologist’s office and not have to worry about picking up heart disease.  However, the mortality rate may be high.  If you have heart disease, it could easily kill you.  The Common Cold, on the other hand, has a high contagion rate, but a low mortality rate.

So, let’s say that the Covid 19 virus has a contagion rate of 2.  That means that everyone who gets infected will probably spread it to two others.  So, you start with one, who infects two others, who infect 4 others, who infect 8 others, who infect 16 others, etc. until one day 130,341,697 people worldwide have been infected.  The good news is that the contagion rate can be controlled.  You are less likely to spread it to two people if you wear a mask and maintain social distancing.  Others are less likely to be infected if they wear a mask, maintain social distancing, and get immunized.  If you are infected by a disease with a contagion rate of 2, but half the population is inoculated against the disease, it is likely that you will only spread it to 1 other person.  If 85% of the population has been inoculated, then it is likely that an infected person will not spread the disease to anyone.  This is the meaning of “herd immunity.”  This is why wearing masks, social distancing, and inoculation are so very important in containing a pandemic.

Worldwide, the Covid 19 virus has killed 2,839,884 people, which is about 2% of those infected.  As better treatments become available, more people are surviving, but basically, for every 100 people who are infected today, 98 will show no symptoms or have mild symptoms from which they will recover with treatment.  However, for every 100 people who are infected, one will require intensive care to keep them alive, and one will definitely go to the cemetery.  Two percent of the people who are infected will face a life-threatening emergency.

A recent study published in Scientific American stated that 2% of Americans in a certain age range (I’m not telling which) believe that the Earth is not round but flat.  So, if I asked everyone in this age group a very easy question like, “What is the shape of the Earth?” a shocking 2% would get it wrong.  So, imagine if I said that I was going to ask you a very simple question, and if you got it right, I would give you a cookie, but if you got it wrong you would die.  Then I asked you a very simple question like, “What is the name of the President of the United States?”  Anyone who said Joe Biden would get a cookie.  Unfortunately, not everyone would wind up with a cookie, though.  Hard as it may be to believe, 2% would probably get this simple question wrong.  It is similar to Covid 19, except without the cookies.  If you are exposed to the virus, 98% of you will live, but 2% will die or wind up requiring life-saving medical intervention.  Do you want to take that bet?  Especially, when you don’t even have the possibility of winning a cookie.  Getting a Covid 19 vaccination won’t get you a cookie, but it will put you in the 98% group, and reduce the chances of you spreading the disease to others.

So, please wear a mask, maintain social distancing, and get vaccinated as soon as possible.  You certainly don’t want to be responsible for giving Covid 19 to Kevin Bacon.

Peace & Love, and all of the above,

Earl

Conspiracy Theory

I’ve been reading about conspiracy theories, and I find it’s a very hard subject to figure out.  The reason is because of the vast amount of misinformation that floods the Internet.  How can you tell what’s true, anymore?

Fox News Channel represents the Right, and MSNBC represents the Left.  So, you’re not going to get the straight truth from either of them.  I haven’t figured out who, if anybody, accurately represents the middle yet.  So, I look elsewhere for the truth, but I can’t find it.

Social media is definitely not the place to find the truth.  The posts on Facebook, seem to represent only far right or far left ideas.  There’s very little middle ground.  Yes, there are a few people who still post recipes and pictures of their cats, but most of the posts are political, and they are mostly extreme viewpoints.  Full disclosure – My own opinion almost always sides with the left.  So, when I hear the things that the far right Q Anon people believe, the first thought that comes to my head is that these people must be very stupid to believe such bullshit.

The second thought that comes to my head is that I know some of these people.  They are friends of mine, and they’re not stupid people.  So, why do they believe such utter nonsense, like stories about the Clintons and Obamas drinking baby’s blood in the back of a Washington D.C. pizzeria to keep them from aging.  Maybe Michelle Obama doesn’t look like she’s aging, but that’s because she’s into vegetables and exercise.  Have you seen the Clintons and Barrack Obama lately?  They’re aging.  The mysterious Q is just making stuff up and telling it to some very gullible people who believe it.  That’s it.  The people who believe these conspiracies aren’t necessarily stupid.  They are just gullible.  Actually, they might be both stupid and gullible, like Marjorie Taylor Greene, but my question is why are the rest so gullible?

I think that the answer is conditioning.  Americans have been programmed to be gullible since they were little, tiny children.  We all were told that if you’re a good child, Santa Claus will bring you presents for Christmas.  And you can’t fool Santa Claus.  He sees you when you’re sleeping.  He knows when you’re awake.  He knows if you’ve been bad or good, so be good for goodness sake.  If you’re a good child, the Easter Bunny will bring you colored eggs and candy for Easter.  We found out quickly that you can fool him though.  He’s just a rabbit.  He brings eggs and candy treats to everyone, good or bad, unlike Santa who will bring you only coal if you are bad.

The gullibility conditioning goes on and on throughout childhood.  If you get out of bed at night, the boogieman will get you.  If you lose a tooth, you can put it under your pillow, and the Tooth Fairy will give you money for the tooth.  And when you’re too old to believe in Santa, or the Easter Bunny, or the Boogie Man, or the Tooth Fairy, parents play the ace they’ve had hidden up their sleeve.  They play the God card.  There is an invisible man in the sky who is so powerful that He made the entire universe in 6 days.  He’s keeping an eye on you, and you can’t hide from Him, because He sees everything.  He can even see through lead, something that even Superman can’t do.  If you’re good, He’ll take you to a magic place full of angels called Heaven.  If you’re bad, He’ll send you to an awful place full of devils called Hell.  And you can never grow out of that conditioning, like you grew out of believing in Santa.  God is a forever fantasy.  Even your parents still believe in Him.  He’s supposedly been around for eternity, and He’s supposedly everywhere, yet nobody’s ever seen Him.  He’s the gullibility jackpot, with an approval rating of about 85% in America.

So, we’re taught from childhood to have blind Faith, and to believe in things that don’t make any sense at all.  Santa drives flying reindeer and can visit every house on the planet in one single night.  A bunny knows how to weave baskets, dye eggs, and make delicious marshmallow peeps.  Boogie men are invisible, but they can still bite.  The Tooth Fairy know when every single kid on the planet loses a tooth, and can be at his house that night.  God created everyone and He loves everyone, but He also created things like cancer and Covid 19 to kill us, so don’t even try to figure Him out.  It’s all part of His glorious plan, which we can never understand, but we can make Him change the glorious plan for the Universe if we pray hard enough.

We’ve been brought up to believe a lot of utterly ridiculous nonsense.  So, it’s no wonder that 2% of Americans between the ages of 18 and 24 believe that the Earth is flat, not round.  When somebody with the penname Q says he saw the Clintons and the Obamas slurping down baby blood smoothies in a pizzeria in D.C., it’s no wonder that some people actually believe it.

This isn’t new.  My generation was sure that Paul McCartney died decades ago in a car crash, because he was the only one who was barefoot on the Abbey Road album cover.  We found our absolutely 100% convincing evidence by playing Beatles records backwards.  None of us were considered stupid, but we sure were very gullible, despite the fact that back then we did have a news source we could trust.  We had Walter Cronkite.

Be kind to the gullible, especially the young ones.  Just “pray” that they grow out of it.

Peace & Love, and all of the above,

Earl

Ode to Twenty-Twenty

A year ago, we rang in Twenty-twenty,

A year that brought us trouble a plenty.

It brought in with it the Covid-19 flu,

And we wound up in lockdown with nothing to do.

Trump said it was nothing, but Fauci was wiser.

So, we put on masks and used hand sanitizer.

We were all on our own, taking care of ourselves.

Purell, bleach, and toilet paper flew off the shelves.

Parents became teachers; schools closed in each town.

The only good news was school shootings were down.

There was a limit on the number of people allowed in a room.

To see friends and neighbors we had to use ZOOM.

It was months before we could go out to eat,

Even then, we all had to eat on the street.

Sporting events weren’t allowed to have fans.

Cardboard cutouts soon filled up the stands.

Tensions ran high; racial peace was shattered.

People turned to the streets to prove Black lives mattered.

There were protests, and riots, and looting, and more.

While we wore out a path to our hard liquor store.

Trump couldn’t believe his re-election would fail.

Until Biden surprised him with a flood of snail mail.

But Trump wouldn’t concede.  He made legal noise,

With Rudy Guilianni, and the help of Proud Boys.

Soon people cared less, which one was elected,

When a vaccine for Covid, was finally perfected.

So, as the new year begins, we’ll all raise glasses,

And tell Twenty-twenty to kiss all our asses.

Happy New Year to Everyone.

Peace & Love, and all of the above,

Earl