Mask confusion

I’m seeing a lot of posts on social media showing confusion about the wearing of masks in public.

Here’s the short version: Wear a mask in public if you can, not because it protects you, but because you’re not a a-hole.


Public health experts believe wearing a mask will help limit the spread of the virus by reducing transmission from presymptomatic and asymptomatic individuals with SARS-CoV-2.

What the left gets wrong

Unfortunately, there are too many on the left who not only are willing to do the right thing (good), but need to act with moral superiority to others. They post memes like:
If you hate wearing a face mask you're really not going to like the ventilator

protesters and woman in scrubs with 'See you soon' sign.

implying that folks who don’t wear masks or follow other mandates are risking their own life. People under 60 or so with no health conditions don’t get severe COVID-cases.
By promoting a false narrative, well meaning individuals are actually sowing confusion, not compliance.

What the right gets wrong

The are too many people on the right saying mask wearing doesn’t work.

They point out that initially health authorities did not recommend masks, and studies show mask wearing doesn’t protect the wearer against contracting COVID-19.

The second point is easiest: No informed individual thinks it does. Since the recommendation to wear them came out, CDC has been consistent in its message. A cloth face covering may not protect the wearer, but it may keep the wearer from spreading the virus to others.

As to the changing recommendation, isn’t it reasonable to change your mind as you get new information? Yesterday’s weather forecast said little chance of rain today. This morning I see dark clouds, I will go back inside and grab my umbrella.

When the pandemic started, scientists didn’t know much about it, and much of the information came from a totalitarian government. Recommendations were based on what was known about similar viruses. As knowledge of SARS-CoV-2 increases, guidance changes.

Citizens guide to COVID masks

If in public spaces near other people, wear a mask if you can. Keep it clean so it doesn’t make you sick. If you see someone without a mask, be a decent human being and assume they have a health condition that contraindicates mask wearing. If you are concerned because you are high risk, just don’t go there.

Do something useful

George Floyd is dead. Freddie Gray is dead. Tony Timpa is dead. The list goes on.

Because Floyd’s slow death by four police officers was caught contemporaneously on video, we are properly outraged. The question is, what are you going to do about it?

Stupid stuff

  • Let’s black out social media pages.
  • Let’s post statements of solidarity.
  • Let’s tell black folks we feel their pain.
  • Let’s tell white folks they’re racist because they were born white.
  • Let’s argue over which slogan is the most apropos. (BLM? ALM?)
  • Point out other causes of death (black on black crime, et. al.)


The crux of the matter.

It’s not a competition for who is most oppressed. Citizens are dying at the hands of the people we empower and pay. For years we could live in ignorance. For years many of us unconditionally believed the “got injured resisting arrest” coverups. (Of course police will have to use force in some situations and people will get hurt. Not what we are talking about.) The age of video everywhere has brought an end to the illusion.

The abuses and coverups happen because we do not hold individual officers accountable for their misconduct.

  • Qualified immunity makes it nearly impossible to legally hold officers responsible for what common sense should tell us is immoral behavior. The Supremes had already started looking at it before the Floyd homicide. It is based on law, not the constitution. Congress needs to act. You need to tell them to. Contact your federal and state representatives today.
  • Police unions make it nearly impossible for good police chiefs to fix the problems. Again, contact legislatures to demand changes in union contracts. Better discipline and more transparency. (No, this is not an anti-union screed. If police officers want to negotiate overtime pay and the like, there is nothing wrong with that. But discipline and firing of bad apples should not part of contracts.)

Do those two things and maybe you have done something actually useful.

Stay on target

The Freedom riders movement was successful in part because Americans of all races joined together to fight oppression. If you think the death of George Floyd was wrong and we as a nation need to take steps to fix it, don’t fret whether a potential ally has a different emphasis than you. It is counter-productive: the most likely outcome of splintering into groups based on political philosophy or political party is nothing meaningful will change.

If you’re white and feel your accident of birth imposes extra responsibility on you, that’s fine. If you reject the notion that you are inherently a racist because you were born white, that’s fine too. Police caused deaths have occurred with black Democratic presidents and white Republican ones. They have happened with police chiefs of all races by officers of all races.

Many will attempt to hijack our outrage for monetary or political purposes. Our politics of the moment should focus on demanding legal changes to the system. The other issues can wait for another day.

Down the rabbit hole

If you want to pursue the cause and effect of our police and community becoming estranged with each other, consider the deleterious effects of the following:

  • Politicians are fond of raising money using selective back door taxes. Red-light cameras. Revenue from citations. Asset forfeiture. Sin taxes. Eric Garner was choked to death for selling black market cigarettes. Had the politicians and anti-smoking zealots not imposed ruinous taxes on legal cigarettes, Garner would not have been there in the first place. (Smoking might kill over years, choke holds kill now.) Demand that government be funded with direct taxes.
  • You don’t call an electrician to fix a water leak. Using police to fight the medical condition of addiction is using the wrong tool for the job, and makes people who are ill criminals. End the war on drugs. Smoking has gone way down since I was a kid without criminalizing it. Education, education, education.

If you pursue this line of thinking to its logical conclusion, you’ll end up being a libertarian, of course. (Except for their naive on foreign policy.) Maybe that’s too far for you to go. That’s fine. Just start with contacting your legislators about unqualified immunity and police unions.

Why DeVos is education secretary

Some of my liberal / progressive friends have expressed displeasure and / or surprise that Betsy DeVos was confirmed as Secretary of Education. In the perhaps overly optimistic hope that there is still a place for civil political discourse in 2017, I’ll explain it.

First off all, there was a time when the US Senate valued consensus and required 60 votes to confirm a cabinet level appointment. But recently the majority Senate leader changed the rules, after changing the rule that such a change would require a two thirds vote. I’m talking about former Democratic majority leader Harry Reid, who pulled this stunt in 2013. Current majority leader Mitch McConnell was against the move: It’s a sad day in the history of the Senate. So if you’re upset the Rs are able to confirm cabinet level positions without any Democratic support, you can thank Harry Reid.

Secondly — yes, I’ve seen the graphs of DeVos’s political contributions. What’s important to understand is that for years, politically the national teacher unions have essentially been wholly owned subsidiary of the Democratic party, donating millions. Middle America likes teachers — that doesn’t mean it likes teacher unions. An August 2016 Rasmussen poll found only 20% of likely voters think unions do a good job for there members and 50% think they have too much political influence. Union membership remains high only because of mandatory membership rules in many states ; when workers are given a choice in right to work states, enrollment drops … since it’s hard to find anything resembling non-biased (left or right) reporting on that, here’s the google news results. I did find this analysis by a human resources website interesting. By shilling for the losing presidential candidate, and interjecting itself in non educational political topics [1] [2], the National Education Association both alienates part of the public and plays a high stakes, “all in” political game; a good strategy if and only if your picks win. They lost: why would anyone expect anything but an anti-teacher union stance from the (current) powers that be??

Thirdly, because Americans went to school, they think they understand schools. (I did until I started working in them.) The idea of choice has powerful appeal: one current US Senator, in a book cowritten with their daughter, wrote: Fully funded vouchers would relieve parents from the terrible choice of leaving their kids in lousy schools or bankrupting themselves to escape those schools, and that was Democratic Elizabeth Warren.

Of course vouchers are good for kids with parents with the skill set to utilize them, but maybe not so good for society at large; like many topics involving humans, where gold standard scientific processes can’t be applied, research and opinions vary. Nonetheless Trump ran on pro-voucher platform and he won.

Finally — don’t blame Mike Pence for his tie breaking vote. For all the reasons I’ve outlined above DeVos was essentially in as soon as Trump nominated here. Only two Rs opposed, Lisa Murkowski, who owed public sector unions for her 2010 victory as a write in, and Susan Collins from blue state Maine who may be considering a run for governor. McConnell can count — it didn’t hurt anything for two R Senators to oppose, so it’s not that big a deal from the Republican view of things.


Stupid research

So today’s copy of the Journal Inquirer (JI) has the provocative headline: Students mine data to find where unfaithful husbands live: Fairfield County. Well it’s actually a Toledo Blade story — the Connecticut based JI just tacked the “Fairfield County” on the end.

So these kids at University of Toledo use data from hacked Ashley Madison website to determine who cheats most often, noting that “Metropolitan areas with some of the lowest subscription rates were in poor Appalachian and southern locations, strengthening the conclusion that affluence is linked to this kind of online adultery.” The story goes on to note that “The Fairfield County area also topped the list of metro areas in spending rates, doling out $1,127 on the site per 1,000 people.”

Huh. Of course this fits with the usual liberal narrative that rich people are inherently evil and poor people inherently virtuous ….

One thousand, one hundred twenty dollars ? And that’s just on the website — presumably there are other costs in cheating. Or maybe — just maybe — poor people have cheaper ways to cheat. Because the Internet is a tiny place and Ashley Madison is the only way to cheat …



Blessings of weather forecasts

So it looks look Hermine is only going to brush Connecticut; as of mid day Monday, there’s only a low probability of tropical storm strength winds on the coast and the flooding will be limited to the low lying coastal areas that flood.

Hurricane Hermine spiral over Florida
Hermine over Florida. Public domain photo from “NASA/GSFC, Rapid Response.”

I spent hours Saturday removing what I could from topside the boat, replacing a worn line and adding more, going from the usual six to fourteen. It’s likely it’s going to turn out that wasn’t necessary.

Some people — hopefully not you, dear reader, are whining about “the hype” and “unnecessary” closures of things like Connecticut state campgrounds.

Get over it and be grateful. For most of mankind’s existence (200,000 years) weather has been a short term, sporadic and sometimes deadly phenomena. Consider the Schoolhouse Blizzard of 1888 that struck so suddenly many children sent home from school died before they could make it. (Death toll: 235), or 1938 New England Hurricane, where the region was caught by surprise by insufficiently conservative forecasts. (Death toll: 682) A sudden 1940 blizzard in the midwest caught many duck hunters unawares; the death toll of 145 likely lessened by a couple foolish / brave man flying a new fangled flying machine dropping supplies. (Turkey death toll: 1.5 million, estimated.)

Sputnik went up in 1957 and now we see hurricanes days in advance. For the past decade — 0.00005 of human existence — smartphones have brought incredible amounts of data right into our hands.  Rather than scrambling under darkening skies I was able to prep the boat in fairly light winds and warm sunny skies. I don’t regret for one instance the time spent and am happy to have had the opportunity to prepare.



I do think social media is a great way to keep up with old friends and acquaintances, in moderation.

Being “connected” seems to be all the rage, and as I move through life, I’m finding more and more folks being online at the time.

I really wish they would stop, especially when I’m actually trying to walk somewhere and have to dodge around physically capable people moving slower than old folks with walkers. What’s so darn important on that tiny screen that it can’t wait? For the record, although obviously I’d providing basic first aid and/or calling 911 when you walk off that wall or get hit by the car,  don’t expect sympathy, okay?

More to the point, what ya’ll are missing is the truth that it’s actually me who’s connected, not you. I’m aware of the actual world around me, and am noticing things around me, whether it’s a cool flying insect I don’t recognize, clouds moving in layers, an unusual flower, the smells of nearby restaurants and neighborhood cookouts, or even my fellow human beings; the cute romance of a young couple, the parental bond between adults and young ones, or the funky style of someone self confident enough to go their own way.

Yes, the cat and dog videos are cute, but after the first twenty or so … really?

I think the cultural shift may go even deeper. When I was in my forties, there was a lot of concern about staying employable beyond due to age related changes and bias.  I don’t worry anymore, because the way many young folks are being raised, they’re not being provided the opportunity to learn how to focus on one thing for extended periods of time; it’s well understand that people multitasking 1 is a myth. When it comes to focus on one thing, if you a typical under 40 something, I’m going to kick your ass.

So put the damn device away and focus on the here and now. Or maybe just get out of the way instead of continuing your slow, drunken sailor walk down that hallway.

1 On the other hand, computers are wired to do context switches very well, so it’s fine to make them multitask.