Saturday, March 14, 2020

Ms. Information

And when the final curtain finally comes down
We'll all be in the party room, no wiser as to how
The total human race became a basket case
It's nothing to lose face about
It's really not our place to doubt it

~~ "Paper Gods" by Duran Duran
When I was at the store yesterday, I got a text from someone. The group thread was about a happy family event, and out of nowhere, one of the people in the thread texted:
Gov Abbott in Texas has declared martial law. Alex Jones show is a wealth of info. 

I did a quick Google search on my handheld computational device and it took about 20 seconds to find that no such thing had happened. I didn't respond at the time and went about my shopping, but there was no way I was going to let that pass. 

When I got home, I texted back:
Sure is. FALSE info. Not martial law. State of emergency. Two different things.
To give the person credit, they texted me privately and thanked me. They also asked if there was a site that explained the difference and wondered if all states were the same. I said to just Google it because there is plenty of info out there about the differences. I said I don't know about whether states have different policies, but I suspect they are all pretty similar. I said that a national state of emergency is also different. 

I find it dismaying that A) people are still believing anything that asshole says and B) anyone is sharing false information without fact-checking it first. I am not a journalist by any means but I do my best to share only accurate information, not lies or conspiracy theories. I think it is our responsibility as citizens and human beings to be truthful and honest in what we share online. I just have no patience for obvious misinformation and couldn't NOT push back against this. 

So it was with great interest that I read an article this morning about fact-checking things that we share online. The method used by a Washington State University "digital literacy expert" (something we should all strive to do even if we don't get a title for it) named Mike Caulfield. He uses the acronym SIFT to guide people to being responsible with content on the Internet

  1. Stop (before sharing).
  2. Investigate (the source). 
  3. Find (better coverage). 
  4. Trace (quotes and media references to the original source and context). 

I found it to be a great reference and was happy to realize that I already do this for stories that I find dubious. My first instinct when I see a post that makes me skeptical is to do a quick search to find other sources before sharing. When I saw the text that flaming loony and generally abhorrent Alex Jones said that Texas had declared martial law, I was like, "Nope," and a search showed absolutely nothing to indicate that such a claim had any validity. (I also recommend the extension NewsGuard, which vets websites for their transparency and truthfulness.)

Listen, there is already a ton of misinformation out there. And I get that people are worried about this outbreak. I have my own anxieties about it, okay? But that is no excuse for adding to the hysteria and sharing false information. As far as I'm concerned, that is valid for everything we share on the Internet, but when people are worried about how they are going to pay their rent if they get laid off, or if they are going to be able to feed their kids, or if a loved one is even going to survive, it is the height of irresponsibility to peddle false information. So fuck you, Alex Jones. You are a nasty human being and the vast majority of the world will not shed one precious tear if you succumb to the Corona (h/t to Shane for "the Corona"!). 

Think before you share. Check before you share. Be responsible. Don't be a jerk. Be like a bench chemist and look at the reactions to reach the solution. 

And play the fuckin' bass, John! 

What a lovely way to burn

Everybody's got the fever
That is something we all know
Fever isn't such a new thing
Fever started long ago

~~ "Fever" by The Cramps (written by Eddie Cooley and Otis Blackwell)

I'm all lost in the supermarket, I can no longer shop happily
Madness is upon us. 

Friends from around the country are posting photos of empty shelves at grocery stores. Shelves emptied of bread, milk, and eggs, because it seems that in dire times, everyone makes French toast. 

Not a bad way to go, although personally, I'd rather be drinking wine and eating dark chocolate when the curtain falls upon me. 

I went out today to pick up a prescription (and to be honest, I did a double beer run because preparation!) and found that our local stores were well-stocked with everything except hand sanitizer. There was plenty of everything. So it surprised me to see friends posting photos of shelves cleared of so many things. It seems that people are really panicking about this viral threat and preparing for weeks of being isolated and cut off from the rest of the world. 

I'm not panicking. I take the threat seriously because I have a husband who is immunocompromised. I don't want him to get it and I don't want to be out and about and bring it home to him, you know? But I know that common sense precautions can make a difference, and that is what we are trying to do. 

I'm not a "prepper" who stockpiles water and hooks a bicycle up to batteries to somehow keep the lights on. However, we live in a rural area, and although stores are a short drive away, they are not within walking distance. I'm also the child of parents who grew up during the Depression, so I have always been a stocker-upper. I don't think it's an exaggeration to say that we could live for six months off of what I have in the pantry and in our freezers, not to mention the wine cellar. I even have lots of food for Sheeba the Cat! 

I've noticed lately that my sense of humor has gotten really dark...almost fatalistic. I am absolutely not in the "we're all gonna die" camp. I honestly think we'll weather this, although it could get very serious for a lot of people. I guess it's just my way of coping. Sometimes you really just have to laugh. It might verge on hysterical laughter, but kee-rist, sometimes you just need an outlet! 

So do whatever you need to do to find joy. Reach out to people. I ran into our friend Tom at the store today, and later, I realized that I did exactly what I shouldn't be doing...I gave him a big hug, not once, but twice. That is going to be hard for me because I am at heart an affectionate person with my friends. But it brought me so much joy to see him and talk with him and laugh with him. Hang onto that joy and that connection, but work hard to keep a bit of distance, at least physically. I learned today how hard that will be for me. Human interaction is so important. 

However, we can still maintain it by being kind to one another. I know that fear can breed anger and hatred but please don't let that happen to you or others. We really are in this together, and our actions will have a bearing on how we get through this. 

I truly believe that we will be okay, although it's going to be a rough road. Help make it smoother by being kind to others, being considerate, being careful. 

We'll get by with a little help from our friends. Believe it. 

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Panic! at the Disco

'Cause now I sense your mission is my coming demolition
And you just hold me under
I know I'm going under

~~ "Girl Panic" by Duran Duran
Sexy Plague Doctor costume because why not?

Oh, lordy. 

Let's all take a deep breath, shall we? 

The news about Coronavirus is coming fast and furious (speaking of, the release of the latest movie in that franchise has been delayed for a year) and I don't know about anyone else, but my head is spinning. 

This is bonkers. 

This is bananapants. 

This is one of the craziest things I've ever seen in the medical field, and I've seen some shit, believe me. This surpasses the anthrax scare of Aught One. 

I've had a few people message me asking about it and wanting some information. I am not an expert on this particular virus, nor am I an epidemiologist, but I'm doing my best to stay current on information and to try to assess how serious this is. 

The best I can tell you is that yes, this needs to be taken seriously. Especially for the elderly and the immunocompromised and those of us who have loved ones who fall into either or both categories (and that includes most of us). The majority of people will weather this just fine, but for those who have underlying conditions, the threat is very real. 

I welcome the shutdown of numerous activities. The scope of it is shocking: everything from the March Madness tourney to freakin' Disneyland, man. The stock market is tanking. People are reeling and that includes me. 

These shutdowns are the right move. As I have been PREACHING FOR YEARS ALL CAPS, we are woefully unprepared for a pandemic, and yes, I'm going to say "told you so." Under the Obama administration, we handled the Ebola outbreak correctly; unfortunately, the current administration has undermined our ability to respond in a robust and fast manner, and that is tragic. I believe it will cost lives, both here and around the world. 

As for that travel ban from Europe, how absurd. The virus is already here and is in the community-acquired phase. Limiting travel is not going to solve the problem. Viruses are like honey badgers...they don't give a shit. 

That might sound overly political. That's okay with me. Because this administration has completely bungled the handling of this. Denial, obfuscation, distraction, you name it. The lack of testing is inexplicable and inexcusable. Thank science for people like Dr. Fauci, who holds no allegiance other than to good science. 

The shutdown of so many things will wreak havoc on the economy, but it is the right thing to do. The whole purpose is to slow the spread of this and try to not overwhelm our healthcare system. If the cases can be spread out over time rather than a huge spike in hospitalizations, we will be better able to absorb it. It is already a huge stress on our system but we have to try to mitigate it. 

I am not panicking about this but I'd be lying if I said that I am not feeling an increased level of anxiety about it. I wish I had greater confidence in our government's response, but I just don't right now. The lack of testing is the fly in the ointment. If people can't get tested, we can't isolate and contain properly. In fact, that window has passed. The virus is already out there. 

The best we can do right now is limit contact, especially large gatherings. It is vital that we try to stop the rapid spread of this, and these cancellations are a logical step. 

Stay safe, everyone. 

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Corona Katrina Let's call the whole thing off

I am the virus
I am a siren in the rain
I am a courier
Bring the spiral into your brain
~~ "Virus" by Duran Duran
During President Obama's eight years in office, numerous things were considered to be his "Katrina." (It's hard to forget the image of George W. Bush gazing out the window of Air Force One as he looked at the devastation of Hurricane Katrina on New Orleans and the Gulf Coast.)
This isn't a full list, but among the things that various right-wing (and even some left-leaning) media outlets speculated could be Obama's Katrina are these:
Rollout of the healthcare website
Sexual assault in the military
Hurricane Sandy
Hurricane Isaac
Washington, D.C. power outage
S&P downgrade
Alabama tornadoes
BP oil spill
Unemployment rate
Crisis in Haiti
Underwear bomber
Fort Hood
The stimulus package
The auto company bailout
Georgia flooding
Swine flu
Kentucky ice storm
In fact, some super geniuses proclaimed that Hurricane Katrina was Obama's Katrina...despite the fact that it happened on W's watch in 2005.
So I am always hesitant to use that cliché when it comes to disasters. "Whoever's Katrina." It's usually hyperbole.
However, I have been deploying it recently as we watch this administration attempt to deal with the Covid-19 outbreak.
I really think this could be Trump's Katrina.
The response has been so poor, so mishandled, so far behind other countries' responses that it's hard to not make the comparison. There is plenty of blame to go around. The lack of sufficient testing is terrible, and while some would blame the CDC, it is important to remember that Trump has significantly defunded the CDC and other organizations, gutted the pandemic response team put in place by Obama to deal with Ebola and other public health issues, and has generally pooh-poohed the importance of preparation for such a response, not to mention the very notion of scientific fact itself.
This is criminal negligence. Anyone with even the faintest inkling of healthcare and public health has known that a widespread pandemic was not a matter of if but when and has known it for years. This was a predictable event but this administration has bungled the handling of it so horribly that it would be laughable if there weren't people actually dying from this virus.
As I have preached for years, the disruption to society that would result from such an infection will be devastating. I don't think many people have a comprehension of how disruptive such an event could and will be. But we are seeing it now. The worst part is seeing the complete lack of leadership all the way at the top, the denial of reality, and the lack of empathy that anyone, no matter their position, should have for anyone dealing with this. The only thing that this so-called president cares about is how things will affect him.
This is the opposite of good leadership. This is pure, unfettered, narcissistic ego. It is an absolutely disgusting display of all that is craven and horrid about this administration. The sycophantic toadies surrounding this man-baby and enabling him is sickening to see.
This is shaping up to be a true nightmare, especially for those of us who have elderly or immunocompromised loved ones. We'll see how it plays out, and I hope we can at least mitigate the damage, but I think it is showing a lot of people just how unfit this person is to be president.
Stay safe out there, pals, and wash your hands a lot!