Post COVID Blues

When this coronavirus is finally subdued:

  • I’m afraid when I go back to work my pants won’t fit anymore.
  • I won’t be able to get on an airplane without providing a blood sample.
  • Friday night at the movies will become Friday night at the Hulu.
  • Libraries will have all closed.
  • Cruise ships will be towed off shore and sunk to build up the Great Barrier Reef (yeay!).
  • You’ll need a license to go for a picnic.
  • There will be home machines you can buy to turn old books and furniture into toilet paper.
  • Clorox Company will buy Nabisco and make Bleach Blondie Brownies.
  • A home hazmat chamber will don every frontdoor.
  • Drone pilots will become an Olympic Sport.

When all this is said and done, Drumpf will have died from the virus (shot by an inoculated tranquilizer dart by Nancy Pelosi), and we’ll be resigned to living in a hyper-paranoid world where a six-foot distant “air hug” is considered affectionate.  Kisses — NOT!

 

Unexpected Consequences

In addition to apocalyptic scenarios, I also enjoy teasing out the possibilities of action/reaction in society’s macro behaviors. Like Freakonomics taught us, what are the implications to what we’re experiencing and how we’re reacting? Here are a few I’ve heard of and some I’ve dreamed up myself. My favorite is Goldie’s “there’s gonna be a rash of December babies born this year due to the work-from-home mandate.”

Close the borders and…

  • Migrant workers cannot come in to perform the agricultural work needed by 1/3 of the industry.
  • They won’t be there to pick, pack, and purvey the produce we need directly, and the food industry needs to create our canned, bottled and frozen foods.
  • Those same workers won’t be there to perform the planting that will result in crops in four to six months.
  • Close the borders and we eventually starve.

Close the schools and after school programs the daycare facilities and…

  • All the kids now need parents to stay home.
  • Many of those parents are critical service workers: police, healthcare, emergency responders, infrastructure repair.
  • And the kids won’t be staying home, or alone, or away from the elders who live with them. They’ll be out mixing it up with other neighborhood kids, perhaps more so that had they just stayed in school.

Shut down the hospitality industry and…

  • Fifteen million low to medium wage people lose work if not their jobs.
  • Another eight million in the airline industry lose work if not their jobs.

* Suppress spending across the entertainment, sports and restaurant industries and the velocity of money drops through the floor — ending up in a massive recession — one we’ve been expecting for three years.

* Drive the price of oil down below $30/barrel and the booming U.S. shale oil and fracking industry collapses throwing another million workers into the pit.

@ On the bright side, fewer cars on the road means fewer traffic accidents; less air pollution; quicker response to emergency calls (to save an elderly person with COVID symptoms).

* Force everyone to work from home and the homeless go WTF?

@ Fortunately, it’s already second nature to remain socially distant from the homeless.

@ Is there going to be a resurgence of home cooking where millennials learn to make more than Mac-a-cheese and Ramen?

* Too bad Grandma won’t be allowed in the kitchen with those asymptomatic carriers.

* Millions were forced from their homes to live at the whims of the rentier society during the last Great Recession.

@ Although thousands more will end up being force to foreclose during this calamity, at least we know that the rich are just as susceptible to this scourge — so there’s hope a proportionate number will die along with the rest of us.

* Is this the end of the Farmer’s market? Craft fairs? Concerts in the park?

No doubt the unintended and unexpected consequences from this pandemic will continue to play out. How many more can we come up with? I’m sure there are dozens just waiting to be exposed.

  • More marijuana smoking/eating?
  • More alcohol binging?
  • More reviews on movie venues, book venues, products?
  • More online psychologist sessions?
  • More facetime calls with estranged family?
  • More Amazon Prime memberships?
  • More neighbor altercations?
  • More house cleaning?
  • More nookie?
  • More?

China to invade Russia

There was a recent map published which showed population as area rather than area as area. What struck me was the juxtaposition of China and Russia.

Russia has 16.3 million square kilometers of land. China 9.3 million.
Russia as 144 million people. China has 1,415 million people.
Russia shares a border with China that is 4,200 kilometers long.

When China needs to expand guess which direction they’re heading?

We wonder about Russia’s vast military build up, maybe we shouldn’t wonder at all. Russia’s might to fight the US or NATO or the EU? Naw, they have a much bigger problem south of the border.

RussiaVsChina

With global warming turning the Siberian wasteland into potentially viable farmland. That and access to the Arctic Ocean might entice a Chinese takeover of Eastern Russia. All them resources just begging to be turned into high tariff products bound for the US and elsewhere.

Here come the choppers

When you hear the sound of a helicopter(s), what do you think?

• “Oh, it must be a Life-Flight, or the Coast Guard out saving someone, hurry, hurry!”
Or
• “It’s the authorities come to spy/harass/nab me or someone I know.”
Or
• Nothing, you never hear helicopters or if you do you don’t even wonder about why they’re circling your home, neighborhood, town.

Helicopters are the ultimate urban assault vehicle. They can spy, (now from great distance), travel quickly without worry of terrain, and carry agents who can be dropped to carry out clandestine, “official” business.

When I hear them I immediately think “GO AWAY! You’re noisy, arrogant, and invasive.”

I wonder what most folks thing about the sounds of choppers? Apocalypse Now? The Flight of the Valkyries? FBI, regional police departments? Or the military (domestic or, yikes, foreign)?

Are we trained through media (movies and television) to worry when helicopters start flying? I wonder if there’s an economic threshold. The wealthier you are, the more you think helicopters are here to rescue you (or protect you) and the poorer you are…

 

Taxes = Happiness

Name the happiest people in the world.
Name the highest taxes paid by people and corporations in the world.

Guess what? They (tend) to be the same people.

This is a simple plot (R code below) of 108 countries plotted by their “happiness quotient” in relation to their combined personal and highest corporate tax rate.

happytax

That line means that, in general, the higher the tax rate, the happier people reported to be (see cite below). This has been documented before. And a new report is due soon that will further elucidate this relationship.

The bottom line? If you take the recent US Republican tax bill that passed (Dec 2017), then what these fools have done is slid the United States BACKWARDS on that line. By reducing taxes (they say) across the board, they effectively want the Citizens of the United States to be more miserable than they are now.

Happy Holidaze!

[R Code]

lmod <- lm(happiness ~ taxrate, data = happytax)
plot(happiness ~ taxrate, data = happytax, pch = 19, 
 main = "happiness vs. taxrate", 
 xlab = "taxrate",
 ylab = "happiness")
abline(lmod)

[Cite:]
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_tax_rates
https://tradingeconomics.com/country-list/personal-income-tax-rate
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_Happiness_Report

My Dystopian Life

The topic is a tired one. And this post is not meant to wipe the sleep from its eyes. I often find myself writing stories in this genre therefore, I’d like to put all this here so as to keep track of it.

Note, I tend to focus on “apocalyptic” dystopians. Those other story lines that come about through gradual oppression, I don’t much care for. (Hell, we live in one now.)

I’ll be updating this post from time to time, and commenting with links and data.

Reasons why dystopian stories are alluring:

  1. A return to survival mode.
  2. Simpler cause and effect living.
  3. The elimination of wealth inequality.
  4. Imagining and preparing for the worst.
  5. Societal “clean slate” thinking.

A return to survival mode

Let’s face it, the act of survival (in the Western world) is less than challenging. On average, most people do not have to worry about surviving from day to day. (Many caveats to this I know, but that’s not the point now.) As animals, humans, when threatened, have a fierce will to live. In fact, we evolved during such times when our ferocity undoubtedly determined the survival of our genes. We’ve lost that edge.

“Attack that sales meeting!” “Tear into that engine overhaul!” “Shred that software bug!” Nope, sorry. Our million year old survival instincts are just not triggered these days.

I think a return to a time (or reading about one) when every decision you make, throughout the day, influences your personal and family’s survival gives us a momentary boost of Darwin’s and London’s “Survival of the fittest,” and “Eat or be eaten,” sense of immediacy. Choices would mean something again.

Simpler cause and effect living

Similar to a return to survival mode, a jump into a post-apocalyptic world simplifies one’s life. Would you have to manage your IRA? Worry about interest rates? Think about saving for yours or your child’s college education? Second guess that office photo you posted on fadebook? Hell no! That shit would be history, a quaint recollection as you lie beneath a glowing sky lit by strange aurora, listening to the wild dogs circle your camp.

When you buy a new cellphone, how much impact does that really have on your life? Diddly squat! That’s how much.

If you fail to step quietly through the broken, rubble-strewn town, what effect then when you neglectfully kick that empty jerry-can waking the denizens that lurk there in the shadows? One hell-of-a-lot!

We have no agency in our lives today. (Of course we do. But not the kind that will get you killed within seconds or minutes after your mistake — unless we’re talking about stepping in front of a bus or texting while driving.) Meaningful agency is lost to us. A return to learning to survive, where every action and choice matters, would be a refreshing reemergence of “feeling alive!”

Return to equality

Take the world and turn off the internet. Turn off the lights. Turn off the electricity. Turn off the water and food delivery and medicine production and police protection, fire protection, military protection. Turn everything off that makes our technological society what it is today.

Now tell me, what’s your net worth now? Yeah, exactly! You are worth whatever you have in your backpack — and that’s it! Those of you in your razor-wire shrouded compounds? Your food will run out eventually. Do you have private generators? Fuel production has ceased. This is a drastic simplification of course, but the vast differences in “wealth” we have today? Those would vanish overnight in a post-apocalyptic scenario.

Just to see a time when your own wits and skills of survival lend you a modicum of superiority would be worth watching the end of technological society. Or so many dystopian novels would have us believe (including mine).

Preparation for the worst case

Imagine the end of all convenience. The end of easy calories, of secure sleep, of clean water. Dwell on this imagined world; examine it in your mind, angle by angle. Now, pull back from this catastrophe and look around you. We have it pretty damn good today, don’t we? But it could be worse, much worse. By considering such End-of-Times scenarios you’ve both prepared yourself for the possibility, and you’ve reestablished your sense of what is important to you today.

Prepare for the worst, but live and survive today. Know that you have evaluated the ramifications of Armageddon but also know that, were it to arrive, you’re prepared. Your task would then be a constantly adjusting triage: evaluate, act, move on. Your future, cataclysm or not, will unfold (or not), and all you can truly do is handle the “now”.

Clean slate

Take the U.S. Constitution, patch the holes (corporations are not people!), add some equality of citizen amendments, and maybe some term limits, now, wipe the slate of human government clean and then apply your new World Constitution to civilization.

There! All better.

Well, not quite. While you were struggling to survive, a bunch of bad actors sprung up with their massive caches of ammunition and alt-right supremacy notions and bloomed, like a red tide, beneath your clean slate.

But at least your thoughts and intentions were true. They must count for something. Right?

An apocalypse and the dystopia that would follow “could” evolve into a new and beautiful utopia. This is one of the appeals of dystopian stories — the possibility that from the ashes a new, equitable and loving society could emerge. (Cough, cough!)

A list of dystopian novels I’ve read:

  • The Road
  • Alas Babylon
  • On the Beach
  • The Girl with all the Gifts
  • Far North
  • Earth Abides
  • Robopocalypse
  • Terraforming Earth
  • Stranger
  • Hunger Games
  • Divergent
  • Maze Runner
  • The Dead Lands
  • The Giver
  • Battle Royale
  • World Made by Hand
  • Night Work
  • The Last Man
  • Oryx and Crake
  • World War Z
  • Year One
  • One Second After
  • Blue Across the Sea (my own)

Non fiction:

  • The Knowledge: How to Rebuild Our World from Scratch
  • (Numerous others to be listed soon, before, you know, The End.)

REFERENCES:
https://anonymole.wordpress.com/2016/01/21/drake-equation-more-on-the-topic/

Taxes? Payment for privileges.

Who doesn’t like socialism? Well, if you consider all that society provides for itself already, nobody shouldn’t like socialism. That is, rejoice in Socialism — cuz’ we’re already in it.

Who likes paying taxes? Well, if you consider calling them payment for privileges then maybe they wouldn’t feel like taxes. Let’s say we DON’T tax anybody’s income anymore. But then everyone would be forced to independently purchase things like the following:

Protection from:
• Foreign nation states,
• Criminal activity,
• Medical catastrophe
• Fire,
• you know, all those things a national, state and local government setup of systems does for our protection.

And then there are the perks we would each have to pay for:

• A maintained and well marked road system,
• A system of education,
• A system of justice,
• A system of water delivery and sewage handling,
• An electricity system,
• Systems for managing air traffic, boat traffic, compliance for building, food safety…

If you examine that list you’ll come to the conclusion that, hell!, we already are living in a socialistic society. Without all that money (taxes) to pay for all those common good services, we’d be a helluva lot worse off.

Now how about upping the tax on the wealth? “Booooo,” all the wealthy will say, but wait a minute Mr. & Mrs. Oligarch, do you like having a trustworthy banking and investment system? You like being able to buy and own vast swaths of land, buildings, planes and boats? You like living in a safe, well protected and just system? Well, it’s gonna cost ya… Because, you know, you wouldn’t be wealthy if We The People weren’t here to provide all of that protection.

One would think that a natural algorithm would be that the more wealth you possess the more you owe it to society as the protector and provider of that wealth. The fallacious theory of “I’m a self-made man!” ignores the fact that all of one’s success is based on living in and working with a society that provides all of the protections and benefits previously mentioned. No one stands alone. The wealthy tend to think it’s they who have succeeded when in reality it is society that enable all of that success. No society, no success.

If the wealthy don’t like this theory well maybe they should consider that in the coming apocalypse, when society has collapsed, dissolved even, and they’re standing there, alone, having to protect themselves, feed themselves, clothe themselves, shelter themselves and they wonder, “how can we rebuild our wealth?”, and the answer comes that you, they, can’t because they’re spending all their time surviving. Then they might realize that only a society can support wealth. And that the more wealth one owns the more one owes society for the opportunity to have acquired it.

Is this wealth hatred? Bah! A certain dynamic of wealth in a society is necessary. Achievable betterment, the lifting of station through education, ideation, creation and hard work should always be possible and acknowledged. But even then, such betterment is a function of society and must be recognized. Taxation is one of the tools for that recognition.

Without a taxation system, throughout its history, to build all of the protection and privilege systems I mentioned above, no society would exist. Without taxes (historic and present) I couldn’t ever have written this blog — nor could you been able to read it. Which, by the way, thanks.