Tuesday, January 19, 2021
Friday, January 15, 2021
Thursday, January 14, 2021
I can understand why some friends are stressed. That huge ideological divide is, after all, the line the punditry keeps peddling, the fretting over the dramatic split right down the middle in the country, the split that doesn't actually exist. Yes, there is some fairly melodramatic posturing from the extremists at the fringes of the political spectrum, but just how reflective of the real world is it? Short answer: not very.
There are two ways to look at it. First, look at absolute numbers. There are an approximately 330 million people in the United States now. (For ease of discussion, I'm rounding numbers to closest millions.) Of those 330 million, less than half actually voted in the 2020 election: 81 million voted for Biden, 74 million voted for Trump, and about 2.5 million voted for various third party candidates. Why did less than half the populace vote? Well, some U.S. residents were too young (about a fourth of the population is under the age of 18), some were too old, some were resident aliens (not citizens), and some were simply not interested.
Anyway, back to the numbers. 330 million yields 74 million Trump voters, or slightly over 22 percent of the total population. Of that 74 million, various polls show that a significant number have doubts about the election results. How significant? Anywhere from 40 percent to a little over 50 percent depending on the poll and when it was done. So if we go for the high side and say 50 percent that means 37 million or so. Of that 37 million, how many are, as mafia films put it, willing to go to the mattresses? You know, just how many are willing to go from griping about the results, calling their state's governor and other officials names on Facebook, and actually get on a bus or join a rally?
That's when the commas in the numbers move, and move a lot. When women held a rally in 2017 to demonstrate their unhappiness with the election of Donald Trump an estimated million people showed up. When Trumpers held their rally meant to keep their hero in the White House, the resulting crowd was estimated at 7 to 10 thousand. Even most of the people who think there were shenanigans involved with the ballot counting in some states can't get fired up enough about it to bother getting on a bus. Like their hero, the typical Trumper can be real big on talking a lot but isn't particularly good at actually doing anything. The jokes about the insurrectionists at the riot at the Capitol that labeled the participants as cosplaying or being escapees from a Renaissance faire were a good critique: most of the people involved obviously live in some sort of bizarre alternative reality from the rest of us.
Look at Bison Boy, the cosplaying QAnon shaman who is now sitting in jail: he's a 32 year old loser who lived with his mother and is now complaining that the federal detention center he's in doesn't serve organic food. There were others who were shocked, shocked, I tell you, that the police maced them or handled them roughly. My favorite was the blonde who was crying because police kept her from "storming the Capitol and starting the revolution." You know, please don't hurt me. I'm just here to overthrow the government. Obviously, the phrase "Kent State" has never entered their consciousness.
In any case, everyone can stop worrying that every other person they see is secretly pining for a second term by Donald Trump. Even in deeply red parts of the country, it's more like maybe one out of ten, and even those people are going to keep their mouths shut most of the time. No one wants to talk politics at Dollar General.
Then, if we use a different perspective and remove labels, it turns out that poll after poll has found the United States is a remarkably progressive country, which is why (and this is a subject for a different post) I think the political strategists who keep harping on about not going to far left on anything are dead wrong. Most people are remarkably progressive; they just don't realize it. The issues people care about, the things that actually impact their lives, are also things the majority of us agree about. Most people want better health care, lower drug prices, higher wages, better schools, improved infrastructure, gun regulation, you name it.
When researchers pose questions in a label-free way, i.e., no identification with a particular political party, the population shows a remarkable degree of consensus. Label something as an idea proposed by a Democrat, however, and suddenly people who thought it was a great idea before are now screaming No Socialism! Label something as proposed by a Republican and the same thing happens, except instead it will be called a gift to the rich or welfare for billionaires.
The absolutely classic recent example of this is, of course, the Affordable Care and Patient Protection Act (aka Obama Care). The underlying basis for it was a proposal from the conservative think tank the Heritage Foundation. The Heritage Foundation came up with a plan as a counter argument to a single-payer government-run plan proposed by the Clinton administration. Neither idea went anywhere in the U.S. Congress, but the State of Massachusetts introduced a plan similar to the Heritage Foundation plan. At the time, Mitt Romney, a Republican, was Governor. By all accounts, Romney Care worked (and still works) reasonably well.
Fast forward 16 years to the Obama presidency. President Obama's administration puts together a proposal for a plan that would increase access to health care by helping people obtain private health insurance. It is clearly modeled on the Heritage Foundation and Romney care plans; it's roundly criticized by progressives as being a massive giveaway to the insurance companies. Despite it being at its heart a thoroughly conservative Republican plan, it is coming from a Democratic administration. Therefore, anyone who calls him or her self a Republican must hate it. Thus, the Republicans have spent the past 8 years trying to get rid of Obama Care, which they have learned to their horror many of their constituents actually love, except most of them never think of it as Obama Care. One of the more amusing things in watching ordinary people being interviewed is seeing just how many love the Affordable Care Act ("it saved my son's life!!") but are convinced Obama Care is the work of the devil.
Bottom line: We're actually all a lot more alike than we realize. George Lakoff is right. Framing is everything.
Saturday, January 9, 2021
Monday, January 4, 2021
Sunday, December 27, 2020
Saturday, December 19, 2020
I managed to get myself blocked for being a little too bluntly honest in a local buy/sell/trade group on Facebook. I can still see posts and message sellers directly, but can't do public comments. Which is probably a good thing. Some people have watched far too many episodes of "Flea Market Flip" or perused the recycling photos on Pinterest because, holy wah, they're peddling some bad DIY. I'd managed to restrain myself most of the time, just scrolled past the most horrible examples, the pieces of beaver puke (aka MDF)(medium density fiberboard) someone actually wasted time refinishing, but a mutilated 1930's vanity triggered me the other day.
No doubt the original veneer had been shot long ago, gouged up beyond the hope of a decent repair, but that still didn't excuse the battleship (or possibly automobile primer) gray or the not original drawer pulls that were massively out of proportion for the piece. The seller referred to it as dresser, but it wasn't, which makes it no surprise she totally botched the repurposing. It was an art deco vanity. At one time it apparently had a mirror, which no longer existed, but there was a chunk of plywood with some oddly spaced shelves and a whole lot of clutter on them attached where the mirror once lived. It was weird. It was ugly. It was sad because it could have been cute. With a less weird color choice and better staging it would have been easily marketable as a fun piece for a kid's room.
But, nope, it was just crap.
Photo is of a vanity similar in style to the one that got mutilated. Now try picturing it in matte gray primer. I felt you all flinch, gentle readers. The thought is indeed painful.
In any case, asking the seller why she'd turned it into a giant gray fungus was probably a mistake. The comments section turned nasty. The seller apparently has a posse who are quite happy to heap praise on her for mediocre work. Either that, or they have as little aesthetic sensibility as the furniture mutilator does because they kept insisting it was "cute." Nope. It looked like an old piece of furniture someone had pulled out of their grandparents house and had been using for storage in the garage for 20 or 30 years. Solid, but not exactly something to hype.
The comments sections on various buy/sell/trade posts do have a tendency to turn into flame wars. I've seen some remarkably obscene comments about buyers, sellers, and products. I do not envy the admin. Then again, she can't even manage to get people to pay attention to the fact that group is supposed to be "no clothes," but every other post seems to be someone hawking their kids' slightly stained, torn, whatever garments.
The site also amuses me by the way folks under the age of 30 refer to anything that was sold before they graduated from high school as an "antique" or "rare." Right. You inherited a mass produced beaver puke Sauder bookcase your parents bought at Kmart in the early 80s. It's not an antique, and for sure it's not rare. But that's a subject for another time.
Friday, December 18, 2020
You know what I mean. "Sure, I'm not that young anymore but I'm not in a wheelchair. I'm not in a nursing home. I don't have comorbidities like asthma or diabetes or high blood pressure or COPD. I am reasonably physically fit." Translation: "Screw following the guidelines. I'll be fine."
You see the articles in the paper about how many people coughed their last at the local nursing home but you think, well, it's sad that so-and-so died, but he was in his 90's. If it hadn't been COVID, it would have been the flu real soon. It's sad but it's not real. I know when I heard that the lady who was the Older Daughter's Head Start teacher died from COVID at the nursing home, I was saddened but not shocked -- she was an octogenarian so my initial reaction was more along the lines of "she was still alive?" than to think about corona virus.
Which makes it easy to get sloppy with social distancing and mask wearing and all the other precautions we should all be taking because although we all might be tired of thinking about the virus, it's obviously not tired of messing with us.
My recently deceased acquaintance, the one who was not a nursing home resident, was physically fit, still working full time, and, in the overall scheme of things, not that old. Getting close to retirement, sure, but definitely still in the category of being confident enough to buy green bananas. And for sure he was younger than me and the S.O.
For the past few weeks, our local paper has had to do a two page spread to get all the obits in. Not all the obits include cause of death, but when the number in the paper is more than double the usual number for any time of year -- even during the height of the flu season the nursing home doesn't have patients dropping like flies -- it's pretty obvious COVID-19 has hit this area hard. I don't think I'm retiring my masks any time soon.
Totally inappropriate digression: corona viruses certainly are attractive as viruses go. One of my co-workers at the CDC collected stuffed toys modeled on various pathogens. Some of the bacteria were kind of cute, like E. coli and salmonella, but the viruses were usually rather ugly. Ebola, for example, looks like a long, skinny turd. But COVID-19? It could be a really cute toy.