News: Economy vs. Living

“And what I said when I was with you that night, there are more important things than living. And that’s saving this country for my children and my grandchildren and saving this country for all of us,” Patrick said Monday night.

-Texas Lt. Gov. D. Partick, quoted by NBC news, April 21, 2020

This quote would sound fitting during a movie involving an alien and/or military invasion by a murderous, long-time foe to get people to fight a defensive war; it sounds ill-fitting as a rallying cry to go out to sell things and shop.

Yes, I do write dystopian fiction now and then, but our current timeline is giving me a real run for my money. What will qualify as dystopian after this?

On the role of government in society

I’m very interested in a quote from New York Governor Cuomo earlier this week:

“I believe this has been transformative for a generation,” he says. “Think about when was the last time government was this vital. I don’t know, maybe in a war? World War II, when government had to mobilize overnight? But literally for decades you haven’t seen government this essential to human life. Literally. And government has to work and it has to work well, and it’s not for the faint of heart. And people want government to perform. And government is making decisions every day that affect their lives and they deserve the best government. They’re paying for it, they deserve it. And they deserve competence and expertise and smarts and for government to be doing creative things and learning like we doing here today.”

-Gov. Cuomo

Coronavirus US live: Cuomo says ‘government essential to human life’ – as it happened

I grew up in a working class family in San Francisco (back when SF was more diverse in all ways, and especially economically), and I perceived government as a social good: it ensured we have schools, hospitals, water/power/sewage services, paved roads, minimum wages, food safety, the right to know what is in our foods and medicines, and certain safety standards and protections for our rights and freedoms provided through public courts. It ensured the existence of the military, and my family has MANY veterans; it ensured that veterans get services in return for their service. Fire departments, police departments, public parks, the coastal commission, the right to vote on issues of local importance… Having a government of/for/by the people seemed like such an OBVIOUSLY good thing!

Governments of/for/by the people don’t do everything right. Wars, selective enforcement of justice/freedoms/punishments, unequal opportunities, the legalization of various forms of corruption , the persecution of minority groups, the slide from justice for people to favoritism for in-groups who can create a cycle of self-enrichment… There are lots of flaws.

Somehow, during my lifetime, corporate broadcast media (and their wealthy owners) provided a narrative something like, ‘the government just takes your money.’ While praising first responders (licensed and often funded by a government service), our school system (same), our veterans (government employees), and emblems of our nation, they have argued for something close to market anarchy. And government has been an obstacle to that (thankfully, though not as well as it could).

But, YES: now we are in a time of global pandemic, and we see what capable governments can do (I’m looking at you, South Korea and New Zealand!), and how much it matters to have a government acting for the collective good.

Good governing is STILL POSSIBLE. It is still an option.

News: University/Hospital Healthcare Worker Goodness in the Time of Pandemics

The University of California’s San Francisco hospital and university (UCSF) are sending a team to help out the Navajo Nation. UCSF is a top-ranked hospital, and where I go for care – I’m so proud of them for going to provide their expertise.

UCSF Health Care Workers to Serve in Navajo Nation

A team of UC San Francisco health care workers – seven physicians and 14 nurses – is traveling to Arizona and New Mexico on Wednesday, April 22, 2020, to begin a one month voluntary assignment providing urgently needed health care support for patients in the Navajo Nation, at the request of UCSF’s colleagues in the Navajo Nation.

This trip isn’t a one-off: UCSF has a program offering two-year fellowships to provide medical care in underserved communities. The program is diverse enough that it has alumni who can help in their own communities as well!

Forty-nine health care workers in Navajo Nation are current fellows or alumni of the fellowship. Twenty-five of them are Navajo themselves.  

How cool is that?

So yes, UCSF sent a volunteer team to NYC also, which gives me the warm fuzzies, but THIS fills my eyes with hearts and stars.

News: State Kindness in the time of Pandemics

I haven’t mentioned it before, but my home state has also participated in supporting not only New York, but other states that need ventilators by loaning out 500 to those states that need them.

Early last month, the San Francisco Chronicle’s article, California lending 500 ventilators to distribute to hardest-hit states by Alexei Koseff (April 6, 2020), had some good quotes about states doing right by each other, including a report on Oregon’s loan of 140 ventilators to NYC, and Washington’s return of those it borrowed from the federal government.

The quotes I like are:

“I wish I could solve that for everybody, and to the extent we can, we will,” Newsom said. “This is the state of California. We have an abundant mind-set and we’re a well-resourced state.”

I like the implication that, because we do well, we SHOULD use our position to help others. (The article notes that our early prevention efforts have been successful enough for us to step in for the later-acting states.)

Also:

“We’re Americans, first and foremost,” he said. “As a nation-state, we can do certain things, where we can punch above our weight. We carry a big weight. But to the extent that other Americans need our support, our largesse, to the extent that we have the resources, we’re going to be there for as many people as we possibly can.”

This acknowledges our size and strengths – we are a state with a bigger economy than the UK, India, or France the last time I checked (2018 in Business Insider and currently in Wikipedia’s Economy of California article), and this gives us the opportunity to be a force for good.

The world needs more forces for good.

News: Human Kindness in the time of Pandemics

I got the warm-fuzzies from seeing photos and reports on Twitter about all of the ambulances driving cross-country to help out in NYC. It restored some of my faith in humans. I should share that feeling, so here’s a flurry of general human goodness for you, just a sample of the volunteerism directed toward NYC. (I <3 NY!)

Ohio:

Emotional video: Cleveland man records EMT wife, crew members leaving for NYC in long line of ambulances

CLEVELAND, Ohio (WJW) – Many Americans are being urged to stay at home during this coronavirus pandemic. But many essential workers can’t – and some are so courageous that they’re volunteering their expertise to help on the front lines.

Nebraska:

Scribner paramedics deployed to New York City to battle COVID-19 pandemic

Joe Roberts had never been to New York City prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. He never experienced the shoulder-to-shoulder stuffy traffic that filled Times Square or the packed parkways that connected the city’s five bureaus.

He remembers state troopers pulling into the median to take photos on his phone as Robert’s convoy of ambulances crossed into New Jersey. He remembers the cars that would drive alongside the ambulances to honk and wave at the first responders as they entered the city.

“I get choked up just thinking about it,” he said. “People would walk up to the truck and just thank them for coming. To have people come up to you as you’re sitting on the corner and just saying thank you, it’s just so hard to put into words.”

-Joe Roberts, volunteer paramedic / regional manager of an ambulance company

Virginia:

Fredericksburg-area EMTs volunteering in NYC see warm welcome, ‘a lot of sleepless hours’

Matthew Hebert’s shifts as a volunteer EMT in New York City are supposed to be 12 hours, but he hasn’t worked a shift that “short” since he arrived April 1. “The shortest shift has been 16 hours and the longest was 26 hours,” said Hebert, 28, during a brief break before taking more 911 calls.

Two hundred and fifty ambulances and 500 EMTs and paramedics from around the country have traveled to New York, which has been a hot spot for COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

“People are here from California, Texas, Colorado and honestly every state in the U.S.,” Hebert said.

-Matthew Hebert, volunteer EMT

There are a lot of these… I’m just selecting a few.

It isn’t just ambulances, either: medical volunteers are arriving by convoy and bus. There are lots of hometown stories about one or two people volunteering, but here’s one complete with flags and police/fire escorts about a nurse convoy (one of several) from upstate New York – and yes, they got up on a crane and hung a flag, because they wanted to see them off in STYLE:

Area crews honor Upstate nurses headed to NYC | X101 Always Classic

(update 1:35 pm) Around 8:00 this morning, a caravan of 12 vehicles began a trip carrying 25 nurses from Upstate Medical Center to their eventual destination at the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic in the U.S. The special escort began at the hospital and continued along Interstate 81 led by the Upstate Hospital Police and …

News: SF COVID-19 Data

My City believes in data! And it even develops graphics to display it so it can be easily interpreted and visualized.

This is a serious topic, and I appreciate how the City is making such an effort to be sure we UNDERSTAND it.

News/Humor: Do Not Ingest Poisons Touted by the President

Humor is what I’m using to get through this situation, because I’d prefer to laugh than to dwell on the lack of understanding across segments of my country of basic survival concepts.

Opinion | America, please don’t put bleach inside yourself like the president says

This should go without saying, but: Please, America, don’t inject or put disinfectant inside yourself like the president talked about. It is not good for you. Actually, it is bad. “Sunlight is the best disinfectant” is just a metaphorical saying. Also, do not put a “light” “inside” yourself until we can figure out what the president is trying to say.

I think my favorite of many good quotes is:

I know it seems counterintuitive, but given the choice to listen to a plastic bottle or the president of the United States, I beg you: Listen to the plastic bottle.

Alexandra Petri’s writing for WaPo is topical and very, very funny. (She does Twitter well, too!)

News: Costumes Aren’t Virus-Proof

During this ultra-serious time, this news item made me laugh out loud, so I want to share it.

We regret to inform you that your inflatable T. rex costume is not virus-proof

Earlier this month, Felix Brodie parked his car in front of the Vons supermarket in Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., and suited up: full-length black cloak, balaclava, black leather gloves, and the final touch – a reproduction of a 17th-century beaked plague doctor’s mask (complete with top hat) that he bought on Etsy.

News: States During the Coronavirus

I haven’t mentioned that the past few months have been all about obsessively reading the news. Having a highly contagious global pandemic break out, one so severe that China closed internal borders and quarantined millions of people during its early peak, is A BIG DEAL – it’s a worldwide concern that everyone sensible wants to know something about.

Once it reached my country (& my coast!), and the voluntary precautions kicked in, my news-reading increased further. And once the MANDATORY precautions took effect, I could devote time I used to spend commuting, enjoying the outdoors, or running errands ENTIRELY to news reading.

Which isn’t entirely healthy: no one really wants to see a global death count on the front page of their device the moment their alarms go off. But that appears to be what it takes to get some people to take this seriously. (Though I suspect the people who aren’t taking it seriously DO NOT READ, which would explain many things.)

With infection counts and deaths rising, and routine business activities temporarily halted, the economy has been upended, and states – which rely on business running for revenue – have been struggling. And then things got weird, because a bunch of senators starting talking about having US States go bankrupt. Which… is not a thing US States DO. Also, I couldn’t see the point. I was missing something.

This article in the Atlantic explains what I was missing:

The gist: States would give up their sovereignty over their finances if they declared bankruptcy, and hand control over to the current federal legislators, who are majority Republican in the Senate; the wealthy blue states could come under the control of senators from the least wealthy red states, and have their larger budgets/populations forced to match red state priorities.

Ohhhhhhhhhh! NOW it makes sense! It is not at all democratic, and that is the way red state senators (many of whom are funded by business interests beyond their own borders, and remain in power through gerrymandering and voter suppression) prefer things. Which is terrible, but never surprising.

This is a good, clear read.