Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Going Somewhere?

That was once a literal inquiry if someone was planning to go on holiday, leave a room or just plain leave.  Now today it is the million dollar question as many of us sit in wait wondering what is next and what will happen when we finally get somewhere.

The reality is no one knows anything about anything and that includes the virus we have come to know as Covid.   That much is clear as many man hours and labor has been spent on when did it get here and how did we know it did and more importantly who brought it here.  In other words, the elusive Patient Zero which means a whole hell lot of nothing frankly as this is now and now what do we do?

Much is made of the decision to NOT shut the country down sooner, or how it was done and the reality of the disease and its travels Asia, to Europe, to America and elsewhere as it travails across the globe leaving a wake of decimation be it physical  or economical as at this point it is hard to grieve as the losses are so great in both.

The New York Times posted a 1000 names of the dead taken from the random of 100K and climbing since Covid hit the shores sometime in 2019 - 2020. Again who the fuck cares as they are still dead and still dying.   Normally I love a good obituary but this time I passed as this is beyond even my level of empathy and compassion, I am just too angry to be anything else.

Then we had the Memorial Day holiday which I believed would lead to chaos if the powers that be did not lessen the leash we have been on these near three months and it shows that some of the pups are not well trained as they flocked to public places and ran amok.  This did not surprise me; however, I was surprised how the tri-state area seemed quite contrite and complacent but that may have been due to weather as it was not clear until the afternoon and for many it is just exhausting to think about doing more than organizing once again the shopping, the laundry and the rest of daily life to add a day/weekend trip to go somewhere else only to do the same there. Remember no restaurants nor shops are open for regular traffic/business so is that not the point of getting away, to get away from the routine?

Now was I shocked that in Arkansas a pool party went amok? That in the Ozarks it was a crazy ass party of drunks?  That in South Carolina, North Carolina and Florida shit and crazy hit the fan? No.  Have you been there, no wait, lived there?  After living in Nashville and traveling in the region no I wasn't and again these are areas that have not been as heavily affected by the virus and they are sure this is all bullshit and somehow about Trump.  If you met the great unwashed as I have you would realize they are just not screaming hillbilly racists.. well that they are.. but they are just like any part of America that has been relegated to the discount heap pile.  They are sorted over, picked apart and neglected and that rage has to be released in ways that have led to mass shootings, opioid addiction, violence and of course Trump.  To think that is exclusive to the region, think again and check the story about the Staten Island Shop Rite shoppers abusing a patron for not wearing a mask or anything in Jersey with regards to the Orthodox sect.

Again the idea that in bleak times we look to leadership to define heroism and in turn guidance we have somehow latched onto Cuomo who for whatever reason thinks he is the Big Covid Daddy of us all, regaling us stories about his daughters, their boyfriends and his brother and mother as if we too are all one family fighting the virus together. No we are not and shut the fuck up.  I have written about the Three Stooges here before and once again want to highlight that as Cuomo feigns dismay over the dead he carefully placed in the budget an amendment  absolving legal responsibility for those in the medical industry (the same ones he sent many Covid patients back to to their ultimate deaths as well as infecting others) was due to the one factor that explains it all money.  

And as New York tries to figure it out the expression goes: As goes California there goes the nation. If that is so then guess what we are fucked. The States have these odd panels comprised of former Feds, Private Industry and of course Billionaires who will do what I have no clue but the idea that private industry can rescue America is another one of the many bullshit screeds that have been exposed behind the pandemic curtain.  Americans have been slowly eroding their faith in Government (and this has not changed) but have been stable with regards to the State and Municipal entities and we can say well hello to the flying monkeys on that as well.

No one, I repeat, no one has the Magic Crystal Ball in which to figure this out.  There can be all the speculating, posturing and of course my personal favorite, modeling on how and if and when and why if that is this then that could be this but if that x is not y then it becomes z and then all hell breaks loose.   I never want to see/hear/know about another model for anything, including homes, tops, bottoms, super or otherwise.   I love that if and or but somehow magically is able to predict and tell us what may, could of, might of and if or nor had this been done then, or maybe then or this time for sure.  Okay, thanks.

What we are seeing is fear and that is not measurable nor predictable.  We have people running amok here in two different directions.  One heading to the beach and beer ponging until Covid kills them or the ones running screaming that Covid is coming, Covid is coming in their best Paul Revere until that versus Covid makes them hoarse.  Either/or, Neither/Nor I am done with the daily digests of someone told me that I know of their friend on Facebook who told them about a BBQ with 13 families and they all work in a prison and then they all will go back to work at the prison and then more shit will hit the fan or not.  So do you know them and are they at your house? Did you go to the BBQ? To the prison? Do you live in the City? The State? Work with them or their family? No. Then why do you give a flying fuck? This is personal responsibility have some.

And that is why once again as we watch another Black person being killed as if it is okay to follow them, tape them and then wait and turn over the video to the Police but accept no responsibility as you watch men chase and gun him down sure what is the problem. Or the girl calling the Police as she was walking her dog off leash in an area where it is required and a man asked her to do so,  I see the sense of urgency.  Or the black man standing on the corner waiting for a bus is an issue as well the buses aren't coming as often so he is waiting longer than usual and therefore your fucking problem. Wow, just wow.  I don't give a flying fuck unless you come into my personal space and that is three feet, not even six and so when you are on the bus/train/rail don't but here is what I do, I MOVE.  Gosh that is not hard.  Well I can now call 1-844-WYT-FEAR and all will be solved.

No one knows shit so the prognosticating, the predicting, the forecasting is all for nothing or not as they get paid for their performance, like monkeys. Do they fly too?

No One Knows What’s Going to Happen
Stop asking pundits to predict the future after the coronavirus. It doesn’t exist.

The New York Times
Sunday Review
May 24, 2020

By Dr. Mark Lilla; Professor of humanities at Columbia.

The best prophet, Thomas Hobbes once wrote, is the best guesser. That would seem to be the last word on our capacity to predict the future: We can’t.

But it is a truth humans have never been able to accept. People facing immediate danger want to hear an authoritative voice they can draw assurance from; they want to be told what will occur, how they should prepare, and that all will be well. We are not well designed, it seems, to live in uncertainty. Rousseau exaggerated only slightly when he said that when things are truly important, we prefer to be wrong than to believe nothing at all.

The history of humanity is the history of impatience. Not only do we want knowledge of the future, we want it when we want it. The Book of Job condemns as prideful this desire for immediate attention. Speaking out of the whirlwind, God makes it clear that he is not a vending machine. He shows his face and reveals his plans when the time is ripe, not when the mood strikes us. We must learn to wait upon the Lord, the Bible tells us. Good luck with that, Job no doubt grumbled.

When the gods are silent, human beings take things into their own hands. In religions where the divine was thought to inscribe its messages in the natural world, specialists were taught to take auspices from the disposition of stars in the sky, from decks of cards, dice, a pile of sticks, a candle flame, a bowl of oily water, or the liver of some poor sheep. With these materials, battles could be planned, plagues predicted and bad marriages avoided.

In those places where the gods were thought to communicate verbally with humans, oracles and prophets were designated to provide answers on demand. The most highly revered oracles in the ancient Greek world were the high priestesses at the Temple of Apollo at Delphi. When it came time to respond to a petitioner who had placed a question before her, the priestess would enter the inner sanctum and seat herself on a tripod erected over a crevice in the ground, out of which inebriating gases were thought to rise.

These fumes paralyzed her rational faculties and put her in a trance of receptivity that allowed the god Apollo to speak through her in cryptic remarks and riddles. These would be interpreted by a second figure, the prophet, who answered the grateful petitioner in poetry or prose. It was a very successful start-up and made Delphi a wealthy town.

Prophets today are less flamboyant. Former prime ministers do not, as a rule, sniff drugs before appearing on CNN. They sit meekly in the green room sipping mineral water before being called on to announce our fate. Augurs have given up on sheep livers and replaced them with big data and statistical modeling. The wonder is that we still cry out for their help, given that the future is full of surprises.

Professional forecasters know this about the future, which is why in the small print of their reports they lay out all the assumptions that went into the forecast and the degree of statistical confidence one might have in particular estimates, given the data and research methods used. But harried journalists and public officials don’t read or comprehend the footnotes, and with the public baying for information, they understandably pass on the most striking estimates just to get through the day.

Ancient augurs and prophets were in high-risk professions. When their predictions failed to materialize, many were executed by sovereigns or pulled apart by mobs. We see a

Take a banal example: snowstorms and school closings. A half century ago, when meteorological forecasting was less sophisticated, parents and children would not learn that classes were canceled until the storm began and it was announced on radio and television that very morning. We lived in harmless uncertainty, which for kids was thrilling. When snowflakes fell they even looked like manna from heaven.

Today, mayors and school superintendents, putting their faith in the meteorologists, routinely announce closings a day or more in advance. If the storm fails to arrive, though, they are sharply criticized by parents who lost a day of work or had to find day care. And if an unforeseen storm paralyzes the city, leaving streets unsalted and children stranded at school, the reaction is far worse. More than one mayor has lost a re-election bid because of failed prophecies, victim of our collective overconfidence in human foresight.

Our addiction to economic forecasting is far more consequential. Here the footnotes really do matter but politicians and the press encourage magical thinking.

The candidate declares, My plan will create 205,000 new jobs, raise the Dow 317 points and lower the price of gasoline 15 cents. Two years later, the gloating headline reads: The President’s Unkept Promises. Stagnant growth, a bear market and war in the Middle East make re-election unlikely.

Never mind that declining global demand slowed growth, that Wall Street is a drama queen and that a freakish tanker collision set off the war. A failed presidency is declared. And so the press and the public turn to fresher faces — who of course offer the same absurdly precise predictions. Not for nothing did Gore Vidal call us the United States of Amnesia.

The public square is thick today with augurs and prophets claiming to foresee the post-Covid world to come. I, myself, who find sundown something of a surprise every evening, have been pursued by foreign journalists asking what the pandemic will mean for the American presidential election, populism, the prospects of socialism, race relations, economic growth, higher education, New York City politics and more. And they seem awfully put out when I say I have no idea. You know your lines, just say them.

I understand their position. With daily life frozen, there are fewer newsworthy events to be reported on and debated. Yet columns must be written, and the 24/7 cable news machine must be fed. Only so much time can be spent on the day’s (hair-raising) news conferences or laying blame for decisions made in the past or sentimental stories on how people are coping. So journalists’ attention turns toward the future.

But the post-Covid future doesn’t exist. It will exist only after we have made it. Religious prophecy is rational, on the assumption that the future is in the gods’ hands, not ours. Believers can be confident that what the gods say through the oracles’ mouth or inscribe in offal will come to pass, independent of our actions. But if we don’t believe in such deities, we have no reason to ask what will happen to us. We should ask only what we want to happen, and how to make it happen, given the constraints of the moment.

Apart from the actual biology of the coronavirus — which we are only beginning to understand — nothing is predestined. How many people fall ill with it depends on how they behave, how we test them, how we treat them and how lucky we are in developing a vaccine.

The result of those decisions will then limit the choices about reopening that employers, mayors, university presidents and sports club owners are facing. Their decisions will then feed back into our own decisions, including whom we choose for president this November. And the results of that election will have the largest impact on what the next four years will hold.

The pandemic has brought home just how great a responsibility we bear toward the future, and also how inadequate our knowledge is for making wise decisions and anticipating consequences. Perhaps that is why our prophets and augurs can’t keep up with the demand for foresight.

At some level, people must be thinking that the more they learn about what is predetermined, the more control they will have. This is an illusion. Human beings want to feel that they are on a power walk into the future, when in fact we are always just tapping our canes on the pavement in the fog.

A dose of humility would do us good in the present moment. It might also help reconcile us to the radical uncertainty in which we are always living. Let us retire our prophets and augurs. And let us stop asking health specialists and public officials for confident projections they are in no position to make — and stop being disappointed when the ones we force out of them turn out to be wrong. (A shift from daily to weekly news conferences and reports would be a small step toward sobriety.)

It is bad enough living with a president who refuses to recognize reality. We worsen the situation by focusing our attention on litigating the past and demanding certainty about the future. We must accept what we are, in any case, condemned to do in life: tap and step, tap and step, tap and step ….

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