How Much I Spent Today

How much of our consumption is the result of social contagion? More than we care to admit.

My day was wonderfully counter-cultural. $0 spent out-of-pocket. 

Lest I not kid myself about my minimalist street cred, the digital cash register was continuously updating in the background. The YMCA membership, property taxes, utilities, groceries, coffee beans, auto/house/health insurance, gasoline, internet and streaming services, digital and print subscriptions, the family’s cell-phones. And I’m sure I’m not accounting for some other recurring expenses.

Still, don’t I deserve some credit for saying “no thank you” to the legions of marketers and their super sales?   

 

Coronavirus Math

What’s wrong with the third of my state that constantly criticizes the Governor’s handling of the seasonal flu global pandemic? Is it, in part, a lack of numeracy? Is math education to blame?

There are 7,615,000 people living in Washington State. There are 331,000,000 people in the (dis)United States. So we represent 2.3% of the country. As of 11/25/20, 261,636 people have died from Covid-19. If Washington State residents were dying in proportion to the country’s overall death rate, (2.3% x 261,636) 6,018 people would’ve died so far. In actuality, 2,655 people have died, 1% of the total. If twice as many people had died in Washington State, we’d still be below average.

Of course you and I know the Governor doesn’t deserve the majority of the credit for that, it’s the whole citizenry that’s rising above the Grand Canyon-like void in federal leadership, coupled with hardworking nurses, doctors, and a legion of other essential workers. Still though, the next time you feel like ripping the Guv for “taking away your freedom”, just put a mask on.

Bonus ‘rona prediction. All those ludicrous fights between the Mask Vigilantes and the Anti-Mask Nutters will continue after we return to mostly normal next summer. This is because some subset of the most cautious Covid-19ers will continue to socially distance even after the threat subsides. They’ll do it partially out of habit and partially because their anxiety will not turn off all of a sudden. Their continued “abundance of caution” will incense the “Live Free or Die” crowd which isn’t known for its empathy. Just don’t be surprised if next August you see an epic shouting match on your local bike path or at your local Costco. In the meantime, meaning the next few years prob, extend some grace to the most Covid-anxious among us.

The Trump Quandary

We desperately need to pivot from Donald Trump and Dan Barry is here to help. If I could only share one article on Donald Trump with some person in the future curious about the Trump Era, it would be Barry’s from today’s New York Times, “‘Loser’: How a Lifelong Fear Bookended Trump’s Presidency“.

It’s not angry or mean, it’s thorough, thoughtful, and explanatory without succumbing to rampant psychological speculation. Barry doesn’t inflame and doesn’t even analyze Trump as much as he describes what has happened, or more accurately, is still happening.

I could excerpt most of it, but in case you’ve already exceeded your recommended daily calories, here’s just a taste:

“. . . his famous aversion to the label of loser has now reached its apotheosis.

Since Joseph R. Biden Jr. was declared the winner of the Nov. 3 election — and Mr. Trump therefore declared the loser — the president has repeatedly trafficked in baseless allegations of a fraudulent and corrupt electoral process. What was once considered the quirky trait of a self-involved New York developer has become an international embarrassment, nearly upending the sacred transition of power and leaving the world’s foremost democracy — grappling with a deadly pandemic and a teetering economy — with a leader who refuses to concede despite the basic math.

‘AND I WON THE ELECTION,’ Mr. Trump tweeted last week. ‘VOTER FRAUD ALL OVER THE COUNTRY.'”

We’re in a quandary. We need to move on from DT for the sake of our own mental health and our relationships with our conservative friends, but we also need to remember the past.

It’s not psychological speculation to assert that Trump’s preoccupation with winning is his dad’s fault. Pay attention to the stories from his childhood. When I do that, I feel extremely sorry for him. He never stood a chance.

I suppose, like many people approaching sixty, I now realize internal, personal contentment is preferable to any exterior notions of life success.

More specifically, I now realize you can’t beat me in anything if I refuse to compete with you. Knock yourself out winner. I’ll be seeking contentment, quietly, outside of your view.

I’m profoundly thankful on this day that my dad was Donald J. Byrnes and not Fred Trump.

The Billionaires Are Winning

From Farhad Manjoo’s, “Even in a Pandemic, the Billionaires Are Winning”. The title should begin, “Especially in a Pandemic”.

Manjoo turns to Chuck Collins, a scholar of inequality at the Institute for Policy Studies, to tell the sordid story.

“In previous recessions. . . billionaires were hit along with the rest of us; it took almost three years for Forbes’s 400 richest people to recover losses incurred in 2008’s Great Recession.

But in the coronavirus recession of 2020, most billionaires have not lost their shirts. Instead, they’ve put on bejeweled overcoats and gloves made of spun gold — that is, they’ve gotten richer than ever before.

On Tuesday, as the stock market soared to a record, Collins was watching the billionaires cross a depressing threshold: $1 trillion.

That is the amount of new wealth American billionaires have amassed since March, at the start of the devastating lockdowns that state and local governments imposed to curb the pandemic.

On March 18, according to a report Collins and his colleagues published last week, America’s 614 billionaires were worth a combined $2.95 trillion. When the markets closed on Tuesday, there were 650 billionaires and their combined wealth was now close to $4 trillion. In the worst economic crisis since the 1930s, American billionaires’ wealth grew by a third.”

Meanwhile, as the rise in homelessness and strained food banks illustrate, ordinary people are losing.

Bam Adebayo’s Mom

Is going to be okay. Because Bam is getting paid. From ESPN News Services.

“The Miami Heat and Bam Adebayo have agreed to a five-year max extension, Adebayo’s agent, Alex Saratsis, told ESPN’s Zach Lowe. The deal includes escalator clauses that can take its total to $195 million over five years.”

Let’s not forget, social mobility is extremely low in the (dis)United States these days. And if one wants to improve their lot in life, education is still a much safer bet than professional sports. Neither of those two facts mean we can’t celebrate Bam’s and his mother’s changed fortunes.

“Adebayo had told The Associated Press during the NBA’s restart earlier this summer at Walt Disney World that his lone financial goal was to take care of his mother, Marilyn Blount. She raised him by herself in North Carolina, making about $15,000 a year from her multiple jobs and with the family calling a single-wide trailer their home.

‘That competitive nature comes out when I feel like I’m playing bad and when things aren’t going right,’ Adebayo said in the September interview with the AP. ‘I think about how she fought through struggle. … You see that for 18 years straight, you take that load on and feel that responsibility. And my responsibility is to provide for my mom, and the best way to make sure I can do that is to help us win.'”

Consider her provided for.

A Gerundocracy

I need Anna Rappe’s or DK Byrnes’s help on this one. It’s kinda embarrassing that Anna is Swedish, lives in Sweden, and for sure knows more about English language grammar than me. And no, she didn’t learn any of it in the 10th grade World History course I taught her at the International Community School in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia back in the days of Mengistu.

More from today’s Twitterverse.

A.J. Bauer, “Biden, Blinken, Yellen — what is this, a gerundocracy?” Followed by Alison L. Gillespie, “This is geekiest grammar joke I have ever seen on Twitter and everyone thinks it’s about ageism.”

She’s right about me at least, I did have to read it twice before I realized it wasn’t ageist.

A gerontocracy is a state, society, or group governed by old people. A gerund is a verb that morphs into a noun when you add “ing”.

But all of Bauer’s examples end in “en”. If they ended in “ing” I’d muster a chuckle. Consequently, I’m left wondering what exactly is the joke.

Postscript: This just in! The Good Wife drops some knowledge. . . “I think it’s not the spelling that makes it a gerund in his case. It’s the sound when you say it- like ‘She was yellin’ loud enough for the neighbors to hear!'” 

Are You Ready to Sip Unflavored Almond Milk?

Biden Transition tweets of note.

Lachlan Markay, “One of the more remarkable—but unremarked-upon trends of the past three weeks has been the relative calm of the Biden transition in the face of Team Trump’s frantic shit stirring.”

Jake Sherman, “THE BIGGEST SHIFT in Washington in January won’t only be that Democrats are taking the White House. It will be that the BIDEN administration will be — as @ BrendanBuck pointed out — “delightfully boring”. 

@ harrispolitico calls it “Joe Biden’s Team of Careerists.”

Sherman, “By design, they seem meant to project a dutiful competence, as Biden creates a government overseen by those who have run it before. THEY BELIEVE IN A LINEAR, plodding purposeful and standard policy process. EXPECT INTERVIEWS with JOE BIDEN to be a big deal — meaning, they won’t happen often, which givens them an extra oomph. We’ll complain, and they won’t care.”

The end of Sherman’s thread is money:

“IN OTHER WORDS, if the TRUMP White House was like downing a vat of Tabasco sauce over the past four years, the BIDEN White House will be like sipping unflavored almond milk.

Someone pass me a dictionary. . . what do these words mean—competence, purposeful, standard? Yo no comprendo. 

Why Do We Social Media?

One of our next-door neighbors doesn’t talk to the GalPal and me. I understand her not talking to me, but the GalPal, come on, she is as friendly as they come.

The couple who sold to us told us that would be the case, which helps not taking it personally. But man, it’s odd. Especially when Ms. NextDoor posts on-line about ordinary, face-to-face stuff. For example, this weekend she broadcasted to the whole neighborhood, plus surrounding ones I think, that her college aged sons were temporarily moving home, as well as other extended family, so she wanted everyone to know more cars will be coming and going. The kind of thing you’d say when bumping into a neighbor on a walk.

But so far, 4.5 years in, I’ve never seen her take a walk. But what do I know, maybe she has a treadmill in her crib and is running 10 miles a day. But I digress.

Alas, I prob have a log in my own eye. I just left a comment on a Facebook Group page called “Saving Guilford College”, the small Quaker liberal arts college in Greensboro, NC where I taught previously. I wrote the following in response to a post from a woman about her deceased husband, my former colleague. She wrote that when he was near death in the hospital he said, “Guilford College killed me.” That got my hackles up. So obviously a delicate sitch. You can decide for yourself how well I balanced respect for her and her family with my frustration at his lack of personal responsibility.

“I was a down-the-hall colleague of Bill’s from 93-98 (Education Studies). He was always super nice and clearly good at what he did. I’m very sorry he didn’t get to enjoy a post-work life with you and the rest of your family. However, respectfully, I don’t understand his contention that Guilford killed him. College professors have lots of autonomy over exactly how hard they work and for how long.”

Was that a wise investment of time? Did I make the world a better place by getting that off my chest? No and no, and yet, I couldn’t help myself. My excuse is I’m supposed to be reading students’ papers today which always gives rise to world class procrastinating. And yes, I’ve already vacuumed. 

Now I’m afraid to open FaceBook to see the probable backlash. What’s keeping me from quitting Facebook? 

The Trump Virus Is Spreading

Loren Culp refuses to concede Washington State’s gubernatorial race despite losing by 545,000 votes, which is approximately 14% of the total. 

“So far, neither Gergen nor Culp have publicly produced evidence of voter fraud in Washington. But they say they are collecting proof, including evidence of voting by noncitizens and dead people, and double registrations.”