Denial Is Not a River In Egypt

Except when it comes to the Seattle Mariners, I’m not normally a “glass half empty” guy, but I’m worn down by the President’s, Michael Medved’s, and some of my friends’ continuing, knee-jerk insistence that we’re the “greatest country in the world”, which increasingly sounds like Stuart Smiley trying to convince himself that “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, people like me!”

Some facts from Nicholas Kristof’s current piece in the New York times “The Best-Case Outcome for the Coronavirus, and the Worst”.

  • The United States has still done only a bit more than 10 percent as many tests per capita as Canada, Austria and Denmark.
  • . . . one can argue that the U.S. is not only on the same path as Italy but is also less prepared, for America has fewer doctors and hospital beds per capita than Italy does — and a shorter life expectancy even in the best of times.
  • . . . the C.D.C. has posted official guidance advising that doctors and nurses ‘might use homemade masks (e.g., bandanna, scarf) for care of patients with Covid-19 as a last resort.’
  • the United States is in a weaker position than some other countries to confront the virus because it is the only advanced country that doesn’t have universal health coverage, and the only one that does not guarantee paid sick leave. With chronic diseases, the burden of these gaps is felt primarily by the poor; with infectious diseases, the burden will be shared by all Americans.

The True Believers will not only refute these facts, they will never change their view that the (dis)United States is the greatest country in the world. That notion is essential to their sense of self. And yet, their myopia will not do anything to reverse our steady slide. Their self-congratulatory insistence that we’re the greatest country in the world will only grow more delusional over time.

 

If I Could Only Follow One Person on Twitter

Normally, my favorite people on Twitter tend to be intellectuals or comedians, but these days, if I could only follow one person it would be Canada’s gift to the (dis)United States, Daniel Dale. He does an incredible job of repeating exactly what the President says almost in real time and then dispassionately explains all of his fabrications. Highly recommended. I expect him to be at 700k followers in short order.

In related news, for whatever reasons, I can’t get any traction on Twitter. I’m only about 697,350 followers behind D2. When you follow him, follow me too so that little gap doesn’t grow more vast.

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I Watched Americana

And not too proud to admit it. Well, so far, the first 35 minutes, which to my TSwift-loving daughters, secures my place in the pantheon of history’s most outstanding fathers.

For extra credit, I read Amanda Petrusich’s review in The New Yorker, TAYLOR SWIFT’S SELF-SCRUTINY IN ‘MISS AMERICANA'”.

 Petrusich notes:

“Swift is certainly not exceptional in her yearning for approval, but her life has unfolded on an unprecedented scale.”

Not exactly original insights. If The New Yorker had commissioned me to write the review, which in hindsight they should’ve, I would’ve framed the film as another in a long line of case studies on the corrosive effects of fame. As my saying goes, “Fame tends to corrupt and absolute fame corrupts absolutely.” Then I would’ve referenced “Amy” the documentary about Amy Winehouse which powerfully illustrates how sadly pop icons’ stories often turn out especially when surrounded by selfish, financially dependent employees, family, and “friends”.

And it’s odd that The New Yorker’s choice for reviewer is silent on our mindless tendency towards celebrity worship, which I’d argue makes us complicit in Swift’s struggles and Winehouse’s demise.

It’s also disappointing that their reviewer is silent on Swift’s passive acceptance of her fame. Swift did lay low for a year, but more as a pause in her incredibly ambitious career. What’s stopping her, someone has to ask, from a complete retreat from the public sphere for much, much longer.

Taylor, if you’re reading this, which I suspect you are, eat up and change your appearance, move to Canada, make friends with Harry and Megan, and dig into the ancient Stoics. You won’t be disappointed.

I can’t speak for my daughters, but the rest of us will be okay.

Sovereignty For Us, But Not Others

The Trump Administration may be most infamous for its “America First” doctrine. Nationalism rules. Globalists like Obama and Biden and their ilk are despicable elites who’d just as soon sell out US manufacturing jobs to foreign countries as they would sacrifice our sovereignty to international organizations like the United Nations and the World Trade Organization.

The rest of the world be damned. Especially China. At least until they check their Individual Retirement Account balances, most Americans are sympathetic to the argument that it’s time to get tough on China in order to create some semblance of a trade balance and to stem intellectual property theft and cyber espionage against US businesses.

But there’s one central flaw in the administration’s economic and foreign policies that prevents me from enlisting full stop in the China Trade War and that’s the rhetoric spewed by Steve Bannon and others about the ultimate objective. . . destroying China’s “state sponsored capitalism” (see this documentary). This goal is based upon the simplistic and wrong-headed notion that when it comes to economic systems, it’s a winner take all contest.

Bannon says our version of free-market capitalism and China’s state-sponsored capitalism cannot co-exist even though they have been for decades. News flash Bannon—every national economy in the world exists on a continuum between laissez-faire free market capitalism and state-sponsored, command economics. Besides the obvious examples of North Korea, Cuba, and Venezuela, Canada and many Western and Northern European countries prefer the center of the continuum. Amazingly, different approaches work for different people in different places.

How would Bannon, Trump, and the other nationalists in the administration react if another country tried to impose its economic system on us? They’re always harping about our national sovereignty while simultaneously trying to destabilize China’s economy and replace Venezuela’s government.

The moral bankruptcy of this hypocrisy is growing more and more apparent, but the Trump Nationalists continue to get aways with it. Here’s hoping the electorate wakes up by November 3, 2020.


Today’s best bumper sticker. . . Make America Grateful Again.

Twice The Fun, Half the Money

Two words. University housing. Few travelers know that most universities have housing options for any visitors looking to save serious money on nearby hotels. Many times the options range from inexpensive minimalist dorm rooms with shared bathrooms to modestly priced hotel-like rooms with private bathrooms.

The Good Wife and I just spent three days living in a small, but very clean and comfortable hotel-like room on the campus of The University of British Columbia in Vancouver. The centrally located hotel is normally filled with conference participants, job candidates, and visiting faculty. The first night we watched our President pal around with the world’s worst dictator on a 42″ plasma t.v. and throughout our stay we luxuriated in the large commercial kitchen that came complete with a giant fridge/freezer; precise tubs and instructions for labeling our food; free fruit, tea, and coffee; newspapers; and an expresso maker complete with two types of beans waiting to be grinded.

And don’t forget U.S. readers, everything north of the border is currently 24% off, so our three nights cost $302. See how far that will get you in downtown Vancouver.

It gets better. Large university campuses like UBC, go Thunderbirds, have tons to recommend them, especially in the summer, when there’s a tiny fraction of the normal number of people. On our first campus walk, we met a man who befriended us and told us we had to visit the Rose Garden because “the roses knew you were coming, so they’re blooming” and also the Museum of Anthropology which has the world’s largest collection of Pacific Northwest indigenous art.

We dug the roses and the MOA, but the cheap vegetarian restaurants on campus rocked too. And the running was great, the trail that looped the campus, the tartan track, the coastline trail. Next time we’ll take our bicycles because West Vancouver’s ubiquitous bike lanes we’re calling us.

Best of all though was the swimming. After arriving, we learned a new state of the art aquatic center had recently opened in the middle of campus. BEST pool ever. Tons of natural light, beautiful materials, white, clean, spacious—the hot tub is designed for 34. I thought I had died and gone to heaven. Entrance to heaven, $5. Bring a quarter or a loonie for a small or large locker and your own towel, shampoo, and soap.

The pool was set up for long course. I could’ve swam, hot tubbed, and steam roomed all day. The only mistake I made was diving off the 3 meter board. Trying to impress the Gal Pal was not worth tweaking my shoulder.

Speaking of swimming, the nearby 137 meter long Kitsilano pool, or Kits pool if you’re cool, was what inspired our trip to West Vancouver. We were mesmerized by the pictures. Not sure it was real, we knew we had to experience it ourselves. It’s described as the third sexiest pool in the world, but that was before The Good Wife graced it with her presence. It was hard to get her out of the water. We had perfect timing too, decent weather, a week after $3.3m in improvements, but a week or two before the summer surge.

And if you’re fortunate enough to visit Vancouver, don’t miss the Granville Island Public Market for some nice art and excellent food. Speaking of food, the first night we ate at Lido, one of the Richmond restaurants featured in the previously highlighted NYT article. We we’re the only non-Asians for as far as the eye could see, super cool. The bok choy, green beans, chicken, and white super sticky rice were off the charts. Heads up—they only take cash and get Canadian money in advance because they don’t want to be bothered with silly currency adjustments.

The best part of this trip, besides reconnecting with my best friend, was mixing with locals the whole time. Downtown we would’ve been two of thousands of tourists. On campus, in coffee houses, at Kits Beach, everywhere we went, we were surrounded by ordinary Canadians, largely Chinese-Canadians, living their daily lives. As travelers, that’s how we’ve always rolled.

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UBC’s New Aquatic Center

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Kits Pool

 

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Now The Sexiest Pool En Todo El Mundo

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Post coastline to downtown run and leisurely swim with far fewer flip turns than normal.

On Invisible Backpacks

We don’t forgive and forget. We do the opposite. We remember and grow resentful.

Loyal Pressing Pausers may remember I’m serving on my church’s 12-person Council which provides leadership for the congregation. We’ve been working tirelessly to resolve a protracted conflict between our pastor and staff. Most recently, we tried mediation by asking everyone involved to participate in conversations with trained facilitators.

Despite being complimentary of the co-facilitators, the pastor and staff reached an impasse after just two meetings and decided not to continue with mediation. In hindsight, the impasse was predictable because of the resolution center’s philosophical orientation of quickly pivoting from the past to the present and future.

Far too quickly. Because we do not fully forgive or forget, protracted group conflict can’t be resolved quickly.

The mediators would probably say their emphasis on the present and future is because people get mired in the past. Certainly some do, but that’s because things stick. To varying degrees to different people. There’s no one for whom everything “just rolls of their back”. We range from “kinda sensitive” to “hella sensitive”, meaning in dysfunctional work environments, negative interactions and experiences build within people. I think of this in terms of invisible backpacks.

Everyone in your workplace, and maybe even church, walk around with invisible backpacks on. Some people only have one or two negative interactions or experiences in theirs, meaning it lies almost flat against their backs. Other’s backpacks are jammed full of years of negative interactions and experiences. Those backpacks in particular are heavy, meaning they have a daily, deleterious effect on those people.

Negative interactions and experiences are endemic to every workplace, no matter how wonderful the culture. The difference is at some places there are regular opportunities for co-workers to openly and honestly discuss low-level frustrations thus keeping their backpacks almost imperceptively light. People need opportunities to say, “It really hurt me when. . . ” And “I feel. . . was unfortunate or unfair because. . .” Or “I’ve been frustrated every since. . . ”

Absent those mechanisms, resentment and antipathy builds to the point that positive interactions are highly unlikely because harmonious relations require people to give one another some grace, or cushion, or benefit of the doubt in the form of, “You don’t have to communicate or even act perfectly all the time, because we’re only human, and I know from previous experience that you have my best interest in mind.”

Apologizing for communication or other missteps is the other half of the reconciliation equation, but when the past is deemed relatively unimportant, people are unaware of how they have contributed to what’s in other’s backpacks.

While on a whole different scale, South Africa’s and Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commissions illustrate that a person, a couple, a workplace, a nation proceeds at their own peril if they try to finesse the past. As Justice Murray Sinclair of Canada says, “Reconciliation is about forging and maintaining respectful relationships. There are no shortcuts.”

Amen to that.