Monday, April 27, 2020

A Warning

Things might be a bit quiet around here for a bit. We're all safe and healthy at Casa Right Geek, but I just got hit in the face with inspiration for a geeky project that, at the moment, is completely consuming my spare time.

Besides, I need to find other things to discuss besides the worldwide coronapocalypse. ;)

Talk to you soon!

Saturday, April 25, 2020

Video: Perverse Incentives

I can confirm Matt's commentary here. Normally, my weekly gross pay is $552. If I were to stop working entirely, I would receive $877 (according to the letter I just received the other day from the VEC).

Mind you, I'm not going to ask my boss to lay me off. I love my kids too much to do that -- and everything my departed father ever taught me about the dignity of working (even if you have a shit job) further militates against that choice. But I wonder: how many people will actually live by that principle when the temptation to mooch is so unbelievably powerful?

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Yes, Open the Fuddruckers (*Restrictions Apply)

I work for a tutoring company that was able to switch to online instruction, so I'm still earning nearly my usual income. Thus, I'm in an extraordinarily privileged position. I don't have to worry about food, rent, or other necessities; for me, the money is there.

But I know many, many others aren't as fortunate as I -- and I know that my own situation could change at any time. Indeed, the only reason I have work at the moment is that I'm the first-in-line senior instructor. In reality, our business has dropped off roughly 90%. All our other instructors have effectively been laid off, and my bosses are certainly not making the money they once did. Why? At a fundamental level, a tutoring business depends on the health of the economy. Parents pay for our service with their discretionary funds. If parents lose those funds, we become an unaffordable luxury.

If our society remains stuck on pause for much longer, the ripple effects will be more damaging than you can ever imagine. But evidently, some are unable to reflect upon these secondary and tertiary impacts. Some - like Patton Oswalt - think we can stay in and watch Netflix indefinitely. Some, to put it frankly, are completely divorced from reality.

The reason we locked down to begin with was to slow the spread of the coof so that our healthcare system wouldn't be overwhelmed. Yet now, certain people are demanding that we move the goalposts -- that we remain locked down until we've developed a vaccine or otherwise eradicated the danger of infection entirely. This is bat-crap insane. Keeping everyone at home and on the government teat is simply not sustainable. As a wise science fiction author once wrote, "There ain't no such thing as a free lunch."

I'm going to diverge from the usual responses to Oswalt's out-of-touch BS and say something bold: yes, this is about going to Fuddruckers. Do you know how many working class folks had jobs in those dining rooms before all this began? If we all started going to Fuddruckers again, we'd ensure the continued employment of many thousands of people! That's not putting money and comfort before lives; that's actually saving people from abject poverty and despair -- two things with documented mortality rates.

Of course, it's not only about going out for a burger. Large chains like Fuddruckers can probably absorb some loss when all is said and done. What really worries me is the coming destruction of Main Street USA -- all those mom-and-pop shops that can't protect themselves with a corporate shield. The tourist-trappy towns I love to visit - like North Conway Village, NH, or Gatlinburg, TN - depend on places like these. So too does my future place of residence just outside of Washington, VA. (I wonder: is Chef Patrick over at the Inn doing okay? If he goes under, my father will be crying in heaven.) (And what about Hackleys General Store? That place is literally the center of Amissville. If Hackleys folds, where will our future neighbors gather instead?) (Okay, enough with the anxious parentheticals, Steph, and get on with it!) Each threatened small business represents a family dream - and perhaps even a whole community - in peril. But we're just supposed to set that aside until the bat flu risk has been reduced to zero?

No: such a course is not rational, nor is it based on anything approaching "science." Science tells us we should limit the number of patrons we admit at a time, require masks, and disinfect surfaces after every use. It does not tell us to close down everything a government apparatchik considers "nonessential."

Bottom line at the end: The growing resentment of our politicians' continuing over-reach is wholly legitimate. People are losing their means of survival. If you're a celeb relaxing in a mansion - or a comfortable keyboard jockey who can work from home - you have no freakin' clue what's actually happening out here and should probably shut the eff up before you further cement my estimate of your rampant stupidity. Plz and kthx.

Saturday, April 18, 2020

An Addendum to the Last Post

Matt's list of things the pandemic should force us to re-think is excellent -- but allow me to make a few additions:

1.) Matt noted that telework is a much better option for many white collar jobs -- and as someone who's currently teleworking, I'd have to agree. What I'd add, though, is that a lot of teaching and learning can be done this way too. I don't think we should get rid of physical schools entirely - the online option isn't going to work for every student - but teleschooling has many similar advantages. As Glenn Reynolds always says over at Instapundit, you're less likely to be bullied at an online school. Additionally, you can schedule classes for times when our teenagers will actually be awake and functional. And yes: parents can more easily monitor what's really being taught. (This prospect scares those teachers who wish to indoctrinate instead of teach. To that, I say: Good.)

2.) We should also be scrapping many regulations that got in the way of our emergency response. The TSA's ban on bottles of liquid larger than a few ounces., for example, is pure security theater -- as revealed by the fact that the rules were recently relaxed for hand-sanitizer. We should also be allowed to continue talking to doctors remotely if we so choose.

3.) We should strenuously resist all future attempts by environmentalists to push us into dense urban cores. As the Kung Flu has revealed, there's a fantastic reason why we all sprawled out into the suburbs and exurbs to begin with. Luckily, increased telework will allow us to reduce emissions without living cheek-by-jowl in germy high rises. 

4.) While we're on the subject of environmentalist hobby-horses: we should figure out a way to address the plastic pollution issue that does not involve getting rid of (more hygienic) disposables -- because clearly, plastic shopping bags exist for a good reason too.

And lastly...

5.) We should remember which authorities took advantage of this situation to impose ridiculous, over-the-top rules on their fellow citizens -- and we should never, EVER trust them again. Recall them, vote against them, sue them, demand they be fired (in the case of the police) -- use whatever legal means are at our disposal to drum these Karens out of their positions of power and replace them with people who will follow the actual science and treat us like sensible adults.

Give us liberty!

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Corona: The Potential Upsides

From my brother Matt:

"I think COVID is going to have a number of long-term positive effects, despite the hardships it's creating now.

1) It puts the lie to the idea that global distribution methods are the best way to run supply chains - it's not actually smart for any nation to depend so heavily on other nations - especially those that are clearly adversaries geopolitically, as is the case with Russia and China. Newsflash to both NeverTrump conservatives and the left...Trump was RIGHT about this. I was NT in 2016 in part because I believed unfettered free trade was the way of peace. It manifestly is not. Some governments are just evil and dangerous - China is one such government - and we cannot treat them as equal partners unless we enjoy getting overrun with deadly viruses, having our IP stolen, or systems hacked, and our currency bullied.

2) It buries forever the outdated notion that workers are less productive when they work from home. It's 20th century dinosaur thinking and it needs to die with the virus. Telecommuting for work will, I believe, be far more common going forward. To the great benefit of both employees AND employers and to the massive benefit of the economy at large. The added efficiency will (a) help save the environment (b) bring added stability to the family unit and (c) solve a BUNCH of longstanding social problems at the workplace all while (d) creating more wealth.

3) It serves as a wake-up call to voters that they can't always rely on their government to save them every time they're in trouble because, sometimes, no matter how hard the government is trying, it just isn't capable of getting help to you on time. My hope is that it will make us less passive and more willing to accept that we have to know how to survive and take control of our own lives. I know we're busily demanding Congress pass seven jigga-zillion dollars in aid help right now...bizarrely enough, me included...but that doesn't mean we should come away with the message that Daddy Warbucks will arrive and save us. That aid is only necessary because the government already proved how inept it is at actually saving us from this monster. And that's not me slinging mud at Trump or the Feds. That's facing a reality. Some problems cannot be solved in time...some pain just can't be avoided...some suffering may even lead to better things, but we can't go through life demanding that our dear leaders take away all pain and all risk. They can't, and even if they could, they never...ever...should.

4) It gives us a chance to reflect on how important community organizations, public associations, and families truly are to the functioning of our society. It's not the government we miss right now. It's the Knights of Columbus, the parishioners in church, the extended family we can't go to see, the boy scout pack, the Elk's lodge, the sewing circle, the library, the gym, the aquarium, the baseball and basketball games, the plays, concerts, Greek societies, dance recitals, movie theaters and, dare I say it...the hoe-downs. Well...someone misses those I'm sure.

Our lives aren't given by government or our employer...and those aren't the things COVID is really stripping from us. Our lives are given by God and made rich by each other and the passionate works we do together...even those some of us here think are unworthy pursuits."


Saturday, April 11, 2020

Fear: The Mind-Killer

It really shocks me how the Kung Flu has turned off people's brains.

I don't have a solid position on whether this virus is truly serious or overblown because the available data are trash - we definitely don't have the true denominator for the CFR, and we may not even have an accurate numerator - and the expert opinions I've seen are profoundly divided. But even if the worst is true, I still believe certain local responses have been ridiculous in the extreme.

I was listening to one of my favorite YouTubers last night, and he reported that in his town (in southern Texas, I believe), authorities had actually spent money ripping picnic tables out of the ground and carrying them away. Granted, this virus can apparently survive on surfaces for quite some time, but -- wouldn't it be easier to install a disinfectant dispenser and some signage urging people to wipe things down before and after they use them?

I also saw a video on Twitter last night in which a gaggle of cops literally dragged a guy off a bus because he wasn't wearing a mask. My reaction? Er -- wouldn't it be far less traumatic (and fascistic) to simply distribute masks to people who aren't wearing them in public? Because I gotta tell ya: Mom and I had trouble procuring masks for ourselves, and I suspect lots of other people have experienced the same difficulty. (Come to think of it, the aforementioned YouTuber did note his own inability to find a mask in the same video in which he was laughing at the picnic table fiasco.)

It's certainly reasonable to discourage large gatherings because those tend to be plague vectors (as anyone who's suffered from a few cases of con crud will tell you) -- but shouldn't the definition of "large" be dependent on the actual space in which a theoretical gathering is being held? And shouldn't the same go for store capacity? If you own a tiny storefront - like the guy selling comics half a mile down the road from me - you probably should limit entry to less than 10 at a time. But if you're Home Depot? Obviously, you can hold more without jeopardizing everyone's ability to distance themselves from other shoppers. So why the blanket pronouncements regarding which businesses are allowed to be open, what they're allowed to sell, and how many people they can serve at a time? Why not just issue guidance to all business owners regarding how many customers they should admit at a time based on their available square footage and then let the business owners work out for themselves what exactly they need to do to keep everyone safe?

And by the way, couldn't similar guidance be issued to religious institutions?

I honestly don't think keeping people six feet away from each other requires we stop people from going to the park, surfing in the ocean, running on the beach, worshiping God in public, or taking drives in their own cars. I don't even think it requires draconian shutdowns of most economic activity (see the paragraph above) -- and I believe it's outright vile to encourage snitching on one's neighbors. Yet the restrictions keep escalating beyond all bounds of common sense. So what the holy hell is going on?

Well, first of all, it seems clear that some people are just power-tripping -- especially politicians and most especially leftist politicians, who've been dying to control people since they entered public life.

But the rest? The ones who are meekly taking the abuse? There, I think we're dealing with fear -- and a loss of the understanding of optimization. Yeah: using the measures I suggested above involves some risk that people won't heed the advice. I get it: lots of people are stupid. But should we really direct government power towards abolishing stupidity? Is that even possible?

No. Life, alas, cannot be made perfectly safe without doing untold damage to human well-being. So what we've always done, historically, is toggle the various risks until we've achieved what we feel is the best balance between competing objectives. That's why we've kept alcohol legal and have been moving towards fully legalizing pot -- even though it's demonstrably the case that abuse of those mind-altering substances causes damage to addicts and to the people around them. That's why some highways have posted speed limits in excess of 75 mph -- even though your chances of dying in a wreck increase the faster you're traveling.

Bottom line at the end: don't let panic smother your ability to think. Contrary to what seems to be the popular belief, you can take this pandemic seriously without fully surrendering your natural rights. Please don't let goose-stepping officials tell you the opposite.

(Because I'm expecting push-back on this, please note: I will not let your comment go through moderation if you accuse me of wanting grandma to die for the sake of Wall Street or anything similar. I will also decline to let your comment go through if you accuse me of downplaying the need for at least some preventative public health measures. This is a space for accurate reading comprehension and rational discussion, not invective. Disagree if you wish, but do so in good faith. Thanks.)

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Five Links

The Comprehensive Timeline of China’s COVID-19 Lies, Jim Geraghty

Another essential read on China's culpability. China lied, people died.

Via Local Commie Underlings, Beijing Officially Disapproves, Tim Blair

Read the epic Aussie fisking that recently went viral!

False Media Narrative of Red State Negligence In Wuhan Virus Response, Stacey Matthews

Experts Give Wyoming an 'F' for Social Distancing, Which Is All You Need to Know About Experts, Jim Treacher

These cover the same theme: that ignoring regional differences and demanding that Trump nationalize our pandemic response is deeply, deeply irrational.

(And you know what's also irrational, oh by the way? Arresting people just for being outside, where it's stupidly easy to stay six feet apart. There's absolutely no reason to bar people from playing t-ball in the park or paddle-boarding in the ocean -- other than to exercise fascistic power over others.)

Dave Barry confronts coronavirus armed with bandanas and ready to stock up on spatulas

Dave's characterization of the news right now is highly accurate -- and I definitely laughed at his complete inability to sew. I'm not an award-winning costume designer like my mother, but I do know how to sew on a button!

Saturday, April 4, 2020

Encouraging Helplessness

There's a consistent theme I'm noticing in the left's response to our current situation that I think requires comment. Sayeth the Twitterati:
  • "Governor [Name] had to act because Trump's not doing anything! How terrible!"
  • "Why should we depend on a private charity to build a field hospital? Our government sucks!"
  • "Why isn't Trump instituting a national quarantine? He doesn't care!"
  • "Trump should nationalize [insert essential industry here] and force these businesses to make [critical item]! Why is he sitting on his hands?"
Have you spotted the thread that ties all of that bitching and moaning together? Why yes: it's that these folks don't understand the United States constitutional system. Like -- at all. Not even a little bit. They expect Trump to act like the god-emperor of the memes - not like the chief executive of a federal system he actually is - because they've been maleducated into helplessness and stupidity.

The Founders didn't design our country to be run from a single administration in Washington. For one thing, they legitimately distrusted that sort of centralized power. For another thing, they understood that the U.S. is both enormous and diverse and therefore can't be run effectively by D.C. bureaucrats with zero intimate knowledge of each individual region. No: said Founders intended for governors, mayors, and private citizens to take up some of the responsibilities of governing because it's those people who will know best how to handle the unique challenges of their respective localities. And that holds true even in a pandemic!

There are certain places - cities, mainly - that require more supplies and stiffer restrictions because higher population density means a greater susceptibility to widespread infection. (Which reveals an evolutionary reason why lots of people love sprawl, eh?) And there are other places - rural areas - that are at lower risk. It's simply not rational to tell the three people who live in Wyoming that they need to follow the exact same guidelines as the people who live in New York.  (I kid, I kid. Wyoming's great.) Hell, it's not even rational to tell every county and city in a single state to follow one standard! Arlington, Virginia, is a massive hot spot (relatively speaking); unincorporated Rappahannock County - the location of our new homestead - has still not reported a single case. That's because the former is very urban and the latter is in the middle of nowhere! 

Different places have different needs. And who's in the best position to know those needs? Local politicians -- not Trump and his task force. The only thing Trump can and should do is offer support if it should be requested from below. Otherwise, people closer to the situation absolutely do need to take charge -- not sit around in a stupor waiting for Daddy Fed to tell them what to do.

We Americans are not supposed to sit on our thumbs. That's not what our Founders wanted for us. Thank eff my late father taught me that so I don't fall for the bull excrement that passes for intelligent commentary in our media.