condescending twatbags, healthcare, overly helpful people

Asshole detectors…

Yesterday, I read an article on The Atlantic entitled “Are Outdoor Mask Mandates Still Necessary?” Written by Derek Thompson, this piece was exactly what it sounds like… an article about whether or not people should be forced to wear face masks when they are outside. Here in Germany, we aren’t obligated to wear a mask outdoors if we can “socially distance”. I have noticed that despite the rather anal retentive and uptight rule following stereotype that seems to dog the German people, folks here are not too jazzed about wearing masks 24/7. I never see people wearing them when I’m walking my dogs through the neighborhood, although people do wear them at bus stops because it’s required.

Thompson included statements from respected public health experts from around the world, explaining why the zero tolerance/100% enforcement attitude could backfire in getting people to comply with the rules. Thompson wrote:

Requiring that people always wear masks when they leave home, and especially in places with low levels of viral transmission, is overkill. As mentioned, the coronavirus disperses outside, posing little risk to people who are walking alone or even swiftly passing by strangers. In fact, almost all of the documented cases of outdoor transmission have involved long conversations, or face-to-face yelling. The risk calculation changes if you’re standing in a crowd: Some uneven evidence suggests that the Black Lives Matter protests last summer increased local infections. But that’s an easy carve-out. States can end blanket mandates and still recommend outdoor masking by anyone experiencing symptoms, or in crowds. (Extended conversations pose their own risk, but when people are vaccinated, the odds of viral transmission are probably somewhere between microscopic and nonexistent.)

Outdoor mask mandates might also turn people off from obeying better rules. “Given the very low risk of transmission outdoors, I think outdoor mask use, from a public-health perspective, seems arbitrary,” Muge Cevik, an infectious-disease and virology expert at the University of St. Andrews, in Scotland, told The Washington Post. “I think it affects the public’s trust and willingness to engage in much higher-yield interventions. We want people to be much more vigilant in indoor spaces.”

Makes sense to me. If I’m alone in the woods or swiftly passing someone on my walking route, I don’t think wearing a mask is as important as it would be if I was in a huge crowd of people who are shouting. Also, there are quite a lot of people who just plain resent being “nannied” and “nagged” by others. If we let people exercise their free will in less risky areas, they may be more willing to cooperate when they’re indoors. And yes, to me, it makes more sense to wear a mask when indoors with strangers than it does out on the street, when you can be far enough away from people not to risk sharing germs.

Thompson continues:

Julia Marcus, an epidemiologist at Harvard Medical School, spoke with several male mask skeptics last year for a piece in The Atlantic. When she explained that masking wasn’t as important outdoors, the men became more amenable to wearing them indoors. By connecting rules to reasons, she got them to see the value of covering their nose and mouth when it actually mattered. Last week, Marcus told me that she’s baffled by the notion that the best way to get people to wear masks inside is to mandate that everybody wear one when they’re alone outside. “We don’t recommend condom use when people are enjoying themselves alone to get them to wear condoms with their sexual partners,” she said.

The argument that outdoor mask mandates create a warm and fuzzy feeling of social solidarity confuses a personal definition of etiquette (“I think my mask makes everybody feel safe”) with a public defense of population-wide laws (“everybody should wear a mask everywhere, because it’s the only way to make everybody feel safe). Masks send all sorts of messages to all sorts of different people. To some, they’re beacons of safety; to others, they’re signs of imperious government overreach. As Marcus argued, mandating a public-health tool that’s not needed can drive away people who might otherwise be on board with more important interventions. “I think there’s a proportion of the population that believes restrictions will last indefinitely,” Marcus said, “and they are probably one of the hardest groups to keep engaged in public-health efforts.”

And I also liked that Thompson considered that not everyone has the same reality. A lot of people– myself included– are lucky enough to have backyards or balconies. But many more people are not so fortunate. In our previous house, we lived next to a large naturepark. But we didn’t have balconies or a yard with a functional fence, where we could let the dogs out free. The fence at our last house was more of a decoration, and would not have allowed us to safely sit outside with the dogs untethered. I know a lot of other people in Germany simply live in flats with no private spaces at all. As Thompson says:

Finally, mandating outdoor masks and closing public areas makes a show of “taking the virus seriously” while doing nothing to reduce indoor spread, in a way that often hurts the less fortunate. To deal with its COVID-19 spike, for example, the Canadian province of Ontario instituted a stay-at-home order and closed many parks and playgrounds. “These policies are made by people who have yards,” Marcus said. “If you live in an apartment building and have no yard, and are required to wear masks at all times outdoors, you never get to be maskless outside. And then, where do people gather maskless to socialize? Inside their homes”—where the risk of transmission is higher.

I thought Thompson’s article was fair and balanced, and the information within it was reasonable. I especially appreciated the comments from Julia Marcus, who came right out and said that there are people (like me) who worry that the mask mandates will turn into an indefinite rule. Allowing for some easing of the rules outside gives people hope that we won’t have to tolerate these rules forever, and that will make it easier to keep being vigilant. A lot of us just PLAIN don’t want to live this way for the rest of our lives, and we resent other people insisting that this is the way it HAS to be from now on. The fact is, many people feel that this is NOT how it should be. We should be working hard on a solution that makes mask wearing obsolete for most people. Or, at least that’s my opinion… but it seems like more and more people, especially in the United States, feel like only one opinion is the correct one. Anyone who disagrees is automatically an “asshole.”

One thing I take comfort in, at least here in Germany, is that it’s pretty obvious to me that people here are not going to accept being forced to wear face masks forever. In fact, I have noticed that even rule loving Germans are starting to rebel. There have been more protests lately, especially as Angela Merkel has pressed for stricter lockdowns. People are really getting tired of the crisis and they’re becoming more apathetic and lax.

I know there are people in some countries that are forced to wear veils whenever they are outside, but the rest of the world isn’t the Islamic world, where those kinds of oppressive rules are okay. And Thompson then ends with this uplifting conclusion:

Hyper-neuroticism is a mitzvah during a pandemic. But we really don’t have to live like this forever, and it’s okay for more people to say so. We can learn to look at a well-populated beach and not see a gross failure of human morality. We can see somebody unmasked in a park and not think, I guess that one doesn’t believe in science. We can walk down an uncrowded street with a mask, or without a mask, or with a mask sort of hanging from our chin, and just not really worry about it. We can reduce unnecessary private anxiety and unhelpful public shame by thinking for a few seconds about how the coronavirus actually works and how to finally end the pandemic. Let’s tell people the truth and trust that they can take it. Let’s plan for the end of outdoor mask mandates.

BRAVO! And let that be the FIRST step in eventually ending ALL mask mandates, because COVID-19 will be under control, like most infectious diseases usually become after time passes and science advances. Or, at least that’s what I think we should be aiming for. That’s what makes the masks different from seatbelts, which I don’t think we’ll ever get rid of, at least in my lifetime.

I felt pretty good as I read Derek Thompson’s article. But as I finished reading about how there’s a weird dichotomy between hyper-neurotic mask police types and vehement anti-maskers, I had sinking feeling that there would be tons of comments left on the magazine’s Facebook page. Sure enough, I was right. So many people, clearly folks who didn’t bother to read, left comments regarding this article. And one person wrote that non-maskers are his personal form of an “asshole detector”. Behold:

At this point I think of them less as masks and more as asshole detectors. Even if the chances are small, it’s the very least you can do for your fellow man. How damned privileged is our society that this is a hot button issue? If it happens to save even a few extra lives, it’s worth it. Buck up buttercups.

Seriously, dude? I think YOU are an asshole for taking this attitude toward your fellow man, especially as you pat yourself on the back for being so “considerate” as you judge people you don’t even know. And I think people who comment on things they haven’t read are assholes, adding unnecessary and uninformed noise that everybody else has to wade through.

and…

I live in southern Georgia and literally no one wears masks in stores, etc. All asshole behavior. I literally got into a verbal argument with a man that refused to stand on the 6 ft marker on floor in grocery store check out line. No mask. Even the clerk was like, “Sir, stand back!” It’s like the non-maskers get off on being a bully.

Why get in an argument with someone? Just get away from them. Arguing with a stranger is “asshole behavior” too, isn’t it?

There were more comments like that, along with the usual chorus of people writing things like “just wear the damn mask”, which I find pretty offensive, myself. I don’t think it helps compliance when you swear at people. In fact, people who swear at perfect strangers are probably assholes, right? I actually feel like telling them to go fuck themselves, but because I’m a lady, I don’t do that. 😉 Instead, I just think it to myself… and if I get angry enough, I vent about it in my blog.

I mean, I do wear a mask if I have to. But I go out of my way not to be in situations where I have to wear a mask, or deal with assholes who take it upon themselves to determine what perfect strangers are or are not doing as “asshole detectors”. Here’s one that made me laugh…

But it doesn’t matter. Wear the mask. It’s not an inconvenience in any way. It’s the least difficult thing that has ever been asked of us to do collectively. Articles like this only lend credence to selfish, broken people. Wear the mask until the pandemic is over. Simple. And until then, STFU.

Dude… to some people, it truly IS an inconvenience. You may not think it is, but they do– and they get an opinion and a vote, too! And telling someone to STFU, sorry, is also “asshole behavior”. You don’t get to tell people to STFU, simply because you claim to agree with the opinions of “experts” and you assume they don’t. There are all kinds of people out there who really are experts, and most of them have more balanced, fair, informed, and sensible opinions than yours. This lady had a sensible comment, in my opinion…

As a biologist, I can confirm that masking while outside was only suggested if you would be less than six feet from others (the transmission distance for errant coughs, sneezes or loud talking); it was never required by science to mask all the time outside. I carry or wear it and put up/on as I approach others on a path etc. ps I would warn against dining inside until one is vaccinated: the author’s point about the indoors being highest risk is valid.

And this guy also has reasonable thoughts, in my view…

I agree with this. The problem with outdoor mask mandates with fines for noncompliance is it becomes something law enforcement can selectively enforce. Look at what Miami was doing. They passed an ordinance that said everyone had to wear a mask at all times indoors or outdoors even when social distancing is possible. Miami police basically set up mask traps and stood outside supermarkets just waiting for people to come out of the store and take the mask off or wear it under their nose so they could ticket them. A woman was walking through an empty parking lot without a mask and was ticketed. Someone was in a barbershop and pulled his mask down for a few seconds to take a drink of water and a police officer happened to be walking by and that person was ticketed. I think a reasonable person would agree that this enforcement was overreach. I get the seriousness of the virus, but you have to give people a little breathing room. If a person is walking in an empty parking lot or on a back residential street and is not wearing a mask, but has a mask with them in case he or she comes to a situation where he or she can’t socially distance, then I don’t see the problem.

Sounds to me like Miami has found a great way to fill its coffers by oppressively fining people over mask wearing. Glad I don’t live there, especially as hot as it gets.

It baffles me that so many people have gone to such extremes on this issue. It should be perfectly okay to hate wearing a face mask. It should be okay to say it out loud, and hope for the mandates to end at some point. It should be alright to expect and fervently hope that we’ll get to a point at which this nightmare is either ended or mitigated. Otherwise, why go on living? I HATE living this way, and I don’t have it as bad as a whole lot of people do. Telling people that they don’t have the right to their feelings is toxic, and labeling them as “assholes” because you make assumptions about their character based on their masking habits is extremely limiting and offensive. Obviously, people who feel this way about other people are assholes themselves. Are there really people out there who think the whole world should be expected to accept living like this from now on? It blows my mind! As long as people are complying, what’s it to you, anyway?

I particularly love it when people compare mask wearing to wearing a seatbelt, or they compare going outside maskless with drunk or reckless driving. It’s absolute lunacy. I think, if seeing someone’s bare face outside in a sparsely populated area makes you compare them to drunk drivers or reckless people, you should simply do your best to avoid them. That’s what I do when I see someone on the road who drives erratically. I let them go ahead and get away from them. I don’t fan the flames by flipping them off or cursing at them through my window. Doing that in Germany can get you a pretty stiff fine, actually. It’s against the law to insult people or shoot the bird at them. Seems like doing one’s best to avoid problems is the better way to get through life. But… that’s just me.

Sigh… I really think Derek Thompson’s article is a good one. It gave me hope to read it. And, if people had taken the time to read it, they’d find that he consulted “experts” before he shared his thoughts. He’s quoted a Harvard educated epidemiologist, for Christ’s sakes, yet so many people feel the need to claim that Thompson is being “irresponsible” by giving people hope that things will get better! I would certainly listen to Julia Marcus of Harvard Medical School talking about COVID-19 and mask wearing than I would some jerk commenting on The Atlantic’s Facebook page.

Anyway… if you read all of this blog post and don’t think it’s an “asshole detector”, I thank you. I really think these hyper-vigilant, hyper-neurotic, nagging mask cheerleaders are how we wind up with right wing nutjobs like Marjorie Taylor Greene and straight up narcissistic creeps like Donald Trump in charge. There needs to be balance in all things… and that includes mask mandates. But maybe I’m just an asshole who needs to STFU. If you honestly think that about me, I hope you will take it as a cue to find someone else’s blog to read. 😉

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law, musings, psychology

I don’t think curfews are the best idea…

Even though I never left the house yesterday, it turned out to be a somewhat action packed day. Bill bought himself a butterscotch yellow Fender Telecaster electric guitar. I was kind of active on social media, even wishing for marijuana at one point. To be truthful, I have only had exposure to cannabis for recreational purposes a few times. My first time getting stoned occurred on my 43rd birthday, when we visited Haarlem, a town close to Amsterdam in The Netherlands. I tried it a couple more times before we came back to Germany. I enjoyed the experience, and since COVID-19 is a stressful thing, I think I would enjoy having some pot again right now. But I don’t want it badly enough to go looking for it.

Then I read an article in The New York Times about the curfews that are being imposed in different cities around the world. After reading the article, I determined that I don’t think the curfews are a good idea. I’ll get to why in just a moment. First, as you must have already guessed, I read the comments. I noticed many people commenting probably didn’t bother reading the article. That’s not surprising, since after a few freebies per month, The New York Times puts up a paywall. Most people don’t seem to think that journalists should be paid for their work, so they refuse to pay for a subscription. But they still read the headlines and opine, and sometimes they make uninformed comments.

I responded to one person’s comment. What I wrote wasn’t stupid, derisive, or disrespectful. But then some yahoo comes along and laughs at me, then writes, “C’mon dude. That’s your rationale?” Then he wrote more to someone else, indicating that they should be grateful for curfews and lockdowns, since that will “fix” the COVID-19 situation.

My response to the random yahoo was that, actually, my comment came from content in the article. I asked him if he’d read it. Then I commented that I’m not a “dude”. About twenty minutes later, I found myself inexplicably pissed off… and before anyone decides to tell me I’m too sensitive, I know I should ignore the comments. But I’ve been pent up for weeks now. Germany has had a “lite lockdown” going on since November, and things have been significantly stricter recently. It’s wearing on my nerves. And sometimes, I just feel the need to lash out a bit. I try to keep my lashing out to my blog, which most people only read if they’re actually interested, but sometimes I just can’t help myself.

Anyway, against my better judgment, I followed up my comment with another asking the random yahoo why he feels it’s necessary to laugh at comments from people he doesn’t even know. Granted, a lot of people went to the “Google School of Public Health” and pop off their theories based on what they’ve read in the news and their own opinions. It’s always funny to me when someone asks a stranger for their credentials in a comment section, asking where they got their MD or PhD in epidemiology. How do they know the person they’re demanding credentials from isn’t actually qualified?

In my case, I legitimately do have a master’s degree in public health. I did not concentrate in epidemiology; my focus was health administration and policy. But I did used to work as a graduate assistant for the Bureau of Epidemiology in South Carolina. In that job, I did learn a thing or two about disease tracking and transmission. I also took courses in epidemiology and health promotion.

I also have a master’s degree in macro social work, so I know something about social problems, community development, and crisis intervention. I earned both degrees in 2002. They were awarded by fully accredited programs at the University of South Carolina. As I was reading the article about the curfews, it occurred to me that if I had actually pursued the path I was on when I met Bill, this COVID-19 situation could be a treasure trove of relevant work for someone like me. The average person doesn’t know this about me, though. I’m just a “dude” who posts something they think is “stupid”.

So why do I think the curfews are kind of a bad idea? For one thing, it’s because the COVID-19 virus spreads more when people are indoors. And the virus doesn’t care if you are indoors with your family. If one of them picks up the virus while out and about and brings it home, chances are good that everyone in the house is going to get sick. For more on that reality, here’s another New York Times article about a family in Los Angeles who share a tiny one bedroom apartment. Grandma got sick first, so she locked herself in the one bedroom, while everybody else slept in the living room. Sure enough, they all got sick too. Most people aren’t going to practice social distancing and masking in their own homes. If we’re lucky, they’re washing their hands, but that’s not a given, either.

Of course, if someone does get COVID-19, it makes sense for people to quarantine at home. But it’s a lot easier to social distance when people have the freedom to go outside, which is a lot bigger than inside spaces are. And since businesses are closed down in a lot of places anyway, particularly in places where there’s a curfew, it’s not like most people are congregating at a dance club or a bar. Why shouldn’t people be allowed to take a walk or a drive if they need to, even if it’s after 6pm? The curfew article cited one case of a woman walking her boyfriend, doggy style, and complete with a leash, with him on all fours, in Sherbrooke, a city in Quebec. Yes, they were stopped by the police and fined about $3100, which is absolutely insane. It would have been okay for her to walk a real dog, but not her boyfriend, who is much less likely to take a dump on the sidewalk. I think $3100 is an excessive fine, too, particularly when so many people can’t work.

Another reason I don’t think curfews are a good idea is because people who are locked down are more likely to be bored, depressed, drunk, or high on something. People don’t like being told what to do, even if it’s for their own good. But forcing people to adhere to a curfew could deprive them of the ability to get out of the house when someone becomes abusive. Even people who get along well might have trouble dealing with being stuck in the same house with someone for weeks on end. Imagine dealing with a violent drunk or someone who has an anger issue. An incident that might have resulted in a tongue lashing under normal circumstances might turn into something more violent or even deadly under the stress of a curfew.

Many people get frustrated and angry when they are confined, and they might turn to drugs or alcohol to relieve the stress, which will likely only make things worse. Yes, the argument could be made that leaving the house for one’s own personal safety could be considered an “essential reason”. But people who are stuck in abusive situations may still find it more difficult to leave under curfew conditions, even if they’re being threatened.

And finally, I think a lot of people already distrust the government. People are highly pissed off at government officials of all stripes. I have been reading about how public health officials, who normally don’t get too much hatred lobbed at them under regular circumstances, are being vilified in their communities. Some of them have been threatened with bodily harm or even death. Curfews make sense in situations where there’s rioting and civil unrest. But most people would prefer to be allowed to live as they see fit. Being forced inside for their “own good” may inflame people who are already highly pissed off and uncooperative. That could lead to hidden abuse behind closed doors, or it could lead to uprisings that land a lot of people in legal trouble or hospitals. And jailhouses and hospitals are not good places to be, particularly during a pandemic.

Personally, I haven’t had a problem staying home. Bill and I get along very well. He doesn’t have a violent bone in his body, despite his long military career. We have a fenced in backyard, two balconies, and plenty of space. If either of us got sick, it would not be a problem for one of us to move into the guest room in the basement. Bill can work at home as much as he needs to, and he makes enough money that we don’t have to worry about expenses… at least for now. But I’d venture to guess that most people aren’t as fortunate as we are, and this situation is causing real hardships for many people.

I imagine how I’d feel being forced into a curfew with my family of origin. My father was an alcoholic with PTSD who lashed out when he was under too much stress. When he was alive and we still lived together, we fought a lot. There were times when he occasionally got violent. I sure wouldn’t want to have to be locked down with him, if only because we didn’t always get along under normal circumstances. He could be a control freak, which didn’t sit well with my admittedly occasionally difficult personality.

There are people out there with even worse problems than alcoholism. I worry for those who are in those situations, particularly if there are children involved. People wonder how long they’re going to be expected to adhere to these oppressive new rules. I know I’ve been wondering. Sometimes, it makes me very depressed to think about it… enough that I wonder if I’d rather just find a way to check out early. I mean, Bill would miss me and so would the dogs, but I don’t have any children or a job, and plenty of people think I’m an asshole and laugh at me, or block me for reasons unknown. I’ve got to die someday, and this lifestyle genuinely sucks. I don’t know how long it will go on and what it will mean for the future. The present is already pretty shitty. Why stick around for what’s coming next?

You see? I have a pretty easy time of it, but even someone like me can easily fall into a pit of hopelessness and despair. I think about people who are dealing with joblessness, homelessness, drug and alcohol addictions, mood disorders, menopausal rage, and any of the other issues that have people on edge right now. And I think limiting a person’s liberties can cause a lot of unintended consequences. I base those concerns on my own experiences and the knowledge I’ve gained actually studying these issues. There hasn’t been a lot of research done about this specific topic because this is the first worldwide pandemic we’ve had in 100 years. Maybe that’s one of the silver linings of the pandemic. This is a perfect opportunity for some enterprising healthcare professional to do some research that will help the next time this happens. Hopefully, I will be long dead by that time.

Anyway, those are my thoughts for this snowy Sunday, which didn’t produce enough snow for the outside to be a winter wonderland, but has made the backyard more of a depressing morass of mud and soft dog crap. Tomorrow, Bill will take Arran in to have his tumor excised. Hopefully, it will go well and he’ll be okay.

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lessons learned, silliness, social media

People who deserve a visit from menstrual Krampus…

Special thanks to Wikipedia user Matthias Kabel, who has generously allowed his photo of Krampus in Salzburg, Austria 2008 to be used freely.

Yesterday, I read a very interesting op-ed on The New York Times entitled “Yes, People Are Traveling for the Holidays. Stop Shaming Them.” This piece, written by a pediatrician named Aaron E. Carroll, is about how many people, frustrated and angry about the spread of COVID-19 and the tremendous losses of life, have taken it upon themselves to shame and berate people who are making choices that they deem “wrong”. I’ve been writing about this phenomenon a lot myself. Frankly, it concerns me that so many people feel the need to police others. Below is a quote from Dr. Carroll’s opinion piece:

“The focus on blame is unhelpful, because what really matters is that people do as much as they reasonably can to prevent the spread of the disease, not that everyone adhere to the same set of rigid standards. I choose not to go inside friends’ homes, but I do eat outdoors at restaurants; other people might do the opposite. What’s important is that we all try to minimize risk.”

I decided to share the op-ed. A discussion ensued. I was grateful to see that it was a basically respectful discussion, although the person who had it with me seems to think I don’t have a clue about America and Americans. Believe me, I do know what Americans are like; I still am one myself, even though I have been away for a few years. It might be fair to say that I’m no longer used to how vocal, opinionated, demanding, and obnoxious Americans, as a whole, can be. I do notice them, for instance, when we’re in public places in Europe. Why? Because they’re so loud!

But when it comes to the coronavirus, I think both sides of the response to it have been insufferable and uncooperative, and that has led to a lot of discord and uncivilized behavior. I liked that the pediatrician who wrote the op-ed for The New York Times expressed himself in an even-handed, compassionate, and, I think, basically sensible way. He’s right about a lot of things, whether or not the population at large wants to admit it. Some people are simply bound and determined to do what they’re going to do, and no amount of public outrage is going to stop it.

Yelling at people, shaming them, calling them names, and harassing them only entrenches them in their beliefs and leads to more defiance. Whether or not you agree with their opinions, they still have the right to express them, and as long as there’s no law against it, they still have the right to travel and make other personal decisions. Moreover, in America, it truly is potentially dangerous to confront people over this issue. Many people are armed. I say, leave the enforcement up to the police and, for God’s sake, if you are concerned about catching COVID-19, stay the fuck out of people’s personal space.

A German friend agreed with me that shaming and blaming people who break the rules isn’t going to stop the behavior. But, she thinks heavy fines and police enforcement might. I tend to agree that fines, especially if they are vigorously pursued, might get people to behave. On the other hand, plenty of people ignore court orders. For instance, our ex landlady still owes us the money awarded in our lawsuit against her. I mentioned that, and my German friend replied, “Knecht Ruprecht or better Krampus should pay her a visit tomorrow. 😉

That gave me a laugh.

Many Americans may not know who Krampus is, unless they happen to have spent time in the European countries who have that tradition. I get a kick out of the moniker, “Krampus”, though. It sounds like a cranky name and it reminds me of menstrual cramps… something I haven’t experienced personally since October. Those who don’t know who Krampus is, however, may like an explanation.

A public domain illustration of Krampus and St. Nicholas visiting a child.

Krampus is described as a being who is half demon, half goat. He punishes unruly and ill-behaved children during the Christmas season. He’s one of the companions of St. Nicholas, and as today is the day traditionally celebrated as The Feast of Saint Nicholas, Krampus would have made his appearance last night, handing out lumps of coal to the naughty and visiting homes and businesses, sometimes with St. Nicholas and sometimes alone.

When my friend mentioned Krampus visiting our ex landlady, I couldn’t help but laugh. I can just imagine her shocked reaction as he gives her a lump of dirty coal, especially since I now know she is apparently quite the clean freak. She seems to think she can do no wrong, can make baseless accusations and engage in character assassinations, and that everything bad that happens is entirely someone else’s responsibility.

In that sense, she’s not unlike Donald Trump, who is sitting in the White House, checked out of his job and bitching about being “cheated” out of a second term. It’s utter bullshit, of course. Even the Attorney General admits that there’s been no evidence of election fraud, but Trump and his followers are still insisting there’s no way 7 million extra votes for Biden could possibly be legit. In Trump’s tiny mind, he can do no wrong, while those of us who are sane can see that he clearly can fuck up and, in fact, does so on the daily.

Wouldn’t it be funny if visits from Krampus were a real thing? I can think of a few people who deserve some coal for Christmas, although even coal has its uses, right? You can always throw it in the fireplace.

Anyway, regarding the op-ed from The New York Times… I remain firm in my opinion that yelling at people for not doing what you think they should be doing is counterproductive and potentially very dangerous. I doubt many of the people who commented negatively on Dr. Carroll’s opinion actually took the time to read and really consider it. Yes, we know there’s a pandemic. We know it’s a serious thing, and some people are dying or becoming disabled because of it. We don’t know how long those who are “long haulers” will be suffering from their symptoms. It would be nice if everyone decided to cooperate. But, like the old saying goes, you get more flies with honey than vinegar. And some people are not going to be convinced until they are personally affected.

Also… there is a difference between momentary compliance due to public shaming and an actual attitudinal and behavioral change. Many people will do something for a moment to get out of an awkward or embarrassing situation. That doesn’t mean they will keep doing what you think is the right thing to do. Because to them, what is more important to them is what they think. And, I think if you’re honest, you’ll admit that you’re exactly the same way. Almost no one likes being told what to do, what to believe, or how to think.

I think the situation we’re in right now is extraordinary, at least for those of us who are currently living in it. The vast majority of us have never experienced this kind of public health threat before. But, the fact is, this is not the first pandemic and humans have survived far worse than this. Eventually, this situation will be mitigated, although another may be soon on the horizon. I’m sure that back when the plagues were sweeping across Europe, people thought it was the end of the world. It wasn’t, of course, although many people did die. But it’s going to take respect and cooperation for us to get past this mess. As Dr. Carroll points out,

I understand that Covid-19 shaming is rooted in frustration. We’re angry about our inability to get a handle on the pandemic. But in our quest to scold and lay blame, even when we’re publicly calling out truly bad actors, we’re just making ourselves feel superior, which only makes it harder to achieve the solidarity needed for shared sacrifice.

We can all do better; we’re all in this together. This is just a virus, one that’s too easily transmitted to stigmatize its effects. The only shame we should associate with Covid-19 is that our country has done so little to fight it.

So… be a good citizen and do what you can to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and naughty behavior. And don’t be an asshole to other people, regardless of which side of the COVID-19 debate you’re on. Don’t tempt a visit from Krampus. And hopefully, menstrual Krampus, the evil twin, won’t be paying ME any visits anytime soon.

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healthcare, Military, Trump

Some Trump supporters finally turned blue…

This morning, I read about how some folks in Omaha, Nebraska ended up having to visit a hospital after spending several hours stranded in below freezing weather. Why did this happen? Because they decided to attend a late night Trump rally at Omaha’s Eppley Airfield, a site served by a two-lane road. There were so many people there that the demand for shuttle buses was very high and people had to wait, apparently unprepared for prolonged exposure to the frigid temperatures.

According to The Guardian, there were thousands of people waiting for shuttle buses hours after Trump’s plane had already departed the area. Some people attempted to walk to the distant parking lots where their cars awaited, about two or three miles away from the rally site. Then, once they got to their cars, they were stuck in snarled traffic for hours. Many of the people who were at the rally were elderly people, and several of them were so badly affected by the cold that they needed urgent medical attention.

I imagine a scene much like the one Bill and I experienced after we saw Elton John in concert in Stuttgart in May 2019. He happened to be performing at the same time as the 2019 spring festival, so traffic was hellish. It took a couple of hours to make it the few kilometers to our hotel, but at least we weren’t freezing cold. I just remember really having to pee.

In a Washington Post article about Trump’s rally, Johnathan Sundat, a 19 year old attendee from South Dakota who had driven four hours to the rally with his girlfriend, posted a tweet demanding an explanation from the Trump campaign. Sundat is quoted:

“There’s this belief that Donald Trump is for the common people, and that’s part of the reason why he won in 2016. But the reason why I wanted to tweet it is because I do believe in part of his message; I believe in some of the things he said that night, and it was kind of disappointing that a campaign would treat you like that.”

Interestingly enough, when I tried to read Mr. Sundat’s tweet, it had been deleted. I kind of wonder if maybe he got some backlash for daring to question Trump after being quoted by a major newspaper. Other people also tweeted their dismay that they were literally left out in the cold by Trump just days before the election. Add in the fact that all of these people were gathering during the pandemic, and a lot of them weren’t following social distancing guidelines. According to The Washington Post, there were about 25,000 people at the rally. And although the campaign staffers took temperatures and provided face masks, many people didn’t bother to wear them. Instead, they all crowded on risers. When the event was over, some of the people who attended were still waiting for a bus back to the parking area 3.5 hours after Trump had left on Air Force One.

Frankly, I think this event nicely illustrates what Trump has done since 2016. He’s figuratively left a lot of people “out in the cold”. And I think Mr. Sundat was quite astute when he realized that Trump’s image of being a plain speaker like the “common folk” was not actually based in truth. I hope that means Mr. Sundat will reconsider voting for Trump next week, but somehow, I have my doubts that he’s learned from his own newly acquired insight. Indeed, in the article, Sundat was quoted as saying that his feet were a little numb, but he’d probably do it again:

“Like I said in my comment, it was pretty disheartening,” he said. He added that he didn’t blame Trump himself: “It’s probably not him scheduling the buses.”

No, it’s not him scheduling the buses, Johnathan, but it is his event and ultimately, it’s his image on the line. People hired on his behalf to set up this rally let down you and thousands of other people. He’s been doing that for years now. Haven’t you learned? And those people who needed medical assistance will be stuck with the bill, not Donald Trump. The buck should stop with Mr. Trump, but you want to give him a pass because he’s not scheduling the buses? Why didn’t he expect his people “scheduling the buses” to foresee this disaster and avoid it? Why isn’t he concerned about the people who came out in the cold to support him, at great personal and financial risk?

My husband spent thirty years in the Army. He’s often told me what the Army expects of its leaders. For example, in the early days of Bill’s career, he had a company command. That duty entailed leading enlisted Soldiers in training, rather than sitting behind a desk. Bill told me that in the Army, good leaders make sure their followers get their needs taken care of first. For example, after a full day of training, everybody’s tired and hungry. But as an officer in charge of a large group of young Soldiers, it was Bill’s duty to see that they all had a chance to eat and drink. That meant waiting until every last man or woman was served, and potentially not getting any food or being stuck with whatever was left. A good leader also never asks anyone to do anything that he or she is unwilling to do.

Trump literally left those people who came to support his re-election standing out in the cold. It’s the kind of thing he’s been doing for decades. Why his supporters can’t see that, I will never know. And now, some of those people had to visit a hospital, which is especially risky right now, thanks to the pandemic. And some of them will end up with hefty medical bills that they may not be able to pay– bills that they would have avoided if they had simply stayed home. And the longer Trump stays in office, the more emboldened and reckless he seems to get with other people’s lives and livelihoods.

Sadly, I think a lot of people just plain don’t understand what a good leader is and what should be expected of them. Just this morning, as I was waking up, I read an article in the Military Times about how medical personnel from the United States are being flown to the Czech Republic to help take care of people with COVID-19. The virus is overwhelming the medical system in the Czech Republic and there is a critical shortage of medical personnel and equipment there. Many of the people taking care of COVID-19 patients in countries like the Czech Republic and Poland are getting sick themselves, compounding the shortfall.

I read some of the comments on the Facebook page for the Army Times, which is where the article was posted. Many people, who had clearly not bothered to read the article before commenting, were opining about “socialized medicine” and how it’s “so bad”. First of all, anyone who has been in the military and received treatment from a military facility ought to know something about what socialized medicine is. Yes, we have it in the United States, although it’s only for a certain segment of the population. And secondly, socialized medicine has nothing to do with the spread of COVID-19. It’s a very contagious virus about which we still know very little. Even before the pandemic struck, there was a shortage of medical personnel in parts of Eastern Europe. One commenter had this to say:

You didn’t see the US having other countries come in to help with our surge….🤷‍♂️

However… quite a lot of healthcare providers in the United States come from other places, too. And some of them are undocumented immigrants who have been at risk of being deported, thanks to Trump’s draconian anti-immigrant policies. So… actually, YES, we in the United States do depend on people from other countries to take care of our healthcare needs, too. Moreover, I saw a lot of ignorant comments made by people who have either clearly never lived abroad, yet spouted propaganda about socialized medicine that doesn’t reflect reality, or are tragically misinformed about what the healthcare systems in other countries are like.

I got quite a kick out of a German woman’s comments to an ignorant poster who believes that Germany’s healthcare sucks because he thinks it’s government run. First of all, it’s obvious that this fellow hasn’t the foggiest notion about Germany’s healthcare or how the United States compares to other countries in terms of healthcare quality. Let me put it this way– despite the idea that “you get what you pay for” (which is literally what one uninformed guy wrote)– that ain’t necessarily so when it comes to healthcare delivery. According to a nice, America friendly, U.S. based layman’s source, US News & World Report, as of January 2020, the United States ranked 15th in the world for the most well developed public health system. Given our response to COVID-19, which dates after this article, I’m sure the U.S.’s reputation has slipped. Wanna know where Germany stands on that list? Number 5. Yep… the guy who wrote this:

you get what you pay for. Exactly why The US leads in medical innovation. 
I would be scared to live where health care is free and you wait months on end for a visit while you die. And the “authorities” decide if you “deserve “ treatment… Dear God that is horrid. The VA not much better… mostly treats symptoms and sends you on your way…

clearly has no idea of what he writes. Yes, we spend a lot more on healthcare, but that doesn’t mean our healthcare is the best. In fact, it surprises me that someone who clearly identifies as a political conservative would believe that “throwing money at healthcare” will make it better. Aren’t Republicans the ones who criticize Democrats for spending money to solve problems rather than taking a more restrained fiscal approach?

The German woman who took the above guy to task wrote this to two different commenters who think they know what German healthcare is like:

I am literally laughing. You served? Got some Tricare, eh? What do you think that is? Paid for by WHO? 
Dude, I am from Germany. I had universal healthcare all my life. You know how great it feels when you are REALLY sick and don’t have to worry about how to pay the medical bills, if your house gets foreclosed, or if you still have a job once you get better? 
No you don’t. Go sit down in the corner somewhere. 🤣🤦🏻‍♀️

Guess she’s married to an American serviceman or retiree. She added this comment later.

I am about to fall off my couch. Typically you get way better care at a german hospital. Why? They don’t kick you out 3 days after heart surgery, because ‘insurance won’t cover it’. 
Oh you don’t feel good? Well, too bad…later. 🤣🤣🤣
You get the 250,000$ bill in the mail. 😏

And then she added this for the guy who thinks the US system is better:

what makes you think healthcare is free? We all pay for it. We just are smart enough to understand that getting ill can happen to everybody. 
Who do you think, picks up the bill of american uninsured folk who, when they really can’t take it anymore, show up at an ER. WHO? 😏
Anyways, I understand pretty much everybody who has big opinions about other countries universal heathcare has NEVER experienced it and is clueless about how it works and what the actual benefits are. 😏
Btw ‘made in Germany’ still means something way better than ‘Made in the USA’. 
Where do you think, do 90% of all surgical instruments come from? 😎
You too, go and sit down somewhere.

She’s absolutely right, too. In fact, Bill has an American colleague whose wife was recently diagnosed with stage four colon cancer at Landstuhl, the American military hospital located about 90 minutes from where we live. You would think a diagnosis like that would inspire healthcare workers to want to get cracking on treatment. But no… she couldn’t get a timely follow up appointment from Landstuhl to address the cancer, so she ended up calling on the local system. The German doctors told her to get her ass to the hospital within a couple of hours because they were ready and willing to take care of her NOW. Moreover, the treatment costs less, although since Landstuhl is a military hospital, the cost factor would depend on a lot of things. I’m not sure if her husband is a retiree, for instance, and whether or not she would qualify for free “space available” care at Landstuhl as a family member.

I noticed the guy came back with a smart-assed answer to the German woman who took him to task. I could try to take him to school myself, but I’ve gotta go wash my hair. In any case, it’s clear that he doesn’t know what he’s writing about and has no clue about what constitutes “good” medical care. He would prefer the American system because that is what he knows, and he is convinced that paying a fortune for basic care is what makes medical care in the United States superior to that of what you can get in Europe. It’s a myopic viewpoint that costs people their lives and livelihoods. The fact is, the United States has comparatively poor outcomes, especially considering how much money is spent. Moreover, we have a lot of unhealthy people who can’t access care because they can’t afford it. What good is all that so-called “medical innovation” if you can’t access it? This, my friends, is a topic in my wheelhouse. If I weren’t an “overeducated housewife”, I might have been using my master’s degree in public health to research this stuff.

But anyway… I have already rambled on long enough. I’m glad it’s Friday. Bill will come home later to telework as we gear up for another partial lockdown. Meanwhile, I’m going to pursue making myself a better and more interesting person by practicing guitar. Ciao, y’all.

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fashion, law

Why are people so excited when face mask wearing becomes “mandatory”?

First thing’s first. I hate the face masks. I resent having to wear them. There, I said it.

However, I do comply with rules, and I do understand why, if you’re not able to be at least six feet away from someone, they are currently necessary. I do not see wearing them as akin to wearing a seatbelt, though, and I do NOT want to see them become something we’re all forced to wear from now on. I hate it when people compare the masks to seatbelts, because they’re really not the same thing. It’s always been dangerous to ride in a car without a seatbelt (although I pretty much hate them, too– I do wear them, though, because otherwise Bill turns into Pat Boone). It’s NOT always been dangerous to go in public unmasked.

Coronavirus has only been a global issue for a few months. It took many years for legislators to make laws requiring people to wear seatbelts in cars. Now, all of a sudden, people want to make face masks a new fashion accessory and they cheer when a lawmaker makes wearing them mandatory. For weeks, I have seen social media post after post nagging, beseeching, imploring, lecturing, shaming, and demanding that people wear masks and not complain about them. And I don’t understand why people are so happy about this new requirement being foisted on everyone, whether they agree with it or not. This should be a TEMPORARY measure.

I totally get being concerned about virus spread. I get why wearing a mask is currently considered the “considerate” thing to do. I get why wearing a mask might slow the transmission of coronavirus. In fact, I have been staying home and away from people for the past three months, which is actually the MOST CONSIDERATE thing a person can do, besides frequently washing their hands. The one time I did go somewhere that required a mask, I wore one. But face masks are uncomfortable, inconvenient, and unpleasant to wear. And no, I don’t want to “get used to them”. If you want to wear them from now on, that’s on you. But I, for one, do not want this particular accessory legally forced on me until I finally kick the bucket. I hope to see a vaccine or something that will eventually make the face masks obsolete, or at least more comfortable.

I like seeing people’s faces. Faces offer a lot of non-verbal communication cues that one can’t always pick up from verbal communication. Moreover, people who are hearing impaired might need to read lips, which is impossible if the lips are covered by a mask.

I like listening to choirs, brass, and woodwinds. It’s not easy to sing or play an instrument while wearing a face mask. Ditto to other performances like drama or oratory. As it is, I don’t understand why anchorpeople have been wearing masks on air if they aren’t within six feet of someone. If you can’t be six feet apart, okay, but why wear the mask if you’re not close to someone else? It makes it harder to understand the new, particularly if viewers are distracted because it’s slipped down under the reporter’s nose.

I understand feeling suffocated and claustrophobic, and wanting to breathe fresh, cool air that doesn’t smell like halitosis and give me acne. Not everyone feels that way. Some have adapted to the mask just fine. But a number of people besides me legitimately hate the damned things, and we have the right to hate them AND complain about wearing them. That’s part of being in a free society. And no, I don’t need you to tell me to “grow up”, “wear a damn mask”, explain how they work, or say that those who feel like they can’t breathe are “copping out”. Kindly go fuck yourself.

Not everyone reacts to change in the same way. Maybe you have asthma and can wear the mask with no problem. That’s your experience. Someone else may legitimately have trouble with the masks. That’s their experience, and they have the right to speak up about it, too. Below are some comments from the Edinburgh Airport’s Facebook page, where people are being requested to wear a mask. Notice how some people feel they have the right to tell other people what their experiences with asthma are. They say that they can handle wearing masks, so you should be able to, as well. It’s really quite rude. We’re not all the same.

This subject comes up after an interesting thread I started yesterday. I was sitting at my computer, and a Facebook ad popped up. Behold…

It looks like she’s wearing lacy underwear over her mouth… I imagine they taste and smell like twat.

When I saw this photo, I was immediately disgusted. I posted this comment:

This kind of shit makes me roll my eyes… I don’t see face masks as “sexy”, and I truly hope they don’t become a permanent “essential” fixture in fashion. I know some people like to wear them, but I hope they’re temporary, because I think they suck.

I got a couple of comments, including one from a notorious face mask nag… and a “wow” reaction from someone who has a family member with COVID-19. I think at least a couple of people thought I was panning face masks as a whole. I was not. I do legitimately hate them for many valid reasons, but I see why they are necessary FOR NOW. Nevertheless, I added the addendum below for those who didn’t take the time to read the thread:

Edited to add: I am saying that this particular mask is stupid— especially the ridiculous price tag. I don’t think there is anything sexy about disease prevention. It looks like she has hooker undies over her face. I don’t like masks, and I sincerely hope they don’t become standard apparel from now on, but that doesn’t mean I am non compliant.

Yes, you are. Don’t be trying to force this shit on everyone from now on so you can make money off a pandemic.

I looked up XSuit, which was selling the above two masks… Actually, I didn’t see the black lacy mask after I hid the first ad and posted how fucking stupid it looks. The company gets really poor reviews for customer service and the quality of their merchandise. I’ve seen a lot of these kinds of ads on Facebook… businesses capitalizing on the sudden need for face masks and trying to make them “fashionable”. I refuse to give in to the fashion trend, though… not that I’m particularly fashionable as it is. I am wearing disposable paper masks on the very rare occasions I’m in public. I don’t want a cloth mask, because I do not want this to be part of my standard wardrobe.

I don’t feel happy or excited to see face masks turned into something we are legally required to wear. These kinds of laws, once on the books, can be hard to undo. I also think we need to be careful not to give in to the pressure to surrender too many of our civil liberties. The masks make sense in some situations when social distancing isn’t possible, but I’ve been reading about people taking it upon themselves to police strangers who are just out and about tending to their business and not actually close to other people. I don’t need granny on the street corner yelling at me to wear a mask if there’s no one close to me. She can shut the hell up, give me a wide berth, and mind her own business.

I do think this is kind of funny… but really, how do you know if the person who is wearing a mask has recently washed it or their hands? Alyssa is technically complying with the rules… even if a crocheted mask isn’t exactly the best barrier.

That being said… the thread I started about the lacy porno mask did get kind of funny. For one thing, that particular mask does not look to be very functional. Here in Germany, people tend to be pretty good about doing things for the common welfare of others. So I have not seen or heard of people protesting by wearing KKK-esque hoods or crocheted masks that are technically following the rules, but either offensive or not effective. The tacky porno lace mask in the first XSuits screenshot I shared looks like something one would wear at a BDSM club, and it barely covers the model’s nose. Many people commenting said it looked like she was wearing panties on her face. And I couldn’t help but think of this classic scene from Revenge of the Nerds

“We’ve got bush!”

As Bill and I were talking about this today, I was reminded of “Welcome to the Monkey House“, a story by Kurt Vonnegut. It was in his book by the same title. The story is about how the government encourages people to commit suicide to help keep down the world’s population. The government also forces people to suppress their sexual urges by making them take a drug that makes their genitals numb, but doesn’t render them infertile, since that would be considered offensive to religious people. An “ethical suicide hostess” named Nancy McLuhan, virginal and dressed in a sexy body stocking, gets abducted by a group known as “the Nothingheads”– people who refused to take the medication that numbs orgasms.

Billy the Poet, leader of the group, forces Nancy to come off the genital numbing drug and then rapes her, thus teaching her that sex is meant to be felt… kind of like air is. Rape is not something that most people enjoy, and in that sense, the story is kind of off note, but the point is, the character didn’t know what she’d been missing because the drugs had been required of her by the government for her whole life– supposedly for the common good. Nancy presumably decides to join the Nothingheads, having realized that she liked being able to feel her genitals and enjoyed the sensation of having sex, much like people like to breathe air that hasn’t been filtered by a sweaty face mask.

The story is an interesting read… and some aspects of it are kind of disturbing. For instance, rape is part of the story, and it’s presented in a way that implies that some women enjoy rape and deserve it because of how they dress. However, the main theme of the story– the public being forced to take drugs and encouraged to kill themselves at the behest of the government and presumably for the “common good”– does seem kind of applicable right now. If you haven’t already read the story, I recommend checking it out, keeping in mind that it was written in the 1960s and times and attitudes, particularly about sex, were different then.

Anyway… I see people are excited and approving about face masks being legally mandated. I understand why they want to see people obliged to wear them for now. But I also think that one should be careful what one wishes for, and what becomes a legal requirement. It’s a very slippery slope. And I will leave you with yet another brilliant George Carlin rant… which also seems very applicable today.

“The whole thing is fuckin’ pointless…” although this routine is a bit dated now. I doubt you’d be able to fly with knitting needles and a broken whisky bottle. But yeah, the government can “FUCK with you anytime they want! As long as you put up with it!”

I might actually enjoy wearing a mask with a middle finger on it… it would probably repel people out of my six feet buffer zone, too.

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