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Member since: 2001
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What People Die From During a Pandemic

Surprisingly, in most pandemics, a large percentage of the mortality rate is due to "secondary factors".

Meaning, the victims were pathogen-positive, but the pathogen itself would not necessarily have killed them.

Secondary factors include:

Delays in seeking care. People who feel "a little off" don't seek care, or fail to administer self-care such as taking rest, hydrating, monitoring their temperature, using anti-inflammatories, treating the symptoms, etc. Or they would be willing to seek care but have no access to care professionals who can prescribe the regimen most likely to help their immune system fight the pathogen, and who can tell them the 'trigger symptoms" (such as a particular degree of fever, or a particular length of a symptom's persistence, etc.) to escalate treatment.

Delays in diagnosis. If there is a treatment protocol, the longer diagnosis is delayed, the longer the pathogen has to multiply, deplete body resources and immune response, and the less effective the treatment protocol may be.

Inadequate or incorrect care. With or without a known, effective treatment protocol, poor care can increase mortality rates by exposing people in crowded, poorly-designed care facilities to re-infection, or by shortages of needed resources such as fluids, medication, equipment and person power to administer treatment.

Sequelae and secondary infections. An already pathogen-compromised immune system is vulnerable to other infections and/or can respond in unhelpful ways to physiological events associated with healing and/or long periods of inactivity.

Those four factors are the culprits to a greater or lesser extent in almost all high pandemic mortality rates.

Once a pathogen is identified and an optimal treatment protocol is developed, mortality rates will decrease quickly even without a specific "cure" medication or vaccine, IF and ONLY IF, communities have in place the resources to decrease the influence of those four factors.

That is:

Awareness and encouragement for everyone to self-monitor and respond to even vague or minor symptoms quickly, supporting preventive measures such as taking time off work to rest, understanding the importance of hydration and helping the body fight inflammation, and knowing what "trigger symptoms" are, so that they can avail themselves of...

Freely available diagnostic screening. This should include triage for severity, education on the treatment protocol, monitoring and support for self-care, and prompt routing to...

No-cost, good-quality, meticulous medical and nursing care for moderate-to-severe infections and...

Careful identification of vulnerable patients and preventive care and isolation to prevent sequelae and secondary infections.

Even without a "cure" medication or vaccine, providing those four things will keep mortality rates in any pandemic much lower than they would be otherwise.

The first one is pretty low-cost to the taxpayer, as it is mostly public education work and perhaps a temporary regulation to prevent employers from firing employees for absenteeism and to provide subsidies for mandated sick pay.

The second one costs more, but is still comparatively cheap if you mobilize emergency services at the community level so that there are trained technicians at clinics, fire stations, shelters, and mobile care stations in every community. EMTs, emergency personnel, and public employees unable to pursue ordinary duties due to preventive quarantine shutdowns can be trained and mobilized at relatively modest cost levels (compared to the costs of dealing with large numbers of acute cases and dead bodies, anyway...)

The third one is costly but there are ways to reduce the cost without compromising quality. Offer free video-based training and teleconsults to family member caregivers and community volunteers, provide "treatment at home" resource packages freely at community care stations, and use your more professional, highly-trained and carefully-equipped caregivers to do mobile monitoring and telecare consults with careful protocols to prevent transmission in the process.

The fourth one is very costly, true. It would involve effectively commandeering hospital and acute care beds and transport resources and setting up a monitoring and care network that can gather and analyze data on vulnerability factors and sequelae and hopefully develop protocols to reduce severity and incidence. But again, it's less costly than dealing with overwhelming numbers of acute cases and dead bodies.

A competent national government would already be working to implement #1 and prepare for the other three.

Many state and large-city public health offices are already on this, but their efforts will not be as effective as they could be with national coordination and extra resources directed to them.

And so when the COVID-19 pandemic takes hold in America we are likely to see a mortality rate considerably higher than necessary.

Because we allowed Russia to install an unelected moron to pwn the libs. Still happy about that, MAGAts?

Please read the foregoing carefully, and do your own preparations. Educate yourselves. Don't hesitate to treat physical symptoms, even vague ones, seriously. TAKE the time off work. You can't get another job if you're dead. Don't stockpile stupid stuff like masks, but DO make sure you have a good supply of clean water or filters, anti-inflammatories, nutritious and easy-to-prepare food that a pathogen-compromised system can deal with.

If you don't have one, invest in a good thermometer to monitor fever. Learn to count your own pulse and respiration rate. As soon as you feel unwell, track temperature, pulse and respiration a few times a day and record your results. Take notes on the development and severity of your symptoms.

Keep an eye on your family and loved ones. Encourage them to take care of any symptoms, share your monitoring protocol with them, be prepared to help them out.

We seem to be largely on our own, but that doesn't mean we can't survive this.


Making it Through the Summer

This is the fifth Presidential election cycle I've watched through the Democratic Underground lens. If you count the mid-term general election cycles (and some of them have been dillies) it's the tenth election cycle altogether.

They have more in common than you might think.

We're passionate about our beliefs, our issues, and our candidates. DU includes a spectrum of Democratic voters, Party members, and citizens that varies quite a bit on several axes (the plural of axis, though sometimes it does feel like the chopping tool...)

The things we care about matter to us, a lot. And they are important things generally. Certainly you cannot call climate change, economic security, human rights, the future of democracy, national security, or even many of their component issues trivial.

But there are a lot of them. And while most of them matter to most of us, our perceptions of priority, urgency, and feasibility vary greatly.

And then there are the candidates. Issues of trust, confidence, character, experience- when the stakes are high, where do our priorities align? Can we allow that people make legitimate changes in their beliefs, and reflect growing understanding and experience? Or do we mistrust "I know better now" as end-justifies-the-means pandering that will inevitably go back to old patterns once they're in office?

How much can we trust what a candidate we like says? How much can we trust any news source or media outlet to accurately relay information? What about a candidate we're doubtful of?

The most disturbing change I have witnessed over all the election cycles DU has shared is the extent to which information creation and distribution channels have been weaponized in the service of amoral, tacit or downright covert agendas.

The dangers of having a core of 'mainstream' or 'establishment' media are familiar to all of us. They are not new, as those of us who lived through the 'invisible propaganda' cycles of post-WWII western anti-communist bloc maneuvering can attest.

The new dangers of having NO core of accepted 'news of record' media that could be held to minimal shared standards of accuracy, reliability, and transparency feel different. Things fall apart, the center is not holding...

We are facing a reckoning with the First Amendment, and it's a lot easier to see the potential harm than the possible good of reassessing the risks and benefits of unregulated communication that uses shared commons for dissemination. Yet there are no certain remedies- and to do nothing is to enable continuation and increasing damage to self-government.

Believe it or not, here at DU we have it pretty good in some ways. This site has and enforces Terms of Service that include basic norms of adult interaction and politeness in disagreements and differences. We're not always perfect, sometimes not even very good, at applying that enforcement, but we retain the goals. We keep trying. We try to find a balance between questioning our own performance, and maintaining our convictions.

And we have learned over the years that election cycles make thing pretty lively. And increase the difficulties of maintaining those standards exponentially. We've implemented tools to help- the Primaries forum and Candidate fora, places where members interested in a higher level of passionate threshing of my beliefs against yours can interact within the focus of those candidates and contests.

But inevitably they leak. Because as the season grinds on, so many of us become increasingly certain that the stakes are now apocalyptic and that ONLY our ideas, ONLY the things we KNOW, for SURE, with PASSION, can save us, can save you, can save our nation.

And anyone who doesn't agree with that is an idiot, a troll, or part of the problem.

Stress mounts. People take breaks. GBCW posts become part of the landscape. The blue Jury Duty header seems to pop up every time we refresh the browser. Deja vu all over again.

Here's just a few suggestions for making it through the summer with sanity intact:

Stop trying to control what you can't control- i.e. other peoples' beliefs. They will either get it or they won't, and the more you try to make them, the more they won't. This is a reality of human nature.

Study a little history. Believe it or not, the stakes have been higher. We've faced down nuclear annihilation in the offing, candidates getting murdered here in the U.S., major riots in major cities, whole generations of young people getting conscripted into save-our-capitalist-oligarch wars. Yes, climate change is urgent and real and an existential threat. It's not the first. It may be the last, but making yourself crazy about it won't help keep that from happening.

Keep reminding yourself of the common ground we share, rather than the differences that divide us. Us here on DU, first, but there's a bigger problem of disunity and if we can make progress here, we'll be doing something that might have a larger effect where it's needed.

Practice deep breathing or mountain hiking or whatever helps you de-stress. And look at two things: How much you don't know (my word, the world is complicated and change is multi-layered and fast and people have all kinds of concerns I didn't even know were concerns, and interests I never even heard of, and they MATTER to the people who have them as much as mine matter to me...) and what's really important to you and the people you love, TODAY. Remember that death and chaos that may have nothing to do with politics are always out there waiting, and that you are alive and well and able to hug a loved one, walk a dog, enjoy a sunset is no small thing.

And remember, if you can, how much changes how quickly in an election cycle, and how little anyone knows about anything THIS time. Whoever was right last time is pretty much guaranteed to be wrong this time. What we think we learned has already become obsolete. You can't stop the current, the breakers will keep rolling. Learn to surf.

And vote blue.

No matter who.


Summary: Every bad thing about every Dem candidate. And one good thing about each.

Okay, here goes:


EVERY Dem candidate has:

Made a serious mistake sometime in their past.

Proposed legislation or policies or administrative regulations that I disagree with.

Voted for legislation, supported policies, or administered regulations that I detest.

Said something incredibly stupid, clueless, and hurtful to/about some group whose historical experience really makes me feel like "they totally didn't need THAT, from a DEMOCRAT, dammit!"

Been cranky, mean, dismissive, insensitive or rude to people who worked for them.

Eaten something that indicates they are Utterly Unenlightened by my standards.

Had (even still has) beliefs about some policy that I still disagree with and/or dislike and will strenuously resist if/when they become President.


EVERY Dem candidate IS NOT [Redacted].

I will vote blue, no matter who.

This is actually the first time I have EVER believed that an existential threat to my home and my world overrides every other consideration of the policies I support, the progress I work toward, the beliefs and principles I want my Party to embody.

Every candidate for the Democratic nomination has flaws, in some cases serious ones that I really have reservations about.

But those reservations shrink to near-invisibility when I look at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, at the DoJ, at ICE and C&BP, at our heritage of National parklands and common resources, at the Department of State, at the Supreme Court, at Moscow Mitch and his minions, at the mobs of MAGAts still faithfully turning out for their Trumpenjugend rallies...

I will vote blue, no matter who.

And I will devoutly hope that whoever that "who" is, they have not been critically damaged during the primary process by the Troll and Bot armies of the GRU, and the unwitting shills and tools that potentiate those attacks. I will hope they have not hit a vulnerability threshold that will enable the GRU and its UnAmerican collaborators to steal another election.

This is no longer about "we must reject anything that isn't the very best avatar of all we believe in", or even "if we support someone with a flaw, or two flaws, or even a horrible flaw that contradicts a deeply-held and cherished value, we become as bad as the people threatening that value and we empower evil in the long run."

Not anymore. There will be no long run if we do not stop the destruction of our Republic, NOW.

I will vote blue, no matter who.


Inferring from A to B-- this sequence of events:

A: John Kelly, former White House CoS, decides that the interests of the nation take precedence over the well-established and generally honorable obligation of discretion as a former WH official. This is obvs not a decision Kelly takes lightly, but the interests of the nation are paramount to him. He begins talking.

B: Within 24 hours, Hope Hicks, Reince Priebus, and Sean Spicer are suddenly back on the WH payroll, where presumably, legal obligations will assure they do not have the option to make such a decision.

Dude, could you BE any more transparent? Well, translucent orange, anyway.

Seriously, if I, a hick from the sticks who tries real hard not to pay too much attention to the shenanigans at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in the interests of my own mental health, can figure that one out...

...WHO do you think you're fooling?


It's all "the economy, stupid!" until it becomes "the democracy, stupid!"

Marching over the cliff to tyranny in the wake of "great jobs numbers!" and "record stock markets!" may be a painful, costly lesson our nation is about to learn.

White Americans set ourselves up for this by cheap-assing on public education after "Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka" all those years ago when our horror at the very idea of our children sharing a classroom with BROWN kids overwhelmed our common sense.

First they came for the Civics classes... then critical thinking went by the wayside... then public education deterioration got turbocharged in the wake of male Americans realizing that those uppity women were grabbing for control of their own bodies, and science classes had to be kicked to the curb to make it possible to teach lies in "health" class... then they came for the history textbooks...

...and here we are, people.

But, hey, the stock market looks GREAT!

Shut up and eat your mystery meat nuggets fast, you'll be late for the shift you just got pinged to do at your third job. Better go before you go, too, if you know what I mean.

And look GRATEFUL, dammit. If you get uppity we'll decide you're an unfit parent and your kid will head off to the camps, too.


No One's Listening

Okay, that's (maybe) an exaggeration. A little hyperbole.

A very little, as I realized today when helping a colleague find an illustration for an article on communications.

I showed him how to go to one of many excellent royalty-free image websites online, and suggested he search on the term "listening".

You might guess what happened.

Or maybe not: The search results returned multiple pages showing image after image after image after image of people wearing ear buds or headphones, holding phones or iPods or with other playback devices.

Individually, or sitting next to one another with matching headphones, clearly sharing some lovely playback experience, how nice. One showed a whole family watching a giant-screen teevee, all wearing headphones.

Oh, yeah... there were a few pics in there of audiences listening to a speaker or music performance.

About two pages in we actually got a suitable photograph of two people in conversation, one person talking, the other focusing on the talker's face, with an expression that seemed to indicate engagement or interest.

It was definitely one of those things that made me, anyway, go "Hmmmmm...."

And the corollary thought that popped into my mind underlined it further:

When was the last time I had a real conversation via phone?

Probably more recently than many people, as my stupid phone doesn't allow texting, and many family members live in other states. They know if they want to communicate, they have to actually ::groan:: make a voice call or ::groan:: actually write an email.

Even so, I can count the number of longer-than-ten-minutes live voice-to-voice phone conversations I had over the holidays on the fingers of one hand.

I used to have huge long distance bills, and not count the cost, because I loved staying in touch, hearing peoples' feelings in their voices, laughing together, all the the interactions that depend not on reading and typing, but on listening. And being listened to.

I know from work in the human services that listening is immensely powerful in forming human connections. And that human connections are immensely powerful in creating and sustaining communities.

Is anyone listening anymore?


I sometimes think Black anger is our only hope...

(Apropos this thread about the whole "angry Black women" thing: https://www.democraticunderground.com/1287389564#post31)

I'm super white. Nobody would ever mistake me for anything but white. I've benefited by white privilege my whole life.

With the best will in the world to be Not-racist, the closest I have come to progress has often been when some Black person who would probably get described as "angry" because they are not trying to "not be angry" tells me about their own experience and relates it to the mistakes I'm making.

I'm a slow learner but I do keep trying.

And what I want, more than anything (and think I probably won't see in my lifetime) is an end to white privilege and a complete cultural embrace of "no time for this shit" about racism- systemic and every other kind.

We will NEVER be able to realize the American Dream I was brought up to cherish until we can do that.

And white people like me, even the ones who try, ain't gonna be much help unless/until we get a certain amount of righteous anger laid on us, and we set aside our denials and self-justifications and learn from it.

And that's a huge burden to lay on Black people, I know. It shouldn't have to be that way. It's not Black peoples' responsibility or task or whatever to "fix" the fucked-upness that is White America.

But it ain't gonna happen without Black anger, any way I see it.

So rage on, please.

I want the world my grandson lives in to be so much better than the mess I saw at the Army-Navy game and practically every damn where else I look.


My Annual Holiday Visit to Louisa May Alcott

Maybe not quite annual. There have been years when I have not had the time or inclination to pick up "Little Women" (the text version, yanno) during the year-end holiday season.

But most years I do.

LM Alcott gets written off a lot, for various reasons, including "she's a children's writer", "she does chick lit", "so outdated, the nineteenth century", "keeps dropping into sermon mode", and one of my favorites, "so boring, no real plot line, no action, nothing really happens."

With respect to some of her work, yeah, some of these are justified. And there is at least one "dropping into sermon mode" in "Little Women" that I regularly skim over. But other than that, Little Women is one hundred percent justified in its status as a Masterpiece of American Literature.

And this year, I have a whole new appreciation for that, because this year it dawned upon me how out-and-out SUBVERSIVE this book really is.

I can hear some of you chuckling. "Subversive, Bright? Ferrealz? Goody-goody girls being noble and sweetly submissive in mid-19th Century America? Subversive HOW?"

I absolve LM Alcott of any conscious attempt to write something economically, and/or politically subversive. She wasn't that kind of writer. As much as any 19th-century novelist, she was interested primarily in telling stories, and, as much as any 19th-century novelist, she perceived some form of philosophical or moral underpinnings as essential to the structure of a novel.

She was certainly a liberal, in many respects, especially for her era- she wrote of women with a three-dimensionality of character, capability and leadership potential that was more than a little anomalous. She chose the more liberal Protestant Christian approach to the Golden Rule and moral values. But she was no red-hot radical in the political sense.

Except in respect to how the values she cherished and wrote of so eloquently were at odds with the larger social culture of her day.

To understand that, it helps to start with the nature of the American culture and economy in 1866-67 when the two volumes of the novel were being written. No, wait-- go back a bit further, for context:

In the Colonial era, America's economy was based on mercantilism, defined and heavily-controlled by the British Government, which regarded the function of the Colonies as a revenue generator for the Crown. In the immediate aftermath of the American Revolution, a backlash against heavy-handed control from a central government shaped America's economic structure loosely, somewhat chaotically, and above all, designed to take advantage of the rise of venture capitalism.

By the time of the Civil War, America was already on the way to becoming an economic Darwinist free-for-all. In the aftermath of the Civil War, when Alcott was writing, between the Reconstructionist carpetbagging gold rush, the rise of industrialization in the North, and the post-war backlash against the kind of unifying self-sacrifice necessary for such a massive shared endeavor, America was well on the high road to the Gilded Age. And Alcott had to be well aware of that.

The Marches, while certainly well-integrated into the upper-middle-class White Anglo-Saxon Protestant New England social milieu, are regarded by what we would call "mainstream society" as "odd."

In the depiction of how deeply focused the characters' identities, values, and priorities are upon a close-knit bond with family, neighbors, and friends, Alcott does more than contrast their motivations with those of the neighbors who regard "marrying well (monetarily)" as an appropriate value.

To my modern eyes, the level of support and comfort provided by those interpersonal relationships borders on the unfathomable. The sacrifices routinely made for one another's well-being, the attention to not just meeting each others' needs, but supplying the positive reinforcement, the attentions and delights that promote self-worth, integrity, and the healthy kind of centered and balanced ego, are more than an obligation. They create a mutuality in personal growth, sense of self-worth, and connectedness that grounds and strengthens each character.

What really matters?

In Alcott's eloquent depiction, what really matters is humanity. Connectedness. Being willing to love and be loved, and accepting the costs as well as the benefits thereof. Indeed, rejoicing in those costs for their payment is the means of becoming more whole, more well, more possessed of personal integrity and value for self and others.

I regularly water the pages around Beth's passing... have never been able to complete a reading of Little Women without doing so. But this year, this passage opened floodgates:

"...love is the only thing we can carry with us when we go."

Now, some of that effect this year might be due to personal circumstances I'm not going to relate here. And yes, the inherent 19th-Century view of womanhood and Christianity lend an approval and depiction of the kind of passive, submissive do-tread-on-me womanhood that is both the product of, and the enabler of, the misogyny that poisons our society.

But lift the interpersonal dynamics of the Marches, their friends, their extended families and community, out of that cloying cultural context, and you can see the radically subversive nature of Alcott's vision:

It isn't about who dies with the most toys. It's about who dies with the most love.

Imaging a society, a culture, built on THAT premise.

Now THAT is radically subversive in today's world.

I'm looking forward to seeing what the latest Hollywood iteration of the Marches will bring this holiday season. But I don't think any film adaptation will ever reach me on a level that this year's text reading has.


Speaker Pelosi seems to be quietly revealing the grand strategy.

If the Senate holds a two-week show trial and clears him...

...the NEXT impeachment investigation and the NEXT set of hearings will begin shortly.

Will it be emoluments?

Will it be obstructing the Mueller investigation?

Will it be any of a number of other clearly impeachable offenses for which the six House Committees, staff, and counsel are receiving new high-quality evidence almost daily?

Stay tuned.

[Redacted] may indeed go down in history as the first-- and hopefully ONLY-- office holder under the U.S. Constitution to be impeached MULTIPLE TIMES.

And each time will contribute to the loss of another GOP Senate seat, as they continue the striptease down to their sleazy, suppurating, scaly skins and reveal the pathetic losers within.


How To Identify a Non-Asshole Billionaire

Billionaires are apparently having a Big Sad.

They hear people talking about them being assholes, and wanting the government to take money from them, and they are upset! "We are not assholes!" they claim.

And this, fellow progressives, is TRUE. It is possible for a billionaire NOT to be an asshole.

There are approximately 2600 billionaires in the world, and about 600 of them claim to be Americans.

Which of the 600 are NOT assholes?

Use this handy chart to identify Non-Asshole Billionaires:

A Non-Asshole Billionaire:

1. Is aware that they did not become a billionaire all on their own. They recognize the role that inheritance, a capitalist economic and regulatory structure, and/or a robust American infrastructure (transportation, educated workforce, copyright protections, hundreds of other factors) may have played in the accumulation of their wealth.

2. Regards a billion or more dollars as a more than ample amount and does not feel compelled, for reasons of ego or insecurity, to engage in additional wealth accumulation other than as a side effect of their existing wealth or any ongoing innovation or creativity they pursue for the enjoyment of the activity, not the wealth.

3. Generally refrained from harmful, vicious and exploitative (however legal they may be) practices that degraded the sustainability of the planet and/or impoverished vast sections of the labor force, to accrue their wealth.

4. Makes no effort to hide or move their wealth offshore to "protect" it from playing a productive role in the overall American economy that supported the accrual of said wealth.

5. Understands the economic and social responsibility that comes with vast wealth and willingly pays taxes, supports maintaining and growing the infrastructure that benefits everyone, and engages in non-self-serving philanthropic activities on a scale commensurate with their wealth- although often anonymously. Because for the Non-Asshole Billionaire, it's not about the props.

6. Is aware of the perilous (both for individuals, and for a society) nature of inherited wealth at such a scale, and supports inheritance tax and implements philanthropic bequests that will leave their family's inheritance sufficient to ensure financial security and well-being, but not create a hereditary oligarchy.

So that's it- a handy checklist of six items that can be used to identify a Non-Asshole Billionaire.

You can use this the next time the Billionaire Next Door whines about not being an asshole, why are they being picked on?

Journalists, feel free to use this in interviews and profiles of Billionaires, to identify the Non-Assholes and call out the rest.

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