Robot Love

Tech in Asia

We really could have used an army of talented robots in these days of the novel coronavirus. Some medical procedures could have been performed by units that could be sanitized regularly. Lots of routine cleaning tasks performed by these welcome little helpers would have helped make for shorter shifts and less exposure for human health care workers.

 

Big Bang

Sheldon Cooper had a virtual presence device on The Big Bang Theory. If we all had one in real life this would be a very helpful thing for all of us, especially if it could drive a car. It could do all our shopping. Imagine the luxury of looking for your toilet paper in as many different locations as necessary without any danger of exposure to the tiny bugs of the day. 

A Starship Delivery robot rolls along at Ole Miss, in Oxford, Miss. on Wednesday, January 22, 2020. (Bruce Newman, Oxford Eagle)

In addition, your virtual presence device could have a handy-dandy robot assistant of its own to carry packages, open doors and such. The car might actually drive itself and then these two high tech family members could interface with a robot salesforce in a shop and your two new friends could bring home the bacon. Perhaps several families could share a robot pair, although sharing is not one of our strong points.

We could dine at a restaurant via our virtual presence device, visit with our friends at table and then dine on the takeout our electronic buddies bring home to us. We could be social without getting all germy. We could send our virtual presence devices off to conferences and meet and greets. Selling and buying houses would be biologically safe. And we wouldn’t be bored, because we would be there too, right along with our beloved machines. We might get to like it as much as cats like riding Roombas.

Vac Expert

Speaking Truth to Power

From a Google Image Search – theIndependent.co.uk

It’s no secret that I have never exactly been a fan of the Old Coot-in Chief. Perhaps he is an acquired taste, but I think a person’s reaction to him is more a matter of love-at-first-sight, or get-out-of-my-sight. Watching 45 handle a pandemic, a National Emergency, life or death in America has not done a thing to move him up in my regard. Donald J. has had some difficulties accepting that one novel coronavirus could appear out of nowhere and stop his fine economy in its tracks. He was counting on that economy to get him elected. He has been unable to hide his shock and disappointment. He is used to finding a way around tough obstacles, or bulldozing his way through them, and, since he feels no need to observe the usual niceties, a muscular approach has often worked for him, although not always. 

But there was absolutely no way around COVID-19, no shortcuts, nothing to negotiate, although Trump tried. By the time he acknowledged it the only way out was to go through it, and in a way that seemed to require a process that has been systematic and deliberate, not the normal MO for our chief. It was a choice between the physical health of the nation or the economic health of the nation. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think this would be an easy choice for anyone to make. The choice the President wanted to make became clearer every day, and it became clearer every day that he might not be able to win his way through this one quickly and easily. His inner struggles had consequences for the entire nation. He wanted to collect his accolades without doing his due diligence.

What has been so frustrating about watching how the President has been dealing with this virus is that he is always hampered by his pathologies, and therefore, so are we the people. First he tried to sweep the whole thing under the rug. If he had only realized that he was making things worse instead of better. 

I remember how we reacted to one woman’s experience when she was forced to isolate herself in what was basically a bubble tent. She was not ill. I am thinking this was during the Ebola scare. They were watching her through the incubation period to see if she got sick. Some people were aghast that such a thing could happen in the land of the free. But Ebola got nipped in the bud quickly and never became the pandemic officials feared it would be. 

The previous administration did what Trump did not, which was tackle the thing early and head-on. I won’t mention any names because I don’t want to upset the old man. You know how he gets when you mention a certain person. It’s like waving a red cape in front of a bull. But if instead of retribution the President had been able to emulate a successful strategy and take this virus seriously from the very first case perhaps we wouldn’t have had to go through all this. 

Did Trump’s inability to accept an attack from a totally unexpected direction and deal with it doom Americans to social distancing and death? Did his inability to stop campaigning and accept that the economy might be less than perfect for a while cause the free fall that he (and we) have been faced with? Did his allegiance to small government make logistics a nightmare? Perhaps it is too cruel to blame all of this on one stubborn old man, who doesn’t realize that true genius is knowing how to harness the talents of other geniuses to make you look good. But he does not play well with others.

President Trump could still redeem himself by acing the recovery. He could stop his stubborn insistence, which none of us can understand, that there will be no testing. Clearly if would  shorten the recovery time, but he must think it would lengthen it. Your genius may be leading you astray on this one, sir. He could facilitate tests to see who is recovered and who has antibodies. He could facilitate testing to see who needs to still shelter in place. Testing is one area where a change of heart would be welcome. Why doesn’t he see that this is the path back to a workable economy?

Why doesn’t the President back voting by mail? Why does he plant his feet and insist that voting by mail would allow for big time election fraud? There is no reason to believe that Americans cheat in elections. In fact, that’s insulting. We respect the right to vote. It leaves us free to conclude that 45 fears that too many Democrats would get to vote if mail-in ballots were an option. It leaves us to believe that Donald J Trump does not believe he can get elected if we have a fair and free 2020 election that also takes coronavirus risks into account. Settling this issue would also help us get back to the economy he thinks will send him back to the Oval Office.

The third thing that our President could do that would help him and us would be to let the doctors do what doctors do and let the Federal government do what Federal governments do. A true genius accepts his limitations. You can stop favoring big corporations who have already received million and billions in bailouts. I think they can weather this storm. You do not value your middle class citizens enough, your small business folks. You do not value the struggling families who keep America running on minimum wages.

The bailout you gave to Americans was not big enough and it was not targeted at those who will have the hardest time recovering from this massive economic time out. I know it goes against everything that you (Trump) and the Republicans believe, but going against your instincts at this particular moment will get you back to where you want to be faster than your way will. Your way could cause this virus, for which we have no cure, to fire up anew and tank the economy all over again. Do all these things and do them well and then you can collect those accolades.

Note to Millennials

From a Google image Search – Medium.com

Now I think I have heard Millennials say that the way the world does Capitalism is a tad bit arrogant, excessive, rapacious, and exclusionary. It’s possible that Millennials are impatient to get on with saving the planet, a goal that seems to retreat with every reactionary act aging politicians pass, with every oil or gas well horizontally drilled in the random pristine spaces left to us. Millennials tend to be progressive. They know that there is no time to waste on fat cats who have been stockpiling wealth. They know you can’t eat money or gold and that even rich dudes eventually die. The trouble is that the Greatest Generation was made up of some very long-lived people, toughened up in a World War and a Great Depression. And the Boomers, the self-indulgent Boomers, some who also went to war, are not that old yet, and there are a lot of them. Waiting for these people to let go of power, waiting for them to die, waiting to inherit power to do what must be done, finds Millennials getting older and perhaps losing that idealism that drives change. Getting into the ‘capitalist games’ may be looking like a necessity these day.

Well, except for the dying part, I think we, the Boomers, ought to go off on a tour of all the national parks, or form one of those RV parks out in the desert under the stars, or in the UK go explore the northern reaches, and let the Millennials try their hands at running the country. In the meantime, it might be good to found a Millennial Think Tank, meet on Zoom, and lay your plans. Boomers are not any happier than you are that everyone is sort of tanking the economy on their behalf,  and, yes, you are getting gypped again. Maybe the fault is in the stars (are those words now under copyright). You all could start coming up with your priorities for saving our democracies, planning healthy economies with built-in opportunities for you and your children, and for saving the planet. The ‘old guard’ cannot offer us a plan that is progressive enough (except Bernie, who can be your guru) So please feel free to find a way to relieve the old folks of the power they have abused so badly. They won’t give it to you, you will have to take it. Peacefully if you can.

If you want a simpler, less competitive, less consumption-oriented reality, this moment with the economy in a virally suspended state, is a moment when it might be possible to invent a new future for all of us, less work ethic, more bucolic. You are like a force that has been suppressed by tradition, greed, and history, which could be released with all the momentum that has been stored up during your years of obstruction; like a energetic river held back by a long unopened dam. Think it through, find your leaders, don’t be too radical, but rock the world.

COVID-19 and Paradoxes

From a Google Image Search – Cherry Blossoms, Flickr.com

COVID-19 and Paradoxes

These are such strange days. We all learn that, although we may be alone, we are in no way an island.  Without our nurses, doctors, and hospital staffs we would lose people who we are not ready to lose. Every day we know our highly trained caregivers risk getting the COVID-19 virus and many of them have been infected. Fortunately the virus doesn’t kill all its hosts. Many people barely realize they have it. But without hospitals and first responders, our loved ones could die at home or in a nursing home gasping for breath while we stood by helpless. Most of us do not have access to oxygen, and almost none of us can access a ventilator. If you catch the virus you put yourself in danger. The disease makes life and death a gamble, seemingly based on genetics and bad habits.

Without our truckers and our essential industries where workers take a chance every day and go to work (probably without paid-sick-leave) our grocery stores and drug stores would be emptier than they are. So we are not an island. And we are not all making the same sacrifices, which is difficult for some of us to accept, that almost the only ways we can help are to stay home, order in, and donate to a few hard-pressed causes. Lately, on Facebook, the folks who bought out all the toilet paper and left our store shelves empty, and bought up masks needed at hospitals have been putting up ads to sell their ill-gotten merchandise and charging exorbitant rates ($35 for 10 rolls of toilet paper and they had all the popular brands; $65 for a box of masks). Tempting, but we know we should not buy at these prices and encourage price gouging. 

It’s spring. Our senses are blossoming. There is more light, days are getting long. We can go out and see our lakes and rivers and oceans, but we can’t meet our family in these places unless we stay 6 feet apart. Now they are saying that the very air we breathe can spread this disease so don’t even walk in someone’s draft. But we are thinking of soft summer evenings and gardens, flowers and smiles, music and conversation. And yet our reality is on display each day. There are refrigerated trucks, long semis collecting bodies in New York City and these lives are left uncelebrated by all but closest family. This shocks me, these long white trucks. It is almost as if someone actually did kill people on Fifth Avenue, and I cannot help blaming the very person who said that he could do this and still get elected.

Speaking of elections; we should be drowning in unwatchable political ads, and voting in primaries and our candidates should be stumping all over America. How can we get rid of a President who fired so many civil servants and changed so many rules that govern national emergencies if the only 2020 candidate we see day after day is the Bumbler? How can we hope to vote out the miserable GOP when half the country, for some inexplicable reason, sees this entire bumbling administration as somehow efficient and effective at handling this national emergency? Half of America follows religiously Trump’s every utterance, regardless of the whiplash engendered by decisions that change moment to moment, that are given and retracted day to day. Despite the white semis lined up in New York to receive the dead.

There have been such touching stories. The brides who go in their wedding dresses to visit a grandparent through a nursing home window and the new moms who make the same trip with their babies. The mom and dad who almost lost their 29-year-old son for no apparent health reason. The reporter who spent 49 days away from her child because she kept having to go into quarantine and the joyful reunion with her little son. All the American children taping hearts in their windows for passers-by to collect. And then the reality hits us once again as someone hears that a loved one has died and they were not even there when it happened. 

People are losing their businesses, which made our lives seem full of elegance, friendship, light and love. All the restaurants where we love to linger at table and just chat. All the sidewalk cafes and fresh air dining. Days spent shopping with friends and speaking of bargains and fashion and decorating. Will our restaurants and shops come back. All the unemployed with no resources to get them through the anxious days. If only the whole unemployment process was better equipped to get money to workers-without-work right away. Will jobs come back? I cannot recall a time when the entire global economy basically had to take a time out and neither can anyone else or we would have some strategies for dealing, even if the best strategy of all was just to do nothing. This is different from even the Great Depression. We cannot have a WPA in times that require social distancing. There is no way to discuss in one small essay all the many, many areas of our lives that have been affected. And although I read an article which said that life returned to normal very quickly after the influenza in 1918, it is difficult to believe that is possible this time.

These are very strange days indeed, surreal even, these days of novel coronavirus. The paradoxes are ripping us apart and putting us back together each and every hour of every day. We have to be strong. We have to make it through with as much grace as we can muster.

Agenda 21 and the Novel Coronavirus

Agenda 21 is a document that came out of a UN conference on global sustainability. The document was made public on the 13 th of June in 1992 and it was immediately attacked by rabid conspiracy theorists who claimed it was an authoritarian plan to institute a ‘New World Order.’ The UN was demonized as an arm of the Illuminati, world ‘oligarchs’ who practiced child trafficking and the sacrifice of babies. Really dark stuff. They spoke of the UN by its “true” name, as the ‘Luciferian Church of the UN.’ 

Those of us who think we are a bit more sane just saw in the document a plan for ways we could accommodate 9 billion people on a small planet without environmental disaster. Oblivious us!

But, in the time of the novel coronavirus, it is interesting to think about the recommendation made in Agenda 21 in favor of greater population density centers, cities, as opposed to far-flung suburbs and ever-more-distant subdivisions. Of course, Agenda 21 was addressing infrastructure and land use, not pandemics. Everyone, no matter how distant from the city center, wanted public sewers and water supplies. Many Americans still rely on wells and septic tanks, but people want what they want, and there was lots of pressure to get better amenities. Some local areas did pay heed to Agenda 21 in small ways. They told builders that they could not expect the infrastructure to follow them if they kept moving further from the city center. They told builders to start filling in the empty lots and fallow spaces. 

We have seen more apartment buildings, upscale of course, but still not single family homes, being built in what were fields, but close to shopping. There is a whole little world back behind those big box stores, at least that is true in my small corner of the world. 

But if we are to leave the hinterlands to farmers and hunker down in tighter, more populated spaces we now have to consider that plan in relation to pandemics. We know that what we are going through right now with the corona virus will not be the only pandemic coming down the pike (and we know this well because there has been one new germ popping up after another – Zika, Ebola, H1N1, mers virus, sars virus).

The necessity of stopping disease transmission argues against the density that Agenda 21 argues for. Those who like to plan for a sustainable future need to go back to the drawing board and figure out how we can deal with both the environmental concerns and the health concerns of having a small planet trying to house a mega-population. These diseases may be trying to establish a balance between resources and those who consume them. Who will win; virus and bacteria, or the human race? Unless we get a plan, a good pandemic plan, really soon the tiny aliens may win from the spaces within us, rather than arriving from distant planets. Can our think tanks give these two opposing human problems some productive thought, given our six feet of separation. It’s entirely possible that time to think could produce great things.

Photo Credit: From a Google Image Search – active sustainability.com

Crisis Management By Ideology

From a Google Image Search – The Hill

Crisis Management By Ideology

The Dems want to bail out citizens who can’t work during this pandemic because their employers have had to close down. They can’t pay mortgages or rent, utilities, college loans, buy groceries and medicines. The way things are set up, if you can’t pay you can’t stay, and you end up in bankruptcy. Small businesses face the same problems on a slightly larger scale and if they can’t reopen then the downstream repercussions will be dire. We are a consumer economy. If no one consumes the economy dies. 

Dems say start at the bottom and take care of everyone and maybe not worry so much about the people at the top who have been bailed out and had tax cuts and have banked some really enormous profits. (Except they didn’t bank their profits, what they did was stock buy backs – and now they want more bail-out money.) Dems say rescue everyone, even those who are the poorest people – no means testing. Just flood the bottom with money, both citizens and small business, because money may not trickle down, but a depressed economy can definitely rise from the bottom up. 

Yes there are progressive Dems. We’re in the middle of an election. Republicans do not have a progressive bone in their bodies, even dispossessed Republicans who currently have no party. Giving people money means that a Democratic ideology gets a positive vote in Congress. And that goes against everything Republicans believe. They have almost achieved their small government goals. They were ready to cut the safety net the way a winning basketball team gets to cut down the net from the backboard. They have insisted that the coronavirus should be managed in the states, by the states and for the states. They are already having to back off on this policy because the needs are too great for the states to handle without federal help. And now they want Republicans to give away money to hoi polloi which, to them, is like throwing it into a waste basket. They just cannot understand that supporting the economy from the bottom up could help give it a jump start when we are done with social distancing.

There is little taste for rescuing rich folks once again. They have not exactly showered their good fortunes down on the rest of us and if there was a trickle it was so tiny as to be untraceable. The Republicans also want carte blanche over who they will rescue. They want the Treasury Department to be able to disperse the funds as they wish. This is something the Dems can’t swallow having already watched companies spend their windfalls on buying back their own stock and lavishing the dividends of their good fortune on stockholders rather than workers. They were able to ramp up production and hire back workers but this is not actually trickle down as salaries rose very little, although it certainly benefited all of us as good economies always do.

It comes down to the “spendthrift” habits of the Democrats who think a good economy must take care of everyone, not just CEO’s, those progressive socialists as the Republicans like to label them. If Democrats are such spendthrifts then why does the deficit go down when Democrats are in charge? Check it out. Historically that has been true. 

Republicans feel that those on the bottom need to struggle more, that this will inspire them to rise, although it is easy to see that this policy is far more likely to cause despair and depression. Republicans have been implementing their ideology of small government, give power back to the states, but some states are so poor that we will have to rescue them from the novel coronavirus or we will all drown in grief. How is Republican small government working? It ended that Pandemic Program (that got folded into another program) and could not function at all when most needed. The Republican ideology is what we are experiencing right now and it is failing miserably. Yet Republicans refuse to pass a stimulus that addresses the needs of both the top and the bottom because it is against their deeply flawed ideology. 

But the face of this pandemic, the people who own it on TV every day, are the Republicans. If Republican Senators do to American once again what you are planning to do, insist on only helping those who are wealthy I swear you will lose the 2020 election so badly that your party may not recover for decades. Most Americans know nothing about ideology and they will not care if your stimulus does not stand up to your conservative purity tests. If it works you will be heroes. As a Democrat, if it wouldn’t have such dire consequences for America, I would be happy to watch Republicans go down in flames. But as a human being I have to argue for what is right, which is neither progressive nor conservative, but somewhere in the middle. We so need to see the back of Mitch McConnell.

The president also has an ideology. It is money. It is the economy. It is the stock market. The president thinks that in 15 days America will be restored to normality, I guess by royal decree. Fate does seem to favor Trump and perhaps, once again, the universe will comply with his edicts. I would love this to be over in fifteen days. The only thing I would hate about it is that our resident egomaniac would claim it a personal victory. And he would get his heart’s desire (why is it his heart’s desire) to be reelected in 2020. To try to unravel a pandemic in the midst of an election in a divided America puts us all at risk because those who are supposed to represent us have their intellect clouded by their ideology, which prevents rational, reasoned, targeted action, and literally kills Americans and possibly the American economy. 

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020/03/23/gop-just-smuggled-another-awful-provision-into-big-stimulus-bill/

Government By Stock Market

Photo Credit: From a Google Image Search – Daily Express

Stock Market – Reacting or Leading – Up Good – Down Bad

Life has become a bit grim all of a sudden. I can’t leave my house because I loved to smoke cigarettes and now I am in a COVID-19 high risk group. High risk means this could be it. Curtains. Bye-bye. The wheel of chance may have chosen the nature of my demise. And, to add insult to injury, my pension is in the stock market which is falling; falling like a rock, and I see no good news on the horizon to lift it up. 

The stock market seems to be ordering the President around. When the market likes what he says he will do, the market rises a bit. When the President doesn’t do what he says, or when he changes his plan, the market reacts. The market seemed to like that people would get checks. But I haven’t heard much about that lately. Stock buyers seemed to like the first iteration of the ever-changing stimulus plan. Today the market started up a bit but by the end of the day, with nothing accomplished, the numbers sagged once again.

We have heard that testing is great and that anyone who needs to can get tested. That is not what I see happening in my city. Every day we hear governors plead for masks, and protective gear for medical staff and doctors; ventilators are on the way supposedly, but we see that this is just hot air and you can’t make concrete objects from hot air. After an entire week which seems like a lifetime no one had received masks, face shields, gowns and these should be the simple things. Don’t you think people who own stock would perk up a bit if they knew that these items which keep doctors and staff from getting sick were being received. Mr. President, can you hear that, get hospitals the protective gear they need and the stock market might tick up. The President says that the Federal government isn’t a fulfillment center, but through emergency powers and FEMA, it is.

Talk about creating temporary hospital space with the help of the Army Corps of Engineers sounded smart. It sounds like states are getting some practical advice from the Corps of Engineers, but they are not actually building facilities, just helping officials find premises that might work, and so far not many spaces are up and running. Having the beds experts predict will be needed would also boost that stock market just a bit. 

Congress cannot agree on a stimulus plan. Republicans want to bail out business big and small, and although businesses have already been bailed out and had giant tax cuts, the stock market seems to like this plan. Democrats want to bail out workers. I’m not sure how the markets are reacting to this, but since stock markets must answer to stock holders I’m pretty sure that if the Republicans get their way stocks will rise again. With a president who keeps saying that things have been “beautifully” completed when we can see that this is a huge exaggeration the kind of stability that keeps the stock market calm is absent. I used to believe that 45 would kill democracy, now I think he might end up killing me and many others. He did not cause the virus, but he is not the calm rational presence we need.

FEMA is now in the picture and is supposed to help the states focus on local needs. But the stock market ended down despite this new wrinkle. Have all Presidents pegged their policy decisions so closely to the gyrations of the stock market? Clearly in this case the stock market wants what the stock market wants. Meanwhile I am trying to act like I will survive. I will grow tomatoes. I will be able to walk around a store again soon. To hedge my bets, however, I am trying to decide what will happen to me if I lose my income and my house. Thank goodness I discovered Led Zeppelin singing Traveling in Kashmir. So great. When things get dreary I go to Kashmir.