Can’t Leave Your House? I’ve Got the Distraction for You—

—about some folks who really can’t leave the house:

I mention this now because I just learned that Audible is temporarily bumping artists’ royalties—which is nice, as I used their service to produce the audiobook of There Was a Crooked Man, He Flipped a Crooked House (voiced by the inimitable David Sadzin).

You can buy the audiobook directly on iTunes and Amazon, or get it as a freebie with a one-month Audible trial membership.

If you’ve never tried Audible before, it’s actually pretty sweet—I used it for years when I used to commute. These days, your monthly membership gets you a full-length audiobook and two Audible Originals each month.  The first month is free with this link (here’s a UK-specific link, for those who need one). The thing that astounds me: Even though I haven’t been a member in more than 13-years, I can still access all the stuff I got through Audible back in the day—i.e., you really do have lifetime access.

“absorbing horror novella” (Recommended Story)

Rich Horton, Locus, Sept 2017 

If audiobooks aren’t your thing, you can also, of course, get the book on Kindle or as a paperback.

Stay home! Stay safe!

I’m a lifelong Michigander, I’ve been to Isle Royale, and I can confirm that this is a true and accurate assessment of that stony archipelago…

…and, in fact, one of its most charming aspects:

This artist is living her best life, in my humble.

source: I Illustrated National Parks In America Based On Their Worst Review And I Hope They Will Make You Laugh (16 Pics)

A Poem for a Time of COVID-19 Quarantine 🦠

This poem—penned by a UU minister—has been circulating among my Jewish congregation, and I’m inclined to endorse the advice: Take a page from the Jewish playbook, folks. We know a thing or two about surviving long (quasi-)confinement and social distance.

Pandemic

What if you thought of it
as the Jews consider the Sabbath—
the most sacred of times?
Cease from travel.
Cease from buying and selling.
Give up, just for now,
on trying to make the world
different than it is.
Sing. Pray. Touch only those
to whom you commit your life.
Center down.

And when your body has become still,
reach out with your heart.
Know that we are connected
in ways that are terrifying and beautiful.
(You could hardly deny it now.)
Know that our lives
are in one another’s hands.
(Surely, that has come clear.)
Do not reach out your hands.
Reach out your heart.
Reach out your words.
Reach out all the tendrils
of compassion that move, invisibly,
where we cannot touch.

Promise this world your love—
for better or for worse,
in sickness and in health,
so long as we all shall live.

—Rev. Dr. Lynn Ungar (Unitarian minister)

The Michigan House GOP Website is shilling for a term paper mill? #PureMichigan

OK, I need a headcheck, folks. It looks an awful lot like http://GOPhouse.org/

  1. Is the (semi-)official website for Michigan House Republicans (for example, their official Facebook page links to “MiHouseRepublicans.com” which currently redirects to “GOPhouse.org”)
  2. Is shilling for a term paper mill:

Is there something really obvious going on here, like my local DNS being poisoned? Or does the MI House GOP just have a really crappy web hosting situation? Or deeply untrustworthy staff? Or a deeper commitment to the free market and entrepreneurship than I’d previously imagined?

Who do I even call to ask about this? ’cause I’ve gotta believe that the MI House GOP has a better fundraising model than this.

Lil help, Internet?

Well, I guess President Trump was right: Illegal immigrants *do* come here to hurt Americans…

… he was just 100% wrong about which border they crossed illegally, and what they looked like:

“Derail some fucking trains, kill some people, and poison some water supplies. You better be fucking ready to do those things.”

Patrik Jordan Mathews, December 1, 2019
Patrik Jordan Mathews: AWOL Canadian Demolitions Expert and neo-Nazi

Accused Neo-Nazis Arrested Ahead of Virginia Gun Rally

This is the age of war. This is the age of entire this is the age of strife, this is the century upon which this current civilizations rotting Jew infested country comes to a collapse. You were born in the wrong century for complacency. That’s all for now.

Patrik Jordan Mathews, on or before December 13, 2019

Feds: White supremacists hoped rally would start civil war

While residing in Georgia, Mathews stated that he “only exists for the White Revolution now.” Mathews further stated that he wanted to remain a “ghost” and oversee safe houses for Base members who need to disappear. Mathews stated that once there are a few “ghosts,” they could begin doing “jobs,” by which Mathews meant targeted violence or attacks.

excerpt from the legal motion requesting Mathews’ detention pending trial

Based on other statements in the legal motion, these targets were likely to be Jewish- or African-Americans. I’ve mentioned Mathews’ had been hiding out in Michigan, yeah? And I live in Michigan? And my family and I, we’re the kinds of Americans he came here to kill?

Legit Free Tax Software

The U.S. tax system is unnecessarily stressful. There are tons of reasons for this—a major one being that companies who provide tax-prep services lobby heavily to keep it that way.

baby hates taxes
(image source)

Fortunately, the government offers you some free tax software to make your life much, much easier. Unfortunately, the expend almost zero effort letting anyone know these exist (see the heavy lobbying mentioned in the previous graff).

Here are two free tax prep options for 2019/2020:

Good luck!

Coronavirus (COVID-19): Solid Facts, Reasonable Fears, Sensible Measures 🦠🧟‍♀️☣️

(This is a version of something I drafted for my local faith community, where I’m active in safety/security. Faith communities offer lots of programs for the very young, very old, and very vulnerable—and we tend to crowd lots of folks into one room; disease transmission is more of a concern than it might be for a workplace full of healthy young adults who can afford and access health care services.)

Folks are worried about Coronavirus (i.e., “COVID-19”)—and this isn’t unfounded (see the “REASONABLE COVID-19 CONCERNS” sub-section for details).

While there are good reasons for concern, there are also very basic steps we can all take to reduce both the risk of infection and the severity of any disruption to our lives should an outbreak hit nearby.  Please feel free to share any portion (or all) of the following info with your people.  Thanks!

REASONABLE COVID-19 CONCERNS

As of this morning (March 2), there have been two reported Coronavirus (i.e., “COVID-19”) deaths in Washington state.  Given

  • what we know about the disease (e.g., https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/ )
  • its gestation period (~2 weeks)
  • the currently understood mortality rate (~2%)
  • how it’s transmitted (airborne droplets from coughs and sneezes)
  • and our best guesses at it’s transmission rate (or “R0”; current estimate is that COVID-19 has an R0 of “2”, which means each infected person will infect ~2 others),

this all tends to imply that the disease has been spreading in WA for ~6-8 weeks, and there are hundreds of cases there now (I heard an estimate in the thousands on NPR this morning, but didn’t catch the source, and so take it with a grain of salt).

On the one hand, this is obviously concerning: COVID-19 is ~20x more deadly than the seasonal flu (which kills tens of thousands annually).  On the other hand, a 2% mortality rate implies a 98% (or higher) survival rate, and an R0 of 2 isn’t great, but it also isn’t a Stephen King story: COVID-19 is more contagious than seasonal flu (which has an R0 of ~1.3, I think) but much less so than measles (R0 ~15) or whooping cough (R0 ~5). (Incidentally, all of those are also primarily transmitted through airborne droplets). 

Usually, diseases like COVID-19 are most dangerous to the very young and very old.  Based on limited studies in China, it appears that even the very, very young have no trouble fending off COVID-19.  That’s great!  But that means the mortality rate for COVID-19 falls hardest on the elderly and those with existing health problems.

REASONABLE COVID-19 MEASURES

  • ENCOURAGE HAND WASHING! I know it seems silly to say, but that’s the Number One way we can protect ourselves and our community members (especially the infirm and our elders).  Make sure to review this with any kids you keep around; they chronically short-change hand washing. The young aren’t at very high risk of dying from COVID-19—but are excellent candidates for spreading it.  (Also, as someone who regularly uses public men’s room, I’ll level with you: Maybe also review this with adults you know.)
    1. Soap and water beats hand-sanitizer every time!  
    2. Wash hands with soap for at least 20 seconds (i.e., sing “Happy Birthday to Me” twice while washing hands).
    3. Make sure to scrub between fingers, down the backs of the hands, and focus on the finger tips.
    4. Dry vigorously with paper towel—the friction does a lot of the work of removing pathogens.
    5. Wash hands upon returning home from school/work, before and after meals, after you cough or sneeze, and any time you’ve been touching something folks likely coughed on (e.g., shared computers/tablets, ATMs, public handrails, etc.)
    6. Failing all else, hand sanitizer is better than nothing. Proper use us just like soap & water: Cover hands, scrub for 20 seconds, focus on getting between fingers/down backs/and rubbing fingertips.
  •  Cough into the elbow crook: At school my kids were taught that this was called the “vampire cough”; I love that!
  • Plan for school closures: It’s gonna happen, just like snow days. Be ready—and be ready for your day care to be closed, too.  Make advance plans with work to telecommute, have backup helpers in place, and so on.  Make sure your Netflix and Disney+ subscriptions are paid up. Invest in a game system.
  • Take care of yourself: Disease strikes the stressed, tired, and weary.  Drink plenty of water, get plenty of exercise (go on a walk before the ice returns!), and get plenty of sleep.

FURTHER COVID-19 RESOURCES

BURIED LEADE ALERT: Increasing the Minimum Wage by a Buck Can Prevent 1,600 Suicides

This all might be old news for you—especially the bit I shoved in the title, as I’m told that finding actually saw a fair bit of press earlier this month—but I found this all eye-opening:

The Finance 202: Mo’ money, fewer problems: Two new studies show 1 percenters are the most satisfied

Three key takeaways:

1. This single factoid on the impact of tiny wage increases on suicide rates is pretty stunning:

At the bottom of the income heap, relatively minor adjustments in pay can yield such a dramatic difference they register as public health benefits, according to the second study, published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Public Health. That paper found “state-level increases of $1 in minimum wage corresponded with a 3.4 percent to 5.9 percent decrease in the suicide rates of people with a high school diploma or less” among 18- to 64-year-olds

Picking that rather tortuous second sentence apart is a little tricky. Americans 18- to 64-years-old account for something like 200,000,000 people. About half of them would probably fall in the “have a high school diploma or less” bucket. So, this group—less educated American adults of working age—amount to something like one-third of the country. But they make up something like 70% of our suicides. So, that’s a population that’s really hurting, to the tune of more than 30,000 suicides per year. If you reduce that by an average of a 4.7% (as the above mentioned study found), that translates to ~1,600 lives saved.

That’s good. I don’t think anyone reading this is going to say “Thousands of families kept whole? Fuck that, Dave: Let them choke on cake!”

But what’s the cost? I mean, maybe it costs some absurd amount to get this done, and there’s a legit question if it’s a good investment or not.

Minimum wage is still pretty insanely variable across the US, but it looks like the average US minimum wage worker earns $11.80 per hour (given how the population of working-age Americans is distributed). That being the case, a $1 raise amounts to an ~8.5% increase in payroll. If that’s entirely passed directly to consumers (with all else staying equal), you might end up paying as much as 25 cents more for a Starbucks coffee, or almost 70 cents more for a Bacon Turkey Bravo sandwich at Panera.

That’s literally pocket change. It seems like a pretty frikkin easy way to save 1,600 lives each year. I say let’s do it.

2. Even 1%ers struggle with medical bills‽

“Among low-income households, for instance, nearly 40 percent said they had trouble paying their medical bills in the past several years and 30 percent reported having difficulty paying for food, Ingraham writes. “Among the top 1 percent, those shares were 5 percent and zero, respectively.”

I’m sorry, put we’re talking about the handful of families that have more than half the nation’s wealth—and even they can’t all cover their medical expenses? That right there is the single most persuasive argument I’ve ever heard for socialized medicine.

3. This all translates to a significant Democratic tailwind in the presidential election. Our economy is doing great—which historically gives an incumbent PotUS an easy win for reelection. But that great economy is only benefiting a small group of people in the upper reaches of the wealth curve. They’re happy and they vote—but they each get just one vote.

Meanwhile, huge swaths of Americans are “dissatisfied” (or much, much worse)—and don’t tend to vote. Get more of these less-likely voters to the polls, the Dem advantage increases (incidentally, as voter turnout increases, policies tend to get more progressive, too—BONUS!).

This all points to the one thing you can do if you want to see a Dem in the White House: Work to increase voter turnout. Get folks registered. Get them to the polls. Get them their absentee ballots.🇺🇸