Some Thoughts

June 4, 2020 10:43 am

I wrote this in response to a rather callous Facebook post I saw which essentially excused George Floyd's death because he had a criminal record (I don't know if that's even true, because it's not relevant to what's happening) and then denounced continued protests because the officers were arrested so, "Sounds like justice was done."

Some context of my post is lost without the original to which it's replying, but I'm not going to repost it here. Some quotes that are alluded to in my text: "I don't know why we keep putting criminals on pedestals for [equality movements]" and "we’ll never get anywhere with an out of control mob."

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Despite announcing independence from Britain with the phrase "all men are created equal" the founders of this country immediately produced a government where the only citizens that counted were white, male, land owners. And, despite fighting an entire war with ourselves over it, we're still trying to fix that failure.

George Floyd's death happened to be the straw the broke the camel's back for this generation. Having the officers involved arrested and tried does little to address the larger issue. Until systemic change actually happens there will be repeated cycles of pressure build up and outbursts.

One of the most prominent recent protests for the cause of racial equality was a football player peacefully and respectfully kneeling during the national anthem and a huge part of the country denounced him for doing so. Years of peaceful attempts to have racist monuments removed throughout the South have failed. And throughout, repeatedly and regularly, black men and women have continued to be killed at the hands of white police officers with little improvement.

Sadly, as JFK portended, when the people populating the institutions of power ignore the problem eventually it bubbles up into a violent confrontation. Our country brought itself into existence by violent confrontation. Slavery was ended in this country by violent confrontation.

Throughout history, and around the world, we've repeatedly seen that unfortunately an "out of control mob" has sometimes been the only way that we "get anywhere."

I don't know anything about Floyd's past. But his past is entirely irrelevant. No one should have a police officer kneel on their neck until they suffocate to death. The pedestal he's put upon is the pedestal labeled "humanity" and we all stand on it together.

To dust our hands and say, "Sounds like justice was done" because in this one instance--after days of protests and rioting across the entire country--the perpetrators were arrested is to ensure that the cycle of anger and violence will continue for another day.

COVID-19: Part 32

June 3, 2020 6:02 pm
  • Quarantine Day 79
  • County Curfew Day 3
  • Livermore cases: 55
  • Alameda County cases: 3,450; deaths: 96
  • U.S. cases: 1,827,000+; deaths: 106,000+

On Monday evening, after my post that day, Trump made some televised remarks and then ordered police and National Guard troops to forcibly remove--with tear gas, batons, and rubber bullets--a lawfully and peacefully assembled group of protestors so that he could walk across the street, stand in front of a church, hold up a Bible, and take a picture. Which was then promptly turned into a campaign video.

American citizens, American journalists, and foreign journalists were all caught in the violence. One in particular was an Australian news crew that was broadcasting live when police officers attacked them with riot shield and baton; they were also hit with rubber bullets as they tried to clear the area. Australia is pissed.

The publicity stunt was denounced by the bishop of the church in front of which he stood. The county, which had provided additional officers to the city for crowd control, denounced the stunt and pulled their officers out of the city. And it was denounced throughout the country and around the world.

Today, in response to these events, former Secretary of Defense (for Trump) James Mattis issued a stunning excoriation of the president.

Some selected quotes:

We must reject any thinking of our cities as a “battlespace” that our uniformed military is called upon to “dominate.”

Instructions given by the military departments to our troops before the Normandy invasion reminded soldiers that “The Nazi slogan for destroying us…was ‘Divide and Conquer.’ Our American answer is ‘In Union there is Strength.’”

Donald Trump is the first president in my lifetime who does not try to unite the American people—does not even pretend to try. Instead he tries to divide us. We are witnessing the consequences of three years of this deliberate effort. We are witnessing the consequences of three years without mature leadership. We can unite without him, drawing on the strengths inherent in our civil society.

We know that we are better than the abuse of executive authority that we witnessed in Lafayette Square. We must reject and hold accountable those in office who would make a mockery of our Constitution.

I found it pretty stunning that a former Secretary of Defense would publish something against the president they served calling for the country to unify without the president and for accountability for abuse of executive authority & making a mockery of the Constitution.

Not only has Trump done nothing thus far to attempt to deescalate the anger or address the serious grievances, but instead has repeatedly used racially charged language to threaten protestors.

There have been daily protests in all 50 states and every major city and many minor cities. Given that there are tens of millions of people unemployed due to COVID-19 I don't see how this starts getting better until an actual leader steps up. And within a few weeks we'll be dealing with a massive second wave of COVID-19 infections due to protestors being in close quarters for extended periods time.

The summer is looking a bit bleak right now.

On the bright side, a bunch of racist monuments throughout the South that civil-rights activists have been trying to get removed for years are now coming down--with or without the cooperation of the local governments.

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Today we had a "drive by ceremony" for Corinne's preschool. She was really excited to get to see her teachers again (and to be in the van going somewhere for the first time since March). Sadly, we were the only people wearing face masks that we saw. I don't understand why people don't "get it" about epidemiological reality.

COVID-19: Part 31

June 1, 2020 4:52 pm
  • Quarantine Day 77
  • Alameda County is under curfew this week from 8pm-5am until June 5.
  • Livermore cases: 54
  • Alameda County cases: 3,375; deaths: 95
  • U.S. cases: 1,787,000+; deaths: 104,000+

2020 is apparently trying to hit every possible historical story line all at once. On Saturday, astronauts launched from U.S. soil for the first time since 2011. And civil unrest, protesting, and rioting has gripped pretty much every major city in the country for several days now. Just fire up the draft and we've got the 1960s again.

One week ago (May 25) an unarmed black man named George Floyd was killed in Minneapolis when a white police officer knelt on his neck until he suffocated. The entire incident was filmed. This followed other stories from this year like police in Louisville shooting and killing a black woman (Breonna Taylor) in her home while executing a warrant unannounced in the middle of the night and the death of a black man (Ahmed Arbery) in Georgia when 3 white men with firearms (1 a former police officer) followed and confronted him while he was out jogging. Which are only 3 in a endless history of injustice, oppression, and callous disregard for the life of minorities by institutions of power and the people that populate them in this country.

For reasons that I'm sure will be dissected in history classes for decades, this event happened to break the camel's back and protests began cropping up around the country. In many locations as darkness fell some people turned protesting into rioting and looting.

Saturday and Sunday were both filled with peaceful protests around the country. Many of which stayed peaceful. But also many turned into riots and looting. The National Guard has been deployed in at least a dozen states.

The Target in Livermore was closed a few hours early yesterday due to concerns it would be targeted by looters. I believe Livermore stayed peaceful throughout the weekend. However, San Leandro and Oakland are both within the county and had looting and rioting over the weekend. There were probably other towns in the county as well, but with the entire country experiencing unrest its impossible to find comprehensive news coverage. Walnut Creek is only about 25 minutes away up the highway in another county and it had looting yesterday and a woman was shot in the arm.

Today Alameda County has declared a state of emergency and issued a curfew order in place through June 5 from 8pm to 5am each night.

The whole year is really starting to be a bit much.

Emergency Proclamation

Curfew Order

Tonight, Trump is threatening to deploy the military to any state that doesn't "deal with it" themselves in order quell the unrest with "total domination".

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We had Lanna Thai for dinner on Saturday. I went to pick it up and, like so many things right now, it was something out of a dystopian novel:

COVID-19: Part 30

May 28, 2020 4:13 pm
  • Quarantine Day 73
  • Another 2.1 million first-time unemployment claims.
  • Livermore cases: 50
  • Alameda County cases: 3,007; deaths: 93
  • U.S. cases: 1,698,000+; deaths: 100,400+

The CDC has now recorded over 100,000 U.S. deaths due to COVID-19.

Trump posted some factually false information on Twitter and Twitter marked it with a "Fact Check" link. Which made Trump absolutely lose his mind claiming Twitter is taking away his freedom of speech. A hard argument to make since Twitter explicitly didn't remove the false information, just added a mark next to it.

But Trump is turning this into a rallying cry for his base about how the "big bad tech companies" keep "suppressing conservative viewpoints." By which he means calling out lies and banning bigotry on their private platforms.

It's funny how the conservative position is that private businesses shouldn't have to sell a cake to someone if they don't like the genders of the people ordering it, but other private businesses should be required to allow users to spread lies and bigotry. So Trump decided the best way to preserve his not-under-attack-freedom-of-speech by signing an executive order with the goal of infringing the freedom-of-speech for private businesses who don't like spreading his drivel. It surely won't go anywhere, but it makes his base happy that he's "sticking it to those liberals."

This is generally the same group of people that are also now losing their minds that some stores are requiring face masks and refusing service to persons not wearing one even in areas that do not have temporary, mandatory-face-mask laws in effect. This is also, somehow, an attack on their fundamental freedoms. Because, again, apparently private businesses should be allowed to discriminate so long as only other people are being inconvenienced by it. The hypocrisy drives me nuts.

They're also losing their minds in the places with temporary, mandatory-face-masks laws in effect, but at least there it is a government restriction they're mad about. It's still extremely stupid to be trying to equate a piece of cloth that helps slow the spread of a deadly disease with being put in internment camps, but that's what they're claiming.

I'm so sick of the proud ignorance that's gained such a stronghold in the country. It's not anything new, Asimov was complaining about it in 1980, "There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there always has been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that 'my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.'" But it sure feels like within the last 10 years it's really stood up and said, "We're ignorant, proud of it, and there's nothing you can do about it."

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Dragon Strike update: Last weekend Jess and Heather played through Gambler's Pass, ending up fallen into the Red River when the dragon burned down the bridge they were standing on. They woke up in Emrin, rescued by townspeople. After recovering they attempted to deliver the package they've been carrying to Reginald only to find him murdered. They helped the captain of the guard investigate the crime and identified a suspect who disappeared in a flash of light and a puff of smoke. This weekend they need to head out to the cemetery to try to find and apprehend the suspect.

On Monday I made a citrus chiffon cake which came out really well. I didn't take a picture though and it's almost gone now. It was also really hot this week. 105F on Tuesday, 101F on Wednesday, but now it's cooling down for the weekend.

COVID-19: Part 29

May 22, 2020 3:54 pm
  • Quarantine Day 67
  • Another 2.4 million first-time unemployment claims last week
  • Livermore cases: 45 (unchanged since last week!)
  • Alameda County cases: 2,630; deaths: 89
  • U.S. cases: 1,571,000+; deaths: 94,100+

Alameda County updated their shelter-at-home restrictions on Monday. Outdoor recreational facilities without shared equipment (e.g., tennis courts) may re-open so long as social distancing within the venue is practiced. There were probably additional changes I didn't catch. It also issued extensive documentation on allowed "highly regulated vehicle-based gatherings" designed to allow schools to hold some type of graduation ceremony. For such events, people have to stay in their cars, cars have to be separated, no food may be distributed, etc.

Trump continues to purge "disloyals" from the executive branch. This time it was the Inspector General for the State Department. He was supposedly working on an investigation of the Secretary of State for unprofessional conduct. The Secretary of State (according to the White House) asked that Trump fire the inspector and Trump did without explanation. Always nice to be able to fire the people whose job it is to provide oversight of your actions.

Trump got "caught" wearing a mask this week. He explicitly tried to hide it from the press, but someone got a picture of him wearing it anyway. Looking competent is apparently something to be avoided.

Last weekend, some morons in Livermore held a protest downtown about reopening business. Many downtown businesses condemned the group. What really gets me is these are not groups saying, "We can reopen responsibly. We can act appropriate and safely to get back to work with minimal risk." No, instead they're out in groups with no face masks and no social distancing. So the message they're really sending is, "We're too stupid to do what's right on our own, so you better keep enforcing shelter-at-home orders."

Heather (Ivy) and Jess (Beryl) completed the Spirit Valley quest in their Dragon Strike campaign. And my friends got halfway through The Battle for Bree last night. Tomorrow Ivy and Beryl will have to traverse Gambler's Pass on their way to Emrin to deliver Eliza's package to her brother. The name for the pass comes from the risks one must take when making the journey. Bandits, rock falls, avalanches, monsters, and the dreaded dragon, Darkfyre, are all possible dangers of the narrow path through the mountain and the rope bridge over the Red River.

Today is Heather's last day of school work. She has a five-minute one-on-one meeting with her teacher next week. And the following week they'll have a class "party" via video conference.