Friday Thoughts: A Right to Privacy?

Writing the post the other day got me thinking about the right to privacy. There is no explicitly stated right to privacy in the Constitution. What is in there are several amendments that have been used in landmark (and less than landmark) cases to define a right to privacy for U.S. citizens against government intrusion. And each of these amendments and cases are where we can find the Constitutional protections against mandatory vaccination and vaccine passports.

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Door to Door Invaders

The other day, Jen Psaki, Biden’s press secretary, said that in order to bring up the vaccination rate the government would be initiating a door-to-door campaign to try to get more people to accept the jab. This prompted a TON of blowback and rightly so. The government does not get to decide how citizens handle personal health issues. And stop with the “it’s a pandemic! Don’t you care about others? You’re going to kill us all!” This thing is a bad flu.

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The Beach Fixes Everything

So many things going on right now. Writing is not one of them. At least not one that is coming easily. I’m switching between projects, keeping up with prompts, reading, reading for research purposes, and yet… and yet. I know when I get lost in reading for fun (even if I tell myself that I’m looking at story structure, character arc, etc. etc.) I am avoiding something. So, I’m trying to figure out what exactly I’m avoiding. I’m not under any pressure to finish a project by an externally imposed deadline, I’m not dealing with crap I’d really rather not deal with. So, what’s the problem?

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Inevitability

Since before the election I’ve been seeing a lot of articles, blog posts, and comments from friends regarding the “inevitability” of Trump losing this election. Those types of articles have greatly increased in the days since. People on both sides of the political divide are in the inevitability camp. The big question is why are Republicans and conservatives following this line? Of course all the strong Democrat supporters want to believe their guy won. I’d wager that those Democrats who voted for Trump (oh, yes, there were some) are in the inevitability camp. And, the Never Trumpers strongly want him to lose…not because they like Biden, but because they’re willing to cut their noses off to spite their faces.

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Fear again

I wrote about fear back in May (wow, it’s been that long?) and wrote several times since about Karens and fear, masks and fear, and fear itself again. It seems like the spring, summer, and now fall has been one long battle against fear. For some of my friends, fear is winning. They are afraid to go out as they once did because Wuhan Flu. They’re afraid we’re turning into a fascist/authoritarian/dystopian state…or Russia. They’re afraid of the changes they see around them…whether those changes may be for good or ill.

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Panic and control

Get people to panic. Then tell them you can fix what’s causing the panic, if they’ll simply follow your lead. Then tell them that your solutions are the only ones that will prevent the cause of the panic from returning. Rinse and repeat. Now you’re in control. This is what our political class has been doing to us. Gaslighting is the word you’re looking for. It comes from a story and movie starring Ingrid Bergman as a woman who’s husband is deliberately trying to drive her crazy. One way he does it is to have the gas lamps in their home go high and low. When she comments on it, he says nothing happened. He also has the servants in on it. So, she thinks she’s the only one who can see the lamps going up and down. Combined with other despicable acts by the husband, like telling her that whatever else she’s seeing and experiencing is in her head, she begins to believe she’s crazy. Her husband has gaslighted her.

The end goal is not elimination of the virus. That’s not going to happen. Even with a vaccine, it will be back. The flu comes back every year and we have flu shots. A coronavirus is what a common cold is. This will be back. Bear in mind, though, it is most emphatically not lying in wait for you to walk out of your front door without a mask (despite what you’ve been allowed to assume). Nor will you get infected by walking past somebody on the sidewalk. About the only consistent, and apparently reliable, data we have access to points to age and underlying medical conditions, in combination, as the highest risk factors for death due to COVID-19. Does that mean somebody who does not hit those markers cannot get infected, and cannot succumb to this illness? Of course not. What that means is that is is HIGHLY UNLIKELY they will. There are always outliers. Always. Look at it this way…a product/drug/whatever, claims that 99% of those using it have found relief. That means that 1% did not. When you hear those stats rattled off in TV ads…suicidal thoughts, nerve damage, blindness, cancer…that means that in the trials of that drug THOSE THINGS HAPPENED TO SOME PEOPLE. That’s how they know!

Yes, we’ve had approximately 150,000 deaths in the US from this virus (that’s .04% of the total population). But something like 80% of those deaths were people over the age of 75. You can thank Andrew Cuomo and Tom Wolf for their policies of requiring nursing homes and assisted living facilities to readmit residents who had tested positive or had symptoms of COVID-19. They stuck all those sick individuals back into homes with the rest of the most vulnerable population and then locked them all in. Here in PA immediately prior to issuing that order, the PA Secretary of Health, Rachel Levine, pulled her mother out of her assisted living facility and put her in a hotel. It’s almost as if she knew her mother would be in danger is she stayed in the facility…hmmmmm.

The entire “response” to the virus has become an exercise in inducing continued panic while presenting greater and greater controls. It has gone well beyond actually having anything to do with slowing the virus. I don’t buy into conspiracy theories, but this is certainly one of those times when the political class (and I am excluding POTUS, which if you can control the frothing OrangeManBad!! actually makes sense…states are responsible for state policies and those states with the highest death rates are…wait for it…blue states!) follows Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals and never lets a good crisis go to waste. Need more evidence? Look at the ever changing demands of BLM leaders, teacher’s unions, state level policy makers, etc. Once the virus itself was as controlled as it’s ever going to get, they’ve started backing and forthing on everything that went before. Open up and get new cases? Yes, that will happen. What we’re not getting is how many of those new cases are 1) NOT the result of false positives (just search for “false positive tests” and see how many stories come up), and 2) how many of those new cases actually get sick. We’re told that large numbers of people are wandering around with the virus but are asymptomatic. What’s yet to be clarified (and likely won’t because it makes all these lockdowns and other mandates useless) is how frequently those asymptomatic cases are actually contagious.

In the end, if large numbers of us are asymptomatic, then the point of wearing masks, social distancing, etc. is gone. And when those are gone, control is gone. When control is gone, well, we go back to doing what we all do best…living our lives and taking care of our families.

Keep going. Do what you feel most comfortable doing. But don’t expect me to copy you. I don’t expect you to copy me.

In the end, we win and they lose.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Big Changes

I resigned my faculty position at the end of May. Today, I finished cleaning out my office. Walking out of the building today, I got a little verklempt and teared up. I’ve joked that this is the end of an era, but it really is. My senior year of high school we were asked to write down where we saw ourselves in ten years. I wrote (which I rediscovered at my 10-year reunion) that I would have a PhD in political science and be teaching at a university. At that point, (my ten year reunion) I had just started my MA program. Four years later (took me three to finish the MA while working full-time, and then I took a year to apply to PhD programs) I started my PhD. I finished that and started teaching full-time in 2000. I went through two visiting positions before I landed the tenure-track position. Got tenure, and now I’ve resigned. Twenty years of teaching, 17 at the same place. All told, this job was my goal for 40 years!

It really is the end of an era and it’s the end of what I thought was my dream career. I love teaching, I really do. So, I know that will be a big loss, but one I am prepared for. I like research, but I found that I don’t like being pressured to do research on someone else’s time line. I also don’t like having to “stay in my lane” research-wise. Meaning, I like branching out and wandering through different areas. But, that is not the academic way. Small loss. Generally, I despise committee work (the “service” part of the trifecta of research, teaching, service requirements), so no loss there.

Two years ago, I had a sabbatical in the spring semester. I started out going full-bore into a new research project that looked really interesting (I still think it is, and I think there’s something to my thesis), but after a strong start, I basically lost interest in pursuing the necessary background research. I started reading lots and lots of fiction…urban fantasy, swords and sorcery. All the things I have always loved reading since I was a little kid (starting with the color fairy tale books…Red Books of Fairy Tales, Yellow Book…) And, I started wondering if I could write a story myself. So, I started. That first draft was horrific. Really bad. But, I was hooked. I read “how-to” books, how to describe, how to create characters and character arcs, how to reveal necessary background information and on and on. I rewrote and rewrote and rewrote.

I finally had a version that I felt confident sending out to beta readers. I got positive feedback, incorporated the suggested changes…and voila! I uploaded it to Amazon the other day. I was so excited I was vibrating. I’m still jittery. I’ve published non-fiction in academic journals, and that was pretty cool. But this is different. This is a part of me out there. It’s very exposing, but a hell of a lot of fun! As I said in the previous post, there are a number of people I owe a huge debt of gratitude to. Both for the writing advice and the encouragement to just write. The outpouring of support from my friends when I announced that the book was live on Amazon has been amazing as well.

My author page on Amazon says that I consider myself to be a “recovering faculty member” and that is true. I quit a job I couldn’t get fired from and I feel like I broke out of prison. It’s crazy. Scary, too. I’ve jumped…this has to work! And, I have every confidence it will.

Today is our wedding anniversary, so I took the day off. Plus I’ve been told (and experienced in the academic side of things) that it’s a very good idea to reward oneself for a job completed. Monday, I will get back to plotting the next book in the series.

So, here’s to changes big and small. Go out and make those changes that appeal to you. Have a great weekend!

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Living in the city

I do like living in a city. I like being able to walk to a bar or restaurant. I like having the dry cleaner on the corner. I like having a big park right at the end of the block and the Schuylkill River and boat houses at the bottom of the hill. When we moved out here I was really looking forward to not having to drive 20 minutes just to get dinner.

BUT…

Now, I’m thinking that driving 20 minutes is a good thing. I’m tired of living on top of my neighbors and having them live on top of us. I’m tired of hearing five different conversations in five different back yards when I go out into our back yard. I’m tired of picking up trash that’s blowing around the street. I can hear the assholes doing donuts at 3:00am in the intersection at the bottom of the hill by the boat houses. I’m tired of the dirt bikes and quad runners that go up and down the street all day every day in the summer. They go through intersections without regard for traffic lights. I’m tired of constant traffic noise.

Some of these things are uniquely Philly, but some of them are endemic to cities everywhere. I lived in San Francisco for a few years and my parents lived there for 25 years. There are obviously different feels to each city, a different vibe, but some things are the same. Right now, the convenience and liveliness of city living are outweighed by the noise, crowding, and lessening quality of life. And, here in Philly, I don’t see that improving any time soon.

Some of my exhaustion and frustration is driven by recent events, especially these riots. A week’s worth of riots. An ATM a block north of us was blown up. There’s a protest and march tomorrow on the Parkway. Hopefully it stays quiet and there’s no accompanying looting. But, they’ve closed the entire downtown area (what we call Center City) and the Parkway from the Art Museum to 22nd. That means, on this, the first weekend of freedom from lock down, we can’t actually go anywhere.

(Yes, yes. I get why people are protesting. But, they’re losing any impact they may have had and the focus is now on preventing looting rather than actual justice and police reform. Please spare me the lectures on “privilege” etc.)

In the end, my general frustrations with city life have combined with the frustrations of the lock down (and hearing all of my upstairs neighbor’s work phone calls) and now riots, to make me think that no neighbors for at least a mile around is a very good thing. If you’d told me that 15 years ago I would have laughed at you. I really do like the energy of cities. But now, I think a visit of a few days will satisfy that itch. I know that some people are going to say we’re giving up. Well, yes, we are. But we’re walking away after 15 years living here. I think we’ve given it a fair shot. And, in the end, on top of everything is the feeling that we need to be closer to family than a six-hour flight (if we can get a direct flight).

So, in the end, we’ll be looking for something that’s got some space around it. And, likely driving 20 minutes to go to dinner. And, honestly, if I can hear crickets at night when I open the window, I’ll be happy. I’d be happier if I could hear waves, but that’s for later…

Have a good weekend, all!

Life is risky

As the memes and cliches say…no-one gets out alive. Life is risky and we’re all gonna die (unlike in the movie “Cocoon” where Wilfred Brimley says “you won’t ever get sick and you won’t ever die” when they find the aliens). Stay on Earth and you will die. Where we seem to be having an argument is over how and when we die and what risks we are all willing to take *before* we die.

Slowly but surely (and I’m very happy about it) the country is opening back up. There are stories from all over about states moving at their own speed and counties within states defying governors and moving at their own pace. Even Cuomo has had to allow some counties in New York to open up faster than, oh, say, NYC. But, with the reopening, some people have reverted or turned to a greater level of fear. It’s hard to tell if they’re afraid of catching the Wuhan flu and dying, or if they are pretty sure Wuhan flu won’t kill them, but will leave them scarred for life. Or, if they even know what they’re arguing for.

Now, people who were pragmatic and skeptical about the lockdown and the reasons behind it, are freaking out at the talk of reopening. I was puzzled at first, but I think I may have figured it out (note, I said *may*. I will not presume to be telepathic). Many of these people were happy to play the devil’s advocate regarding lockdown, but now that the reopening is actually happening, they’re reacting as if their biggest bluff has been called. They were comfortable when they and everybody else was restricted in movement. But, now, with things opening back up and people chafing to get out and back to some semblance of a normal life, they feel like they’re the only ones left who are worried. And, nobody likes being the only one on one side of an argument. So they’re bringing out the big guns to try to get people back into the fold.

The problem with this is that now they’re doing what they’ve railed against previously. They are trying to tell the rest of us that *we* have to adhere to *their* rules because they don’t want to be the only ones following those rules. I’m not sure why the sudden panic about disease when that has not been a primary concern prior to about yesterday. Like I said, the only thing I can figure is that suddenly they’re the last ones left and they never saw everybody else leave. So, they’re mad at the rest of us and getting defensive.

You may ask, how am I arriving at these conclusions? Well, my data source is the purely biased, anecdotal data from Facebook. I kinda sorta monitor my feed for these sorts of things. The kerfuffle over how to reopen has dissolved into a giant kerfuffle into whether each individual action within each step is wise. There’s really nothing overall to fight against. After all, they want to reopen things as well. Again, based on my own personal anecdotal evidence (which does not mean it’s wrong), they seem to like the idea of opening in the abstract, but are extremely fearful in the actual.

I’m still puzzled by all this fear. I guess the media has done a good job in stoking it. But, I am constantly amazed at how easy it is to drive out the ability to think clearly. I mean, any semi-rational individual can see that the information we’ve been getting changes rapidly. The rules/guidelines/regulations are less than useful after about two days (and that’s being generous). So, why can’t people follow that? I’m not sure, but I think it may have to do with several factors. The ability to take care of yourself, if you can work from home, that means you can easily avoid others (leaving out that your grocery delivery person is risking their health for you), and you can just hunker down.

All of this completely ignores those who cannot work from home. They’re the ones who need/want to go back to work. So, why do people not see that? How blindered are they?

I’m not sure. All I know is what I said before. Protect the vulnerable populations, wash your hands, sneeze into your elbow, and fucking stay home if you’re sick. I will wash my hands before I come visit you. If you wish me to wear a mask I will do so and sit or stand 6 feet away from you. But you cannot expect me to do the same with every other person. Your requests are not theirs. We are more risk-acceptant than you. Deal.

We need to just open back up and let the Karens fall where they may. Life is risky. Don’t expect me to adjust to your acceptable level of risk and I won’t expect the same of you. We’re all gonna die. Just have a ton of fun between now and then.

Image by Oleksandr Pyrohov from Pixabay