How’s Your Second Wave Going? Covid and the Myth of Individual Responsibility

As about everybody with the expertise to do so predicted, Covid is back with a vengeance and Europe is in the firm grip of a second wave.

I absolutely have no clue what France is doing, because their new cases are just through the roof with 27k new cases yesterday, or Spain, or what is keeping Italy relatively stable. What I do know is that currently the narrative is that the second wave is caused by irresponsible individuals. And sure, we are all fed up with the people who don’t wear their masks, and the SNP MP who took the train home despite having Covid, and the Kids who party like there was no tomorrow (well, probably they’re right). Yet, in the end, the tale of the reckless individual who endangers all of us is just that: a tale, mostly to deflect from the complete failure of our governing bodies.

The media are, of course, helping. 12 infected at an illegal party, or 25 infected at a completely legal wedding makes for good headlines. As does “most transmissions occur in the personal sector” while only mentioning in the small print that 30-50% of transmissions are unknown. Transmissions in your private life are easy to follow. Contact tracing will work well when the people you infected with Covid are your spouse and teenage kid. Contact tracing will not work at all when you infect 2 people at the grocery store and one on public transport. Our daily life will force us into close contact with many people, often with not enough protection. At school I’m in close contact with up to 200 people a day, usually with no masks, no air filters, no distance. At least so far it seems that the concept of “tracing and isolating” after a positive test is working, there have been few spreads within schools or among the families, but it shows again why the spread outside of schools and workplaces is going on and on: There’s no contact tracing and isolation for people who shopped together at the supermarket. How’s the cashier supposed to know whether they got the ‘Rona at work or in an elevator where somebody sneezed?

The current discourse is nothing but to deflect from the abysmal failure of the people in charge to implement safety standards that will really keep people safe, but as long as we’re happily blaming one another they’ll get away with it.

An Important Petition from Iris

Iris at Death to Squirrels has a post up regarding the cruel treatment and unjust imprisonment of a young bi-racial girl with mental health problems. It’s an ugly story about a family looking for help and finding horror instead. It’s not only an indictment of the American mental health system but another urgent example of why Black Lives Matter really does matter. The more I read, the angrier I became, and I encourage you all to go read the story and get angry, too. Then, go sign the petition. I did, but I’m not an American, and the petition needs American voices – lots of them. At the very least, it will let this family know that they are not alone, but maybe collectively, we can get this child the help she desperately needs and offer her a future. Thanks.

Portland – Required Reading

A lot is happening in Portland, and Big Media reports are often unreliable or outright false. Our very own Crip Dyke at Pervert Justice has been on the ground risking her health and well-being to report the reality of the situation to us. This morning her report, Still a step away from Pinkerton’s, but it’s badis especially gut-wrenching, and it should be required reading. Please, if you haven’t already, head on over and share your support.

For some perspective on the reference to Pinkerton’s, Marcus at Stderr shares a historical look at labour protests in the U.S. with an essay titled How to Riot. It’s an in-depth look at the history of how the American government has handled civil unrest, and it’s frightening.

To round out your reading, I recommend Iris Vander Pluym at Death to Squirrels, whose essay A.G.Barr: Crip Dyke is a “violent rioter and anarchist” hijacking the Portland Protests, brings some insight into why what Crip Dyke is doing is so vitally important. The American government is lying to the public, and it is the on-sight reports from citizen journalists that tell the real story.

I share my thanks to all of these voices for the clarity they bring to a complicated issue.

Crip Dyke, please stay safe.

 

A Lawyer Talks About Lafayette Square Gassing

I have never seen LegalEagle lose his cool on camera, although I did not watch all his videos.

I have also never expected to live through a deadly pandemic and USA coming apart at the seams at the same time.

Life is full of surprises. To all our USA readers – please stay safe. Our hearts are with you, although we cannot do anything to help.

Behind the Iron Curtain part 33 – McGyver in Every Household

These are my recollections of a life behind the iron curtain. I do not aim to give a perfect and objective evaluation of anything but to share my personal experiences and memories. It will explain why I just cannot get misty-eyed over some ideas on the political left and why I loathe many ideas on the right.


“Zlaté české ručičky” (Golden Czech Hands) – a self-flattering saying that Czechs like to say about themselves for fairly long time. I was not able to google-fu the origin of the phrase, but one of the speculations I believe the most is that it originated during the times of the Iron Curtain.

I have already mentioned the centrally planned economy and the many negatives it has lead to. But I did not mention one of the at least somewhat positive things – the widespread ability to get the most out of whatever little there was available.

For example one of my uncles wanted to have a gramophone, but those were hard to get by. So he scraped and scrounged parts from defunct gramophones and has built a functioning one out of them. He also has built two high-quality loudspeakers for it – and they worked and sounded good for a long time. Previously he also has built a simple radio. And a bicycle from parts.

This uncle, a Ph.D. mathematician, has emigrated to USA when I was only about six years old and he took this mindset with him. He married a Korean-American woman, whom I have met in 1999 during my only visit there. One of her complaints about her husband was that she rarely gets to buy new stuff, because whenever something breaks – be it TV, vacuum, microwave or a kitchen robot – he repairs it. And indeed all these items around the house were visibly repaired.

I have this mindset too. I wanted a nice sturdy knife to take with me on forest walks, but they were expensive and hard to get by, so I have made one. I am not as handy with electronic as my uncle is, but have repurposed parts from his old radio project and used the speakers for building myself high-quality horn-speakers. And many other things.

But around here, this was not exceptional. Every man had to be a handyman, knowing a bit about electronics, plumbing, carpentry, masonry and, if you were lucky, car repair and maintenance. Because when something broke in the household, buying replacement was often not an option and getting a professional to do the job for you was not easy or fast enough. Of course, some were better at somethings than others, and a thriving black market of skills has emerged. Indeed the only way to thrive was to have a network of skilled friends or you were screwed.

Towards the end of the regime, in 1987, there emerged a TV show dedicated to this kind of “DIY” thing, named “Receptář nejen na neděli” (Recipe book not only for Sundays), whose spinoffs and follow-ups run until today under different names. There was also a periodical of the same name as the TV show, another periodical “Udělej si sám” (Do It Yourself :-)) and even one of the periodicals for children that I have previously mentioned (ABC) had sections dedicated to small crafts.

Today there is a lot of moaning about how this aspect of our culture is slowly disappearing. The availability of cheap goods on demand did lead to a decreased need to be inventive and frugal. Some of the moaning is just that – the regular moaning about the corruption of youth and the good old times – but some of it is to my mind justified. Indeed when working in Germany, I was often able to come up with creative solutions to some problems with the things I found in a drawer, exactly because that is what I was used to doing, whilst some of my colleagues were content with listing through a catalog.

I think that being poor is not a virtue, but being frugal and inventive is. The only problem that remains is how to raise inventive and frugal people when being lazy and wasteful is easier.

Mni Wiconi- Water is Life: In Memory of Caine

A year ago today our community was devastated by the death of our beloved Caine. The team here at Affinity struggled with how to honor Caine on this day and we finally decided to carry forward her message to love and honor the planet. Caine stood with the tribe at Standing Rock in their struggle against the DAPL and today we’re passing on a few stories about the continuing struggle of Indigenous communities to protect the land and water. We are in no way qualified to speak about Indigenous culture or history, but we do so today with great respect.

First, a few reminders of the meaning of Mni Wiconi – Water is Life.

Mni Wiconi – The Stand at Standing Rock

Mni Wiconi – Water is Life

Hear the message of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. Honor tribal sovereignty and the Earth we inhabit by telling President Obama to deny the easement by calling 202-456-1111. We need every person to call Obama this week before Dec. 5th. Please share. For more information visit standwithstandingrock.net#NoDAPL#StandwithStandingRock#standingrock#bankexit

Posted by Standing Rock Sioux Tribe on Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Also:

In an article on Indian Country Today, Woonspe—Education Gives Meaning to Mni Wiconi—Water Is Life they tell of the origin story behind the meaning of Mni Wiconi.

An origin story of the Oceti Sakowin, the Seven Council Fires, which make up the Lakota, Nakoda, and Dakota people, tells us that the blood of First Creation, Inyan, covers Unci Maka, our grandmother earth, and this blood, which is blue is mni, water, and mahpiya, the sky. Mni Wiconi, water is life.

The entire article is worth reading and the above link will take you right there.

♦♦♦

 

Many Standing Rocks: Three Years and Still Fighting, by Tracy L. Barnett – The Esperanza Project)

LaDonna Allard, center, and Cheryl Angel at a march led by the women of Sacred Stone to the backwater bridge one week after a brutal attack there by law enforcement. (Photo from social media) – The Esperanza Project

 

So water is in danger, globally. Right now Indigenous communities are still at risk, and they are standing up, because they have to stand up.  When you finally realize — WATER IS LIFE — you understand why you can’t sit back down.

People keep saying “after” Standing Rock – but I’m still of the same state of mind, I still have the same passion for the water,  it has to be protected. It was when I was at Sicangu Wicoti Iyuksa that I learned about the aquifers that were in danger and when I was at Standing Rock I learned about the rivers that were in danger.

We encourage you to read the article. Cheryl Angel passes on wisdom from a lifetime spent in activism for the planet. Her reflections on the movement at Standing Rock are insightful, as is her take on the ongoing struggle to protect water and land resources.

♦♦♦

Next, we’re providing links to 2 reports on the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s website.

SRST – No DAPL Remand Report Final, from February 5, 2019.

This first story is a damning and infuriating report on the deficient Corps of Engineers Analysis of the environmental impacts of the DAPL. The courts finally sided with the Standing Rock Tribe, but then decided that since the pipeline is already built they will let the oil flow.

Impacts of an Oil Spill from the Dakota Access Pipeline on the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe from February 21, 2018, so that you can see just how much is at stake.
Both stories connect you to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s website and we encourage you to have a look around. The About Us section contains lots of information about the history of the tribe and the reservation, as does the section about environmental issues.
♦♦♦
Next, we’re going to point you toward the Indigenous Environmental Network.
IEN is an alliance of Indigenous peoples whose mission it is to protect the sacredness of Earth Mother from contamination and exploitation by strengthening, maintaining and respecting Indigenous teachings and natural laws. Adopted in 1994 by the IEN National Council, Denver, Colorado
The IEN website has a broad focus and they carry a variety of interesting stories about the ongoing fight to protect the land and water. It isn’t all just talk, though. The IEN runs several important environmental campaigns including the Keep It In The Ground Campaign run by Dallas Goldtooth. Dallas was born into an activist family and stood as a water protector at Standing Rock. He’s an accomplished activist, teacher, writer, poet and comedian who uses story and humor to tackle difficult subjects.
Here he is with his comedy troupe, The 1491’s, at Vasser College in 2018. His message is full of hope.

And finally, we leave you with a clip found on Twitter 2 days ago by rq. It’s a true message of hope from The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and the it’s the perfect way to end this post.

 

Behind the Iron Curtain part 24 – LGBTQ rights

These are my recollections of a life behind the iron curtain. I do not aim to give perfect and objective evaluation of anything, but to share my personal experiences and memories. It will explain why I just cannot get misty eyed over some ideas on the political left and why I loathe many ideas on the right.


I do not actually remember how much I was informed about these issues as a child before and after the fall of the Iron Curtain, but what I do remember is that my first encounter was not with an actual (known) homosexual person, but with a homophobic slur. The sad reality is, that Czechs were and to great extent still are very homophobic, or at least “I am not a homophobe, but…”, which is a distinction without difference.

However from legal standpoint Czechoslovak Socialist Republic was actually relatively progressive, or at least not less progressive than many western countries. Homosexuality was decriminalized in 1962, 5 years before the United Kingdom. And gender reassignment therapy and surgery, although with more than a few bureaucratic hurdles to jump through, were (and are) available and paid for from state health insurance.

Nevertheless, despite gay rights being on the left side of the political spectrum in current USA and most of western world, it was not so behind the Iron Curtain. As avid reader and a very curious child, I have read behind my parents’ back magazines for adults (as opposed to magazines for children), which even in the puritanical culture did contain some information about sex and sexuality. And on one such occasion I came across an article that mentioned a peculiar fact – whilst homosexual acts between consenting adults were decriminalized in ČSSR, this was not the case everywhere in the Eastern Bloc. In USSR, male homosexuality was still illegal and punishable by imprisonment. The rationale mentioned in the article was homophobic, patriarchal and misogynistic all at once, and I remember recognizing it as such even at the time, although of course I did not know those fancy words back then: “A woman’s weakness can be forgiven, but a soldier must control his urges.”

After the fall of the iron curtain this discrepancy between the two countries sadly progressed. Whilst Czech Republic slowly but steadily progresses towards more and more legal rights for LGBTQ people along with public opinion progressing as well, in Russian Federation the trend actually reversed after a brief period of attempted progress.

So to me this, together with before mentioned environmentalism, is another one of the issues that actually is not left or right and it is just a coincidence that it is considered so in current political climate in the west. But lets not forget that political left can be just as adept at finding rationalizations for the homophobia of their power base as political right currently is. Hate of the other can, unfortunately, be quite the unifying issue in all kinds of political context.

Maybe he should have grabbed her by the pussy instead?

By now you have probably heard of The Incident. Depending on whether you’re a decent human being or a Republican, the actual incident is that the White House tried to forcefully remove the mic of a journalist because they didn’t like what he said and then banned him from the White House, or the real incident is Jim Acosta “laying his hands” on a young intern (who is, by pure coincidence female, white, young and pretty).

Sarah Sanders has tweeted about it several times, stressing the “disrespect” towards the “young woman” and “young women” working in the administration, mimicking feminist language and concerns for the treatment of (young) (professional) women at the hands of older men.

She also shared a clip showing him making a “chopping motion” towards her arm. Only that the video came straight from Infowars (and we all know how much those people care about women) and has a few curious differences to the original:

The intern’s reach for the mic is slowed down, and the “chop” motion is accelerated. Here’s an annotated side by side comparison:

Further analysis: video is absolutely doctored. You can see the edit when the clips are side by side and slowed down to quarter speed. See for yourself:

 The dishonesty of the Trump Administration knows no limits, as shown again, but let me make one thing clear: Even if Acosta had made a “chopping motion” he wouldn’t be the one who’s wrong here. He was talking, she tried to physically remove the mic, very eager to please her betters. She was the one making aggressive moves towards him. And also: fuck you, white women who sell out on basically everybody to lick spittle and get the rewards of being the chill girls of the Trump Administration. You work hard to remove women’s* right to their own bodies. You work double time to disenfranchise black women. You work extra time to rip babies out of their mothers’ arms and lock them in cages. And you all work for a man who is proud of sexually assaulting women. You don’t get to talk about respectful treatment of women.
*and others capable of gestation.

Wackaloon

Liz Crokin, right wing “journalist” has recently lost the tips of two fingers in a surfing accident and is blaming Hilary Clinton as the cause.

While she realizes that it was probably “just a freak accident,” that didn’t stop her from also asserting that it may have been the result of a curse that had been placed on her by Hillary Clinton or artist Marina Abramović or some other “witch” that is targeting her due to her efforts to expose the secret satanic cannibalistic pedophile cult that supposedly runs the world.

Is it just me, or do other people think that the right wing of America have lost their minds. I can almost get past their belief in their God (almost, but not really), but what is up with the belief in witches and spells and curses. Do they really think we live in Harry Potter World full of magic, and if so why isn’t their all-powerful, all-seeing God doing something about it? It seems to me that it just highlights the impotence of their sky God. It all seems so totally illogical and totally ridiculous. The full story is at Right Wing Watch, if you can stomach it. Just a word of warning, if you click on the links inside the story be prepared for even more ridiculous right wing thinking.

 

Behind the Iron Curtain part 13 – Snitching

These are my recollections of a life behind the iron curtain. I do not aim to give perfect and objective evaluation of anything, but to share my personal experiences and memories. It will explain why I just cannot get misty eyed over some ideas on the political left and why I loathe many ideas on the right.


In medieval times, every village had to have its idiot. In totalitarian times, every village has its snitch.

Ours was a man in his fifties, whose common nickname was “Dědek bonzák” (Grampa Snitch). Of course nobody told this to his face, but everybody knew him and the nickname applies to him even now, twenty years after the regime changed.

I have only once seen him in “action” during one of our craft classes. For these we went out of school to a designated workshop where we would learn some basic knowledge about the use of tools – saws, files, drills etc. The room had a window that opened not in the street, but on a roof. And one day some of the more rowdy boys (the classes were gender segregated btw.) riled up each other until they dared to venture out on the roof when the teacher left the class for a moment to fetch some materials. They were seen from a nearby building by none other than Grampa Snitch, who a few minutes later barged in the class and screeched to the teacher about the miscreants. He actually pointed his finger on one of the boys, his own nephew, and screamed, “That is him, he is one of them, he was there on the roof!”.

After the class some of us expressed incredulity about how he so publicly ratted on his own nephew. We all could understand if the gave him a clip behind the ear later on and/or told his parents, but publicly accusing your own nephew? Unconscionable. His nephew summed it up in one simple phrase “He is just such an asshole.”.

I do not know whether it was malice that drove him, or overzealous adherence to rules. I do not think it was the latter though, because snitching has markedly some visible benefits to him.

There was in the country a longstanding tradition to burn old grass on the meadows and gardens in the spring. Stupid, damaging and dangerous tradition, which was therefore outlawed. Yet every spring Grampa Snitch could be seen burning the grass in his garden and on the meadow behind it. publicly, in broad daylight, and he was never fined. Yet had anyone else dared to break the law within his eyesight in even the minutest of minor ways, to this day his instinct is to call the police.

Everybody is guilty, we have already established that. Especially when the laws of the land are such, that they are impossible to not break, when even completely innocent remarks can be misconstrued as crimes against humanity. And in a system where everybody is guilty, there will be those who use the system to their advantage. Setting scores and disputes this way becomes second nature to some, and there will always be those who will not see it improper to let someone incarcerate for treason just because their dog barked all night.

There is also a flip side to this coin. With trivial or completely illegitimate grievances being commonly leveled amongst people, being a snitch was seen as the height of indecency. Which has of course made it difficult to officially address legitimate grievances as well. And there were people who used this to their advantage too. In the eyes of some it was seen as equally as bad to report someone who has a built a barbecue pit a few cm bigger than the law allows as it was to report that someone assaulted you. Literally.

As a sickly kid who had high marks I was of course bullied at school. The leader of the group of bullies eventually devised a type of torture that was life threatening – holding my nose and mouth tight shut until I started to turn blue in the face, and then watch the highly amusing confusion resulting from my oxygen deprivation. One day my mother managed to get this out of me, I do not know how she did it because I feared to tell anyone, but she did. She went berserk, told off the parents of the bullies and complained to school master. The bullies were held after school and they got some punishment at home too. But, you guessed it, the leader of the bullies felt that it was me who wronged him and when going home from the detention he shouted at me across the town square “You snitch!”. He did not dare to lay his hands on me again¹- and stick and stones can break your bones… and words can really hurt too..

It was only much later in life when I realised that all this is us (the populace) versus them (the officials) mentality that is common in prisons. And that is what it was – prison mentality. For we were in prison, really and truly – the Iron Curtain was just that, a barrier for keeping people in, not out.


1 – Bullying scars for life. He never realized that what he did to me was wrong, never had an epiphany and never apologized, yet when we grew up to be adults he thought we were “friends from school”. I never shook his hand when we met and when he died in a car crash a few years ago, I did not feel sorry in the least.