Capitalism Makes Fighting Ebola Hard

Published at 10:23 on 29 October 2014

The reason is, there’s no easy profits to be made in doing what needs to be done.

Take fighting the disease in Africa. Those who are getting it are primarily poor. They can’t afford to pay for the necessary health care. It must be simply given away to them. There’s obviously no money in doing that. So not enough care is being provided, and the disease is exploding into an uncontrollable epidemic.

Take reasonable travel restrictions. Right now, health workers are getting there primarily via commercial air flights. The same flights that will carry anyone with money to buy a ticket, with only minimal screening. The airlines have no incentive to adopt aggressive screening, because it would make it harder for paying customers to buy tickets. Moreover, restricting flights would restrict commerce, meaning that the countries affected would become even more dependent on the First World just giving them necessary aid, at lest in the short term (the epidemic won’t last forever, after all). So there’s two more ways in which capitalist greed is interfering with the fight against Ebola.

Take a both prudent and humane quarantine policy. Right now, we can’t have both, thanks again to capitalism. We can either be prudent but inhumane, confining returning volunteers in unacceptable conditions, or we can be humane but incautious and subject them to ineffectual measures that are less immediately punishing. What should be done is to be both cautious and humane: treat them as returning heroes and give them luxurious quarantine facilities (devoting a rural luxury resort to such purposes would be a good way to do this). But there’s no profit in that, so capitalism won’t do it, either.

And neither the liberal or the conservative faction of Establishment politics is advocating what needs to be done. The former promotes a recklessly incautious policy, and the latter the stigmatizing of both its victims and those who are fighting the disease.

So instead we live in a world which has been pushed needlessly to the brink of a catastrophic global pandemic, thanks mostly to the capitalist profit motive.

The Rust Belt is a Different World

Published at 08:57 on 17 October 2014

It’s not a complete surprise to me that there’s many abandoned homes in such places.

What’s hard for me to understand is how all the furniture inside them was also just abandoned in many cases. The houses might have been doomed by a location that is no longer considered desirable, but all that furniture still has some value and it’s really not that difficult to move furniture. One would think that would be done.

The family mementos are also a surprise. Those people had relatives, and things like framed photographs are easy to take.

It’s not the first time such things have struck me as odd, and it’s not just abandoned residences, either. I’ve also been struck by how many abandoned furnishings are evident in photos of derelict commercial and institutional structures in Detroit.

And the Lie Blows Up Again

Published at 07:48 on 15 October 2014

It’s happened a second time in Dallas.

Now the line is starting to shift to “Well, there must be something wrong with that hospital’s (as opposed to just that nurse’s) protocol, but it’s still not super-contagious, trust us.”

Wonder how long that revised version of the lie is going to last.

Wild Cranberry Sauce

Published at 21:58 on 14 October 2014

Last June, while on a botanical survey, I happened across a peat bog on the way to the survey site. I find all bogs to be fascinating places, because of the unique flora they have, and this one was even more so because depending on where you are in it there’s two distinct types of bog: the more normal (for this latitude and climate) terrestrialization type, created by a rain-fed pond filling in, and the far less common (here; worldwide, most peatlands are this type) paludification type, caused when beavers dammed the pond after the land was clear-cut, waterlogging the soil and causing the sphagnum moss to spread onto it from the adjacent bog, expanding it. The old logging road bed itself was even revegetating with bog plants.

Amongst those were wild cranberries, which were flowering profusely at the time. That naturally made me want to return in the fall to see if they were fruiting profusely. I did, and they were. I harvested just under a gallon of berries.

The following recipe is adapted from “averaging” the measurements of several recipes for cranberry sauce I found on the Web and in my old copy of The Joy of Cooking.

  • 6 cups cranberries
  • 2 cups water
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 3 whole cloves
  • 1 large, fat or two skinny sticks of cinnamon

If you’re going to can the result, have the necessary number of clean mason jars, lids, and bands ready in a boiling-water canner. Do this first. It takes a long time to get such a large pot boiling. By the time the cranberry sauce is ready to can, your canner should be ready as well (i.e. boiling hot).

Wash the cranberries well in a large bowl. Agitate the water vigorously with your fingers to dislodge any old petals or sepals from the tips of the berries. Repeat until all such debris are removed.

Bring the water to a boil, then add the cranberries, cinnamon, and cloves. Return to a boil and cook until the skins on the berries crack (for me, this was basically when the berries returned to a boil). Remove the cinnamon and cloves and put the berries through a food mill or ricer.

Bring the cranberry purée to a boil and add sugar. Stir until dissolved then return to a full rolling boil then remove from heat.

Yield about five pints.

If canning (which is what I did, Thanksgiving is still nearly two months off), leave 1/2″ head space in each jar and process for 15 minutes in a boiling-water canner.

Lying about Ebola

Published at 21:25 on 13 October 2014

One thing seems clear: it’s obviously significantly more contagious than the Establishment media claims it to be. The fact that health care workers contact it so readily despite being aware of the dangers and taking precautions proves that. Now that that has happened here in the USA, such indidents can’t all be waved off due to inadequate conditions and resources in Third World hospitals.

We’re obviously being lied to by the Establishment in order to maintain the façade that they have everything under control. They don’t, and the pressures of capitalism ensure that it’s very hard for them to do so (because effective precautions would probably take hundreds of billions of dollars).

It may not end up being a horrible global pandemic, but the combination of a globalized economy, rampant inequality, and health care being a privilege instead of a right is needlessly putting all of humanity at risk.

A Bit More on Portland

Published at 08:44 on 8 October 2014

It’s both the job market and the allergies that pushed me away, probably in about equal measures.

Of the two, the job market is the one that, fifteen years ago, I wouldn’t have thought could be that big an issue. I’m really not all that focused on material things, and am quite willing to downscale my life and live modestly.

But, it’s more than just that. If the job market is bad, people will not only offer jobs for less pay. They will also offer less benefits, in particular less vacation time. In general, such a market appeals to businesses who focus on maximizing profits by spending as little on their employees as possible. So you can expect to have a less comfortable office surrounding and worse resources to work with as well as lower pay and worse benefits.

You will be working under managers who tend to be clueless and inept, as well. The good ones tend to be working in other cities where they get better compensated for their talents (and don’t have to contend with the subpar benefits or resources, either).

A job takes up such a huge chunk of one’s waking life that all this extra suckiness really ends up making one’s whole life suck more. Particularly when the stingier time off benefits make for one spending more time in that sucky office.

So sure, Seattle sucks a lot when compared to Portland. It is in general more establishment and less bohemian. Access to nature is much more strictly meted out by ability to pay for it. The mass transit is nowhere near as good.

In the end, however, those minuses don’t matter so much. There’s more time available to get away from the office and out into nature, because the jobs come with better benefits.

Because the jobs in Seattle pay more, it’s possible for me to pay for that access to nature. (It sucks that many can’t pay and have the easy access, and I will continue to advocate for fixing that, but it’s possible for me to fix that problem for myself alone in the here and now, so why shouldn’t I?)

It’s also been possible to pay for the privilege of living someplace where I can use the ferry system and a bicycle to avoid the need to choose between driving in awful traffic and coping with subpar mass transit. Again, that’s not a fix for everyone, and it sucks that this is a privilege Seattle metes out to the few who can pay, but why shouldn’t I opt to fix the transport mess for myself if I am one of those few? Again, it doesn’t stop me from advocating for more general and widespread solutions.

There’s thing that suck about both Portland and Seattle. No place is perfect. It’s just that, for me, coping strategies generally exist for dealing with Seattle metro area’s suckiness much more than they do for Portland’s.

Marriage, affairs, cities, etc.

Published at 08:20 on 8 October 2014

Per this:

  • The Tri-Cities would be the relationship I entered just because he had some money and offered me a home away from my parents, with whom I was bickering endlessly and sharing living quarters with had become most unpleasant. I knew it was not at all that good a match and wouldn’t last at the start, and I was right.
  • Seattle would be a lifelong on-again, off-again, on-again romance. First and for a long time absolutely smitten, then disenchanted by subpar mass transit and housing choices, then further disenchanted when I realized how a chilly the social climate was there (particularly in comparison to the Bay Area). Then, finally, realizing that, despite all that it’s probably at this stage in my life the best achievable choice, provided we don’t shack up together and I just live in the neighborhood and visit him regularly.
  • The San Francisco Bay Area would be a quick fling, motivated as more by my disenchantment with Seattle than anything. There’s still lot I find to like about him, but overall I learned he’s less good a match than Seattle was.
  • Portland would be the dream romance I had often fantasized about that, excitedly, eventually manifested itself in reality. And which was in fact pretty damn awesome in most respects. Alas, it was also pretty damn awful in two critical respects: my grass pollen allergies, and the absolutely horrible local job market.
  • Vancouver would be the dream romance that’s never happened.
  • New York City would be a famous celebrity I had lunch with once, a celebrity that has a somewhat formidable reputation as being vain and snobbish, but someone I found to actually be a genuinely interesting person who I really enjoyed interacting with, despite being way too different to ever even think about having a serious relationship with. I still have his contact info and plan on getting in touch with him for another long lunch some time; I’m sure we’ll enjoy it as much as we did the last time.

The Seasons Continue to Turn

Published at 19:45 on 7 October 2014

Today not only dawned foggy, but in some areas the fog never dissipated all day. That’s definitely a sign that it’s now autumn; it means the sun isn’t strong enough to ensure the that morning fogs always burn off.

Autumn is fog season in the Pacific Northwest, particular in the Puget Sound region. The salt water is still quite warm from the summer yet the nights keep getting longer and colder. All that warm water pumping moisture into air that can hold less and less of it causes the inevitable to happen frequently.

Another One Gets Snapped up Fast

Published at 19:40 on 7 October 2014

Another condo in a better-than-average complex was listed right after my offer was accepted. And it, too, promptly sold.

That’s good, as it means I didn’t have the bad fortune to buy right at the peak of the local market: the extreme scarcity of desirable, townhouse-style condos persists. Yes: the odds of that happening are actually pretty small, but I’m paranoid enough after making this big a purchase that I do worry it might be the case.

Got It (Was: Well, So Much for That)

Published at 22:59 on 2 October 2014

The deadline passed and not a peep from the seller about my offer. The most reasonable theory at this point is that he’s hoping to instigate a bidding war and get an offer that’s above asking price and quite possibly all-cash with no contingencies at all.

A bidding war that I will not participate in, that is. I have no intention of competing to be that or any other seller’s doormat.

Scratch that, it looks like I got it anyway, by increasing my offered price by under 1%. Being the first offer made probably also helped.

(And why can’t WordPress strike out a title?)