Category Archives: Uncategorized

Local authorities are on their own

http://Remote and Ready to Fight Coronavirus’s Next Wave https://www.nytimes.com/2020/05/16/health/coronavirus-vashon-washington.html

On Vashon, they instigated their own test-and-trace program because they saw that the cavalry wasn’t coming. Unsurprisingly, here in Island County something similar has been put in place.

The county is doing a crash testing program to try to figure out how many people on the island have the virus. They solicited volunteers from the general public, then attempted to select a representative and statistically significant subset. They contacted me Thursday and asked me to show up Friday at the high school parking lot, where they have set up a drive-through testing system.

Friday, I pulled in with my car; a county employee at the gate checked my name off a list. Maybe coincidentally, he was the only male in the group; I think his job was to discourage people who weren’t supposed to be there from driving in.  I pulled up to an outdoor shelter they’re set up in the parking lot.  Another volunteer had me hold my license and insurance card up to my closed driver side window and she took a picture.  They put a test kit under my windshield wiper, and had me pull forward.

A nurse in full hazmat suit, mask and face shield reconfirmed I was the person on the label (name, birthdate), told me what she was going to do, and had me open the window and lean at just the right angle while she swabbed me. Then they had me pull further forward to take some info, and I was done.  Didn’t get out of the car.

As far as I could tell the whole operation was two nurses and a handful of volunteers.  The drive-in site has been running for a week, and is a replica of one in Coupeville halfway up the island and one in Oak Harbor at the top. The samples are sent to the university in Bellingham.  The local hospital set up a portal for checking results. Very efficient.

The moral of this whole mess in the US is that the local authorities have taken the bit between the teeth and cut the federal authorities out of the picture.  So we are all winging it, mostly borrowing best practices from each other. Some counties are refusing to follow the lead of their state government. Some cities are doing their own thing independent of the counties they’re in, for ideological or rational reasons. The states are taking only what they see as useful from the feds (CDC bulletins, mostly), ignoring the rest, pandering to D.C. as and when needed and otherwise bidding against each other to get their hands on essential supplies. Everyone gets to make up their own mind about who to listen to, and what they should be doing. And 1000 people a day are dying.

Renewables at the local level

To see what a decentralized energy system looked like up close, I made the daylong journey by train to Wildpoldsried, a village of about 2,600 residents that produces about eight times more energy than it consumes, and sells the surplus back to the grid. “I always try to tell people that we are a totally normal village, but nobody believes me.” Günter Mögele, Wildpoldsried deputy mayor“I always try to tell people that we are a totally normal village, but nobody believes me,” said Günter Mögele, a high school teacher who has served as deputy mayor since the late-1990s.Renewable energy can be seen from almost every vantage point in the village, with solar panels fastened to clay-tile roofs and wind turbines in the distance. What I found most remarkable about Wildpoldsried wasn’t how extensively renewable energy was relied on, but what leaders chose to do with the financial proceeds. By selling electricity to the grid, the village gave itself a new income source and improved the lives of residents, offsetting most of the costs for preschool, child care, sports and community theater.

Source: What Germany’s energy revolution can teach the US | The World from PRX

Huh.  We could do this.  We have extensive land, the tech (viz the solar array at Greenbank Farm), the state subsidies.

Seattle’s Leaders Let Scientists Take the Lead. New York’s Did Not | The New Yorker

https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2020/05/04/seattles-leaders-let-scientists-take-the-lead-new-yorks-did-not

Good detail about the early days, when there wasn’t any obvious problem. More evidence that the US has and had systems, people and institutions that are designed for this situation, but that have not been deployed intelligently.

In the US, I discovered, the public health system for historical reasons is a bottom-up organization, where the authority lies with local and state departments. The Federal public health institutions, while being the best-funded, have no authority, they can only recommend. Hence the great disparity in how all this has gone down over the past few months.

States and Federal money

Mitch McConnell suggests that states go bankrupt rather than looking for money from the Federal government, despite the latter’s ability to borrow at negative interest rates and the former’s legal requirement to maintain balanced budgets. I have a counter-suggestion: let states stop making their federal tax payments. If the Feds won’t fund the states, then let the states stop funding the Feds. States can use that money to fund essential services instead.

McConnell and others talk about “borrowing from future generations”. How about we just reverse those tax cuts the Feds have instigated over the last 20 years, and put that money to work? Progressives need to stop talking about incremental taxes on the very rich and instead talk about how much money we would have taken in for the last couple of decades without the tax cuts, and how much we’ve actually taken in, and suggest bringing things back to the “old” normal. Hey, while we’re at it: let’s make it retroactive. If they need me to pay back the check they sent me in the mid-oughts, I’d be happy to write a check for $200.

Amateur scientist doing some good work

COVID-19 Superspreader Events in 28 Countries: Critical Patterns and Lessons https://quillette.com/2020/04/23/covid-19-superspreader-events-in-28-countries-critical-patterns-and-lessons/

By surveying the publicly-available information about super-spreader events, he is determining the major mode of transmission of the virus; large droplets with ballistic behavior, small droplets that form clouds or virus on surfaces. His conclusion, with lots of caveats about the quality of the underlying data, is the first: “Flügge” droplets that when expectorated are mostly affected by gravity. As he says, this has implications for the preventative mechanisms we use, some of which actually act to increase the likelihood of the spread of the disease.

This work should be taken up by others. Good stuff.

American Nations

By Colin Woodard. One of the most persuasive descriptions I’ve read of why the US works (or doesn’t work) the way it does. The theory is that the country was, and is, composed of distinct nations that are often in opposition, politically, culturally and otherwise. Like the Kurds in Iraq, Syria and Turkey, these nations were distinct groups that coexist in a given geography.