About Erik Dolson

Erik Dolson is a writer living in Oregon

Give Trump a break!

By Erik Dolson

God, it pains me to say it.

The press is being unfair to Trump.

His missteps last Thursday at the coronavirus update were serious. Talking about using light on people to kill the virus in a minute, or wondering if there was some way disinfectant could be used internally to destroy the virus, was not his best moment.

But if I usually try to look at what Trump means, as opposed to what he says, I have to do the same here. In his own way, Trump was asking if these things might be possible, not advocating that people mainline Clorox or stand outside, mouths open, facing the sun.

Of course, it’s Trump, so he got in this trouble hoping to take credit if a cure was discovered that could even remotely be tied to his questions. Great leader stops the volcano!

It was only Trump’s fundamental inability to express himself clearly (reflecting education and mental ability) that made it seem like he might have been making a recommendation. Which makes it no less dangerous, just less stupid.

But Trump’s inability to acknowledge shortcomings or mistakes made the situation much worse the next day, when he claimed his comment was made sarcastically as a way to trap a hostile press. There’s a lot of video out there that shows this was clearly not the case.

Trump was caught in a trap of his own making: he said something kinda dumb, then obviously lied about it. At that point, he couldn’t explain away his earlier statements without being caught by the classic lawyer’s checkmate: Are you lying now, or were you lying then?

No wonder the press briefing the next day was so short.

Since then, the story that Trump was advising people to treat their insides with antiseptic has been elaborated on and joked about (this writer guilty). Which simply reenforces the idea on the right that the Left is incapable of being fair to Trump.

The episode has deeper meaning, however. It is not just that those believing every Word of Trump is Gospel are put in danger by his inability to recognize that the office of President of the United States is an obligation greater than Trump. What the country needs right now is a leader to inspire during a true crisis that affects us all, to unite us, to bring out the best in us, to create a plan of action based on sound professional advice.

But since the coronavirus crisis struck, Trump has shown over and over again he is not that man.

Everything coming out of his mouth has been intended to serve his ego and preserve his power. From dismissing the virus as one person coming in from China, to blaming China and the World Health Organization for not giving him information he already had, to blaming impeachment as a distraction, to saying an obviously bungled program to test and provide protective gear was not his doing, to saying he was in control of virus strategy and then saying instead it was up to governors, and then undercutting governor’s orders, Trump has proven that a presidency founded on serving his interests fails when we need leadership the most.

So the press should lay off on the light / antiseptic miscommunication of last Thursday, and give the man a break. We all make mistakes when speaking, and there was a lot of pressure to seem like he was in command. Instead, we should focus on the real issue: Trump is simply unfit for the office.

What will survive the virus?

By Erik Dolson

The coronavirus is a once-in-a-generation event. As it has ended many lives, going forward it will define many others. It will perhaps define our country, what we have become and who we will be.

The virus is an insidious enemy, spreading among people who do not appear to be sick. It can attack in terrifying ways, causing blood clots and strokes in young and seemingly healthy people, invading the lungs in a way that does not cause shortness of breath until there is too little oxygen for life.

But the damage is not suffered just by individuals with the virus, and their families. Our economy teeters on the edge as we try to limit a death toll that reached 50,000 in this country alone in about one month. We have had to change how we live. The coronavirus and its aftermath are threats to the whole country, a threat to the whole world.

One argument against the U.S. going to war against the Nazis was they were “over there,” on the other side of a great moat that separated America from Europe. That was a false argument then, too, but there are no moats any more, if there ever were, against disease.

Diseases like this are wars between species, and ours is under threat. It’ s the type of threat that requires us to come together as a people, as humanity. It is a threat that should unite us in a battle where our collective will can overcome an alien species that takes individual lives and may destroy whole nations.

Others here know history far better than I, but phrases from past crises come to mind. “A house divided against itself cannot stand,” “United we stand, divided we fall.”

America has excelled when faced with this type of challenge. Acknowledging  Winston Churchill’s back handed compliment, “You can always count on Americans to do the right thing — after they’ve tried everything else,” we have done the right thing, and we prevailed. We saved countless lives, we saved nations, we saved democracy, we saved freedom.

But we did it together.

Trump’s strategy of spreading fear and loathing, divide and conquer, winning is all that matters, has been shockingly successful in this Age of Facebook where ideologies are reenforced and common interests buried. The strategy helped Trump take over the Republican party and helped Republicans capture the debate of what it means to be an American.

But over the last several weeks, it’s been obvious that strategy is the wrong way to fight the coronavirus. The virus is not contained in New York. The Midwest is not a separate world. Louisiana is not south of the border. We can’t shrug and let each state take care of their own. We are in this together.

We can’t let urban states go bankrupt, as if they didn’t support rural states with money and expertise as they do. We can’t let rural states suffer as if their culture wasn’t a crucial strength of America, as we have in the past. We can’t turn our backs on anyone. If the virus hides out in a pocket in Kentucky, or in Africa, it WILL escape and come for the rest of us.

I am not advocating action as a liberal. There are many liberal agendas I do not support, and there are left wing interests I feel are destructive. But now is not the time to take sides. Despite two generations of depletion by liberals and deconstruction by conservatives, America united still has the ability to lead the world in this fight against an enemy that could kill any of us, and destroy all of us.

But only if we stand shoulder to shoulder.

If we can own our individual responsibility to America, and to humanity, we will defeat the coronavirus and future generations will look upon America with appreciation, and perhaps incorporate the principles on which she was built of value to each of us.

If our efforts are driven by selfishness, pettiness, and discord, if divided we will fail. The great American experiment will have been nothing more than a great American Dream unfulfilled, American exceptionalism will have been an exception we never meant it to be.

(Virus photo DAVID MARCHAL/SCIENCE SOURCE)

Just shut up

By Erik Dolson

Shut up! Just shut up, you Cheeto-colored, fat-headed blowhard! Shut up and quit using coronavirus updates to put your ineptitude on display, as if you were proud of it like a five-year-old holding up a drawing done in kindergarten. You are embarrassing America.

Your ignorance, your cluelessness, your egotistical grandstanding, your obvious floundering, are making the Pretend President Show painful to watch. And dangerous. More popular than “The Bachelor,” you say? Bigger audience than “Monday Night Football?” Are you kidding me? What kind of inane, insane monster are you? Turn it off.

Shut up, because we all know English is a foreign language to you, and that you’ve never been that bright, and that adults who still monitor your White House play pen should talk directly to America about the virus. I don’t mean Pence, either, that mealy-mouthed lick-spittle.

Shut up about your “perfect” early response to the virus, about how you prevented diease carriers from coming in from China, because  the virus was already here! People in the White House knew it! Shut up about the World Health Organization too, because for all their faults, they did a better job than YOU.

Shut up about “liberating Michigan,” after you turned virus response over to governors who are making agonizing decisions every damn day. Shut up about disapproving the opening of Georgia for business after you suggested they do exactly that! God, you are such an asshole.

Shut up about your greatness in testing, you pouting, soft-lip scum sucking incompetent, because it’s not true. Testing? We would be testing ourselves but there isn’t an oxymeter to be found in Oregon, nor a bottle of disinfectant, by the way. Why not? Why aren’t there gallons of alcohol disinfectant for sale in every damn drug store in the nation? Because that is clearly something you could do, if you’d stop putting it in our gasoline.

Shut up about your miracle cures, because they aren’t real and YOU ARE KILLING PEOPLE with your ignorance. You have the power of the U.S. government at your fingertips, and you promote bullshit from Rudy Gulianni? Just shut up.

Shut up about how great it’s going to be, real soon, because we are still mourning loved ones we have lost, more deaths to the virus than anywhere in the world, including CHINA!

You don’t think it’s that bad? How many friends have you lost to the virus, how many relatives? None?

Maybe that’s because you are just better than the rest of us, cleaner, more virtuous, you pig-faced grifter, you fake businessman, you shill, you flatulence-exhaling con man. Or, maybe you haven’t lost anyone, and maybe you don’t worry about disinfectant or tests or deaths, beause you live in a bubble of gold plated bathroom fixtures cleaned by servants after every crap you take.

Maybe you don’t care because you don’t have to, and you never did, you silver-spoon-fed pile of twisted  lies, damaged ego and disgusting selfishness.

So just shut up.

The 1950s are gone

By Erik Dolson

There was a time, 70 years ago, that liberals are now looking to with nostalgia, as are Republicans who want a return to that golden age. The problem is, that era was an exception, not a norm. The conditions that created the 50s no longer exist.

The U.S. had just won WWII, and thanks to the Marshall plan, was rebuilding the rest of the world. Europe and Asia had no industries left, their cities were shattered, and we had it all, including a pent up demand for homes and jobs.

In this situation, U.S. capital and labor were in high demand, with income from around the world that needed to buy what we could produce. The current “American Dream” was built on that foundation, especially that children would have a better life than their parents.

If there is something that should be called “American Exceptionalism,” it is that America was in an exceptional position after winning WWII and defeating fascism.

But remember what preceded that: the Great Depression. This was a time when the forces of industrialization and capitalism, mostly unchecked, led to violent swings in the well-being of the average person. It was also a violent time in Europe, after WWI.

We seem to have forgotten those wars and how they affected the world. In the last 70 years, we have seen nothing like that fear and turmoil.

There are ways to improve our “economies,” but we have to face a few facts.

We have to recognize that there will be winners and losers, through no fault of their own. That is both the strength and horror of capitalism. How do we remain a civilized society, a community, “one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all?” (version until 1954).

We have to recognize that democracy and freedom are often enemies of each other, and that liberty, often tied to property rights, is fundamental in America.

We have to recognize that there is no such thing as a “free market,” that government setting rules to achieve a better society is often the only constraint that capitalism will obey.

No system is perfect. There are European countries that have achieved a fair balance. I am pessimistic that we can follow their lead, because our “system” has been captured by vested interests (banks, pharma, energy, tech, educators) that are not going to just give up what they have won, and we have a populace half of whom think science is an opinion and who are easily manipulated into advocating against their own interest.

Lest someone think I am blindly liberal, I believe in capitalism, business (especially small business) and capitalism as practiced elsewhere. And I know that only large business will be able to compete against the Chinese.

While I probably have liberal “values” such as universal health care (lose your job AND your health insurance?) and universal K-12 education (let’s make it more effective), the arrogance of the Left and the thrust that actions should not have consequences have had almost as corrosive an effect on American dialogue as unrestricted political contributions and the resulting concentration of power.

Failure of “free market” health care

By Erik Dolson

In the last two weeks of March, nearly 10 million people lost their jobs. Of those, more than 3 million also lost their health insurance.

With the coronavirus looming over every household, think how this might feel — your father is sick? Your child? Everything you worked for is on the line when you sign those hospital forms. Feeling sick yourself? Maybe just see if it clears up, right?

That loss of health insurance affects not just you and your family, but everyone you come in contact with.

The brilliance of capitalism is the efficiency with which it allocates resources. In theory, capitalism balances costs versus quality by giving buyers a choice in a transparent market place. This is the essential mechanism.

But health care has disconnects that violate the basic rules of capitalism: consumers (patients) don’t pay the bills and don’t really make the choices. Insurance companies and government pay the bills, and consumers rarely “shop around” for the best or least expensive care.

This malfunction of the market place is seen by comparing costs of health care in the U.S. versus other countries: U.S. health care is twice as expensive, for mostly mediocre results, than any other developed country in the world. Ultimately, the burden of this falls on citizens through high insurance rates and taxes. We just don’t get to choose.

It’s legitimate to ask, where does the money go?

Drugs cost ten to twenty times more in the U.S. than elsewhere in the world because drug companies have purchased the U.S. Congress.

Private equity firms have swooped in and purchased doctor’s offices and hospitals across the country. Like insurance companies, their goal is to maximize profit, which they do by increasing fees and cutting costs. If you notice absurdly high charges and confusing write offs on a hospital bill, or long wait times and hurried doctor’s visits, this is part of the reason why.

But wait. If the payers and the providers are both interested in reducing cost, why don’t we have the least expensive health care in the developed world? Because insurers and corporations take a large share, and fighting over that share costs about 30% of every dollar spent on “health care.”

Why don’t we have the best health care in the world? Because when we talk about payer and provider, what’s missing from the “free market” equation? The receiver of the service, the patient, you. The one who is most concerned about the outcome. For a market place to work, the receiver of the product or service has to make a choice between price versus quality, and that doesn’t happen in health care.

And, as we see with the coronavirus crisis, health is not an individual concern. You choosing which car to buy doesn’t really affect me. You coughing in line behind me at the grocery store does.

Narcissist strategy

By Erik Dolson

Donald Trump  does not care how many die of the virus. He does not care about the economy, either, except how it affects his own wealth. He only wants to be reelected, and rich, and prove he is the greatest man in the world.

On Monday, realizing the economy is getting ugly, he panics. He wants to reopen the country for business, now!  He says he has total control over the nation.

Somebody points out this isn’t true, and actually makes him responsible if things don’t work out. Deaths don’t matter, reelection does.

So on Thursday, he bellows that he’s giving governors the right to open — or not —their individual states. That he had no such power doesn’t matter — he gave himself cover if opening businesses too early results in more deaths. Not his fault! Deaths don’t matter, reelection does.

On Friday, he tweets support for those protesting restrictions, undercutting the governors he “allowed” to act just the day before. So if the economy falls off a cliff, he tried to prevent it! Not his fault! Deaths don’t matter, reelection does.

It’s a perfect strategy for the narcissist. If deaths go up, it’s not his fault! If the economy tanks, he tried to prevent it! And, who else is better qualified to lead the country out of a pandemic depression? Why, it’s Donnie Wonderful to the rescue! Four more years!

Roll Your Own Mask #3

By Erik Dolson

Okay, this is my favorite so far.

An article in Business Insider described how three women who know fabric were appalled that people, including health care workers, were wrapping T-shirts around their heads as a mask against the coronavirus.

Lindsay Medoff and Heather Pavlu of  Suay Sew Shop in Los Angeles, and friend Chloe Schempf, bought a $1,400 particulate-counter device and actually tested out various potential mask materials. They discovered that blue shop towels actually have good level of resistance to particles like the coronavirus.

So, I have abandoned furnace filters in my quest for the best mask we can easily make at home. Too expensive, too complicated. But I’ve kept some of the things I’ve learned, such as, pleats allow masks to conform to our face. And, tying a bow in string behind your head in Costco is far too complicated for a man, although I have no doubt a woman could do it in 7 seconds.

But this new mask is very easy and inexpensive to make, and therefore disposable, a requirement of mine. Here’s what you need: Shop towels, string, rubber bands (4), and scissors.

 

I lay one shop towel on the counter and put another one on top of it at right angles, so the perforations that allow us to easily tear the towels apart are not lined up on the two sheets. Then I folded in the pleats. For me, it was easiest to flop the towels over for each pleat, which are about one ince wide.

When I was done pleating, I wrapped rubber bands tightly around each end, with another rubber band fed under. I pulled one end of the second rubber band through itself.

I then cut a piece of string about the width of the mask, and tied it to the ends of the rubber band loops.

I pushed on the center of the mask which gives it shape, and then put over my head, with the string above my ears.  I pull the bottom of the mask under my chin, and the top across the bridge of my nose.

On my mask, I also folded a piece of coated wire into a pleat and bent it down to bring the mask tight to my nose, but I don’t like putting a piece of wire close to my eyes and think there is probably a better solution.

Another improvement might be to use the wide elastic that “professional” masks use instead of string and rubber bands, but one goal of the project was to use items easily found, and this mask fits well.

Remember, this mask is a kludge, and you should use a proper N95 mask if you have one available. But if you can’t find one of those, or have decided to donate that mask to a nurse, a cop, a doctor, or the person who sells you groceries, then perhaps the Blue Moon mask could help you from getting sick with COVID-19, or prevent you from spreading COVID-19 to someone else.

Roll Your Own Mask, #2

By Erik Dolson

My local hardware store carries pleated furnace filters. The highest grade of these claims to have a pore size of .1 to .3 microns and be able to filter viruses. So I bought one and tore it apart, getting rid of the metal screen on both sides.

Then I cut a piece a little larger than the width of two of my hands with about seven (7) full pleats.

I wrapped a rubber band tightly around one end, and then another rubber band tightly around the other end.

Then I cut two pieces of string about double the width of one of my hands.

I fed one end of one string under a loop of one of the rubber bands, and then tied the two ends of the string together with a square knot. I did the same to the other end of the mask.

Done.

I opened the pleats, which turned the mask into a small “bowl” shape or half dome and put the mask on. I had to adjust one of the strings around my ear for a better fit, and I was finished.

I like this mask. It takes very little time to make, is disposable, should provide adquate coverage and protection. I read that some are recommending Tyvek, the white plastic they use now to sheathe houses before installing the final siding, as a filter. The furnace filter does feel like Tyvek, but I have no idea about relative effectiveness.

In fact, since I have no way of testing, I have no idea how effective my new mask is going to be. There are no guarantees.

But it fits, is easy to wear, cheap and disposable, and I’m going to leave the N-95 masks for health care workers, cops, grocery story clerks, post office employees and delivery people — those who make “shelter in place” possible for the rest of us.

Roll Your Own Mask #1


 

By Erik Dolson

There’s growing support for all of us to wear masks to prevent the spread of Covid-19, but N95 masks are hard to find and the ones available should probably be reserved for nurses, cops, doctors, grocery clerks and post office employees — you know, people who keep the wheels turning.

So I was looking online for DIY Covid-19 masks, and there were many good ideas. Some were more complicated than others, and some you wouldn’t want to throw away. I thought the best mask would be easy, cheap, and disposable, so I made one. I call it the “Opus.”

Here’s what I did.

one full size paper towel
two #4 cone coffee filters
two longish rubber bands
Tape
string
scissors
hole punch (optional)

Fold the two bound edges of one coffee filter about an eighth of an inch (one mm) from the pressed seam.

Put this filter inside the unmodified filter so that it fits exactly.

Run pieces of tape over the two pressed seams of the outside filter from one side to the other. This is to reinforce these pressed seams, which are not very strong. I went lengthwise, and then added two more pieces of tape, overlapping the first, on each side to further strengthen the outer cone.

Punch two holes all the way through the nested filters about an inch and a half from the wide end and through the tape (you did put enough tape there, didn’t you?) I also reenforced with those little circles you can buy at stationary stores. The tape might be adequate.

Put a rubber band through each hole. (See all the tape?)

Cut four pieces of string, about the length from elbow to extended finger tips. Tie a string to each end of the two rubberbands.

“Flag fold” a paper towel so that forms a triangle, a cone when opened (great in a coffee emergency if you’re out of filters).

Fold the pointy end of the paper towel triangle up so it will fit snugly inside your coffee filters. Tape point to itself. Push towel into the mask, and trim the excess off the wide end, maybe leaving just a little extra. You choose..

Put the mask on, and tie the “top” strings that are attached close to your nose down and behind your neck. Tie the “bottom” strings up, above your ears to the top back you your head. Make both fairly tight.

Adjust for good, snug fit. You can use paper towel trimmings to prevent air leakage on either side of your nose.

I had no way to test, have no idea what particle size will make it through all three layers, and offer no guarantees. I do know when the mask fits well, air goes through the three layers and not around, because the mask will flex on inhale and exhale. When N95 masks become available, those are what you should use.

In the mean time, my “Opus Mask” may keep you from getting the virus, or sharing your virus with others.

~ Erik

 

 

Labels can mislead

By Erik Dolson

Yesterday, a man I’ve worked with and deeply respect said I wasn’t really a “liberal.”

He’s a “conservative,” and it’s one of his favorite light-hearted jabs when we agree on something before we move on to disagree about something else. Perhaps I shouldn’t move on so easily. By saying I’m “really a conservative,” my friend resolves the conflict that he respects the thinking behind my opinons.

We all dismiss with labels rather than reflect on the arguments. Maybe it’s easier to change the label than face the agreement.

I’ve dodged “boxes” most of my life. I’ve long said I was a “political economist.” To me, the ideologies of the left and right were more faith-based than data-based. Both ignore that the laws of economics are about as immutable as the laws of physics and we waste incredible energy and resources oblivious of that fact.

Rather than recognize the benefits of the other’s ideology, each seems inclined to ignore the cost of their own and emphasize the cost of the other.

Liberals seem to believe that no one should be responsible for themselves; conservatives forget that we all benefit when we take care of each other, and there is a role for government in warding off economic anarchy. My conservative friends believe too many “undeserving” are stealing the fruit of their labor, my liberal friends see the top one percent using privilege to steal from everyone else while trashing our common treasure.

Another good friend and I were out shooting the other day. I made some crack about the inconsistency of being “liberals who enjoy guns.”

“It’s NOT an inconsistency,” he fired back (sorry). He is more rigorous in his thinking than I am, and fine-tunes his labels more precisely. But consequently, he may have even more difficulty communicating to a world that prefers easy, broad-brushed colors of red and blue.

Believing that Trump is an intellectual derelict, as damaging to America as Covid-19, an ineffectual immoralist, a fountain of selfishness, hate and anger, doesn’t make me a “liberal.” Neither does my belief than no person in America should be without healthcare.

Believing that English should be our national language and a baker should be able to bake a cake for whom he chooses does not make me a conservative.

When do labels stand in the way of our agreements, and keep us from getting something done?