Tuesday, October 25, 2022

Champions League of Doom

I've been wondering what the later histories will label
   as the most catastrophic
In this ongoing shambles, beyond, say,
   Mister Johnson's herd immunity regime
Of delay, deny and dither in Her Majesty's land
And the US federal and (certain) state governments'
Response to the novel coronavirus pandemic
   from the start to the present

Early indicators pointed to Bolsonaro's bungling in Brazil
As a candidate to trump The Donald's dereliction of duty
Turns out he needn't have worried, albeit it was a bitter pill
For, enter stage right, came onto the scene, Premature Modi
Counting electoral chickens before the vaccine bounce would hatch
And now there's a surfeit, in India, of funeral pyres instead of roof thatches

And so I've been using my superspreading event timeline as prophylaxis
And, every night, dutifully checking the bookmarked tabs for the grim statistics
Sadly it is unlikely that anyone in this league of rogues will face justice
And if it is, it will be for some small thing, rather than for acts destructive

After a few months, I stopped updating my list,
   but there was no going back
For want of a bolt, humanity has been well and truly stuck
The virus sets the timeline, something many find hard to remember
It's really down to luck if, or when, your town becomes the new epicenter

Friends email me snippets;
   did you read about that fish processing factory?
The traveling salesman? Wrestling tournament?
   Or the cat's birthday party?
Heard about the ski resort? Nursing home?
   Farm? Yoga studio? Or the gym?
The meatpacking plant? The prison?
   Or the choir practice where they were singing hymns?

The Wife, a historian of medicine, religiously takes nightly screenshots
Documenting the waxing and waning of the coronavirus dashboards
And, on Facebook, she was quite the Cassandra, she was rather vocal
About the dangers people faced,
   but kept forgetting that everything is local

I know, I know, Trump probably caused far more casualties
On his watch. Try as he did, one can't hide so many dead bodies
It wasn't close, he's the clear winner of the Champions League of Doom
America First was his slogan, there's only one Alpha male in the room

The thing is that I take it personal with the Tories
J'accuse, for it really rankles
These miscreants, I charge, personally
Caused, by neglect, the death of my uncle

And I'm not even considering the shape of dread
It's the futility that makes one shake one's head
I can hardly handle all this unnecessary heartache
Grief unbounded, I'm still incandescent with rage

No, I already had their measure by April, just months into the pandemic
And nothing since has changed. If anything, the failure is systemic
The fish rots from the head down, it's a matter of common sense
The whole world is getting an education in observed competence

It is said that the legitimacy of the state
Derives from its ability to keep one safe
And say, per Max Weber, its monopoly on violence
That's, of course, when viewed with the sociological lens

You might prefer Thomas Jefferson's formulation:
"The first duty of government is the protection
Of life, not its destruction." He would add, if I recall,
"Abandon that, and you have abandoned all"

Out of this follows Caesar's Tax Collector Principle
But the duty of care relates to the Mosquito Principle
Duty abrogation has been seen in world-historic abundance
These men reneged on our fully paid up soul insurance

Political leaders come and go, we normally don't begrudge their authority
But the failure to protect is unforgivable, as is relying on herd immunity
Behold the Champions League of Doom: the Emperor has no clothes
I see you there, the winners in the corner: illegitimate and exposed

Despite a flattering supposition to the contrary, people come readily to terms with power. There is little reason to think that the power of the great bankers, while they were assumed to have it, was much resented. But as the ghosts of numerous tyrants, from Julius Caesar to Benito Mussolini will testify, people are very hard on those who, having had power, lose it or are destroyed. Then anger at past arrogance is joined with contempt for present weakness. The victim or his corpse is made to suffer all available indignities.

The Great Crash, 1929 by J.K. Galbraith
ghana usa

Champions League of Doom, a playlist

A soundtrack for this season's competition of woe. (spotify version)

This note is part of a series: In a covidious time

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Writing log. Prose: May 19 2020, Poetry: May 2, 2021

Tuesday, October 18, 2022


It had been creeping up on me quite gradually
But the irrefutable sign that made it official was the diary entry
(To be precise, the Google calendar reminder, more formally)
That read, in black and white, on the little screen:
"Schedule colonoscopy"

I guess this was a watershed, call it a milestone
There was no mistaking what I read on my phone
The doctor's recommendation that one inspect my nether zone
Lest, like the dearly departed actor, you know
The one who starred as Black Panther,
I succumb to preventable misfortune

I suppose the statistics for those of my race in America
Must have been suitably ominous when it came to colon cancer
For the public health officials to have advanced by a number of years
Their recommendation for check ups to avoid a trail of tears

Demography and mortality statistics being what they are
For those, quoth the soul singer, darker than blue in America
I celebrate daily the small things, and that I have made it thus far
With loving family, relative wealth, and unscathed in police encounters

I still wear my mask of civility and bottle up my outrage
Except on the occasional lyric verse that I apply on these blank pages
But here, I count my blessings even as I must acknowledge
The bleedingly obvious: that I have become middle aged

guerilla crossing

Milestones, a playlist

A soundtrack for this coming of age (spotify version) ...

Timing is everything
Observers are worried

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Writing log: May 3, 2021

Saturday, October 15, 2022

The or That?

For 30 days now, I've been pondering a single word, whether it should be "The" or "That". There is music with each rendering, but the change of emphasis is confounding. Every day, I return to this puzzle, convince myself of a solution and make the change. "That" was today's winner.

But I sense defeat already, what will tomorrow bring? Frankly, the choice disarms me; either word adds nuance, and, clearly, it should be the one or the other. It wouldn't do to use a different construction, the piece would suffer. No, it has to be The or That.

Perversely, I note that the piece in question is scheduled to see the light in October 2025, leaving me 1,001 days to fiddle further and ponder the question. Another downside to having a large vault.

The or That? #Obsession


I was asked for more context, and actually The 9 year old had a similar problem in his grammar homework recently. Let's assume the choice is between something like this:

The X notwithstanding Y

That X notwithstanding Y

The or That?


No. I will not rewrite and remove notwithstanding. Notwithstanding stays. Don't get me started. Notwithstanding fought long and hard to get into this example. Notwithstanding has to be there. Notwithstanding your peccadilloes, we're talking about The or That here.

Also, no commas are coming into this business, would thou murder my prose?

Commas! Stay focused: The or That?


Pedantic! Yes, if you do the math, it would actually be 1,010 days not 1,001. It was poetic license. One Thousand and One Nights of editing; The or That as Scheherazade to my prose. Sue me.

My household is divided, at least the members I've consulted. I haven't dared ask the one who ran away when I last presented a poem. The others still tolerate my poetic inclinations but sadly have come down on either side of the coin. The or That remains unresolved.


Turn to verse...

The or That, that is the question
Whether 'tis nobler to aim for the consequential
To suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take Arms against the declarative
And by opposing end them: to die, to sleep...

I plead guilty to indecision but history will absolve me
Yes, admittedly, the word choice situation is arbitrary
A conceit, to be sure, I hear you say "Just publish already"
Throw caution to the wind, and trust your initial instinct
The or that? Really, no one will realize the distinction

No one is promised tomorrow, who knows what might come to pass
One thousand and one nights, let The or That be my epitaph
He who lies here pondered small things and kindred subjects
Whether The or That in the last sentence would be best

The or That? I daresay I plan to be a beliver
The emphasis notwithstanding the poem is a keeper
The or That? the declarative-determinative dilemma
That styling notwithstanding the poem is a keeper


The or That? a playlist

While we're at it, let's have a soundtrack for this note (spotify version) And throw in some hip-hop And some covers

What say you, Dear Reader, The or That?

(and let's not talk about This).

Let's see what surfaces in October 2025...

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Writing log. October 11, 2022

Tuesday, October 11, 2022

Acceptable Loss

The theoretical grounding of herd immunity
  is founded on a base calculation
A balance of probabilities in the face of unanswered questions
From the calculus of grief comes the notion of acceptable loss
While pragmatic and realist,
  the hard nosed risk assessment isn't obvious

An awoof conception perhaps,
  but they were clear-eyed about acceptable loss
We learned by their actions (or rather inaction) exactly who was the boss
And it was laid out quite plainly: "Let the bodies pile high"
For the economy, a certain proportion should be prepared to die

One act that was invoked referenced defense production
Thus, throughout the crisis, the meatpacking plants stayed open
All the essential workers faced intolerable sanctions
And what a modern Faust might have called erustication

The explicit threat was that you might face eviction
Implicit perhaps, when living wages were a fiction
Not to mention the lack of affordability and the housing costs
No, this is part and parcel of the concept of acceptable loss

There is a rather curious framing in the matter,
  when it comes to public health
That somehow, in an emergency,
   there is paralysis about redistributing wealth
Some advance that between economic growth and human life,
  there exists a dichotomy
The distinction raised is wholly unknown in the terrain of epidemiology

Surprisingly, they said the quiet part out loud,
   but this everyone already knows
The excess mortality figures led the way,
   and they couldn't but be disclosed
When you choose a subprime policy,
   you run the risk of getting foreclosed
Excessive liability premiums come due, and hazard wages are imposed

The true measure of soul insurance is normally determined by actuaries
Followed by review by claims adjusters of the actual miseries
By the time they compute the sorrow and assess the relevant costs
All too often, humanity is left to answer: what paradise have we lost?

warning label: suffocation hazard

Acceptable Loss, a playlist

A soundtrack for this note (spotify version) See previously: Soul Insurance, Reverse Ferret, A Panoply of Mistakes, and For Want of a Bolt

This note is part of a series: In a covidious time.

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Writing log: May 1, 2021

Tuesday, October 04, 2022

Soul Insurance (Part 6 Excessive Liabilities)

Structural adjustments (with a human face)... Part 6 of Soul Insurance (see previously)

VI. Excessive Liabilities

The year went on fitfully it seemed,
   the die was cast
Symbolized by the introduction
   of the ubiquitous face mask
The claims adjuster had dispatched his tiny vectors
   by way of the Mink Quadrant
Plaintive voices were heard throughout the land,
   the tribes were discordant

Still, they mostly quibbled about the shape
   and size of the relief efforts
Those that were ostensibly best prepared
   seemed fully frozen in action
Nyame would be tickled pink at the development,
   and find it worthy of applause
That the whole world, as punishment,
   would now be subject to a global pause

Moreover, humanity was unable, or unwilling,
   to abide by the intercession
Even given clear opportunities
   to show that they had learned their lessons
After the debacle at Chwedru in the east,
   the claims adjuster had hit his stride
He had traveled far and wide,
   and made the same approach to the other tribes

The Ushers had roundly rejected his approach
   with a bravado he found confounding
Supremely confident about the soul insurance they'd purchased,
   they were trusting
The claims adjuster was puzzled at the certificates of coverage
   they promptly proffered
They really appeared to believe
   Mother Nature checked credentials and discriminated

He thought back to the wretched in Agona
   in the torrid zone who were beleaguered
These last were well aware that they had no protection,
   at least none that mattered
Third Tribe certainties were suspect
   and they lacked all necessary infrastructure
Still, to be barely keeping above water
   was no excuse in the eyes of the adjuster

Their time was coming, in short order, they'd be the new epicenter
Lockdown was looming, they'd had fair warning from their tormentor
Still, the folk in Agona were young, and thought the future was theirs
Unlike the Ushers, they didn't behave as if they were royal heirs

Enthusiastic, for sure, but they lacked capacity, and were easily swayed
Swiftly bamboozled, just throw a fig leaf or a few crumbs their way
But they kept clean and, in the majority, had reasonable motives
And, these days, they'd seen how the rest of the world lived

No, they were up-and-coming and could go on to great things,
   if they survived, that is
For no one was promised tomorrow,
   when the claims adjuster dispensed justice
Because Nyame did want everyone to be taught a lesson
A lasting reminder for all time that no one is coming

Asase Yaa in fairy garden

Asase Yaa thought that she should intervene, for it was quite clear
To her eyes at least, that the other gods were being plainly unfair
She made her initial appeal by way of her public agent, Tedros of Who
"Test, test, test", the message was clear but sadly didn't cut through

If they were wont to pursue structural adjustment
The least they could do was let it be done with a human face
And display a modicum of heavenly discernment
It was going overboard to let humanity lie in this bed of disgrace

The punishment surely didn't fit the crime, and left all and sundry
Stuck in a global torrid zone, home of the internally displaced
Asase Yaa decided to underwrite an excessive liability policy
Beyond the meager soul insurance some had seemingly purchased

Her only conditions for mankind were a little humility
That they, at least, forgo their keen sense of invincibility
Adhere to the lessons of the Mosquito Principle and social living
Love for one another, and tolerance, instead of wishful thinking

She even got that urban griot to put it to a soulful song
Thus sang Burning Spear, "it takes behavior to get along"
She left it out there: think first of the least of us
Resolve conflicts with conversation and seek consensus

snow white and the seven dwarfs

But the Ushers were quite incorrigible and prone to pick fights
They would not embrace restraint contra their insatiable appetites
Their new Okyeames trumped consensus
   and preferred transactional conflicts
Their Prime Magician Johnson took on the role of a reverse ferret

The chief of the Tabom would be given The Full Bolton
   but yet he persisted
Even the Macromeister would get a frank taste
   of the disease he gaslighted
The social pilgrim's progression through the lands was quite insidious
Exposing at once the cracks in the cement of society and the huhudious

The Akan proverb out of Agona, widely known in the torrid zone
Made the stark claim that "Humanity knows no boundary"
This generation at hand was instead keen to stand alone
To prove that it was rather folly that spread widely

Wisdom went in one ear, and out the other, their reputations were sullied
Still, badged with Asase Yaa's protective notions, they were unworried
They believed they could call on the excessive liability policy
It would provide, in extremis, a sort of soul sanctuary

The gods let the game play out, but it was quite disconcerting
To see the same mistakes repeated time and again, all too merrily
Advice from telemedicine consultations swiftly discarded,
   it was hard to understand
They really needed to be taught by example,
   that everything was written in sand

claims adjuster

Excessive Liabilities, a playlist

A soundtrack for this note, it limits the claims of the umbrella policy. (spotify version)

Soul Insurance (Index)

A covidious folktale
  1. Ananse and the Chief's Scribe
  2. Enter the Claims Adjuster
  3. An Audience with the Linguist
  4. Pity the Mink
  5. Short Sale
  6. Excessive Liabilities
  7. Premiums Due
  8. Soul Insurance, a playlist
  9. Indemnity Provisions
  10. Full Circle
  11. Enforcement Actions
  12. The Die is Cast

This folktale is part of a series: In a covidious time.

Next: Premiums Due

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Writing log: Part 6 March 26, 2021