Capitalism vs. Price Gouging

Open Question: When does capitalism become price gouging?

Strikes me that price gouging is during acute events where people with means cannot buy what they want, i.e., the price mechanism breaks badly enough that it impacts society-at-large rather than a minority. But, so long as it’s impacts a minority or is an plausibly deniable externality, it’s merely capitalism as designed.

Someone Needs to Ventilate the Air From the Smell of Bullshit

“Ford Motor Co said on Monday it will produce 50,000 ventilators over the next 100 days at a plant in Michigan in cooperation with General Electric’s healthcare unit, and can then build 30,000 per month as needed to treat patients afflicted with the coronavirus.”

—Nick Carey, “Ford, GE to produce 50,000 ventilators in 100 days.” Reuters. March 30, 2020

It’s a good idea, sure. But, peak effects from the coronavirus in the United States will have largely passed in the next hundred days. Most of these ventilators will need to be shipped to Africa, Latin America, India and elsewhere. Hopefully, they’ll keep some around for when this thing gets bad again (but not as bad as now) in October.

Scar in the Lion King

Obviously, Scar is a cartoon villain. But, riddle me this: what was his name before he got the scar that became his namesake?

The read I’m getting is that Scar challenged Mufasa, and he got the scar for his pains. But, isn’t it kind of a jerk move for the community to call him Scar when he presumably had another name?

And, while we are on the topic, can Disney imagine some other form of government beyond monarchy and tyranny, one that doesn’t involve all the scraping and bowing? Between animation and Superheroes, it’s nothing but authoritarian fascism for Disney. It’s almost like these guys want you to think feudalism is the normal state of affairs and where all utopias should be placed temporally.

Is Now a Good Time to Trip on Psychedelics?

Vice.com asking the important questions. My initial reaction was, “Of course not.” And, “No,” appears to be the ultimate conclusion of the article. But, perhaps a more interesting question than it seems at first.

“It’s sometimes said that a proper trip takes three days: one to prep (especially if you follow more severe protocols around fasting beforehand), one for the trip itself, and one to come down and re-acclimatize to the rigours of reality, which are themselves these days all totally out of whack. Using the time alone to experiment with psychedelics and explore your own interiority seems like a handy idea during this bizarre period of consensual social lockdown…

…Hubbard’s insight was that cultivating comfortable environments would result in drastic, and ideally positive, shifts in the psychedelic experience itself.

The idea was codified in 1964’s The Psychedelic Experience: A Manual Based on the Tibetan Book of the Dead, co-authored by Leary, Ralph Metzner, and Richard Alpert. ‘The nature of the experience depends almost entirely on set and setting,’ they write, straight off the top. ‘Set denotes the preparation of the individual, including his personality structure and his mood at the time. Setting is physical—the weather, the room’s atmosphere; social—feelings of persons present towards one another; and cultural—prevailing views as to what is real.'”

-John Semley, “You’re Socially Isolating. Is Now a Good Time to Trip on Psychedelics?” Vice.com. March 26, 2020.

See also: Who the Fuck is SWIM?

Quarantine Double Feature: Judy followed by Judy Garland Live at Carnegie Hall (1961)

Judy, available on Amazon Prime for $2.99, followed by Judy Garland Live at Carnegie Hall (1961). The movie is an outstanding performance by Renée Zellweger that really helps in understanding why Judy Garland was such a beloved figure. Then, listening to her Judy Garland live in one of the greatest live albums ever recorded? Well, it’s not a bad way to spend a few hours.

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Don’t Panic: The Comprehensive Ars Technica Guide to the Coronavirus

“This new coronavirus—dubbed SARS-CoV-2—is unquestionably dangerous. It causes a disease called COVID-19, which can be deadly, particularly for older people and those with underlying health conditions. While the death rate among infected people is unclear, even some current low estimates are seven-fold higher than the estimate for seasonal influenza.

And SARS-CoV-2 is here in the US, and it’s circulating—we are only starting to determine where it is and how far it has spread. Problems with federal testing have delayed our ability to detect infections in travelers. And as we work to catch up, the virus has kept moving. It now appears to be spreading in several communities across the country. It’s unclear if we will be able to get ahead of it and contain it; even if we can, it will take a lot of resources and effort to do it.”

—Beth Mole, “Don’t Panic: The comprehensive Ars Technica guide to the coronavirus.” Ars Technica. March 11, 2020.

Beth Mole’s science writing is on point. But, let’s not lie to ourselves. This idea that the United States is going to contain this pandemic is nothing short of fantasy. By May, there will be hospital crises across the country, and it will likely resurge in October after a summer lull. Best to accept this as fact.

Three Years Without Facebook, Most Social Media

Occasionally, I’ll see an article where someone talks about giving up social media or a specific service – such as Facebook – for a week, a month, 99 days, a year, or even that it isn’t possible for most people. The last may be true. If someone relies on weak ties to get through difficult times in their lives, they probably need to maintain those ties in an efficient way, such as by using Facebook.

For example, if you need to call Uncle Joe to come and pick you up when your car breaks down, Uncle Joe uses Facebook and you don’t see him much, then you probably need to be on Facebook. That’s your reality.

Another reality is that giving up Facebook is that you’ll lose friends. I tend to have a very small social circle. I have a couple of friends, and I invest a lot in those relationships. However, one of my friends lives far away, and we had moved to communicating primarily through Facebook. When I deleted most of my social media accounts back in 2017, the friendship slowly faded after.

So, there’s a price to be paid. You aren’t as connected, and it means some of your relationships will atrophy as a result.

I still maintain a few social media accounts. But, I’ve moved to a model where I do not post anything to social media and I don’t use it. I don’t browse. I don’t post. I don’t comment. On a very rare occasion, I might react or like something. But, I mostly use it so that if there’s a link to, say, Twitter in an email newsletter, I use a Twitter account using a free software app to view it on my phone. There’s no point being a zealot about it.

But, on the other end, I’ll never go back to being a regular user of a service like Facebook, which I don’t use in any form. It’s poisonous and manipulative. I miss my friend, but the cost of maintaining that relationship, and others, through Facebook was simply too high.

Looking at it after three years, I’d recommend leaving it, if you can. At the very least, try a sabbatical, so you can get a feel for what using the service is costing you in terms of your emotional well-being. Uncle Joe will still be there, if you decide log back on after a month off.

Champagne Wishes and Caviar Dreams

“I always want to say to people who want to be rich and famous: ‘try being rich first.’ See if that doesn’t cover most of it. There’s not much downside to being rich, other than paying taxes and having your relatives ask you for money. But when you become famous, you end up with a 24-hour job…”

-Bill Murray quoted in Tim Ferris, “11 Reasons Not to Become Famous (or “A Few Lessons Learned Since 2007”)“. tim.blog. February 2, 2020.

Lest you think suddenly becoming rich is going to “cover most of it”, try reading this Reddit chestnut, “You just won a 656 Million Dollar Lottery. What do you do now?” Still want to be rich?

The same applies to power. People tend to be preoccupied with attaining fame, riches or power. All of them are soul destroying if you achieve them in any significant measure.

Voting Isn’t Going to Solve Your Problems

“Every time you stay home, someone is making a decision about you, making decisions about the air you breathe, the water you drink, the food your kids eat, and how much money you bring home every two weeks. So, every time you sit out an election, every time you don’t show up because you think it doesn’t matter, someone else is happy you didn’t show up, so they can make that decision for you. Vote.”

-At the end of the video above.

Voting has a place. But, it’s a small one. There’s some measure of decision-making that goes into selecting a Representative, a Senator, or a President. But, let’s not pretend that selecting an elected official is the same as making decisions yourself. It isn’t.

Also, let’s not pretend the field isn’t rigged. Candidates are bad, representing a very narrow band of choice. Districts are gerrymandered. Election campaigns run on money, which mean moneyed interests have more say in who gets elected, more so than casting a ballot at the polls.

By all means, get out and vote. But, don’t expect voting to change much. If you want to change the world, you have to be out in it. Voting needs to go hand in hand with direct action, where you are directly making decisions that impact the world rather than selecting someone else to represent your interests.