Question 1: Forcing us all to suddenly become nurse/patient staffing ratio experts somehow?

Clam Nation, Question 1 is the November 2018 ballot question which has caused the most consternation among your Clamrades, who are pretty much split down the middle or undecided regarding the vote.

Short answer: vote yes because it will keep more people alive.

Question 1, also known as the Patient Safety Act, would mandate specific patient staffing ratios at hospitals around Massachusetts. There’s a lot of uncertainty, speculation, and rumor surrounding Question 1.

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Because we haven’t had enough of that yet, ffs

Here’s our analysis: Nurses are the front line of healthcare. For instance, if you wind up in a neuro ICU because an undiagnosed tumor in your brain just made you have full-on seizure including chewing on your tongue like a fruit roll-up, the people doing the actual work of keeping you alive (putting in lines and tubes, ordering tests, giving meds, all the actual action), will be done by nurses, not doctors.  

The pressure we currently put on nurses burns them out and they quit, especially floor nurses. Therefore: less burnout = more skilled nurses coming back to the bedside. And staffing more skilled nurses = less patient death overall because a skilled nurse is often the thing between a live patient and one stepping into a lighted tunnel going, “Granddad, you lost weight!”  

The outcome of the vote could change quite a few things around the highly-influential and science-y neighborhood that is the Massachusetts Health Care Industrial Complex, which regularly treats the sickest people in the world and gets penalized because of it (people come here literally from all over the world because they are really sick for treatment, some of them die, and we look like we’re not doing a good job).

So we would like to dissect the issue. Because that’s what nerds do. Also, we eat a lot of Fritos (unrelated). 

The Mass Nurses’ Association (MNA), our state’s most powerful nursing union, spearheaded this ballot initiative because of staffing concerns in hospitals throughout Massachusetts. There have been disagreements, even among nurses. Some are comfortable leaving things the way they are and say “This proposal undermines the flexibility and decision-making authority of nurses and puts rigid mandates above patient safety, clinical nurse input, nurse manager’s discretion, and every other consideration in a hospital.”

For hospital administrators and management staff who actually listen to floor nurses, this is great. However, would you believe some hospital administrations are more focused on the bottom line than they should be in our for-profit healthcare system? Shock, no? nursing unions exist for this reason, and we guarantee someone you love is alive because of them.

Looking at the hundred-year history of the MNA, it’s pretty interesting. And then, in 1994, it gets REALLY interesting.  With the introduction of managed care, health care systems in Massachusetts became more corporatized and, by design, pushed to get more for less. The nursing union pushed back because I mean, have you ever worked a 12-hour shift without going to the bathroom while being required to help everyone around you go to the bathroom, and then OMG there’s also a literal ream of paperwork you need to finish before you go home? That is some real Kafkaesque shit right there.

Not to mention being punched in the face, verbally abused, or possibly stabbed.

Meanwhile, in 1999, California passed AB 394, a benchmark safe staffing law similar to the one on the ballot here. In 2004, AB 394 was implemented. There isn’t anything else like AB 394 in the entire United States, so we don’t have much of a basis for comparison.

If you look at the “No on 1” website, they claim the effectiveness of mandated staffing ratios is “not scientifically proven” (right up there at the top of the page). ORLY?  Well, thank goodness after AB 394 was passed, a whole bunch of highly-credentialed folks including nurses, doctors, and policy wonks decided to study the outcomes of mandated ratios over several years.

While only 1/50 states have anything this comprehensive on the books, California is basically a country of 40 million people with a massive health care system. A quick Google search will take you to several publications touting the effectiveness of the mandated staffing ratio they implemented, even if only a little more effective than being without one. Your Google experience may vary – and always check your sources. Some hospital systems have published findings skewed in their favor.

Nurse staffing and patient outcomes: a longitudinal study on trend and seasonality” There are lots of equations and deltas and variables here, and right off the bat, the authors stipulate more research is needed. However, they found evidence that the incidences of things like falls and pressure ulcers (both of which kill people) lessen when there are more nurses on staff.

References to a study by Linda Aiken, Ph.D. RN, comparing staffing, staff satisfaction and patient outcomes in California to those in New Jersey and Pennsylvania:  
DPE Fact Sheet
UPenn’s LDI Issue Brief
Lower burnout rates = better employee longevity = more experienced nurses taking care of us over a longer period of time.

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Newark, probably

 

Some emergency room nurses are actually afraid the hospitals will make them turn patients away if this mandate is passed, which is why they’re voting no. What is particularly shocking to us is that hospital administrations would continue to spread this rumor, putting the burden of responsibility on their staff. Thankfully, since 1986, it’s been illegal for hospitals to turn people away as long as those hospitals take Medicare. Though to be fair, that requirement combined with ratios does create a potential conflict. But the law does give wiggle room for a crisis

“Question 1 would remove real-time decision-making power from nurses and caregiving teams and put it in the hands of a rigid government mandate.”

No. Just No.  Nurses exhibit real-time decision-making power all the time. Nurses need to think about notifying doctors of one person’s critical labs as they wade through blood and shit and are berated and harassed. Having fewer patients to focus on will give them more time they need to make decisions and advocate. Again, put yourself or your loved one in that bed and ask, “How much time should the nurse be given to review the critical lab results before they have to go deal with changing the fluid bag in room 5?”

If you have misgivings about government oversight of staffing, think about day care centers. Sure, a daycare provider would get more bang for her buck by having a 12:1 ratio. But would you really want to leave your kid for 10 hours with someone who has 11 other children to watch? Nah. Neither did other people, which is why Massachusetts imposed staffing regulations on licensed day care centers.

To be real, nobody in Massachusetts really knows what the health care climate here will be like if people vote in favor of mandating nursing staffing ratios. But if you end up in the hospital, do you want the nurse who hasn’t eaten in 12 hours, or the one who isn’t going into hypoglycemia as she takes your blood pressure? From this writer’s perspective (and the experience of the entire fucking state of California), more nurses = less death.

The politics behind this one are weird. The MNA fought for years to try and get some measures taken to protect their members through the legislative process, only to be outmaneuvered the whole way. So finally, they took Every. Single. Thing. on their wishlist and got it into a ballot question. If this had managed to go through the Legislature (where good ideas go to die at the hands of Speaker DeLeo) we’d probably have a common-sense system now, and not an incredibly expensive, divisive ballot question. Thanks, spineless legislature!

For a mostly balanced perspective on this topic, head over to WGBH’s take on the matter.

Last note: The final claim is regional hospitals will have to close because of mandated ratios. We can’t believe this is even an argument. Charitably, it’s the “You have to let us keep coal mines unsafe, otherwise you won’t have any coal,” line always made by billionaire coal-mine owners. Uncharitably, it’s what the passenger representative says to the press from the wing with a Kalashnikov in her back. “Just give the guys holding the plane what they want and they won’t kill us…or at least all of us.” It’s a hostage-taker argument. It’s obscene that it’s being made. We’re the richest country in the world. We can have safe regional hospitals and nurses not so exhausted they’re guaranteed to make critical mistakes. The end.

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Threatening us with death: not the foundation of a productive discussion

Landed Gentrification

Greetings, Clamunists. Are you enjoying the heat? We, ourselves, walked our dog in the woods last week and it felt more like a fateful patrol in a Nam movie. We fully expected a member of the Sheen family to show up and start imparting wisdom in the form of low, growly and possibly cocaine-induced narration.

As our brain cooks inside the Instapot of our skull, something has been annoying the piss out of us. More than one person has reached out in a rage about the several housing developments going up, decrying it as a sure symbol of “Gentrification” – the dreaded “G” word which indicates Gloucester will very soon be Newport Rhode Island and we will all be forced to wear red shorts and boat shoes with dress shirts. Then we will all perish from punching ourselves to death, as is just.

They had breastplates like breastplates of iron, and the sound of their wings was like the thundering of many horses and chariots rushing into battle. They had tails with stingers, like scorpions, and in their tails they had power to torment people for five months.

Gentrification is real. And a massive challenge. And happening. But it is not just “shit you don’t like.”

See, here is the thing. If a person wanted to actually do something effective against gentrification, they would do all of this (which have been done other places, look it up, there are case studies):

  1. Create very strict rent control You would tell landlords, individual owners, many elderly, oftentimes somebody’s grandma, what they can charge for rent. As you can imagine, this would not be popular. But if you actually care about gentrification, you would do it. You’d have to.  
  2. Buy up all the available developable land and put it in trust This would cost hundreds of millions of dollars. And the land wouldn’t be fun parks or whatever, it would just be undevelopable rando plots of land. That will be a fun city budget item to propose: “We’re buying millions of dollars in land to do nothing with. It’s going to cost money and provide no return.” Or raise the money privately. So, great. Where is this trust? Do you need a website? A Gofundme? Reach out, we’ll help, but we don’t have access to millions of dollars until the Magnitsky act gets overturned and we can access our Cyprus bank accounts.  
  3. Build as much densely-packed affordable housing as possible Yes, you prevent gentrification by building new housing. Public/private partnerships, tens of millions of dollars invested at least. And you’d have to listen to closet-racists say shit like, “it will just bring in people from Lynn,” by which they mean brown people because racists.

You’d have to do all three of these things, and you’d need to start fifteen years ago. But if you are not fully on board with each and all of these, then you are not doing shit about gentrification and you’re just opposing a housing project you don’t like. That’s fine. Some housing project ideas are terrible. But don’t come running to us, the local firebrand lefties, with the “G” word unless you really plan to do something about it.

Additional note: Do not, under any circumstances, send us articles about gentrification that begin like this:

This once authentic neighborhood, which previously supported payday loan storefronts and off-track betting parlors, now is the domain of tattooed tech-industry workers riding fixed gear bicycles, flitting to brewpubs featuring single strands of lightbulbs and farm-to-table ingredients.

Hell on Earth, obvs. Hopefully with outdoor seating.

Don’t send us that, because it will enrage us. Something like ⅙ of downtown Gloucester is un or underoccupied. New cool places to hang out, new and interesting businesses, all that is very hard to make happen here because for some reason Gloucester landlords prefer to leave space empty. They ask for very high rents, and when they don’t get the rates they want, they just leave it vacant for months, years or decades.

This confuses the shit out of us. No Snark- can someone please explain this? In college we took economics and we seem to remember this “law” that when a commodity had high supply and low demand, the price would adjust downward. Markets, we were told, were perfect, almost ethereal entities and would always prevail. Then we were forced to don robes and worship a vision of Ayn Rand formed from cigarette smoke from an ashtray held by a statue of Alan Greenspan. Later we were told the shrooms Justin had found in the woods were not what he thought they were and the entire dorm spent the night puking, but that still markets were perfect and would always adjust. But for some reason, this economic law does not work here. For our part, we’d pretty much dig some variety of businesses shoved into those empty spaces.

We are also actual tech workers, entrepreneurs, even, and we ride a bike and have an electric car and all that dorky crap. Newsflash: we have a right to be here too. Because this is an actual town where people live. This is not some kind of Plimoth Plantation-esque historical museum dedicated to one particular epoch. It’s a city. Things change. And there are kids to educate and roads to fix and high schools to keep from sliding off the continental shelf into the ocean and septic plants to relocate (next to your house- I saw the drawings). It’s real life here. It’s not curated.  

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They’re also putting in a pile of burning tires across the street from you

The last thing I’ll tell you is this. We do much of our work in Cambridge these days. When you get on an elevator in a building with a lot of tech workers, there are one or two people like us: nerds in biz casual (jeans, sneakers, button-downs) carrying laptops in messenger bags and holding expensive coffee drinks. Everyone else is drinking Dunks, in Carharts, carrying lunch boxes and with safety glasses on the backs of their necks. These folks (who also have tattoos, btw) are laughing their asses off at us because they don’t have student loans, absolutely will not get laid off they are in such high demand, and never ever have to sit through a 93 slide presentation titled, “Generating Optimal Outcomes by Leveraging Core Deliverables.” These folks make good money- many start at something like 40K right out of a one year, 10K training program and go up from there. A lot of these folks are leveraging training they received in the military. Industry is fighting tooth and nail for these workers, offering signing bonuses, ed reimbursement, all that. It’s 21st century blue collar middle class.

We are lucky as hell, here in Eastern MA, to have this, while the traditional middle class disappears everywhere else.

These folks run the labs, shops, benches, QA, shipping, chryo, and other essential infrastructure for what we coined as “Loading Dock Technology.” Back in the 90s when everything was all about programming, all you needed were computers and some bean bag chairs and maybe a foosball table. Today, in the exploding medical device, biotechnology, robotics, specialty manufacturing, nanotech, alternative energy and IOT (Internet Of Things) industries you need actual humans to build and run stuff because you are making actual, physical objects. You need the labs and benches built and that takes plumbers, electricians, HVAC, cryogenics and technicians.

These hands-on folks, often called, “science athletes” are what the Gloucester Biotech Academy  is producing for just one of these industries. It is truly amazing we have this resource right here, giant props to everyone who made this happen. Let’s get more of this.

Because these companies are coming to Gloucester. Near the MIT dome, lab and office space is $90 a square foot. Once a company gets their product developed down there, they move out to commercialize it at lower cost and wind up in places like Burlington, Watertown, the office parks in Lexington and now, Beverly (ever wonder why there is all that traffic on 128 now?). Soon, here.

This is just the way of things. We can stare out at the sea all we want and talk about marine industry, which is great, but let’s be honest. We haven’t had many takers on putting thriving industrial businesses next to the water here. But up in the office parks, we’re going to see more and more of loading dock tech companies, and people from here are going to work at them and that is good. As we said, we’re absurdly lucky to be in a place with economic options in modern-day America.  

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Still safer than Bitcoin

Yes, it’s change, but it’s only gentrification if we price out people. And for all the rage-posting at whatever ugly collections of townhouses someone will slap together, that really is up to private landlords and homesellers and the extent to which we commit to building and maintaining affordable housing. Affordability is a huge factor everywhere two hours or less from a tech industry hub. You can be as pissed off as you want, but it’s not going away.

Our task as a community will be to figure out how to make all this work for actual, real-live people as tech creeps north. Our job will be to create new opportunities for as many folks as possible, and to protect the vulnerable and the young in particular, whom we want to stay here, raise families and continue to make fun of our inability to use Snapchat correctly. Because we’re a city, not a “market” and the engines of our economy don’t pause to think about the real consequences on people lives, so that’s up to all of us.  

Unless Amazon winds up in Eastie, then we’ll all get priced out and wind up living a collection of abandoned shipping containers in a vacant strip mall parking lot in New Hampshire, which will be fun. If someone has a generator, I can bring the Instapot.

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Great, they didn’t even text. Now we’re going to need more chili.

NOTE: Any responses to this post implying we can have a thriving, multi-level economy based on the vague concept of “Arts” will be deleted. We love the arts, please keep doing art, we’re fans and patrons. But this ain’t Tanglewood and “art” communities (see: Provincetown) actually have worse Gentrification problems than tech towns. Look it up.

 

Guncrash

In 1992 science fiction author Neal Stephenson released a book called “Snowcrash” which was about, among other things, an information virus with the ability to infect the human brain the way a computer virus gets embedded in operating software.

After the past week, I’ve seen it. It’s now painfully obvious that, as a country, we’re guncrashed.

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The book also features an Innuit biker with a nuclear bomb sidecar, a skatepunk girl who attaches herself to cars, Sumerian religion, the mob, Russian attack helicopters and atomic cyborg dogs. The whole thing is pretty badass, is what I’m saying.

I have now come to believe the very idea of guns in our culture, literally just the thought of them, is restricting the ability of our brains to conduct logical operations. Last week someone online posted the popular meme that we blame bombers, not bombs and therefore we should blame shooters, not guns. When I replied that we do, in fact, restrict access to bombs, he pointed out one can still buy fertilizer like the kind the Oklahoma City bombers used.

Except you can’t.

I told him you can’t buy more than 25 lbs of Ammonium Nitrate without a background check now and that industry has actually formulated it to be less explosive. It’s a perfect example of a mass killing leading to reasonable regulation. People still farm, but it’s much harder to build a bomb that way now.

His response? He didn’t believe me, then changed the subject, then got mad and said, “Why do you always assume everything I say is wrong?” This is after what he said was demonstrably wrong, a counterpoint to the point he was trying to make. But he couldn’t handle it. Guncrashed. He’s totally guncrashed. 17 people were dead and his primary thought was, “I’d better get out there and defend guns.” No one who isn’t guncrashed would think that way.

What’s worse is person is actually a computer programmer- someone who inherently understands logical operations. Yet he refused to accept the logical outcome of reasonable restrictions leading to effective outcome, even though there is ample evidence of same. As before, people still farm. Ammonium nitrate is still available, we’re just more careful with it now. But applying this same reasoning to firearms is simply not possible when you’re guncrashed. Just the idea alone of guns somehow prevents these calculations from being made accurately. Every subroutine somehow ends with “All guns are OK all the time,” and then tries to work backwards from there, often leading to sadlarious results, as the above “blame the bomber” example demonstrates.  

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We outlawed some specific kinds of availability to fertilizer and yet non-outlaw farmers still grow crops. Weird.

Think of how guncrashed we’ve been. 20 years of mass killings with guns and the simple idea that some firears are just too powerful to be owned by the general public is still anathema. And the absurd arguments, especially the idea that adding more guns into the mix will somehow help, is maddening to watch for the non-guncrashed. It’s gone from annoying to terrifying.

Did you know there are ants who literally get taken over by a tiny flatworm, Dicrocoelium dendriticum? This fluke releases chemicals into the ant’s brain making it think the idea of hanging out chomped on to the top of a blade of grass where it can get eaten by a bird is the best idea, like, ever. I imagine the other ants yelling up to it, “Ted! Ted, you stupid asshole, that’s incredibly dangerous, you’re going to get eaten by a bird, Ted!” and Ted yells back, “BUT I’M SO FUCKING BEAUTIFUL!” That ant is “wormcrashed.” It’s pretty much the same thing. He’s getting positive signals from his brain for thinking something obviously wrong and very likely harmful to himself.

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just sayin’

The exalted place guns are given in our society, how they feature in movies, TV, games- and not just the stuff the kids play, but shows like “24” and “Homeland,” the power they give to the characters, is completely outsized to their actual utility (guns, like all tools, do have utility). But we’ve come to treat them as totems of power and respect in a society where weakness is seen as anathema. I would argue our history as Americans coupled with a lack of any kind of social safety net and an increasingly “winner take all loser gets none” society has left a power vacuum in many people’s psyches that the idea of guns has come to fill. True or not, the idea of guns in our minds is nothing like the reality.

There are actually very few problems that can be solved satisfactorily from the perspective of either party with a gun. And even when it’s possible, it’s unlikely- for instance NYPD officers only hit their targets less than 20% of the time. Yet we imagine guns, and we especially picture our own selves armed with guns, saving the day, making impossible shots, being the hero. Yet Chris Kyle, a SEAL sniper, was shot in the back by someone he trusted on a firing range in Texas. The trained, armed deputies in Parkland Florida did not go into the school and try and confront the shooter, even though protocol calls for them to form a “contact team” and attempt to do so. It turns out the gap between what we imagine guns can do, and what they can actually do in the hands of failable humans is massive. A chasm the guncrashed have fallen into, and it honestly remains to be seen if they can or care to return.

The late Richard Earle, an early pioneer in cause marketing, had an incredible observation about powerful ideas once they have rooted themselves in the brain. His teams found that when making anti-drug ads, if you showed a needle with copy or voiceover saying, “When you use drugs you go broke, lose your family and will probably die,” addicts didn’t listen to the message at all. They just saw the needle and wanted to use. The idea of the drug had “infected” the brain of the user through the memory of the powerful pleasure chemicals they had released, and was now communicating on a deeper level than language. You might call them “drugcrashed.” All addiction could be framed this way: a powerful idea or compulsion that makes an end run around our logic filters and causes us or others undue harm. 

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Only $3.98? Gotta get me some.

Guns in America, it is all too obvious, have bypassed the language and logic centers. They are chomped up there on the blade of grass where everyone can see. The one hope is for the first time in a long time we seem to have a clear view of the situation. In no small part this is thanks to the Parkand High School Students slapping us out of our guncrash coma, and for this alone we owe them a huge debt of thanks. We’re starting to realize we have to actually do something, and that the truly guncrashed can’t be reasoned with, as somehow they are blocked from this capability.

It’s going to be up to the rest of us.

Author’s note: Please don’t read this article and attempt to argue that once high-capacity firearms have been restricted perpetrators will then conduct mass killings by other means and try and fall into the massive logical fallacy that more people are killed with hammers than guns. Even if that’s true, we’re talking about mass shootings here, not mass hammerings, which to our knowledge are exceedingly rare. You’re guncrashed. Get help. 

 

The Only Way for us to Survive Climate Change is Stroopwafel…or Something

A bunch of years ago I’m driving down that Manchsexy section of 128 at dusk and inside my skull my brain yells, “Ostrich!”

Looking down the road I see the unmistakable shape of that large, flightless bird in the middle of the highway. “Meatpuppet, be aware, the object obstructing the road is an ostrich!” (my most distinct internal voice obnoxiously refers to the rest of me as “meatpuppet” and I wish it wouldn’t).

What happened next stuck in my memory, because it defined the way I and I think a lot of us deal with issues and threats considered “out of the norm”. From differing corners of my mind other opinions, not the “observation and reaction” part I consider my “brain”, but  a disparate chorus of doubts sparked up. It was like a busy channel on maritime radio, with different vessels reacting to the same scenario from unique perspectives. “Memory” reminded me I’ve never seen any similar thing on the highway before, insisting I look again. “Logic” recited Occam’s Razor, which states that if I see an ostrich in New England it’s statistically more likely to be a turkey and a trick of the light. “Guilt” reminded me of the time I did mushrooms in college, how it totally knew this would happen, hallucinating weird shit all over the place, even decades later, you stupid, stupid man.

“Meatpuppet, ignore these fools!” My actual “Brain” yelled, trying to override the cacophony. “That is an ostrich! I have searched memory, judged size against distance accounting for our forward velocity and I know what a fucking turkey looks like and this is not one. There is an ostrich in the road! Avoid collision and alert the authorities!”

“Maybe it’s, like…weird trees…” said “Imagination”.

Bob Ross lives in my head, apparently

For the record, it’s loud inside my head, pretty much all the time. But, also for the record, it turns out there was indeed an actual fucking ostrich (or a close cousin) in the road.  Somebody had been keeping emus over in West Gloucester, one got out and wandered onto the highway. In retrospect, this seems simple. But it was an impossible conclusion to resolve at the time. This is how most of us, myself included, deal with life. It’s a massive mental lift to face a new and unexpected set of facts, even in the face of overwhelming evidence. 

After Bomb Cyclone Grayson (alert aspiring DJs for solid potential name) we are having what social/economic/historical theorists call a Black Swan Event and which I call an “Ostrich Somewhere in the Vicinity of Exit 16 Event”. A Black Swan Event is something that should have been predictable, but no one accounted for and denied right up to the point it eventually changed history. Personal computers, the fall of the Soviet Union, the housing bubble crash and most notably 9/11 are all things that were, in hindsight, predictable but no one did anything appreciable about at the time in terms of preperation. Humans suck at acting on predictions, even good ones. We extrapolate the future from past experience because it used to serve as a pretty good guide when change was at a normal pace. But change now, including the climate, is not happening at a “normal” pace. Technology, income disparity and the climate are all hitting the metaphorical meth pipe and we’re going to have to learn to deal. Ostriches are on the road, my friends. EMUS ON METH! (alert aspiring speed metal bands…)

You go from this

To running down the street naked being chased by the cops

(from Wikipedia)

Black Swan events all share the same characteristics:

  1. The event is a surprise (to the observer)
  2. The event has a major effect
  3. After the first recorded instance of the event, it is rationalized by hindsight, as if it could have been expected; that is, the relevant data were available but unaccounted for in risk mitigation programs. The same is true for the personal perception by individuals.

Cars taken out by global warming. Ironic, no? But also transport to work, trips to the doctor, etc. We have to help these folks AND do better about sea level rise.

The worst thing about global climate change as Black Swan is an added 1a, which states: “A bunch of douchebags got Fox News to convince people it won’t happen, even while it’s happening all over the place.”

So here we are. Post Black Swan/Ostrich/Emu

What the fuck do we do now? (This has become a somewhat classic Clamquestion)

On Facebook, seeing all the pics I posted of the floods around Gloucester, an old friend of mine from the Netherlands messaged me:

Her: You need stormvloedkering

Me: ?

Her: Like weirs

Me: ??

Her: Barriers against the sea. We have them in Zeeland in our country. We also have decriminalized cannabis, pervasive cycling infrastructure and nationalized health care.

Me: But we had to save your butts in World War II.

Her: Yes. But you still need stormvloedkering. I’m sure someone here will show you the plans, in thanks for World War II.

The little tram is because Dutch people go to see it on holiday. When I went to Holland all my guidebook mentioned was weed and hookers.

So the Dutch are sassy, in a chill sort of way. But they also know how to hold back an angry sea. And that’s what this is, folks. The sea is pissed. For the first few centuries of our history Gloucesterites have been going out to face it, and now it’s coming to meet us at home.

And nobody is out ahead of this. Not the federal government, which as of this writing is too busy taking on the essential task of tweeting insults at itself to mitigate the potential destruction of a major population, cultural and economic center. Not our underfunded local government which is trying to manage a dozen full-blown crises at any given time on shoestring budgets. And not most of us citizens who are just trying to go about our lives, decidedly not thinking “how will global climate change be affecting my choice of parking spot/lunch meetup/pet shampoo?”

And that’s gotta change. On all levels. It’s up to us, folks. Running for city council Jen Holmgren said climate change was one of her top priorities, and I of all people counseled her to talk about issues closer to home. Three days into her term, Newell Stadium and Rocky Neck go under. Also the Mayor made climate change a key piece of her inauguration speech. As she was reciting it, on the stage, I noticed a few of the councilors rolling their eyes when she started talking dealing with climate challenges facing Gloucester. Roll them at your peril now, everyone is on blast for this issue after Grayson, me included. Clear?

Jen now, probably

We live by the sea. We’re going to have to get used to the fact that the very same sea is rising and getting more violent. It’s tempting to point fingers (see Black Swan rule 3), like blaming people for parking in a lot which hasn’t seen that kind of flooding in a century. This is not useful. In the same way as blaming the city for not knowing the lot would flood. The city is made up of people (shocker), they have access to the same prediction tools as the rest of us. Back to the classic Black Swan example: Someone in the government clearly should have insisted, “assholes with box cutters and Microsoft Flight Simulator could destroy the World Trade Center and damage the Pentagon”, but obviously no one was convincing enough in that prediction. And, to be honest, even if they were doing full body searches and spending tons of money on air marshals before that event, most of us air travelers would have been total dicks about the “unreasonable preparations for a highly unlikely circumstance” and complaining to our representatives and the media and probably writing snarky blog posts about it.  

So, I’m considering this the “wake up call”. There aren’t “we didn’t know” excuses from now on. We know. It’s happening. And this is not the kind of thing where we’re going to really get much wiggle room for divisiveness around. You are either on the stormvloedkering or off the stormvloedkering.

I think I got that right. Holy crap we are so behind on this.

2017 Was Saved By Women

I think we can all agree 2017 was a wombat-fucker of a year. Everyone who was supposed to be in charge seemed to lack any coherent idea on how to hold the obvious villains and grifters accountable for their gleeful dismantling of our society. Every fucking day the news was essentially some version of: “The president is lying to everyone all the time, he and his bad-80’s movie collection of traitors are trying to set up a the world’s tackiest dictatorship, also all the dudes in the media are all grabby creeps INCLUDING AL FRANKEN AND GARRISON KEILLOR and not only are there Nazis all over the place but there are Nazi FUCKING FURRIES, so, you know, bummer and stuff ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.”

2017, this is you

I, for one, would have spent the entire year under my basement workbench seeking the blessed solace of inhaled industrial solvents but for one thing:

 

Women.

Women fucking saved our asses this year. I want you to think about what 2017 would have been like without the women’s marches, without the women standing up to the predators, the black women who sent Roy Moore back to hopefully not the mall. What would 2017 have been without the women who said, “no”, “no more (Moore)”, and “nopers, nopety nope nope noperoo, nopebro nopenstein NOOOOOO!”?

In case you didn’t click, the scene posted above is “No Man’s Land,” from this summer’s Wonder Woman. You should watch it, even if you saw the movie. In it our heroine, played by Gal Gadot, is in disguise with her small company of handlers (all men) in a trench somewhere in WW I. A refugee begs for help as her village, situated across the killing field between the Allied and German trenches, has been enslaved. Wonder Woman insists that they divert their mission to help, but her guide rationalizes all the reasons accomplishing that basic task of human decency is impossible. He tells her that “This is not what we’re here to do,” and that “we can’t save everyone in this war.” And she basically tells him to go fuck himself by dialing the awesome up to 11. This one scene transcends the entire movie. The entire summer full of movies. Feel free to watch it over and over. I do.  

The brilliance of the filmmaking here is, as she’s striding across the greatest stalemate in modern military history, you get the sense here she’s learning the depth of her power. She starts at a walk, which becomes a run which becomes a supernatural leap. The men, realizing things have changed, finally get their shit together and follow. It’s surprisingly three dimensional for an action movie. It was like a breath of air after being under water for too long. 

And, all bullshit considered, this is how I felt at key moments over the past 13 months. For a long time I’ve been mired in the muck of “how things are.” As the sexual scandals exploded I thought of all the places where, because of a job or a sense I was doing the best thing in a bad situation, I didn’t take a stand. And suddenly, in 2017, women jumped over me, started taking fire and smashing shit. Now I’m scrambling to catch up.

Think about it, the inauguration was followed one day later by the Women’s March, dwarfing it in size. In groups large and small, we started to take stands. People pushed back. I know it was dark a lot of the time and a lot has been lost (Paris Accords, Net Neutrality, Health Care, Merrick Garland…I could go on and on and on but the paint thinner begins to call my name). However, I saw a lot of righteous rage this year, and I saw the good side start to win, a lot of times in places I didn’t expect. For instance, who knew the resistance would be led by the National Park Service, Teen Vogue and Juggalos? Not me, but what-fucking-ever. Lead on, you clown-face-painted, hiking-boot-wearing, epic-prom-look-seeking heroes. “I’ve got you, fam,” or whatever one is supposed to say in these situations. 

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In 2017 it’s bravery that’s in, cowardice is so last year.

In fact, I found myself growing increasingly furious with rationalized chicken-shittery. After the Citrinellanacht assholes killed a woman in Charlottesville and a similar rally was gearing up to take place on Boston Common, The Internet was suddenly flooded with people explaining why going to protest Nazis helps them because…reasons. I remember replying: “I’m really glad no one came out to protest the Nazis because it just empowered them,” said no concentration camp inmate, ever.” People got super-mad at that, which I’m fine with.

Because we were fucking right. Forty thousand of us were right that day in July. The only thing I saw that was better than the No Man’s Land scene in 2017 was a real-life army of taking-no-more-shit humans marching down Tremont, shaking the ground as they came. Meanwhile the Boston Police hustled the sad little band of Velco-sneakered rumpled brownshirts into vans to get them the fuck out of there. There’s a good chance that was the high-water mark of the alt right. If so, we have organized women and BLM to thank, not the NPR think-piece crowd. 

I know It’s messy. It’s hard, peeps. We’re in uncharted territory here. There’s going to be overreach, trampled feelings and it’s not always going to feel fair and let’s face it, this ain’t a movie. We don’t get to write the ending and it’s not always going to make sense at the time (Are we living in an Alain Resnais film? Discussion for a later time.).

And let’s not sugar coat it, 2018 could be worse. Hell, there’s still the rest of 2017 that could easily devolve into unbridled crapitude making the rest of the year seem like a an ice cream social (but with Nazis). In the Wonder Woman model, we’re still on the ladder here, we’re not even out of the trench yet in terms of the potential shitnami (shitticane? I think shitnmai is better) ahead. But dammit, loyal and-no-doubt-exhausted members of the Clamistance, climbing out and charging head on is what we’re going to do. And keep doing. When given the opportunity to reconnect with some portion of your humanity, take it. It probably won’t get offered again.

See you out there.