Wednesday, August 12, 2020


By Jim Szantor
Rhetorical questions, questionable rhetoric and whimsical observations 
about the absurdities of contemporary life
  • Never make eye contact with someone with a nauseatingly goofy ring tone. 
  • One problem with home schooling/virtual or remote learning:  No yearbook.
  • No sooner did I finally start to feel comfortable in my own skin when the wrinkles decided to show up.  (And when my hair stopped growing, my toenails never got the memo.)
  • Yes, I love the Red-Eye Reduction feature you find on photo-editing software, but why did they stop there?  Where's the Double Chin Reduction button?  The Wrinkle Eraser? The Crow's Feet Eliminator?  The Bald Spot Coverup feature?  The Fountain of Youth dial?  There's room for improvement here!
  • More of jimjustsaying's series of Words You See in Print But Never Hear Anyone Use in Normal Life:  Emollient, mucilage and dentifrice.
  • Why don’t astrologers ever say the day is unfavorable about reading about astrology (or buying astrology books, DVDs, etc.)?  Ever get the impression that the astrologers are making it up as they go along? 
  • Three of the most unused items in any kitchen:  Pasta makers, fondue pots and any one of those items that's supposed to make peeling an egg easier but doesn't.
  • Speaking of food stuff: “I like rice. Rice is great if you’re hungry and you want 2,000 of something.”—Mitch Hedberg (R.I.P.)
  •  H20 no! Americans spend almost as much each year buying bottled water ($21 billion) as they do maintaining the nation's entire water system ($29 billion), even though bottled water is often just a refiltered version of municipal tap water. 
  • What does “Obey your signal only” mean?  That you can’t turn right on red?  On green?  That you have to turn off your radio? Is it possible to obey two signals at once?  Sometimes I’m not sure what my signal actually is?
  • "A [Chicago] crime scene was blocked off Sunday morning on Wacker Drive from Wabash Avenue to Michigan Avenue. A second area was blocked off on and near the Wabash Avenue bridge."—recent news report
  • That's one thing police excel at--blocking off things and diverting traffic. The larger the area the better. That, and overreacting: One person shot in an alley? 11 squad cars.  I wouldn’t be surprised if crime-scene tape was one of the largest budget items in any police department.
  • Which would be all well and good if they ever caught anyone--which they rarely do. The "clearance rate" on homicides is--from what I've read--appallingly low.  Most of the “collars” are due to someone dropping the proverbial dime.  (Or, more currently, because of a surveillance camera.)  
  • jimjustsaying’s Party Ice-Breaker of the Month: “Say [actual party-goer’s name here], did you know that the reason people sometimes confuse left and right but seldom confuse up and down is because the corresponding parts of the body are neurally wired to move in sync, for the sake of coordinated action. They mirror one another, which is why it's hard to pat your head and rub your belly at the same time. That mirroring of the movement bleeds over into our perception of space so left and right are easily confused.” 
  • “Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you.”--Author Anne Lamont in
  • jimjustsaying’s Media Word of the Week (a word you never hear any actual person hear in real life):  Hustings. 
  • Memo to producers advertising flyers: “WOW! doesn’t work for me anymore next to a loss-leader price tag.  I think we’re all pretty much "WOWed out" by now.  (A recent insert for Walgreen’s had 36 WOW! items.  Enough already!)
  • Tell you what, advertisers:  Just tell me the product and the price, and I'll decide whether it's a WOW! for me or not.
  • Better yet, why not come up with some more novel wording, something more attention-getting, such as:
  • "HOLY SHIT!  Duracell AA's, 4 pack, 99 cents!!!" . . . Or, "JESUS H. CHRIST!  Snickers 2-pack, 89 cents!!! Now we're talkin' "grabbers," are we not?!
  • Baseball blooper: “Callison opened the ninth with a single . . . and scored after being punted into scoring position by Ruben Amaro.”—Terre Haute (Ind.) Tribune, via “Still More Press Boners,” by Earle Tempel 
  • jimjustsaying’s Word That Doesn’t Exist But Should of the Month:  Furbling. n. Having to wander through a maze of ropes at an airport or bank even if you are the only person in line.—“Sniglets,” Rich Hall and Friends
  • New construction puzzler: When was the last time you saw a new funeral home going up?   With the population explosion over the last decades, you'd think you would see a new one being built occasionally.  Are the existing ones just busier or . . . . What am I missing here? 
  • More cremations?  The deceased still have to go through the funeral home process. People living longer?  They still die eventually . . . and then there is the off-setting phenomena of the global pandemic, the growing number of young people dying of gang violence, drive-by shootings, AIDs, drug overdoses . . . .)
  • Newspaper Obituary Headline Nickname of the Month: Mrs. Santa Claus.  As in Jaclyn M. “Mrs. Santa Claus” Brockman, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, July 12, 2020.  R.I.P., Mrs. Brockman..
  • Today's Latin lesson:  Ubi est persona tua?  ("Where's your mask?")


Disinfecting surfaces is ‘hygiene theater'

As a Covid-19 summer surge sweeps the country, deep cleans are all the rage. Restaurants, gyms, offices, and mass transit are all trying to create public confidence by spraying oceans of disinfectants on every square inch of America’s surface area. Sorry, but this may all be a huge waste of time—a piece of “hygiene theater” with no practical purpose. Scientists studying how the coronavirus has spread have concluded that surface transmission is extremely rare. Instead, they have traced nearly all outbreaks to airborne respiratory droplets spread from person to person—large droplets expelled in sneezes and coughs, and smaller aerosolized droplets from speech or even exhalations, which can linger in the air of indoor spaces.

In real-world conditions, scientists say, the virus does not survive on surfaces for very long. We should all still wash our hands when out in public, but studies have concluded that people aren’t getting infected from packages, elevator buttons, or door handles. It’s wearing masks, distancing, and moving activities outdoors that actually keep us safe. Theatrically blasting surfaces with disinfectants builds a false sense of security in indoor spaces, which can ironically lead to more infections.
--Derek Thompson, 
Can virtual visits replace a doctor’s touch?

*****The rise of telemedicine may be a silver lining in the coronavirus pandemic.  With many doctors’ offices closed and people worried about leaving their homes, virtual visits have surged as a way for patients to seek medical advice without stepping outside. Congress approved an expansion of Medicare coverage to include telehealth nationwide, and allocated money for communications services to make sure patients with critical needs can get remote follow-ups. The tech giants have taken notice; Microsoft introduced a new Cloud for Healthcare in May. Now many patients are growing accustomed to the convenience. They might not want to revisit the obstacles that can become excuses for not seeking a doctor.
--Cherlynn Low,

*****Providers are less bullish on the shift, mainly because it’s hard for most small practices to implement. A practice must buy appropriate technology. Clinical schedules need to be changed. Documentation protocols must be updated. And on and on. Some doctors are also leery about taking the plunge” because of concerns about how much insurers, particularly Medicaid, will cover.
--Ateev Mehrotra,

*****As a primary care physician, I think the technology is fine. But I also know it will never replace in-person care. Well-trained clinicians use all their senses and examine the whole patient. Could a Zoom visit detect a lymph node too firm, a spleen or liver too large, or an unexpected prostate nodule?
--David Blumenthal, Harvard Business Review

Look for a ‘blue shift’ in November

The “blue shift” may decide the presidential election. In recent races, Democrats have benefited from a large wave of provisional ballots counted after the polls closed—sometimes changing which candidate won. In the 2018 midterm elections, blue-shift votes tallied after Election Day gave Democrat Kyrsten Sinema a U.S. Senate race in Arizona and helped Democrats win 41 House seats nationally. Amid the pandemic, tens of millions of additional votes will be cast by mail in November, but President Trump has convinced many Republicans that mail-in ballots are tainted. This could lead to a massive blue shift in mail-in votes—and a catastrophic challenge to the results.

Let’s say that when polls close, President Trump holds a narrow lead in one or more swing states that would give him an Electoral College majority. He’ll declare victory. But as mail-in votes are tallied over days and even weeks, Biden emerges as the clear winner in those swing states. Trump cries fraud and insists that he’s the target of a criminal Democratic coup. The country would be plunged into chaos. Unless one candidate wins by a landslide, Election Day will be more like Election Week or Election Month this year
--David Graham, The

The danger of eliminating the filibuster

If Democrats win the White House and the Senate, should they eliminate the filibuster? Former President Obama recently called on his party to get rid of that U.S. Senate tradition, so Democrats could push through sweeping legislative changes with 51 Senate votes. Under current rules, either party can block legislation by invoking the filibuster and requiring 60 votes to resume debate—an important check on the party in power. Many Democrats say that without the filibuster, the party could add Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico as states, giving Democrats four additional senators and a majority for years to come.

But this shortsighted idea would lead to an escalating “arms race” in altering the rules: When Republicans return to power, as they eventually would, they could divide Republican states in half to create even more states and senators. Anything the Democrats had achieved in the majority would be reversed, with the country veering back and forth between partisan extremes. In the book “How Democracies Die,” Harvard professors Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt warn that “acts of constitutional hardball” can erase all norms and lead to “politics without guardrails.” Without guardrails, our system of government may go off a cliff.
--Bill Scher,

Going back on our word to trade allies

Tariff Man is back.  With his re-election on the ropes, President Trump returned to his favorite household remedy, re-imposing a 10 percent tariff on Canadian aluminum only a month after his “new NAFTA,” the United States–Mexico-Canada (USMCA) agreement, officially went into effect. The agreement included a provision for levies if imports surged “beyond historic volumes of trade.” That gave the president an opening, and at a visit to a Whirlpool factory in Ohio last week, Trump invoked the clause, claiming our neighbors are “taking advantage of us, as usual.”

That’s not true: Imports of aluminum are actually below the level of 2017. But two well-connected U.S. aluminum producers have lobbied for new tariffs. The Trump administration has obliged them despite the economic harm. The tariffs will raise prices for end users such as beer companies, automakers—and Whirlpool, which complained in 2018 that Trump’s steel and aluminum tariffs had significantly raised production costs. Canada, predictably, responded with $2.7 billion in additional taxes on U.S. exports of aluminum products such as bicycles, golf clubs and refrigerators. This is Trump at his policy worst: He hurts U.S. industry and consumers, while telling America’s friends that his word on trade can’t be trusted.
--Wall Street Journal editorial


21 Shakespearean phrases we still use today
  • “Lie low” (from “Much Ado About Nothing”)
  • “Green-eyed monster” (“Othello”)
  • “Heart of gold” (“Henry V”)
  • “Fair Play” (“The Tempest”)
  • “Break the ice” (“The Taming of the Shrew”)
  • “Wild Goose Chase” (“Romeo and Juliet”)
  • “It’s all Greek to me” (“Julius Caesar”)
  • “Forever and a day” (“As You Like It” and "The Taming of the Shrew”)
  • “Good riddance” (“The Merchant of Venice”)
  • “Kill with kindness” (“Taming of the Shrew”)
  • “As good luck would have it” (“The Merry Wives of Windsor”)
  • “Love is blind” (“The Merchant of Venice”)
  • “The game is afoot” (“Henry V”)
  • "Wear my heart upon my sleeve" ("Othello")
  • "Love is blind" ("The Merchant of Venice")
  • "Budge an inch" ("The Taming of the Shrew")
  • "Faint-hearted" ("Henry VI, Part 1")
  • "Dead as a doornail" ("Henry VI Part 2)
  • "Good riddance" ("Troilus and Cressida")
  • "All's well that ends well" ("All's Well That Ends Well.")
  • “Knock, knock! Who’s there?" (Yes, Shakespeare is the father of the knock-knock joke. Uttered by the Porter in “Macbeth.") --from