Idaho 2021: Spite and Paperwork

Reasons That My Husband’s Unemployment Benefits Have Been Delayed This Year in Idaho:

1. Because the state had a backlog processing initial claims

2. Because they shifted from Regular Unemployment to Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA)

3. Because they shifted from PUA to PEUC

4. Because they shifted from PEUC to the Biden extension

5. Because there was a known computer glitch, but it was still our responsibility to fill out a form and fax it back to end the payments stoppage

6. Because they didn’t receive that form, so we had to call and email it again

7. Because the school where he would have been working had a three day weekend this one time, and it sent the state unemployment claims system into a freakout and stopped his claim

8. Because after a year had already gone by, he suddenly needed to fill out a bunch of paperwork to prove he was who he said he was

9. Because while he was looking for a full-time job, he was also working in part-time self-employment, which was fine with the unemployment office, until it wasn’t fine, and then after several months of hassle, it was deemed to be fine again

The state of Idaho has been mean-spiritedly stopping unemployment claims for the last year, deluging my husband with constant Kafkaesque “Gotcha!” paperwork in an effort to kick as many people off the rolls as possible. Just keeping up with the Paperwork of Spite has become its own part-time job in and of itself.

In our family, this time, we had other resources. I never suspected that my disability income would make me a “primary breadwinner.” But strange times lead to strange circumstances.

However, I have had plenty of times in my life where unemployment was the only thing I could rely on, and each time our claims got stopped for a month on some technicality, I thought of all the other folks who were going through the same thing, but with no Plan B.

As of next week, for better or worse, it’s over. Because our Governor decided that the best way to get people back to working with the public was by banning all vaccine requirements in government buildings. Like, say, schools. And *then* ending unemployment early. Because, you know, our teachers are so important that they should unnecessarily risk their lives for $30k a year.

I can only imagine the public school teachers here, and many other workers, will be retiring en masse.

The cruelty is the point.

Now We Can Teleport

A few years ago, I got into a conversation with my boss about teleportation. We were imagining what the world would be like if people could suddenly teleport, a la Star Trek.

He started imagining all sorts of utopian benefits, but as usual, I had a different take. He didn’t strike me as the type of man who’d ever been really poor, can’t-get-your-bad-teeth-pulled poor, and that never leaves you. It makes you cynical. New techology? As always, my first thought was, how would this be used to screw the poor?

Continuing on our thought experiment, I imagined that even if teleportation existed, it would be very expensive. Therefore, wealthy people could afford daily or even hourly access to it, while regular folks couldn’t. Perhaps normal travel would even get more expensive for regular folks, as teleportation bit into economies of scale for air and train travel.

So, I envisioned a world where the wealthy, no longer tied to jobs in big cities, would all move to the places with the most natural beauty. Places that used to be beautiful, but remote — and therefore affordable — would become expensive. By contrast, The Poors would be the only ones tied to physical jobs where you had to live nearby. Cities would be for the poor and mountain towns near Yellowstone would be for the rich.

Weirdly, this is exactly what has happened with Covid times. We don’t teleport our bodies to places where our minds need to be, but rather the reverse. And I see this trend continuing, at least for the upper echelons of society. Now that we’ve given the wealthy something special they couldn’t have before — year-round skiing and walks on the beach — they’re not likely to give it back. The rich aren’t into takesee-backsees. They only want more, ever more, not less.

For those poor schlubs who find themselves contained to the physical world of physical employment, I don’t know what the future holds. However, instinct says it’s grim. We have no reliable nationalized proof of vaccine. If you could just have scanners for your phones at store entrances, workers would be protected. Instead, we have the reverse. Governors (like mine) passing laws to outlaw vaccine requirements. The Death Cult continues.

As the saying goes, It’s not enough that you succeed; others must fail. Schadenfreude has now reached its apotheosis and become enshrined into public policy. It’s not enough that people are kicked off unemployment early and forced to work shit jobs; they must also be terrified. Nobody who has to work with the public gets to have any sort of choice about whether they remain safe from a deadly illness. And nobody who is immune-compromised gets to have any sort of choices at all.

By contrast, I bet places like Catalina Island and Fisher Island and other wealthy gated communities will institute their own laws, enforced not by police (the rich don’t care about police) but by the threat of expulsion from the in-group (the rich care very much about the in-group). Everyone in certain communities will need incontrovertible proof of vaccination. Thus the rich will attempt to create a new kind of gated community; inside the gate, life can continue as it did before, based on an enforced social contract that leaves infection rates vanishingly low. Inside the gate, it’s safe.

It’s not enough that I be safe; you must be unsafe.

Outside the gate, the propaganda virus is allowed to spread. “Vaccine passports mean I’m not free,” etc. etc. This causes the virus-virus to spread. The bottom 90% live in a world with endemic Covid, where daily life is just riskier than before, where at any moment you can get sick with a virus that can kill you — or worse, cripple you for life. Meanwhile, the rich jet from safe haven to safe haven, protected, above the rest of us.

The only real hope normal folks have in this dynamic is that vaccines end up being effective enough that one’s own individual choices can keep one safe, or safe enough. Because right now, the powers that be have made it clear that they’ll sabotage any group efforts to keep us safe and protected. Because group solidarity leads inexorably to more group solidarity! If we privilege the group to keep folks from dying of Covid, next thing you know, you’ll see people striking for better working conditions! So best to nip all sense of communality in the bud.

Best to put forth the lie of individual freedom as we brazenly and wantonly murder an entire set of individuals with neglect. Best that any problems that require communal responses just…remain problems. Whatever could we do? Change? Don’t be ridiculous.

Of course, everything about this is merely a dry run for the communal response needed to address climate change. Or rather, a dry run for trying to kill the communal response that’s needed, because it would mess up the stock portfolios that makes Catalina Island and Fisher Island possible.

With climate change, the calculus will be the same. The wealthy will seek out those little geographical pockets that are less affected. The Pacific Northwest, which will slowly turn into a mediterranean climate. Buffalo, NY, which will still have plentiful fresh water. Second homes in Canada will be the newest status symbol.

Or, if natural disasters get to be too intense to avoid, then the wealthy lifestyle will become nomadic — California in the winter, Canada in the summer. The rich will live everywhere, while only the poor will be tied to one location, and forced to endure annual catastrophes: tornadoes in OK, floods in FL, hurricanes in LA, wildfires in OR….

Escaping the seasonal catastrophes, the wealthy will turn into migrants. Not migrant workers, but migrant un-workers, migrant resort-goers, migrant parasites. Leeches-to-go. To get to their seasonally, intermittently-safe resting places, they’ll contribute to the problem — with low-mileage Winnebagos and high-carbon jets. Escaping the problem they themselves created, they’ll contribute even more to the problem in the meantime. Calls for reduction of carbon footprints will fall on deaf planes.

And the rest of us? Poverty will mean staying in one place, having a fixed address, and being forced to endure.

Idaho: Welcome to the New Klux Klan

Today on the steps of the Capitol in Boise, there was a small Black Lives Matter rally to mark the one-year anniversary of Breonna Taylor’s murder.

In the park across the street, there was a group of white people dressed in full military garb, carrying confederate flags and huge guns, blasting racist music with the N-word.

In disagreements between the BLM folks and the confederate flag folks, the police appeared to be taking the side of the confederacy.

I’m tired of Idaho.

When I moved here 6 years ago, I thought I’d found my place. Affordable, good weather, four seasons. Sure there was a gun-nut contingent. Sure there were crazy militia people holed up near the border to Canada. And the locals certainly seemed extremely….homogenous. I’m white, and I still felt completely overwhelmed with the sheer whiteness of it all.

But, there were good things. There were liberals here in my area. We had a proud history of welcoming refugees from all over the world. There was a nice amount of Basque history. I thought this place was All Right.

Then Covid came, and shot it all to hell.

For the past year, I’ve watched this state turn into a cesspool of ignorance, arrogance, and straight-up eugenics. Do you know what it feels like to be severely disabled, severely at-risk, and watch your Governor reopen before we should? Refuse to declare a mask mandate? What it’s like to see angry right-wing protesters scare an elected official for daring to consider more stringent public health measures?

What about going to the doctor, only to find the staff there aren’t wearing masks? What about having to call multiple doctors’ offices just to find one who actually complies with health guidelines?

What about seeing a vocal pro-mask business get vandalized and robbed? The Capitol attacked, and no one seems to be punished for it? Legislators pushing conspiracy theories?

Seeing vaccine priority lists that completely fail to prioritize any disabled people, no matter how dire their circumstances?

I just…I can’t! Anymore! I can’t.

I suppose I could have been in any number of states that ended up being run by lunatics. Is it fair to blame this one state? Will it be better somewhere else? But then again, if you’ve been extremely vulnerable, and spent a year having your state government make it ABUNDANTLY CLEAR they don’t care whether you live or die…it’s hard to just be like, “That’s ok, I forgive you for that Great Unpleasantness.”

I know a lot of people are moving to Idaho right now. I don’t get why. “We want to move someplace with a faction of right-wing people who are training to be terrorists?” “We want a governor whose death rate from Covid is twice that of his neighboring states?” I just don’t understand.

I think…I think it’s time to leave this place.

Our Children’s True Education

Everyone is talking about how kids are now behind in their education. But compared to today’s adults, in many ways they are ahead.

Here are the lessons they’ve learned thoroughly, that will seed their decisions for the rest of their lives, and possibly help them save humanity’s future:

1. If we want to conquer big problems in the world, we’re going to have to work together

2. Listen to science, or a lot of people will suffer and die

3. Pandemics spread if even a minority of people lack adequate healthcare

4. Pandemics spread if even a minority of people lack adequate housing

5. In short, building up wealth while ignoring the poor is woefully short-sighted — like building your mansion on top of a toxic waste dump

6. If even one country is run by a maniac, it can threaten the entire world*

7. In short, today’s youth have learned in their material lives what most previous generations only learned as vague spiritual niceties:

  • No One Will Be Free Until All of Us Are Free
  • No One Will Be Safe Until All of Us Are Safe
  • No One Will Be Healthy Until All of Us Are Healthy

I think instead of worrying about what the kids have lost, we should ask what we adults should incorporate from the foundational lessons our children are learning.

After all, it’s kind of unfair to ask our kids to save the world, when maybe we could learn these lessons, too.

Theoretically, we’re smarter and more mature than children.

*Right now, one rogue nation can cause unchecked viral spread and subsequent resistant mutations. In the future, the threat might be C02 emissions, nuclear fallout, cyber-terrorism, or some as-yet-unknown threat. The point is that it’s asymmetrical — you can’t just ignore a Trump or Bolsonaro and expect to be ok in your own distant country. Not anymore.

Dark Futures

Just read this article on long-term Covid effects. There are plenty of other similar articles.

I think when it all shakes out, we’ll realize that not only is Covid not “just the flu,” but its impact on society is more like polio. Kills some, disables many. I wish the disability aspect of it were publicized more, I think it would help encourage the more reckless to mask up. (I also wish they’d talk more about how it may cause infertility and painful testicular swelling in men. A lot of young guys feel invincible but if you say “this will mess up your ability to get laid” they might actually listen.)

We’re going to be left with hundreds of thousands of disabled people due to this disease, and I’m not sure the world is going to be up for this challenge. In particular I worry about the lung damage. There are lots of illnesses and problems that you can ignore for part of your day. Breathing though…when you can’t breathe, that’s all you can think about.

The science fiction / dystopian part of my brain says that there will be a massive criminal enterprise where, due to the ravages of Covid, gangs of marauders will kidnap people and harvest their lungs and other organs for wealthy post-Covid sufferers. Or the Uighurs stuck in China’s concentration camps will become the new “lung donors.”




Having severe OCD during a plague is a little hard.

On the other hand, it’s giving me great insight into why OCD has stayed in the gene pool.

I have to admit that, before the plague, I was a little confused about that last point. Up to now, I was always like, “Why, God? What possible good does it serve for me to be like this?!?”

But now I see that being hyper-hyper-vigilant about contamination can really serve folks well during disease outbreaks. And most of human history has been “during disease outbreaks.”

Note that “serve folks well” = “keeping people from death.” It does not mean “make people happy.” Nope. Uh-uh. Hypervigilance is not the key to emotional success. But (I guess?) you live another day, and in that future day…you can go to therapy.

Weird Nostalgia

I’m cleaning out all the irritating little receipts from my wallet today, and it’s weird what’s making me nostalgic.

“Two steak tacos” says one receipt. Now, part of the nostalgia is because the receipt is from TacoDeli, a place that is ½ restaurant and ½ religion for me. But the real pang was just…oh look. A restaurant. Remember when I could go to restaurants?

I continue on through each crumpled piece of paper: unremarkable chains like Costa Vida, special occasion dinners at Lucky Fins, overpriced hippie shit at Wild Root. Each one is a marker of a thing I was able to do. I was disabled then too, but even so I could occasionally go out. My life was so limited even before. But at least my fears were only about me. “If I walk downtown, will I have such a bad energy crash I won’t be able to make it back? If I commit to a dinner, will I have to cancel?” Now I’m afraid of everything.

You would think that well, at least this time I have company. Before, I was sick and nobody cared. Now everybody’s sick and everybody cares — except the people who have the power to do something about it.

Is it better? No, not really, it is not better.

The last few days I’ve been totally freaking out. We had a flood in our kitchen that overflowed into the living room. Normally this would be really irritating and inconvenient. But now? It’s a choice between keeping the wet carpet, that might develop mold and mildew and make me sick — or having maintenance in to fix it, and risking catching Covid-19. So a bad night with a little bad luck becomes a crisis.

Last week Wil’s car died. He had to have AAA come to the garage to jump it. We aired out the garage, but I still didn’t go down there for days. Too afraid.

Today we were in the garage with the door open. I heard a neighbor talking outside nearby. How far is she? I wondered. I can’t see her. Is she 10 feet? 20 feet? Is she upwind? Is she wearing a mask? 

I just panicked and left.

My husband doesn’t understand. Rationally, he said, we’re safe. But then he panics in other ways, that seem irrational to me.

I just want to deal with the stresses of me being disabled and my spouse being unemployed without also knowing that at least 5% of Boise is actively infected with a deadly virus, right now. I feel like disability and job-searching are enough, thanks, but hey maybe that’s just me.

Back when we had it under control in Idaho, I could almost handle it. But now that the plan seems to be, “Let them all die and let God sort it out,” I just can’t. There is no plan. There is no strategy. Insane protesters show up without masks at health board meetings. We’re just supposed to let the state burn.

I don’t think people know what it’s like to get sick from something, and just never get better. You don’t die all at once, but a little at a time, over years. There’s the year I realized I was never going to be well enough to have children. There’s the year I had to give up my music career. There’s the year I have to give up being able to function consistently enough to hold any job. And so many other daily disappointments and heartbreaks, until you think you just can’t bear it anymore.

People don’t understand that death isn’t what they need to be afraid of. Sure, the death rate is low. But it’s causing strokes, lung fibrosis, kidney failure, and so much more.

The young just don’t get it. So they’re cavalier.

I was cavalier once, too.

Not anymore.

Summer of 2020: The Pot Boils Over

Here, now, in the middle of a sunny summer and heading into fall, is where the darkest days and the truth will out.

I know I’ve said this before, and I know it is hard to grasp, but Trump et. al. are not simply slow, venal, corrupt and incompetent. They are actively trying to kill us. 

“Why would Trump hold a mask-free rally in a state where there’s a rise in cases?”

→ He’s actively trying to kill us

“Why wouldn’t Trump use the Defense Production Act to increase mask manufacture? Why would he use it to force high-density meatpacking plants to stay open?”

→ He’s actively trying to kill us

“What’s with Trump hating masks?”

→ He’s actively trying to kill us

“Why is Trump pressuring the CDC to change its school reopening guidelines?”

→ He’s actively trying to kill us


The folks asking those questions are on the right track — his actions do indeed make No Sense — unless — work with me here — he’s actively trying to kill us.

~ Here beginneth the Question-and-Answer Portion of this essay, posted in red and green, like Atreyu and Bastian in The Never-Ending Story.

Because if any year feels Never-Ending, it’s fucking 2020 ~

Q: But Sofia, we know he’s bad, but he’s not like, bad-bad, right?

A: As has been thoroughly documented elsewhere, he’s a pedophile rapist who hangs out with international mafiosi. He’s bad-bad.

Q: Ok, but even if he’s a bad guy, even “bad” guys don’t just kill people for the heck of it.

A: Hitler did. Stalin did. Lots of other bad guys did. He has the same personality type.* 

Q: Oh, but I don’t believe he’s as bad as Hitler!** Sure, over 130,000 Americans have died so far, but he did it…by…accident?

He didn’t mean to. He’s just inexperienced.

I bet he’ll stop accidentally killing people sometime soon?

A: Look. I’m sorry. I feel for you. It’s hard when your entire innocent worldview comes crashing around down your ears. It’s hard recognizing that there are super evil people in the world, and it’s harder when you realize you are potential collateral damage to their dreams of empire. Ok. 

I will humor your reasoning. He’s not as bad as Hitler, he’s a better person than Hitler, he would only murder people by neglect if he had a very good reason. 

Ok. So here’s your reason: 

Trump is the Chaos Bringer. His method of getting out of trouble is to insert so much chaos into situations that only he, a man whose elemental self is pure chaotic evil, will be able to navigate the chaos and win. 

Trump’s poll numbers are plummeting. The American people despise him. If we get COVID under control by November, that means a lot of people who hate Trump will safely leave their houses, go to the polls, and vote him out of office. Sure Putin can attack our voting machines, but his methods are not foolproof. Otherwise, why did the Dem’s take the house in 2018?

Putin may be able to hack a close election but not a landslide.

So: how to attack the election?

Letting the virus run amok is the attack on the election.

Because what happens if the virus runs amok? Polling places are shut down. High-risk folks — including many Democrats — stay home. Voting by mail gets denied in Republican strongholds. Mail-in ballots are “lost.”

The whole. Voting. System. Breaks. Down. 

Donald Trump wins again. 

And if a few hundred thousand Americans have to die to get him there, well, that’s just a happy accident as far as he is concerned. 

You know how folks have been protesting in the streets against state-sponsored murder?

We need to do more of it.

I can’t do anything as I’m too disabled. I can only write these essays where I scream into the void.

But you can do something. You can leave your home. You can wear a mask. You can protest. You can demand better action.


The election depends on you. 


* The psych term for it is “malignant narcisissm.”

**According to his first wife Ivanka, he kept a copy of Hitler’s speeches by his bedside. This, from a guy who struggles to read, so it must have been very important to him. But sure, ok. He’s totally not into Hitler.

Using Stacked Probabilities to Keep Us Safe

Well, we’re in the thick of it now. America has neither returned to normal, nor have we remained in a safe lockdown. Rather, we’re now in this liminal space, filled with cheerleading denial about how we’re “reopening!” and “the economy is coming back!” Meanwhile, in truth, nobody knows what the heck is going on.

However, there is a functional middle ground between complete lockdown and what we have now, which is a devil-may-care complacency about the deaths of 1,000 people a day.

The functional middle ground lays in stacking enough safe behaviors together that the actual risk actually ends up being near zero, and we can get back to normal activities, with precautions in place.

Let’s use sexual behavior in HIV/AIDS prevention as an example:

OPTION #1: ZERO RISK: Abstinence

OPTION #2: LOWER RISK: condoms OR monogamy OR getting HIV status tests

OPTION #3: LOWEST RISK: testing AND condoms AND monogamy

Why is Option #3 better than Option #2? After all, if both partners test negative, you don’t need the other two interventions…right?

It all comes down to probability. Nothing besides abstinence is zero risk. Tests can come back with a false negative. Condoms can break. Partners can cheat.

But if you stack all three risk-reducing behaviors together, your chances of contracting HIV plummet to almost (but not quite) zero. And since life is inherently dangerous, and living without sex forver is unacceptable for most of the population, almost zero is good enough.

Now, I’m going to take a short detour into math to show what almost zero looks like.

Let’s say you flip a coin. What are the chances it turns out heads? 1 in 2, or .50.

Let’s say you throw a die. What are the chances you roll a 6? 1 in 6, or ~.17.

Now draw a card. What are the chances you pick the Ace of Hearts? 1 in 52, or .019.

If your life depended on one of these games of chance, you’d probably sit the game out. One in 52 is improbable, but it’s still highly possible.

But let’s say your life depends on just making sure you don’t get all three simultaneously? That is to say, you’ll be fine unless you get heads AND you roll a 6 AND you pick the Ace of Hearts?

Chance of getting heads:


Chance of getting heads AND rolling a 6:

.50 * .17 = .0085

Chance of getting heads AND rolling a 6 AND picking the Ace of Hearts?:

.50 * .17 * .019 = .0001615

In other words, if you combine the somewhat-low risks of each option, the final risk ends up being .0001616, or roughly one in 6,000.

To put that in perspective, the death rate in 2013 for car crashes was about 1 in 10,000. And we all still decide to get in cars. We’ve decided that the benefits of driving are worth the 1 in 10,000 risk. Not only that, there are risks of not driving, such as being unable to get to jobs, food, healthcare — and they also mean that the benefits are worth more than the risks.

At a certain point, every choice has some risk, so as long as you keep the downside to a manageable number, it’s acceptable.

So let’s look at Covid-19. Right now, we have no silver bullets. We don’t have any drugs like the HIV drug Truvada, which reduces viral load and makes it very hard to pass on the illness. And we don’t even have an effective, available, affordable barrier to contagion that’s as effective as a condom. PPE is in short supply, and even hospital workers who wear it regularly are getting sick.

But what we do have is stacked probabilities. Now, since we don’t have the data yet, I’ll be using “X” and “Y”, but I hope you’ll still be able to see how this works. Remember, the more 0’s after the decimal point, the safer you’ll be:

Chance of contracting Covid in normal interactions: .0X

Chance of contracting Covid when everyone is wearing a mask: .0Y

Chance of contracting Covid when everyone stays 6 feet apart: .0Z

Chance of contracting Covid when avoiding indoor air (outdoors only): .0A


And now let’s look at schools:

Here are some lower-risk changes we can use simultaneously to multiply safety:

  • Fewer kids in classrooms
  • Better ventilation. During temperate weather, keep all windows open, use box fans to circulate air at all times.
  • Better air filtration. Some high-end filters can filter out viruses. It is 100%? No, but one would imagine it’s going to help.
  • Testing as much as possible. If we can test kids / staff on Friday night, we can get results for PCR testing by Monday morning. Even weekly testing would GREATLY reduce risk and spread, so long as it was universal and accurate.
  • Grouping kids into cohorts to keep spread to a smaller potential group.
  • Strategizing about which things really NEED in-person class time. Maybe a teacher can make a video for easy things, and have in-person class for harder things.
  • Allowing kids to learn some subjects remotely, depending on ability. Regular testing to see if they’re keeping up.

I hope we can come up with creative, healthy ways to get schools up and running again. The thing is, all of the best ideas are going to take money. If we teach half the students, we need twice the teachers. If every student is remote half the time, we need money for equipment. If school schedules are constantly changing, then parents can’t work, and they need money to live.

So, we as a community need to push for some of those federal emergency billions to go to the real crisis — education.

Idaho: May 7, 2020

Today I left the apartment for the first time in 2 months. The reason: to go get a very important blood draw.

I agonized about whether the benefit of this test was worth it for weeks. But last week, the number of new diagnosed Covid cases fell to about 1/10th of what it had been in the beginning of April. Meanwhile, our lockdown was about to expire. So I figured that around now would be possibly the most optimal time for the next few months to Not get infected.

Planning my blood draw was like a scene from The Martian. First I tried in vain to find a home health aide or mobile blood draw that would do it. Covid appears to spread mostly in indoor spaces, so if somebody could come here and stand outside, that would be safer. No dice. So then I did it like this:

  • Found local clinic with the least traffice
  • First patient of the day
  • Wore my Cambridge Mask I’d originally bought for the wildfires
  • Wore Wil’s swim goggles and protective glasses over them
  • Put a button-down shirt and a skirt over my clothes, then shucked them off after my blood draw
  • Took a shower as soon as I got home

I was in and out in under 5 minutes, praise be to God.

It’s a very strange thing to go outside when you haven’t been able to. As someone dealing with multiple health problems, it’s certainly an experience I’ve had before, but of course, never like this.

As we drove through Boise, I saw the following:

  • Construction workers downtown, working on a hospital building, standing close together, with no masks on
  • Other construction workers, outside with no masks, talking closely x 2
  • People walking without masks
  • People jogging without masks
  • People biking with masks

The only place I saw masks were at the doctor’s office. I saw ZERO people wearing masks otherwise.

Idaho is stuck in its “Freedom” kick, and I guess nobody is going to legislate wearing masks. If that’s how it’s going to be for the foreseeable future, then I want to get the heck out of any place w/ population density. Which means not living downtown anymore, and maybe even not living in any apartment complex. I can’t deal with this much stupid.