bookmark_borderPost-418: Hiroshima Day

Back in the early days here, I mentioned “Hiroshima Day,” August 6, when the first atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima.

I visited both Hiroshima and Nagasaki in March 2015. Living in Korea at the time, I was in the process of transferring visas, which at the time meant one needed to physically leave Korea to get a fresh 90-day visa, which as far as I know can be done by all the rich-country passport holders, certainly the US, Canada, EU, and Australia. So anytime a visa status would change people would have to leave. Realizing I had one coming up, I planned a two-week trip to Japan to take full advantage of it.

Hiroshima has a large park near the atomic blast site which they call the Hiroshima Peace Park. Nagasaki has something similar but smaller.

I wasn’t thinking about it at the time but I was there in the seventieth anniversary year (1945–>2015). Now the eightieth anniversary year is in sight (2025). What is the legacy of the atomic bombings now?

For one thing, there is a direct line between the bomb’s explosion and the geopolitical picture of today’s East Asia. The Emperor of Japan announced by radio (at noon Tokyo time, August 15, 1945) the surrender and the immediate release of most of the overseas territories Japan had acquired over the past fifty years, including the long-held possession of the island of Taiwan, all the possessions on the mainland of China, the entirety of the Korean peninsula whose fate was to be cast to an open geopolitical open sea, and many of the islands of the Pacific transferred to US administration as spoils of war, and of course the evacuation of all conquests since the expansion of the was in December 1941.

The entire justification for the atomic bombings, and to a lesser extent to the policy of firebombing cities in Germany, German-aligned Europe, and Japan proper, was to induce a non-negotiated peace, full surrender and full-occupation, a radical aim in any war. The Hiroshima atomic bombing’s defenders say it was necessary to ensure a swift and full surrender, allowing for a total occupation and reestablishment of Japan on neutralist and US-friendly terms, to be a weak power in military terms and a jumping-off point for US power in the West Pacific.

In retrospect, the way 1945 geopolitically played out was a net negative. Too much changed, too wildly, too fast, in directions too unpredictable. Several of these problems with us trace indirectly to the atomic bombing and the policy of full-occupation, immediate dispossession of all Japan’s territories, and a rapid carve-up of all its overseas holdings. Those arguing for giving some of these places something like protectorate status for a period were shouted down in the excitement of the time.

As I think over the vast sweep of US foreign policy in East Asia, Southeast Asia, and the West Pacific since the 1940s, this full-occupation-and-puppetization-of-Japan decision was the bedrock on which everything since rests, and the atomic-bombing was simply the application of the full-occupation policy. I don’t know how it could have gone better.

A lot of memorials of Hiroshima are pacifist in nature, of course, with the message being that violence is bad, bombing of civilians is very bad, and atomic bombing is very very bad. But dropping a bomb under orders is just an act, one of millions, billions, trillions of acts, in war. Less often have I seen any critique of the policy behind the act. Not the decision to drop the bomb or not, but the decision for full-occupation that made the atomic bombing a logical tactic.

In the mid- and late-2010s I started to drift into the “policy” world in graduate school and then at a job and in general in “policy adjacent” circles. Earlier I had been an interested observer but in getting close to the action you realize what an enormous establishment the “security state” is, but how largely incurious the whole of it is. For twenty years there were hardly any voices against leaving Afghanistan, one of the least important places in the world for US interests and a well-known graveyard of empires. A lot of these ossified attitudes in Washington foreign-policy circles are simply coasting on a path-dependency and inertia that dates to 1945.

bookmark_borderPost-417: Metro Masking Misgivings (and a small sociological treatise of the Flu-Virus Mask phenomenon)

I’ve lately been riding the Washington Metro (the much resented, decidedly second-rate, but often adequate, rail transportation system) most days of the week at least once, sometimes twice.

It’s not as bad as it was a few years ago. Many of the old problems are still there and the system remains something of a disappointment, and at times an embarrassment. Certainly it is those things to those who have seen what other countries/places have done. I feel confident I’ve written on this topic before on these pages.

What I want to record here is on masks in the Metro, something unheard of before March/April 2020. I mean to try to coherently record some sociological observations here, so we’ll see if I can stay disciplined and do so.

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First I should state my position clearly.

The “Covid Mask“:

  • A dehumanizing symbol of submission…
  • A psychological (re-)enforcer of destructive Flu Panic and vector of the Panic Pandemic…
  • A sign and symbol of social dis-cohesion, of atomization…
  • Even a form of moral cowardice, absolutely not the stuff of which greatness is made…
  • A magic amulet-like item useful for social signaling and little else (studies show no evidence of any benefit; blocking normal access to oxygen, though, does happen)…

In case any of that was too ambiguous, count me as against masks.

I was against them from, approximately, the start.

But as I write these words (this post was written/revised between July 20-22, 2021), the nightmare of living in dystopian Covid Mask World feels nearly entirely gone, in even the most pro-mask parts of the USA. I see almost no one in masks in public places outdoors anymore.

When one does see a masked visage on the street, it most often seems to be an East Asian. Not exclusively, but on a per capita basis they’re way out in front. And they look highly isolated now, just as they did before the Panic really got into gear.

There was a kind of unstated consensus that the wearing of surgical masks for some general fear of flu or cold viruses in public was a sign of some kind of social pathology. This quickly disappeared, but seems to have somewhat recovered. I was in Japan for a time in 2015 and saw a few of the masked-in-public people. There might be one on a full subway car, or one or two visible as you look over a very busy street from above. It was not a general practice. And in my time there I got the feeling that those Japanese who worse surgical masks outside were: (1) usually women, (2) in many cases clearly trying to conceal themselves from others, to hide, to be anonymous—for the high-riding mask was usually paired with a low-riding cap.

Masks in the big blue urban centers in the USA are even largely gone even from indoor places, but still far above the former rate of ~0.00%.

The tide turned somewhere back there in April/May and the entire Flu Panic regime was rapidly rolled back.

I’m trying to think, but I don’t think any stores even maintain an illusion of a mask rule anymore. The last of the major disruptions in for-profit businesses were gone by May/June, with a few stragglers reentering the world in early July. A few McDonalds still don’t allow dine-in as of early July, one tangible example of lingering disruptions, but a big one I pass regularly that clung bitterly to the shutdown model finally reopened June 13; but rival Burger King had been basically fully open for dine-in since at least June 2020.

Businesses serving paying customers, those who have multiple options for rivals, exist under market pressures and must cater to customers. Non-business monopolies do not need to do any such thing. Non-market monopolies can impose whatever rules or ways of doing things, be they ridiculous or humiliating or capriciously arbitrary or even malicious, that they want. (Cf. any Department of Motor Vehicles).

The only places I think you still see these mask rules are in such monopolies. That generally includes anything to do with governments. The Metro is a monopoly player and is quasi-government run.

This whole thing–the social phenomenon of the Flu Virus Panic–is, of course, big, a big deal to our culture and politics, some say the biggest such thing since 1945. Simple narratives are crammed through the avenues of opinion-shaping one one side or other, but the whole thing is highly complex. They’ll be studying this thing for years across lots of disciplines, how it happened and how it got such staying power.

I underpredicted the strength, and staying power, of this thing in spring 2020. I overpredicted its staying power a year later in early 2021. I don’t want to believe the Flu Panic people who demand crude, no-exit-strategy sledgehammer options will be back on top, when flu season comes again in a few months. I see worrying signs that they will be back, but maybe not.

In any case, I’ve been interested in signposts for this, basically from the start, and that is where the Washington Metro comes in.

There is a posted rule in Metro (“federal law requires you to wear a mask while in theā€¦”). And signs of the old Flu Panic regime still linger in the system. But lots of people are now ignoring the mask rule on the trains and stations with impunity.

My observation, from a large sample of observations by now, suggests that if you enter the Metro system, wherein it is still nominally mandatory to obediently don the “Covid Mask,” you will see something like the following mask rates at any given time:

  • 10% to 30%: No mask at all. In some of these cases, the person probably does not have one on him/her; in others, the person is still “carrying” but did not want to wear it and did not take it out;
  • 10% to 30%: Have a mask but it’s just for show. A mask is visibly attached to the person in some way, hanging somewhere on or near their face, but NOT actively worn at any given moment;
  • 40% to 80%: Loyally wearing a mask. The ruler followers.

A common type of non-masker is a relatively young, professionally dressed male. That type of passenger is much more likely to be conspicuously non-masked in Category 1 than tourists (to the extent there are many of them). All else equal, males are more likely than females to be free of a mask. All else equal, Blacks are more likely to be without a mask than Whites. Come to think of it, this latter one I suspect may shield the non-masked whole from any attempt at crackdown (the concept “disparate impact” comes back to bite…?)

There is flexibility between these categories, which is where one particular interesting sociological observation comes in.

I notice that tipping-points occur locally with masks on the Metro, via the “demonstration effect,” and can tip the ratio at any given moment.

An illustrative example:

Seven passengers are in one end of a train-car within peripheral vision of each other, aware of each other. Two of the seven have no masks. Five have masks. The two with masks show no sign of being ashamed of not wearing masks and content about it, breathing free. Of the five masked people, some don’t want to wear the masks but feel they have to, or are frightened to break a rule, or think another person might yell at them, some set of fears. Observing the non-masked passengers are not being attacked, insulted, accosted, or arrested, soon one or two or three of the five originally masked passengers either take off their masks or transition to the “Mask just for show” category. The ratio of 5:2 Mask:NoMask soon flips to 2:5 Mask:NoMask. Then a few more people board the train-car, all loyally masked, and one or all of the “defectors” tip back into the Masked camp, perhaps afraid of being yelled at by a Volunteer Mask Enforcer, calculating that their chances of unwanted problems have just done up and it’s not worth it; they slink back into East Berlin, leaving their heartier fellows who breached the Wall to their own devices.

Decisions are socially influenced. Everyone knows it but sometimes we get these beautiful little natural experiments to show it and see it.

Metro which nominally mandates masks but never enforces the mandate, and by now the wider-social pressures are much relaxed and few wear them outside anymore, and in the right conditions the number of mask-wearers can plunge, even under a system of stated penalties for failure to comply.

We are seeing here a modified free market at work, one which could have kicked in from the start, if they’d dlet people making their own decisions and adapt, which eventually they did (had to do) anyway. A very large part of this whole debacle and International Flu Panic Response Quagmire an endless social and economic damage could have been averted.

I have seen no real effort in the DC Metro system to enforce masks at all, in June/July 2021. I myself have foregone some potential rides in the second-rate world of the DC-area subway, in the recent past, because I didn’t have a mask with me and felt annoyed or morally offended by the practice. I realize now that this one-man boycott was not necessary, for I have seen not a word spoken to any of the rule-breakers, and after I realized this I, too, have decide to stop wearing masks in the Metro system.

It’s not like Korea. A 1990s-era guidebook I once read described South Korea as “a democracy with authoritarian overtones.” In Seoul, teams of police (?) strut through train cars inspecting passengers confronting people who fail to wear their masks to some perfect standard, demanding these people adjust their masks. Basically that’s the kind of scene you’d get in an dystopian nightmare-world. And a lot of good it did: Their major social and economic disruptions continue without a clear exit-strategy, and no political courage to simply reject the Panic and apologize for the whole thing. They are totally quagmired in the system they created.

Lately I’ve heard Singapore has taken steps to reject the Panic model and treat “Covid” as any other flu, dismantle the entire Anti-Covid dystopia-lite apparatus.

Top-down edicts work better in Singapore, of course, than a place like Washington DC or any other of the USA’s “big blue cities.” It may be one reason why there is no enforcement of the ostensible mask mandate in the Metro is that they think they simply can’t do it. And this means the entire thing is something of a giant with feet of clay, and people’s individual decisions drive the whole thing more than government edicts.

These personal choices exist over a baseline in which the stale leftovers of the Flu Panic regime’s marketing campaign are still visible, like “Workers of the World, Unite!” signs in shop windows you pass as you creep up to the Wall to observe those who have breached it and are on the other side.

A picture I took a few days ago, a pretty good example of the kind of marketing campaign I mean:

(“Wear a mask and get your life back.” Orwellian?)

The forces of the Panic itself linger, but it was clear they were essentially out of power even in the USA’s “Big Blue” areas. The old slogans look weak now.

Here is another, taken on the same day:

(“Practice Social Distancing.”)

The most ridiculous-seeming of all were the leftover posters warning passersby at the MLB stadium that “Covid-19 is a VERY DANGEROUS disease!” etc., as dozens of maskless people walk almost every minute, at close quarters to each other, for hours. (The Washington Nationals organization lifted its attendance-limit on June 9, and signaled it would be doing so weeks earlier.)

All this makes me wonder where things stand. In 2020 we saw the rise of a hardcore and ultra-committed Flu Panic coalition. You still hear from them but their influence, their hold on power which was once so impressive/terrifying, is shown now to be now pretty weak, even in monopoly-controlled spots that still cling to the old slogans, such as the Washington DC Metro system. Are they waiting for the next flu season to strike back in force?

There are signs that some in the old coalition want it to be over. As for Metro, they are running commercials on TV boasting about how they are doing super-special cleaning measures, i.e., public-health theater.

But those sticking to the Flu Panic coalition are still too numerous, agitated, and influential to just roll it all back by a one-time decree (hence the Flu Virus Panic “Quagmire”). This is all the more so when flu season comes again. Even now, a lot the news-commentary squawkers are spending much time on flu, even in mid-summer when there is seldom much flu at all in the climates typical of the USA.

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Some may not remember that masks were not particularly a feature of the early stages of the Panic Pandemic in the West, but only gradually rolled in. The mask mandates were surprisingly late on the Panic’s timeline.

I think masks survived specifically because they were such a clear way to overtly signal obedience to the Virus Consensus (which was, roughly: “Panic now, ask questions later or never; dissent is unpatriotic; and to hell with the consequences of the lockdowns”).

The phenomenon I’ve observed on Metro, of some people consciously choosing to ignore the rule and of social tipping-points being observable within the dynamic environment of a train-car, I think fits with that.

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bookmark_borderPost-410: Baseball game

I was again at an MLB baseball game yesterday, June 16.

The Washington Nationals defeated the Pittsburgh Pirates, at Washington. Neither team looked very good and but for a two-run home-run, the game was a toss-up.

They announced attendance as 16,800. Of 42,000 seats, giving a total ticket-sale figure of 40%. This in addition to what must be a few thousand staff, almost all of whom looked bored almost all the time (which I find an awkward part of the experience whenever I have been at baseball games here).

Thoughts follow on observations and some memories, the usual things I tend to drift into writing on these pages.

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Bikeshare to stadium

I went to the game with my dad, who invited me. He has a friend who sells him tickets at discounted rates. He has been a baseball since youth, though seemed much more of a fan in the 2010s than I remember him being in the 1990s.

I persuaded my dad to go to the stadium by bikeshare after parking in North Arlington. In all there were four legs round-trip, and he did three by e-bike (free because I have so many credits) and I did them all by regular bike as usual (free always for members).

From looking at the stations around the stadium, I estimate something at least 150 people attended the game by this method, with probably an equal numbers using private (non-bikeshare) bikes. Armed guards watch over these private bikes during the game in a little cove on the east side of the stadium, which they call a “bike valet.” If my estimate is right, around 300 people of 16,800 attendees went by bike, 1.8%. Since many attendees were children, or elderly, or obese or otherwise disabled, this must mean up to 3% of able-bodied attended by bike.

One effect of the Virus Panic disruptions is the end of the bikeshare system’s “bike corrals,” four stations downtown manned in the mornings by small teams who would keep docks open, in other words, guaranteed parking. I used these. They did not return at all in 2020 and don’t look likely to return in 2021, though maybe by fall they might.

I think the bikeshare system also used to run these “corrals” at certain other places during major events, but I haven’t seen any in a few years. One was during baseball games. A small team would keep docks open — as the station got full, remove some bikes and keep them in a pile, allowing new arrivals to cruise in and park. This was a great system, but is now gone. We got there very early — 3pm — and the main station across from the main entrance was full by about 4:30pm, and most others in the area were also at or near full.

There are no real hills going to the stadium, which sits on the west bank of the Anacostia River not far above where it meets the Potomac, which makes bicycling there theoretically practical. In practice it’s still a little hard, which is a disincentive to people doing it. Make things like that easy or people won’t do it.

The good thing about rolling in early was walking around the empty stadium:

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Reflections on stadium-anchored “gentrification” success, mid-2000s vs. early 2020s

I must say, the baseball stadium has been a success in anchoring the major gentrification of this area, which had sunk to some pathetic depths of crime by the 1970s, fading into the 2000s, something near a half-century lost. Optimists in the mid-2000s predicted the new stadium would turn things around decisively and they were right, or at least sis definitely right if we lean on Correlation and ignore that pesky bug in the ear called Causation.

In some pictures taken from the Nationals stadium, you’ll see large, new-looking apartment buildings near it. These are new-looking because they are new.

The river sits on a site adjacent to the Anacostia River. The very name “Anacostia” conjures up some unpleasant images, even today, to many. The general area was once an anchor of Washington’s years-long claim to being Murder Capital of North America. No Washington baseball team was national champion between 1934 and 2019, but quite a few years had Washington ranked Number One for crime, or at least homicides.

I remember assuming that crime would more likely persist. I was wrong in being skeptical that the plan would work, because the stadium today is surrounded by luxury apartments.

In my partial defense, the general area is still not exactly the kind of safe a good neighborhood in pre-1960s Washington would have been, and there is a modest siege mentality, of the kind that must be felt by residents of those Brazilian luxury apartments walled off from favelas but all the same directly adjacent to them (this is much more visceral in the development in Maryland just outside DC caleld “National Harbor”).

I had some dealings in one of these new apartment buildings in 2014, when I worked for a time for a Korean Phone English company. The agent for the company ran the business out of his home, I assume, and met me in the lobby. (Was that in a legal gray area?) The building was pleasant once scanned in, inside the security zone, but still subject to the unpleasantly high-security feeling. I expect that had faded somewhat by the end of the decade as things marched on.

Of course many other areas also improved. The 2010s were the lowest-crime since the 1950s (and early 1960s). Since the annus terribilis of lockdowns, artificial major recession, riots, and major breakthrough by anti-police rhetoric, a series of reverses starting in spring 2020, crime is back up around its long-term late-1960s-to-mid-2000s running average.

Since the lockdowns began there started to emerge unmistakable signs of major social blight in parts of Washington, things that seemed a thing of the past by 2019. The abandonment of downtown with the Virus Panic led directly to the mayor deciding to cede several downtown blocks to a protestor zone. For now fifteen months the mayor has also refused to allow police to clear homeless camps in public parks, originally citing the Virus (of course!), but now just through intertial inaction, I guess. This is to the bafflement of many. The tent citynear the Watergate Hotel has dozens of tents now, and I have seen some unpleasant scenes in it. But no sign of homeless tent-cities near the stadium yesterday.

If Washington’s sudden decline persists, the anchor of the stadium are will probably not feel its effects on game- or event-days.

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The rollback of the Virus Panic

The capacity restrictions seem finally gone. I interpret this as another signal that our agenda-setters want to move on from the Virus Panic. Had they been responsible social stewards, they’d have moved to limit social/economic/psychological damage from the start, let people make their own decisions, and for God’s sake not deliberately fan Panic flames (which they did). I noticed clear signs of a sustained campaign to unravel the Panic starting in mid-May 2021. The tone shift seems to predate that. Maybe they were waiting for spring? Of course when flu season ends, flu viruses recede dramatically in our climates.

In the Washington baseball stadium case, the authorities lifted the stadium attendance capacity cap from 33% to 100% less than a week ago. For this game, the market bought 40% of the tickets. (It was a 4:00pm weekday game and I don’t know how many of those ever sell out, especially mid-season for a mediocre team; though the Nationals won the World Series in 2019, they don’t look like the same team now.)

The market figure and the arbitrary capacity restriction end up being similar figures — 33% vs. 40% — which means if the local government still demanded the 33% limit, three thousand who attended yesterday could not have done so, a simple deadweight loss to those people and to ticket and food/beverage revenue and whatever else they tossed their money into.

The other good news, from my perspective (as a pretty hard-line anti-VirusPanic person since late March 2020), is the absence of mask busybodies, those who demand people wear masks or adjust them properly, which became a strange feature of Virus Panic world since masks became mandatory by law by about May 2020.

(Looking back now, Mask-ism was a strange escalation by the Virus Panic regime, right when they should have moved decisively to slay the Panic beast and let people make their own decisions — which they finally did one year later, but for one year masks became a disturbing feature of lived reality, led by the decisions of Western political demagogues riding Virus Panic to popularity or power-grab, my interpretation of events.)

The fingerprints of the old regime are still all over:

With half of June gone, I see continual good news on this front. An event like a major-league baseball game, and what restrictions are imposed or not, and how people behave, these seem pretty significant indicators to me, especially in one of the Big Blue strongholds of what became a bizarre, reality-detached Flu Virus Cult. O understand much of Europe is still mired in this, and Australia is for some reason the worst off of all, being subject to disgraceful terror-panics when even one “positive case” comes out in a region.

There are still individual Panickers, of course. I still see people still riding a bicycle with masks on, something I will just never understand.

I was moving around the stadium for, it must have been fifteen minutes before I saw the first spectator with a mask. Later I saw a few others, some actively wearing and some with it hanging off their face or neck or whatever in some way — all looking ridiculous to me and I would hope looking ridiculous to the eyes of History. It’s hard to estimate, but maybe 5-15% of spectators had masks with them at all, and most of those were not actively wearing them at any given moment, which puts the total actively wearing at any given time well below 5%. Up from 0.00% in 2019 and all previous years.

This little estimate of mine applies to spectators. The staff is another matter. The staff mostly had conspicuous signs of masks — I assume they are still under a private mandate. My non-scientific estimate is least half actively wearing them at any given time, but not too high above that 50% line. Some conveniently took long or indefinite breaks from the mask in the afternoon heat and seemed no longer to be subject to mask-busybodies or supervisors. Their mask rate is much down from peak-Panic periods since the mandates started coming in in spring 2020.

This is all really good news, but as long as anyone has a mask to me means a sign of the social contagion (which I’ve called Virus Panic here) is still in circulation.

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Miscellaneous baseball memories

I do not follow baseball, nor do I follow any sports with any regularity today. I did when I was a kid.

I played baseball up to around age 12, always prompted by my dad, whose own preferences and interests generally steered my activities at those ages partly to my low-level resentment. Not long ago I came across a team picture from 1996 of my our team and my dad kneeling alongside, as coach. I hardly remember him being coach. I think there were two coaches and the other one was absent on picture day.

I liked playing baseball, I think, and am glad I was able to do it and had a period of great interest in the sport (i.e., when I “followed” it), because in the end it’s the mark of one plank of our culture. Baseball has been with us about two centuries, though the lineage of the game may not be what the legends claims (invented by a young man named Doubleday at Cooperstown, New York, about 1840 — later General Doubleday). People who don’t know the game expect American men to know it and be able to explain it.

I wouldn’t mind playing again, especially a lower-stakes version as with plastic bat and hollow plastic ball. My cousins in Connecticut called this “whiffle ball,” but I don’t know how common that name is.

(I played cricket once, in 2012, on an island off the west coast of Korea, with a mish-mash of vacationers including British coworkers, and did amazingly well to their surprise. Baseball skills are transferable, though the rules of the game are different. Cricket vs. baseball strikes me as a good analogy for how languages differ and how language families work.)

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Baseball games, 1990s vs. 2010s/20s

I attended a few Baltimore Orioles games in the 1990s, the closest team to me at the time before the Nationals came in. I was at one one as late as July 2005, with my aunt N. and cousins B. W. and M. W.; the Orioles were playing Boston, which is B. and M.’s favorite team and, they being through the area at the time, decided to attend and for some reason invite me. (They are from near the Yankees-Red Sox fandom dividing line that runs through central Connecticut and decisively side with the latter.)

One thing I noticed in the 2010s, in the handful of times I attended games in various capacities and situations, and which I was reminded of very much yesterday, is the lower share of people actually interested in the game in any way than what I remember from the 1990s. (Reader beware, I was just a boy in the 1990s and everything impressed me. Even trying to adjust for that, I really think this is true.)

Many of the people attending are just at these games as a social event and spend the entire time chatting or hanging around in the rear area, and any of the game they witness if almost by chance. These are people there as a form of social signaling. This is true of many, perhaps most, of the women attending, and many of the men, too. A little sign of how so much of the world is oriented towards women, especially younger-end women in that consumption decisions are much more driven by women (per anyone with contact with lived-reality, but also spending studies).

It’s hard to untangle exact motivations in individual cases but the social dynamic of “attending = prestige” does seem to exist, like an umbrella under which individuals operate. In any case this is great news for the Nationals as a business, because if the stadium is a ‘prestige’ place to be, sales go up, attendance goes up, sales of merchandise goes up, prices can go up (or stay crazily high, $30+ t-shirts, whatever).

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Airport-style security comes to stadium — Why?

I started this writing on the rapid retreat of masks as symbol of the retreat of the Virus Panic coalition, which is good news. I realize there was something else in yesterday’s experience that seems pretty bad news and which I want to put to paper here. It is: the hugely increased security at the front gate, and seemingly also inside the stadium.

They interrogate everyone entering now, often for several minutes, and subject them to airport-style security with the same level of rigor and tone that the benighted TSA does. The TSA, perhaps the USA’s most hated agency of all since its founding in late 2001. Is it actually a government agency? For practical purposes it seems to be, and after twenty years another government agency was born never to be reigned back in.

Most people have demonstrated their full willingness to go along with whatever, as long as whoever it is eventually waves them through. Last year taught us this willingness includes even month-after-month-after-month of endless, rolling shutdown orders, based even on the thinnest of justifications and apparently no cost-benefit calculations at all, throwing social and economic life into disarray. Compared to 2020, a little increase in stadium security looks minor.

Still, for some reason I was surprised and annoyed by the new security regime. I was in the stadium over four hours without but one or two brief sips of water from a drinking fountain. I would’ve had more but they made me throw out my water bottle at the security gate because it was already open. (What the heck?)

This is all dramatically different than what I remember. As recently as summer 2019, the last time I was at a game (which was with coworkers and worth a full post of its own if I get around to it), I remember sailing through security and taking more time scanning the ticket to get in. This time the ratio was reversed.

I remember airports in the 1990s. I think the baseball stadium security in June 2021 was in some ways at least as strict as airport security was in the 1990s and in some ways stricter. Absolutely no bags are allowed. All open water bottles must be inspected and dumped if opened. There were several other procedures. What is the meaning of this?

I don’t know who gave these silly orders for airport-style security at the baseball stadium gates. I also sense they may never get rolled back now. I’ve heard this called the “ratchet effect.