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How not to do public health policy

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After the policy of allowing people to come into the country without requiring a two week quarantine has lead to a wave of new infections, to absolutely no ones surprise, the government decided to finally make masks a requirement in public spaces. Or not. It definitely provided a good example how not to implement public health policy.

First things first, making masks a requirement public spaces has been shown to be an effective policy to combat Covid-19, if anything, this requirement comes late, it wasn't in effect in spring for example. However, even a good policy is only as effective as it's implementation and here it is severely lacking.

Information
So you are a government and you want people to change their behaviour. You need to let them know how and why. It is also best to keep it simple. For example, the slogan to prevent drunk driving (even in Germany, where the legal limit is not 0%) is: "Don't drink and drive". It isn't "Don't drink more than one beer and drive" because that would make the message unnecessary complicated. The spirit of the information campaign is also to encourage healthy behaviour, rather than telling people how to observe the law.
Now let us look at the information regarding requiring masks. We need to wear them in public spaces IF it is not possible to observe the 2m rules. How do we estimate that? Well, guess we show up and find out! Some places, such as buses require masks all the time. But you don't need a mask in Strætó, except when you do. Strætó changes it's mind on that every day. What is it that they want to achieve with this policy? To reduce the risk of infection. So you would think that risking a)" people wearing a mask in a situation where they might not need one" < risking b) "people not wearing a mask where they might need one". The rules how they are communicated to people currently risks a over b. Which is also observable, I have been travelling and gas stations, rest stops, restaurants, camp grounds were pretty full. In theory though, the amount of people allowed were restricted enough to be able to keep 2m away from everyone, in practice that was almost impossible.
So why is the rule communicated and implemented in this really complicated way? I can think of two reasons. First, economic considerations, if a mask would be required in all public spaces, it might prevent people of going to restaurants, shopping and in other ways spending money. Second the government might have implemented a mask requirement, however did not ensure that masks would be available to people. Ups.

Hugs, nudges, shoves and smacks
There are several ways governments can try and encourage healthier behaviour. Hugs (rewarding healthy behaviour, such as giving vouchers for free diapers etc to mothers who stop smoking), nudges (making it easier to make healthy choices than unhealthy ones, such as placing fruits and vegetables at the front of shops or sugar taxes vs subsidies for healthy foods), shoves (requiring the healthy behaviour, such as masks) and smacks (punishment for unhealthy behaviours, such as fines for not wearing a seatbelt).
Hugs have been shown to be really effective, but governments don't like them, because they cost money and a lot of times morality is brought into play (you should stop smoking when your pregnant anyway, why should we reward you for that?). Nudges has been the preferred method, often allowing governments to raise taxes on unhealthy goods (like alcohol, right fellow Icelanders?) or using zoning in cities. They have also been shown to be successful, such spatially limiting sale of alcohol reduces binge drinking. Shoves and smacks are often seen as draconian, before there was the anti-masks movement, there was the anti-seatbelt movement for example. And in a democracy policy makers do have to take into account peoples right to protest measures, even if the protesters are stupid.
Most importantly, if you introduce a shove or a smack you have to actually give people the possibility to comply. And here is where the government failed completely. They introduced a mask requirement and then masks were sold out immediately in all the pharmacies and also it is long weekend now and pharmacies are closed. No one is wearing masks. Most people do not even have masks. On Saturday I asked in a pharmacy along with several other people, no luck.
My big question here is: if you can give everyone with a kennitala 5000kr of travelling money, why can you not give two free reusable masks? I really wonder if the nudge of giving everyone a free mask, together with a clear information campaign that a mask should be worn in all public spaces would have been more efficient than the shove of requiring masks in some very specific places, without actually reducing barriers to acquiring masks.

It is Verslunarmannarhelgi and everyone is travelling, walking in and out of restaurants, rest stops, gas stations, camp grounds all which technically can keep the 2m rule and do not require masks, which most people do not have (not for lack of trying, I heard a lot of people ask). In two weeks infections will spike and we will go back to how it was in March. Fortunately for me I am only half way done with my REM related blog posts, so I am well prepared for another months of sitting around in a closed social centre (my workplace).

Here is a free tip from a public health professional:
  • give clear and simple instructions of desired health behaviour to your target group

  • reduce barriers to the point were complying requires the smallest amount of effort possible

  • don't rely on market forces for distribution, they thrive on scarcity


Posted on - Categories: Politics


The doctors as bad ex-boyfriends. A list.

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Here is a very important list of the Doctors as bad ex-boyfriends:


  1. Will abduct you AND THEN complain about you coming along.

  2. Might be homeless, is definitely unemployed, very probably in trouble with authorities. A walking disaster you cannot let near anything or he will destroy it. You suspect it's all a clever ploy to avoid responsibility. It's working.

  3. Is always too busy with some important research to do ANY of the housework. 100% expects you to bring him coffee when he is working.

  4. His Tinder profile says "fun and adventurous" what it means is erratic and reckless. DO NOT let him "fix" your computer.

  5. He thinks a quirky accessory is a good replacement for a personality. It isn't. Will patiently explain to you why he is right about .... everything.

  6. Is either full of unearned confidence or suffering under crippling self-doubt. A drama queen, manages to make EVERYTHING about him

  7. He always has an elaborate plan for everything, including your life. He will never tell you what it is though.

  8. He is convinced he is in love with you, it is actually Nightingale Syndrome.

  9. You thought him being dark and tortured by his past was exciting. Then you found out that his past included war crimes,

  10. You get whiplash from the mood swings and a headache from the constant, uninterrupted talking.

  11. Is always late. Sometimes years. Also you suspect he is married, but he refuses to give you a straight answer. He might be unsure of it himself.

  12. Definitely going through a midlife crisis. It is not pretty.



My REM the IRS era playlist

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Now that we are leaving the IRS era behind, I decided to make a playlist. It consists of the singles of each album and 2 songs of my choice from each album. REM always picked their own singles, the only time they let the record company interfere was with Up, when they were asked to have Daysleeper be the first single. I don't agree with some of their choices and some of the songs I chose are what I thought should have been singles instead, others are simply personal preference.


  1. Gardening at Night (from Chronic Town, their debut EP and the epitome of their sound)


  2. Murmur
  3. Radio Free Europe (single)

  4. Talk about the Passion (single)

  5. 9-9 (a crazy song from Murmur, a bit wild for a single, so I get why they chose Radio Free Europe instead)

  6. Perfect circle (a beautiful song written by Bill Berry and what should have been the second single from Murmur as Talk about the Passion is a bit boring)


  7. Reckoning
  8. So. Central Rain (I'm Sorry)(single, So. stands for south. "I'm sorry!!!!!")

  9. (Don't Go Back To) Rockville (the other single, lots of people really like it and it was written, including lyrics, by Mike Mills and no disrespect, but why was this a single? It sounds like a song a 20 year old would write about his girlfriend leaving. Which it is.)

  10. Harborcoat (This song exists and you guys made Don't Go Back To Rockville a single?!?!)

  11. Time After Time (Annelise) (I don't know why so many song titles on this album have (). This song is amazingly beautiful and why it wasn't chosen over Rockville is beyond me.)


  12. Fables of the Reconstruction
  13. Cant Get There from Here (single. A crazy song with a crazy brass section and music video)

  14. Driver 8 (second single, probably the most radio friendly songs on the album, so I get the choice)

  15. Wendell Gee (third single)

  16. Feeling Gravitys Pull (this song is amazing and should have been a single.)

  17. Green Grow the Rushes (because it is beautiful! Stipe, Mills and Berry harmonizing )


  18. Lifes Rich Pageant
  19. Fall on Me (single and a showcase REM song)

  20. Superman (second single. They chose cover song of a pretty unknown sunshine pop band, sung by Mills, who usually does background vocals as single. Either they were trolling the record company or Mills has some leverage over the others. After all, his song Don't Go Back To Rockville also was chosen to be a single for Reckoning.)

  21. Begin the Begin (the single that should have been)

  22. Hyena (one of the many good rock songs on the album. I like it more than Begin the Begin because of the crazy piano part, but Begin the Begin would have been the better single, so I put both)

  23. Flowers of Guatemala (Stipe manages to be very poignant with basically 4-5 sentences)


  24. Document
  25. The One I Love (single, the song has two really strong hooks, so it makes sense to be a single, I find it a bit meh, though)

  26. It's the End of the World as We Know It (second single and brilliant)

  27. Finest Worksong (third single)

  28. King of Birds (my favourite song from this album, the dulcimer is great and I love Stipes vocals in it)

  29. Oddfellows Local 151 (this is a grunge as REM can get)





I spent the last month listening to every REM studio album in chronological order - Document

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I had only listened to document a few times, so when I listened to it again now, I should have made a reaction video, because some things really surprised me. I might have judged it a bit unfairly, there are a lot of good things on this album (and one musical misstep, I'll talk about below).

The album is basically a political protest album. REM never wanted to be shoehorned as a political band, but this album consists of 4 explicitly political rock songs and all the other songs deal with imagery of unrest and fire. It is a fitting album to listen to in these times. It is also a good opportunity to talk about the politics of REM.

Not so much the political activism, they are pretty much the usual for a 90s liberal band, supporting the democratic party and then being disappointed when a capitalist president is not going to make the grand systematic changes they were hoping for. There is this really funny video on youtube from the time they and other liberal bands had organised the Tibetan Freedom Concert in '98 and then were told that the president they had helped get elected (Clinton) isn't even going to meet with them. To their credit, their activism never reached the embarrassing heights of U2, mostly involved supporting their local community of Athens, Georgia and they (as far as I know) never committed grand scale tax evasion.

More interesting than their political activism is their internal politics as a band and business. REM is basically a workers cooperative. They do not call themselves this, but they describe themselves as radically democratic, each member sharing equal in income, decision making power and songwriting credits. Their legal entity (a LLC), which takes care of licensing etc is also equally controlled by them and their attorney/manager, meaning that they were always in control of their own business affairs. Peter Buck seemed to have come up with the idea, based on some ultra leftist bands they new in Athens. It seemed to have been a successful model, in 30+ years they never had to fight to keep creative control over their brand, never had any internal legal fights with each other and the only time someone left the band was because he wanted to be a farmer. Well done comrades.

Document

This album is as hard rock and grunge REM can get. The lyrics are even more explicit politically, you can even understand the topic of the songs, which are anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist, especially Welcome to the Occupation and Exhuming McCarthy. It is missing the diversity from Lifes Rich Pageant, but it is the most "rock" REM album of the IRS era and it is understandable that they got a lucrative record deal with Warner after this album (can you hear the cries of "sell out" in the distance?). Except for King of Birds (my favourite song from the album!) it is entirely up or mid tempo. This album includes The One I Love and It's the end of the World as we know it. Both firmly established in the public consciousness now, even though one is chronically misunderstood and the other one is unintelligible and the ultimate karaoke challenge.

It also has a few songs which divert so far from the usual REM jangly guitar and into power chords (!), that I had to check a few times, if youtube had autoplayed away from the album. Strange (a cover), Oddfellow Local 151 (which I really like), Lightnin' Hopkins and Fireplace. Fireplace gets ruined by a saxophone solo. A saxophone solo is never a good idea. I listened in abject horror, I need a word with whoever had the idea. REM does not have a lot of genuine musical missteps (the next is on Out of Time), but this is one.

Shout outs:

  • Strange is a cover, so maybe not too surprising it is far from REMs usual style. Buck is playing power chords and doing a solo! It is as if they exchanged the guitarist for one song. I was kind of glad when it ended with Micheal and Mike harmonizing at the "duh", "duh" in the end, just for the familiarity

  • End of the World as We Know It: this song has endured 30+ years for a reason. It is a perfect pop song. There are too many hooks to count, the lyrics are wild, the baseline is walking up and down, the drum roll at the start is perfect, Bucks guitar is spot on and I especially love the short call and response of: "right?", "right!" between Stipe and Mills and of course all the backing vocals (Mills is singing "time I had some time alone" over the chorus, which is eerily fitting these days)

  • The One I Love, the song is basically a short guitar riff and the chorus of "Fiiireeeeeeeee!". It was one of the first songs I learned on guitar (5 chords) because REM ruled my life when I was 14.

  • King of Birds, Buck plays a dulcimer on this song, a folk string instrument from the Appalachians (I think he can basically play anything with strings). This song has my favourite vocal part of all REM songs "awaaaayyyyyyy!"


  • Closing thoughts: This is the last album of the IRS era. I don't think it is an album every record collection needs, though I liked it more after listening to it again. I will be making an REM IRS era playlist before we move on to Warner Bros. REM signing with Warner Bros and having become more and more radio friendly worried the "REM is selling out" crowd to no end. Green did not erase these fears, nor did it eliminate the worries from Warner, that REM might be a bit too weird. It is one whiplash of an album.


    I spent the last month listening to every REM studio album in chronological order - Lifes Rich Pageant

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    I did not misspell the title, it is the original spelling of the album. They always write contractions without the apostrophe on their album and song titles, because, art, I guess. Now this is the first (of many) albums, which "is the one REM sold out with". I'm firmly on team "REM never sold out", but as I don't want to be commenting on hairstyles each post (yes, there will be more of that, once we get to Monster) and my music knowledge is limited, we'll be looking into the claim of selling out today.
    For Lifes Rich Pageant, the accusations of "selling out" is due to changes in musical style and production. REM moved from folky post-punk to more straightforward rock, with the most obvious change being Buck moving from his fast arpeggiated guitar to shorter riffs. The production is cleaner, instead of all the instruments and vocals being mixed into one interwoven sound, Stipes vocals are firmly in the foreground and each instrument can be heard clearly. The result is that the album is a lot more accessible than the previous ones were and much more radio friendly (in theory, more about this later). And to some people making music more people want to listen to = selling out. But let's take a closer look:

    Lifes Rich Pageant
    This album rocks, it has 5 really good rock songs, Begin the Begin, These Days, Hyena (with some crazy piano, I'm guessing by Mills), I Believe (with awesome banjo playing by Buck) and Just a Touch, which they kindly added to have a good comparison to their old style, as it is an older song (written around Reckoning) and mixed the old way (everything squashed together, to use professional music jargon). It also still has appropriate REM weirdness (selling out my ass) with a weird samba? thing and distorted vocals in Underneath the Bunker, strange folksiness in Swan, Swan Humingbird and Superman, which will get a shout out. The lyrics, while still obscure, are clearly political, with Fall on Me and The Flowers of Guatemala using very few words to very effectively address pollution and US involvement in counter-insurgent genocide in Guatemala.

    Shout outs
  • I tried to google if Mills is playing the piano parts in Hyena and Just a Touch (live he is always playing bass and the piano is missing) because they are wild

  • This is the first album where Mills gets to sing lead, on Superman, a cover from the relatively unknown sunshine pop band The Clique from 1969. I think at this point REM was trolling the record company, choosing this song (which sounds very 1970s) as a single, over all the radio friendly rock songs on the album

  • Fall on Me, the other single, makes more sense, it is very REM, jangle guitar, melodic bass and vocal harmonies. Thanks to the cleaner production you can even hear Berry in the chorus singing "It's gonna fall". Which is cool, because Bill Berry is cool.

  • Flowers of Guatemala is a song you have to listen to. The lyrics are a masterpiece.



  • Closing thoughts: I own this album and Murmur and I have always preferred it over Murmur. This is the most consistently good album of IRS area, with Fables of the Reconstruction having higher highs. These two I would recommend, though I also like Reckoning and Murmur. My least favourite album from the IRS area is Document and up next. It is the album where they started working with Scott Litt as a producer, who had an immense influence on the REM sound of the 90s.


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