NY Times: Excellent Journalism

If done right, I know the reporter was there without a single picture as the words paint the scene, and give it life. And a little bit of humor goes a long way as Cara Buckley did so well in the coal mines to solar farm on January 2. “Peak stripped of coal to get a solar upgrade” the front page NYT story on January 2, from Martin County, Kentucky begins, “For a mountain that’s had its top blown off, the old Martiki coal mine is looking especially winsome these days. With vast stretches of emerald green grass dotted with hay stacks and ringed with blue-tinged peaks, and the wild horses and cattle that roam, it looks less like a shattered strip mine and more like an ad for organic milk.”

News with a bit of poetry, i.e., “Up at the now-flattened summit, the sky yawns big and wide.” Interviews with residents in the area gave mixed opinions to the idea of transforming the area to a solar farm. After all, this is coal country. See link.

Yes, this is not breaking news. It adds a bit of balance to the front page of Sunday’s New York Times, with local, national, and international stories on the front page.

“Tests predicting rare disorders in fetuses are usually wrong,” is another front page story in Sunday’s paper. As I read the article, I would have liked the headline to read, “Some initial tests … ” as there are tests which are highly accurate. Testing errors which fail to identify someone with a problem (false negative) is difficult to assess because the disorder is so rare. On the other hand, it’s easy to identify false positives (test gives a positive to someone who is negative) because so many patients would be negative.

I’m still on the front page, and yet to read, “Harsh backlash meets feminists in South Korea”, “Human toll of America’s Air Wars” (repeated from 12/19), and the swearing ceremony of Eric Adams, the new mayor of NYC.

On page 3, international new, art clashes with politics. Provocative art exhibits in the city of Diyarbakir, Turkey’s largest Kurdish city, caused the exhibition to be shut down. See link.

It’s tough to keep up. North Korea’s president promises better time, in South Africa, the sad news of Archbishop Tutu’s passing, (What a wonderful, passionate and powerful leader!) and an investigative story on how Nashville, TN is changing after the 2020 Christmas bombing. I’m just up to page 10.

Yes, these are not the CNN breaking news stuff. These stories go a bit deeper.

Got a lot to read in a very short time. Monday’s edition will be soon arriving.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links:

I’m not sure if all NYT articles can be read without an online subscription. All stories cited were in the print edition.

Jan 2 NYT Coming Soon to This Coal County: Solar, in a Big Way

Jan 2 NYT When They Warn of Rare Disorders, These Prenatal Tests Are Usually Wrong

Jan 2, NYT Human toll of America’s Air Wars

Jan 2 NYT An Exhibit Meant to Showcase Kurdish Suffering Provoked a Furor Instead

My Predictions – 2022

  1. Trump and his company will continue to file cases in court and lose every single one of them. The first loss will happen at the very end of January when the Supreme Court will reject the request by Trump to review the Jan 6 committee subpoena for documents from the National Archives and the documents will be in the hands of the committee by February.
  2. In the most recent lawsuit against Attorney General Letica James, it will be dismissed with harsh words, such as the lawsuit is frivolous and politically motivated.
  3. Devin Nunes is the CEO of Trump’s new social media company. Trump will fire him before the end of the year.
  4. Many countries in Europe will have higher percentage of their population vaccinated than in the US. This is a fairly easy prediction, and it is a sad fact that many Americans have doubts about the vaccines or believe popular but untrue conspiracy theories. Eastern Europe and Russia will catch up to the US.
  5. A new Iran nuclear deal will be agreed upon. Republicans will do everything they can to defeat it.
  6. Climate change will be very much present, as the northwest of the US will suffer from extreme heat and our hurricanes will be wetter, creating more flooding,

I think 6 predictions are enough for now. I’ll check back at the end of 2022 and see how I did. I did not make any predictions on the mid-term elections, but it’s certainly possible for both the House and the Senate to be controlled by Republicans.

Stay tuned,

Dave

It’s too late for you now

I think you know the question. Moderna, Pfizer or J&J shots can’t help someone who has Covid-19. It was tweeted by an ER nurse. The first line of defense against Covid-19 is vaccination. In the US, it is free and widely available. Yes, there is great progress being made on Covid-19 treatments, but I rather not get Covid-19 to begin with and a hospital bed is a lousy place to be trying to see what’s available.

Dave

Fight for Trump’s documents: End game.

On December 9, Donald Trump lost his case in the Circuit Court of Washington DC to bar the transfer of documents held in the National Archives from being handed over to the House Select Committee investigating the January 6 siege of the Capital.

The end game depends on mid-term election in 2022.

Donald Trump will ask the Supreme Court to review the decision. He has been given 14 days to do this. He will wait until the last minute on December 23 to petition the Supreme Court.

Now, my prediction. How will all this end? In late January, 2022, the Supreme Court will decline to hear this case. The National Archive will comply with the subpoena. The legitimacy of the Committee and their efforts to obtain the necessary testimony and documents will be upheld.

The court said Trump failed to demonstrate the harm that would be caused by releasing the documents to the Committee. The harm is not to the country, but to Trump. It will show the extreme measures Trump will go to in order to promote himself. “Stop the steal” attack on the Capitol resulted in injuries and deaths to people doing their job.

Republicans are hoping to regain the majority in the House in the mid-term election, and then they will disband the January 6 investigation. The only way to prevent this, is to vote in Democratic representatives of Congress. The Jan 6 committee must be allowed to complete their work.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links:

CNN: Appeals court rejects Trump’s bid to keep January 6 documents from House committee

Abortion case now with the Supreme Court

Not my favorite topic. The abortion case is highly divisive, entwining legal, religious and political viewpoints. I’ll leave most of the commentary up to the pundits on internet, social media and cable news. who seem able and willing to comment on any topic in a minute. I trust more the printed media, in particular the New York Times and Washington Post. Yes, I am a news snob. I include only two links, one from Wikipedia, and a second from Scotusblog.com . The Supreme Court typically issues their most controversial opinions late in June or July, shortly before adjourning for the summer.

The case before the Supreme Court is Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization and at issue is law recently passed in Mississippi which permits abortion up to the first 15 weeks. This is a violation of Roe v. Wade which permits states to outlaw abortions only at the end of the second trimester, approximately 24 weeks.

Roe v. Wade was decided in 1973, with Justice Harry Blackmun, a Republican nominated by Nixon, writing the majority opinion. Prior to this cases, it was hard time getting a case heard in the Supreme Court because by the time because there was no “live” case, as the woman whose rights had been denied, would have already given birth. The Court in 1973 opined that the case could go forward without the requirement of a “live” case.

I have included links on the history of the Roe v. Wade and the oral arguments summary by Amy Howe (Scotusblog). I believe both links provide a neutral stance on the issues.

The liberals on the court, would like to consider Roe v. Wade as settled law, which establishes a precedent for all future cases. It was decided on the Ninth and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution.

The conservatives likely consider Roe v. Wade improperly decided on a weak or nonexistent constitutional basis, and so they are merely correcting prior errors of the court. For practical purposes, if Roe v. Wade is overturned, abortion rights will return to the states to decide. What is legal in one state, could result in a felony charges (manslaughter) in another.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links:

Wikipedia: Roe v Wade

Scotus Blog on summary of oral arguments in Dobbs

It is not done with us

Omicron is here. A virus mutates. The breeding of variants is made more likely when 57% of us are not vaccinated or partially vaccinated.

Health experts predicted other variants were likely last year. Our best defense is to get as close to 100% vaccinated as possible. We are at war. We don’t hear bombs dropping, but it is war. What emerged in South Africa, is now present in Europe and Canada. It most likely came by plane in passengers without symptoms.

It is a world health crisis. WHO Director Tedros Ghebreyesus got it right. Omicron is another reminder that although many might “think we are done with Covid-19, it is not done with us,” Tedros said.

The vaccine is not perfect, but it is the best armor in this war we have. What I mean by “we” is the population of the world. So the way out of the pandemic is for developed countries to support vaccine availability in less developed countries.

Tedros said that while the agency understands that every government has a “responsibility to protect its own people,” ending the uneven distribution of vaccines is “in every country’s best interest.”

These comments came in a recent interview in Forbes, as provided below.

I and my wife have gotten our shots and booster shots. In the US, it is free and widely available. Other preventative measures don’t offer the same protection. I was in and out of CVS Pharmacy in less than 30 minutes.

A lot of other measures are being taken with mixed results. It is epidemiology 101 that any measure to limit long distance disease transmission (local containment) is good. However, cancelation of flights from African countries, have caused stranded passengers and congestion at multiple airports. Americans can return home from South Africa so this can lead to more opportunities to spread the new variant.

I’m not counting on any magic pill being ready. Yes, if the Pfizer or Bristol Myers pills are approved and I’m infected with Covid-19, I’m all in. But, long-haul Covid is possible, with a long list of symptoms. (for long haul Covid, I recommend Sanjay Gupta’s book World War C, see links below).

I’ll end with one simple conclusion that our planet is much smaller than people think. In my lifetime, I visited China, India, and countries in South America, the Middle East, Africa and SE Asia. I was a tourist, and I want to remain that way. Not a disease transmitter.

It depends on Covid vaccine availability and acceptance, if we are to make the planet healthier.

GET VACCINATED. IF ELGIBLE, GET YOUR BOOSTER. SUPPORT INTERNATIONAL EFFORTS TO INCREASE VACCINE AVAILABILITY WORLDWIDE.

OK, I said my peace, and I’ll sit down.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links,

Forbes Interview with WHO Director

Sanjay Gupta, World War C

Recommended reading. I use Kindle on my PC to read it.

Are gasoline prices too high? (Part 1)

Oh no, this question again. It is very convenient to blame the current administration. Or Opec.

Sometimes in polite company, it is bad to know too much. “I paid $40 to fill up my tank, so don’t you think it’s too much?” Ok, the correct answer is “yes, you poor dear,.” even though I know better. People compare what it cost to fill up a gas tank now verses a week ago. No one compares what it cost to fill up a tank now compared to 2013 or 2014. Or the price of gasoline in 1981.

A recent Facebook post compared economic measures from October 2020 to October 2021, and showed almost everything improving, such as higher salaries, lower unemployment, and higher stock market prices which for many Americans mean their retirement plans are gaining value.

No question about it- the price of gas at the pump has risen significantly from October 2020 to today. In October 2020, gasoline on average was $2.248/gallon and in October 2021, the cost was $3.384/gallon, a gain of 51%.

A 50% change in gasoline prices isn’t that unusual. Gas prices dropped in half during the economic crisis which began in 2008. What really drove the economic crisis was new forms of lending, which allowed people to buy homes, without adequate income or assets. Gasoline prices dropped nearly in half from around 2014 to 2016 as offshore drilling and fracking became commercially viable. Improved drilling technology allowed offshore gas and oil wells in the Gulf of Mexico to be drilled in much deeper water, and highly deviated or horizontal wells became common. Subsea completions allowed for more rapid development, and reduced the front end expense.

It took just 3 years following the 2008 housing crash for gasoline prices to get in the $3.80 to $4.00/gallon. The declining prices from 2012 to 2016 were due to increased oil prices due to fracking and deep water drilling Fracking really dried up in 2016 due to low oil prices. The companies involved in fracking can postpone the completion of wells to cut costs. This is a desperate measure because they don’t get the benefit of new production. Offshore developments are on a much longer timeframe, from discovery to initial production from 5 years or more, so they do not react as quickly to lower oil prices.

These boom to bust and back to boom cycles will continue. Nobody in 2016 was complaining that oil prices had dipped below $2.00/gallon except the oil industry, which needed to make large investments to maintain their supply of oil. It was the cheapest oil had been in 8 years, during a couple of months at the worst moments of the housing crash. Or the lowest gas had been since 2005.

We haven’t defeated Covid but travel and businesses are returning to normal. If I remove the 2007 to 2008 housing bubble, the 2008 to 2009 housing crash/recession, and the Covid-19 economic crash and early recovery, the trend become a bit clearer.

So, the first upward trendline goes from 2002 when gas cost about $1.20/gallon to 2014, when it hit about $4.00/gallon. From 2014 to 2016, technology increased production and the oil glut simply reset the trendline back to $2.00/gallon by 2016, then we were back on the same trendline.

In fact, it is very rational to believe oil prices should go up with time over the long run, because the worldwide supply of oil is limited. It is increasingly more expensive to find more oil. Economic turmoil seems to temporarily reverse the upward trend. I know world leaders are gathered in Glasgow to cut fossil fuels consumption. So, should alternative fuels become more popular, then oil prices should go down. At present, the electric vehicles account for 1.7% of all cars sold, so we have a long ways to go.

Oil prices will be influenced by many factors including the policies of OPEC and the global economy. It seems anything above about $60/barrel for crude oil, results in increased fracking for oil and gas. We are now around $83/barrel.

So, I understand the higher prices are painful. But, longer term prices will result in more production, and people choosing either buying EV’s or fuel efficient cars. This can, in the long term, reverse the trend.

The graph above starts at 1993. If I go back to 1981, gasoline cost $3.88/gallon after adjusting for inflation. So are gasoline prices too high? They are really pretty much on the same trend as pre-Covid. Will we hit a peak, then a decline as more production comes on line? Maybe not. Added production may lower the slope of the trendline, or in other words, slow the pace of increases.

In general, gasoline prices increase when oil prices go up, but it is not always in synch. I will discuss oil prices and production in the next blog.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links:

EIA US Historical Gasoline Prices

Social Media Immunity – Section 230

“No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider” Section 230.

I began my last blog with a quote from Donald Trump on how the 1996 Communications Decency Act gave rights to social media companies, which are not enjoyed by others in the electronic communications business, such as television and radio. It was a recognition of the immense difficulty these companies have in monitoring content. I added the Electronic Frontier Foundation, as I felt it provided a simple explanation of why the social media platforms are protected by Section 230.

I wanted to make it clear that when Republicans go after Section 230 of this act, they are attacking the foundations of Donald Trump’s new foray into social media, by making his website vulnerable to legal action. There is an enormous list of websites, which depend on Section 230 protection, including Youtube, Vimeo, Amazon, Yelp, craigslist and WordPress. Yes, WordPress which hosts this website.

My prior post was not particularly kind to our former president. I want to make it clear that Facebook and Twitter are also a platform hosting a ton of political propaganda garbage. I don’t look for news/commentary on Facebook or any other social media site. I consider these sites to cluttered with personal attacks and often void of any real news.

If someone posts information on how to fix my bicycle or dishwasher, that’s great. I guess I too much of a news snob to look for news commentary on Facebook. Still, if they provide bad information a bicycle, there’s Section 230 immunity. Plus, it’s likely they did not provide this bad information intentionally.

A public forum is any place open to the general public where ideas can be freely exchanged. We have evolved from people making public speeches in the town square and newspapers to radio, television, cable and satellite networks, and now to worldwide internet social networks. Our First Amendment right to freedom of speech and press, came about before radio was invented. It is not an absolute right to expression. Disrobing in public can still get you arrested on indecent exposure charges.

How far does one go in protecting the free exchange of ideas or expression? Go too far, and you will likely get sued. Lou Dobbs comes to mind right away. He was a master at righteous indignation, with comments like “What are they thinking?” in referring to various policies on immigration, climate change, China policy (yes, he supported bombing China), etc. His show ended when Smartmatic sued him for defamation of their voting machines. Alex Jones is another case, as he was sued based on commentary on the Sandy Hook shootings. It happened nine years ago, and hopefully next year, he’ll have to pay up.

So, Lou Dobbs or Alex Jones won’t be posting on Facebook anytime soon. Telling people that Covid vaccines will alter your DNA so in two years you will die, is exactly what will get you censored and ultimately thrown off of Facebook. You will be thrown off because you violated the terms of posting to the site. Well, you are in violation in the opinion of the site’s owners. But will Trump’s site allow them to spread their garbage propaganda. I’m afraid of this. Asks National Enquirer, garbage sells. And Section 230 will protect them. In fact, both the First Amendment and Section 230 makes it very difficult to censor someone because there is always some place on social media which will allow outrageous ideas to be broadcasted.

The real power of social media is targeted marketing. Quite apparent, where you go on the internet, as indicated by the searches you do, can define you to others. So, in the old days, you could glance at a newspaper, and decide if the headline story interests you before buying the paper. Now, with social media, the news/commentary often piled high with falsehoods, will find you. So, if you want to believe that Biden is plotting to take away your guns, you will get “breaking news” sent to your cell phone in agreement with your beliefs.

There’s a certain appeal with the claim, that “only here can you find the real truth” of what is going on. It is particularly appealing to conspiracy prone folks, who believe big government and business are hiding the real news.

How to fix things? I don’t see this as a problem with the system (freedoms, privileges, the internet), or “them” (big government, big tech). The problem is with us and our own laziness to get the facts straight. I’m hoping the next generation understands that honesty counts.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links:

Wikipedia: Lou Dobbs

Cornell Law, Section 230

Supreme Court on Section 230 (Thomas’ opinion mischaracterized. No justice joined with Thomas. I consider his comments “pure dictum.” Trump won the right to block followers on Twitter, limiting what could be discussed.)

The Odd Couple – Donald T. and Mark Z.

Also, get rid of Section 230 – Don’t let Big Tech steal our Country, and don’t let the Democrats steal the Presidential Election. Get tough!” he wrote in last week in office (while he was president). See link.

Trump’s message hasn’t changed. Big Tech are destroyers of free speech. Jack Dorsey (Twitter CEO) and Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook CEO) were convenient targets of Republicans.

Trump has always had a problem with the truth. The Washington Post identified 30,000 lies in the four years while he was president. Since he lost the election, and was thrown off of Facebook and Twitter, he’s been looking for ways to keep his millions of followers with him. He can hop from state to state, delivering his message at rallies, with the expectation that at least Fox and OAN networks will cover them. But that is expensive, and tiring.

What suddenly changed was Donald Trump found a way back into the social media business – big time. He needs protection from lawsuits. So does Mark Zuckerberg and Jack Dorsey (Twitter). Nothing like a common business interest for opponents to crawl into the same bed.

Legal immunity for content posted on social media platforms is provided under Section 230 (see links below). As president, Trump could threaten Twitter and Facebook, that he would strip these websites of the immunity from lawsuits based on content that others had posted. Now, Trump absolutely needs Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. This was passed in 1996, by the Clinton administration when social media was really in its infancy and initially thought to be a blow against free speech.

To go big into social media, you need this legal protection. Donald Trump’s TRUTH Social website is going to spread malicious misinformation 24/7. And definitely the Trump organization could get sued for defamation and libel. But this stuff will be posted by others, so his organization will have Section 230 immunity. They will censor content which doesn’t fit the gospel according to Trump. It’s their platform, and they can chose the people allowed to post commentary.

Trump also will pay big bucks for big tech to deliver his message. Yes, to Google and Facebook, to selectively find likely followers. It’s targeted marketing and everyone does it. And his message will continue to be anti-government (as long as Biden is in charge), anti-big tech and anti-Section 230 immunity.

And lastly the cash vehicle, DWAC, a stock symbol for Digital World Acquisition Corporation, which last week was a sleepy $10/share stock to $175/shr then dropped to $94/shr, all in 3 days. A stock that’s up 900% is known as a 9-bagger. Yes, other stocks have increased 9 fold, but in the course of 3 days, that’s crazy.

The creed of investors, is to focus on the opportunity to make money, and as long as the company is likely to grow, nothing else really matters. Of course Trump’s site is appropriately named GARBAGE Social, The way to the capital markets used to be IPO’s or initial public offerings. But, Special Purpose Acquisition Corporations are now the super fast lane onto a public listing without any real income or governmental scrutiny. The new corporation is called Trump Media and Technology Group.

There is a large part of our population which have steadfastly clings to the latest conspiracy theories on the “radical left movement” in cahoots with Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez, which by the way, are no longer among us. There’s the big lie, that Trump actually won the election, and all the little lies, some really pretty crazy, i.e. “Ivanka Trump has done a fantastic job for women and also for jobs. Thirteen million additional jobs.” Sept 27, 2019. Somehow, the claim and reality have taken two divergent paths.

I don’t get my news from Facebook or Twitter. Donald Trump’s foray into social media on the new large scale, will give him his own platform for misinformation. While Mark Zuckerberg is trying to keep misleading information off his platform, this is exactly what Trump wants on his. Garbage propaganda is a pretty polite way of putting it. See links.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links:

Some of these links from the news media may not be active in a few months.

Washington Post: Trump’s Lies While President. .

Truth Social Website

Anthony Scaramucci says the Trump media SPAC is ‘garbage propaganda,’ but if it does well enough it could keep the former president out of politics

Scaramucci was Trump’s communication director for 11 days.

Some of these links from the news media may not be active in a few months.

Trump media SPAC stock doubles, bringing 2-day gains to 800% in retail-trading frenzy

Section 230 Explained

Truth Social: Trump’s new social network will benefit from the very law he tried to destroy

How Portugal is winning the war against Covid

In my last blog, I discussed the how the US stacks up against other developed nations. We are #37 in the world. We could be doing a lot better. So, I wanted to take a closer look at those who are doing better and why.

Of all developed and populous nations, Portugal is #1 in terms of vaccinations. at 85.2% of the country vaccinated. Covid is not gone from Portugal. It exists and new cases are discovered every day. As shown in the graph above, there were 637 new cases as of October 18, 2021 according to the 7-day average. This is the appropriate statistic to judge the trend as it smooths out the noise in the daily data. So, with a population of 10.8 million people, there are about 60 new cases per 1 million residents. In

In Portugal, Covid-19 new cases plunged from around 13,000 (7 day average) in February 2021 to just 637 cases in October. The July upsurge in Covid-19 is clear as the Delta variant spread like wildfire. The big story is that from August to October, the vaccinations and other measures has countered Delta attack, with a 500% decline in new cases.

I was in Portugal in September of this year, and saw the other measures being employed. I was asked for proof of full vaccination when checking into a hotel. One person in our group had not taken a second shot, so within 10 minutes in the hotel, she was tested for Covid-19 with the rapid antigen test. So there is still a choice. Get vaccinated or get tested. Of course, testing is good only for 72 hours. Some restaurants asked for proof of vaccination.

The war against Covid-19 is far from over in any country. In Portugal, tourists crowd into bars and restaurants in the beach resorts along the Algarve from all over the world. So, the presence of Covid-19 will likely be around for a very long time. What is more satisfying is that since May, the death toll due to Covid has been very low, even during the Delta attack.

This is consistent with what the medical professionals are saying. With the vaccines, you may get a break-through infection, but the other dire consequences (hospitalization and death) are likely to be avoided.

The October 1, 2021 New York Times had a picture of a vaccination clinic in Lisbon, with just empty chairs., with the headline,”In Portugal, There Is Virtually No One Left to Vaccinate.” I believe there are more to come, particularly as they are showing that vaccines are safe for children.

The Time’s article goes on to say, “Vice Adm. Henrique Gouveia e Melo, who led the campaign, said there was a key to his success: Keep politics out of it.”

“The first thing is to make this thing a war,” Admiral Gouveia e Melo said in an interview, recalling how he approached the job. “I use not only the language of war, but military language.” The country had a national vaccination program already in place. But, Portugal’s decision to bring in the military to help administer vaccines gave additional emphasis to how critical the fight against Covid-19 was. Admiral Melo would make public appearances in his combat uniform.

Prior to leading the vaccination task force, Admiral Melo was a submarine squadron commander, which might seem odd to some. However, vaccinations require clear communication and a great distribution plan, and by all accounts he excelled in these areas.

The US is unlikely to duplicate Portugal’s success. We are at 57% fully vaccinated, and each month, there are about 3% more people vaccinated. So, if we keep up at the same rate, in another 5 to 6 months, we could be at the same level as Portugal is now. We might go a bit higher than 3% per month with the mandates, or lower as people dig in on the anti-vaxxer rhetoric, and makes it some big rights issue. My prediction is about 64% fully vaccinated by years end. We could also be under 1,000 deaths per day by year’s end. These are pretty grim statistics.

It is still the pandemic of the unvaccinated. It doesn’t matter if it is China, Russia, Portugal or the US. We need more shots in the arm.

Stay tuned,

Dave

NYT: : In Portugal, There Is Virtually No One Left to Vaccinate

Covid-19 Vaccinations: The US and the rest of the world

We are at 56% vaccinated. Progress in getting the other 44% of our population vaccinated is difficult. Also, we are doing worse than many other developed countries. We are a long distance from the getting to the “herd immunity” target of 70 to 85% fully vaccinated. The country has spent billions of dollars buying up a large supply of vaccines. There has been a huge effort put into an effective distribution system. Free transportation has been offered to the elderly. So, the US has not excuse.

Time for the numbers. I just report the percent fully vaccinated in other countries, with sizeable populations, who have administered at least 5 million doses. There are 14 countries who have between 70 to 85% of their population vaccinated: There are in order of highest to lowest, Portugal (85%), Singapore, Spain, UAE, France, Denmark, China, Italy, Ireland, Chile, Belgium, Uruguay, Canada and Cambodia (70%).

Next up is the 60 to 70% vaccinated group and 12 countries are included. The countries are, listed from highest to lowest are: Norway, UK, Netherlands, Malaysia, Finland, Sweden, Germany, Japan, Israel, Austria, Panama and Switzerland.

The European Union is 65.8% vaccinated with 575 million vaccines administered. Now, the 18 developed nations, with 50 to 60% vaccinated are: South Korea, Greece, Hungary, Ecuador, El Salvador, Dominican Republic, Hong Kong, Sri Lanka, Morocco, Czech Republic, US (56.4%), Turkey, Turkmenistan, Oman, Cuba, Argentina, Poland and Slovenia.

I note that even though the European Union has a higher rate of vaccinations, their citizens are not yet permitted to travel as tourists to the US. It is highly likely that this will change in early November.

As I rank the developed countries from high to low in terms of being fully vaccinated, the US is ranked #37. We were getting our vaccines ahead of many countries. How did we fall so far behind?

There are certainly worse countries, who haven’t achieved 50%. Large countries with low vaccination rates are: Brazil (47%), Mexico (38%), Thailand (33%), Russia (31%), India (20%) and Pakistan (17%). Africa and the Middle East are in terrible shape. After Morroco (56%), South Africa has just 17% vaccinated, and the other 49 countries in Africa are all lower!

This is being correctly called the pandemic of the unvaccinated. Epidemiologists knows, “What goes around, comes around.” For those who have had Covid, a negative Covid test, doesn’t mean your back to normal. It just means that you will not be spreading the disease. I know of one case of “Long Covid” and it is really sad. After being release from the hospital, he has to be hooked up to an oxygen tank to breath. Long Covid is a grouping of common and long lasting post-Covid symptoms, which include:

  • Extreme tiredness
  • Shortness of breath, heart palpitations, chest pain or tightness
  • Problems with memory and concentration (“brain fog”)
  • Changes to taste and smell
  • Joint pain

It is not known if these symptoms will be permanent. I want to enjoy life, and that includes travel, eating out and visiting with friends. The news on long Covid is real, and it should be a strong incentive for everyone to get vaccinated. It is far better to strengthen your immune system to keep Covid from reproducing, instead of doing battle with it once it begins the infection process and overwhelms your defenses. It is a war, and you want to keep your enemy out of the trenches. I don’t know how else to explain it. It is a choice of being pro-active, instead of re-active.

As far as mandatory vaccination policies, I certainly can see the rationale for it, particularly for people in close contact with many people during the day. Companies have tried to make the office environment safe, but you can go around disinfecting every surface that someone has touched. A lot of work can not be effectively done over Zoom. I’m not going into to the legal aspects.

We can and have to be doing better. It took me less than an hour to get each of my shots, and that includes the drive to the clinic, paperwork, and the shot. I am looking forward to getting a booster soon. I think it was truly a miracle to have highly effective vaccines available in under a year.

Today, we are 56% vaccinated. Can we catch up to Portugal? China? The EU? I never think of a goal to achieve herd immunity, The goal should be 100% vaccinated. This is the point of unconditionally surrender for this terrible disease.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links:

BBC: Long Covid

GOP gubernatorial candidate Allen West released from hospital after Covid-19 diagnosis

Bloomberg: Vaccine Tracker

Debt Crisis – What’s not True

“The past debt ceiling paid for everything in the Trump administration, plus seven months of this Biden administration.”

— House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), in an interview on Fox News, Sept. 21

The Washington Post call McCarthy’s statement “highly misleading.” Debt accumulates when the government spends more than it takes in. However, the cause of this debt can occur much earlier, when the legislature authorizes spending and changes to tax laws.

So, Trump’s 2017 tax cuts for the wealthy and business owners have contributed to increased debt since the debt ceiling was suspended in 2019. The CARES act, was a 2.2 trillion dollar program, signed into law by President Trump in response to the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States. Democrats and Republicans supported the suspension or increases in the debt ceiling three times under President Trump.

Republicans and Kevin McCarthy are real hypocrites, because the debt ceiling must be increased as a result of spending bills and tax cuts they supported during the Trump administration.

Republican refused to approve increases or suspension of the debt ceiling in 2011, 2013, 2014 and 2015 while Obama was president until we were at the brink of exhausting all extraordinary measures to keep from defaulting on our debt. Then suddenly raising the debt ceiling was ok, under the Trump administration.

The US credit rating fell after the 2011 debt ceiling crisis, which increases the interest we pay on our debt obligations, even though in the end, the debt ceiling was raised.

Honestly, the debt ceiling should not exist. Per Wikipedia: In January 2013, a survey of 38 highly regarded economists found that 84% agreed that, since Congress already approves spending and taxation, “a separate debt ceiling that has to be increased periodically creates unneeded uncertainty and can potentially lead to worse fiscal outcomes.” Only one member of the panel, Luigi Zingales, disagreed with the statement. Rating agency Moody’s has stated that “the debt limit creates a high level of uncertainty”and that the government should change “its framework for managing government debt to lessen or eliminate that uncertainty”.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links:

Washington Post, White House rules out concessions over debt ceiling while GOP refuses to help avert crisis

Washington Post: McCarthy’s misleading claim that 2019 debt-ceiling hike paid for all of Trump’s policies

Congress Must Suspend or Raise the Debt Limit

Wikipedia: Debt Ceiling

Wikipedia: History of Debt Ceiling

Politifact Kevin McCarthy’s Honesty

Mostly “Pants on Fire” or “False” statements.

Debt Ceiling Crisis 2021

It’s one of the most reckless, one of the most irresponsible votes I’ve seen taken in the Senate, and it should send a signal to every family, small business, market watcher, about who in this chamber is in favor of endangering the economic stability of our country,” said Schumer on the Senate floor, following the vote.

Schumer is right. A procedural vote in the Senate failed by a vote of 50 to 48. It solved two critical problems: (1) Extension of short term funding for the government and (2) Raising the debt ceiling limit. We’ve experienced the consequences of a lack of funding, as we’ve had partial shutdowns in the past. It is bad, but nothing in comparison to a failure to raise the debt ceiling. That is catastrophic.

My credit card has a limit. The debt ceiling is NOT analogous to the credit card limit. The reason is, the debt ceiling does not limit government’s ability to spend money. Congress separately authorizes the expenditure of money. The debt ceiling allows government to borrow more money it needs to pay for ALREADY approved expenses including pay for the military salaries and social security.

From the Washington Post, “Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen said earlier this week that such a default would be unprecedented in U.S. history. Moody’s “best estimate” is that this date is Oct. 20, although Treasury has not given a more precise day.

At that point, Treasury officials would face excruciating choices, such as whether to fail to pay $20 billion owed to seniors on Social Security, or to fail to pay bondholders of U.S. debt — a decision that could undermine faith in U.S. credit and permanently drive federal borrowing costs higher.

Failure to raise the debt limit would have catastrophic impacts on global financial markets. Interest rates would spike as investors demand a higher rate of return for the risk of taking on U.S. debt given uncertainty about repayment. An increase in interest rates would ripple through the economy, raising costs not only for taxpayers but also for consumers and other borrowers. The value of the U.S. dollar would also decline long term as investors questioned the security of purchasing U.S. treasuries. The cost of auto and home loans would rise.”

I’ve written on this topic before. I suggested instead of calling it an increase in the debt ceiling, just refer to it as allowing the government to pay it’s bills when they come due.

Every single recent president has required Congress to increase the debt limit (see links). A new twist is simply to suspend the debt limit temporarily, allowing Republicans a way out of actually voting for a debt increase. It is a way to kick the can down the road.

It is estimated that the 2011 debt ceiling crisis cost the government 18.9 billion dollars in increase interest and credit downgrade which followed, resulted in the Dow Industrial Average dropping 2,000 points.

Yes, all Presidents including Reagan, Bush I, Clinton, Bush II, Obama and Trump, who proudly proclaim they were more fiscally responsible than Democrats (Bush GW was famous for “Read my lips, no new taxes”) all needed the debt ceiling raised to keep borrowing money. In fact, the one president who had to go to Congress the most, was Reagan.

My credit card has a payment date, and failure to make a minimum payment on that date, will affect my credit. That is the appropriate analogy. Failure to make payment of money the country owes on time will affect the faith and credit in the US government, something that can not be risked.

The political deadlocks on raising the debt ceiling are occurring more frequently, and it is very scary situation. I have no problem with Republicans who state that we should spend less on various programs, but this is all about money we have to pay. Full stop.

Moody’s Analytic report concludes, “The U.S. and global economies, which still have a long way to go to recover from the recession caused by the pandemic, will descend back into recession. In times past, lawmakers have taken strident warnings like these to heart, and acted. Let us hope they do so again. Soon.”

Put simply, we are making great progress recovering from the pandemic, despite some distractions from anti-vaxxers and it is a lousy time to shoot ourselves in the foot. It is pretty simple. We have no time for grandstanding or brinkmanship.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links:

History of Debt Limit Crises

U.S. default this fall would cost 6 million jobs, wipe out $15 trillion in wealth, study says

Senate Republicans block bill to avert government shutdown and extend debt limit

Jair Bolsonaro – frightening statements

Jair Bolsonaro is President of Brazil, a country with 211 million residents. He is up for re-election in 2022. He is a right-wing populist, and in many ways similar to Donald Trump.

The norms of a working democracy are that the candidate enters an election to win the approval of the people and a willingness to accept the results, if he loses. Trump’s approach was that if he won, it showed he was the better candidate and if he lost, the election was rigged against him. Thus, he solidified his base against Democrats and the new president and in doing so, undermined the election in general. It is sadly all about fund raising, to maintain the base.

Similar to Trump, Bolsonaro claimed the electronic voting machines can’t be trusted. It’s all sounds very familiar. In the US, the lawyers who made the claims for Trump, namely Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell, are facing serious civil lawsuits from the voting machine companies. Sidney Powell may be face disbarment in the states where these claims and others were made, and lacking any evidence.

These lies had consequences. Five people died on January 6, 2021 as the Capitol in Washington was taken over by rioters. It was a very sad day in our history. Since the day it was clear Trump had lost the election, he was making wild claims that the election was stolen, so storming the capitol was a normal reaction of a citizenry who thought their rights to free election was being taken from them. “Stop the Steal” wasn’t just political rhetoric, it was the prelude to a violent attack on our legislators and the vice president of the United States.


Bolsonaro is following closely in Trump’s footsteps. He stated there were only 3 outcomes of the election: He would be re-elected, arrested or killed. (see link below). Another words, if he loses the election, it is because the electoral system failed, and now his enemies would come after him.

“As president, Bolsonaro is allowed and expected to take part in public discussions,” Corbo said. “What he cannot do — and has been doing — is systematically attack the electoral system by which he was elected.” Dr. Corbo is a constitutional law professor in Brazil.

Sadly, I’ve seen this before, way before Trump. Angola’s very first election in 1992, was between the current President Jose Eduardo dos Santos and UNITA’s leader, Jonas Savimbi. The election was to be a triumph of democratic process, ending a decades long civil war, which killed 300,000 Angolans. To this day, I can recall the words of Savimbi’s press secretary, in a shrill voice, calling the election a total fraud and totally lacking in credibility. So, for those that believed the party’s lie, Dos Santos was not the elected candidate, he was not their president, and no one bore any allegiance to him. The election had not been rigged. The UN had monitored the election. Savimbi had enough military equipment and soldiers to re-ignite the civil war, and violence broke out in Luanda, the capital of Angola. The war ended in 2002 with the death of Savimbi.

What Trump was looking for, was a way to legitimize his claims, through Congress, the Justice Department and each state where the Democrats won by a narrow margin (Georgia, Pennsylvania and Michigan, to name a few) that the election results were false and he had won.

I am hoping that Brazilians deny Bolsonaro a second term, and are smart enough to see through his lies. If he’s the Brazilian Trump, then the next step will be to take whatever measures he can, to cast doubt on the legitimacy of the election. I’m afraid the increase rhetoric can turn to violence as it did in the US. Or worse Angola.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links:

CNN: Bolsonaro says he will either be arrested, killed or win Brazil’s next election

https://www.cnn.com/2021/08/06/americas/bolsonaro-brazil-elections-intl-latam/index.html

Covid-19 and Understanding its spread

The diagram above is called the disease triangle. For Covid-19, the pathogen is the virus, and the host is humans or the body’s organs susceptible to the disease. We know now it is not strictly a respiratory problem. Environment can be considered the conditions by which transmission is possible or likely. When Covid began, there was an immediate need to know how Covid invades the body and replicates. Thus, the Host – Pathogen axis was critical. Equally important was knowledge of under what conditions the disease could spread, thus Pathogen – Environment axis became important. Large gatherings of people in airports, bus and train stations, and for events, such as sporting or musical events were obvious venues for disease dispersion.

Many would include a fourth element, which would be “Human Response.” I think the fourth vertex is critical in Covid. The medical response is to find ways to interfere with a disease’s growth and spread, through effective treatments and vaccines. The Covid susceptibility is much lower in countries where there is a high level of vaccination. I believe easy access to testing and rapid results allows individuals to self quarantine and seek medical assistance.

The pathogen is not constant. The delta variant spread globally with lightening speed, and the downward trend in new cases has been reversed, with increases in many countries including the US. The understanding of the infection process is still evolving with the long term damage, termed “long Covid.”

There is a commonality in the global deadly viruses, which is asymptomatic characteristic of the disease and ease of transmission. A healthy person can be a carrier of the Covid even though there are no obvious symptoms. They are unlikely to be tested in this early phase of the disease. Covid can be transmitted either directly from someone else or from touching surfaces.

The human response has a sociality aspect as mass vaccinations need cooperation. The negative aspect is clear: vaccination hesitancy, resistance and ignorance. Misinformation via social media and politics are playing negative roles. The Trump and Biden administrations are to be commended for an incredibly rapid and effective roll out of vaccines. See former Secretary of HHS, Alex Azar comments on vaccines in links.

The human response should mean we act together in accepting restrictions, including indoor mask wearing, as it is now both a necessity and temporary. Further, we need to recognize this as a pandemic and help countries which can not afford vaccines for their populations. Otherwise, the disease will continue to re-appear in the US. We don’t know how long the immunizations will last for or what new variants might appear in the future. So, we can’t accept just reducing the new cases to a low level in the US.

We have to accept the new medical information, which is the Delta variant is spreading and new cases are on the rise. It is not as dramatic, but the cases of people in the US dying of Covid have also been rising in the last 30 days.

Stay tuned,

Dave

I Was the Architect of Operation Warp Speed. I Have a Message for All Americans. by Alex Azar