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Posted by on May 10, 2020 in Blog, Essays, Politics | 1 comment

COVID-19 in 2020 America: My Three-Month Projection

 

 

COVID-19 IN 2020 AMERICA:
MY THREE-MONTH PROJECTION

1. The fissure between the two primary camps with opposing agendas and clashing priorities will continue to rupture. This widening divide is exacerbated because opposing groups now align largely along political and philosophical lines.

2. Since mid-March, *health/safety* advocates have driven virtually all federal, state, and local policy. However, those who prioritize *economy/employment* have increased in number and in the volume of their discontent (i.e., 10 screamers are far noisier than 100 who remain silent). As public patience gradually wears thin, and many regions of the country seem (relatively) unaffected, collective anxiety will worsen.

3. Growing economic hardship caused by the shutdown disproportionally impacts the middle class and the poor. Flames of revolt, increasingly fanned by conspiracy theorists and the constant drumbeat of right-wing media, make current policies unsustainable. This means social distancing guidelines are now being relaxed as America begins to “reopen.” While this is a reckless public policy, and potentially catastrophic given what we know (and we don’t know) about the pandemic, it’s just as inexorable. Ordering people to prepare for a hurricane when they don’t see clouds and rain is ineffectual.

4. Unless some economic sectors are permitted to reopen, particularly those impacting small businesses and self-employed contractors (which number in the millions), acts of rebellion once considered unpalatable to most average citizens will increasingly gain support. Justified or not, resentment against social distancing has spread from a few extremists into the mainstream. Personal financial interests will prevail in the debate and will win easily in most communities. Largely shafted or shortchanged by the federal economic bailout, and eligible for only limited state relief, those at risk for losing their businesses will slowly trickle over to the other side of the debate. This has already happened in rural communities and is now occurring in suburbia. Aside from a few “hot spots,” even many cities will decide to take their chances. It remains to be seen if we end up paying a much higher cost down the road as collective impatience leads to compromises in health/safety.

5. Perceptions will be shaped by three primary factors: (1) Preconceptions (2) Source of Reporting (3) The Inevitability of Changing Attitudes

— Our preconceptions about the threat posed by the virus combined with our political affiliation will mostly guide how we react to future events, both good and bad. In fact, I expect these preconceptions will boll weevil disparate camps even further apart.

— If 200,000 Americans are dead by summer’s end, which is a quite plausible projection, is that good news or bad news? Your answer depends on where we get our news and how data is packaged. The Trump Administration will certainly spin this as good news. Anti-Trump forces will point to America’s death toll as the highest in the world (likely) as evidence of failed leadership.

— Our attitudes about risk, sickness, the aged, and even death are changing. Should you doubt this, think again. In war, the value of life becomes cheaper. What we never thought tolerable before, becomes not only acceptable but “normal.”

6. Perceptions about the elderly will be the starkest new reality. Older people will be viewed as more disposable, especially by the young and by a medical system that may be forced to make tough choices as to the priorities of health care (not just COVID-19 related, but overall as resources become stretched). Nursing homes disproportionally feeling the impacts of the pandemic will fade from crisis mode. But what would happen if the virus begins hitting nurseries and schools? Such a shift in the preponderance of victims would produce a radical shift in collective perception, and would certainly not be tolerated by any segment of the population. The key here is to watch which age groups (and racial groups to a lesser extent) make up the victims (minorities are getting harder hit at the moment).

7. Pursuant to #5 and #6 (above), I can’t overemphasize this enough. I’m deeply worried deeply about our collective de-sensitization. We are desensitized to lies. We are desensitized to corruption. We are desensitized to incompetence. We are desensitized to bullying. We are desensitized to suffering, especially the suffering of strangers. We are even becoming desensitized to death.

8. Note that outside of the Metro New York area, the number of COVID-19 cases (nationally) continues to spike. It’s not going down. The numbers are going up. Each day. Yet, restrictions are now being relaxed in most states. While some areas of the country are doing quite well given the overall threat, that’s not to say an outbreak isn’t possible just about anywhere. I project that as the vast majority of states do reopen and gradually lax social distancing guidelines, combined with some public resentment to restrictions, we will experience some shocking new hot spots. These outbreaks will almost seem random, like in meat-packing plants in the Midwest. As people return to work and socialize more, what’s next? Where? Who?

9. So, we are divided — politically and philosophically — which will translate into behavior differences, as well. We are desensitized. American deaths will soon spike over 100,000. We will increasingly come to accept this as a new normal. We insist that businesses must open. Sporting events must be played. Financial interests will guide our path forward and determine public policy. Now, the only question is — what impact will these decisions have? What actions are taken now and in the next three months will impact the remainder of the year, and beyond? Will 2020 be like 1918 all over again, where the first wave was only a small wave of the catastrophe that swept the nation in the fall, undoubtedly made worse by the reduction of precautions? Or, might COVID-19 slowly dissipate and eventually disappear as a serious threat? No one knows, of course. Our assessments depend on to what degree we are willing to sacrifice now to avert future possible disaster.

10. When looking at projection models, the most likely outcome rests somewhere in the middle of extremes. Those who insist the virus is contained or doesn’t pose a danger are terribly naive. However, those who insist on a national lockdown must also come to terms with the reality that such draconian measures are unsustainable, and could even lead to societal chaos.

Accordingly, I’m an advocate for a very cautious approach. This cautious approach must not be driven by extremists but rather by science and by experts.

Thanks for reading.  Comments are welcome here or join the discussion on FACEBOOK here.

 

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Posted by on Mar 21, 2020 in Blog, Essays, Politics | 1 comment

War Games and Pandemics: Where are the Emergency Playbooks?

 

 

Countless studies do exist on what to do in case of national emergencies, including viral outbreaks.  The question is — why isn’t the Trump Administration following a plan?

 

When I worked at the State Department, I was assigned to Main State for a total of about nine months. One of the great privileges of working in that building was — with the proper clearance — having personal access to the vast library of information. Much of it is now digitized. But back then it was a real library with books and files and papers (on the third floor, I recall). Any State employee could go in and read most of the materials. One can only imagine how fascinating these topics were.

There were studies, contingency plans, predictions, historical analysis — binders packed with information on every conceivable scenario just about anywhere in the world.

For instance, if a remote American Consulate in the Democratic Republic of the Congo was attacked, there was a plan. If the DCM was held hostage, there was a plan. If a Marine Security Guard got into a traffic accident on foreign soil, there was a plan. If a nuclear reactor in France melted down to the core, there was a plan. If the wheat market collapsed from a bug and 30 percent of the world faced starvation, there was a plan. If Pakistan launched missiles at India, there was a plan. No matter what the crisis — always go to the playbook. That was the plan.

When the American Embassy in Romania was overrun with refugees and visa requests and even had to evacuate because of a bloody revolution while I was there, we worked out of the file like it was a textbook. The instructions were like commandments.

State was but one federal agency of many with lots of plans and playbooks. Those I know who worked in intelligence and NSA and DIA and the armed services all did their own studies. They had plans and playbooks, too. We’re talking about the nation’s best minds working for years on what I would call “War Games.”

However, the playbooks were not always about war. More often than not, they dealt with things like economic collapses, natural disasters, technical breakdowns, and even threats like pandemics.

Now, we’re getting somewhere. You see where this is headed.

Government isn’t the only source of studies and “what if” scenarios. It’s what major think tanks are trained to do. They play games — with economies, trade, military occupations, corporate espionage, hacking, counter-terrorism, and every imaginable scenario. The Brookings Institute, the Rand Corporation, and others have experts who produce studies on what to do if shit hits the fan. That’s why they are in business, which is to play “war games” and then hand over the playbook when the time comes.

That’s not all. There are also academics. These are professors and medical people and scientists and other experts. They work mostly in colleges and universities, and research facilities. Some of them make it their life’s work to come up with contingency plans in case of various situations.

We see some of these academics in the news today, primarily from Johns Hopkins University, and other places. Certainly, their libraries have studies and dissertations on what to do in case of global/national pandemics.

So, let’s agree there is a multitude of information readily available on virtually every conceivable scenario related to a viral outbreak. We should know how to secure borders and streamline transportation channels. We should know what it takes to keep food distribution networks going. We should have the drafts ready to be signed and the orders prepared to be given. We should also have the studies done and the social science completed on what happens when perhaps half the country might be on lockdown. What happens to an economy on that scale?

What we are experiencing now shouldn’t be a surprise to those at the top of the federal government. The playbooks are there. There’s no excuse for indecision or delay.

Obviously, coming up with a cure or some way to slow down the virus wasn’t foreseeable. But MANAGEMENT of a pandemic is entirely foreseeable and should have been a relatively simple process. It’s called crisis management.  I am willing to bet hundreds of reliable studies have been completed on this topic, and dozens likely deal with the specifics of an outbreak of this magnitude.

Yet, all I have seen for the past month is an Administration that apparently has no idea how to manage a crisis. Sure, the medical experts and science people are doing their best. But the MANAGEMENT of this disaster has been criminal and the consequences could be catastrophic.

I’d be curious to read others’ thoughts as to why THE VAST ARCHIVE of materials on “what to do” in case of a viral outbreak has not been utilized. Naturally, no one expects political leaders to know every answer. Indeed, this is why playbooks exist. This is why they should be followed.

One reason why this Administration has done such a poor job thus far and communicated to poorly to the American public is, they apparently don’t like to read nor understand anything about the vast resources of government if they were to only use them effectively.

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Posted by on Mar 18, 2020 in Blog, Essays, Politics | 2 comments

The Parachute Question

 

louis gohmert

 

You’re on a cross-country flight with several key Republicans.

Suddenly, the airplane has a mechanical problem. Things go from bad to worse. It’s going down. A crash is imminent.

The only chance for survival is to bail out. There are only two parachutes on board. You are the only passenger who knows about the two parachutes. You will use one parachute. You also have a choice of saving ONE Republican.

The Republicans onboard include:

Mitch McConnell
Tom Cotton
Rand Paul
Susan Collins
Ted Cruz
Devin Nunes
Louis Gohmert
Jim Jordan

So, now — the question. Just as you are about to bail out, you have a difficult decision to make. What’s your choice?

Do you hide the second parachute in the overhead bin or under the seat?

 

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Posted by on Feb 22, 2020 in Blog, Essays, Politics | 1 comment

Caucus Cliffnotes (The Lakes/Las Vegas)

 

the lakes las vegas

CAUCUS CLIFFNOTES (THE LAKES/LAS VEGAS)

My Experience at the 2020 Nevada Caucus
(MJ Christensen Elementary School)
Saturday, 22 February 2020

My local caucus was held today at the MJ Christensen Elementary School. Only in Las Vegas will you see a kid’s school named after a diamond dealer.

Cliffnotes, as follows:

— 28 people showed up today at my local caucus, which was held from 12 noon to 2 pm. This number was added to the 40 who voted early. Hence, 68 persons voted in my precinct in the 2020 Democratic Caucus.

— The first alignment resulted in the following tally of votes (early votes plus those present):

32 Sanders
10 Warren
9 Buttigieg
8 Steyer
5 Biden
1 Klobuchar
1 Gabbard
2 Undecided

Viability required 15 percent of all precinct votes, meaning 11 was the magic number to be counted for delegates. This meant only Sanders was viable after the first round of voting.

— Next, each candidate’s representative (one person was selected from each group, which were gathered around tables) was given 1 minute to make a plea to get votes on the realignment (second round of voting). I was stunned at how articulate my neighbors were when speaking. Each person made a very good case for their candidate.

— Then, another vote was taken, which was called the realignment. This open ballot resulted in some surprising results as people moved around the classroom. The 28 persons who showed up were allowed to move. The other (early) votes were counted electronically on an iPad (as a second choice option on the ballot — it was entirely electronic):

39 Sanders
15 Warren
11 Steyer
5 Buttigieg
(I can’t remember the exact scrap count)

— This meant that three candidates were declared “viable,” meaning they would receive delegates. The math formula for allotment was as follows:

4 delegates for Sanders
2 delegates for Warren
2 delegates for Steyer

— There was some confusion about the non-11 count for some candidates. Obviously, only the persons who showed up were able to make an on-the-fly decision. Some votes ended up being wasted. That’s the benefit of actually attending a caucus versus doing the half-assed thing and voting early. While all voting is good, I also found the line to be much shorter today than expected. I waited only 20 minutes to register and the caucus took no longer than 90 minutes from start to finish. I also got to meet some of my neighbors, which was nice.

— I was asked to be a delegate for my candidate but declined. I preferred to give that seat to a Tulsi Gabbard backer who came to support my candidate and I befriended during the caucus. The young man was in his 20s and I thought it was far more important to let a younger person be engaged in the process rather than me, who has been in these battles before. Let others have fun.

Now, my major takeaways:

1. Sanders is a force and the clear frontrunner. My precinct went for Clinton in 2016, by about 55-45 margin. This time, the two progressive candidates took 75 percent of the vote. While 68 votes aren’t statistically significant, it’s not insignificant either. Apparently, Sanders will win Nevada easily statewide, showing this state is far more progressive than 4 or 8 years ago. This gives me great hope as to the future of the movement here and the energy of young people who are the driving force for progressive causes.

2. All the Sanders supporters were young, meaning under 40. Again, the future. Great demographics of progressive causes and democratic socialism. This is particularly satisfying in a city like money-obsessed Las Vegas, which isn’t exactly the epicenter of Leftist politics.

3. Biden’s turnout in my precinct was pathetic. It was shocking. Biden should perform well in my area, which is older, established, and above-average income. Apparently, Biden will do much better statewide, especially among minorities and the braindead union vote, but his showing in my area should be a serious cause for alarm.

4. Tom Steyer. Seriously? Wow. Steyer had a solid showing in my precinct and was well organized. Good spokespeople. Finishing third is quite a feat for Steyer, which won’t draw those numbers throughout Nevada, but who did gain some enthusiasm.

5. Pete Buttigieg got shafted. He was right there in votes close to Warren and Steyer but then collapsed in the realignment. I actually stopped the meeting at one point and spoke to make sure the Buttigieg people weren’t pissed and would leave thinking something was rigged. To go from nearly getting delegates to being shut out (by Steyer, no less) was a baffling outcome to all those in the room.

So, I ended up caucusing for Elizabeth Warren. Sanders has my heart on the issues. But Warren is the candidate best suited to win. I think she’s a longshot, of course. But I was proud to stand with her today.

Finally, I like caucusing. I much prefer having to take part in the political process rather than standing in line anonymously. I presume this is a minority viewpoint and caucusing will be a thing of the past, but I do like the old fashioned way of discussing and advocating for a party nominee.

I want to thank all those who read my earlier reports, commented, and even lobbied me to support their candidate. Please know that I took each instance of outreach very seriously. In fact, I was honored by your interest and swayed by your passions.

More to come, but that wraps up my report from The Lakes/Las Vegas.

FINAL FUNNY STORY: I’m not known in my community, but everyone sees me running each day, which I have been doing for the past seven years. While we were waiting during the caucus, an older woman came up to me. Marieta was sitting beside me. The woman, perhaps 70 and for Biden said, “I’ve never seen you before with your shirt on!” I looked at her and was like, “huh?” Marieta looked at her like she was crazy. Then, the lady mentioned she sees me running in warm months all the time and recognized me from the street. At least, that’s “our story” for now.

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Posted by on Feb 17, 2020 in Blog, Essays, Politics | 10 comments

100 Years of Presidents — Ranked from Best to Worst

 

Presidents Day

 

ON PRESIDENTS DAY (FEBRUARY 17, 2020)
100 YEARS OF PRESIDENTS — RANKED

There have been 18 American presidents over the past century (1920-2020). Our presidents have served short terms (Ford-just 2.5 years) and much longer multiple terms (Roosevelt-13 years). Here’s my ranking from best to worst:

 

Franklin D. Roosevelt
— America’s greatest president since Abe Lincoln, and it’s not even close. Probably saved democracy both from collapse from within and by his steady leadership during WWII. Launched the New Deal, saved tens of millions from starving via govt, programs, began Social Security, mass civil works programs and government projects; repealed prohibition; inspired and lifted the nation during its worst economy in history

Dwight D. Eisenhower
— Centrist non-politician; great leader; and national father figure; always fair-minded. Slow on civil rights, but presided over the decade when the US was at its economic and global peak; warned future generations of the military-industrial complex and left office highly-respected by both parties

Lyndon B. Johnson
— America’s most liberal president on domestic policy; ambitious advocate for the Great Society; civil rights pioneer; far too many domestic accomplishments to name here–including the creation of Medicare, the “War on Poverty,” govt.-funded scientific research, education, gun control, expansion of immigration –but his legacy remains badly tainted by the drastic escalation in Vietnam.

Harry S. Truman
— Strong record as a Cold War warrior; common man approach to governing; what he lacked in charisma he made up for in honesty. Outstanding leadership in post-War Europe and Japan while holding a fragile situation together while the Cold War ramped up to dangerous levels

Barack Obama
— Inherited an economic disaster and helped to turn around the country; was a “first” in so many ways that inspired people all over the world; steady economic growth during every year while in office; health care bill passed; advanced gay rights and increased government protections; gets negative marks for lapses on civil liberties, use of drones, and poor use of diplomacy in some parts of the Middle East (Syria)

Woodrow Wilson
— Guided America through a tough period of growing pains; minimized US casualties during a global conflict; an idealistic visionary; scholarly; incapacitated in his final years

Gerald R. Ford
— Short tenure, but held the nation together after the worst constitutional crisis since the Civil War; didn’t have sufficient time to accomplish a lot, but generally gets high marks from historians (and was the target of TWO assassinations–poor Ford). Like seriously, who would want to kill Gerald Ford?

George H.W. Bush
— Received one of highest approval ratings in history during the late 80s, then a deep recession hit; receives positive marks on foreign policy following fall of USSR and building a coalition to counter the threat in Iraq

Ronald Reagan
— Inspiring; regal; ideological, and charismatic, but also tainted by arms-for-hostages scandal; criminal acts in Central America; begins to look worse as we distance ourselves from the “Greed Is Good” Reaganesque-’80s

Bill Clinton
— After failing to pass universal health care early in his first term, then governed as a centrist, with very strong economic numbers; presidency plagued by personal scandal, including impeachment; Not looking as good in retrospect

John F. Kennedy
— The most overrated president in American history, hands down. Witty and charismatic, for sure. But a disaster on foreign policy (failed Vienna talks, Cuba, Bay of Pigs, Berlin, escalation in Vietnam), completely silent on civil rights for more than two years while Black churches were being bombed, very average record on domestic economic policy; Final Assessment: all style but little substance

Richard M. Nixon
— Very mixed grade….extraordinary foreign policy achievements, but criminal conduct in Southeast Asia responsible for untold numbers of needless deaths in Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, and elsewhere; remarkably liberal on domestic policy, but destroyed by his own inner-demons revealed during the scandal of Watergate

Calvin Coolidge
— A big fat do-nothing free-market conservative who governed in the midst of prohibition, isolationism, neglectfully silent on the rising tide of racism and segregation; guilty for his Laissez-faire economic affairs

Jimmy Carter
— A good man but a bad president–or at least a weak and ineffective leader; he suffered devastating effects of the energy crisis, high inflation, the Iran hostage ordeal….but is also widely considered to be the best ex-President by many

Herbert Hoover
— Brilliant man who, based on other parts of his life, should have been one of America’s best presidents; but remained stubbornly wielded to conservative economic policies and small government, even after the ’29 stock market crash nearly destroyed the country; now looked upon as a complete failure

Warren G. Harding
— Dumb and dirty: Scandal-plagued failure of a president who was utterly neglectful of his duties while in office. He let the markets run wild, gave unnecessary tax cuts, championed America’s isolationism; slashed immigration; and hired corrupt cronies

George W. Bush
— Launched two pointless unwinnable wars in the Middle East, presided over deregulation and lack of proper government oversight of markets which resulted in the global economic collapse of 2008; legacy tainted by approval of torture, loss of civil liberties, and increased govt. surveillance

Donald J. Trump
— Inherited a strong economy and has been a disaster ever since; increased national debt–now a record high, repeated foreign policy disasters, unprecedented personal and cabinet scandals, record staff resignations-firing-criminality; impeachment and trial, intentional divisiveness, appalling ignorance, and unapologetic corruption. By comparison, Trump makes George W. Bush look like George Washington.

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