Saturday, November 28, 2020

 November 28--Last weekend of this next to last month of 2020

Saw an interesting and sad pair of stats  first thing this morning: COVID hospitalizations topped 90K for the first time and some 10million people may be evicted from their homes in the new year. It is interesting because of what it says about the our society that COVID is so out of control and sad because of what it says about our politics because it didn't have to happen if we had the political will to address the issues.

John Michael Greer at Ecosophia has a commentary on the "great reset." Interesting how our failed dreams seem to resurface but referencing an even older version. I couldn't get far into Ida Auken's piece he linked. But my mind made an fascinating connection: the several ads for meal delivery services. People in the ads are so overjoyed to not have to cook again. Supposedly they will be liberated from the drudgery and can do something creative with the time they have reclaimed. 

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

 Thanksgiving Eve

The plans are made. We are staying in. My brother invited us over for dinner but we declined. He is one who doesn't think COVID is all that serious. He just came back from a hunting trip in Wisconsin (he got a nice buck and one of the grandsons got his deer as well) and discovered a different world. The restaurant he went into had every booth and table filled with people none of whom wore masks. I have read that the governor has had trouble both enforcing a mask mandate and getting any emergency measures going thanks to a Repthuglican legislature. My sister and her partner are also staying in and not having anybody in for dinner. Both have medical conditions that make that very sensible.

While the pundits are busy conducting autopsies on the recent election I have a few observations of my own:

 First the turn out was phenomenal. I can't remember an election where such a large number of people voted. Reports I have seen claim almost 67% of the eligible voters actually turned out--highest percentage for the last 100 years.

 Second, I think this year and 2016 actually show that we are a society searching for a path into the future and completely split on what that path should be. Biden was right to describe himself as a "caretaker." I heard this morning that a shift of only 60K votes over 4 or 5 states would have won the day for #45--a mirror image for what happened in 2016 when he did win. Many of those who supported #45 in 2016 still support him. Many of those who support Biden this time are tepid in their support. They want to see something from the administration which addresses their concerns. Given what I have seen on each side I can see the possibility that both parties might split into 2 or more factions over the next four years. The "Progressive" wing may not be very happy with Biden and there is a part of the Republicans who aren't pleased with #45, the Q-Anon cadre, or the remnants of the Tea Party. The election of 2024 might be another Donnybrook. 

 Third, for the first year of Biden's term the coronavirus will still dominate. Three vaccines are likely to be approved over the next month and the companies have already been producing large numbers of doses of the likely candidates even before the end of stage 3 trials. Those doses will be ready to ship as soon as approval is given. But as some of the experts have said we have two problems: the logistical difficulties of distributing two that require refrigeration (one at -100F or thereabout) and whether people will accept the vaccine. I have already heard reports of anti-vexers saying they won't because they don't trust vaccines generally. I have also heard the members of minority communities aren't entirely sold on the idea because of the history of medical abuses in those communities. The Tuskegee experiments are most often mentioned. And then there are those like myself, Mom and my brother. We are not necessarily against it but we will wait for a bit to see how it works in wide spread use. We aren't seriously inconvenienced by masking and social distancing and we were avoiding crowds before the virus came along.

Fourth, the economy isn't going to come roaring back like #45 claimed. Too many people are out of work. If new legislative measures aren't coming before the end of the year quite a lot of people (10M+) face eviction as of Dec. 31. The jobs many depended on aren't coming back soon, if ever, because the small businesses they worked for are gone and the big firms are cutting payroll also. The latest unemployment measures announced this morning said 770M+ filed for first time unemployment last week.  Shadow Stats lists the official unemployment at about 7% but their own calculations based one how the Bureau of Labor Statistics calculated that metric before 1994 (when they decided to erase several categories of people without jobs) stand at better than 25%. 

Fifth, the states and local governments have been hit hard between the massive unemployment claims, the huge hit on taxes that aren't coming in, the additional funding due to the virus. And, so far, the Republican Senate has been unwilling to provide much relief and what they say they would provide come with a lot of strings which limit how the states can use it. Most of the states were in financial trouble before the pandemic and their position has only been worsened since.

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

 Three days to Thanksgiving

Well, now two days to Thanksgiving

Number 45 might have given us a reason to be grateful by allowing his administration, including the GSA, to begin the transition to a Biden administration. Of course, he won't say out loud that he lost. I guess that he thinks that if he doesn't say the words the reality won't exist.

And his rabid followers won't accept the election results. They figure their savior couldn't possibly lose unless the nearly 80 million votes cast against hime were fraudulent and illegal. I was totally disgusted when Giuliani argued in a Pennsylvania court that the remedy for unproven fraud was to throw out all of the mail in ballots. The judge disposed of that brutally. I felt the same about the similar arguments in Michigan that the authorities should just not count the Wayne County (a.k.a., Detroit) votes. I have a niece who lives in Detroit who is white and I am sure she voted by mail (health problems that make voting in person problematic) and who I am sure did not vote for #45. But because she lives in an area that is 75%+ black Giuliani thought her vote shouldn't count. Again the judge dismissed that quickly. The only thing that stops me from telling all those who consider the results of the election a disfranchisement of the 73 million who voted for #45. The argument basically says that all of the almost 80 million who voted for the other guy is so much waste paper or wasted bits in the election computers. As you can probably guess I am one of those 80 million and I resent their attitude. Hell, that crew wouldn't have been happy if #45 had won the election which he said was rife with fraud.

Andrew Bacevich at Tomdispatch tries to make sense of #45's firing of Defense Secretary Esper and stocking various positions with a new set of appointees. Number 45 did promise during his first campaign to get us out of our endless wars. That is something I was and am all for, and I might have voted for him if not for too many other negatives that more than balanced that positive item. However, the Pentagon has been more than a little adroit at deflecting far more determined Presidents. And #45 has the attention span of a gnat. Even though he has said he wants all troops out of Afghanistan, Iraq, and Somalia by Christmas and has a man in place to give the orders, the best they might accomplish is a 50% reduction. We never had any clear, reasonably attainable objectives and no sense of an end point and no idea of how to extricate ourselves. But as much as I think we should have never gone in there, I don't think a willy-nilly withdrawal which leaves our allies in a lurch is the way out either.

I think John Beckett may be expressing what many of us are feeling. My own feelings of thankfulness are also a bit tepid. I think it is the culmination of the last four years of #45 which was a constant irritation relieved only when the returns came in for Biden and he decided to disappear for the most part. He is no longer a 24/7/365 presence for which I am grateful. It seems that he has given up even the pretense of governing. The pandemic, of course, permeates everything. Back in December when we got the first reports (at our level of the socio-economic food chain) I told Mom that it just might be on its way here and by early January we had our first cases. When #45 said that the virus would, "like magic", go away when the weather got warm I laughed and thought it would go south where people would go indoors with the air-conditioning. I agreed with Fauci when he said it would be worse in the fall no matter what #45 said. We have a third wave hitting with unprecedented numbers and I think this wave will continue until February. I don't think people who aren't willing to forego Thanksgiving celebrations will be willing to forego Christmas, or New Years and each will give us another surge within this wave. The experts are saying that we can expect another 250k deaths by February and they have been right so far. Remember when Dr. Birx said that if we did everything right we could keep the death toll to 60-100k? Well a large number of us haven't done anything right. I don't expect that to change. I am glad I am alive, still curious, am as healthy as ever, and that we have enough money coming in to keep us housed, clothed and fed. I hope next year things will have changed and I can feel more deeply grateful.

I am a life long cat person. For those of you who might also be of that persuasion here is a little tidbit I just found.

Thursday, November 19, 2020

 November 19

The wind is howling though the weather reports said we should have a nice day today. But I haven't trusted weather reports for sometime. The weather has been too unpredictable. I am awake much too early partly because I haven't yet adjusted to the time change almost three weeks ago and the furry alarm clocks most definitely haven't.

In my last post I mentioned the number of overflowing carts at the grocery store. Well, evidently my perceptions were not wrong as this piece on the CBS site shows. We plan to go out later to get a few things for our Thanksgiving dinner and will see what is happening at a different grocery store. We didn't get the items last time because we hadn't decided what we were going to fix yet. Thanksgiving will definitely be different even for us. Usually we would have planned on having dinner with my brother and sister-in-law. But COVID and SIL's death (not from COVID) a couple of months ago scotched any such thoughts. On the other side of the family my sister made it plain she wasn't hosting any dinner this year. It has become too taxing and both she and her partner have medical conditions that make such gatherings especially dangerous. Things do change whether we like it or not.

Found this on Al Jazeera. I rather suspected the COVID depressed economy would affect Social Security and Medicare but I hadn't expected it would do it so soon.

An interesting Tomdispatch post this morning. I have seen a few comments in articles and blogs indicating an unhappiness with Biden's economics team which largely recycles old faces and, probably, old ideas. Not really much of a surprise since the more "progressive" voices were shunted off the stage during the primaries. But the Tomdispatch article indicates the same for the foreign policy and military teams--the old familiar faces and the old familiar ideas. What is especially interesting is the amount of foreign money and influence involved.

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

 Well, Half-Past November plus a couple of days

We went out on our grocery run this morning. We were surprised to see as many people at the little dairy but every now and then more people than we expect show up as early as we do. We got our usual--milk, eggs, butter, and yogurt plus a package of hamburger patties and a couple packages of pirogies. But one guy was filling up a box and their meat freezer was about 2/3 empty. At our other supermarket we saw a few more cars than usual but the real surprised was at the checkout. We haven't seen so many people with such loaded carts since March. One couple had two loaded carts. The toilet paper aisle was almost bare and the signs limiting customers to two items were back. We remarked on the situation to the checker who said it was because our county had been assigned to the red level of restrictions. Our governor had replaced the numerical levels with color codes. I knew that but when I checked a couple of days ago we were still in the orange. That might have spooked some but it doesn't mean much to us. None of the COVID restrictions have affected us much. We don't travel, we didn't consider shopping a sport or entertainment, and we didn't gather with large crowds nor with small crowds often. My sister-in-law's funeral was that last large person gathering we attended. What we saw was an echo of last spring but this one is a clearer reminder of the early pandemic. I am amazed by how many Republican governors have suddenly come to the point of adopting some restriction to combat the virus.

Random Observations for November 18

Ceremonies, customs and traditions are part of the glue that hold us together and so many are under pressure from the pandemic. By custom and by law we send kids out of the house to schools from age 5 or 6 which allows both parents to work in the economy. By tradition we have elections in which one party loses and concedes, publicly, while congratulating the winner. We look forward to the holidays when we can get together with often far-flung family. But all of our expectations are being stretched and mangled to the point that we hardly recognize them.

Pfizer has come out with an amendment to its announcement of last week: its vaccine shows a 95%+ level of effectiveness. They will go ahead with a petition for emergency use directive from the FDA. But that doesn't mean either their vaccine or the Moderna vaccine which also showed a preliminary effectiveness of 90%+, will be available to ALL Americans before mid to late 2021--in other words not soon. We will have to mask up and social distance for some months yet. Unfortunately, so many are resisting such measures.

I keep hearing pleas from medical and other experts pushing for a "national response". They all cite the problems that comes with 50+ separate state responses. Unfortunately, they all are pushing against an entrenched historical tradition under which the states have their own sovereignty. The United States was established as a union of sovereign with separate spheres of authority for the Federal and state governments. Expecting a national response is as logical as expecting the measures mandated to be enforced in France or Germany. A coordinated national response requires leadership which as been lacking in our current Federal administration.

Canada celebrated its Thanksgiving a month ago and has had a big surge in COVID. Ours comes up next week and I expect we will have a similar surge on top of the spike we now have. And just think of Christmas coming up. We are very attached to our celebrations as I said above.

Most of this year, after March, we have seen news stories about lines. Unbelievable lines to vote, staggering lines for COVID tests, and astounding lines for food at food banks. I remarked to Mom that I remember bread/soup lines but only from pictures of the Great Depression in history books. I am too young (at 71). I asked if I missed some along the way and she didn't think so. There were some now that I think about it during the Great Recession but not so many and not so long.

Saturday, November 14, 2020

 Hope you all had a good Veterans' Day

Sunny but cold today. It may get warm enough for me to go out and clean up some more leaves. Trees that still had their fall foliage a week ago are now winter bare. We had several days with high winds and a few with rain. That pretty well stripped the trees. The temperatures for the next week are more typically November--chilly.

I wasn't going to link to this. The COVID situation is as depressing as our political situation and there is nothing I can do about either other than limit my excursions out of the house while wearing a mask and voting. And I do both. I have heard the notion of a "lockdown" bandied about both at local levels and at the Federal level. One major point to start with--the Italian government can do (and did) impose a lockdown in the spring. The U.S. Federal government can suggest a lockdown but can't impose one. Major difference. But it is debatable how effective the lockdowns in Europe were. Sweden did not lockdown but their cases are surging now, they have the highest mortality rate in Europe and the economy has taken a serious hit just like the rest of Europe. Here in the U.S. cases are exploding with more than 120K per day for the last week. I think we set three records in three days with the worst yesterday at almost 149K. Hospitals are overwhelmed and N. Dakota's governor is relaxing rules to allow asymptomatic but positive personnel to work because they simply don't have more trained medical workers. Arguments over what policy to follow have usually been couched in terms of people's lives vs the economy. Unfortunately, I think we are at the point of losing both. But the author of the post I linked to draws attention to a problem we have over here but we have been able to whitewash it almost to oblivion: those hurt by what ever we do are at the lower end of the socioeconomic scale and have the fewest resources to sustain them through it. They are also the so-called "essential workers" who seem to be all too disposable.

November 13

Well, another record for COVID cases--159K. And another 1000+ death toll for the day. Chicago's mayor is issuing a stay-at-home advisory. She decided against a new stay-at-home order because too many people either won't or can't follow such an order. Those who are able are working from home and most everyone else has to go out to work. Indiana and Illinois have both been setting new records for hospitalizations and for deaths.

November 14

We have had frosts for the last three mornings including this morning and it was fairly heavy. Temperature on the patio was 30*F. Right now the sky is cloudy. 

So Jerome Powell (Federal Reserve Chairman) is saying out loud what I said back in late April: whatever economy we have on the other side of this pandemic will not be the economy we had. That might not be a bad thing because it didn't work well for a much too large a proportion of the population. It is nice he acknowledges the lower paid workers who will need support but given the current climate in Washington I am not holding my breath.We had a consumer economy but large numbers of consumers can't consume much beyond basics--if they can afford that.