COVID-19: Reading the Numbers

May 13, 2020;  US Tragedy-Count at 82K and rising…

Everybody is getting bombarded with numbers, statistics related to Covid-19 infections & sometimes with little explanation of their underlying significance. For example Russia: They report a little over 2K deaths (henceforth more correctly referred to as tragedies!). They also report 242+K infections, but say that is because of new testing, implying these are “old” cases already there and –somehow- just now being discovered. If you assume a reasonable average under 5% fatality rate (Sorry , there is no euphemism for the ultimate infection result.), they will in the not too distant future report over 10K tragedies. That they report such a low tragedy rate shows only these are likely newer cases – and rising quickly.

The virus is everywhere, still as infectious as ever. Only our perceptions are changing over time…

There is a graph on the Financial Times website comparing countries’ tragedy rate with all countries starting at the same point. That is, juxtaposed from when the individual country first reported 3 tragedies. Most graphs are normal: fast rise, plateau, eventually a more gradual descent. Currently the exceptions are Mexico & Brazil with both still in their initial rise, the latter heading direct to USA numbers -by far the highest- quickly. Did we mention that both those two countries -USA & Brazil- have national leaders who have been among the loudest in their downplaying of Covid-19 as something not to worry about, that it will “go away” on its own? Surprised that England is high up there with them?

The dominant feature we take from this graph -however- is the slope China took from peak to almost no cases. When you consider the severity of their lockdown & the extent of their testing/tracing during this period it should be apparent that this slope – the angle of descent– is perhaps a best-case scenario, a benchmark in any case.

Opening up prematurely in the various US states will guarantee that the US together will never achieve this slope! Other countries, where the populace is not as caustically divided as in the US & the people in general have more trust in their governments, have implemented lockdowns more successfully, but have still not achieved China’s descending slope. We all still have a long, hard road ahead. Moreover, the continuing emphasis by the US federal government on opening in the US, while still neglecting expansion of critically all-important testing/tracing, instead pushing all responsibility on the states (later the convenient recipients of all the blame for what the federal government should have done at the very beginning!) will keep the tragedy graph of the USofA meandering… a little down, some up, down…up…maybe big up even. In any case, it is our sorrowful evaluation that if this graph does not go down drastically, the 2020 Santa Claus will bring the USofA a tragedy count of at least a quarter, and quite possibly a half a million!!!

2020: The Coming American Constitutional Crisis

2020: The Coming American Constitutional Crisis                     May 9, 2020

Where to start? Perhaps with a vacuous academic description of how when a large, complicated system experiences a large growing number of many small problems mounting cause the risk factor of a major disruption to rise….nah: the major disruptions are already starting to mount. We have added a specific date – when the unthinkable happens, don’t say you weren’t warned. Perhaps a better way to date this post – or any happening – is by the number of US Covid-19 deaths (tragedies). Currently we stand at 75K; the number is growing; the federal leadership is just as ineffective as a remedy as it was at the beginning. All-important testing is only happening regularly in the WH, while states are still struggling individually, some less than others.

But this leadership is not inactive: The Justice Department – through the Chief Deplorable’s political hack Barr – has finally showed beyond doubt that it serves only to achieve any personal interest or vendettas that the greatest FAKE PRESIDENT the USA has ever experienced wishes; the intelligence community has been constantly belittled in the eyes of the public and is about to be led by another political hack who will work to achieve the same there; Congress has been sidelined as a controlling factor in the normal, all-important balance of power; the Republican leader in the Senate seriously expounds the ludicrous, absolutely catastrophic idea that US states should go into bankruptcy. The Chief Deplorable talks about not saving “blue states”. His armed supporters gather in state capitols.

The USA has had – and survived – corrupt Presidents (think Harding). The USA has had – and survived – leaders of limited intellectual capabilities (think little Busch). But the coming crucial question of late 2020 – in our humble opinion – will be if the USA can survive an utterly egotistical, corrupt, dumb, sui generis FAKE PRESIDENT? What did the first Sec/State of this administration, a man who led one of the biggest, richest corporation on earth, say after his very short stint: he threw up his hands and said (of this FAKE PRESIDENT) “ He’s an idiot!”. Yes, we’ve had idiots in the WH before, but they let others (including a corrupt Vice) run the show. No, we have a hopeless egotist who says he is a “stable genius” who insists that he has “absolute power”, yet incapable of seeing anything beyond his own little world of personal ambitions. Literally an American Nero – singing his own praises – while Covid-19 fire is burning through the land!!

So much of what the Chief Deplorable does – disgusting language, despicable ruining of careers of any civil servant crossing his ire, letting his family run amok with government services for crony deals…. The list is endless – has all become just daily news and thereby just so run-of-the-mill, just so stock that it’s almost starting to be boring – if you ignore the trend, the consequences.

Let’s see what the landscape will look like in the Fall & onward of 2020. What will be the circumstances around a most decisive, critical 2020 election? First, it should be tragically apparent that the delayed, then mixed messaging, the utter lack of national leadership will guarantee that COVID-19 will still be raging. The blaming game will expand stepwise, but do nothing to alleviate this national cataclysm. Any other leader – even a mediocre opportunist politician – would have listened to the early warnings, acted quickly, decisively, then basked in euphoric glory as people saw the destruction in other vast parts of the globe. No, this fake leader mired in his petty, personal little world ignored whatever did not affect him immediately. So now his short-sighted, fatal strategy is to let Americans die for the sake of a supposedlygrowing economy. But will this economy come back? Can this economy under such dire circumstances even come back? Not a snowball’s chance in Hell!

So, here comes the existential 2020 Presidential Election in November 2020. Since this Fake President thinks in simple terms let’s describe the situation in simple elements: his “base” loves to come out in the open (with their automatic weapons), without masks, ready for violence, convinced they represent The American Way; while more rational, thinking folks prefer to adhere to health authorities’ guidelines and stay at home to protect themselves & their loved ones. Easy to see that the former will come out to vote while the latter would much prefer absentee balloting. The obvious answer will be to eliminate the latter! If not successful, then make it as difficult as possible with complicated paperwork to register, enact additional silly requirements; and ultimately look for any means possible to not count those votes. Remember how quickly the state unemployment systems were broken by sheer volumes of applications. The same will happen with absentee ballots – also in the hands of state administrations. Are the states getting any help from the federal gobmnt for their broken finances? Could it be that Republican governors are already scheming thinking about how their underfunded systems will be simply unable to process so many absentee ballots? Is there any discussion of improving state resources for such an onslaught of absentee ballots? Instead, Republicans want the states to declare bankruptcy, thereby ensuring they will not have the resources for mail-in voting. Remember that this FAKE PRESIDENT lost the popular vote in 2016 to a very unpopular opponent (Sorry Hillary, I didn’t like you either, even if I did vote for you – just too much funny-money coming into your foundation.). A small voting segment could make all the difference again in spite of this bungling “stable genius” telling people on national TV to maybe drink bleach or indulge in UV tanning sessions.

In polling places, Americans should not be surprised to be accosted by armed men with MAGA caps, asking them if they “love their country”. Probably laws exist against guns around polling places, but remember how easy it was for relatively small, partially armed groups to convince governors – especially Republican – to quickly overturn any health directives for social distancing? And then there will be the massive Russian trolls doing their best to sow discord & spread disinformation. They will be free to operate with the Justice Department and American intelligence agencies in reign from political hacks appointed by this FAKE PRESIDENT to lead those agencies with the express mandate to allow the Russians any trolling activity. We are convinced that the Russians have some depraved dirt on their/our Chief Deplorable, collected when he was in Moscow for the beauty contest he ran there. Only that could explain how obliging he has been to Russian wishes, downright disparaging of American intelligence community activities & judgments, and downright sabotaging any & all attempts to disclose the truth of the extent of Russian hacking activities.

Let’s be clear about Russian aims. The country is a giant mafia gas station: it cannot compete on the world stage except in the military realm. That’s why instead of effectively fighting Covid-19, doctors are mysteriously falling out of windows all over the country. When you cannot bring yourself up to the level of the competition, you try to bring the competition down to your level. What better way than to have a Fake President divide the nation; denigrate the rule of law; do anything against efforts at national unity in such a critical time? The most telling incident for us was when the Chief Deplorable explained why he did not wear face masks. He said it would not be appropriate when he met with “Kings, ….”. He did not say “heads of state”, instead the first category that came to this Fake President’s simple, egotistical mind was “kings”. Because that is what he thinks of himself – a king! And we all know kings do not have any need for elections.

Ok, call us alarmist & assume the election is safe. First, what will happen when in late Summer when Americans are still dying by the thousands, economic activity is tepid (Consumers still staying away from open activities.), and polls show this FAKE PRESIDENT distinctly losing? Does anyone think he will hesitate to provoke a hot war – with Iran most likely, but maybe even China – to make him a “real” war president? Will Pentagon generals, types like our current sec/state pompous, arise to the occasion and volunteer to push the button? What will these generals do when the FAKE PRESIDENT cancels the election because of another “national emergency”, a pandemic already almost 1 year old?

Ok, call us alarmist & assume the election was safe, but the Chief Deplorable lost. Does anyone believe we will have a “lame duck” Chief Deplorable in check for many weeks before a takeover by a new administration? There of course will be the fear that honest law enforcement will arise in 2021 and look at all the deal-making by Jared in medical supplies, as well as other financial dealings; a new aspiration to accost Russian meddling in American elections & delve deep into the extent of their efforts & who they were trying to help. What frantic, audacious actions will be taken to keep tell-all books from being written, various investigations from being started, and federal employees – no longer in fear of retribution – from testifying? Will he then start a war and call the election void as a “war president” in a “national emergency”? Will he call the vote “fake” and declare it as void?

Ok, call us alarmist & assume the election was safe, and the Chief Deplorable won. The Chief Deplorable will finally & quickly build his wall, but it won’t stop us from leaving because this will no longer be the America we love & respect! And it won’t be safe either….

Wisconsin Shows New Republican Strategy

Wisconsin shows clearly the battle plan of the Republican Party in the coming November presidential election as well as other local & state elections. The background is simple: Covid-19 is raging, liberal voters are most predominant in urban areas and the Republicans do better in rural areas. It will be easier & less stressful to vote in person in the latter where there is space for social distancing (or else no regards for it), while urban areas are the exact opposite: tight spaces, stay-at-home orders & liberal voters. So Republicans – as they have shamefully & eagerly shown they are willing to do a la Wisconsin – will gleefully endanger the health & even the lives of fellow Americans by a barrage of voting strategies. These include primarily:

  • Reducing the number of polling stations in urban areas.
  • Mandating more & harder requirements on absentee voters.

Absentee voters with health issues are more likely to be conscious of the health-care debate, as well  as live close to larger medical facilities ie. cities. Black Americans will be an especially targeted group by Republicans because they overwhelmingly vote Democratic in urban areas. Republicans will chiefly concentrate on depriving black neighborhoods of polling stations. States with Republican atty-generals,  governors or even just state assemblies will try to mandate additional paperwork for absentee ballots – often close in time to elections – to make it harder, more discouraging, if not downright impossible for those voters to comply. Naturally any attempt to accommodate absentee voters, such as extending mailing deadlines, will immediately face Republican lawsuits.

We had wondered why the Chief Deplorable had gone on a rant against absentee voting in general on one of his recent daily “Watch Me, watch me” shows. Maybe just another rant against anything to do with democracy, we pondered. But then learning what happened in Wisconsin it was easily recognizable that there is a Republican strategy behind this new campaign against holding fair elections.

The strategy will backfire. It won’t work just like it did not in Wisconsin. But nevertheless it gives us trepidation as to November. If Republicans are willing to sacrifice the health and even lives of Americans who want to exercise their most valued democratic right, will they shy away from a drastic enough disruption of the presidential election as to cause a constitutional crisis? Maybe not recognize the results should it go against them? Postpone the election if polls are not favorable? Yes! They have obviously shown they are ready to do anything.

There is another option – one that deserves special consideration:

This author is the same age group as the Chief Deplorable. One of the political axioms I learned in that long-ago era of Eisenhower / Nixon et al was that an incumbent President always wins re-election in time of war (VietNam doesn’t count. It wasn’t a war,  it was a national disaster – inflicting as much damage here as it did there.) and we say it here & now: This egotistical, self-serving fake in the White House will not hesitate to drop the big one (Iran is the current obvious choice) or otherwise start a war – any war – if a November defeat starts looking unavoidable.

Brexit….. please!!!

Well, it’s really a good time for people like me who watch the news as entertainment. The Brexit fiasco is in full swing as of this writing: Boris has just (partially) sidelined Parliament to keep them from effectively blocking. (<< Yes, that’s a period. Normally a noun comes after an active verb. But Parliament has blocked everything coming their way, simultaneously offering no ideas of their (aggregate) own!)

So, is this a good thing that Boris is trying? Well, think of it this way: is the glass half-full or half-empty. For three (count them: 1 year, 2 years, 3 years!!!) Parliament has come up in total with 1 conundrum – rejected everything coming their way and offering no new ideas. They are mostly and adamantly in favor of “Brexit Only With a Deal”, but repeatedly reject the only deal the EU will give them! One can easily see that getting Parley-mess out of the way can clear the path to some resolution, some action. On the other hand, if you’re hung up on the machinations of democracy, an extended suspension of Parley-mess for political expediency reeks of demagoguery.

My point here is that time is running out for the EU itself!! It needs to deal with corrupt and undemocratic heads of state in Slovakia and Poland, and has formally recognized corruption running flagrant in several member countries – at all levels. Its agricultural policy machinery is infested with dirty money from chemical firms. The list goes on and as long as Britain sends so many overt, active anti-EU representatives to Brussels to strengthen the ranks of the existing anti-EU forces, no progress will ever be made. What doesn’t grow, stagnates. So, I favor what the majority of Brits voted for: an exit from the EU; for the sake of the EU! Whatever form that takes …. who cares on this side of the Channel (After 3 years, yes, a bit of indifference.)

One of the things that irks me are the standardized story-line that Brexit without a deal will leave gaps in Britain’s supply chains. And the news channels dramatically make it worse by erroneously stating that Britain will no longer find certain articles. Britain can buy anything in Europe, the same things they bought before, they simply need to follow WTO regulations. That is what they voted for: the ability to choose for themselves from whom they buy & to whom they sell. And who knows, maybe that pompous loudmouth in the White House #10 will be right: it will turn out better for Britain. But the longer it takes (my bet is Britain will still be in the EU in 2020) the worse – maybe even deadly – it will be for the future of a true European Union!

The Definitive Guide to MMT

MMT is currently a hotly discussed topic in financial circles and already has various monikers: Modern Money Theory; Magical Money Tree. We find the first too grandiose, too pompous and the second as more descriptive but simply shortsighted. We have our own moniker!

First, MMT is simply the idea that governments can print additional money (lots of it), then spend it to spur growth. In “normal” times such an idea would be recognized as a reckless, populist mistake. We are not in normal times, but rather we are all living in the shadow of monstrous world-wide debt mountain. And this mountain is holding us back from making progress. (Actually Japan has been doing this and the US is pretty much underway.)

Now – to lay the groundwork to explain the background dynamics – first think of a tsunami or an earthquake. These are outcomes because a mass of energy and then their release made them happen. A tsunami occurs perhaps because a side of an underground mountain slid off, or in the case of the earthquake one of two continental shelves shifted and released a mass of pressure energy to the surface. My apologies to the many, many victims of such disasters, the point here is simply to make the point that these phenomena start, release their new energy and … stop (mostly).

So, lets get to the point. This gargantuan mountain of debt is being widely recognized as the cause of blocking both present & future economic growth. The elephantine debt piles of governments is widely recognized as a danger to the actual functioning of governments themselves. We all need a solution.

And here comes our moniker to elucidate the evolution that will resolve this buildup of pressure: Make Money Trash!

When the printing of money comes at no or negligible cost to governments – or better, makes them money with negative interest rates on bonds – the responsible politicians will certainly do it. For MMT to be a substantive solution, they need to not only do it, but do it an a grandiose style. This will most certainly lead to inflation: the stated, but elusive goal of central banks. A little inflation, the fantasy number of 2% of the ECB or the Fed, will be reached – and passed like a regional train stopping shortly at the first of many, many stations. The end station will be a “hyper”station. This itinerary to the end station will have many calamities along the way where people will want to stop the train – and some will try. Won’t happen. But at the end station we will have surpassed the mountain of debt! Debt will be solved with cheap ‘trash’ money.

And just as the tsunami and the earthquake left behind many victims and much damage after their energy was spent, so will this force of a money avalanche after its force is spent. But society will survive. What this society looks like will be different from today, that is certain.

The Bitcoin Scam Explained

To understand the scan nature of all crypto-currency scams – not just Bitcoin , all of them – you have to differentiate between the technology and the subject: the “thing” being handled.

The technology is great! It is called “block-chain”. It is 3-dimensional:

–> it takes data and raises it to a higher level with encryption.

–> it widens the data at hand through distribution to many sources.

–> The data is deepened by keeping a time history of all transaction back to the beginning.

The technology has vast potential. (That is undisiputable – when hackers rip off millions in crypto-currencies, they have done it by hacking the exchange themselves, not the block-chain.) The application to real estate ownership eases the disputes of conflicting claims & eases sales transactions. Applied to car ownership, it does the same. Now lets look at these “things”.

Lets say your house is worth 300K ($, €, whatever…) and your government body that manages ownership of houses decides to keep its records in block-chain technology, it is still worth only 300K. There is nothing that changes its intrinsic value. If your car is worth 20K and the Department of Motor Vehicles implements block-chain to keep its records, your car is still worth only 20K. Your car is not automatically an object of speculation and the “blue book” that quotes average prices will still say “20K”. Now let’s look at money units as the “thing” being tracked.

When you invest 1 unit (1USD, 1EUR, whatever) it really is worth only 1 unit. Until, that is, it is accepted by people as an object of speculation and speculators put money units into or take out of a specific implementation of crypto-currency (c-c) based on perceived value of the units in that implementation. There are now dozens of Bitcoin-wanna-bes. Why? What makes them different from Bitcoin? Maybe they offer more convenient exchanges; geared toward the local currency, have better support by stores & shops…..but all have speculation in common – basically bastardizing the original idea of Bitcoin: convenient, electronic, anonymous payment.

A new crypo-currency does nothing but put a lot of real money in the pockets of sometimes very questionable operators. But that is to be expected when you have an opportunity for easy money. The one money unit that was put into a c-c is absorbed. But the perceived “value”, the price being discussed is now relevant to a unit of c-c. When one takes money out, each individual unit of real money is the same as before (1USD,1EUR…), but whether you take more or less of these real units out than was put in has only to do with a perception of a c-c unit value. The c-c unit now is a pure speculative object based on emotion and -at best- an estimate of how many real money units are floating around.

The wonderful idea of convenient, electronic, anonymous payment has been subverted by greedy finance people to an object of speculation. Should the prices of c-c’s become too volatile, their usefulness as payment method will disappear also. The implementation of a dynamic technology to the xfer of payments has simply been monetized by a certain class of finance types. Most of society would look down on someone who sent their sister out to work the streets! These finance types would simply say “One was optimally monetizing their familial relationships.”

Brexit Schmexit

Probably everybody not living in England is pretty weary of Brexit news… if “nothing accomplished” can be made into news. Don’t get me wrong, I love the English and I especially feel for those that voted for Brexit. They are actually the ones at the end of the line in this sham.

First, lets look at 2 possibilities:

  1.   PM May is ambitious (maybe power-hungry) enough to want to be PM even when the government’s current primary mission –  Brexit –  is something she didn’t vote for nor support earlier.
  2. PM May is diabolically, purposely making a mess of Brexit, after wasting almost the whole 2-year transition period by allowing useless, irrelevant arguments to prevail; and culminating in a half-baked plan guaranteed to satisfy very few on either side.

 If it’s #1,then history will not be kind to her for taking on and botching something she did not believe in. England will face the “hard Brexit” as the EU is keen to reinforce the advantages of being “IN” the EU. Possibly a clean break could have worked, England may even make something of it after a botched EU-Exit, bu it will all be much worse than if someone who supported Brexit from the beginning and could give the British people a sense of hope and spirit had taken the reigns early and prepared for a real, an honest, a complete &ambitious Brexit.

Now #2 is much more intriguing! And I dare say some of the facts on the ground support the thesis of a saboteur PM May. Have you noticed how so many voices  in English Parliament suddenly equate the ever-delayed (endlessly delayed just like the original Brexit referendum) vote on PM May’s deal as a referendum itself? What I mean is, the choices presented or insinuated – as if already somehow hard-coded into the whole process – seem to be: Vote for this deal or there will be no Brexit. The deal is being slowly e.g. the delays, presented as the Brexit itself. It is being substituted for the actual embodiment of the Brexit concept (“the best deal possible”, “no time for anything else”…) Result: If you don’t vote for this deal, you’re voting against Brexit itself.

Another scenario supporting #2 is to simply waste the whole transition period (already done!); continue to sow fear of the great Brexit “UNKNOWN” (continually done!);establish a EU court ruling that Brexit can be simply cancelled (with conveniently no mention by whom specifically); and March next year simply let PM May declare we “can’t do it – not enough time…”; make an endless transition period out with the EU; wait for a more politically propitious time.

The EU and Germany I will leave for separate articles, only to say that there has been nothing surprising or out of the ordinary for the EU’s response to Brexit. It was decided by the British people, after they finally got a say in the matter.Unfortunately all the Brexiteers were forced to quit or have resigned from their government posts. Can anyone thereafter expect a successful, popular-supported Brexit?

One aside about Germany and their Political Correctness. We have an old politician from Bavaria where his CSU party is very strong but who’s time (his) has come and gone. I think he’s interior minister, but mostly spends his time peeing in Angela Merkel’s lunchbox. He’s sour ‘cause he never made it on the national stage and few in the rest of Germany have any use for the old fart. But the point is: All he said was “Immigration is the mother-of-all political issues.”[My translation!].That’s all he said – no more, no less. Boy, did he get hell in the press. There was no end to the lambasting him of being bigoted, illiberal, intolerant, narrow, narrow-minded, small-minded – all of the terms were used in one or the other broadcast. But here we are in the same time-frame and 160+ countries are represented by heads-of-state or close, to sign a UN mutual agreement about… migration. Look at the elections in Italy, Hungary, rest of East Europe, etc.

Q: What was the deciding factor in the Brexit referendum?

A: Immigration was the kicker in the Brexit vote!

Anybody think the main factor was fishing rights? .. the status of Gibraltar? Just look at the mainstream news channels – on any continent. The only country in the whole world with no immigration issues is China! Uiguirans raise their voices for freedom, just put their whole country in “re-education” camps! Africans bitch about lost land,just send a few thousand Chinese laborers for the fields and few thousand Chinese soldiers to keep the piece (of land).

So, my point here is that maybe Britain is a little ahead of us all on this important issue! I’m not taking sides, I’m simply saying that they discussed it on a national basis with the referendum. More laudable than the chaos here in this EU.

If I have endeared myself with too many Britons, allow me another observation that may or may not please. The US encouraged England to join the EU, a competitor to the US on the world commerce stage, because as a closest ally, England could hold the EU back and prevent anything too drastic, too optimistic. All one has to do is read the venomous US business press about the Euro to recognize the adversarial stance – from the very beginning. Now powers in the US are chuckling over how Brexit is tying up EU energies that could be better spent on progressive issues, large and small.

Before going further,let me say I am a proponent of EU 2.0, a restart with an emphasis on the common human values and the mutual respect of European cultural & political values.I am a critic of a current EU: led by the influence of monopolistic conglomerates; producing a hundreds of pages of dilettante, sometimes asinine regulations – per day! An EU with leaders so enamoured by their might that they could never envisage shrinking the EU by throwing un-democratic countries of East-Europe out. Instead they are eager to expand at any cost, to include countries plagued by corruption and embroiled in cold war politics. All in the interest of monopolistic business interests.

Speaking of corruption and getting back to Brexit: All efforts by the EU to tackle the billions of Euros being stolen by agrarian mafias has been steadily blocked by the British elite through the House of Lords & their representatives to the European Parliament. They collect billions also, as they own most of the farmland in England and the EU agricultural subsidies are a real boon for them. Money from EU taxpayers – including British taxpayers – all going into the pockets of the aristocracy.

Brexit is a chance for Britain to move forward on its own path and an opportunity for the EU to start tackling its own major issues. But this current Brexit will never be allowed to succeed by British bureaucrats with different agendas and the EU will address problems by adding some more bureaucracy on top of what it already has and call it a solution.