Saturday, May 29, 2021

Gray Whales threatened as Biden and Newsom push huge Pacific Coast wind farm developments

If you follow the news you learned that President Biden and Governor Newsom have successfully added planning for wind turbines to the Pacific Coast (see The Sacramento Bee headline clipping to the right).

Commercial offshore wind farms are proposed in a 399-square-mile area in Morro Bay along central California and another area off the coast of Humboldt in Northern California.

“This is a breakthrough that will allow the siting of offshore wind in the Pacific Ocean,” said White House climate adviser Gina McCarthy.

Governor Gavin Newsom called the proposal "historic" noting: “Developing offshore wind to produce clean, renewable energy could be a game changer to achieving California’s clean energy goals and addressing climate change — all while bolstering the economy and creating new jobs.”

Of course, The Sacramento Bee would include with its headline a photo of a wind turbine existing off the Pacific Coast of Japan. Only one problem exists - the Gray Whale migration route following the Pacific Coast from Alaska to Baja California, as can be seen in the drawing to the left which has appeared in these posts several times.

This blog was begun in 2007 when a serious proposal for wind farms to be constructed in areas off Mendocino County was offered. As can be seen at the bottom of this post, the proposal has been pushed several times since then but always died a natural death.

This time the proposal likely is not going to be withdrawn, perhaps not even successfully opposed. So let's take another look at the idea.

What is proposed this time? According to news articles the proposal includes sufficient wind turbines in Morro Bay and near Humboldt to generate enough electricity to power 1.6 million homes, which could make the California coast one of the largest generators of wind power in the world. In comparison, a new coastal Massachusetts wind farm could have up to 84 giant wind turbines while the California sites could hold more than 300 turbines, according to Newsom.

Is this a serious proposal? The New York Times reports:

    ENBW, a German electric utility that owns and operates four wind farms off the coast of Germany, intends to bid on leases to build a floating wind farm in Morro Bay, said the company’s spokesman, Damian Bednarz. The project, called Castle Wind, would consist of dozens of floating turbines, enough to power hundreds of thousands of homes, he said.
    ...The company has been working with the federal government and the state of California for the past five years in hopes of clearing the way for the Castle Wind project, Mr. Bednarz said.

“We’re totally against this." said Tom Hafer, president of the Morro Bay Commercial Fishermen’s Organization, expressing frustration. "We’re going to lose a whole bunch of fishing grounds. There will be cables in the water. We don’t know how the whales will react. There are a lot of unknowns. People don’t realize how massive this project will be.”

The problem is no serious review of available facts regarding the Eastern Pacific Gray Whale migratory route could lead to the conclusion that this proposal would not do serious harm. But nothing about that is of concern to the private sector nor to the federal or state governments. As the New York Times story explains:

    Offshore wind developers said that the coordinated federal government approach toward approving the wind farms, pushed directly by the president along with his top cabinet secretaries and the California governor, appears to have made a difference in the fate of wind farms in the Pacific.
    “Now there is a strong commitment at the top to making this happen. That’s the big breakthrough here,” said Dan Reicher, who served as assistant secretary at the Department of Energy in the Clinton administration and now is an adviser to Magellan Wind, which develops projects with offshore floating turbines.

As noted here previously, in the next 10 years we do not need to build or continue to research projects like this along the North American Pacific Coast. Just because some engineers and contractors can build something doesn't mean they should. And "alternative" in the term "alternative energy" should not mean let's knowingly cause harm to an "alternative" species other than humans.

We must consider the potential impacts on these residents with whom we share the Eastern Pacific Ocean...

...and the impacts on all the smaller species. It's complex. So we will begin with one of the more curious issues - who owns the ocean?


Tragedy of the Commons

"Tragedy of the Commons" is explained as follows by Wikipedia:

    In economic science, the tragedy of the commons is a situation in which individual users, who have open access to a resource unhampered by shared social structures or formal rules that govern access and use, act independently according to their own self-interest and, contrary to the common good of all users, cause depletion of the resource through their uncoordinated action.

A discussion of the subject must begin with the question: "Who owns the ocean?" Apparently, in the case of the United States, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) plans to award contracts to the highest bidder intent on erecting electricity generating wind farms. Who or what is the BOEM, you might ask?

The first thing we need to clear up is that BOEM is not the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA):

The BOEM is not even in the same department as NOAA. Again, let's refer to Wikipedia:

    The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) is an agency within the United States Department of the Interior, established in 2010 by Secretarial Order.
    The Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA) states: "...the outer Continental Shelf is a vital national resource reserve held by the Federal Government for the public, which should be made available for expeditious and orderly development, subject to environmental safeguards, in a manner which is consistent with the maintenance of competition and other national needs."
    BOEM and its sister agency, the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement are the agencies to which this responsibility is delegated. They exercise the oil, gas, and renewable energy-related management functions formerly under the purview of the Minerals Management Service (MMS). Specifically, BOEM activities involve resource evaluation, planning, and leasing.

Subsequent to the passage of the Federal Oil and Gas Royalty Management Act in 1982, the Secretary of the Interior designated the Minerals Management Service (MMS) as the administrative agency responsible for the mineral leasing of submerged OCS lands and for the supervision of offshore operations. It wasn't until 28 years later, in 2010, that the MMS was renamed the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement which was divided into the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE).

Again, the BOEM handles leasing within the 200 mile limit (it is more complicated than that, but the 200 mile limit is roughly what defines offshore lands). More specifically the BOEM is assigned "oil, gas, and renewable energy-related management functions."

In the third year of the Obama Administration the BOEM began the planning and implementation process to lease lands within the Continental Shelf to private companies. To get a feeling for what that the process means in the Biden Administration, you may want to read the February news story Traffic lane, habitat alternatives for South Fork offshore wind project.

Historically the fishing industry has been the beneficiary of the "Tragedy of the Commons" as, effectively armed with "rights", fishermen sailed to location they knew and took what they could catch until the area was fished out.

Plans for the Atlantic Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) have been given priority because the entire Pacific OCS falls within the Gray Whale migratory route. So at this time we can only learn from what is the situation on the East Coast as described last month in The Connecticut Examiner:

    The first major commercial windfarm in US waters is Vineyard Wind which potentially will encompass over 1,000 square nautical miles into which Denmark and its private investors plan to erect close to 200 six-hundred-foot-tall wind turbines each weighing over 300 tons. That geography represents a mass slightly larger than the entire size of Rhode Island.
    The BOEM regulations under which the wind farms will operate (construction and operations plans COP) recognizes that such marine construction will damage the environment, and the fisheries that operate in there—to some extent.
    But these waters already support multiple users regulated by the government, especially the fisheries. Tugboats and commercial traffic, the U. S. Coast Guard and U. S. Navy, commercial air traffic, marine scientific research done by universities, the governments, and fishing organizations.
    In college we would describe this as a cluster #@#$%^&*!
    These waters are further complicated by the Endangered Species Act attempting to stem the demise of right whales which annually spawn IN THIS CONSTRUCTION AREA.
    The federal government would protect the whales in this wind leased area by removing over 10,000 lobster traps and their buoy lines. But it would approve construction of the largest marine structure in the world here?
    In these commons the sheep are told to leave and not graze here. But the goats and cows can have at it at will.
    More than 3,000 miles of ocean bottom will have to be dug up to bury electric cables run among the towers and to the shore stations. These bottoms are sensitive habitat. And the cable industry experience with wind projects is that there will be breaks—expensive and complicated to repair—closing off large areas to all other legitimate established users.
    The five turbines in the test wind field off Block Island, failing to follow good engineering practice, are now faced with a $50 million plus repair bill to re-route cables to the island and separately to the mainland.
    The problem here is that no one has any ownership interest to protect. Worse, the federal government law requires the wind interests to secure a formal letter giving them permission to kill whales and sea turtles in the course of building the wind farms.


Offshore Oil and Gas Versus Wind

Many Californians do not know about existing offshore oil and gas wells

In the 1920's the Ellwood Oil Field was first developed off Goleta. Its claim to fame was being bombarded by the Japanese during WWII. The Wilmington Oil Field located off Los Angeles was first developed in the early 1930's. It is the third largest oil field in the United States in terms of cumulative oil production. Additional development followed.

Unfortunately for oil companies, the promise of expanding future oil production was spoiled by the 1969 Santa Barbara oil spill that resulted in the deaths of an estimated 3,500 sea birds as well as marine animals such as dolphins, elephant seals, and sea lions. The outrage resulted in legislation that forms the legal and regulatory framework for the modern environmental movement in the U.S. It's complicated, but it severely limited oil production off the California coast.

On the other hand, wind is not oil. And we have not yet had the equivalent to the Santa Barbara oil spill. So despite the failed engineering practices associated with the five test wind fields off Block Island, plus known past design failures associated with around 600 of Europe's installed offshore wind turbines such as dissolved grouting, massive political pressure exists to develop wind energy to deal with climate change.

After all, what could possibly go wrong? After all, this is not nuclear power as mentioned here in my February 25, 2012, post. And this isn't the Agu├žadoura Wave Park which opened in on September 23, 2008, but shut down in November due to mechanical problems, which was discussed in that post.


From the February 25, 2012 Post

Speaking of that post, remaining critical environmental impact issues deserve a reprint from that post for those who can stand a refresher:

As noted earlier, from our technocrats here in California we have the November 2008 study prepared for the California Energy Commission and the California Ocean Protection Council titled DEVELOPING WAVE ENERGY IN COASTAL CALIFORNIA: POTENTIAL SOCIO-ECONOMIC AND ENVIRONMENTAL EFFECTS which offers this thinking:

Gray Whale: Potential for Interaction: High

Gray whales are one of the most commonly sighted whales off California with approximately 18,000 individuals migrating or resident in nearshore waters. The entire northeastern Pacific population of gray whales may migrate through or reside within habitat slated for WEC/wave parks in California. The potential for interaction is high due to this extreme habitat overlap. Potential interactions include entanglement and subsurface collision potential with WEC and associated supports, increased vulnerability to predation, changes to prey availability, and foraging behavior (of resident whales). Gray whales were formally listed as "Endangered", but have been delisted. (pp. 138-139)

6.1.4.6 Electromagnetic Field (EMF) Considerations

Electromagnetic fields (EMF) have been shown to affect a host of higher vertebrates (Kirschvink et al. 2001), though little is known about the effects of EMF on marine mammals. Some studies indicate dolphins, porpoises and whales respond to the magnetic portion of an electromagnetic field (Scottish Government 2007). Based on this information, the primary concern may be for the physiological effects of EMF and/or if the marine mammals occupy an area around wave energy converters (Fernie and Reynolds 2005). Further investigation is needed in this area. (p 130)

Benefits to California

In 2006, the California Legislature passed the California Global Warming Solutions Act (AB 32). Among other important requirements, this legislation requires the California Air Resources Board to adopt regulations such that greenhouse gases are reduced to 1990 levels by 2020. Wave energy could assist in reducing California’s greenhouse gas emissions by providing a renewable and reliable energy source. Other benefits to California include job creation and other forms of economic opportunity. Wave energy could meet a significant proportion of the state’s energy demand. While significant technological and economic issues remain, ecological issues, at this stage, appear manageable. (p. 5)
Let me summarize what it says for any Eastern North Pacific Gray Whales out there reading this.

Facts Presented. The Eastern North Pacific Gray Whale will most assuredly have problems with the mere physical presence of wave energy equipment and we don't know anything about the effects on whales of electromagnetic fields that affect a host of higher vertebrates, except that some studies indicate they respond to the magnetic portion of an electromagnetic field.

Conclusion Reached. Ecological issues appear manageable.

The report is not an environmental impact report either under federal law or CEQA. It obviously was written as requested by California officials to cheer on development of wave energy.

To be fair, the "Abstract" provided at the beginning reflects a "suitably cautious" disclaimer tone for humans:
Dramatic ecological, social, or economic effects are not clearly indicated by this study, but a strong case for caution is supported when developing wave energy conversion technology off the California coast. Impacts to human activities, wave exposure, benthic communities, fishes, birds and mammals are all virtually certain, but the impacts’ magnitudes and the cumulative effects remain difficult to anticipate.
From the point of view of Gray Whales, the use of the "get-out-of-jail free card" is disturbing:
Gray whales were formally listed as "Endangered", but have been delisted.
This card was played in the environmental documents of a permitted wave energy power plant in Oregon, sponsored in part by the Pacific Northwest Generating Cooperative (PNGC), a group of utility cooperatives located in Oregon, Idaho, Washington and Montana. It is the Reedsport OPT Wave Park project to be owned and operated by Reedsport OPT Wave Park, LLC., an "affiliate" of Ocean Power Technologies (OPT).

In the January 2010 REEDSPORT OPT WAVE PARK - FERC PROJECT NO. 12713 - APPLICATION FOR A MAJOR LICENSE (Vol IV, Appendix A pp 4, PDF pp. 8) we learn:
Gray Whale

The gray whale is a large baleen whale that is composed of an eastern and western stock (Figure 6). The eastern stock inhabits the Pacific Coast and was de-listed from federal protection in 1994. The western stock is found along the Korean coastline and remains classified as endangered.
And in the chart on the following page the reader is informed:
Species was delisted in 1994 and is making a marked recovery. Population is currently over 20,000 individuals.
On page Appendix A-11 (PDF page 15) the document states:
2.2 Cetaceans - ESA Listed

OPT has contacted NMFS and requested information on species in the project vicinity that are protected under the ESA, most recently in a letter dated October 11, 2007 and during various phone conversations and meetings. Federally listed threatened or endangered cetacean species that may occur in the project area are listed in Table 2.
The Gray Whale is conspicuously absent from the table. The NMFS is the National Marine Fisheries Service and the Gray Whale was delisted. From its web site (emphasis added):
NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service is the federal agency, a division of the Department of Commerce, responsible for the stewardship of the nation's living marine resources and their habitat. NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service is responsible for the management, conservation and protection of living marine resources within the United States' Exclusive Economic Zone (water three to 200 mile offshore). ...Under the Marine Mammal Protection Act and the Endangered Species Act, NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service recovers protected marine species (i.e. whales, turtles) without unnecessarily impeding economic and recreational opportunities....
As I explained previously, the State of Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife lists the Gray Whale as Endangered. Curiously, Volume II (pp. 9-4 & 5) of the project study assures us:
Other Wildlife

■ Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. 1993. Oregon wildlife diversity plan. Portland, Oregon. [Online] http://www.dfw.state.or.us/wildlife/diversity/.

The Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission adopted the Oregon Wildlife Diversity Plan in 1993 and updated it in 1999. The plan established the goals, objectives, and strategies for the ODFW’s Wildlife Diversity (formerly Nongame) Program. The Diversity Plan includes a list of state-designated endangered, threatened, and sensitive species. State-listed species that may occur in the vicinity of the proposed project are discussed in Sections 5.C.3. and 5.C.4. Because the proposed Reedsport Project is not expected to adversely impact state-listed wildlife, OPT believes that the Reedsport Project is consistent with the Oregon Wildlife Diversity Plan.
Any hope I had that the State's listing is mentioned in the indicated Sections was initially dashed, When I checked Section 5.C.3. I first found the same exact language quoted above referring to the delisting by the U.S. Government including the table. But, on pp. 5-66 & 67 (PDF pp 139-140) we have a long discussion of the Gray Whale including this paragraph:
Gray whales are a success story for recovery of endangered species with current populations estimated to be over 20,000 whales (Rugh et al. 1999; NOAA 2007d). The population is thought to be near pre-exploitation population levels (NMFS 2002). Even though gray whales are not federally listed as endangered, they are listed as endangered on Oregon’s state threatened and endangered species list.
This language uses the dismissive "get-out-of-jail free card" by noting the delisting by the U.S. Government in a State that lists the species as Endangered.

Nonetheless, the project documentation includes a Study Plan (beginning on Volume II Page Appendix C-26 PDF p. 477) that does include the Gray Whale. What we need to keep in mind is the wave energy power plant involved is described as follows (Volume II p. Appendix C-1 PDF p. 452):
The project would consist of deployment and operation of 10 PowerBuoy® wave energy converters (WEC) having a total capacity of 1.5 megawatts (MW), to be located approximately 2.5 miles (4 kilometers) off the coast of Gardiner in Douglas County, Oregon (Figure 1). The ½-mile-by-½-mile (0.25 square miles) project area represents the area within which the 10-PowerBuoy array would be deployed. The actual footprint of the constructed array is expected to be only about 1,000 feet by 1,300 feet (300 meters by 400 meters) or approximately 30 acres (0.05 square miles), excluding the navigation safety zone.

This 0.25 square mile 1.5 megawatt wave energy power plant must be considered in the context of the ambitious California plan discussed above that anticipates allocating 160 square miles to generate eight gigawatts from commercial projects each with a generating capacity of 100 to 150 megawatts.

Given the small size of the Oregon project, the study results will be of limited benefit to FERC and California agencies. And the study does not anticipate evaluating the effects of electromagnetic fields.

Nonetheless, this project represents the best one could hope for as the Marine Mammal Institute of Oregon State University was funded by the Oregon Wave Energy Trust to conduct an ongoing study. The problem is that there is an Oregon Wave Energy Trust which is primarily an advocate for the use of wave energy.

Hopefully, the above reprint will assist those seeking to oppose the new proposal.

Friday, May 7, 2021

The 2020 Census resulted in California losing a House seat. Yes, it is still the nation's largest state.

One in eight US residents lives in California. Nonetheless, reading the news recently one might believe California lost its status.

The 2020 Census Data was released and California still had the largest population - by 35.61%. Our official population for April 2020 was 39,576,757.

California's population growth was 2,322,238 - more than the total population in each of the 15 smallest states and more than the total population of the three smallest states.

California had 10,393,467 more people than Texas, the second most populous state. That 10,393,467 was more than the total population of the 10 least populous states.

Texas is the largest state by area in the lower 48. California is second. As of April 2020 Texas had 108.65 people per square mile. California had 241.77 people per square mile, roughly 2¼ times the population density of Texas.

California does have significant problems.

We have housing cost problems because around the year 2000 we effectively put a freeze on incorporating new cities. Hence we now regularly read of folks bidding $1 million more than the asking price for homes in the East Bay.

We have a drought that isn't likely to go away soon. That's because it isn't a drought, but a shift in long term climate to hotter and dryer. So we have wildfire problems because we permitted new construction in areas that have wildfires. We have water supply problems which were evident before the year 2000.

But we have the world's 5th largest economy sustained in no small way by technology companies. We have the largest imports value in the nation. Our exports include 100 percent of the almonds, artichokes, dates, dried plums, figs, garlic, kiwifruit, olives, pistachios, raisins and walnuts, plus 60 other agricultural products. California accounts for roughly 13.5% of agricultural cash receipts in the United States, at $50.1 billion of $370.6 billion.

While it's not something to brag about, in terms of our economy in 2019 we did have the third highest ranking of housing starts in market value. And the problem for local contractors after Covid is the shortage of wood which combines to exacerbate our housing shortage.

The headline issue was the result of the Census in California. In 2022 California will have one less seat in the House of Representatives. In 1990 California's population grew by 25.7% giving it 52 representatives in the 1992 election. It gained one more as the result of the 2000 Census which it retained as a result the 2010 Census, but lost in 2020.


Friday, April 16, 2021

Population size matters. China is bigger than the United States by a factor of four. It's not confusing.

These three countries are the largest - China, India, and the United States. It is amazing how often you read this, with an occasional reference to the top five or ten. Depending on the article, one can learn something about population growth, economies, etc.

Two months ago the Visual Capitalist offered this image...

...which gives the reader a sense of size comparison by placing inside China images of Europe, North America, South America, and Australasia, resized to reflect the comparative population. They then overlay India on China and Africa on China.

What is not presented is the very significant subject of "ethnicity" which in this post will include the term "race."

India and Africa have many ethnicities. Europe, the Americas, and Australasia as a group also have many ethnicities.

China is 91%± Han Chinese, the world's largest ethnicity of 1.3± billion, with one of the longest histories. Yes, there are 130± million Chinese of different ethnicities - at least 55 ethnic groups - who if they were in their own country would be the 10th largest.

But no single ethnic group comes close to the Han Chinese population in size.

Two facts about this ethnic group should be mentioned. First, the Han are identifiable genetically. Second, the standard Chinese language was adopted in the 1930's based on the Beijing dialect of Mandarin. But numerous dialects of Chinese continue to be spoken locally at home as can be seen on the map below.

As a nation, India has 17.7% of the world's population which includes a diversity of ethnic groups. The United States has measly 4.25% of the world's population mostly from a diversity of immigrant ethnic groups.

The point here to remember is that as a nation China has 18.47% of the world's population, 91% of whom are of one ethnic group.

Monday, April 12, 2021

A reminder: Ignorance of the Chinese culture and language could lead to a war with no winners

The image above is from the 2018 post here Part 3. About China's most recent 4000 years included in the series The lack of comprehensive political economy goals will create concurrent pecuniary and environmental disasters for the U.S. Gen X and later generations. It is a long post in a series of five long posts intended to provide a knowledge base for the very, very few who might read it.

In that post it is suggested that you "pretend for a moment that you are among the Han Chinese population which is about 92% of China's population" so that you can get a feel for the reality noted there:

    It would be fair to say that the Chinese have never viewed the world with a European bias which makes gaining an understanding harder for non-Asians.
    To begin with, the native language spoken by Chinese President Xi Jinping and most of China's 1.4 billion people is not an Indo-European language. No influence from Abrahamic religions permeates Chinese history and culture, unlike American history and culture.
    Think about that.

Then think about this:

    Words in the basic spoken Chinese are not derived from Latin or Germanic sources. For someone whose native language is English, to master communications and thought patterns in Chinese requires absorbing a new pronunciation system, a new writing system and a totally different approach to grammar. And more recently brain scientists have discovered that learning Chinese involves a different brain development...

Literally, you could say "I don't understand how you think" to a Chinese citizen because you don't.

Unfortunately, a Chinese citizen could say to us "You don't understand our thought process." And that has been a concern.

***

On April 29, 2019, in an interview with fellow scholar Anne-Marie Slaughter at the Future Security Forum 2019, the State Department's Director of Policy Planning Dr. Kiron Skinner and Slaughter began by placing their conversation within the context of the strategic thinking of George F. Kennan with Skinner noting that everyone who serves as Director does so in the “shadow of George Kennan.” In addition to a number of other topics Skinner described the situation with China as a “long-term competition” that has “historical, ideological, and cultural” bases of which many in the foreign-policy community are unaware.

Skinner noted the mistake of projecting the traditional understanding of the world onto China simply transferring Kennan era views of the Soviet Union. She observed:

    This is a fight with a really different civilization and a different ideology, and the United States hasn’t had that before, nor has it had an economic competitor the way that we have. The Soviet Union was a country with nuclear weapons, a huge Red Army, but a backwards economy, and that was the insight of Reagan when the intel community told him differently.
    He said I just don’t see the signs that it [the USSR] can survive a technology race with the West. So, in China, we have an economic competitor, we have an ideological competitor, one that really does seek a kind of global reach that many of us didn’t expect a couple of decades ago, and I think it’s also striking that it’s the first time that we will have a great power competitor that is not Caucasian.

The result of this discussion was by August 2019, after serving two years, Skinner "resigned" (see the New York Times article State Dept. Officials Force Out Top Policy Planner and Adviser to Mike Pompeo). The highest-ranking African-American women in the Department had simultaneously:

  1. challenged the long-held beliefs within the State Department which has successfully pushed the idea that China is just another Soviet Union;
  2. because she used "Caucasian", an outdated grouping of human beings within the concept of race classifications, reflexively deemed “racist” by the modern warriors of identity-politics which gave the Chinese an opening to criticize her as a racist.

Of course, the Biden Administration has returned to a "Soviet Union" approach to China which could easily lead to war. Unfortunately, Biden's proposals are to bring back:

  • the Johnson Administration's domestic policy approach known in the 1960's as The Great Society which encompassed movements of urban renewal, modern transportation, clean environment, anti-poverty, healthcare reform, crime control, and educational reform; and
  • the Asian foreign policy which brought down the Johnson Presidency.

Keep in mind that Biden was first seeking public office during that time period around 1968.

***

On April 4, 2021, the South China Morning Post offered China says tough measures in Xinjiang are to beat terrorism – why isn’t the West convinced? as an explanation of the Han Chinese (92% of the population) point of view on the Muslim situation in Xinjiang which begins:

    Zhang Chunxian was seen by many as the hope of Xinjiang in 2010.
    Just months after the 2009 bloodbath and violent ethnic clashes that shocked the region and left more than 190 dead, Zhang, the region’s media savvy and somewhat charismatic new party chief, stepped in to replace his iron-fisted predecessor who had ruled the region for more than a decade.
    In one month, Zhang lifted an eight-month internet ban in Xinjiang. In 2015, he became the first Xinjiang party boss ever to join Muslim groups to celebrate the Eid ul-Fitr marking the end of the Ramadan, the month when Muslims fast.
    Yet despite Zhang’s pacifying approach deployed alongside his pledge of “no mercy to terrorists”, violent attacks continued to increase under his watch and reached beyond the region.

There is nothing inherently wrong with the article except that it presents a view that is Chinese. And with a Muslim population of 25± million the idea of terrorists even in relatively small percentages of the total is unacceptable.

The next day, April 5, 2021, an article in The New Yorker Surviving the Crackdown in Xinjiang: As mass detentions and surveillance dominate the lives of China’s Uyghurs and Kazakhs, a woman struggles to free herself. Nothing is inherently wrong with the article. The problem is the article views the world from an American view, albeit one that does carry support within other countries. It is an American view that can be held because we don't share either the attitude or experience.

The chart to the right lists the U.S. states by population and provides an estimate of the number Muslims in each state. In a May2019 post here it is suggested that Mike Pence have Trump offer to relocate the 14.5 million Muslims from the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region to seven states - Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, and Kansas - which currently only have 17 thousand Muslims within 7.6 million residents. It would create a population mix within an area of approximately the same size and similar environmental conditions as Xinjiang.

Note that there is "religion" practiced in China about which Wikipedia offers the following:

    Chinese civilization has historically long been a cradle and host to a variety of the most enduring religio-philosophical traditions of the world. Confucianism and Taoism (Daoism), later joined by Buddhism, constitute the "three teachings" that have shaped Chinese culture. There are no clear boundaries between these intertwined religious systems, which do not claim to be exclusive, and elements of each enrich popular or folk religion.

"Religio-phlosophical" traditions. Simply put, "religion" is not a Chinese word. The term "folk religion" is an English (European) take on what historically is an extremely complex tradition. For a million or so Chinese who practice "religion" as used in the West, it is considered by the billion-plus Chinese as symbolically akin to the Easter Bunny.

Without belaboring the point, in China the culture says there is no acceptable number of deaths caused by "confused" religious practitioners. That's in contrast to the U.S. where the law may prohibit killing in the context of religion, but the culture dating back to...well...let's just say many of us are somewhat "confused" about killing people in the name of a religious cult.

The reason relocating the Muslims was suggested is that Americans could then find a way to deal with the few thousand extreme militants among that new population, of course after they have killed other folks because that is our way and religion is protected in the Constitution.

China officially espouses state atheism which bothers Americans far more than it should. In reality many Chinese citizens (including Communist Party members) engage in some kind of Chinese folk spiritual practice. U.S. officials are attacking the Chinese government for its unacceptable Muslim policy, even to the point of boycotting the 2022 Winter Olympics to be held in China.

***

On Monday, April 12, 2021, the South China Morning Post told its readers in Taiwan says PLA flies 25 warplanes into its airspace, the largest incursion yet:

    China’s People Liberation Army flew 25 warplanes into Taiwan’s air defence identification zone (ADIZ) on Monday, its largest incursion yet as tension in the Taiwan Strait continues to escalate.
    According to Taiwan’s defence ministry, the PLA warplanes – 14 Jian-16 fighter jets, four Jian-10s, four H-6K bombers, two Y-8 anti-submarine warfare planes and one KJ-500 airborne early warning and control aircraft – entered the island’s southwest zone on Monday.
    The latest flights came a day after US Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned Beijing against invading Taiwan, a self-ruled island of 24 million that the Chinese government regards as a breakaway province that must eventually be reunited with the mainland - by force if necessary.
    This month the aerial incursions have taken place on a daily basis, and the Liberty Times in Taipei estimated that they have occurred on at least 86 days this year; Monday was the 102nd day of 2021 so far.

This news has been at the top of U.S. websites daily...oh, wait....

It would be good to say Americans are preoccupied with the South China Sea situation as explained in US-China rivalry: is the pressure on for Asean countries to choose sides? But we know that is not true. In fact, as discussed earlier currently we Americans are indignant over the situation in Xinjiang.

***

 This brings us back to the Sun Tzu quote at the top of this page. What do we know about China learned not from a Western perspective but from a Chinese perspective? If we depend upon a Western-based understanding, we risk a war over the long term.

Friday, April 2, 2021

A New World View: As of 2021 the Indo-Pacific has displaced the Atlantic as the world economic center


Embracing the Indo-Pacific in the 21st Century

Captain (Dr.) Gurpreet S Khurana, former Former Executive Director and Senior Fellow of the National Maritime Foundation of India, first formally introduced the term Indo-Pacific to describe a new world view in 2007.

Fourteen years later, that new world view has gained broad acceptance including the United States. On May 30, 2018, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis announced in Hawaii that the Pentagon was changing the name of the Pacific Command to the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command.

With the USS Arizona Memorial behind him, Mattis said:

    For U.S. Pacific Command, it is our primary combatant command, it's standing watch and intimately engaged with over half of the earth's surface and its diverse populations, from Hollywood to Bollywood, from polar bears to penguins as Admiral Harris puts it.
    Having grown up in Washington state, one of five American states with Pacific Ocean coastlines and looking out the plane's window yesterday coming across that vast expanse of ocean, in my flight here I was reminded that the United States is today and has been for two centuries a Pacific nation.
    Further, in recognition of the increasing connectivity, the Indian and Pacific Oceans, today we rename the U.S. Pacific Command to U.S. Indo-Pacific Command. Over many decades, this command has repeatedly adapted to changing circumstance, and today carries that legacy forward as America focuses west.

Despite beliefs by some that the United States is the dominant nation of the world, it is not. It is one nation among the 200± countries. Since WWII the U.S. has  lost wars in Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq. Because of WWII, the U.S. was economically dominant for about 60 years. But since 2001, that situation has changed.

It is not that we do not have the preeminent military by 20th Century standards. It's just that the measurement of national strength is, and always has been, a strong economy. The Indo-Pacific Economic Corridor was recognized in the US-India Strategic Dialogue of 2013 by then Secretary of State John Kerry. In the future, pivotal technological decisions will not be made within a single national economy and it is likely that income distribution across the world will tend to become more egalitarian - except for that top 1% (or 10%) the existence of which is a source of complaints even in "communist" China.

Earlier this month in this blog the pandemic-related container-ship traffic jam off California’s coast was noted. This past week we followed the story of a massive container ship that became wedged in the Suez Canal and cut off traffic in the vital waterway for almost a week. The problem, of course, is that shipping is used to support a supply chain that has little room for delays which can create huge increases in costs.

Unacknowledged in a straightforward way is the complete flipping of humanities' economic view of the world. Yes, some focus on the idea of an Indo-Pacific oriented map was first presented here in a May 31, 2016 post Sanders and Trump to destroy Pacific Rim states of California, Oregon, and Washington which did emphasize: "We of California, Oregon and Washington ought to fear the Bernie/Donald Atlantic-Eurocentric world view. Our view of our western border, the Pacific Ocean, has nothing in common with what is experienced in New York or Vermont - or even Michigan or Florida - and that difference is threatening our economic well being."

But the map above offers not only a Pacific and Indian Oceans focus but a flipped image, a graphical revision of how we traditionally see our world to create an understanding that the Eurocentric world of 2nd Millennium AD is being replaced by an Indo-Pacific World View.

Europe, particularly Great Britain, was home to the Founding Fathers of the United States. Mental images of the world were based on maps that were focused on the Atlantic. The economics from that time until the mid-20th Century depended on relationships with European countries.

But that is not the Indo-Pacific World View.

Since the 21st Century numerous writers have begun to explore the nature of the new world view in terms of what it means. In an article in a 2019 edition of Journal of Indian Ocean Rim Studies, “The ‘Indo-pacific’ Idea: Origins, Conceptualizations and the Way Ahead”, Captain Khurana explained:

Notably, in the past half-century, it is not only China and India, but also the other countries in the entire swath of the Afro-Asian rimland and Australasia that have developed more rapidly than the rest of the world and are still rising. The GDP of the countries in merely in the maritime underbelly of Asia is poised to surpass 50 per cent of the global GDP, much sooner than what was predicted in the 2011 ADB Report. An analysis indicates that the combined GDP (PPP terms) of the 36 countries of =maritime Asia‘ already constitutes 48 per cent of the global GDP (2017). For the 62 Indo-Pacific countries of the Afro-Asian rimland—including Oceania—the proportion is 51.5 per cent. Furthermore, all 74 countries of the wider Indo-Pacific region (inclusive of the Americas) contribute to nearly 72 per cent of the global GDP. This indeed makes the "Rise of Indo-Pacific‘—rather than the "Rise of Asia‘—a more appropriate maxim.

The recognition of this underlies the following map:

In each case, the indicated policy boundaries were derived from official sources. In the case of the United States Indo-Pacific Command, the area encompasses more than 100 million square miles or roughly 52 percent of the Earth's surface. If you add to that the remainder of the area shown on the map, you have nearly 70% of the Earth's surface. If you include the west coast of the Americas and the east coast of Africa, you have nearly same percentage of the Earth's human population.

All this leads to the critical question: What international collision, deliberate or otherwise, could result from this reorientation of the world view?


21st Century Economic Competition

It needs to be made clear to all Americans that within the United States political power structure it was the military that first shifted its focus from NATO to the Indo-Pacific over a 30-year period.

And it is no accident that Steve Bannon, who as an officer in the United States Navy served on the destroyer USS Paul F. Foster as a surface warfare officer in the Pacific Fleet and then served as a special assistant to the Chief of Naval Operations at the Pentagon, in a March 2016 discussion with Neoliberal Lee Edwards of the Heritage Foundation stated:

    We’re going to war in the South China Sea in five to 10 years. There’s no doubt about that. They’re taking their sandbars and making basically stationary aircraft carriers and putting missiles on those.

While Bannon does not make foreign policy for the U.S., he does reflect an attitude found among many former and current military officers and a surprising number of State Department employees. 

In 2005 Robert Kaplan wrote a long article in The Atlantic How We Would Fight China which extensively explains the complex world economic situation at that point in time, before the Indo-Pacific World View was acknowledged. However, in 2013 China introduced its Belt and Road Initiative, a global infrastructure development strategy to invest in nearly 70 countries and international organizations. It's most significant effort to date involves lending through the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank:



The formal shaping of both U.S. foreign and military policies was noted in The Contested Framing of the Indo-Pacific:

    Alongside the economics-driven rationale for this framing, there was an omnipresent geopolitical element in the Indo-Pacific framing, whether as text or subtext. This too is hardly surprising: the US “pivot to Asia” was a signature foreign policy move under the Obama administration in 2009. The “pivot” featured trade (Trans-Pacific Partnership) and military (Air-Sea Battle doctrine) components, both aimed at containing China. This latent or veiled conflict invoked by the geopolitical element in the Indo-Pacific framing came out into the open with the Trump administration’s promotion of the “free and open Indo-Pacific” in the 2017 US National Security Strategy. Hardly surprisingly, China reacted negatively, with Foreign Minister Wang Yi calling the Indo-Pacific framing an “attention-grabbing idea” that “will dissipate like ocean foam.”

With that said, it is the "economics-driven rationale" that has resulted in the evolution of the Indo-Pacific New World View while many, maybe most, Americans weren't looking. In the 45 years since the death of Chairman Mao, China has developed an economy that in total purchasing power exceeds that of the United States albeit China's average per capita income is still well below the United States.

This has left the U.S.with a substantial trade deficit most significantly because of trade with China. But that is becoming more complicated. In a well-written article by Bill Knighton, president of RightAngle Products, How the US Lost Most of its Manufacturing, published in January 2018, you can learn how and why over 60 years the American economy shifted to a service economy dependent upon imports. 

The point here is trade, particularly trade dependent upon shipping from other countries, is critical to the survival of the American economy which is, in turn, critical to the survival of the world economy as we know it. Here is a chart on containerized shipping in 2020:

Understand that the Trans-Pacific shipping of 25 million TEU's equals 300 million tons. We all should get an idea of the value of the huge volume of imports to the United States as shown in this 2019 chart:

It is admittedly hard to visualize physically what this shipping means. We do have a graphic available that gives a feel for the activity involved, but it is based on 2012 information and we have likely seen as much as a 40% increase in shipping. Nonetheless, it does give one a feel for the traffic:

You must click the "-" and drag the map to see what shipping was like in the Indo-Pacific. Then assume a 40% increase, certainly some from larger ships but also some from more ships.

Finally, the reality of the United States looks like this map which hasn't been inverted:

As noted in the beginning above, retired Four-Star Marine General and then Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, a native of Washington State, noted that five of the 50 American states have Pacific Ocean coastlines. The United States is an unnatural Union that offers access from East Asia and Southeast Asia to Trans-Pacific shipping at ports in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Portland, and Seattle, all thousands of miles from population centers on the Eastern Coastal Plain.

The U.S. East Coast views the Atlantic looking east to Europe. The U.S. West Coast views the Indo-Pacific to the west. These offer radically different cultural views. By the end of the fourth millennium BC, both China and India had emerged as regions of highly developed civilizations.

But that was six millennia ago. It's time to acknowledge our economic relationship with the Indo-Pacific nations. It's time to acknowledge the United States Indo-Pacific Command commitment. It's time to create space, shifting our historical cultural focus from NATO and Europe to the map at the top of this post. Our economy already has.

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

25 years ago regulators started undoing electricty reliability. Now it's to be electricity-only homes?


 

"PG&E has had its share of massive blackouts since the state deregulated utilities in 1996. Some have been planned, others have not."

So begins an October 2019 in-depth news story on the electric grid. And we're offered this story:

However, in December of 2019 we were told:

    The California Energy Commission cleared the way Wednesday for six local governments to limit the use of natural gas in many new buildings. The policies, which encourage the installation of all-electric appliances, are scheduled to take effect in January.
    Environmental advocates pushing to scale back fossil fuels hailed the commission’s move as a victory, but opponents argue that the gas bans will increase costs, harm businesses and limit consumer choice. Some noted that the all-electric push comes despite Pacific Gas & Electric Co.’s warning that wildfire-prevention power outages could persist for a decade.

For residents depending upon reliable energy, an inherent critical conflict exists between California's clean energy goals and the reality of electricity delivery. That should not have to be pointed out to the Energy Commission. But apparently it does.

Perhaps what happened in Texas recently needs to be emphasized. People froze to death because of a long-term power failure. What people don't seem to get is that a 99.90% reliability for a power company means 8.76 hours a year without power per home. Our goal should be less than an hour. We cannot accomplish that without undoing our regulatory history.

In 1996 the California Legislature passed AB1890 which provided that after March 31, 1998, all customers located in the service territories of the investor-owned utilities (IOUs) - Pacific Gas & Electric, San Diego Gas & Electric, Southern California Edison, PacifiCorp, Sierra Pacific Power, or Bear Valley Electric - would be allowed to shop for power in an open market. No longer would customers be restricted to buying power only from their local utility company. Beginning in 1998 32.7 million Californians living in 11+ million homes went out, compared deals, and picked the one which best meets their needs.

Yeah, right.

The purpose of the bill signed by Governor Pete Wilson, California's last real Republican Governor, was to permit big businesses the opportunity to buy power from other than Pacific Gas & Electric, San Diego Gas & Electric, Southern California Edison, PacifiCorp, Sierra Pacific Power, or Bear Valley Electric.

In effect, it was one of the numerous actions taken beginning in the Ronald Reagan years as Governor (1967-75) to undo the progressive policies of Governor Hiram Johnson who 50 years earlier responded to an epidemic of political and civic corruption by expanding the role of government in regulating the economy by doing such things as:

  • passing the Workmen’s Compensation, Insurance, and Safety Act in 1913, which in turn set up an Industrial Accident Commission and State Compensation Insurance Fund;
  • curtailing child labor;
  • establishing an 8-hour day and minimum wage for female industrial workers, and
  • establishing teacher pensions, free textbooks for public school children, the creation of a comprehensive curriculum, and mandatory kindergartens.

This led to utility regulation which was solid until 1996. It only took four years to fail with the 2000–01 California electricity crisis created by the manipulations of Enron and others.

To make a long story short our residential electric bills doubled in two years but most of the money did not go to maintenance.

The Legislature, regulatory agencies, and elected state executives need to face a realistic picture of the overall housing cost situation. Part of that is the cost of energy. It's unclear if the regulators have even given consideration to the cost of replacing problematic and aging power distribution systems when considering eliminating gas appliances.

The lower income half of Californians cannot afford to have energy regulators keep making mistakes. An energy plan requires more than a single goal which is exactly what focusing on emissions is. If electricity is the discussed sole emission-free energy source for the future, the discussion must include generation, distribution, reliability, and costs.

Reliability to every customer must be achieved at 99.99%, with cost at a very affordable level. When you're facing a future of freezing or cooking people, you can't just examine emission levels.

Saturday, March 6, 2021

Will the American economy be "at anchor" with nowhere to go? An Extended Economic Distortion?

Chaos! It's the word used to describe the supply chain problem reflected in the U.S. Coast Guard video above. Watch the video. Taken last month in the height of the shipping containers waiting...and waiting...and waiting to get a slot at the Port of Los Angeles.

The latest data from the Port of Los Angeles and from the Marine Exchange of Southern California confirms that there has been no real let-up in the historic container-ship traffic jam off California’s coast. Since the beginning of this year 25 container ships were at berth in Los Angeles and Long Beach, 30+ container ships were at anchorage with a record of 40 container ships at anchor on February 1.

The term Extended Economic Distortion was introduced in these posts on May 2, 2020. Perhaps no situation illustrates what that means more than the shipping chaos. And we'll explore that further after noting the confusing (chaotic?) continuing reports on employment in the press flooding the headlines because...you guessed it...those reporting it are sitting on their behinds simply rewriting news releases instead of reporting.

Anyway...

The U.S. has an available workforce of 160± million, 83± million of whom are male, and 77 million of whom are female. Of those, 18± million people are receiving some sort of jobless aid - they are termed "the underutilized."

That doesn't count the folks who aren't getting jobless aid. Do we call them "the unutilized?"

The news Thursday told us in the week ended February 27, 745,000± people not currently on the roles of the underutilized filed claims for Unemployment, up 9,000 from the previous week. Some stories even tell us that about 437,000 others who filed claims for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, a program for business owners, self-employed workers, independent contractors, and those with a limited work history who are out of business or have significantly reduced their services as a direct result of the pandemic.

If you skim the articles you might get the impression that the 745,000± newly unemployed are up (or down) a little from the norm. Actually that is three times the "normal" claimants. And that's after the pandemic settled down a bit.

What's fascinating is the graphics. Compare these two charts:


 It is quite obvious that the graph used to show initial claims has been "adjusted" to reflect the 7 million claims filed in March of 2020. That makes it possible to minimize the difference between early 2020 and early 2021. Again, the number of claims is three times those of early 2020.

Because it was the beginning of this month, Friday we did get information on the monthly employment statistics including in-depth numbers which can be compared as follows:

Looking at the first line, we should be getting a hint about the problem - three times as many folks find themselves unemployed 15 weeks or longer. At the bottom line, we learn we have have about 11.6 million in employment "labor underutilization"

Not on this chart, we now know we have at least another 6.4 million in contract "labor underutilization."

Or, to put it another way, at least 11% of the labor force is effectively out-of-work as we generally understand the term.

All of which brings us back to the Port of Los Angeles which initially saw a decline in imports noted here previously, but now we must have a chart that can help us visualize the chaos in our supply chain:

There is no question that the large Covid finanicial relief packages previously approved by Congress contributed to this retail "buying spree." Now it appears another large package will be on its way.

As we move towards 70% vaccination, how is this going to play out? We noted here on May 7, 2020, Expect a consumer-based Extended Economic Distortion after the Great Economic Lockdown. What will an Extended Economic Distortion look like? We don't know. Maybe it will be an economy "at anchor" with nowhere to go.

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Everyone's using "equity." Does it mean anything?

In recent years, certain advocates have created a discussion using "equity" capitalizing on the fact that in the context it is used it is a word without meaning.

As used finance, equity seemingly has a clear enough meaning. But does it? Or do we depend upon a court system to define it case-by-case?

In social sciences, the term equity refers to the principle of fairness. While it is often misused interchangeably with the principle of equality, equity encompasses a wide variety of social science models, programs, and strategies. Generally, when used equity does imply a lack of equality. The problem, of course, is that "fair" and "impartial" are words which derive their meanings from the point of view of the person uttering them.

Historical context doesn't really offer clarity.

Enlightened despotism, aka benevolent despotism, was a form of government in the 18th century in which a despot pursued reforms such as legal, social, and educational reforms. Inspired by the Enlightenment, enlightened despots such as Frederick the Great and Peter The Great instituted administrative reform, religious toleration, and economic development but did not propose broad equity reforms that would undermine their sovereignty.

In the Declaration of Independence, "absolute" despotism is carefully offered as the cause for the American Revolution. The implication is that "enlightened" despotism would be ok.

It is in the context of that Declaration that we learn that some men of the Enlightenment time thought that "all men are created equal" and that they are "endowed by their creator" with some "unalienable rights" such as "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."

If we ignore the likelihood that those men literally meant "men" and by "creator" meant some version of a god, we can speculate that within the right to the "pursuit of happiness" might be found the right to pursue equity.

If we speculate further,  a people might say they feel some "happiness" in life because within America their pursuit of equitable treatment - aka equity - was successful to some adequate level of satisfaction. Others might say their pursuit failed.

The good thing is, one can say the pursuit of equity is an unalienable right. But one must acknowledge that equity is, like all other elements of happiness, a judgement call with which you might not agree.

With that understanding, it is correct to state that disputes over how much equity is offered in our society will always be with us.

In California we see some confusion about the word. Consider the following chart:

Hispanics are now the largest ethnic group in California, slightly ahead of whites. Asians are the third largest ethnic group. Blacks constitute only 6% and everyone else makes up 3%. One of the more curious facts is the representation of these groups in the undergraduate student body at the University of California. Consider the following charts:

The top chart is what we get in reports. The problem with that chart is the inclusion of foreign students and unidentified students don't give us a picture. When you remove them from the count and recalculate the percentages we get a better idea. It's simple - Asians students make up nearly 3 times their portion of the population.

Why would that happen? The answer is their families push them harder to study and get good grades. It's that simple.

The question is: What constitutes equity when a subculture does what is asked of them specific to the objective they are seeking resulting in a receiving greater share? How on earth could anyone say equity can be found by any action other than rewarding those who work hardest?

Confused? Barbara A. Perry, a professor and director of presidential studies at the University of Virginia's Miller Center offered this clarity: “As a concept of fairness of the law, equity is meant as a remedy. If someone hurts you the person can be punished and assessed compensatory damage to make you whole again."

When you apply that thinking to a legal case, it is likely to be complicated. If you apply it to social science models, programs, and strategies it becomes a debate reflecting the nation's history of inequity.

The term equity reflects the point of view of the person uttering it, unfortunately. It is hard to visualize a world in which everyone thinks that they have been fairly treated.

The image at the beginning of this post deserves some thought. There are those who would argue that the solution to the equity problem would be to eliminate all barriers, not fund boxes. The problem with that is folks will get injured by hard hit "baseballs" more frequently without protection.

Monday, February 22, 2021

500,000 Americans dead in a year, 80% over 65; but many younger patients struggle after infections

As the U.S. approaches 500,000 deaths from Covid-19 in a year, a realistic view has begun to be accepted as explained two weeks ago by Washington Post science writer Carolyn Johnson:

    It has become clear that coronavirus variants can slip past some of the immunity generated by vaccines and prior infections. The virus is here to stay — and scientists will have to remain vigilant. Vaccines may have to be updated, perhaps regularly. And the world will have to prepare for the possibility, even the likelihood, that over the long term, the novel coronavirus will become a persistent disease threat, albeit one that could eventually end up closer to the flu or the common cold.

Here in California this morning another science writer, Lisa Krieger, tell us in The Mercury News:

    A coronavirus variant first identified in Denmark is now surging through California and represents more than half of samples in 44 counties, according to new UC San Francisco data.
    The variant, called L452R, appears to be more transmissible than the original strain of the virus, although it does not appear as contagious as the UK variant, scientists found.
    Also worrisome is evidence that links it to worse outcomes, such as intensive care unit admission and death. Additionally, vaccinated people appeared to produce fewer antibodies in response to the variant, suggesting it might be more resistant to our immune defenses.
    The variant “should likely be designated a variant of concern, warranting urgent follow-up investigation,” concludes Dr. Charles Chiu of UC San Francisco, whose lab is collaborating with the state’s Department of Public Health to seek cases of the new variant. The findings, which have not been peer reviewed, were released Monday morning.
    The variant, which Chiu’s lab estimates to have emerged in California in May 2020, increased in prevalence from 0% to more than 50% of cases during the sampling period. It has been blamed for outbreaks at nursing homes, jails and the emergency department at Kaiser Permanente San Jose, where a staff member wearing an inflatable Christmas tree costume might have infected at least 90 people.

As noted here last August, there are no analogies to use when discussing the future of the coronavirus except Johnson's phrase "a persistent disease threat."

Both Moderna and Pfizer are working on boosters for variants. That is both reassuring and frustrating for those of us who have had our two shots. It's reassuring that they are recognizing the long term reality of the disease. But it's frustrating to note that a week after getting our second shot the long term future is in as yet untested booster shots.

Perhaps the saddest reality is the deaths of half-a-million Americans in a year, as reflected in stories like A Ripple Effect of Loss: U.S. Covid Deaths Approach 500,000. However, over a longer term Covid-Linked Syndrome in Children Is Growing, and Cases Are More Severe and Covid Survivors With Long-Term Symptoms Need Urgent Attention, Experts Say indicate we may have even more problems as the pandemic continues or settles down into regional or local epidemics.

And none of this reflects the Extended Economic Distortion that has been created by the attempts to contain the pandemic.

Saturday, February 13, 2021

The Declaration of Independence allows for revolt against "a long train of abuses and usurpations"

The single most disturbing thing about living in the United States is knowing how little Americans know about their government and founding documents.

For instance, there is no mention of people being "created equal" in the Constitution. The closest one can come is Section 1 of the 14th Amendment which states:

    All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

On the other hand the Declaration of Independence has legal standing. Consider this:

    The Declaration has been recognized as the founding act of law establishing the United States as a sovereign and independent nation, and Congress has placed it at the beginning of the U.S. Code, under the heading "The Organic Laws of the United States of America." The Supreme Court, however, has generally not considered it a part of the organic law of the country. For example, although the Declaration mentions a right to rebellion, this right, particularly with regard to violent rebellion, has not been recognized by the Supreme Court and other branches of the federal government. The most notable failure to uphold this right occurred when the Union put down the rebellion by the Southern Confederacy in the Civil War.

We are fortunate that Donald Trump's attorneys did not offer the text of the Declaration in their defense beginning with the discussing "The Organic Laws of the United States of America" as contained in the U.S. Code.

"Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed." But what if a third of the current American population believes "it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off" the current U.S. government?

Back "when the Union put down the rebellion by the Southern Confederacy in the Civil War" just 50 years after the War of 1812 finally gave the former British Colonies some stable independence, people were different. Right? No?

Exactly when does "a long train of abuses and usurpations" become long enough to say "no more?"

Perhaps the reality is that when, as was the case at the beginning of the Civil War, the military leadership was divided and, to a significant degree, the rank and file was state-oriented, a revolt against the national government was possible. But today the military is significantly national and we now have police who support stability over instability.

Of course that could change. There is the Declaration of Independence, an official part of the U.S. Code, an organic law that is part of the foundation of U.S. government,that authorizes a revolution:

It's all about what we (and Trump's attorneys?) don't know.