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.

Sunday, January 24, 2021

Brexit appears to be causing many unexpected pain

This January is the first month of Brexit, the British withdrawal from the European Union after 47 years of membership. Brexit was approved by a majority of voters in 2016, the same year Donald Trump was elected.

Much like Americans that year, the Brits had their opinions and ignored anything in the press to the contrary. As might be expected, some news headlines reflect problems and surprises as a result of Brexit implementation:

It's still early in the game, of course. But the implementation of Brexit is the only significant nationalist movement that we can watch with clear democratic vision. Initially, it appears that this Wikipedia quote is right on: "The broad consensus among economists is that Brexit will likely harm the UK's economy and reduce its real per capita income in the long term, and that the referendum itself damaged the economy."

Of course, 80 years from now the world's economy will barely resemble today (at least partly because of our current confrontation with a pandemic). Still, it seems fair to assume that, led by right wing nationalists (the majority of whom are racists), the British have pretty much abandoned their economy as they knew it to assert their "freedoms" in the face of an "oppressive" or "too immigration favorable" multinational bureaucracy.

In effect, the British have achieved what the Trump Administration attempted to accomplish for the U.S. - total one-on-one trade treaties and closed borders. The results are exactly what a person who can read-and-write would expect. Consider this video on the shift in freight transport to and from E.U. member Ireland:

It would be unkind to wish significant economic damage on the U.K. But one can hope that for future reference we will be able to point to Brexit as an example of why right wing nationalism is a bad idea without even having to refer to Hitler.

Thursday, January 21, 2021

We are deep into a climate crisis age of extinction. Read all about it from a reliable news source.

One certain effect of climate change is the accelerated extinction of plant and animal species.

As Wikipedia explains: "A species is extinct when the last existing member dies. Extinction therefore becomes a certainty when there are no surviving individuals that can reproduce and create a new generation. A species may become functionally extinct when only a handful of individuals survive, which cannot reproduce due to poor health, age, sparse distribution over a large range, a lack of individuals of both sexes (in sexually reproducing species), or other reasons."

Homo sapiens sapiens, aka humans, are animals, of course. Since more than 99% of all species that ever lived on Earth, amounting to over five billion species,  have become extinct, it is reasonable to expect that humans will become extinct.

Still, many of us are troubled by the fact that humans are the cause of the current rapid climate change that has accelerated the extinction of plant and animal species creating a condition known as "mass extinction." 

A 1998 survey of biologists conducted by New York's American Museum of Natural History supported the prediction that up to 20% of all living populations could become extinct within 20 years, seven years from now. It appears that prediction will be exceeded.

In a 2020 study Vertebrates on the brink as indicators of biological annihilation and the sixth mass extinction it was noted that a study of 29,400 species of terrestrial vertebrates found that the human-caused sixth mass extinction is likely accelerating, emphasizing the "extreme urgency of taking massive global actions to save humanity’s crucial life-support systems."

For those who may be interested, The Guardian, a non-profit British newspaper founded in 1821, has a grant-supported project - The Age of Extinction - focused on biodiversity highlighting the crisis represented by huge losses of animal, insect, bird and plant life around the world, exploring innovations attempting to slow these losses.

The Guardian is free (you may but need not donate). They do report on other news. In terms of its political orientation, it is left of center. And it is true that British, and American, and Chinese, and whatever national governments and private corporations have determined to delay significant action regarding climate change.

But now that Donald Trump is no longer President, perhaps more will find things like the problem of preventing the end of human life interesting.

This writer certainly recommends it as an alternative to Twitter, et al.

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

What happens when the much vaunted "center" of a "new world order" withdraws creating a vacuum


In human history all dominate cultures have fallen. In the past decade many have been writing that the world leadership by the U.S. has declined or even collapsed. It's complicated, but also true in the sense that the United States is no longer the "center" of a "new world order."


New World Order

As historically used, the term "new world order" refers to a leadership transition in collective efforts to identify, understand, and/or address global problems that go beyond the capacity of the peoples of individual nation-states to solve. The term was used at the end of both World War I and II with the United States appearing to be the hope for the world. 

European culture, with an emphasis on Great Britain's empire, was the center of a new world order as the United States evolved. The U.S. in the second half of the 20th Century assumed that "center" mantle. At the very time that the U.S. seemed to have assured its place with the fall of the Soviet Union, in fact it turns out it was the end of the Eurocentric world.

The term "new world order" was most recently used at the end of the Cold War.

After the election March 11, 1985, of Mikhail Gorbachev to the position of General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, the process of dissolution of the Soviet Union was begun. Prior to that time, the United States and the Soviet Union dominated the world order. In five years, the change was clear as noted by U.S. President George H. W. Bush:

We stand today at a unique and extraordinary moment. The crisis in the Persian Gulf, as grave as it is, also offers a rare opportunity to move toward an historic period of cooperation. Out of these troubled times, our fifth objective—a new world order—can emerge: a new era—freer from the threat of terror, stronger in the pursuit of justice, and more secure in the quest for peace. An era in which the nations of the world, East and West, North and South, can prosper and live in harmony. A hundred generations have searched for this elusive path to peace, while a thousand wars raged across the span of human endeavor. Today that new world is struggling to be born, a world quite different from the one we've known. A world where the rule of law supplants the rule of the jungle. A world in which nations recognize the shared responsibility for freedom and justice. A world where the strong respect the rights of the weak.

    - President George H.W. Bush, September 11, 1990, Address Before a Joint Session of Congress

Unfortunately, Bush was a bit ahead of the curve thinking there would be a future of peace, freedom and justice as he did not recognize the shadow cast by the self-centered arrogance endemic to the American people. The historical period of 1918-1922 should have represented a warning that just as the U.S. effectively abandoned the League of Nations ultimately causing WWII, there was little chance the the American political scene would shift to support a unanimous unselfish group leadership role.

The irony should not be lost that Bush's speech was given 11 years to the day before his son as President would face what we know as 9/11 leading to a another two decades of war initiated by the United States.

In fact, beginning in 1980 the U.S. electorate shifted politically back to the post-WWI Republican capitalist greed era by electing Ronald Reagan. Reagan clearly stated his philosophy in 1964 while campaigning for Barry Goldwater in  his famous speech, "A Time for Choosing":

The Founding Fathers knew a government can't control the economy without controlling people. And they knew when a government sets out to do that, it must use force and coercion to achieve its purpose. So we have come to a time for choosing ... You and I are told we must choose between a left or right, but I suggest there is no such thing as a left or right. There is only an up or down. Up to man's age-old dream—the maximum of individual freedom consistent with order—or down to the ant heap of totalitarianism.

The Clinton and Obama Presidencies remained focused on maintaining the wealth of the American 1% through corporate support in the international arena.

The high risk factor ignored was that most of the world's population was located outside the U.S. and half the U.S. population was becoming uneasy with the decline in their share, small as it was, in the growing wealth.

That led to the election of Donald Trump, a millionaire who touted a populist-image aimed at the gullible half of the U.S. population that had grown uneasy with the decline in their share. Trump pulled the U.S. out of international financial and other agreements which pretty much ended the world's love for American democracy.

The truth is that world power was centered on European economic power in the 19th Century and on U.S. economic power in the 20th Century.

Today in terms of economic power, the focus is rapidly shifting away from the 20th Century inherited European-American North Atlantic focus bequested to the U.S. by Britain. 

Recent events have assured an Asian-Pacific focus with expanding African and European participation, all through international agreements. This is no accident. The world's population is roughly 7.8 billion with 4.6 billion living in Asia,  2.82 billion of whom live in China and India. Africa has another 1.4 billion. So far, another 250 million folks in Pacific Rim nations Australia, Canada, Chile, Mexico, New Zealand, and Peru have signed on.

While the United States coped with Trumpist shifts away from internationalism, Great Britain withdrew from the European Union and is now just beginning to discover the negative economic effects of Brexit.

Are we prepared for this? To date the only President born in a Pacific Coast state, Richard Nixon, is also the only President to have made any significant positive move in our history to recognize the importance of Asia.

Yes, Donald Trump left office creating internal turmoil in his wake. The electorate did anoint Joe Biden to replace him. But in terms of creating a role for the U.S. in a new world order, Biden faces major problems as (1) a significant bloc of the U.S. electorate opposes economic participation in world organizations and (2) most of the world's nations, in reaction to Trump, effectively have moved on leaving the U.S. as just one more player in world affairs, and not a very reliable one at that.

Those two facts alone represent major hurdles for the U.S. But they aren't even where the focus must be right now.


The Pandemic, Climate Change, and Cyberspace Vulnerability

President Joe Biden assumes office at the beginning of the third decade of the Second Millennium A.D. facing a world that easily can be distinguished from the 20th Century world.

Biden and humanity are confronting the immediate problems of...

  • a pandemic from a new disease, 
  • climate change, and 
  • sophisticated cyberattacks within a new theater of war called cyberspace, 

...all of which involve a leadership failure of the United States as a political entity during the first two decades of the Millennium.

Regarding the Covid-19 Pandemic, in the U.S. we have had 24,000,000+ cases and 400,000+ deaths in a year. 

Is this a real problem? For comparison in 2020, an estimated 1,806,590 new cases of cancer will have been diagnosed and 606,520 people will die from cancer. Regarding the flu, for which we have vaccines, annually in the last decade we have had between 9 million - 45 million illnesses, between 140,000 - 810,000 hospitalizations and between 12,000 - 61,000 deaths.

In terms of behavioral deaths, there were 36,096 fatalities in motor vehicle accidents and 15,292 people were fatally shot in 2019.

We should have been on top of the Covid-19 pandemic in January 2020 basically isolating the United States from the world and recommending everyone else do it also. But that is just not our way, ultimately letting us know that some day we will suffer major losses setting us back economically a century or more. But as we all know that will happen to someone else.

Based on available data, it is reasonable to expect recurrent Covid-19 epidemics as strains mutate. Other than the obvious impact on individuals, this has significantly altered our economy. But as seen from the statistics above, we've decided to coexist with disease and related economic impacts.

Regarding the second major U.S. policy failure impacting the economy, Climate Change, by 1960 research was telling us we had a problem as explained in Wikipedia:

By the late 1950s, more scientists were arguing that carbon dioxide emissions could be a problem, with some projecting in 1959 that CO2 would rise 25% by the year 2000, with potentially "radical" effects on climate. In the centennial of the American oil industry in 1959, organized by the American Petroleum Institute and the Columbia Graduate School of Business, Edward Teller said "It has been calculated that a temperature rise corresponding to a 10 per cent increase in carbon dioxide will be sufficient to melt the icecap and submerge New York. [....] At present the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has risen by 2 per cent over normal. By 1970, it will be perhaps 4 per cent, by 1980, 8 per cent, by 1990, 16 per cent if we keep on with our exponential rise in the use of purely conventional fuels.". In 1960 Charles David Keeling demonstrated that the level of CO2 in the atmosphere was in fact rising. Concern mounted year by year along with the rise of the "Keeling Curve" of atmospheric CO2.

In terms of political awareness, we can point to Al Gore. In 1976, after joining the United States House of Representatives, Al Gore held the first congressional hearings on the climate change, and co-sponsored hearings on toxic waste and global warming. 

As explained in a previous post, Gore's subsequent presentation, movie, and book about Global Warming is entitled rather ironically "An Inconvenient Truth" precisely because as explained by Greta Thunberg "at a deep level, the language of climate denialism is tied up with a form of masculine identity predicated on modern industrial capitalism." The basic truth of the situation is economically very inconvenient and therefore politically very inconvenient. The American electoral system, not the majority of voters, defeated Al Gore for President in 2000 partly, or mostly, for that reason.

Simply, 1960 was 60 years ago. It is too late to avoid many climate catastrophes. As explained in a recent article:

    “The scale of the threats to the biosphere and all its lifeforms – including humanity – is in fact so great that it is difficult to grasp for even well-informed experts,” they write in a report in Frontiers in Conservation Science which references more than 150 studies detailing the world’s major environmental challenges.
    The delay between destruction of the natural world and the impacts of these actions means people do not recognise how vast the problem is, the paper argues. “[The] mainstream is having difficulty grasping the magnitude of this loss, despite the steady erosion of the fabric of human civilisation.”

Nonetheless, Joe Biden has indicated a significant shift towards addressing climate change which offers some hope.

The third major U.S. economic policy failure is Cyberspace Vulnerability. Several facts need to be understood:

  • "Cyberspace" has numerous meanings within the world of the arts, but ultimately came to reference a widespread, interconnected digital technology associated with the internet which has no single centralized governance in either technological implementation or policies for access and usage that began in the 1960s with the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) of the United States Department of Defense funded research into time-sharing of computers; in other words, it was created by the United States DOD.
  • In 2013 Edward Snowden released a bunch of information about what the NSA was doing as noted in an extensive article in The Guardian (if you haven't read it you should); simply the U.S. was engaging in far reaching clandestine cyber espionage the disclosure of which resulted in a furor among U.S. allies, but did not actually restrict NSA activities, leaving the United States government as the largest single organization on Earth invading the privacy of individual human beings, individual businesses, and foreign governments, both within an international scope and within the United States.
  • Because in the 1980's internet development was turned over to the private sector, clandestine spying is rampant; specific to politics you might remember the name Cambridge Analytica in relationship to both privacy invasion and Russian interference issues related to the election of Donald Trump because the company was paid at least $650,000 for voter data analysis and digital video; however, American corporate cyberspace spying has led to the establishment of  similar clandestine programs which have allowed both public and private sector interference in American affairs.

In summary American Cyberspace Vulnerability is entirely the fault of American worship of greed and power. Unlike nuclear weapons, no effective international restrictions exist today to protect cyberspace nor can they be instituted. 

Instead, the incoming Biden Administration must determine what, if any, data should be sealed from outside access and then figure out how to make that happen given the widespread existence within "the cloud" of elements of critical data.

In the meantime, we know that the ability to mess with elections is out there. But we also know that the ability of nations to shut down and damage utilities such as electricity, gas, and communications in other nations is a reality.

It is no small irony that most "smart" phones, including all critical components, are manufactured in Asia. This is also true of most electronics. It is the world a greedy United States created thumbing its nose at government. It will not be easy to undo.


The Next Eight Decades

Consider the following very recent observation:

    Most great empires, Arnold Toynbee once argued, end by committing suicide rather than being murdered.
    But with their exceptionalism and profound myopia, Americans think they are exempt from history’s merciless fate. They won’t be. There are four areas in which Americans have reigned supreme from the second half of the last century: the military, the capitalist financial system, medicine and disease control, and democratic institutions.
    In every one of them, signs of decay and decline abound.

The article the above quote is from should be read by all Americans. Unfortunately, it will be read by nearly none.

It is highly unlikely that the United States will be the "center" of a "new world order." It may turn out that George H.W. Bush was right when he said 30 years ago:

Today that new world is struggling to be born, a world quite different from the one we've known. A world where the rule of law supplants the rule of the jungle. A world in which nations recognize the shared responsibility for freedom and justice. A world where the strong respect the rights of the weak.

It could be humans will make the necessary decisions creating such a world. But the nature of that world will rest in the heads and hearts of those who over the next 80 years consider is the nature of freedom and justice and what should be the focus of attention. In that context the U.S. ended up with 80±-year-old political leaders. Aren't we the generation who created the mess we're in? Well, not exactly!

The only appointed high official to serve a full four years in the Trump years, 57-year-old Mike Pompeo, was appointed by Trump as Director of the Central Intelligence Agency in January 2017 and promoted to secretary of state in March 2018 after Trump fired Rex Tillerson who reportedly called Trump a moron.  

Pompeo appears to have successfully completed the early 21st Century redefining of China as an enemy of American capitalism. As noted here in 2019 Pompeo is a Koch Brothers believer (as is Mike Pence):

There is no question that the Koch conservative right sees China as the one serious threat to unfettered capitalism and Pompeo has worked diligently to focus American military and foreign policy on that enemy. It's relatively simple equation - capitalism and communism are arch enemies. 

Confronted with Pompeo's Koch viewpoint, China's President Xi has refocused China's military on the very real U.S. threat while continuing to move forward with China's long term economic plans.

Make no mistake about it, freedom and justice are not defined by the Chinese in any way similar to American definitions. On the other hand, China is preparing its 14th Five Year Plan and 2035 Vision, a key marker of Xi’s national rejuvenation project to build a "prosperous, strong, democratic, culturally advanced, harmonious, and beautiful" modern socialist country by 2049. The core goal is to give the nation's people freedom from economic worry.

The Koch oil company empire notwithstanding, what do 340 million Americans living in a politically divided country that has a 250 year history really think about 1.44 billion Chinese living in a country that has a 4000 year history of centralized rule? Are there any thoughts about China planning an economy for it's children and grandchildren?

And, of course, what exactly is the national plan for mediating the impact of climate change on the American people?

This is the beginning of Joe Biden's term. It's quite a challenge.

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Welcome to the second year of Covid-19 in which new, more dangerous variants are already here




As noted here in March 2020, the first confirmed case of Covid-19 was in November 2019. The second Covid-19 year began in November 2020. 

In mid-December the first vaccines were released for use. Folks became hopeful or paranoid, the latter because vaccines are based on science which is apparently is witchcraft. Well, not if it produces cars, tvs, smart phones, but if it is about health its witchcraft because human lifespans have shortened decades since the Dark Ages.

Unfortunately just as vaccines were being released, two far more contagious mutant strains of Covid-19 were discovered, one in Britain and one in South Africa.

Among the many things we didn't know is that a more contagious strain is more dangerous than a more deadly strain as explained here:

    ...Consider an example put forth by Adam Kucharski, a professor at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine who focuses on mathematical analyses of infectious-disease outbreaks. Kucharski compares a 50 percent increase in virus lethality to a 50 percent increase in virus transmissibility. Take a virus reproduction rate of about 1.1 and an infection fatality risk of 0.8 percent and imagine 10,000 active infections—a plausible scenario for many European cities, as Kucharski notes. As things stand, with those numbers, we’d expect 129 deaths in a month. If the fatality rate increased by 50 percent, that would lead to 193 deaths. In contrast, a 50 percent increase in transmissibility would lead to a whopping 978 deaths in just one month—assuming, in both scenarios, a six-day infection-generation time.
    ...The initial estimates from the data suggest that this variant could be about 50 to 70 percent more transmissible than regular COVID-19. To make matters thornier, we aren’t yet exactly sure why it’s more transmissible, though reasonable theories are already being tested. This variant, now called B.1.1.7, has “an unusually large number of genetic changes, particularly in the spike protein,” which is how the virus gains entry into our cells. The new variant may be better at eluding our immune response and replicating, or be able to better bind to locations in our body more conducive to infecting others, but that is all speculative for the moment.

That explanation triggered in my mind an immediate explanation of what was going on in this graph of California's runaway hospitalizations and daily death numbers (click here to see a larger version):


While humanity is still learning about the new variants, both of which are in the United States, what we do know is framed in an article:

    The new coronavirus strain that emerged in South Africa is even more problematic than a mutated form that prompted new lockdowns across much of the U.K., health authorities said on Monday.
    “I’m incredibly worried about the South African variant,” U.K. Health Secretary Matt Hancock said on BBC radio Monday, citing a conversation over the Christmas holiday with his counterpart in South Africa. “One of the reasons they know they’ve got a problem is because, like us, they have an excellent genomic scientific capability to be able to study the details of the virus. And it is even more of a problem than the U.K. new variant.”
    The South African variant is driving a surge of infections in the country, and like the U.K. strain, it appears to be more infectious than previous mutations. Still, there’s no evidence yet that the Covid-19 vaccines approved so far won’t work against the new strains.

Oh good. There's no evidence yet...

In the U.S. our genomic scientific capability is mostly on a par with the poorest third world countries because we can't imagine spending money on things for which there is "no evidence yet."

California recently learned that the British variant is here, perhaps even widespread but we need a few more weeks. So far I haven't seen any evidence yet that the South African variant is here.

Unfortunately, some initial evidence indicates that the South African variant may not be as responsive to the vaccines, but we don't have any evidence yet.

What we do know is that the South African variant does appear to be infecting more young people without pre-existing conditions who are becoming severely ill.  But we don't have any evidence yet.

The main thing here in the second year is that we have to get our businesses open and our kids back to school....

In the meantime, to the right is a convenient calendar for tracking the second year!