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216. Covid-19 and Outdoor Infection

4 Oct

About four days ago,  Trump had a White-House Rose Garden event introducing his Supreme Court nominee. This was attended by many top administration officials and other prominent people. Shortly afterwards, several attendees tested positive for the virus, including the President and his wife. Where they were infected, is still uncertain, but it could have been in the Rose Garden. Note, it is often assumed that because an event is held outside, it is safe.

However, just being OUTSIDE is not always SAFE. On the average, it is a little better than indoor events. But if people are close together and there is no wind, then virus droplets can spread dangerously. Even with distancing, if a small wind is in the right direction, DROPLETS COULD MOVE A FEW YARDS and cause infection. The basic rule is always: distancing PLUS wearing a good mask. To make good decisions, you must imagine people spewing out droplets, and where they might end up given the wind conditions. Trump was a good distance from his Rose Garden audience, but a mass of virus droplets could travel towards him if a small wind was blowing in his direction.

Officials concerned with impressions and election results, cannot be trusted to make good safety decisions. It is just a matter of common sense, and the rule, that if you are near others, anywhere, then good protective masks are needed. And those wearing masks, for greatest safety, should have masks that are protective for themselves, as well as for others. The President needs to encourage masks and not make fun of others that are following established safety rules. It also would be of great benefit, if our government developed inexpensive masks that protect the wearer, and distributed them in some way at low or no cost.

214. Reversals by Prominent Republicans

25 Sep

A growing number of traditional and well-known Republicans have left the party and/or are now supporting Joe Biden for President. The Lincoln Project is a group formed by such individuals. The following is a list of persons making such a reversal.

George Will: highly respected conservative author and commentators

Bill Kristol:  Frequent commentator on several networks, and writer

Joe Scarborogh: Former US Representative and “Morning Joe” show.

Michael Steele: Former Republican Party Chairman

Cindy McCain: Wife of Senator John McCain, Presidential candidate

John Bolton: Former US ambassador to the UN, and book author

James Comey: Former director of the FBI

Steve Schmidt: Former Republican campaign strategist

Nicolle Wallace: Former Republican W. H. communications director

Justin Amash: US Congressman (Michigan district)

Rick Snyder: Former Michigan Governor

Tom Nichols: Professor of National Security Affairs, Repub consultant

Bill Weld: Former Governor of Massachusetts 

George Conway: Prominent attorney, husband of Kellyanne C.

Andy McKean: US Congress (from Iowa)

Peter Wehner: Aide to three Republican administrations

Joe Walsh: Former US Representative (Illinois)

Max Boot: Prominent columnist for Washington Post

Olivia Troye: Member of Trump administration and Pence aide

And others.

213. Re Virus: Expert Timely Action Was Needed

22 Sep

If our current president had acted early and thoughtfully, many lives lost to covid-19 could have been saved. Nations that worked very seriously on virus control had very few cases and deaths. Below, is a list of significant US actions and inactivity.  Our President was a businessman, with many business failures, and no government or medical experience.  How could he be expected to deal effectively with an extremely complicated issue like a major pandemic. 

The Global Health Security and Biodefense Unit was established by
President Obama in 2015 to deal effectively with problems such as viruses, like covid-19. Apparently, with little consultation and analysis, Trump abolished this unit. Just imagine how different our response to the danger could have been if this unit was in effect and Trump followed its recommendations. 

Trump failed to make early preparations for fighting this virus. Instead, he told everyone not to be concerned and the virus would soon be gone. The US could have been working on this problem early in January, instead, there were at least two months of  little activity. The only thing Trump did early, was to stop travel from China. If he had worked with experts, they would have discovered that travel from Europe was much more dangerous. Initially, New York was under very serious attack.

An effective US leader would have encouraged research and organized necessary supplies. We could have developed very effective methods, and we could have helped other countries in their use. It seems that Trump does not understand that helping others will also help the US.

IGNORING THE DANGERS.  From January 2020 to present (September) Trump has mostly minimized the dangers; presumably to make himself look better for the upcoming election. Journalist Bob Woodward presented to the public, tape recordings of his interviews with Trump. The recordings showed that he was very aware of the virus dangers, but “downplayed” them to avoid “panic.” An experienced leader would have concluded that it was much more important for the public to take the threat seriously, than to be concerned about panic. Trump stated numerous times that the virus will simply “disappear,” without any authoritative justification for this conclusion. He spoke of the development of a “herd mentality.” He actually meant “herd immunity,” which occurs when a high percentage of the population can no longer be infected.  Most experts believe that to quickly achieve herd immunity would result in too many deaths and so would be unacceptable.

FAILURE TO SUPPORT MASK USE AND DISTANCING.  With only a few exceptions, Trump has discouraged the use of face masks, social distancing, and avoidance of crowds. For a while, he was chiding people that wore masks. A responsible president would know that leadership and setting a good example is expected. Yet, for a long time, Trump would never wear a mask and often was too close to others. But what was more egregious, he held several large rallies where most were without masks, and people were crowded together.  Note that the Woodward tape recordings showed that Trump was aware of the airborne spread of this virus.

FAILURE TO PROVIDE EQUIPMENT.  Fighting a virus like covid involves the manufacture of massive amounts of equipment, including: advanced masks, hospital gowns, ventilators, etc. Trump refused to use the Defense Production Act, which could have forced the production of essential items. He could have organized the production of supplies, but instead said that governors would have to be responsible. It was several months before adequate equipment, such as PPE (personal protective equipment) was available. Meanwhile, doctors and nurses were being infected. 

RUSHING THE VACCINE.  Trump has often been in conflict with his medical experts, such as Anthony Fauci, MD. The experts say that it will take several more months before a vaccine is approved and that it will be at least six more months before it is generally available. Trump wants to rush the vaccine because it will help with his election. There are several problems with rushing.  The first is that it could take considerable testing time before harmful side effects are discovered. Safety has been a primary concern after the 1961 thalidomide tragedy, in which thousands of babies had birth defects or died. The second is that if the vaccine effectiveness does not reach a certain level (ranging between 50 and 70%), it is useless — and large quantities created at great expense would have to be destroyed. A third consideration, is that with all of the controversy associated with rushing approval, many folks will simply refuse to take it.

Early in the year I noted that medical experts estimated that it would take  at least a year or a year-and-a-half before a vaccine would be available. Current population of the US is 328 million.  At the assumed two-doses per person, this would require the manufacture, bottling, storage and application of about 500 million doses (some would not need it).  It is a huge project, and such projects usually take longer than expected because there are unanticipated difficulties. Developing virus testing methods will have similar problems. 

FINAL THOUGHT.  I am guessing that it will be two or three years before the virus will be at an insignificant level. The money spent in developing and applying vaccination and virus testing for most of the population will be colossal. We spend it, in order to save many lives, a worthwhile goal.  However, I fear that much of the money will be spent unwisely and wasted. Consider that many will refuse the vaccination and the virus testing. Both the vaccination and testing may have high error rates. Many will always refuse masks, distancing and washing. 

But I have had this thought, which may be way off base. What if we spent less money on the virus and used the savings for effective research and solutions to the climate-change dilemma, which also costs many lives, and in addition, the destruction of homes and property. My feeling is that we will waste huge amounts of money related to the virus, when more lives might be saved by increasing our efforts on the climate. As the years go by, the climate will be much more of a problem than the virus.

What do you think?

 

212. Trump Corruptions of the 2020 Election

14 Sep

Trump often complains that US elections are rigged. But it appears that most of the rigging is done by Trump himself or his associates (including Russian Vladimer Putin). Here are examples of this rigging:

In speeches, Trump has made numerous statements designed to scare or discourage voters. It is the clear duty of a President to encourage voting as a part of the democratic process. He claims that mail-in (same as absentee) ballots are not safe, which could discourage some from voting. He claims that if he is not elected, the process was rigged and therefore invalid. Note that Trump himself, uses the same type of mail-in ballot that everyone else uses, and lies that his are special. He hopes that if rigging can be established, that he can stay in office. In the end, it might take the Army to get him out of the White House, but foolishly, he recently insulted the military leaders.

Trump has discouraged or ignored attempts to make US voting safer from foreign attack. Major government efforts to fight foreign influence have been ignored by Trump.

The Trump impeachment was about a corruption of funding for Ukraine, in its fight against Russia. Funds appropriated by Congress were delayed until the Ukrainian President would agree to declare an investigation of the Joe Bidens son.

Post Office: Trumps man, Postmaster General DeJoy, slowed down mail delivery, through the elimination of sorting machines, variations in scheduling, and changes in personnel. Slowdown could benefit the
President in several ways. In one way, fewer Democrat mail-in ballots would be counted. In another way, the election would never be completed and presumably Trump would stay in office longer. Postmaster DeJoy is now under investigation.

Census. He attempted to cut down the time for Census completion so that fewer poor people would be counted. This would allow more federal funds and other benefits to go to Republican areas. The Census is provided for in the US Constitution and its corruption distorts many government functions.

Attorney General Barr meddled in the prosecution and sentencing of Trump criminal staff. Trump wanted his staff to look less criminal, better for election. Commuting sentences and hinting at pardons was used to discourage testimony against him.

Attorney General Barr undermined the Mueller Report by misrepresenting its conclusions. Barr stated incorrectly that there was a complete exoneration of the President, making him look better for re-election. Note that the investigative work of Mueller was limited to certain safer subjects and that Trump never gave actual testimony.

Intelligence Agencies. He forced the modification of intelligence reports to obscure Russian election interference. A whistleblower claimed that reports needed to change to be consistent with his policies.

CDC and Medical experts: Trump minimized the dangers of the virus. See Woodward’s voice tapes in which he confessed to downplaying the virus to prevent “panic.” But obviously it is not about panic, which he promotes in many other ways.* Virus deaths reflect poorly on his time in office and would harm his election success. He has downplayed the virus from its onset to today. It is reported that Trump associates have pressured scientists to alter reports so as to support his election needs

In many instances, scientists have been pressured or fired in an effort to improve Trumps election chances. For example, a report on climate-change would be altered to indicate less danger.

The use of the White House as a GOP convention backdrop is a violation of tradition and may violate laws (like the Hatch Act). The White House is supposed to be used for government purposes and not for any political functions. There are numerous violations in this area.


*Examples of Trump promoting panic: He tried to scare suburban people with the possibility that low-grade housing would be built in their neighborhoods; which only he could prevent. He tried to scare people by emphasizing violence, riots, and destruction of property. He falsely claimed that Democrats were responsible for the riots and that only he could prevent riots.

207. We Don’t Need a King Trump

25 Mar

0KingTrumpTrump has actually expressed his admiration for dictators, such as those controlling Russia, N. Korea, and Turkey. In an exchange with Joe Scarborough, when told that Putin “kills journalists that don’t agree with him”, he replied that “our country does plenty of killing, too.”

I am seriously concerned that Trump supporters really do not understand why he is a great danger to the US and must not continue as President. Here is a partial list of his worst abuses.

In January of 2020 he disregarded intelligence agencies and highly regarded epidemiologists and ignored the clear dangers of Covid19. This delayed our understanding and actions regarding the disease and probably caused thousands of unnecessary deaths. Testing for the virus was definitely delayed by Trump and his administration. He downplayed the virus so that it would not affect his precious stock market, which helps with his future election. He could have begun working on associated supplies, like protective masks and gloves and equipment like ventilators. He terminated a special White-House group dealing with epidemics. He blamed Obama for having ineffective procedures, when he had three years to correct them.

He left the Paris Climate Accord and ignored the dangers of climate change. He should have worked on our own climate efforts and on supporting valuable research programs. Ultimately, millions of people will die from the resulting hurricanes, fires, floods, droughts, and possible wars.

He withdrew from the Iran Nuclear Deal, which included several major nations, and was preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons. The deal was working, according those most familiar with it. Now we have no deal, worse relations with Iran, and more potential dangers.

He failed in his dealing with North Korea. He boosted world respect for them and they continue to develop dangerous nuclear missiles. Expressing his “love” for Kim made him look foolish.

He has lost world respect for the US Presidency because of his childish and rude behavior. By breaking several existing international deals, other nations do not trust him. There is also less trust because what he says is often different from staff statements.

Knowledgeable people throughout the world cannot believe what he says because he makes obvious mistakes and lies. Fact-checkers have counted over 16000 “false or misleading claims” during his three years in office. To show that this count is plausible, one can simply read his speeches and note how the “truth” varies from time to time. For example, he made up a story about why he fired FBI Comey, and then three days later gave an entirely different reason. Another lie is the “do-nothing” Democrat congressmen, that, in fact, created hundreds of bills, which were not acted on by the real “do-nothing” Republicans.

He supported Russia in several ways. In one situation he believed what Putin said, instead of what his intelligence agencies stated. He significantly delayed the imposition of Russian sanctions approved by US Congress. His impeachment was based on an action that favored Russia.

He undermined the FBI, intelligence agencies, and other governmental offices, like the Attorney General. He promoted actions that benefited him instead of our country. His A.G. Barr, a yes-man lied in his description of the Mueller Report.

He appointed many Federal Judges that are radically conservative and in many cases, without appropriate qualifications.

He supported tax changes that primarily support already rich people and corporations, while ordinary people got very little and nothing permanent. His financial policies have greatly increased our national debt.

He made a deal with Turkey, which resulted in the deaths and loss of homes for thousands of Kurds. Kurdish soldiers helped the US fight and destroy the Islamic State. This action has led to further distrust of the US in international matters.

Trump was impeached because he pressured Ukraine to help him with his 2020 election. This was harmful to our ally Ukraine in their fight against Russia, and the delay of needed military support was a major setback for them. This increased global distrust of the US.

He hollowed out many US government agencies, such as the State Department. We lost many valuable experts that helped with vital decision making. Trump said he could make the best decisions on his own (with Tweets, of course). Most of his staff and cabinet were chosen on the basis of loyalty and subservience, rather than competence and experience. Many had to resign and many were fired for calling him “moron” or simply disagreeing.

Many immigrants at our Southern US border suffered because of poorly thought-out policies. Disorganization caused children to be separated from parents in a way making reuniting them very difficult, and still is incomplete. In many cases, Trump has rushed to implement policies without considering the negative effects.

Some of his trade policies were OK, but trade deals with China were a disaster for many farmers and others in the US. Some of our farmers were paid by our government for their losses. The total is more than $20-billion per year. Many losses to others are not compensated at all. In January of 2020 he signed an initial trade agreement with China, that includes many uncertainties. As usual, many people have to suffer to satisfy Trumps ego.

Trump has damaged ObamaCare and tried to abolish it without the promised Republican replacement plan. US citizens were saved by one vote, that of Republican John McCain. Trump has falsely claimed that he was preserving the “pre-existing conditions” feature. It seems that McCain is the last Repub with the guts and patriotism to stand up to Trump.

A vote for Trump is support for a government in which all of the above will continue and likely get worse. The tyranny of Trump must be terminated.

205. How Candidates Really Get Elected

28 Feb

Commentators and reporters often make demands of candidates that only serve purposes such as dramatizing and attracting attention. At the same time, I am generally pleased by the way our traditional press and reporters operate. Some self interest is always present, so it is mostly up to the candidates themselves, to stay out of trouble. There are two types of potentially troublesome demands: urging attacks on fellow candidates, and the other is to provide detailed plans. 

Attacks and competition can lower the likely success of all candidates in a party. Providing a lot of details, sometimes is OK, but every detail can cause rejection by a certain segment of the population. For example, I would suggest that those in favor of Medicare-for-all should say something like this: “our general goals are to provide complete low cost and even zero cost, to all citizens. I (the candidate) will work hard towards this goal. And any such legislation brought to me that has the support of Congress and the people, I will sign into law. Healthcare is so complicated and with so many opposing interests, no one person can make final decisions. I will encourage the appropriate Congressional and citizen committees. And of course,  every plan developed will require OMB estimates of cost. A good immediate plan could simply be improvements to ObamaCare, while more comprehensive new plans are gradually implemented.

Traits for a successful candidate. 

The candidate must be likable. Sounds superficial, but very important for votes. This trait answers my title question: “How candidates really get elected.” This factor probably is most important, but some other traits below could be significant.

The candidate must emphasize key issues for voters, like wages, health care, and jobs.

The candidate must have a substantial history of worthy causes and patriotism.

The candidate should be free of scandals and dishonesty. Sometimes this does not matter much. If folks really like you, then these are less important.

The candidate must look and act “presidential.” This means reasonably good looks, and a mostly serious demeanor with only a few humorous exceptions. Sad to say,  superficial features are very important, particularly to less well educated people.

The candidate must answer questions well and have a pleasant voice.

The candidate must demonstrate that he/she has good judgement. This can be demonstrated by how he/she organizes and runs his/her campaign. All his interactions with people should be appropriate.

            A Good Candidate is Not Necessarily a Good President

The characteristics of a good “candidate” are not necessarily the same as a good president. A really good president would have very good analytic abilities. He would be able to understand and deal with very complicated issues. He should have working experience with this type of thinking.  A candidate could do well, even without this ability.

My assessment of the candidates.

When I study the current list of Democrat candidates for president, it appears to me that every major candidate has a significant flaw. First, I want to say that most are very decent people and all would be a great improvement over Trump. Here are the details.

Age is significant. Three contenders if elected, will reach age 80 in their first term in office. Bernie Sanders is the oldest and also the most radical. He has to lose some votes for these two reasons. In his first primary, I voted for him and I respect him a lot, but he is not as sharp as he was previously. Like POTUS, he has a very dedicated following. Billionaire Mike Bloomberg has some serious political problems, but could be a good president. He should be welcomed and respected because he promises a lot of financial support to whoever emerges. He has a lot of relevant experience and can deal with tough problems. Joe Biden (former vice-president) has a lot of support from black people and unequaled amounts of experience. He is likable in many ways and would make a good president. But he has always made “gaffs” and he tends to be even more inconsistent at his current age. I have personal experience with old age and realize the memory, mental capacity, and strength limitations. Ten years ago, all three could have done well in debating Trump.

Senator Elizabeth Warren is very capable and was my favorite for many years. But I and others were disappointed by her nasty attacks of other Democrat candidates. These attacks could be overlooked, but lately she has not pleased the voters enough. She also developed a health care plan that was very expensive — definitely a victim of too much detail in her plans. Also, she is losing some votes to Sanders.

Mayor Pete Buttigieg is highly intelligent, strong, speaks well, and is very young. I think he has the ability to be a great president and could defeat Trump in debates. In my eyes, he has no flaws, but he will lose the redneck votes because of his love preferences. This is a shame because he is a great person.

The other candidates are good people, but so far, at least, have not gotten enough votes. Senator Amy Klobuchar is really outstanding and has the ability to be a great president. Also, she has a good record of electability. Billionaire Tom Steyer has a good recent record of the right values, but so far, not enough votes. I don’t know of any “flaws,” but for one thing, there is a lack of name recognition. There is a small possibility that he could emerge because others have serious flaws. Governor Jay Inslee dropped out, but I viewed him very favorably.

For me, the best choice is not so clear. One problem is that a candidate could do well with Democrat voters, but not so well with the general population (an example is Bernie Sanders). For people like me, it is best to wait and see who is most supported by the voters, before my actual decision.