No End in Sight

If you are holding out hope for a permanent COVID-19 vaccine, please read this. We already know that the body does not develop permanent resistance to coronavirus. This means that we will need to get a vaccination every nine months or so. Unless something innovative happens in vaccine development, “herd immunity” will never develop, and our social adaptations may last for years.

Therapeutics also require some major advancements. Remdesivir, the highly touted antiviral, has not been shown effective in reducing mortality – it only reduces hospital stays for those that will recover. Some effective therapeutics require a drip feed – they cannot be administered by injection.

Box Score: Money 2, Value 1

Coming of age in the Reagan era, I failed to understand what I was witnessing. America abandoned manufacturing for services and ended up in a time warp.

As a corporate-level software consultant, my father Karl saw elements of this up close. Invited as a fellow traveler by the president of Wiley & Sons (the journal publisher), Karl sat in on the annual shareholder meeting. A careful investment plan charted growth in assets and employment. During the discussion, the CFO queried, “And what is the annualized rate of return on your plan?” With the follow-on to the response, “I can take that same money and make three times as much in the stock market.”

In that era, the stock market still reflected an investment in other people’s ingenuity. This year, as we approached the election, one Trumpie threatened, “Well, if Biden wins, you can be sure the stock market is going to tank!” The inescapable corollary is that the stock market is no longer an economic bell-weather but an instrument of political influence.

That influence is maintained through the ties between the Federal Reserve and the large banks. We are in the mind-numbing reality that the people that take care of our money no longer profit from making it grow, they profit by making it move. That may seem impossible, but the volume of real estate, trade, and government debt is so enormous that simply the placement fees run into the tens of billions of dollars annually.

The bind for the public is that the money center banks hold no interest in seeing the debt reduced. In fact, the Dow weathered recent financial crises because the Federal Reserve issued borrowing authority that the banks loaned to corporations to buy back stock. The value of stock is now linked to corporate debt.

And in the chaos only the financial system has a guaranteed benefit.

Was this intentional? Hardly, but it was inevitable. This is trumpeted by the liberal economists, but they misdiagnose the problem. I hope with this post to steer them in the right direction.

The liberal economists blame “capitalism.” Capitalism, coined by Adam Smith, is a recent innovation, seeing an effective implementation only in the industrialization of the Western world in the late 1800’s. Capitalism was actually a liberalizing social contract. It held that money and labor could collaborate to improve productivity. Higher productivity meant more money for investors and lower costs for labor. It was a win-win scenario.

Capitalism disproved the precepts of Malthus, who held that population growth would always overwhelm the benefits of productivity gains. In part, however, Malthus was proven right because political power was held by the moneyed noble class. Market control was awarded by royal writ, and once secured ensured resistance to innovation that might lead to diversification of supply. Stability of prices was also important to the nobility and their retinues, often sustained by stipends.

The crack in this hermetic system was warfare, and it was to finance their conflicts that the nobility turned to the banking system, leading to the coupling of political and financial interests that suppressed the development of liberal societies.

So the “Box Score” reads as it is because capitalism is now revealed as a brief interlude in the narrow marriage of politics and finance. It was an interlude during which finance married itself to the production of value and the growth of liberal societies.

Regardless of the outcome, the 2020 election proves at least one thing: that Donald Trump is a symptom, rather than a cause. The disease that created him is a return to the festering myopia of political and financial calculations freed from a concern for value or sustainability. Trump is used as a tool by that system to distract attention from the wizards behind the curtain. He is a live facsimile of the special effects in the Wizard of Oz.

How does this manifest in practical terms? Consider real estate. I was told recently that I had to get in the market, because prices would only go up. Looking over the finance package, I noted with surprise that is allocated 50% of my income to real estate costs, rather than the 30% typical of my youth. So the reason that real estate prices are going up is because the Federal Reserve, through Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, is issuing loans that allocate more of our income to the payment of interest. The increase in home prices has nothing to do with value – it follows from a systematic manipulation of political and financial levers to ensure that we are indebted.

But the fault is not with capitalism. Capitalism was a God-send. The fault is with something I would call “monetarism” – the pursuit of wealth in the absence of any concern for value.

The economic historian should recognize this plague. What should give pause to the rest of us is the proof, in the results of the 2020 election, that the disease is worse that an out-of-control pandemic that has the potential to kill millions of Americans.

I hope that our democracy survives while our liberalizing politicians adapt to that lesson.

Demagoguery and Socialism

PAINFUL conversation outside the coffee shop today.

“Socialism” as a political philosophy holds governments should be judged not by ideology but according to how their policies affect the people they are responsible for serving.

While you can argue that Democratic candidates, in focusing on COVID, are “socialist” in their analysis of the Trump Administration, they have not addressed the core issue. The universal criteria for political rhetoric is “who is the speaker trying to love?” Any rhetoric that starts with “I” is immediately discounted, for the candidate can not love every voter. All a candidate can do is promise that government will be held accountable to the people. That requires measuring what is happening, and sharing that information with the public. This requirement transcends COVID and encompasses every aspect of Executive Branch operation. Absolute and full transparency is the minimum, and a standard that the current Administration has failed at every turn.

The seduction of the conservative agenda is based upon a false interpretation of the American Golden Age that followed WWII. The narrative is false because the singular factor that propelled American wealth was the destruction of every other industrialized economy during WWII. That circumstance cannot and will not ever recur. Policies must be evaluated, therefore, according to their effects today.

We need to stop divorcing ourselves from reality. While that might seem to begin with investigation of the lived experience of the America people, we have a further precondition: respect for those that serve the public welfare. It is evil to attack those that stand in the path of danger to save lives.

On ProCreation

I could get theological regarding the tyranny of the “pro-life” movement. Read Genesis: “God breathed His Spirit into Adam, and made him a living creature.” Thus “Thou shalt not murder” does not translate to “every sperm is sacred,” it means “do not destroy any creature that has been inhabited by My Spirit.”

How do we know whether a little blob of cells has been inhabited by God’s spirit? Well, if you’re taking a strictly legalistic perspective, I’m certain that you don’t. You are actually part of a self-defeating, law-of-natural-consequences demonstration set up by God after the Flood. In effect, “As you won’t listen to me, try making your own laws, hmmm?”

John tells us God is Love. We are the instrument by which God redeems the world. The Savior was explicit: “I will give you the keys to the kingdom of Heaven: what you bind on earth will be bound in heaven.” If we do not cast our blessing upon something, it is not inhabited by love.

What I do know is using the penalty of law to force a woman to carry an unwanted child is not loving her. If conceived of rape, such a law is in fact an act of hate speech. And any child born outside of a stable union will be denied love, and live in a world of reduced opportunities. The spirit that God sent into the world might actually prefer to wait until those opportunities are accessible.

God gave us a mind so that we could express creativity – and we should recognize that the only thing that separates creativity from destruction is a loving intention. Children should be brought into the world as an act of loving intention. The law has no influence over that process, and should simply keep its nose out of it. That would be the quickest way to render Roe v. Wade irrelevant.

Donald Trump, Really

Working overtime on Wednesday as a Census enumerator, I caught only a glimpse of the debate. Picking through the analysis the next day, I shook my head.

They still don’t get it.

The best thing about that debate was that the Trump-loving GOP finally confronted the daily reality experienced by those working in the White House. For the last eight years, the MAGA faithful have seen only what Fox News and heard only what Rush Limbaugh wants them to know about Trump. The man at the center of the MAGA cult is a media fabrication.

But the White House staff knows that to get anything done Trump has to be kept away. He doesn’t golf only because the Secret Service costs fund his country clubs, Trump golfs because they won’t give him anything meaningful to do.

Trump’s career was built upon his willingness to project himself into the public sphere. Until his father’s death, he was the public face of the Trump real-estate empire, and government and investors gave Donald access to get access to Fred. They heard Donald out.

But behind the blather was a team of people that prepped Donald with talking points and figured out which of the promises could be made true. Donald was happy to take credit for what worked, and quickly exorcised his failures.

This tendency was amplified on the set of The Apprentice, where he would explode arbitrarily during the meetings, and the producers would write and film a back-story to justify his performance. This is the true Trump: a man who expects that the world will conform itself to his will. The end result of coddling him, however, is a total divorce from reality.

I look at his signature, and feel only pity. He has no internal life, and overwrites himself in every moment while annihilating his past.

To understand Trump, read “The Autumn of the Patriarch.” Unless you are in Putin’s circle, because they recognized Trump’s malleability a long, long time ago.

RBG and Roberts’ Rule

The Founders carefully allocated responsibilities among the branches to protect citizens from governmental over-reach. The Executive Branch has flouted those boundaries throughout the Trump Presidency, with Cabinet officers finally acting not as protectors of the Constitution, but as lackeys in service to the whims of the POTUS. In Congress, McConnell has used obstruction to undermine legislative deliberation, and focused on packing of the Federal Courts with partisans – using the filibuster when not in power, and then eliminating it for most positions during the Trump era.

The Roberts Supreme Court was the last holdout in the corruption of the Founders’ intentions. That has been uneven. Roberts hypocritically criticized the House Impeachment Managers for questioning the motives of the Republican Senate in failing to call witnesses, demanding respect for the “world’s greatest deliberative body” that McConnell has corrupted. But at least in the last Court session, Roberts insisted that precedent be honored, siding with the liberal members of the bench when his conservative peers attempted to over-ride prior judgments from his court.

With the death of Ruth Bader Ginsberg, that respect for precedent and the character of the Court is at risk. If Trump and McConnell succeed in seating a conservative ideologue, Roberts will find himself on the losing side in attempting to prevent arbitrary flouting of precedent.

The only method for restoring proper balance on the Court is for a Democratic-controlled Senate to mercilessly impeach Justices for judicial over-reach. The popular expedient – expanding the number of Justices – would be a mistake. Proper functioning of the Court requires thorough probing of the constitutional issues during oral arguments. As more Justices are added, that process will become unwieldly.

No, the proper approach is to erase McConnell’s legacy, just as he and Trump have worked to erase the legacy of our most popular politician (President Obama). Set up the impeachment express, and flush all the Conservative hacks out of the judiciary.

COVID Symptoms Explained

Scientists have compared 17,000 patient outcomes to their genes, and it appears that COVID attacks the body’s ability to maintain low blood pressure. A failure to regulate bradykinin, a protein, is specifically harmful. The blood-brain barrier fails, causing mental failure. The lungs produce a water-absorbing chemical that swells (somewhat like Jello), preventing gas from being exchanged.

Poor regulation of bradykinin is a common cause of high blood pressure, and existing drugs can be used to help COVID-19 patients. But Vitamin D is also helpful, as I promoted back in April. The report states that 20% of all Americans have a vitamin D deficiency. See your doctor or functional medicine specialist for recommendations on supplementation.

Gotta Love Them Founders

Summarizing an interesting analysis of the consequences of failing to hold the November elections:

The Founders considered the possibility that the Electoral College would fail to return presidential and vice-presidential appointees (note that these are actually two separate decisions by the body) prior to the end-of-term for the current office holders.

The outcome also reflects the fact that Congressional terms end on January 3, while the Executive Branch terms end later (typically around January 20).

  1. If no elections are held, the Electoral College will fail to select either a President or Vice President.
  2. On January 3, the entire House of Representatives loses office, while the Senate reconvenes with only those whose terms are held over from prior elections. Since the bulk of the expiring Senators are Republicans, the sitting Senate will be controlled by the Democrats
  3. When the President and Vice President leave office around January 20th, nominally the Speaker of the House becomes President. But the House is not convened, so the fallback is to the Senate Pro Tem, which – since the Senate will be controlled by the Democrats – is going to be Chuck Schumer.

So as of January 20th, Chuck Schumer becomes President of the United States. Unless he doesn’t want to be President, and props up the selection of a Pro Tem who does.