Notes on Trump 53 – Ascertaining the apparent President elect

Things seems to have quietened down a bit since the US General Services Administration performed its task of ascertaining the apparent President elect and released funds for the Biden transition team.

I think things will heat up again over the next couple of weeks to the deadline of December 8 for resolving who are the electors from each State that form an electoral college to choose a President and Vice-President on December 14.

Oddly this very recent judgment of 25 November from the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) could be relevant:

Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn v. Cuomo (20A87)
https://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/20pdf/20a87_4g15.pdf

It is an interim order cancelling health regulations that were held to restrict religious establishments more than necessary.

As the Chief Justice (dissenting) pointed out, there was no need for an injunction since the restrictions were not currently in force and the issues would be tried by the lower courts in mid-December.

But the injunction was issued anyway, just after the apparent President elect was ascertained, and just before the disputed elections are about to reach SCOTUS. I think there is a connection, explained below.

The word “apparent” has two meanings:

  1. clearly visible or understood; obvious.
  2. seeming real or true, but not necessarily so.

Things have quietened down because many people agree in the first sense.

I think things will heat up very soon because the actual reality is the second sense.

As explained in Notes 48 (and 49), Trump’s strategy is to keep disputing postal votes until the December 8 deadline so that Biden has less than 270 electoral college votes. With some help from Republican State legislatures and governors as well as Vice-President Pence presiding in the joint session counting the votes, this could end up throwing the election to the House of Representatives voting by State delegations. If Republicans still have a majority of representatives in 26 States then Trump wins.

See also the links in comments to Notes 48 and also the complex legal details:

https://lawecommons.luc.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2719&context=luclj

But unless Biden gets a big enough landslide for the result to be clear without postal votes on November 3, it looks like there will be a protracted battle.

It seems unlikely that the fight would be just among lawyers.

https://c21stleft.com/2020/10/02/notes-on-trump-48-unknown-unknowns/
https://c21stleft.com/2020/10/05/notes-on-trump-49-and-the-winner-is-president-pelosi-or-president-pompeo/

I wrote on October 12, before the US election day:

If there is a big enough landslide on the election night so that subsequent postal votes would not affect the outcome, then legal battles in swing states will be pointless.

Likewise if Democrats win a majority of seats from a majority of States in the House (including smaller Republican States that they don’t usually win).

Likewise if Democrats win a majority in the Senate.

All three are possible.

But if none occur there will certainly be drama from election eve to December 8.

That lays the basis for Trump to retain leadership of a large right wing party loudly convinced that the election was stolen by the corrupt liberal elite.

Even if the drama ends with the Electoral College votes on December 8. That will still result in consolidation of a far right mass based party in the USA.

Worse if it doesn’t end there but only in Congress or the Supreme Court.

I don’t see any likelihood of Trumpists being able to retain office in the face of what is clearly a majority of both the people and the establishment hostile to them.

But the “stab in the back” legend has a powerful appeal on the right and we will still be stuck with a weak inept ruling class and no left wing opposition.

As it turns out none of those 3 possibilities of avoiding the current situation occurred. The Biden landslide that would settle it on or near election night did not occur. The Democrats did not win the Senate and they actually lost seats in the House as well as losing one more State governor.

Democrats were resigned to defeat until the covid-19 pandemic. With Trump presiding over a quarter of a million unnecessary deaths he should have gone down in flames. But they managed to stuff it up.

So I do still expect drama until at least December 8 and I still expect consolidation of a mass right wing party in the USA.

My guess is the likelihood of Trump retaining office has been significantly diminished by the fact that Democrats voted early in large enough numbers to avoid it looking as though Trump actually won on election night. But it certainly did not look like Trump lost until a lot later when postal votes were counted. So lots of Trump supporters will believe the well prepared and slick campaign insisting that he won. Not as many as if it looked like he won on the night, but still a lot. Certainly enough to continue to dominate Republican primaries and consolidate a mass right wing party.

This video from the future “Trump TV network”, ONN competing with Fox news gives insight into the way things look to them:

One America News – Chanel Rion on “Dominion-izing the vote”
https://youtu.be/746HTjhFifA

If you don’t watch it, don’t pretend to yourself that you understand what is going on.

Lots more at:
https://www.donaldjtrump.com/media

On the other hand the likelihood of Trump retaining office may have been significantly increased by the sheer extremism of the mass media’s response to their fear about the success of that campaign.

Instead of attempting to actually counter the campaign, they have, as usual, come out like spokespeople for a banana republic dictatorship denouncing an opposition candidate for having dared to dispute the integrity of a rigged election.

Nothing could be less reassuring than the unanimous bleating that there is “nothing to see here” and repetition that any allegations are “baseless” with “no evidence” etc. It is just a reminder that the same people spent the last four years insisting that the President of the United States was a Kremlin stooge who should be removed because the election was manipulated by the Russians.

Here’s the results of Rasmussen polls on the effectiveness of the bleating:

Sixty-one percent (61%) of Republicans say it’s Very Likely the Democrats stole the election, but just as many Democrats (61%) say it’s Not At All Likely. Among unaffiliateds, 29% feel it’s a stolen election; 45% do not.

Just two weeks before this year’s Election Day, 94% said their vote would be correctly recorded and counted, with 73% who said it was Very Likely. Following the election, those findings fell to 71%and 47% respectively.

https://www.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/politics/elections/election_2020/61_think_trump_should_concede_to_biden

ONN does not have the reach of the anti-Trump media (now also including Fox news). Credit for convincing a majority of voters that the election was rigged must go to the anti-Trump media.

I don’t think the conspiracy theories about voting machines are likely to be the focus of either the imminent legal battles at SCOTUS or what actually convinces many people about whether the election was rigged. Conspiracy theories are more a distraction to assist the media to continue not thinking while their heads just keep on exploding.

Some of the court documents with the actual “baseless” allegations and the “non-existant” evidence can be found at links buried in the news releases at above web site.

Lots of it is pretty weak.

But there is evidence that observers were prevented from observing. If that occurred enough to have enabled rigging sufficient votes to affect the outcome in any State, the results from that State should be cancelled. It isn’t necessary to prove whether or how many votes were affected. It is sufficient to establish that observers were excluded. Excluding obserers is pretty much the definition of a fake election.

It should be a very simple matter of evidence. Detailed audit trails are maintained to account for who had custody of each ballot paper and who observed at each stage of the process of counting them. How on earth would anybody be persuaded to take the results seriously if that were not enforced?

If the observers were not allowed to observe then the election was not held according to law and has to be cancelled.

It isn’t the integrity of polling officials and people vouching for them that ensures a fair count. The ONLY thing that ever can is the fact that they are being watched.

But the judgments attempting to avoid a trial and evidence on this simple issue are dynamite.

Here’s the best bit from p34 of a 37 page Pennsylvania judgment:

Click to access rudy-can-fail.pdf

“None of these allegations (or the others in this section) claim that the Trump
Campaign’s watchers were treated differently than the Biden campaign’s watchers.
Simply alleging that poll watchers did not have access or were denied access to
some areas does not plausibly plead unequal treatment. Without actually alleging
that one group was treated differently than another, Plaintiffs’ first argument falls
flat.”

I can think of 3 justices of the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) who might be persuaded that the casual workers and election officials in Democratic run cities like Philadelphia and Detroit could be trusted to count votes accurately when there are no observers watching them. But they would be able to argue a lot more convincingly than by triumphantly pointing out that both Republican and Democrat observers were equally excluded from watching the Democrats count the votes!

My guess is the substance of a less spectacularly stupid argument would be that Republican observers were not excluded. They insisted on trying to approach poll workers closer than 6 feet of and were not permitted to do so because of health regulations. But they could have still done their job from 6 feet away, just as the Democrat observers who complied did.

But I can think of 5 justices who are unlikely to find that convincing. They could argue that there have been many months in which arrangements could have been made for Personal Protective Equipment routinely used by health workers during the covid-19 pandemic and close up TV cameras could also be provided etc. So BOTH health requirements AND the requirements for monitored counting of votes in a valid election could be achieved.

Not making those arrangements might have been honest incompetence, but it does void the election.

See the case cited earlier.

The media are carrying on as though the result of disputes could be civil war.

Since the Dred Scott case, SCOTUS has tended to avoid judgements that ultimately encourage civil war.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dred_Scott_v._Sandford

But there is no such problem now. There will be some “civil unrest” but neither side will go to war.

Of course, if it was a revolutionary communist party that would have won an election if it had not been rigged, one could rely on a bourgeois court not to “interfere”.

But it simply isn’t true that courts don’t care about whether elections are rigged between bourgeois parties.

Courts frequently do “interfere” because not doing so would undermine a fundamental source of stability for bourgeois rule. Without the regular opportunity to replace one set of misrepresentatives of the people by another, an awful lot of brute force would be required to maintain “law and order”. They would rather rule by peaceful means.

The following details actually matter. That is why they are not being discussed much.

Here is a list of the “battleground” States, disputed by Trump, with the number of electoral college votes apprently won by Biden followed by three letters representing the party affiliation (Democrat/Republican) of the State Governor, Lower House and Upper House followed by the full name of the State. Listed in order of importance (number of electoral college votes).

As far as I know, no other results are disputed by either side and there are no other States where the affiliation of the components of the State Government could affect the final outcome.

PA 20 DRR Pennsylvania
GA 16 RRR Georgia
MI 16 DRR Michigan
WI 10 DRR Wisconsin
AZ 11 RRR Arizona

NV  6 DDD Nevada

Total 79

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_United_States_state_legislatures#State_legislatures

Biden is apparantly the President elect, with a majority of 306 to 232 including the above 79. The total number of electors is 538 which makes 269 each a tie and the smallest possible majority 270 to 268.

There is no reason to think that SCOTUS would even consider assigning the electors apparently won by Biden to Trump instead.

There are many ways to change the apparent outcome while visibly letting it emerge from the political process.

All they need to do is cancel some of the current results and leave it to the political mechanisms of the legislative branch to sort out the consequences as clearly specified in the Constitutions and laws of the States and of the USA. See previous articles for the various permutations that could arise, in no way predetermined by the simple decision that certain elections had not been conducted according to law.

Unless there is an actual majority of at least 270 votes in the electoral college the President is chosen by the House of Representatives voting in State delegations rather than as individuals. Republicans hold a majority of seats in a majority of States. The Vice Presidet gets chosen by the Senate. In that situation the likely outcome is Trump and Pence. However a small number of Republicans in “Purple States” could switch the vote of their delegation to Biden, in which case the outcome could be Biden with Vice President Pence or perhaps Biden with Vice President Trump or whatever Republican the Senate chooses.

Note: If both Georgia Senate elections are won by Democrats on January 5 they still don’t have a majority for choosing the new Vice President on January 6 since Pence still has the casting vote. However there could also be switches from Republican Senators.

If all 6 battleground results were cancelled by SCOTUS and not replaced, Trump might apparently be President elect. Trump would still only have 232 but Biden would only have 227 remaining, which is even less.

If even the smallest of those States was not cancelled, the extra 6 votes from Nevada would put Biden ahead with 233 votes against 232 for Trump.

But I think that is irrelevant. Whether or not the proper interpretation of majority is based on 270 out of the total number of expected electors, or a majority among those actually counted on January 6 it is highly unlikely that none would be replaced.

There is explicit provision for the State legislatures to choose the electors for their State if they have not been chosen by the people in time for the December 8 deadline.

All the battlegrounds except Nevada have Republican legislatures and would choose Trump electors.

I don’t think there ever was any reason to imagine that any State legislature might attempt to change the electoral process after election day.


But if Nevada was the first State cancelled, could the Democrat State Governor restrain himself from convening the two houses of the Democrat legislature to fill the vacancies with the same Biden electors that were chosen by the people?

They might be stupid enough to do so. It is hard to think of any trap they have not enthusiastically jumped into.

Either way, if the people of any State would not be represented because SCOTUS has voided the elections it would be surprising if the legislature of that State did not act quickly to exercise their plenary power spelled out in the US Constitution to fill the vacancies in the electoral college. Apart from Nevada, in each of the other 5 battleground States both houses are Republican.

Just PA, MI and any one of the others would exceed the 38 needed to make Trump the apparent President elect by 270 to 268.

But there isn’t any need for that. Surprises do happen. The electoral college votes are certified by State governors. In MI, PA and WI the State governor is a Democrat. They might have a veto or they might just be too outraged or the legislature might not decide to fill the vacancies.

But it simply does not matter. If neither candidate gets more than 270 votes the election goes to the House of Representatives voting by State delegations. Not determined by SCOTUS at all and exactly as spelled out in the Constitution.

Could end up Trump. Might not. Many other permutations. Lots of sound and fury signifying nothing. Ideal breeding ground for a mass based right wing party.

covid-19 Update mid-November 000

I am still reading and not yet able to write a persuasive article.

But here’s my tentative view on current developments.

Victoria having zero “mystery cases” over fourteen days is a significant milestones achieved earlier than hoped for in the original “Roadmap”. Far more significant than the other two zeros – daily average cases and deaths. But 000 is still an “emergency”, although no longer a “disaster”.

The problem is that while things remain “as good as it gets” and even after the numbers start to rise, more and more people will act as though the emergency is over and ignore the monotonous repetion of official advice that it isn’t.

I did not expect zero “mysteries” over 14 days would be reached at all, because partially lifting restrictions in October would slow down the reduction in transmission prolonging the lockdown until it was abandoned without having actually eliminated community transmission.

I still think that happened – the restrictions were lifted too early so that the risks were not minimized. If lockdown had been maintained until 28 days with no “mystery cases” we could be significantly more certain of having eliminated community transmission.

But it is now plausible that 28 days could be achieved despite opening up. Even if 28 days was achieved there would still be some risk but it would be reasonable to describe as “minimal” in a context where the risk of outbreaks seeded from elsewhere would be much more important.

I still don’t expect that we will reach 28 days. But they have certainly achieved what they setout to do with an “aggressive suppression” strategy far closer to New Zealand’s elimination than the national framework.

The risk is now minimal in the sense that outbreaks that end up in a third wave that needs another lockdown are more likely to start in other Australian States than from residual local transmission in Victoria.

That may well be “as good as it gets”.

Certainly it is a good time to enjoy the opportunities available outdoors. (I have even had my annual haircut and beard trim!).

But precisely because people will indeed do so and opening up will accelerate, it is reasonable to expect that any residual transmission chains will become much harder to suppress when they eventually do become visible. It won’t get better over time.

While it is possible there may currently be none at all, I think it is far more likely that the remaining transmission chains would simply be harder to detect.

For example asymptomatic cases among school children could continue for quite a few generations before eventually some older person such as a parent or teacher becomes ill enough to get tested. If it happens to be a household in precarious employment, living in a community with a high proportion of other such households, it could be a few more generations before anyone gets sick enough to turn up at a hospital where they would certainly be tested. Because nobody has turned up at a hospital or other testing in 14 days we can be reasonably confident the numbers out there are quite small. With small numbers the stochastic character can either result in transmission dying out completely or exploding to higher numbers. The more the small numbers are in contact with others because restrictions have been lifted the higher the chances of transmission exploding.

Contact tracing works very well during lockdown because people have few contacts and know who or where they are.

After opening up it becomes a repeated game of “whack a mole” as in the “gold standard” of NSW. Note also today’s “mystery” in South Australia.

With greatly upgraded contact tracing and testing efforts, as well as slowly decaying compliance with physical distancing, registration etc, it will be quite feasible to deal with occasional, sporadic outbreak with a minimal risk of it spreading.

Then it is simply a matter of how many weeks you repeat taking that “minimal risk” before you end up needing to go into “surge” mode after more than 4 new confirmed cases (not in quarantine) per day per million population. Then how many times you repeat that risk of a surge before ending up exceeding surge capacity at 10 times that rate of new cases (40 per day per million) and having to go back into lockdown. See targets in:

https://www.health.gov.au/resources/publications/national-contact-tracing-review

I don’t think there is much risk of Australia ending up in the same situation as Europe or North America, let alone the rest of the world. When an Australian surge gets out of control at 40 cases per day per million, there should still be plenty of time before hospitals become overloaded for another lockdown to prevent that. (Victoria came nowhere near hospital overload despite delay in locking down resulting in 800 deaths from a peak of 750 cases per day).

How likely such a third wave is depends on how long before a vaccine has sufficient impact on transmission to eliminate the risk. (It also depends on many other factors, many hard to model).

Recent announcements suggest Australia could achieve herd immunity from vaccines by the end of next year.

It will certainly take a lot longer than that before the whole world has achieved eradication. I will discuss that and other issues such as testing etc in later articles.

I am certainly not in a position to estimate the probabilities of a third wave and lockdown in Australia better than the public health advisors who have been doing so.

But from what I have seen published about the models, I seriously doubt that they are in a good position to estimate either. Certainly their commitment to “stay open” hinders accurate estimation of when it becomes necessary to lockdown again.

That will also have to be for a later article.

Meanwhile, it is worth remembering that we are much less than half way through if it ends by the end of next year.

Some reduction in risk of transmission would result from the first tranche of vaccines targeted at Health and Aged Care workforces and others likely to be exposed and to expose others. But don’t assume a production line for vaccine and vaccine imports will produce a steady output of vaccine imports until herd immunity is achieved by the end of next year.

In fact the pilot plants for phase 3 testing have already continued production and some supplies may be available (elsewhere) as soon as approval is rushed through, perhaps even this month. The first mass production plants will also come onstream shortly after. But the requirement is for literally billions of doses.

I would assume there would be a classic “acceleration” as plants are first built to produce machines (bioreactors etc) and raw materials and train high tech workforces for new plants. Risks of a third wave might be significantly reduced when only half the population has immunity.

But don’t assume that occurs half way through next year. If the exponential growth doubles output each month then the half way point could be November next year with 100% following a month later.

Priority in deliveries should go to the poor countries that will be in a desperate situation by then. Australia with relatively few cases has major reponsibilities to assist others far worse off in our region, such as Papua New Guinea and Indonesia.

More likely the queue will be allocated supplies according to capacity to pay rather than need. Certainly individuals who can pay premium prices will be vaccinated before those given free supplies as a public health measure. There will be free distribution as a public health measure within capitalism, but there won’t be fully prioritized distribution according to need.

But the plants located in Europe and North America will have plenty of demand from local States that have far greater need than Australia and also have the capacity to pay for what they need.

covid-19 – Notes on Trump 52 – “platitudes matter”

After predicting a landslide against Trump and getting a 10% increase in his vote as well as a reduction in the Demcrat majority in the House, the mainstream media has now officially given up on Trump voters.

Trump disputing the election and challenging it in the Courts (as announced in advance and expected) is being described as a fundamental assault on democracy.

In fact it is so outrageous for a candidate to dispute the results of an election and go to Court that his “baseless” claims must not even be reported.

This stuff should not be surprising from the people that reacted to Trump’s original election by denouncing him as a Kremlin agent and demanding that the intelligence agencies summarily remove him in a coup d’etat.

That went on for literally years, but the same clowns seem to imagine soothing platitudes about “healing” are going to prevent large numbers of people who voted against the swamp remaining hostile to it.

Here’s an explanation of the grave responsibility the media has taken on itself to protect the American people from Trump’s “baseless claims”.

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-11-07/conversation-to-stay-or-cut-away-as-trump-makes-baseless-claims/12859062

Here’s a good rendition of the way the adoring media has portrayed the new healer:

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-11-09/joe-biden-us-election-donald-trump-reality-check-stan-grant/12862038

[…]

And with that, Donald Trump suddenly seemed like yesterday’s news.

The appearance of Joe Biden as president-elect flanked by his vice-president Kamala Harris has immediately swept away the Trump years.

Not that Trump disappears or that his followers no longer matter — they do as much as ever — but the spell has been broken.

Donald Trump alone with his petulance and lies now looks small, like the Wizard of Oz — just a little man behind a big microphone.

Biden, dismissed by many — the man who had failed in two previous presidential campaigns — now looked and sounded presidential.

In Kamala Harris — the first female vice-president, African-American and the daughter of an Indian immigrant — Biden announces the next generation of the Democratic Party.

Moments matter and this was a moment: an historic moment.

Words matter, and these were words of healing and unity.

They are just platitudes but they are what a battered country needs to hear right now.

Stan Grant goes on to say that the platitudes the media thinks “a battered country needs to hear right now” are unlikely to work.

Another surprisingly perceptive article from the same ABC journalist is here:

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-11-08/us-presidential-election-trump-biden-divided-democracy-in-action/12855936

Both are well worth reading in full.

So is the full text of the platitudes from Biden and Harris.

The 76 million who voted Democrat are congratulated because:

“You chose hope and unity, decency, science and, yes, truth”.

As for the 70 million hopeless, disruptive, indecent, irrational liars who did not make that choice, it seems unlikely that they will be as impressed by the healing platitudes about unity.

We are again at a turning point that makes it impossible to predict how things will develop.

I still see no signs of a left emerging. But there is an opening for a movement that really does unite people against the populist demagogues on both sides.

I don’t claim to have much understanding of how things are developing in Australia, let alone America.

I won’t try to respond in detail to the points made here.

https://c21stleft.com/2020/10/31/understanding-america/

I don’t believe either the Universities or media were ever oriented towards telling the truth, nor that they have recently been taken over by some alien force antithetical to their previous orientation.

I think corporate liberals are just continuing to be corporate liberals.

Its just that this is becoming increasingly ridiculous.

A movement that expressed the same disgust that corporate liberals have for celebrity con artists like Trump and that Trumpists have for the corporate liberals should be able to form a very broad united front.

What’s still missing though is an actual program as to how things should be changed.

There are pressing issues in the USA that will come to a head quickly.

Biden has announced a task force to prepare an action plan to deal with both covid-19 and its economic consequences immediately on taking office on 20 January.

The epidemic will be much worse by 20 January. It would make sense to start implementing that plan immediately in Democrat States willing to accept his leadership and declare martial law and a national lockdown on taking office. But I would be surprised if that happened. I haven’t seen any sign of Biden proposing a lockdown at all.

Instead I expect that Trump will not be a “lame duck” President until January 20, but more like a “wounded bull”.

Majority control of the Senate will be determined by the outcome of two runoff Senate elections in Georgia, on January 5. The next day a joint session of both Houses presided over by Vice-President Pence meets to count and finalize the Electoral College results. That is the day the election results get finalized, not when the media “calls” them. If any disputes have not been settled by December 8 they may end up fought over then, during the height of an epidemic wave.

If all goes unexpectedly smoothly we will either be back to the usual Washington gridlock in which President Biden can blame the Senate for his inability to do anything just as Obama did for 8 years with Biden as his Vice-President. Or else Democrats do get both Houses and the Republicans and pseudo-left Democrats can blame Biden for his inability to do anything despite having control of both Houses and the Executive.

I would expect either of those to be an optimum situation for Trump, who will do far better posturing against the swamp from opposition than as President. I expect that Trumpists will still dominate the Republican primaries and could be swept back to a majority in the mid-terms if the platitudes continue as I expect they will.

It is all far too complex and murky to predict as opposed to just having vague “expectations”.

But for the record, I do predict that the Supreme Court will declare the Pennsylvania ballots that arrived after election day invalid. I haven’t seen any evidence either supporting or rebutting media claims that this won’t effect the result. If the numbers are as small as they say and if they were kept separate from the other ballots as ordered and as claimed, the court would not have an excuse to invalidate enough Democrat votes to affect the result.

But I would not assume the media claims are correct about that any more than I would be surprised at the rather notorious party machines in Democrat run cities encouraging voters dead or alive to vote often as well as early.

It is after all the plain duty of every red blooded American to do whatever it takes to prevent the monstrous Trump from continuing to pollute the White House. So why on earth would Democrat officials faced with the danger of a racist, fascist Kremlin stooge again disrupting national unity NOT rig the election, if they could?

The judgment I expect will be based on the Supreme Court reaffirming the well established principle that State legislatures have plenary power over Federal elections.

I do not expect that the Republican legislatures and Governors in Arizona and Georgia might take the opportunity to exercise that plenary power and decide to choose the State’s electors themselves and so reverse the results.

But the monotonous bleating from the media about how unpatriotic and undemocratic it is to dispute the media’s announcement of who won, suggests they are very worried indeed about something.

They are usually wrong but one cannot assume that they are always wrong.

Notes on Trump 51

Looks like the scenarios I mentioned in Notes 48-50 are becoming more relevant.

As I mentioned in Notes 50 the race tightened in the last week though not enough to be likely to change the expected outcome.

There never was any good reason to expect a big enough landslide for Biden for Trump’s defeat to be obvious on the night.

As expected, Trump has taken the opportunity to declare that he really won, that the election is being “stolen” and can only be saved by the Supreme Court.

But it was rather subdued for a claim of victory and Pence’s follow up was even less triumphalist. At present it does look like Republicans have retained a majority of State delegations in the House of Representatives. So it would still be theoretically possible for Pence and the Supreme Court to invalidate Democrat votes in Pennsylvania and throw the election to the House voting by States:

https://www.270towin.com/2020-house-election/state-by-state/consensus-2020-house-forecast

But that forecast of State delegations is itself uncertain. Final results for President and perhaps for Senate and House are unlikely to be known for at least a few days. Meanwhile Trump can only hope for riots against him to unite his very large minority. His injured rather than triumphalist tone is appropriate for maximizing support.

Trump does not have much hope of remaining President but it looks to me that his original 2016 intention of emerging as the leader of a large far right mainstream party posturing against the US “elite” will be spectacularly successful.

covid-19 – Third Wave

According to Victoria’s Chief Health Officer there is now a “minimal risk” of a third wave.

There are two senses in which that could be true:

  1. The decision to open up may have been taken at an optimal time. Only a few days earlier the CHO said frustration was at “boiling point” as he confronted a baying pack of journo jackals foaming at the mouth against a 24 hour delay to actually look at the most recent test data before capitulating to business, media and national government demands for an immediate opening. Perhaps he thinks that any benefits of further delay would be outweighed by the outcome being a clear cut victory for the denialists as the State government and public health authorities were eventually forced to back down by local and national government pressure. He might believe that by choosing a moment when a significant outbreak had just been successfully contained, with zero cases after thousands of test results, the wave of relief and confidence may well be optimal for not losing control when it does again become necessary to impose restrictions in order to prevent a third wave. He might also be right about that.
  2. The risk in Victoria might now be less than in any other State or Territory of Australia. Apart from New Zealand, that is about as good as it gets for comparable countries. In most of the world there is no possibility of actually eliminating community transmission (“mystery cases”) before a vaccine. There is no debate about that. It is hard enough trying to avoid collapse of the European and North American hospital intensive care systems in the face of the obvious difficulties of locking down early and long enough to avoid being overwhelmed. Prolonging a lockdown in the hope of eliminating “mystery” cases would be seen by nearly all “experts” as an absurd fantasy. Again, the CHO could be right about the risk being “minimal” in that sense. But being perched on a slightly less explosive powder keg than the rest is not especially comforting. Almost the entire population of every State is still completely susceptible and the more confident they are in contact tracing the more complacent they will get.

But there is a third sense which I doubt that the CHO or anyone that knows what they are talking about could possibly believe and yet will be widely believed by many people.

Most people who don’t expect a third wave believe it will be prevented by greatly enhanced contact tracing combined with other changes since the first wave including enhanced community awareness of the need for physical distancing, masks etc, serious regulation of workplaces and enhanced capacity for testing, isolation and treatment.

The CHO could not possibly believe the risk is now “minimal” in that sense. But others will assume that is what he is saying.

Not long ago Victoria had a roadmap with a target of:

“no new cases for 28 days and no active cases (state-wide) and no outbreaks of concern in other States and Territories.”

That is a reasonable description of the conditions for “minimal” risk of a third wave. The remaining risk would be that some subsequent sporadic isolated outbreak (as in New Zealand) might get out of control (prevented in NZ by an immediate lockdown when the first cases were detected, not by relying on contact tracing). In China measures to maintain elimination of mystery cases have so far included testing EVERYONE in three large cities.

I thought, but did not write, that this target was not intended seriously. If it had been serious the hardest stage 4 lockdown would have been maintained until it was achieved. The planned relaxation at the end of October would inevitably result in progress slowing down drastically so that the November target could not be achieved.

In fact the target was openly abandoned when the revised roadmap was published on 18 October.

So the CHO knows perfectly well what is actually required to minimize the risk in that third sense and knows that it has not been achieved. That is what he means when he stresses that it isn’t over until there is a vaccine.

According to all the editorial bloviating, everyone must cooperate to intensify their vigilance in order to stay open.

Since that is logically impossible it logically implies that there will be a third wave. It is simply illogical to expect any other result from opening up while there is still ANY community transmission bubbling away. Appealing for everybody to do the right thing is as effective a strategy as the power of prayer..

The CHO does not seem to know how to explain the situation to others and to rally support.

Neither do I. That is why I have not been writing.

In my view the media has been quite successful in convincing most people that the solution is contact tracing. Since they were demanding an early opening after the first wave they could not have admitted that contact tracing inevitably gets overwhelmed if you don’t lockdown quickly enough and stay locked down until mystert cases are eliminated. The State government could and should have admitted that its failure to respond to the rising mystery cases by locking down was the critical factor that turned ordinary ineptitude over Hotel Quarantine into a “State of Disaster”.

Explaining that is critical for ensuring that the next lockdown comes quickly enough to avoid a third wave that could be bigger than the second (which was far short of overwhelming the hospital ICU capacity, unlike the current situation elsewhere).

The biggest danger I see is from contact tracing. They now have a capacity to delay a necessary general lockdown for quite a long time by locking up a large proportion of contacts and contacts of contacts. That does not significantly increase the capacity to trace and isolate the upstream sources of new cases. That becomes much harder when things are opened up so the proportion of “mystery cases” can be expected to grow from the present very low level of about 1 every 5 days. From such a low level the growth will be slow for a long time. But when it starts growing fast again it will take much longer to eliminate than it would have if they had finished the job this time.

New Zealand’s contact tracing capacity was exceeded at only 100 cases per day in March. That is what forced them to lockdown quickly and hard. Their success came entirely from locking down quickly, not from contact tracing.

The same campaign that forced abandonment of the roadmap in mid-October is likely to prolong ignoring a slow growth in “mystery cases” and pretending that it can be reversed by intensified contact tracing and isolation of only downstream cases.

I will try to write something persuasive later.

Meanwhile I am just getting this off my chest as another half-baked article.

Notes on Trump 50 – Final Debate

I haven’t been following US elections closely but I did watch both debates and both competing “town halls”.

Moderator was vastly more competent in final debate.

Biden again did not collapse in a heap, which is about all he needs to do to beat Trump at this stage

But this time Trump, with the help of the mute button, did avoid actively undermining himself. He again came over as running against the political establishment, which was easy given that the Democrats picked Biden.

I would say Trump’s position slightly improved (as it has been doing for the past week with Rasmussen polls before the debate showing nearly even approval and disapproval among likely voters, peaking at 52% approval on October 22). The election is still about Trump and neither the pro nor anti-Trump sides have much hope of, nor interest in winning over people on the other side. Nor are there many genuinely undecided to win over.

https://www.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/politics/trump_administration/trump_approval_index_history

What really matters is who actually votes in the swing states. That is much harder to predict.

I would guess that Trump’s aim was to reduce the number of Republicans who don’t bother to vote because they despise his “character” and increase the number of black and latino Democrats who don’t bother to vote because they know the Democrat establishment politicians don’t actually deliver.

Buried underneath irrelevant data about what others think, this poll suggests Trump succeeded in that:

https://projects.fivethirtyeight.com/trump-biden-debate-poll/

Slightly more Trump supporters indicated that their likelihood of voting had increased and slightly more Trump opponents indicated that their likelihood of voting had decreased.

The outcome is now less certain than it was before the debate. While it is reasonable to assume a majority vote against Trump and the polls up to now indicate swing States will deliver a substantial Electoral College majority as well, the details matter in each State and it would be hard to be certain even if following very closely.

One interesting feature is shown by articles at above Rasmussen site. In swing States Democrats are overwhelmingly more likely to vote early than Republicans and a very large proportion of registered voters are voting early.

That makes it less likely that an apparent victory for Trump on election day could be subsequently reversed as results of disputed postal voting come in later. Assuming Trump loses, he will still dominate the Republican primaries and the USA will still have a large, mass based mainstream far right party claiming the election was stolen from them. But that claim will be far more intensely believed by Trump supporters if their defeat was not confirmed on the night, but only after postal votes.

If on the other hand Trump wins a majority in the Electoral College, or more dramatically in an election thrown by Republican State legislatures and Supreme Court to the House of Representatives voting by State delegations, the Democrat implosion would be even more spectacular than four years ago when they started ranting about the Kremlin.

Notes on Trump 49 – And the winner is — President Pelosi or President Pompeo?

As explained in Notes 48, Trump’s strategy is to keep disputing postal votes until the December 8 deadline so that Biden has less than 270 electoral college votes. With some help from Republican State legislatures and governors as well as Vice-President Pence presiding in the joint session counting the votes, this could end up throwing the election to the House of Representatives voting by State delegations. If Republicans still have a majority of representatives in 26 States then Trump wins.

See also the links in comments to Notes 48 and also the complex legal details:

https://lawecommons.luc.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2719&context=luclj

A plausible outcome would be a Democrat majority in the House of Representatives withdrawing from the joint session in protest at Pence rejecting disputed votes from Democrat Electors in a swing State and preventing the vote by State delegations occurring at all, so no new President could be inaugurated when the terms of Trump and Pence expire at noon on January 20.

Under Congressional legislation for Presidential succession, the next in line as Acting President would automatically be the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, or her replacement elected by the Democratic majority that take their seats on January 6.

So of course we now have an article in the Wall Street Journal explaining that the legislation on Presidential succession is unconstitutional as the Constitution requires succession by an “Officer”, implicitly an officer of the United States Executive Branch, while the Speaker of the House is an officer of the legislative branch. Consequently the next in line turns out to be the Secretary of State, Republican Pompeo who is, as required, an officer of the Executive branch.

Equally naturally the article is by a Republican.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/a-winding-constitutional-path-from-trump-to-pence-to-pompeo-11601677891

OPINION COMMENTARY
A Winding Constitutional Path From Trump to Pence to Pompeo
The president is sick, so here’s a review of the laws governing succession.

Although presented as about succession in the event of Trump dying from covid-19, it is actually about the planned disputed election battles in the Supreme Court.

Less naturally, the Republican author is John Yoo, best kown for his legal memos in support of torture in the “War on Terror”:

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Yoo

An opposing analysis, with links to earlier legal arguments is here:

Do Professors Akhil and Vikram Amar Still Think the Presidential Succession Act is Unconstitutional?

The indications may just be aimed at giving the Democrats and the liberal media something to get hysterical about, and/or to keep up morale amongs Trumpists that they still have some hope.

The level of dysfunctionality involved in this stuff is quite spectacular. A notorious war criminal would not have been chosen to write the legal analysis if the Wall Street Journal had somebody more credible available.

But unless Biden gets a big enough landslide for the result to be clear without postal votes on November 3, it looks like there will be a protracted battle.

It seems unlikely that the fight would be just among lawyers.

Notes on Trump 48 – unknown unknowns

I posted my first “Notes on Trump” when he was first inaugurated, January 20, 2017

https://c21stleft.com/2017/01/20/notes-on-trump-by-arthur-dent/

That had this important caveat:

“Even if I had a deep understanding of US and world politics and economics I could not hope to figure out what’s happening at the moment. We are at an important turning point in multiple processes, many of them dependent on unknowable contingencies.”

One of those unknowable contigencies turned out to be covid-19. A second has been Trump catching it.

While I got many things wrong, my central analysis has held up well for nearly four years:

“Trump’s focus is on building his own party. If he had lost the primaries he looked like running as a third party (which he tried to do decades ago). If he had won the primaries but lost the election he would still have been at war with the Republican establishment, who could reasonably be accused of having treacherously helped the Democrats to win by attacking their own candidate. Having won, without any help from most of the Republican establishment he is now in a much stronger position to actually take over their party. If he doesn’t, they will find a way to get rid of him.”

“Assuming the Democrats get their act together and stop carrying on the way they are at the moment, they should be able to mount a serious campaign to win back majorities in the House and Senate at the midterm elections. But to do so they would presumably go with Trump’s trade policies, denouncing him for having not gone far enough. After all Bernie Sanders was a serious challenger to Hilary Clinton with protectionist policies (and against open borders) and Clinton actually announced opposition to the TPP [Trans Pacific Partnership] in response. Arguably he could have defeated Trump. So the result in two years could be that the US has shifted from a two party system in which both parties support globalism to a two party system in which both parties oppose globalism. If there was a Democratic majority their obstruction could be blamed for any economic decline that set in after two years.”

In a comment to that first post, on March 25, 2017 I wrote:

“66. BTW the saga doesn’t end if Democrats get a House majority in 2018. Trump would still end up with a large party in the House of Representatives and it would be very hard for Democrats to get a majority in the Senate because most of the vacancies are for seats currently held by Democrats (and in States won by Trump). By 2020 it would not be unreasonable to expect a 3 or 4 way contest for President with splits in at least one and probably both of the current two parties. If, as seems plausible, no candidate gets an absolute majority in the Electoral College the election gets thrown to the House of Representatives. Even if Trump opponents have a large majority in both the Electoral College and the House, the House votes by State delegations in electing a President (1 vote for each State decided by the majority among Reps from that State). In 2016 Trump won in 30 states. If the Electoral College is deadlocked he only needs 26 States in 2020. I see no reason to assume that opponents would defeat his candidates for a majority of seats in the House in enough of the States that he won in 2016.”

The Democrats never did recover from their heads exploding with insane conspiracy theories about the Kremlin and contemptible pleas for the intelligence agencies to mount a coup d’etat. Trump still looked set to win until covid-19.

I was wrong about the splits. The GoP just capitulated completely to Trumpists and the Democrats “united” behind a zombie candidate from the party establishment, despised by most of their base.

But there is still a way Trump could win, and it is still about the House of Representatives voting by State delegations. Here’s today’s ABC report on it:

After the vote on November 3, the states have until December 14 to settle any disputes over the election result.

That’s when the state “electors” meet to report their results. If the result is still in dispute in any state at that time, the electoral college votes for that state aren’t allocated and the rest are counted up.

The magic number of electoral college votes is 270.

If neither candidate hits that number, the matter goes to Congress for a vote in the House of Representatives, with one vote per state.

There are 50 states, so someone needs to get to 26 votes in the House to win.

This is not really a time when holding the majority of seats in the House of Representatives matters.

The sole Congressman for Alaska — who happens to be a Republican — would get to cast one vote. The entire delegation from California — which has 45 Democrats — would also have to combine for a single vote.

Currently, there are 26 states where Republicans have more members of Congress than Democrats.

In other words, if enough electoral college votes are disputed for long enough, the President is almost certain to retain power.

I don’t know whether that scenario could actually work out, or what impact the second unknowable contigency of Trump getting covid-19 will have. But if Trump survives he will certainly have achieved his goal of being leader of a large far right party in militant opposition to a corrupt and bankrupt liberal establishment that has already capitulated to his isolationist populism and has no credible policies.

Whether he is President or not, the absence of any left makes that dangerous.

covid-19 Senior Constable Vogon of Fitzroy Police Station

This afternoon at 16:16 I had a 12’27” call to Fitzroy Police Station to inform the Sergeant about the conduct of a Senior Constable whose name was not Vogon.

The call was handled professionally so I hope the problem will be dealt with. I was asked at the end whether I would like to be called back with any follow up. I said that would not be necessary as I am merely informing the Sergeant about behaviour that should be confirmed by the other officer present and would be likely to be part of on an ongoing pattern. But I am available to provide evidence if needed.

These notes are not about the call but concern the incident I was calling about, while the facts are still fresh, in case there is need to assist further. I have added humorous embellishments for the benefit of other readers.

A little after 15:30 pm this afternoon I was sitting at a table in a public park close to my current accommodation eating a cookie and reading channel 9 Entertainment’s daily newspaper. My face visor and walking stick were clearly visible on the table, as was the cookie.

I saw two police officers approaching and put on both the visor and an N75 mask in view of the likelihood that they intended to come close enough to speak to me and therefore too close. They did.

One of them introduced himself as a Vogon seconded from the Vogon constructor fleet to assist the Murdoch press in discrediting the Victorian police. He did this by requesting that I remove my face mask so that he would be able to hear me speak clearly.

I’m not sure that I emphasized that clearly enough in conversation with the Sergeant. Just think about the newspaper headlines in “The Sun”. Dictator Dan’s police patrol public parks demanding that people remove their face masks! This isn’t some ordinarily incompetent bullying SC, but somebody quite “special”. He is either being paid to provoke people or he cannot help himself.

He made this quite breaktaking request in the manner of an exceptionally polite Vogon. I had no difficulty in suppressing my amusement and responding politely that I would keep my mask on and he would be able to understand anything I said.

My best guess is that he had been rather looking forward to lecturing me about the need to have my mask on and then exercising “leniency” by just giving me a warning and felt frustrated about my having put the mask on before he arrived, jumped to the conclusion that I had done so to avoid the lecture rather than because I would do so before conversing with anybody at all and was just too dumb to figure out some less bizarre opening remark.

A much less plausible theory is that if I had removed the mask he could then have delivered the lecture and issued an infringement notice that would inevitably be challenged. That would require actual collaboration from the other officer. I saw no sign of that. There was no direct intervention by the other officer. Whoever was senior, it would not be unusual for officers to avoid intervention against each other in public despite bizarre behaviour. It is interesting to encounter one officer behaving like SC Vogon, but two actually supporting each other in asking people to remove their masks so they could issue infringment notices for not wearing them seems a lot less likely.

Anyway, the other police officer avoided any potential escalation of the absurdity by professionally asking for my name, address and date of birth. I mentioned that I walked to and from the park for exercise, wore my mask only when entering shops and had removed the visor for eating. I was told that they were looking for somebody else involved in an incident nearby who matched my description. I complied, with the request, also mentioning that my name was not the same on my driver’s licence and that I was very young at the time of my birth and was only repeating what I had been told since.

SC Vogon stood further back while this was proceeding. I would guess this is standard infection control procedure and it was certainly welcome.

But when the other officer had finished and was prepared to leave he stepped forward and took over, demanding to know why I was in the park. I responded that I had already given the other officer the information required. He said that there were only four valid reasons to be out and I was required to leave immediately. I told him that I had downloaded and was thoroughly familiar with the CHO directions of July 19 and was in full compliance with those directions.

“Stay At Home Directions (Restricted Areas) (No 3):

  1. Leaving premises for exercise or outdoor recreation
    (1) Note 1. …Examples: Outdoor recreation includes sitting in a park…”

SC Vogon said that he was requiring me to pack up and leave immediately and that if I did not do so he would issue an infringement notice. I said that I would be making a formal complaint about him and would not be leaving until he provided his name and number. He did so before leaving and his Sergeant now has them.

If the other officer is truthful the Sergeant will know that SC Vogon engaged in two criminal offences:

  1. Abusing his membership of the Police Force to demand removal of the face mask of a person he knew to be over 70 and especially vulnerable to covid-19. Nobody stupid enough to go around asking anybody at all to remove their face masks in response to a directive requiring face covering should remain in the police force.
  2. Threatening to issue an infringement notice to a person sitting in a park by themselves, knowing that he had no authority to do so whatever. Nobody up themselves enough to go around doing that should remain in the police force.

I am in favour of rigorously enforcing public health directions in a pandemic emergency. Doing so requires removing saboteurs like SC Vogon from the police force.

It would be surprising if this behaviour is not part of a pattern that others can confirm and that any random Sergeant in any police station would want to stop.

So I am leaving it to the internal administrative processes.

But if there is some subsequent inquiry as to why SC Vogon was not dismissed before he caused real damage, my contemporaneous notes of what was known to his Seargeant about him as of today will be available.

covid-19 – Strategic Direction – “No Community Transmission”

https://www.health.gov.au/news/australian-health-protection-principal-committee-ahppc-statement-on-strategic-direction

“Our strong public health advice is to pursue no community transmission, which many areas of the country have achieved. A goal of no community transmission has been a part of our suppression strategy from the start of the pandemic. AHPPC recommends that this now be more strongly pursued.

This involves knowing that single cases will occur. Success will rely on finding new cases early and stopping chains of transmission. If new chains appear, it is important to quickly find, contain and stop them.”

That statement on July 24 is worth reading carefully in full. Taken at face value it implies a strategic switch to “Elimination” despite being worded to obscure that. The wording avoids objections from the media campaign against Elimination, that Australia cannot be completely shut off so there will inevitably be some new chains.

Accountability for the previous policy and the pathetic claim that elimination of community transmission has been “a part of our suppression strategy from the start” can be left until later. It would be sufficient if the Chief Health Officers of the AHPCC now know that opening up while there was still community transmission in the largest States was a blunder even if they don’t want to spell it out.

But eliminating community transmission does require that WHEN (not “if”) new chains of transmission appear the capacity exists to “quickly find, contain and stop them”.

Acquiring that capacity requires first acknowledging that it does not currently exist. Instead of wording intended to obscure that and pretend continuity from the start it requires open and frank explanation of the difficulties and mobilization of the resources needed to overcome them.

On the same day, the following came:

“National Cabinet agreed to a new set of data and metrics to ensure that the Commonwealth, states and territories all have access to transparent up-to-date jurisdictional data on contact tracing, tracking and other metrics to ensure health system capacity. This will better help guide the public health response and support the coordination of efforts by the Commonwealth, states and territories…

National Cabinet recommitted to the suppression strategy to address COVID-19. The goal remains suppression of COVID-19 until a point in time a vaccine or effective treatments are available, with the goal of no local community transmission.”

https://www.pm.gov.au/media/national-cabinet-24jul20

Presumably the obscure wording from the AHPPC is intended to assist “National Cabinet” sliding in “the goal of no local community transmission” while proclaiming it has “recommitted” to the “suppression strategy” that produced a surge in community transmission.

In updates to my post of 31 March I pointed out that Australia had no serious modelling capability as demonstrated by the release of toy models supposedly representing “the science” guiding policy:

https://c21stleft.com/2020/03/31/covid-19-four-corners-looks-back-ignores-urgent-need-for-quarantine-accommodation/

In April I provided some links about contact tracing KPIs here:

https://c21stleft.com/2020/04/29/covid-19-roadmap-to-recovery/

Despite this I was reassured by news (Update 6) that the need for quarantine accommodation to isolate at least people known to be infected so that they would not infect others in their household had been endorsed by the Tasmanian AMA and would inevitably percolate through to government action.

Now I know that did not happen. The necessary preparations to cope with the much larger numbers that now need to be isolated (including contacts and others waiting for test results) simply have not been made in the months since. Even infected Aged Care residents are being kept in their existing residences to infect others and police were used to confine confirmed cases in the “vertical cruise ships” instead of escorting them to quarantine accommodation to prevent infecting others in their cramped “public housing”.

There are large numbers unemployed and an enormous amount of work for them to do. Apart from lots of front line workers that need to be trained in proper use of PPE while testing, isolating etc there are many other tasks such as ensuring adequate ventilation of essential workplaces. Mobilizing the public has not even begun.

Recent announcements make it clear the situation with modeling is far worse than I thought. Not only do they not have the capability for models to guide policy but they do not even have metrics for the Key Performance Indicators that need to be monitored for acquiring the necessary data for models. I thought they just didn’t want to release the sort of KPIs that New Zealand released because of their hostility to public scrutiny. The National Cabinet announcement indicates that the various governments did not even have adequate “data on contact tracing, tracking and other metrics” themselves!

On the positive side they will now get those metrics, which is a necessary step towards actually being able to carry out any policy whatever, whether it is called “Suppression” or “Elimination”.

It ought to be self evident that there has been a breakdown in contact tracing from the massive blow out in numbers of cases “under investigation”.

Instead of a plan to deal with the problem we got a speech from the Premier of Victoria complaining that 90% of people who were confirmed as infected did not get tested within 3 days of having symptoms and more than half of those tested did not isolate themselves while waiting for test results. The three lags between symptom onset and testing, results of tests and full isolation are absolutely critical KPI metrics that should have been monitored continuously.

The links I provided showed that pre-clinical transmission before people even develop symptoms can be about 90% of the minimum necessary to generate an epidemic in the absence of restrictions. Isolating an infected person within 24 hours of developing symptoms may not be fast enough. Hence the need for continuous tracking and automatic notification of contacts. But currently test results are taking an “average” of two days (with many taking far longer and difficulty prioritizing correctly). Adding 3 days for getting tested means five days of transmission without isolation, which is most of the usual infectious period. That means failure to “quickly find, contain and stop them”.

Today’s speeches about the latest record breaking numbers did at least have a start at preparing for the possible imminent further blow out in numbers. Training reserves of ambulance drivers is an essential step to prepare for large numbers of paramedics being unavailable due to isolation together with an increase in cases. Using paramedics already in isolation to help with contact tracing also makes sense. Likewise beds are being prepared etc.

What makes contact tracing possible is the fact that stage 3 restrictions sharply reduce the numbers of contacts that each infected person has.

Those restrictions were not first introduced until the very same day the Grand Prix was about to start with tens of thousands of spectators. Large crowds mean there is simply no way to trace the people an infected spectator came into contact with. The point of restricting “gatherings” to two people is to enable contact tracing. That worked in the first wave but has not been sufficient to suppress the second wave.

Most developed countries gave up contact tracing as already too difficult at much lower numbers than Victoria is still attempting to handle, so it isn’t that the Victorian Public Health officers are not working hard enough.

It just isn’t possible to keep up with the case load at the current level of social distancing restrictions. That was clear when the numbers continued to increase after locking down several suburbs to stage 3 and it remains clear two weeks after locking down the whole of Melbourne to stage 3. The AMA called for a move to stage 4 about a week ago.

Any plan has to start with shutting things down to the point where contact tracing can keep up. If governments won’t do it, local Committees of Public Safety will have to step forward.

The difficulty pointed out by Victoria’s Chief Health Officer is that most of the current transmission is connected with essential workplaces that would remain open in a “stage 4” lockdown. That increases the urgency of drastic measures to reorganize those workplaces as well as a more thorough lockdown elsewhere. But instead it has resulted in simply hoping that masks will turn out to be sufficient. They might, but wait and see is not a proactive policy for dealing with an outbreak when flying blind without adequate statistics about what happened weeks ago.

A policy of “wait an see” whether quaranting individual suburbs of a large metropolis could work merely allowed the case load to double.

The current plan is to “wait and see” the results of mandatory masks. But we already know the first two weeks of stage 3 restrictions has not stopped exponential growth and is close to overwhelming the test and trace capability. We also know that the original source of seeding has been cut off by diverting incoming travellers from Melbourne while quarantine hotels are tightened up.

That means the continued growth of cases is entirely local. The fact that numbers “under investigation” has blown out means most of that continued growth in local cases is “community transmission”. It doesn’t really matter if those numbers are eventually epidemiologically linked to a known local outbreak when the link is made too late to actually do much isolating either upstream or downstream.

Instead of waiting to see, a pro-active policy would be to do whatever it takes to bring the effective Reproduction number well below 1 and keep it as low as feasible until “No Community Transmission”.

Such a policy must be spelled out sharply as a break with the past, not obscured to avoid offending the pro-death advocates of sacrificing lives to save asset values for the owners.

The current situation is that most public discussion is basically uninformed about epidemics and contact tracing.

See for example the comment on my last article:

“The growth is not exponential and I suspect R0 is around 1, or less, given the extensive testing going on. Here is a graph” (linked to a search on Bing)

According to both the current Victorian guidelines (v23, July 10) and the National guidelines (SoNG 3.4) :

“Estimates for the basic reproductive number (R0) of SARS-CoV-2 range from 2–4, with R0
for confined settings, e.g. cruise ships, at the higher end of this range. Estimates of the
effective reproductive number (Reff) vary from between settings and at different time points
are dependent on a range of factors, including, public health interventions such as isolation,
quarantine and physical distancing to limit close contact between people (5, 6).”

Reference to R0 instead of Reff indicates that the person making the comment could not possibly have an informed opinion as to whether the growth was exponential, even if they were looking at accurate current figures and were able to notice when the graph they are looking at is simply a Bing bungle.

Suffice to say that there were 0 new daily cases at the start of June, rising to a record of 459 before the end of July.

Technically that is an infinite rather than merely exponential increase. But a glance at the actual curves for the first and second waves in Victoria enables anybody with their eyes open to see that the second is already much larger and still growing faster than the “exponential” period of the first wave.

Many people have their eyes firmly shut. This does not prevent them from pontificating about what they “suspect” after looking up “trends” in Bing.

https://www.dhhs.vic.gov.au/coronavirus-covid-19-daily-update

https://www.covid19data.com.au/victoria

It makes sense for conservatives to keep their eyes firmly shut and just hope things will sort themselves out. Conservatives naturally have faith that the authorities know best. There is no need for conservatives to propose detailed measures for mobilizing people to deal with problems. Simply thank them for staying home. “They also serve who only stand and wait”.

But anybody on the left will have less faith in the authorities and will be studying what needs to be done to mobilize people to tackle the problem. It is ludicrous to pretend to have confidence that people will transform capitalist society after an economic crisis while not being interested in concrete policies for dealing with a health crisis and just demanding that governments Eliminate the problem without proposing how to do so.