This is not just a half baked, but rather a quarter baked article on the current situation with covid-19.
My guess is that Australia is about half way through the state of emergency that began in mid-March.
Current indications are that a vaccine will start to be available here from about March or April, with full availability and likely herd immunity by the end of next year.
Victoria is now perhaps the safest State in Australia. Despite relaxing restrictions more rapidly than planned Victoria has been far more successful at eliminating “mystery cases” than I expected.
The prompt response to a recent outbreak in South Australia suggests that lessons have been learned and the long delay that resulted in a second wave in Victoria won’t be repeated anywhere. So there is a pretty good chance of only occasional sporadic outbreaks, especially after priority vaccinations reduce the risk of escape or leakage from quarantine or from hospitals.
Public Health authorities are correctly warning that it isn’t over. That is especially important for people more vulnerable.
But it looks like the risks of becoming severely ill as a result of happening to get infected before a sporadic outbreak is detected are now similar to those for any other accident that can be mitigated by taking sensible precautions.
That should mean Australia goes to the back of the queue for vaccination. There is currently no urgent need here and major disasters elsewhere, so it should take much longer than the end of next year to vaccinate Australia.
But its far more likely the poorer countries that are likely to eventually get hit very hard will come last and Australia will be in the middle. I would be surprised if the production plants in Europe and North America divert supplies from the disaster unfolding around them until they have that under control. So the initial vaccinations here could also be later than March and April.
Anyway there is plenty of time before next March to analyse the recent news re vaccines.
A lot more information will be available in a few weeks so I am not attempting to analyse this further now. The disasters in Europe and North America are still unfolding and far worse is to come in the rest of the world, but it will be a lot easier to analyse in a few weeks than it is right now.
I am just dashing this off quarter baked because I expect to be paying more attention to US politics over the next few weeks.
There’s only a week or so until an important deadline in the US electoral process and I expect things to heat up a lot before then. The December 8 deadline could be the end of it or could result in things remaining very hot right through to early next year.
It is impossible to follow the numerous court cases, some of which I expect to end up in the Supreme Court very shortly:
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:
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:
clearly visible or understood; obvious.
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:
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:
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.
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:
“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.
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
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.
A few of the reports drew attention to Giuliani’s hair dye running down his face. Imagine the mindset of reporters who focus on that when evidence of massive election fraud is being outlined.
Back home one of the ABC News 24 “informative” pop ups reads “Donald Trump maintains false claim he wins the election”.
In my opinion the main problem is not Donald Trump. The attempts by the main stream media to manipulate our thinking is a much bigger problem. Rudy Giuliani is far, far more credible in the way he presents information than they are.
How will this play out over the next few weeks? The most credible source I’ve found so far is Scott Adams, the Dilbert guy, who runs a daily entertaining / analytical podcast mainly (but not only) about this issue: here
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:
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.
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”.
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.
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:
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.
It was an enormous surprise 4 years ago when Trump was elected. Another surprise was that this was predicted by Michael Moore. Btw Moore is again warning not to count our chickens before they hatch. What then arose was a need to explain this. After a little research I thought I had discovered reasonable explanations:
The elephant curve, that middle America was either making no progress or going backwards economically. They were angry and voted for an angry outsider from the political establishment, Trump.
The Democrat candidate, Hilary, was a pathetic self serving liberal who promoted identity politics and eschewed class politics.
At the time I felt Michael Hudson was on the right track in calling for a break up of the Democratic Party. His analysis, along with the late David Graeber, identified the central problem that both Parties were and are captive to Wall Street.
Over those four years as a casual, part time observer of American politics I felt those two explanations were sufficient to explain what was going on.
Four years later, is there a need to update this analysis? I have been searching and now think I know a little more.
Russia gate, based on flimsy evidence, was a failure of the Democrats to face the main reason why they lost, namely that their candidate and policies served the elite and would not improve the situation of middle America.
BLM is a race based movement with some legitimate claims but does not clearly identify the key issue in America, namely, the dire economic situation of the growing precariat.
China. Niall Ferguson, when interviewed by Coleman Hughes, identified the main good thing that Trump has done: clearly identified China as a real and growing danger to the world
Joe Biden is in cognitive decline and his political history shows he is either a scumbag (eg. with regard to the whistle blowers Snowden and Assange) or a non entity. The Democrats could have appointed a moderate reformer like Bernie Sanders. They chose not to which indicates they have learnt nothing new of value over the past 4 years.
The Lincoln Project, Republicans who are anti Trump, do make occasional entertaining videos but are dishonest in the way they promote Biden.
Institutions such as the New York Times and Universities have by and large been taken over by the woke movement who believe such things as:
Democrats lost last time because of Russian interference
Russia remains an existential threat to US democracy
Free speech has some importance but anti racism is far more important
Only fascists, nazis, white supremists, terrorists and racists support Trump
Assange belongs in prison because he helped Trump last time
Now the social media giants (twitter, facebook) have yielded to the pressure and are censoring their feed in support of Biden. The fearless, free press, where is it?
The culture war against a main stream media that has long stopped trying to tell the truth will have to go on whoever wins the election.
There are people in America, outside the main stream media, who make sense to me. I describe them as just informed citizens, of varying political allegiance, who have the blinkers off, are passionate about finding the truth and have growing numbers of supporters. Here are some of their names: Michael Hudson, Glen Loury, Coleman Hughes, John McWhorter, Glen Greenwald, Niall Ferguson, Matt Taibbi, Joe Rogan
The current choice, in the words of Matt Taibbi and Katie Halper, is between one bowl of shit and two bowls of shit. Coleman Hughes is supporting Joe Biden since he feels it might lead to a less deranged left wing as opposed to a more deranged left wing (if Trump wins). Take your pick.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.