American Democracy's Achilles Heel: A Pandemic

India's lockdown policy took the economy down the toilet to stay

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A Fact

Subcontinent-Sized Setback

During the pandemic, India has taken the biggest hit of any major world economy. Last quarter India’s economy shrank by a record 23.9%.

Investment decreased by 47% in the quarter, while consumer spending fell by almost 27%. India’s lockdown was among the strictest in the world, shutting down virtually every nonessential part of the economy, yet had little effect on the virus’ spread. Government spending grew by 16% in an attempt to offset the private sector drop but wasn’t enough to overcome the effects of the pandemic.

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A Musing

I don’t think I am alone in wondering: If the United States had done merely an average job of fighting the coronavirus — if the U.S. accounted for the same share of virus deaths as it did global population — how many fewer Americans would have died?

The answer: about 145,000. Which is nearly 80% of the country’s 183,000 confirmed coronavirus-related deaths. - source New York Times, The World Bank and Johns Hopkins University

No other country looks as bad by the measure of total deaths by percentage of global population. The U.S. accounts for 4 percent of the world’s population, and for 22 percent of confirmed Covid-19 deaths. Damning evidence that the Trump administration has done a poorer job of controlling the virus than all of the leading governments around the world.

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Books

The Trump books keep coming out each week, and apparently readers can’t stop buying. Full disclosure: I have purchased and read five of them myself. Two of them I returned for my money back and I found all of them depressing to read. But read them I do, as I believe we are living through a dark period in our collective history and it behooves all of us to gain some insight on how exactly we got to this place.

White House memoirs, journalistic exposés, full-throated defenses of the president: Publishers are producing books for every partisan and wondering if the gravy train ends on Election Day. — New York Times

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China Economy is 70% of the US and Closing Fast

If you thought the pandemic was bad, U.S. post-election chaos in November will be 10x worse.

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A Fact

China will be the only major economy to bounce back this year. Across China, children are preparing to return to classrooms much as they did last Autumn. Restaurants, public transportation, and airports are packed. Economists at the World Bank and elsewhere have upgraded their economic forecasts for China.

According to Nicholas Lardy, an economist and China expert at the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington, China’s inflation-adjusted economic output will likely hit $11.9 trillion this year. That is roughly 70% of the U.S.’s expected output—a seven-percentage-point increase from last year—the largest advance China has made on the U.S. in a single year.

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A Musing

The only way we are going to lose this election is if the election is rigged - Donald Trump

Trump was asked repeatedly in a recent Fox News interview and refused to commit that he will accept the outcome of the published election results.

"I have to see," Trump replied, "No, I'm not going to just say yes. I'm not going to say no, and I didn't last time either."

Notwithstanding the Trump administration efforts to cripple the U.S. Post Office’s ability to process mail-in ballots, more Americans than ever are expected to cast mail-in ballots this year, so it will take longer for results to be tallied. November 3rd, which has traditionally been called "election night" will be more like "election week," because it could realistically take a week (or more) until news outlets can project a winner. Both presidential campaigns have recruited lawyers and set aside millions of dollars and for the forthcoming legal fights for the presidency.

"There's a significant scope for an unprecedented post-election crisis in this country." Larry Diamond, expert on democratic institutions at the Hoover Institution.

But besides legal fights, what happens if Americans begin protesting and fighting in the streets? The short answer—from what we have seen via urban unrest this year all over the country—is that the Trump Administration will send in troops to “keep the peace” and the presidency.

“For there to be that large of an escalation in budget for crowd-control devices and less lethal devices shows that there is an effort afoot to create a force of federal law enforcement that is geared toward public suppression. The vast majority of federal organizations are not designed or trained for crowd control.”—Wayne McElrath, former director of forensic investigations for the Government Accountability Office from 2011 to 2019

There is very little precedent in American history for a disputed presidential election. No presidential nominee has ever refused to accept defeat, not even after the bitterly disputed 1876 election, which was finally resolved just two days before the inauguration. Even after the Supreme Court ruling in Bush v. Gore, then-Vice President Al Gore conceded the 2000 election and stepped away from public view.

Just imagine if this election was debated in the streets and in the media in the US for nearly 3 months from election day November 3rd until inauguration day on January 20, 2021 and beyond. You can bet the Trump administration will deploy all federal forces in their employ to keep Trump in office. The very foundation of American democracy will be tested. I have no doubt the worst is ahead of us in 2020.

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A Book

If you are reading this and you are not Chinese, your version of the history of the world is much different than your Chinese counterparts. For the Chinese, the Greeks, Romans, and Napoleon might well have been people that existed on a completely different planet. From a Chinese point of view, for as far back as anyone can remember, China had the richest economy, the strongest military, and the most advanced philosophy, culture, and technology in the world.

Superpower Interrupted by Michael Shuman is a very accessible and entertaining history book for all those who want a peek at the Chinese worldview and belief system. Since the 19th century collision with the West knocked China's historical trajectory off course for the first time, the Chinese fixated on returning their country to its former greatness, restoring the Chinese version of its place in the world as they had always known it. For the Chinese, the question was never if they could reclaim their former dominant position in the world, but when. This book helps the reader understand the foundation for the “miraculous” economic and cultural rise from that ashes that the world has seen from China.

In February 1979, Deng Xiaoping found himself in an unlikely setting for a career Communist—a Texas rodeo. The longtime revolutionary luminary would probably have been much more comfortable marching with peasant soldiers or maneuvering in Beijing’s cloistered halls of power. But unlike most other party brass, the personable and open-minded Deng knew how to play to the crowd, whoever might be in it. Donning a ten-gallon cowboy hat, Deng earned himself a hearty whoop from these otherwise red-blooded, anti-Red spectators. “Deng Xiaoping not only went west, but went Western,” one television reporter quipped approvingly. - Schuman, Michael. Superpower Interrupted (p. 295). PublicAffairs. Kindle Edition.

Superpower Interrupted: The Chinese History of the World by [Michael Schuman]

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It sucks to be a billionaire these days

Even Harvard can't convince students to come to campus this fall

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A Fact

According to a recent poll, over 20% of Harvard students are not going back this fall. Of those not returning to school, most — 73% have opted to work full time instead. 4% are taking classes at a different university, and 2% are doing volunteer work.

Why? 85% believe they are likely to be exposed to the coronavirus if study on campus this fall. Another victim of the pandemic is dormitory life. Of those that will return to university 56% are living off-campus, 7% are in single dorms and 9% are in doubles. Most universities have responded by limiting dorm capacities.

And that is not all. In 2019 nearly 400,000 students from China studied at U.S. universities. The vast majority of them will not be returning—ever. Not only was China the largest contingent of foreign students studying in the U.S., but they also contributed $13 billion to the U.S. economy.

U.S. universities are facing a massive decline in enrollment and revenues as a direct fallout of Trump administration policies and the pandemic. The winners will be the U.K. and the universities of other first world English speaking nations. Chinese students still want the best English-language education money can buy, they will just spend their money elsewhere.

Oh, and in case you are wondering this is a one-way street. By way of comparison, the number of American students traveling to China to study is very small, with just under 12,000 enrolling in Chinese universities in 2017.

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A Musing

Just saying “The rich keep getting richer.” doesn’t even begin to tell the story these days. Since the pandemic first exploded in the U.S. in March, the top dozen richest men in America have enjoyed a 40% surge in its combined wealth — or an increase of $283 billion.

According to the Institute for Policy Studies, the top 12 billionaires in the U.S. hit a new combined high of one trillion dollars — yes, that is 13 digits, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

The statistic is telling and exacerbated by the devastation in the broader economy due to the coronavirus pandemic. Some people are already starting to give these (mostly) tech titans disparaging epithets.

“This is a disturbing milestone in the U.S. history of concentrated wealth and power,” said Chuck Collins, a director for the Washington D.C.-based progressive think tank. “This is simply too much economic and political power in the hands of twelve people. From the point of view of a democratic self-governing society, this represents an Oligarchic Dozen.”

In a previous era in the United States these “captains of industry” were also called “Robber Barons” and president Teddy Roosevelt went after them (Banker J.P. Morgan was the first target) aggressively, and became known as the “Trust Buster” president.

Pro-Kremlin Media and the “Gates of Hell” - EU vs DISINFORMATION

Being a minor billionaire (not even in the top 500) Trump is unlikely to become the next “Trust Buster” president. But if you think Trump is unpopular, being a billionaire who’s net worth is rapidly increasing during these tough times will likely make you at least as unpopular.

I write this just hours after my next-door neighbor told me unequivocally that “Bill Gates cooked up the coronavirus in order that his companies could sell more vaccines and make himself richer”. When I pointed out that Bill Gates has already turned over the bulk of his wealth to a charitable foundation that is not profit motivated, he looked at me dumbfounded, convinced I was making it up. As he started to walk away, I reminded him that the Gates Foundation now spends more on global health every year than the World Health Organization — not to mention more than most countries on the planet.

From a public image standpoint, it has become a no-win situation for the billionaires. No wonder Jeff Bezos has given relatively little to charity. It wouldn’t make him any more friends. For John D. Rockefeller and Bill Gates who gave most of their wealth to charitable organizations—that work to spend their fortune as diligently as they made it—for the sake of the health of the entire human race get as maligned for the giving as they did for the getting.

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A Book

Written in 2005 before Fake News was an everyday occurrence, James Surowiecki’s “The Wisdom of Crowds” is a fascinating read and should give you some hope for the November election. That said, the part of the book that discusses sports betting quoted a bookie saying “The line we want is the line that’ll split the public because that’s when you start earning that vig.” In this sense, Donald Trump plays politics like a bookie. He focuses on splitting the public so that he can win in the end.

"Dazzling . . . one of those books that will turn your world upside down. It's an adventure story, a manifesto, and the most brilliant book on business, society, and everyday life that I've read in years." –Malcolm Gladwell

The Wisdom of Crowds by [James Surowiecki]

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A Watershed Moment - Kamala Gives A Nation Hope

Meanwhile, Trump pulls a page from Richard Nixon's playbook

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A Fact

Joe Biden has chosen Kamala Harris as his Vice Presidential running mate. This is a watershed moment for many reasons. It also is Joe Biden’s best chance to unify a majority of the company against re-electing Donald Trump.

Twitter post by @priyankachopra: 👏🏽👏🏽👏🏽 @KamalaHarris

watershed moment is a turning point, the exact moment that changes the direction of an activity or situation. A watershed moment is a dividing point, from which things will never be the same. It is considered momentous, though a watershed moment is often recognized in hindsight. - Grammarist.com

Twitter post by @yooneedmorejodi: Jamaicans will now be insufferable.Kamala has a Jamaican father. The Democratic Vice-Presidential Nominee has a Jamaican connection.As far as Jamaicans are concerned, WE will be vice-president 🤣!

Kamala is the daughter of an Indian cancer researcher and a Jamaican economics professor who met at a Berkely protest and separated when Kamala was five. Raised primarily by her Hindu single mother, young Kamala and her sister Maya grew up in a house filled with black music and culture. Growing up in a country where they would be seen as “black” her mother made sure her two daughters were very aware of—and proud of—their ethnic background.

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A Musing

The president's tweet, in which he suggested a Black senator Cory Booker from New Jersey would be in charge of an "invasion" of neighborhoods that would undermine the "safety" for "the suburban housewife," came a day after rival Joe Biden made history by choosing a Black woman (Kamala Harris) as his running mate.

Trump Accused Of Racism For "Suburban Housewife" Tweet

Is Trump borrowing Richard Nixon's "law and order" message, instilling fear of violence and racial unrest – with a public already anxious about getting infected with COVID-19? It seems so. We all know, Trump has directed federal law enforcement to go to cities (not coincidentally governed by Democratic mayors) to crack down on protesters there, tear gassing them and taking demonstrators away in unmarked vehicles, and to address violent crime.

The president has warned that Biden and now fellow Democratic Senator Cory Booker (yes Trump spelled his name wrong in the tweet) are trying to "abolish" the suburbs by advocating for housing rules meant to stop racial discrimination. Smells like desperation, but when a wild animal is cornered they fight even harder.

So while the choice of Kamala Harris is receiving mostly accolades now, expect her character and reputation to be dragged through the dirt continuously from next week until November. Facebook Inc., COO, Sheryl Sandberg posted on Instagram about Kamala Harris, celebrating the milestone and reminding us what it will inevitably mean for the campaign. “Research shows that women running for office face obstacles that men don’t,” she wrote. “People are more likely to question their qualifications, criticize their looks, or simply dislike them.” 

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A Book

Now is the time for us all to read up and get to know Kamala Harris. Not only is she the first Black Woman Vice Presidential candidate, but should the Biden-Harris ticket win in November she will be one heartbeat away from being the first woman U.S. President. Fortunately, you can hear her story as told herself in her 2018 autobiography, “The Truths We Hold.”

Growing up, Harris herself never hid her passion for justice, and when she became a prosecutor out of law school, a deputy district attorney, she quickly established herself as one of the most innovative change agents in American law enforcement. She progressed rapidly to become the elected District Attorney for San Francisco, and then the chief law enforcement officer of the state of California as a whole. Known for bringing a voice to the voiceless, she took on the big banks during the foreclosure crisis, winning a historic settlement for California's working families. Her hallmarks were applying a holistic, data-driven approach to many of California's thorniest issues, always eschewing stale "tough on crime" rhetoric as presenting a series of false choices. Neither "tough" nor "soft" but smart on crime became her mantra. Being smart means learning the truths that can make us better as a community, and supporting those truths with all our might. That has been the pole star that guided Harris to a transformational career as the top law enforcement official in California, and it is guiding her now as a transformational United States Senator, grappling with an array of complex issues that affect her state, our country, and the world, from health care and the new economy to immigration, national security, the opioid crisis, and accelerating inequality. - from Amazon.com

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If Biden wins you better start studying Mandarin - Trump

Half of Americans know someone who's tested positive for the coronavirus

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A Fact

We've hit a tipping point: Half of Americans know someone who's tested positive for the coronavirus, White House editor Margaret Talev writes from the Axios-Ipsos Coronavirus Index.

Even in the U.S. virus is everybody's problem now.

How did we get here? The Atlantic documents “All the President’s Lies About the Coronavirus” in one article. It’s all there. In one well-written compendium. Bookmark this one as you will need to refer to it explain to your grandchildren what actually happened in the year 2020.

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A Musing

"Voters rejected Harris. They smartly spotted a phony. But not Joe Biden. He's not that smart," a narrator in the video says. "Slow Joe and phony Kamala. Perfect together, wrong for America." - Donald Trump

So with the appointment of Kamala Harris as the V.P. candidate, Trumps “re-election strategy” is set:

  1. Remind us all that “Sleepy Joe Biden” will sleep while…

  2. Crazy, phony, back-stabbing Kamala Harris takes over the presidency from Biden (alive or dead) and makes all Americans poor and socialist.

  3. And China is in control of all the forces that are destroying the U.S.A. The very same America that Trump wants to “Make Great” again.

And by the way, “great” is on the list of Donald Trump’s Top 20 Favorite Words along with: Huge, Bigly, Stupid, Loser, Moron, Fire and Fury, Incredible, Fake News, A lot of money, Millions, Billions, Classy, Winning, Zero and a few others.

"China will own the United States if this election is lost by Donald Trump, if I don't win the election, China will own the United States. You're going to have to learn to speak Chinese, you want to know the truth." - Trump, referring to himself in the third person, told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt.

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A Book

If Trump is right and we are going to have to learn to speak Chinese once Biden is elected, you may want to take this opportunity to read one of the best books written on how to understand and get along with China by none other than Henry Kissenger himself.

In this sweeping and insightful history, Henry Kissinger turns for the first time at book length to a country he has known intimately for decades and whose modern relations with the West he helped shape. On China illuminates the inner workings of Chinese diplomacy during such pivotal events as the initial encounters between China and tight line modern European powers, the formation and breakdown of the Sino-Soviet alliance, the Korean War, and Richard Nixon’s historic trip to Beijing. With a new final chapter on the emerging superpower’s twenty-first-century role in global politics and economics, On China provides historical perspective on Chinese foreign affairs from one of the premier statesmen of our time. - Amazon.com

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James

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