26 November 2021

Increased levels of Vitamin D important to help prevent acute respiratory distress and other problems?

I am not competent or knowledgeable enough to evaluate this, but by reputation and approach, this British doctor seems credible. Something to think about and possibly act on, on the theory that it isn't likely to be harmful and might be quite salutary. 

25 November 2021

Happy Thanksgiving

Despite all the difficulties we've all experienced to one degree or another over the last couple of years, I want to take just a moment to wish everyone a happy Thanksgiving and hope that a spirit of gratitude can find its way into every heart. 


23 November 2021

Sorry to have to say, it but the conclusions of this Swedish based group seem...

pretty damn obvious to me. It may be a worldwide trend, but its manifestation in the US is the most deeply disturbing long term political development in my lifetime. At least so it seems to me. 

22 November 2021

"Illiberal Democracy" is like saying "Love is Hate".... read HRC today

Farflung correspondents, 

Those of you who read an occasional missive from me will know that I am a big fan of historian Heather Cox Richardson's Letters from an American substack. But this one is a particularly important piece of writing which I commend to you, in lieu of my blathering on about this or that. 

19 November 2021

Economy and Build Back Better

I am a regular reader of historian Heather Cox Richardson's substack "Letters from an American." Yesterday's has some very interesting observations about the economy and the Build Back Better CBO score, etc.  From watching and reading the standard media outlets you would think our overall situation is much worse than Richardson's analysis suggests. 


 A report from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development on Thursday showed that the United States is the only G7 country to surpass its pre-pandemic economic growth. That growth has been so strong it has buoyed other countries.

Meanwhile, the administration's work with ports and supply chains to handle the increase in demand for goods appears to be having an effect. Imports through the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach are up 16% from 2018, and in the first two weeks of November, those two ports cleared about a third of the containers sitting on their docks.

Then the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released its score for the Democrats' $1.85 trillion Build Back Better Act. The CBO is a nonpartisan agency within the legislative branch that provides budget and economic information to Congress. The CBO's estimate of the costs of the Build Back Better Act will affect who will vote for it.

The CBO's projection was good news for the Democrats; it was in line with what the Democrats had said the bill would cost. The CBO estimates that the bill will increase the deficit by $367 billion over ten years. But the CBO also estimates that the government will raise about $207 billion over those same ten years by enforcing tax rules on those currently cheating on them. These numbers were good in themselves—in comparison, the CBO said the 2017 Republican tax cuts would cost $1.4 trillion over ten years—but they might get even better. Many economists, including Larry Summers, who has been critical of the Biden administration, think that the CBO estimates badly underplay the benefits of the bill.

The CBO score also predicted that the savings from prescription drug reforms in the bill would come in $50 billion higher than the House had predicted.

As soon as the score was released, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced that the House would vote on the bill tonight, suggesting that she had the votes to pass the bill.

And then something interesting happened. Kevin McCarthy took to the House floor to slow down the passage of the Build Back Better Act, throwing the vote into the middle of the night. The minority leader put on a Trump-esque show of non-sequiturs, previewing the kind of speech he would make to rally Republicans behind him if the Republicans retake the House in 2022. The speech was angry, full of shouting, and made for right-wing media: it was full of all the buzz-words that play there. McCarthy spoke for more than three hours—as I write this, he is still speaking.

But the blows he was trying to deliver didn't land. The Democrats made fun of him, catcalled, and eventually just walked out, while the Republicans lined up behind McCarthy looked increasingly bored, checked their phones, and appeared to doze off. When Axios reporter Andrew Solender asked a Republican aide for some analysis of the speech, the aide answered: "I'm watching the Great British Baking Show."

As he spoke, Pelosi's office fact-checked him, noting that while he is attacking the elements of the bill, saying no one wants them, the opposite is true. According to CBS News, Pelosi's staff wrote, "88 percent of Americans support Build Back Better's measures to cut prescription drug prices," "73 percent of Americans support Build Back Better's funding for paid family leave," and "67 percent of Americans support Build Back Better's funding for universal pre-K." In addition, according to Navigator Research, "84 percent of Americans support Build Back Better's provisions to lower health insurance premiums," and "72 percent of Americans support Build Back Better's creation of clean energy jobs to combat climate change.


12 November 2021

Inflation is being greatly exaggerated in its import

I make no pretense of being an economist, but it seems really obvious to me regarding the current roughly 6% rate of inflation:

  1. It is skewed. Meat, some imported goods, autos (including used autos) and several other sectors are at a high rate, but most services are little affected.
  2. It's primarily driven by shifts in the economy related to COVID which have spiked demand. Thus it is not actually a sign of weakness in the economy, and will likely work itself out in a year or two, with some things that are driven by global trade slowdowns also caused by high demand taking longer to work out.
  3. Unemployment is virtually nonexistent, which means wages are rising, too, making inflation much less of a worry. Inflation actually indicates that demand is high, people have money, and the economy has foundational strength. Very unlike the recession that followed the Financial Crisis of 2007-2009.
In my opinion, the continuing political crisis caused by massive disinformation and one party doing literally everything it can to terminate the small-r republican principles that are supposed to underly our system of government (i.e., majoritarian representation, as opposed to oligarchy), is far more of a concern than the economy right now. Democrats need to get a whole lot better at conveying the message that they're the ones who stand for stability, fairness, and the kind of balanced government support that we used to have in this country from roughly 1932-1980, while the Republicans stand for corporatist and super-rich power over representative government that takes the views of the majority into account. In comparison, the relatively minor economic disruption caused by the pandemic pales.

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11 November 2021

Big Auto splits on Climate Change

Here you go. Ford, GM, Hyundai/Kia, Volvo and Mercedes (and Tesla, obviously) have all signed on to the goal of all zero emissions vehicles by 2040. But Toyota, which was recently shown to have participated in widespread climate disinformation in consort with Big Oil.... and Volkswagen, which famously faked emissions results for its highly polluting diesel cars in the US a few years ago, along with Nissan/Renault, have not. For me, it's an imperative. I will be BOYCOTTING the products of Volkswagen, Nissan/Renault and Toyota until they change their tune. 

The article doesn't mention Honda, but Honda was a pioneer in hybrid vehicles. It has been somewhat slow to produce all electric cars. My guess is that Honda will end up on the right side of this issue, given their history. And hopefully, soon, they all will, because it will become clear to them that there simply is no other path forward. 

Ellen Genevieve Wilson Studhalter, born November 11, 2021

My mother, Ellen Genevieve Wilson Studhalter, was born in Illinois one hundred years ago today. I've now lived more than half my life since she died from lung cancer at 61 in January 1983. You never forget your parents... I think no day has gone by when I haven't thought of her. But I have never been able to picture her as a 100 year old lady. I suppose she would have wanted it that way.