Sunday, January 26, 2020

Some Practical Questions about the Coronavirus Epidemic

Restrictions that allow a significant number of people to move about, either with official approval or unsanctioned "black market" activity, cannot stop the spread of contagious diseases.
Like everyone else, I've been reading the mainstream media reports on the Coronavirus epidemic. I haven't found any information about the practicalities that immediately occur to me, such as:
1. When public transportation is halted and commerce grinds to a halt as people avoid public places and gatherings, thousands of employees no longer go to work. Who pays their wages while the city is locked down? The employers? Then who compensates the employers, since their income has also gone to zero?
Does China have a universal unemployment insurance system that can quickly issue payments to all people who are no longer going to work and getting a paycheck from an employer?
What about the thousands of migrant workers who don't have regular employers? Who pays them? If they're technically not officially sanctioned residents of the city, they don't exist in government records.
2. If people idled by the lockdown are supposed to live off savings, what about all the marginal workers with few resources? What are they going to live on once their meager savings are gone?
3. Given the choice of obeying the lockdown rules and starving or slipping out of the city to find paid work somewhere else, how many migrant workers will choose to slip away?
4. Unlike the developed West, many people in China still have ancestral villages to return to, rural towns where their grandparents or or other close relatives live. If work has dried up and you're fearful of catching a potentially lethal virus, wouldn't it make sense to slip out of the city and make your way back to the village where you can hunker down until the epidemic blows over?
Since people who caught the virus may not know they're a carrier, how will this migration not spread the disease to rural areas with few medical resources?
5. The typical city has about a week's supply of food, fuel, etc. at best. If the lockdown runs longer than a few days, scarcities of essentials will ignite hoarding, and remaining supplies will be snapped up.
Since the city's residents need food, fuel, etc., it must be brought in regardless of the lockdown. This brings outside workers into the city and provides residents desperate to flee avenues to escape the lockdown. Every individual involved in this system is potentially exposed to the virus or is a potential asymptomatic carrier of the virus leaving the city.
These realities leave officials with an impossible choice: either truly isolate the city, which isn't possible for more than a few days, or allow the stupendous flow of goods required to sustain millions of city residents, thereby creating uncontrollable avenues for the virus to spread beyond the city as transport workers and those fleeing the lockdown travel to other cities.
6. The only way to end a contagion is to identify every carrier of the disease and immediately isolate them in full hazmat mode, and then track down every individual they had contact with during the incubation/asymptomatic period of the disease--up to two weeks--and isolate all these individuals until they either develop the disease or pass through the crisis unharmed.
This was the basic procedure used to end the SARS epidemic in 2003. As this article from the The New England Journal of Medicine explains (Another Decade, Another Coronavirus, (via correspondent Cheryl A.), the Wuhan Coronavirus shares characteristics with SARS and cannot be dismissed as just another run-of-the-mill flu virus.
During this process of isolating / quarantining everyone with the disease and everyone they had close contact with, all healthcare workers caring for these people must also remain isolated from the general populace lest they become infected and spread the disease outside the quarantine.
Treating people in crowded hospitals where hundreds of people are coming and going and moving freely into the rest of the city won't stop a contagion from spreading.
If the only way to end a contagion is to identify every carrier of the disease and immediately isolate them, and then track down every individual they had contact with during the incubation/asymptomatic period of the disease--is this even possible in China now?
Please study the map below before claiming it's still possible.
7. China is making a big show about sending 1,000 doctors to Wuhan, but precisely what medical treatments are available for this virus, how effective are these treatments, and do they require a physician to be administered? If the answers are: there are no effective targeted medical treatments for this virus, and doctors are not required to administer what is available, then why expose a scarce resource--physicians--to the disease since they really can't do much to halt it or heal the patients?
Isn't sending 1,000 doctors to Wuhan more a PR move than anything else? And if it's basically a PR stunt to appear to be "doing something," doesn't that call the entire official response into question?
If there is no targeted treatment available, then the recovery of the patient is a function of their immune system. Building tent hospitals that are porous--healthcare workers returning home after their shift, relatives visiting the stricken, workers moving supplies in and out of other facilities, etc.--will do little to isolate carriers and potential carriers. And since complete isolation is the only way to stem the contagion, these porous tent hospitals won't do much to limit the contagion.
8. Are the travel bans on tours and other travel restriction measures 100%, in other words, not a single individual is being allowed in or out? If the travel restrictions are haphazard, then what's stopping asymptomatic carriers of the virus from traveling freely around the world?
There are many other practical questions about the epidemic and China's response that aren't being addressed in the conventional media. While we don't know precisely how contagious and lethal the virus is at this point--and it could mutate into a more contagious and lethal variation within a carrier at any moment--we do know complete isolation of every carrier and everyone they had close contact with is the only way to end the contagion.
We also know cities can't truly be isolated for longer than a few days, and we know people can't live without food, water, fuel, etc. and money to buy these essentials. We also know that restrictions that allow a significant number of people to move about, either with official approval or unsanctioned "black market" activity, cannot stop the spread of contagious diseases.


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Friday, January 24, 2020

Don't Be Too Sure

Don't be too sure that the coronavirus will blow over and have no effect on global growth.
If there is anything that characterizes this moment in history, it's complacency: everyone's so sure that current trend lines will continue, onward and upward, and risk has been tamed for the foreseeable future.
Don't be too sure.
1. Don't be too sure that the coronavirus will blow over and have no effect on global growth.
2. Don't be too sure that "the Fed has our back" so stocks will always resume their steady climb after every spot of bother.
3. Don't be too sure that the official Chinese pronouncements that the coronavirus is contained are actually accurate.
4. Don't be too sure that there won't be a second and far more lethal advance of the coronavirus once all the overseas Chinese who went home for Lunar New Year return to their jobs in the U.S., Europe, Southeast Asia, etc.
5. Don't be too sure that people will respond to the natural fears of the coronavirus by rushing out to buy a new iPhone, vehicle, etc.
6. Don't be too sure that bubbles in over-valued stocks and housing won't pop.
7. Don't be too sure that global tourism won't take a body-blow from the spread of the coronavirus.
8. Don't be too sure that the risks of the coronavirus spreading can be assessed by anyone with any accuracy.
9. Don't be too sure that the U.S. economy is bullet-proof and so President Trump is a shoo-in for re-election in November 2020.
10. Don't be too sure that the citizenry's tolerance for Fed-driven wealth-income inequality is as limitless as the Fed's balance sheet.
11. Don't be too sure that the super-low unemployment rate is a reliable measure of business confidence or the health of millions of small businesses.
12. Don't be too sure that the Fed's vaunted "wealth effect" won't reverse.
13. Don't be too sure that all risks are known and have been discounted.
14. Don't be too sure that the global health system is capable of dealing with the spread of the coronavirus.
15. Don't be too sure that central banks' lowering interest rates is going to reverse a global recession.
16. Don't be too sure your favored tech stock won't crater as over-valuation mania is replaced by fear.



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Thursday, January 23, 2020

The Future of What's Called "Capitalism"

The psychotic instability will resolve itself when the illusory officially sanctioned "capitalism" implodes.
Whatever definition of capitalism you use, the current system isn't it so let's call it "capitalism" in quotes to indicate it's called "capitalism" but isn't actually classical capitalism.
Try a few conventional definitions on for size:
Capitalism allocates capital to its most productive uses. Does the current system actually do this? You must be joking.
Capitalism is based on private labor and capital freely choosing where to invest time/assets. Does the current system actually do this? You must be joking.
Capitalism enables comparative advantages which enrich everyone. Does the current system actually do this? You must be joking.
The core dynamics of "capitalism" around the globe are:
1) Central banks create unprecedented sums of currency and credit and distribute them to the top of the wealth-power pyramid: banks, financiers, corporations, the super-wealthy.
2) The recipients of the central banks' free money and credit dominate production, finance and the political sphere, controlling these forces to serve their own interests to the detriment of the biosphere and 99.9% of humanity.
3) The system depends on ever-increasing debt and leverage in every sector, household, commercial and government. If debt and leverage stop expanding, the system crashes.
4) Energy must be abundant and affordable to the average worker or the system crashes.
5) Despite the supposed benefits of "comparative advantage" globalization, costs of essential goods and services are rising relentlessly everywhere while wages stagnate everywhere.
6) The abject failure of "green solutions" such as recycling to the horrendously wasteful landfill economy.
7) The unholy alliance of surveillance capitalism and increasingly repressive states.
8) The unprecedented dominance of stock and financial markets, to the detriment of the real economy.
The current issue of Foreign Affairs magazine is emblematic of the status quo's calculated avoidance of these dynamics: the issue's focus is "The Future of Capitalism," but there is literally not one mention of central banks, the dominance of financial elites, the dependence of the system on ever-expanding debt and leverage, soaring costs of essentials while wages stagnate or the inconvenient reality that there is no substitute for hydrocarbon fuels.
Instead, the "future of capitalism" is presented as a choice between statist (i.e. Chinese) and private-sector (i.e. American) versions, ignoring the reality that both versions depend on central banks issuing unprecedented, gargantuan sums of freshly issued currency and credit, enormous expansions of public and private debt, ever-higher speculative leverage and ever-greater consumption of hydrocarbon fuels.
Rather than "efficient allocation of capital," we have monopolies and cartels profiting from a staggeringly wasteful landfill economy based on extracting ever greater quantities or energy to squander on traffic congestion, destructive addictions and planned obsolescence.
Rather than an "invisible hand" benefiting everyone, we have a self-serving state-cartel system that squashes competition, exploits the politically powerless and stripmines resources, workforces and a financial system designed to benefit the few at the expense of the many.
We inhabit an unsustainably destabilizing psychotic dualist reality, an officially sanctioned "capitalism" in which everyone is getting better every day in every way as central banks, financiers and the super-wealthy go about their self-serving business, and the lived real-world economic reality described by the eight dynamics listed above.
The psychotic instability will resolve itself when the illusory officially sanctioned "capitalism" implodes.



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Tuesday, January 21, 2020

If the Martians Teleported the Davos Crowd to a Distant Moon, Who Would Mourn and Who Would Cheer?

The system that has so enriched the self-serving Davos Crowd is unraveling, and technocratic tweaks, carbon trading and philanthro-capitalism can't fix what's broken.
Thought experiment: If the Martians teleported the entire Davos Crowd to a distant moon, who would mourn and who would cheer? Friends and family of the disappeared elites would of course mourn their teleportation to a Martian facility on a distant moon, but who else would mourn, other than the flunkies and apparatchiks in the corporate media?
Who would cheer? Everybody who is tired of the dominance of an elite who skims billions from the rest of us "for our own good." The Davos Crowd is focusing on climate change because they see it as the latest and greatest opportunity to add more billions to their net worth via the skimming operation known as Carbon Trading and controlling the vast capital flows into New Green Deal boondoggles.
Who would cheer? Everybody who is tired of the Davos Crowd viewing themselves as "the solution" rather than "the problem." The unprecedented concentration of wealth and power in the hands of the few in Davos isn't a problem, it's an "opportunity" because the Davos Crowd is immensely confident in the goodness and rightness of their power and control.
The Davos Crowd knows what's best for the planet, so please get out of the way and let us take care of climate change, etc. our way, which just so happens to be extraordinarily profitable for us. But that's to be expected because we're so smart and hard-working and we care.
The hubris, sanctimony, false sympathy and hypocrisy of the Davos Crowd is off the charts. Having stripmined the Earth and its workforce for their existing billions, now they want to add to their billions by "fixing" what they broke in the most profitable possible fashion.
The Davos Crowd is incapable of recognizing that the unprecedented concentration of wealth and power in the hands of the few in Davos is the core problem. The happy cover story for further exploitation and predation is philanthro-capitalism, "do-good" projects that enshrine the power of elites and engineer a status quo that continues to divert wealth to the Davos elites under the virtue-signaling cover of philanthro-capitalism.
The Davos Crowd and their vast armies of apparatchiks, toadies, apologists and technocrat flunkies don't understand why we would cheer their teleportation to a distant moon. Their right to rule (droit de seigneur) is so obvious and well, just so right that those doubting it must be sadly delusional.
The delusion is in Davos. The system that has so enriched the self-serving Davos Crowd is unraveling, and technocratic tweaks, carbon trading and philanthro-capitalism can't fix what's broken.



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Monday, January 20, 2020

Calling Things by Their Real Names

One does not need money to convey one's thoughts, but what money does allow is the drowning out of speech of those without money by those with a lot of money.
In last week's explanation of why the Federal Reserve is evil, I invoked the principle of calling things by their real names, a concept that drew an insightful commentary from longtime correspondent Chad D.:
Thank you, Charles, for calling out the Fed for their evil ways. We have to properly name things before we can properly address them. I would add that the Fed's endless creation of "money" to hand out to connected bankers (not all bankers) is just one facet of the evil. The evil also manifests itself as extraordinary political-economical power in a system that allows legalized bribery disguised as free speech.
One does not need money to speak/write to convey one's thoughts, but what money does allow is the drowning out of speech of those without money by those with a lot of money. In essence, the ultra-rich (i.e. the top .01%) get a huge megaphone to blare their thoughts, many of which are deliberately used to disorient and confuse the common man through the major media and so-called higher institutions of learning. Hence, we get common folk actively fighting for policies and laws that are against their own personal interests, such as promoting "free trade" agreements that are really managed trade agreements, whereby domestic workers are forced to complete with workers in other countries who make a pittance and are not protected by labor or environmental laws.
These agreements are part of a legal, yet unjust, framework that gives unfair, competitive advantages to large, multinational businesses at the expense of their smaller domestic and international competitors, which includes the abridgment of basic rights to settle disputes in a real court of law, not some kangaroo arbitration process with biased "judges".
And we must not forget the bailouts, lack of prosecution for economic crimes, such as fraud and monopolistic and deceptive trade practices, and tax loopholes, all of which are bought in one way or another from the compromised "representatives" and "public servants" within the system.
The evil manifests itself as an enabler and promoter of an endless warfare state that is used to maintain an empire based upon the dollar that uses force, bribery, and blackmail to keep various peoples within the empire in line, which includes those within the host country(ies) (i.e. the USA (and the UK)) at the center of the empire. It causes the host country to befriend countries (i.e. frenemies) that hold values that are diametrically opposed to the values of the host country. The empire's tactics also breeds resentment towards citizens of the host country, many of whom want nothing to do with the empire, by those who live in the empire outside the host country.
While massive resources are used to support the empire of the dollar, the host country rots from a lack of resources due to taxes, debt, and the misappropriation of resources. Numerous people enlist in the military to supposedly protect the country, but end up really protecting the empire and yet others enlist out of economic desperation, which ironically and perversely, is largely caused by the existence of the very thing they end up serving and protecting.
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, the evil manifests itself in the severe abuse of our natural resources that leads to (as you've put) a landfill economy and the resultant, potential collapse of the biosphere that currently supports human life.
All these things represent the three heads of Cerberus and the body of Cerberus is usury, one of the most destructive forces known to humanity. Its exponential growth function will always lead to the depletion of natural resources because all the resources that would be of use to humans do not grow in that same manner and many of them are finite in the sense of people being able to obtain them in an economical way (e.g. metal ores and energy). Other natural resources like fisheries and forests can only be harvested at certain levels at certain times or they will collapse to a nonviable state.
Usury also always leads to massive wealth disparities that destabilize societies. Over time, the interest on the outstanding debt, especially if the money is debt-based, will find its way to those with assets, who end up buying more assets that get them more interest that enables them to buy yet more assets, etc.
If the Federal Reserve System was simply a decentralized clearing house for financial transactions and it was not allowed to buy government debt and we had a currency that was not based upon usury, would it be evil? It's fair to say that the Fed has become more and more evil, because it had fundamental flaws (features?) from its inception or it has been changed by evil actors over the years. Either way, we must end its current incarnation, before it leads our country down the road to perdition.
P.S. We were warned of some of this evil by our forefathers; see the Democratic Platform from 1900. Please note how they referred to our country as a republic.
Thank you, Chad, for succinctly summarizing all that we must call by their real names: predatory, parasitic, false, evil.



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