Sunday, July 26, 2020

More Than Death Rate

                                                                                                    written 19 July 2020
                                                                                                published 26 July 2020

            After creating the world's worst pandemic response, Trump and his Republican sycophants are concerned about their re-election.  Pretending everything is normal, they claim Covid is like the flu (it isn't), that 99% of people survive (actually 4% die), and children are less affected (relatively true).  Trump wants schools to open, tweeting the CDC is "lying" about the pandemic.  Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany expanded: "When the president says open, he means kids being able to attend each and every day at their school.  Science should not stand in the way of this."  Interesting priority.  However, medical science keeps discovering the virus's own truth.
            "People who recovered from Covid-19 may lose immunity to the disease within months, suggesting the virus could reinfect people.  Levels of virus antibodies peak about three weeks after the onset of symptoms then swiftly declined, confirming a growing body of evidence that immunity to Covid-19 is short-lived.  'Most importantly, it puts another nail in the coffin of the concept of herd immunity,' said Prof Jonathan Heeney, at the University of Cambridge."  (The Guardian, 12Jul20, by Ian Sample)
            "According to the World Health Organization, about 80 percent of infections are mild or asymptomatic, bolstering the belief that only the sick and elderly need isolate themselves.  But thousands of people say they have been wrestling with serious Covid-19 symptoms for months.  Many people reported 'brain fogs' and concentration challenges.  Some have experienced hallucinations, delirium, short-term memory loss, or strange vibrating sensations when they touch surfaces.  Others have problems with their sympathetic nervous system, which controls heartbeat and breathing."  (The Atlantic, 4Jun20, by Ed Yong)
            "The death rate from Covid-19 is not the whole story.  When looking at patients who had survived a critical encounter with Covid-19, British researchers found that almost two-thirds suffered strokes, and over a quarter were left with damage resulting in dementia.  From limb amputations to heart attacks to permanent brain damage, the blood clots caused by infections with Covid-19 are often devastating.
            It seems that no matter how many news stories run at this point about teenagers dying, people in their 20's losing a limb, or young people left with lasting lung or heart problems, the idea that this is an 'old person’s disease' has been so baked in that it can’t be dislodged."  (Daily KOS, 26Jun20, by Mark Sumner)
            "Yet another bizarre symptom of Covid-19 is ischemia of the fingers and toes, a reduction of blood flow that causes red or purplish lesions at the ends of the digits.  Dubbed Covid toes, it can be painful and can lead to tissue death.  It’s showing up mostly in younger people."
            "Some people with Covid-19 develop dangerously low levels of oxygen in their blood but otherwise don't feel sick.  The condition, called silent hypoxia, can quickly cascade into serious breathing problems and damage to other organs."  (Elemental Medium, 17May20, by Robert Britt)
            "Clinical experience has shown the pathogen does much more than invade the lungs.  It attacks the heart, savages the kidneys, crawls along the nervous system, occasionally reaching the brain, creates blood clots, and inflames blood vessels throughout the body.  It mostly spares the young, but doctors have reported an inflammatory reaction with cardiac complications among children.  'We were all thinking this is a disease that kills old people, not kids,' said David Reich, of Mount Sinai Hospital."
            "The disease’s devastation comes from two intertwined causes.  The first is the harm to the endothelial cells that line blood vessels, leading to clots that can range from microscopic to sizable.  Patients have suffered strokes and pulmonary emboli as clots break loose and travel to the brain and lungs.  Inflammation of the endothelial cells lining blood vessels may help explain why the virus harms so many parts of the body."
            "The second is an exaggerated response from the body’s own immune system, a storm of killer 'cytokines' that attack the body’s own cells along with the virus as it seeks to defend the body from an invader.  'Our hypothesis is that Covid-19 begins as a respiratory virus and kills as a cardiovascular virus', said Mandeep Mehra, of the Harvard Medical School."  (Washington Post, 12May20, by Bernstein and Cha)
            Covid-19 is a serious problem.  America deserves competent national leadership.  Instead, Republican support of Trump's fragile ego keeps killing people.

Sunday, July 19, 2020

Trump The Businessman

                                                                                                    written 12 July 2020
                                                                                                published 19 July 2020

            In summer of 2016, Lynn and I went to the Boonville Fair to see the sheepdog trials and spent the rest of the day taking in the fair.  We chatted with the three older fellows sitting the Republican booth, wanting to know what they liked about Trump, their party nominee.  They all stated his being a businessman gave them confidence.  Four years on, we can examine the question: is Trump a good businessman?
            Trump has gone to great lengths to keep his business history secret, using lawsuits and extensive non-disclosure agreements.  Candidate Trump promoted himself as successful and independently wealthy, therefore immune to corruption.  However, as a public figure, a strong light has been brought to bear, revealing a different picture.
            Even as we spoke to the three Republicans, Trump was committing campaign fraud by laundering illegal hush money payments to a couple of porn stars.  His fixer lawyer eventually pled guilty and is now serving time.
            The Donald J. Trump Foundation was established in 1988, with funds mostly from donors other than Trump.  In 2016 The Washington Post reported several potential legal and ethical violations, such as alleged self-dealing and possible tax evasion.  The New York State Attorney General investigated and notified the Trump Foundation that it was in violation of New York laws regarding charities, ordered it to immediately cease its fundraising activities in New York, and banned the entire family from charitable operations for life.  (Wikipedia)
            Trump Shuttle airline, launched in June 1989, was never profitable, and ceased to exist in April 1992, leaving Trump owing between $25 and $35 million.
            A story in the Times punctured the mythology surrounding Trump's business career.  Based on Internal Revenue Service transcripts of Trump’s tax returns from 1985 to 1994, his core businesses racked up losses of more than $1 billion in a ten-year period.  During 1990 and 1991, the story said, Trump’s losses were so large that they “were more than double those of the nearest taxpayers in the I.R.S. information for those years”. (New Yorker May 10, 2019)
            Trump filed bankruptcy six times on over-leveraged hotel and casino businesses in Atlantic City and New York: Trump Taj Mahal (1991), Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino (1992), Plaza Hotel (1992), Trump Castle Hotel and Casino (1992), Trump Hotels and Casino Resorts (2004), Trump Entertainment Resorts (2009). (Wikipedia)     
            Trump has a history of stiffing contractors, creditors and partners, tying them up in expensive lawsuits rather than dealing honestly.  In 2004, Trump asked for $500 million from Deutsche Bank, the only bank still willing to lend to him, to build a skyscraper in Chicago.  Deutsche Bank determined that Trump was massively inflating his assets, telling them his net worth was about $3 billion, when he was actually worth $788 million.  One of their senior investment bankers cautioned that Mr. Trump should be avoided because he worked with people connected to organized crime.  Nevertheless, the bank made the loan.  Shortly before the bulk of the loan was due in November 2008, Trump sued the bank to avoid repayment, demanding $3 billion in damages.  Despite this, Deutsche Bank has made further loans to Trump totaling $2 billion, allegedly laundering Russian mob money, the subject of one of the lawsuits the Supreme Court recently decided against Trump.
            Trump Steaks, launched in May, 2007, folded two months later. 
            Trump University ran a real estate training program from 2005 until 2010.  New York State authorities declared the use of the word "university" violated state law, and Trump failed to obtain a business license.  In 2013 the state of New York filed a $40 million civil suit claiming that Trump University made false claims and defrauded its students.  In November 2016, Trump paid $25 million to settle the cases. (Wikipedia)
            Trumps' niece, Mary Trump, recently published "Too Much And Never Enough", describing Trump's chronic lying and cheating, including the alleged defrauding of US taxes when the estate of Fred Trump Sr., who died in 1999, was devalued from almost $1 billion to $30 million, cheating Mary out of her share of the estate.
            Trump is a businessman as a gangster is a businessman, without ethics or regard for the rule of law.  He has corrupted or bankrupted every business he has touched, and he's doing that same to America. 

Sunday, July 12, 2020

Compassion Is An Experience

                                                                                                    written 5 July 2020
                                                                                              published 12 July 2020

            Humanity is in the middle of an evolution of consciousness, awakening from our illusion of separation, making an unprecedented dimensional shift, from racism to equality, patriarchy to co-creation, duality to unity.  
            "The Alphabet Versus The Goddess", by Leonard Shlain, gives a good explanation of how we became locked into the myth of separation.  The two hemispheres of the human brain process information differently.  The left half is a difference engine, working like a serial processor, where sequence and distinction of differences define perspective.  Logic, thought, and the story of individual self, reside in the left brain.  The right half is a synthesizer, working like a parallel processor, evaluating multiple inputs simultaneously.  Visual, audio, and a sense of the whole, are perceived in the right brain.  
            Shlain suggests that the rise of alphabetic literacy, over 3500 years ago, created a preference for left brain perception of the world, overshadowing the value of right brain perspective.  An alphabet is entirely symbolic, where the shapes have no relationship to meaning.  Letter and word sequence are critical to meaning and a reversal of elements changes the meaning completely.  Sequence and symbols are processed in the left brain.
            The development of alphabets was a powerful tool for communication across space and time.  But increased alphabetic literacy coincided with the rise in nation state domination, misogyny, and the assault on nature and nature religions.  Human culture has been increasingly distorted by the preference of the left brain perception of separation.  This accelerated with the development of the printing press 550 years ago, dramatically increasing literacy.  The industrial revolution amplified this cultural imbalance to a global scale, producing the current suicidal economy which believes killing people and the planet for profit makes sense.
            Moving forward by walking requires movement from first one side and then the other.  Progress in consciousness demands similar balancing movements.  The major religions arising in the last 2500 years all point to a need to expand beyond the left brain egoic self to include the right brain experience of the whole.  Shlain suggests this has been accelerated by recent technological developments, starting with photography over 200 years ago, then radio, and now video over the internet, allowing increased communication by the right brain processes.  The net result is an expansion of compassion and awareness of our fundamental interconnection.
            The two most widely reproduced photos are a picture of a nuclear mushroom cloud, and the picture of the Earth taken from the moon in 1968 on Apollo 8, both engendering an awareness of global unity and common fate.
            In 1955, Emmett Till, a 14 year old black boy, was beaten to death in Chicago for allegedly flirting with a white woman.  His mother demanded the funeral proceed with an open casket, to show what had been done to her son.  The wide spread newspaper publication of those photographs helped expand the growing civil rights movement at the time.
            In 2004, American service men torturing Iraqis at Abu Ghraib prison, proudly took souvenir photos with their cell phones, which one shared with his father, who was so disgusted, he shared them with the world.  Much of America had the same reaction of disgust, and our national policies changed.
            The cell phone video of the casual murder of George Floyd went viral on the internet, with global reaction.  No dialogue was required, just witnessing the actual event as it unfolded brought the experience into people's hearts.   
            Compassion is an experience, and once felt, it is difficult to ignore.  Humans are hard wired for the right brain qualities of empathy and compassion.  In the last decade, medical science has discovered mirror neurons, which fire both when we act and when we observe the same action performed by another.  They activate when we witness other people's actions and emotions, thus "mirrors" the behavior of the other, as though the observer were itself acting.  They play an important role in feelings of empathy and compassion (Wikipedia).
            Compassion is our human birthright, despite the fact that our society devalues those feelings.  The gross failings of our current culture blaze across the daily news.  The only true thing about the past is that it is no longer here.  Compassion must be our guide to creating a better world.

Sunday, July 5, 2020

Two Month Check In

                                                                                                    written 28 June 2020
                                                                                                   published 5 July 2020

            When the economy began reopening on 1 May, US Covid-19 case count stood at 1,091,038, with 57,266 dead (source: worldometer).   One month later, the case count had risen to 1,828,784, with 105,926 dead.  As I write this on 28 June, the case count is 2,5615,703, with 128,237 dead.  We are still number one in the world.
            The 7-day running average of daily cases dropped from 29,459 on 1 May to 20,903 on 27 May, mostly because of a steep drop in cases in the New York metro area.  But daily case count average began increasing again as the virus spread into other areas of the country, today hitting an all-time record of 38,811.  The running average of deaths per day, which tends to lag new cases by several weeks, trended down from 1800 the beginning of May to a low of 578 on 25 June, but today has risen to 873.
            Since economic reopening began, US deaths per capita have increased 95%, with only 15 states (2/3 Democratically controlled) posting a lower rate of increase.  Seventeen states (2/3 Republican controlled) have a per capita death rate increase twice the national average, and five have increased more than 3 times as fast: Arizona, Iowa, New Hampshire, New Mexico, and South Dakota.
            California's primary hot spot is Los Angeles county, with 46% of the state's cases, and the 10 southern counties together account for 78%.  In Mendocino county, cases have risen from 12 on 1 May, to 30 on 1 June, and today reached 76, a 250% increase each month.  This rate of increase is expected to grow as the tourist economy opens further.  No one has died to date, but community transmission is already in the Ukiah valley.  
            As much as Republicans would like to believe that the virus is diminishing, or that testing creates more cases, the reality is growing worse in a majority of states.  In hot spots around the nation, out of control infection growth is causing hospitals to sound the alarm as they hit capacity and staff fatigue, just like we saw in New York and Italy months ago.  Republican governors in Arizona, Florida, and Texas are beginning to admit they have a problem.  Some states are partially reclosing, or pausing plans for further opening of their economy.  
            Having reduced infection in their area, New York, New Jersey and Connecticut announced a 14-day quarantine on people traveling from states with out of control infection, defined as greater than 10% positive test rates: Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, North and South Carolina, Texas, Utah, and Washington.  The European Union is considering a quarantine on anyone traveling from the US, Brazil, or Russia, where infections rage unabated, due to failed leadership.
           Because Trump did not create the virus crisis, he can't spin it to his advantage, therefore, he pretends it doesn't exist.  Control of Covid briefings was taken away from the CDC, and then canceled for weeks.  His recent pep rallies, hosted in the middle of Covid hot spots, packed people inside with no social distancing or masks.  At his Tulsa rally, he declared testing created too many cases, and directed his staff to slow down testing, despite all medical advice to the contrary.  Over $14B of Congressionally approved funds for testing has yet to be distributed.  Trump planned to cut testing in Colorado, Illinois, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Texas, but political backlash from the recent spikes forced a change. 
            If a person's actions cause the death of another, it is involuntary manslaughter: a felony.  Anyone enabling such actions is also guilty.  For intentional actions, the penalties increase.  Trump is probably not intentionally trying to kill people: his personality disorder seems to preclude him from believing anyone other than himself is actually real.  However, the Republican "leaders" keeping him in place are not so stunted, and must accept responsibility for continuing to allow his destruction of our country.  At the very least, they should all be voted out of office.
            In 2016, Trump proved he can con all Republicans some of the time.  His dedicated core shows he can con some Republicans all of the time.  As the virus eats into the heartland, we will see if he can continue to con all Republicans all of the time.