Wednesday, October 20, 2021

The Accidentally-on-Purpose Broken Supply Chain

Sec. of Transportation Pete Buttigieg*
This morning a couple of news stories pulled together for me what might underlie our growing supply shortages. One story described the chaos in a California port city, where shipping containers, now being unloaded from ships on a 24-hour schedule thanks to the resourceful Biden Administration's plan. They were then being parked on residential streets after being emptied since the trucking company had no more room on its lot for the empty containers.

The article from Breitbart quoted Pete Buttigieg, who's just getting back to work after a long paternity leave. Two things our Secretary of Transportation said raised crimson flags for me, as he tried to explain why things were such a gosh-darn tangle right now:

"There are so many pieces to the supply chain, and most of them are in private hands." Pause. The only word missing from that sentence is unfortunately, but it is implied. Would shipping and delivery work a lot better if the government ran it? Maybe Pete and his colleagues are angling to solve our supply chain woes by the sure remedy of sovietizing the complex business of getting product to market. 

He continued: "The Administration can act as an honest broker, and that's what we're doing . . . . There are $17 billion in port improvements in the President's infrastructure bill, and they're urgently needed."

Bingo. So pass that (grotesquely inflated) infrastructure bill if you want to see this supply situation get any better! is what he's saying. I see Pete has this nailed down.

Then I looked at a Fox News story that gave us man-on-the-street reactions, from a Costco parking lot, to half-empty grocery shelves and distinctly higher prices that these shoppers were seeing. One was a man who ran a grocery store himself. Unable to get product delivered to his store (he felt the supplies are going primarily to the very large retailers), he was buying cartfuls of groceries in an effort to stock his own store's shelves, while having to raise his prices 10 to 20 percent.

If the small merchant was not run out of business by a prolonged Covid lockdown, he now struggles with an embarrassingly small inventory and sharply higher prices for his customers; not to mention being understaffed due to the mad labor shortage. This is not a prescription for success in the retail world.

So if any of us suspected that the lockdowns unfairly targeted small businesses (I do), the current supply chain fiasco is dealing them another mighty blow. Debacles at this level are almost never accidental--to wit, the Afghanistan withdrawal. 

Of course, none of these things are really a problem if we just, as the Administration advises us, lower our expectations. But how low do we have to go, Joe? I'm sure he is going to show us.

Update 10-21-2021: We must spread the credit where due for today's shipping troubles. The World Bank and IHS Markit, in their ranking for efficiency of more than 300 ports around the globe, put the L.A. and Long Beach ports near the bottom. Also, California's Assembly Bill 5 (AB 5) has been credited with throwing that state's trucking operations into tumult since 2020. Port operations, of course, rely heavily on the truckers who take the products away, making room for more unloading.   


*Photo credit: Reuters/Carlo Allegri




Saturday, October 9, 2021

Please Wear a Mask in the Living Room

Legendary Okefenokee Swamp
My husband and I just came back from a brief getaway to the Okefenokee Swamp in Georgia. I've always wanted to see that legendary wetland. We had reservations for the night at a charming bed and breakfast nearby but were surprised, when we arrived, to be greeted by the proprietor in a mask. His wife soon joined us, also in a mask. Oh yeah, I remembered, we're not in Florida any more.

Our hosts seemed a little nervous as they welcomed us to their B&B, and at the end of a brief tour of the home, the husband mentioned that when we use the common areas, that is, the living room (the only room in the inn with a television, by the way), we will need to wear a mask. "Oh," I laughed, "we'll be in our room. Once you read the scientific reports on masks, you won't want to wear one again." He chuckled in a puzzled way but asked no questions. 

We carried in our slight luggage wondering how intelligent, competent people at this point can still think that wearing cloth masks makes any difference in the battle against the virus. We ran into this delusion again when we visited the main visitors center at the swamp, which is run primarily by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife folks. Feds, that is. Here again we had to don the useless face gear to explore their exhibits, look around the little gift shop, and book a boat tour of the swamp.

We enjoyed getting to know the blackwater swamp, though, and the small neighboring town of Folkston. (Supper in the local fried chicken diner gave us a good meal and a comfortable feeling of life in a smaller place, where everyone who walked in greeted people they knew and entered into animated conversations about shared interests and enterprises.) 

By Georgia's famous Folkston Funnel tracks
Then there were the long freight trains that sang to us in our bed, not too loudly, as they rolled through the dark town. 

We headed home to the Sunshine State the next day and were again grateful for living here, where rules and regulations involve more common sense than in most of the country, especially when it comes to the virus.

There's no doubt that many people everywhere are still afraid of the virus and will follow disproven protocols "just to be safe," as they tell me. When will all of this pretending finally end, and people be able to look reality in the eye and say what's true about the virus and what measures work and which absolutely do not? We continue to wait, taking some comfort in such things as the magnificent and timeless Okefenokee Swamp and the dutiful trains that continue to run through Folkston, Georgia, taking things where they need to go.

Friday, August 27, 2021

Shhh! The FBI Report Came Out

While the Taliban's dizzying advance upon Kabul dominated the news last weekend, the FBI quietly released the results of their investigation into the January 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol. They were largely hunting for evidence that this had been a planned, coordinated attack on the Capital by far-right groups, with the goal of overturning the 2020 election results or otherwise taking control of the U.S. Government. 

 What did they discover? The FBI "at this point believes the violence was not centrally coordinated" and found "no evidence that [President Trump] or people directly around him were involved."

To quote the Reuters report:

"Ninety to ninety-five percent of these are one-off cases," said a former senior law enforcement official with knowledge of the investigation. "Then you have five percent, maybe, of these militia groups that were more closely organized. But there was no grand scheme with Roger Stone and Alex Jones and all of these people to storm the Capitol and take hostages."

So much for the loud cries of Insurrection! and Domestic Terrorism! that have been flung by authorities, politicians, and rank and file liberals at all those who were peacefully present near the Capitol on that date or anyone who questioned the validity of the highly questionable election results that put Joe Biden in office. 

This report will be a blow to Democrats, for whom characterizing that event as an unprecedented act of terrorism by Trump supporters was key to painting their opposition as a dangerous force that must be put down by any means necessary. After the event, this alleged crisis justified erecting fencing and posting a large military force outside the Capitol building to protect it from the imaginary mob to come, as well as deplatforming and censoring conservative voices on the Internet--including former President Trump himself--that mentioned election fraud or any number of topics that got stamped as "misinformation." After all, this was war. The nation was at stake! 

William Moloney, writing for The Hill, provided an insightful analysis of the impact of the FBI report. He raises a question about the many Americans arrested in connection with January 6, still waiting for a trial. Why is that? Is the prosecution uncomfortable with what would come out at a trial, such as evidence of culpability but not on the part of defendants?

If such evidence does indeed emerge and make clear the events of that day, in contrast to the broadcast narrative, I wonder how much news coverage it will get. Probably no more than the FBI report got, a mere whisper beneath the booming cannons of the latest calamity.

Monday, August 23, 2021

Covid: Prevent It or Treat It?

Update 8/27/2021: A study just released in Israel demonstrates the huge advantage people have who have recovered from Covid versus those who have been vaccinated, in terms of resisting new infection. This is another argument for putting energy into properly treating Covid patients rather than trying to inoculate everyone. Study details are here. 

New waves of fear are sweeping the country over the rising number of positive Covid tests. (Note that I did not say "cases" since that word has in the past always meant actual sick people and still should.)

These rising numbers have propelled a variety of governors, medical professionals, and our own family members to urge us to, for heaven's sake, get the shot. Putting the vaccine into the arms of every citizen is our only hope! they cry.

But is it? An article today in the Epoch Times reveals that in Israel more than half of current Covid hospital patients were fully vaccinated. Indeed, Israel has one of the highest vaccination rates in the world (around 78 percent), but is suffering mightily in this latest wave.

And here in Florida, the data graphs from our own Department of Health seem to give the lie to the "more vaccinating, less Covid" mantra (see those graphs here and go to "Weekly Florida Covid-19 Data").

It is also instructive to look at Florida's Covid mortality numbers. These show a roughly 6-month pattern in the virus fatality spikes. For the current spike, many will point to the arrival of the Delta variant for explanation. I wonder.*

 But let's suppose the Delta variant is driving more infection, which in turn is sending more people to the hospitals and even to their deaths. It's an established fact that viruses mutate. How many variants of Covid-19 will we be faced with? How can we possibly keep up with the vaccine development needed for the variants to come? 

On the other hand, we could focus on treatment. Instead of trying to inject a controversial serum into everyone's arm, even those who are unwilling, we could use known therapies to treat patients with Covid. Most of these proven approaches have been forcefully repressed (hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin) to the point that doctors do not dare prescribe them for fear of losing their jobs. Aggressive vitamin mixtures have also seen good results. However, since these do not appear in the CDC's official protocol for treating in-hospital Covid patients, they are not being used. This defies all medical sense and even simple logic, but we have seen such unexplainable behavior a lot during the course of this pandemic.

My advice: Know what your choices are should you fall ill with this virus, and stand your ground. Here is a revealing account of one woman's effort to get her husband effective treatment for what a hospital labeled "Covid pneumonia," and how she succeeded--to the hospital staff's great surprise.

And there are resources and more information at: America's Frontline Doctors. 


*Note: Florida is making available monoclonal antibody treatments for people at high risk who have contracted Covid or been exposed to it. More info here.

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Report from Italy

At a sandwich shop recently, I approached a customer in a well-fitting athletic outfit. I had overheard him mention that he was from Italy. I wanted to know a little about whether Italy was really open to travelers now since my son wants to go there in September to see a specialist for some back problems.

The man--we'll call him Paolo--was in his 40s, I'd say, a strapping fellow with a winning smile and an eagerness to talk about his home country. Yes, he said, your son could go there for medical care, but he will need to take PCR tests. And there are some curfews.
He then shared with us details on the situation in Italy. He himself had just moved his business (he is a biologist) from Italy to Florida. He declared that the whole virus panic was "bulls---" and was done to advance the agenda of socialism. He agreed that it had nothing to do with science and pointed to the deliberate suppression of known medicines that could have treated coronavirus patients.
Paolo said the situation in Italy is much worse than we know. People, especially journalists and lawyers whom he knows, are scared. They are afraid that what they write, or whom they choose to defend in court, will land them in jail. They are afraid that if they wait much longer their passports may be taken from them and they will not be able to leave Italy. So, many are making the move to the U.S., especially to Florida, now. (This description immediately reminded us of the terrible decisions good people in Germany had to make in the 1930s.)
He said that he believes the government is heading toward declaring another lockdown this summer on any pretext and believes it is all engineered to bring about socialism across Europe. I said we had similar problems here in the U.S. with the current Administration, but he replied, looking at me solemnly, "In Italy it is much worse. All of Europe is almost lost." He mentioned Spain in particular, and how there is still a strong fascist vein that runs through the country. He said that policemen there had struck women, even older ones, whom they found not wearing masks, and bystanders applauded. 
We thanked him for the conversation, welcomed him to America, and after a handshake, left him on the bench outside the shop to continue studying his Florida driver's manual.
I had not heard this level of detail even in alternative news sources, and I walked to the car more shaken than ever.