Friday, October 23, 2020

Joe Biden for President

In some of the 11 times I have been franchised to contribute, my decision of who to support for the next elected President of the United States has been close.  I have chosen two from small fringe parties, and three apiece from Democrats, Republicans, and Libertarians.  My 2012 judgment was particularly marginal, and I picked Barack Obama over Mitt Romney with two days to spare.  In 1980, 1984, and 2008, though, I had decided months before, choosing and publicizing my favoring of Ed Clark, Ronald Reagan, and Obama. 

This year fits with those three. 

During my life, 12 people have occupied this office.  I have disliked almost all at one point or another, but only three of the first 11 – Richard Nixon, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush – have consistently given me that reaction. 

The twelfth has been in a class by himself.  Donald Trump has been catastrophically reprehensible.

There is no mitigating what Trump has said, done, and failed to do during his 45 months in office.  There are no reasonable comparisons to previous presidents, even to Nixon who resigned in disgrace or Clinton who lied under oath to a grand jury. 

I will not attempt to document everything despicable and inappropriate he has perpetrated, as others have already done fine jobs of that.  For example, the October 18th New York Times Editorial Board issued a ten-page section titled “The Case Against Donald Trump.”  Even factoring out some complaints I consider weak or invalid, they documented an Everest-sized mountain of misdeeds, calling him at length on “his unapologetic corruption,” “his demagogy,” “his incompetent statesmanship,” and “his super-spreader (Covid-19) agenda.”  The section’s opening article, “A Man Unworthy of the Office He Holds,” subheaded by “Donald Trump can’t solve the nation’s most pressing problems because he is the nation’s most pressing problem,” started with “Donald Trump’s re-election campaign poses the greatest threat to American democracy since the Second World War,” and, from there, charged him with having “governed on behalf of the wealthy,” having “strained longstanding alliances while embracing dictators like Kim Jong-un and Vladimir Putin,” having “pitted Americans against one another” and having “flouted the rule of law.” He was impeached, unsuccessfully, for “high crimes and misdemeanors.”  His vile verbal style has embarrassed the country internally and worldwide.  He has shown himself to be unprincipled, with his greatest emphasis on helping himself.  The more information we have received about his business success, the weaker it has seemed, and now looks truly lacking.  And, more than anything else, his steady stream of lies, among over 20,000 overall, about the seriousness of the coronavirus pandemic, and his failure to take earlier and more measures to protect American public health, has given him real culpability for the 221,000 national covid-19 deaths, 8.3 million cases, and resultant astronomical private and public expenses.  Overall, with few if any significant accomplishments to put against these, Donald Trump has been virtually exclusively destructive.

Yet, as of Wednesday evening, the odds against reelection were only 71 to 40.  How do Trump’s tens of millions of expected voters justify their choice?  Mostly it is symbolic – he represents opposition to the political establishment, to political correctness, to the real or imagined problems caused by immigrants, and to scary national change in general.  As George Will put it, he is a weak man’s idea of what a strong man is like.  Otherwise, his supporters are likely to believe various conspiracy theories, that Biden would install “socialism” (in other words, more adversity benefits than they would prefer), that he has prevented bad things other than those he has done himself from happening, and that nobody else could have bettered his pandemic performance.  Some believe he has, despite data to the contrary, created jobs or helped the economy.  He gets much support from the richest, who hope his policies will help them as well as himself.  Their case is so weak that about 95% of newspaper endorsements, including those from conservative editorial staffs (maybe since he is not a conservative), have gone against him.

I have no expectations that Joe Biden would be a great president.  I do think that he would be good enough to reassure Americans and others that this country is on the way back, as Gerald Ford did so well after Nixon.  Given where we are, that is solidly enough reason to support him.  After the initial recovery, we can rediscover reasonable issue identification, debate, and resolution.  As for additional candidates, they have not only been invisible this time but, for people in states with uncertain electoral outcomes, this is not the year to consider them.  While I encourage all allowed people to vote on or before November 3rd, the choice has never, during my lifetime, been this clear-cut.

Royal Flush Press endorses Joe Biden for president.

Friday, October 16, 2020

Covid-19: Our Situation Evolves – Part 2

 We start with a grim milestone, per Richard Perez-Pena in the September 28th New York Times: “Coronavirus Deaths Pass One Million Worldwide.”  It’s “still growing fast,” and “may already have overtaken tuberculosis and hepatitis as the world’s deadliest infectious disease.”  That took ten months from the pandemic’s very beginning – how long will it be until it doubles?

Citing someone who probably didn’t expect to be discredited by the presidential administration which hired him, “Dr. Anthony Fauci assures Americans they can trust credibility of COVID-19 vaccine process” (Shawn Mulcahy, Yahoo News, October 2nd).  Fauci didn’t like that “so many people are reticent to get a vaccine,” due to “mixed messages that come out of Washington,” and, per unnamed “experts” Mulcahy invoked, “it likely will not be widely available until late 2021.”  It’s been a slow month or so for specific publicized progress steps there, but the vaccine process, before then, seemed on track for sooner.  Leah Groth referenced the same subject in “Dr. Fauci Predicts When Life Will Be ‘Normal’ Again,” in the same publication a day later, where the physician projected that “masks and social distancing are going to be the norm for over a year at least.” 

Our perception of how the virus is most likely to spread has changed since March’s emphasis on frequent handwashing and avoiding touching surfaces, but since then we have learned that these are low priority.  In The Atlantic on September 29th, Zeynep Tufecki took that further in “This Overlooked Variable Is the Key to the Pandemic.”  The author’s rambling 13-page article focused on a scientific finding that “this is an overdispersed pathogen, meaning that it tends to spread in clusters.”  That seemed to translate into avoiding crowded indoor gatherings with poor ventilation “where many people congregate over time – weddings, churches, choirs, gyms, funerals, restaurants and such – especially when there is loud talking or singing without masks.”  The worst known event to date was in a large Korean church, where one person spread the coronavirus to 5,000 others.  That may explain why outdoor events, such as the Sturgis motorcycle festival, have not caused huge numbers of cases.  If it is, indeed, 2022 before we can lose the masks, we may be able to accept seeing more and more people, if we are outdoors.

With the holidays coming up, we would all like to know “How to Tell If Socializing Indoors Is Safe” (Olga Khazan, The Atlantic, October 12th).  The author maintained that such get-togethers, although “no indoor gathering will be perfectly safe,” are much less dangerous in areas with low infection rates, which might be defined as fewer than 10 new cases per day per 100,000 population.  Although Khazan called such data “not widely known,” it is updated daily by county on the front page of the New York Times website, under “U.S. hot spots.”  That also should become more common working knowledge in the potentially bleak year to come.

We end with good news, addressing an ongoing concern peaking recently: “Coronavirus Reinfections Are Real but Very, Very Rare” (Apoorva Mandavilli, October 13th, The New York Times). There are only three such confirmed and 20 such review-awaiting cases in the world, and per article subheads, “in most people, the immune system works as expected,” and “a resurgence of symptoms doesn’t prove reinfection.”  So, although there is plenty to be concerned about with this pandemic, don’t bother about that – once, which is plenty enough, seems to almost always be the limit.  And, as well, “vaccines may be crucial to preventing reinfections.”  We will wait patiently and hope those materialize relatively soon.

Friday, October 9, 2020

Covid-19: Our Situation Evolves – Part 1

 We are still completely into the pandemic.  Here is yesterday morning’s New York Times view of how new cases are concentrated in the US, with the brightest red areas having over 56 per day per 100,000 population:

Nationally, the 7-day average, since bottoming out at September 13th’s 35,073, has increased nearly daily to Wednesday’s 45,660.  Deaths, though, have been drifting down, from 734 to 700.  Wisconsin north of Milwaukee, in and around quality-of-life-survey-winning cities such as Appleton and Green Bay, is a strange place to be getting the worst of it – perhaps this is related to binge drinking and per-capita alcohol consumption.  While most of the rest of the country has gone up and down, the Northeast, where people have consistently worn masks and practiced social distancing and leadership has been quicker to pull back on allowed gatherings when outbreaks pop up, has mostly maintained light colors since April. 

At the same time, new infections worldwide have increased almost day-by-day since the pandemic began, with September 13th and October 7th 271,765 and 312,534 7-day averages.  They have been high in some surprising places, as here with dark red showing places with 14 per 100,000, some of which imply the danger of slacking off:


What other issues are getting attention?

In case anyone has wondered why this headline has faded away, “The Sturgis Biker Rally Did Not Cause 266,796 Cases of COVID-19” (Jennifer Beam Dowd, Slate, September 10th).  Dowd found faulty reasoning causing that early September conclusion, corroborated, as we will see, indirectly by others. 

The New York Times Editorial Board finally addressed our absent governmental agency on September 14th in “Under Trump, OSHA’s Covid-19 Response Is Failing Workers.”  The piece noted that meat processing facilities, in two of which 12 workers died of the infection early, were given small fines, one less than $4,000 per dead employee, and OSHA “has issued only general guidelines based on C.D.C. recommendations that were never mandatory,” neutralizing its mission of keeping workplaces safe.  That same day, that publication released Donald G. McNeil Jr.’s “Gates Offers Grim Global Health Report, and Some Optimism.”  The subject, Bill of course, advocated $4 billion in American aid to poorer countries for the vaccine we hope to get soon, which may seem large to some but is much smaller than George W. Bush’s 2003 $15 billion on AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis. 

The disheartening opinion piece, “Stop Expecting Life to Go Back to Normal Next Year,” by Aaron E. Carroll, appeared September 15th, also in the Times.  Per Carroll, our impatience, both in our national disposition and in our executive branch, has given us “unrealistic optimism,” overestimation of “what a vaccine might do,” and once that drug arrives Americans “will throw themselves back into more normal activities,” which “could lead to big outbreaks, just as winter hits at its hardest.”  He projected the first half of 2021 to require much the same restrictions as now, and reminded us, once more, that “this is a marathon, not a sprint.”  In the meantime, also on September 15th, we expect “South Korea to provide coronavirus vaccines for 60% of population:  report” (Kayla Rivas, Fox News), helped not only by its high national cohesion but its compact, urbanized population.  Seven days later, Peter Doshl and Eric Topol, professors in medicine and pharmacy, doubted vaccine research methods in The New York Times’s “These Coronavirus Trials Don’t Answer the One Question We Need to Know,” namely, if the product will “prevent moderate or severe cases.”  I hope these companies are more aware of that problem then the authors suspect.

Finally for this week we have Sarah Zhang’s “Vaccine Chaos Is Looming,” in the September 27th Atlantic.  Here we get into the same problem I documented several weeks ago, about American will to successfully complete large complicated projects.  Our infrastructure is world-class, there is an ample supply of available skilled workers, we have vehicles galore, our management and organization are well-established, and we know how high the priority is and must be, so why do we need to worry that “millions of doses must travel hundreds of miles from manufacturers to hospitals, doctor’s offices and pharmacies, which in turn must store, track, and eventually get the vaccines to people all across the country”?  Are we wondering if we can complete, per a cited source, “the largest, most complex vaccination program ever attempted in history,” even if “the vaccines are too precious to risk shipping conventionally”?  Can we fix problems such as “Medicare doesn’t cover the costs of emergency-use drugs”?  Do we have what it takes?  If not, why not? 

More next week. 

Friday, October 2, 2020

September’s Economic Data: Unemployment Down to 7.9% with AJSN Showing Latent Demand for 1.3 Million Fewer Jobs, Both Good Numbers with Coronavirus Cases Declining

In some ways, today’s Bureau of Labor Statistics Employment Situation Summary may seem disappointing.  The number of net new nonfarm positions, at 661,000, missed its 850,000 published projection.  Seasonally adjusted unemployment fell only 0.5%.  The labor force participation rate, now 61.4%, dropped for the first time since April, and the employment-population ratio improved only 0.1% to 56.6%.  Average hourly private nonfarm payroll earnings held at $29.47, meaning that those with lower pay rates have generally not been those returning to work, and the number of people jobless for 27 weeks or longer, now including those from the pandemic’s beginning, jumped 800,000 to 2.4 million. 

However, one thing was excellent.  The 7-day weighted average of new daily Covid-19 cases fell, from August 16th to September 16th, from 51,603 to 39,964, over 24%.  That means those 661,000 positions were not gained by tolerating more infections.  Other positive outcomes included unadjusted unemployment, down 0.8% to 7.7% (more than the adjusted rate improved, since many go back to work in September), the count of jobless down 1,000,000 to 12.6 million, those on temporary layoff diving from 6.2 million to 4.6 million, and the number working part-time for economic reasons, or looking thus far unsuccessfully for full-time work while keeping some with shorter hours, off 1.3 million to 6.3 million.

The American Job Shortage Number or AJSN, the metric showing how many additional positions could be quickly filled if all knew they were generally easy to get, while 7.8 million higher than a year before, improved substantially to the following:

Almost all the AJSN’s 1.3 million improvement came from lower official unemployment.  The counts of those marginally attached to the labor force, in the second through seventh rows above, fell only about 100,000, the least progress in five months.  The share of the AJSN from those officially jobless is again under 50% at 48.1%.  The AJSN is now 11.3 million below its April pandemic high, over halfway to its best early 2020 result.

What should we make of this morning’s findings?  People seem to be adjusting to the pandemic, including leaving the labor force – over 1.2 million more reported no interest in working than in August – or staying on its edges, if they are not optimistic about their working prospects.  That means the unemployment rates understate more than usual.  But even if we factor them up, we are left with a good jobs gain combined with real coronavirus progress.  That is the combination we need, even if it is slower than we might hope for.  The turtle, then, took another solid step forward.

Friday, September 25, 2020

The American Economy, As It Stands and May Soon Be

This month, we have seen a lot of updates on how business and personal prosperity are doing, along with their immediate prospects.  How does it look?

“A Top Fed Official Warns That Economic Risks Aren’t Over,” by Jeanna Smialek in the September 1st New York Times, related that Federal Reserve governor Lael Brainard claimed “a lot of uncertainty” and that “downside risks continue to be important,” disagreeing that we have already seen the worst from the pandemic.  It also included the information that the Fed, sensibly, “will now aim for 2 percent inflation over time, instead of as a more or less absolute goal,” and expects to keep interest rates as is even if it slightly surpasses that mark.  Although money supplies have shot up since March, it is still not circulating enough to cause that problem.  Per a New York Times article by Justin Wolfers the next day, though, “Inflation Is Higher Than the Numbers Say,” as “people are buying more of those goods whose prices are rising the fastest,” online grocery shopping is more expensive, and “the quality of many services has gotten worse,” the latter including, as examples, restaurant meals, college courses, and therapy sessions.  How we measure inflation will, indeed, either need to change or be accepted as being less accurate. 

Yes, “Americans still spending money despite expiration of $600-a-week unemployment aid” (Fox Business, also September 1st), though more than expected.  A J.P. Morgan economist saw little worsening, let alone a disaster.  I think the difference has been in the general attitude toward Covid-19, that more Americans have accepted that our situation will not be changing soon, and so are not waiting to spend until it does.  There are, of course, exceptions galore, but this is encouraging.

On September 7th, also in the Times, Richard V. Reeves and Christopher Pulliam surprised by telling us about “The Tax Cut for the Rich That Democrats Love.”  Three very prominent members of that party want to end the $10,000 deductions cap, which can cost those in the highest income brackets a great deal.  The authors ended by saying that “it is a shame to see Democrats urging a big tax break for the richest, whitest families, which is arguably the very last thing the country needs right now” – except, perhaps, that bigoted attitude.

Two indications that the economy was stronger than we may have thought were the subject of “Median U.S. household income rises 6.8% to $68,700 in 2019, poverty rate falls for fifth year,” by Paul Davidson in the September 15th USA Today.  I like to see medians, which on such numbers these days are especially valuable, but assessing poverty has long been muddled and controversial, as products fall as well as rise in price and some become newly available.  The data’s keeper, the Census Bureau, however found real respondent bias in that those losing their jobs were less likely to participate, which, if such numbers were compiled today, would be much worse.

The clearest statistic yet I have seen showing such charges are unsustainable was that “9 of Every 10 Restaurants and Bars in N. Y. C. Can’t Pay Full Rent” (Mihir Zaveri and Daniel E. Slotnik, The New York Times, September 22nd).  Allowing indoor dining at 25% of capacity, scheduled for next week, won’t help that much, and sky-high Manhattan payments will need to come down.  Property values will also dive, and the city will come under pressure to reduce taxes.  The free market, which caused these amounts of money to be so large, works both ways, and now it has begun to speak loudly. 

An obvious need and an obvious source of revenue became clear in “Gas tax hikes pile up:  States become desperate for road repair revenue as COVID-19 reduces driving,” (Nathan Bomey, USA Today, September 23rd).  Gasoline averaged $2.18 per gallon, or 49 cents lower than a year before, this week, which means higher levies on it will be less painful – some planned or recently implemented are 9.3 cents per gallon more in New Jersey, 5 cents a gallon higher in Virginia, and smaller hikes in Nebraska, California, South Carolina, and Alabama.  An oil analyst claimed that we are now using about 15% less than “normal,” which, if anything, seems high.

In general, “200,000 dead:  COVID-19 is creating ruinous economic damage that will take years to repair” (Paul Brandus, USA Today, September 22nd) is both an accurate headline and a suitable summary.  Among other concerns, we have lower Social Security intake moving its projected trust fund exhaustion date up to 2031, a loss of many workers from the labor force becoming permanent as they will no longer have the skills to be rehired, and mental health problems becoming more common.  These results, “intertwined and destructive,” will end at various times, most long after vaccine distribution.  But our overall charge is clear – to roll with the punches and be as healthy and ready as we can when the economy, and life, moves on.

Friday, September 18, 2020

Autonomous Vehicles Fizzling Out – Why, and What Does That Mean More Generally?

 Aah, for the old days, when the future seemed so bright. 

I’m not talking about just before the pandemic started, though that would qualify too.  I’m talking about the fall of 2017, only three years ago.  Then there was so much news about driverless cars, certain to upend American employment and vastly more, that, so other topics could squeeze in, I needed to put formal limits on how much I would write about.  For example, The New York Times devoted almost an entire Magazine to different aspects of what seemed to be an inexorable mass of social changes, not to mention a total ground transportation makeover – do you remember the picture of the steering wheel moldering in the earth? 

Now, though, progress and milestones here seem to have come to an end.  Published articles are so scarce that I will be going back over four months to get you the latest. 

We begin with “Self-Driving Cars Are Taking Longer to Build Than Everyone Thought,” by Roberto Baldwin, dated May 10th but from the April 2020 issue of Car and Driver.  That publication won’t need to consider any name changes for a while, as “humans take the ability to manage the cognitive load of driving for granted, but building a computer system that can match our abilities is extremely difficult.”  That reminded me of the longstanding lack of automated facial recognition, which ended, though much later than observers around say 1990 thought.  Per Baldwin, “years of research and development are still needed before Level 4 autonomy – in which the car can safely perform all driving tasks but only in limited areas – is accessible to consumers” – in fall 2017, that got a consensus projection of completion by the next year’s Christmas.  Now, such forecasts include Nissan saying “that it’s unlikely to produce self-driving cars before the end of the decade,” and companies are still dealing with a need for common standards, what safety levels consumers will need, and known or feared resistance from the one-off 2018 pedestrian death. 

Soon after, The New York Times published “This Was Supposed to Be the Year Driverless Cars Went Mainstream,” on May 13th by Cade Metz and Erin Griffith.  They reminded us that “tech companies once promised that fully functional, self-driving cars would be on the road by 2020 and on the path to remaking transportation and transforming the economy.”  They blamed the coronavirus for preventing cars from being tested with two drivers, that “start-ups spend $1.6 million a month on average” (that seems, in context, like Puppy Chow to me), and that “bigger companies are hunkering down to wait out the delays,” making it clear that they have other problems – indeed, at least one firm was still struggling with getting vehicles to restart after they waited for traffic to pass, and, in general, “the cars still made mistakes in unexpected ways.”  On the same date the Times also came out with Shira Ovide’s “Where Is My Driverless Car?,” in which she claimed that “the ubiquitous computer-driven car that seemed just around the corner for a decade is now further away than ever,” and blamed mostly technology difficulties. 

One possible semi-solution for driverless technology companies has been, per Baldwin, focusing instead on assistance structures for other vehicles.  However, per “AAA: Partially automated driving systems don’t always work” (Fox Business, August 6th), those aren’t ready either, with AAA researchers finding such technology from five automakers producing “problems every eight miles,” including staying in lanes and avoiding stationary vehicles in their paths.  Overall, “researchers said little had changed from a test of four other vehicles in 2018,” with drivers getting “overly reliant on the technology” offsetting much of its advantage. 

What’s really going on here?  The problems are not financial – there has never been so much excess capital (if you doubt that, look at your bank’s interest rates), and potential profits, during most of our lifetimes, are into the trillions.  The problems are not pandemic-related – for one thing, very well-paid engineers and their families could form pods with others and end the multiple-safety-driver issue.  The problems are not technical – driving is algorithmic, and with continuing intense effort it can be solved.  The problems are not with government regulations or slow federal movement – it’s all in private, generally at least potentially fast-moving hands.  The problems are not excessive complexity – we landed on the moon 51 years ago, with only rudimentary software and project management knowledge.  The problems are certainly not from a lack of use or applications for autonomous vehicles.

The problem is will. 

For whatever reason, Americans no longer have what it takes to complete large technical projects.  It’s an exaggeration to say that over the past 20 years the only trappings of American life which have changed are software and telephones, but not much of one.  Until we understand and fix our will problem, nothing big and good will happen, be it hyperloop or viable supersonic transportation, cures for cancer and other chronic diseases, space settlement and industrialization, or anything else you can think of that has seemed within our grasp for too long.  For now, we can kiss true technological progress, which now slows down or stops progressing when future developments seem too hard, goodbye – in driverless cars and everything else.

Friday, September 11, 2020

The Logistics of the Upcoming Vaccine, and Other Early September Coronavirus Issues and News


It’s been three weeks since I wrote a post dedicated to Covid-19.  The United States has reached a relatively stable point, with the number of cases slowly declining, to a September 9th 7-day rolling average of 36,733.  The hot spots keep changing – here is yesterday’s New York Times map, with red showing counties with 56 or more coronavirus incidences per 100,000 population over the previous 7 days:

First and oldest up is “US stockpiling 3 different types of coronavirus vaccines through ‘Operation Warp Speed’” (Megan Hanney, FOXBusiness, September 2).  The title said it – our government is quickly amassing inventories of vaccines being tested, which cannot be used now but, if the FDA approves any, will provide a running start.  A fine tactic, even if any or all turn out to be worthless. 

Preparation was also the topic of more recent pieces, such as “What We Know About the C.D.C.’s Covid-19 Vaccine Plans,” by Carl Zimmer and Katie Thomas in the September 3rd New York Times.  This three-page primer answered questions we should all have, such as “how do these vaccines work” (by exposing human bodies to weakened or inactivated virus shells or pieces of same so they can learn to resist others), and “who will get it first” (not fully resolved, but probably health-care workers, “essential workers,” and those in the likes of nursing homes), along with a description of Phase 1, 2, and 3 testing.  Some here has been updated below, but it remains a worthy one-source reference.

Next was “’Mind-bogglingly complex’:  Here’s what we know about how Covid-19 vaccine will be distributed when it’s approved” (Elizabeth Weise, USA Today, September 6th).  A Johns Hopkins operations manager, someone who should know, was responsible for the title quotation, but Weise clearly and understandably compressed its subject into four-plus printed pages.  Here we learned that “no one will be charged for the actual dose” (though insurance-plan treatment is not yet established), that “people at high risk for severe disease” may also get high priority, that the Pfizer and Moderna products now “are seen as the front-runners” among American-made efforts, that sites for vaccinations will be approved by the CDC and will order their product from their state governments, how the doses will be handled considering that the two leading contenders must be stored at -4 and -94 degrees Fahrenheit respectively, and even something about the producers’ “specially designed transportation containers.”  Once more we are reassured, by knowing that great effort has put into vaccine logistics and coordination.

Then two days ago came out “SD governor criticizes study suggesting Sturgis bike rally led to 260,000 COVID-19 cases,” by Megan Raposa in USA Today.  The Center for Health Economics and Policy Studies, located at San Diego State University, did that research, concluding that the 462,000 people attending that August event, at which masks and social distancing were far from universal, could have propagated over half a new case per person, resulting in, per another study, a $12.2 billion, or $26,500 per attendee, public health cost.  These estimates were getting heavy criticism yesterday and may change.  As of the latest New York Times data that same day, though, North Dakota had the highest number of new daily per-capita Covid-19 cases of the 50 states, followed by South Dakota.  It is certain that such a huge and arguably imprudent gathering would be bad for the pandemic, regardless of exact or even approximate numbers. 

Also September 9th and in the same publication, by its Editorial Board, came “Rushing coronavirus ‘Holy Grail’ vaccine could turn into a curse.”  It warned of “politics bullying science” being able to “cripple health institutions’ credibility for years” if “Donald Trump’s great bid for redemption after so many coronavirus failures… also fails because of mismanagement.”  Such a reelection-related tactic has at least a real chance of being attempted, and, as this piece warns, cannot be allowed to influence the FDA.  This will remain a polarized controversy, whether we want it to be or not, through at least November 3rd.

Last was one from yesterday, “Pay People to Get Vaccinated” by economics textbook author N. Gregory Mankiw in The New York Times.  From a strictly economic view, Mankiw wrote that, given the disheartening 36% of Republicans and the downright depressing 58% of Democrats saying in an NBC News/Survey Monkey Weekly Tracking Poll that they would “get the vaccine,” and that 70% to 90% of Americans would need it for the country to “develop herd immunity,” it would be worthwhile for our government to offer a monetary incentive, the amount of $1,000 per person suggested by a Brookings Institution economist.  That could be $300 billion, but would be a bargain if it completely ended the pandemic.  More food for thought, and something, as with the above topics, we will hear much more about – I will report it here.