Thursday, December 10



Texas, unhappy that Donald Trump lost the 2020 presidential election, filed a lawsuit with the US Supreme Court demanding that legislatures in four swing states disregard voter wishes and choose another slate of electors. Eighteen other states along with Donald Trump have joined the lawsuit.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton claims the states “exploited the Covid-19 pandemic” and made unconstitutional changes to their laws before the 2020 election.

Paxton who describes the election results as “tainted” holds a tainted background himself – facing charges “that he persuaded investors to buy stock in a technology firm without disclosing that he would be compensated,” reports the Texas Tribune.

The US Supreme Court ordered Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin to respond by 3 pm today. 

Blue punching bag from Walmart; red boxing glove designed by Freepik.

Tuesday, December 8












Donald Trump is expected to sign an executive order to ensure that vaccinating US citizens against Covid-19 takes priority over efforts to assist other countries, including close allies.

Failing to protect foreign workers will fail to protect the United States, a country of immigrants. Even before Covid-19 strained US health care systems, hefty percentages of health are workers were immigrants, reports Migration Information Source.

"Hospitals in at least 25 states are critically short of nurses, doctors, and other staff as coronavirus cases surge across the United States, according to the industry’s trade association and a tally conducted by STAT," reports Olivia Goldhill for STAT. "The situation has gotten so bad that in some places, severely ill patients have been transferred hundreds of miles for an available bed — from Texas to Arizona, and from central Missouri to Iowa."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention developed strategies to mitigate staffing shortages. And with a limited supply, the CDC recommended groups considered for early vaccination:

- health care personnel

- workers in essential and critical industries

- individuals with medical conditions that put them at high risk for Covid-19

- people aged 65 years and older. 

During the summer, the Trump administration arranged for enough vaccine from Pfizer to inoculate 50 million Americans, but declined an offer to reserve additional doses. The company now has commitments to other countries, reports the New York Times. “Any additional doses beyond the 100 million are subject to a separate and mutually-acceptable agreement. The company is not able to comment on any confidential discussions that may be taking place with the U.S. government,” noted a Pfizer statement.

The administration denied the New York Times report.

White House officials described the executive order as a "reaffirmation of the President's commitment to America first," reports CNN. Numerous companies continue to develop vaccines as well.

But as the old saying goes, beggars should not be choosy. Of course, Joe Biden, to be inaugurated as next US president as of January 20, 2021, can write his own executive orders. 

UPDATE: The executive order reads: "To ensure the health and safety of our citizens, to strengthen our economy, and to enhance the security of our Nation, we must ensure that Americans have priority access to COVID-19 vaccines developed in the United States or procured by the United States Government ('United States Government COVID-19 Vaccines')."

 Data source for graph is the Migration Information Source and the photo is from Jae C. Hong of Associated Press.

Wednesday, November 25


Most democratic leaders are wary about prosecuting a predecessor and rightfully so. Such attacks risk appearing politically vindictive and petty as Donald Trump did during the 2016 presidential campaign, when seen beaming as supporters chanted “Lock her up” about his opponent Hilary Clinton. 

Yet some behavior is so egregious and some bad actors are so shameless that prosecution is the only choice for ensuring accountability and discouraging similar behavior among future office holders.  Serving as president should make one “more accountable, not less, to the rule of law,” argues Andrew Weissmann, a member of Robert Mueller’s special counsel investigation of Trump, in an essay for the New York Times.

And some criminal activities are so egregious that other countries might consider charging Trump with human-rights violations and even war crimes. And those serving in his administration and in Congress who went along – continuing to cast doubt on the outcome of the 2020 election, maintaining that Trump was cheated of victory without evidence – are complicit. 

The list of scandals for the Trump administration is long, and accusations represent flagrant violations of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, some of the articles of which follow:  

-    Mishandling the Covid-19 crisis by discouraging wearing of masks and promoting the dubious treatments along with the concept of “herd immunity.” Article 3: “Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.”
-    Separating young children from parents who attempted to cross the border without keeping records to allow for reunification. Article 5: “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”
-    Describing Haiti and African countries as “sh--hole countries.” Article 2: “no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs…”
-   Approving of teargas for peaceful protesters. Article 20: “Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.”
-    Firing inspectors general who were investigating activities of his administration. Article 12: “No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.”
-    Interfering in elections by encouraging foreign interference, disrupting postal operations and disparaging mail ballots during a pandemic. Article 21: “The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedures.”

Almost half of the US electorate supported Trump and these policies. President-elect Joe Biden may not have to waste precious time and energy on such matters if New York pursues cases against Trump. Also, other countries could find Trump guilty of crimes against humanity. “Universal jurisdiction is an international legal concept that allows a national court to investigate and prosecute certain crimes, including crimes against humanity, torture and genocide, even if those crimes weren’t committed within its national territory. It hasn’t been invoked often, but it’s not an impossibility,” explains attorney Carli Pierson for the Independent.

Other politicians may hope to replicate Trump’s behavior and policies to entice his large and energetic base. Swift prosecution may be the only means to stop the lying, name-calling, belligerence and cruelty along with the treacherous rejection of education, science and common sense.

Source of photo: PBS

Friday, November 20











One side interfered in the 2020 presidential election, and it was not Democrats. 

● In April, tens of millions of stimulus checks, bearing Donald Trump’s name, were sent to US citizens, with the Associate Press noting, “It marks the first time a president’s name has appeared on any IRS payments, whether refund checks or other stimulus checks that have been mailed during past economic crises.” A similar ploy was tried with a drug discount card for Medicare recipients, but failed. 

● Louis DeJoy, an expert in supply-chain logistics, took control of the post office in June 2020 even as election officials around the country, in the midst of a pandemic, encouraged voting by mail . Soon afterward, postal employees and customers noticed a marked slowdown in the mail. Fourteen states filed a lawsuit alleging DeJoy misused his authority to aid the reelection of Donald Trump. Federal district judge Stanley Bastian wrote: “At the heart of DeJoy’s and the Postal Service’s actions is voter disenfranchisement.”

● Far-right activists were charged for using robo-calls to target black voters in Michigan, Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York. The calls discouraged voters from registering to vote by mail and giving information to the government that could aid with debt collection or tracking suspects with warrants.

● Election officials in Georgia report that Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina reached out to Georgia’s secretary of state to suggest finding ways to exclude or invalidate absentee ballots that had been legally cast. Graham insists he was worried about the “integrity of the election process nationally” and trying to understand the procedures in multiple states. Richard Painter, chief ethics lawyer for former President George W. Bush noted: “Bottom line, we have a senator calling a key election official in the middle of an election as they're counting the vote – in a state he does not even represent – and apparently making suggestions to toss ballots. I find that to be clear interference in the electoral process and it's troublesome if he's doing it in order to help Trump." Georgia certified its election results today, naming Joe Biden the winner in the presidential race.

●  Joe Biden won Michigan by more than 150,000 votes but some Trump followers hope to undermine that victory by invalidating the votes from Detroit. At least four Michigan lawmakers are meeting with Trump today: Mike Shirkey, leader of the State Senate, and Lee Chatfield, House speaker, along with legislators Tom Barrett and Jason Wentworth. “White House and campaign officials said the president was acting on his own with what amounted to a pressure campaign to meet with lawmakers in the hopes of changing the outcome of the election," reported the New York Times. "But this is fraught with risks for the Michigan Republicans meeting with Mr. Trump because there are other races that were called for Republicans in the state that also have to be certified.” 













Politico suggests that the meeting could be transactional in nature and possibly even an attempt at felony bribery. “Under Michigan law, any member of the Legislature who ‘corruptly’ accepts a promise of some beneficial act in return for exercising his authority in a certain way is ‘forever disqualified to hold any public office’ and ‘shall be guilty of a felony, punishable by imprisonment in the state prison not more than 10 years[.]’”

Losing power is hard, and Donald Trump is a desperate man. He faces criminal and civil probes, and he owes hundreds of millions of dollars: “Virtually all of Donald Trump’s debt - there is at least $1.1bn of it, according to his government financial disclosures and other documents - is backed by real estate, mostly linked to a small number of buildings and golf courses that form the core of the Trump business empire,” reports the Financial Times

Trump has run out of time for using his position to attract attention and leverage, and relies on stooges. The Oxford Languages dictionary defines a stooge as “a person who serves merely to support or assist others, particularly in doing unpleasant work.” 

A toxic boss regularly turns staff and friends into stooges. Researchers and career experts, according to CNBC, points to five warning signs of a toxic boss: poor communication skills, micromanaging, unrealistic expectations, incompetence and arrogance. They take credit for all successes and blame underlings for any failures.

Trump has lost the election but will continue to pull strings, treating Mike Pence, Mike Pompeo, William Barr, Lindsey Graham, Nikki Haley and many other Republicans as his stooges. Republicans should be wary about signing on to do Trump's bidding. The demands will never end, and few come away with their reputations intact.

Source: Photo, Detroit News; toxic boss warning signs, CNBC

Tuesday, November 10


Georgia voters will determine which party controls the US Senate with the possibility of a January 5 run-off election for two Senate seats. Turnout will be key. 

Voters in democratic strongholds were generally more passionate, although Idaho as the exception. Close races in Wisconsin, North Carolina and Michigan demonstrate that every vote counts.

"Though it is poised for a recount, Georgia surprised America and the world when – on the basis of the first count –the Democrats outpolled the Republicans last week," reports the Guardian. "If the result survives the recount then Joe Biden will become the first Democratic presidential candidate to win Georgia in 28 years. He could not have done it without Stacey Abrams.

Georgia's turnout, at 68.1 percent, was above the national average of 66 percent, and an even higher turnout may be required to secure a Democratic victory.   

It's an uphill battle in the race between Republican David Perdue and Democrat Jon Ossoff, who so far took 49.7 and 47.9 percent of the vote, respectively. Ongoing vote tallies or even a recount could put Perdue over the necessary 50 percent. The Libertarian candidate won 2.3 percent, and if a runoff race is required, many of those votes could go to Perdue.  

The race between Democrat Raphael Warnock and Republican Kelly Loeffler is more complicated after receiving 32.9 percent and 25.9 percent of the votes, respectively, according to the most recent results from the Associated Press. Other Democrats in the race took 15.5 percent of the vote, and other Republicans took 23.5 percent - and such votes could be expected to bring Warnock's total to 48.4 percent and Loeffler's to 49.4 percent. Then, add in the 0.3 percent of votes cast for the Green candidate, 0.7 percent for a Libertarian and 1.3 percent for independents. 

Displeased with the tight election results, Loeffler and Purdue have called on Georgia's secretary of state to resign.

Of course, some voters will cross party lines, and others may be unwilling to wait in long lines on January 5. And some new voters could be eager to show up for their chance to influence history.   

Georgia's turnout increased by at least 1 million people since 2016, suggests Michael McDonald who runs the US Elections Project.  

Youth contributed 21 percent of Georgia's votes, an increase from the national average of 17 percent, reports the Center for Information and Research on Civil Learning and Engagement. Young voters and voters of colors tended to cast votes for Biden. reports Time Magazine.

Source for Nov 2020 election turnout data: Statista.

Monday, November 9


History offers a reminder that candidates for the US House of Representatives and the US Senate do not always ride on the coattails of the presidential candidate, and 2020 was no different. 

President-elect Joe Biden handily won the popular vote, yet as was the case for Democratic candidates John F. Kennedy and Bill Clinton and Republican candidates George H.W Bush, George W. Bush and Donald Trump, he lost some seats in the House of Representatives. The exact count is still unknown with not all races yet called.

Biden gained at least one Senate seat, with two more seats yet to be decided in January by voters in Georgia. Democratic candidates Lyndon B. Johnson and Barack Obama along with Republicans Richard Nixon and Ronald Regain also gained seats. Kennedy, Carter, the two Bushes and Trump lost seats.  







Democrats blamed bad polling, the media and extremism among their ranks for the losses. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi disagreed with one congresswoman who called the election a failure: "I do disagree that it was a failure. We won the House. And we won the presidency."

Many voters in Nebraska and Maine split tickets to vote for Biden along with Republican candidates for Senate and the House - a repudiation of Donald Trump.

Friday, November 6


UPDATE: The networks have called the race for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris as of noon November 7.

Leading in the vote counts for Pennsylvania and Georgia, Joe Biden is poised to become the 46th president of the United States. Despite thin margins and three days of counting, with more to come, Biden's vows to restore decency, honor, dignity and personal integrity to the White House should not become an afterthought.

Biden has promised to be a president for all Americans - “I’ll work hard for those who didn’t support me, as hard for them as I did for those who did vote for me. That’s the job of a president” - even as the incumbent increasingly appealed to his narrow base, deriding opponents and suggesting, “Lock them all up.”

The pandemic ensured uncertainty about the outcome, disrupting the 2020 presidential campaign and flipping old stereotypes – as some seniors who long supported Republican candidates gave the nod to Biden while young adults, who once might have voted for Democratic candidates, approved Donald Trump’s rush to open the economy. The true extent might not ever be known because polls failed in providing accurate, meaningful counts.

The Covid-19 pandemic and a devastated economy emerged as leading concerns for voters, two issues that did not have to diverge. Trump's supporters do not see the connections between health and the economy and reject pandemic restrictions as a route to reopening the economy. Trump, by his own words, downplayed the virus early on, repeatedly promising that it would gradually disappear and suggesting the media would stop covering the pandemic once election day had passed. Instead, the country reports more than 100,000 new infections and 1,200 deaths, and the country can expect to endure pain with the approach of winter, as people spend more time indoors and are more susceptible to contagious diseases. The country is, in “a bad place,” warns Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, about the disease that is far more contagious and deadly than the flu.

Despite Biden's win, more than 40 percent of the country fervently supports Trump. Following the president’s lead, his supporters resist wearing masks or avoiding crowds. They mock and even threaten those who aim for caution, rejecting public-health initiatives, including testing and contact tracing, and claim that the media and public health officials have exaggerated the threat. Trump even suggested at one rally that doctors inflate Covid-19 deaths: "You know, our doctors get more money if someone dies of Covid." Earlier this year, media fact-checkers labeled as false reports claiming that Trump had called the pandemic called the pandemic a hoax,” Instead, they explained, the hoax to which Trump referred was media criticism of his handling of the pandemic rather than the virus itself. By October, Trump posted a Tweet, suggesting, “Cases up because we TEST, TEST, TEST. A Fake News Media Conspiracy. Many young people who heal very fast. 99.9%. Corrupt Media conspiracy at all time high.”

Such hair-splitting overshadowed the overriding argument. Trump's comments have motivated his supporters, representing almost half the population, to disregard advice from health experts. Hence, numerous reports emerged of shoppers berating and attacking store staff for asking customers to abide by local health regulations and wear masks. One security guard was even killed. Eventually, the CDC had to balance multiple threats: “The CDC recommended that businesses institute policies such as mask-wearing, social distancing and customer limits but warned that workers could be threatened or assaulted for enforcing them. "

Simply put, half the US population, not to mention millions of onlookers around the globe, struggle to trust the common sense of large numbers of citizens who belittle expertise and science and refuse to treat the pandemic seriously. Individuals worried about the virus must now reconsider going to restaurants, gyms, salons and other service providers with owners who support Trump. Customers cannot help but wonder if financial advisors, car mechanics, construction workers, landscapers, child care workers, accountants, farmers, nurses, physicians and many more – so willing to reject expert advice on the pandemic – also cut corners and cheat on other regulations?

Citizens are paying attention, and some businesses can expect to lose many customers for good.  

Wearing a mask demonstrates not subjugation but respect and common courtesy for others, a willingness to avoid unnecessarily exposing colleagues and strangers alike to a brutal disease that can kill the most vulnerable among us. The divide over Trump versus Biden has not only divided communities but has also broken many friendships and family ties.

From the start, Biden said the campaign was not about winning votes but repairing a nation that has lost its way. “It’s about winning the heart, and yes, the soul of America,” he said, in accepting the Democratic presidential nomination. “Winning it for the generous among us, not the selfish. Winning it for workers who keep this country going, not just the privileged few at the top. Winning it for those communities who have known the injustice of a knee on the neck. For all of the young people who have known only America being a rising inequity and shrinking opportunity. They deserve the experience of America’s promise. They deserve to experience it in full. No generation never knows what history will ask of it. All we can ever know is whether we’re ready when that moment arrives. And now history has delivered us to one of the most difficult moments America’s ever faced.”  

He repeated that sentiment soon after the election as counts continued and signaled victory was within his grasp: "To make progress, we have to stop treating our opponents as enemies. We are not enemies. What brings us together as Americans is so much stronger than anything that can tear us apart. So let me be clear. I, we, are campaigning as a Democrats, but I will govern as an American president." Biden acknowledged the obvious challenges after a heated campaign. 

Yet some issues are too big for compromise, as noted by Abraham Lincoln, in June 1858, when he accepted the Republican nomination to run as the Illinois candidate for the US Senate against Democrat Stephen A. Douglas. Douglas sought compromise on the issue of slavery and, to the alarm of some fellow party members, Lincoln insisted some issues, like slavery, pose moral imperatives. His fiery speech borrowed a phrase from the Bible to reject strategies of unending compromise: 

"Under the operation of that policy, that agitation has not only, not ceased, but has constantly augmented. In my opinion, it will not cease, until a crisis shall have been reached, and passed. 'A house divided against itself cannot stand.' I believe this government cannot endure, permanently half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved - I do not expect the house to fall - but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing or all the other. Either the opponents of slavery, will arrest the further spread of it, and place it where the public mind shall rest in the belief that it is in the course of ultimate extinction; or its advocates will push it forward, till it shall become alike lawful in all the States, old as well as new - North as well as South." 

Lincoln lost that Senate race, but historians later suggested the sentiment of  the "house divided" speech  propelled him to the presidency. In that speech, he pointed out that the Supreme Court would make far-reaching decisions on slavery based on laws:  "We shall lie down pleasantly dreaming that the people of Missouri are on the verge of making their State free; and we shall awake to the reality, instead, that the Supreme Court has made Illinois a slave State. To meet and overthrow the power of that dynasty, is the work now before all those who would prevent that consummation."

Some Americans display similar passion today, ready to fight on some issues, including climate change and abortion. They embrace Lincoln's conclusion: "if we stand firm, we shall not fail. Wise councils may accelerate or mistakes delay it, but, sooner or later the victory is sure to come." 

The nation's divisions today are far more pervasive today than the regional disagreements of the civil war, and cannot be resolved with violent extremism as suggested by Steve Bannon, a former advisors for Trump. He called for the firing of FBI Director Christopher Wray and Dr. Fauci in a YouTube show that has since been removed from the platform: 

“Now I actually want to go a step farther, but I realize the president is a kind-hearted man and a good man. I’d actually like to go back to the old times of Tudor England, I’d put the heads on pikes, right, I’d put them at the two corners of the White House as a warning to federal bureaucrats. You either get with the program or you’re gone – time to stop playing games.... The [American] revolution wasn’t some sort of garden party, right? It was a civil war. It was a civil war.” 

Joe Biden has inherited a mess, including a pandemic out of control, a ruined economy and a divided citizenry. The country must wait until January 20 for  Biden's inauguration, but in the meantime, he can continue to listen, focus on policy, offer consistent messages, and calmly lead by example rather than showmanship, misinformation and a mob mentality. 

Rebuilding trust will take time with each of us striving to be fair, kind, empathetic and strong. As Mahatma Gandhi once noted, “Your beliefs become your thoughts, your thoughts become your words, your words become your actions, your actions become your habits, your habits become your values, your values become your destiny.” 

Photo of Biden courtesy of Carlos Barria, Reuters; Covid-19 data, Worldometers.

Monday, November 2


The election is one day away and soon the signs dotting the landscape will vanish. Here, a small sample from East Lansing...

Friday, October 30

Battle ground

Some jurisdictions have managed to contain the damage from the Covid-19 pandemic even as the United States leads the world in cases followed by India, Brazil and Russia.

"Taiwan has reached a record 200 days without any domestically transmitted cases of Covid-19, underlining its success in keeping the virus under control as cases rise across much of the world," reports the Guardian. Taiwan has strong ties to China and Wuhan, where the pandemic began, and yet authorities contained the spread with quarantines, masks, testing and contact tracing - and kept the numbers down. Taiwan did have experience with SARS in 2003 and continues to record new cases among arriving travelers.

If Taiwan were a US state, its population pof 24 million would rank as third largest, between Texas at 29 million and Florida at 21 million.








The inept handling of the Covid-19 pandemic at the US federal level is a concern for senior citizens, businesses, minorities, women and anyone with common sense. Failure to contain the disease's spread with simple measures - wearing masks and practicing social distancing along with testing and contact tracing - is posing lingering, dire economic consequences.  

The Trump administration has given up trying to control the spread. Mark Meadows, chief of staff, noted to a journalist: "We are not going to control the pandemic. We are going to control the fact that we get vaccines, therapeutics and other mitigation areas..." 

But that is a costly, wasteful and deadly approach. As the old saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. 

Donald Trump mocks doctors, the media and his rival for focusing on the issue. “That's all I hear. Turn on television, ‘COVID, COVID, COVID, COVID, COVID, COVID'....By the way, on Nov. 4 you won't hear about it anymore.’’

Joe Biden continues to focus on the pandemic: "We discussed importance of wearing masks, protecting yourself, protecting your neighbor and to save around 100,000 lives in the months ahead. This is not political. It's patriotic. Wearing a mask. Wear one, period."

Battleground states have been hit hard and on Nov 3 voters will weigh in on whether Donald Trump or Joe Biden is best suited for leading the country on the Covid-19 response and other pressing matters, including climate change and widening inequality.

Source: Worldometers; checklist, Freepik.

Child care








 During the final 2020 presidential debate, Joe Biden blasted Donald Trump for family-separation policies and government’s inability to reunite hundreds of children with their parents after a failure to keep records and contact details. Trump responded that the facilities were clean: “Let me say this. They worked it out, we brought reporters and everything. They are so well taken care of. They're in facilities that were so clean…”

The US government spends hundreds of millions of dollars on caring for children who should not have been separated from family members. “In fiscal year 2019, the latest year for which complete data are available, ORR awarded grants totaling over $1.8 billion to organizations providing shelter and other services to these children,” reports the US Government Accountability Office. “The numbers of these referrals have fluctuated over time, but increased substantially from almost 14,000 in fiscal year 2012 to more than 69,000 in fiscal year 2019.”

The numbers decreased sharply with media reports about the cruel policies. As of June 2020, there were 1,123 children in the care of the Office of Refugee Settlement. The GAO conducted audits since May 2019 and as of July this year, the Office of Refugee Settlement operated more than 170 facilities in 22 states. 

Current grant announcements specify that facilities must be state licensed or eligible to receive a license with 75 days of the grant award. A review suggested that most did not include such licenses in their applications, and some facilities struggled to meet the 75-day deadline. The review also found in March 2018 that one grantee had placed a child in a home with foster parents under investigation for sexual abuse of another unaccompanied child. “In fiscal years 2018 and 2019, ORR awarded grants to approximately 14 facilities that were unable to serve children for 12 or more months because they remained unlicensed. In addition, ORR did not provide any documentation that staff conducted a review of past performance for the nearly 70 percent of applicants that previously held ORR grants. Without addressing these issues, ORR risks awarding grants to organizations that cannot obtain a state license or that have a history of poor performance.”

Of 23 licensing agencies that provide licensing, 14 found deficiencies in at least one of the facilities in their state during fiscal years 2018 or 2019 – some of which were significant. Problems included administrative issues to threats to children’s health and safety.

Federal standards for reporting and inspections are lacking. “HHS monitors these facilities to ensure they're keeping children safe, among other things. But it hasn't met its own targets for how frequently it visits facilities, and doesn't consistently share information with state agencies that license them,” reports GAO. “Our recommendations include that HHS develop plans to meet its monitoring goals and share information with state agencies.”

Awarding grants to facilities with a history of poor performance puts children at risk. Separating children from their parents without cause, such as criminal violations, is a waste of taxpayer money.

Meanwhile, apprehension on the US southern border are on the rise.  








Source: GAO and US Customs and Border Protection.

Thursday, October 29












The US economy could be in for a bumpy ride. The world has endured the health consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic since late 2019, but the economic consequences may have only just begun. 

The pandemic quickly slowed GDP growth in the United States and the government hurried with $3 trillion in stimulus spending. That spending, combined with opening economies - premature in many cases - caused GDP growth to spike. 

Yet the pandemic is not over, and so valuable time and stimulus funds have been wasted. Sizable numbers of jurisdictions and citizens continue to resist simple measures to control the spread, including mask or social-distancing mandates. 

So the numbers of cases continue to climb in the United States, rivaling the records set only a few months ago. Researchers project the number of deaths from Covid-19 by Feb 1 could range from  300,000 with a universal mask mandate and as many as 500,000 with restrictions eased.  


The US economy is built on unsustainable debt, and recovery requires a multi-prong approach - with targeted economic stimulus along with social measures that include self-discipline, masks, social distancing and crowd avoidance. "Social norms and the behavior of peers such as friends, family members, and colleagues affect behaviors," explains a group of researchers for Applied Health Economics and Health Policy. "Herding behavior occurs when people consider a certain behavior to be good or bad based on the behavior of other people and mimic their observed behaviors."

Leadership is lacking. Of course, a vaccine will offer tremendous help, but as chaos and mixed messages continue, some behaviors will become entrenched among a sizable number of consumers as wariness and mistrust intensifies. Many consumers will save more and be less inclined to travel, dine out, join crowds in museums or concerts. Many will make do with older clothes, cars and homes. The Great Depression began in 1929 and it was not until 1933 that unemployment spiked to 24 percent. 

Source: 2019-2020 data, Trading Economics; 1929-1935 data, The Balance. This post was updated on October 30. 

Wednesday, October 21

Separation nightmare







The United States has yet to reunite 545 children with their parents, after the federal government separated them from migrant parents in 2017 and 2018, notes a court filing by the American Civil Liberties Union.

About 60 of those children were under the age of five, reports the New York Times. The ACLU also reports more than 350 children cannot be located.

In June 2018, the government reported that 2,700 children had been removed from parents after crossing into the United States. In January 2019, the Office of the Inspector General of the US Health and Human Services Department reported more children had been separated in 2017 from parents crossing the border, at both in unauthorized areas and legal ports of entry.  In June 2019, the government admitted that more than 1500 additional children had been separated.

The government did not keep records on  the families, including names and contact details, that would have allowed for reunification.  “After deporting hundreds of separated parents, the United States government declared them 'ineligible' for reunification, because they were no longer in the U.S.,” reports Justice in Motion.

Adding to the challenges, besides the pandemic, is the Trump administration's secrecy around the policy - discovered by lawyers and journalists months into its use - and rapid deportation for many parents 

As many as two-thirds of the parents may have since been deported, report Julia Ainsley and Jacob Soboroff for NBC News. Attorneys and investigators with private groups like the ACLU and Justice in Motion conduct searches to  locate parents and children, determining their conditions and “ensuring that those parents had a voice in their children’s futures.”

Many parents had headed to the United States, fleeing violence, persecution and poverty in their home countries. As a result, some of those who already have been deported are torn about their children returning to places that offer an uncertain, even treacherous future. By no means is that a defense for officials who oversaw and implemented the cruel policies.

“The family separation crisis is the direct result of the Trump administration policy choices, driven by the view that immigrants and asylum seekers deserve nothing but cruelty and punishment,” notes the ACLU.

The United States must compensate children and families for the anguish – and continue working on reunification, ensuring accuracy with DNA testing while providing safe conditions and social support, and pursuing accountability while punishing any officials or staff for going along with such separations. Citizenship is in order for children not reunited in a timely way.

The goal of such poorly conceived policies was to deter undocumented immigration. The reduction in numbers was minimal. The costs for the families and US global standing are immense. 










Source: Data for graph, US Customs and Border Protection; photo, Politico and ACLU.

Tuesday, October 13

Senior voters







Three policies have eroded support for Donald Trump among senior citizens:

Downplaying the risks of Covid-19

Risk for contracting Covid-19 increases with age and for those with underlying health conditions that are common among senior citizens, reports the Centers for Disease Control.  About 80 percent of all Covid-19 deaths in the United States have been among adults 65 years and older.

Yet Trump downplayed the pandemic. “I wanted to always play it down," the president said in a March interview with journalist Bob Woodward. "I still like playing it down, because I don't want to create a panic."

By September, while campaigning in Ohio, Trump noted: "It affects elderly people, elderly people with heart problems, if they have other problems, that's what it really affects, that's it. In some states thousands of people - nobody young - below the age of 18, like nobody -  they have a strong immune system - who knows?... Take your hat off to the young because they have a hell of an immune system. It affects virtually nobody.”

Suspending the payroll tax that supports Social Security payments

The payroll tax funds Social Security and Medicare, by deducting 6.2 percent from employee wages and likewise taxing employers 6.2 percent for a total of 12.4 percent.

In August, Trump signed an executive order deferring that tax for workers earning less than $4,000 biweekly from September through December – part of a multi-pronged effort to stimulate the economy stalled by the pandemic. The order targets more than 80 percent of the US workforce. The plan would be to collect that same tax in 2021 but the Trump dangled the possibility that those payments will never reach Social Security coffers: "If victorious on November 3rd, I plan to forgive these taxes and make permanent cuts to the payroll tax.”

Many major employers have declined to participate and continue to collect and pay the tax to the Internal Revenue Service. 

Support for the Social Security program runs strong among senior citizens and many understand that the payroll tax is linked to Social Security. “About 65 million Americans receive Social Security benefits. Among elderly Social Security beneficiaries, 50% of married couples and 70% of unmarried persons receive 50% or more of their income from Social Security,” reports the Social Security Administration.

Meanwhile, the Trump administration is scrambling to send out a letter to 39 million Medicare beneficiaries, promising a $200 card for purchasing drugs. “The $200 cards — which would resemble credit cards, would need to be used at pharmacies and could be branded with a reference to Trump himself — would be paid for by tapping Medicare's trust fund,” reports Politico.

The card may not subdue concerns with the average Social Security monthly benefit for retired workers at $1514.





Calling for negative interest rates

The president has repeatedly called for negative rates, that is, creating an easy-money policy with banks essentially paying borrowers to take out loans.

The average rate is less than 1 percent, reports the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.

“Setting interest rates below zero would in theory boost consumer spending and business investment by making it easy to get a loan,” reports Business Insider, yet the policy does not necessarily boost consumer spending and can restrict bank profitability and central bank agility for tackling future economic crises.

“The prospect of lower interest rates may put retirees in a bind: Contend with less growth on their ‘safe money’ or consider taking more equity risk,” reports CNBC.

The president may have irritated the wrong group of people. Exit polls in 2015 showed Trump won with 52 percent support from voters aged 65 and older. A CNN poll suggests that this year Trump will be lucky to crack that group by 40 percent. 

Source for graphs: Data on Covid-19 hospitalizations and deaths among senior citizens, CDC; voter turnout, US Census Bureau.

Monday, October 12

Fixation error

Donald Trump, now diagnosed with Covid-19, claims to have done a great job on protecting Americans from the pandemic and touts his partial ban on travel from China imposed in January.

Former Vice President Joe Biden, during the first 2020 presidential candidate debate, blasted Trump for letting the Covid-19 pandemic get out of hand, resulting in more than 7.5 million cases and more than 200,000 dead. Trump retorted: “And if you were here, it wouldn’t be 200, it would be 2 million people because you were very late on the draw. You didn’t want me to ban China, which was heavily infected. You didn’t want me to ban Europe.”

Vice President Mike Pence repeated the claim during the vice-presidential candidate debate: Trump “suspended all travel from China, the second-largest economy in the world. Joe Biden opposed that decision, he said it was xenophobic and hysterical.”

 The evidence does not support such claims, and Trump’s approach to the pandemic is flawed due to “fixation error,” or the  tendency, as identified by the aviation and medical industries, to approach problem-solving by seeking and blaming a “single, ‘root’ cause.”  As one medical journal puts it, “Fixation errors occur when the practitioner concentrates solely upon a single aspect of a case to the detriment of other more relevant aspects.”

Let’s take a closer at the US ban on travel from China and the timing. The United States diagnosed its first Covid-19 case on January 20. 

Days later, by January 23, China cut off Wuhan, a city of 11 million people and the epicenter of the virus, from the rest of the country. 

The Trump administration imposed its restrictions for travelers from China on January 31, when the country then reported about 10,000 confirmed Covid-19 cases, with 114 more scattered in 22 other countries. 

Section 1 of Trump's executive order limited US entry of all aliens who were physically present within China, excluding Hong Kong and Macau, during the previous 14 days. Section 2 offered a long list of exceptions – US citizens and lawful residents and their family members, air and sea crew members, foreign government officials or “any alien whose entry would not pose a significant risk of introducing, transmitting, or spreading the virus, as determined by the CDC Director, or his designee.” 










Dozens of countries banned travelers from China – including the United States, India and Japan – yet that measure alone did not guarantee success in containing the virus. The United States and India now rank first and second as countries with the most Covid-19 cases, more than 7 million cases and 6 million, respectively. 

On the other hand, Japan, ranking 45th, quickly contained the virus with masks and social distancing and has recorded 83,000 cases. Japan issued a targeted travel ban for foreign travelers from regions in China with high rates about six weeks later.  Japan plans to gradually lift overseas travel alerts starting this month, starting with nations with low infection rates, and negotiates with China on business travel. 

Then, there are Cambodia and Taiwan, ranking 186th and 173rd.  Cambodia initially declined to ban travelers from China, and instead targeted those from the United States and four European nations along with Iran while continuing to welcome Chinese visitors. Taiwan instituted a ban on foreign travel six weeks after the US ban.

More than nine months into the pandemic, China reports a total of 85,000 cases.  

Containing the virus requires more than travel bans. Governments that successfully contained the spread of Covid-19 - and since reopened their economies – relied on a multi-prong approach that includes honest, consistent messaging based on latest health research combined with physical distancing, crowd limits, regular testing  and masks in public places. 

Clearly, the travel ban on China was not enough – as the United States represents about 4 percent of the world’s population and more than 20 percent of Covid-19 cases. China represents about 20 percent of the world's population and less than 1 percent of  cases. 

"A systems approach to safety does not mean staff can simply deny responsibility and 'blame the system,'" argues Gaylene Heard. Instead, caregivers must take a big-picture approach in handling complex medical problems. 

Containing the virus requires more than travel bans. Governments that successfully contained the spread of Covid-19 - and since reopened their economies – relied on a multi-prong approach that includes honest, consistent messaging based on latest health research combined with physical distancing, crowd limits, regular testing  and masks in public places. 

Thursday, October 8

Domestic terrorism








Let’s get this straight – since March, a majority of Michiganders have supported Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s efforts to control the Covid-19 pandemic including mandatory masks and a stay-at-home order. She is viewed favorably by 51 percent of likely voters, suggests one recent survey, and in April, another poll suggested that 57 percent of state residents approved of her handling of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Even so, the federal government has charged six people with plotting to abduct or kill Whitmer. Seven others were charged with plotting to overturn the government in Lansing. “In early 2020, the FBI became aware through social media that a group of individuals were discussing the violent overthrow of certain government and law-enforcement components,” reports an affidavit unsealed today. “The group decided they needed to increase their numbers and encouraged each other to talk to their neighbors and spread their message.” As a result, informants became involved. A confidential informant became involved and secretly recorded sessions.


Mar 23: Governor Whitmer issues stay-at home order

April 17: President Donald Trump sends out tweet "Liberate Michigan." 

May 5 and 14: Armed protests at state capitol in Lansing.

June 20, Grand Rapids, MI: Small group discuss plans for assaulting Michigan State Capitol, counter law enforcement, use “Molotov cocktails to destroy police vehicles.

June 25, Munith, MI: Tactical training exercise.

July 10-12, Cambria, WI: Combat drills.

July 18, Ohio: Meeting on attacking Michigan State Police facility and shooting governor’s vacation home.

July 27, Grand Rapids: Discuss getting a realtor to help them find the exact location of the governor’s vacation home.

July 28 telephone call: Narrows down target to vacation home.

Aug 9, Munith: Tactical training and group call that discussed assessing the governor’s primary home, kidnapping her. One said, "Have one person go to her house. Knock on the door and when she answers it just cap her….”

Aug 18, group call: Discuss surveillance of vacation home and escape from scene by boat on lake.

Aug 23, Lake Orion, MI: Meeting that discussed concern about infiltration by law enforcement and attendees brought personal documents.

Aug 29: Conducted surveillance of the vacation home (location will not be identified here) and checked on locations of nearest police.

Sept 12-13, Luther, MI: Meeting and practice to detonate IED and plan another nighttime surveillance of the vacation home; three cars drive by the home and record their observations; they inspect nearby bridge to place IED. During that drive, one of the accused notes: “I can see several states takin’ their f------ tyrants.” On return ride, they discuss killing the governor and destroying the vacation home. They plan a final practice session in late October. 

Sept 14, encrypted chat: The group decides the last week in October is too late for a final training exercise in order to complete the abduction before the November election.

Sept 17, encrypted chat: Discuss armed protest at state capitol in Lansing but caution is urged.

Oct 2, encrypted chat: One member of the group purchases a taser and the group plans to meet Oct 7 to pay for explosives and tactical gear.

The FBI and Michigan investigation and arrests came soon after US Senator Mike Lee of Utah sends out a tweet: “Democracy isn’t the objective; liberty, peace, and prospefity are. We want the human condition to flourish. Rank democracy can thwart that.”

Rank democracy threatens Republican power. Republicans are struggling with their policy ideas and control with minority rule. They control the Senate, gaining seats in 2018, even though Democrats led Republicans by more than 12 million votes in Senate races that year. In 2016, Donald Trump won the presidency even though Hillary Clinton won 3 million more votes. In turn, Senate Republicans’ refusal to review or vote on former President Barack Obama’s judicial nominations allowed Donald Trump to “pack the courts.”

Democrats must vote and produce landslide results to counter voter suppression efforts, gerrymandering, misinformation and outright cheating.  

Tuesday, October 6










The advice from public health experts on Covid-19 is to wear mask and practice social distancing, avoiding crowds. 

Those who deliberately ignore these guidelines are not taking on risk solely for themselves. Instead, their actions also place everyone around them at risk without their choice. 

By now, Americans understand that many Republicans – those who take their lead from President Donald Trump and mock masks and insist on attending events and going about business as usual – are placing anyone around them at risk of contracting the virus. The United States has more than 7 million cases, more than any other country in the world, and reports more than 200,000 deaths.

Too many current leaders neglect their responsibility to protect public health. "Public health promotes and protects the health of people and the communities where they live, learn, work and play," reports the American Public Health Association. "While a doctor treats people who are sick, those of us working in public health try to prevent people from getting sick or injured in the first place. We also promote wellness by encouraging healthy behaviors."

The president has Covid-19, and his medical team resists criticizing his reticence to wear a mask or maintain social distancing. They did not reject a car ride to see supporters that could bring risk to his Secret Service agents. They do not lead on contact tracing for the White House staff exposed to the president or the other multiple staff exposed to the virus. Likewise, they refuse to disclose the president’s test schedule or results. 

Sean Conley, the US president’s physician who famously denied that the president was not “now” on oxygen immediately triggered curiosity from the media and public at large. Had he been at oxygen at all since testing positive for Covid-19?

“I was trying to reflect the upbeat attitude that the team, the president, the course of this illness has had. I didn’t want to give any information that might steer the course of illness another direction. And in doing so, it came off as we were trying to hide something – which wasn’t necessarily true.” The comment was an effort to extend blame, suggesting the entire team was might be responsible for the deceptive comments he alone made. 

Conley backtracked the following day, after the medical team reported the president was receiving the steroid dexamethasone, reported to help people with severe cases of Covid-19.  

Conley's denials and upbeat assessments harm not only the president but anyone near him. Conley and the rest of the White House report that the president has since been resting and symptom free, otherwise sharing few details, including the dates and results of his Covid-19 tests.

The president’s doctors should strive to protect public health, stressing guidelines from the World Health Organization that follow and do a public service by pointing out the president’s willful violations.

Those guidelines:
•    Regularly and thoroughly clean hands with alcohol-based rub or soap and water.
•    Practice social distancing by maintaining at least 3 feet of space between yourself and others.
•    Avoid crowded places.
•    Wear a fabric mask when physical distancing cannot be maintained.
•    Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth.
•    Follow good respiratory hygiene, covering mouth and nose with bent elbow or tissue when coughing or sneezing. Then dispose of used tissues and wash hands.
•    Stay home and self-isolate with symptoms such as cough, headache and mild fever, until you recover.
•    Seek medical attention for a fever, cough and difficulty breathing
•    Keep up to date on the latest information from trusted health authorities.

Wednesday, September 30

Fast talker











The first question in the first 2020 presidential debate focused on Donald Trump’s effort to place a third justice on the US Supreme Court – and the topic quickly turned to health care and Republican efforts to end the Affordable Care Act. 

The Affordable Care Act, aiming to increase preventive care and curb the rising costs of health care, imposed regulations on the industry. The Trump administration and a group of states have asked the US Supreme Court to strike down the Affordable Care with arguments scheduled for November 10, a week after the election. Trump hopes to have his nominee on the court by then.  “The case centers on Republicans’ move to use the 2017 tax overhaul to nix the law’s penalty for most Americans who don’t get health coverage,” reports Todd Ruger for Roll Call. “The Trump administration and the Republican-led states argue that move made the mandate to buy insurance unconstitutional.”

Ruger raises the possibility that the court will resist wiping out the entire law even if it finds that a small sliver is unconstitutional. Trump and the Republicans who oppose the law suggest the mandate is central to the Affordable Care Act – and that the entire law should be scrapped. 

As was emphasized during an early exchange in the first presidential debate, the administration has no substitute health plan waiting in the wings.

Moderator Chris Wallace: You have promised to repeal and replace Obamacare, but you have never in these four years come up with a comprehensive plan to replace Obamacare…
President Trump: Listen, listen … of course, we have…  I got rid of the individual mandate… excuse me, we got rid of the individual mandate, which was a big chunk of Obamacare…
Wallace: That is not a comprehensive plan.
Trump: That is absolutely a big thing…that was the worst part of Obamacare.
Wallace: I didn’t ask, sir…
Trump: Chris, that was the worst part of Obamacare.
Wallace: Let me ask my question.
Trump: Well, I’ll ask Joe. The individual mandate was the most unpopular aspect of Obamacare.
Wallace: Mr. President...
Trump: I got rid of it and we will protect people with per-existing conditions...
Wallace: Mr .President, I’m the moderator of this debate and I would like you to let me ask my question and then you can answer.
Trump: Go ahead.

That exchange of about 150 words lasted 35 seconds, about twice the pace of that for the average US speaker. The speed, tone and many interruptions reflect why the debate was so painful to follow.

Studies suggest that people judge individual intelligence based on one's voice and how fast one speaks - though "Not too fast, of course, or they won’t understand a word you’re saying," reports Ian Lee for Lifehack. "Nevertheless, faster speakers are perceived to be more confident..."  

Ending the Affordable Care Act without a suitable replacement during the Covid-19 pandemic would be unconscionable. The individual mandate – while ensuring that society could pay for affordable care and efforts to ensure all – was not the biggest or most notable aspect of the Affordable Care Act. A decision to discard the entire law due to the mandate would eliminate the many benefits associated with the Affordable Care Act over the past decade. 

 Those benefits apply to far more than the than the 23 million Americans who would otherwise be uninsured and would also hurt Americans who have employee-sponsored insurance, including: 

-    Allowing parents to keep adult children on family health plans until age 26.
-    Reducing health care costs for small businesses with a care tax credit
-    Expanding mental health treatment
-    Eliminating annual and lifetime coverage limits
-    Preventing denial of coverage due to pre-existing conditions
-    Limiting  administrative costs and profits of insurance companies to no more than 20 percent for plans sold to small employers and 15 percent for plans arranged by large employers. 











Health care is a business in the United States and represents about 18 percent of the economy. Companies make money on patients, and the careers of thousands of doctors, nurses, pharmacists, insurers and many more workers in the health care field depend on the system, too.

All is not lost and analysts expect the US Supreme Court – even with an additional conservative justice to replace the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg – to support the law.  “Constitutional litigation is not a game of gotcha against Congress, where litigants can ride a discrete constitutional flaw in a statute to take down the whole, otherwise constitutional statute,” wrote Justice Brett Kavanaugh in the majority opinion on another aspect of the case in 2015.

Source: Affordable Care Act benefits, The Balance.