Usher’s News & Analysis for Aug. 23, 2020

Poor California. It just can't catch a break from wildfires year after year after year now that carbon-burning driving Global Warming is upon us all.

Two massive clusters of wildfires in California grew overnight to become the second- and third-largest wildfires ever recorded in the state.
Unhealthy levels of particulate matter, the worst type of air pollution, were detected in the air in several areas, prompting warnings for residents to stay inside.

That pollution doesn't just stay in California either. Wherever the wind blows, it rides right on it.

Fire officials said a "lightning siege" of more than 11,000 strikes sparked 367 fires across California this week. NOAA satellites produced a time lapse of all the strikes.

Joseph Dwyer, a physicist and lightning researcher at the University of New Hampshire, told the New York Times that much lightning in such a short time is rare in California, where a total of 85,000 strikes are typically recorded in an entire year.

If we didn't have Global Warming, if we hadn't been burning all the carbon, we'd still be seeing wildfires, hurricanes, floods, and such, but they wouldn't be nearly as bad. What's happening to our planet is a proportionate reflection of human greed. The more greed, the more Hell.

California Wildfires: More Than 1,000 Square Miles Consumed By Flames

In the interest of transparency over money, which is bravery over cowardice, which is pushing for good risk-management:

I want to be clearly on record. I don't believe there were very many children with autism (using the current definition) when I was born. The rate in New Jersey has now risen to 1 in 20 boys. In Northern Ireland, it's 1 in 16. This is alarming. I believe we humans have been and are doing something that has been dramatically increasing the percentage of children with autism with no end in sight (unless we identify and stop what it is we're doing).

We all often hear or read that the idea that vaccines contribute to or cause autism has been thoroughly debunked. However, when pressed for evidence of such debunking, pro-vaccine advocates still mainly only cite "Vaccines are not associated with autism: an evidence-based meta-analysis of case-control and cohort studies." Unfortunately, what they don't tell you is that one of the studies authors, Poul Thorsen, has a warrant out for his arrest in the US for financial fraud. Also, one of the leading authors, William Thompson, later repudiated the study because "statistically significant information in our 2004 article published in the journal Pediatrics ... omitted data ... that African American males who received the MMR vaccine before age 36 months were at increased risk for autism." Those two factors are but a few examples of what goes on concerning vaccines and autism and "news reporting" given to the general population to make decisions about whether or not to vaccinate.

Taylor 2014: The International Fall-Back Position for Officials Challenged About Vaccine Safety and Autism

So, we want to reopen schools and businesses without making people sick and killing them. Lockdowns are the right thing to do when you don't know how to keep things open without things being worse, sometimes much worse, than they would be if locked down. Very early on, I advocated firm, quick, local quarantines to slow or stop the virus spreading all over the place. The rate of spread and the number of deaths early in China indicated that locking down was the intelligent move to buy us time to figure out what to do. I've advocated not lifting the lockdowns because the system, the establishment, the government and corporations, have refused to put into place the proper policies and procedures to insure an orderly and safe reopening.

Are there unused policies and procedures that would allow for an orderly and safe reopening? Yes. Those go beyond PPE, distancing, and sanitation to prophylactic medicine and nutrition to early medical treatment and other general measures to improve overall individual and societal health and well being. Most of those measures are being deliberately distorted by competing commercial interests.

By the way, mortality rates have gone down with higher testing. However, testing is suspect in terms of accuracy. Also, in my neck of the woods, the mortality rate is still 2+% of cases resulting in death. In addition, the UK was extremely slow to lockdown and did not put in place the necessary support measures for people locked down. My point is that you have to look at the entire issue holistically and not take bits of data in isolation to make your points. As for Sweden's outcome, I have yet to see anyone credit the lockdowns in other places that included slowing or stopping travel to or from Sweden. If new sick people were entering Sweden at a slow rate, wouldn't that have helped Sweden? Sweden and South Dakota and other places that took the "libertarian" approach did not do nearly as well as the most progressive places that took the more "draconian" approach.

If everywhere had done what Sweden did, the number of dead older people and younger people with underlying health conditions would be magnitudes of order higher. Sweden DID NOT take the right approach! Norway and Finland did better and are still doing better.

None of this means for a second that we should fail to be vigilant in warding off those who seek to use draconian measures to further their own commercial interests to the direct detriment of the rights, safety, and health of others. Never underestimate the power of greed to misuse and abuse what would otherwise be wise and sensible for the whole and each individual.

I write all of this because there is a progressive-libertarian alliance that has lined up together where the progressives are taking their cues on the matter from the libertarians, which causes most of what I've said above to go unheeded. Naturally, being in a minority of minorities, what I'm publishing is all the more marginalized.

Nevertheless, we must remain completely open to receiving new or clarifying information.

... on May 18 from people who tested positive for the virus only to people who tested positive for either the virus or its antibodies. The exploding numbers thus include people who have recovered from COVID-19 as well as false positives. The Loughborough and Sheffield researchers found that when controlling for other factors affecting mortality, actual deaths due to COVID-19 are 54% to 63% lower than implied by the standard excess deaths measure.

At the same time, we must never forget that those who gathered in unmasked groups and failed to take other measures fared significantly worse than those who gathered in masked groups and who did practice recommended cleaning (although overly cleaning can cause health problems too).

Purist so-called libertarian-capitalist do hate crony capitalism. Unfortunately, many of the purists are actually unwittingly aiding and abetting super-rich crony capitalists who pretend to be purists themselves. The multibillionaire Koch Brothers were a prime example of cronies faking purism. So, listen to the purists railing against crony capitalism running our governments is an intelligent thing to do. However, as progressives, it is a fool's errand to throw the baby out with the bathwater. The "purist" capitalists want to drown government in the bathtub. Progressives want good government that can, at the very least, keep ravening capitalists in check.

From Lockdown to Police State: The “Great Reset” Rolls Out

Read this next one too.

The COVID-19 stats cut both ways. They don't all lean in favor of the libertarian position.

The data the state is using to calculate local positivity rates has been flawed.

The Fort Dodge district this week said its positivity rate looked grimmer than it really was because a clinic failed to report up to 3,000 negative tests.

Other school districts are seeing worse outbreaks than the state data would indicate.

Iowa’s Mandate to Reopen Schools Causing Chaos

The longer we wait to do the right things, the worse the negative-ripple effects will be. We absolutely must stop the nonsense that government money comes from collecting taxes and that government spending necessarily causes aggregate price-inflation. We absolutely must stop the nonsense that the rich getting richer is more important than the whole of society and the planet getting healthier.

About 70 percent of employees said that financial stability also helped their mental health. Nearly half said their mental health stress stemmed from long-term savings, medical and other unrelated expenses and stock market volatility.

If we don't get our priorities straight, we'll continue facing problems such as this one:

Young Employees Most Stressed by Pandemic’s Lack of People Connection

Here's a MSM view that is still surprising to see published. If you read about the issue, as I do, you learn that many people don't pursue things when they or their children have problems with vaccines. Those people are not included in the official stats. They are, however, often recorded by investigative reporters and by non-governmental watchdogs and think tanks. Regardless, do not contribute to or facilitate the news blackout on these matters. Expect and demand full information. A truly functional democracy depends upon it.

COVID-19 Era Highlights ‘Black Hole’ Compensation Fund For Vaccine Injuries

... although the restaurant had to clean its premises, it did not suffer any “direct physical loss of or damage to” its property.
... the plaintiff did not meet its initial burden of bringing the claim within the coverage of the policy.

Claims for Business Income Loss Due to Construction Dust Denied in Pre-COVID Case

Read your policy.

Additional living expense coverage, known as ALE, typically includes food and housing costs, furniture rental, relocation and storage, and extra transportation expenses.

California Says Fire Evacuees May Be Eligible for Reimbursement from Insurer

Insurance is complicated. If you only spend a tiny bit, decide whether filing a claim would be wise. The total number of claims against a policy can impact renewal or new coverage rates going forward. Also, look at your deductible and whether your overall limit of coverage might be partially used up under ALE when you might want the limit to be used to cover other costs.

Cybercriminals only need to trick an Android user into downloading a benign application without requiring any permissions on the Android device.

Google provides the first line of defense by blocking Snapdragon’s DSP-exploiting apps from its Play Store. However, given Google’s poor app vetting record, such applications are likely to evade the company’s review system. ...
Given the fragmented nature of the Android ecosystem, the implementation of such fixes may never happen for the majority of Android devices. The reason being that many Android phone manufacturers provide a limited support period. Such vendors are unlikely to support their older models already in the market.

Additionally, most Android device manufacturers end the development of their older devices’ OEMs once they release a new model into the market. Consequently, the risks associated with the “Achilles” security flaws may last for a lifetime on some devices.

Over a Billion Android Phones Turned Into Perfect Spying Tools by Security Flaws - CPO Magazine

The best organic certification program going: Farm like the world depends on it.

The Regenerative Organic Alliance exists to promote regenerative organic farming as the highest standard for agriculture around the world.

Regenerative Organic Certification Launches to Prioritize Soil Health and Farmworker Justice in Food Products

Biden's "say one thing while planning another": Talk a progressive game somewhat but walk the foolish, ignorant, corporatist deficit-hawk line:

When we get in, the pantry is going to be bare,” said Mr. Kaufman, who is leading Mr. Biden’s transition team. “When you see what Trump’s done to the deficit…forget about Covid-19, all the deficits that he built with the incredible tax cuts. So we’re going to be limited.

I've been explaining here on this blog that deficits are a scam. The government does not, repeat, does not need to borrow to issue money. Even the following article doesn't know where to focus. Dean Baker avoids the topic.

Team Biden Now Signals Austerity, Despite Campaign Pledges

Saliency matters. The following is not earthshaking.

Winfrey said the vast majority of the absentee voting precincts in the city were less than three ballots off, plus or minus. Being off by three or fewer is allowed, Winfrey said ....
Detroit's voting problems in 2016 led to a Michigan Bureau of Elections audit of 136 of the city's most irregular precincts, which found an "an abundance of human errors" but no evidence of "pervasive voter fraud." There were 216 questionable votes that resulted in a net overvote of 40 ballots — or 40 more ballots cast than voters.
The totals for about 46% of Detroit's precincts — the combined Election Day and absentee voting precincts — were out of balance by at least one ballot, according to information presented at the meeting.
Of 503 absentee voting precincts in the city, there were 131 that were off by plus or minus one ballot without an explanation, according to information presented at the meeting. There were 85 off by two ballots without an explanation, 48 that were off by three, 26 off by four and 73 off by five ballots.

When it came to 503 Election Day voting precincts, 104 tallies were out of balance by at least one ballot, with the majority of them, 74, being off by plus or minus one, according to information presented at the Tuesday meeting.

Canvassers demand answers after 72% of Detroit's absentee ballot counts were off

This is why it always pays to wait for the response before leaping with the "liberal" narrative.

Johnson and Grassley blast colleagues for 'false narratives' about oversight investigation

What Joe Biden did was wrong. It was a completely clear conflict of interest. He wasn't even supposed to do things that would raise a question about a possible conflict of interest. All he had to do to avoid the conflict was to turn the matter over to someone else and not lean on that person one way or the other. What he should have done is tell his son to quit and to do it before he, Joe, took any further action. If his son were to have refused to quit, then Joe should have turned it over to someone else, if there was any reason to go after Viktor Shokin.

The Biden narrative is that Viktor Shokin, as Prosecutor General of Ukraine, was not going after Burisma Holdings. Hunter Biden was sitting on the board of Burisma at the time. However, Shokin has clearly shown that he had recently taken considerable property of the main person under investigation and had plans to continue that process. Shokin also refused to quit when asked to quit by Petro Poroshenko at Joe Biden's insistence with the threat of withholding a billion dollars if Shokin weren't forced out. Most importantly is that the investigation went absolutely nowhere after Shokin was sacked. Joe Biden never raised even an eyebrow at that outcome.

Protecting those who illegally spy on and lie to the American people while going after those who expose the wrongdoers:

AG Barr Throws Cold Water On Possible Trump Pardon Of "Traitor" Edward Snowden

Assange’s partner, and the mother of his two young children, Stella Moris, has launched a crowdfunded campaign to fight his extradition to the US.

“Julian is being targeted by the United States administration for the crime of journalism,” she said. He helped expose war crimes and human rights abuses which the US would have preferred to keep hidden from public view.

“He revealed the killing of unarmed civilians and the torture of innocent people. No-one has been held responsible for the serious crimes Julian has exposed. This extradition aims to entomb and silence him forever.

“This is a monumental legal case which is an attack on everyone’s right to know about scandals which politicians and governments want buried. If the US government is successful, the ramifications are unthinkable.”

Something most people appear to not understand is that the US Constitution, in what we call "The Bill of Rights," enshrines the right of a free press (freedom of the press). It doesn't use the word journalist or journalism. The press is publishers. The freedom is to publish. WikiLeaks is a publisher. Julian Assange never had to be a "journalist" to be protected in terms of his right to publish under the highest US law. The US government cannot legally go after Assange for violating a US law while denying Assange's right to use higher US law to counter the lesser law.

The trumped up charge is that Assange aided Manning in attempting to hack the US government. However, the US has no credible evidence that, that ever happened. Any judge worth his or her salt here or in the UK would dismiss the whole thing with prejudice. Unfortunately, there are plenty of judges who've sold their souls to the devil.

Ex-Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger: 'Surprising more can't see Assange case is worrying for all journalists'

One view:

... Democrats, postal unions and their allies in the media have pounced to demagogue this issue into a full-blown election-stealing conspiracy. Claims that mail sorting is being reduced and postboxes are being removed to disenfranchise voters are not backed by the facts. The cuts were in place for years — going back to the Obama years, in fact. But that’s not stopping the demagoguery. Pictures of mailboxes with locks on them — found, ironically, to be many years old — are going viral all over social media.

PATEL: The Truth About The Post Office Controversy

The move to privatize the USPS does go back decades. They were chiseling away at it long before Trump.

I have to agree that ballot harvesting and non-USPS drop boxes aren't secure enough to suit me. Universal mail-in is fine, however, if done correctly. Washington State has been doing a good job of it but should extend the time to count the votes now that the USPS has said it really should have more time to process and deliver the ballots.

I thought I might see a Sanders-Gabbard ticket, but it turned out it will take another cycle or perhaps two before the squad-wing of the Democratic Party is large enough to pull off something like that. The corporatists will have to get to old, die off, and be pushed out. It will be a battle royal: Money versus humanity and planet. Even if Sanders-Gabbard had materialized, I was never going to hold my breath that the Democratic Party could really transform into a People's Party.

Where’s Tulsi? Outsider candidate Gabbard smeared by Clinton not even invited to Democratic convention

In case you're wondering, if Russia tried to take over the US, Tulsi Gabbard would lay down her life to stop it from happening. She'd be on the front line while most of her ardent detractors would be hiding under their beds, wetting their pants. Of course, only Russia's nukes make it a match for the US. Russia wouldn't dare to start it. They're not stupid. Anyway, Putin really wants to get along. He's not the obstacle to a democratic alliance between the US and Russia. The greedy in the US are.

Haunting Photos of San Francisco’s Desolate Financial District During Morning “Rush Hour”: Visual Effects of Work-from-Home


... authorities are doing a better job of protecting the elderly and other vulnerable people ....

Europe’s Virus Surge Is Looking Less Deadly Than Initial Wave

Church gatherings are reportedly the biggest source of the spread, but authorities in Seoul also shut down buffet restaurants, karaoke bars and computer gaming cafes.

According to the AP, nearly 800 of the country's cases were linked to a church in Seoul led by a vocal critic of South Korea's president ....

South Korea imposes tight restrictions as country sees resurgence in coronavirus cases

My position all my life:

... wrong to think that presidents should mindlessly defer to their military and diplomatic advisers.

“It was ‘the best and the brightest’ who led us into Vietnam; it was the counsel of seasoned, experienced leaders who led us into Iraq in 2003; it was a team of well-versed experts who presided over the descent into the Great Recession of 2008.

In addition to what the article states about JFK, he vowed to rip the CIA into pieces.

Donald Trump dubbed JFK’s political soulmate in bombshell US election analysis

This could get out of hand very easily.

The right-wing crowd chanted “USA! USA!” and expletive-filled chants against antifa. The opposing leftists responded with shouts of: “Go home, Nazis.”

Portland police stand by as Proud Boys and far-right militias flash guns and brawl with antifa counterprotesters

... rapid-fire moves just months before the November election concerned Postal Service insiders, who said that, since at least the Obama administration, the agency had generally sought to avoid significant changes within two or three months of a general election.

Soon, mail was piling up at post offices, veterans were not receiving their medications, bills were arriving late and questions began surfacing about the ability of the Postal Service to handle what is expected to be a record number of mail-in ballots this November because of the pandemic.
Mr. DeJoy stressed that the changes had nothing to do with the election and noted that the removal of mailboxes and sorting machines had begun before his tenure. He said that he had been unaware of the equipment removal until it became a source of scrutiny. “This has been going on in every election year, and every year, for that matter,” he said, adding that he had “no idea” that it was happening.
Mr. DeJoy and Mr. Duncan are scheduled to testify on Monday before the Democratic-controlled House Oversight and Reform Committee, whose members have signaled interest in Mr. DeJoy’s hiring, the changes he enacted and Mr. Mnuchin’s involvement in the Postal Service.

Mnuchin Paved Way for Postal Service Shake-Up

Real progressivism is first and foremost economic democracy. Absolutely everything comes after it.

‘Wildly overdrawn’: Kennedy-Markey race becomes referendum on who is the real progressive