Category Archives: Totty

Who doesn’t love pretty girls?

Rule Five Warmer Weather Friday

There has been a fair amount of talk about how warm weather will reduce the Kung Flu virus, as it routinely does the flu virii.  But Smithsonian’s Dr. Katherine Wu is skeptical.  Excerpt:

COVID-19 is not the flu. But amidst the ongoing pandemic, many people hold out hope that the two diseases have something crucial in common: a seasonality that will loosen the global grip of SARS-CoV-2 as the weather warms.

Many infectious diseases wax and wane with the changing months. Some, like flu, spike when the weather turns cold, while others, like cholera, thrive during warm, rainy summers. Whether such a pattern applies to SARS-CoV-2 is unclear. With spring just barely sprung, scientists haven’t had the time to suss out SARS-CoV-2’s annual schedule—if it sticks to one at all.

Besides, relying on seasonality to curb a pandemic can be a dangerous line of thought, says C. Brandon Ogbunu, a computational epidemiologist at Brown University.

“Seasonality has the potential to decrease the rate of infection,” he says. But this factor alone won’t get the world anywhere close to resolving the outbreak. “If I was a betting person … all [my money] would be on the impact of human behavior and infrastructure” to slow transmission, he adds. “That’s where we need to put our emphasis.”

Why Are Diseases Seasonal, Anyway?

The first time a severe infectious disease tears through a new population, it’s sure to wreak havoc. Without previous exposure, no members of the community are immune, leaving the virus with numerous potential hosts to sustain it for months to come, regardless of the weather forecast.

Columbia University epidemiologist Micaela Martinez compares early outbreaks to a fire igniting in a forest full of kindling. The occasional rainstorm might do a bit to slow the conflagration. But with so many vulnerable trees, a touch of precipitation would be nowhere near enough to snuff out the flames. “For the first wave, the seasonality is not as relevant,” she says. “We can’t expect [the virus] to just go away.”

And that’s the rub.

Here’s another take on this from Dr. Marc Lipsitch, a Professor of Epidemiology and Director, Center for Communicable Disease Dynamics, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health:

For the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, we have reason to expect that like other betacoronaviruses, it may transmit somewhat more efficiently in winter than summer, though we don’t know the mechanism(s) responsible. The size of the change is expected to be modest, and not enough to stop transmission on its own.  Based on the analogy of pandemic flu, we expect that SARS-CoV-2, as a virus new to humans, will face less immunity and thus transmit more readily even outside of the winter season. Changing seasons and school vacation may help, but are unlikely to stop transmission. Urgent for effective policy is to determine if children are important transmitters, in which case school closures may help slow transmission, or not, in which case resources would be wasted in such closures. Previously it was thought children were not easily infected with SARS-CoV-2. Recent evidence from Shenzhen suggests that children may be infected and shed detectable virus at about the same rate as adults — so now the only question is whether they transmit as readily. It seems likely the answer is yes, but no data as of this writing to my knowledge.

In other words:  “We don’t really know, but I’m not optimistic.”

I’m kind of hoping summer brings some relief from this thing, at least enough to let life return to some semblance of normalcy.  Opening restaurants and such would be good start; I’d also like if if our gun club’s trap stands opened back up again.

But while this isn’t my particular field of biology, I do know that we’re dealing with a new pathogen in a population that’s largely lacking any immunity.  This may drag on for a while; a vaccine would be great but that’s months off.  There are hopeful developments on the treatment front, but that doesn’t prevent transmission.

What the experts cited above don’t say is what is obvious to many of us:  We’ll have to wait and see.

Rule Five Biden’s Hypocrisy Friday

Daffy old Joe Biden is many things.  A viable Presidential candidate isn’t one of them.  But he is a hypocrite.  Excerpt:

Conventional wisdom might suggest that former Vice President Joe Biden has benefited from two recent news developments: The consolidation of moderate candidates like Sen. Amy Klobuchar around his presidential campaign, and the Supreme Court’s decision to take another Obamacare case next fall. Biden will likely use the court case to contrast his position supporting Obamacare with Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ efforts to abolish it and establish a single-payer system. But one big fact makes Biden an ill-suited fit for this pro-Obamacare message: He deliberately avoided paying a six-figure sum in Obamacare taxes.

In mid-July, after Biden and his wife Jill released their 2016 through 2018 tax returns, press reports noted that, by characterizing over $13 million of income from speaking and writing engagements as profits from two corporations rather than wage income, the couple avoided paying nearly $500,000 in self-employment taxes. Tax experts interviewed at the time called the Bidens’ scheme “pretty aggressive” and not justified, given that the income came from their own intellectual work product, as opposed to any product or service created by a larger corporate entity.

The development raises several fundamental questions about Biden, starting with his blatant hypocrisy. Biden’s ads have claimed that “Obamacare is personal to me,” and that when “others propose to replace it and start over—that’s personal to me too.” But of the 3.8% self-employment tax the Bidens avoided, 0.9% funds Obamacare, and the other 2.9% funds Medicare.

Biden claims that he will defend Obamacare—especially its provisions regarding pre-existing conditions—and other federal health programs. But when given an opportunity to put his proverbial money where his mouth is, by paying the self-employment taxes that fund Obamacare and Medicare, Biden and his wife declined to do so. 

Hypocrisy from politicians is, of course, nothing new.  Both parties in Congress agree on one thing more than any other:  They exempt themselves from almost everything they hang on the rest of us, including Obamacare.

But Groper Joe is being especially egregious here.  He moralizes constantly on the need for people – “the wealthy,” of course, of which group he is a member by any rational standard – to pay more in taxes.  And yet he engages in (admittedly legal) shenanigans to avoid paying any more than he can get away with.

Now there’s nothing wrong with taking pains to reduce your tax profile.  We do it ourselves, and Mrs. Animal is excellent at wading through the various laws and regulations governing small businesses to make sure we pay every penny legally required of us and not one penny more.  But mind:  We aren’t the ones making high-handed moral claims about how people should pay more taxes.  Biden is, and he could easily lead by example – but he doesn’t.  What a loathsome, disgusting act of hypocrisy.

The article here concludes:

Over the years, Joe Biden has repeatedly used a simple phrase: “Don’t tell me what you value. Show me your budget, and I’ll show you your values.” When it came time for him to “cash in” following years in the public sector, Joe Biden’s personal budget didn’t include the taxes to pay for the Obamacare law he claims to value. The press should question him on the yawning chasm between his claims and the values he expressed in his tax returns.

The increasingly-befuddled, possibly non compis mentis Biden’s handlers should expect President Trump to hit him with this in the Presidential debates.  And frankly, the President’s advisors should know better than to leave this issue lying on the table, especially since one of the debates can be expected to focus tightly on health care policy.  It’s just too juicy a morsel not to use; not only is it a cogent rebuttal to Biden’s quote above, it also plays into another useful tactic:  Make old Groper Joe lose his cool and launch into one of his unhinged, profane rants.  That would be worth thousands of votes in and of itself.

Rule Five Reboot Friday

Could we reboot Illinois?  RealClearPolitics’ Richard Porter thinks so.  Excerpt:

We need to reboot Illinois so that families and businesses that love this area and want to stay aren’t punished for doing so. Illinois can be restructured using a variation on the legal technique the federal government employed in its reorganization of GM — call it the “old state, new state” Illinois reorganization plan.

Recall some founding principles: 

1. The U.S. Constitution, our supreme law, provides that “the United States shall guarantee to every State in the Union a Republican Form of Government.” 

2. A republican form of government is, as Abraham Lincoln stated at Gettysburg, “government of the people, by the people, for the people.” When paying creditors becomes the government’s primary function, that’s government for creditors, not the people.  

3. In a republic, people, not their government, are sovereign; all people are created equal and are endowed with unalienable rights, among which are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The Declaration of Independence states, “That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its power in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness….” 

4. Illinois was granted statehood in 1818 by residents living here with the concurrence of Congress.  The Constitution empowers Congress to admit new states to the union, and provides that new states may be formed out of existing states with the concurrence of the state’s legislature and Congress. 

5. The “state” of Illinois was created by residents and Congress, not God or science. Before 1818, it didn’t exist — and if it no longer works for the people living here today, we can replace it with the concurrence of Congress. 

6. Congress has the power to annul or impair contracts to which state governments are party. Bankruptcy courts impair contracts, and, just a few years ago, Congress passed legislation setting up a process for impairing Puerto Rico’s contracts to resolve its financial failure. Congress has the power to wind down the existing government of Illinois and to establish a process for adjusting or impairing the state’s contracts. 

What does this mean?  We can reboot Illinois.

It’s an interesting idea, and a possibility that shouldn’t be limited to Illinois, but should be considered in other states that are suffering from overwhelming debts and irresponsible state governments (California, anyone?)

Now, this is (like many good ideas) a long shot.  Either this would take an unprecedented action by Congress to essentially declare Illinois a state in rebellion against the republic’s founding principles – or the pols in the Illinois state government would have to vote themselves out of power.  Neither is likely, frankly, and to be fair, if that first happened, where would it stop?  One can easily see an eventual leftist-controlled Congress taking the same action against, say, Wyoming, for refusing to enact an Imperial gun-confiscation law.

But if one could reform a state like Illinois, I can think of a couple of things that might help steer the rogue state onto a more stable fiscal path:

  1. Abolish and outlaw public sector unions.
  2. No defined-benefit pensions for state employees; they get 401k plans like their private-sector counterparts.
  3. Place a balanced-budget requirement in the new state constitution.
  4. Strict term limits for state politicians, with no pension or benefits after leaving office.

There’s a lot more that could be done, but this would be a start.

Nothing of the like, of course, will happen.  At least, not until Illinois suffers its inevitable Stein’s Law collapse, after which, hopefully, the Illinois voters will finally, hopefully, take the keys away from the lunatics that are running that asylum.

Still, this is an interesting proposition.  It’s become painfully obvious that states like Illinois and California won’t fix their fiscal problems themselves.  Maybe a declaration of insolvency by the Imperial government should be the cudgel wielded to fix things?

Rule Five Golden Years Friday

There’s a reason they call them the Golden Years.  I speak from personal experience; Mrs. Animal and yr. obdt. have been enjoying our empty-nester years a great deal, and while I’m still working well over the normal forty a week, we have managed to insert some travel into the schedules, as you’ve seen here.  These are wonderful years; our kids are grown and doing well, business is good, our health is good, and our personal world has sort of come back around to the two of us; right now, life is damned good.

Turns out that we’re not alone.  Excerpts, with my comments:

A large percentage of surveyed older adults finally have the time to travel and see the world. In all, 39% have spent more than 20 days on vacation over just the past year. Only 27% of adults under 35 could say the same. In fact, many older respondents agreed they’re happy they waited until their later years to do most of their traveling, as now they are better equipped both financially and emotionally to really enjoy different parts of the world.

I’m still working and will for some years yet; a big part of what gives my life meaning is in the production of value and, frankly, money’s a great motivator.  But Mrs. A and I love to travel, and we’re finding more time to fit in at least long weekends in interesting locations.

The majority of surveyed older adults are also enjoying good mental health as well. A significant 70% said they are feeling happy and content on a mental level, compared to 59% of adults under 35. Similarly, only 30% of the older respondents admitted to frequent bouts of stress or anxiety, while 63% of adults under 35 often feel stressed, and 60% battle anxiety.

For us, “happy and content” is something of an understatement.  Our only niggling source of dissatisfaction lies in the mess that has been made of Colorado, our adopted home state (I grew up in Iowa, Mrs. A in Maryland) that we grew to love.  But we planned for that, and in a few more years, we’ll move north, which will make our level on the “happy and content” scale move pretty close to max.

All in all, it’s clear that older adults are, to put it simply, very happy. For instance, 72% are comfortable with their age, 64% are content in life, and 53% have never felt more confident. Moreover, another 53% said they feel much younger than what their date of birth says!

All of the above.  And here’s the real kicker:

Of course, with old age comes wisdom. Respondents were asked if they had any advice for younger generations, and their most frequent response was always make time for your loved ones. Other popular answers included travel as much as possible, don’t be afraid of new things, don’t change to please other people, and try not to worry about the small stuff.

I’d agree with all of that, and add a few things:

Be available for your kids as they make their way through their own lives.  Empty-nesterhood is great, but you never, ever stop being a parent.

Never stop producing.  The value you contribute may be in writing, volunteer work, whatever, but sloth is the enemy of contentment.

Never lose your sense of wonder.  The world is huge, amazing, full of adventure.  See as much as you can.  Do as much as  you can.  When I was a young man, I decided that I would make sure all my sins were sins of commission, not sins of omission.  I think I’ve done that.  Don’t ever leave anything out.  No regrets!

These are the Golden Years.  It’s a great place to be in life.