Relevant and even prescient commentary on news, politics and the economy.

Conversational Points about Coronavirus and Administration Answers

Newcastle ban handshakes at training ground: “There’s a ritual here that everybody shakes hands with everybody as soon as we see each other every morning,” said Bruce as he prepared for Saturday’s game against Burnley at St James’ Park. “But we’ve stopped that on the advice of our club doctor. Thankfully, we’ve got a superb doctor here and he will keep us informed of what we have to do. We’re like everybody else, we’re glued to the TV for where it’s going to go next and let’s hope it doesn’t get any worse in this country.”

Dettol sales surge as markets fall again The disinfectant is seen as providing protection against the spread of the disease, although its effectiveness has not yet been scientifically proven.

Dettol owner Reckitt Benckiser said in its results on Thursday. “We are seeing some increased demand for Dettol and Lysol products and are working to support the relevant healthcare authorities and agencies, including through donations, information and education. We do see increased activity online for our consumers in China,”

Rep. Ron Kind (D-Wis.) held a telephone Town Hall Wednesday night. Rep. Ron Kind asked Azar how confident he was that rural providers were up to the task when;

“one out of every three calls into it was talking about the coronavirus. Certainly the concern, if not the fear, is starting to permeate throughout our communities and especially in rural areas. It’s coming, and I’m concerned whether we’re ready for that.”

Azar: “One of the bedrocks of our system is our great hospitals, our great public health infrastructure, and our providers, I worry about infection control protocols in rural facilities, just because they don’t see it as much … I think we have to up the game nationwide around immediate infection control on suspect cases so we don’t get nosocomial infections.”

Trump chief of staff Mick Mulvaney suggests people ignore coronavirus news to calm markets.

Mulvaney: When asked by a reporter, “What are you going to do today to calm the markets?”

“I’m like, ‘Really? what I might do today [to] calm the markets is tell people turn their televisions off for 24 hours.

Still, the disease is ‘absolutely’ real, “You saw the president the other day — the flu is real.

This is not Ebola . . . it’s not SARS, it’s not MERS,

We sit there and watch the markets and there’s this huge panic and it’s like, why isn’t there this huge panic every single year over flu?

Are you going to see some schools shut down? Probably. May you see impacts on public transportation? Sure.”

Another intelligent remark Mulvaney . . . meanwhile the market dropped 800 points today (what I saw).

Coronavirus Live Updates: Global Risk is ‘Very High,’ W.H.O. Says as Epidemic Spreads

Following Mulvaney’s advice WHO suggests you turn your TV off for 24 hours . No, no, that’s not their advice.

“The World Health Organization on Friday raised its assessment of the global coronavirus risk from “high” to “very high,” the most serious assessment in its new four-stage alert system.

Dr. Michael J. Ryan, deputy director of W.H.O.’s health emergency program. ‘This is a reality check for every government on the planet, Wake up. Get ready. This virus may be on its way.’”

Ted Cruz tried to mock AOC’s scientific knowledge – it didn’t end well

The good: AOC tweeted

“Mike Pence literally does not believe in science. It is utterly irresponsible to put him in charge of US coronavirus response as the world sits on the cusp of a pandemic. This decision could cost people their lives. Pence’s past decisions already have.

As governor, Pence’s science denial contributed to one of the worst HIV outbreaks in Indiana’s history. He is not a medical doctor. He is not a health expert. He is not qualified nor positioned in any way to protect our public health.”

The bad: Senator Cruz’s responding tweet

“As you are speaking as the oracle of science, tell us, what exactly is a Y chromosome? And at what age of gestation does science tell us that an unborn child feels physical pain?”

The Ugly: AOC answering Cruz’s tweet

“I’m surprised you’re asking about chromosomes given that you don’t believe in evolution, Sen. Cruz, while I understand you judge people’s intelligence by the lowest income they’ve had. I hold awards from MIT Lincoln Lab &others for accomplishments in microbiology.

Secondly, I’m surprised you’re asking about chromosomes given that you don’t even believe in evolution.”

Crickets are still chirping . . .

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Housing: prices follow sales, February 2020 edition

Housing: prices follow sales, February 2020 edition

One of the consistent things I have written about the housing market for going on 10 years is that interest rates lead sales, and sales in turn lead prices. Last week with the continued increase in housing starts and permits we got further proof of the former, and this morning with the release of several house price indexes, we got further proof of the latter.

Below I show the FHFA house price index (blue), Case Shiller national house price index (green), and housing permits (red, /4 for scale). Because prices are seasonal, I show all of these metrics YoY:
The trough for permits YoY was last March. The trough for both the FHFA and the Case Shiller indexes was last August. The YoY change increased m/m for the FHFA from 4.9% to 5.1% in December. For the Case Shiller national index the YoY rate of change increased from 3.5% to 3.8%.

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A threatened groundwater source

(Dan here…one of David Zetland’s students Lenaide writes on groundwater…a reminder of what also matters during this heated political climate, and from a younger generation)

A threatened groundwater source

Lenaide writes*

Imagine living in a city located on top of the largest groundwater source and longest river in France, but to also have both of these sources be under the threat of scarcity. That it is the current state of Beaugency, France.

Beaugency has two water sources: the Beauce aquifer, which I will focus on in this blogpost and the Loire river, which I will only briefly mention at the end.

The aquifer, covering about 10 000 km2, is referred to as the water tower of the department, as it provides water to about 1 million inhabitants. Since the beginning of the 1990s, special attention for its care and sustainable use has been given to it as there was a major drought, forcing regulations to be put in place. However, these did not last, and thirty years later here we are with falling water levels and deteriorating water quality .

The aquifer provides drinking water for citizens and water for irrigation (mostly) and industrial uses. (For more info on the extraction, specific uses, and historical regulations imposed check out this website.)


Figure 1

Climate and agriculture threaten the Beauce groundwater.

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Conversational Points about Coronavirus and the White House’s Panic

The Incompetency of this man comes to light in a potentially catastrophic period. He instills fear rather than confidence.

White House Moves To Screen Scientists’ Statements On Coronavirus
As fears grow of a politicized White House response to the coronavirus outbreak, the White House has placed Vice President Mike Pence in charge of messaging about the virus, the New York Times reported Thursday.”

“Pence, who Trump said Wednesday night would be the White House point person on the outbreak, will clear public health officials’ statements on the virus, the Times reported citing several unnamed people familiar with the matter.”

Not to worry, The Reverend Henry Kane from Indiana takes charge.

White House Reportedly Ordered Infectious Disease Chief ‘Not to Say Anything’ About Coronavirus Without Clearance

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has told associates that he has received directions from the White House “not to say anything else without clearance” about the potential coronavirus pandemic.

Writing for the Times, Michael Scherer and Maggie Haberman report about recent efforts by the Trump administration to “tighten control of coronavirus messaging by government health officials and scientists, directing them to clear all statements and public appearance with the office of Vice President Mike Pence, according to several officials familiar with the new approach.”

Early missteps and state secrecy in China probably allowed the coronavirus to spread farther and faster

“An analysis of those early weeks — from official statements, leaked accounts from Chinese medical professionals, newly released scientific data and interviews with public health officials and infectious disease experts — reveals potential missteps by China’s overburdened public health officials.”

In my mind, there is no doubt this happened in China. Since the White House is more worried about markets than the spread of this contagion, it will spread rapidly with little to contain it. It will be months before an adequate vaccine is found.

President’s budget would hinder US public health progress: Huge cuts proposed“.

The Nation’s Health: “Trump released his fiscal year 2020 federal budget proposal in March, recommending huge cuts across the federal government, including a 12 percent cut to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and a 10 percent cut for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

At CDC, a reduction of that magnitude equates to a $750 million spending cut over fiscal year 2019. APHA member John Auerbach, MBA, president and CEO of Trust for America’s Health, said the proposed CDC cuts not only threaten federal public health capacity, they would have a “devastating” impact on state and local public health departments, which depend heavily on CDC dollars flowing down to the community level.

“Auerbach told The Nation’s Health. “Local health departments are still down more than 50,000 jobs from where they were in 2008. If large cuts like these were passed, it would seriously harm the overall capacity of state and local public health departments to respond.”

Donald Trump Is Worried About . . . The Stock Market!

“Trump is highly concerned about the market and has encouraged aides not to give predictions that might cause further tremors….In a Twitter post, he misspelled the word ‘coronavirus’ as ‘caronavirus’ and wrote that two cable news stations “are doing everything possible to make the Caronavirus look as bad as possible, including panicking markets, if possible. Likewise their incompetent Do Nothing Democrat comrades are all talk, no action. USA in great shape!”

As far as the markets, I would be concerned with the China supply chain to the US. At most there is 5-weeks, three on the ocean and a week on each side getting board ship, unloading, and customs. Perhaps companies will have 2 -4 weeks in stock already. We are two-3 weeks into this. China plants are more than likely closed or are half-staffed. Ships woill not call on Chinese ports till the crisis is over or is pronounced safe. The Chinese have fumbled the ball initially by not declaring an emergency sooner. While the epidemic started in a Wuhan fish market, it is now believed the virus originated elsewhere.

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The impact of coronavirus on my slowdown vs. recession forecast

by New Deal democrat

The impact of coronavirus on my slowdown vs. recession forecast

 For roughly the last half year, my forecast has been that a slowdown without a recession was the most likely scenario, *IF* the economy were left to its own devices.

Well, given the horror scenarios possible with the coronavirus outbreak, the economy is certainly not being “left to its own devices.”

I took a look at how that intersects with my forecast over at Seeking Alpha.

As usual, clicking over and reading should be helpful to you, and rewards me a little bit for my work.

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Live-blogging the Fifteenth Amendment: February 22, 1869

Live-blogging the Fifteenth Amendment: February 22, 1869

On February 22, the Senate took up the revisions that the House of Representatives had made to their proposals from one week prior. The House had struck from the Senate’s version, as sent to the House, the section extending the protections of the Amendment to qualifications for office, as well as the companion Amendment reforming the Electoral College.

Senator Stewart (Republican from Nevada) proposed that the Senate disagree with the House and send back the following version:

The right of citizens of the United States to vote and hold office shall not be denied or abridged by any State on account of race, color, nativity, property, creed, or previous condition of servitude.

The Congress by appropriate legislation may enforce the provisions of this article.

Stewart moved that the Senate ask for a conference committee to iron out their differences. There was dismay that the House was insisting on having its exact way as to this amendment, as had been the case for the past number of years as to all legislation, and that the attempt to reconcile their differences might be futile.
The Senate decided to put off voting on the proposal for a day.
Source: Congressional Globe, 40th Congress, 3rd Session, pp. 1440-42.

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Who Wins Prairie du Chien Wins the White House

Who Wins Prairie du Chien Wins the White House

That would be Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin, whose French name means “prairie dog,” and which is located where the Wisconsin River empties into the Mississippi River, third oldest town in the state founded by Europeans (the French) after Green Baay (originallly Fort Nicolet) and Portage, also located at crucial spots long used by the Native Indians for river transport.  It is also the county seat for Crawford County, with Grant County just across the Wisconsin River.

Many argue that Wisconsin is the ultimate swing state, based on that if all the states go as they did in 2016, Trump would stilll win if he loses PA and MI, but wins in WI.  It might be that Bernie in particular could swing AZ because of his strong support among non-Foridian Latinos, but even with that, Wisconsin is clearly about as crucial and swingy as any state in the Union.  How it goes is likely to align with the ultimate outcome in the electoral collage, at least as things stand now.

So why is Prairie du Chien so crucial?  Well, aside from several industrial cities, notably Erie, PA and Yongstown, OH, the parts of the nation that did the largest amount of changing their votes between 2012 and 2016, with then at least partly moving back towars Dems happen to be southwestern Wisconsin and noetheastern Iowa across the Miisissippi from SW WI.  While much of WI is now pretty rigidly partidsanly fixed, not so true in the past, this area is up for grabs and swinging back and forth at lot.  What matters in the rest of the state has more to do with base turnout issues, such as African Americans in Milwaukee and some other stories turning out a lot more in 2012 than in 2016.  But as of now, it looks like what goes on in SW WI looks to indicate how the state will go and thus how the national outome will go.

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Medicare Could Use the VA’s Negotiation Results on Insulins and Other Drugs

VA-Like Negotiations on Insulin Prices Could Save Medicare Billions, MedPage Today, Zeena Nackerdien, February 21, 2020

I am going to dispense with the reasoning dissing the increased pricing of Insulin and go straight to a pricing strategy. Suffice it to say, the various versions developed of Insulin do not justify the pricing increases seen today.

Recently, Philip Longman (“Best Care Anywhere”) was advocating for Medicare pricing for everyone using commercial healthcare insurance. The only problem with this approach is we are not getting to the root cause of increasing prices for pharma, hospital supplies, and hospitals. Kocher and Berwick breached the same topic with their plan to transition from today’s Commercial Healthcare Insurance to Single Payer by reducing insurance premium growth rates – “limit hospital prices to Medicare prices plus 20 percent.” The authors of this particular article (originally in JAMA)  on Medicare advocate using VA Pricing for Insulin.  Further down is a second article taken from JAMA Network (which I have access to) advocating the use of VA pricing for orally-taken drugs also ands using an approved formulary.

Talking about VA pricing for pharmacy after the leap.

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