Random Thoughts – Randocity!

Will there be a second COVID wave?

Posted in advice, economy, Health by commorancy on May 11, 2020

big waves under cloudy sky

This seems to be a burning question on everyone’s mind. Unfortunately, the information on this front will not be good news. Let’s explore.

CDC and WHO Guidelines

Both the Center’s for Disease Control (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) have fairly stringent guidance as to how the world should reopen during this pandemic. Even the White House has come up with its own 3 step plan. Unfortunately, the world’s leaders are far too anxious for their own good. I fully understand why. The economy is tanking, unemployment is now at an all-time high, and many business are on the verge of collapse.

With that level of pressure, any political leader would be anxious to want to reopen. The problem with reopening is not the reopening itself. It’s the second wave that’s looming. We’ve already seen, numerous times (here, here, here and here) that people can’t be trusted nor do they have any discipline to stay home, when given an inch. The only way this can happen is strictly by forced closure. It’s unfortunate that people feel the need to defy closure orders and safety advice, but here we are.

When restaurants open, when bars open, when stores open fully, when beaches and parks open, throngs will (emphasis WILL) head out in droves. It’s not a matter of IF it’s a matter of WHEN. There are many reasons for this defiance, but many who turn out believe that the whole COVID-19 problem is either a hoax or isn’t serious… or they are self-centered and simply believe it does not apply to them.

Whatever their deluded mentally deranged reasons, they head out in droves… and they will again. This is why reopening will lead to a second wave.

Second Wave Deaths and Reopening

Because many people are fed up with staying indoors at home, tired of being around their kids day in and out and eating the same home cooked meals, this sows the seeds for wave 2. After all, many people erroneously and foolishly believe, “It doesn’t apply to me. I’m healthy. I won’t get it.” Additionally, many also justify their actions by, “I’m healthy, why should I stay home?”

It is for all of these irrational thoughts that people flock to flea markets, beaches and other large gatherings… New York City Blue Angels flyover anyone? The point is, people cannot be trusted to stay home. If a crowd gathering event opens, people will come. It’s inevitable.

The point is, reopening of ANY sort will automatically trigger, in many people’s deranged minds, that it’s now okay to go hang out with the masses ignoring social distancing, ignoring face masks and ignoring any guidelines whatsoever. It’s clear, as I’ve shown above, there’s no way any early reopening ends well for the public. The public is not at all well disciplined enough for that.

Double Whammy

yellow dead end sign during day time

The bigger problem is the double whammy effect. People are fed up at staying home. Any chance they have to get their kids back into school or head back into the office, they’re going to take it like a kid grabbing candy from a stranger. That anxiousness will be on overdrive. It will override many sensibilities of health. People will be grasping at ANY straws that lead them into a feeling of comfort and safety when none actually exists.

At this level of desperation, people will begin congregating together in masses simply because the government leaders have relaxed the requirements even just a little. For many, “A little ain’t enough.” In fact, the other adage that applies is, “Give an inch and they’ll take a mile.” And yes, people WILL most definitely take that mile, and then some. Many people have no self-control at all. They’re social creatures and must live in the moment with other people around, regardless of their own safety or the safety of others (if they are infected).

It’s not a matter of IF, it’s a matter of WHEN. When is coming and very, very soon. With both the White House and the state governors feeling the pinch, not only are they feeling that pinch with their own state economies, they are getting the pinch from businesses too. It’s just a matter of time before the states, counties and cities succumb to these pressures and reopen out of desperation to placate businesses, but not to satisfy public safety.

Is COVID-19 subsiding?

In short, no. It is not subsiding. Distancing measures and stay-at-home orders have slowed its progress, but all of that will be entirely undone by reopening. Once people can travel, shop, stay at hotels, visit beaches and generally bunch up together like lemmings, COVID-19 will not only break out again, it will do so with a vengeance the second time around.

It won’t be a sparse set of cases in specific locales, it will be all over the country. Lifting stay-at-home orders is tantamount to ordering a second wave on a platter. In fact, COVID-19 may very well arrive on a literal platter for some.

Let’s consider the infection rate in the US. There are around 330 million people in the US. If 3.3 million people have been infected, so far, that means the United States has only seen a 1% infection rate. That means that 99% of the population of the United States remains susceptible to infection.

While some of those 1% who’ve already been infected may be out and about feeling confident about their ability to withstand another COVID infection, 99% have no immunity at all (assuming a past survivor has any immunity). That means that the vast majority of those who are out and about will be people who’ve never had COVID-19. It will be these people who will strike up the second wave.

Brutal

grey skulls piled on ground

While the first wave was somewhat brutal with potentially up to 3.3 million infected and around 80,000 deaths (and counting), this death rate will skyrocket come reopening day.

Just like 1918’s pandemic, people are now being lulled into a false sense of security because the numbers are dropping. Many justify that the lower numbers are because the virus is not intense, but that simply isn’t true. The virus is not only highly contagious, it’s extremely virulent and, to many, deadly. This is why the second wave will be brutal.

Because of the callous disregard for safety, people will chance their own lives in an effort to get back to some semblance of normal social interactions with their friends, co-workers, clubs, gyms and faith. It’s a chance that will end up in death.

For this reason, the second wave will be even less forgiving than the first. Partly, this will be because of the carelessness of individuals, but partly it’s because this virus has mutated 12 times in 3 months. The virus strain that has been going around Europe has made it onto US soil and believe to be what’s causing most of NY’s cases. It is this strain that may even see even those who have even survived an earlier strain back in bed again, let alone the remaining 99% who’ve never been infected who now get sick.

Hard Lessons and Death Statistics

Death is never a lesson that people should have to learn. Unfortunately, it is a lesson that many are learning, at least via their surviving loved ones. Even seeing the White House is not immune to close colleagues becoming infected, it proves just how easily transmissible this virus really is. If the White House can’t keep it out of their doors, then no one can.

Unfortunately, I believe we are now firmly following down the same path as the 1918 Pandemic which struck and killed somewhere between 20-50 million people worldwide. Yes, you read that correctly: 20-50 million people. The first wave of COVID-19 will seem like small potatoes next to the next wave that’s coming… and coming, it is.

Protecting Yourself

Unfortunately, many of us need to work. At the same, we need to protect ourselves. Many business owners / executives are not amenable to people working from home. For this reason, they may mandate people back into the office earlier than is safe. This is likely to be the first salvo for the virus. Workplaces are communal environments. There’s no way you can avoid becoming infected in such a communal environment. Worse, many rented office spaces utilize recirculated air. These systems can pose a risk to everyone in the building. It only takes one COVID infected individual to cough, sneeze or otherwise expel their bodily fluids and some portion of the building can become infected. This is the reason that people in one part of the building can become infected by others in that same building, but without having any personal contact.

Closed recirculated ventilation systems and other communal office spaces can see to the transmission of COVID-19 across individuals in buildings. You might even get infected by performing something as simple as using the copy machine or drinking from the water fountain or water cooler or touching the faucet handle. Though, transmission through the ventilation system is still a big problem in many, many commercial building structures.

As a personal example, I worked in a 6 story building for 5 years. In that time, I’d had maybe 2 colds the entire time I worked there. These illnesses were within the first year. The remaining years I got sick maybe once. I moved on from that business and hired into another company that rented office space in a 16 story building. I worked on the 11th floor. In the first year that I worked there, I’d had several colds, the flu and an extremely long bout of bronchitis. That building’s A/C system was incredibly bad and seemed to circulate air not only from our floor, but apparently it also circulated air between multiple floors through a common shaft.

This ventilation system left everyone in the building vulnerable to sickness. I’ve never been sick that often in any other business where I’d ever worked. This building was so poorly engineered and because the company encouraged sickness in the office via its exceedingly poor sick leave policy, I had considered leaving the company just from this alone. Even when I attempted such things as social distancing, avoiding the kitchen, bringing my own food, washing hands often and staying at my desk as much as possible, none of it helped. I still got sick too often. There was truly “something in the air”. I finally left that company and I’ve not been sick since. That building was just one big petri dish.

Sick Leave Policies

woman lying on bed while blowing her nose

The whole building situation was made worse by, you guessed it, HR’s sick leave policies. Many corporate sick leave policies are less than ideal. For example, some businesses choose to gang up sick time onto paid time off (PTO). This is a bad, bad idea.

This means that your allotment of PTO must cover for all out of the office situations, including when you’re sick. This means you have to use up precious PTO to be at home nursing a cold or the flu. Not many people are willing to give up their PTO (i.e., their vacations) to be at home sick. Hence, people arrived into the office sick and worked sick at their desks. This crappy sick leave policy actually encouraged people to come to the office while contagious, thus infecting everyone around them. This company also took no steps to send people home if they appeared to be sick.

Companies which choose to separate PTO from sick days off tend to have less problems with people working sick at the office. The company where I worked prior to this poorly ventilated building company had an “unlimited” sick time policy. Keep in mind that “unlimited” isn’t truly unlimited. What that means is that if you’re sick, stay home and get well and take however many days is needed to get better. However, if you’re at home sick often, your job is in jeopardy. This meant that as long as you were truly sick and your boss can see it (or hear it), staying home is an option. Although, even though you’re at home, that doesn’t mean you’re not working. While you have claimed a sick day, you could still be called to work on projects or issues while in the throes of the flu. While an “unlimited” sick time policy is novel, it still has limits and requires manager approval every time you’re sick. Getting this time off can be tricky with many managers.

I’d prefer companies give realistic hard set amounts of sick time off per year. Just define an amount (5 days per year) and hold us to it. Because it’s hard sick time, you don’t need approvals. Just use it when you need it. You will need to inform your boss that you’re at home sick to avoid “no show” problems, but you can use that sick time when you need it. If you run out of the allotted amount of sick days, you may need to consider disability leave or PTO instead. That’s a separate issue from ganging up sick time onto PTO up front, which is not a good idea and encourages the wrong behavior.

COVID and Corporations

Corporations are difficult slow boats. What I mean is that trying to get stick-in-the-mud executives to change corporate standards to help reduce or eliminate sickness in the office can be a real challenge. Human Resource staff might have a better time at steering that slow barge than those of us not in HR. The difficulty is, many executives don’t really care. They want butts in the office. They don’t care about people being sick. In fact, many executives don’t care about the welfare of their employees specifically. That’s left up to the HR team to handle. Many times, the HR team operates benefits from the cost perspective. If it costs too much, it won’t get implemented. This can leave situations like the above, where sick time is ganged up on PTO time. Yes, the HR team came up with that idea and implemented it.

Unfortunately, the costs outweigh the fact that such a policy encourages people to horde their PTO time at all costs. That means seeing people at their desks wheezing, sneezing, coughing, with runny noses and contagious with the flu. Staff simply won’t give up their vacation days to stay at home sick. They value that summer Hawaii trip way more. In fact, many of these people may even show up to work sick facetiously in an attempt to “get back” at the rest of the office for its asinine sick time policy. They are willing to let their co-workers, boss and other office staff become sick just to fulfill a vendetta against a perceived corporate injustice. Yes, this does happen.

COVID won’t be different

architecture barge bay beach

With many corporations, they can be exceedingly slow barges that simply can’t or won’t course correct their corporate culture and policies for something like COVID. Some might, but many won’t. If it’s going to cost the corporation even more money in benefits, then you can bet it won’t get implemented. This means that such antiquated sick time policies, such as the one stated above, will continue to be enforced in a post-COVID world.

Some corporations do legitimately care for their staff. Other companies really don’t give a damn. Only you can review your corporate policies to see if your company is trying to make positive changes with COVID or not.

Unfortunately, many corporate policy changes are simply for show. What I mean is that corporations appear to make policy changes simply to get free press from the industry. However, internally, these corporate changes are mere window dressing. This means that the policies remain exactly identical as before. What’s stated to the outside is not what’s being practiced on the inside. It’s more about making the company look good than it is about that company actually being sincere. There are plenty of companies that follow this asinine example. Yours may even be one of them.

Ultimately, what this means for COVID is more and faster infection rates. Corporations are itching to get their offices open with employees back at their desks so they can continue to sell and make money. It’s all about the money. Unfortunately, the money motivation can remove motivation from keeping employees healthy. In fact, many corporations see employees as disposable commodities. If a position becomes vacant, they believe they can fill it almost instantly. In an employer’s market, that might be true. In an employee’s market, that’s absolutely false.

Economic Impact and Employer’s Market

red and white signage

Here’s where we are. Because employers have furloughed or laid off millions of workers due to temporary closure, it is now back to an employer’s market. That means that any employer who is now hiring has an unfair advantage. This means the employer can demand less wages, poorer working conditions, longer hours, less benefits, more dedication with less rewards and on and on. Because people are now firmly out of work, this means employers who have positions to hire hold the upper hand.

While once we had days where employers were bending over backwards to get new talent in the door, we now have the reverse situation where there’s too much talent looking for work. This means that employers can write bad sick time policies forcing employees to use their PTO as sick time… or even worse, reduce PTO days.

As a result of the poor economy, we have now firmly moved back to an employer’s market where they can treat their staff with all of the careless disregard they so rightfully wish. That can only last for so long, but it’s here for now. The problem is, COVID can easily infect not only staff in the office, but the executives. Unfortunately, we’re likely to see most executives board themselves into their offices and never come out to see anyone. That assumes that many executives choose to even come into the office at all. Many executives may not even show up and, instead, choose to work from home. While those executives practice stay-at-home, they firmly will not allow their staff to do so. It’s a, “Do as I say, not as I do” situation. Unfortunately, these truly one-sided executive privilege situations occur with much more frequency in high unemployment markets, just as we face in 2020.

Worse, these callous self-centered greedy executives will treat their bottom end employees as entirely disposable. Because of the high unemployment rate, this gives them the opportunity to treat employees poorly while tossing them aside with frequency and impunity. If a few of their employees die to COVID, they don’t really care. This also means that COVID will spread with all of the careless abandon it needs to usher in wave 2. These poor corporate decisions will also be one of the primary reasons why wave 2 starts, though it won’t be the only reason why it continues to propagate.

That will be thanks to public transportation, beach gatherings, public gatherings, shopping in stores, restaurants and so on. All of the standard social fare that everyone has become accustomed to every day and on weekends, these will be the method of propagation of COVID-19. It may start in the office, but it will transmit through “open channels”. Though, as I said, it will also transmit due to poorly conceived office spaces combined with executives treating staff as dispensable in a high unemployment market. If someone in a corporation gets COVID, executives won’t necessarily take swift action. They might disinfect the workplace, they might not. It all depends on the corporation. Many corporations, as I said, don’t really give a damn about their employees’ health.

mask-businessWorse, far too many executives are sociopaths. They really don’t care one wit about anyone other than themselves. They put on a good face, but behind that is someone who doesn’t actually care. If someone gets COVID, they don’t really care as long as it doesn’t impact them directly. As long as they continue to practice stay-at-home, they won’t be affected. If half of their office staff gets COVID, they’ll simply fire them and get more staff. However, that might only work for so long until they have a huge lawsuit pending against them for improper staff treatment (and a number of COVID deaths). OSHA won’t take too kindly to sociopath executives playing games with their office staff in this callous and reckless way.

By the time any kind of litigation is forthcoming, the damage will already have been done. This means that COVID-19 will be firmly partway through its second much larger and deadlier wave. Those executives might be fired or the company might have to shut down, but not before the damage to the population has been done.

Second Wave Part II

Don’t kid yourself. The second wave is coming. As soon as the politicians decide that we need to reopen the US (and, indeed, the world) is the day the seeds for the second wave are planted. It only takes 14-28 days to incubate COVID-19. Within that period of time, we’ll see a ramping up, again, of the number of cases. Within 30 days, assuming the politicians keep the economy open, the cases will skyrocket. Unfortunately, we’re presently in the lull just before the storm. That 14-28 days will seem like everything is status-quo. That we’ve gone back to our older days. People will be out and about, happy, content and oblivious. All the while, COVID-19 is transmitting between many people. You can’t see it transmitted. You can’t feel it. It’s there, but it’s invisible. The only way to know is 1) getting tested or 2) getting sick.

Because we, as a nation, seem to have opted to go with #2 as a primary means of detection, this means that we have to wait until its far too late before understanding just how badly the whole situation is screwed up. The numbers of dead in wave 2 will far exceed the numbers of dead we’ve seen so far.

Grim Statistics

Here we come to how this may all pay out. It’s also the place where we need to review numbers. If numbers aren’t your thing, then it’s a good thing I saved the best for last. Let’s get going.

My guestimate is somewhere between 2% – 5% of the nation dead assuming an infection rate totalling at least 50% of the population (165 million).

At a 2% death rate at a 50% infection rate, that’s 3.3 million dead… and that’s just for starters. If the death rate reaches a whopping 5% (likely once hospitals reach capacity), that’s 8.25 million people dead. Those numbers are still less than the total number of dead from the 1918 pandemic at 20-50 million dead worldwide, though it’s much higher than the ~700,000 dead from the 1918 pandemic in the US. Keep in mind that in 1918, the population of the US was around 103.2 million people or roughly 1/3 of the population in 2020. Extrapolating the death rate from 1918 using 2020’s population of 330 million, the 1918 pandemic would have claimed 2.1 million people in the US alone. With COVID, we’re no where near that death rate yet. We’ve got a long way to go, which is why reopening now WILL only lead to a much more severe wave 2 death rate.

The sheer fact that we may not yet have even reached a 1% US population infection rate should be wildly concerning. We’ll need to reach an 85-95% infection rate across the entire US population before COVID-19 is considered “done”. We’re no where near those numbers. Opening the economy at this moment invites many, many more infections. You don’t even want to consider about the numbers of dead once we reach an 85% US population infection rate. Though, we’re quickly heading down this road.

Steps to Reopening

Unfortunately, we can’t stop the tide that is now turning. Politicians are going to do what they’re in the process of doing. If that’s reopen the economy, then that’s it. Come hell or high water, we’re reopening. That means that any published steps for how to safely achieve that reopening are mere suggestions. There’s no way that any leader will follow every step to the letter. Indeed, we’re likely to see some state governors open their entire state back up simply out of fear of political reprisal. Some deluded people have even called for recall of some governors. Governors are doing what they are doing to protect that state’s citizens, not because, as some people have put it, that those governors are “drunk with power”. It’s not a Kool-Aid issue. It’s an issue of public safety.

Though, some people don’t seem to get this. I get it. They’re out of work. They have no income. It’s difficult to make ends meet. I get that wholeheartedly. The problem is, what are we opening back up to if we do it now?

If “you” want to go to back to work face-to-face with the throngs of the COVID-bearing public, go for it. If you get COVID-19 and perish, that’s your choice. That’s a Darwinian Award level choice. While it’s fine to make such decisions for yourself, don’t drag other people into your quagmire along with you. If you have a death wish, that’s yours alone. Leave other people’s lives, health, safety and livelihoods out of it. If we choose to stay out of the public, that’s our choices. Don’t attempt make choices for or force choices on others. We all can make choices for ourselves. If the rest of the country chooses not to have a death wish, you must respect that choice.

If your employer chooses not to have that death wish, you must also respect their choice. If your company wants you back to work tomorrow and you’re willing, that’s also your choice. If your company wants you back at work and you’d prefer to stay-at-home as ordered, that’s a choice companies also need to respect without ramifications. If you can safely and effectively work from home, then a company needs to allow that choice. So long as stay-at-home orders remain, companies should be required to abide by those orders regardless of whether their business is now allowed to reopen.

Corporations and small businesses alike will do whatever is most cost effective to operate their business, rather than operate in the public’s best interest. The difficulty, with both business and government alike, is having a death toll approaching 3 million is catastrophic to any economy. If it gets to has high as 8 million (this is entirely possible), the economy will be way beyond problematic. It is, unfortunately, where we are presently heading with the early reopening that both the President and the governors are pushing hard, regardless of their documented steps.

↩︎

Reopening: The best laid plans

Posted in analysis, economy, history, virus by commorancy on April 29, 2020

motivational quote

As the United States sees the COVID-19 infection rate reach 1 million (a milestone as some are calling it), that’s not a milestone to cheer. In fact, it’s a milestone to jeer. Why? Let’s examine how our leaders have entirely failed us.

Donald Trump

Let’s start with our President. While the President has taken the pulpit regularly to spout all sorts of seeming nonsense unrelated to the virus and which has incited some people to take rash and sometimes suicidal actions, our leaders are lost amid this pandemic. Our political leaders have never been trained to handle such the medical reality our society now faces.

It’s clear our current country leadership is still and was, when the virus arrived, not in any way prepared to handle this medical crisis. Even though those in the medical community and many outside of it have long predicted another pandemic, our political leadership team took no action to prepare, stock up, or in any way plan for such an eventuality. Instead, the US government was so busy trying to kowtow to the constant rhetoric from large businesses and make sure they were happy (so they could get large political contributions), they were blinded by these now unnecessary, never ending and futile actions.

In fact, the largest businesses of the world, including Wall Street, effectively drove us to the present dire and unprecedented medical situation that we all must now face. By diverting government attention and money away from a brewing medical crisis, they were constantly being distracted by unnecessary business demands.

DPA

Sure, the economy is important, but not at the expense of what is now taking place. The President is negligent in his handling of this crisis, make no mistake. He took no immediate action on January 1, after COVID became known to the world. He failed to invoke the Defense Production Act (DPA) timely, which could have diverted necessary industry resources towards producing more PPE for hospital workers and other critical industries (including supply lines). Instead, he did nothing. It took weeks before he actually invoked it in a limited fashion, but only after the PPE shortage was already at the breaking point. Even then, our hospitals are still critically short on supplies.

This means that the general public now has no access to these supplies to protect themselves because literally all of it is now being diverted to hospitals. Even with those diverted supplies, the hospitals are still short on supplies. Many are requiring their workers to reuse masks for days that were designed to be used for an hour or two. It’s no wonder why some of these critical care workers are dying from COVID.

Economic Disaster Looming

While attempting to avert other economic disasters (or at least perceived disasters) prior to the outbreak, this left a huge hole in our preparedness for such a pandemic, like COVID. Yet, we now see exactly how much of an economic disaster that being at this level of unprepared means to the United States.

The President may claim to be “doing good things”, but the reality is, he and other past administrations did nothing to prepare for this eventuality, nor have they been effective at the leadership needed to drive this virus from US soil. Instead, they chose to ignore the warnings and focus on other unrelated tasks that vied for their immediate attention. Tasks that, while extremely diversionary, shouldn’t necessarily be minimized. They were, of course, important at the time. However, they shouldn’t have ignored the warnings. We’d already had two previous tastes of what was to come with COVID including the H1N1 (2009 Pandemic) and SARS (2003 Pandemic). These two weren’t that long ago.

Those warning shots should have been the necessary wake up call to get the government to mobilize a pandemic plan. Between 2009 and the present, the government could have been granting hospitals the necessary money they’ve needed to stock up on supplies. They could have had the hospital industry stocked and ready with medical supplies should the need arise.

In fact, the government could have been building ready-made hospital structures out of FEMA buildings, ready and waiting for the time when such a pandemic might occur. I realize that at the time of non-crisis it can be difficult to justify such preparedness dollars. However, it is crystal clear that the United States leadership failed us on this one.

What that means is that where we are today, the United States is in an amazingly fragile position economically. We simply don’t know where our economy may head in the next 6-12 months. There’s no way to even know if the upcoming Presidential election is even possible due to the outbreak. A second larger and deadlier wave is still looming and will likely hit sometime around September or October, just prior to the election. It may hit even before then based on reopening plans of many cities and states.

1% Infection Rate of the US Population

Let’s dive right into this topic as there’s no way to sugarcoat this. To date, the United States has confirmed less than 1% of the population infected. This means that approximately 99% of the population is still susceptible to COVID. Considering that we’ve had 60,000+ deaths and counting for just over 1 million people infected, it’s not hard to extrapolate these numbers.

There are around 330 million people living in the United States. If 50% of those 330 million people become infected, that’s 165 million people infected. Extrapolating up the death rate, let’s do the math. 60,000 people dead for 1 million infected is a 6% mortality rate. Of course, some could argue that the 1 million could be under reported. That the infection rate is much higher. This could be true. However, we have no way to confirm the number that have been infected. Let’s assume that this 6% number is, in fact, accurate.

That 6% is much higher than the reported 1.25% death rate from this virus. Partly, this may be due to the overcrowding situation in New York City where the vast majority of these deaths have occurred. New York City isn’t, unfortunately, an anomaly. It is a reality. It is a reality that will be seen played out all over the nation should the nation reach a 50% infection rate at the same moment in time.

When hospital overcrowding becomes a major issue (and it will), hospitals will be forced to turn away patients. Hospitals will have no choice. This is where that 1.25% number goes up, perhaps even over the 6% that we’re currently seeing. For the sake of argument, I’ll present death numbers for both 6% and 1.25%. Keep in mind that 1.25% is a number that can only be achieved WITH the help of hospital care. Without hospital care, that number will soar much higher… just as it has with the present situation.

At 165 million people infected (50% of the US population) and at 1.25% mortality rate, that’s 2,062,500 people (2 million) dead. At a 6% death rate (more likely what we’ll observe if we reach 165 million people infected at once), that 6% number means 9.9 million people dead. Those 9.9 million dead bodies have to go somewhere, perhaps lining the streets in body bags in some locales. Even 2 million bodies have to go somewhere. There might not even be enough body bags to handle 2 million, let alone 9.9 million people dead. Crematoriums will be working overtime just to keep up with this dead body count.

This whole situation will turn into a literal nightmare scenario for leaders and citizens alike. Where people are chanting to open cities back up today, this scenario is what’s driving leaders to consider reopening way too early. In fact you can’t reopen anything while the virus is still being spread. You simply can’t do it. We already know this virus spreads exponentially over time. It takes ONE person to spread the virus to others who will then spread theirs infection to others. Reopening the economy will lead us down the road to a much, much higher infection rate than the 1% of the population we have today.

As a result, the somewhat overcrowded situation at hospitals will turn into a situation of hospitals turning away patients. There will be no place for the sick to go. They’ll have to head home and take their chances at home. Without access to immediate medical care, many will die. This raises the mortality rate tremendously and it will go way beyond the 1.25% mortality rate.

Low Numbers and Infection

I see a lot of ignorant people downplaying the present COVID situation. I see a lot of people claiming that it’s not that serious, the numbers are low or there’s nothing to fear or spouting other such nonsensical rhetoric. They’re making these statements without claim to how they arrived at that thought rationale (other than the numbers appear to be low). Make no mistake, the low numbers we are seeing for infection have nothing to do with the virus’s severity level or its ability to kill. The low numbers have everything to do with the present distancing and staying-at-home orders. Lifting that and the virus will take hold in much, much larger numbers.

Should the world re-open as it was, the death rate will soar way beyond the 1 million infected so far. We will see a second wave of death and infection rates that far exceed anything the world has seen to date. Yes, it’s coming.

Ignorant People

There are many people who feel that the government is lying and this is all a ruse by the government to erode human and constitutional rights. That’s actually the irrational view. If you value your own life so little as to not understand the ramifications of this virus, then perhaps you need become infected and take your chances. While my view might be considered a rather callous view, some people need to learn life’s (or death’s) lesson’s the hard way. It’s Social Darwinism.

If you choose to venture out by defying stay-at-home orders, become infected and then become a death statistic, that’s your choice. You made that choice. I won’t feel any sympathy for anyone making such stupid choices. That was your choice to make, as stupid as it may have been. You made that decision and you died.

As with Darwinian ideals, the point is to rid the world’s population of people who are simply unwilling to grasp certain realities. If you are unwilling or unable to grasp life and death concepts, then perhaps the world’s gene pool is a better place without you in it. If you want to venture out and become infected, the door’s right over there.

This is why I show no sympathy towards any anti stay-at-home protesters. If you’re out and about attempting to get infected, you may also be the ones spreading the infection. For these folks, I’ll let the virus run its course on them. If they succumb at home, then so be it. If they survive, and some will, then so be it. At least some of these folks with dumb ideas won’t survive. But, that’s on them and there’s no sympathy here. I’ll just point to the Darwin Awards, of which there will be many issued this year. From the Darwin Awards web site:

Darwin Award winners eliminate themselves in an extraordinarily idiotic manner, thereby improving our species’ chances of long-term survival.

While the Darwin Awards may not recognize those COVID-19 anti stay-at-home protesters as “extraordinarily idiotic”, I personally think this situation qualifies. Of course, if the Darwin Awards were to qualify every COVIDiot, they’d be updating that web site for years to come. I can understand why this site might want to disqualify all COVIDiots of the world to avoid this problem… allowing them focus on those deaths that don’t apply to COVID-19.

Personally, I think the Darwin Awards needs to create a special site devoted to the COVIDiots who off themselves by contracting the virus and die by thinking it doesn’t exist or that it is some conspiratorial government rights erosion scheme.

Likewise, for parents who want to send their kids out to the playground and who then contract COVID-19 from another child on the playground, I have no sympathy. You sent your child out there, that was your choice. If your family perishes, that was also your choice.

Population Control

While COVID-19 is a virus and it does have a fairly grim death statistic, perhaps it is also intended to be an equalizer of sorts. It could be used as a way to “thin the herd”, so to speak. It doesn’t matter the age, race, color or gender, this virus is non-judgemental. It will infect a 1 year old as easily as any other age. Whether it ends up killing is entirely based on that person’s immune system and health. People with asthma or other lung diseases or conditions may be at higher risk.

The point is, COVID-19 is now quickly becoming a population equalizer. That means that while it started out as a viral problem, it is quickly beginning to thin the herd. For those COVIDiots who choose to run around claiming that it’s fake or that “God will protect them”, you’re living in a fantasy world. Nothing will protect you from COVID-19 except staying away from other people. Latching onto a fantasy that “God” or any other outside influence will protect you is delusional. The virus will just as easily invade your system as it will anyone else’s. Whether it will kill you, you’ll have to take your chances. You may survive, you may not. Once you’re infected, it’s yours until you win or lose.

If COVID-19 thins the herd, then so be it. That’s how the chips fall and that’s how they will remain. If the United States loses 10% of its population to COVID-19, then that’s where it ends up. I won’t say that a loss of 10% of the population won’t be devastating to the economy, but it will recover in time. Eventually, enough babies being born will make up for this loss. The population will again grow after COVID-19 is over and done. Until then, COVID-19 will become the most modern version of a great equalizer, just as the 1918 Pandemic was.

Doomed to Repeat

If the 1918 H1N1 Pandemic taught us anything, it was that you can’t let your guard down even for a moment. When everyone thought that the 1918 pandemic was subsiding by late summer, restrictions were relaxed. That’s when the second even more deadly wave hit the country. The reason for this second wave was attributed to soldiers bringing it home and spreading an even deadlier version around.

Today, we have a very high possibility of this situation repeating itself. It won’t repeat because of soldiers, however. History will repeat due to worldwide travel, loosened social restrictions, people thinking it’s over and because businesses are itching to open back up.

Once movie theaters, concert venues, sporting events and any other large crowd gatherings are allowed to exist, this is where the second wave will begin. Worse, if we end up with a different mutated strain ending up on US soil, one that hasn’t yet been passed around, it could reinfect survivors of the earlier strain. It might even kill those survivors due to the body’s already weakened state from the last infection. In other words, a second wave is almost inevitable.

As some states are poised to reopen due to “dropping numbers of infection”, this false sense of security will be their undoing. By states and leaders opening it all up, people WILL venture out thinking that the situation is over. It’s no where near over. 1% of the US infected? No, we’ve barely just scratched the surface. There’s still 99% of the population left to infect… and infect many of these people the virus will. As restrictions relax, people will start doing the things they have been desperately craving while stuck inside. They’ll be doing all of these things with even more careless abandon than usual, only to find that 14 days later they, their friends and their families are now infected. Yet, there won’t be hospital space for the throngs more who are now infected.

This is where and how the much more serious second wave begins.

Election Day

Depending on when this second wave begins, election day may or may not be possible. If enough people become infected before election day, the sick won’t be able to head to the polls. Those uninfected will also be scared to turn out. How will the government entice people out of their homes when, within 1 to 2 months, 100,000 or more people are dead? Yeah, that’s a major challenge.

The government needs to begin planning for an alternative election polling system now. If they don’t begin this process today, come November 3rd, few may actually turn out to vote. If fewer than 10% of the population show up to vote, is that fair representation of the populous?

Let’s consider if some of the current candidates end up succumbing to COVID-19 in this second wave and, for obvious reasons, are no longer on the ballot. How does that work? Yeah, some contingency planning is in order here. Perhaps they can plan for voting from your car (using NFC) or some other similar hands-off voting system with a phone app. For the candidate infections, that’s a whole different bag.

Phone apps have proven their safety, effectiveness and security if properly built. A vote-in-car system could be used by holding your phone up to the window to be read by an external NFC device. It could even be done by connecting to a local WiFi service at the voting center which automatically forces a login page which is used to both verify identity, then collect votes right from the car. No need to leave the car. There are plenty of hands-off approaches that don’t require leaving the confines of your vehicle to vote, yet still allow you to vote in person. These are contingencies that the government needs to consider now. If they aren’t considering such countermeasures, come November 3rd, we could see a huge problem with voter turnout.

The Second Wave IS Coming

A second even larger wave is looming on the horizon. It’s only a matter of time. Once state leaders realize they can’t keep their states closed forever, they will begin to open without realizing that that action is a ticking time bomb. The second wave will be born from each governor’s loosening of restrictions. It will be these very actions around the US that leads to a second larger and potentially even more deadly wave.

When the second wave arrives, this will spur an even bigger panic, not only in the economy, but by people across the globe.

Is there a better way? Personally, I don’t see it. I think we have to let the leaders have their folly. It’s the only way for them to wake up to the realities of this tragic situation. There’s really no way around it. I’m not intending to be a “Debbie Downer” more than a realist. Sometimes you have to look at a scenario and understand that people will do what they do, regardless of how smart that choice is. The pressures from business (and the looming economic failure) is tremendous. It’s exactly what’s driving the leaders to reopen. It is also this exact driving force that will lead us to a second wave of COVID-19. It’s an inevitable outcome.

We’ve tied our society so heavily to the economy that one can’t survive without the other. When you have a virus invading this space, it’s a damned-if-you-do-damned-if-you-don’t scenario. There is no correct choice here. Stay closed, the economy crashes. Open up, the economy crashes because of the second wave.

The economy will crash either way. There’s no way around it. Leaders think that opening up is the road that leads us to recovery. For a short amount of time it will appear that way while we are lulled into a false sense of security. That is until the virus latches onto yet even more people and drags them down into death’s spiral. Then, the whole situation starts ALL over, but this time it will infect unchecked because it’ll be too late.

Being a realist, a lot of people see us as “wet blankets”. We always bring up the one thing that people never want to hear. Everyone wants to see the rosy side of all situations. The problem is, the rosy side almost never exists. It’s a fantasy in someone’s mind. The realist sees the situation as it is (and can predict how it will play out). It’s like truth. People don’t always want to hear the truth. It’s too brutal and too realistic. People want to be told lies so they can feel better about themselves.

In the case of that dress or those shoes, these are harmless lies that don’t hurt people. Lying that the virus is subsiding will only serve to get people dead. Being a realist has its place and can help prevent the deaths of so many. Yet, our leaders are so gung-ho to get the economy restarted, they’re willing to sacrifice many people to that end. Yes, there are still more sacrifices yet to come.

The difficulty is that, as realism dictates, the downside of opening up into a second wave is an even bigger economic disaster. There’s no way to prepare for or prevent this event. We just have to wait it out. The economy will recover, eventually. Just not today. Not tomorrow. In fact, the economy won’t recover until COVID-19 is either eradicated or there’s a vaccine to protect the entire world’s population. After COVID is gone, the economy can begin to recover and those who survive can bring back the world into a new prosperous era. Perhaps we can even learn a thing or two about the value in pandemic preparedness. Considering that we really learned nothing from 1918’s pandemic, then again perhaps not.

↩︎

Is loosening Social Distancing a good thing?

Posted in economy, Health, history by commorancy on April 26, 2020

an empty street under cloudy sky

I know a lot of people are going stir-crazy being stuck in without much to do. Movie theaters are closed. Beaches are closed. Concerts are canceled. Work is performed at home. Kids are home schooled. All of the normal social things we do every day, like shopping and restaurants are not really available (other than grocery shopping, of course). Let’s explore what it means to loosen social distancing.

Viruses

Like the Flu or Colds, a virus is a virus. No, we don’t yet have inoculation for even the common cold or the flu. For the flu, we have the once a year flu shot. This shot is formulated to contain a very specific set of inactive flu strains that “someone” deems as the “most likely” to hit the population. When you get a flu shot, the body acts on these inactive flu strains like they would live flu, which teaches the body how to fight off each specific strain.

Unfortunately, the flu mutates regularly and often. This means that it’s easy for the flu shot formulation to miss one or two or many strains that might hit during a given flu season. This is why taking a flu shot can be hit-or-miss. It means that even if you do take a flu shot, you can still get the flu. Why is that?

It’s because flu strains are not all alike. The body can only recognize specific flu strains to combat. If a new flu strain comes along, the body won’t recognize it as something it has fought before. This allows that flu strain to get a foothold and make the body sick before the immune system response learns and kicks in against this invader.

Enter COVID-19 / SARS-CoV-2

Two names for the same virus. SARS-CoV-2 is actually the virus strain name. The difficulty with SARS-CoV-2 is mutation. Like the flu, a mutation could be ignored by the immune system as a past infection. Meaning, if you have had SARS-CoV-2 and SARS-CoV-3 comes along, the antibodies created for SARS-CoV-2 may not be recognized or used against this new virus. This means you could get COVID again. If you’ve recovered the last time, this time it might result in death. Even the strain on the lungs from a previous infection might damage the lungs enough to cause a new infection to kill. This virus is difficult to handle and even more difficult to know exactly how it might mutate.

Yes, it could mutate into an even more virulent and deadly strain. This is why a vaccine against SARS-CoV-2 might be an impossible task. What I mean is that it may be next to impossible to create a vaccine that covers not only SARS-CoV-2, but every possible strain that could follow. If the medical community hasn’t been able to create a flu vaccine that functions against ALL flu virus strains, how are they going to create a COVID vaccine that covers all current and future COVID virus strains?

The answer to this question is uncertain. What does this have to do with relaxing social distancing requirements? Everything.

Herd Immunity

Considering the above regarding the flu, there is no such thing as herd immunity against the flu or even the seasonal cold virus. We regularly get these viruses even after having had previous flu or colds in the past. It’s inevitable and we understand how this works. Some of us are more lucky than others and rarely get these. Some people get colds and flu frequently, like every single virus that rolls around. Logically, we must apply this same behavior to COVID.

Opening the World

Eventually, the world must reopen. That’s a given. The question is, when is the best time to do that? Given the realities of how viruses operate, there’s no “best” time to do it. This virus is here to stay. It will continue to infect the world. At least SARS-CoV-2 will. Unfortunately, herd immunity isn’t likely to work with this virus. It might for a short time, but we all know that any immunity we may have for past colds and flu last, at most, one season. When the next season rolls around again just a few months later, we’re again susceptible, perhaps even to a strain we’ve previously had. We’re never tested for the exact strains of colds and viruses that we get to know for sure if we’re being reinfected by the same strain.

With COVID following the same patterns as the cold and flu viruses, it’s inevitable that the world must reopen. Yes, perhaps to a new more cautious reality. Perhaps we can’t ever go back to the throngs of people crowding together into a mosh pit, club or similar body-to-body crowds. Even large sporting events which formerly drew large crowds, like football and the Olympics, may find it hard to operate in this new reality.

One thing to realize is that simply because the world reopens doesn’t mean people will venture out in it. Just because parks or beaches or concert halls or Broadway have reopened, doesn’t mean the crowds will come.

COVID is still dangerous

Simply because the world has reopened doesn’t mean that COVID has magically disappeared. It is still very much being passed from person to person. Worse, not even 1% of the US population has been infected as of the numbers being released today in late April. The population would have to see at least 3.3 million infected before we’ve even reached 1% of the population. Consider that we must see at least 80-90% of the rest of the population infected before this virus may ever be considered “over”.

Second Larger Wave is Coming

Considering these above grim statistics, relaxing social distancing requirements WILL lead to a second even larger wave of infection. It’s inevitable. If at least 90% of the population is still uninfected, that means this virus has a lot more work to do before this situation can be called “over”…. let alone consider relaxing shelter-at-home requirements.

These states which are relaxing social distancing are doing so at their own peril and without any reason for doing so. They’re relaxing requirements because of social and economic pressure, not because it’s prudent or in the interest of public safety.

This is where things get grim… very, very grim. As I said, since 90% of the United States population has not been infected, relaxing shelter-at-home is only likely to “stir the pot” causing an even larger second wave.

Depending on how much gets relaxed, it could get much worse much, much faster this second time around. Why? Because any relaxing of requirements indicates to many people that the situation is over… that they’re now safe… that the virus has been contained… and such similar thought rationales. These are all false assumptions made based solely in irrational actions by local government leaders. Basically, these leaders are leading many to their deaths by these reckless actions.

Milestones

The only two ways we can ever be safe from COVID is to know that 99% of the world’s population has had this strain or that it has been eradicated 100% from the population. Unfortunately, the former assumes there are no other strains out there. The latter is almost impossible to achieve at this time. With any virus, we know there are other strains. In fact, with COVID, there were, at the time of the Wuhan outbreak, 2 strains. An earlier strain and a newer strain. It was this newer strain that jumped into humans and began its deadly trek around the world.

It will again be a new strain that jumps around the world. How many strains will there be? No one knows. Will those new strains be as deadly, more deadly or less deadly than the current strain? Again, we don’t know.

We also don’t know that someone who has survived one strain of COVID has any protection from any future strains… and this is the problem with relaxing any social distancing or, indeed, reopening the world.

How can we proceed?

This is the basic problem to solve. So, how exactly do we proceed? As much as it pains me to write this, we may have to open the world and let the chips fall where they may. Whomever dies, dies. Whomever doesn’t, doesn’t. The Herbert Spencer adage (usually attributed to Darwin) of “Survival of the Fittest” may have to win this situation in the end.

Whomever is left after COVID-19 does its dirty deed may be the only outcome available to the world. It’s not an outcome without major ramifications, however. If we can’t eradicate the virus from the world in another way, then letting it play out in the population as a whole is the only other way to handle it. There are two choices here:

  1. Find a reliable and quick testing methodology. Require everyone to be tested, then force isolate anyone who is found infected until either they die or they recover. Isolate any recovered persons for another 30 days to ensure they are no longer contagious. Rinse and repeat until no one else left in the world has it. Difficulty level: 10
  2. Allow the virus to run its course through the entire world’s population infecting everyone it can and let the chips fall where they may. This is the “Survival of the Fittest” approach. Whomever lives, lives. Whomever dies, dies. Difficulty level: 1

While scenario 2 is the easiest, it’s also the most costly to the world’s population, and indeed the economy. All told, if everyone in the world becomes infected and 1.25% is the average death rate holds steady (hint: it won’t), that means up to 96 million people dead across the globe or up to 4.13 million dead in the United States.

This assumes status quo and that the virus doesn’t mutate into a second deadly strain with an even higher death rate. If the virus mutates into a single deadlier strain, scenario 2 will lead to even more millions dead. If it mutates into multiple deadlier strains, then it could end up with a billion or more dead.

Yes, scenario 2 might be the least difficult, but it is the scenario that leads to an untold number of dead not only in the US, but around the globe.

Scenario 1, on the other hand, has a high difficulty factor. It will lead to not only a high economic toll, but it could change the world economy forever. Though, with scenario 1, we may be able to contain COVID-19. We may even put the genie back into the bottle (i.e., eradicate it from the population). Attempting this one could could save many, but at a huge economic cost.

Economic Impact

Either scenario affords major economic impact across the board. Billions of dead means much lower tax base for all countries. The US had been relying on 330 million people in tax revenue (the estimated population of the US). If 10 million die, that’s 320 million in a new tax base. Assuming any of those 10 million who died were high contributors to the tax base, that revenue has dried up. That’s a lot of money to lose and a lot of economic impact.

If under Scenario 2, multiple mutations sweep the world and kill 10x more than expected, that’s 100 million dead in the US. The new reality could see the United States at 230 million… the same population that the US saw in 1981. If the population gets to 200 million, that’s the number the US saw in 1968. The more who die, the worse the economic impact for the United States and the farther back in time we go. Millions dead means many empty houses, a huge mortgage crisis and the list of economic problem goes on and on.

Flattening the Curve

This concept is important for one specific reason. What does it mean, though? By attempting to slow the infection rate through stay-at-home measures, this keeps hospitals above water for patient load. Relaxing the stay-at-home orders means more people out and about and more people getting infected. More infections means more people sick at once.

This is the exact opposite of flattening the curve. Relaxing social distancing will have an inverse impact of flattening the curve for an already overtaxed hospital system. What that means is that those who become infected during a higher demand hospital period are more likely to die at home. Hospitals have limited numbers of beds, limited staff and limited means to treat very limited numbers of people in a given area.

In densely populated urban areas, hospitals will become overloaded quicker. This means densely populated urban areas like Los Angeles, San Francisco, Houston, New York City, New Orleans, Atlanta, St. Louis, Detroit and so on will see significantly higher death rates under scenario 2. The death rate will climb and never stop if stay-at-home orders are lifted AND people venture out in the expected droves that they always have.

Ultimately, scenario 2 will likely lead to a much higher death rate than the currently estimated 1.25% simply due to the saturation of patients with not enough hospitals to cover the load. This scenario playing out is inevitable with an early relaxing of distancing requirements by reopening of social areas, shops and businesses.

What can I do?

You can say, no. Basically, if the United States (and the world) adopts a “Survival of the Fittest” approach to handling this crisis, then your health is left up to you. If you want to believe that everything is safe and you can venture out into the world without a care, then that’s your choice. If you get COVID-19, expect that you may end up trapped at home in your own bed without any means or access to medical care. Hospitals will likely be over-saturated with patients. You’ll be left to fend off the virus yourself. If your body can survive, it will. If it can’t, you’ll die.

This also means you can end up bringing the virus home to your children, your parents, your friends and your partner. You could end up infecting them as well. They, like you, will take their chances with the virus… at home… and very likely not in hospital care.

“Survival of the Fittest”

This may end up being the approach that governments are forced to adopt in the end. The world economy can’t survive without a population to operate it. Unfortunate, this catch-22 situation of opening up the population also means a much higher death rate once the dust settles. It’s effectively a no-win scenario for any government leader. Scenario 1 is almost impossible to achieve without some severe military measures enacted (see China’s handling). Scenario 2 is the easiest to achieve as it takes little to enact. Scenario 1 likely leads to death from people starving and unable to live due to economic impact. Scenario 2 leads to death from an overburdened hospital system while the economy flounders along at a snail’s pace, along with exponential growth in infections.

Unfortunately, death is an entirely inevitable as an outcome under either scenario. Unless the government leaders step up and halt the concept of money and the transfer of money between businesses as a metric of success and instead ask businesses to operate their businesses without quid-pro-quo for an extended period of time, this no-win situation will see to the deaths of millions of people in time no matter which path is chosen. Money flow must halt while society heals and the virus is eradicated from the population. This is the only way scenario 1 works.

Money and its Continued Necessity

The root of this situation is money. In fact, it is the single thing that’s leading our entire situation. If our economy was founded on something other than money, we might have had a chance to survive this situation with a minimal death toll.

Unfortunately, money is driving the need to reopen the economy which is driving the “Survival of the Fittest” scenario. No one can predict how the world will look in 2 years. We simply can’t foresee the number of deaths that might result. The higher the number of deaths, the worse the economies will fare. It’s a vicious cycle being driven by the insatiable need for ever more money… a silly metric when world survival in at stake.

Instead, survival in this world should never have been about money. It should have been about the positive benefits that humans can offer to one another without the driving need for acquisition of a piece of paper.

We are put on this earth to learn, grow and understand our universe. That’s the driving need why we are here. Knowledge is the currency. It’s what keeps our society functioning. It’s the scientists, architects, mathematicians, engineers and thinkers who keep our society flowing, growing, moving and functioning. It’s not money. Money is a means to an end, but is not the end itself. The end goal is the acquisition of knowledge, not money.

That’s where society needs to rethink money’s place in this world. Does money help acquire knowledge? No. It helps acquire sustenance and material possessions. Do we need jets or fast cars or million dollar houses? No. That’s unnecessary luxury. What helps humanity is the acquisition of knowledge and using that knowledge to progress society and humanity further. In that goal, computers are important, but only from the need for access to and for acquiring knowledge.

Money, on the other hand, doesn’t have anything to do with the acquisition of knowledge. Sure, higher learning institutions take money and, in quid-pro-quo form, teach you something. Though, technically, you could learn that something on your own. You don’t need to pay an institution to learn. You can read the books for yourself.

Sounds like Communism

I’m not advocating communism here. I’m actually advocating something beyond communism. I’m advocating that we need to learn to rebuild a society based on the currency of knowledge and the acquisition of knowledge rather than of money. The more “wise” you are, the more you contribute to the world’s betterment, the more you are afforded and the more you are revered. That’s what the world needs to achieve. This is the ideal a prosperous world needs to grow well into the future. Those who do and learn and give back are afforded the riches of the world. Those who choose not to learn are afforded much less.

Money, at this point, is an antiquated measure of success that COVID has clearly shown is the world’s Achilles heel. Success should not be measured by how much you have in the bank, it should be measured how much you’ve contributed to the world in problem solving. Let’s use the brains we have been given to solve societal problems and better our world condition, instead of trying to acquire and throw silly printed pieces of paper at it.

How would a new society work?

This is where this article must diverge. Such a new society would need a fully realized manifest across all sectors describing how to accomplish such a transition away from money. That’s way beyond the scope of a few paragraphs. Perhaps I could write this manifest in a book entitled, “How to transition society away from money”. I might even write such a manifest. Unfortunately, that goes way beyond the scope of this article. I’ll leave that manifest for another day. Suffice it to say that it is possible for society to exist in a new state without money as its primary motivation. Let’s get back to the topic of relaxing social distancing.

The World’s Ills

Unfortunately, our leaders are very much constrained by the ills of our economy revolving around pieces of paper. As such, our leaders are now constrained to look for solutions based on this ill conceived narrow situation of our own making. None of these leaders are attempting to think outside of the box. They are firmly rigid in their thought processes regarding how to restart our economy “as it once was”.

Our economy as it formerly existed is over. It will take full eradication of this virus from every person in the world, coupled with about a decade for this situation to recover the world back to where we were just a few months ago. A decade. Yes, I said a decade… and that’s a conservative estimate. It could take several decades.

Consider that if we lose 10% of the United States population, we’ve taken our economy back to the point where we were 38 years ago, in 1981. 20% of the population lost and we’re back over 50 years ago, in 1968. 50% of the population lost and we’re back to an economy that ended 64 years ago, in 1955. Don’t think that losing even 10% of the population is enough to cause major widespread problems in the United States, let alone throughout the world.

Losing a vast number of people in a short period is enough to send ANY economy into a tailspin. Because this virus is not at all selective towards whom it targets, it will kill anyone indiscriminately in any age group and in any economic status from young to old to male to female to rich to poor. It may even kill animals. Granted, poor people may fare worse living in closer proximity to one another, but this virus doesn’t care about age groups, race, gender, economic status or, indeed, anything else. It only seeks a host to survive and that’s exactly what it is doing.

Reopening

At a less than 1% infection rate while planning to reopen the world, Wall Street, main street or any other street is a guarantee for a second even deadlier wave. It’s a fool’s errand and foolhardy. These reckless actions will trick many people into believing that they are safe, when in fact our leaders are setting themselves (and the population) up to be a death statistic.

This article serves as both a cautionary tale and as a solemn warning to world leaders. Opening up the world at this point is effectively looking down the barrel of a gun while playing Russian Roulette.

When the second COVID wave hits, and it will, it will leave hospitals with zero space while the death toll catastrophically soars well beyond that of the statistically averaged 1.25%. Perhaps this hard lesson is what the world leaders need as a wake up call? Unfortunately, this lesson learned will be on the backs of so many who died.

If you’re reading this article, don’t fall for this reopening trick. Stay at home and urge your workplace to remain closed. If you value your health and, indeed, your own survival and your family’s survival, stay at home even after reopening. We’re still only at the beginning of this… there is still a much, much longer and deadlier road ahead.

↩︎

The U.S. in Peril

Posted in economy, government, Health, politics, security by commorancy on March 19, 2020

book-burn-1920I really didn’t want to write this article, but it must be written. Unfortunately, the US (and probably other countries) have come to a crossroads. As they say, the truth will out…. and here it comes. Let’s explore.

Brutal Truth

These lockdowns and shelter-in-place orders have caused many, many small and medium businesses to shutter their doors and lay off staff. They’re not closed for only a few days, but for potentially weeks and possibly even a month or two.

Practically no business is prepared to run without income for weeks, let alone months. It’s no wonder, then, that business owners and operators are laying off so many of their workers. You can’t continue to hold onto staff when you can’t even pay your own business’s lease and bills. This is just the tip of this iceberg.

You just wait. It gets worse. Much, much worse.

Unemployment

It is theorized that as many as 20% may become unemployed due to COVID-19. I’d guess that this is a conservative estimate and it will go much, much higher than this. 99% of businesses in the US are considered small businesses. This is the highest failure group for an extended lockdown scenario.

JP Morgan Chase writes:

Over 99 percent of America’s 28.7 million firms are small businesses. The vast majority (88 percent) of employer firms have fewer than 20 employees, and nearly 40 percent of all enterprises have under $100k in revenue.

What does this mean for the US? This means that potentially 28.4 million businesses are at risk of permanent closure due to the COVID-19 crisis. That means potentially up to 568 million jobs are also at risk of loss due to COVID-19.

Some small businesses may be able to weather a few weeks of this storm, but not much after that. Again, this situation can (and likely will) get much worse the longer it lasts.

Survival and Economy

With up to 568 million people without jobs, this means that the economy will not only tank, it will implode. The stock market won’t even exist. There will be nothing left of the US economy.

I did say that this can get worse. Yes, it can. And… it can even go beyond this.

Apocolypse

This word is actually defined as “catastrophic change”… with the word catastrophic being the key word here.

Turning out this many people to unemployment means desperation. As people’s ability to feed, clothe and house their families and themselves dwindle, desperate actions will become necessary (at least for some). Once the newly turned Robinhood thugs turn out en-masse to shake down those who “have” to feed those who “haven’t”, it’s going to get ugly. Really, really ugly. In fact, COVID-19 will likely become the least of everyone’s worry.

It will then become mostly about survival of the fittest and who has the “necessary force” to get what is needed to survive.

We haven’t yet reached this level of desperation as people still have small stock of food, water and can live out their remaining rent, but our society is quickly coming to a turning point. Once rents can no longer be paid, food can no longer be bought and gas can no longer be afforded (or even found), the niceties of our former social world will come to a grinding halt. Then, desperation takes hold.

What will ensue is looting, gangs and these folks being forced to obtain food, water and shelter by force. The currency will no longer be the dollar, but the bullet or knife. Violence is in the US country population’s nature. When it becomes necessary to survive (and it will), then all bets are off.

Martial Law

Yes, the Government can roll its military through and declare martial law to attempt to stem the tide of the new age of lawlessness that will begin, but that can’t last. Eventually, the government itself will break down and fail to be of any use. Those in the military will be conflicted about where to take orders and, indeed, where if any place can they even use the money they are being paid.

If small businesses fail, what can you spend your money on? Will that money even be worth anything? Larger businesses like Target and Walmart may be able to last for a bit longer, but eventually the supply lines will dry up as the small business suppliers close. It will become a vicious cycle that won’t end until the country has entirely unraveled.

Making the hard Choice

The country is at a serious perilous crossroads. It can keep everything closed in order to stem the COVID-19 tide or it can immediately lift the lockdown and shelter-in-place orders and let businesses reopen to save what’s left of the economy.

With COVID-19, we may be forced to let the chips fall where they may. We can’t keep society closed forever. We can’t even keep it down for a few weeks. For the US to continue its way of existence, it must be unlocked and allowed to resume.

Yes, we need to be cautious and vigilant to avoid getting COVID-19, but we can’t let COVID-19 grind the US to a halt and, subsequently, to completely unravel the US’s entire way of life.

We have to consider what’s worse? Perhaps 500,000 deaths from COVID-19 or millions of deaths due to a bankrupt US economy leaving millions homeless? Without an economy, the US can’t survive as a country. Having a president preside over a dead country is like not having a president at all.

Believe me when I say that if the US is forced into martial law, it won’t be long before there’s bloodshed… and that won’t have anything to do with being infected with COVID-19.

As I said, I really dislike writing this article, but the outcome of what can become a very real possibility must be said. Right now, the president is basically saying, “everything’s going to be okay”, but that’s not reality. If these lockdowns continue beyond a week or two, much of our country’s way of life is doomed to vanish forever. Even Hollywood may never be able to recover from this… the biggest entertainment producer in the world will be lost. Without Hollywood and the music business, this country will plunge into a second dark age.

With all of that said, cities, counties and even the federal government needs to reconsider these lockdown actions pronto. Staying locked down for months will tailspin the US into unrecoverable territory. This will force many families into the streets without the means to obtain food, clothing or shelter. The homeless shelters will be forced to shutter because even they can’t afford to stay in business. Literally, the entire country will fall back to “the wild, wild west”. People will be forced to take matters into their own hands to survive.

Now, it is difficult to foresee exactly how all of this plays out, but no matter the sequence of events, the end result will be failure, death and loss of the US way of life. We will turn back into small communities together using local services. We will have to barter to live. The technology we so actively thrive on will cease to exist. The computers will still function, but the internet may effectively shut down as more and more businesses are forced to close. Even cell phones may become a thing of the past as lawlessness and anarchy begin driving survival. Even money may become worthless paper.

Alarmist?

This article may seem a bit alarmist. In part it may be, but it is also grounded in current lockdown reality and is based on where we are headed today, while still in the early stages of these lockdowns. Simply reviewing Twitter, you can already see just how many people have been furloughed or laid off due to COVID-19. This is just the tip of a very large iceberg. News articles show restaurants and other businesses with their doors shut and lights out.

Right now is a perilous time and our government leaders needs to weigh what’s coming if we remain on this course. If we don’t change our course now, there may not be any time left to change this downward spiral.

COVID-19 may, in fact, turn out to be the least of society’s worries. Our society isn’t currently prepared to live and work at home on a semi-permanent basis. It hasn’t ever considered or prepared financially for this eventuality. There are just no work-at-home jobs that pay enough to live. Most businesses can’t afford (nor are they willing) to begin paying people the salaries they were getting when they worked in a company office. I’m not even sure that companies can recover enough at this point to pay those former salaries anyway.

Tailspin

We only need to look at the stock market to understand the ramifications of business closures, layoffs and lockdowns. Clearly, people are selling because they know they will need that money to live. The stock market can’t handle this kind of mass sell off. But, it’s inevitable and it’s only going to get worse before it gets better.

This means way less investing overall and that means less investment capital for businesses to stay in business. Businesses will also need to recover any investments they currently have to pay their own bills also, which means more selling. And, unless this COVID-19 lockdown business is unlocked soon, there won’t be an economy left to save or investments worth holding.

Only the currently richest businesses may be able to weather this storm for any length of time, such as Apple and possibly Google. That is, those businesses with billions in the bank. That also depends on how worthless the dollar becomes. Even then, these rich companies will have to start trimming their own workforce or face a cash hemorrhage crisis.

This situation will likely also tumble salaries massively. It will tumble everything including home values, multifamily rent and even phone bills. Not only will it be a recession, it may become a depression forcing major deflation across the board. One might think deflation is a good thing, but it’s not. When few will be able to afford to pay for much, even at deflated prices, we’re in for a rough and violent road ahead.

Prevention?

Can this combined economic and societal tailspin be prevented? It depends entirely on our governmental leaders. If they can find ways to prop up the local economies while allowing businesses to reopen in safe and effective ways, then perhaps. Unfortunately, I doubt that propping up everything is possible. There are far too many people to attempt to prop up every man, woman and child in the nation. Even the measly $1000 grant from the government can’t possibly help to stem this quickly overflowing tide. The only thing it will do is, in fact, make the situation worse.

How can we reopen safely? That’s the million dollar question. The first thing that needs to happen is to find a way to disinfect people’s clothing and surfaces before they enter any large gathering. This way, when they touch any surfaces within, there’s no chance of leaving latent virus behind or picking one up. Second, we need near instant viral load testing. It doesn’t matter the virus. What matters is that the person has a high viral load of any kind. If a person is carrying a high viral load of any kind, they will be denied access to all social gatherings. It doesn’t matter if the virus is COVID-19, HIV, the flu or a simple cold. We can’t be specific here. Testing needs to be general because it’s too complicated to try to determine COVID-19 specifically. This will weed out super spreaders.

With any high viral load, you can’t fly, you can’t get on a bus and you can’t enter a restaurant, store or any other business. If you’re carrying a high viral load, an isolated medical transport will come to collect you and take you home where you must stay until you can be tested viral load free. If you’re found out and about a second time, you may be jailed. HIV positive people may be a problem in this. But, HIV is also a virus and it does count under viral load. It’s not necessarily spread as easily as COVID-19 appears to be, but it is spreadable.

These actions are the only way we can protect citizens against COVID-19 and still operate society in some kind of normal fashion. Without some semblance of normality resuming quickly for our every day lives, there will be no hope of recovery for not only the economy, but for society in the US as a whole. When TV shows can’t film, when music performers can’t perform, when you can’t go to the movies, a restaurant or even an amusement park and when everyone is scared to even walk out their front door, society grinds to a halt… and that’s where we are now. Society has stopped dead in its tracks.

The things that the US is so known for can’t even be done. All business that revolves around those activities and linked to activities plus the activities secondarily and tertiarily linked will equally suffer. It’s a huge supply chain, with emphasis on the word ‘chain’. When one link breaks, the entire chain fails.

Unless we can figure out a way to kick our society back into gear, fix the chain and keep it going, we’re at the cusp of situation that is bad… very, very bad. So bad that it’s practically impossible to understand or predict just how bad it can really get. Though, we can most certainly guess.

Lawlessness

When there is a large contingent of the working force that becomes not only unemployed, but hungry and homeless, where do we go from here? As the saying goes, “Desperate times call for desperate measures.” What that means is that many people will get desperate to feed, clothe, house and protect their families… and many will attempt to take matters into their own hands to make that a reality, using necessary force if needed. This means I’d expect gun violence and looting to drastically increase.

This lawlessness will drive the government into declaring martial law. Right now, we’re at the cusp. We are teetering on the precipice. But, it won’t take much for that edge to collapse and then society falls in. In fact, we’re currently on the verge of collapse.

Government, Survival, Society and Hard Choices

I urge the governmental leaders to reconsider these lockdowns. Instead, we need to find alternative workable solutions that allow businesses to resume normal operation while attempting to keep them safe from COVID-19.

If we can’t resume a semblance of normal societal operation, we will likely end up in bloodshed. We might even have anarchy on our hands. We could even have more deaths due to unemployment and a deep depression than from COVID-19.

Governments must weigh these risks carefully. COVID-19 is a known quantity. It will kill a number of people just because of what it is. But, attempting to protect every person from it may end up collapsing society as we know it. This collapse could very easily bring about unnecessary violence as people attempt to survive. A societal collapse could even bring about more death, violence and destruction than even COVID-19 and the Flu combined.

When people get desperate enough, they will break into houses, steal food, clothing and use it for shelter. They may even consider killing others to get what they need. They will break into stores and loot. They will break into stores to steal necessities. Is that where we want society? Is that what we want to see? Is that what the current government really wants for its people?

All told, the death toll from violent survivalists could actually kill more people than COVID-19. This risk must be weighed! Letting the virus run its natural course while allowing society to operate may be a better (and safer) choice than having to declare martial law, while attempting to lockdown an entire nation. There are simply not enough troops to do that, which will lead to an even worse outcome. This situation could even trigger a second civil war, except this time it will be between governmental forces and its out of work citizens.

If we let society collapse, all bets are off on how many deaths may occur… not necessarily directly because of COVID-19, but this virus may certainly contribute in some way to that death toll.

This is a serious decision that governmental leaders must consider and they must decide NOW. Complacence and apathy doesn’t work. Strong decisive change must be implemented quickly. It may not be happy news for some, but society can’t be ground to a halt for the 18 months (as some organizations have predicted) for COVID-19 to subside. The US can’t survive an 18 month lockdown. It can’t even survive a 1 month lockdown. We must craft an alternative solution. We must craft and implement that solution NOW, while there’s still time to bring us back from the precipice. There is no other choice.

↩︎

 

Can Bitcoin’s bubble burst the economy?

Posted in best practices, economy by commorancy on January 10, 2018

Yes! Let’s explore.

Housing Bubble

Back in 2007, what drove the home mortgage collapse was a combination of factors, but one of the biggest factors that tipped the scale was speculative home buying. That is, people who would double or triple mortgage their homes to pay for secondary homes. When the home mortgage market unraveled, all of those multiple homeowners lost everything. Not only did they lose their secondary homes, but they also lost their primary residence and they ended up bankrupted to boot. I’ve heard tales of people who had taken out 3 or even 4 different mortgages on their home to pay off secondary homes. When those ARMs came due, it all came tumbling down. I know one person who, at their height, owned up to 4 homes and ended up living out of an RV when the home mortgage collapse was over. Do you want to end up being that person?

Bitcoin and the Crypto Bubble

Behaviors don’t change. The fastest way to get a pile of cash is taking out a new mortgage on your home. Today, my belief is that what’s driving up Bitcoin and Ethereum is speculative buying from people who don’t have money to spend. People who are using credit cards and second or third mortgages to buy into these markets thinking they can make a quick buck. The real danger is, of course, when Bitcoin collapses and these folks cannot pay off those loans.

Will Bitcoin collapse? Upward rises on investment products at the unprecedented level that has come to Bitcoin is not sustainable. In fact, Bitcoin’s actual value is no where near the sky high prices that it’s currently seeing. There will be a correction. How deep that correction goes is up for debate. However, it doesn’t really matter how deep it ends up. It only needs to be deep enough to put speculators underwater on their loans forcing them to fail to repay their additional mortgage(s) they used to buy into the Bitcoin market.

It would only take a small correction to wipe out speculators using risky loan vehicles as money sources. It only takes a limited number of speculators to fail to start the dominoes falling.

Economic Danger

The red flags are here and they’re waving boldly. Yet, of course, no one is looking at them. If a Bitcoin correction begins to collapse those speculator’s second and third mortgages, it will take with it first mortgages and the home mortgage market may face yet another collapse. What tertiary triggers fail after that is unknown. Does AIG still sell derivatives? Do other insurance companies? Are there other risky investment vehicles tied to these second and third mortgages that could topple Wall Street yet again? Are there risky investments tied to Bitcoin?

We don’t know. What we do know is that Bitcoin (and the rise of the secondary crypto currencies) could easily knock over the first few dominoes after a correction and start the economic decline. The danger is here and it’s very real.

Word to Speculators

Unless you invested in Bitcoin back in 2011 or so, you’re too late for this party. If you’ve recently taken out loans (no matter the source) to fund a Bitcoin investment, you need to get out of it as rapidly as you possibly can and pay off that loan. Holding onto Bitcoin hoping for long term millions is most assuredly going to backfire on you and ruin your financial world.

My best guess is that you have about 5 months before the whole thing topples. Yes, it could take a little longer or it could be sooner. What starts that topple is anyone’s guess, but it will happen. Having Bitcoin go from $1700 to $17000 to $21000 in less than a year is insane. Anyone in their right mind knows that investments don’t grow that fast. Something nasty is afoot. Do you want to find out the hard way? If so, invest more, but don’t say I didn’t warn you when your world collapses.

Economy and Investment Ties

Unfortunately, economic markets are tied together in very loose, but established ways. When a collapse of any single investment vehicle begins, it takes with it all kinds of other unrelated investments and markets. This means that even your IRA which is investing in vehicles unrelated to Bitcoin will take a hit when Bitcoin collapses. Why? because institutional investors who’ve just lost a pile of cash on Bitcoin will sell out of their holdings in their other investments (which your IRA may be investing in) to make up for their Bitcoin losses and/or to pay off speculative loans they lost money on. This will drive down those unrelated markets and cause IRAs and other similar investment accounts to lose significant value.

If we could see into the future, it would be easy to tell you when to sell out of your holdings in your IRA and wait for the wrath to end. Unfortunately, there is no such crystal ball available. You will need to use your best judgement when you feel is the best time. No one can predict that for you.

There is simply no way to know just how deep this cut will go when the correction occurs. It all very much depends on where the money is coming from that’s driving up Bitcoin (and other crypto). Right now, that information is not transparent at all. But, it is nearly guaranteed that some of the money is coming from Wall Street institutional investors, investment funds and possibly even banks and insurance companies. And… this is the biggest danger to unrelated investment vehicles.

Even if you don’t have a single dime invested in Bitcoin, that won’t necessarily protect your finances and investments from exposure to a crypto bubble burst.

How do I protect my finances?

The short answer is, it’s not easy. Because the markets are so closely tied and there’s so much institutional investing made all over, you can’t know who’s exposed to Bitcoin. The only real way to protect your financial future is to sell out of the markets and wait it out. But, no one can tell you when is the best time to sell. You just need to watch Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies closely and then wait to see what happens. However, by the time you realize that it’s time to sell, it may be too late. Earlier, in these cases, is always safer. However, too early also means you may lose gains you could have realized if you left your investments in place. So, it’s ultimately your call when to choose the best time to protect your financial future.

When Digital Art Works Infringe

Posted in 3D Renderings, art, best practices, computers, economy by commorancy on March 12, 2012

What is art?  Art is an image expression created by an individual using some type of media.  Traditional media typically includes acrylic paint, oil paint, watercolor, clay or porcelain sculpture, screen printing, metal etching and printing, screen printing or any of any other tangible type media.  Art can also be made from found objects such as bicycles, inner tubes, paper, trash, tires, urinals or anything else that can be found and incorporated.  Sometimes the objects are painted, sometimes not.  Art is the expression once it has been completed.

Digital Art

So, what’s different about digital art?  Nothing really.  Digital art is still based on using digital assets including software and 3D objects used to produce pixels in a 2D format that depicts an image.  Unlike traditional media, digital media is limited to flat 2D imagery when complete (unless printed and turned into a real world object.. which then becomes another form of ‘traditional found art media’ as listed above).

Copyrights

What are copyrights?  Copyrights are rights to copy a given specific likeness of something restricting usage to only those that have permission.  That is, an object or subject either real-world or digital-world has been created by someone and any likeness of that subject is considered copyright.  This has also extended to celebrities in that their likenesses can also be considered copyright by the celebrity.  That is, the likeness of a copyrighted subject is controlled strictly by the owner of the copyright.  Note that copyrights are born as soon as the object or person exists.  These are implicit copyrights.  These rights can be explicitly defined by submitting a form to the U.S. Copyright office or similar other agencies in other parts of the world.

Implicit or explicit, copyrights are there to restrict usage of that subject to those who wish to use it for their own gain.  Mickey Mouse is a good example of a copyrighted property.  Anyone who creates, for example, art containing a depiction of Mickey Mouse is infringing on Disney’s copyright if no permission was granted before usage.

Fair Use

What is fair use?  Fair use is supposed to be a way to use copyrighted works that allows for usage without permission.  Unfortunately, what’s considered fair use is pretty much left up to the copyright owner to decide.  If the copyright holder decides that a depiction is not considered fair use, it can be challenged in a court of law.  This pretty much means that any depiction of any copyrighted character, subject, item or thing can be challenged in a court of law by the copyright holder at any time.  In essence, fair use is a nice concept, but it doesn’t really exist in practice.  There are clear cases where a judge will decide that something is fair use, but only after ending up in court.  Basically, fair use should be defined so clearly and completely that, when something is used within those constraints, no court is required at all. Unfortunately, fair use isn’t defined that clearly.  Copyrights leave anyone attempting to use a copyrighted work at the mercy of the copyright holder in all cases except when permission is granted explicitly in writing.

Public Domain

Public domain is a type of copyright that says there is no copyright.  That is, the copyright no longer exists and the work can be freely used, given away, sold, copied or used in any way without permission to anyone.

3D Art Work

When computers first came into being with reasonable graphics, paint packages became common.  That is, a way to push pixels around on the screen to create an image.  At first, most of the usage of these packages were for utility (icons and video games).  Inevitably, this media evolved to mimic real world tools such as chalk, pastels, charcoal, ink, paint and other media.  But, these paint packages were still simply pushing pixels around on the screen in a flat way.

Enter 3D rendering.  These packages now mimic 3D objects in a 3D space.  These objects are placed into a 3D world and then effectively ‘photographed’.  So, 3D art has more in common with photography than it does painting.  But, the results can mimic painting through various rendering types.  Some renderers can simulate paint strokes, cartoon outlines, chalk and other real world media.  However, instead of just pushing pixels around with a paint package, you can load in 3D objects, place them and then ‘photograph’ them.

3D objects, Real World objects and Copyrights

All objects become copyrighted by the people who create them.  So, a 3D object may or may not need permission for usage (depending on how they were copyrighted).  However, when dealing with 3D objects, the permissions for usage of 3D objects are usually limited to copying and distribution of said objects.  Copyright does not generally cover creating a 3D rendered likeness of an object (unless, of course, the likeness happens to be Mickey Mouse) in which case it isn’t the object that’s copyrighted, but the subject matter. This is the gray area surrounding the use of 3D objects.  In the real world, you can run out and take a picture of your Lexus and post this on the web without any infringement.  In fact, you can sell your Lexus to someone else, because of the First Sale Doctrine, even though that object may be copyrighted.  You can also sell the photograph you took of your Lexus because it’s your photograph.

On the other hand, if you visit Disney World and take a picture of a costumed Mickey Mouse character, you don’t necessarily have the right to sell that photograph.  Why?  Because Mickey Mouse is a copyrighted character and Disney holds the ownership on all likenesses of that character.  You also took the photo inside the park which may have photographic restrictions (you have to read the ticket). Yes, it’s your photograph, but you don’t own the subject matter, Disney does.  Again, a gray area.  On the other hand, if you build a costume from scratch of Mickey Mouse and then photograph yourself in the costume outside the park, you still may not be able to sell the photograph.  You can likely post it to the web, but you likely can’t sell it due to the copyrighted character it contains.

In the digital world, these same ambiguous rules apply with even more exceptions.  If you use a 3D object of Mickey Mouse that you either created or obtained (it doesn’t really matter which because you’re not ultimately selling or giving away the 3D object) and you render that Mickey Mouse character in a rendering package, the resulting 2D image is still copyrighted by Disney because it contains a likeness of Mickey Mouse.  It’s the likeness that matters, not that you used an object of Mickey Mouse in the scene.

Basically, the resulting 2D image and the likeness it contains is what matters here.  If you happened to make the 3D object of Mickey Mouse from scratch (to create the 2D image), you’re still restricted.  You can’t sell that 3D object of Mickey Mouse either.  That’s still infringement.  You might be able to give it away, though, but Disney could still balk as it was unlicensed.

But, I bought a 3D model from Daz…

“am I not protected?” No, you’re not.  If you bought a 3D model of the likeness of a celebrity or of a copyrighted character, you are still infringing on that copyrighted property without permission.  Even if you use Daz’s own Genesis, M4 or other similar models, you could still be held liable for infringement even from the use of those models.  Daz grants usage of their base models in 2D images.  If you dress the model up to look like Snow White or Cruella DeVille from Disney’s films, these are Disney owned copyrighted characters.  If you dress them up to look like Superman, same story from Warner Brothers.  Daz’s protections only extend to the base figure they supply, but not once you dress and modify them.

The Bottom Line

If you are an artist and want to use any highly recognizable copyrighted characters like Mickey Mouse, Barbie, G.I. Joe, Spiderman, Batman or even current celebrity likenesses of Madonna, Angelina Jolie or Britney in any of your art, you could be held accountable for infringement as soon as the work is sold.  It may also be considered infringement if the subject is used in an inappropriate or inconsistent way with the character’s personality.  The days of Andy Warhol are over using celebrity likenesses in art (unless you explicitly commission a photograph of the subject and obtain permission to create the work).

It doesn’t really matter that you used a 3D character to simulate the likeness or who created that 3D object, what matters is that you produced a likeness of a copyrighted character in a 2D final image.  It’s that likeness that can cause issues.  If you intend to use copyrighted subject matter of others in your art, you should be extra careful with the final work as you could end up in court.

With art, it’s actually safer not to use recognizable copyrighted people, objects or characters in your work.  With art, it’s all about imagination anyway.  So, use your imagination to create your own copyrighted characters.  Don’t rely on the works of others to carry your artwork as profit motives are the whole point of contention with most copyright holders anyway.  However, don’t think you’re safe just because you gave the work away for free.

Are electric cars really good for our environment?

Posted in economy, fun in the sun, green energy by commorancy on January 8, 2011

On the surface, this question seems like it has a simple answer.  And that simple answer is ‘Yes’… or is it?  Let’s explore.

Green or Brown?

Electric cars seem like such a great idea until you realize that you have to plug it into the power grid to recharge the thing.  So, how is this car greener than, say, its gasoline counterparts?  On the one hand, the car itself runs clean.  No fossil fuels to burn so no emissions to speak of.  This is a good thing.  The bad thing is that it has to pull from fossil fuel derived electrical energy to recharge.  This ultimately means that while the electric car itself is no longer the gross polluter, that pollution has been pushed off onto the electrical suppliers.  So they, in turn, have to ramp up more fossil fuel production to handle the added load to charge these 240v batteries in electric cars.

So, how did that exactly save us anything?  Maybe it makes the buyer of the electric vehicle feel more environmentally conscious until we consider where and how the power was generated to recharge that electric vehicle.

I should point out here, though, that the tires, the plastic parts and the moving parts are all derived from or utilize fossil fuels.  For example, nearly all lubrication is almost always fossil fuel derived.

Alternative energy sources

As more and more electric vehicles are deployed onto the nation’s roads, the power grids will have to be enhanced to support the power generation needed to recharge these cars.  That means, ultimately, more fossil fuels being burned to create that energy to send it down the line to recharge your car to let you go to work.

We need to rethink this entire process.  We need to find a way to get clean power generation from nature. Unfortunately, energies derived from solar, wind or water are temperamental and, at times, impractical.  That is, we can’t rely on solar, wind and water derived energy to support the numbers of people who want to buy into electric vehicles let alone power the entirety of people living in the US.  So, the grid suppliers have to dip into fossil fuel derived energy generation to provide electricity across the board.  As more and more of these vehicles hit the road, the grid may eventually become overtaxed by the cars and we may, once again, end up in rolling blackouts.

So, we need more stable forms of energy that are renewable for a lot longer than fossil fuels.

Running out

It has already been predicted that we are on the downward slope of fossil fuel supplies on earth (i.e., peak fossil fuel supplies).  Those rich abundant supplies that were once everywhere are slowly drying up.  If we, as a society, don’t find more clean renewable power generation, our information age may come to a halt leaving us squarely back at a time without electric power or natural gas.  A time when there were no cell phones, no cars and no grocery stores.

If you think about the things that are all around you every day that derive their existence from fossil fuels, you begin to understand the scope of a society where fossil fuels have run out.  That means, no new plastic, no gasoline, no fossil fuel generated power, no oil for motors, no computers, no iPods and no cell phones.  In fact, there won’t be much of our present society left if the earth runs out of fossil fuels.  This also includes lack of medicine and all that that implies, but let’s stay focused on energy sources.

Clean burning, natural, renewable energy sources

Are there any?  Sure, if you count water, wind and solar.  But, as I said, these are temperamental.  What other power generation tools do we have?  Well, there’s also atomic energy that heats water to steam and turns turbines. Unfortunately, the safeguards necessary to prevent another Chernobyl are too prone to human error.  Atomic energy generation is just too risky. So, are there any others? Yes.

Thermal energy

Not just any thermal energy, the earth is home to lots of geothermal energy.  The difficulty with geothermal energy is getting to it and, secondarily, preventing the creation of accidental volcanoes and eruptions.  So, where could we utilize geothermal energy and maximize the energy generation?  In the ocean, of course.  There’s plenty of water to steam and turn turbines.  There are plenty of open geothermal pockets under the ocean that lead into the water.  So, we should be able to figure out a way to take advantage of these open pockets to turn ocean water to steam and generate electric power.  The trouble, of course, is getting the power from the ocean floor back to a distribution grid to send the power out.

Geothermal energy is about the only energy on the planet that can be easily harnessed, that exists on its own and that is completely renewable.  Unless the Earth dies, geothermal energy is about the only source that we can rely on as constant.  Just look at Old Faithful to see just how stable geothermal energy can be.  The only difficulty is in trying to find a reasonably consistent geothermal vent that can be reliably used to generate energy using steam turbines. However, once enough of these are found, these can be used to eventually replace burning of fossil fuels to generate heat to generate steam to to turn turbines to create energy.

Energy deficit

Fossil fuel sources should be considered as previously stored energy pockets.  Energy that was created by the sun. The sun first fostered the growth of plants and animals here and then these plants and animals died, decayed and converted into fossil fuels.  These fuels from many many years ago are now being used today to operate our economy.  The trouble is, these fossil fuels are finite and we are using them very rapidly.  In fact, we may have used more than half of all of what’s on Earth to operate our economy from day to day.  Consider when we drilled our first oil well vs how much fossil fuel we use today.  As a result and because these resources are finite, we will eventually run out of it.  Since we really have no idea how much more we have until it all ends, we should now consider that we are living in an energy deficit, and on borrowed time.  That is, we are using more energy now than we should in order to allow for support of future generations.

So, while people continue to have babies, they aren’t asking when these babies become adults will they have a future? And, what of these kid’s babies?  Where will they be?  This is why we are now living on borrowed time at the expense of our future generations who may find themselves looking back at us thinking how selfish we were.  And they will be living at a time when they may be burning candles, eating locally grown foods and doing subsistence farming just to keep food on the table.  They may have our technology, but no energy to run it.  What will become the currency of that day?  Perhaps seed.  Once the world ends up as local economies without contact to other remote economies, the government won’t be able to keep order.  So, the government as we know it will cease to exist.  Without cars, then there’s no need for driver’s licenses or car license tags or any other governmental taxes or fees as they won’t make sense in a local economy.

Without thinking ahead for renewable energy sources, our future generations may have no future.  At least, not the future we see today.  In fact, their future may not resemble anything of  our information society.  This is very likely where we will end up without finding a new fuel source for power generation.  This is the importance of finding clean renewable energy that is synergistic with the Earth.

Electricity is not a power source

Electricity generation is the end result of the work from some other device (i.e., burning fossil fuel turns turbines that generate power).  Electricity is not a power source itself, however.  But, electricity is what drives every part of our economy today.  Just think what the world would be without electric power.  Without locating and instituting a replacement for fossil fuel electric power generation,  the world’s economy will likely end as we know it when our fossil fuel supplies dry up.  Our dependence on fossil fuel power generation is nearly 70% of all power generation in the US as of 2009 (and it is likely similar if you look at the world overall).

Full circle

So, that electric car you buy today borrows against fossil fuel power generation (coal, natural gas & petroleum) to recharge your brand new electric car.  Obtaining power from the local power grid ensures that at least 70% of the energy placed into your electric vehicle was generated by coal or natural gas, both of these resources are finite and coal does not burn clean.  So, a renewable synergistic power generation source is a must for the Earth and the future of humanity, let alone the electric vehicle which is only truly green once we have this renewable power source.

In addition to regenerative braking, we also need to consider more car regenerative power sources to keep the car from requiring recharging nearly as often and to allow for farther traveling distances. For example, someone could invent a paint that acts as a huge solar panel. So, every inch of the external painted surface could double as a huge solar power generation panel while driving in the sun. Additionally, alternating polarity magnets could be placed below highways to generate current as you drive over them which continually recharges your car’s batteries as you drive.   Thus, drastically increasing the mileage of an electric vehicle with far less need to recharge as often.  Also, fans could be placed behind the grill of the vehicle to capture wind energy as you drive.  Again, all of these techniques add even more power generation to the vehicle that increases mileage while also keeping that car aesthetically pleasing.

Looking at today’s electric vehicles, these designs seem so infantile compared to what could be achieved with proper governmental infrastructure support of electric vehicles.  Right now, electric vehicles look green, but really aren’t. Once we harness truly clean renewable energy sources (like geothermal energy) combined with more extensive regenerative power sources, we might finally be able to call the electric vehicle green.

Film Review: The Warning – PBS / Frontline Documentary

Posted in bailout, banking, bankruptcy, botch, economy, insurance, scam, tanking by commorancy on November 26, 2010

Rated: 4/5 stars.

PBS’ The Warning Documentary

The Warning is a PBS documentary discussing a warning from Brooksley Born, an attorney and a former Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) chairperson. She explained that derivatives were extremely risky insurance vehicles and sent a warning that these vehicles needed regulation during her tenure as CFTC chairperson, but her warnings went unheeded. She resigned in 1999 from the CFTC position after legislation was passed preventing her agency from regulating derivatives.

Vision of this Documentary

While I would like to rate The Warning higher, its take is pretty much tunnel vision on the derivatives markets. While the derivatives markets did melt down and did, to a large degree, spur the meltdown onward, the meltdown was not started because of derivatives. The derivative meltdown was a casualty of and was exacerbated by the sub-prime mortgage meltdown. Had the mortgage industry bubble not burst, the derivatives market might have gone unchecked for many more years. The warning was and should have been about placing regulations onto mortgage lending practices. The mortgage lending industry is the industry that failed and sent the economy into a tailspin, let’s make that perfectly clear. The derivatives (insurance) market, which speculated on the mortgage industry, single-handedly sent Wall Street into a tailspin (along with several large insurance companies like AIG).

Derivatives and the Mortgage Meltdown

Anyone with half a brain in their head could see that using questionable lending vehicles like interest only loans for the first two years or adjustable rate mortgages were ticking time bombs. When the actual monthly payments came due years later after rates went up to where they should have been, people couldn’t afford pay. This was especially true when lenders were handing these loans to people who could barely afford the ‘introductory period’ payments. So, loans came due, people defaulted and the rest is history. The derivatives (insurance policies) that were issued also came due because of the en masse foreclosures. Insurance companies that issued derivative policies speculating people wouldn’t default en masse began to fail because their speculation was wrong. So then, these insurance companies couldn’t pay off on the insurance claims. So, when consumers defaulted, so did the insurance companies offering derivatives.

It wasn’t as if warnings weren’t being issued regarding the inevitable mortgage meltdown, it’s just that Brooksley Born (the focus of this film) was not one of the people issuing the mortgage warning. Her warning was strictly about the highly risky derivatives. More specifically, the black box non-transparent nature of them. The danger, of course, is that derivatives can be placed on any speculative and risky investment as insurance. The reason derivatives need to be regulated is to prevent companies the size of AIG from making stupid decisions about such risky vehicles. However, from a consumer perspective, banks should never have gotten into the position of issuing such risky mortgages like water to people who couldn’t afford them. This was the single mistake that led to where we are today and that mistake has nothing to do with derivatives and everything to do with Government and the Federal Reserve making stupid decisions.

Overall, the movie is worth watching, but also understand its information’s place in the larger meltdown that was at work in our economy.

Is Obama hostile towards big business?

To answer this question, we need to delve a little deeper. Note, I am neither condoning nor praising Obama’s handling of his regulatory efforts. However, I would like to point out certain corrections that do need to be made.

“The truth is that not even the Franklin Roosevelt administration was as hostile to and ignorant about free enterprise as this [Obama’s] administration is.”
–Steve Forbes.

But, is Obama really hostile towards business? Or, is he making needed corrections? There is a fine line here. This issue also points out a serious problem in politics today. That problem is, you guessed it, money. Without money, the world doesn’t work. Without money, candidates don’t get elected. Without money, businesses don’t sell things and make money. Back up the train.. Businesses make plenty of money without governmental help. The trouble is that businesses want to be able to make laws that enable their businesses to make more money and then have the government be lenient with them when issues arise.

The reality, though, is that like the separation of church and state, the government now needs separation of business and state. The two are oil and water, they don’t mix. Government needs to be able to make law without interference from any party. But, businesses have deep pockets and hefty lawyers. These two elements help elect officials and help sway these same officials into making good on promises they made towards these businesses during the election.

Obama’s corrections

While I don’t agree with every single thing Obama has done, I do agree that change is necessary. The change that he is making is intended to correct the issues that led to the economic downturn. The trouble comes with statements from people like Steve Forbes. Mr. Forbes believes that he is the end-all-be-all-know-it-all when it comes to all-things-business. The trouble is, he doesn’t. Yes, he runs a successful magazine, but that doesn’t make him an authority. That makes him a successful business owner.

Obama is walking that fine line. A fine line that shouldn’t even be necessary. But, there it is. The line that’s there to help Obama help the economy, help spur business and growth and reduce the chances of a repeated failure. At the same time, the line is there to show that government values business, but isn’t there to socialize it. The trouble is, this economic downturn was of our own making. By our, I mean Wall Street. The housing bubble was just that, a bubble. Bubbles eventually burst and this bubble was no exception. It’s not as if analysts and intelligent minded people couldn’t see the handwriting on the wall. When the mortgage interest rates got down to 1% and all of those ARM and specialty loans were being issued like water flowing down the Mississippi, trouble was inevitable. We just didn’t know that banks and insurance companies were tying their financial soundness to these extremely risky loans using credit default swaps.

Until the bubble burst, no one really knew just how deep the rabbit hole went. Then, everything came crashing down and all of the nasty subprime mortgage and credit default swap issues came into view in their all fugly detailed glory. The first evidence of that was Bear Stearns followed by AIG (and the subsequent governmental bailout). I still think they should have let AIG fold, I digress.

Government and Business

It’s high time that government distanced itself from corporate businesses. It’s high time congress made laws to separate government from business (including political support). It’s high time that government stopped being a pawn for corporate businesses. Forbes clearly seems to think that Free Enterprise requires socialism to function. Free Enterprise is not part of and does not need socialism. Free Enterprise means that businesses can do whatever they need to do (within the limits of the laws) to make their business succeed. Clearly, there have not been laws enabled that have dramatically impacted Free Enterprise. The laws that have been enacted have been placed there to prevent corporations from producing risky investment vehicles with a high likelyhood of crashing down again. If businesses are now floundering, it’s not because of laws. It’s because corporations have lost their way and are still expecting handouts. Well, you can keep your hand out, but don’t expect the government to be dropping any coin in it.

Corporations have relied, no… depended on the US Government for handouts. That time needs to end. Subsidies for business need to go away. Businesses need to fend for themselves just like Free Enterprise mandates. If a business can’t make it on its own, then let it fail. I’ll repeat, LET IT FAIL. Failure is also part of Free Enterprise. Businesses that will succeed, will succeed because they produce a good product or service. Businesses that fail, will fail because they don’t produce good products or services.

Lost our way

America, and specifically corporate enterprises, have lost their way. For far too long have big corporations depended on favorable governmental conditions (sounds like a weather report) to help them stay in business. Well, that train has left (and must leave). It should be solely up to you and your business practices alone to make or break your company. It is the quality of your products, services and support that makes people want to buy your products or invest in your company. Nothing has changed about this aspect of Free Enterprise.

We need to go back to a time when quality was the key. When providing a superior product was the answer to getting people to buy things. If that also means deflation, then so be it. Businesses need to find their way by learning how to do more with less. How to manage their staff better and stop over-hiring. At the same time, many of them need to stop under-hiring and also value the employees that they have right now.

The key to keeping your business flowing is by keeping your employees active, productive and happy. Morale is a big problem in companies during any downturn. Once fear sets in over the next reduction in force (RIF), then morale falls to all-time-lows. No, taking the employees on an outing doesn’t boost morale. The way to boost morale is to stop RIFing the staff out the door. Yes, I know it gives a temporary boost to the stock price and makes the shareholders happy, but that’s a temporary fix with limited effects. Once the dust settles, the employees who are left become disgruntled, unhappy and produce less. This is completely backwards thinking. Which is why business has lost its way.

Shareholder value vs quality products

I know, someone’s going to say that it is all about ‘shareholder value’. That may be the way things seem now, but it is wrong. Currently accepted actions that lead to improved shareholder value tend to undercut production, stifle innovation, reduce profit margins and lower productivity. Why would you intentionally do this to your business? So, while these measures may seem to help the stock price, it does nothing to help the company improve its quality of products and services. In fact, in the long run, these actions almost always negatively impact the bottom line. So, the fundamental question is, are you in business to make the shareholders happy or are you in business to sell quality products and services? This fundamental question must be answered.

The true answer to this question also shows that Free Enterprise priorities today are all wrong. It used to be that the customer is #1. Now, shareholders are #1 and customers are #2. This is both wrong and stupid. Until businesses go back to the idea that the customer is #1, corporations will continue to fail and need governmental subsidies. While shareholders are considered #1, there is really no such thing as Free Enterprise when it comes to multi-million dollar corporations… which is why they always need a handout from the government.

Job Hunting? Don’t be scammed.

Posted in economy, Employment by commorancy on July 16, 2010

As the economy is floundering and unemployment rates remain high, there are those people and companies who look to take advantage of job seekers. Some companies are legitimate, others aren’t so much. So, let’s investigate some ways you can avoid being taken during your job hunt.

Pay to play

Be extremely wary of so-called for-pay outplacement, consulting or career management companies that require up-front payments before you get a job. These companies will sometimes promise they will find you a job, but in the end you literally end up doing all of the work and you’ve paid them to let you do your own work! In fact, it’s work that you would have done without paying them anything! These companies may operate by taking a percentage of your expected salary. For example, if the job you are seeking has a $60,000 a year salary, they may expect $6,000 (10%) as your up-front fee.

Don’t be fooled by this practice. Yes, they may give you career advice or even write you a new resume, but is a new resume and some career counseling worth $6,000? You will find many resume creation sites (and software) on the Internet to makeover your resume that costs much less than $6,000.

These outplacement companies may also claim that they have ‘databases’ of jobs. The reality is that their database may be months old or non-existent. So, even though they have a database, what good does it do to apply for a job that was listed 6 months earlier? It doesn’t do any good and is definitely not worth $6,000.

Recruiters

While recruiting companies are not necessarily scams (although, the possibility always exists), most of them feel very slimy when you work with them. So, be cautious and here’s why. Recruiting firms supposedly have job databases and find candidates that fit various job roles. Unfortunately, the recruiting agents work on quotas. So, they must close a certain number of jobs over a period of time in order to 1) get their commission and 2) remain employed as a recruiter. After all, the commission from the candidate’s placement is what keeps the recruiting company in business. A recruiting position is both a sales position (has sales quotas to meet) and as a recruiter (help you find a job). Unfortunately, there’s just a little too much conflict of interest with recruiters. The trouble comes because the employer pays the percentage fee after candidate placement is complete. So, while it may appear that they are helping you, the candidate, they are really more partial to the employer because that’s where their bread is truly buttered. When unemployment is high, they can find many candidates, but they only have that one position open.

So, the recruiter will do everything to keep the employer happy and, in most cases, couldn’t care less about the job seeker other than to get them placed. After all, there’s plenty of job seekers from which to choose. That said, they will definitely appear to care about the candidate so long as the hiring company still takes an interest in the candidate. Once the hiring company no longer expresses interest in the candidate or fills the job, that’s when the recruiter calls stop, emails stop and you can no longer reach the recruiter at all.

One other tactic of recruiters is to obtain resumes. So, if you had an old resume on file at a recruiting firm, expect to be called periodically to update your resume. The recruiter who calls you may even imply there may be jobs open with your skill set. In many cases, you are just feeding their database with another resume. In fact, they very likely had no job opening. Again, the recruiters have their job performance tied to doing work. Having spoken with you and obtained your updated resume probably suffices for one in their quota. Be wary of this practice. You’re helping them keep their job, but they may have no intention of helping you at all. They’re just stringing you along.

One other recruiting tactic to watch for is the phantom job tactic. The recruiter will claim to officially represent the hiring company. They tell you a job is open and that they are requesting a resume to submit. They will even put up a front and tell you they have submitted your resume for the position. Then, you never hear back from them. Why? Because they lied. They had no position open. They didn’t have any official status to represent the hiring company. So, how does this happen? Again, this is a quota issue. They need to make quotas, so the recruiter will string you along hoping the hiring company will agree to use the recruiting firm and then pay the commission. Unfortunately, the recruiting firm has not officially contacted the company until after they had your resume in hand. The trouble is, they didn’t have the company’s permission nor blessing. So, the recruiter contacts the company and the company says, “We don’t work with recruiters, sorry”. End of discussion.. no more contact. There is no way to really ensure the legitimacy of what a recruiter tells you. But, it certainly is a waste of time.

In the case of a recruiter, you necessarily won’t be out any money, but it can certainly take away valuable time that you could otherwise be seeking direct opportunities, submitting resumes or even updating your resume. It’s easy to get bogged down in recruiter time suck activities. So, be wary when recruiters come knocking.

Craigslist and Classified ads

While classified boards like Craigslist are great places to find job opportunities, it’s also a place to get scammed. So, if you choose to look for jobs in classified ads, make sure that you verify the company you are contacting. That means, check the phone book or the Internet to ensure that the phone numbers and addresses actually match the hiring company’s office address. You don’t want to end up in some seedy dive on a fake interview or being taken for some amount of money. If any money is involved before you get a job, walk away. There are way too many sites that can help you find jobs without fees.

Fee Based Job Boards

Some well known web employment listing sites charge subscription fees to help you find jobs. While I understand this web business model, the job seeker is most probably out of a job when seeking new employment. So, while paying monthly subscription fees might seem worthwhile, you may end up having no better luck in finding a job than using free services like Hotjobs, Dice or Monster. So, be cautious when asked to supply a credit card number to get access to a bigger database or get access to employment ‘review’ services. If you want to spend money, that’s up to you, but I’d recommend exhausting all other free avenues (and believe me, there are plenty) long before you throw your money away on for-pay job boards.

If you are months into your search and still have no leads after trying all of the free sites, then and only then would I try a for-pay job board. Some of these boards offer one month subscription periods. I’d recommend trying these job boards by paying for only one month and see how well it works for you. One month should be well long enough to dig through their database, submit resumes and see if you get any nibbles. You may find that it does nothing. Also, make sure that after the one month payment ends there are no recurring subscriptions still active. You don’t want to get any surprise fees on your credit card statement the next month.

Avoid the scams

If something looks too good to be true, it probably is. When seeking a job, you want to avoid being scammed out of whatever money you have… especially when unemployed. So, be cautious if a web site asks you to load a credit card number into their registration page. In short, don’t do it. If they require a credit card number to sign you up, skip that site and move on. If you do decide to part with your credit card number to get access, be sure to fully read all of the sites disclosures to understand how they charge for their services. If you can’t find how they charge for services, skip the site.

Good luck in your job search.

<span>%d</span> bloggers like this: