Saturday, May 22, 2021

Republicans Muzzling the People’s Will by Suppressing Ballot Initiatives

by Brian T. Lynch, MSW

A ballot initiative process gives direct power to the voters to enact new, or change existing laws. It allows ordinary citizens to bypass their legislators by placing their proposed legislation directly on the public election ballot. These proposed initiatives first have to meet states’ qualifications regarding the number of petition signatures required and other criteria required by state laws.

This century-old fixture of American democracy allows voters to defy the wishes of their state’s representatives. In states now dominated by Republican-led legislatures, Democrats and independents have had recent success in passing broadly popular laws that are opposed by Republican legislators and governors.

The New York Times is running a story (5/22/21) about how state Republican legislators have begun passing new laws to limit or dismantle the ballot initiative in their state. This is part of a broader Republican agenda to suppress majority rule and cease permanent government control. Here is an excerpt from the article:

“But this year, Republican-led legislatures in Florida, Idaho, South Dakota, and other states have passed laws limiting the use of the practice, one piece of a broader G.O.P. attempt to lock in political control for years to come… So far in 2021, Republicans have introduced 144 bills to restrict the ballot initiative processes in 32 states… Of those bills, 19 have been signed into law by nine Republican governors. In three states, Republican lawmakers have asked voters to approve ballot initiatives that in fact limit their own right to bring and pass future ballot initiatives.”
Republicans lost the Presidency and control of the Senate in a massive voter turnout election. The people of America have spoken loudly, and they don’t like it. They pulled out all the stops and didn’t expect to lose. The manner in which they have conducted themselves before and since the election has tipped their hand to reveal their real intent. Their only goal is to suppress majority rule so they can take permanent control over the federal government. They have accomplished this in many states. These states served as models of how a federal takeover can be done. A critical piece of the plan was put in place when Mitch McConnell succeeded in packing the federal bench and the Supreme Court with sympathetic ideologues.

This was supposed to be the election to take over our republic. It was their only agenda. They literally didn’t have any party platform to run on. They offered no policy initiatives, no vision statements for how they would govern, no critical issues that might distract Trump’s carefully curated base from their cult-like trance. Now their decades-long plans for totalitarian control are out in the open, even as they try to cover their tracks. It won’t work. Everyone sees clearly what they are up to and how they are doing it.

This assault on state ballot initiatives described in the NY Times article details their attacks on the majority will of the people in their state. The “Anti-Republican” movement has opened yet another front in their battle to dismantle our democratic rule. We cannot let them win. We must not allow the United States of America to become a totalitarian country.

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Securing Elections in the State of New Jersey is a Small Price for Democracy

LET'S DEMAND SECURE VOTING MACHINES NOW! 

Picture credit: Philadelphia Inquirer 


New Jersey has the 5th least secure voting system in the country. Given the massive loss of confidence in US elections following the last election, the $60 to $80 million it would take to replace our e-machines with voting machines that produce a paper trail is essential. Let's not give conspiracy theorists or election hackers a foothold in questioning or tampering with our elections in New Jersey. 

HISTORY
N.J. was going to have paper-based voting machines more than a decade ago. Will it happen by 2020? - from The Philadelphia Inquirer from March 10, 2019. 

"New Jersey was once at the vanguard of voting security. In the mid-2000s, it became an issue thanks to a major lawsuit from voters. The state Legislature in 2005 passed a law requiring that machines allow voters to verify paper ballots by 2008, then required audits of those paper trails. It even set aside $20 million in funding to retrofit machines to print records."

"Instead, the governor took back the money as the recession struck; lawmakers suspended the requirement to buy new machines; no funding has materialized since."
"Now, as the 2020 elections draw ever nearer, a handful of counties are replacing their machines, some of them two decades old. Others will continue to rely on current systems, waiting for federal or state funding before undertaking the costly, time-consuming upgrade to protect citizens’ votes."

PRESENT-DAY 
N.J. among nation’s worst in making sure elections are secure. Why haven’t we fixed that?
Updated May 15, 2021; Posted May 15, 2021 -
by Jonathan D. Salant | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

"After President Donald Trump and his Republican allies singled out Georgia and Arizona in falsely claiming that the 2020 presidential election was stolen, both states recounted their votes and found no significant problems."

"That’s not so easy to do in New Jersey after each election. It’s one of just six states that do not require a paper trail that allows election officials to check that voting machines were not hacked and the results not tampered with." <snip>

"While New Jersey could do an audit last year because so many ballots were cast by mail, that was a one-shot deal due to the coronavirus pandemic. Going forward, the Garden State will remain an outlier unless the state comes up with the estimated $60 million to $80 million needed to replace county voting machines."

“That’s totally the problem,” said Eileen Kean, a Monmouth County elections commissioner. It’s really a very, very expensive undertaking. Voting experts said that a paper trail will do more for election security than all of the voting restrictions being enacted by Republican state legislatures, including both Georgia and Arizona."

FUNDING DEMOCRACY IN NJ

How can we fund $80 million for secure voting in NJ? The NJ annual budget is about $60 billion dollars. Funding a safe and verifiable voting process would cost 0.0013% of the annual budget. It isn't a question of not having enough money, it is a question of priorities. There are lots of no-sweat choices we can make. For example, we can pay for safe elections through a one-time dip into property tax rebate revenue.
According to the 2021/22 NJ budget, the appropriations for general revenues and property tax relief are up 9.6%, or $2.873 billion. About $1.2 billion is budgeted for property tax relief. Just 6.7% of that money could be used to buy verifiable voting machines. That would still leave $1.12 billion for property tax relief next year. 

And while we are at it, the distribution of the one-time $80 million debit could be progressively shared to make this tax rebate fairer. 

There is a "... divergence in spending on programs offering targeted help to those who need it most and on tax breaks for homeowners no matter their income is largely a function of separate policies that have been put in place over the years for each relief program. But the current trend for divvying up the more than $1.2 billion in annual funding for the relief programs comes as Murphy, a first-term Democrat, regularly talks about enacting fiscal policies that will make New Jersey “stronger and fairer.”  - New Jersey Spotlight - Sept 6, 2020 

If you believe that securing our elections during this national threat to American democracy should be a much higher priority, then: 

1. Share this FB post widely among your friends and with the FB groups to which you belong.

2. Write or call your state representatives and ask them to support Vincent Mazzeo's bill, A291) that would require counties to replace their voting machines and buy machines that produce a paper trail. 

3. CONTACT Gov. Murphy's office and demand that he makes it a priority to secure the vote in New Jersey https://www.nj.gov/governor/contact/all/

OR CALL or write the Governor's office directly: 

Governor Phil Murphy's Office
225 W State St, Trenton, NJ 08625

(609) 292-6000

Thanks.

Saturday, May 8, 2021

World Democracy and the Invisible Hand Opposing It.

by Brian T. Lynch, MSW


Here's a radical idea. Let's distribute equally among every adult citizen, no matter their status or circumstance, all the power necessary to govern our country. Then let's endow each person with the right to lend their share of power to others who pledge to represent their interests for a term. And when governing questions arise, let's accept that the majority opinion should prevail so long as it doesn't infringe on a person's inalienable rights as a human being. That’s what we have. It is the democratic republic created by our founding fathers.

And isn’t it so much better than having wealthy, powerful people deciding our lives in ways that suit their self-interests and the interests of their loyal friends? This latter model has always been the default mode throughout history. It is what we will have again if we fail to defend our democracy. Keeping our republic going forward will likely be as difficult as establishing it was in the beginning. We are in the middle of an acute domestic challenge today.

Why is democracy worth fighting to preserve? Democracy is fair for everyone. It alone has the ability to distribute the greatest good to the largest share of its citizens. But democracy is also hard. It has taken most of recorded history to set up just one enduring example for the world to follow. We are that first and oldest example. A democracy, with its equal distribution of power by its citizens, challenges every other power structure ever devised before it. One obvious example would be the royal dynasties of Europe.

When the aristocracy of the mid-1500s and 1600s was forced to share power with a growing wealthy business class, they preserved their dominance by chartering corporations. These royal corporations conserved the aristocrat’s financial powers over the business class because all charters followed the principle that the more one owns the greater one’s say in making decisions. And no one was wealthier than the King. Also, the wealth a corporation generates is not distributed equally. It is distributed according to a person’s share of ownership. The more you own, the more you earn.

And so it is to this day that the corporate model of governance continues to preserve the wealth and power of the wealthy. Many of the aristocrats are still around (The English royals, for example). The wealthiest families and many undemocratic governments in the world still have controlling interests in the global economy.

Corporate governance is among the models in direct competition with democracy. It manifests itself in many ways both large and small. For example, while governments still charter corporations, business sectors have established a political lobbying industry that funnels campaign donations back to cash-starved or business-friendly politicians. This allows corporations to exert influence over politicians who make government policies that is greater than the influence of the constituents who elected them. And as always, behind the veil of every corporation are the wealthy owners of capital.

The wealth of modern international corporations rivals all but the richest countries. The same is true of the wealthiest corporate owners. The economic power of just the top eighty billionaires is staggering. Their combined wealth is greater than the bottom 46% of people on earth. When their interest become align, and they push in the same direction, they are nearly an irresistible force. 

Up until the present era, corporations have largely benefitted from the stability and predictability of western democracies in which they were chartered. In the period after World War II businesses were mostly community-based enterprises. It was in a local business owner’s best interest to use their clout to strengthen and build up their local communities. It was a source of civic pride for them as well. When corporate entities grew larger and more regional and national, business interest and national interest began to merge and local community connections declined. In recent decades, the web of pan-global international business relationships has grown exponentially. 

Today, even international corporate fealty to the host countries that charter them has weakened. In the unregulated space between nations struggle to balance the interests of their people with the international corporate interests and global competition. This has given rise to many pan-global regulatory bodies that are inter-governmental, trans-governmental, and even private (non-governmental) in structure. Some are more prominent, such as the World Trade Organization (WTO), International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank, and the OECD.

There are many other international business organizations (IBOs) are seeking to globally coordinate and facilitate corporate interests. There are also scores of more regional and continental business organizations designed to promote regional interests and influence decision-making by the larger IBOs. These are collectively referred to as RCGs or Regional Consulting Groups.

Most IBOs seek to influence what they call “upstream activities of the rule-making process” in the host nations. This includes the exchange of information, data collection, and development of norms, standards, and best practices among the host nations. A few IBOs are also involved in “downstream activities” such as internal governmental rule-making processes including, “… enforcement, dispute settlement, and crisis management.”

Rogue Actors and Shadow Banking
Into this ever-expanding universe between what world governments still control and what they no longer fully control is an amorphous dark web of private wealth and power. It has become the sandbox for billionaires, oligarchs, cartels, and rogue world leaders seeking to shelter or conceal their activity. It is a wilderness in which shadow banking (unregulated by any nation) now controls nearly one-third of all global wealth. This opaque network of dark commerce connects both legitimate banking systems and international businesses with the dark lords of wealth and power. That this extra-governmental space exists is an established fact, not a conspiracy theory. It is recognized as a real threat to global financial stability. In April of 2009, on the heels of the Great Recession, a new global financial regulatory agency quietly emerged. The Financial Stability Board (FSB) was created in an attempt to modulate this new threat.

I believe it is from this stateless shadow economy that an invisible hand has emerged to weaken the world governments that still largely control the global economy. It intuitively follows that destablizing Western democracies, with their structural commitment to the welfare and interests of ordinary citizens (whose votes must be earned), would be primary targets. This isn’t just a threat to global banking and commerce. It represents a fifth column, a phantom opposition to national sovereignty worldwide. It is a vector for corruption that further taints corporate culture and poisons the well of global democracy. This is the nexus through which the interests of rogue billionaires and corrupt principalities begin to align and potentially conspire. This is a likely source through which the global disinformation warfare raging against Western democracies is being waged. And this disinformation war is the direct cause of our growing political polarization and disunion that is tearing countries apart.

Postscript: Most folks have a hard time seeing beyond the partisan political walls that have been erected to block our view of the bigger picture unfolding in the world. It is heartening to know that others who have read this are seeing what I see. Identifying a problem or a threat is always the first step in solving it, and that is the immediate purpose of my piece. I am confident that there are solutions to the challenges we face in creating a more democratic world. 

One example that another reader of this post (at Daily Kos) pointed out is that all corporations are chartered by sovereign governments, therefore the terms of those charters are subject to change to the will of the people in a democracy. People are the ultimate source of all social power. How we organize and coordinate among ourselves determines the social power structures under which we live. 

I can imagine a future in which a powerful global, grassroots democracy movement in the spirit of 1776 coalesces to confront this global threat. I also foresee a future of incredible oppression by powerful global elites wielding the full potential of emerging technologies to keep us under tight control. I know how dramatic that my sound, but the momentum seems to be moving in that direction. 

Again, the first step to confronting this threat is to get millions or billions of people to look beyond the many walls that divide us so we can see the bigger picture at play. Even the most powerful person worth 100s of millions of dollars cannot stand up to millions of people who refuse to accept their money.



Monday, April 26, 2021

How Domestic Terrorists Received Their U.S. Military Training

by Brian T. Lynch, MSW

Something worrisome has changed in the U.S. armed forces. The evidence of these changes has been out in the open for decades but received little attention until insurrectionists stormed the U.S. Capitol on January 6th. Among the chaos of rioters juiced up by the incendiary rhetoric at President Trump’s rally that day, video footage shows bands of highly coordinated participants, equipped and dressed for combat, moving single file through the crowds in a deliberate, military-style insertion into the U.S. Capitol building. Who were these guys?
AP photo - https://apnews.com/article/ex-military-cops-us-capitol-riot-a1cb17201dfddc98291edead5badc257

Now we know. “Of the nearly 380 individuals federally charged in connection with the [January 6th] riot, at least 44 are current or former members of the U.S. armed forces,” reported the Washington Post recently. That number represents about 12% of those criminally arrested so far. Almost all were retired military.

Details are still emerging as the FBI continues apace in perhaps the largest, most important investigation in its history. We already know a number of these ex-military are members of white nationalist extremist groups that participated in the insurrection. The idea that so many former members of the armed services can turn their training and experience against the country they served is disturbing, but it shouldn’t be surprising.

The military has a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy pertaining to extremism if individuals can perform satisfactorily, without making their extremist opinion overt… they are likely to be able to complete their contract. - U.S. Department of Defense report, 2005

Prior to the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, the all-volunteer army was able to recruit a sustainable number of well-qualified men and women to meet our military needs around the world. The Afghanistan and Iraq wars changed all that. By 2005 the stress placed on the U.S. military was becoming critical. In his 2012 book, Irregular Army, Matt Kennard wrote:

Around this time a retired army officer named Andrew F. Krepinevich, writing under a Pentagon contract released a shocking report which was scathing about the U.S. Military being able to maintain its troop levels in Iraq without breaking the military or losing the war. His diagnosis was simple: The U.S. armed forces were “confronted with a protracted deployment against irregular forces waging insurgencies,” but the ground forces required to provide stability and security in Afghanistan and Iraq “clearly exceeded those available for the mission. - Matt Kennard, 2012
The Pentagon employed multiple strategies in an effort to maintain troop levels. These included increasing retention by tolerating bad conduct among the troops that would usually result in disciplinary discharges. It increased the budget for recruitment including signing bonuses. It called up reservists and national guard troops for combat deployment, lengthening deployments, and shortened the time between deployments. The Pentagon also expanded its use of private mercenary companies, such as Blackwater, to provide logistical and security services for the war efforts. When recruitment targets still could not be met, and the military was approaching the breaking point, bringing back the draft was considered but rejected by Congress. That left the lowering of recruitment standards as the only way to meet its recruitment need.

Under Donald Rumsfeld’s watch, the Pentagon allowed, “… the dismantling of the whole regulatory structure for enlistment and retention,” as Kennard put it in his book. Some of the lowered recruitment standards were accomplished by explicit changes in policy, such as dropping the high school diploma requirement, rules on IQ levels or physical conditions, etc. Less palatable changes were made sub rosa, in plausibly deniable practices. These included loosening enlistment criteria on criminals, racist extremists, gang members, and those with questionable moral character or mental health. Some of the worst atrocities in the Afghan and Iraq wars were committed by soldiers who would not have met recruiting standards prior to these changes.

For over a decade the “don’t ask, don’t tell” practice relating to racial extremists and fringe elements in society has allowed neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and morally corrupt individuals to receive the best military training on the planet. The pressure to recruit and retain these soldiers, even when their extremist opinions spill into the open, has been great. There is some evidence that extremist organizations have taken advantage of these lower standards to gain military training, but most of these recruits have a natural affinity for military service.

In any event, a disturbing proportion of active and retired military personnel are or have become, radicalized anti-government extremists with skilled military training. Their presence and engagement in the assault on Congress and our democracy on January 6th represent a new level of domestic terrorist threats that must be confronted. With the winding down of the war in Iraq and Afghanistan recently and the Pentagon’s renewed look at extremism in the ranks, reestablishing more robust standards for recruitment and retention of our troops must be given a high priority.

Monday, April 5, 2021

The Big Lie – and the Science of Lying

By Brian T. Lynch, MSW


“… in the big lie there is always a certain force of credibility; because the broad masses of a nation are always more easily corrupted in the deeper strata of their emotional nature than consciously or voluntarily; and thus in the primitive simplicity of their minds they more readily fall victims to the big lie than the small lie… Even though the facts which prove [the lie] to be so may be brought clearly to their minds, they will still doubt and waver and will continue to think there may be some other explanation. For the grossly impudent lie always leaves traces behind it, even after it has been nailed down, a fact which is known to all expert liars in this world and to all who conspire together in the art of lying.”
— Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf

“Propaganda is communication that is primarily used to influence an audience and further an agenda, which may not be objective and may be selectively presenting facts to encourage a particular synthesis or perception, or using loaded language to produce an emotional rather than a rational response to the information that is being presented.” — Wikipedia

Before the 20th Century, the terms propaganda and persuasion were nearly synonymous. Propaganda had no negative connotation. That changed in the 1900s. “Propaganda” has a negative meaning today and is often associated with authoritarian governments. But in practice, the persuasive arts and propaganda employ many of the same techniques and it can be difficult to discern one from the other. Propaganda now also applies equally to powerful private corporations as well as government agencies. The bright line between these concepts, to the extent they can be found, is in the intent of the speakers or authors who broadcast the messages. At the heart of persuasion is a belief in the underlying facts and good public intentions. At the heart of propaganda is intentional deception motivated by self-interest and a desire for wealth or social power. At the root of propaganda, there is always a pernicious lie.

As Hitler called it in the above quote, the art of lying has evolved since his day into a sophisticated field of science today. Mass media, especially electronic communication, is the medium to which the science of lying is being applied. This powerful new science has spawned whole new commercial perception management and “disinformational” enterprises. Discerning what is factual, accurately perceiving the unvarnished truth, is increasingly more difficult. The veracity and integrity of traditional sources of information are under attack by powerful, unscrupulous special interest groups. At the same time, a steady media stream of maliciously fake information is divergent sets of facts in segments of the population, making normal persuasion methods nearly impossible. It may soon become impossible to distinguish truth from fiction at all. For example, there is rapid progress in the development of deep-fake technologies, powered by artificial intelligence, to create synthetic video content indistinguishable from photographically generated video.

Separating fact from intentional deception has always been a major social challenge, but the recent scale and scope of this difficulty are on a whole new level. Our normal critical thinking skills are no longer up to the task. We must improve our minds' ability to expect and recognize propaganda directed at us. We must fortify ourselves from the mental manipulations constantly assaulting our senses. We need better detection skills and trustworthy methods to quickly identify falsehoods and the liars behind them. But, we also need to develop greater awareness of how human vulnerabilities lead to mental manipulation by others.

On this latter point, the post-election uprising of January 6, 2021, presents a teaching moment in how we can be subconsciously misled by intentional deception. A well-coordinated and emotionally charged campaign to promote the big lie, that the election was stolen, spawned insurrection at the Capitol. For the first time in recent memory, our national media found the temerity to call out the “Big Lie.” This is remarkable because members of the media, like all of us, have shown much susceptibility to the impacts of big, audacious lies.

While there are new and high-tech ways to propagate and amplify big lies, the phenomenon itself is not new. History is replete with examples. Big lies are often successful because really brash and forceful lies trigger a vulnerability in how our brains respond to information even when we reject the lie on a cognitive level. Lies create emotional gaps in our thinking that leave room for doubt that didn’t previously exist. Even small lies can create unreasonable doubts.

The theme and wording of big public lies are always chosen to evoke strong emotional reactions within an intended audience. Natural social fault lines or existing controversies are often the subjects of the lie. The vocabulary that is chosen always contains emotive, high-inference wording that generates interpretations or reactions well beyond the literal meaning of the words. It is this feature of the big lie that best identifies it early on.

A famous example of evocative word choice occurred during the Bush administration in the Gulf War lead-up. There was a media blitz by the White House to drum up support for the war. The relentless blitz alone should have aroused skepticism and careful listening for verifiable facts, but it did not. In a television interview, Dr. Condoleezza Rice said:

"The problem here is that there will always be some uncertainty about how quickly he [Saddam Hussain] can acquire nuclear weapons. But we don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud."

The word choice is clearly designed to evoke fear. And it did. The comment was picked up by the media and echoed everywhere for weeks. But fear can be easily evoked by facts as well. Why was the administration using loaded word choices rather than documents, photographs, or testimonial evidence to convince us that “weapons of mass destruction” existed?[i]

A counterexample of this would be the presentation of facts, with aerial reconnaissance photos, at the onset of the Cuban Missile Crisis. That presentation surely evoked a well-informed fear in this country with none of the over-heated rhetoric that accompanies the big lie. In fact, the rhetoric was toned down to minimize the panic and reassure us that the planned military interventions would work. And they did work by the thinnest margin.

The theme of the big lie is a window into what is behind it. In the case of former President Donald Trump, the lies about the “stolen election” were an obvious attempt to stay in power. The word choices in the messaging in that campaign was designed to rally supporters and evoke hostility and rage. This example, however, is still too fresh to be a useful example.

There are many other examples of the big lie in recent history from the falsely claimed Tonkin Gulf incident of April 4, 1964, which lead to greater military involvement in the Vietnam war, to the false WMD claims that lead to the Iraq war. But governments are not the only perpetrators of the big lie. Big corporations and their industry associations are practitioners in the art of the art well. The tobacco industry created a whole body of pseudo-scientific evidence in the 1970s to contradict research that proved cigarette smoking cause cancer. They created a huge public disinformation campaign to protect their industry profits. That big lie worked for years. Doubt was cast in the public mind for what was settled science. Even years after the lie was dramatically exposed in Congressional hearings, doubt remains in segments of the population. As Hitler wrote, “… grossly impudent [lies] always leaves traces behind it, even after it has been nailed down.”


ANATOMY OF THE BIG LIE

Climate change is another example where a big lie campaign created a factitious controversy. It is an instructive example because climate science started out completely devoid of politics and unaffected by public opinion. It began with a small sphere of several thousand climate researchers around the world. Discussions and vigorous debate among them were a natural part of understanding the meaning of data as it was collected. Their collective deliberations can serve as a model for how all collective opinions form in the absence of malicious intent. 

The initial chaos of ideas and theories slowly gave rise to areas of consensus and then converging theories. Gradually, as the accretion of data created coherent patterns, a consensus formed among scientists that planet Earth is quickly warming and that carbon dioxide from ancient deposits of fossil fuels is a major contributor. There was a growing awareness that the impact of these changes could be catastrophic for life on the planet.

At no point, even now, was there ever a single, monolithic understanding of the climate data. There is a range of interpretations and different emphasis placed on aspects of data in the empirical sciences. There are degrees of uncertainty and controversial claims, but before the big lie is introduced, all the participants are acting in good faith. Their data may be faulty, their interpretation of facts may be inaccurate, but no one willfully inserts wildly false information to subvert the scientific process.


This model of collective opinion-formation is normal in all of society. It isn’t confined to scientists. In fact, this opinion-formation model is naturally occurring and literally “normal” in the statistical sense. In the case of our pioneering climate scientists, if we were to plot the granular subtleties of their beliefs and concerns, and plot it on a graph, a natural continuum of their alarm and opinion would form with a bell-shaped curve centered on the mean where the consensus of their opinions would cluster. The x-axis on this continuum (and in the figures to the right) would be the level of alarm raised by the data. This is how all collective public opinions are generated. No two people have exactly the same viewpoint. There are always people who have radically different views. The frequency distribution of different viewpoints naturally falls within a normal pattern. This is why ancient wisdom tells us “the truth lies somewhere in the middle.” Time and again, when society forms opinions, our minds seek the centrality of multiple viewpoints. It is an inherent bias that is usually correct, but not always.

As alarmed climate scientists began alerting the public to what appeared to be a significant and growing threat to humanity, as they began advocating for solutions to avoid the worst consequences of what is about to happen, their consensus opinion generated alarm in the fossil energy sector. Carbon dioxide exhaust is an unavoidable consequence of burning fossil fuels. You can burn it cleaner, you can capture or offset some CO2, but you can’t eliminate most of it. The implications are clear. If science is correct, fossil fuel consumption has to be reduced. This presents a direct threat to industry profits and the whole business model. After secretly confirming the scientific findings on global warming, big energy corporations made plans to attack the science and alter public opinion trajectory. In a fair contest of ideas, energy company executives knew that public policy would quickly follow to reduce CO2 emissions and erode profits. This sets the stage for creating the big lie behind the climate controversy.

The creation of a big lie takes place in stages. It starts with some seed of truth and the recruitment of researchers and scientific opinion influences who see little cause for alarm in the data, or who have contrary opinions. These are the outliers on one fringe of the climate science continuum. Their actual numbers will be few by definition, so the goal is to disproportionately elevate their voices in the public eye. 

The next step is to lavish attention and grant money on these fringe researchers, hire PR firms and media commentators to amplify their minority opinions, and identify conspiracy theorists willing to go even further to discredit the science. This creates the framework for the big lie. Nurturing the dissenters is the next step. Establishing communications networks and opportunities for personal interactions within this growing cadre of dissidents lends credibility and deepens the group's commitment to their alternative opinion… that climate change is a “hoax”. The big lie is broadcast. The larger and more animated the dissenting group becomes, the more audacious the lie they are willing to support and the more impact it will have on public opinion.

The impact of this very loud but synthetic dissent group is amplified further by a simultaneous attack on the scientists on the opposite fringe, scientists who hold the most alarming opinions about climate

change. Normally, an attack on the scientific community would raise the strongest reaction in them. This would cancel out some of the noise generated by the big lie. Anticipating these scientists' reactions and muting them with a preemptive suppression campaign is part of the plan by the architects of the big lie. For the propagandist, it is important that the factitious continuum only extends in a single direction, away from opinions that threaten their plans.


When the big lie is launched in public it quickly generates a fictitious extension to the scientific consensus on climate change, in this example. The continuum of opinion is stretched in the direction of lowering the alarm. The bigger the lie, the longer the continuum stretches in one direction. This has the immediate effect of making the average of climate scientists’ opinions appear to be more extreme on the continuum of all opinions. The public information campaign by the scientific community to alert us to their concerns must suddenly compete with a well-funded public disinformation campaign conducted by the big energy companies. As the general public gets drawn into the apparent controversy, the centrality of opinion bias we all have skews our beliefs and distorts public opinion. We look for truth to be somewhere in the middle of these new extremes. This shift towards the big lie further encourages and energizes those who believe the lies. Polarity increases and the truth becomes distorted in the public's mind. Public consensus shifts away from the scientific consensus and towards the big lie. Politics become stalemated and public policy decisions to remediate the problems are delayed.

This example of a big lie, as it applies to climate change, serves as a template for understanding normal public opinion formation and how it can be manipulated by bad-faith actors. It fits a generalized pattern that helps us identify many other deception-based controversies such as anti-vaccinators, QAnon followers, and pandemic hoax believers. It also illuminates why our bias, that the truth must fall somewhere in the middle, prevents us from seeing the facts more clearly and why, “… the grossly impudent lie always leaves traces behind it, even after it has been nailed down.” Big lie propaganda causes lasting damage. This discussion doesn’t explain the many ways new media disinformation technologies are making it easier to create and sustain public deceptions. The art of lying has truly become a science of deception that alters our perceptions. 

There are powerful reasons why big lies are proliferating. The ability to electronically identify individuals by their biopsychosocial profile, sort through whole populations to local people on the fringe of public issues, and radicalize them through internet micro-targeted messaging is having a massive effect on society. The repercussions are far-reaching, yet the publics' understanding of these new techniques lags far behind. We can't easily tell when we have been manipulated. There are also more conventional reasons why the big lie is becoming more common. It works well for those who want to manipulate public sentiment for private gain as social prohibitions against it have diminished. 

Enforcement of prohibitions against public dishonesty is collectively up to all of us as citizens, but it isn't easy. Even when we recognize and reject the intentional big lie, if we don’t also consider how it altered and shifted our own opinions then we don’t compensate for that shift... and the big lie is still a success. 

If we do compensate for the impact of a big lie on our opinions and lean into the truth, we will appear to be moving in a radical direction by those who don't recognize how much their opinions have been altered. We need to be courageous in re-examing our own inking after a big lie has been exposed. We must realign our opinions with the more reliably true facts and then influence others to do the same. 


[i] I was personally driven by this comment to carefully review all the actual public evidence I could find on the internet about Iraqi WMDs. I concluded, with some certainty, that there was no evidence that Iraq had WMDs other than some old chemical weapons which we gave them during the Iran-Iraq war. I felt that if I was able to determine that Iraq had no WMD, our politicians should be able to see that as well. I petitioned members of Congress with letters to press for a debate on a declaration of war. I was confident the evidence I found would come out. The debate happened but turned out to be perfunctory. The evidence against the need for military intervention barely surfaced. My disappointment with those who voted to authorize the war was deep and long-lasting. And among my peers, my position on the issue of war when it was being debated seemed wildly radical, as did the position of those in Congress who voted against authorizing the use of force. If you have read up to this note and still think my claim is radical, even after the war is long over and no WMDs were found, then your own opinions remain altered by that big lie.



Monday, March 1, 2021

Daily Pandemic Diary March 2021

by Brian T. Lynch, MSW

NOTICE: Unless things change considerably, this Daily Pandemic Diary will end in March 2021.

Welcome to the Daily Pandemic Diary for MARCH 2021. The purpose here is to provide a global context to how our nation is coping with the pandemic and to supply information about COVID-19 that might be helpful to the readers. This blog continues the daily collection of data beginning in the Daily Update blog and the monthly Daily Pandemic Diaries linked below. The raw data comes from the independent, international non-profit data reporting organization called Worldometer.info. Test Positivity data comes from Johns Hopkins University. Data in red are calculated values. The hyperlinks below take you to prior months.

APRIL - JULY, 2020  

AUGUST 2020 
SEPTEMBER 2020  
OCTOBER 2020  
NOVEMBER 2020  
DECEMBER 2020 
JANUARY 2021 


_____________________________________________________

NATIONAL HEALTH EMERGENCY
DAY 470- MARCH 31, 2021
UNDERCOUNT
New daily case reports and death toll statistics from yesterday are missing from the following state(s): Nebraska and Kansas. 
Additionally, data on the number of deaths from yesterday are missing from the following 10 state(s): North Dakota, Hawaii, Wyoming, Alaska, Vermont, Oklahoma, Idaho, New Hampshire, Missouri, and Iowa. 
The estimated undercount of deaths, yesterday, based on active COVID cases (times a factor of .0002) is 69 additional deaths. The estimated undercount of new cases, also based on active COVID cases (times a factor of .005) is 265.
COMMENTS
Today, being the supposed last day of this diary, it turned out to be a busy day for the Pandemic and for me personally.  I wanted to summarize everything this month and since I began this diary. I will not be able to deliver. Among the items worth mentioning today, we learned that Florida may have undercounted the number of COVID deaths by nearly 5,000 people due to politics, essentially.  We learned that Pfizer has tested it's vaccine in children between the age of 12 and 15 years old and found that it was 100% safe and effective... Great News! We learned that France is experiencing such a severe surge in cases that President Macrone is closing all their schools.  Here in the U.S. our own numbers are trending upward to the point that we are closing out the month at nearly the same rate of new daily infections as we had at the beginning of the month. So, I will weigh in again, perhaps tomorrow, to bring closure. 








NATIONAL HEALTH EMERGENCY
DAY 469- MARCH 30, 2021

UNDERCOUNT
New daily case reports and death toll statistics from yesterday are missing from the following state(s): Nebraska, Alaska, and Kansas. 
Additionally, data on the number of deaths from yesterday are missing from the following 18 state(s): Montana, North Dakota, Mississippi, Hawaii, Wyoming, New Mexico, South Dakota, Maine, Oregon, Alabama, Vermont, Oklahoma, Missouri, Utah, Arizona, New Hampshire, Ohio, and South Carolina. 
The estimated undercount of deaths, yesterday, based on active COVID cases (times a factor of .0002) is 111 additional deaths. The estimated undercount of new cases, also based on active COVID cases (times a factor of .005) is 300.
COMMENTS
Yesterday we learned from the great news that people who are fully vaccinated with the two-dose vaccines are not getting infected with COVID-19 at any level that would result in them spreading infections to others. So, infected people are personally safe and also not a risk to others. This also holds true when they are exposed to the variants. 
We also learned that the U.S. is vaccinating people at an accelerating, currently about 1% of the population per day. About a third of the adult population is at least partially vaccinated already.  About 20% are fully vaccinated. 
The bad news is that infection rates in the 80% of us not fully vaccinated are growing rapidly. Spurred on by states opening up too soon and by pandemic fatigue that is causing more and more people to abandon all safety precautions, the spread of the virus is out-pacing the vaccination programs. We are heading for a 4th wave of illness and deaths. The victims are younger, unvaccinated adults. The higher daily infection rates are most evident in places where the more infections UK variant is starting to predominate. The CDC director yesterday, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, became emotional when she broke the news and implored everyone to get vaccinated and to resume taking precautions. (It has been said that a well-educated person is someone who can look at a statistic and cry. This seems to apply to her). 
Dr. Walensky punctuated her comments by calling on all social influences in America to spread this message (paraphrased): 
This is not the time to open public places, drop your masks and gather without social distancing. We are so close to ending the pandemic if we just hang on for a few more weeks. But we can also screw things up badly, lose more people, and prolong the pandemic for months by bad public policy and unsafe personal behaviors. Please heed the call! 









NATIONAL HEALTH EMERGENCY
DAY 468- MARCH 29, 2021
UNDERCOUNT
New daily case reports and death toll statistics from yesterday are missing from the following 12 state(s): Nebraska, North Carolina, Tennessee, Michigan, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Connecticut, Kansas, Idaho, Rhode Island, Alaska, and Wyoming. 
Additionally, data on the number of deaths from yesterday are missing from the following 17 state(s): Montana, North Dakota, Washington, Hawaii, D.C., Nevada, New Mexico, South Dakota, Maine, Oregon, Alabama, Delaware, Wisconsin, Missouri, Georgia, Ohio, and Colorado. 
The estimated undercount of deaths, yesterday, based on active COVID cases (times a factor of .0002) is 331 additional deaths. The estimated undercount of new cases, also based on active COVID cases (times a factor of .005) is 2,455.
COMMENTS
Twenty-nine states are now not reporting all their basic statistics over the weekend. This is a growing problem that skews the data and trend analysis required to track the progress of efforts to control the virus. Also of note, the U.S. COVID testing rate is shrinking and the U.S. just slipped to 23rd place in the world for tests given per million population. 
We appear to have dropped to third in the world for the most "new cases" yesterday, but that's only because we didn't include an estimated 2,455 additional cases due to the weekend undercount.  










NATIONAL HEALTH EMERGENCY
DAY 467- MARCH 28, 2021
UNDERCOUNT
New daily case reports and death toll statistics from yesterday are missing from the following state(s): Nebraska, North Carolina, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Connecticut, Kansas, Rhode Island, Alaska, and Wyoming. 
Additionally, data on the number of deaths from yesterday are missing from the following 5 state(s): Idaho, Vermont, North Dakota, Idaho, Ohio, and Colorado. 
The estimated undercount of deaths, yesterday, based on active COVID cases (times a factor of .0002) is 318 additional deaths. The estimated undercount of new cases, also based on active COVID cases (times a factor of .005) is 2,760.
COMMENTS
I have no special comments today, except to say that after nearly a year of preparing this daily pandemic diary I will not be continuing it into April. I may continue keeping the data, depending on the numbers, but the main purpose of this diary was to draw attention to how well or poorly the United States was doing relative to the rest of the world. It was a perspective that seemed short-sighted in the press. There are other excellent, even better places to keep track of our U.S. numbers. 








NATIONAL HEALTH EMERGENCY
DAY 466 - MARCH 27, 2021
UNDERCOUNT
New daily case reports and death toll statistics from yesterday are missing from the following state(s): Nebraska. 
Additionally, data on the number of deaths from yesterday are missing from the following 9 state(s): Wyoming, Montana, Alaska,  Delaware, Idaho, Wisconsin, Maine, Oklahoma, and Missouri. 
The estimated undercount of deaths, yesterday, based on active COVID cases (times a factor of .0002) is 230 additional deaths. The estimated undercount of new cases, also based on active COVID cases (times a factor of .005) is 63.

COMMENTS
Relative to the rest of the world, our percentages of the global new cases and COVID deaths is down to half the rate of our percentage of total global percentages of both measures. Our global share should be around 4% to be in parody with the rest of the world. We are around 12%, meaning we are still an outlier, but we are improving. Our global ranking on the most number of daily new cases is second, but when I compare nations rate of new daily cases today in cases per million population, we are 9th. 
Data on tests positivity from Johns Hopkins has gotten strange again. It jumped from 5.65% yesterday to 9.4% today, which is mathematically improbable in a running 7 -day average. On March 22 it dropped to 5.65% from 8.76% the day before. I thought that was a correction, but then what is this number today? A re-correction?











NATIONAL HEALTH EMERGENCY
DAY 465 - MARCH 26, 2021
UNDERCOUNT
New daily case reports and death toll statistics from yesterday are missing from the following state(s): Nebraska, Kansas.
Additionally, data on the number of deaths from yesterday are missing from the following 5 state(s): Wyoming, Maine, D.C., Oklahoma, and Missouri. 
The estimated undercount of deaths, yesterday, based on active COVID cases (times a factor of .0002) is 280 additional deaths. The estimated undercount of new cases, also based on active COVID cases (times a factor of .005) is 60.


COMMENTS
The race between vaccinations and the variants is tightening. Beware the Ides of March (March 15) when our 7-day Average of Daily New Cases bottomed out at 54,373 infections per day. Now it is up to 58,856 and climbing. The upward trend is driven by both the rise in dominance of the more contagious variants and, sadly, the rush to open up, take off our masks, and gather in greater numbers. 
As a further cautionary tale, the state that has the highest rate of people who are vaccinated also has the fastest-growing number of daily new infections... Alaska. This is hard to see from the raw numbers, but the state has 202 new cases per million population, nudging out New Jersey which has 200 new cases per million. Still, this is a much bigger problem for high-population states like New Jersey, New York, and Michigan. 
I prepared a table to rank the 20 states with the fastest-growing average of daily new cases over the past five days. The message to all is clear... the race to safety isn't over. Mask-up like your life depended on it. We are just weeks away from forcing down the number through vaccinations, but the finish line moves farther away as infection rates climb. 








NATIONAL HEALTH EMERGENCY
DAY 464 - MARCH 25, 2021
UNDERCOUNT
New daily case reports and death toll statistics from yesterday are missing from the following state(s): Nebraska, Kansas.
Additionally, data on the number of deaths from yesterday are missing from the following 6 state(s): Wyoming, Maine, Delaware, Alaska, Rhode Island, and Missouri. 
The estimated undercount of deaths, yesterday, based on active COVID cases (times a factor of .0002) is 280 additional deaths. The estimated undercount of new cases, also based on active COVID cases (times a factor of .005) is 80.
COMMENTS
There was a small upturn in both daily new cases and daily death totals reported today. Pennsylvania is now in an upward turn along with the five states named yesterday. According to data on a NYTimes Website, there are: 
  • 24 areas (States or US territories) where new cases are higher and staying high 
  • 24 areas where new cases are low and staying low
  • 2 areas where new cases are high but going down, and
  • 4 areas where new cases are low but going up 
See below: https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/us/coronavirus-us-cases.html



NATIONAL HEALTH EMERGENCY
DAY 463 - MARCH 24, 2021
UNDERCOUNT
New daily case reports and death toll statistics from yesterday are missing from the following state(s): Nebraska, Kansas, and Wisconsin.
Additionally, data on the number of deaths from yesterday are missing from the following 4 state(s): South Dakota, Hawaii, Oklahoma, and Missouri. 
The estimated undercount of deaths, yesterday, based on active COVID cases (times a factor of .0002) is 318 additional deaths. The estimated undercount of new cases, also based on active COVID cases (times a factor of .005) is 16.

COMMENTS
New U.S. COVID-19 cases show a weekly uptick for the first time since January. New Jersey remains first among the states in the rapidness of community spread, followed by New York which overtook Michigan. The 7-day average of daily new cases in New Jersey is now exactly where it was on February 3rd. This is a 45% increase in the last four weeks.



NATIONAL HEALTH EMERGENCY
DAY 462 - MARCH 23, 2021
UNDERCOUNT
New daily case reports and death toll statistics from yesterday are missing from the following 1 state(s): Kansas.
Additionally, data on the number of deaths from yesterday are missing from the following 21 state(s):  Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Hawaii, Mississippi, Vermont, Wyoming, D.C., Oklahoma, Utah, Maine, Iowa,  Missouri, New Hampshire, Missouri, Alabama, Wisconsin, Alaska Arizona, Tennessee, Minnesota, and Ohio.
The estimated undercount of deaths, yesterday, based on active COVID cases (times a factor of .0002) is 603 additional deaths. The estimated undercount of new cases, also based on active COVID cases (times a factor of .005) is 60.
COMMENTS
What is going on with the daily reporting of COVID deaths? Yesterday, being Monday, we have come to expect an improvement in the undercount of new cases and deaths over the weekend counts. I missed the window to get yesterday's undercount, so it wasn't reported here. Today, being Tuesday, we would expect a marked improvement in the number of states reporting their death totals. Instead, there are a record 21 states not reporting death statistics. I conservative estimate that represents at least 600 COVID deaths not reported from yesterday. And the number should be higher as many states have to add back in the unreported deaths that happened over the weekend. The new deaths reported in the table above should be over 1,300, not 682. 
And here is an irony. Quite a number of weeks ago Nebraska's daily new case data and daily death counts were no longer available on Worldometer.info. I investigated this and found that these statistics had been eliminated from the State's COVID Dashboard. I called the appropriate public health agency in Nebraska to inquire about this and left a message. Then I wrote about this in the daily comments and may have said I would let readers know if they ever got back to me. Well, today I finally heard back and had a friendly conversation with Ms. Darise Amos. I explained that Nebraska is the only state that changed its dashboard and stopped reporting the daily new cases and daily deaths. She went online herself and saw that this was true, then promised to get back to me after investigating it further. Then, perhaps coincidentally, when I looked at today's data this afternoon, Nebraska's new case numbers were there for the first time in many weeks. Maybe by tomorrow, their death statistics will reappear as well. Thank you, Nebraska!!! 




NATIONAL HEALTH EMERGENCY
DAY 461 - MARCH 22, 2021
UNDERCOUNT
Data was not collected yesterday regarding undercounts.

COMMENTS
None


















NATIONAL HEALTH EMERGENCY
DAY 460 - MARCH 21, 2021
UNDERCOUNT
New daily case reports and death toll statistics from yesterday are missing from the following state(s): Nebraska, Tennessee, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Kansas, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Arkansas, and Wyoming.
Additionally, data on the number of deaths from yesterday are missing from the following 6 state(s):  Maine, Idaho, West Virginia, Missouri, Colorado, and Ohio.
The estimated undercount of deaths, yesterday, based on active COVID cases (times a factor of .0002) is 140 additional deaths. The estimated undercount of new cases, also based on active COVID cases (times a factor of .005) is 1,235.

COMMENTS
No Comments today.







NATIONAL HEALTH EMERGENCY
DAY 459 - MARCH 20, 2021
UNDERCOUNT
New daily case reports and death toll statistics from yesterday are missing from the following state(s): Nebraska.
Additionally, data on the number of deaths from yesterday are missing from the following 7 state(s):  Alaska, Vermont, Wyoming, South Dakota, Oklahoma, Iowa, and Virginia.
The estimated undercount of deaths, yesterday, based on active COVID cases (times a factor of .0002) is 156 additional deaths. The estimated undercount of new cases, also based on active COVID cases (times a factor of .005) is 223.
COMMENTS
No Comments today.





NATIONAL HEALTH EMERGENCY
DAY 458 - MARCH 19, 2021
UNDERCOUNT
New daily case reports and death toll statistics from yesterday are missing from the following state(s): Nebraska.
Additionally, data on the number of deaths from yesterday are missing from the following 6 state(s):  Wyoming, Hawaii, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Vermont, and Missouri.
The estimated undercount of deaths, yesterday, based on active COVID cases (times a factor of .0002) is 118 additional deaths. The estimated undercount of new cases, also based on active COVID cases (times a factor of .005) is 223
COMMENTS
The daily new case numbers and deaths are up slightly, but we are on the cusp of a weekend with greater undercounting. The significance of this slight upturn can't be determined.  What can be said is that certain states have a much higher rate of daily new cases per million population than others. I created the table below to show where the top 10 states rank in most new cases per million, an indicator of a growing problem. 
















NATIONAL HEALTH EMERGENCY
DAY 457 - MARCH 18, 2021

UNDERCOUNT
New daily case reports and death toll statistics from yesterday are missing from the following state(s): Nebraska, and Kansas.
Additionally, data on the number of deaths from yesterday are missing from the following 8 state(s):  Wyoming, New Hampshire, Montana, Hawaii, Maine, Oklahoma, Ohio, and Missouri.
The estimated undercount of deaths, yesterday, based on active COVID cases (times a factor of .0002) is 63 additional deaths. The estimated undercount of new cases, also based on active COVID cases (times a factor of .005) is 1800.
COMMENTS
The U.S. is continuing to lower the community spread of the virus overall and doing so better than the rest of the world generally. That said, our numbers are still about three times higher than the share of the global population would suggest they should be. On the horizon, there are a few more states showing an upward trend in care numbers. New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Michigan are all still trending up with Michigan having the sharpest climb. Adding to these are Wyoming starting to trend upwards and New Hampshire which has taken a sharp upward turn in recent days. People in these states need to be vigilant and continue to vigorously take prevention measures to reverse the rise in new cases. 








NATIONAL HEALTH EMERGENCY
DAY 456 - MARCH 17, 2021

UNDERCOUNT
New daily case reports and death toll statistics from yesterday are missing from the following state(s): Nebraska, and Kansas.
Additionally, data on the number of deaths from yesterday are missing from the following 7 state(s):  South Dakota, Vermont, Alaska,  Hawaii, D.C., Maine, and Missouri.
The estimated undercount of deaths, yesterday, based on active COVID cases (times a factor of .0002) is 60 additional deaths. The estimated undercount of new cases, also based on active COVID cases (times a factor of .005) is 3000.
COMMENTS
No comments today.




NATIONAL HEALTH EMERGENCY
DAY 455 - MARCH 16, 2021

UNDERCOUNT
New daily case reports and death toll statistics from yesterday are missing from the following state(s): Nebraska, Missouri, and Kansas.
Additionally, data on the number of deaths from yesterday are missing from the following 12 state(s):  Oklahoma, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont, Wisconsin, New Hampshire, Alaska,  Hawaii, Wyoming, Utah, Arizona, and Ohio.
The estimated undercount of deaths, yesterday, based on active COVID cases (times a factor of .0002) is 66 additional deaths. The estimated undercount of new cases, also based on active COVID cases (times a factor of .005) is 1,075.
COMMENTS
The declining rate of daily new cases is slowing. States like New Jersey are beginning to trend upward significantly in new cases lead by Bergen County, a wealthy suburban area adjacent to NYC. Michigan, and now New Hampshire, are also on an upward trend.  The graph below is of New Jersey New Cases. 













NATIONAL HEALTH EMERGENCY
DAY 454 - MARCH 15, 2021
UNDERCOUNT
New daily case reports and death toll statistics from yesterday are missing from the following 11 state(s): Nebraska, Missouri, Connecticut, Idaho, North Carolina, Tennessee, Michigan, Rhode Island, Alaska, Wyoming, and Kansas.
Additionally, data on the number of deaths from yesterday are missing from the following 14 state(s):  Oklahoma, Montana, Washington, North Dakota, Maine, Vermont, Oregon, Wisconsin, New Hampshire, Alaska, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Colorado, and Ohio.
The estimated undercount of deaths, yesterday, based on active COVID cases (times a factor of .0002) is 1,033 additional deaths. The estimated undercount of new cases, also based on active COVID cases (times a factor of .005) is 2,970.
COMMENTS
The weekend undercount is severe and the problem is growing worse from week to week. A quarter of all states are not fully reporting their data today. 









NATIONAL HEALTH EMERGENCY
DAY 453 - MARCH 14, 2021
UNDERCOUNT
New daily case reports and death toll statistics from yesterday are missing from the following state(s): Nebraska, Missouri, Tennessee, Louisiana, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Alaska, Wyoming, and Kansas.
Additionally, data on the number of deaths from yesterday are missing from the following 5 state(s):  Oklahoma, Montana, Washington, Colorado, and Ohio.
The estimated undercount of deaths, yesterday, based on active COVID cases (times a factor of .0002) is 148 additional deaths. The estimated undercount of new cases, also based on active COVID cases (times a factor of .005) is 2,220
COMMENTS
Note the sharp jump of 2.88 percentage points in the U.S. test positivity rate. A jump that large suggests a correction has been made in the analysis. It also suggests that test positivity has been rising for a longer number of days. The numbers in the table are otherwise artificially lower than they should be because of the weekend undercount by the states named above. New case numbers are continuing to rise in New Jersey, Michigan, and Maine. Vermont's spike in new cases is receding while it is too early to say the same for the spike of new cases in the District of Columbia. 



NATIONAL HEALTH EMERGENCY
DAY 452 - MARCH 13, 2021
UNDERCOUNT
New daily case reports and death toll statistics from yesterday are missing from the following state(s): Nebraska, Missouri, and Kansas.
Additionally, data on the number of deaths from yesterday are missing from the following 3 state(s):  Oklahoma, Wyoming, and Maine. 
The estimated undercount of deaths, yesterday, based on active COVID cases in these states, is 54 additional deaths
COMMENTS
I began this blog on April 30, 2020, in part to counter the lack of reliable information and disinformation from the Trump administration, and particularly to add a global perspective to this global pandemic. It appeared to me that many folks could not see the scale of disaster happening in the United States relative to the rest of the world. We didn't have a national strategy to fight the pandemic prior to now and there was no end in sight as long as the politics of pandemic denialism benefited the prior administration's hold on power. The results of that dynamic are still with us today as a majority of the former President's base supporters are still opposed to wearing masks and getting vaccinated. Now, however, the inevitability of science-based pandemic strategies, along with good public health messaging, adequate funding, pandemic relief measures, and the rapid, sustained success towards bringing this pandemic to a close are overpowering the counter-narratives of the pandemic deniers. The circumstances that compelled me to write this daily pandemic diary are dissipating. I will continue presenting the daily data table until the end of March but I will start reclaiming my time spent on researching issues and writing commentary. I want to thank all of you who have supported this project. 






NATIONAL HEALTH EMERGENCY
DAY 451 - MARCH 12, 2021
UNDERCOUNT
New daily case reports and death toll statistics from yesterday are missing from the following state(s): Nebraska.
Additionally, data on the number of deaths from yesterday are missing from the following 10 state(s): Alaska, Ohio, Oklahoma, Wyoming, Maine, Vermont, Wisconsin, Washington, D.C., and Hawaii.
The estimated undercount of deaths, yesterday, based on active COVID cases in these states, is 64 additional deaths.
COMMENTS
Today is Friday. There should be no reason that any state fails to report the count of many people died of the virus yesterday. These reporting failures by certain states are getting worse. Full and timely data reporting is just as critical now as ever. Despite all the recent good trends in daily new cases and deaths recently, the country needs to be on alert for local anomalies where the variants might be on the rise. 
To this purpose, some questions I have are how do we compare the daily new cases count across all states when they have such different population sizes. How do we know when a state's daily new infections might be a significant concern? For example, a thousand new cases in a state with a large population is not as significant as a thousand new cases in a state with a small population. Here is an experimental analysis of how this can be done. 
The most stable or accurate reporting day of the week is usually Friday. The idea is to take the new cases reported by the states on Friday, annualize that rate by multiplying it by the number of days in a year, and then calculate how many cases that rate would represent in infections per 1,000 population. (In the future I will use Friday's 7-day average number of daily new cases. The annualized rate of new infection per 1,000 population for the states was ranked from highest to lowest, and the surprising result is presented below.  The table contains the twenty states where today's daily new cases suggest the greatest concern. I'll try this again next Friday and see how it tracts. 



NATIONAL HEALTH EMERGENCY
DAY 450 - MARCH 11, 2021
UNDERCOUNT
New daily case reports and death toll statistics from yesterday are missing from the following state(s): Nebraska.
Additionally, data on the number of deaths from yesterday are missing from the following 6 state(s): Alaska, Ohio, Oklahoma, Wyoming, Maine, and Vermont. 
The estimated undercount of deaths, yesterday, based on active COVID cases in these states, is 26 additional deaths.
COMMENTS
The downward trend in daily new infections and deaths continues. Note that yesterday, with all states but Nebraska reporting, new COVID-19 cases yesterday was 13.1% of the global total as opposed to our 25% global total of cases. This shows that our numbers are declining faster than are the global case totals. We haven't seen such a rapid decline relative to the rest of the world since October 19, 2020. And what was our most rapid decline relative to the rest of the world? It was 11.6% of the daily global new cases on September 9, 2020.  This blog has evolved over the months, but for a look back I have taken screenshots of the percentage of new cases relative to the rest of the world at different points in time (see below). The last one below was from April 30th, the first day I started this daily blog. 










NATIONAL HEALTH EMERGENCY
DAY 449 - MARCH 10, 2021
UNDERCOUNT
New daily case reports and death toll statistics from yesterday are missing from the following state(s): Nebraska.
Additionally, data on the number of deaths from yesterday are missing from the following 6 state(s): South Dakota, North Dakota, Kansas, Hawaii,  Alaska, and Arizona. 
The estimated undercount of deaths, yesterday, based on active COVID cases in these states, is 12 additional deaths. 
COMMENTS
The overall trend of new cases and deaths remains downward even as undercounts are being added back into the daily totals. Average numbers of vaccinations continue trending upward. If there is an anticipated new wave of infections resulting from the more infections variants, where might the early evidence of it be? 
A look at the 7-day average of daily new case trends in all 50 states and D.C. reveal two patterns. Most states recently experience a minor ripple of cases in the past six weeks or so, and most states do not show any evidence of case numbers rising at this point. Some states show a stable pattern of new daily case averages while most state averages are still declining, even in Texas and Mississippi which recently ended mask restrictions. 
An early sign of upwardly trending case numbers was found in just 8 states. Maryland, Oregon, and West Virginia showed a hint of rising cases in their trend lines. New Jersey, Michigan, and Maine have trend lines more suggestive of rising case numbers. Vermont and the District of Columbia, however, have an alarming recent jump in daily new cases. Vermont's 7-day average of new cases jumped by a third higher from 98 average cases per day on March 2nd to 131 average number of cases per day on March 9th. In just the past two days, the 7-day average of new cases in D.C. jumped nearly 40% from 117 average daily new cases to 163 cases. Two days does not a trend make, but these jumps need to be closely monitored. 
Except as noted above, there is no significant, early evidence of a new wave of infections so far. This is a good thing indeed. An article today in Reuters discusses the new findings that the variants may be more deadly than the legacy version we've experienced over the past year. 



NATIONAL HEALTH EMERGENCY
DAY 448 - MARCH 9, 2021
UNDERCOUNT
New daily case reports and death toll statistics from yesterday are missing from the following state(s): Nebraska.
Additionally, data on the number of deaths from yesterday are missing from the following 15 state(s): Oklahoma, North Dakota, Montana, Vermont, Alabama, Hawaii, Mississippi, Maine, Wyoming, Wisconsin, West Virginia, New Hampshire, Alaska, Arizona, and Ohio. 
The estimated undercount of deaths, yesterday, based on active COVID cases in these states, is 65 additional deaths. 

COMMENTS
The downward trend in daily new infections and deaths continues while the 7-day average of vaccinations given climbs up towards 2 million per day and U.S. test positivity creeps up again towards 6%. Note that media accounts have the vaccination rate at over two million per day. It is apparent that those numbers are not 7-day averages and they may not be from the CDC data used here. Another positive sign for us is that from the beginning of this month, the U.S. rate of the total share of new cases in the world dropped 0.2 percentage points and the total share of COVID deaths dropped by 0.1 percentage points. That means those measures are declining faster here than in the world in general. This could be caused by a combination of our aggressive vaccination efforts and a lower prevalence of the variants relative to other countries. 
The race to avoid a new wave of infections is still underway. The CDC just announced new guidance yesterday. People who are at full immunity (two weeks after being fully vaccinated) may now visit with others who also have full immunity in small numbers, and need not socially distance from them or from those who are at low risk of having the virus. For me, this means my six-month-old grandchild can see my whole face for the first time. It's wonderful news. But, don't go out without wearing your mask, avoid crowds, and take all other precautions for another six weeks. We still have to do our part to end this pandemic. 







NATIONAL HEALTH EMERGENCY
DAY 447 - MARCH 8, 2021
UNDERCOUNT
New daily case reports and death toll statistics from yesterday are missing from the following 10 state(s): Nebraska,  Missouri, Kansas, North Carolina, Michigan, Idaho, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Alaska, and Wyoming.
Additionally, data on the number of deaths from yesterday are missing from the following 8 state(s): Oklahoma, North Dakota, Montana, Vermont, D.C., Alabama, Oregon, and Ohio. 
The estimated undercount of new infections and deaths, based on active COVID cases in these states, is 5,000 new cases and 200 additional deaths. 
COMMENTS
Another huge weekend undercount due to absent reporting in 18 states renders today's table and trends misleading. There likely is a decline in the numbers of new cases and deaths, but not as steep as it appears. The U.S. is still a major outlier in the world, but Brazil is getting crushed with about twice as many new cases per day as the U.S. Meanwhile, some attention has been drawn to the mystery of why the pandemic has not been as bad as expected on the African and Asian continents. The New York Times posted an article today entitled "A COVID MYSTERY" which I would recommend. The short answer is that scientists don't know why this is the case, and none of the possible factors by themselves can account for the differences.  This virus has been strange in every respect right from the beginning.






NATIONAL HEALTH EMERGENCY
DAY 446 - MARCH 7, 2021
UNDERCOUNT
New daily case reports and death toll statistics from yesterday are missing from the following 8 state(s): Nebraska,  Missouri, Kansas, Louisiana, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Alaska, and Wyoming.
Additionally, data on the number of deaths from yesterday are missing from the following 4 state(s): Oklahoma, Maine, Colorado, and Ohio. 
The estimated number of unreported deaths is 158 individuals.
COMMENTS
With 12 states not reporting COVID deaths from yesterday, the number of deaths reported went up by one. Adding the estimated 158 people who died and were not counted, the U.S. COVID-19 deaths yesterday should be about 27.8% of the global total.  In contrast, if the U.S. rate of COVID deaths was proportional to our share of the global population we would be looking at 332 deaths instead of 2,200 deaths. This is just another way of pointing out that it is too soon to take any preventative measures off the table. 

On the vaccine front, we are vaccinating about 2 million people a day, some with their first dose and others with their second dose. Soon a good percentage will be given the J&J vaccine that only requires one dose. There are 209 million adults in the U.S. We need 65% of them, or 136 million people to be fully vaccinated to achieve herd immunity. Some people already have immunity by virtue of having recovered from the virus. They should all still be vaccinated because the vaccine protects us better from the variants. According to the CDC, about 30 million adults are at full immunity from the vaccine. Vaccine delivery will continue to ramp up over the months ahead, but if they stayed at two-million per day it would take 53 days, or 7.5 weeks before we began to achieve herd immunity and a return to some semblance of a normal life. President Biden announced yesterday that we should have every adult vaccinated by mid-May. These accelerated rates of vaccination can't come too soon. Let's hope it all works out as projected. 



NATIONAL HEALTH EMERGENCY
DAY 445 - MARCH 6, 2021
UNDERCOUNT
New daily case reports and death toll statistics from yesterday are missing from the following state(s): Nebraska,  Missouri, and Kansas.
Additionally, data on the number of deaths from yesterday are missing from the following 8 state(s): Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont, Maine, Idaho, New Hampshire, and Oklahoma. 
The estimated number of unreported deaths is 64 individuals.
COMMENTS
It's difficult to judge the numbers when there are such large weekend undercounts. In general, when our global percentages of new daily cases or deaths are lower than our total global percentage, it suggests that our numbers are coming down faster than the global COVID numbers that day. So, for example, our share of new COVID deaths yesterday was 18.4% of the international total, while our international share of total COVID deaths is 20.7%. That suggests that our total death rate yesterday was lower than usual relative to the global total, a good direction for us. But after adding back the estimated 64 additional daily deaths not count yesterday, our share of international daily deaths is 21.4% of the international daily total, which is higher than 20.7% of total U.S. deaths. So, our share of COVID deaths internationally actually grew relative to other countries. 
Of course, the biggest takeaway is still the fact that proportional to our population size, we should only have about 4.2% of all COVID cases and deaths. We remain a huge outlier in the world and a health threat to every other nation.






NATIONAL HEALTH EMERGENCY
DAY 444 - MARCH 5, 2021
UNDERCOUNT
New daily case reports and death toll statistics from yesterday are missing from the following state(s): Nebraska.
Additionally, data on the number of deaths from yesterday are missing from the following 11 state(s): Wyoming, Hawaii, North Dakota, Maine, Vermont, West Virginia, Idaho, Kansas Alaska, Oklahoma, Ohio. 
The estimated number of unreported deaths is 54 individuals.


COMMENTS
The overall national trend in new cases and deaths from COVID remains in decline, but a closer look reveals that trends are up in some states and cities where the more contagious variants are taking hold. The rate of community spread is rising in New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Arkansas, and Delaware. Globally, the variants are already pushing the trend in new infections upward. This is alarming, but not unexpected news. We are in a global race to get everyone vaccinated. A smart approach to allocating vaccines and resources nationally might be to target the areas with the fastest community spread. The objective would be to lower the replication rate of the virus as quickly as possible to lessen the risk of still more, potentially more dangerous variants from arising. The table included here is a list of the five states (and NYC) where community spread is most rampant, as measured a 7-day average of new cases per 100k population. The data is from the CDC and these states represent the states with the worst SARS-CoV-2 outbreaks as of today. The citizens of these states need to take the greatest precautions while awaiting their turn to be vaccinated. The obvious advice is: Don't congregate anywhere. Don't dine or drink in bars or restaurants. Don't go to the gyms or salons. Work from home for as long as you can. Keep a safe distance from other people who may not be fully vaccinated. Wear the best masks you can get. Get yourself vaccinated as soon as humanly possible.

Note that the USA is second behind Brazil

NATIONAL HEALTH EMERGENCY
DAY 443 - MARCH 4, 2021
UNDERCOUNT
New daily case reports and death toll statistics from yesterday are missing from the following state(s): Nebraska.
Additionally, data on the number of deaths from yesterday are missing from the following 13 state(s): Wyoming, Alaska, Oklahoma, Ohio. 
The estimated number of unreported deaths is 20 individuals.
COMMENTS
The national vaccination rate is climbing every day this week. New infections are down nationally and new deaths are about the same. 

Yesterday Texas and Mississippi opted out of mask mandates and fully reopened their economies, prompting a look at these states' pandemic profile, from CDC data. Both states are starting out from a very poor status. In trying to match these states to similar states for future comparison purposes it is clear they are in worse shape than states with similar population sizes, similar percentages of mask usage, similar numbers of active cases, or death rates per million. The CDC State Profile reports come out weekly. The latest report is from February 28th, before both states ended their COVID restrictions. The two tables below are how Texas and Mississippi looked as these decisions were being made. 

The color coding ranges from dark green for the best status to dark red for the worst status. Note that the Texas positivity rate was at 11.8% and it rose 1.1% in a week. Below 5% is where the World Health Organization says it is safe to remove the COVID restrictions. Note also that new infections increased by 47% in a week while COVID testing declined by 19%. The death rate also rose in a week by 78%. According to a media report yesterday, Texas ranks 48 out of 50 states in the number of people who have been fully vaccinated. In short, Texas is in terrible shape. In the face of trends and statistics like these, deciding to open up the state and eliminate mask mandates seems more like criminal malfeasance than good public policy. 


Mississippi is in somewhat better shape than Texas. New infection rates are slightly down from the week before and are below the national average. The test positivity rate, however, is nearly double the level at which easing restrictions is considered acceptable. But look at the 35% decline in COVID testing in a week and the 26% rise in COVID deaths. There is nothing in these trends or statistics to suggest it would be a good idea to stop wearing masks and end all the public health restrictions. 


NATIONAL HEALTH EMERGENCY
DAY 442 - MARCH 3, 2021
UNDERCOUNT
New daily case reports and death toll statistics from yesterday are missing from the following state: Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri.
Additionally, data on the number of deaths from yesterday are missing from the following 13 states:  South Dakota, Ohio, Hawaii, D.C., Maine, and New Hampshire.
The estimated number of unreported deaths is 66 individuals. 
COMMENTS
First, please notice (below) that the for the first time in many months the United States is not ranked first in the world for the number of daily new infections. That distinction goes to Brazil today. 
The Biden administration invoked the Defense Procurement Act, with all its powers and funding, and brokered a partnership between Johnson & Johnson (that has the vaccine) and Merck pharmaceuticals (which has the manufacturing capacity) to quickly produce enough vaccine to have every adult immunized against SARS-CoV-2 by the end of May, two months early. J&J will begin manufacturing the vaccine around the clock under this Defense Procurement Act agreement. This will push up full national immunity by two months in the race to end this pandemic here in the United States. 
On the same day, Texas and Mississippi plunged their states in the opposite direction. Both governors announced an end to mask mandates and opened up the restrictions on businesses 100%. Furthermore, not only did Texas end mask mandates, the governor told his people that the masks were no longer needed. And so begins what is, in effect, the largest real-world experiment in our lifetime: 
THE CLAIM: Masks and social distancing are effective measures to control the community spread of the virus.
THE HYPOTHESIS: Mask wearing and social distancing have no effect on the spread of SARS-CoV-2. The objective is to prove this hypothesis is true, that the rate of new cases and deaths will not significantly increase over a control group wearing masks and social distancing during the vaccination phase of the pandemic recovery period. 
METHOD: Lift all mask requirements and end all other public health restrictions in two states. Track the progression of the virus over time. This will be the experimental group. Select a control group of two states where mask-wearing is high and other public health restrictions remain in place. This will be the control group. Select a control group of two states that are matched with the experimental states in population size and similar numbers of cases/million population. Monitor the 7-day average rates of community spread and daily death rates in the experimental and control groups. Track changes in cases/million, deaths/million, vaccination rates and test positivity rates in the two groups. Record weekly changes. (Ect., etc.)
Does anyone wish to place their bets on the outcome?








NATIONAL HEALTH EMERGENCY
DAY 441 - MARCH 2, 2021
UNDERCOUNT
New daily case reports and death toll statistics from yesterday are missing from the following state: Nebraska.
Additionally, data on the number of deaths from yesterday are missing from the following 13 states:  North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Hawaii, New Hampshire, Nevada, Kansas, West Virginia, Mississippi, Delaware, Wisconsin, Maine, and Arizona.
The estimated number of unreported deaths is 162 individuals. 



COMMENTS
COVID-19 testing is down resulting in the U.S. dropping in rank to 22nd in the world for the number of tests given per million population. Vaccinations being given look to be trending up for the next few days ahead. 
To put today's new infections count into perspective, the last time the 7-day average was at this level was on October 24th (68,292) as we were starting to climb up the most recent peak in new cases. Yesterday's new case numbers are about 2,000 cases below the 7-day average peak on July 19th, the second wave. Today's daily average is more than double the peak 7-day average from the first wave on April 10, 2020. 
In terms of people dying from the virus, today's 7-day average of daily deaths was last at this level on December 3rd, as we were climbing towards the latest peak. Today's average is 821 more people dying per day on average than during the prior peak on August 1st, but still just 266 fewer deaths per day on average than during the initial peak on April 20, 2020.
The takeaway here is that despite all the great progress we made last month, our efforts have brought the new infection rates down to where they peaked during the second wave last summer and the average daily deaths down to just under where they peaked during the first wave almost a year ago. We still have a long climb down. 








NATIONAL HEALTH EMERGENCY
DAY 440 - MARCH 1, 2021
UNDERCOUNT
New daily case reports and death toll statistics from yesterday are missing from the following 8 states: Nebraska, North Carolina, Michigan, Kansas, Connecticut, Idaho, Rhode Island, and Alaska.
Additionally, data on the number of deaths from yesterday are missing from the following 10 states:  North Dakota, Wyoming, Hawaii, Washington, Vermont, New Hampshire, Nevada, Oregon, Arkansas, and Wisconsin.
The estimated number of unreported deaths is 240 individuals. 

COMMENTS
Welcome to MARCH! The weekend undercount is obviously significant. A fair assessment of the U.S. pandemic status will have to wait until Thursday or Friday when the backlogged data is reported. What can be said is that we start a new month with over 25% of all the COVID cases in the world and over 21% of all the global deaths. So, our status as the world's biggest incubator of the virus is unchanged, but there is cause for optimism based on the progress we have made last month (see FEBRUARY 2021).
The National Health Emergency in the United States was actually first declared by Alex Azar II, of the Trump Administration, on January 31, 2020. It was retroactive to January 27th. For all most a year this Diary mistakenly affixed the data of the National Health Emergency at by subsequent renewal date. As a result, all prior Diary references to the number of days since this declaration is off by109 days. This is regrettable, and that correction is reflected as of today. Today is day 440 of the NATIONAL HEALTH EMERGENCY, not day 331. 










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