Global Thoughts — 20 January 2021

Holding the baby ‘gator at Everglades National Park in Florida

Today America celebrates the idea that if you don’t like the person in charge of it, every 4 years you get a chance to change the channel. If you live in Saudi Arabia, you figure that you will have MBS as your king for the next 50 years, like it or not. I’ve been watching the Celebration of America entertainment program this evening and notice that TV production has gotten a whole lot better since the pandemic began and we just watched endless pictures of people in their living rooms. In many ways, we have been learning to cope this past year, which helps explain why humans are at the top of the food chain, not because we are the strongest, but because we are the most adaptable.

I’ve been waiting this whole week to see who is the stupidest man on the planet — and the award goes to Alexander Navalny, a Russian opposition leader who was poisoned by Putin and managed to stay alive by having the plane he was on diverted to Germany. Putin said that if he returned to Russia, he would rot in jail. But this guy still insists on going back to Russia, on a budget airline no less. What ego drives people like this to walk straight into life imprisonment? Was it his tweet asking people to meet him at the airport and then seeing 3,000 people respond yes? I’d bet a million dollars that Putin puts him right in the slammer and probably try to kill him again, and this time he’ll make sure it is done right. He is not going to lay off even if the world objects. Have the Chinese shown any mercy to the people in Hong Kong or the Uyghurs? Dude, just stay put in Germany and enjoy the brown bread and beer. Of course, by the time you read this you know that he was nabbed right at passport control and thrown into jail. And Putin diverted the plane so that nobody who came to the airport was there to greet him.

Showfields, the world’s most Interesting store, in Soho.

Now that my daughter is teen-age, she is planning Sundays for us to explore the City. We went to Soho and Spring Street. She thinks that Instagram has literally created the world she lives in and was telling us how the area is all new and trendy. I hated to tell her that it was new and trendy 20-30 years ago too. One benefit of this pandemic is that stores that normally have long lines to get into such as a French bakery on the street are now easy to get into. We went to this cool place called Showfields on Bond Street in Soho which bills itself as the world’s most interesting store, and it is. They combined retailing with gallery space and they showcase new products that are not being sold in stores; they redo the store every 3 months. They have a bubbly staff and cheerful and knowledgeable greeters and it was fun. To top it off, they had a dressing room with a hidden door and inside was a slide that took you from the third floor to the second. The whole area was decorated to the hilt. Definitely put this place on your list of off-beat things to do in New York City!

I got a Christmas card from the one person outside my family who appreciates me, my travel agent. The card says “and when this is all over, Oh, the Places You’ll Go!…” For now, we just went to South Florida for the Christmas-New Years break, because that’s about the only warm place you can go without a covid test or a quarantine. We stayed in 3 different areas of South Florida including Fort Lauderdale Beach, the Brickell area of Miami, and then in Miami Beach where my parents live. There has been tremendous regeneration in Brickell and it is a really cool and vibrant scene. Fort Lauderdale has also grown over the years and has some beautiful areas. We took a walking tour around Little Havana, a district in a city I lived for much of my life but never visited. The tour was great and I recommend it! We also saw the alligators and took an airboat around the Everglades as well as the Jungle Queen, this sightseeing boat in the photo, to see mansions along the water in Fort Lauderdale. The Conrad by Hilton in Fort Lauderdale and the Four Seasons in Miami (Brickell area) are good choices, and the food at the Ritz Carlton in Fort Lauderdale is excellent for both breakfast and dinner. Either due to the pandemic or to the way Florida is, you can’t find a newspaper anywhere in print unless you get home delivery. I could hardly find any New York Times or Wall Street Journals to buy during our 10 day visit. Airplanes are no longer blocking middle seats so you have to buy them if you want them for yourself. And in the “Covid-as-an-excuse to cut costs” department, the Grand Beach hotel in Miami Beach wasn’t offering house-keeping so you can imagine how our room smelled by the third day. They didn’t even answer the phone to refresh towels or respond if you went to the lobby to complain. I guess I was lucky; when I was at the front desk complaining, the guy next to me said to the manager that he had gone 8 days without any room service.  People are flocking to Florida to be free from restrictions (that means the holy moly traffic is back) and some hotels are taking advantage by raising rates and going to 100% occupancy except not providing service for anything near 100%; give the Four Seasons credit; they only sold 50-60% of their rooms so that they could do it right for their guests and they are being scrupulous about providing a pleasant but safe environment.

Nighttime display in NYC. About 1% of what we saw in Dubai.

It just seems so obvious to me that if you want to get the vaccines delivered super quickly all around the US, that you get Amazon to do it. Maybe the government is already talking to Amazon and we don’t know about it yet. I predict that once the vaccine is approved, America will exceed expectations in terms of getting it out to people. Convenience is what America does best. So far though, it’s been somewhat stupid with people being on the learning curve of how to handle this. But you could do so much worse — Can you believe that the first week of January France inoculated all of 512 people? I think in Israel they gave shots to over 250,000 people just in that same week. Ain’t much viva la France going on here. One thing I don’t understand — after Israel, the #2 and #3 countries in the world in terms of getting vaccines into arms are the UAE and Bahrain, but they are buying cheap stuff from China which is unproven. They have all the money in the world. A friend there explains that the UAE helped China develop that vaccine. The other vaccines are also available there.

I know this is not politically correct, but if you think about it, it makes sense to get vaccines out to the top 1% of society as a priority. Get those people out traveling and spending again, and it will help lift the economy for everyone else. Meanwhile, all these leaders are sitting on zero credit card balances waiting for the world to come back on and it isn’t doing the other 99% of us any good. I’ll bet the Chinese and the Israelis will do it, and it will be one reason their economies show growth in 2021. One reason the Israelis are leading the world in vaccination is that they paid more than twice as much per dose as did the US or the UK; they figured that it would be a good return on investment if their economy was back in action faster. No question about it; the so-called first world sat on its ass and went the pennywise-dollar foolish route, which is what you do when you really believe that most of your citizens don’t really have value whether or not they are working. Australia seems to believe it can sit around forever paying its citizens not to work and they are not even trying to launch a vaccination program at this time. The US is wasting so much time trying to figure out who should get the vaccine and letting tons of it rot unused. It would be smarter to let the private sector figure this out and just get it out to those who value it with their dollars. That would be the most efficient way to get the country back on track. You cannot overestimate the number of Americans who don’t want to be vaccinated; my doctor said that among health workers in his hospital, the lower the IQ the less one wants to be vaccinated. The result: too many people who want to be vaccinated are waiting for it. Or consider what Indonesia is doing; they are prioritizing vaccines to people age 20-60 because they are the ones spreading the disease the most, and because they want them back at work.

This is what you get when you bet your school coach that the LA Rams will win and instead Green Bay wins. You have to wear the coach’s jersey for a week and walk around to each class saying how great the Green Bay Packers are.

A worrying thing I’m noticing is that the CDC wants people entering the US to be tested before flying, even if they’ve been vaccinated. People are going to be fearful of going abroad if they are not sure they will be allowed back and not get stuck in some quarantine abroad. These rapid tests have high false positivity rates and the PCR tests are expensive; $500 for a family of 4. Experts are not yet sure that being vaccinated means you cannot still infect others. I had hoped that vaccination would be a passport to travel, but it may not be so. If this stays the trend, travel will not rebound anytime soon.

My son Jeremy is becoming a real TV sports nut and we were sitting last month in Fort Lauderdale and he’s gabbing on and on about how “We” this and we that in terms of the team he follows. I scolded him about how “He” is not on the team and that he has nothing to do with whether the team wins or loses. There was a guy sitting near us and I saw him having a good laugh over this.

I feel good when I read a Thomas Friedman column reflecting on an hourlong conversation with Joe Biden about nuclear policy. Beyond the fact that Biden has a good foreign policy team, it is reassuring that a president feels confident enough about a subject to talk for an hour about it on background with a prominent columnist. Imagine Trump doing that. It’s also an important reason why I am not particularly concerned with the “who” on his team although he has put together a really excellent team; Biden knows enough to overrule his team on most subjects that come before him.

 

 

 

 

Little Havana in Miami
Little Havana, Miami. A 2 hour walking tour here can be really interesting.

Trump has given everyone a break by ensuring that he will never come back into politics. Until now, I figured the Republicans would be leaking dirt on him to clear the way for others in the party but he basically drove himself out. Hopefully his children are also gone for good. Maybe even the Ted Cruz’s of this world, who turned sowing doubt over the election into a fundraising scam unprecedented in how many legitimate people allowed it; Trump raised over $250 million for a fund that he basically gets to control. They basically swindled millions of people into giving money they don’t have in the hope to try and overturn an election. Seeing all these enablers in the White House suddenly resigning is pretty sick; they now want to cover themselves at the 89th minute of the football match when the consequence of excess became so extreme that there are no more excuses to be found. I think that Ivanka and Jared are not going to be back in respectable social circles soon, although well placed donations can certainly help rehabilitate them as always in a few years. Jared and Ivanka bought a plot of land on Indian Creek Island in Miami Beach, a private island owned mostly by billionaires. Problem is that almost nobody on the island wants them in the island’s country club. Maybe they’ll just flip the plot of land and build their Florida mansion elsewhere. My kids’ school assumed everyone was traumatized by the events in Washington and offered psychological counseling etcetera for everyone. Hey, my kid is a kid. He wasn’t traumatized; he was disappointed. He wanted to see lots of violence with mobs out of control. Yeah, let’s hear it for the Boyz. (Except that as news filtered out we realized that there was more violence than it initially appeared.) I keep noticing that schools think kids are so delicate that they cannot handle just about anything involving controversy. A martial arts teacher I know on the upper east side of Manhattan says that today’s millennials are so soft and easily offended that it is hard to teach them anything because they just fall apart over everything. This ultra-liberal approach to raising kids and young people will have costs in the future as coddled people lose the ability to face adversity or go beyond their comfort zone or “safe space.” People are trying to get adults to change what they consider their “backward thinking” on matters such as racial and sexual harassment but the videos people are forced to watch are so silly that in my opinion they wind up reinforcing people’s existing prejudices and want to defend them against what they consider people forcing silly ideas on them. These are not just my opinion; I’ve been seeing it expressed in the major dailies. We have our nuts on both the Left and Right and the whole discourse is just not good for the public good.

An important intelligence failure the past 4 years that culminated in this past week’s violence at the US capitol is a failure to believe that people will do what they say they will do and to instead assume they don’t mean what they say or that they are just exaggerating. Trump as president did what he campaigned on, despite the fact that many said he did not really mean what he said. Those that stormed the capitol were saying online what they would do, but the police didn’t believe the threats were credible enough to ramp up security on that day. Watching a recap video of Georgia’s secretary of state teary-eyed warning a few weeks ago that people would get shot and killed if the rhetoric did not stop is very disconcerting after the fact. There is history to all this, such as the warnings pre-9/11 that were ignored. A lesson to all this is that we keep forgetting how all this ends while ignoring the warning signs. Democracy has always feared mob rule, and the will of the majority vote is but one piece of the glue that keeps it together and that was becoming unstuck. You also need institutions, and a generation ago when we had 3 TV networks that presented the news each evening, the level of trust in the information presented was much higher than it is now. Even after the events of this month, 75% of Republicans still think that Biden stole the election. Having an unregulated free for all in terms of information has not helped democracy in America nor its reputation abroad, and it is amazing that roughly half of Republicans in Congress still did not want to certify the election after the riots. Clearly, you have a breakdown in the system where the people that are supposed to be the responsible parties are being led by the mob.

I was predicting (and it came true faster than I expected) that Twitter and Facebook would shut down Trump’s megaphones. I figured he and others would just move to other right-wing forums where they would be marginalized but still heard. Then out of nowhere I saw Google and Apple say that they would close off access to their telephones’ app stores if these right-wing sites did not simmer down. If they did that, that would cut off almost 100% of any future downloads to these sites. In many ways, insurance companies in America decide what you can and cannot do in terms of physical risk. We now see that if Apple and Google decide they want to shut down speech anywhere in the world, they can and that it is ultimately in the private sector (more so than in the public sector) that the limits of action are determined, at least in the West. On one hand it is not so great that two private companies basically get to determine what is and is not lawful speech; on the other hand, it is easy to clamp down when the going gets tough. It will be interesting to see if cable TV companies such as Spectrum or Comcast tell Fox News or other networks to shape up or get blacked out. Let’s not make the mistake of thinking they did this for the public good; the Democrats took over the government and these people are scared of what they might do to them now. Companies that backed Trump the past 4 years are now afraid of the instability they wrought so now they are threatening the Republicans with a cutoff of contributions. Turnarounds are never clean with yellow lights flashing; it’s like the water pail in a children’s water park that fills up and all of sudden tips over with a whoosh of water.

People in Iran, Russia, China, Saudi Arabia and North Korea that are delighting in watching America go through this debasement should not be so happy; someday the pail will turn on them too because what they are doing is also unsustainable at some point. This story is not over; what America does to recover from this is the real story, and if America does it right (and yes, putting Trump on trial and convicting him is part of that), it will be a feather in the cap of democracy around the world, meaning that authoritarians gloating over America’s downfall of democracy should be careful not to focus too much attention on this story because it might ultimately come back to bite them. Another thought: John Hawley is an Ivy-League educated former law professor in his 40’s. A dozen years ago he clerked in the US Supreme Court for Chief Justice Roberts. My Gawd. He knows too much to have participated in this mob scene; it is not that he should have known what he was doing — he knew exactly what he was doing. It was a cynical exercise in self-promotion. Same goes for Ted Cruz; he’s from the Ivy League and is not some redneck who hasn’t been around the block in government. Don’t just look at these protesters as low-class idiots. And by the way, calling them protesters is not really the right label. We ought to call it what it is, terrorism. America has become a hotbed of right-wing terrorism and we cannot explain it away as a cultural phenomenon. Otherwise, what do you say to the Saudis when they use that argument to explain jihadism. Until America calls this for what it is, it is in denial and will not get past this, which is another reason why those that want to sweep this under the rug in the name of “unity and healing” are just kicking the can down the road.

Thanksgiving in more ways than one.

I was waiting for the results in Georgia’s senate runoffs to determine what I thought the future portends for Biden because so much depended on it. I voted for Biden, not for Mitch McConnel. In fact, only people from Kentucky voted for him. So I don’t want to have Biden hamstrung for 4 years by one senator who decides the only thing he wants to do is to stop Biden just like he said was his only goal when it came to Obama. So I’m happy to see a Congress in which the president has a decent but narrow chance to actually put his plans into action. On the other hand, it is narrow enough so that he can tell the progressive wing of his party that he needs moderates on both sides of the aisle to go with him in order to do anything. This actually in my mind is a plus; as I see it, the best possible result came out of this election. If Biden does a good job of working Congress over the next 2 years, he might extend his majority there. He’s more likely to do that than if he were to be hijacked by the Left making his party a bigger target for Republicans and Independents in 2022’s midterm elections.

So far I see legislative priorities being advanced by Nancy Pelosi which to me seem likely to piss off Republicans and squander opportunities to bring people together on things they can agree on. I don’t know if she is the right person for the job at this time; she wants to push statehood for DC, expand voting registration and reform gerrymandering in a clear bid to enhance Democratic power. Biden will need to make sure she is a good partner for him to set a tone and keep on message, otherwise she will be fighting the same old battles in Congress and sabotaging his chances of getting the nation onto a different footing. Biden’s attempts to talk about what he wants to do instead of about Trump’s impeachment has been a good effort to maintain focus on the future. I think that Congress should do whatever it is going to do with Trump quickly and move on. He is not worth the nation’s attention for long. McConnell and establishment Republicans have a shared interest in punishing Trump to purge the GOP of Trumpism. Democrats also want an opposition party that they can do business with because especially we can’t keep having a country like America whipsaw every few years from one policy to another, especially with regard to foreign policy. Biden’s team will work with Republicans to try and come up with policies that will outlast this administration because those are the only ones that will be respected abroad. The Republican party has a better future if it can shake off Trump instead of trying to defend him in the history books. As time goes on, it’s become clearer that among the people who stormed the Capitol were people who wanted to kill, kidnap or otherwise harm. They did not come for tea. Unity and healing will not come by trying to let bygones be bygones with trespass that serious that may have even involved the connivance of incumbent congress-people and law enforcement officers who felt they knew better than their colleagues, but by agreeing that steps need to be taken to make sure it never happens again. The road to hell is paved with good intentions. Lots of people need to look in the mirror and ask what they allowed themselves to become over the past number of years. I personally have had trouble seeing how people could justify themselves; maybe they now are taking stock after seeing the results of years of chicanery. Corporate America withholding contributions from Republicans who voted against certifying the elections seems right, but how do you tell over half the Republican congress-people that you are cutting them off? To have gotten to that point says a lot about where this country has fallen into. And yet 75% of Republicans still don’t see that anything is wrong with what they did. All this makes places like Singapore make more sense.

One bright spot out of this pandemic is that economies are adjusting to lockdowns and the shocks are not as severe. All around the world, countries have been forced to modernize and innovate, such as Japan which has had to embrace more digital technologies rather than a legal system that relies on chop stamps and pieces of paper. People have seen the value of R&D in science and technology. The dangers of having a few companies monopolize many industries and reducing innovation and competitiveness has become clearer, and during the pandemic many businesses had to reinvent themselves or die. The electric car industry moved ahead and the oil industry faced a reckoning. There is more optimism now than a year ago that the next decade will see more innovation and development than people had thought possible. And even though covid put a damper on poverty eradication, the levels of severe poverty remained depressed.

Turning to the Middle East, can you believe there was a joint air force drill between Israel and Saudi Arabia in early January? People heard sonic booms going off near Tel Aviv and thought it was the Iron Dome anti-missile system being activated against a Hamas attack, but in fact it was these joint drills going on. It’s a good bet that in 2021 you’ll see more open relations between the Israelis and Saudis. MBS is a tough cookie, but he is likely to be around for a long time and many in the West like what he’s doing overall, so criticism of the Saudis human rights policies is likely to be tempered. Expect more attention to the Sahel region of North Africa. The Moroccan-Israeli deal is significant because it calls attention to this region, and Europe is quite worried about instability stemming from failed states in the area such as Libya. Sudan, which recently normalized with Israel, had less domestic blow-back than expected. I expect Iran to try and test the Americans, but this is really out of weakness and the desire to get themselves on the agenda. The Americans will try to resist those entreaties. An interesting aspect of the normalization of relations with Israel is that Arab states see good relations with Israel as ADDING to their stability; in the past, having relations with Israel was seen as a threat to their stability, so this is an interesting world we are living in, as I further prove by mentioning those Saudi-Israeli air exercises which were not reported in media outside Israel. I think that in 2021, you will see changes in leadership in both the Israeli and Palestinian camps. Gideon Saar has been described to me as the Theresa May of Israel, which is not a compliment. But he has a good chance of unseating Netanyahu in a way that the others coming from the Center-Left have not. Mahmoud Abbas is 85 years old and has to move on. But whoever succeeds him is likely to fail as the past history of these successions involves infighting and attestations of purity to the cause rather than to the desires of the people; Palestinians are very frustrated right now that the Palestinian Authority doesn’t seem to pay much attention to Palestinians. Netanyahu is succeeding with vaccinations and peace initiatives but is seen as spending too much time putting his legal problems in front of the country’s needs and mucking up the response to Covid by pandering to coalition partners such as the ultra-Orthodox. The time is ripe for both incumbents to get the boot because they refuse to step aside and make room for successors.

Here is a good omen; in a secret vote in the UN, the little country of Fiji was elected by a large margin as head of the UN Human Rights Council. China, Russia and Saudi Arabia were trying to get Bahrain to take over that role, figuring that Bahrain would be a much better vote for them than Fiji. (Remember, I mentioned above the Bahrain-China connection on the vaccine and how Bahrain is third in the world in terms of getting their people vaccinated.) But it seems that human rights is still of interest around the world and those that tried to subvert the council lost handily. China has been trying hard to muscle in with appointments to these international institutions such as the UN and World Health Organization to try and get its way in the world; much of the world still doesn’t like China and at least in secret is willing to reject it.

An interesting article in the Wall Street Journal discusses artificial intelligence (AI) and says that much of the US policy toward China in terms of hindering their 5G development is based on a misunderstanding of AI technology. It says that policy makers should be more exacting in understanding what it is they want to prevent and what they want to promote. I think that the new Biden team will be able to do this. The article is written by Peter Cowrey and Susan Shirk in the Journal dated 9-10 January. Recounting this is above my paygrade but it’s worthwhile reading if you want a better understanding of the promise and peril of AI.

On the issue of Iran and nuclear technology, Biden seems to be focused like a laser beam on the nuclear dimension. The problem as Israel and its Gulf allies see it, is that Iran is not really interested in using nuclear bombs because that would be suicidal. It wants the nuclear umbrella to strike against its neighbors and beyond using precision conventional missiles. If Biden lets them off the hook with its conventional missile program, as Obama did with the previous JCPOA agreement, there’s going to be a tempest in the region because it will be solving one problem while masking a much bigger problem. Going back to the JCPOA is not in the cards because the agreement is obsolete and because you can’t just turn back the clock. It may be that the US is best off not looking too eager to make a deal with Iran and just go for incremental steps in due time instead of seeking a grand deal.

Here is a profound thought from Nachum Goldman, the founder of the Claims Conference. He said that although he could admire Israelis, he found it quite hard to like them. I often feel that way and I am sure that lots of people feel that way. I’m sure Biden will have his work cut out for him dealing with Israel.

Elliot Abrams has been around in Washington for several decades dealing with US foreign policy issues. Recently I was on a conference call with him and he mentioned that until recently, if there was a debate on foreign policy in Congress it was between two or more points of principle. Nowadays, it’s all about hewing to a party line. He wishes that people did not line up on foreign policy issues through their political party affiliation but based on what they think is the right move for the country.

Bal Harbor shopping mall, Florida

Lebanon is in a sorry state of affairs with Hizbullah trying to buy its way into the Shia sectors of society to at least have one constituency in its back pocket, but recent polling in the country shows widespread disgust with Hizbullah (even among the Shia) for encouraging the country’s corruption and resistance to reform which is making it impossible for the country to provide essential services to all sectors that Hizbullah is not in a position to offer. For instance, Hizbullah subsidizes groceries and pharmaceuticals but cannot provide hospitals, electricity and internet service. Policymakers in the US and Europe should help the central government compete with Hizbullah in the areas that they are trying to compete and to fill the gaps in the areas where Hizbullah cannot compete. The country is in such bad shape that recent maritime talks with Israel are widely supported. In Iraq, there is the thought that building an oil pipeline to Haifa could be good for the country and would enable it to stimulate its economy.  The poor economy in the area is leading countries to seek out good partners. Consider that Israel just received 4 million doses of Pfizer’s vaccine and within a month, one third of the country’s 6.8 million Jewish citizens will be vaccinated. Moderna also has supply commitments to the country and to get herd immunity, you only need roughly two-thirds of the population to get the vaccine. So it is quite possible that within one or two months, Israel will be functioning at a near normal rate and might even be able to take in tourists. One thing about Israel, when they get their s*** together, they get their asses in gear very well. So if you are a neighboring country, why would you want to keep boycotting them just because the Palestinians don’t have a state, which is not exactly Priority One these days and Abbas is not exactly viewed as a great leader. Besides, in a few months Israel has vowed to share excess vaccines with the Palestinians (and has already shared some of what they have) which may be a better result than many Arabs elsewhere will get. Also, Hizbullah polls exceedingly poorly in Arab countries such as Saudi Arabia these days. It’s not exactly rocket science to see why normalization deals spurred by a poor regional economy are taking place. It’s insane – Israeli tourists are just storming the UAE for the Chanukah festive season and the Israelis are welcoming UAE tourists; the foreign ministry had to ask the health ministry to stand down when they tried to declare the UAE a red zone because the UAE was going to do the same to Israel. So you can see that both sides are throwing caution to the wind to open up to each other. Fortunately, when I am writing this on December 10, the infection rate in the UAE is about 1% and in Israel about 2.5%. Both countries appear to be keeping the virus to manageable levels which makes them a good fit for each other – they both run a good show. The UAE has the advantage because they have an absolute ruler who can jail people who don’t comply. Israel is a squabbling democracy which is just a different kind of animal, but push comes to shove, they get it together.

Vizcaya Mansion in Miami

I ran into a person in an elevator wearing a Naval Academy tee shirt and asked him if he went there or just wore the shirt. He said he was a navy fighter pilot. He said that landing planes on aircraft carriers is fun during the day but terrifying at night. I asked him if he thought aircraft carriers were sitting ducks these days. He emphatically said yes and added that he recently wrote a report stating as much and that the US needed to focus more on land-based systems. I mention this because I’ve been warning about this the past several years.

We were in Miami during Christmas week and it is like a different planet there as opposed to New York. People there have lost the paranoia about covid they had last spring. They don’t seem to care as much if they get sick. They just want to live their lives. They say that a good number of people have moved down there because they are sick of all the restrictions in New York. In a gym in Miami, you will not have women come up to you from 50 feet away and remind you to put on a mask like they do in New York. I don’t know if they are genuinely scared from 50 feet away or just feel they are supposed to police the place.  I say women because I’ve never seen a man walk up to someone, but I sure have seen a lot of women do that. Actually, I think that much of humankind has shown themselves to be really dumb in terms of dealing with this covid, from the man on the street who cannot control himself to the people running government who come up with policies that make no sense and that don’t work. It’s amazing that the human race has come as far as it has with the people in charge. At least scientists in their laboratories come up with solutions that corporations know how to carry out. It’s a good argument for free markets and limited government. Although if Biden does a better job of engineering a recovery, I’ll gladly eat my hat but so far I don’t see that Democratic states have done any better than Republican states at getting things under control, and I don’t see countries around the world that have done a better job of letting people live their lives within a pandemic. Australia and New Zealand have kept the virus in check but at a huge cost; people have spent months under lockdown, the government has been printing money nonstop and they are delaying vaccination for various reasons so this is just going to continue for a long time in these countries.

Here’s a random final thought: I called up one of my former employers just to see how he was doing. I remember that when I worked for him, he kept telling me that I was not too smart and he criticized anything that I did. Years later, when I owned a company, I hired him. Then he kept telling me how smart I was, and I kept finding his mistakes. Funny how things are based on who is paying whom.

Time to see what happens now that we are going back to a boring state of affairs in Washington, which is exactly how I like it. Hope we get this covid thing under control. We all know the winter will be tough, but I hope we can start to pull through in the spring. Stay tuned.

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