Transferring Power. Good Governance. Grandiosity.

Photo by Steve Johnson on

Mr Biden’s aplomb in addressing the pandemic differs markedly with that of his predecessor. And so it reflects his willingness to transfer power.

Pointing to the scientific evidence that the incidence of Covid infections is higher amongst the unvaccinated, he has taken charge and mandated that federal and other workers take the vaccine.

It was his duty, he said in a televised address, to protect all Americans and so he was issuing the edict. Right away, though, his detractors started to complain that their freedoms were being infringed. But what freedoms? The freedom to increase the likelihood that you transmit an infection that could be fatal? Is that a freedom? When there are means to prevent it?

The president countered his critics by saying that they were taking a cavalier attitude toward the infection and he is correct.

What stands out in the president’s firmness is his willingness to do what is right. This is what the science is saying and I stand with the science.

By doing so he is showing his willingness to transfer power to science. And to whomever speaks the truth.

The previous president was incapable of doing so. When Mr Trump held his televised appearances at the height of the pandemic, with his scientific advisors standing beside him, he couldn’t wait to get his hands on the mike to put his twist on the facts.

Had the previous president been a man willing to transfer power to the scientists and to let them do what they know how to do, then we would long ago been all vaccinated in this country and the economy would have been much farther along than it is now, let alone the lives that would have been spared.

But the previous president could not do it. The height of this incapacity showed when, after being soundly defeated at the polls, he insisted that it was not so. How could it be?

Deep in his mind a voice kept resounding, ‘why should I transfer power?’

And there were enough gullible people to buy into it that they marched on one of our highest symbols of democracy, Capitol Hill, just as the electoral ballots were being counted.

Their aim was clear. Disrupt the process.

They did not do it. Barely. But their intention was clear.

Notice how when Mr Biden speaks to us he is not surrounded by other officials. He stands alone when he addresses us. It is symbolic of his wish to convey that the final responsibility is his and he will exercise it fully. He will not run from it. But he is also willing to acknowledge his limits.

And because of it he can transfer power.

People who are able to do so are freer people. They think better. More clearly. For they are not burdened by grandiosity.

They are people who know themselves to be flawed but are willing to carry the burden of full responsibility for their decisions. Mr Biden will seek the opinion of experts in matters which are not of his competence but he will make the final choices, painful as they may be, as he did in Afghanistan.

Because, as all men, he is flawed, Mr Biden will make his mistakes, but it won’t be because he was careless or didn’t seek the best expert advice. A myriad other factors may intervene to make what appears to be a good choice go bad. But he will have tried his best.

And so he will stand alone behind that lectern and say as he did when announcing the vaccine mandates, ‘this is what I believe is the right thing to do for all Americans.’

And you can say what you want about him, but he gives you the sense he is doing the best he knows how to do.

The impulse to grandiosity lives in all of us. And all of us have to wrestle with it and try as hard as we can to pin it down so it won’t let us run in the wrong direction.

Some world leaders succumb to its allure.

Name any world leader who is diligently working to extend his hold on power beyond the legal limits that brought him to it, and we’re seeing an example of grandiosity not being confronted and restrained. And it belongs to all of us to not let it happen.

Unlike Mr Trump, Mr Biden is fully aware of his mortality. Because of it he is the competent leader that he is.

And so I thank him for being forthright, full of candor and decisiveness.

Keep it up, Mr President.

A final note: My take is that Jerome Powell is doing a great job as Chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank and you ought to reappoint him. He’s a most talented man and it will help maintain economic stability.

And on the matter of Latin America, should you choose to lift the embargo on Cuba, the spirit of that decision will put a smile in the hearts of all Latin Americans.

You’d be saying, ‘I’m transferring power to you. Now see what you can do with it. I’m getting out of the way.’

Good night, Mr President.

Oscar Valdes.

Wrong Decision, Mr Biden

Photo by Roger Starnes Sr on Unsplash

Your choice to waive the patents our pharmaceutical companies hold on vaccines against the coronavirus.

Yes, the world is in great need of the vaccines, but the fact that the US has developed them at great speed, owes much to the profit motive. 

The fact that there were companies in place with layers and layers of expertise and knowhow to tackle the task of creating the vaccines at record speed, owes much to the profit motive.

That has to be respected because it is at the heart of the power to create.

Without those companies’ enormous outpouring of inventiveness and skills, our nation would not be protected as it is now against the ravages of the virus.

And our economy would not be on target to post a record GDP for this year.

There are ways to assist countries in need and we should do so. 

But to say to the pharmaceutical companies that have invested as much as they did, that they will not be getting the anticipated reward for their efforts and the risks they took in producing the vaccine, is the wrong move.

As I understand it, trade secrets will be shared. All that work that went into creating the vaccines is then to be shared. Free.

Since we have been privileged to have the advantages we have, I agree that we ought to share them with the world. It makes sense. 

But pay those who put the hard work into creating what is now granting all of us peace of mind.

Entice them to donate vaccines, if they have not done so, while also negotiating better rates for us to buy them and then turn around and give away to those in great need or at cost for those with greater means.

It is understandable that the World Health Organization and other world leaders had put pressure on you to choose as you did. 

And it is understandable, that in the wake of the disastrous term of your predecessor, you are eager to rebuild our standing in the world.

But your action undercuts a crucial drive for excellence in our system.

You have proposed a very large spending bill to address all manner of ills long overdue for appropriate action.

The bill is large because everyone has to get paid.

And so do the pharmaceutical companies that went all out to get us what we now hold so dear.

Effort has to be rewarded.

You could have appealed to the companies’ good will and let them be a partner in the spreading of our nation’s good will. 

You have made a bad decision.

But perhaps, it is not too late to reverse course.

Oscar Valdes

I Will Run, Not Walk, To Get My Vaccine

Yes, indeed.

After all the effort that vast numbers of creative and diligent minds have put into it,

Do you think I’ll hesitate about taking it?

Not at all.

Can something go wrong and I’ll end up with as yet unknown adverse effects?

I’ll take my chances.


Because I trust in science.

That same science that was skeptical when talk of Hydroxycloroquine was rampant and then, after subjecting it to rigorous studies, proved it was not useful.

That same science that was at first uncertain of the value of masks but then, after studies, fully endorsed it.

Science, yes, physics, mathematics, engineering, biology, medicine, astronomy etc., which lengthen and enrich my life.

You and me, have today the chance of living longer because of science,

You and me, are less likely to die of heart disease, of cancer, because of science,

so why shouldn’t I believe that this grand effort to produce a vaccine – with unprecedented speed – will spare me the possibility of catching the infection and, if unlucky enough, succumbing to it?

Some people will not be able to take the vaccine because their immune systems are compromised, so when I take mine I lessen the chance that they will catch the virus.

You are entitled to refuse it, but in doing so, you are adding to the problem not lessening it.

To the skeptical, no, the government is not trying to injure you but to help you.

Billions of dollars have gone into creating the vaccine, and billions more will go into producing massive numbers, storing and distributing it, training personnel to administer it, so why not step up and do our part?

So, yes, I will run, not walk, to get my vaccine,

and I hope you do, too.  oscar valdes@widehumr

To Reopen or Not

We have to. And if we’re careful about it we can do it.

Careful will mean keeping that important distance at all times. And being mindful that a mask which does not have a good fit simply won’t be enough protection if you’re talking to someone infected, even if they’re asymptomatic.

It’s also good to keep in mind the notion of dose.

It is not the same thing to touch a surface that has been previously touched by someone with the virus – and then putting your hands in your mouth or nose or eye – than to have a conversation at close range with someone who has the symptoms or have someone infected breathe or sneeze on you. In the latter case you’re sure to catch the bug, in the former it’s less likely, and if you do, your body will have a better chance of fighting it.

Masks have a positive deterrent effect. Even when the fit around the face is loose and consequently allows a path for the bug to reach you.

Masks tell us that we’re mindful of the spread of the virus. I hadn’t been wearing them unless I had to speak to someone at less than 6 ft, but now I’ve started doing it.

It is also a courtesy to passersby.

Who knows, one might have an unexpected fit of cough or a sneeze just as one draws near another person, whether masked or not.

Will wearing a mask keep me from catching the bug from someone infected who doesn’t yet know it (because the illness is incubating), if I’m seated next to them during a 4 hour plane flight? I would rather not take the chance. And for that reason I’m unlikely to hop on a plane anytime soon if I can avoid it. Tough on the airlines, tourism, hotels.

Can we adhere to safety precautions and conduct business at the same time? Sure we can.

But it will require an arrangement that instituted the safety measures.

I can see stores doing it. And even restaurants, though capacity will have to be reduced. But it will be hard on cinemas. It will be a while for me to step back into one.

Bars? Never mind.

But I think the University of California system is overreacting when it called for online classes this Fall. Surely students can be trusted to follow safety guidelines.

And what about doctors’ offices? So many have been closed. People are not going to stop getting sick for other reasons. Why force that needless back log and burden emergency rooms?

Basic protective equipment is available.

People who are sick need to be provided with means to support themselves while staying at home unless they have to be hospitalized. Doing so keeps the rest of us safe.

China, now much maligned for not supposedly doing enough to warn us of the perils of corona, had created fever clinics, where anyone with a fever could go and get checked. No costs attached.

A good idea is a good idea, no matter where it comes from.

If people who became symptomatic knew they had a place to go to get checked and, if sick, would be cared for and their expenses covered while ill, then they would be more likely to step up and get tested.

Public transport? Wear a mask and hope for the best. It will definitely put you at greater risk.

Do we then wait for Corona to pass on? We can’t.

There’s too much at stake. The economy won’t handle it.

Jerome Powell, the Fed chair, spoke today about the road ahead. He was not optimistic. We are in an economic contraction and it will take time to recover, even with congress providing relief measures. Lots of jobs may not be coming back as the worksite adjusts to the new reality, i.e. working from home, for instance.

We can’t wait around for the vaccine, can we?

No. It will take too long.

But we can get back to work safely if we are careful and respectful of others.

And why not learn from the rest of the world?

As of today, there have been nearly 85 thousand deaths here in the US, whereas in Japan, with a population of 125 million, there have been 675. That’s right. Six hundred and seventy five. In South Korea, next door, there have been fewer than 300 deaths (population of nearly 52 million), so they’re comparable to Japan.

China, with a population of 1.4 billion, has had less than 4700 deaths, and their economy is already up and running.

Surely there’s no harm in asking what they’ve done right and learning from it, is there?

Eating a little humble pie is in order.

One spoonful at a time.

Savoring it. Mmmm, yes.

Good for longevity too.

And we’ll be making America Great Again.

So What Are They Doing in Japan?

As of today, they have had 6701 cases with only 101 deaths. Unbelievable.

They are next to South Korea which got hit big.

Is it their custom of not shaking hands but bowing instead when they greet? Or their washing of hands often?

A country with a population of 126 million is showing a stunningly small incidence of infections and deaths.

I hear little in the news about this remarkable difference.

They’re doing something the rest of us have not.

Or were they wise to implement safeguards as the infection spread from China?

We all could use more information from their experience, and if too late for this edition of the virus, certainly to prepare for the next one.

Japanese authorities, please don’t be shy and let the world know.


China Has Arrived

There is a certain majesty to China’s move to command the world stage. As the number of infected and dead rise worldwide, China is stepping up and saying ‘We have got this. We mitigated as was necessary and we have controlled the coronavirus epidemic.’

So far, the results back the assertion. Their economy is starting up again and, filled with confidence, are now sending experts to aid other nations in the grip of the virus, such as Iran and Italy. They are even building hospitals for them.

The Chinese did it.

And they deserve recognition.

China went into full battle with the virus and has come out ahead (South Korea has done the same).

The Chinese imposed severe restrictions on movement, mobilized resources, and got the job done. My hat off to them.

The Chinese do not deserve, to have the US try to devalue them by calling the virus the Wuhan virus. What that shows is how envious the present American leadership is. Trump and company had ample time to take the necessary steps to prevent the wide spread of the disease but instead wasted the opportunity. Is there a word for it? Yes. It is Denial. Massive Denial.

Preoccupied with lesser and partisan concerns, i.e. the building of the wall, his impeachment, Mr Trump could not think ahead to what was looming and how it endangered the lives of Americans. He could not bother to summon the multitude of experts the nation has at its disposal, because he needed to attend the political rallies that he requires to prop up his confidence.

Surely, the crowds chanted vigorously, Make America Great Again! just as dark clouds drifted menacingly in our direction.

The preoccupation with getting elected, prevented the president from hearing the advice that would have led to us having the necessary masks and testing kits and ventilators. But to think in those terms, requires a mind that is free to rise above partisan concerns and look beyond.

Mr Trump could not do that.

As of today, our nation has had nearly 4 thousand deaths from the virus, a figure larger than China’s, with a population 4 times the size of ours. And the forecast of future deaths is ominous.

Consumed as we are with tending to our own, we must now cede the stage to China, and we must because they were vastly more effective than we have been.

It would do us a world of good to recognize it.

It would do us a world of good to state openly, that China has done a most competent job at saving lives. Even as they segregate Uighurs and curtail freedoms to their citizens, which stains their standing as a leading nation.

And yet, as things stand, it would do us a world of good to be frank and upright and recognize that, in combatting the virus, they have done a better job than we have.

As we endeavor to follow the instructions to slow the spread of the disease, we will soon limit the lurid escalation of the death rate. There are already signs that the rate of infection is beginning to slow.

But our economy has suffered a major hit, many businesses will not reopen and unemployment is soaring.

Who knows how long this contraction will last.

China’s economy, by contrast, is revving up and, for now, will be the dominant world economy.

It will do us a world of good, our leaders foremost, to recognize it.

It wasn’t long ago, that nations in need would have looked to our country for urgent assistance.

Preoccupied with divisive concerns, we have shirked from the world, and now we see the cost.

There’s a price to pay for being short sighted.

A price to pay in lives and in prestige.

That matters.

Day 3 After National Emergency Declaration. China versus US, South Korea, Europe, Japan etc.

After the first case appeared in December 2019, China bungled the initial response, which made things worse. Since then, however, they’ve managed to halt the spread of the virus.

We bungled in our own way, because with knowledge of what had started in Wuhan, and that in the age of travel an ocean is not a barrier, our response could’ve been more effective. For instance, we could’ve had plenty of testing kits for the virus.

So they bungled and we bungled also.

Now for the second phase. China instituted strict quarantines. Their economy has taken a hit but they’ve halted the spread of the virus. Those results are a challenge to us.

Can our open society, with a plurality of voices and a wide diversity of competencies and political views, manage to present a united front to stem the tide of infections and limit the damage so it’s less that what China has endured?

The battle is on. The number of infected cases and deaths will tell the story.

The stock market (which is not the economy but tells us something about it) plunged another 3 thousand points today.

The virus has already sent us into a bear market. With the severe contraction in the service sector, most economists agree we’re headed for a recession.

There is consensus that this is not 2008. The disruptive force is not buried within our financial system but swimming in our body fluids, so this is very different.

China is ahead of the game. How they do, how quickly their economy bounces back, will tell us a great deal. If they pull out of the stagnation they’re in we will know that at least one path works. Maybe ours will too, but we’ll know that theirs works for sure.

The hope is that, once their travel restrictions are lifted, the infection will not return. I am definitely pulling for them. And if the infection does not return then their economy will start to climb back.

There’s much more at stake here than getting over the virus. There’s the sense, at least in a lot of people watching these developments, that contrasting political systems are in fierce competition; that overbearing state control is being pitted against individual liberty.

I don’t have any doubt in which world I like to live, and will do what I can to make sure we control the spread of the virus.

Pasadena was dark and rainy today.

Most eateries were doing take out business only, but the mood seemed positive.

This morning I went into a store to buy some fresh vegetables and the shelves were barren. I was able to get some other things I needed. I have yet to find hand sanitizers but put my name on a list at a specialty pharmacy. A single surgical mask was going for 6 dollars. I passed.

One prediction has it that sooner or later, all of us will catch the virus. But the longer it takes for most of us to get infected, the more likely it will be that we’ll have the resources to help us heal.

At an early morning appointment with my dental hygienist, I mentioned that coronavirus was showing us how interdependent we are. ‘Yes,’ she answered, ‘it’s humbling.’

No cough, no fever.

We’re going to beat this.

Good night.

Day 2 After National Emergency Declaration

The incidence of cases keeps climbing. China, Singapore and Japan and perhaps the UK seem to be keeping a lid on the numbers but Italy’s figures are jumping.

In California, people 65 and older are asked to stay home. Theatres and restaurants are closing and the CDC recommends that social gatherings be limited to 50 people.

The economy is widely expected to contract for this quarter and the next which would put us in recession territory. In a calming move the Federal Reserve announced that the interest rate would be slashed to near zero.

There were more people out today in Pasadena. Some restaurants were open, others closed. It was a pretty day overall.

Until testing is widely available I’ll monitor my condition and only go in to urgent care or my doctor’s office if I develop a cough and a fever.

I read that the nation’s food supply is ample so I’m okay for now.

Tomorrow I won’t be walking into a Starbucks. They’ve gone to online only.

If testing were widely available, I’d get tested but that is not yet possible.

I expect to go to work Tuesday, unless I hear from my work site.

My priority, of course, is to not catch this virus.

I’m getting better at not touching my face, but it’s a struggle. I’m more aware of it when I step out. When I do, I’ve assigned my left hand to open doors, keeping my right hand for anything that would touch food.

I watched the debate between Biden and Sanders. Biden brought up the importance of getting the military involved. I think it’s necessary. This being a national emergency, the government should also be repurposing private industry to make the kinds of machinery that we will need to help us save lives, such as respirators. The virus is especially hard on the lungs and the supportive assistance the respirators provide will make the difference between life and death.

With the military involved, we will be able to improvise enough additional hospital space to tend to the greater number we expect to be infected.

The coronavirus has declared war on us and we have to fight back.

No need to panic. We’ll get through this.

I was glad to see Biden commit to selecting a woman as VP. I thought it was the high point of the debate. Sanders wavered when asked if he’d go along with that but then said yes, most likely.

If you can go out for a walk during the day, do so. It will boost your immunity and clear your mind.

Good night.

Day One after National Emergency Declaration. A Public National Registry of Cases?

Yesterday, Mr Trump declared the coronavirus pandemic a national emergency. On the news, the stock market was up. Today, however, Mr Trump spoke of wanting to replace Jerome Powell, the Federal Reserve Chairman. The likelihood then, is that the market will drop again.

I find it reassuring that the world map tracking the spread of the virus, shows the figures in China stable at 80 thousand plus and the figures in Japan barely over 1400. It tells me that the virus spread can be controlled, that we can do this.

A friend of mine and I were scheduled to meet today and, of course, we thought of whether it would be advisable. We met anyway. Something about friendship boosting our immune systems.

Still, the city of Pasadena, where I live, was largely empty. On a Saturday night, otherwise busy restaurants had only a few patrons. The streets had few cars. An ice cream parlor was closed.

When will the rising tide of infections crest? It’s anybody’s guess.

The recommendation is out for everyone to stockpile food supplies. I always have a few days’ worth as a matter of common sense since I live in earthquake country, but to expand on it is not appealing. Not yet, anyway.

I will eat out more, I say to myself. I suppose it’s in keeping with the part of me that likes to buck the trend, but I can also say that I’m supporting local businesses in the process. Anyway, the lines are short.

Should I fall sick, however, I would quarantine myself and ask to be tested. But I’m not there yet and maybe will not be. I tend to be an optimist.

I am washing my hands, more carefully than ever, avoiding hand shaking and reminding myself to not touch my face (not easy to do).

I am avoiding theatres, but still get my hot choco at the local starbucks.

One step at a time.

I would like to be able to read about how people have recovered, and if not, then why. It would be informative and confidence building. Why not create, then, a national registry of cases where a synopsis of cases was entered on a daily basis and posted online by major newspapers, viewable for free. The synopses would include a doctor’s comments on the course of the illness.  

Food for thought.

I read about measures to protect our elderly and infirm. It is heartening. To know that for those who are at the end of life, with their productive capacities spent or markedly diminished, a genuine effort is being made to keep them with us.

For all the devastation it has created, coronavirus is reminding us of our humanity.

May the pandemic be soon controlled.

And may the warm sentiments it evokes, stay with us forever.

Good night.