OK, between the change in the newspaper's deadlines and my desire to continue with my explanation of how bad the economy really is and how it is going to get worse; I am going to try to start earlier this week and press on. Today is Sunday, Oct. 2.

Rule Of Threes Applies Everywhere. There is one newsworthy note I have to cover first, and then we will go back to explaining why shelves are empty. That news involves what was announced today about a treatment for Covid. Up until today, the last thing that the media wanted to allow to be covered was an actual treatment for the disease short of hospitalization, ICUs, and possible death. There have been suggested treatments, but both the media and the State have discounted them.

Because throughout this, we have treated Covid differently from other diseases. With Covid, the official medical treatment template is infection and either having a relatively negligible case and recovering at home without medication, treating it like a cold or the flu, or having a case that gets increasingly serious until you are in ICU and either living or dying with only supportive care and no medical treatment. There is no mitigating or palliative therapy because we are deliberately depending solely on vaccines (with high failure rates) and waiting for something that is a 100 percent cure to appear by Federal magic wand.

I am not saying that Ivermectin or Hydrochloroqine or whatever else has been suggested are guaranteed cures. BUT after they were suggested by people in the medical field, they should have been clinically tested starting shortly after patient diagnosis. What few studies that have been conducted have started in ICU and only after the patient was on ventilation. They of course failed. Anyone mentioning them or any possible treatment was lambasted as being anti-science. Last I saw back in the stone-age days when I was in school, it was that science involved informed experimentation.

In these politically parlous times, one accepts the word of government bodies, politicians, bureaucrats, and their associates only at some risk. People notice this, and it destroys the credibility of those in power and in the medical field.

With those caveats, today Merck drug company announced that they have a treatment for Covid that apparently is highly successful if started relatively early after infection. It is successful enough that they have cancelled their ongoing clinical trials before completion because no one getting the drug (which is named molnupiravir) who was infected with Covid has died, even if hospitalized. Of the 775 unvaccinated volunteers in the study, only 7 percent of the half receiving the drug after being diagnosed as infected had to be hospitalized with none dying. Those who were given a placebo instead of the drug had 14 percent of those diagnosed hospitalized and eight of them died.

It is extremely noteworthy that a) the drug molnupiravir is a pill given over a term of days reducing the need for hospitalization and medical personnel, b) it seems to be effective against whatever variant of Covid found, and c) it seems to be effective even if started up to five days after the patients started showing symptoms of Covid. At least that is what Merck's press release says.

I would also note that there are a whole bunch of rumors that molnupiravir is just a different colored version of Ivermectin. From the diagrams of the molecules shown, and the different actions on viruses, I tend to think that they are in fact two very different things. YMMV.

Keep in mind that if it does work, it ain't cheap. Estimates I have seen are $70 a pill, and it needs to be taken over a course of time. Further, those who benefit from restrictions on the mass population while the rich and famous are exempt are not going to like this. It changes the whole paradigm and may restore freedom to people. So while we are being coerced into taking vaccines that are known not to provide total protection without full FDA clinical tests, you can bet that the same people who are pushing that will try to delay the new treatment drug because it is not fully tested. Power is the most important factor.

So keep an eye out for this. Also, n.b.: I and my family are all fully vaccinated.

Now, back to the empty shelves in stores where we ended last week. It comes down to our logistical chains being broken. We have traced it back to where we cannot unload container ships fast enough and then move the cargoes across the country to where they are needed fast enough. Stores cannot stock what they cannot get from warehouses or producers. When things don't show up in sufficient quantity in stores, prices go up either overtly or because there is less in each package.

We are in bad shape, and since we really don't make things here anymore (we have exported doing the things like that to China), it is the inability to get those imports here from China that is screwing us up. I closed the last column with this, “THINGS ARE FAR WORSE IN CHINA.”

And they are. Back when Covid broke out in China, I noted that in several major cities there were total lockdowns and mass deaths. By mass I mean that the Peoples' Liberation Army was brought in to run mass cremations. We, in comparison, have gotten off easy. The worst flu season in recent times (2017-2018) killed 61,000 according to the CDC. Also according to the CDC as of this year Covid has killed 529,000. That last figure, however, is vastly overstated. Hospitals get extra tens of thousands of dollars from each Covid patient and have every incentive to overstate the incidences of Covid. CDC guidelines say that if you die and are infected with Covid even if you die of say a car wreck, it is a Covid death. And if you have had Covid, and have recovered completely, and later die of say old age, you are counted as a Covid death. Taken altogether I am guessing, and YMMV, that in fact our Covid death count over the two years we have been dealing with it since it escaped/was released from the Chinese lab in Wuhan is probably about half that, or about 265,000 or 132,000 a year.

There is another adjustment that should be considered. While the 2017-2018 flu killed an unusually high number of people, according to the CDC the flu kills 22,000 people in an average year. Yet, last flu season (2020-2021) of all the LAB TESTS for flu only 1,675 were positive. That is not deaths; that is total positive lab tests. Functionally, that is like having almost no flu deaths last season nationwide. Since it is not likely that the flu just disappeared last year and since both flu and Covid mortality is mostly limited to the elderly and immune-compromised, it is almost certain that a lot of flu deaths were mistakenly counted as Covid. So let us say 110,000 a year Covid deaths. This is real. This is serious. But it is not like say the “Spanish Flu” that hit us in 1918 and 28 percent of the then-smaller population of the country got it and 850,000 died.

China got hit worse, a lot worse. What got out of that lab in Wuhan, China was the first generation virus out and had not had time to mutate into less immediately deadly forms. In evolutionary terms, it is not a good thing for a disease to kill off its host too soon. They need to have them alive long enough to spread. They have had wave upon wave of Covid moving through the country. Cities (and their economies and factories) have been locked down repeatedly. And many cities are locked down right now. That includes the major port cities where they ship goods to us. I would guess that they have lost in the millions of people. Granting that there are a lot more Chinese, that is still no small thing.

Toss in this. We have an internal infrastructure that the best efforts of the Left have not been able to cripple yet. Emphasize the “yet.” China has nowhere near the roads and railroads that we have. They have the same problems we do, but with a smaller base to work from and less reserves. And they have more problems, some of which we do not have, and some of which we do not have yet.

As you might have figured out by now there are a few things I keep an eye on. One of them is what is happening in China. You may remember that last year I was writing about the Three Gorges Dam on the Yangtze River. There were prolonged and unseasonable heavy rains in the watershed of that river. The lake behind the dam reached peak capacity and bloody near either overflowed or broke the dam. It was a near run thing, and if it had gone it would have functionally flushed the Yangtze basin all the way across China, totally taking out major industrial and trading cities. Fortunately for the Communist regime, it held. But that does not mean that the rain did no damage. All up and down the Yangtze (the third-longest river in the world, the sixth-largest river by discharge volume in the world, its drainage basin comprises one-fifth of the land area of China, and it is home to nearly one-third of the country's population) cities were flooded and farms lost their crops for the year. Most people survived. But they have to be housed, fed and it may get hungry out.

In the north of China, they eat primarily wheat and other grain crops. In the wetter south (like from the Yangtze south) they grow and eat rice. Picturesque photos of rice paddies notwithstanding, rice fields are only flooded for part of the growing season. The rest of the time they have to be dry to grow and be harvested. Flooding screwed with that and a lot of the rice crop was lost.

For protein, Chinese in the old country eat pork, chicken and fish primarily. For the last several years they have had a porcine plague going through Chinese pig herds and they still have not gotten it under control. You may have noticed that Chinese companies have been buying up American pork and pork processors. Last year, China purchased 4.4 MILLION metric tons of pork and will top that this year if they can. Smithfield Foods, the world's largest pork producer, is now owned by a Chinese company. And incidentally China is the largest purchaser of American soybeans, both for human food and for animal feed.

Now toss in this. China's leader is Xi Jinping. Unlike the last few Chinese leaders who were willing to loosen controls in return for prosperity, Xi is deliberately and directly tightening all controls; on expression, on finances (the Chinese bond market is collapsing right now), and on state control of everything. Think like the “Great Cultural Revolution” under Mao. I would also note that to me, Xi feels like the last emperor of a Chinese dynasty.

Like all Leftist totalitarians, here or in China, Xi believes that his commands are not limited by mere reality. Despite the Democrats' and environmentalists' belief that China is ecological heaven, China's main source of electrical power is a huge number of coal-burning power plants. They put more crud in the air than the U.S. and the EU combined. And they have a problem. The world price of coal has gone up. Xi has told the power plants to not spend more on fuel, AND to produce the same amount of electricity. Reality intrudes. Right now, in China's industrial and port areas, there are rolling blackouts, some days long. Which means that things are not being made, packaged, or shipped. So even if we get everything straightened out on our end, things do not return to pre-Covid normal. We still have hard times ahead of us. But China's will be harder.

I will close today (10-4-21), with one other thing. Our ports are backed up. Well, China has had quarantines imposed on their ports for some time. Ships have to wait for weeks in quarantine before they line up to try to get a spot for unloading and loading. And it takes days to weeks to unload and load. Another thing to toss in. The chaos inside China means that shipments do not get to the ports to be loaded on time. And shipowners do not want to make the voyage across the Pacific with a partial load. So they have to wait longer. We are not the only ones with problems.

You think that us having between 60-80 ships anchored or drifting off of Los Angeles waiting for a turn at an unloading/loading berth is bad. Off China there are hundreds of ships waiting. And they need our food a lot more immediately than we need their products.

Assuming that nothing catastrophic happens, politically or otherwise; next column I will try to list some ways we can try to cope with the problems we face.