Tag Archives: DJ Rippert

Another Critical Coronavirus Graph

By DJ Rippert

Timing. As Jim Bacon wrote, “Now comes COVID-19. Everyone is in a blind panic. The concern may be overwrought, whipped up by the media. Or maybe things could get worse than anyone could imagine. Nobody knows. Uncertainty reigns.” Jim is right. Uncertainty does reign. But what are the costs of indecision if things do get worse than anybody can imagine? The graph at the left qualitatively describes how early action can change the shape of the infection curve and avoid a peak that overwhelms our health care system. Do Virginia’s leaders understand this?

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A Critical Coronavirus Graph

By DJ Rippert

OK, Boomer. A study conducted last month from the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention provides statistics about the lethality of COVID-19.  Those statistics were analyzed by Business Insider.  You can see those statistics in the graph on the left. Younger people have a one in 10,000 (0.01%) chance of dying from the flu and a one in 500 (0.2%) chance of dying from COVID-19. So, COVID-19 is 20 times more lethal for a 15 year old than the flu. That mortality rate rises quickly as the victims get older. Between one and two 55 year olds out of 100 who contract COVID-19 will die of the disease. That’s 22 times the mortality rate of the flu. However, the real jump occurs in those who are 60 and above. Almost 15% of those aged 80+ will die if they contract the coronavirus.

Old Dominion. The average age of a Virginia resident is 38.1 years. There are 142,300 Virginians over the age of 80, 518,900 between 70 and 79 and 934,400 between 60 and 69. That’s 1,595,600 Virginians (19% of the population) with more than a 3.5% chance of dying if they develop COVID-19.

Hysteria? There is no vaccine against COVID-19. There is no cure. The only way for a 60+ year old Virginian to avoid a 3.6% – 14.8% chance of dying is to avoid the disease. The real odds of dying are the infection rate multiplied by the mortality rate. But once you contract the disease you are far more likely to die than if you contracted the flu. Is there any activity on Earth that a rational person would undertake with a 3.6% – 14.8% chance of dying? For comparison purposes an American sent to fight in Vietnam had about a 0.5% chance of dying. Given those odds, is it really “hysteria” to cancel fan participation at sporting events or to insist that people in contact with the public wear gloves? Our only defense is containment and containment comes with a fair amount of inconvenience. What is the alternative? Hope, as they say, is not a strategy.

Running the Numbers on Coronavirus in America

Health care workers in protective suits, Wuhan China. Photo credit: China Daily / Reuters

By DJ Rippert

Sprichst du panik? Liz Specht is an biologist and engineer. She is currently the Associate Director of Science and Technology at The Good Food Institute. On Friday Dr. Specht (who holds a Ph.D. from UCSD) posted a long series of tweets regarding the spread of Coronavirus and the limitations of America’s healthcare system. You can read her tweets here.

Dr. Specht is vitally concerned about COVID-19 and the supply of hospital beds and protective masks in the U.S. She calculates that by May 8 all the hospital beds in the U.S. will be filled. That’s just over two months from now. She further believes that America’s low inventory of N-95 and surgical masks required for healthcare workers will only make matters worse. As those tending to COVID19 patients get sick we may run out of healthcare workers as well as hospital beds.

This may differentially impact Virginia. As Bacon’s Rebellion guest commentator James C Sherlock noted, Virginia has a shortage of docs and nurses. In addition, experience in Italy shows that up to 10% of cases which tested positive required mechanical ventilators as part of the treatment. Whether Virginia’s very questionable COPN practices have held down the number of hospital beds and / or mechanical ventilators is an open question. Meanwhile, as Jim Bacon notes, our state government’s reaction to COVID-19 is somewhere between “just trust us” and “what, me worry?”

Very important note — Dr. Specht is a trained biologist who certainly holds some strong opinions as to the public health severity of COVID-19 in the United States. However, she is not an epidemiologist. Other equally expert people, including some epidemiologists, do not share her pessimism. The crux of Specht’s argument is that the number of Coronavirus cases will double every six days. I have no idea whether Dr. Specht will be proven right or wrong on that count. I do know that if she is right, Virginia is in a world of trouble. Continue reading

How Virginia Would Fare Under President Biden, Part 1

By DJ Rippert

And then there were two. Today, Elizabeth Warren announced that she will withdraw from the presidential race. That leaves Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders and Tulsi Gabbard (yes, she’s still running) as the remaining candidates for the Democratic nomination. Given that Tulsi Gabbard has exactly one delegate (from American Samoa where she was born), the odds of her prevailing are so low that the race can safely be considered a two- man contest. Two weeks ago Joe Biden’s campaign seemed deader than disco. Then came Super Tuesday. Now he’s the front runner.

It seems worthwhile, then, to consider how Biden’s announced policies would affect Virginia if he were elected president this November. Politico keeps an updated list of the candidates’ positions on the issues which you can see here. Politico records the candidates’ positions using fifteen categories. This blog post examines the first five categories — criminal justice, economy (excluding taxes which is a separate category), education, elections and energy (including the environment and climate change). The remaining ten categories will be examined in future articles.

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Bacon Bits on the Bay

Trophy rockfish from the good old days

By DJ Rippert

Political action regarding the Chesapeake Bay is increasing.  Here is a summary of some key issues ….

Menhaden victory. The Chesapeake Bay Foundation reports, “The Virginia House and Senate have passed bipartisan legislation to transfer management of Virginia’s menhaden fisheries from the General Assembly to the Virginia Marine Resources Commission (VMRC).”  The long-running battle over who should regulate Virginia’s menhaden fishery has been extensively covered by Bacon’s Rebellion. You can read some of the more recent posts here, here and here. This change in regulatory venue has been long demanded by environmentalists and opposed by reduction fishery Goliath Omega Protein.

Commentary: This is a very positive change for the Chesapeake Bay. Menhaden will still be caught in Virginia waters but the regulation of that fishery will now be scientifically managed by the VMRC. The simple fact is that the Democrats have removed one corrupt burr from under the saddle of Virginia’s state government. This change in attitude was catalyzed by aggressive federal action by the Trump Administration. Good for both Virginia’s Democrats and Trump’s Commerce Department. Specific kudos to state Senator Linwood Lewis, D-Accomack, Del. Ken Plum, D-Fairfax, Senate committee chair Chap Petersen, D-Fairfax, Governor Ralph Northam, and U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross. Continue reading

Would Legal Medical Marijuana in Virginia Reduce Opioid Addiction?

Courtesy of AmericanMarijuana.Org

By DJ Rippert

The lesser of two evils. The ongoing 2020 Virginia General Assembly session has generated a lot of debate over gun control. Proponents of stricter firearms regulation cite reduced gun violence as a goal. While gun-related deaths (including murder) are a real problem, those deaths are less frequent than fatal opioid overdoses. In 2017, there were 455 murders in Virginia versus 1,241 drug overdose deaths involving opioids. The number of fatal opioid overdoses in Virginia rose from about 500 in 2010 to over 1,200 in 2018 while the number of gun related deaths (of all types) rose from 868 to 1036 over the same period. While it’s fair to say that Virginia has taken many steps to deal with the opioid crisis there is one step that has not been taken: legalization of medical marijuana. Recent studies point to the fact that most states adopting legal medical marijuana see an immediate reduction in opioid prescriptions after medical marijuana is legally available. Continue reading

Virginia Rated Worst State for Partisan Gerrymandering

By DJ Rippert

They’ll be back (in office forever). The USC Schwarzennegger Institute released a report finding that Virginia had the highest degree of partisan gerrymandering among all U.S. states. The report analyzed the “statewide popular vote in 2017 or 2018 state legislative elections and the partisan composition of the state legislative chambers in 2019.” While other studies draw somewhat different results, Virginia is often near the top of the list of “most gerrymandered states.” In mid-2019 the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a lawsuit by Virginia voters challenging Virginia’s voting districts on racial grounds.

As the USC report states, “Self-interested legislators who seek reelection have long attempted to draw their own districts to protect their personal reelection chances and to improve the electoral odds of their political party.” Repeating for emphasis, Virginia is not only one of many states with extreme gerrymandering, it is rated by this study as the most extreme case of partisan gerrymandering. This is no accident. It is the result of deliberate actions by members of our General Assembly hailing from both parties.

Partisan gerrymandering is a form of voter suppression and disenfranchisement. It should not be allowed and Virginia should certainly never be the worst offender. Beyond that, the Virginia Constitution states, “Every electoral district shall be composed of contiguous and compact territory and shall be so constituted as to give, as nearly as is practicable, representation in proportion to the population of the district.” A state does not become the worst example of partisan gerrymandering in the United States by using contiguous and compact districts. Once again our General Assembly’s actions show that they believe laws are for the little people and not for themselves. Continue reading

West Virginia Offers to Incorporate Disaffected Virginia Counties

By DJ Rippert

Almost heaven. West Virginia state legislator Gary Howell is spearheading an effort to allow Virginia jurisdictions frustrated by Richmond a chance to join West Virginia. While this might seem like gimmickry, Howell claims that “43 out of 100 West Virginia house members are sponsoring a resolution that would let West Virginia accept some of the largely rural Virginia counties unhappy with how things are being run in Richmond.” More specifically, West Virginia State Senator Charles Trump (no relation, I don’t think) has invited Frederick County, Va., to cross over to the Mountain State. An editorial in the Roanoke Times says Sen. Trump is on “firm legal ground.” A good summary of the matter written by Hoppy Kercheval, dean of West Virginia talk radio, can be found here.

Plantation elite. Before West Virginia’s offer is pushed aside as nonsense, it makes sense to examine some of the history behind such a proposition. After all, as Kercheval points out, western Virginians getting fed up with Richmond-based rule is not exactly a new or unique thought. In my mind, Virginia has long been under the yoke of a minority of Virginians from the plantations of central and southeast Virginia. This “plantation elite” are led by families who claim to be descended from Pocahontas and who further self-define themselves as “the first families of Virginia.” Continue reading

Finished with the Second Amendment Virginia Dems Now Attack the First (and Sixth)

By DJ Rippert

Sticks and stones? Del. Jeffrey M. Bourne, D-Richmond, has introduced HB1627.  The bill is entitled, “Threats and harassment of certain officials and property; venue.”  The proposed legislation strengthens a series of very questionable laws already on the books.

The first few sections of the existing law make it illegal to make threats in written communications to kill or do bodily injury to a person in a variety of occupations and situations. For example, threats to elementary school, middle school or high school employees are called out in the existing legislation. Similarly, threats made on school buses, on school property, or against health care providers are also explicitly illegal. Beyond wondering why certain classes of people or places deserve extra protection from death threats or threats of bodily harm the existing legislation seems pretty straightforward. Ill-conceived and overly limited but straightforward.

Then comes the section entitled, “Harassment by computer, penalty.” This section goes well beyond outlawing death threats and threats of bodily harm. It specifically references Virginia state politicians as needing legal protection from such things as threatening illegal or “immoral” acts. Continue reading

Odd Bedfellows: Trump and Northam Administrations Combine to Protect Virginia’s Menhaden

By DJ Rippert

Cats and dogs sleeping together. The long running saga of the General Assembly and Omega Protein vs. environmentalists and the Virginia Marine Fisheries Commission (VMFC) took a major turn recently. Our General Assembly (buoyed by campaign cash from Omega Protein) sought to use inaction to thwart the VMFC’s scientific management of a small fish called the menhaden in Virginia waters. The VMFC enlisted its east coast umbrella organization, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC), to cut Omega’s menhaden limits. Omega resisted citing General Assembly inaction on reduced limits as tacit approval of higher limits. The ASMFC (along with support from the Northam Administration) appealed to the Feds and won. The lower limits will stand whether the General Assembly likes that or not. The net result is that the General Assembly appears to have been forced into a corner. It seems that no amount of campaign contribution cash will get them out of that corner. Beyond the Battle of the Menhaden, this contest forces a question – is the unholy alliance between our state legislature and various special interests finally starting to crack? Continue reading

Virginia Likely to Avoid “Marijuana Legalization Trap” in 2020

By DJ Rippert

Reefer madness. Virginia is notably lagging most other states in marijuana reform. Across America recreational marijuana is legal for adults in 11 states and legal for medical use in 33 states. Twenty-five states have decriminalized the possession of small amounts of marijuana. In Virginia marijuana is illegal, criminalized and unavailable for medical use. Yet change is blowing like smoke in the wind. As of today, there are six decriminalization bills pending in the General Assembly along with three bills for expungement of prior convictions, two legalization bills, and four bills to implement a medical marijuana regime in Virginia. Depending on which bills pass …  Virginia could be looking at a near-term marijuana environment much different than its prohibitionist past. However, there are some combinations of events that could lead The Old Dominion into unintended (and negative) consequences.

Roach trap. One likely outcome from the 2020 General Assembly session is that possession of small amounts of marijuana will be decriminalized while efforts to legalize the recreational and medical use of marijuana will fail. This could put Virginia in a very sub-optimal position if neighboring states legalize marijuana. Virginia is a small state bordered by five other states and the District of Columbia. A very high percentage of Virginians live within an easy drive of neighboring jurisdictions. If Virginia decriminalizes while neighboring states legalize, the result will be effective untaxed legalization in much of Virginia. A surge of Virginians will drive over various borders to bring back marijuana purchased legally elsewhere. Marijuana use would increase in Virginia while none of the financial benefits of legalization (via taxes) would accrue to Virginia. But how likely is it that neighboring states will legalize recreational marijuana in 2020? Continue reading

Virginia Legalized Gambling: Outlook for 2020

Photo credit: Gambling Herald

By Don Rippert

It’s not called the OLD Dominion for nothing. Virginia has lagged the nation in allowing legalized casino gambling. This is especially noteworthy since the United States doesn’t have a very tolerant attitude toward legalized gambling compared to other countries. In other words, Virginia has been a laggard within a lagging nation. That is changing. As of 1997 only two US states allowed legal casino gambling. Today 43 US states have operating casinos.  Virginia is not among those 43 states. Is anybody surprised? However, legislation passed in 2019 will change that. It seems very likely that Virginia will be joining the modern world of legalized gambling in 2020 (and beyond). The biggest barrier to Virginia casinos opening in 2020 is the bureaucracy of our state government. More on that in a moment. First, let’s review a brief history of legalized gambling in the Old Dominion.

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Virginia marijuana reform: Outlook for 2020

By Don Rippert

Cannabis certitude. The seemingly inexorable march toward legalized marijuana in the United States continues unabated. A poll of 9,900 American adults conducted by the Pew Research Center from September 3 – 15, 2019 found that 67% of the respondents thought cannabis should be legalized. That’s five percentage points higher than Pew’s last poll on the subject conducted in 2018. Many state legislatures are acting on behalf of their constituents. Legal weed sales began last Sunday in Michigan and will commence on New Year’s Day in Illinois. At the federal level the House Judiciary Committee approved a bill legalizing marijuana at the federal level. As of today 33 states have legalized medical marijuana and 11 states have approved the sale of recreational marijuana to adults. Six more states seem very likely to make decisions on legalizing recreational marijuana in 2020 – Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Missouri, New Jersey and South Dakota. As legal marijuana becomes big business pundits are predicting the future of legal weed. Arcview Market Research and BDS Analytics believe that medical marijuana will be legalized in every state by 2024 and recreational marijuana will be legal in 20 states by that date. Virginia is not among the 20.

Weed in the Old Ancient Pre-historic Dominion. Virginia is one of 15 states where marijuana is fully illegal. (Note: I do not count CBD oil sales as partial legalization). The first step on the long road to legalization is usually decriminalization. In 2018 Virginia’s General Assembly considered a bill to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana. It was killed along a purely party line vote in the Senate Courts of Justice Committee.  In 2019 another decriminalization bill was considered. Virginia’s Republican leadership in the General Assembly couldn’t muster the minimal courage to take the 2019 bill to the full committee and killed it in sub-committee. Later that year the Republicans got their heads handed to them in the General Assembly election. What a surprise.  Now Democrats hold a trifecta in Virginia with control of the House, Senate and Governorship.  Once again, Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria) is the patron for proposed legislation to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana. However, this year unlike the past, Ebbin’s party is in control.

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Northam Comes to the Aid of Menhaden (But is Chap Petersen Paying Attention?)

By Don Rippert

Fish tale. Omega Protein, a Canadian owned company, has willfully exceeded its menhaden catch limit in the Chesapeake Bay. You can read the details here. The catch limit is controversial since menhaden is the only marine fish regulated directly by the Virginia General Assembly. All other saltwater fish in Virginia are regulated by the Virginia Marine Resources Commission. Every other Atlantic state lets their state fishery regulator and the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) set rules for menhaden in their waters. The US Congress chartered ASMFC in 1942. So, ASMFC sets catch limits for Virginia waters – one for the Atlantic and another for the Chesapeake Bay. In Virginia those limits are then incorporated into proposed legislation for the General Assembly. The most recent AMFC-set limits were put into a bill that was never voted on by the General Assembly. This left Omega Protein with two catch limits – the limit last passed by the General Assembly (based on ASMFC guidance) and the most current lower ASMFC limit. Once Omega Protein admitted it had exceeded the most current ASMFC limit Virginia was reported to the US Department of Commerce as being “out of compliance.” Last week Gov Ralph Northam sent a letter to the Secretary of Commerce requesting the feds to put a moratorium on menhaden fishing in the Virginia waters of the Chesapeake Bay. It seems that Northam is sending the General Assembly a message — clean up your act or I’ll ask the Feds to clean it up for you. But will the new Democratic majority in the General Assembly listen to Northam or Omega Protein?

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Meatless food and the future of Virginia agriculture

Photo credit: Pymnts.com

By DJ Rippert

Chow time. Agriculture is Virginia’s largest private industry. No other private industry is even close. The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) claims that agriculture has an economic impact of $70 billion annually and provides more than 334,000 jobs in the Commonwealth. Virginia’s top agricultural products and their cash receipts are:

  1. Broilers (chicken) – $935M
  2. Cattle and calves – $413M
  3. Greenhouse / nursery – $306M
  4. Dairy products, milk – $306
  5. Turkeys – $236M

Of Virginia’s five top agricultural products four are under possible attack from a revolution in food technology – meatless meat. McKinsey & Company just issued the latest version of The Next Normal: Perspectives on the future of industries journal. The title? The future of food: Meatless. Some of the commentary in that journal ought to have Virginians wondering about the future of the state’s largest private industry.

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