vaccine and insurrection: two stray thoughts

–As of this morning, I qualify to receive the coronavirus vaccine, along with every other 65+ person in the US. The biggest problem with my new status: there is no vaccine in the hands of the shot-givers in NJ and may not be any for months. What I find interesting about this is that it’s an illustration of the importance the views of the person in charge have in influencing, consciously or not, everyone who works for him/her.

The Trump narrative is that the coronavirus is a hoax. Because of this, any subordinate who works on, say, creating a well-oiled distribution machine for vaccine is not just wasting time but visibly asking for trouble. The result is at best what I’m experiencing now–a medical potemkin village. A viable distribution system will only start to be built next month, when the incoming president signals that working on this is ok.

A similar kind of hardening of the arteries happens with companies, as/when early-stage entrepreneurship is replaced by professional bureaucracy. Intel is a current example, in my view. GM and Ford are others. Pre-Iger Disney is a fourth–although DIS is also a great example of how having the right person at the top can revitalize a sleeping giant in short order.

–the story of the Trump-incited riot in the Capitol building continues to develop. Annapolis graduate and former prosecutor Rep. Mikie Sherrill reports that the day before Trump incited the attack Republican Congresspeople led rioters on a “reconnaissance” tour of the Capitol. Also, a Republican representative appears to have texted rioters updates on the location of Congresspeople during the attack. Trump’s toneless, my-lawyers-made-me-do-this reading of a statement asking for an end to violence implies that he had further riots planned, if needed, for MLK weekend and the inauguration.

What strikes me is that the US is almost blase about Trump’s continuing attempts to subvert the election, including using violence. We figure it’s just another day of Trump being Trump. The rest of the world, in contrast, is horrified by what’s happening. It smacks of the 1991 (or 1993) Soviet coup attempt. My sense is that’s the image Europeans have, as well. China is chortling, while the rest of the Pacific is appalled.

Purely as investors, we’ve got to assess how badly Trump-as-Putin-wannabe damages the desire of the rest of the world to acquire goods and services from US companies, or to visit, work or go to school in the US itself. This can’t be a good thing. The question is how bad, and for how long. I don’t think we have enough information yet. As I see it, Wall Street is so far doing what it usually does–trying to find areas where this doesn’t make much difference.

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