Biden: “I added 6 million jobs”

January 24, 2022

By Biden’s measure, Trump added 12 million in his last 6 months!
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In last week’s press conference, Biden boasted about his economic record.

Top of the list: Biden touted “record job creation” during his presidency.

He said, “We created 6 million new jobs more jobs in one year than any time before.”

Hmm.

Let’s look at the numbers focusing on “employment”…

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> Before Covid hit 152.5 million were employed

> During the intense Covid lockdown period, employment dipped 22.4 million (14.7%) … down to 130.2 million

> Between the lockdown employment trough in May 2020 until Biden’s inauguration in January 2021 (i.e. Trump’s last 6 months in office), employment increased by 12.6 million (9.7%) to 142.7 million.

> From Biden’s inauguration until now,  employment increased by 6.2 million (4.4%) to 149 million.

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“Job Creation” or “Ending Lockdowns”?

So, does the 6.2 million employment increase represent the “creation of new jobs” or “refilling old jobs” by removing the Covid lockdowns and re-opening the economy?

To that latter point, note that employment is still 3.7 million (2.3%) lower than the pre-Covid level (152.5 million).

Hmm.

Bottom line: We’re still 3.7 million below the pre-Covid employment level … and relatively few new jobs have been created … we’re just filling the pandemic hole.

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Biden vs. Trump

And, note again that in the 6 month period from the Covid trough until Biden’s inauguration, employment increased by 12.6 million.

Using Biden’s bogus logic and semantics, that means that Trump, during that period “added” jobs at an average rate of 2 million per month … 4 times Biden’s rate of 500,000 per month.

Hmm

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Takeaway

As even CNN observes:

Biden is free, of course, to boast about how quickly the hole is being filled.

But his claims about setting records should be viewed with contextual caution.

Redefining “invasion”…

January 20, 2022

… and other head-scratchers from Biden’s presser.
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Glutton for punishment,  I watched all 2-hours of Biden’s press conference …

Here are a few more of my takeaways…

> Biden redefined “invasion”, coining a new phrase “minor (territorial) incursions” … which many observers interpreted as green-lighting Putin to breach the Ukraine border.

Shades of the domestic version: “mostly peaceful protests” that cause billions of dollars of damage without prosecution.

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> Biden praised U.S. technology and science (with no shout-out for Trump’s Op Warp Speed) for fast development of covid vaccines … but added that he (Biden) did the hard part: “getting shots into arms”.

Further, he said that his highest Covid priority for a return to normalcy is to vaccinate the rest of the world 

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> He condemned GOP senators for voting as a bloc … because they’re afraid of retribution by Trump.

On the split screen, Dems were threatening to primary Manchin & Sinema for breaking with the Dem bloc on the filibuster and BBB.

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> He warned that the 2022 mid-terms might be illegitimate if his voting rights bill isn’t passed.

Moments earlier, he touted the record-setting voter turnout in 2020  … non-sequitur?

Isn’t it wrong to question the legitimacy of elections?

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> He asserted that retail shelves are 89% full … only down 1% from a year ago

Generalizing from our past week of shopping: no bread, milk or produce on the shelves, empty sections of  OTC cold and flu medicines and, of course, no covid test kits.

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> He conceded that he might have been a month late igniting the push for in-home covid tests … who would have known?

Vanity Fair reported that in January 2021, the incoming Biden Administration was “handed” a national rapid-testing strategy … positioning  rapid testing as the most powerful tool to reduce transmission and case counts.

Then, on October 22, a group of COVID-19 testing experts presented the Biden administration with a detailed strategy for overhauling America’s approach to testing … by putting rapid at-home COVID-19 testing into the hands of average citizens, allowing them to screen themselves in real time and thereby help reduce transmission.

Hmm…

Who would have known?

Biden: “Best 1st year ever … my team is competent … full steam ahead”

January 20, 2022

Begala: “Not bad leaders, bad followers”
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Anybody who was hoping for retrospective humility, a course correction, an olive branch or a good old fashioned house cleaning was probably disappointed by Biden’s press conference yesterday.

Instead, he went full Begala, adopting the view that: “Democrats’ Problem ‘Is Not That They Have Bad Leaders. They Have Bad Followers’.

Joe’s view:

  1. He was dealt a bad hand
  2. Not lurching left
  3. No mistakes, no apologies
  4. I didn’t say what I said
  5. Exceeded expectations, great progress
  6. Best presidential first year ever
  7. Entire team doing a good job
  8. Has an agenda, GOP doesn’t
  9. Heading in the right direction
  10. Blame Covid, “Big meat” and Trump
  11. People just need to be informed
  12. The polls are wrong

Oh, my…

For the record:

In the latest RCP poll-of-polls. only 27.6% of Americans think that he country is moving in the right direction…

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And, in this week’s Morning Consult poll, half of self-identified independents gave Biden either a “D” or an “F” grade for his first year performance.

So much for data-driven…

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P.S. Best news for GOP…

Biden said: “I’ll be hitting the campaign trail to support Democratic candidates in the mid-term elections.”

COVID Math: So, how accurate are rapid tests?

January 19, 2022

Best guess: If you test negative, the likelihood is very high that you’re not contagious.

If you test positive, the likelihood is high that you are contagious … but there’s about a 1 in 4 chance that you got a false positive, so assume that you are contagious and re-test the next day to be sure.

Keep reading for the math and the underlying assumptions…
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DISCLAIMER: I’m not a medical professional or scientist — just a curious, self-interested guy.  So, don’t take anything that I say or write as medical advice. Get that from your doctor!
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In a prior post, we outlined the logic that CDC Director Walensky laid out regarding antigen rapid tests in a 2O2O paper (i.e. before she started walking the political mine field).

Her fundamental conclusion at the time:

“The antigen rapid tests are ideally suited for surveillance testing (i.e. determining if a person is contagious) since they yield positive results precisely when the infected individual is maximally infectious.”

OK, we’ll take that as our qualitative starting point.

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What exactly is “accuracy”?

Keying off Walensky’s conclusion (above), we’ll focus on the use of antigen rapid tests for surveillance testing (i.e. determining if a person is contagious).

In that context, antigen rapid test accuracy has two components: sensitivity and specificity:

> Sensitivitysometimes called Positive Percent Agreement (PPA) —is the probability that a contagious person’s test result is positive. When it isn’t, it’s called a false negative.

> Specificitysometimes called Negative Percent Agreement (NPA) —is the probability that a a person who is not contagious gets a negative test result. When it doesn’t, it’s called a false positive.

IMPORTANT: Keep in mind that we’re focusing on surveillance testing … whether or not a person is contagious.

For early-on diagnostic testing (i.e. whether a person may need treatment or quarantine), the above criteria would be “infected”, not “contagious” … and the answers are different.

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Now, let’s add some real life parameters and do the math

Johns Hopkins maintains a website that reports sensitivity and specificity for all Emergency Use Approved test kits.

For example, Abbott’s BinaxNOW — one of the most popular — is listed as scoring 84.6% on sensitivity (if contagious, the test result is positive) and  98.5% on specificity (if not contagious, the test result is negative).

That’s testing accuracy, but it’s only part of the story.

What we really care about is the tests’ predictive value.

As JHU puts it…

Positive predictive value (PPV) and negative predictive value (NPV) provide insight into how accurate the positive and negative test results are expected to be in a given population.

Predictive value is based on test accuracy and existing disease prevalence.

OK, so to calibrate predictive value,  let’s assume that Covid prevalence is 5% (i.e. 1 in 20 people that a person runs into is infected) … and plug the Abbott sensitivity and specificity numbers into the below Bayesian table.

For a detailed walk-through of a comparable Bayesian table, see our prior post: If I test positive for COVID, am I infected?     

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The key numbers — the predictive values — are in the bottom rows of the yellow and orange boxes:

> Less than 1% of the negative test results are false negatives (the orange box)

> But, 25.2% of the positive test results are false positives (the yellow box).

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My take:

If a patient gets a negative test result (based on these parameters), it’s virtually certain that they’re not contagious … but they may have small traces of the virus in their system.

If a patient tests positive, there’s high likelihood (74.8%) that they’re contagious … the likelihood is higher if they are symptomatic.

But, if a person is asymptomatic and tests positive, there’s a 1 in 4 chance that they got a false positive and might not be contagious.

Before going out & about, it would make sense to take a second test to validate (or refute) the positive result.

A second positive test (taken a day or 2 later) reduces the chance of a false positive to essentially zero.

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IMPORTANT: These Bayesian estimates are dependent the sensitivity and specificity of the test …  and on the assumed prevalence of of the virus.

For example, if the prevalence rate jumps from 5% (1 in 20 people are contagious) to 25% (1 in 4 people are contagious) … then the positive predictive vale soars to 95% and the negative predictive value decreases to 95%.

Conversely, likelihood of a false positive drops to 5% and the likelihood of a false negative increases from near-zero to 5%

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RIGHT NOW: Order your “free” at home covid tests

January 18, 2022

The government web site is up and running:

COVIDtests.gov – Free at-home COVID-19 tests

I just ordered our’s … took less than 2 minutes … just enter email address and shipping address … no insurance or ID info required … even get a confirming email — just like the real online guys.

I’m amazed that the site is up & running … and that the process was so simple.

Walenshy on rapid tests … then and now.

January 18, 2022

Last week, we spotlighted a NY Times article “The C.D.C. Is Hoping You’ll Figure Covid Out on Your Own”.

Author Zeynep Tufekci asked:

Why, two years into the pandemic, are people are grasping to know whether they should see a grandparent or an elderly relative or go back to work if they are still testing positive?

Why are we still trying to figure this out on our own?

Of course, the primary root causes are a new, fast-moving, ever-changing virus … and haphazard science, heavily politicized, that can’t seem to converge on a coherent “theory of the case”.

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Now that Biden’s test kit program is about to launch, this part of the article has specific relevance….

Deep in the article, Tufekci  channels CDC Director Walensky to provide a clear explanation of covid testing … and an example of the politicization.

According to Tufekci…

Back in 2020, when Walensky was on the faculty of the Harvard Medical School and chief of the division of infectious diseases at Massachusetts General Hospital, she co-authored a scientific paper titled “Saliva-Based Antigen Testing Is Better Than PCR Swabs”.

Some snippets from that paper:

> PCR tests can detect tiny amounts of the virus, so they do a great job of “diagnostic testing” — determining early-on if you are infected and may require isolation or treatment.

> But, PCR tests can “return positives for as many as 6-12 weeks … long after a person has ceased to need medical care or pose any real risk of transmission to others.”

> Said bluntly: PCR tests do a good job of diagnostic testing but a rotten job of “surveillance testing” that zooms in on whether a person is contagious to others.

> “The antigen tests are ideally suited for surveillance testing since they yield positive results precisely when the infected individual is maximally infectious.”

The reason is that antigen tests respond to the viral load in the sample without biologically amplifying the amount of the virus. PCR tests do amplify the virus in the samples and sometimes detect and report inconsequential “left over” viral fragments.

> A rapid test turns positive if a sample contains high levels of the virus, not nonviable bits or minute amounts — and it’s high viral loads that correlate to higher infectiousness.

With respect to viral transmission: “False negatives” on rapid tests are a benefit since “those are true negatives for disease transmission”

Again, a PCR test is positive if any amplified viral content is detected.

An antigen test may be negative if the virus is present but the viral load is very low … consistent with a low likelihood of viral transmission.

> But, antigen tests may be slower (than PCR tests) to detect the early onset of an infection, especially if symptoms haven’t materialized, since the viral load may be low but building.

> So, confirming a suspected early stage infection is best done with a PCR test or with a series of rapid tests, say, every other day for a week.

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OK, that’s what Walensky said back in fall of 2020, before her shift from “scientist” to “political scientist”.

Now, she’s saying:

“We actually don’t know how our rapid tests perform and how well they predict whether you’re transmissible during the end of disease”

Has the science changed … or, the scientist?

Hmm

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P.S. Walensky’s entire 2020 paper is worth reading.

Here comes the USPS … with 500 million free test kits.

January 17, 2022

Just wondering: What could possibly go wrong?
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OK, as the omicron shockwave is showing some signs of peaking, Biden’s mass ordering of in-home rapid test kits is going to launch this week.

A simple plan: Tens of millions of Americans place online orders for free test kits (maximum 4 per “address”) …  7 to 12 days later, the order gets shipped via the USPS … a couple of days later the kits start hitting mailboxes around the country … and over 100 million sharp-as-tack Americans try to figure out when and how to use the kits.

Might work…

Call me cynical, but I think there may be some potential holes in this plan:

> Web site crashes: According to the AP, “Administration officials say they are cognizant that any launch of a website carries some risks”. You don’t say. Envision Obama’s Healthcare.gov web site getting as many as 100 million front-ended hits.

> The Supply Chain: Since purchase orders have just been placed (or are still in process), who knows when the 500 million will actually hit government warehouses?

> Snail mail: Again, successful online orders “will be shipped in 7 to 12 days” … delivery “a couple of days later” — may be optimistic with 500 million test kits floating around an erratic postal system

> Lost in the mail: Any chance some of the kits fall into some USPS dark hole or get misdirected?

> Hijacked mail: The test kits will be the most valuable “bulk rate” mailing since the 2020 mail-in election ballots. Act surprised when people start reporting that they didn’t get their test kits.

> Black market resales: The kits will have value for people who need them but, for whatever reason, can’t score enough for their household. Watch for “free” government supplied test kits showing up on the internet “not for free”.

> Customer service: What if your kits don’t arrive in your mailbox? Who do you call to resolve the problem? Good luck.

> Counterfeits: Once the internet black market starts up (and it will!), the counterfeit and unregulated kits from China are sure to follow.

> Too Late to Matter: Since the kits won’t be arriving until late January – more likely February – omicron will hopefully be past us. What to do with the kits? Will they be able to detect the omega variant?

Note: Omega is the last of the 24  letters in the Greek alphabet, but not necessarily the last covid variant.

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Bottom line: High likelihood that this rollout will make the Afghan evacuation look like a Swiss watch.

Hope I’m wrong, I’d like to score a couple of kits … especially if my fellow taxpayers are footing the bill.

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P.S. I would have drafted Amazon to do order processing and fulfillment.  They could handle the volume and the 1-per-address rule. Why craft a new government system on-the-fly? Dumb.

NYT: “CDC hoping that we’ll figure Covid out on our own”..

January 13, 2022

Yesterday, we spotlighted a Washington Post  editorial  headlined

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The essence of the editorial:

As Covid-19 swept the world one year ago, the United States under-prioritized the need for data and the tests that produce it.

The data-deficient response to Covid-19 is why this pandemic’s been so deadly, so disruptive and so costly.

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Putting it more viscerally, the NY Times says:

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Some snippets from the Times article:

The government’s haphazard and disorganized Covid response has put the whole country at risk.

We aren’t expecting officials to have crystal balls about everything, but…

The highest-ranking public health officials are making statements that seem more aimed at covering up or making excuses for ongoing failures, rather than leveling with the public.

it’s so disappointing to enter 2022 with 2020 vibes, scouring for supplies, trying to make sense of official declarations that don’t cohere, and wondering what to do.

Why, two years into the pandemic, are people are grasping to know whether they should see a grandparent or an elderly relative or go back to work if they are still testing positive?

Why are we still trying to figure this out on our own?

My question: Why has it taken the WaPo and NY Times so long to notice that “the science” has been letting us down.

WaPo: “Flying blind is no way to survive a pandemic”

January 12, 2022

Finally, I agree with a Washington Post editorial.

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Amid the omicron spike, the recent uproar about testing and quarantine rules has spotlighted the current unscientific nature of “the science”.

Biden’s scientific team offers up simultaneously contradictory points of view, small scale ad hoc studies that incite reactionary course reversals, and no logical, fact-based “theory of the case”.

In the words of Rajiv J. Shah, president of the Rockefeller Foundation:

“The United States has been flying virally blind.”

More specifically, Shah argues:

Data is the secret weapon that has helped beat every disease outbreak over the last century.

Data is what moves us from a panic-driven response to a science-driven one, telling us how to fight back and which tools are best.

But, as Covid-19 swept the world one year ago, the United States under-prioritized the need for data and the tests that produce it.

The data-deficient response to Covid-19 is why this pandemic’s been so deadly, so disruptive and so costly.

Currently, only a handful of countries (e.g. Israel, South Africa, Britain) are systematically collecting, analyzing and sharing data that is sufficiently comprehensive, precise and timely to help public health authorities and scientists make informed decisions about relaxing precautions or adapting vaccines and treatments.

Unfortunately, from a data perspective, the United States is in no better position to understand and stop a viral variant today than it was before the pandemic started.

The United States has not yet built a real-time system of viral surveillance that would allow comprehensive tracking of variants as they move through the population.

As it is now, the CDC pulls together viral surveillance data from a variety of sources, including its own facilities, state public health labs, and university and private laboratories.

The frustrating complexity and diversity of electronic medical records is an ongoing challenge.

The data sets are minimally standardized, key data is often uncollected, data file formats vary and data reporting is sporadic.

So, it can take weeks to build a complete and reliable picture of how a variant is spreading.

By then, it’s often too late and a newer variant must be battled.

The U.S. must take crucial steps to support a national viral surveillance network to defeat Covid-19 and prepare for the next pandemic.

Bottom line: It’s not surprising that there’s no over-riding theory-of-the-case, confusion re: pivotal factors (e.g. prevalence, transmission, re-infection, mitigation effectiveness) and a seemingly endless pandemic.

Covid: “Now, everybody knows somebody…”

January 11, 2022

Why it feels different this time around…
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A couple of months ago – during the last Covid spike – I opined that Covid was an abstract notion for most people since they hadn’t been personally and consequentially touched by it.

As evidence, I cited a broad-scale YouGov survey that found that, despite hundreds of thousands of covid-related death, 2/3’s of Americans didn’t “personally know anyone who had died due to complications from covid-19”.

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Sure, people had heard about people getting infected but “they” were either newsworthy celebrities or very distant relationships … distanced by 4 or 5 degrees of separation.

It was like a serious crime epidemic that hadn’t struck “my neighborhood”, let alone “my house”.

For sure that sense has changed …

For openers, we’ve now reached the point where everybody knows somebody who has been infected, and those “somebodies” are closer to home … they’re not a cousin’s neighbor’s son-in-law’s co-worker’s friend … they’re close friends and family … within zero or one degree of separation.

And, there seem to be more “batches” of “theys”, not single isolated cases.

Specifically, entire neighborhoods are getting hit … and once the virus penetrates a household, most family members get sick.

When they get sick, nothing seems to make sense.

Being fully vaccinated is proving to be a porous barrier to infection.

Within households, symptoms vary widely from person to person … seriously symptomatic people are testing negative … asymptomatic people are testing positive (when they can find a test!)

Go figure.

When it hits close to home like this, people seek reliable (and actionable) “what to do” answers … have less tolerance for misdirection, obfuscation and butt-covering bull-bleep.

It becomes evident to all effected that the government’s political-scientists — always assertive, occasionally right – are flying blind … spewing illogical, data-short guidance that confuses rather than clarifies.

As NBC News put it “The rapid spread of the variant has created a level of disruption in many Americans’ lives not seen since the early days of the pandemic. We have gone backwards.”

I think we’ve reached a turning point  … and, that’s a difference time around.

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P.S. Your read that right: NBC News … article is worth reading.

 

 

Biden: “Lack of competition is exploitation”

January 10, 2022

Does the principle apply to education too, Joe … or just “big meat”?
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This week, Biden lashed out at “big meat” … blaming his policy-induced inflation on greedy meat purveyors … and flag-poling a broad theme: “Capitalism without competition is exploitation”.

As an academically-degreed economist, I agree that a condition for “perfectly efficient markets” is the presence of numerous direct and indirect competitors and product substitutes.

But, I think industry concentration is a lame excuse for the current skyrocketing inflation.

Industry consolidation hasn’t changed materially over the past, say, 5 years … and inflation was minimal in the 4 years preceding 2021.

That suggests that there are “root causes” other than industry concentration.

Catch my drift?

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My question:

Isn’t Biden’s condition for “market efficiency” generalizable to, say, education?

Even the NY Times concedes that “Many schools have still not returned to normal, worsening learning loss and social isolation.”

Why is it that many schools have not returned to in-person learning?

Simple explanation: Urban teachers’ unions in several cities are continuing to use their collective (and concentrated) clout to stiff-arm in-person classes.

Besides the well-publicized Chicago bruhaha, “closings are taking place in Atlanta, Cleveland, Milwaukee, Newark and several New York City suburbs, among other places.” NYT

The unions collective and concentrated actions are also a violation of economists’ “efficient markets” criteria” … causing havoc.

So, it seems logically consistent in principle to declare:

“Education without competition is exploitation”

President Biden may have inadvertently handed school choice advocates a resonating rallying cry for the 2022 mid-term elections.

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P.S. For an analysis of the real root causes of meat price increases, see WSJ: Meatpackers Are Biden’s Latest Inflation Scapegoat

Covid death counts are still high!

January 7, 2022

The percentage of infections resulting in hospitalization or death has declined, but…

…. as I used to preach to students: a little number times a very, very large number is a large number.
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In prior posts, I’ve encouraged readers to stay focused on the number of Daily New Deaths DNDs).

MUST READ: How will we know when we’ve turned a COVID-19 corner?

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It’s not news that the number of covid cases has skyrocketed.

These days, everybody knows somebody who has tested positive for covid … or, has suffered covid-like symptoms without a confirming covid test.

Our personal observations are captured in the reported aggregate numbers.

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There’s a tendency to characterize the spike in cases as low severity annoyances … minimizing the reality that covid-related deaths are still accumulating at the pandemic’s average rate.

Specifically, we’re currently averaging about 1,250 covid-related deaths per day.

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Let’s put the 1,250 in perspective …

> Since the start of the pandemic in early 2020, there have been about 850,000 covid-counted deaths … that averages out to 1,300 daily deaths.

> At the 2 prior peaks — April 2020 and January 2021 — the daily death rate reached about 2,250 and 3,500, respectively.

> Historically, the number of flu-related deaths averages about 250 per day during the flu season.

So, while the current daily death count is less than half of the count during the prior peak periods, it’s 5 times the average number of in-season flu deaths.

And, the numbers add up.

Since the prior trough in July 2021, there have been about 225,000 covid-related deaths … that’s about 1/4 of the total covid-related deaths to date.

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Bottom line: We’re not out of the woods yet, folks.

Stay focused on the daily death counts.

Postpone any victory celebrations until we get down to the 250 flu-related deaths benchmark … and stay at or below that number.

MUST READ: How will we know when we’ve turned a COVID-19 corner?

January 6, 2022

Stay focused on the number of Daily New Deaths!
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This is a relevant excerpt from a long ago prior post (May 2020)
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From the begining of the Covid pandemic, I’ve focused on Daily New Deaths (DND) as my key metric.

Why is that?

First, saving lives is our paramount objective, right?  If yes, caused fatalities should be our focus metric.

Second, I think that most other metrics that are being bandied about are quite problematic.

Counting deaths — while a bit macabre — is a more reliable process than counting, say, the number of infected people.

Sure, I’d like to know the number of people infected with COVID-19.

But, unless everybody — or at least a large statistical sample — is tested, the number of confirmed cases is subject to disqualifying statistical issues.

Most notably, who is being tested and who isn’t? What about the asymptomatic “hidden carriers”? What are the criteria for confirming a COVID infection? What about false positives (and false negatives)? How to standardize the reporting processes across states? How to keep governmental units from fudging the numbers?

Importantly, if testing increases, then confirmed cases goes up.

Is that an indication of more virus spread or just a reflection of more testing?

I sure can’t tell … and, I doubt that anybody else can with any degree of reliability.

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Again, counting fatalities is probably the most reliable metric.

Fatalities are discrete events – so they’re countable.

Still, even deaths may have some counting imperfections.

For example, many non-hospitalized people die and are buried without autopsies.  Some may be uncounted COVID victims.

On the other hand, some people may die and be diagnosed with COVID infections. That doesn’t necessarily mean that COVID killed them.  That’s especially true with COVID since it’s most deadly for people with other health problems.

And, as we stated above, the definition of COVID deaths has changed over the course of the pandemic:

COVID-related” means “COVID present”, not necessarily “COVID caused” … and , along the way, “present” was redefined from “confirmed” to “presumed”

Further, COVID deaths are a function of two drivers: the incidence of the virus … and, the nature, level and timing of therapeutic healthcare.

Said differently, more effective therapeutic healthcare will dampen the death toll.

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Bottom line: “Daily New Deaths” is the number we should be watching.

If it shows a consistent downward trend, then we’ll know we’ve turned the corner.

If it stays stable (at a high level) or turns upward, we’ll know that we’re in deep yogurt.

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Next up: So, how are we doing?

Biden’s Christmas rally fizzles…

January 5, 2022

In the run-up to Christmas, as retailers deftly managed through supply chain logjams and Santa fully loaded his sleigh with enough presents to keep kids smiling, Biden’s job approval numbers improved a bit … peaking at 44% approval, 50% disapproval.

Then came omicron and the test kit shortage … and the worm turned again.

According to the RCP poll-of-polls, Biden is now almost 12 percentage points under water …  42.3% approve of his job performance, 53.9% disapprove.

For the record, the 53.9% disapproval is the highest that Biden has earned up to this point in his administration.

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Drilling down, according to a recent CNBC/Change Research poll, Biden is deeply underwater on all queried issue areas.

He scores best (err, make that least bad) on Infrastructure (17 points underwater) and COVID (minus 19 and falling fast).

He scores worst on Price of everyday goods (48 points underwater), Immigration (minus 46) and Family economics (minus 40).

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Taking another cut at the data, Change Research (CNBC’s polling partner), scores a “Kitchen Table Report Card” by asking people:

Imagine you could grade the Biden Administration’s handling of issues impacting the economy.

How would you grade the Biden Administration’s handling of each of these issues?

> Republicans given Biden straight Fs

> Dems give him a mix of Bs and Cs … averaging out to B- / C+

> Independents give him straight Ds

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Just for the record…

On the CNBC poll, Biden scores 38% favorable, 56% unfavorable on personal favorability.

On that same measure, in that same poll, Trump scored 38% favorable, 55% unfavorable.

Hmm.

So, do rapid tests work … or not?

January 4, 2022

With covid prevalence spiking, as usual, CDC guidance muddies the water.
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A couple of weeks ago, with omicron spreading like wildfire and workforces getting depleted by quarantined workers, Biden finally left his bunker and promised January home-delivery of 500 million hard-to-find antigen rapid tests.

Current reporting is that orders are “in the process” (i..e. they have not yet been officially placed) for 250 million in the last half of January and 250 million in February and March.

That works out to about 1 test per month for every adult.

Biden assured that the testing surge would be another game-changer (akin to getting LA ports to stay open nights & weekends to unclog supply chains) … and that he was, of course, “following the science” …

So, it seems reasonable to conclude that his homeboy scientists advised him that the antigen rapid tests worked.

That is, except for CDC Director Wolensky who told CNN that the CDC doesn’t “actually know how well rapid tests perform and how well they predict transmissible presence of the virus”.

So, do the rapid tests work … or not?

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On that question, Epidemiologist Michael Mina published the most informative piece that I’ve found…

Dr. Mina’s overall conclusion:

Antigen tests are extremely sensitive for very contagious people.

When taken at peak viral load, these tests approach 100% sensitivity.

Here’s his visual recap … click it to enlarge it.

image

My takeaways:

> In the first couple of days after getting infected, neither the PCR nor the antigen tests are sensitive enough to detect the infection.

> Around the 5th day after getting infected, the tests are able to detect the virus.

> PCR tests may be able to detect the virus a day or two sooner than the antigen test … but, since the PCR tests require a day or two for processing & reporting, antigen and PCR tests are practically equivalent for early detection.

> Infectees have the highest viral load (and are most contagious) from day 6 to day 12 after getting infected.

> During days 6 to 12, when infectees are most contagious, both PCR and antigen tests are reliably able to detect the virus.

> After day 12, as the level of viral load quickly diminishes, PCR tests are able to detect the residual, non-contagious levels of the virus … but, the less sensitive antigen tests do not.

=============

Again, according to Dr. Mina’s research and analysis:

When taken at peak viral load (when infectees are most contagious), antigen tests approach 100% sensitivity.

Accordingly, Dr. Ashish Jha, the dean of Brown’s school of public health, calls antigen tests “contagiousness tests” … and says that they are very good at detecting people who are still infectious to others.

They won’t detect every speck of virus that their PCR counterparts are attuned to do, but they can detect the important part — if someone is producing enough of the virus that they’re likely to spread it.

=============

Bottom line

If I could get my hands on in-home rapid tests, I would confidently use them…

(1) When I’m exhibiting any symptoms (e.g. fever or sniffles)

(2) After the rare occasions when I’ve attended an indoor gathering with non-family members.

(3) Before visiting my grandkids … for re-assurance that  I’m not contagious.

But, first step is getting my hands on some of the in-home tests!

And, as I like remind readers…

DISCLAIMER: I’m not a medical professional or scientist — just a curious, self-interested guy.  So, don’t take anything that I say or write as medical advice. Get that from your doctor!

Why is the CDC so reactionary, illogical and, uh, unscientific?

January 3, 2022

Their most recent isolation “guidance” is a case in point.
=============

With covid-omicron spreading like wildfire and seeming to close in on all of us (me included) … and with workforces getting depleted by quarantined workers, the CDC stepped in to save the day by issuing revised isolation guidelines, specifically:

Given what we currently know about COVID-19 and the Omicron variant, CDC is shortening the recommended time for isolation for the public.

People with COVID-19 should isolate for 5 days and if they are asymptomatic or their symptoms are resolving (without fever for 24 hours), then…

People should follow that (isolation period) by 5 days of wearing a mask when around others to minimize the risk of infecting people they encounter. CDC

Let’s unpack that guidance…

=============

First, when does the clock start running?

For somebody who who develops symptoms, I guess it’s when “the” symptoms first present themselves.

My questions:

(1) Do cold-like sniffles count as “symptoms”? What’s the best indicator that I may have caught it? How indicative is a fever?

(2) What to do if I am officially symptomatic? Isolate, for sure … but, go see a doctor?

Note: At local walk-in clinics, people are waiting 4 to 6 hours in a room filled with 50 to 100 sick-likely people.  Sounds like a recipe for disaster, right?

=============

What about infectees who are asymptomatic?

For them, I guess that the clock starts for when they test positive.

Let’s pretend that they’re inclined to get tested (say, because other members of their household are symptomatic or have tested positive … or because their employer or airline requires a test).

These folks can’t do-it-themselves now because of the scarcity of in-home rapid tests.

Of course, they have the option of waiting in line for a couple of hours to get a “commercial” PCR test.

Note: Lines are running around the block at local testing sites.  Again, sounds like a recipe for disaster since most of the people in line are symptomatic.

===============

Once the clock starts…

OK, this part of the CDC guidance is pretty clear: isolate for 5 days.

But, things get murky after that isolation period.

The CDC says:

After infectees isolate for 5 days, if they are asymptomatic or their symptoms are resolving (e.g. no fever for 24 hours), then…

They should follow that (isolation period) by 5 days of wearing a mask when around others

The criteria “asymptomatic or symptoms resolving” is most problematic.

=============

What about rapid tests?

In the UK and several other countries, that free-of-isolation criteria is supplemented by the need for a negative covid test … rapid tests qualify.

So, why isn’t the CDC advising a negative covid test?

Cynics observe that the omission of negative tests in the guidance is simply cover for the Biden Administration’s slow-roll on the development and production of antigen rapid tests.

The official CDC announcement says:

The guidance is motivated by science demonstrating that the majority of transmission occurs early in the course of illness, generally in the 1-2 days prior to onset of symptoms and the 2-3 days after infection. CDC

More specifically, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky told CNN that the CDC chose five days because that’s typically the period when individuals are most infectious.

“Those five days account for somewhere between 85 to 90 percent of all transmission that occurs”

So far,so good.

But then she added:

“We opted not to advise the rapid test for isolation because we actually don’t know how our rapid tests perform and how well they predict whether you’re transmissible during the end of disease. Source

Say, what?

So, if I have this right…

Biden has ordered up 500 million in-home rapid tests … but the CDC doesn’t “actually know how well rapid tests perform and how well they predict transmissible presence of the virus”.

If that isn’t dizziness-inducing enough, Dr. Fauci, Biden’s chief political scientist, was his usual ubiquitous self on Sunday TV hinting that the CDC would soon be adding a testing requirement after all. Source

=============

My take: It would be a lot easier to “follow the science” if “the science” weren’t so reactionary, illogical, impractical and, well, unscientific.

The best New Year’s Eve “Ball Drop” … GUARANTEED

January 1, 2022

A couple of weeks ago, one of the teachers at Holy Trinity School (where 2 of my grandkisds go) became an internet star.

Kathleen Fitzpatrick (aka. Ms. Fitz), became a viral internet sensation by sinking a full court shot … on the school’s playground … in front of her cheering students.

ESPN “re-purposed” the video clip for New Year’s Eve.

Totally AWESOME!

image

Happy New Year!

January 1, 2022

Let’s all say good riddance to 2021, count our blessings and do our part to make 2022 a joyous year.

image

Vanity Fair: Biden put all his eggs in the vaccination basket …

December 26, 2021

Lacked the imagination for an Operation Warp Speed for testing and therapeutic drugs.
=============

Two must read articles:

Vanity Fair: The Biden Administration Rejected Proposals for “Free Rapid Tests for the Holidays”

WSJ: Big Pharma Success, Government Failure

Here’s a merged extract of the articles … both of which are worth reading in their entirety.

===========

The essence

In January 2021, the incoming Biden Administration was sent a 23-page document outlining a national rapid-testing strategy that would enable the country to reopen safely even before the vaccine rollout was complete.

The document made a case for rapid testing as the most powerful tool to reduce transmission and case counts quickly.

Then, on October 22, a group of COVID-19 testing experts presented the Biden administration with a detailed strategy for overhauling America’s approach to testing.

The plan was to put rapid at-home COVID-19 testing into the hands of average citizens, allowing them to screen themselves in real time and thereby help reduce transmission.

The plan called for “Every American Household to Receive Free Rapid Tests for the Holidays/New Year.”

The big, bold idea for free home tests for all Americans to avoid a holiday surge, was killed by the Biden Administration.

=============

The reasons:

> “The Biden Administration took a vaccine-only approach … and didn’t support the notion of testing as a proper mitigation tool or therapeutic oral antiviral drugs.”

The Administration has had a single-minded fixation on vaccinating Americans left testing and therapeutics on the back burner for so long.

The Administration feared that at home rapid tests and therapeutics might somehow signal to wary Americans that they could skip vaccinations.

Officials failed to foresee how vaccine efficacy would wane over time and demand would plateau. 

> The FDA dragged its feet vetting and approving at home tests … valuing “exquisite sensitivity, rather than “public health utility”.

“If our goal is defined as public health, every test run last year was practically useless.”

While rapid antigen tests are less accurate than PCR tests, they are “extremely sensitive for very contagious people” … when they’re at peak viral load, these tests approach 100 percent sensitivity.” Source

> Many doctors opposed in home testing, viewing patient test results as theirs alone to convey.

Some doctors had even opposed home testing for pregnancy and HIV, arguing that patients who learned on their own about a given condition would not be able to act on the information effectively.

> There wasn’t capacity to manufacture over-the-counter tests at the required scale.”

The plan required an estimated 732 million tests per month.

The capacity problem was twofold: The FDA had authorized only a handful of different home tests, and those it had authorized could not increase manufacturing fast enough.

=============

Bottom line

> It wasn’t a matter of Biden not having thought ahead about the need for rapid tests (as he told ABC News on TV) … It was a matter of his team considering, and then rejecting, a plan to have hundreds of millions of home tests available now..

> Biden’s recently announced plan is widely regarded by experts (i.e. “the science”) as a totally inadequate “exemplar of too little, too late …

We need several billion tests and have needed them for over a year to help prevent spread.”

Advance government orders like Operation Warp Speed’s for vaccines would have accelerated production of anti-virals.”

> The Biden administration has lacked “the imagination to have an Operation Warp Speed-level programs for testing and therapeutics.”

“The White House, in baseball terms, is playing small ball. When it comes to rapid testing, they’re bunting the players along.”

“Vaccines have saved hundreds of thousands of lives, but many more lives would have been saved if anti-viral oral treatments were available sooner. The drugs represent a huge pharmaceutical success but a missed government opportunity.”

> So, as COVID-19 is exploding again, we’re stuck with “endless lines of desperate Americans clamoring for tests in order to safeguard holiday gatherings” … and, rationing of live-saving anti-viral drugs.

Local example: One of the most expansive urgent care chains in the Maryland-Virginia market restricts testing to symptomatic patients only … and warns patients of 6- hour wait times (in a waiting room with a hundred or so other symptomatic patients)

=============

In Biden’s own words:

Anyone, anyone who needs to be tested should be tested at no charge, at no charge.

Tests should be available to all who need them and the government, the government should stop at nothing to make that happen.

No excuses should be made.

The administration’s failure on testing is colossal and it’s a failure of planning, leadership, and execution.”  

Oh yeah, that was in March 2020 in a blast against Trump.  Transcript

As Forrest Gump would say: “What goes around, comes around”

Merry Christmas … 45 Lessons in Life

December 25, 2021

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah and HAPPY NEW YEAR to all !

This short video was sent to me by a friend a couple of years ago

It really resonated with me, so continuing a holiday tradition, I like to share it at Christmas time.

back with you after the New Year

* * * * *

         click to view  (best with audio on)
image

 

Need a smile today?

December 24, 2021

Two of my grandkids attend Holy Trinity School in Georgetown.

Earlier this week one of the school’s teachers, Kathleen Fitzpatrick (aka. Ms. Fitz), became a viral internet sensation by sinking a full court shot … on the school’s playground … in front of her cheering students.

Here’s a 1-minute video from CBS Sports that is guaranteed to make you smile.

The girl in the camel-colored coat is my granddaughter Maddie.

image

Vanity Fair: Biden put all his eggs in the vaccination basket …

December 24, 2021

Lacked the imagination for an Operation Warp Speed for testing and therapeutic drugs.
=============

Two must read articles:

Vanity Fair: The Biden Administration Rejected Proposals for “Free Rapid Tests for the Holidays”

WSJ: Big Pharma Success, Government Failure

Here’s a merged extract of the articles … both of which are worth reading in their entirety.

===========

The essence

In January 2021, the incoming Biden Administration was sent a 23-page document outlining a national rapid-testing strategy that would enable the country to reopen safely even before the vaccine rollout was complete.

The document made a case for rapid testing as the most powerful tool to reduce transmission and case counts quickly.

Then, on October 22, a group of COVID-19 testing experts presented the Biden administration with a detailed strategy for overhauling America’s approach to testing.

The plan was to put rapid at-home COVID-19 testing into the hands of average citizens, allowing them to screen themselves in real time and thereby help reduce transmission.

The plan called for “Every American Household to Receive Free Rapid Tests for the Holidays/New Year.”

The big, bold idea for free home tests for all Americans to avoid a holiday surge, was killed by the Biden Administration.

=============

The reasons:

> “The Biden Administration took a vaccine-only approach … and didn’t support the notion of testing as a proper mitigation tool or therapeutic oral antiviral drugs.”

The Administration has had a single-minded fixation on vaccinating Americans left testing and therapeutics on the back burner for so long.

The Administration feared that at home rapid tests and therapeutics might somehow signal to wary Americans that they could skip vaccinations.

Officials failed to foresee how vaccine efficacy would wane over time and demand would plateau. 

> The FDA dragged its feet vetting and approving at home tests … valuing “exquisite sensitivity, rather than “public health utility”.

“If our goal is defined as public health, every test run last year was practically useless.”

While rapid antigen tests are less accurate than PCR tests, they are “extremely sensitive for very contagious people” … when they’re at peak viral load, these tests approach 100 percent sensitivity.” Source

> Many doctors opposed in home testing, viewing patient test results as theirs alone to convey.

Some doctors had even opposed home testing for pregnancy and HIV, arguing that patients who learned on their own about a given condition would not be able to act on the information effectively.

> There wasn’t capacity to manufacture over-the-counter tests at the required scale.”

The plan required an estimated 732 million tests per month.

The capacity problem was twofold: The FDA had authorized only a handful of different home tests, and those it had authorized could not increase manufacturing fast enough.

=============

Bottom line

> It wasn’t a matter of Biden not having thought ahead about the need for rapid tests (as he told ABC News on TV) … It was a matter of his team considering, and then rejecting, a plan to have hundreds of millions of home tests available now..

> Biden’s recently announced plan is widely regarded by experts (i.e. “the science”) as a totally inadequate “exemplar of too little, too late …

We need several billion tests and have needed them for over a year to help prevent spread.”

Advance government orders like Operation Warp Speed’s for vaccines would have accelerated production of anti-virals.”

> The Biden administration has lacked “the imagination to have an Operation Warp Speed-level programs for testing and therapeutics.”

“The White House, in baseball terms, is playing small ball. When it comes to rapid testing, they’re bunting the players along.”

“Vaccines have saved hundreds of thousands of lives, but many more lives would have been saved if anti-viral oral treatments were available sooner. The drugs represent a huge pharmaceutical success but a missed government opportunity.”

> So, as COVID-19 is exploding again, we’re stuck with “endless lines of desperate Americans clamoring for tests in order to safeguard holiday gatherings” … and, rationing of live-saving anti-viral drugs.

Local example: One of the most expansive urgent care chains in the Maryland-Virginia market restricts testing to symptomatic patients only … and warns patients of 6- hour wait times (in a waiting room with a hundred or so other symptomatic patients)

=============

In Biden’s own words:

Anyone, anyone who needs to be tested should be tested at no charge, at no charge.

Tests should be available to all who need them and the government, the government should stop at nothing to make that happen.

No excuses should be made.

The administration’s failure on testing is colossal and it’s a failure of planning, leadership, and execution.”  

Oh yeah, that was in March 2020 in a blast against Trump.  Transcript

As Forrest Gump would say: “What goes around, comes around”

She died 4 days after getting her booster shot … coincidence?

December 23, 2021

When a fatal risk materializes close to home, statistical probabilities and presidential safety assurances are of little comfort.
===========

From the get-go, I have been concerned about the long-term health risks of the covid vaccines … but, I’ve been very sanguine about the short-term risks and appreciative of the short-term benefits.

Accordingly, I’ve been vaxed and boosted … and, have advocated the same for my fellow seniors.

But, my confidence level has waned.

Here’s why…

=============

As I’ve previously posted, up to now, I’ve been blessed (or “lucky”, if you prefer) to be in the 64% of Americans who don’t “personally know anyone who has died due to complications from covid-19”.

image
YouGov

My closest covid-related death or hospitalization has been at 5 or 6 “degrees of separation” or more.

That changed last week when…

A very close relative of an immediate family member (think: 1-degree of separation) dutifully “did the right thing” and got a covid booster shot

The lady was in her early 60s … very active … in good health with no covid-risky co-morbidities … no history of head aches or heart problems.

The morning after her booster, she she woke up with a head ache that got worse over the next couple of days.

On the 3rd day, she went into cardiac arrest …and on the 4th day, she died.

==============

The official cause-of-death: cardiac arrest attributed to a previously undiagnosed brain aneurism.

English translation: The booster shot was coincidental, not causal.

I’m having a hard time believing that.

Strikes me that, even if the shot wasn’t a direct cause, it likely accelerated and enhanced the fatal effect of the aneurism.

But, of course, I’m not a doctor … so draw your own conclusion.

==============

I always counseled my students not to generalize from a single data point or from their personal experiences.

Easier said than done!

When a fatal risk materializes close to home, it stops being a statistical rarity.

Today, I personally can’t help but think that Biden’s cavalier “free and safe” is more free than it is safe.

Maybe I’m not alone since “fully vaxed” people — even seniors — aren’t breaking down the doors to get booster shots.

image

=============

P.S. I don’t know which vaccine the lady took initially or whether the booster was the same brand as the initial doses.  I won’t ask, but I’ll report if I hear any thing.

The question that I want somebody to ask Biden, Psaki or Fauci…

December 22, 2021

Our past couple of posts dealt with the omicron outbreaks at colleges and in pro sports.

Those venues share a common behavioral trait: practically all of the college students and athletes are fully vaccinated … yet, omicron is spreading fast enough that students are being sent home (potentially to spread the virus there) and sporting events are being postponed or cancelled.

In this week’s speech, Biden — a bit more restrained than usual —  repeatedly took shots (pun intended) on the the folks who are unvaccinated … still implying that the roughly 1/4 of adults who are unvaccinated are the predominant cause of the spread.

=============

So, the question I’d like some reporter to ask Biden, Psaki or Fauci is:

College campuses are relatively contained and controlled environments. 

College administrators have mandated vaccinations (reportedly with >98% compliance) and enforced strong mitigation practices, including masking.

So, how do you explain the surge of covid cases on college campuses?

============

That’s not intended as an anti-vax question.

I’m both fully vaccinated (i.e. 2 shots) and “boosted”, so I don’t take Biden’s admonition personally.

But, I want to understand risks of my catching and transmitting the virus.

============

P.S. For the “textbook” answer to the question, see: Colleges hit by surge in covid cases…

The essence of the answer: Waning vaccine effectiveness among “cohorts” of students who got vaccinated at approximately the same time … right before the school year started.

First colleges, now sports leagues encountering covid case surges…

December 21, 2021

Again, cohort vaccinations meet waning vax effectiveness to create chaos.
=============

Previously, we demonstrated mathematically that, because of vaccines’  waning  effectiveness, a near-100% vaccination rate slows, but doesn’t stop covid spread  … we  showed  how the underlying math largely explains the  surge  in covid cases on college campuses … and we warned that colleges might be sending infected students home for the holidays.

Well, colleges aren’t alone.

The Hill is among sources reporting that:

image

Case in point: The NFL

During the first 2 1/2 months of the football season, from early September to late November, there were only about 110 players on (and off) the COVID-19 reserve list.

That number is over 100 again, and some teams are be being hit particularly hard.

The Rams list was 13 last week and continues to grow; the Browns have 15 players and their head coach out.

=============

According to the league, nearly 95% of NFL players are vaccinated.

But, just like colleges, the  contagion spike is largely attributable to the Omicron strain of the virus,  “cohorted vaccinations” and waning vaccine effectiveness.

On those latter points, glad to see somebody else has seen the light.

Zachary Binney, a sports epidemiologist at Oxford College of Emory University says:,

One possible explanation for the recent spate of cases is waning immunity from the initial vaccines. 

Lots of professional athletes likely got vaccinated around the same time, so their immunity could be wearing off simultaneously.

=============

The Hill points out: “For the NFL, the timing couldn’t be worse as many teams are playing some of the most meaningful games in the final weeks of the regular season.”

Specifically, teams may have to resort to playing 2nd and 3rd stringers in their most important games in the seasons.

Despite play-off and championship implications, the NFL had hoped  to play on without postponements or cancellations.

Already that hope has perished.

Saturday’s scheduled game between the Cleveland Browns and the Las Vegas Raiders was rescheduled for Monday.

23  Browns players — including the team’s starting quarterback –were on Saturday’s covid list.

Sunday’s scheduled game between the Washington Football Team and the Philadelphia Eagles was also postponed until Tuesday.

The Washington Football team had 23 players on the covid list, including its first- and second-string quarterbacks.

Sunday’s  game between the Seattle Seahawks and Los Angeles Rams was also postponed until Tuesday.

As of last Friday, the Rams had a league-leading 29 players on the covid list.

But, the Monday Night Football game between the Bears and the Vikings played on … even though the Bears had 16 players sidelined with covid, including its entire defensive backfield.

The Bears lost.

While there weren’t play-off implications for the Bears, there were for the Vikings

What a mess.

=============

P.S. And, what about the college bowl games and championship play-offs?

They’re at he intersection of the campus and sports’ covid case surges.

Ouch.

This year, college students may be spreading more than holiday cheer…

December 20, 2021

Caveat friends & family: they may come packed with the coronavirus.
=============

Last week, we posted: Colleges hit by surge in covid cases.

The essence of the post:

> Almost all college students have been vaccinated …  the vast majority were all vaccinated circa. August, 2020.

> The vaccines’ effectiveness wanes over time … down to about 50% at the 6 month mark.

> So, the vaccinees in the August cohort group are down to about 65% vax effectiveness

> And, the August cohort of vaccinees won’t qualify for booster shots until February

>Which means that about 1/3 of college students are walking around medically equivalent to somebody who is unvaccinated.

For the math details, see: If 100% were vaccinated, would we be out of the woods? … or, would we morph to a “pandemic of the vaccinateds”?

> And, the highly transmissible Omicron strain has hit many (most?) college campuses.

That’s a recipe for a covid surge — both on campus and more broadly since, as the WSJ reports:

image

For example, Princeton is “encouraging” students who plan to travel home for the holiday break to leave campus as soon as possible.

The rationale: “Avoid students getting stuck on campus if they tested positive and had to quarantine”.

So, what’s the rub?

Clearing campuses could lead to broader spread of the disease.

“Sending students home as soon as possible is like wrapping up a ticking time bomb and putting it in the mail”.

So, what’s the answer to minimizing viral spread from the hot spot college campuses?

> Require “unboosted” students to get covid tests before they travel home for the holidays

> If they test positive, quarantine them on campus until they test negative

> When they test negative, send them packing .. and encourage them to re-test when they land at  home

Bottom line: If your student visitors don’t follow the above protocol, they may not be “ticking time bombs” … but the chances of them being virus-carriers are certainly greater than zero … and the odds may be significantly greater than zero.

So, don’t get complacent just because they’re “fully vaccinated” and have been sent home … again, caveat friends & family!

Colleges hit by surge in covid cases…

December 17, 2021

Dual culprits: Omicron and waning vax effectiveness …
=============

This headline from the AP caught my eye earlier in the week :

image

The story in a nutshell:

Facing rising infections and a new COVID-19 variant, colleges across the U.S. have once again been thwarted in seeking a move to normalcy.

They are starting to require booster shots, extend mask mandates, limit social gatherings and, in some cases, revert to online classes.

Cases in point:

Cornell University abruptly shut down all campus activities on Tuesday and moved final exams online after more than 700 students tested positive over three days.

Hours later, Princeton University moved its exams online and urged students to leave campus “at their earliest convenience” amid a rise in cases.

A day later, New York University canceled all non-academic events and encouraged professors to move finals online.

Moments after I read that, I got a blast alert email from Georgetown:

We are experiencing a notable and concerning increase in COVID-19 cases on our campuses this week.

Yesterday marked the largest one-day total for COVID-19 cases within our community.

Accordingly, we are taking several immediate steps to help protect the Georgetown University community.

=============

Here’s the ironic twist:

Cornell, Princeton and NYU all report student vaccination rates of more than 98%.

I assume that Georgetown has about the same, near total vaccination rate.

In fact, practically all colleges in the U.S. required that students get vaccinated before returning to campus in the Fall.

That’s a key point that we’ll get to later.

==============

Why it’s happening…

One reason for the surge is Omicron — a well publicized and  highly infectious strain of the virus.

A second, less publicized, but mathematically logical cause of the surge in infections is the vaccines’ “waning effect”.

Awhile back, we worked through the math:

If 100% were vaccinated, would we be out of the woods? … or, would we morph to a “pandemic of the vaccinateds”?

The post is worth re-reading in its  entirely, but for those of you who want to just cut to the chase…

It has been reported that covid vaccines start with an effectiveness rate over 90% but, over the course of 6 months, the vaccines lose about half of their effectiveness.

Again, re-read the original post for an explanation of what 90% effectiveness really means,

image_thumb8
Source

The bottom line…

To keep the arithmetic simple, we’ll assume that all college students were vaccinated last August.

That puts the August “cohort group” 4 months along the waning curve … down to about 65% vaccine effectiveness.

That means that — at the 4 month mark — about 1/3 of the matriculating students are medically equivalent to being unvaccinated.

One more time, , re-read the original post for an explanation why this is logically and mathematically true.

So, BINGO.

When a highly transmissible strain of the virus hits a campus that is, practically speaking, 1/3 unvaccinated, you’re dealing with a surge in cases.

That’s not medical theory or political philosophy … it’s simple arithmetic.

===============

So, what are colleges doing?

Simple answer, dusting off the old mitigation playbook: cancelling social events and athletic venues, requiring social distancing (preferably outdoors), finishing the semester with online classes and tests.

What they’d like to do is have all students get booster shots ASAP.

That would reset the the “waning curve” back up to the full 90%+ effectiveness.

But, there’s a problem with that …

The official CDC policy is wait “at least 6 months after completing the patient’s primary COVID-19 vaccination series.”

That means, the cohort of students who got vaccinated in August won’t qualify for boosters until next February.

Uh-oh

Are you smarter than a rocket scientist or neurosurgeon?

December 16, 2021

The answer may pleasantly surprise you…
=============

The British Medical Journal (BMJ) recently published an article addressing the question: Who’s smarter, a rocket scientist or a neurosurgeon?

They tested a sample of the two brainiac-typed groups … and, for yuks, threw in a group of “average Joes”.

The researchers used factor analysis to cluster the results of the tests into six “domains of intelligence”.

The results are charted below … the red squares are the brain surgeons … the blue dots are the rocket scientists … and the dotted line is set by Average Joe.

image

> The rocket scientists were remarkably average … all of the blue dots are insignificantly distanced from the dashed benchmark set by Average Joe

> The brain surgeons exhibited a significant edge (vs. both the rocket scientists and Average Joe) on problem solving speed.

> But, that edge was offset: the brain surgeons scored below average on memory recall speed.

Bottom line: “Don’t put too much stock in someone’s profession when assessing their intelligence.

Most of us are pretty average, despite what we may want to believe.”

=============

I don’t know if that’s good news or bad news.

Scientists: “Alarmed over recent trends in K-12 math education”

December 15, 2021

It’s oft reported that the U.S. is 25th (or lower) in the world in math & science … and things aren’t getting any better.

Case in point: Last week we posted study results indicating that K-8 students’ standardized math scores have fallen by about 10% since the pre-pandemic levels.

That’s ringing alarm bells for scientists and mathematicians.

So says a letter boasting about 500 signatories, including:

Four winners of the Fields Medal in math; two winners of the Turing Award in computing; a Nobel laureate in physics and another in chemistry; 25 members of the National Academy of Sciences; and faculty at Stanford, Berkeley, CalTech, MIT and every top U.S. university for hard science.

As the WSJ opines: “When mathematicians, physicists and engineers speak up to defend the integrity of their fields, Americans should pay attention.”

==============

The scientists buy-into making math more inclusive (i.e. more “welcoming” to women and black / brown minorities) and more relevant (e.g. injecting practicality and social meaning).

My take: Their issues seem to revolve around:

> “Slow rolling” … the elimination of “tracking” in favor of one-size-fits-all courses that get watered down for the general student population (think: common denominator)

> Performance measurements …  the elimination or diminution of standardized testing … intended to reduce students’ anxiety and potential loss of esteem … at the expense of clear metrics re: achievement and progress, individually and collectively

> Subjectivity …  minimizing “right” answers … in favor of ones that are   “directionally correct” or simply “nice tries”

Weighing in, in absentia, is Albert Einstein:

“One reason why mathematics enjoys special esteem, above all other sciences, is that its laws are absolutely certain and indisputable, while those of other sciences are to some extent debatable and in constant danger of being overthrown by newly discovered facts.”

> Methodology … ditching road-tested protocols and procedural documentation in favor of “many ways to skin a cat” and informal or mental “scratch-padding”.

Again, quoting Einstein:

“Pure mathematics is, in its way, the poetry of expressed logical ideas.”

> Diminished “higher math” … delaying algebra until high school … and squeezing calculus offerings in high school … reducing students’ preparedness for college and making colleges responsible for skills’ remediation.

=============

The signatories largely dodged the remix of education emphasis away from hard sciences and math towards social and political discourse.

Einstein would be disappointed on that count:

Yes, we have to divide up our time like that, between our politics and our equations. But to me our equations are far more important, for politics are only a matter of present concern. A mathematical equation stands forever. Albert Einstein

But, he signatories’ did issue a strong warning:

“The erosion of math and science education is threatening America’s prosperity and survival in a competitive world.

Those disciplines are centuries old and arguably even more critical for today’s grand challenges than in the Sputnik era.”

Amen.

Tesla collides with “mobility justice”…

December 14, 2021

From the “Had to see this one coming” file.
===============

Two “progressive” causes are on a collision course.

Climate Control and Environmental activists are flooring the accelerator on electric vehicle adoption.

But, Racial Justice activists are concerned that EVs may impede “mobility justice.”

The Washington Post has stepped up to pour fuel to the fire:

image

Here’s my Cliff Notes version of the WaPo exposé:

This question must be approached from the viewpoint of “environmental justice

While electric vehicle use is growing rapidly in well-to-do, mostly White communities, minority neighborhoods are being left behind.

It’s a question  of “mobility justice.”

“They have put Black and Brown people, the people who can least afford it, at the mercy of the market,”

In urban neighborhoods, residents lack driveways or garages and must rely on street parking.

The question: where and how for residents to charge their electric cars.

Look at any map of charging stations in the United States, and in most of the big cities, what is immediately apparent are big blank spaces coinciding with Black and Latino neighborhoods. Electric vehicle advocates call them charging deserts.

“Chargers are only in the expensive parking garages patronized by doctors and professors.” 

 “It’s a sign of gentrification when you see chargers.”

In the coming age, the lack of charging stations and electric vehicles that depend on them threatens to worsen an already disproportionate exposure to air pollution in minority neighborhoods and relegate Black and Latino drivers to gasoline-powered cars.

Blacks and Hispanics on average bear a ‘pollution burden’ of 56% and 63% excess exposure, respectively.

“This huge investment in electric vehicles just traps minorities in a car-dependent, asphalt-heavy future.”

Pittsburgh, where the worst air pollution closely tracks with historic Black neighborhoods, has produced a “Mobility Vision Plan” that seeks to “advance mobility justice to redress the infrastructure racism of the past.”

A nonprofit organization wants to refashion urban buildings for the coming century, installing co-located coffee shops and EV charging stations. They’ll call them Jolt — get a slug of caffeine while your EV gets an electric charge. 

Save for the cheap shot at professors, we shoulda seen this one coming…

 

 

Is $3 trillion statistically different from zero?

December 13, 2021

Dems say the social spending bill is free, but the CBO now disagrees.
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Biden’s selling proposition for his social spending program: It won’t cost a dime.

Manchin says that he’ll vote against it if it costs more than $1.75 trillion.

The bill that Congress passed is loaded with accounting gimmicks … mostly pretending that expensive programs will be terminated after one or two years … rather than becoming permanent spending fixtures.

Well, end of last week, the CBO released an estimate that de-gimmicks the BBB bill to estimate the real cost of the program.

Budgetary Effects of Making Specified Policies in the Build Back Better Act Permanent (cbo.gov)

And the answer is: $3 trillion … which certainly doesn’t qualify as rounding error … or statistical insignificance.

image

=============

According to the CBO analysis, three line items alone account for over $2.5 trillion in spending:

Pretending that the child tax credit and child care programs terminate in 2022 and 2027, respectively … and, raising the State & Local Tax Deduction limit from $10,000 to $80,000.

In total, the top 7 line items account for over $3.3 trillion in spending … up $2.5 trillion from the gimmicky bill, as passed by Congress.

image

=============

As the WSJ points out:

All of this gives Mr. Manchin, and other Democrats hiding behind his skepticism, ample ammunition to call the whole thing off.

If this bill passes, they’ll own all of the deficits, debt and inflation that result.

That said, I’m betting under on Manchin having the ‘nads to vote no on BBB.

If 100% were vaccinated, would we be out of the woods?

December 9, 2021

Or, would we morph to a “pandemic of the vaccinateds”?
=============

Biden keeps blaming (shaming?) the persistence of the coronavirus on the folks who “stubbornly” refuse to get vaccinated.

That raises the headlined question: “If we got to the point that 100% of the population was vaccinated, would the coronavirus finally be vanquished?

Let’s put aside politics, religion and even the debate on natural immunity … and just run some numbers.

=============

Starting Point

Early-on we were told that the vaccines were roughly 90% effective against symptomatic infections.

English translation: Comparing matched samples of fully vaccinated and unvaccinated study participants … roughly equivalent in their natural susceptibility and their viral exposure … 90% a fewer vaccinated people became symptomatically infected (as compared to the symptomatically infected unvaccinated participants).

Currently, the CDC is reporting that about 70% of the adult population (18 and over) has been vaccinated.

About 225 million Americans fall into the 18 and over category.

=============

Step 1

To illustrate the math, we’ll use the 70% and 225 million numbers.

There are about 67.5 unvaccinated adults (100% minus 70% = 30% times 225 million equals 67.5).

And, assuming full vaccine effectiveness (90%), there are 15.75 million vaccinated adults who are medically equivalent to the unvaccinated adults (225 times 70% times 10% equals 15.75).

Let’s coin the sum of those 2 groups UnVaccinated Equivalents or “UVEs”..

So, at full vaccine effectiveness (90%), we have 83.25 million UVEs  (67.5 + 17.5 equals 83.25) … that’s about 37% of the over 18 adult population.

But, the vaccines have waning effectiveness, right?

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Waning Effectiveness

It has been reported that, over the course of 6 months, the vaccines lose about half of their effectiveness.

image_thumb8
Source

To keep the arithmetic simple, we’ll assume that 6 months after full vaccination, the vaccines wane to 50% effectiveness.

To start, let’s assume that everybody who is vaccinated got vaccinated exactly 6 months ago (and hasn’t gotten a booster shot).

That would raise the number of UVEs (unvaccinated equivalents) up to 146.25 million (equal to 65% of 18 and over adults)   … the 146.25 million is made up of 67.5 million unvaccinateds and 78.5 million vaccinateds whose vaccine effectiveness has waned (225 times 70% times 50%).

Let’s get more realistic…

==============

Base Case

The prior scenario assumed that all people were vaccinated exactly 6 months ago.

But, not all vaccinateds got vaccinated exactly 6 months ago … they got vaccinated over the course of 6 months … and, thus, theyare at varying stages of vaccine “wanedness” … somewhere between 90% full effectiveness and 50% waned effectiveness.

If we assume that the vaccinations were evenly spread over the 6 months (rather than all on day one) then the average vaccine effectiveness among those who have been vaccinated would be about 70% (the average — halfway between 90% and 50%).

That would give us 114.75 million UVEs (equal to about half of all adults)   … made up of 67.5 million unvaccinateds (225 times 30%) and 47.25 million vaccinateds with waned vaccine effectiveness (225 times 70% times 30%)

Let’s call that our base case.

===============

What if 100% vaccinated?

Now let’s bump the fully vaccinated rate up to 100% and see what happens…

There would be no unvaccinated adults, but there would be UVEs (unvaccinated equivalents) — the vaccinated adults with waned vaccine effectiveness.

How many of them?

Using the above logic and numbers, there would be 67.5 million UVEs (225 times 100% times 30%) … fully vaccinated adults whose vaccine effectiveness has waned … rendering them roughly equivalent to an unvaccinated person.

=============

Rscap

Note that the 67.5 million UVEs is — coincidentally, using the above assumptions — the same number as the number of unvaccinateds who are currently walking around.

And, it implicitly assumes that everybody gets a booster every 6 months … to keep resetting the effectiveness clock.

To be fair, this estimate doesn’t adjust for any accumulated effectiveness that comes with successive booster shots or pre-existing natural immunity).

=============

The bottom line

Based on these rough estimates, we won’t move above our current level of coronavirus exposure even if 100% of the population gets vaccinated.

So, Biden will eventually lose his talking point of a “pandemic of the unvaccinated” … and, unless there’s a marked improvement in the vaccines’ “durability”. we’ll morph to a “pandemic of the waned vaccinated”

That’s not a medical or philosophical point … It’s simple (?) arithmetic.

COVID Effect: Students’ academic proficiency down 12%

December 8, 2021

And, even worse in math.
=============

A recent working paper published in the NBER attempts to calibrate how much learning was “lost” when schools were shuttered and classes went virtual.

Analyzing standardized test data from 3rd through 8th graders in 12 states, researchers concluded that overall academic proficiency (i.e. considering both math and ELA) declined just under 12% from pre-pandemic levels

image

My take:

> Surprising (to me): Only a slim majority of students were scoring as “proficient” before the pandemic, now, less that than a majority are proficient.

> That said, there are wide variations by state in both proficiency levels (ranging from 33.7% in WI to 67.1% in VA) and in pandemic-related drop-offs (from 2.2% percentage points in WY to 9 p.p. in VA) … the latter of which the researchers attribute the degree of in person vs. online schooling during the pandemic.

> Note that the state that scored highest in proficiency in 2019 (VA @ 76.1%) kept its lead in 2021 (67.1%) despite having the biggest drop (down 9 percentage points). The researchers point out that, of the 12 states studied, Virginia offered the least amount of in-person instruction during the pandemic.

> In comparison, Florida and Wyoming – 2 states that were almost entirely in person — dropped only 4.8 and 2.2 percentage points, respectively.

==============

ELA

> The researchers found that the percentage of students who scored “proficient” in language arts (ELA) declined in spring 2021 by an average of 6.3 percentage points

> The ELA drop-offs are tightly banded for the 12 states with a slight positive correlation for in person schooling … for example, note that the 2 “fully in person” states – WY and FL – have the shallowest declines.

clip_image004

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Math

> In math, the researchers found that the percentage of students who scored “proficient” declined in spring 2021 by an average of 14.4 percentage points .

> Outboarding the precipitous 31.9 percentage point drop in VA, as with ELA, there appears to be a correlation … with in person schooling dampening the drop … and, the 2 “fully in person” states – WY and FL – among the shallowest declines.

clip_image006

==============

Bottom line

> Only half of 3rd to 8th graders are “proficient” in math and ELA … that’s scary in itself!

> The 12 percentage point drop in test scores is, shall we say, “statistically significant … and the researchers note that they think their methodology understates the drop-off

> As usual, the most dismal scores came in math … there’s low likelihood that they’ll improve if equity math with no right methods & no right answers takes hold.

> Virginia: No wonder that education-oriented parents were up in arms during the VA gubernatorial election.

Right now, how many folks in your community are carrying Covid infections?

December 7, 2021

Make your guess, then read on…
===============

The likelihood that any of us get infected by covid starts, in theory, with its “prevalence rate” — the percentage of people walking around with a current (and possibly contagious) infection.

That’s why I’ve been so interested in that number.

To that point, researchers reporting in the science magazine Nature say:

On December 31, 2020,  0.77% of the U.S. population had a contagious infection.

That’s about 1 in every 130 people on average.

In some places, it was much higher.

In Los Angeles, for example, nearly 1 in 40 (or 2.42%) had a SARS-CoV-2 infection as they rang in the 2021 New Year.

OK, that at least gives us an order of magnitude.

We can expect that about 1 in 100 people we bump into have a covid infection and may be contagious .

The rate is higher in hot spots — communities and venues.

So, is 1 in 100 a high number or a low number?

It probably overstates the risk since (a) not all infected people are contagious (b) not all contagious people transmit the virus at the same severity level (c) some people are more immune than others (i.e. naturally or via vaccinations), and (d) some people mitigate more effectively than others.

So, the likelihood of getting infected is probably much lower than the community prevalence rate, but it’s certainly not zero.

So, keep your guard up.

NIH Director: Many more Covid infections than official tallies show

December 6, 2021

And, some other CDC numbers that might surprise you.
===============

Being a numbers guy, a post in the NIH Director’s Blog caught my eye: COVID-19 Infected Many More Americans in 2020 than Official Tallies Show

The specifics:

A recent article published in Nature offers a comprehensive estimate that puts the true number of (covid) infections by the end of 2020 at more than 100 million.

That’s equal to just under 1/3 of the U.S. population of 328 million.

That big number piqued my curiosity: The study was on nearly year old data … what’s the current number?

I was pleased to discover that the CDC regularly posts an Estimated COVID-19 Burden containing data re: cumulative infections, symptomatic illnesses, hospitalizations and deaths.

Here’s my analysis- tweaked extract from the current CDC tabulation of covid infections:

image

Some takeaways…

==============

Infections

> The CDC currently pegs the cumulative incidence of infections over 146 million

> That total translates to almost 45,000 per 100,000 population.

> Since there is some double-counting — i.e. persons who have been infected … and then re-infected … the percentage of covid-infected Americans is less than 45% … probably only slightly less.

==============

Infection Rate

> Surprisingly (to me), the infection rate is highest among those aged 18 to 49

image

> The infection rate is lowest among those 65 and over — probably reflecting the high (and early) vaccination rate in that group

> And, the estimated infection rate is next lowest among those under 18 …. who haven’t been authorized for vaccinations until recently … hmmm.

==============

Hospitalization Rate

> Across all ages, 5.12% of infections result in hospitalization.

> There’s a very strong correlation between age and likelihood of hospitalization (if infected), e.g. rate is 1% if under 18

image

=============

Death Rate

> Across all ages, .63% of infections result in hospitalization.

> Death rate is practically zero (.002%) which equates to about 1 in 40,000 for those under 18 who get infected … and not much higher for those 18 to 49

> Middle age death rate is only .58% … about 1 in 170 who get infected

> But, the death rate is almost 4% for those 65 and over … about 1 in 25 who get infected

image

=============

Technical note:

The covid infection rate estimates are pivotally dependent on estimates of the so-called ascertainment rate —  the percentage of total cases that are confirmed via testing.

The Nature researchers estimate that only about 25% of all infections are confirmed via testing. 

Conversely, 75% are mild or asymptomatic infections that aren’t subjected to (or confirmed by) testing.

Early on, the ascertainment rate was pegged at about 10% … suggesting that total infections were about 10 times the number of confirmed cases.

That multiplier is now pegged at about 4 times confirmed cases since more asymptomatic infections are being detected by forced surveillance testing (e.g. for employment or travel)

My unfulfilling shopping experience…

December 2, 2021

A microcosm of life in Bidenland
===============

Motivated by a leaky dishwasher and Black Friday ads, my wife and I ventured out to do some appliance shopping.

First stop: Best Buy … where we were “greeted” by a police car strategically positioned in front of the entrance … apparently a company self-defense reaction after the looting (err, a Psaki coined “pandemic reaction”) at one of their stores in Minnesota.

image

Slithering past the police car, I spotted the now commonplace “We’re Hiring” sign… an attempt to lure some government-supported couch- potatoes into the work force.

Entering the store, there were rent-a-cops prominently stationed to reassure people who might have thought that the police car outside wouldn’t stop a gang of flat screen and iPhone snatchers.

Note: I’m sure that the police presence was intended to give shoppers a (false) sense of security.  All it did for us was raise suspicions and our anxiety level: “What are they expecting to go down?”

We haven’t had to buy an appliance in years, so I was unpleasantly surprised by the price tags on the appliances. Transitory inflation?

But, not to worry … Black Friday discounts will fix that right?

There was only one dude (err, “blue shirt”) working in the appliance department … the ratio of shoppers to “blue shirts” was about 20 to 1.

While browsing, I overheard the lone blue shirt tell another shopper: “None in stock … at least a 4-month wait”.

That seemed to apply to everything … even the stuff that was in the Black Friday ad.

Note: Decades ago, I worked for a retailer.  The laws at the time were clear: If we advertised something that we didn’t have in stock, we got fined.  I guess that practice went out the door with cash bail.

Enough for shopping!

When we walked out, there were 2 police cars out front — facing each other.

Note: I’’m told that’s a standard “pincer formation” that allows the police to quickly close off an entrance.

We couldn’t wait to get home

=============

Bottom line: We had the full Bidenomics experience: (1) police presence (privately contracted by the owner) to protect against mostly peaceful looting and thuggery  (2) skeleton crews of store personnel (3) high prices, and (4) no inventory.

Am I better off than I was a year ago?

Nope.

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P.S. I’m not trying to dump on Best Buy.  They’re doing what they have to do given the Biden-induced challenges they face.  In fact, BB is probably doing a better job than other stores…

Putting Biden’s approval slide in context…

December 1, 2021

How does he rack up versus Obama & Trump?
=============

Earlier this week, we posted some results from a 130,000 person survey done by a polling company called Civiqs.

The poll centered on the question: Do you approve or disapprove of the job that Joe Biden is doing as president?

Consistent with other recent polls, Civiqs found that at the national level a majority disapproves of the job Biden is doing .. and his job approval is underwater (or, “upside down”) by 16 percentage points …  and he’s underwater in all but 5 states.

A couple or readers opined: “Yeah, but Trump was worse”.

As evidence, one reader linked me to a Statista recap chart.

image

Fair enough…

> Biden started out at about 57% approval … and has already fallen 24  percentage points to 43%

> Trump was slower out of the gates with about 45% approval … and, to a  comparable time point in his term of ofice, he dropped about 7 percentage points to 38%

> For reference. Obama started out at a sky high 67% approval … and slid about 16 percentage points to 51%.

Bottom line: Trump certainly didn’t get a honeymoon period … his “opposition” was entrenched from the get-go … so, his 7-point performance slide was less than Obama’s 16 point drop or Biden’s 24 point slide.

That said, it’s true that Biden is outscoring Trump 43% to 38% ten months into their presidencies.

But…

=============

Taking a longer-run view, note that Trump rallied from his 38% low to almost 50% … as the economy grew, the Southern border was contained and the Middle East stabilized.

image

Then, Covid hit our shores and Trump’s approval plummeted back down to about 35%.

The question of today: Has Biden’s slump bottomed out?

If so, will his performance earn him the same approval  trajectory that Trump enjoyed pre-Covid?

I’m betting the under on that one.

=============
Thanks to JD for raising the question and feeding me the Statista lead.

Biden slipping among key constituencies and swing voters…

November 30, 2021

Independents, suburban women and even the “well educated” are jumping ship.
=============

Yesterday, we posted some results from a 130,000 person survey done by a polling company called Civiqs.

The poll centered on the question: Do you approve or disapprove of the job that Joe Biden is doing as president?

Consistent with other recent polls, Civiqs found that at the national level a majority disapproves of the job Biden is doing .. and his job approval is underwater (or, “upside down”) by 16 percentage points.

Digging deeper, his job approval number is only above water in 5 Dem-heavy states … and only a (slim) majority in 2 of them —  Hawaii & Vermont.

And, digging even deeper into the poll’s “internals” …

=============

Education

> A majority of respondents  with less than a post-graduate degree disapprove of Biden’s job performance

> Post-grads are evenly split (43% to 43%) on Biden’s job approval.  That’s reported to be a big approval drop.

image

==============

Gender

> Only about 1/3 of males and females approve of the job that Biden is doing.

> Said differently, Biden is losing one of the constituencies that propelled him to victory: Trump-hating Suburban Women.

image

==============

Party Affiliation

> Predictably, GOP disapproval of Biden’s job performance is near-unanimous.

> A majority of Dems still approve … but even that number has fallen to near 50-50

> Most significant: Only 1 in 5 Independents approve of Biden’s job performance.

image

==============

The bottom line:

It looks like Biden’s  “I’m not Trump’ selling proposition is being dwarfed by his actual job performance … and voters are catching a bad case of buyer’s remorse.

I don’t think that there’s a vaccine for that…

Joe offered thanks to Dem-heavy Hawaii & Vermont…

November 29, 2021

They’re the only 2 states where even a slim majority  approve of  his  job  performance
=============

Let’s start at the top …

A polling company called Civiqs surveyed over 130,000 people on the question: Do you approve or disapprove of the job that Joe Biden is doing as president?

Consistent with other recent polls, Civiqs found — at the aggregate level — that (a) a majority disapprove of the job Biden is doing, and (b) his job approval is underwater (or, “upside down”) by 16 percentage points with 37% approving and 53% disapproving.

That’s not new news.

image

But, since Civiq’s sample size is so large, it’s able to slice & dice the data by it’s component parts.

That’s where the news is.

For example, at the state level:

> Hawaii & Vermont are the only 2 states where even a slim majority  approve of  Biden’s  job  performance

> His job approval number is only above water in 3 other Dem-heavy states: Maryland (48% to 41%), (Massachusetts (48% to 40%), California (46%42%)

=============

On the flip-side:

> More than 2 out of 3 residents in 10 states disapprove of Biden’s job approval.

In 4 states, more than 70% disapprove of his job performance: West Virginia (76%), Wyoming (73%), North Dakota (71%), and Oklahoma (71%)

=============

Glub-blub-glub

> Biden’s job approval is underwater by more than 25 percentage points 25 states

His job approval is most underwater in West Virginia (57%), Wyoming (73%), Oklahoma (49%) and North Dakota (48%).

==============

Find your state on the heat map below:

image

Happy Thanksgiving !

November 25, 2021

It has been a tough couple of years.

So, it’s a good time to focus on the many reasons we still have to be thankful.

image

 

Are nuns doing “God’s work” … or “aiding & abetting” illegal activities?

November 23, 2021

That’s a thorny question to consider!
==============

A couple of weeks ago, the NY Post broke the story that “planeloads of underage migrants were being flown secretly into suburban New York in an effort by President Biden’s administration to quietly resettle them across the region.”

image

When questioned by reporters, press secretary Psaki confirmed the New York Post’s reporting that the Biden administration has been quietly flying underage illegal immigrants from the border to New York.  Source 

Note: Psaki’s only pushback was whether a 4:30 a.m. flight arrival was technically “in the dead of the night” or “early morning”.

Generally, the Post’s revelation didn’t surprise me.

What caught my eye was the identification of one of the  administration’s partners in the activity.

==============

Specifically, the Post reported:

A source familiar with the operation at the Westchester airport said the underage migrants are bused to locations including the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, upstate Newburgh, and Bridgeport and Danbury in Connecticut.

One of the destinations is the campus of a nonprofit sponsored by an order of Catholic nuns that has a contract to supply the federal government with residential services for “immigrant youth .. who are the victims of societal problems.”

An order of Catholic nuns with a government contract?

Say, what?

=================

The plot thickens

This week Rep. Lance Gooden (R, Texas)  made public information that he received from a whistleblower.

The whistleblower claimed that some non-profits in San Diego were running a secretive and organized effort to bring migrants into the country and then arrange for them to be transported around the country. Source

Rep. Gooden’s office claims that  they received an information packet from the whistleblower — the same one that is given to the illegal migrants.

It contains flight information, copies of the Notice to Appear from CBP, a list of pro bono legal service providers, maps of major U.S. cities, and information on how to enroll children into public schools.

The packet also contains a letter for migrants to present to TSA officials. The letter asks that the illegal migrants be allowed to board flight without the identification documents that TSA usually requires.

When contacted, TSA official said that the letters are “very convincing” so the migrants are passed through the checkpoints and  are often accommodated with early 

Checking into the matter, Gooden discovered both Catholic Charities of San Diego and the Jewish Family Association as two examples of non-profits participating in the operation.

And, he pointed to AT&T, Bank of America, and the federal government as sources of funding to these organizations.

=============

Government contracts and “laundered” corporate donations to well-intended religious service providers who help resettle illegal immigrants.

Does all of this sound kosher?

I leave it to you to decide:

Are the nuns doing “God’s work” … or  “aiding & abetting” illegal activities?

 

MUST READ: About the 25th amendment…

November 22, 2021

There are implications beyond the prospect of Kamala’s ascendency to the Presidency.
============

Biden’s job approval is crashing and a majority think that he’s either incompetent or cognitively challenged (or both).

Harris’ job approval is even worse … below 30%.

So, there’s some chatter in the halls wondering what if Biden is removed from office via the 25th amendment .. or that the glaringly ineffective Harris is pushed to resign for “personal reasons”.

Cutting to the chase, here’s how the 25th amendment works…

===============

The Constitution

There are 4 sections to the 25th Amendment.

We’ll skip Sections 3 and 4 which deal with the political processes and focus on the core ramifications.

Section 1. In case of the removal of the President from office or of his death or resignation, the Vice President shall become President.

Section 2. Whenever there is a vacancy in the office of the Vice President, the President shall nominate a Vice President who shall take office upon confirmation by a majority vote of both Houses of Congress.

Here’s how Sections 1 & 2 work

==============

Nixon, Agnew, Ford & Rockefeller

In 1972, Nixon was elected president and his running mate, Spiro Agnew was elected vice president.

In 1973, Agnew was investigated “on suspicion of criminal conspiracy, bribery, extortion and tax fraud” … he pleaded no contest to a single felony charge of tax evasion and resigned from office.

President Nixon nominated Gerald Ford to be the new vice president pursuant to Section 2. Ford was confirmed by both the Senate and the House. by a wide majority

In 1974, Nixon resigned and Ford became president under Section 1.

The office of vice president was thus again vacant.

Ford nominated Nelson Rockefeller, former New York governor, for the vice presidency. Rockefeller was confirmed by a majority of both the Senate and House.

Tidbit: Ford, who was defeated by Carter in 1976, is the only president to have been elected neither president nor vice president.

=============

So, what if?

Now, let’s pretend that the Dems invoke the 25th Amendment on Biden and prevail.

Vice President Harris becomes President Harris… and the VP position becomes vacant.

OK, so Harris nominates somebody to be VP.

Here’s where things get interesting…

Keep in mind that the Senate is split 50-50.

Now, when there’s a tie, VP Harris steps in to break the tie and Dems prevail.

But, if the 25th were invoked and Harris ascended to the Presidency, there would be no tie-breaking VP.

Section 2 calls for a majority … a tie isn’t good enough.

Hmmm

So, the GOP could stonewall any nomination that Harris puts forward … and in the process, deny Dems a majority vote on any issue.

Take for example, the Biden’s $3.5 trillion (now claimed to be $1.75 trillion) “Make America Sweden” Bill (aka the BBB human infrastructure bill).

The GOP could block it without even needing Mancin or Senema to vote against it.

Double hmmm.

More generally, invoking the 25th would potentially stop the Dem’s socialist agenda in its tracks.

Suddenly, the thought of President Harris doesn’t sound so bad…

WH: Just ignore the CBO score on the social spending & climate control bill …

November 19, 2021

Maybe they should since ObamaCare has been TWICE as expensive as its CBO estimate.
==============

Let’s start with the recent headline…

image
Source

The details:

President Biden’s pledge to completely pay for his $1.85 trillion social coverage and climate control spending bundle relies upon largely on having a beefed-up Internal Revenue Service crack down on tax evaders, which the White Home says will increase lots of of billions of {dollars} in income.

However the CBO is estimating that the I.R.S. proposal would yield far lower than what the White Home was relying on to assist pay for its invoice — about $120 billion over a decade versus the $400 billion that the administration is relying on.

That’s a $280 billion shortfall … statistically significant, for sure.

In response…

Senior administration officers (and Speaker Pelosi are urging lawmakers to ignore the CBO evaluation.

They say the CBO is being overly conservative in its calculations, failing to correctly credit score the return on funding of further I.R.S. sources and overlooking the deterrent results {that an extra aggressive tax assortment company would have on tax cheats.

That’s one approach: Just ignore the CBO scoring.

Former Pres. Obama took a different approach ObamaCare was in a similar predicament…

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Flashback to 2009

You may remember that, in the stretch run, ObamaCare was running into some headwinds.

Republican Scott Brown was elected to fill Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat. Brown  was seated as the 41st GOP senator, providing the GOP with the opportunity to filibuster the bill.

And, Obama got some bad news in a preliminary report from the CBO.

CBO Director Elmendorf pronounced the ObamaCare plan to be massively expensive and incapable of lowering future health care costs. Source

Rather than tell Congress to just ignore the CBO findings, Obama invited Elmendorf to the White House for a chat.

Following the meeting, a more  “enlightened”  CBO revised its projections … painting a more favorable picture of ObamaCare economics.

Republicans complained that Obama may have used the visit to pressure Elmendorf to change his stance.

You think?

The revised numbers provided John McCain (R, Arizona) with sufficient “cover” to vote to  end the Republicans’ filibuster.

And, as they say, the rest is all history…

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P.S. As it turns out, the CBO grossly underestimated to cost of ObamaCare. For details, see:

Get out your wallet: CBO says ObamaCare to cost twice the original estimates.

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Breaking news: The “Final” CBO Score

According to the WSJ:

The CBO found that the bill would contribute $367 billion to the deficit over 10 years.

Democrats have argued that revenue not captured in the CBO score shows that the bill is more than fully paid for.

For technical reasons, the CBO’s bottom line doesn’t include$207 billion in revenue that the scorekeeper estimates would result from pouring roughly $80 billion into tax-enforcement efforts at the Internal Revenue Service.

Adding that revenue to the CBO’s other estimates would make the bill’s 10-year deficit about $160 billion.

The Biden administration says its IRS spending would generate $480 billion, not $207 billion.

Arithmetic note: The difference between $480 and $207 is $273 billion.  That number is what’s called “statistically significant”.

More reasons that government is ambivalent about inflation…

November 18, 2021

Bottom line: All levels of government benefit from inflation.
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In a prior post, we spotlighted the world’s worst kept secret, revealed publicly by Biden’s press secretary

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English translation: “If high gas prices bother you, get on our climate control program and buy an electric car.”

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OK, that’s one reason that Biden’s people are ambivalent or maybe even enthusiastically supportive of skyrocketing gas prices.

And, there are other reasons that all levels of government — local, state and Federal — have some degree of ambivalence (or enthusiasm).

As the WSJ puts it:

One irony of inflation is that while it’s bad for working Americans, it’s great for the government.

Tax revenues soar as nominal profits and incomes rise.

“Overall state and local government receipts including federal aid are already 23% above pre-pandemic levels … thanks to Congress’s gusher of spending.”

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How does that happen?

Let me count the ways…

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At the Federal level:

(1) inflation devalues the national debt

(2) higher nominal wages push some tax filers into higher Federal tax brackets

(3) increasing asset prices boost capital gains and push some tax filers into higher Federal income  tax brackets

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At the State level:

(1) higher wages and capital gains push some tax filers into higher state income tax brackets

(2) higher retail prices increase state sales tax revenues … assuming that consumers continue to buy the same “real” volume of goods.

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At the Local level:

(1) higher wages and capital gains push some tax filers into higher local income tax brackets

(2) higher retail prices potentially increase local sales tax revenues

(3) higher real estate prices push real estate assessment values higher and boost local real estate tax collections.

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And, there’s a blue state slant to all of this:

The WSJ observes:

Progressive states with higher tax rates are especially flush (with tax revenues).

Democratic states in particular are building in new structural spending in the form of higher pay and pensions for public unions.

As Jen Psaki might say: “Suck it up, suckers.”

Psaki: High gas prices are a blessing in disguise…

November 17, 2021

“If high gas prices bother you, get an electric car.”
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In a prior post, we opined that Biden administration policies have obsoleted the Dem’s push for a $15 minimum wage.

How?

Well,  the current labor shortage — largely induced by Biden’s ““Stay home, get paid” programs — has pushed nominal wages up.

Of course, inflation-adjusted “real” wages are down … but, in Bidenomics, that’s just a technical detail.

And, we pointed out that Biden’s promise to use the Infrastructure Bill to create “thousands of $45 per hour union jobs with good benefits (i,.e. paying about $100,000 annually … plus overtime and fringe benefits) makes $15 per hour sound “so yesterday”.

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High gas prices: A blessing in disguise?

Today, let’s shift attention to sky-rocketing gas prices … and Biden’s “what me worry” attitude towards something that the vast majority of Americans consider an economic crisis.

The Dem’s narrative: Certainly not Joe’s fault, and there’s nothing he can do about it since OPEC won’t cooperate.

Of course that’s silly.

Biden declared war on gasoline (and natural gas) … terminating the XL pipeline project, halting drilling on government lands, and hassling frackers.

With the stroke of his ever-ready Executive Order pen, he can reverse the policies that he unilaterally executed.  Gas prices would tumble and the effect would quickly spread through the economy.

He can reinstate XL, reopen Federal lands to drilling and extend an olive branch the energy companies.

But, of course, that would incite one of his biggest constituencies: the climate control devotees.

To appease them, he has to pour more billions of dollars down green energy rabbit holes and boost the price of gas.

The old school thinking on the latter: Hike taxes on gas to depress demand.

The new school thinking: Ride the tide of “unavoidable” inflation at the pump.

Maybe then, people will finally get the idea:

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Biden’s mouthpieces have finally said what their thinking — out loud:

During a recent press conference, “White House press secretary Jen Psaki argued that higher gasoline prices, highlight the need for a rapid transition to clean energy.” Source

Or, as Energy Secretary Granholm said more clearly: “You know, if you drive an electric car, this would not be affecting you.” Source

In other words: “If high gas prices bother you, get an electric car.”

Just like the $15 minimum wage, when it comes to Biden’s climate agenda, gas taxes are “so yesterday”.

Just shut a few pipelines, stop drilling and don’t push OPEC too hard.

Same outcome as higher gas taxes, with plausible deniability.

 

Biden: “Forget the $15 dollar minimum wage.”

November 16, 2021

He’s got better ideas for boosting labor costs.
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I happened to be in the car last week when Biden was delivering his Infrastructure Bill remarks at the Port of Baltimore.

Most of the words that he read from the teleprompter were 50,000 feet high pablum… what I like to call political Muzak.

But, my ears perked up when he read aloud this line:

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Say, what?

Lets start with some basic arithmetic:

40 hours per week times 52 weeks per year equals 2,080 hours per year … 2,080 hours per year times $45 per hour equals $93,600 per year.

Not bad work if you can get into a Dem-loyal union and bag one of the jobs.

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Fringe Benefits

Oh, yeah … let’s not forget the part about good benefits.

In my old managerial days, we always figured that “fringe benefits” cost us about 25% on top of the base wages.

That puts the annual benefits-loaded cost of labor at $117,000 … not counting overtime (1-1/2 over 8 hours per day, double on weekends and holidays) … or the new freebies included in the “Biden agenda” (e.g. paid family leave time).

Hmm.

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The Infrastructure Bill

Best that I can tell, the Infrastructure Bill has a couple of objectives: (1) fix some bridges and fill some pot holes, and (2) boost wages (especially for union loyalists)

Not necessarily in that order.

I guess the old goal of a $15 minimum wage is so yesterday.

Why fight that battle when you can:

(1) Set a floor on wages by paying people to stay home watching TV instead of taking “demeaning” entry-level jobs.

(2) “Create” thousands of $100,000 jobs … by ordering infrastructure contractors to staff up with a diverse army of union workers.

The best part: nobody will even notice.

Methinks we’re getting played…

WaPo: “Biden approval hits new low as economic discontent rises”

November 15, 2021

And, that’s the most favorable headline the Post could muster.
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It has been a tough week for the Washington Post.

First, confronted with facts to the contrary, the paper “amended” at least a dozen of its reports on the infamous Trump-disparaging “Steele Dossier. With some initial indictments, special counsel John Durham traced the fictional Russia-Trump collusion  directly  back to Clinton Campaign operatives.

Second, reporting results from  the most recent its most recent ABC-WaPo poll, the most favorable headline it could conjure for   was : “Biden approval hits new low as economic discontent rises”,

We’ll get back to that poll later … but let’s start with the big picture: the latest RCP poll-of-polls.

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Note Biden’s steadily increasing job disapproval over the past couple of months … and the disapproval surge in recent weeks.

Biden now stands at 42% approval, 52.7% disapproval … putting him “underwater” by 10.7 percentage points.

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The ABC-WaPo poll is right in line with the average of other polls.

ABC-WaPo puts Biden’s overall job performance at a new low (for that poll): with 53% disapproving … and 41% approving (down 11 percentage points since spring).

That puts Biden a whopping 12 percentage points underwater.

It gets worse…

Only 35% of Independents approve of Biden’s job performance …  58% disapprove … putting Biden 23 percentage points underwater.

Digging a little deeper…

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Registered Voters

Narrowing the  poll’s sample from “all adults” (the left data column) to “registered voters” (the right data column). Biden’s job approval drops to 38% (from 41%) and his disapproval swells to 57% (from 52%) … putting him 19 percentage points underwater.

And…

Among the registered voters who expressed “strong” points-of-view, 19% “strongly approved” of Biden’s job performance;  48% “strongly disapproved” … pitting Old Joe 29 percentage points underwater.

image

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Battleground Contagion

Biden’s poor job approval appears contagious….

ABC-WaPo did a deep dive in 8 states that are expected to have highly competitive Senate races — four currently held by Democrats, four by Republicans. Source

In these states — Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — Biden’s overall job approval rating is 33% (compared with 43% elsewhere).

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Generic Ballot

ABC-WaPo asked respondents: For whom would you vote today  in your congressional district — a Democratic candidate or a Republican candidate?

Among all registered voters in the poll, 51% expressed support for a generic Republican candidate, 41%. In 2018, Dems had a 53$ to 45% advantage.

Compared to 2018, Republicans gained ground in all major voting blocs (the far right data column below).

Most notably, Independents swung 30 points .. from 52-42 Democratic to 50-32 Republican.

And, while Dems continue to hold a 15 point advantage among Hispanics, their advantage  is down 40 points from 2018.

image

Even the WaPo has to concede that Biden’s fall from voters’ grace is of “historic proportions”.

More: Which “typological political group” are you in?

November 12, 2021

… and how many are in it with you?
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In a prior post, we summarized Pew’s nine American “typographical political groups” and asked: Which group are you in?”

    1. Progressive Left
    2. Establishment Liberals
    3. Democratic Mainstays
    4. Outsider Left
    5. Stressed Sideliners
    6. Ambivalent Right:
    7. Populist Right
    8. Committed Conservatives
    9. Faith and Flag Conservatives

You could have slotted yourself by reading summaries of the groups or, better yet, by answering Pew’s short values-based quiz and letting Pew slot  you.

If you haven’t already done so, here’s the link to the group summaries and the online slotting quiz.

OK, now that you’ve done that, let’s look at he numbers…

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General Public

Here’s how Pew sizes the groups for the general population…

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Interpreting the Pew numbers:

> About 37% of the country have somewhat mixed or balanced political views … those in the middle 3 groups

That’s a sizable group, but short of majority moderate middle.

> The most extreme groupings (top 2 and bottom 2 on the list) are sizable and statistically significant at 17% and 19% respectively).

These groups tend to “punch above their weight” in on the political scene.

> Pew’s classification scheme suggests a Democratic skew.

But, that may just be a reflection of the methodology.

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Party Affiliation

Here’s how the numbers break out by party affiliation…

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> Most “Stressed Sideliners” — who are then most mixed and balanced in their values — do not identify with a party, and those who do are roughly equally split between those who lean to the Democratic Party (26% of all Stressed Sideliners) and those who lean Republican (22% of all Stressed Sideliners)

> Only 8% of Democrats belong to a GOP-oriented typology group … and only 6% of Republicans and Republican leaners belong to a Democratic-oriented typology group.

> Just over 1/3rd of each party’s members and leaners are in their more extreme values groupings (35% of Dems; 38% of GOPs)

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The Urban Divide

The Pew Report cuts the data in a variety of ways.

One analysis that caught my eye was the urban – suburban – rural divide.

Pew asked respondents whether of not they “ prefer to live in a place with larger houses farther from schools, stores and restaurants” … and categorized them by their degree of ruralness.

No surprise,these variables are highly correlated.

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As to be expected, urbanites tend to cluster toward Democratic-oriented values (think: population diversity, collective interests and reliance/dependency on gov’t services e.g. public transportation) … rural folks cluster towards GOP-oriented values (think: independence, family-focus, trucks) … suburbanites fall between the urban-rural divide (think: nuclear families, cars & SUVs, mix of public & private schools)

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Pew’s conclusion

Based on its data and analysis, Pew drew this overall conclusion:

Partisan polarization remains the dominant, seemingly unalterable condition of American politics.

Republicans and Democrats agree on very little — and when they do, they most often share the belief that they have little in common.

So much for the moderate middle, right?

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Here’s a link to the full Pew Report … it’s worth reading!

Which “typological political group” are you in?

November 11, 2021

Pew says that there are nine possible groups that you might be in…
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In a prior post, we asked: Does America have a “moderate middle” any more?

Referencing some Pew data, we reluctantly concluded that the moderate middle has been dwindling for years … and polarization has been accelerating.

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Right on cue, I got a coincidental blast email from Pew announcing their most recent comprehensive analysis of the American Political Typology which “provides a road map to today’s fractured political landscape by segmenting the public into nine distinct groups, based on an analysis of their attitudes and values.”

Note: Pew’s approach is a variant of “psychographic segmentation” – a technique used by marketers, for years, to segment people by their attitudes, interests and opinions … rather than grouping them by demographic variables such as age, income or race.

Pew calibrated its nine political groups … and drew this overall conclusion:

Partisan polarization remains the dominant, seemingly unalterable condition of American politics.

Republicans and Democrats agree on very little — and when they do, they most often share the belief that they have little in common.

So much for the moderate middle, right?

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Back to the headlined question

Which of Pew’s nine typographical political groups are you in?

For openers, read the below summary descriptions and pick the one that most closely describes where you really fit … not the one that you want to be perceived as being part of … nor one that is more aspirational than real

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Pew’s American Political Typology:
The Nine Groups

Progressive Left: A majority white group that has very liberal views across a range of issues – including the size and scope of government, foreign policy, immigration and race and supports far-reaching changes to address racial injustice and expand the social safety net.

Establishment Liberals: While just as liberal in many ways as Progressive Left, the Establishment Liberals are far less persuaded of the need for sweeping change. They are some of the strongest supporters of the Democratic Party. They tend to be more inclined toward more measured approaches to societal change than their Progressive Left counterparts.

Outsider Left: The youngest typology group, they hold liberal views on most issues. About half say they are independents but vote overwhelmingly Democratic. They are deeply frustrated with the political system – including the Democratic Party and its leaders. They have deeply negative views of the GOP.

Democratic Mainstays: The largest Democratic-oriented group. Racially diverse and older, they are unshakeable Democratic loyalists. They are economically liberal, pro-military and moderate on immigration and social issues

Stressed Sideliners: The only typology group without a clear partisan orientation. This  group has the lowest level of political engagement. They are generally disconnected from politics and the two major parties and vote at lower rates than most other typology groups. Their political views and demographics are mixed. They are largely defined by their minimal interest in politics.

Ambivalent Right: The youngest and least conservative GOP-aligned group, hold conservative views about the size of government, the economic system and issues of race and gender. But they hold more moderate stances on several social issues including abortion and immigration.

Populist Right: Very conservative and overwhelmingly Republican, They hold highly restrictive views about immigration policy and are very critical of government and major U.S. corporations.

Committed Conservatives: Staunchly conservative and overwhelmingly Republican. They hold pro-business views traditionally associated with the Republican Party, have favorable attitudes about international trade and favor a limited role of government.

Faith and Flag Conservatives: They are highly religious, politically engaged and both socially and economically conservative. They favor a robust role for religion in public life and a smaller role for government in society, and they hold that a strong American military is essential in international affairs.

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Take the test

Now, test your self-perception by running through Pew’s short battery of values-based categorization questions.

It takes less than 5 minutes … and its answer may surprise you.

click to take the test
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For the record

Here’s where the Pew test slotted me:

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What’s your best fit?

Does America have a “moderate middle” any more?

November 10, 2021

Maybe my sample isn’t projectable…
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I recently had a very encouraging experience when I went to one of my granddaughter’s cross-country running meets.

There were 20 Baltimore area teams … about 400 runners … most of whom had family & friends there to root them on … a very diverse group.

Everybody seemed to be having good family time … most adults were encouraging all the runners … regardless of their team affiliation, their speed and position or their race … no chatter about CRT or any other political hot buttons.

Everything seemed so normal.

When I told my story to some friends, they opined that there’s still a big group of people “in the middle” … far away from the loud extremist positions … more concerned about family life and community than political scuffling.

That meshed with my cross country experience but, of course, I had to get analytical …

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The Pew Research Center has tracked party identity and ideology for decades.

One way they do it is by scoring the Republicans and Democrats on a 10-item scale of political values … more liberal values sort to the left … more conservative values sort to the right.

Here’s how America looked about 15 years ago … in 2004.

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Democrats clustered to the left (the light blue hump), Republicans clustered to the right (the red hump ).

The dark blue hump in the middle is the moderate middle … consisting of both Democrats and Republicans who shar similar values.

Back in 2004, both the Democratic and Republican humps peaked relatively close to the middle … and the moderate middle was sizable.

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Now, fast forward to 2017 — the latest Pew survey.

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Democrats cluster further to the left, Republicans cluster further to the right.

The distance between the peak in the Dem’ hump and the peak in the GOP’s hump widened.

Less than 10 percent in each party overlaps ideologically with the other side.

So, the moderate middle substantially shrank.

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What has happened since 2017?

While Pew hasn’t published a directly comparable study since 2017, they did run a poll that asked whether the country is more or less divided before and after the pandemic.

The bottom line: Most people believe their society is now more divided than before the pandemic.

imageSource

Said differently, the moderate middle is continuing to shrink … and is being swamped by the the increasingly distanced partisan groups.

Apparently, my real life sample isn’t projectable.

That’s sad.

Maybe some day.

Hopefully sooner rather than later.

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Click here to see the complete evolution in the Pew graphic from 2004 to 2017 … with some situational commentary.

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