More covid math: What about booster shots?

September 24, 2021

In yesterday’s post, we squeezed some data from Israel’s Dept. of Health.

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Analyzing that data, we concluded:

> Vaccinated patients accounted for almost 65% of Israeli covid deaths in August

> But, the death rate among the unvaccinateds (181.7 covid deaths per million unvaccinated adults) was more than double that of the vaccinateds (81 covid deaths per million among vaccinated adults)

> So, the implied effectiveness of the vaccine (protecting against death from covid) was 55%

OK, let’s move the ball forward…

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The case for boosters

Let’s assume that our analysis of the Israeli data is correct and the implied death prevention effectiveness rate of the Pfizer vaccine has, in fact, waned down to 55%.

Question: What if the vaccinated Israelis had all gotten 3rd shots that boosted their protection back up to, say 90%?

From yesterday’s analysis, we concluded that the monthly death rate among unvaccinated Israelis (in August) was 181.7.

So, at a 90% effectiveness rate — if all were boosted — we would only expect 18 deaths per million vaccinated people (1 – 90% = 10% of the unvaccinated rate).

At that rate, about 300 of the 389 vaccinated deaths would have been saved (18 deaths per million x 4.8 million boosted vaccinateds= 86.4; 389 – 86.4 = 302.6).

That’s about a 75% reduction in vaccinateds deaths… and about a halving of the total death count (218 + 389 = 607; 302.6 / 607 = 49.8)

Those are pretty compelling numbers in favor of booster shots…

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But, Pfizer’s numbers differ

Here’s an interesting twist to the story…

In Pfizer’s booster application, the company presented data indicating that the efficacy of its vaccine only waned slightly

Specifically, Pfizer claimed  that it’s vaccine’s effectiveness  against hospitalization (and, presumably, death) declines from 96.2% percent at seven days after dose 2 to 90.1% two months later to 83.7% six months later.

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Source

Stating the obvious: 83.7% is a high level of effectiveness … and much higher than 55%.

Think about that for a minute, though…

Based on Pfizer’s data, the vaccine is highly effective preventing hospitalization and that effectiveness does not wane very much over 6 months.

So, presuming that the grand objective is prevention of hospitalization and deaths, Pfizer’s data seems to weaken its  case for booster shots.

Sure, it’s always better to have more immunization than less … but, is a boost from 84% to 90% statistically or operationally significant? Is it worth the cost and incumbent risks?

Hmm.

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CAUTION

Don’t draw any hard conclusions yet!

There’s much more to the story that we’ll get into next week.

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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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Thanks to DF for pointing me to the Pfizer data

 

How good is your covid math?

September 23, 2021

Let’s put it to a test, estimating vaccine effectiveness on some real life data …
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In yesterday’s post, we channeled Dr, Marty Makary’s conclusion that “The CDC has failed in its primary function to deliver data to guide our pandemic response.”

Often, the CDC has relied on data from Israel.

Israel was one of the first countries to start vaccinating … and is doing the best job, by far, of systematically gathering, analyzing and reporting vital data that can be squeezed to draw clarifying conclusions.

For example, below is a chart that Israel’s Dept. of Health recently released.

The key summary statistic: Vaccinated people accounted for 64% of Israeli Covid deaths in August.

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Is that good news or bad news?

Specifically, what do the numbers say about the efficacy of the vaccines? Good or bad?

Take a minute, think about those questions … and maybe, crunch a few numbers before reading further

Read the rest of this entry »

Makary: The CDC is failing to provide actionable Covid data…

September 22, 2021

Johns Hopkins Dr. Marty Makary’s recent WSJ opinion piece struck a chord with me.

Paraphrasing his basic point:

The CDC has failed in its primary function to deliver data to guide our pandemic response.

Remarkably, the CDC, an agency with 21,000 employees, does not have much of a rapid response team.

Though the CDC is a very large organization, staffed with thousands of trained researchers …  it most often just reacts to data from other countries (usually Israel) and regurgitates ad hoc observational studies with questionable scientific rigor (from places like Kentucky and Cape Cod).

Makary asks: Why isn’t the CDC producing (and reporting) the research that policy-makers (and the public) need for decision-making?

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My take: 20 months since the onset of the pandemic, “the science” is far behind the learning curve and hasn’t even developed what consultant’s call a “coherent theory of the case”.

Individual pieces of the puzzle seem to change shape based on the latest research study … from who knows where … done by who knows who.

And, there doesn’t seem to be much thought given to how the pieces fit together.

So, it’s not surprising that the research plan — if there is one — seems haphazard and incomplete.

Save for the near-miraculous vaccine development, we don’t seem to know much more than we did when the pandemic first hit.

And, taking the booster indecisiveness as an example, we don’t even have a clear picture of how the vaccines should be deployed, e.g. Should people with natural immunity be vaccinated? is it better to have more people partially vaccinated or those already vaccinated “boosted”?

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Makary concludes: “The CDC’s failure to report meaningful data has left policy makers and the public flying blind.”

Thankfully, Israel has its act together re: data collection and analysis … so the CDC has something to work with.

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For the record:

> The CDC has 21,000 employees and a $15 billion annual budget.

> It has data on more than 40 million Americans who have tested positive for Covid and 200 million who have been vaccinated.

> The data include the vaccine type, dosing schedule and vaccination date.

But, somebody has to turn the data into actionable information.

The CDC isn’t doing it…

Uh-oh: Joe’s job approval hits the Mendoza Line…

September 21, 2021

And, his usually reliable media is now openly questioning his competence.
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First, an explanation of the metric:

The Mendoza Line is an expression in baseball deriving from the name of shortstop Mario Mendoza, whose low batting average is taken to define the threshold of incompetent hitting.

This is often thought of as the threshold below which a player’s presence on a Major League Baseball team cannot be justified.

The term has come to be used in other contexts when one is so incompetent in one key skill that other skills cannot compensate for that deficiency.

In baseball, it’s dropping below a .200 batting average.

A presidential variant: A majority disapproving of job performance.

Well, Biden has hit the presidential Mendoza line in RCP’s poll-of polls … that’s not a single poll, it’s the composite of 8 politically balanced polls.

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Note that the disapproval line had been increasing by about 1% each month until the Afghan fiasco … then it jumped about 4 percentage points during the botched withdrawal (despite ample air cover being provided by prevailing Bide-leaning media) … and is now trending at about a point a month again.

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A harbinger that the trend is likely to continue (or accelerate) is a recap by Townhall.com:

Across networks on Sunday morning, mainstream network anchors, panels, and reporters didn’t hold back in their criticism of President Biden’s ailing performance amid multiple crises at home and around the world, tempering their normally lavish praise to point out there are serious concerns over how the country is being run and Biden’s competency..

Some specifics offered up  to support the point:

  • NBC’s Chuck Todd: “It’s been a rough six weeks and it seems as if it’s only getting worse.”
  • ABC’s Martha Radatz: “”What he has done so far, hasn’t really worked”.
  • CBS’s David Martin: “Biden says  the U.S. is going to prevent any any reconstitution of Al Qaeda with surveillance conducted from outside the country, drones flying over the horizon  from outside the country… and that they will be able to detect a plot in the works and then be able to disrupt it with a drone strike. But you have to say that the mistake made in Kabul is not an encouraging precedent”.
  • ABC’s Jonathan Karl: “Biden’s credibility on COVID has been what has driven his level of his popularity … and we’ve seen it eroded over the past several weeks.”

More generally, NBC’s Todd observed:

Biden’s  got a pretty big credibility crisis on his hands because all of these problems in some ways, showed up after he said something basically the exact opposite.

He said that the Afghanistan withdrawal wasn’t going to be messy, that it wasn’t going to look like Saigon.

On booster shots, he came out and essentially said eight months and even indicated maybe we should start it as soon as five months. 

Now we’re not sure if anybody under 65 is going to get a booster shot.

Of course the border, he said things were under control.

It’s pretty clear we have a bigger problem now than we’ve had in years and his policies have turned into becoming a magnet.

He’s got credibility issues on the world stage to make sure people still view America as not just a stable democracy but a competent leader of the free world right now

Whoa, Nellie.

Losing Chuck Todd is an indication that Biden might be facing another contagion…

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But, as a friend likes to ask: Who are the 46% who think Biden’s doing a good job?

Maybe they put a ceiling on his disapproval numbers…

FBI Report: No “insurrection” on Jan. 6

September 20, 2021

The Afghan fiasco allowed most media outlets to bury this Aug. 21 news item.
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In case you missed it, a couple of weeks ago left-leaning Reuters’s reported that:

Despite months of intense investigation, the FBI has found “scant evidence” of any “organized plot” behind Jan. 6

One agent explained, “90 to 95 percent of these are one-off cases. Then you have 5 percent, maybe, of these militia groups that were more closely organized.

There was no grand scheme for all of these people to storm the Capitol and take hostages.”

In other words, the FBI concluded found:

While there clearly were those set upon trashing the Capitol, most people were just milling about in the halls, taking selfies and posting the scene on social media.

A protest became a runaway as insufficient security preparations quickly collapsed.

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Commenting on the Reuter’s report, law prof Jonathon Turley noted that about 600  (of the tens of thousand protesters) have been charged with crimes, but…

After five months of dragnet arrests nationwide,  no one has actually been charged with insurrection or sedition.

The vast majority of people face charges such as simple trespass or “parading, demonstrating, or picketing in a Capitol building”.

Turley concludes:

Many of us remain disgusted and angered by the Jan. 6 riot — it was a riot and a desecration — and people deserve to be punished.

But it was not an “insurrection”.

The question is whether you can have an insurrection without anyone actually insurrecting.

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The Reuter’s report of FBI findings may largely explain why last weekend’s media-hyped protest in DC turned out to be not big deal … and why Pelosi’s Jan. 6 Commission seems to be fizzling out.

Vax: Maybe the “hesitants” are being completely rational…

September 16, 2021

Behavioral economics prevail when personal risks outweigh the personal benefits.
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Yesterday, we reported a study by researchers at researchers at Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh concluded that vaccine hesitancy follows a U-shaped curve with the highest hesitancy evident among those least and most educated.

People without  a college degree — mostly Rural Whites and Urban Blacks — are highly hesitant, citing mistrust of government.

But, the highest hesitancy is among those holding a PhD degree.

The primary reason for hesitancy among PhDs: “the data just doesn’t add up.”

Let’s dig a little deeper…

Economist-YouGov released survey results that asked people about their Covid experience and attitudes.

Here are a couple of the questions that caught my eye….

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19. Do you personally know anyone who has tested positive for covid-19?

> 39% did not personally know a close friend or family member who tested positive for Covid.

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20. Do you personally know anyone who has died due to complications from covid-19?

> 67% did not personally know a close friend or family member who had died from Covid.

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My take: Except for people who are undeniably vulnerable (e.g. seniors), those  who haven’t been personally touched by covid’s health consequences are less likely to be vax-inclined. And, many have not been personally touched by covid health consequences.

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32. Which do you think is a greater risk: possibly contracting COVID-19, or possibly having a bad reaction to the COVID-19 vaccine?

> On average, 39% perceive that the risks outweigh the benefits, but…

> Those over 65 perceive the benefits to outweigh the risks — 72% to 28% (a ratio of 2.5 to 1)

> Those who are 45 to 64 perceive the benefits to outweigh the risks — 63% to 37% (a ratio of 1.7 to 1)

> Those 18 to 44 perceive the benefits to outweigh the risks — 53% to 47% (with rounding, a 50-50 proposition)

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So, just based on the perceived risk – benefits numbers, you might expect seniors to be more vax-inclined … and, they are, with a 90% vax rate.

And, you’d expect younger folks to be less vax-inclined … and they are (with vax rates running in the 50s or 60s).

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I think that just about everybody buys into the vaccines’ benefits: 90%+ protection against hospitalization and death.

So, what about the risks?

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30. Among people who have been vaccinated: Have you experienced any negative reactions to the vaccine?

> About 1 in 5 vax recipients report that they experienced “negative reactions” (i.e. side effects) from receiving the vaccine.

> A slightly higher percentage of those 18 to 29  reported a negative reaction … almost 1 in 4

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Those are just the immediate negative vax reactions.

What about the longer term risks?

The CDC — speaking on behalf of “the data” and “the science” — says that there are absolutely no long-term risks of serious complications.

There isn’t data to conclude that there won’t be negative reactions in, say 20 years.

And, while “the science” may conjecture about future health risks being inconsequential … there’s no experiential certainty … and there are plausible arguments to the contrary.

See our summary post: Unexpected things happen when you start fiddling with the innards of living cells.”

So, what?

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For the sake of argument, let’s assume that there is a low but statistically significant risk of future health consequences (i.e. a probability greater than zero).

If so, it logically follows that the longer a person’s remaining expected life span, the higher the probability that they would incur a negative health consequence.

So, an older person (highly vulnerable to severe covid health consequences)  might reasonably conclude that the expected benefits from getting vaccinated (protection from hospitalization and death over a short time horizon) exceed the risks of future related health consequences (over a short expected “natural” life span).

Conversely, a younger person who has low vulnerability to a consequential covid infection may perceive the vax benefits to be minimal compared to the possibility (albeit low) of a severe future health consequence (given their otherwise long expected life span).

Said differently, it’s completely rational for a vulnerable senior to rush to get vaccinated … and, conversely,  quite reasonable for a low-vulnerability young person to wait & see.

That’s how risk-benefits behavioral economics works.

Again, it’s completely rational…

Vaccine hesitants: Real dumb or really smart?

September 15, 2021

According to the mainstream media (nudged by Pres. Biden), the vast majority of unvaccinated Americans are Neanderthal Trump-supporters.

But,  researchers at Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh studied the association between vaccine hesitancy and education level. Source

Their data indicate that vaccine hesitancy follows a U-shaped curve with the highest hesitancy evident among those least and most educated.

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People without  a college degree — mostly Rural Whites and Urban Blacks — are highly hesitant, citing mistrust of government.

Missed by the media: The highest hesitancy is among those holding a PhD.

The primary reason for hesitancy for PhDs: “the data just doesn’t add up.”

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Most revealing

> Rural Whites and Urban Blacks have a common bond: They don’t trust the government.

> Many PhDs — ostensibly among the best and brightest thinkers — conclude that the data just doesn’t add up.

Hmmm.

Will Biden’s vax mandates be strangled by the “cobra effect”?

September 14, 2021

Hospitals are already losing nurses who refuse to get vaccinated … retailers and restaurants, too.
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A couple of weeks again, Houston Methodist Hospital enforced its vaccine mandate and fired  150 unvaccinated medical workers.

Then came the Delta variant and …

“An internal memo at Houston Methodist Hospital said it ‘is struggling with staffing as the numbers of our COVID-19 patients rise” Source

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More recently …

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Lewis County General Hospital in Lowville, NY, will temporarily stop delivering babies, after maternity-ward employees quit rather than be forced to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

Hospital officials say: “If we can pause the service and now focus on recruiting nurses who are vaccinated, we will be able to reengage in delivering babies here in Lewis County,” Source

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As Gomer Pyle would say: “surprise, Surprise, SURPRISE”.

Behavioral scientists call it the “Cobra Effect

The Cobra Effect causes unintended consequences.

Long ago, colonial India was being over-run by cobra snakes.

The government offered citizens a bounty for each dead cobra that they turned in

Initially, the cobra population declined.

But, citizens started breeding cobras to sustain their stream of cobra bounties.

And, the cobra population grew. Source

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The lesson to be learned:

Every governmental decision brings about consequences, intended ones and unintended ones.

When hospital administrators in Texas an NY complied with government directives (i.e. mandates) — get vaccinated or lose your job — their goal was to increase vaccination rates of hospital staff.

The unintended consequence was a shortage of nurses and other hospital workers during a deadly pandemic. Source

These days, practically every hospital, restaurant, store or delivery service is reporting a shortage of workers.

Biden’s mandate — to fire unvaccinated workers if they don’t get vaccinated — is absolutely certain to intensify the labor shortage.

Some workers will choose to give up their jobs and rather than get vaccinated.

Others will quit “big company” jobs and seek employment with an “under 100” company (or the USPS) which aren’t covered by the vaccine mandate.

Whether right or wrong, that’s their decision to make.

Trust the behavioral economists on this one.

Finally, I agree with Fauci on something…

September 13, 2021

But, it raises a big question: Why isn’t there more emphasis on antibody testing?
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OK, Biden has declared war on the unvaccinated.

Putting aside the constitutional questions, I’m swayed by the opposition’s arguments re: natural immunity.

On CNN (of all places!), Dr. Sanjay Gupta challenged our chief political-scientist Anthony Fauci.

Paraphrasing Gupta’s question: The science (and its data) show that unvaccinated covid survivors have a much higher level of antibodies than previously uninfected vaccinated people.  So, what’s the logic for making those people take a potentially risky vaccination shot?

Watch the 1-minute video posted here to see the exact question and Fauci’s surprising (to me) answer.

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Fauci’s response: “I don’t have a really firm answer for you on that”.

He then goes on to diminish the referenced Israeli study asserting that it didn’t investigate the “durability” of natural immunity (i.e. whether the protection diminishes over time and, if it does, how quickly).

Wrong, Dr. Fauci.

The Israeli study did test the durability and concluded that natural immunity is at least as durable as vaccine durability.

Which begs a broader question:

Why aren’t we doing more antibody testing to calibrate the level of immunity that people have?

First, that would use “the science and the data”  to determine whether an unvaccinated person really needs to get vaccinated.

Second, it would provide a scientific determination of whether (or when) vaccinated people (like me) might need to get a booster.

Rather than “how many weeks after last shot”, the criteria would be “how many antibodies?”.

Why use time stamped average rate of protection diminution instead of a precise antibody count?

And, why make protected people take a shot?

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Hadn’t Biden already mandated that Federal employees get vaccinated?

September 10, 2021

Apparently not since he mandated them again yesterday…
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I’m officially confused…

More than a month ago, Biden mandated that all Federal employees get vaccinated or be subjected to weekly covid tests … or else?

At the time, I (sarcastically) applauded the the move.

See: Covid: Finally, a Biden mandate that I like…

The essence of my cynical support:

> I recognized that a couple of Biden’s core constituencies (think: unions and minorities) would be spotlighted

> I assumed widespread non-compliance and hoped that the “or else” would cut the government payroll.

But, in late August, I asked:

So, how’s the federal employees’ vaccine mandate going?

Since “the most transparent Administration ever” hadn’t released any numbers showing progress, I assumed: “not so good”

Well, I got my answer yesterday when Biden announced a beefed-up vaccine mandate for Feral employees.

According to press secretary Psaki:

The mandate for federal workers is an especially assertive move by the president.

Aside from some religious and disability exemptions, the vast majority of federal workers would be subject to a 75-day grace period for receiving a vaccine.

If workers decline to receive shots in that time frame, they will “go through the standard H.R. process,” which includes progressive disciplinary action.

Hmm.

So the “vast majority” of Federal employees must comply by sometime in December.

If they don’t they go through the “standard H.R. process” … which I assume takes months or years … pushing enforcement into 2022.

By then, hopefully covid will finally be under control.

So, the non-compliers will be fired some time in the future for not getting vaccinated against a virus that’s no longer a major health crisis.

Double hmmm.

Seems like Biden’s new & improved mandate is less than meets the eye, right?

So, why do it?

Simple.

It’s merely window dressing for Biden’s attempt to force the vaccination burden on companies … making companies  enforce vaccination mandates or get fined.

Ah, politics.

COVID: So, where are we?

September 9, 2021

Recently, like many (most?) Americans, I haven’t been paying particularly close attention to the COVID stats.

So, I thought it was time to take a look…

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Vaccinations

There have been incremental gains since I last looked:

> 78% of those 18 and over have have gotten at least 1-shot … up about 10 percentage points since July 4

> 92% of Seniors have have gotten at least 1-shot … that’s essentially all Seniors when you consider naturally immune and medically disqualified

> 55% of teenagers (12 to 18) … that’s almost 14 million of them

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Deaths

We’ve consistently touted the death count as the truest measure on COVID’s impact.

The current 7-day average is 1,128

> That’s about 4.5 times the July 4 low point (255) … which is coincidentally, about the level 0f in-season flu deaths in a typical year.

> But, the current rate (1,128) appears to be peaking … and, it’s about 70% lower than the all-time COVID peak on Jan 16  (3,515)

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ICU Capacity & Utilization

Currently, according to JHU, there are approximately 85,000 ICU beds.

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Source: JHU

Of 85,000 ICU beds, about 66,000 (79%) are currently occupied.

Of the 66,000 currently occupied ICU beds, about 25,000 (38%) are  occupied by COVID patients…  the other 42,000 are occupied by non-COVID patients.

The 25,000 ICU beds currently occupied by COVID patients are 15% below the all-time COVID peak (Jan. 17, 29,000 beds)

But, current COVID case rates (150,733 per day) are 40% lower than the Jan.12 peak (254,358) … indicating that a higher percentage of cases are requiring hospitalization. (15% versus 11%).

That said, that’s bad, but …

The CFR (case to fatality ratio) is currently .7% … roughly 1/2 of the January peak CFR (1.3%).

So, that’s where we are….

Buyer’s Remorse: 20% of Biden voters admit regret…

September 8, 2021

According to  RCP … the percentage of Americans who think that the country is moving in the wrong direction has increased from 50% to 60% in the past 10 days … only 30% think that the country is moving in the right direction.

And, according to YouGov. only 19% of Independents think the country is moving in the right direction … and only 58% of the people who voted for Biden think that the country is moving in the right direction.

So, it’s not surprising that in the latest Zogby poll, 1 in 5 Biden voters admitted to regretting their vote for Sleepy Joe.

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Drilling down…

Among the sub-groups that regret their votes more than the average:

  • Cryptocurrency holders (44%)
  • Middle aged voters aged 30-49 (30%)
  • Hispanics (33%)
  • Republicans (29%)
  • Weekly Amazon shoppers (29%)
  • Urban voters (28%)
  • Younger voters aged 18-29 (27%)
  • African Americans (25%)

Zogby notes that this poll taken before the Afghan withdrawal fiasco.

So, Zogby concludes:

“One gets the sense that Biden’s ship is sinking fast, and Biden might not have any lifeboats aboard to save him”

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Addressing the exasperated the mean-tweet-haters who voted for Biden, the WSJ’s Holman Jenkins opines::

Admit it: You didn’t vote for him, yet his absence hasn’t solved any problem.

America doesn’t feel noticeably less chaotic with him out of the picture.

COVID is resurging, inflation is rampant, Putin is winning (Nord Stream pipeline, halt of weapon sales to Ukraine, pleas for more oil, ransomware victories). citizens were left behind in Taliban country, allies have lost faith.

A big price for eliminating the mean tweets.

Uh-oh, Joe: You’re underwater and sinking…

September 7, 2021

And, the disapprovers have the strongest feelings.
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For openers, according to RCP’s latest poll-of-polls:

> 45.6% of American adults approve of the job that Biden is doing … an all-time low

> 49.1% disapprove … putting Biden 3.5 percentage points underwater on net total approval

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Digging deeper: According to the most recent Washington Post poll:

Back in April, Biden’s net strong approval (a measure of intensity) was essentially a push … … 34% strongly approved,  35% strongly disapproved.

Now, Biden’s net strong approval is underwater by 17 points … 25% strongly approve,  42% strongly disapprove. 

The 16 percentage points slide in  Biden’s net strong approval  since April is evenly divided between a 9 point slip among strong approvers … and a 7 point increase in strong disapprovers.

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Consistent with WaPo’s numbers, the left-leaning YouGov poll puts Biden’s net strong approval 15 points underwater.

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Digging still deeper into the YouGov poll’s internals…

> Blacks’ net strong approval — while still high at 22% — has dropped 7 percentage points in 10 days

> GOP strong disapproval increased to 80% … and net strong disapproval increased by 4 percentage points to 77%

> While Dems’ net strong approval is still a sky high 48% … strong approval has dropped below 50%’  Said differently, less than half of Dems strongly approve of the job that Biden is doing

> Most indicative politically, Independents’ net strong disapproval increased by 8 percentage points to 31%

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Good luck, Joe.

Manchin: “I Won’t Support Spending Another $3.5 Trillion”

September 3, 2021

Senator Joe talks big (and right), but will he fold again?
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This week, West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin declared that he won’t vote for the Dems’ $3.5 trillion “human infrastructure” bill.

Fiscal and social conservatives are giddy about his his declaration which — taken at face value — would kill the bill given the 50-50 Senate.

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Let’s start with the essence of Manchin’s logic … which he wrote in a WSJ op-ed:

My Democratic friends want to use the budget reconciliation tactic to push through sweeping legislation that makes “historic investments.”

The proposed $3.5 trillion in new spending isn’t to solve urgent problems, but to re-envision America’s social policies.

Democratic congressional leaders have a strange belief there is an infinite supply of money propose to pass the largest single spending bill in history with no regard to rising inflation, crippling debt or the inevitability of future crises.

An overheating economy has already imposed a costly “inflation tax” on every middle- and working-class American.

Spending trillions more dollars not only ignores present economic reality, but makes it certain that America will be fiscally weakened when it faces a future recession or national emergency.

In the words of Adm. Mike Mullen, a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, called debt the biggest threat to national security.

I, for one, won’t support a $3.5 trillion bill, or anywhere near that level of additional spending, without greater clarity about why Congress chooses to ignore the serious effects inflation has on the value of Americans’ wages and income and sky-rocketing debt has on existing government programs

Congress should hit a strategic pause on the budget-reconciliation legislation:

> To provide more clarity on the trajectory of the pandemic

> To allow us to determine whether inflation is transitory or not

> To allow for a complete, transparent reporting and analysis of the implications a multitrillion-dollar bill will have for this generation and the next.

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My take: Manchin’s declaration is far less than meets the eye.

First, he’s suggesting “a pause” … not a “dead on arrival”

Second, note the wiggle room that the Senator provides himself:

> “Anywhere near $3.5 trillion” … The senator did not rule out voting for a smaller bill. Is $3 trillion distant enough $3.5 trillion? $2.5 trillion? $2 trillion?

> “Without further clarity” … English translation: more pork for West Virginia.

Third, consider Manchin’s track record.

He often (usually?) talks like a rational independent.

But, when crunch time comes, he jumps lemming-like on the Dem train.

So, I’m not taking this one to the bank yet.

Biden: “Whether it’s true or not … change the perception. ”

September 1, 2021

Makes Trump’s Ukraine call look “perfect”.
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Last night, Reuters — based on a  leaked audio tape and a written transcript of a July 23 phone call between Biden and Afghan Pres. Ghani– reported that:

“In the last call between U.S. President Joe Biden and his Afghanistan counterpart before the Taliban seized control of the country, the leaders discussed military aid, political strategy and messaging tactics.”

Specifically, Ghani told Biden:

Mr. President, we are facing a full-scale invasion, composed of Taliban, full Pakistani planning and logistical support, and at least 10-15,000 international terrorists, predominantly Pakistanis.

Biden tried to prop Ghani up with talking points:

You clearly have the best military, you have 300,000 well-armed forces versus 70-80,000 and they’re clearly capable of fighting well, we will continue to provide close air support, if we know what the plan is and what we are doing.

Then, Biden “asked for the order”:

I need not tell you the perception around the world and in parts of Afghanistan, I believe, is that things are not going well in terms of the fight against the Taliban.

The perception around the world is that this is looking like a losing proposition.

And there is a need, whether it is true or not, there is a need to project a different picture.

Whether it’s true or not?

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The takeaways:

> Ghani warned that the situation was dire: “A full scale invasion”.

> Biden promised “close air support” … which could only be done from Bagram .

> Biden told the Afghan Pres. to lie, if necessary: “Whether it is true or not”

Let’s see how the White House and Biden-friendly media wiggle out of this one.

The Afghan issues that “experts” missed…

August 31, 2021

An op-ed in the NY Post caught my eye…

The author is Rebekah Koffler a former Defense Intelligence Agency officer

Her fundamental conclusion:

After 20 years of immense effort by American warfighters, intelligence personnel, diplomats and aid workers to turn Afghanistan into what Westerners consider a normally functioning society, it has reverted to the same chaotic and brutal place that it has been for centuries.

The root cause:

US “experts” conjured up “pie-in-the-sky” policy ambitions and wrongheaded warfighting strategies.

They failed to anticipate how the insurgents in Afghanistan might adapt, fight and stymie the world’s most sophisticated and technologically advanced military.

They underestimated how resourceful a highly motivated weaker power can be when faced with a more powerful opponent

More specifically, Koffler  points to:

> Mission creep: After the American military quickly achieved its initial objective of defeating the Taliban in Afghanistan, the establishment continued to press on with the usual, and doomed, mission of nation-building, security assistance, and training and equipping the incapable Afghan army.

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> Cultural ignorance: “The reason America had to spend 20 years in Afghanistan involves a profound lack of foreign cultural expertise in the intelligence and national security communities … all of which failed to recognize how alien the Western concepts of democracy, women’s rights and the like, are for a tribal, patriarchal Afghan culture.”

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> Adversaries’ passion & focus: The Taliban-inspired insurgents had religious ferocity and an Afghan identity that is wrapped up in resisting foreign invaders.

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> Hidden in plain site.: The Taliban looks rag-tag in their non-uniform native garb … which make them — save for those carrying automatic rifles — hard to distinguish from non-combatant civilians (and kill on site).

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> Defanged military tactics: “The insurgents’ employment of simplistic, homemade improvised explosive devices (IEDs) enabled them, the weaker side, to prevail over US forces. and mitigate US advantages in resources, technology and ground combat.”

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Retrospectively, the picture seems so clear…

The end of American exceptionalism ?

August 27, 2021

 

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Biden press conference August 27, 2021

Seriously, who’s calling the shots?

August 27, 2021

During Biden’s press conference he alerted reporters:

“Ladies and gentlemen, they gave me a list. The first person I was instructed to call on was Kelly O’Donnell from NBC.”

That revelation set off a tweet-storm asking who is “they”, why is Biden acting as a willing puppet and why isn’t there broader concern.

Biden reads dutifully from the teleprompter that he’s making the decisions and that he accepts the responsibility.

Does anybody really believe that?

Wouldn’t you like to know who’s really pulling the strings?

Maybe some day they’ll be outted .. but, I’m betting the under.

NYT: 72% of young NYC Blacks unvaccinated…

August 26, 2021

According to the NY Times, only 28% of the city’s 18 to 44 year old Blacks have been vaccinated.

And, based on interviews, there a couple of explanations for the low vaccination rate …

The overall theme: distrust of the government, health care system and law enforcement … a sentiment has been aggravated by a couple of self-inflicted government backfires:

Vaccination Priorities

> Early-on, in the sprit of “equity”, Blacks were sorted high on the priority list for vaccinations.

The backfire: “Since when does the government give anything good to Black people first?”

That raised heightened memories of the Tuskegee experiments.

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The J&J Pause

> Also early-on, NYC “directed the 1-shot J&J vaccines to Black and Latino neighborhoods”.

When the J&J vaccine was put on hold,  it reaffirmed the perception that “they’re experimenting on us” … that the vaccine was being tested on Blacks.

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Survivor Confidence

> Blacks have been hard hit by Covid … with an infection and death rate about twice that of Whites.

So, many young survivors — who were down the priority list for the first wave of scarce vaccines — heeded the government advice that they were at relatively low risk … or, concluded that they either had already been infected, now had natural immunity and didn’t need the vaccine.

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Perverse Incentives

> Now the government is offering cash payouts to people to people who get vaccinated.

To some, that plays into the perception of recruitment into a science experiment: ”It must be bad if they have to pay people to take it”.

And, city officials threaten to ban unvaccinated folks from public places (e.g. restaurants).

That’s a policy that would obviously, and disproportionately, impacts Blacks.

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Biden & Harris Said

Add to the list that both Biden & Harris, as candidates for office, declared that they wouldn’t trust a vaccine developed by Trump on at “Warp Speed”.

First impressions anchor perceptions… it’s hard to unhear something that you heard!

Seriously, why hasn’t the Afghan Taliban been besieged by Covid?

August 25, 2021

A week or so ago, the Babylon Bee ran this satire piece:

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Fake-quoting CNN anchors:

“The Taliban is showing all of us the proper way to behave during a pandemic — something those horrible idiot Trump supporters don’t seem to get.”

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That got me thinking…

Why are there no reports of a rampant Covid spread around Afghanistan.

Despite the odds, has  Afhganistan been spared from the virus and his consequences ?

Seems unlikely.

When I see pictures coming out of Kabul, I see large crowds, tightly packed, minimal sanitation … ripe for superspreading.

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Despite the Bee’s insinuation to the contrary, the Taliban warriors aren’t pictured wearing N-95s.

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Gotta believe that the Afghan hospital system is a mess … and focused on fighting casualties.

So why haven’t there been reports of soaring Covid case rates … and high Covid-related death counts?

Hmm…

Dilbert asks: “Who wants a bully in the White House?”

August 24, 2021

Is it really better to have a groveler-in-chief dealing with our adversaries?

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Watching Biden Biden grovel to (1) the Taliban, asking them to please let Americans leave Afghanistan after his botched troop draw down, (2) Putin, asking for permission to establish air bases in Asia … and being told to pond sand, (3) OPEC, asking them to boost oil production to offset the forced cut in U.S. oil production and ease gas pump inflation, I recalled a prior (and once again on-point and timely) HomaFiles post.

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During the 2016 Presidential campaign, cartoonist Scott Adams hit the nail on the head on his Dilbert blog, …

Adams observed that, during the campaign, Hillary’s constant refrain was that we can’t have a loose cannon bully in the White House.

Of course, Dems and their media friends kept that notion front-burnered during the campaign.

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Adams cut to the chase on on “Dangerous Trump”:

Read the rest of this entry »

Where are the Bagdad Bob comparisons?

August 23, 2021

Watching Biden’s teleprompter reading of “his” Afghan update last Friday, I couldn’t help but recall Baghdad Bob — the Iraqi PR minister who was ubiquitous proclaiming that Iraqi forces were prevailing over the U.S. military … though the concurrent split screen images were graphically depicting a contrary reality.

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Even the NY Times had to bust Biden for outright lying to paint an alternative rosy universe contradicted by real time  happenings on the ground.

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The NYT fact-check article emphasized 3 points:

1. Allies’ Response

> Biden: “I have seen no question of our credibility from our allies around the world.”

NYT: governments (e.g. Britain, Germany) have not minced words in questioning American leadership and credibility.

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2. Al Qaeda Presence

> Biden: “What interest do we have in Afghanistan at this point with Al Qaeda gone?

NYT: The Taliban continues to maintain its relationship with Al Qaeda, providing safe haven for the terrorist group in Afghanistan …Al Qaeda has a presence in at least 15 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces.

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3. Airport Access

Biden: “We have no indication that American citizens who are carrying an American passport haven’t been able to get — in Kabul — through the airport.”

NYT: Reports from Afghanistan contradict this statement and the U.S. Embassy in Kabul sent a security alert  warning American citizens, legal residents and their families that the “United States government cannot ensure safe passage to the Hamid Karzai International Airport.”

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To be sure,  NYT isn’t a right-wing rag … and these are not “little white lies” … they are central to the crisis at hand.

So, where are the Baghdad Bob comparisons?

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P.S. Since Biden was vacuously reading from his trusty teleprompter, gotta wonder: “Who wrote that speech … and who fact-checked it?”

Uh-oh, Joe: The lines have crossed…

August 20, 2021

Previously, approval dipped below 50%
… now, a plurality disapproves.
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According to the latest poll from left-leaning Reuters-IPSOS:

> 46% of American adults approve of the job that Biden is doing

> 49% disapprove … putting Biden 3 points underwater on net total approval

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Polling from right-leaning Trafalgar Group, confirms that a plurality disapprove of the job that Biden is doing … 46.5% approve, 47.6% disapprove.

Digging deeper. Biden’s net strong approval (a measure of intensity), is underwater by 14.9 points … 26.7% strongly approve,  41.6% strongly disapprove.

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Consistent with Trafalgar’s numbers, left-leaning Economist/You Gov poll puts Biden’s net strong approval 11 points underwater.

Digging still deeper into the poll’s internals…

> Blacks’ net strong approval — while still a sky high 29% — has dropped 5 percentage points

> Hispanics’ net strong approval dropped 4 percentage points … putting Biden 7 points underwater with Hispanics

> GOP strong disapproval jumped 7 points to 76% … and net strong disapproval increased by 9 percentage points to 73%

> While Dems’ net strong approval is still a sky high 48% … strong approval has dropped to 50%

Said differently, only half of Dems strongly approve of the job that Biden is doing.

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Gotta believe “the data” … right?

Covid: Square this circle for me.

August 19, 2021

According to the latest Economist-YouGov polling:

> 22% strongly approve of Biden’s handling of Covid; 31% strongly disapprove … for a net disapproval of 9 percentage points

> Among Blacks, 36% strongly approve, 11% strongly disapprove… for a net positive approval of a whopping 25 percentage points.

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But, according to Kaiser (channeling CDC data):

> Approximately 50% of Whites have been fully vaccinated

> But, only 40% of Blacks have been fully vaccinate

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If 61% of Blacks approve of the way Biden is handling Covid (36% + 35%) … and 25% net approve based on “strongly” ratings … why are only 40% vaccinated?

I understand the historical government malfeasance (i.e. the Tuskegee “experiment”), but if Blacks trust Biden and approve of the job he’s doing on Covid, why aren’t the vaccination rates higher?

Early on, access to vaccines may have been an issue.

But now, vaccines are as freely available as Kohl’s coupons.

Hmm.

MUST READ: About the 25th amendment…

August 18, 2021

There are implications beyond the prospect of Kamala’s ascendency to the Presidency.
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Given the Afghan fiasco, there are already rumblings about the Dems invoking the 25th Amendment on Biden.

For now, let’s skip over the questions of whether there’s a strong case to be made … and whether it could be pulled off.

We’ll jump to the “what if?” implications.

But first, some background…

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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

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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.

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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, there would be no tie-breaking VP and 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 $3.5 trillion “Make America Sweden” Bill (aka the 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…

Obama: “Don’t underestimate Joe’s ability to f–k things up.”

August 17, 2021

Given Biden’s declining poll numbers — Covid chaos, high inflation, energy dependence, Afghan meltdown, southern border mess — I thought it was time for a flashback.

A warning that all of this would happen … from no less than Barack “Birthday Bash” Obama…
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Holy Smokes.

Last year,, hard-left Politico ran an article sub-titled “What Obama really thinks about  Biden”.

I expected it to be typical Biden puff piece.

Suffice it to say that I was surprised.

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In Obama-speak, the former President “took Joe to the hoop”…

Read the rest of this entry »

Uh-oh, Joe: Declining approval down to 50% …

August 16, 2021

And , intense disapproval is growing.
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In the past couple of weeks, there have been occasional polls scoring Biden’s job approval at or below 50% … generally attributed to Covid mis-steps, border chaos, spending-induced inflation, pay-to-don’t play unemployment benefits, reversion to MidEast oil dependence and now, the Afghan implosion and global disgrace.

Even CNN has noticed and had some Freudian on-air lapses:

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More generally, the polling has reached consensus status.

In  RCP’s most recent poll-of-polls, Biden’s job approval is down to 50% … and, disapproval has has increased by more than 10 percentage points since inauguration day.

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And, Biden’s plight may be even worse than the top-line numbers indicate.

Let’s dig a little deeper.…

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Marketers often look at a metric called the “Net Favorability Index”.

That measure considers only the most extreme consumer perceptions: strongly approve, strongly disapprove … and subtracts the latter from the former.

The net number is a proxy for the intensity of consumer sentiment.

OK, so how’s Joe doing on his job’s net favorability metric?

Answer: Not so good.

According to survey data gathered by the left-leaning Economist -YouGov

> 23% of Americans strongly approve of the job that Joe’s doing … 33% strongly disapprove … for a net disapproval of 10 percentage points.

In pollster-speak, he’s 10 points underwater.

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Digging a little deeper, Biden’s job approval is…

> 17 points underwater among men; 4 points underwater with women

> 34 points above water with Blacks, but 17 points underwater with Whites.

> 46 points above water with Dems, but 64 points underwater with Republicans.

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Perhaps most important, Biden’s job approval is is only 14% among Independents … and his job disapproval with that group a whopping 40%.

Said differently, Biden is 26 points underwater with Independents.

Buyer’s remorse?

Completely predictable…

Vax: Maybe the “hesitants” are being completely rational…

August 13, 2021

Behavioral economics prevail when personal risks outweigh the personal benefits.
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Economist-YouGov released survey results that asked people about their Covid experience and attitudes.

Here are a couple of the questions that caught my eye….

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19. Do you personally know anyone who has tested positive for covid-19?

> 39% did not personally know a close friend or family member who tested positive for Covid.

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20. Do you personally know anyone who has died due to complications from covid-19?

> 67% did not personally know a close friend or family member who had died from Covid.

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My take: Except for people who are undeniably vulnerable (e.g. seniors), those  who haven’t been personally touched by covid’s health consequences are less likely to be vax-inclined. And, many have not been personally touched by covid health consequences.

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32. Which do you think is a greater risk: possibly contracting COVID-19, or possibly having a bad reaction to the COVID-19 vaccine?

> On average, 39% perceive that the risks outweigh the benefits, but…

> Those over 65 perceive the benefits to outweigh the risks — 72% to 28% (a ratio of 2.5 to 1)

> Those who are 45 to 64 perceive the benefits to outweigh the risks — 63% to 37% (a ratio of 1.7 to 1)

> Those 18 to 44 perceive the benefits to outweigh the risks — 53% to 47% (with rounding, a 50-50 proposition)

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So, just based on the perceived risk – benefits numbers, you might expect seniors to be more vax-inclined … and, they are, with a 90% vax rate.

And, you’d expect younger folks to be less vax-inclined … and they are (with vax rates running in the 50s or 60s).

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I think that just about everybody buys into the vaccines’ benefits: 90%+ protection against hospitalization and death.

So, what about the risks?

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30. Among people who have been vaccinated: Have you experienced any negative reactions to the vaccine?

> About 1 in 5 vax recipients report that they experienced “negative reactions” (i.e. side effects) from receiving the vaccine.

> A slightly higher percentage of those 18 to 29  reported a negative reaction … almost 1 in 4

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Those are just the immediate negative vax reactions.

What about the longer term risks?

The CDC — speaking on behalf of “the data” and “the science” — says that there are absolutely no long-term risks of serious complications.

There isn’t data to conclude that there won’t be negative reactions in, say 20 years.

And, while “the science” may conjecture about future health risks being inconsequential … there’s no experiential certainty … and there are plausible arguments to the contrary.

See our summary post: Unexpected things happen when you start fiddling with the innards of living cells.”

So, what?

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For the sake of argument, let’s assume that there is a low but statistically significant risk of future health consequences (i.e. a probability greater than zero).

If so, it logically follows that the longer a person’s remaining expected life span, the higher the probability that they would incur a negative health consequence.

So, an older person (highly vulnerable to severe covid health consequences)  might reasonably conclude that the expected benefits from getting vaccinated (protection from hospitalization and death over a short time horizon) exceed the risks of future related health consequences (over a short expected “natural” life span).

Conversely, a younger person who has low vulnerability to a consequential covid infection may perceive the vax benefits to be minimal compared to the possibility (albeit low) of a severe future health consequence (given their otherwise long expected life span).

Said differently, it’s completely rational for a vulnerable senior to rush to get vaccinated … and, conversely,  quite reasonable for a low-vulnerability young person to wait & see.

That’s how risk-benefits behavioral economics works.

It’s completely rational.

Baltimore: “Almost half of our kids are failing … and nobody seems to care”

August 12, 2021

The Baltimore City Schools  System recently released average high school GPA scores for  the first three quarters of the past school year.

The numbers are shocking!

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Source

You read that right.

Over 40% of Baltimore’s 20,500 public high school students averaged a D grade or lower.

Of course, covid’s “learning disruptions” have had an impact, but…

Pre-covid, 24% of the students were averaging a GPA below 1.0, so covid disruptions only get about half the blame.

The school board says that it is providing students with a variety of opportunities to acquire the “unfinished learning” they lost.

But, few students are taking advantage of the learning opportunities.

Nonetheless, the schools’ policy is that no student will be held back for failing classes.

All will progress to the next grade level.

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Jovani Patterson ran for Baltimore City Council President last year on a platform that included accountability in education.

He lost!

Stating the obvious, Patterson now says:

This is just further perpetuating a cycle of poverty, of despair.

If almost half of our kids are failing, what options do they have after high school?

Our schools outspend 97% of other major school districts but we don’t see much change.

City leaders don’t care at all.

Everyone should be speaking out about this.

But, they aren’t….

McKinsey: The pandemic’s learning loss…

August 11, 2021

A 1/2 year of learning lost, but majority of parents are unconcerned (or oblivious)
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McKinsey recently published an analysis of the the impact of the pandemic on students’ academic progress.

COVID-19 and education: The lingering effects of unfinished learning

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The Reality

Citing standardized testing results by Curriculum Associates, the McKinsey researchers conclude:

> More first and second graders have ended this year two or more grade levels below expectations than in any previous year.

> On average, K–12 students are now 5 months behind in mathematics and 4 months behind in reading heading into this school year.

> The learning loss is most severe for students attending majority black schools

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Those results are in line with prior studies and projections re: learning loss, so they didn’t surprise me.

But here’s something that did…

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Shades of Alfred E. Newman

Alfred E. Newman was the lead character in the Mad Magazine (pop in the 60s and 70s).

His blasé, often oblivious mantra was “What, me worry?”

Apparently, a majority of parents are adopting a 2021 variant of the Newman philosophy.

Based on a large scale survey of parents, McKinsey researchers conclude that “parents underestimate the learning gap caused by the pandemic.”

Specifically, across all races, more than half of parents think their child is doing just fine.

> 40% said their child is on track academically despite the pandemic

>16% percent said their child is progressing faster than in a usual year

> Only 14 percent of parents said their child has fallen significantly behind.

Black parents are slightly more likely than white parents to think their child is on track or better.

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Perceptions vs. Reality

I’ve been wondering why there has been so little attention being given to the learning gap that students have incurred during the pandemic.

I chalked it up to the dirth of union-resisted standardized testing … and,  the media-fueled obsession with CLT, equity math and transgender accommodations.

I missed the obvious: A majority of parents are either oblivious  … or worse, just don’t care if we’ve fallen behind 27 other countries in academic achievement.

My hunch: Even Alfred E. Newman would fret over that.

Old School: Target offers employees a paid tuition program…

August 9, 2021

Ah, for the good old days…

Back in the 1970’s and 1980’s it was commonplace for employers to offer tuition reimbursement programs to employees.

I know because I took masters courses in economics courtesy of a mid-sized machine tools company … and got my Univ. of Chicago MBA courtesy of a multi-national food retailer.

The terms and conditions were simple:  I had to pay upfront … and when I had proof of payment and a course grade that was B or higher, my employer reimbursed me for the schools’ tuition.

There was some small print requiring the courses to be “business-related” … but that wasn’t a issue in those days since workers were trying to advance their careers.

Companies benefited  since each job-related course increased employee’s value to the company and since the program had a “stickiness” that helped retention.

Employees benefited since they were getting a free education … and potentially a free degree.

Of course, there were indirect costs borne by the employees … mostly the sacrifice of free time since courses (and “homework”) were done in the evening or on weekends … and degrees seemed to take forever when taking only 1 or 3 courses at a time.

Bottom line: It was a win-win for companies and employees.

But, the tuition benefit seemed to fade away when tuition-inflation caused costs to skyrocket… and, when course offerings and degree majors became less practical and way less job-related.

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Fast forward to today.

Many companies are rekindling the old school programs … offering employees a chance to complete or advance their studies at little or no cost.

The latest example: Target.

Team members will have a range of options, including courses for high school completion, college prep and English language learning as well as select certificates, certifications, bootcamps, associate and undergraduate degrees.

Target is partnering with education and upskilling platform Guild Education to provide easy access to more than 250 business-aligned programs from over 40 schools, colleges and universities.

Read the last lines carefully: only business-aligned programs from 40+ approved schools:

Schools, colleges and universities like the University of Arizona, Oregon State University and historically Black colleges and universities like Morehouse College and Paul Quinn College.

My bet: Target will be negotiating tuition discounts from the approved schools … rejecting schools with ROI-busting tuition increases.

Well done, Target.

Sometimes, old school ideas had merit…

Has America tuned out Biden …and CNN?

August 6, 2021

I was surprised to hear that Biden had held a townhall on CNN this week.

No problem … I wouldn’t have watched it anyway.

And, I wouldn’t have been alone.

According to Nielsen, only 1.5 million  tuned in for the event.

For perspective, that’s about .6% of 225 million adults … and about 1/2 of Tucker Carson’s viewership at the same time.

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The good news for Biden is that his ratings were about 50% higher than CNN’s overall ratings for the week.

Also according to Nielsen, CNN went the entire  an entire week of July 28 to August 3 without reaching 1 million viewers.

High point was Chris Cuomo’s 930,000 on the day that the NY AG released her report on the other Cuomo. CNN’s Cuomo averaged 872,000 for the week.

CNN’s primetime lineup averaged 858,000 viewers, marking a whopping 73% decline since January.

My take: America has tuned out …

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P.S. Has anybody spotted Kamala Harris recently?

 

Uh-oh, Joe: Biden’s approval numbers slipping fast…

August 5, 2021

According to RCP’s poll-of-polls, Biden’s job approval stands at 50.7% … 5 of the last 9 polls tracked by RCP have him below 50%.

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According to the left-leaning Morning Consult, Biden’s most severe slippage is among Independents … 44% of them approve of the job Joe is doing, 49% disapproval, for a net disapproval of 5 percentage points (the green line below) … that’s a 21 point drop from in net approval since January (from plus 6 to a negative 5)

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Most telling, among Independents, Biden has a net disapproval on ALL issues except his handling of the coronavirus … and, he’s falling fast on that issue … from a net approval of 30 points to a net approval less than 10 percentage points.

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Digging deeper, on Biden’s most disapproved issues, he is underwater with a net disapproval of

  • 24 percentage points on immigration
  • 22 points on guns
  • 20 points on national security
  • 12 points on the economy.
  • 8 points on energy
  • 4 points on jobsimage

It definitely looks like the honeymoon is over…

Uh oh: More evidence that “scientific” research is flawed …

August 4, 2021

Still more re: why “the science” is losing the public trust. 

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It’s not a new issue! From the HomaFiles archives… circa 2015

In a prior post, we reported that Dr. John Ioannidis, a director of Stanford University’s Meta-Research Innovation Center, estimated that about half of published results across medicine were inflated or wrong

For details, see Uh-oh: Most published research findings are false…

Now, the NY Times is reporting findings published in the Journal of Science which concludes that more than half of all studies published in the 3 most prominent psychology journals are seriously flawed and that their results can’t be replicated.

The Times says:

The report appears at a time when the number of retractions of published papers is rising sharply in a wide variety of disciplines.

Scientists have pointed to a hypercompetitive culture across science that favors novel, sexy results and provides little incentive for researchers to replicate the findings of others, or for journals to publish studies that fail to find a splashy result.

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Here’s the basis for the conclusion that the majority of the studies reported flawed conclusions …

Read the rest of this entry »

Uh-oh: Most published research findings are false…

August 3, 2021

More re: why “the science” is losing the public trust. 

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It’s not a new issue! From the HomaFiles archives… circa 2015

I didn’t say it, the New Yorker magazine did, setting off a buzz in the halls of academia.

The theme of the New Yorker article –- titled “Truth Wears Off” –was that most (academic) research was flawed and not able to be replicated.  This is, the results were at best true under some special circumstances at a specific point in time, but can’t be replicated. At worst, they’re just plain bull.

Hmmm.

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Challenging the integrity of publication-driven academics?

Turns out that the New Yorker wasn’t the first mag on the beat.

Read the rest of this entry »

How science lost the public trust…

August 2, 2021

British science writer Matt Ridley argues that “scientists” have become disconnected from “science”.
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Loyal readers may remember Mr. Ridley — a self-proclaimed “science critic” —  from a 2019 series of HomaFiles  posts.

I credited Mr. Ridley for inspiring the series and  and I adopted his coining as a “lukewarmer” on climate change.

Recap: 16 Reasons why I’m lukewarm on climate change

In a recent WSJ weekend interview, Mr. Ridley gives his take on “How Science Lost the Public Trust”.

Ridley’s core conclusion:

Politics and hubris have disconnected scientists and  scientific institutions  from the philosophy and method that ought to guide them.

More specifically, Ridley draws a pointed distinction between “science as a philosophy” and “science as an institution.”

The former grows out of the Enlightenment, which Mr. Ridley defines as “the primacy of rational and objective reasoning.”

The latter, like all human institutions, is erratic, prone to falling well short of its stated principles.

The Covid pandemic has “thrown into sharp focus the disconnect between science as a philosophy and science as an institution.”

People inside (the institution) not only have been “disappointingly incurious” but have tried to shut down the inquiry “to protect the reputation of science as an institution.”

Science — as a profession — has become “rather off-puttingly arrogant and political, permeated by motivated reasoning and confirmation bias.”

Mr. Ridley fears “that the pandemic has, for the first time, seriously politicized epidemiology.”

There is a palatable “tension between scientists wanting to present a unified and authoritative voice,” on the one hand, and science-as-philosophy, which is obligated to “remain open-minded and be prepared to change its mind.”

“It’s largely the fault of epidemiologists themselves, deliberately publishing things that fit with their political prejudices or ignoring things that don’t.”

In Mr. Ridley’s view, the scientific establishment has always had a tendency “to turn into a church, enforcing obedience to the latest dogma and expelling heretics and blasphemers.”

This tendency was previously kept in check by the fragmented nature of the scientific enterprise: Prof. A at one university built his career by saying that Prof. B’s ideas somewhere else were wrong.

In the age of social media, however, “the space for heterodoxy is evaporating.”

Forced conformity But, an is the enemy of scientific progress, which depends on disagreement and challenge.

Increasing numbers of scientists seem to fall prey to groupthink and dogmatic gate-keeping gets in the way of new ideas and open-minded challenge.

So, Ridley concludes: “Those who believe in science as philosophy are increasingly estranged from scientists and science as an institution.”

And, that’s “How Science Lost the Public Trust”.

Again, the whole article is worth reading.

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Update: COVID Dashboard

July 29, 2021

Since Team Biden seems to have its collective hair on fire, I thought it would be good to put things in context by looking at the data …

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From the jump, we’ve argued that the most reliable Covid metric is the death rate.

The COVID death rate is now below the average number of flu-related deaths during the flu season… and far down from past peaks.

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Vaccination rates stalled at 500,000 per day, down from 4 million per day at the peak.

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Over 90% of vulnerable seniors have been vaccinated; over 70% of people 18 and over have gotten at least one shot.

Over 10 million teens (42%) have been vaccinated.

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Draw your own conclusions re: whether it’s time to hit the panic button.

 

Covid: Finally, a Biden mandate that I like…

July 29, 2021

All Federal employees to be vaccinated or regularly tested … or else … or else, what?
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That’s what being widely reported that Biden will prompter-read to us today,

But, I’ll believe it when I see it.

There’s already pre-announcement waffling that “the plan” is still under review.

English translation: the federal employee unions haven’t all weighed in yet … and the White House PR dept. hasn’t figured out how to erase all the videos of Biden saying that he’d never do it.

But, for the sake of argument, let’s assume that Biden implements the mandate.

Here’s why I’m on board …

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First, it’s consistent with the position that Biden is reading off the teleprompter these days.

It sends a clear message that he believes (and remembers) what he’s reading.

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Second, such a move is under Biden’s direct control.

Rather than forcing private businesses and organizations to do his dirty work while he ducks for cover, Biden will own this one.

Gotta be for clear ownership and accountability, right?

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Third, I like the “target market”: government employees.

If Biden wants to move the needle towards near total vaccinations, getting all Federal employees jabbed is a statistically significant step forward.

Note: It’s estimated that there are over 2 million civilian employees on the Federal payroll … and, that only a slim majority of them have been vaccinated.

And, the bulk of Federal employees are blue-blood members of Biden’s core constituencies.

So, the mandate would demonstrate Biden’s commitment to the cause.

Bravo.

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Fourth, the mandate might “cull the herd” a bit.

That is, if the “or else” part of the mandate has teeth.

Terminating the vaccine-resisters might be an easy way to trim the bloated bureaucracy.

*************

Going big…

Here are a couple of  embellishing ideas that would make me even more supportive of the mandate:

> Start with NIH and CDC employees.

In Congressional testimony, leaders of these organizations said that only about half of their employees have been vaccinated.

That’s always bothered me … what do they know that they’re not telling us?

Make it “put up or shut up time” for the assertive scientific community.

If they believe what they’re saying, let’s see them all roll up their sleeves.

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> Add Federal government employees’ dependents (over 12 years old) to the target market.

Tax payers are paying for their healthcare, right?

And, the CDC says that they can transmit the virus to vaccinated people.

So, let’s minimize the the healthcare costs of them getting infected and transmitting Covid to their government employed family member(s).

Makes complete sense, doesn’t it?

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> Require all employees of all Federal government contractor to get vaccinated.

They come in contact with government employees — some of whom will be signing up for tests instead of shots.

So, to create a virus-minimized environment, they need to be vaccinated, right?

And, there’s a forcing mechanism: If they want to keep feeding at the taxpayer trough, they have to roll up their sleeves.

Should be an easy sell given how quickly many of these companies were “fast out of the gate” to implement woke behavioral training programs for their employees.

They’ve shown that they can do it if they want to.

Just tack vaccinations onto those programs.

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> Extend the mandate to all  public school teachers.

The teachers’ unions are already firing warning shots that they aren’t sure about in-person schooling in the fall.

Let’s cut teachers’ health risks by getting them all vaccinated.

There’s obvious mandate legitimacy since their schools are getting beaucoup de l’argent (translation: lots of money) from the Federal coffers.

Worse case, teachers formally quit (instead of de facto quitting in place)… and get replaced by teachers who want to teach

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Geez, the more I think about a vaccination mandate for civilian government employees, the more that I like the idea.

I can’t wait to see what Biden’s handlers load on the teleprompter for him today.

But, for the record, I’m betting the under … more “please do” than “must do”.

We’ll see…

Psaki: “Why do you need to have that information?”

July 28, 2021

Ordinary people are confused … and docs say that they are flying blind.
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It’s hard to follow the data when there’s no data presented … just assertions from oft-wrong political-scientists who command “just trust me”.

Case in point, as reported by USA Today

Last Friday, Jen Psaki — Biden’s press secretary — was asked for data about Covid “break-through infections” — cases of people getting re-infected with Covid even though they have been fully vaccinated.

When Psaki tried to duck the question, the reporter pressed her for a specific answer.

“Why not just provide the number? Are you trying to hide something?”

Psaki shot back, “Why do you need to have that information?

Say, what?

The reported countered: “For transparency, in the interest of the public, and for a better understanding of how breakthrough cases work”.

Frustrated, Psaki simply moved on to another topic.

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This was a stark example of what Biden-Harris might call a ”root cause” … a root cause of public distrust and, maybe even, of vaccine hesitancy.

Loosely quoting Jerry Maguire “Show me the data!”

Uh-oh:: Pessimism has hit a majority of Americans …

July 27, 2021

Buyer’s remorse is gaining steam.
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More specifically, the ABC-Ipsos poll reports:

  • Currently, 55% are pessimistic about where the country is headed over the next year, while 45% are optimistic.
  • This marks a nearly 20-point decline in optimism from late April, the last time this question was asked. At that time, 64% were optimistic about the year ahead.
  • This growing pessimism is happening across all age groups, income levels, educational attainment, and partisan affiliation.
  • Optimism among Democrats has declined 18 percentage points since late April (89% to 71%).
  • Optimism among independents has declined by 26 percentage points (now 38%, from 64%).
  • The optimism-pessimism flip comes as Americans give Biden his lowest approval rating for his handling of the pandemic yet in ABC News/Ipsos polling.
  • Overall, slightly more than a third of Americans approve of the way the president is handling crime (39%), immigration and the situation at the U.S.-Mexico border (37%), and gun violence (37%).
  • On these three issues, just over one in three independents approve of the job Biden is doing.

Looks like Old Joe’s honeymoon may be over.

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P.S. For the record: ABC News isn’t affiliated with Fox News …

Beach Week Report: “Unprecedented demand, help wanted”…

July 26, 2021

Just back from our family’s annual summer week on the Delaware beaches.

Here’s what I observed this year:

> “Unprecedented demand”: That’s what the condo-rental agency headlined … and, it wasn’t just rate-jacking hype … full occupancy was evident … open parking spots were few and far between (and far away from destinations).

> Families galore: The beaches were crowded with frolicking families … always a pleasant sight to see … seemed remarkably normal.

> What COVID? There were very, very few masks  … and only a few tattered “keep your distance” signs that just hadn’t been taken down yet.

> “Help Wanted”: Every store, restaurant and service counter had a sign that warned customers that “due to a severe labor shortage, our service isn’t up to our standards so please be patient”

One pizza restauranteur lamented: “Kids just don’t want to work” .. young adults are just enjoying their government-funded summer vacations … the Eastern European teens & twenty-somethings  who usually staff the shops and beaches can’t get visas.

>”Demand management”: Marketing is alive and well.  To cope with the “unprecedented demand and labor shortage”, establishments are trying desperately to smooth demand across day-parts (think: early bird specials).

For example, to spread the workload for cleaning crews, our condo agency offered a partial refund if we’d accept a later than usual check-in (late Saturday evening or Sunday morning, instead of Saturday afternoon)) or a very early checkout (Friday afternoon or evening, instead of Saturday morning)

> Patience reigned: Admittedly, we stayed mostly cocooned in our condo and on its beach, but … when we got out, people seemed to be going with the flow … patiently waiting in line for service without whining or line-cutting … servers had great attitudes while hustling their butts off.

> “Thanks for working”: To the prior point, even cheapskates like me were tipping more than usual … and thanking workers for working.

I wonder if that will become a new normal…

Study: Half of soccer games determined by luck…

July 23, 2021

Researchers at the German Sport University  analyzed 7,263 goals scored in the English Premier League in seven years, starting with the 2012/13 seasons.

Here’s what they found…

> Premier League soccer games games typically have only 2 or 3 combined goals scored goals

> More than 60% of all matches ended either in a draw or with a goal difference of one goal

Accordingly, each goal scored is a very big deal

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Further, almost half (46%) of all scored goals had some form of random influence to them.

The researchers defined “random” as unintentionally deflected shots, defensive mistakes (e.g. “own goals”), rebound shots, etc.

They observed that many of the random scores came off of corner kicks or long-range kicks, especially long distance free-kicks.

In other words, “chance” (i.e. “luck”) plays a significant role in deciding the outcome of a near-majority of matches.

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By implication, the research results suggests that teams have a tendency to play very conservatively … trying to avoid mistakes … rather than relentlessly attacking.

And, the analysis validates some common soccer sense: free-kicks (awarded based on referees’ judgement) often determine the difference between winning and losing.

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Yeah, luck is a factor.

But, keep in mind the famous sports quote attributed to golf-great Arnold Palmer:

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Which party is responsible for America’s partisan divide?

July 22, 2021

Interesting analysis of Pew data by hard left-leaning blogger Kevin Drum
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Below is a display of political leanings by party affiliation from 1994 to 2017… roughly 25 years.

  • Dems are the blue hump; GOP is the reddish brown.
  • Scale runs from 1 (“consistently liberal”) on the left to 10 (“consistently conservative”) on the right.

A couple of takeaways…

> Back in 1994 there was a substantial overlap of the humps (the dark brown hump in the middle) … meaning that there were a lot of “moderates” (from both parties) who clustered near the non-partisan median.

> There wasn’t much change from 1994 to 2004. But, from 2004 to 2017, that overlapping hump was substantially diminished … and the overall median was pulled left.

> More specifically, blogger Drum observes that:

Back in 1994, Dems median political leaning was a 5 on the scale; GOP scored a 6 … a very narrow gap in average views.

But in 2017, Dems median political leaning was a 2 on the scale; the GOP’s median score was a 6.5 … and the partisan gap widened to 4.5 points.

What changed?

Between 1994 and 2017, the GOP’s political leaning was relatively static … the GOP median barely budged and the shape hump was similar.

Said differently, the GOP didn’t become significantly more conservative.

But, between 1994 and 2017, the Dems’ political leaning shifted left by 3 points … and the hump became became more clustered … with a noticeably more peaked shape.

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In Drum’s words: “Democrats have moved significantly to the left on most hot button social issues while Republicans have moved only slightly right.”

And, his summary conclusion:

It is not conservatives who have turned American politics into a partisan culture war battle. It is liberals.”

Depending on your personal political views, that may be a good thing or a bad thing…

Bidenomics: Pay people to sit on the couch and…

July 21, 2021

Shocker: They sit on the couch!
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Team Biden denies it, but its lavish supplemental unemployment benefits are keeping many unemployeds on the sidelines.

Some analysts estimate that the stay-at-home benefits offered to many unemployed households is equivalent of $25/hour … which translates to about $50,000 annually for a full-time worker ($25 x 8 hours per day x 5 days per week x 50 weeks per year).

If that number strikes you as too high, cut it in half and the conclusions don’t change.

If that’s too high for your tastes, haircut it again and…

According to a poll reported by left-leaning Morning Consult, at least 13% of the folks still unemployed admit that they’re currently receiving enough money from unemployment benefits that they don’t need to work … and, 12% say that they’re not being offered enough money to return to work (compared to the unemployment benefits that they’re receiving).

Stats Note: There’s probably a substantial overlap in those 2 groups…. but the combining “net” number is likely higher than 13% … maybe much higher.

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The bottom line according to Morning Consult is that an estimated 1.84 million unemployeds will return to the labor force when the federal unemployment benefits expire over the summer.

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Think that’ll change Biden’s position?

I’m betting the under…

Inflation: More about the lumber price shock…

July 20, 2021

Yesterday, we pointed out that In June, year-over-year inflation reached a 13-year high.

Today, let’s drill down on my personal inflation benchmark: lumber prices:

Loyal readers might remember that a couple of weeks ago, I whined about sky-rocketed lumber prices.

See Ouch: I just paid $3,700 for $1,200 of lumber …

Since then, lumber prices have “corrected” somewhat … down about 60% from the peak … but still 50% higher than a year ago.

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That doesn’t lessen the pocketbook sting from my completed project, but it gives me some hope for my next lumber-intensive project: re-planking my retirement home’s dock.

For that project, I’ll be buying lots of #2 prime pressure-treated boards measuring 2 in. x 8 in. x 8 ft.

That’s my personal inflation pain point these days.

Not that long ago, I used to pay about $5 per board.

A couple of weeks ago, Home Depot was charging a whopping $17.98.

Last week the price dropped to $12.99 … a 27% price drop.

This week, the price is down to $10.99 … another 15% price-shaving.

That’s still double what I used to pay … but the price is heading in the right direction!

That is, unless Bidenomics strikes again…

And, as many news sources are reporting, that’s not a far-fetched worry:

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Yipes.

“In June, year-over-year inflation reached a 13-year high.”

July 19, 2021

That’s the mega-takeaway from the most recent gov’t report.
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June’s 5.4% follows May’s 5% and April’s 4% 

Press Secretary Psaki says, based on the administration’s arithmetic, we shouldn’t worry. She noted that  she and Biden — the ever sharp shoppers — paid 16 cents less for their July 4th BBQs.

For the rest of us, in real terms, the inflation shock means that our paychecks are in only buying about 95% of what they did a year ago … and, excluding our new contributions and  stock market gains, the “real” value of our IRA is shrinking at a 5.4% annual rate.

Ouch…

COVID: So, where do we stand now?

July 16, 2021

We haven’t  checked the numbers in awhile, so…
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Vaccinations

Close to Biden’s original goal of 70% of adults … almost 90% of seniors (over 65) … almost 40% of teenagers (just under 10 million).

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Central question: What’s the upward limit in vaccine compliance?

WSJ: “With each day, as more Americans are vaccinated, an unvaccinated person’s likelihood of encountering the disease or spreading it goes down, as does his incentive to accept the risk of vaccination. ”

Especially given recent trends in Covid death rates…

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Covid-related deaths

The covid death rate continues to hover around 250 … roughly the in-season death rate associated with the flu … and down 66% from a month ago; down 66% from 3 months ago; and down 92% from the mid-January peak.

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Covid cases

The confirmed case count has turned up from its trough … roughly double what it was a month ago … worth closely watching, but not hair-on-fire time.

Keep in mind that the current rate is still down 66% from 3 months ago … and down 89% from the mid-January peak.

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Bottom line: Farther along than most people imagined possible, but not out of the woods yet…

WSJ: “There are no dispensable persons”

July 15, 2021

Sometimes, mostly in my wildest dreams, I think that the WSJ is reading the HomaFIles for inspiration

For example, yesterday we posted about The unintended consequences of “non-essentiality”

This morning, the WSJ ran an opinion piece observing that no one is dispensable.

See: God’s Jigsaw Puzzle Needs Every Piece

The author claims to have had an epiphany when watching his daughter put together large jigsaw puzzles.

His prior disposition was that a jigsaw puzzle was:

A picture that consists of far more nonessential than essential pieces.

More parts of Mona Lisa’s background, for instance, than her enigmatic smile.

He admits that in his life, he saw many people (and things) the same way that he saw jigsaw puzzles … lots of uninteresting background pieces.

But, stirred by his daughter’s puzzle-making, a light bulb went off…

Life is a jigsaw puzzle, but I’ve been looking at its pieces entirely wrong.

There are no dispensable persons.

A background piece is no less essential than one completing Mona Lisa’s painted smile,.

A gap anywhere destroys integrity everywhere.

His derived principle for life:

That I cannot see everyone’s essential nature makes it no less so.

This is my challenge: to look for unique beauty in others, to trust it’s there when hardest to discern

Amen, brother.

The unintended consequences of “non-essentiality”…

July 14, 2021

Has gov’t “branding” of workers slowed the vaccination rate and the return to work?
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In the past, I’ve taken aim at “non-essential” government workers.

See: It’s snowing in DC … “non-essentials” need not report.

A couple of times each winter, the Federal gov’t in DC shuts down because of snow … or the mere threat of snow.

When there is a gov’t shutdown, my favorite public service message is blasted on radio, TV and social media:

Due the inclement weather, non-essential Federal government workers do not have to report for work today.

The closure announcement always raises a fundamental question: Why do non-essential Federal government workers ever have to report for work?

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What has that got to do with a couple of our current challenges: vaccination rates and “labor force participation”?

In a prior post, we asked: Did rationing priorities induce vaccine hesitancy?

Initially, when vaccine supply was very limited, the Feds established priority recipients, mostly frontline medical personnel, first-responders and vulnerable seniors.

No problem there.

Then came a growing list of workers deemed “essential” (including, say, unionized teachers who were sitting on the sidelines)

What about the folks who were, by default, officially declared to be non-essential? Folks like grocery store clerks.

The message to them: you’re not essential … so, there’s no pressing need to get you vaccinated … just wait your turn.

Now, that vaccine supplies are plentiful, these people aren’t rushing the gates to get their shots.

After all, they either caught covid during the virus’ peak and have “natural immunity” … or they’re non-essential, so why bother?

That’s what’s known as an “unintended consequence”.

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Might the same effect be slowing the return of some prior workers to the labor force?

It’s well publicized that the Feds are paying unemployed people at the supplemental annual rate of about $15,000 … more than many were making when they were working.

Of course, most behaviorists argue that work provides psychological benefits and bolsters self-worth.

But, the government had previously branded these people non-essential.

That’s gotta push some self-worth to rock bottom.

Ask yourself, why work for less money (than sitting home collecting unemployment benefits) … at a job that has been officially declared to be non-essential?

It’s called behavioral economics…

It’s snowing in DC … “non-essentials” need not report.

July 14, 2021

From the HomaFiles archives…
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Imagine that it’s snowing in DC today … err, kinda.

Not much on the ground … temp is 34 degrees … roads are clear … but those AccuWeather folks are saying more snow is coming.

Good enough for the Feds … to shut the government down.

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Archive photo … not from today!

* * * * *
Invariably, my absolute favorite public service message gets blasted on TV, radio and social media:

Due the inclement weather, non-essential Federal government workers do not have to report for work today.

The snow closure announcement always raises a fundamental question: Why do non-essential Federal government workers ever have to report for work?

My predictable advice: On the next snow day, why not change the locks and pass out new badges to people who self-selected as “essential” and trudged through the threatened-snow to come  to work.

Which raises another question: How many “non-essential” employees does the Federal government carry on its rolls?

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