Nov. Update: If the earth is warming why isn’t Baltimore?

December 6, 2022

That’s a question I’ve been asking over the past couple of months.
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Today, let’s update the analysis that I’ve been reporting …

Like much of the U.S., the Baltimore area (where I live) endured an apparent heatwave this summer.

It was hot enough that, even I, momentarily thought: “Maybe the earth really is warming.”

Then, I started looking harder at my monthly electricity bills from BGE (Baltimore Gas & Electric).

Besides usage info, BGE reports the average monthly temperature, for the current and prior years (the red boxes below).

We previously reported in the past couple of months that year-to-date temperatures in the Baltimore area have been a couple of degrees colder than those in the prior couple of years.

Well, I just got my November bill and guess what.

The 8 month run of colder average monthly temperatures (versus last year) was finally broken.….

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The average November temperature in Baltimore this year was 49 degrees …  3 degrees hotter than last year’s 46 degrees.

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But, the November temp this year (49 degrees)  was still 3 degrees  colder than November 2 years ago (52 degrees) … and, the 11 month average (January to November) for 2022 was still 2.4 degrees colder than 2021 …. and 3.1 degrees colder than 2020.

Hmmm.

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Previously, I challenged readers to square this circle:

  • If the data shows that my average   local temperatures have dropped about 3 degrees from 2 years ago (and one year ago) — why should I believe (with “settled science certainty”) that the earth will be a degree or two hotter 50 or 100 years from now if I keep driving my SUV?

A reader offered up a simple explanation: 2020 and 2021 were historically hot years … and, if I looked deeper in history I’d see that 2022 temperatures are consistent with a warming trend.

That prompted me to do some further digging.

I’ll present my findings in a subsequent post…

“The flight from merit continues across America”

December 1, 2022

That’s what the WSJ called the ABA’s pending move to eliminate the LSAT.
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Buried in the T-Day news was this tidbit…

The American Bar Association (ABA) — which accredits law schools — is planning to end the requirement that prospective law students take the Law School Admission Test (LSAT).

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Background

For decades, law schools considered an applicant’s LSAT score along with the standard law school application information,  GPA, letters of recommendation and an applicant’s personal statement.

The LSAT is administered in a controlled testing environment (to minimize the likelihood of cheating) and scores test takers quantitatively (i.e. a numerical score).

Some (many? most?) top law schools, weight the LSAT score just as heavily (or even more heavily than) than an applicant’s GPA (thanks to grade inflation and incomparability across UG schools) … and recommendation letters (which are selectively prone to one-sided puffery).

There are four main LSAT sections :

  • Logical Reasoning (also known as Arguments)
  • Analytical Reasoning (also known as Logic Games)
  • Reading Comprehension
  • Writing Sample (also known as “The Essay”)

Pretty basic competencies for law students and most lawyering, right?

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Well, the LSAT has been in the crosshairs for the past few years.

Why?

The legal profession has long been criticized for a lack of women and people of color in its top ranks.

So, the debate centers on whether the tests help or hurt diversity in admissions.

On one hand, LSAT opponents argue that the test disadvantages certain minority groups, is a tenuous predictor of law school success and ignores “soft“ personal skills t(that many lawyers seem to lack).

”Law incorporates a range of skills, from logical thinking to business development and effective presentation that can’t all be predicted on a test.” WSJ

“Detractors also object to the LSAT because affluent students often pay thousands of dollars to prepare for the test that is supposed to predict their first-year law school performance.” WSJ

Proponents argue that eliminating the test would increasing the influence of subjectivity (vs. objectivity) in the review process by placing greater emphasis on often incomparable GPAs and slanted recommendations.

To quell the debate, the ABA is intending to make the LSAT “optional” rather than “recommended” or “required”.

In a quick survey of law schools done by Kaplan (a test prep company), about half said that they would opt to keep requiring the test … about half said the were undecided and only a couple said that they would ditch the LSAT.

In other words, the ABA is simply tossing the hot potato to the individual schools, in effect, letting the market decide..

It’ll be interesting to watch how this one sorts out…

Home Alone … it’s not just Kevin McCallister!

November 29, 2022

Over the T-Day weekend, we watched the movie classic Home Alone with grandkids …

… or, as the 4-year-old kept calling it “Provolone”

So, the phrase “Home Alone” was front-of-mind for me … so the below WaPo chart caught my eye.

The data is from the BLS’ American Time Use Survey (ATUS) measures the amount of time people spend doing various activities, such as paid work, childcare, volunteering, and socializing.

In the last category “socializing”, a stark trend occurred”:

Of course, during the Covid lockdown period, people isolated themselves more, i.e. “time alone” spiked.

Pre-Covid, folks were spending about 2 hours a week alone.

That increased to 10 hours per week … and has stayed there post-lockdowns.

Not exactly hermit territory, but statistically significant.

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Social behaviorists hypothesize that social relationships were weakened or broken during Covid … and wonder if they’ll be restored over time … or whether less socialization is a new normal.

If it is a new normal, psychologists warn of an apparent correlated trend in anxiety, depression and aggression.

WaPo’s observes:

You can help reverse these trends today without waiting for the researchers and policymakers to figure it all out.”

What to do?

  • Take advantage of the holiday season … accept the invitations that are offered … and offer a few invites yourself.
  • Be proactive and reach out to rekindle relationships that may have wither a bit during Covid.

Good advice.

The whole WaPo article is worth reading.

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P.S. In the movie Home Alone, Kevin McCallister (played by Macaulay Culkin) was a young boy whose parents inadvertently left him behind when they took a trip to Paris.  Chaos ensued.

Happy Thanksgiving!

November 23, 2022

It has been a tough couple of years.

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

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Another remote learning casualty: attractive females’ grades … say, what?

November 22, 2022

Here’s one that you might not have seen coming…

According to economic researchers in Sweden:

During the pandemic, as education moved online following the onset of the pandemic, the grades of attractive female students deteriorated. Source

Hmmm…

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Maybe this is something that we should have expected.

In a long ago HomaFiles post, we asked (and answered) the question:

Do better looking students get better grades?

To answer the question, Prof Robert Kaplan of San Diego State University conducted an experiment:

Faculty subjects were asked to grade an essay written by a student.

A photograph of the student was attached to the essay.

The grade given for the essay correlated strongly with a subjective attractiveness scale evaluated by other judges.

What is interesting is that all the subjects received the exact same essay, and the photograph attached to it was randomly assigned.

Bottom line: Physical attractiveness effects grading

Here’s what’s going on …

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According to Douglas Hubbard in “Measure Anything”

This is an example of the so-called “halo effect”

If people first see one attribute that predisposes them to favor or disfavor one alternative, they are more likely to interpret additional subsequent information in a way that supports their conclusion, regardless of what the additional information is.

For example, if you initially have a positive impression of a person, you are likely to interpret additional information about that person in a positive light (the halo effect).

Likewise, an initially negative impression has the opposite effect (the “horns effect”).

This effect occurs even when the initially perceived positive or negative attribute should be unrelated to subsequent evaluations.

For the  most memorable example of the halo effect see Biases: The “halo effect” … rock on, sister!

Be sure to watch the video … it’s priceless.

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So what?

Several studies have coined the correlation between attractiveness and grades to be a “beauty premium”.

It accrues when classes are held in person … but losses some of its sway in a zoom call.

It’s as simple as that…

More re: Covid learning loss

November 21, 2022

More research calibrates the problem.
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We previously posted that…

According to The Nation’s Report Card the pandemic school shutdowns took a near catastrophic toll … especially in math.

Pre-Covid, over 42% of 4th graders were considered proficient in math; that percentage slid to  36% during the Covid shut downs.

Similarly, pre-Covid, over 34% of 8th graders were considered proficient in math; that percentage slid to 26% during the Covid shut downs.

All of those numbers are pretty dismal.

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Moving the ball forward…

Researchers at Harvard and Stanford used the latest The Nation’s Report Card results to analyze the achievement drop in different school districts nationwide. Source: WSJ

As expected, there was a correlation between learning loss and the length of school shutdowns.

But, the learning loss was far greater than expected in poorer school districts (think: urban public school districts) than in better-to-do school districts (think: suburban public & private schools).

Said differently, evidence confirmed that poor children disproportionately suffered from pandemic-era disruptions.

In (poor) districts where 69% or more of students received lunch subsidies, children lost the equivalent of two-thirds of a year of math between 2019 and 2022.

In comparison, in (richer) districts where only 39% or fewer got free or reduced lunch, students fell less than half a year behind.

A case on point:

Falls Church City Public Schools is the second-most affluent district in Virginia, with an average household income of nearly $147,000.

There students fell less than 0.3 of a grade level behind in math.

In Richmond City Public Schools, where 93% of students qualify for free or reduced lunch,  children fell 1.96 grade levels behind.

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My Takeaways

> Reconfirmation that learning loss from Covid shutdowns “statistically” significant … as “little” as about 1/2 year in “richer” districts … up to 2 years in “poorer” districts”

> Concern that, while some parents are supplementing the schools with tutoring, etc., I’m still having a hard time hearing about or seeing any substantial, broadscale catch-up programs in our schools.

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Geez, even our lowly #27 worldwide ranking in academics is at risk… there’s lip service … the problem sure doesn’t seem top of mind.

Will somebody please pass the crow?

November 18, 2022

About the election polls
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A week or so before the election, the NY Tomes published a poll in conjunction with its polling partner Sienna University.

The poll’s results were contrary to the red wave being reported by other big name polling outfits.

Like many, I dismissed the NYT-Sienna Poll as an outlier… after all, it was the Dem partisan New York Times.

But, now that most of the dust has settled: The NYT-Sienna got all 4 of the most closely watched Senate races right.

Note: On the 5th — Ohio — NYT-Sienna pegged the race as a dead heat.

Not kinda right …  nearly perfectly right!

Their share of votes predictions were practically dead on the final results.

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How does that compare to the other top name polling services?

> The RCP’s poll-of-polls and Silver 535 were close in Ohio … had Kelly in AZ … but mis-called winners in NV, GA and PA

> Trafalgar … was closest to the pin on Ohio … but miscalled winners in NV, GA, PA and AZ … OUCH!

> NYT-Sienna … called ties in OH and NV   … but were spot on the other 3 races.

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My take: The NYT-Sienna poll was the clear winner this round.

Time to eat, so pass the crow to the other pollsters … and me, for buying into Trafalgar and the “wisdom of the (pollster) crowd”.

Oh well… better luck next time, right?

America’s political polarization in 4 charts …

November 16, 2022

It’s not new … and it’s not all Trump’s fault.
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It’s no secret that American politics has become increasingly – and maybe, irreversibly – polarized.

Biden lays it all off on Trump and his MAGA supporters. … totally ignoring the role that he (Biden) and Obama played.

Let’s look at some inconvenient facts and put them in perspective…

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Way back in 2014, Meet the Press host Chuck Todd observed:

Polarization is no longer just polluting the system — it’s paralyzing it.

The deepening divide between the right and the left has largely hollowed out the center of American politics.

Gone are the politicians who once occupied the large “middle” and the voters who once gravitated to them.

Todd’s observations were true then, and they’re true now.

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The Pew Research Center has tracked party identity and ideology for decades.

One way they do it is by scoring the Republicans and Democrats on a 10-item scale of political values.

Based on the latest Pew data (from 2017, the latest Pew data I could find)), here’s where we stood:

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What the chart means …

Democrats cluster to the left, Republicans cluster to the right.

Less than 10 percent in each party overlaps ideologically with the other side.

That’s where we are.

How did we get here?

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Let’s add some historical perspective …

Back in to mid-90s, there was a divide, too, but the distance between the peaks was relatively small.

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Put another way…

In 1994, a couple of years into the Clinton presidency, Pew found that 36 percent of Republicans were more liberal than the median Democrat … and 30% of Democrats were actually more conservative than the median Republican.

The blue and red curves pretty much blended together … with a big clump of folks overlapping in the center.

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Then came the Bush years.

Many pundits claim that Bush forged the great divide.

But, the facts are to the contrary.

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By midway through the Bush presidency, the ideological peaks had converged even closer.

The biggest area of the chart is the dark blue section … which indicates the a very middle of-the road America.

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Now, let’s advance the calendar and look at 2014.

By the 6th year of the Obama presidency, each side moved further to their extremes .

Less than 10 percent in each party overlapped ideologically with the other side.

Here’s where we were in 2014.

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Now, let’s look at what happened between 2014 and 2017 (Pew’s latest survey)…

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Note that the dark blue “middle of the road” has shrunk.

The red section flattened a bit … with more conservatives moving to the middle.

But, the light blue section has moved to the left (away from the middle) … with a peak moving further to the left.

The data only covers part of the first year of the Trump administration so, for the most part, it’s the legacy that Obama left for Trump.

Certainly, the polarization was amped up during the Trump years.

But, Biden may want to look in a mirror before he starts laying all the blame on Trump.

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P.S. I wonder why Pew stopped publishing this data and it’s cut-to-the-chase charts.

The right track – wrong track paradox.

November 14, 2022

A vast majority of Americans think the country is on the wrong track, but a slim majority voted for the status quo.

As one political pundit put it:

In my view, the strangest thing about the midterm election is how rigidly it preserved the status quo.

At a time when something like 70% of voters say we are on the wrong track, and explosive issues like crime, the cost of living and illegal immigration are roiling the electorate, voters nevertheless turned out for incumbents.

Are voters really that attached to the status quo?

Let’s drill down on that question…
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In the run-up to the 2022 midterm elections, much was made of right track – wrong track polling.

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In round numbers, over 2/3s of Americans think the country is on the wrong track … the other 1/3 think the country is on the right track or have no opinion one way or another.

From that data alone, it was reasonable to expect that the election would usher in sweeping change.

But it didn’t.

How can that be?

Again, just isolating on the right track – wrong track measurement, the answer is simple…

Americans may agree that the country is on the right track … but they don’t agree on what constitutes a right track.

From 50,000 feet, it may be that half of the wrong tracker think that the current track is too progressive … and half think that the current direction is too conservative.

For arguments sake, let’s assume that, objectively, the current status quo leans left.

Add the “too conservative” wrong trackers to the “right trackers” and, bingo, you have a voting majority.

Simple arithmetic, right?

So, why did so many pollsters and political pundits fall victim to the right track – wrong track paradox?

Viva la Gridlock!

November 11, 2022

The stock market soared yesterday because…
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First, the numbers…

Yesterday, the stock market soared … the S&P was up 5.54% to 3,956.

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Let’s put that number in perspective…

The S&P at 3,956 is:

  • 3% higher than when Biden was inaugurated (01/20/21 S&P = 3,841)
  • 17% lower than the sugar-high market peak (12/27/21 S&P = 4,766)
  • 11% higher than the Biden era market trough (10/12/22 S&P = 3,577)

To summarize, the market today is about where it was when Biden was inaugurated … has recovered about 1/3 of the 25% peak to trough decline … and is up 11% from the trough.

So, you can either feel bad (still down 17% from the peak) … or good (recovered about 1/3 of the peak to trough decline).

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For today, let’s focus on the positive … yesterday’s bounce … and ask “why?”

There were 2 near-simultaneous events yesterday morning.

  1. The reported inflation rate for October was down to 7.7%
  2. Media vote counting arbiters conceded that the GOP was on track to gain control of the Congress.

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My take:

The 7.7% is statistically insignificant from the recent inflation running rate … it’s likely month-to-month noise … and likely driven by a decline in residential housing prices … which is, perhaps, a blessing for renters, but a curse to homeowners (whose home is a big chunk of their net worth).

So, I don’t place much weight on the 7.7% inflation rate driving the market gain.

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I think the market gain was driven by the near certainty that the GOP will control Congress and we’ll have split government gridlock for the next 2 years … and, at least, an end to reckless government spending.

Here’s hoping…

Election turnout: Gallup nailed it!

November 10, 2022

One chart provides some clues into the election results
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The below chart hit my email box early on election day.

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I glanced at it … then dismissed it as an outlier to the polls and punditry on turnout.

Most said sky high turnout, especially among fed-up Republicans and inflation drained budgeters.

And, the “generic ballot” gave the edge to the GOP

Getting to the point…

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Gallup queried folks on whether they were more or less enthusiastic about voting in the 2022 midterm election compared to prior midterms.

As the above chart illustrates:

In 2010, 2014 and 2018 … GOP voting enthusiasm was very high … and higher than Dem enthusiasm

But, for this year:

  • GOP voting enthusiasm dropped from 72% in 2018 to 49% this year … a whopping 23 percentage point drop.
  • Dem voting enthusiasm also dropped …  from 69% % in 2018 to 57% this year … but, 8 percentage points higher than GOP voting enthusiasm

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According to an AP / WaPo analysis, turnout (as a percentage of eligible voters) did, in fact, drop this year … down to about 48%

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And, if the mix conforms to the Gallup voting enthusiasm mix, it suggests that proportionately more Dems were “enthusiastic” and more of them turned out to vote than GOPs.

If the actual turnout numbers confirm that conclusion, it’ll explain a lot about the election results … and, Gallup should get credit for spotting the marker.

Yipes! GOP snaring defeat from the jaws of victory?

November 9, 2022

Hoping for gridlock to stop my IRA bleeding.
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I gotta admit, I thought inflation, crime, energy independence and strong borders were a strong hand.

But apparently, not strong enough to win big against abortion, climate control and open borders.

My early morning takeaways:

> So much for the polls, betting markets and political pundits … red wave dissipated somewhere off-shore.

> Kudos to my friends who have already moved to Florida … land of sunshine, low taxes, effective government and common sense.

> Obama got his man …Pennsylvanians should feel so proud.

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> Laxalt and Johnson should eek out victories to keep the Senate 50-50 … as of 6 a.m.

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> Best GOP Senate scenario is that Herschel wins a run-off, but that race has a groundhog day feel to it … and a Walker win would crown Romney as the new Manchin (ouch).

> Pundits are still saying that GOP will eek out a Congressional majority and we’ll see legislative gridlock and a stream of entertaining investigation.

> If the pundits are wrong again, my (our) IRAs, 401Ks and 528s are screwed … batten down the hatches, folks ,,, stock up on Chef Boyardee

Yipes!

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P.S. Looks like a vindicated Biden against a surging DeSantis in 2024.

The dogs just aren’t eating the dogfood…

November 8, 2022

A left-leaning think tank blisters Dems with a data-rich pre-mortem.
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Pre-election, many Dem pundits started lamenting dumb voters (only on the right, of course) and bad messaging … failing to tout touting Biden’s accomplishments and failing to convince the unwashed that climate change and “democracy” are on the ballot, not Biden, inflation, crime or illegal immigration.

That is, until Third Way — a center-left think tank backed by some of the biggest names in Democratic politics — sounded an alarm about deep-seated party flaws. Source

Channeling the Third Way report, Axios outlined the “brutal bill of particulars”.

  • “Democrats are underwater on issues voters name as their highest priorities, including the economy, immigration, and crime.”
  • “While Democrats maintain a lead on handling certain issues like abortion and climate change, voters also rank these issues as lower priorities.”
  • “Voters question whether the party shares essential values like patriotism and the importance of hard work. … Only 43% of voters say Democrats value hard work, compared to 58% for Republicans.”
  • “Even in the areas where Democrats are trusted more [including education], it is not clear that voters are sold on Democrats’ approach or ability to get things done.”
  • Democrats are benefitting from a perception among voters that Republicans are extreme, but…  voters think Democrats are extreme as well.”

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Bottom line: Third Way concludes that Democrats are “out of touch on priorities, ideology and values”.

Other than that, how did you like the play Mrs. Lincoln?

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P.S. The entire Third Way report — loaded with polling results and analysis — is worth reading.

Key Senate Races: Game Day Bets & Odds

November 8, 2022

Election Day morning…
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The chart below summarizes what the PredictIt betting market, Election Betting Odds and Silver 535 are saying about the key mid-term Senate races.

Bottom line:

  • Vance is a prohibitive favorite in Ohio
  • All 3 sources agree that Walker is an odds-on favorite in Georgia
  • Silver calls Nevada a toss-up … others call Laxalt an odds-on favorite
  • Silver has Oz a slight favorite in Pennsylvania … others have Oz a stronger odds-on favorite
  • Toss-up in Arizona …Silver has Kelly as a slight favorite … others have Masters a slight favorite … call it a toss-up

It’s Silver against the bets & odds….

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Key Senate Races: Final-Final Polls

November 8, 2022

What the polls are saying on election morning…
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OK, I jumped the gun yesterday when I recapped what I thought were final polls.

A couple of pollsters reported “fresh” polls yesterday and overnight.

So, today — election day — let’s re-recap the major polls: the RCP poll-of-polls, Trafalgar (right-leaning, historically accurate), NYT/Sienna (left-lurching) and, of course, Nate Silver’s 535.

Bottom line:

  • Trafalgar calling all 5 (OH, NV, GA, PA, AZ) for GOP
  • Silver calling AZ for Kelly … other 4 for GOP
  • RCP final: Toss-up in AZ … other 4 for GOP
  • NYT / Sienna on another planet <= no surprise
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  • Runaway for Vance in Ohio
  • Strong lean to Laxalt in Nevada
  • Slight lean to Walker in GA … Kemp’s coattails … UGA football fever – Herschel put the Dawgs on the map!
  • Slight lean to Oz in PA ,,, Silver flipped from lean Fetterman to lean Oz … Oz pitching Biden’s “close all coal plants” blurt
  • Masters close but no cigar in in Arizona … only Trafalgar calling it for Masters … others may be under-estimating Lake’s coattails

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Key Senate Races: Near-Final Scorecard

November 7, 2022

What the polls are saying…
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Yesterday, we recapped the betting markets and odds.

Today — the day before the mid-term elections — let’s recap the major polls: the RCP poll-of-polls, Trafalgar (right-leaning, historically accurate), NYT/Sienna (left-lurching) and, of course, Nate Silver’s 535.

Bottom line:

  • Runaway for Vance in Ohio
  • Strong lean to Laxalt in Nevada
  • Slight lean to Walker in GA (Kemp’s coattails, UGA football is the talk of the state and Hershel’s a UGA football icon)
  • Pollster duel in PA: Trafalgar has Oz up by 2; Silver has Fetterman winning … in rallies Trump drew an overflow of 17,000; Obama only filled half of a 10,000 seat arena
  • Masters close but no cigar in in Arizona

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Hope & Change?

November 7, 2022

“If you don’t vote for my man, John Fetterman, true democracy will be at risk. It’s a fact”

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Is this really how Obama wants to be remembered?

A pretty big step-down from “Hope & Change”….

Key Senate Races: Odds & Bets

November 6, 2022

Sunday … 2 days until election.
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The chart below summarizes what the PredictIt betting market and Election Betting Odds are saying about the key mid-term Senate races.

Bottom line: A GOP runaway in Ohio … a widening GOP lead in Nevada, approaching runaway status … a statistically significant and widening GOP lead in Georgia, Pennsylvania and Arizona.

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Specifics from Election Betting Odds

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Still more: Some people just shouldn’t vote!

November 6, 2022

The late humorist Andy Rooney cut to the chase.
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Let’s recap…

A couple of days ago, we posted “Some people just shouldn’t vote!” … triggered by a WSJ opinion piece by Peggy Noonan that argued:

If you’re not serious and don’t take our political life seriously … stay home and vote in good conscience next time.

We bolstered Noonan’s piece with an excerpt from GU Prof. Jason Brennan’s book The Ethics of Voting:

All adult citizens have the right to vote … but that they shouldn’t exercise that right unless they are informed, rational, and aiming for the common good.

Yesterday, we posted a contrary point-of-view expressed by former President Obama:

You’ve got to find Cousin Pookie, he’s sitting on the couch right now watching football.

He hasn’t voted in the last 5 elections.

You’ve got to grab him and tell him to go vote.

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Let’s consider one more opinion on the subject.

Back in 1984, Andy Rooney — a culture observer & humorist — presented his point-of-view on 60 Minutes.

Rooney’s take on voting:

“If you don’t know anything about anything refrain from voting”

More specifically, Rooney argued:

You hear a lot of talk about getting out the vote these days.

Local politicians are even using government workers to try and register welfare recipients, for example, and several of the big corporations are pretending they’re “Mister Nice Guy” by telling everyone to get out and vote in commercials. .

The companies are trying to sound patriotic and all-American.

Patriotism is selling very well this year. I don’t want to sound un-American or as though I don’t believe in democracy, but I’d prefer to leave a sleeping vote lie.

If someone has a natural inclination not to vote, because he or she isn’t interested, that’s OK with me.

I don’t want my vote cancelled out by some numbskull who hasn’t thought about the issues.

I hate the thought of having anyone dumber than I am vote.

In Russia, more than 90 percent of the people vote.

Does this make Russia a nice country to live in?

In the United States, not many more than half the eligible voters go to the polls in an election year.

That’s OK with me, too.

My advice to you is this: If you don’t know anything about anything, please stay right where you are.

Don’t get out and vote.

Rooney is probably turning over in his grave these days.

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P.S. Unfortunately, CBS moved the video clip behind the Paramount+ pay wall … too bad … it’s a classic the way Rooney delivers the message.

More: Some people just shouldn’t vote!

November 5, 2022

Former President Obama begs to differ…
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Yesterday’s we posted “Some people just shouldn’t vote!” … triggered by a WSJ opinion piece by Peggy Noonan that argued:

If you’re not serious and don’t take our political life seriously … stay home and vote in good conscience next time.

We bolstered Noonan’s piece with an excerpt from GU Prof. Jason Brennan’s book The Ethics of Voting:

All adult citizens have the right to vote … but that they shouldn’t exercise that right unless they are informed, rational, and aiming for the common good.

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Well, a couple of loyal readers reminded me of a classic contrary point-of-view on the subject.

Raise your hand if you remember, remember former President Obama “Cousin Pookie” get-out-the vote rally cry.

You’ve got to grab your friends. You’ve got to grab your co-workers.

You know, don’t just get the folks you know are going to vote.

You’ve got to find Cousin Pookie, he’s sitting on the couch right now watching football.

He hasn’t voted in the last 5 elections.

You’ve got to grab him and tell him to go vote.

I didn’t say it … Obama did:

click to view video clip
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Take that Ms. Noonan…

Remember Scott Brown?

November 5, 2022

John Fetterman sure does!
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Flashback to 2010 …

Obama had a filibuster-proof 60-40 Senate.

Then, Teddy Kennedy died, making it 59-40 with a vacancy.

No problem for Obama … quick special election in Dem-heavy Massachusetts would restore 60-40.

But, a stud with a pick-up truck got the GOP nomination. His name: Scott Brown.

Brown had sex-appealing charisma and an aura of “authenticity”.

Did I mention that he was a Republican?

Sure, he talked some about GOP-leaning positions, but his bumper sticker simply read:

Scott Brown #41

Not his jersey number, his potential position a filibuster restorer.

It worked!

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Fast forward to today…

Have you caught any of Fetterman’s brief and “to the point” campaign pitches?

Post-stroke, he has a tough time articulating his policy positions.

That’s probably a good thing since his signature priorities are freeing criminals from prisons and opening public heroin injection sites … neither of which is wildly popular these days.

But, he has a strong plus factor for Biden-loving Democrats:

“I’ll be the 51st Democrat in the Senate”.

As long as he can reliably pull the Senate voting lever, nothing else really matters, does it?

Against all odds, it worked for Scott Brown.

Might work for John Fetterman.

Perish the thought…

Some people just shouldn’t vote!

November 4, 2022

Sounds blasphemous, doesn’t it?
===============

In today’s WSJ, the normally sober-minded Peggy Noonan opined:

If you’re serious and take our political life seriously, please go Tuesday to the polls.

And if not, admit it to yourself and try to become a better citizen so you can vote in good conscience next time.

A provocative thought, Peggy …  but not exactly original.

Let’s do a HomaFiles flashback

==============
First posted Sept. 9, 2012

Every election cycle, I scratch my head and wonder blasphemously whether “one man, one vote” makes sense.

Surveys routinely reveal that a majority of Americans have marginal knowledge of government, politics, and political issues.

Try this: ask folks to explain the difference between the Federal deficit and the Federal debt … ask them where the money that funds, say unemployment benefits, comes from.

Jason Brennan is a rare breed … a libertarian business prof at Georgetown.

His research is at the nexus of ethics and politics.

He wrote an insightful book called The Ethics of Voting that I consider a classic.

image

The essence of Jason’s argument is that all adult citizens have the right to vote … but that they shouldn’t exercise that right unless they are informed, rational, and aiming for the common good.

Let’s drill down on that conclusion…

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

More specifically, Prof. Brennan argues:

“If a citizen has a right to vote, this means at minimum that she ought to be permitted to vote — no one should stop her or deprive her of the vote — and that her vote must be counted.

However, if citizens do vote, they must vote well, on the basis of sound evidence for what is likely to promote the common good.

That is, in general, they must vote for the common good rather than for narrow self-interest.

Citizens who lack the motive, knowledge, rationality, or ability to vote well should abstain from voting.

Some voters are well informed about what candidates are likely to do.

They know what policies candidates endorse and whether the candidates are sincere.

They know the track records and general trends of different political parties.

Other voters are ignorant of such things.

Another way voters vary is in their degree of rationality .

Some voters are scrupulously rational, while others are irrational.

Some have patently stupid beliefs.

“[Some citizens] are politically engaged, but they are nonetheless often ignorant of or misinformed about the relevant facts or, worse, are simply irrational.

Though they intend to promote the common good, they all too often lack sufficient evidence to justify the policies they advocate.

When they do vote, I argue, they pollute democracy with their votes and make it more likely that we will have to suffer from bad governance.”

* * * * *

Ken’s Take: An interesting perspective that has been constantly on my mind during this election cycle.

At least read the sample chapter … book is available in paperback at Amazon

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Follow on Twitter @KenHoma

Joe’s giving me an 8.7% raise!

November 3, 2022

And, he rushed to tell me before the mid-term elections.
===============

Here’s an email that I got from the Social Security Administration on Oct.15:

image

A couple of takeaways from the email…

  1. The 8.7% COLA (cost of living increase) is the Fed government’s inflation estimate … required to keep SS recipients whole 2023.
  2. The notice was sent to Social Security recipients on October 15.

What’s interesting about the date?

> Last year, we SS recipients were notified of the 2022 cost-of-living increase (5.9%) on December 3, 2021.

image

> Two years ago, we SS recipients were notified of the 2021 cost-of-living increase (1.3%) on November 3, 2020.

image

Let’s recap …

> Based on Trump’s last year in office (2020), the inflation-based COL increase for 2021 was 1.7%

> Based on Biden’s first year in office (2021), the inflation-based COL increase for 2022 was 5.9%

> Based on Biden’s 2nd year in office (2022 YTD), the inflation- based COL increase for 2023 is 8.7%.

Ouch.

But, that’s not really new news, right?

What’s more interesting (to me) is the timing of the announcements.

The past years’ practice had been to notify SS recipients of their COLA adjustments (for the next year) in late November or early December.

This year the COLA notification was sent on October 15 … a couple of weeks before the mid-terms.

Coincidence?

Call me skeptical.

I can just envision Biden screaming:

“I protected your Social Security benefits against inflation … and, the Republicans want to take them away.”

That’ll be me screaming when he reads the words from the teleprompter …

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

We’ve gotta take a told-ya-so lap on this one…

We alerted loyal readers to this probable Biden scam way back on Oct 17, 2022 at 06:45am

Yes, that was me screaming Wed. night…

Key Senate Races: Odds & Bets

November 3, 2022

OK, let’s see what the betting markets are now saying with less than a week to go…

The chart below summarizes what the PredictIt betting market and Election Betting Odds are saying about the key mid-term Senate races.

Bottom line: A GOP runaway in Ohio … a widening GOP lead in Nevada to near-runaway status … statistically significant but narrowing GOP lead in Pennsylvania and Georgia … a toss-up in Arizona.

image

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

For comparison, here’s what the most favorable Dem-leaning NY Times poll is saying:

image_thumb2[1]

Both can’t be right.

My inclination: Follow the money!

Oct. Update: If the earth is warming, why isn’t Baltimore?

November 1, 2022

I hate to impair a popular narrative with actual data, but…
=============

Like much of the U.S., the Baltimore area (where I live) was enduring an apparent heatwave this summer.

It was hot enough that, even I, momentarily thought: “Maybe the earth really is warming.”

Then, I started looking harder at my monthly electricity bills from BGE (Baltimore Gas & Electric).

Besides usage info, BGE reports the average monthly temperature, for the current and prior years (the red boxes below).

We previously reported in the past couple of months that year-to-date temperatures in the Baltimore area have been a couple of degrees colder than the prior couple of years.

Well, I just got my October bill and guess what.

The trend is continuing.

image

The average October temperature this year was 55 degrees …  10 degrees colder than last year’s 65 degrees.

Hmm

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

Getting more granular, a local Baltimore TV weather anchor pulled together a daily temperature chart for October.

The bottom line: A majority of days in October were colder than the historical average (aka. “normal”) by an average of 5 degrees; a minority of days were warmer than normal, by an average of 4 degrees

image

Was October a fluke?

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

Nope.

To dig deeper, I pulled more historical data from my BGE file…

Below are the average monthly temperatures in Baltimore (as reported by BGE) for January to October in years 2020, 2021 and 2022

image

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

What does the data show?

  • Again, this year (October 2022) was 10 degrees colder than October 2021 … and 7 degrees colder than October 2020
  • More broadly, comparing year-to-year temperature by month, all 2022 monthly temperatures were equal to or colder than 2020 temperatures
  • Compared to 2021, only one month — February 2022 — was hotter than the 2021 temperature (40 degrees to 36 degrees) … all other months in 2022 were colder than their comparable months in 2021.
  • The 10-month average (January to October) for 2020 and 2021 were essentially equal at 61.6 degrees and 61.4 degrees respectively.
  • The 2022 10-month average (January to October) was 2.9 degrees colder in October 2022 than it was in October 2021 …. and 3.1 degrees colder than it was in October 2020.

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

My take

  • It’s conceivable that BGE’s data collection is wrong … or that Baltimore is a complete outlier that’s not representative of the rest of the earth …. but, I doubt either is true.
  • The data probably doesn’t indicate that the earth is cooling … but, it sure as heck doesn’t support a global warming narrative.

Somebody’s gotta explain to me:

  • If the data shows that my average   local temperatures have dropped about 3 degrees from 2 years ago (and one year ago) — why should I believe (with “settled science certainty”) that the earth will be a degree or two hotter 50 or 100 years from now if I keep driving my SUV?

This circle doesn’t square…

Key Races: Election Odds & Bets

October 31, 2022

As I’ve said before, when I’m looking for near real time, “skin in the game”, quantitative assessment of elections, I go to the PredictIt betting market and, more recently, Election Betting Odds (which tries to incorporate the polls and other information).

The chart below summarizes what they’re saying about the key mid-term Senate races.

Bottom line: A GOP runaway in Ohio … a statistically significant GOP lead in Pennsylvania, Nevada and Georgia … a slight GOP lead in Arizona.

image

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

P.S. Election Betting Odds has a very cool interactive map … you can hover over a state to see its specific numbers.

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

Disclosure: Long, long ago, I worked on the business staff of The Daily Princetonian with John Stossel — one of the authors of the Election Betting Odds site

Biden: Gas cost $5 a gallon when I took office…”

October 28, 2022

Not a gaffe, not his dementia … an outright lie!
=============

image
Source

Also in his Syracuse speech this week — like an arsonist who wants credit for calling 911 — he laid claim to bringing gas prices down by over $1.50.

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

Let’s look at the data…

First, the big picture:

image
Data Source: EIA

> Gas prices were about $2.50 per gallon when Trump turned over the keys to Biden.

> At the June 2022 peak — a full 17 months after Biden took office — prices reached $5.11 … more than double the prices when Biden took over.

Classical locker room quip: It all depends where you measure from.

> Prices have come down from the peak … to an apparent bottom at $3.77 … down about 25% from the peak …  but, still about 50% higher than when Biden took office.

Analogy: Binge eater puts on 100 pounds … goes on a diet and loses 50 pounds … touts a 50% weight loss.

> Recently, some statistical “noise” ….prices increased by 1.6% in Sept.  … and, most recently, dropped by about 1.5%

image

Biden’s response to high gas prices: “Blame the profiteering oil companies and gas stations.” Source

C’mon, Joe.

Just take (dis)credit that your your “war on fossil fuels” is working … and stop the BS.

About learning loss and the declining education scores…

October 27, 2022

Anybody remember No Child Left Behind?
=============

Let’s start with what everybody is talking about…

According to The Nation’s Report Card the pandemic school shutdowns took a near catastrophic toll … especially in math.

Pre-Covid, over 42% of 4th graders were considered proficient in math; that percentage slid to  36% during the Covid shut downs.

Similarly, pre-Covid, over 34% of 8th graders were considered proficient in math; that percentage slid to  26% during the Covid shut downs.

All of those numbers are pretty dismal.

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

I don’t think it’s fair to blame either Trump or Biden for Covid.

While Trump did approve the shutdowns when Covid initially broke out in early 2019 (remember “15 days to stop the spread” ?), he started pushing hard for re-opening in fall 2019 but was stiff-armed by Team Fauci and Team Weingarten.

Biden, though, embraced Fauci and the teacher’s unions’ lockdown position … and, the rest is history.

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

Let’s move the ball forward.

This chart from Statista caught my eye:

image

Note the presidential “eras”.

During the Bush years, students’ math proficiency increased from about 1 in 4 students to about 4 in 10 fourth graders … and 1 out of 3 eighth graders.

Those numbers strike me as pretty dismal … but the trend was right.

During both Obama’s years and Trump’s pre-Covid years, improvements stalled but the gains held.

Then, of course, Covid hit …

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

Flashback: No Child Left Behind

What I find remarkable about the above chart are the the statistically significant gains during the Bush years …  the result of the much maligned No Student Left Behind (NSLB) educational initiative whose “4 pillars” were:

1. Stronger Accountability for Results
More testing and supplemental services, such as free tutoring to bring students up to speed

2. More Freedom for States and Communities
More local control … allowing districts to use funds for their particular needs, such as hiring new teachers, increasing teacher pay, and improving teacher training and professional development.

3 Proven Education Methods
Putting emphasis on determining which educational programs and practices have been proven effective through rigorous scientific research … with a particular emphasis on reading skills.

4. More Choices for Parents
A
llowing parents to transfer their children (with funding) to better-performing public schools and charter schools.

Critics — especially the national teachers’ unions —  lambasted NCLB for its emphasis on testing, “draconian” accountability focus and ever- threatening “freedom of school choice” … which jeopardized enrollments in under-performing schools.

Hmm.

Sometimes we should follow the data and do what works, right?

The Oz – Fetterman debate …

October 26, 2022

One chart says it all !
=============

You can find lots of commentary re: Fetterman’s disastrous  debate performance…

When I’m looking for near instantaneous, “skin in the game”, quantitative calibrating reaction to events, I go to the PredictIt betting market.

Prior to last night’s debate, Oz and Fetterman were roughly tied in the polls and the betting markets.

But, during and immediately after the debate, the odds shifted big time … to Oz 65 – 39.

image

 

GOP surging in “generic ballot”.

October 24, 2022

Here’s the best explanation that I’ve found.
=============

First, the data…

According to the RealClearPolitics poll-of-polls, the most recent weeks have been very, very good for the GOP.

One indicator: the generic congressional ballot which asks: Are you more likely to vote for a Republican or Democrat for Congress?

The GOP held a big lead in the Spring, then the Dems closed the gap after SCOTUS’ Dodds decision.

But, look at the recent GOP surge (the yellow circle below).

image
Source: RCP

What’s going on?

The most most compelling explanation that I’ve come across is from conservative pundit Erick Erickson.

Erickson says:

Having run campaigns, covered campaigns, etc. I’ve observed a thing that happens in wave years.

About 3 weeks out, everything just shifts.

The undecideds begin to break.

They all break the same way.

The media rushes to capture it, which reinforces it.

Specifically, in years of a Republican wave, the media spends most of the time avoiding or downplaying the issues that the GOP is talking about.

Then, one day, the switch flips and those issues are all that anyone talks about.

In the past couple of weeks, CBS, MSNBC, ABC, CNN have all started airing voters who say crime is bad and getting worse.

Voters on CNN in PA are talking about how Fetterman has too many issues for their vote.

MSNBC talked to black voters in Philly overrun with crime.

CBS is talking to voters in AZ who are upset about crime, the economy and the border.

Once the media starts reporting instead of opinionating, the tide starts to roll in.  Source

Makes sense to me…

OMG: Will Romney be taking the mantle from Manchin?

October 20, 2022

A GOP Senate majority may not be bullet-proof.
=============

Another case of the obvious becoming evident …

I was scanning an article on election predictions and was stopped in my tracks by an incidental comment:

RealClearPolitics predicts that Republicans will win five of the seven toss-ups, giving them 52 seats (and a Romney-proof majority).

What did he say?

Oh no, is it possible that Mitt Romney will be the legislative decision-maker for the next 2 years.

Manchin loved the spotlight and did slow some progressive steam-rolling … but when the big money chips were on the table, he caved… e.g. he got totally rolled on the $350 billion climate control bill (nee Inflation Reduction Act).

I’d been assuming that a GOP majority  would gridlock the Senate — something that I consider a good thing. Make that “a very good thing”.

But, much like Manchin couldn’t be counted on, for sure, the GOP can’t count on Romney.

He’ll bask in the  limelight and will position himself as the adult in the Senate …. by siding with the Dems on pivotal issues to demonstrate his bi-partisanship.

Why?

To position himself to compete against Trump (maybe) and DeSantis (certainly) for the GOP presidential nomination in 2024.

Yipes.

From the frying pan into the fire…

Greater threat to the planet: Putin or climate change?

October 19, 2022

Putin is the clear & present danger … so, unleash our oil & gas industry, Joe.
=============

Business leaders are now pushing Biden for an “Energy Marshall Plan” … to mobilize U.S. oil & gas companies for energy independence and export capacity.

Here’s what they’re thinking…

Analytically speaking, risk assessment boils down to a couple of decision criteria:

> How immediate is the threat?

> How severe are the potential consequences?

> How likely are the consequences?

> How might mitigation change the odds?

Applying these risk assessment criteria, the answer to the headlined question is pretty clear (to me).

Putin is demonstrably a clear, present, proven and potentially nuclear danger.

Just turn on your TV to watch the slaughter of innocent people and the destruction of a nation and a culture.

Just listen to Putin threaten to use nuclear weapons.

Putin is maniacal (and probably crazy), determined and has planet-destroying nuclear weapons that he might use if he’s cornered.

And, he’s starting to look cornered.

The climate change threat is murky (sorry, but the science is not close to being settled) and prospective (decades off) … with asserted and uncertain long-term consequences.

Bottom line: If the choice is binary, Putin must be stopped ASAP.

If the Putin and climate threats need to be “balanced”, then the scale should be tilted to stopping Putin.

Putin is clearly the more immediate threat.

Climate control can wait.

Let’s drill down on the decision criteria…

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

THREAT ASSESSMENT

Immediacy 

The Putin threat is happening now.  Just turn on your TV right and watch the slaughter of innocent people and the destruction of a nation and a culture.

Even climate control zealots concede that its potential “existential threat” from climate change is decades away.

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

Severity

Climate control zealots say that, unchecked by draconian mitigation, the planet will be a degree or two warmer in 50 years … and that’s enough to end life as we know it.

Let’s assume that’s true.

Some might argue that the Putin threat is localized and contained.

The Ukraine invasion is tragic and sad, but c’mon man, it’s just Ukraine.

Once Putin gets to the Polish border, the U.N. and NATO will stop him in his tracks.

Might be true.

But, what if Putin is, in fact, crazy and, when cornered, he starts lobbing nukes.

Suddenly, we’re looking at a level of global destruction that gives climate change a run for its money.

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

Likelihood

So, what is the likelihood that climate change puts planetary existence at risk?

Sure, clean energy beats dirty energy and a green mindset makes sense.

But, the case for climate change ending the planet’s existence is a reach.

It is disputable whether the “data is clear” and that “the science is settled” on the consequences of climate change.

For details, see 16 Reasons why I’m lukewarm on climate change

Personally, I’d score the likelihood of Putin unleashing planet-destroying nukes higher than a climate existential threat.

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

Mitigation

This is where things get dicey.

I’m confident that the U.S. will become increasingly green.

That’s a good thing.

I believe that American ingenuity and technology will — sometime and somehow over the next 50 years — provide game-changing climate control remedies.

But, as Igor Sechin, CEO of Russia’s state-owned Rosneft, has warned

Some ecologists and politicians urge for a hasty energy transition, yet it requires an unrealistically fast launch of renewable energy sources and faces issues with storage, ensuring reliability and stability of power generation. WSJ

And, to this point, climate control initiatives in the U.S. and Europe have largely been virtue signaling … outsourcing fossil fuel production to other countries (most notably Russia!) … putting the U.S. and Europe in a vulnerable security position.

Question: Is Russian oil cleaner than U.S. or Canadian oil?

Answer: Nope!

So, the pivotal question is how to “mitigate” the Putin threat.

Well, maybe Putin can be jawboned and shunned … and will come to his senses and rein in  his destructive tendencies.

My opinion: Odds of that are essentially zero.

Maybe the rational Russian people will rise up and take him out.

I’m betting the under on that one, too

Let’s try diplomacy.

How’s then been working out?

Not to worry, NATO will ultimately use military force to contain the Putin risk at the Polish border.

English translation: NATO nations will encourage the U.S. to kick Putin’s ass when the time comes

Military containment might be doable … but, at a high cost with the incumbent risk that a crazy Putin starts a nuclear war.

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

So what to do?

Oh yeah, there are other Putin-mitigating options.

How about draining his war-mongering financial resources with sanctions?

In logic-speak: necessary but not sufficient … especially since the current sanctions explicitly rule out any transactions related to the flow of Russian oil.

According to Biden’s Deputy National Security Advisor Daleep Singh:

“To be clear, our sanctions are not designed to cause any disruption to the current flow of energy from Russia to the world” Source

Say, what?

Bottom line: The only non-military way to cripple Putin’s war mongering is to use U.S. oil & gas production as a geo-political strategic tool … the geo-political strategic tool!

As one right-leaning pundit puts it:

Putin’s power comes from money, most of Putin’s money comes from oil and gas.

It stands to reason that if you’re trying to punish him, hitting him in the wallet is the most effective way to do it.

So why would our President specifically exempt what is the best, most effective, and really only significant way to hurt Putin in way that might impact his behavior?

Of course, there’s an explanation…

Biden is boxed by his party’s far left climate control zealots.

Nonetheless, as we’ve said before:

It’s time to reprioritize energy security and independence by unleashing U.S. oil & gas production!

He has to do an objective risk assessment (see above), stiff-arm his parity’s uber-left loons, restore U.S. energy superiority by unleashing our oil & gas industry.

It’s as simple as that!

 

Joe’s giving me an 8.7% raise!

October 17, 2022

And, he rushed to tell me before the mid-term elections.
===============

Here’s an email that I got from the Social Security Administration over the weekend:

image

A couple of takeaways from the email…

  1. The 8.7% COLA (cost of living increase) is the Fed government’s inflation estimate … required to keep SS recipients whole 2023.
  2. The notice was sent to Social Security recipients on October 15.

What’s interesting about the date?

> Last year, we SS recipients were notified of the 2022 cost-of-living increase (5.9%) on December 3, 2021.

image

> Two years ago, we SS recipients were notified of the 2021 cost-of-living increase (1.3%) on November 3, 2020.

image

Let’s recap …

> Based on Trump’s last year in office (2020), the inflation-based COL increase for 2021 was 1.7%

> Based on Biden’s first year in office (2021), the inflation-based COL increase for 2022 was 5.9%

> Based on Biden’s 2nd year in office (2022 YTD), the inflation- based COL increase for 2023 is 8.7%.

Ouch.

But, that’s not really new news, right?

What’s more interesting (to me) is the timing of the announcements.

The past years’ practice had been to notify SS recipients of their COLA adjustments (for the next year) in late November or early December.

This year the COLA notification was sent on October 15 … a couple of weeks before the mid-terms.

Coincidence?

Call me skeptical.

I can just envision Biden screaming:

“I protected your Social Security benefits against inflation … and, the Republicans want to take them away.”

That’ll be me screaming when he reads the words from the teleprompter …

Why does inflation feels so much worse than 8%?

October 14, 2022

Since Biden was inaugurated consumer prices have increased by over 13% … more in key consumer categories
==============

Following the stats communications principle of “bite sizing” large numbers into smaller (less alarming) ones, Biden likes to focus on month to month price changes.

Along the same vein, the BLS and media norm is to focus on year-over-year percentage increases.

For example, the latest CPI increase is reported at 8.2%

But, when we go to a store or a gas station, prices seem so much worse.

Why is that?

Simple answer: the headlines aren’t reporting the most relevant numbers — price levels and their change from a meaningful starting point.

A more complicated statistical answer has to do with the “miracle of compounding” … which in the case of prices, is more like the “disastrous effect of compounding”

Case in point: this week, the BLS reported that, in Sept. 2022, the CPI increased 8.2% from Sept. 2021.

Let’s set a different comparative point — namely, January 2021 — when Trump turned over the WH keys to Biden…

in January 2021, the CPI was 261.6 … in Sept. 2022, it was 296.8 … that’s an increase of 13.1% …  which is 1.6 times 8.1% (i.e. 60% higher)

That’s what people are feeling … not the year ago comparison … since the year ago number already has some jaw-dropping inflation baked in.

In stats-speak, this is the “lapping principle” 

And, as the chart below shows, the price tag pain is worse for the most relevant home budget items.

For example, since Biden’s inauguration…

  • Food at Home is up 17.7%
  • Gas is up 58.6%
  • Electricity is up 23.3%
  • Natural gas is up 51.8%
  • Used cars are up 36.2%
  • Housing costs are up almost 10%
  • Air fares are up 41.8%

click table  to enlarge
image

The red  numbers above show what consumers are feeling … not “just” the 8.2%.

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

Chart notes:

  1. Columns (a) and (b) are from the published BLS reports for January 2021 and September 2022
  2. Column (c) “Point to Point % Increase” is the % increase from Jan.2021 to Sept. 2022
  3. Column (d) “Compound Annual Rate” is the   is the annualized percentage increase from Jan. 2021 to Sept. 2022
  4. Column (e) is the percentage change from Sept. 2021 to Sept. 2022

Again, IMHO, column (c) “Point to Point % Increase” from Jan.2021 to Sept. 2022 are the numbers that we should all be focusing on.

More: Is STEM — the last bastion of academic integrity — now in the crosshairs?

October 13, 2022

Old school science prof fired when students protest his “too hard” course.
=============+
In a prior post, we reported on a letter signed by over 500 top scientists ringing an alarm bell re: the current direction in math & science education.

In a nutshell, their concerns:

  • Dumbed down courses to accommodate less well prepared and less ambitious students
  • Opposition to “right” answers and established protocols
  • Grade inflation across the grading range
  • Resistance to enforce minimum “passing” standards

Here’s a case on point…

New York University recently fired a professor after students complained that his class was too hard.

The instructor, 84-year-old Maitland Jones Jr., is a legend in his field who literally wrote the book on organic chemistry.

In a petition to the university, the students complained that Jones did not provide opportunities for extra credit and gave out grades in his orgo class that were “not an accurate reflection of the time and effort” that they had put into it.

Let’s unpack that …

> The prof is too “old school” and by implication, just too old to be teaching woke age students

> Grades should consider “time & effort” expended, not just on  subject mastery.

> “Extra credit”  should be allowed when the fundamental course material is not adequately mastered

> “Alternative performance indicators and constraints” should be considered in the grading process (think: “social promotions”)

The bottom line: It’s yourfault, not mine.

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

So, how did NYU respond to the student’s petition?

NYU granted the students “the opportunity to retroactively withdraw from the class and thus spare their transcripts from the smear of a low (or failing) grade” …  and fired the legendary prof.

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

Who’s right — the students or the prof?

A bit surprising (to me), based on a quick Goggle-scan of media reports, the popular support leans for the students.

For example, see NY Magazine: “The Whiny Grade-Grubbing NYU Students Have a Point

The essence of the pro-student argument…

> Prof. Jones is, in fact, too damn old.

“It’s not exactly hard to believe that an 84-year-old might not be the most engaging and accessible instructor for students who were born in 2004.” Source

> The pandemic handicapped students’ prior learning and eroded their study skills.

“The pandemic undermined the quality of an entire cohort’s education, and thus, of its academic development.

Ideally, students would be held back to repeat the year that they effectively lost to substandard schooling.

But of course, at universities that charge more than the U.S. median income for a year of instruction, this is not typically viable.” Source

> The performance measurement system is too rigid — too focused on right answers and outdated protocols.

“The story is illustrative of the burgeoning consumer-centric model of the university.

The students’ suggestion that grades should accurately reflect “the time and effort” put into the class, irrespective of whether that time and effort translated into subject mastery, does seem to support the entitlement of a consumer.” Source

> Organic Chemistry is too difficult, too reliant on  memorization skills and largely irrelevant — even for doctors.

“The substance of the organic-chemistry curriculum does not come up all that much in medical training or practice.

So, the subject should not be a precondition for medical training in the United States.” Source

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

Suffice it too say, it’s probably good that I retired when I did…

Is STEM — the last bastion of academic integrity — now in the crosshairs?

October 11, 2022

Scientists: “Alarmed over recent trends in math education”
==============

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

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

That’s ringing alarm bells for scientists and mathematicians.

So says a letter boasting about 500 signatories, including:

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

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

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

My take: Their issues seem to revolve around:

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

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

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

> Grade inflation … a logical extension when standardized testing and right answers are non grata … “A” grades are tossed around like penny candies …. failing grades become practically extinct.

Weighing in, in absentia, is Albert Einstein:

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

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

Again, quoting Einstein:

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

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

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

Einstein would be disappointed on that count:

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

But, the signatories’ did issue a strong warning:

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

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

Amen.

AAA: Gas prices up almost 3.5% in a month …

October 7, 2022

That’s a whopping 50% annualized inflation rate!
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AAA reports gas prices every day.

Today’s report pegs a gallon of regular at $3.81 per gallon.

That’s up 3.45% from a month ago … which equates to a 50% annual compound rate.

For reference, today’s price is up 3.73% from a year ago … and up 52% since Biden was inaugurated.

Biden’s answer: squash the U.S. energy producers, cozy up to the Saudi, Iranian and Venezuelan dictators.

Might work…  since “nobody (effs) with a Biden”

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A picture is worth a thousand words…

October 6, 2022

During his trip to Florida, Biden yielded the Presidential podium DeSantis…

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If only…

Have you been catching more colds this year?

October 5, 2022

Your immune system probably got weaker during covid-induced isolation …. but not to worry.
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In a couple of recent friend & family chats, it became evident that more folks are catching more colds more often.

One hypothesis is that the cold-wave is a result of immune systems that weakened during 2 years of covid-confinements.

Might be … but not to worry.

Just follow the late George Carlin’s advice for building (or re-building) a strong immune system.

His prescription for building a strong immune system to battle germ attacks is a bit contrary to current conventional wisdom and CDC guidance.

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WARNING: Adult content – profanity-laced, politically-incorrect, totally insensitive to the current COVID situation and likely to offend practically everyone.  Do not play in earshot of children, co-workers or sensitive adults. Hit delete now if you self-classify in that latter group.

In other word, this is classic George Carlin.

click to view (if you dare <= you’ve been warned!)
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Are Dems hoping that Ian will be DeSantis’ Katrina?

September 30, 2022

You bet they are … but, so far, DeSantis is rising to the occasion.
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Hurricane Ian has been devastating … and the recovery will be a Herculean, multiyear challenge.

That said, I’ve been impressed with the planning and preparations that Florida had put in place (e.g. reportedly 30,000 electrical linemen from 31 states).

So far, Gov. DeSantis has demonstrated strong leadership … his press conferences have been informative and appropriately tempered between “this is catastrophic” and “keep the faith”.

Since the initial recovery actions appear to be on track, Biden, of course, has been awakened to grab a share the spotlight.

But, Joe will be Joe.

For the couple of days before the hurricane hit, Biden wasn’t taking calls from Florida area codes.

When the press started asking why, he connected with DeSantis and signed some EOs to release some recovery money from the Federal coffers.

Then came Biden’s performance at FEMA…

After reading well-scripted remarks from his trusty teleprompter, Biden just couldn’t help himself and started lashing out at oil companies and gas station owners … laying the groundwork for pinning any gas price hikes between now and the election on them.

When asked about his relationship with DeSantis, Biden just called the question irrelevant.

And in a recurring Biden senior moment, he closed by wandering off the stage in the wrong direction.

Note in minute-clip below how the FEMA Administrator tried to shepherd him … but he scampered out of her reach.

And, note how the FEMA Administrator and DHS Director Alejandro Mayorkas chuckle (behind the wanderer’s back)

click to viewimage

Please, Lord, make it Biden versus DeSantis in 2024.

Polling: Focus on Likely voters, “top boxes” and Independents.

September 26, 2022

They are the best predictors…
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I’m a fan of the Trafalgar Group’s polls.

Admittedly, Trafalgar leans right, but I like that:

> They screen for “likely voters’ … not the less predictable “registered voters” who may lack voting “enthusiasm”.

> They provide “top box data” … that is, data isolating highly predictive “strong” feelings

Why this is significant?

Many market researchers argue for the ”top box effect”.

That is, they think that the answers given by respondents who feel “strongly” on a question — one way or the other — have higher predictive value than the answers from respondents who may lean in a direction but don’t have particularly strong feelings.

The difference between the scores from respondents who are “strongly favorable’ and those who are “strongly unfavorable” is sometimes referred to as the “net promoter index”.

For more detail, see the HBR classic: The One Number that You Need to Grow.

> They separate responses by party affiliation … providing a way to check the “mix” of Dems, GOPs and Independents … and allows a focused look at independents who are “swing voters” and are less likely to cast party-lemming votes.

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OK, so what do Trafalgar’s most recent polls say?

First, let’s dissect Biden’s overall approval numbers:

  • Overall, Biden’s total approval is 15.5 percentage points underwater … 54.8% disapprove to 39.3% approve
  • Only 54% of Biden’s total approvers feel strongly that he is doing a good job, but 92% of his disapprovers are strong disapprovers.
  • So, Biden’s “top box” favorability measure, is underwater by 29.1 percentage points … 50.2% unfavorable to 21.1% favorable

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It gets more interesting when we drill down by party identification:

  • Less than half of Democrats (43.7%) strongly approve of the job that Biden is doing (Row 1, Column a)
  • 80% of Republicans disapprove strongly of the job that Biden is doing (Row 6, Column c)
  • Perhaps most important, a majority of Independents (52%) disapprove strongly of the job that Biden is doing (Row 6, Column b) … putting Biden 35.7% underwater on strong approval (Row 10, Column b)

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Draw your own conclusions re: election implications.

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While we’re at it …

Trafalgar has the GOP up by 5.7 percentage points on the “generic Congressional ballot” (47.2% to 42.2%).

For comparison, the left-leaning WaPo-ABC poll concludes:

In the midterm election ahead, registered voters divide 47-46 percent between the Republican and the Democratic candidate (on the generic Congressional ballot).

A likely voter model has a 51-46 percent Republican-Democratic split (5 percentage point).

So, both a left-leaning and a right-leaning poll agree that — when the metric is likely voters — the GOP lead on the generic Congressional ballot is about 5 points. 

Again, draw your own conclusions re: election implications.

Why aren’t more people upset about Biden’s college loan giveaway?

September 22, 2022

Simple answer: Majority of Americans aren’t getting stuck with the bill.
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There are lots of principled reasons for opposing Biden’s student loan giveaway.

Most notably, the Executive Order is unconstitutional (especially now that Biden has publicly declared that the pandemic is over) … the plan is unfair to people who didn’t attend college, who worked to pay their way through college or paid off their loans as previously required … and income tax payers have to pick up the trillion dollar tab.

So why does it appear that the program will actually be enacted?

Why isn’t there more of an uproar?

Well, for openers, about 23 million potential voters benefit from Biden’s largesse and may demonstrate their thanks at the polls in November.

But, 23 million is a relatively small number of beneficiaries.

A bigger number is 100 million.

That’s the number of people who haven’t paid any income taxes in the past couple of years.

According to a Tax Policy Center analysis of IRS data, in 2021, only 43% of Americans paid any Federal income taxes.

Conversely, a majority — 57% — paid no Federal income taxes.

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Tax Policy Center

So, except for fairness principles — why should the 57% get worked up over a tax payer funded program?

They won’t be paying the bill…

It’s somebody else’s problem.

It’s as simple as that!

WSJ: Closed captions are cool now…

September 20, 2022

Just ask anyone under 40.
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A year or two ago, I was watching a movie with my teenaged granddaughter.

She turned on “closed captions” to “hear” the dialogue more clearly.

Holy cow …  I didn’t know you could do that.

And, I assumed that only some of us seniors had trouble understanding TV dialogue.

Now, as the WSJ puts it:

Closed captions—which display text in the same language as the original audio—have been crucial for a long time for many people with hearing loss.

They’re now a must-have for plenty of people without hearing loss, too, helping them better understand the audio or allowing them to multitask.

More specifically:

In a May survey of about 1,200 Americans:

70% of adult Gen Z respondents (ages 18 to 25) and 53% of millennials (26 to 41) said they watch content with text most of the time.

That’s compared with slightly more than a third of older respondents Source

Among the reasons “legitimizing” captions (beyond hearing loss) are:

  • Separate dialogue from background noise and music
  • “Decipher” accents or muttered dialogue.
  • Avoid disturbing others (at home or at work)
  • “Enjoy” discrepancies between the captions and the voiced dialogue
  • Facilitate multi-tasking (e.g. carrying on a conversation while watching a show)

Bottom line: Captions can add to a viewing experience whether you’re young or old … and are now “de-stigmatized” for aging hearing loss deniers”.

Right on!

Inflation: The micro view…

September 16, 2022

Topline: Overall CPI up 8.3% …  there’s devil in the details … and a couple of bright spots.
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Here are some of the essentials that we all face day-to-day:

> Food at home is up 13.5%food at employee sites is up 23.7% <= another arrow in the quiver of employees who want to keep working from home

> Gasoline may be down about a buck from the mid-summer peak price ($5 per gallon) … but they’re still up $1.66 (68%) from Biden’s inauguration day ($2.42) and up 26% from a year ago. Source

> Electricity is up almost 15% from a year ago … as we head to the winter heating season.

> Housing is up 6% from a year ago. This is a component worth watching as appreciated values get reelected in lease renewal rental rates.

> New vehicles (cars & trucks) are up 10.1%used cars are up 7.8% … motor vehicle repair costs are up over 10% … and, oh yeah, the average EV now costs over $60,000

> Vet services (and pet food) are up over 10%

OUCH!

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On the bright (err, “not so dreary”) side:

> Heathcare inflation has been relatively tame (up about 5%) … with “physician service” prices essentially flat year to year.

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And, a few more not-so-bad inflation trends that are underappreciated:

> Underwear, alcoholic beverages and cable TV are only up about 3% year to year.

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Bottom line: if you want to mitigate inflationary pressures, the formula is obvious:  watch more cable TV, in your underwear, while slammin’ your favorite adult beverage.

If that doesn’t work, find some solace knowing eventually the inflationary pain will (pardon the pun) die away;

>Funeral services are only going up 2.6%.

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Yipes!

Inflation: The macro view…

September 15, 2022

Bottom line: Sorry, Joe, it’s not zero!
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Here’s the big picture:

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Diving into the numbers:

> When Biden was inaugurated, the CPI was 262.2 … in August, it was 295.6 … that’s a 12.7% increase over Biden’s 20 month term … on an annualized basis, that’s a 7.22% APR

> In comparison: When Trump was inaugurated, the CPI was 243.6 … when he left office in Jan. 2021, it was 262.2 … that’s a 7.6% increase over Trump’s 4 year term … on an annualized basis, that’s a 1.85% APR

> Cutting the numbers a different way: From Trump’s inauguration to Aug. 2022, the CPI increased 21.3% … 1/3 of the increase occurred during Trump’s run (at 1.85% APR , which the Fed targets for the U.S. long term rate) … and 2/3s of the increase has hit during Biden’s reign (at a 7.22% APR)

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Think about this:

> If inflation had continued at Trump’s APR 1.85% APR), the CPI would be about 270 today … we’d be seeing prices about 10% lower than they are today.

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Ask yourself a variant of Ronald Reagan’s “cut to the chase” question:

Are your pantry, wallet, IRA, 401K, 529s better off today than they were 20 months ago?

Reality bites!

September 14, 2022

This may be the picture that memorializes the Biden presidency.

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If only CNN had also included an insert that read “Inflation 8.3%

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P.S. Note the network: CNN … which switched away from Biden’s “Malarkey Moment” soon after the split-screen aired.

Ouch: Georgetown rates near the bottom on free speech…

September 13, 2022

Ranked #200 among 203 universities rated.
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Each year, FIRE (the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education publishes a “comprehensive comparison of the student experience of free speech on their campuses.”

Schools are evaluated along 7 measures of “the free speech climate on the schools’ campus”:

  • Openness to discussing challenging topics on campus;
  • Tolerance for allowing controversial Liberal speakers on campus;
  • Tolerance for allowing controversial Conservative speakers on campus;
  • Administrative Support, which is students’ perception about whether their college protects or punishes free speech;
  • Comfort Expressing Ideas, which measures whether students have ever withheld their ideas due to how the expression would be received;
  • Protest Acceptability, which is how accepting students are of controversial protest activity on campus;
  • Speech Code Policies, scores colleges’ written policies and how well they uphold fundamental principles of free speech and academic freedom.

These 7 measures are combined into an overall score and schools are ranked.

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The 2022 Results

First, the best of the best:

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  • My b-school alma mater, the University of Chicago — which is hardly considered a conservative enclave — bagged the top ranking for freedom speech.
  • Four of the Top 5 are midwestern schools … the 5th (MSU) is southern.

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At the other end of the spectrum:

My beloved Georgetown ranked #200 on the list. “out-worsed” only by Columbia (“abysmal”), Penn and RPI.

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GU’s ranking is disappointing but understandable given the university’s close ties (physically, philosophically, financially) to the liberal DC political establishment.

As one survey respondent put it:

“A lot of people at Georgetown are very liberal and outright shame you if you deviate from there views even slightly. I am a registered Democrat so I am liberal, but people can’t even respect the smallest viewpoint variation.”

Factoid: FIRE estimates (based on students’ self-classification) that GU’s ratio of liberal to conservative students is 3.3 to 1.

Ouch.

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Top & Bottom 25

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Which football conference’s schools rank highest on freedom of speech?

FIRE offers a complete interactive list of the freedom of speech rankings.

For fun, click on the “Conference” filter to see which conference gets the best freedom of speech rankings.

Spoiler Alert: It’s not the Ivy League

Is grade inflation hitting babies & toddlers, too?

September 12, 2022

CDC has revised the developmental milestone checklist for children … uh-oh.
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Yep, the CDC is at work again.

Now, their guidance takes form in the CDC’s Revised developmental milestone checklist which alerts parents (and doctors) to warning signs of children’s developmental delays.

Sounds innocuous enough, right?

But, according to Parent’s magazine, “experts are raising the alarm that the new changes may cause more harm than good.”

What?

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics: “The revised developmental milestones are written in family-friendly language and identify the behaviors that 75% or more of children can be expected to exhibit at a certain age based on data, developmental resources and clinician experience.”

Family-friendly language sounds like a good thing, right?

What’s the rub?

The 75% threshold.

The old standard flagged kids who were in the 50th percentile and below.

Said differently kids in the bottom half used to be flagged for “clinical evaluation” to determine whether they were really behind on their development or just appeared to be.

The old (tougher) standard made sense because “The earlier a child is identified with a developmental delay the better, as treatment as well as learning interventions can begin”. AAP

But, apparently, that standard was causing parents too much stress.

Too many kids were flagged as behind in their development.

The answer: relax the standards … i.e. grade inflation.

For example, under the old standard, the CDC said that  a 24-month-old should say an average of 50 words.

But, the revised guidelines say parents shouldn’t expect a toddler to have a 50 word vocabulary until they are 30 months old.

Many parents can sigh relief.

Little Tommy’s not slow, after all.

Well parents, Little Tommy hasn’t changed, fols … just the bar has been lowered.

Little Tommy may not be getting the sort of clinical help that he might need.

Hmm.

Half of all bachelor’s degrees are in 5 fields…

September 9, 2022

Which ones may surprise you…
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According to the Education Data Initiative ….

More precisely, 50.8% of all bachelor’s degrees are in 5 fields.

  • 19.1% in business
  • 11.9% in health professions
  • 8.0% in social sciences and history.
  • 5.9% in psychology.
  • 5.9% in biological and biomedical sciences.

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I was surprised by the number of business and health-related degrees.

Note that of the STEM disciplines, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics don’t make the top 5

Geez, if there has to be an unconstitutional loan forgiveness program, why isn’t it at least targeted at those critical STEM studies?

 

Government tries to clamp down on record grade inflation…

September 8, 2022

Don’t rejoice (or worry), it’s the UK gov’t, not our’s
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As in the U.S., grade inflation has swept the UK … with a huge spike during the pandemic when much schooling was done “virtually”.

In the UK, for about a decade preceding the pandemic, about 27% of the grades that high schoolers got were As. Source

That percentage spiked to 45% in 2020.

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The commonly cited reasons:

  • Online performance tough to differentiate
  • Just showing up online earned bonus points
  • Cheating commonplace on online exams
  • Students needed motivation to stay engaged

As we previously posted, studies are revealing that standardized test scores are falling as letter grades are inflating.

See: Is grade inflation masking learning losses?

Well, the UK Education Ministry has noticed the trend and is taking decisive action to deflate the grades.

“Grade boundaries are being reset to the middle of where they were in 2021 and 2019 as part of a planned two-year process to get back to pre-pandemic grade levels.”

Already, in 2020, the percentage of As dropped to 37% (the black bar above) … down 8 percentage points from the pandemic high … but still 10 percentage points higher than pre-pandemic levels.

Students are reportedly having a “tough time” with the course correction.

As could be expected, they feel entitled to keep getting scored along the lax pandemic standards.

College admissions offices are having a fit, trying to figure out what to make of the grading shifts.

Nonetheless, the UK Education Ministry intends to stay the course … and get back to 2019 inflated grade levels.

No word from U.S. educators…

My bet, we won’t be hearing from them.

This isn’t a message that parents, teacher unions or the Feds want to hear.


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