Companies plan to keep raising prices…

October 26, 2021

P&G: “We have not seen any material reaction from consumers.” 
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That’s the conclusion from a WSJ survey of company execs and industry analysts…

A couple of my takeways…

> Companies are quickly passing along cost increases … with many “adding a little extra” to “get healthy” after the lockdowns.

Example: “Last week, P&G  announced a third round of price increases and told investors to expect profitability to accelerate as the year progresses.”

> The pandemic has left many (most?)  consumers “cash heavy” since they haven’t been traveling, dining out and, in some cases, not paying their rent …  so, many have banked their government stimulus checks.

Many consumers accumulated savings amid the pandemic and are benefiting from higher wages, leaving them with extra cash as the highly contagious Delta variant of the coronavirus keeps them home and lessens the appeal of dining out, staying in hotels and traveling by air.

> So, far, price increases have paid off as shoppers have continued buying — or even buying more to stock up in advance of likely future price increases or supply shortages  to big-name brands.

“We’re seeing price increases that are quite shocking, yet consumers have absorbed these prices without a dip in demand,” said Ben Reich, chief executive of Datasembly, which amasses granular pricing data on a range of consumer goods.

> But, some analysts caution that there’s a limit to how long and how high companies can keep jacking up prices.

As some of the stimulus fades and more price increases kick in, consumers will become increasingly pinched by inflation.

Pricing is going to be more of an issue for consumers, limiting companies’ pricing power.

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Bottom line: Expect prices to keep going up for awhile.

How to tell when the world has gone mad?

October 25, 2021

Great moments on TV: CNN host gets schooled.
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First, some background…

Bari Weiss was an op-ed editor for the NY Times from 2014 to 2017.

Her resignation letter made a pretty big splash in 2017.

It read, in part:

It is with sadness that I write to tell you that I am resigning from The New York Times.

I joined the paper with gratitude and optimism three years ago.

I was hired with the goal of bringing in voices that would not otherwise appear in your pages: first-time writers, centrists, conservatives and others who would not naturally think of The Times as their home.

The reason for this effort was clear: The paper’s failure to anticipate the outcome of the 2016 election meant that the paper didn’t have a firm grasp of the country it covers.

But the lessons that ought to have followed the election — lessons about the importance of understanding other Americans, the necessity of resisting tribalism, and the centrality of the free exchange of ideas to a democratic society — have not been learned.

Instead, a new consensus has emerged in the press, but perhaps especially at this paper: that truth isn’t a process of collective discovery, but an orthodoxy already known to an enlightened few whose job is to inform everyone else. Full letter

Soon after she resigned from the New York Times, Weiss began a Substack newsletter called “Common Sense”, built on a straightforward premise:

There are tens of millions of Americans who aren’t on the hard left or the hard right who feel that the world has gone mad.

Obvious truths are dangerous to say out loud.

This newsletter is for those people.

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OK, now to the punch line…

Weiss was invited on a CNN show called Relative Sources with a sketchy host named Brian Stelter.

The how & why of the invitation is a mystery to me, but I figured the interview would be worth watching.

Was it ever.

A full takedown!

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Stelter dropped the puck by asking what turned out to be a loaded question:

“In what ways has the world gone mad?”

Weiss lowered the boom:

Where can I start?

Well, when you have the chief reporter on the beat of COVID for The New York Times talking about how questioning or pursuing the question of the lab leak is racist, the world has gone mad.

When you’re not able to say out loud and in public there are differences between men and women, the world has gone mad.

When we’re not allowed to acknowledge that rioting is rioting and it is bad and that silence is not violence, but violence is violence, the world has gone mad.

When you’re not able to say that stories like the Hunter Biden laptop is a story worth pursuing, the world has gone mad.

When, in the name of progress, young school children, as young as kindergarten, are being separated in public schools because of their race, and that is called progress instead of segregation, the world has gone mad.

There are dozens of examples.”

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Stelter then asked Weiss “who is to blame”?

People that work at networks like, frankly, like CNN – the one I’m speaking on right now.

They try to claim that it is racist to investigate certain topics.

CNN’s actions amount to “disinformation by omission.”

It’s delusional to think otherwise.

Well said, Ms. Weiss

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click to see a 2-minute video

Biden: “Say goodbye to your cars”

October 22, 2021

Shades of Hillary’s promise to “put coal miners out of business”
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First, some history…

In her book, “What Happened“, Hillary Clinton wrote that her biggest regret from her ill-fated presidential campaign was saying she would “put coal miners out of business.”

Clinton made the remark during a town hall in March 2016 when she touted her plan to replace fossil-fuel-based energy production with renewable alternatives.

The remark sparked a backlash against Clinton and haunted her throughout the campaign when it was widely interpreted as her being  non-empathetic to  the suffering of white working-class Americans with a particular focus on struggling coal miners.

She later lost every county in West Virginia — the country’s premier coal-mining state.  Source

Will history repeat?

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In a speech this week in Scranton, Biden tried to rally support for his Build Back Better Human Infrastructure Plan.

Included in the proposed $3.5 trillion  bill are climate change provisions intended to curtail fossil-fuel-based energy usage.

Sound familiar?

As part of that program, Biden told the audience: “Here’s the deal”…

“We will take, literally, millions of automobiles off the road. Off the road.”

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No joke, not kidding, the God’s truth, etc.

That may resonate among elite urbanites and folks in the Acela corridor… but, I’m not so sure that the idea (threat?) will play well in Middle America, rural communities (or even Scranton) … or among suburban soccer parents and people whose livelihood  depends on their cars & trucks.

Of course, Joe doesn’t have to worry about re-election but, with his job approval dipping below 40%, I wouldn’t think that poking folks in the eye is a way to win back love…

Shocker: Biden polls even with Trump…

October 21, 2021

… on favorability and head-to-head electability.
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According to the latest Quinnipiac poll

Biden’s job approval seems to have leveled off at a low level:

> 20% strongly approve (down 18 percentage points from Inauguration Day)

> 45% strongly disapprove (up 13 percentage points from Inauguration Day)

> Putting Biden currently underwater by 25 percentage points points.

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Drilling down…

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Biden Competence

> A majority (55%) think that Biden is not competent to do the job

> 2 out of 3 Independents think that Biden is not competent to do the job

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Hmm…

But at least he’s honest and and a nice guy, right?

Not exactly…

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Biden Honesty

> Only 42% think that Biden is honest; majority of those with an opinion think he’s not honest.

> 57% of Independents think he’s not honest.

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OK, he’s not competent nor honest, but he’s a nice guy, right?

What?

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

Biden “Favorability”

Quinnipiac asked: Is your opinion of Joe Biden favorable, unfavorable?

Apparently, “nice guy” (if true) doesn’t neutralize low scores on competence and honesty.

> Only 40% view Biden favorably (down 14 percentage points since Inauguration Day)

> 50% view him unfavorably (up 12 percentage points since Inauguration Day)

> Putting Biden’s current favorability score underwater by 10 percentage points).

image

If that isn’t bad enough…

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Trump’s Current “Favorability”

Here’s the ho-hum-crasher from the same Quinnipiac poll:

> Trump’s current favorability score is 41% (1 percentage point higher than Biden’s

> 52% view Trump unfavorably (only 2 percentage points more than Biden

> So, call it a tie … with both having majority unfavorable ratings

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So, a broadly despised, mean tweeting, media pummeled, twice-impeached one-term president is viewed as warmly (or coldly) after nine months than the guy who was elected to replace him.

Can it be?

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Better Off or Worse Off?

Quinnipiac also asked a variant of the question that Ronald Reagan popularized:

Overall, do you think that the country is better off or worse off today than it was a year ago?

Keep in mind, that a year ago, we were pre-vaccine and largely shutdown economically and socially.

And, the answer is:

> A majority (52%) thinks that the country is worse off now than a year ago

> There’s near-unanimity among Republicans (94%) that the country is worse off

> Only 74% of Dems think that the country is better off now than a year ago … not fully offsetting the strong Republican view.

> Most telling, 56% of Independents (many of whom voted for Biden) think that the country is worse off now .image

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Trump vs. Biden

To add a punctuation point to these survey results…

Pollsters from Grinnell (College) & Selzer Consulting conclude, based on their most recent survey:

> “If the 2024 presidential election were held today, the same percentage of likely voters would vote for former President Donald Trump (40%) as President Biden (40%)

> Among Independents, if a Trump – Biden election were held today, our poll shows former President Trump winning that group 45% to 28%.”

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The pieces all seem to tie together, folks.

Gallup: Americans sour on government agencies…

October 20, 2021

Yesterday, we posted that, according to Gallup, a majority of Americans say the government is doing too many things that should be left to individuals and businesses.

Wonder why?

Well, another Gallup survey highlights the underlying reason why Americans want the Federal government to do less.

Bottom line: Americans do not think that most government agencies are doing a particularly good job … and. across the board, they think that the agencies’ performance is weakening,

image

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Takeaways

Based on people rating agencies’ performance positively, i.e.  as doing an excellent of good job…

> Only NASA is sustaining its rating … and that agency has outsourced much of its work to Bezos and Musk

> The performance ratings of ALL other agencies dropped between  2020 and 2021

> Only 3 agencies — NASA, USPS and the Secret Service — now get majority positive ratings.

> Both the USPS and Secret Service ratings dropped by double digits … 17 and 14 percentage points, respectively.

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Healthcare Agencies

> The CDC had the biggest drop … 24 percentage points … from 64% to a 40% rating the agency’s performance as excellent or good.

> Comparably, the FDA and VA are down to 40% and 36% respectively.

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Security & Law Enforcement

> In 2020: the FBI, DHS and CIA all had a majority rating their performance as excellent or good.

> But, all 3 of those agencies dropped by double digits between 2020 and 2021 … the CIA dropped 19 points (from 60% to 41%) … the FBI dropped 13 points (from 57% to 44%) … and DHS dropped 13 points (from 55% to 42%)

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Defense & State Depts.

> Neither Defense nor State were rated in 2020

> in 2021, the Defense Dept. performance was rated positively by 46%

> In 2021, the State Dept. rating was rated excellent of good by only 32% … putting the State Dept. last among the 15 key Federal agencies.

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Bottom Line

As the WSJ would say:

“If President Biden wants to understand why his $3.5 trillion entitlement spending plan is stalled in Congress, he might look at the new polls from Gallup.”

Seriously, what rational person would give a gang that can’t shoot straight a virtual blank check ($3.5 trillion) … and expect much good to happen.

Gallup – Majority now want gov’t “more hands off” …

October 19, 2021

A reversal since last year … when you-know-who was president
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Straight off the presses from Gallup

> A majority (52%) of Americans say the government is doing too many things that should be left to individuals and businesses.

> The usual partisan divide is evident: 80% of Republicans think the gov’t is doing too many things; 78% of Dems think that the government is doing too little.

> That said, even Dems shifted 5 percentage points away from the notion that  “gov’t should be doing more”.

> The swing factor:  57% of independents now think that gov’t is doing too much … that’s up by 19 percentage points from Gallup’s 2020 survey.

image

More specifically, 50% of Americans say that they prefer “less services & lower taxes” … 29% say to “keep taxes and services where they are now” … and only 19% prefer “more services & higher taxes”.

Gallup was silent on whether any of the 19% currently pay any income taxes … or if any of the 10% are willing themselves to pay higher taxes to pay for added services.

I’m betting the under on that one…

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The WSJ Take

The WSJ chalks the results up to buyer’s remorse

In his few months in office, the President has made clear the era of Big Government is back.

But now that Americans are getting a better look at what this entails — higher taxes, more regulation, more spending and inflation — they are having second thoughts.

…. and opines that the results clearly indicate why Biden’s “$3.5 trillion entitlement spending plan” is only gaining traction among Democratic loyalists.

“If President Biden wants to understand why his $3.5 trillion entitlement spending plan is stalled in Congress, he might look at the new poll from Gallup.”

You think?

A prof shreds Fauci’s “attacking me is attacking science” canard…

October 18, 2021

Last week, Rasmussen reported poling results that only 41% of American adults now have a favorable impression of the nation’s chief political-scientist Dr. Anthony Fauci.

image

Not surprising,

Weeks ago, we posted:

A scientist shreds Fauci’s “attacking me is attacking science” canard…

In a WSJ op-ed, Gary Saul Morson — a Northwestern prof and co-author of “Minds Wide Shut: How the New Fundamentalisms Divide Us” — takes his shot at Dr. Fauci and his brand of “partisan science”.

Morson makes 3 main points…

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1. Science operates by a process of criticism.

Some scientific statements prove false; that’s how science works.

For example, early last year we were treated to the delightful spectacle of Montana’s Glacier National Park removing signs that said its glaciers would be gone by 2020.

Science always contains some propositions less firmly grounded than others: on the frontier, newly discovered, based on experiments not readily replicated.

Those who claim that to doubt any part of the consensus is to be “antiscience” or “a denier” are themselves being unscientific.

Science operates by a process of criticism.

Scientists don’t experience divine revelations, they propose hypotheses that they and others test.

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2. Doubting a scientist is not to doubt science.

Dr. Fauci’s assertion of authority creates skepticism about all his assertions because the distinction between science and a particular scientist is essential.

The greater danger to the public’s trust in science comes not from the uneducated but from politicians and journalists who claim to speak in the name of science.

Still more, it comes from scientists themselves, either because of what they say publicly in the name of science

When reasonable people cease to trust science in one case, how will one persuade them in another?

Dr. Fauci admitted that he first stated that masks were ineffective in part because there was a shortage of masks and he wanted to preserve them for medical workers, who needed them most.

He doesn’t seem to have considered: Once a scientist shades the truth for a reason of policy, why shouldn’t reasonable people assume his other statements are based on policy considerations rather than science?

To the extent that scientific claims are informed by political considerations, they are no more well-founded than purely political ones.

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3. Beware “following the science”!

When a politician from any part of the political spectrum, claims he is only “following the science,” one can be sure that he isn’t.

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Still, Fauci is maintains a ubiquitous media presence.

Go figure…

Nums: The Virginia gubernatorial race…

October 15, 2021

Close race … Trump and education are on the ballot.
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Let’s look at the numbers…

According to a recent CBS-YouGov Poll, the Virginia governor’s race — pitting former governor and hard core Dem politico, Terry McAuliffe against a political novice, wealthy former private equity exec, Glenn Youngkin  — is within the margin of error.

image

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Independents lean to Youngkin by 9 percentage points.

image

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Party-affiliated likely voters are deeply entrenched … making relative turnout levels pivotal.

image

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Likely Youngkin voters are more enthusiastic about voting … suggesting a turnout advantage for Younkin.

Note: McAuliffe has enlisted Obama to campaign and rally the Dem-dependable black vote.

image

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Typical of off-year elections, to date, early voting totals are substantially lower than they were in the 2020 presidential election.

Note: Early voting is typically dominated by Dems … GOP voters tend to in-person voting, especially on election day.

image

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Based on the poll’s “internals”, CBS concludes:

image

I agree that the race is tight, but the Dems have a history of winning the tight games in Virginia.

That said, I have a different slant on the “drivers”.

Hate is a very strong emotion, and Trump-hate is still rampant in Northern Virginia … which is dominated by Federal employees, government contractors and liberal elites.

Somethin to watch: Only a slim majority of Federal government employees were vaccinated before Biden’s mandate. Will there be a SWA-like backlash as enforcement date looms closer?

Loudoun County is ground zero for the education issue: Should parents have a role in their children’s education or are they “domestic terrorists” if they challenge school boards and teachers’ unions?

Something to watch: Loudoun County is the fastest growing county in the U.S.  Will the “school board moms” be large enough in numbers and compelling enough in message to rally educated suburban women to love their kids more than they hate Trump?

To that point…

Recently in a debate, McAuliffe declared: “I don’t think that parents should be telling schools what to teach”

According to a recent Trafalgar poll … 19.9% of Virginians “strongly agree” with McAuliffe … 45.7 “strongly disagree.  That’s a 25.8 percentage point gap!

This race will be interesting to watch … and, possibly a harbinger of things to come in 2020.

“Gamechanger”: Biden coaxes LA ports to work nights & weekends…

October 14, 2021

Why weren’t they doing that already?
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Let’s set the stage:

The ports in Los Angeles and Long Beach, California, account for 40% of all shipping containers entering the U.S.

As of this Monday, there were 62 ships berthed at the two ports and 81 waiting to dock and unload, according to the Marine Exchange of Southern California.

No question, the LA ports are a bottleneck in the U.S. supply chain.

So, after “months of negotiations with unions and local politicos”, President Biden flipped on his teleprompter and read to the nation:

image

And, Biden boasted that the action is a “gamechanger” … and praised his crack team and his union vote-getters for their months of hard work making this bold action happen.

My initial reaction: Are you kidding me?

The broader consensus:

image

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Laggards playing catch-up

For openers, I was surprised that they’d been only doing two 8-hour shifts a day … Monday through Friday … no weekends.

Here’s my “anchoring point”…

One of my neighbors is a longshoreman at the Port of Baltimore.

He may be the hardest working guy I’ve ever met … always on call, lots of night shifts and 16 hour days, rugged physical work.

When I ask him why, his simple reply: “Gotta get the ships unloaded”.

I assumed that he was representative of all longshoremen.

Silly me.

To that point, WaPo reports  that “the extended hours the administration is touting represent something less than the full around-the-clock operations that are typical of the world’s most advanced cargo-moving facilities.”

But, not to worry.

“Leaders of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union have agreed to work longer hours, provided individual terminal operators pay up.”

And, it only took Team Biden a few months to get them to that point.

My question: Given Joe’s proclivities, why didn’t he just mandate 24/7 months ago?

Obvious answer: The International Longshore and Warehouse Union

Say no more…

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Moving the mongoose thru the python

Port operators say that “operational details are being discussed and still need to be worked out with the supply chain stakeholders.”

English translation:

“Similar delays await freight once it reaches the shore, where docks, rail yards and warehouses are jammed with goods” and truckers are few and far between.

Until the “labor force participation rate” bumps up, specifically for truckers, the problem will persist.

“All you do is move the logjam from sea to shore – and that can potentially make matters worse.”

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Getting FedEx, Walmart & Home Depot off their asses

This is downright laughable!

Biden is even claiming credit for getting Walmart, Home Depot, etc. to start working 24/7.

What the hell does he think they’ve been doing since the dawn of creation. It’s their lifeblood.

All of those operations have business models that move goods 24/7.

For example: Ian Jefferies, president of the American Railroad Association says indignantly:

“Major railroads “have long been 24/7 operations.”
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Role Modeling

Biden says that:

“The giant companies will set an example that will spur others to follow.”

But, he didn’t personally commit to working full days or weekends … and, of course, he didn’t take questions.

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My questions::

Do Joe and his crack team of amateurs have any idea how the economy works?

I’m betting the under on that one.

Where are the “exceptionally successful” military logistics forces?

If they’re so good, shouldn’t they be working this problem?

And, can you imagine if these sluggards had been in charge of vaccine development?

We wouldn’t be tussling over vax mandates now … because we wouldn’t have any vaccines.

Heaven help us…

More re: covid infection and immunization…

October 13, 2021

As we posted previously ……

In their original application for approvals, the vaccine companies cited clinical studies demonstrating very high protection from symptomatic infection.

in Pfizer’s recent application to get an Emergency Use Authorization for booster shots, the company submitted data indicating that effectiveness against infection starts high (90% immediately after the 2nd shot) …  but it wanes down to around 40% 6 months later.

image_thumb8
Source

The good news: Confirmation of symptomatic infection protection soon after getting vaccinated.

The bad news: A relatively quick waning of the infection protection.

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Consistent with the Pfizer data…

CNN reports two real-world studies, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, provide some data that complements Pfizer’s.

One study looked at actual infections among the  population of Qatar — a small Gulf nation that’s nearly fully vaccinated.

The conclusions:

> Protection against hospitalization and death builds quickly and stays at above 90%,

> Protection against infection:

  • Builds rapidly after the first dose
  • Peaks in the first month after the second dose
  • Wanes after the first month, gradually at first but …
  • Accelerating after the fourth month  down to approximately 20% in subsequent months.

Key point: Protection against infection drops more than Pfizer’s reported: 20% vs. 40%.

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A second study, in Israel, tracked 4,800 health care workers, measuring neutralizing antibodies — the immune system’s first line of defense against infection which correlates with protection against infection

The main conclusion:

Antibody levels wane rapidly after two doses of vaccine “especially among men, among persons 65 years of age or older, and among persons with immunosuppression.”

Key point: Protection against infection starts high but wanes quickly for high risk groups.

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In combination, Pfizer’s data and these 2 studies seem to indicate:

> Pfizer’s vaccine provides a very  high level of protection against severe covid disease, hospitalization and death … and, that the protection “remains strong” with minimal waning.

> And, while the vaccine does provide substantial protection against infection early-on, that protection wanes quickly after a couple of months … especially for seniors and people with immune system issues.

Biden: “No transmission if vaccinated’ … say, what?

October 12, 2021

Apparently, he didn’t read last week’s HomaFiles posts.
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I’ve been trying hard to understand the risk that I, a vaccinated person, have of getting infected and transmitting covid to, say, my grandkids.

Last week, we observed that:

> In their original EUA applications, the vaccine companies made no claims that the vaccines would prevent asymptomatic infections … they just claimed protection against symptomatic infections.

> Nonetheless, the CDC web site advised: “It is very rare for a vaccinated person to get infected and transmit the virus.”

See Fauci: CDC is flying blind on post-vax infections…

> More recently,, CDC Director Walensky clarified that:  “Though covid vaccines work “exceptionally well”  against hospitalization and death, they can’t prevent transmission anymore. So, we should expect thousands of breakthrough infections.”

See CDC Director: “Covid vaccines can’t prevent transmission”

> And, Pfizer data indicates that vaccinations do provide roughly 90% protection against infection soon after being fully vaccinated … but, that the protection waned down to about 40% after 6 months.

See Still more vax math: What about booster shots?

Using the Pfizer data, we ballparked that about 1/2 of recent infections might be attributable to breakthrough infections and transmission by fully vaccinated people.

See Covid data: More about breakthrough infections and viral transmission…

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All of the above notwithstanding, last week President Biden veered off his teleprompter  and  declared that all healthcare workers should get vaccinated because doing so provides “certainty that the people providing your care … cannot spread it to you“.

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click to view

Doesn’t he know that his scientists (and their data) are saying that vaccinated people can still spread the virus.

As climate czar John Kerry might say: “The President was unaware” … or, or he was intentionally misinforming.

Competence or honesty?

And, some people wonder wonder why a majority of Americans (and 2 out of 3 of Independents) think Biden is either incompetent or dishonest.

Uh-oh, Joe: Majority think you’re incompetent…

October 11, 2021

… and your  job approval goes further underwater.
==============

Let’s start with the RCP poll-of-polls

> 43.3% approve of the job Joe’s doing …   52 disapprove … putting him underwater by 8.7 percentage points.

> Half of the polls have him underwater by double digits … only the Dem-dependable Reuters poll has him close to even

image

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The right-leaning Trafalgar Group has Biden’s job approval underwater by 16.4 percentage points (39.6% approve. 56.0% disapprove)…

… and puts his strong job approval underwater by a whopping 26.7 percentage points (fewer than 1 in 4 strongly approve of the job he’s doing, more than 1/2 strongly disapprove)

image

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Drilling down, a new (left-leaning) Quinnipiac poll says it all…

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Some details  from the Quinnipiac poll…

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Biden Job Approval

> Majority (53%) disapprove of the job Biden is doing as president.

> 60% of Independents disapprove

> 2 out of 3 Blacks still approve of the job Biden is doing, but

> Biden’s job approval has dropped 22 points among  Black Americans since April (according to the AP-NORC poll)

image

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Biden ”Strong” Job Approval

> Overall, consistent with the Trafalgar poll, Biden is underwater by 25 percentage points on strong job approval (or disapproval)

> Biden is underwater by 35 percentage points among Independents

> Biden is underwater by 23 percentage points among Hispanics

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Direction of Country

> Almost half (48%) are very dissatisfied with the direction of the country.

> Majority (54%) of Independents are very dissatisfied with the direction of the country

image

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Biden Competence

> As headlined, a majority (55%) think that Biden is not competent to do the job

> 2 out of 3 Independents think that Biden is not competent to do the job

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Biden Honesty

> Only 42% think that Biden is honest; majority of those with an opinion think he’s not honest.

> 57% of Independents think he’s not honest.

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Quinnipiac’s overall conclusion

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Hardly a mandate for transformational change, right?

Covid data: More about breakthrough infections and viral transmission…

October 8, 2021

As we posted yesterday ……

In its recent application to get an Emergency Use Authorization for booster shots, Pfizer submitted data indicating that effectiveness against infection starts high (90% immediately after the 2nd shot) …  but it wanes down to around 40% 6 months later.

image_thumb8
Source

From this data, we can infer some things about viral transmission … since infection is an obvious prerequisite to transmission.

Early on, soon after people get vaccinated, the risk of infection is very low, so the risk of transmission is very low.

But, as the vaccine’s protection from infection wanes, the transmission risk (among vaccinated people) increases.

The impact is, shall we say, statistically significant.

How significant?

Let’s run some numbers…

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How many transmitters?

In rough numbers that are good enough to calibrate the transmission impact, about 200 million people have been vaccinated and about 100 million haven’t been.

Using those ballpark numbers to determine the magnitude of effect …

In the spring, shortly after the first rush-to-get-vaccinated, there were about 100 million unvaccinated people who were vulnerable to infection and, thus, transmission.

At the same tome, 10% (the inverse of 90%) of the vaccinated people, about 20 million, were vulnerable to infection and transmission.

So, the total number of people vulnerable to infection and transmission was 120 million.

But, 6 months later, as the vaccinations aged & waned, 60% of the vaccinated people, about 120 million were vulnerable to infection and transmission.

So, the total number of people vulnerable to infection and transmission was 220 million … over half of whom were fully vaccinated.

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So what?

Everybody knows that cases started spiking this summer.

image

The culprits behind the spike: the Delta variant … and unvaccinated people.

Or, so we’ve been told,

Delta is guilty as charged, but …

Because of the aging of Spring vaccination shots … and the associated waning of infection protection … our rough-cut estimate is that, pre-booster shots, more than half of the people spreading the virus are probably vaccinated people whose infection protection has waned.

They’re unindicted (and unnamed) co-conspirators behind the spike in cases.

In stats-speak: Bayes is alive and well … but oft-overlooked.

More: About infection and transmission…

October 7, 2021

Earlier this week we posted

1. The CDC web site says that it is very rare for a vaccinated person to get infected and transmit the virus.

2. Fauci opined a similar view in a CNBC interview … but equivocated when confronted with some compelling anecdotal evidence and couldn’t brandish CDC data to the contrary.

3. CDC Director Walensky told CNN that we should expect “tens of thousands of breakthrough infections and hundreds of thousands of daily cases.”

Today, let’s try to square the circle of opinions with some data…
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Protection from Hospitalization & Death

In late 2020, when Pfizer applied for its original vaccine Emergency Use Authorization, the company presented clinical trial results that evidenced 90% or better protection against hospitalization and death.

Subsequently, when Pfizer applied for a booster shot EUA, the company presented data indicating that the efficacy of its vaccine in preventing hospitalization only wanes slightly … from around 90% shortly after 2nd shots to about 85% six months later.

Bottom line: high efficacy, slow waning with respect to hospitalizations & deaths.

image_thumb5
Source

That’s a strong commendation for the efficacy (and durability) of the vaccine … but, it’s a relatively weak case for boosters.

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Protection from Infection & Transmission

In 2020, when Pfizer applied for its original vaccine Emergency Use Authorization, the company was silent on protection against infection and transmission.

The simple reason: Their clinical trials didn’t measure whether the vaccines prevented infection and transmission.

Fast forward to 2021 …

In its recent application to get an Emergency Use Authorization for booster shots, Pfizer did submit data indicating that effectiveness against infection starts high (90% immediately after the 2nd shot) …  but it wanes down to around 40% six months later.

image_thumb8
Source

That’s both good news and bad news.

The high initial protection against infection (which is very good news) …  was common-sensically inferred by many … but there wasn’t data to prove it. Now, there’s confirmatory data!

But, there’s also some bad news:

There’s a relatively fast-paced waning of the infection protection (from 90% down to 40%).

That’s a pretty strong case for boosters since any infection brings with it (1) the threat of “long covid” complications (2) the accompanying risk of hospitalization and death (3) the likelihood of transmitting the virus to others.

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About Transmission

More specifically, the data is on point regarding viral transmission … since infection is an obvious prerequisite to transmission.

Early on, soon after people get vaccinated, the risk of infection is very low, so the risk of transmission is very low.

But, as the vaccine’s protection from infection wanes, the transmission risk (among vaccinated people) increases.

The impact is, shall we say, statistically significant.

Tomorrow, we’ll work the numbers….

Who to believe: Vax developers or Fauci or the CDC … or Rachel Maddow?

October 6, 2021

Earlier this week we posted

1. The CDC web site says that it is very rare for a vaccinated person to get infected and transmit the virus.

2. Fauci opined a similar view in a CNBC interview but backed down when confronted with some compelling anecdotal evidence and a dearth of CDC data to the contrary.

3. CDC Director Walensky told CNN that we should expect “tens of thousands of breakthrough infections and hundreds of thousands of daily cases.”

How to square this circle of opinions?

Let’s go back to the beginning…

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The Vax Companies

When the vax companies applied for Emergency Use Authorizations, they presented clinical trial results that evidenced 90% or better protection against symptomatic infections.

But, the companies were silent on protection against asymptomatic infections (now estimated as about 3 in 4 covid infections).

The simple reason: Their clinical trials didn’t measure asymptomatic infections.

So, little could be inferred from the data regarding transmission.

Perhaps the vax companies should have been even more loudly explicit about the limitations on their claims.

Why?

Because their silence provided misinformers a window of opportunity to, well, misinform.

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The Misinformers

Case in point: MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow — the font of truth for roughly half of the country.

Earlier this year, Maddow ironically — in a characteristic  rant about misinformation — preached to her devotees that “you are like 90% less likely to get infected and transmit to anybody else” … so get vaxxed or you might kill somebody.

Again, keep in mind that the clinical studies didn’t track asymptomatic infections … the 90% applied only to symptomatic (and test confirmed) cases.

click to view the priceless part of Maddow’s rant
image_thumb[2]

Maddow’s view was totally unsupported by any data  … but, it was emotionally supportive of the pro-vaccine narrative and caught on with other left-leaning amateur-scientific-influencers … who probably didn’t read the vax companies’ EUA applications or fret over the lack of supporting data.

Bottom line: Maddow’s admonition, albeit factless at the time, was compelling and contagious.

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Fauci

Apparently, Fauci bought into Maddow’s riff until CNBC’s Sarah Eisen asked for the data and he had to admit that the data was limited since the CDC hadn’t been doing surveillance studies to track asymptomatic infections..

See:  Fauci: CDC is flying blind on post-vax infections

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CDC Director Walensky

Walensky — while likely unaware of what the CDC was pitching on its web site — is probably trying to walk back to the more realistic view that the vaccines are highly effective … but their promised efficacy is limited to symptomatic and severe infections. … and that the total effectiveness against infections (including asymptomatic infections) wanes over time.

See: CDC Director: “Covid vaccines can’t prevent transmission”

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So, who to believe?

CDC Director: “Covid vaccines can’t prevent transmission”

October 5, 2021

Now, I’m officially confused.

Yesterday, we posted about a CNBC interview with chief political-scientist Anthony Fauci.

Fauci opined that vaccines prevent covid transmission rates … but when confronted with strong anecdotal evidence to the contrary and asked a pointed question, he conceded that the CDC lacked the data to support that conclusion … but, not to worry the data was likely coming.

New scientific method?

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

Drilling down, the CNBC interviewer, Sarah Eisen, read to Fauci from the CDC web site:

“The greatest risk of transmission is among unvaccinated people who are much more likely to get infected, and therefore transmit the virus.

Fully vaccinated people get COVID-19 (known as breakthrough infections) far less often than unvaccinated people.”

That’s when Fauci conceded that the CDC didn’t have the supporting data.

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Despite Fauci’s admission that the CDC didn’t have much data on breakthrough infections, CDC Director Walensky took to the airwaves to proclaim that:

1. Though covid vaccines work “exceptionally well”  against hospitalization and death, they “can’t prevent transmission anymore”. and …

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2. We should expect thousands of breakthrough infections, and …

image

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3. We might potentially experience several hundred thousand cases a day!

image

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So, which is it?

> Fauci says not to worry about breakthrough infections if you’re vaccinated

> The CDC web site says not to worry because breakthrough infections are few and far between

> CDC Director Walensky says to expect tens of thousand breakthroughs and hundreds of thousands daily cases … hardly “rare” instances.

It’s hard to follow the science when data is scarce … and  the scientists, who are supposedly reading from the same hymnal, offer widely different “guidance”.

Confusing, right?

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P.S. Note that Walensky’s verbatim was ““can’t prevent transmission anymore”.

Wonder what she meant by “anymore” …

Hmmm

Fauci: CDC is flying blind on post-vax infections…

October 4, 2021

My bet: you know somebody who has been vaccinated and then tested positive for covid.

Even if not, you must have heard stories about public figures who have been victims of these are so-called “breakthrough infections”, e.g. Justice Kavanaugh, who tested positive last week despite being fully vaccinated.

Reasonable to ask: “What the hell is going on”.

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That’s the essence of a direct question that CNBC’s Sarah Eisen posed to our nation’s chief political-scientist Anthony Fauci.

image

For openers,  Eisen disclosed that she was recently infected with covid despite being fully vaccinated … as were  2 of her fully-vaccinated family members … and her 2 unvaccinated children.

Then, Eisen pointed out that, contrary to her family’s experience, the CDC website declares:

“The greatest risk of transmission is among unvaccinated people who are much more likely to get infected, and therefore transmit the virus.

Fully vaccinated people get COVID-19 (known as breakthrough infections) far less often than unvaccinated people.”

Then she intimated that the CDC was “too casual” about breakthrough infections … and asked pointedly if the CDC had data to support the conclusion that  COVID breakthrough infections are rare.

Fauci’s answer: “They’re working on it”:

Well in the past the CDC has not tracked real or asymptomatic infections.

The CDC is now scrambling to change this.

There are studies being done that would give the kind of breakthrough infections data you’re talking about.

English translation: No they don’t have the data.

Eisen pounced:

“How can the CDC keep saying COVID breakthrough infections are rare if they have no data? The bottom line is that we can still get it and transmit it, right?”

Flustered, Fauci just started shuffling shells around the table to play out the interview clock…

Oh my.

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click to view a 1-minute excerpt of the interview

Goldman Sachs weighs in on vax efficacy…

October 1, 2021

… by covid severity – average & by brand
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OK, Goldman Sachs is a financial institution … not a med-science organization.

But, it has a lot of smart people analyzing med-science data to inform the firm’s high stakes financial plays.

Said differently, GS has a strong economic interest in being “in the know”.

So, for clues (not necessarily conclusions), I take notice of what GS has to say …

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Vax Efficacy

Consistent with Pfizer’s booster application data, GS concludes that vax efficacy wanes over time.

On average (across all approved vaccines), GS estimates that protection against hospitalization starts high (95%) … and wanes slowly to 89% after 5 months.

Protection against both infection and symptoms start at about 85% …  it wanes to 68% after 5 months for symptomatic cases … and to 58% for total infections (symptomatic and asymptomatic).

image

Key takeaway: Consistent with the Pfizer data, there’s minimal waning of protection against hospitalization …  protection against infection starts very high (unexpectedly high versus early-on expectations) but wanes significantly.

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Efficacy by Brand

For context, keep in mind that the vaccines are different:

> J&J is a viral vector DNA vaccine

> Pfizer and Moderna are both mRNA vaccines, but each dose of Moderna roughly roughly 3 times the mRNA content as a Pfizer shot. Source

The GS compilation …

image

Comparing brands, GS concludes that, as promised, all brands provide a high level of protection against hospitalization (the red bubbles) … slight edge to Moderna, least (but still good) for J&J.

On protection against infection, slight edge to Moderna and J&J.

Pfizer’s lower blue bubbles reflect reports that its vaccine elicits lower antibody levels in older adults (than in younger adults)

This underperformance against infection protection for older adults supports the apparent priority being given for a Pfizer booster shots … especially to seniors

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Herd Immunity

GS analysts estimate that 80% of the American population now has some form of immunity through either vaccination or infection.

Combined, that gives the U.S. an effective protection rate against infections of 60%

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Interesting cuts at the data …

Finally, some data on antibodies…

September 30, 2021

… from the Pfizer booster application
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As we previously posted…

Pfizer presented data indicating that the efficacy of its vaccine in preventing hospitalization only wanes slightly … from around 90% shortly after 2nd shots to about 85% 6 months later.

image_thumb5
Source

That’s a strong commendation for the efficacy (and durability) of the vaccine … but, it’s a relatively weak case for boosters.

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

But, Pfizer also submitted data indicating that effectiveness against infection starts high (90% immediately after the 2nd shot) …  but it wanes down to around 40% 6 months later.

image_thumb8
Source

That’s a pretty strong case for boosters since any infection brings with it (1) the threat of “long covid” complications (2) the accompanying risk of hospitalization and death (3) the likelihood of transmitting the virus to others.

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

Supporting the data re: the waning protection from infection (and the case for boosters), Pfizer also submitted some data re: “neutralizing antibody titers” … a clinical assessment derived from from a specialized blood test.

imageSource

The way antibody titers are measured (and reported) is complicated.

For an explanation, see What is an Antibody Titer?

In a nutshell: higher titers mean more antibodies … and more antibodies means more immunization.

According to Pfizer, vaccine recipients have an average of 762 titers one month after receiving their 2nd dose.

That’s good … it’s a level that provides about 90% protection against infection.

But, over time (6 months) the titers’ level drops about 80% … down to 136.

That’s not so good …  it’s only strong enough to provide 40% to 50% protection against infection.

A booster shot generates a 17 times increase in the pre-booster titer level … boosting it from 136 to 2,374.

That’s very good … it’s about 3 times the post-2nd shot level … suggesting near total infection immunity.

That is, of course, subject to waning protection over time.

But, 2,374 is a very high level which, taking the Pfizer data at face value, can wane down to 762 and still provide about 90% protection against infections.

That’s a strong case for boosters!

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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!

Still more vax math: What about booster shots?

September 29, 2021

In a prior post, we dug into the data supporting Pfizer’s application (approved last week) for a booster shot emergency use authorization (EUA).

Specifically, we looked at the vaccine’s effectiveness preventing hospitalization (and, presumably, death).

The  numbers that Pfizer submitted were surprising … at least to me

image_thumb5
Source

Look carefully at the chart.

Pfizer presented data indicating that the efficacy of its vaccine in preventing hospitalization only waned slightly … from around 90% shortly after 2nd shots to about 85% 6 months later.

Sure, it’s always better to have more immunization than less.

But, we asked: Is a boost from 85% to 90% statistically and operationally significant?  Does it support a broadscale booster program?

We cautioned against hard conclusions and promised that there would be more to come.

Here it is…

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So, why boosters?

Here’s another interesting twist.

Based on its original clinical trials, Pfizer’s initial vaccine approval application made no claims regarding effectiveness against asymptomatic infections … just effectiveness against symptomatic infections.

In its booster application, Pfizer presented data from an Israeli study indicating that effectiveness against infection starts high (90% immediately after the 2nd shot) …  but it wanes down to around 40% after about 5 months.

Think about that for a moment…

image_thumb8
Source

Those results tie a couple of puzzle pieces together.

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Transmission by vaccinated people

Early on, the CDC was saying that covid transmittal by vaccinated people was a remote occurrence.

That appears to have made sense at the time when the number of vaccinations was surging … and the vaccine’s early on effectiveness preventing infections was very high.

But, as early vaccinations “aged”, the effectiveness against infections waned … so, increasing numbers of vaccinated people may have been vulnerable asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic infection.

The CDC backed off its original position, acknowledging that vaccinated people could get infected and transmit the virus.

In this case, the CDC’s apparent waffling really might have reflected “following the science and the data.”

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

An alternative rationale for booster shots

Again, Pfizer presented data indicating that the efficacy of its vaccine in preventing hospitalization only waned slightly … from around 90% shortly after 2nd shots to about 85% 6 months later.

That’s a relatively weak case for boosters.

But, Pfizer’s also submitted data indicating that effectiveness against infection starts high (90% immediately after the 2nd shot) …  but it wanes down to around 40% 6 months later.

That’s a pretty strong case that puts a different paint job on the booster debate:

> The case for getting a booster for personal protection against hospitalization and death is marginal … resetting from around 85%   back to, say, 90% effectiveness  might not be worth the cost and the incumbent risks.

> But, the case for personal protection against infection is strong since any infection brings with it the threat of “long covid” complications … and brings with it the accompanying risk of hospitalization and death

> And, the case for getting a booster for social good — reducing transmission and community spread — is very strong.

To spread the coronavirus, you have to have the coronavirus.

And vaccinated people are far less likely to have the coronavirus—period.

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

My Take

I’m Moderna vaxxed and intend to get a booster when it gets approved.

But, my reasons are shifting.

It used to be focused on self-protection from hospitalization and death.

Now, based on the Pfizer data, I’m more swayed by preventing infection and the likelihood of transmitting the virus to my grandkids (and everybody else) … again, I can’t spread it if I don’t catch it.

That’s good enough for me…

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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!

Pew: Majority disapprove of Joe’s job performance…

September 28, 2021

… and don’t think that he’s “mentally sharp”
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The latest Pew poll pegs Biden’s job approval underwater by 9 percentage points … 45% approve of the job he’s doing; 53% disapprove.

image

Those results are consistent with most other recent polls … and, aren’t really new news any more.

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What is new news is Pew’s diagnostic drill down.

First is the public’s confidence in Biden’s handling specific hot issues.

Joe scores highest on his handling of the pandemic … a narrow majority (51% to 49%) have confidence in his handling of the pandemic.

But, those confidence levels are waning … and, even on the pandemic, he’s 9 percentage points underwater looking at the net of  “strong opinions” (“very confident” minus “not at all confident”)

image

Biden’s worst scores are on unity: “bringing the country closer together”.

In that area, Biden is a whopping 32 points under water in total … and 28 points underwater among those with strong opinions.

In the middle, Joe is substantially underwater on economic policy, foreign policy, use of military force and immigration policy

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Pew also drilled down on Biden’s personal characteristics.

Biden scores highest on “stands up for what he believes in” and “cares about ordinary people”.

He breaks about even on honesty … and is marginally underwater on “good role model” and “takes responsibility”.

image

The ho-hum crasher (i.e. that which can be counted on to catch a crowd’s attention) is Biden’s score on “mentally sharp”.

On mental sharpness, Joe is 13 percentage points underwater in total (43% to 56%) … and, among strong opinionators, he’s 21 points underwater (14% “very well” to 35% “not at all well”)

Ouch.

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So, in summary:

Pew agrees that a majority disapproves of the job Biden is doing … especially on bringing the country together … and, Pew reports that a majority question his decision-making and his mental sharpness.

Except for that, how did you enjoy the play Mrs. Lincoln?

More covid math: What about booster shots?

September 24, 2021

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

image

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.

image
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.

image

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.

image

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.

image

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.

image

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?

.

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.
==============

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.

image

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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….


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