Happy Thanksgiving !

November 25, 2021

It has been a tough couple of years.

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

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

November 23, 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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Specifically, the Post reported:

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

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

An order of Catholic nuns with a government contract?

Say, what?

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The plot thickens

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Does all of this sound kosher?

I leave it to you to decide:

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

 

MUST READ: About the 25th amendment…

November 22, 2021

There are implications beyond the prospect of Kamala’s ascendency to the Presidency.
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Biden’s job approval is crashing and a majority think that he’s either incompetent or cognitively challenged (or both).

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

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

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

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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 and Harris ascended to the Presidency, there would be no tie-breaking VP.

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

Hmmm

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

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

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

Double hmmm.

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

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

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

November 19, 2021

Maybe they should since ObamaCare has been TWICE as expensive as its CBO estimate.
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Let’s start with the recent headline…

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Source

The details:

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

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

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

In response…

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

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

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

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

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Flashback to 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You think?

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

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

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

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

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Breaking news: The “Final” CBO Score

According to the WSJ:

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

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

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

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

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

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

More reasons that government is ambivalent about inflation…

November 18, 2021

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

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

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

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

As the WSJ puts it:

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

Tax revenues soar as nominal profits and incomes rise.

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

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How does that happen?

Let me count the ways…

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At the Federal level:

(1) inflation devalues the national debt

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

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

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At the State level:

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

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

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At the Local level:

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

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

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

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

The WSJ observes:

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

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

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

Psaki: High gas prices are a blessing in disguise…

November 17, 2021

“If high gas prices bother you, get an electric car.”
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In a prior post, we opined that Biden administration policies have obsoleted the Dem’s push for a $15 minimum wage.

How?

Well,  the current labor shortage — largely induced by Biden’s ““Stay home, get paid” programs — has pushed nominal wages up.

Of course, inflation-adjusted “real” wages are down … but, in Bidenomics, that’s just a technical detail.

And, we pointed out that Biden’s promise to use the Infrastructure Bill to create “thousands of $45 per hour union jobs with good benefits (i,.e. paying about $100,000 annually … plus overtime and fringe benefits) makes $15 per hour sound “so yesterday”.

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High gas prices: A blessing in disguise?

Today, let’s shift attention to sky-rocketing gas prices … and Biden’s “what me worry” attitude towards something that the vast majority of Americans consider an economic crisis.

The Dem’s narrative: Certainly not Joe’s fault, and there’s nothing he can do about it since OPEC won’t cooperate.

Of course that’s silly.

Biden declared war on gasoline (and natural gas) … terminating the XL pipeline project, halting drilling on government lands, and hassling frackers.

With the stroke of his ever-ready Executive Order pen, he can reverse the policies that he unilaterally executed.  Gas prices would tumble and the effect would quickly spread through the economy.

He can reinstate XL, reopen Federal lands to drilling and extend an olive branch the energy companies.

But, of course, that would incite one of his biggest constituencies: the climate control devotees.

To appease them, he has to pour more billions of dollars down green energy rabbit holes and boost the price of gas.

The old school thinking on the latter: Hike taxes on gas to depress demand.

The new school thinking: Ride the tide of “unavoidable” inflation at the pump.

Maybe then, people will finally get the idea:

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Biden’s mouthpieces have finally said what their thinking — out loud:

During a recent press conference, “White House press secretary Jen Psaki argued that higher gasoline prices, highlight the need for a rapid transition to clean energy.” Source

Or, as Energy Secretary Granholm said more clearly: “You know, if you drive an electric car, this would not be affecting you.” Source

In other words: “If high gas prices bother you, get an electric car.”

Just like the $15 minimum wage, when it comes to Biden’s climate agenda, gas taxes are “so yesterday”.

Just shut a few pipelines, stop drilling and don’t push OPEC too hard.

Same outcome as higher gas taxes, with plausible deniability.

 

Biden: “Forget the $15 dollar minimum wage.”

November 16, 2021

He’s got better ideas for boosting labor costs.
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I happened to be in the car last week when Biden was delivering his Infrastructure Bill remarks at the Port of Baltimore.

Most of the words that he read from the teleprompter were 50,000 feet high pablum… what I like to call political Muzak.

But, my ears perked up when he read aloud this line:

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Say, what?

Lets start with some basic arithmetic:

40 hours per week times 52 weeks per year equals 2,080 hours per year … 2,080 hours per year times $45 per hour equals $93,600 per year.

Not bad work if you can get into a Dem-loyal union and bag one of the jobs.

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Fringe Benefits

Oh, yeah … let’s not forget the part about good benefits.

In my old managerial days, we always figured that “fringe benefits” cost us about 25% on top of the base wages.

That puts the annual benefits-loaded cost of labor at $117,000 … not counting overtime (1-1/2 over 8 hours per day, double on weekends and holidays) … or the new freebies included in the “Biden agenda” (e.g. paid family leave time).

Hmm.

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The Infrastructure Bill

Best that I can tell, the Infrastructure Bill has a couple of objectives: (1) fix some bridges and fill some pot holes, and (2) boost wages (especially for union loyalists)

Not necessarily in that order.

I guess the old goal of a $15 minimum wage is so yesterday.

Why fight that battle when you can:

(1) Set a floor on wages by paying people to stay home watching TV instead of taking “demeaning” entry-level jobs.

(2) “Create” thousands of $100,000 jobs … by ordering infrastructure contractors to staff up with a diverse army of union workers.

The best part: nobody will even notice.

Methinks we’re getting played…

WaPo: “Biden approval hits new low as economic discontent rises”

November 15, 2021

And, that’s the most favorable headline the Post could muster.
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It has been a tough week for the Washington Post.

First, confronted with facts to the contrary, the paper “amended” at least a dozen of its reports on the infamous Trump-disparaging “Steele Dossier. With some initial indictments, special counsel John Durham traced the fictional Russia-Trump collusion  directly  back to Clinton Campaign operatives.

Second, reporting results from  the most recent its most recent ABC-WaPo poll, the most favorable headline it could conjure for   was : “Biden approval hits new low as economic discontent rises”,

We’ll get back to that poll later … but let’s start with the big picture: the latest RCP poll-of-polls.

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Note Biden’s steadily increasing job disapproval over the past couple of months … and the disapproval surge in recent weeks.

Biden now stands at 42% approval, 52.7% disapproval … putting him “underwater” by 10.7 percentage points.

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The ABC-WaPo poll is right in line with the average of other polls.

ABC-WaPo puts Biden’s overall job performance at a new low (for that poll): with 53% disapproving … and 41% approving (down 11 percentage points since spring).

That puts Biden a whopping 12 percentage points underwater.

It gets worse…

Only 35% of Independents approve of Biden’s job performance …  58% disapprove … putting Biden 23 percentage points underwater.

Digging a little deeper…

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Registered Voters

Narrowing the  poll’s sample from “all adults” (the left data column) to “registered voters” (the right data column). Biden’s job approval drops to 38% (from 41%) and his disapproval swells to 57% (from 52%) … putting him 19 percentage points underwater.

And…

Among the registered voters who expressed “strong” points-of-view, 19% “strongly approved” of Biden’s job performance;  48% “strongly disapproved” … pitting Old Joe 29 percentage points underwater.

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Battleground Contagion

Biden’s poor job approval appears contagious….

ABC-WaPo did a deep dive in 8 states that are expected to have highly competitive Senate races — four currently held by Democrats, four by Republicans. Source

In these states — Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — Biden’s overall job approval rating is 33% (compared with 43% elsewhere).

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Generic Ballot

ABC-WaPo asked respondents: For whom would you vote today  in your congressional district — a Democratic candidate or a Republican candidate?

Among all registered voters in the poll, 51% expressed support for a generic Republican candidate, 41%. In 2018, Dems had a 53$ to 45% advantage.

Compared to 2018, Republicans gained ground in all major voting blocs (the far right data column below).

Most notably, Independents swung 30 points .. from 52-42 Democratic to 50-32 Republican.

And, while Dems continue to hold a 15 point advantage among Hispanics, their advantage  is down 40 points from 2018.

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Even the WaPo has to concede that Biden’s fall from voters’ grace is of “historic proportions”.

More: Which “typological political group” are you in?

November 12, 2021

… and how many are in it with you?
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In a prior post, we summarized Pew’s nine American “typographical political groups” and asked: Which group are you in?”

    1. Progressive Left
    2. Establishment Liberals
    3. Democratic Mainstays
    4. Outsider Left
    5. Stressed Sideliners
    6. Ambivalent Right:
    7. Populist Right
    8. Committed Conservatives
    9. Faith and Flag Conservatives

You could have slotted yourself by reading summaries of the groups or, better yet, by answering Pew’s short values-based quiz and letting Pew slot  you.

If you haven’t already done so, here’s the link to the group summaries and the online slotting quiz.

OK, now that you’ve done that, let’s look at he numbers…

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General Public

Here’s how Pew sizes the groups for the general population…

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Interpreting the Pew numbers:

> About 37% of the country have somewhat mixed or balanced political views … those in the middle 3 groups

That’s a sizable group, but short of majority moderate middle.

> The most extreme groupings (top 2 and bottom 2 on the list) are sizable and statistically significant at 17% and 19% respectively).

These groups tend to “punch above their weight” in on the political scene.

> Pew’s classification scheme suggests a Democratic skew.

But, that may just be a reflection of the methodology.

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Party Affiliation

Here’s how the numbers break out by party affiliation…

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> Most “Stressed Sideliners” — who are then most mixed and balanced in their values — do not identify with a party, and those who do are roughly equally split between those who lean to the Democratic Party (26% of all Stressed Sideliners) and those who lean Republican (22% of all Stressed Sideliners)

> Only 8% of Democrats belong to a GOP-oriented typology group … and only 6% of Republicans and Republican leaners belong to a Democratic-oriented typology group.

> Just over 1/3rd of each party’s members and leaners are in their more extreme values groupings (35% of Dems; 38% of GOPs)

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The Urban Divide

The Pew Report cuts the data in a variety of ways.

One analysis that caught my eye was the urban – suburban – rural divide.

Pew asked respondents whether of not they “ prefer to live in a place with larger houses farther from schools, stores and restaurants” … and categorized them by their degree of ruralness.

No surprise,these variables are highly correlated.

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As to be expected, urbanites tend to cluster toward Democratic-oriented values (think: population diversity, collective interests and reliance/dependency on gov’t services e.g. public transportation) … rural folks cluster towards GOP-oriented values (think: independence, family-focus, trucks) … suburbanites fall between the urban-rural divide (think: nuclear families, cars & SUVs, mix of public & private schools)

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Pew’s conclusion

Based on its data and analysis, Pew drew this overall conclusion:

Partisan polarization remains the dominant, seemingly unalterable condition of American politics.

Republicans and Democrats agree on very little — and when they do, they most often share the belief that they have little in common.

So much for the moderate middle, right?

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Here’s a link to the full Pew Report … it’s worth reading!

Which “typological political group” are you in?

November 11, 2021

Pew says that there are nine possible groups that you might be in…
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In a prior post, we asked: Does America have a “moderate middle” any more?

Referencing some Pew data, we reluctantly concluded that the moderate middle has been dwindling for years … and polarization has been accelerating.

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Right on cue, I got a coincidental blast email from Pew announcing their most recent comprehensive analysis of the American Political Typology which “provides a road map to today’s fractured political landscape by segmenting the public into nine distinct groups, based on an analysis of their attitudes and values.”

Note: Pew’s approach is a variant of “psychographic segmentation” – a technique used by marketers, for years, to segment people by their attitudes, interests and opinions … rather than grouping them by demographic variables such as age, income or race.

Pew calibrated its nine political groups … and drew this overall conclusion:

Partisan polarization remains the dominant, seemingly unalterable condition of American politics.

Republicans and Democrats agree on very little — and when they do, they most often share the belief that they have little in common.

So much for the moderate middle, right?

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Back to the headlined question

Which of Pew’s nine typographical political groups are you in?

For openers, read the below summary descriptions and pick the one that most closely describes where you really fit … not the one that you want to be perceived as being part of … nor one that is more aspirational than real

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Pew’s American Political Typology:
The Nine Groups

Progressive Left: A majority white group that has very liberal views across a range of issues – including the size and scope of government, foreign policy, immigration and race and supports far-reaching changes to address racial injustice and expand the social safety net.

Establishment Liberals: While just as liberal in many ways as Progressive Left, the Establishment Liberals are far less persuaded of the need for sweeping change. They are some of the strongest supporters of the Democratic Party. They tend to be more inclined toward more measured approaches to societal change than their Progressive Left counterparts.

Outsider Left: The youngest typology group, they hold liberal views on most issues. About half say they are independents but vote overwhelmingly Democratic. They are deeply frustrated with the political system – including the Democratic Party and its leaders. They have deeply negative views of the GOP.

Democratic Mainstays: The largest Democratic-oriented group. Racially diverse and older, they are unshakeable Democratic loyalists. They are economically liberal, pro-military and moderate on immigration and social issues

Stressed Sideliners: The only typology group without a clear partisan orientation. This  group has the lowest level of political engagement. They are generally disconnected from politics and the two major parties and vote at lower rates than most other typology groups. Their political views and demographics are mixed. They are largely defined by their minimal interest in politics.

Ambivalent Right: The youngest and least conservative GOP-aligned group, hold conservative views about the size of government, the economic system and issues of race and gender. But they hold more moderate stances on several social issues including abortion and immigration.

Populist Right: Very conservative and overwhelmingly Republican, They hold highly restrictive views about immigration policy and are very critical of government and major U.S. corporations.

Committed Conservatives: Staunchly conservative and overwhelmingly Republican. They hold pro-business views traditionally associated with the Republican Party, have favorable attitudes about international trade and favor a limited role of government.

Faith and Flag Conservatives: They are highly religious, politically engaged and both socially and economically conservative. They favor a robust role for religion in public life and a smaller role for government in society, and they hold that a strong American military is essential in international affairs.

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Take the test

Now, test your self-perception by running through Pew’s short battery of values-based categorization questions.

It takes less than 5 minutes … and its answer may surprise you.

click to take the test
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For the record

Here’s where the Pew test slotted me:

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What’s your best fit?

Does America have a “moderate middle” any more?

November 10, 2021

Maybe my sample isn’t projectable…
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I recently had a very encouraging experience when I went to one of my granddaughter’s cross-country running meets.

There were 20 Baltimore area teams … about 400 runners … most of whom had family & friends there to root them on … a very diverse group.

Everybody seemed to be having good family time … most adults were encouraging all the runners … regardless of their team affiliation, their speed and position or their race … no chatter about CRT or any other political hot buttons.

Everything seemed so normal.

When I told my story to some friends, they opined that there’s still a big group of people “in the middle” … far away from the loud extremist positions … more concerned about family life and community than political scuffling.

That meshed with my cross country experience but, of course, I had to get analytical …

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

One way they do it is by scoring the Republicans and Democrats on a 10-item scale of political values … more liberal values sort to the left … more conservative values sort to the right.

Here’s how America looked about 15 years ago … in 2004.

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Democrats clustered to the left (the light blue hump), Republicans clustered to the right (the red hump ).

The dark blue hump in the middle is the moderate middle … consisting of both Democrats and Republicans who shar similar values.

Back in 2004, both the Democratic and Republican humps peaked relatively close to the middle … and the moderate middle was sizable.

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Now, fast forward to 2017 — the latest Pew survey.

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

The distance between the peak in the Dem’ hump and the peak in the GOP’s hump widened.

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

So, the moderate middle substantially shrank.

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What has happened since 2017?

While Pew hasn’t published a directly comparable study since 2017, they did run a poll that asked whether the country is more or less divided before and after the pandemic.

The bottom line: Most people believe their society is now more divided than before the pandemic.

imageSource

Said differently, the moderate middle is continuing to shrink … and is being swamped by the the increasingly distanced partisan groups.

Apparently, my real life sample isn’t projectable.

That’s sad.

Maybe some day.

Hopefully sooner rather than later.

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Click here to see the complete evolution in the Pew graphic from 2004 to 2017 … with some situational commentary.

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More: Before you get too excited about the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill …

November 9, 2021

WSJ: Strong leadership will be essential to ensure the projects are completed on time and on budget.
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Yesterday we tried to rein in infrastructure bill excitement since:

  • Less than half of the trillion dollars is going to roads, bridges, electrical grid and other “hard” infrastructure
  • Save for Eisenhower’s interstate highways and Kennedy’s moon landing, the Federal government’s recent track record on big projects  is less than stellar. Think: “shovel ready”, “cash for clunkers”. Solyndra and the SoCal-to-Vegas bullet train

On cue, the WSJ ran a Harvard prof’s op-ed: “Don’t Let the Infrastructure Bill Become a Boondoggle”.

The article highlighted the infrastructure’ bill’s size and complexity, its political overtones … and the need for strong managerial leadership.

Here’s a condensed version…

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An Analogy

Boston’s Big Dig highway project began in 1991.

It was supposed to have been completed in 1998 at a cost of $2.8 billion.

Instead, it wasn’t finished until 2007, and the total cost (including debt financing) has been estimated at around $23 billion.

The project improved Boston, but its legacy was tarnished by waste, corruption, design flaws and poor execution

Once Pres. Biden signs the bill into law, the true work of fixing our infrastructure will begin.

The bill could easily lead to out-of-control costs, blown deadlines, and both real and metaphorical bridges to nowhere.

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The Infrastructure Bill

At more than $1 trillion, the size and complexity of the infrastructure bill guarantee that it will be difficult to implement.

The plan will involve nearly every corner of the often unwieldy government bureaucracy.

Large-scale projects inevitably provoke battles for funding and cause confusion over who is doing what to carry out the plan and time-wasting arguments over jurisdiction.

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The Need for Leadership

Successfully enacting the provisions of the infrastructure bill requires leaders who can:

  • Break tasks down into deliverable items
  • Create teams with clear responsibilities
  • Establish milestones and measures
  • Hold people accountable

Biden will probably appoint a series of czars to oversee different parts of the bill.

He needs to resist appointing political leaders who lack experience managing large bureaucratic organizations..

President Biden must assemble a great team of leaders.

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Color me pessimistic

Keep in mind :

> 55% of Americans say the Biden administration is not “competent in running the government.” Source

> There’s just cause for the rating: the border, the Afghan withdrawal, the snarled supply chain, soaring energy costs, etc.

> Biden has already assembled a team that can’t shoot straight:

  • Harris … who has done such a great job as Border Czar
  • Buttiigieg … when he makes it into the office
  • Raimondo … who says there’s nothing that can be done to unjam the supply chain
  • Granholm (who laughs off our surging gas prices)?

In the sage words of former President Obama: “Don’t underestimate Joe’s ability to f–k things up.”

Before you get too excited about the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill …

November 8, 2021

Remember “shovel ready”, “cash for clunkers”. Solyndra and the SoCal-to-Vegas bullet train?
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According to a recent USA Today poll:

The infrastructure bill, which passed Friday with some bipartisan support, is backed by 2-1 (61%-32%) among those surveyed.

Almost everybody agrees that major parts of our infrastructure — roads, bridges, electrical grid, broadband, drinking water — need to be upgraded.

Other parts of the infrastructure have strong urban, coastal and climate control support — e.g.  inter-city rail (especially DC to Boston), metro area public transportation, EV subsidies and charging stations.

Below is list of infrastructure programs included in the bill

For the sake of argument, let’s assume all of the above are worthwhile endeavors.

Here are some things to think about…

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How much on “infrastructure”?

> For openers, according to a Forbes recap, less than half of the $1.2 trillion — $550 billion — is going into hard infrastructure …  the rest goes to the usual grab bag of government giveaways, pork  and crony paybacks.

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Deliverables, schedule and budget?

> Of course, this program will end up  taking forever (thanks to gov’t red tape and climate control reviews) and go way over budget.

There will be union and diversity requirements on all contractors …, and, a shortage of certifiably vaccinated labor will push wages through the roof.

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Government track record?

> The Federal government’s most recent track record on these omnibus programs is less than stellar.  Just flashback to the Obama’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The ARRA gave us “shovel ready”, “cash for clunkers”. Solyndra and the SoCal-to-Vegas bullet train.

Off the top of your head, can you name any significant infrastructure improvement that came out of that program?

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Who’s in charge?

> Who — from among the gang that can’t shoot straight — is going to manage this trillion dollar project? Biden (who Obama tasked to oversee the ARRA)? Harris (who has done such a great job as Border Czar)? Buttiigieg (when he gets back from his paternity leave)? Granholm (who laughs off our surging gas prices)?

Seriously, who’s going to run this massive project?

The only “for sure”: Nobody will be held accountable.

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What are the odds?

By the law of averages, something good may come from this massive program, but I’m bracing for disappointment … even faster inflation with few concrete infrastructure successes to point to.

In a few years (or months), we’ll be hearing: “Gotta upgrade our infrastructure”.

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In the $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Bill:

Roads and bridges: Headlining the 2,702-page bill‘s spending, roughly $110 billion of new funds would go toward improving the nation’s roads and bridges, and investments in other major transportation programs.

Public transit: The package also includes the largest-ever federal investment in public transit, allotting $39 billion to modernize systems, improve access for the elderly and people with disabilities, and repair more than 24,000 buses, 5,000 rail cars and thousands of miles of train tracks.

Amtrak: The legislation marks the largest investment in passenger rail since the creation of Amtrak 50 years ago, with $66 billion earmarked for high-speed rail, safety improvements, Amtrak grants and to modernize the rail route connecting Washington, D.C., to Boston.

Broadband internet: Tacking on to billions authorized by last year’s American Rescue Plan, the infrastructure bill includes $65 billion to bolster the country’s broadband infrastructure and help ensure every American has access to high-speed internet, with one in four households expected to be eligible for a $30-per-month subsidy to pay for internet.

Electric grid: Though many clean-energy measures were cut from the bill to satisfy spending-weary lawmakers, a $65 billion investment will help upgrade the nation’s electricity grid, with thousands of miles of new transmission lines and funds for environmentally friendly smart-grid technology.

Electric cars, buses and ferries: In addition to $7.5 billion for the nation’s first network of electric-vehicle chargers along highway corridors, lawmakers have shored up $5 billion for zero-emission buses (including thousands of electric school buses) and $2.5 billion for ferries.

Clean drinking water: Following high-profile water-supply crises plaguing cities like Flint, Michigan, the legislation includes a provision for $55 billion to replace all the nation’s lead pipes and service lines, representing the largest investment in clean drinking water ever.

Great rivers and lakes: Among the bill’s $48 billion for water infrastructure improvements, about $1 billion is slated to go toward the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, a sweeping clean-up measure targeting toxic hot spots—or areas of heavy industrial pollution—around the Great Lakes region.

Airports: More than $25 billion has been allocated to help modernize America’s airports—funds the Airports Council International says will help tackle more than $115 billion worth of project backlogs.

Road safety: The deal invests $11 billion in transportation safety programs, including a new program to help states and localities reduce crashes and fatalities in their communities, particularly among cyclists and pedestrians.

Sources: Forbes, Zero Hedge

Is Biden “not being read in”, forgetting or just plain lying?

November 5, 2021

Either way, it raises questions about who is running the country.
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Have you noticed the pattern that’s appearing … in public view?

Afghan Withdrawal

Biden stated that nobody recommended (i.e. he wasn’t “read in”) that Bagram be kept open to facilitate a smooth withdrawal of U.S. and coalition troops, diplomats and Afghan allies (e.g the translators).

Specifically, he said that none of those people would be left behind.

General Milley, et. al., testified under oath that they told him more time and troops would be required to effect a smooth withdrawal and slow the Talban takeover of Kabul.

The State Dept later reluctantly reported that about 10% of the vulnerable had been left behind … and a statistically significant number of them are still there.

Not read in, forgetting or lying?

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The Australian Submarine Deal

Proudly, the State Dept. announced a deal with with Australia to build nuclear submarines to patrol Asian waters.

The French withdrew their ambassador in protest since the new deal, in effect, nullified a multi-billion dollar deal that was in place for the French to build similar subs.

At the recent  G20 Climate Control meeting, Biden publicly apologized to French President Macron, saying the U.S. was sorry, but don’t blame him because he (Biden) “hadn’t been read in” to the program.

Not read in, forgetting or lying?

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The $450,000 Lotto

When Biden was at the G20 Climate Control meeting, the WSJ broke a story of a Biden Administration plan to issue pay-outs of $450,000 (per person) to illegal border crossers who have suffered emotional pain and suffering when being resettled in the U.S.

During a rare Q&A with reporters this week, Biden was challenged about the program.

He said that the reports were “garbage” … and those payments “wouldn’t happen”.

The next day, his designated press spokesperson walked back those comments. indicating that Biden is “comfortable” with the program and the the Departments of State and Justice are in the process of hammering out the details and exact amounts.

Not read in, forgetting or lying?

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

I think there have now been enough of these high level incidents to warrant worry…

Either Biden isn’t being “read in” on important matters and somebody else is really running the the show.

Which raises the obvious question: who?

Or, Biden is being “read in” and but forgets.

That raises questions about his cognition and competence.

Or, Biden is flat out lying.

Which goes to the question or integrity.

Pick your poison. folks.

Which ever it is, it isn’t a pretty story.

Don’t fret, Dems: Youngkin will be a Hogan, not a Trump.

November 4, 2021

Gov. Hogan is thriving in deep-blue Maryland

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I’ve lived for years in Virginia  and Maryland.

So, I’ve had a keen interest in both states’ politics.

My view: There are compelling commonalities between Gov. Hogan (Maryland) and Governor-elect Youngkin (Virginia).

Specifically…

> Both Hogan and Youngkin are Republicans in blue states.

> Both were successful business people … Hogan in real estate, Youngkin is private equity.

> Both were big underdogs in their election campaigns.

> Both adopted a similar political modus operandi.

The WSJ’s Peggy Noonan:puts it this way:

1. Be a respectable, capable-seeming person who focuses on legitimate local issues (schools, taxes.)

2. Don’t say crazy things.

3. Don’t insult Donald Trump but do everything to keep him away.

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For the record:

Hogan was elected in 2014 and is winding down his 2nd and last allowed term as governor.

How has he done?

First, the most obvious: he was re-elected in one of the bluest of blue states.

Why?

He has been a model of balance and rationality.

He doesn’t do dumb things … and. in a divided government,  he roadblocks dumb things that Dems want to do  … protecting them from themselves (and their innate over-reach tendencies) … and protecting all Marylanders from them.

“Hogan has lived up to his promise to be a good conservative manager and not an ideologue …voters have rewarded him for living up to his promise.” Source

His current approval rating is a robust 68%.

That compares quite favorably to Maryland’s Democratic senators … Chris Van Hollen (44%) … and Ben Cardin (46%).

Some pundits think hat Hogan might be a credible candidate for president in 2024

I agree … what he lacks in charisma, he makes up for in reasonableness, experience (in both biz and government) and performance.

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Bottom line:

Youngkin can rejoice that Virginia voters were as rational in 2021 as Maryland voters were in 2014 and 2018.

With Youngkin heading to the governor’s mansion, Virginia Democrats can relax.

He’ll be way more Hogan than Trumps.

That’s a good thing.

The Virginia election in four pictures…

November 3, 2021

There were a couple of events (and people) who impacted Youngkin’s election victory.
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Father of Assaulted Schoolgirl

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A Loudoun County father is arrested for “disrupting” a school board meeting by calling attention to his daughter’s sexual assault in a girls bathroom.

School board members denied the claim, but … the perpetrator — a gender-fluid, biological male wearing a skirt — was subsequently convicted of the crime.

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Merrick Garland

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AG Merrick Garland responded to a National School Board letter, which was coordinated with  White House staffers, calling parents “domestic terrorists” by issuing orders to District Attorneys and the FBI to surveil parents at school board meetings and crack down with the full force of law … then expresses bewilderment that his action might be interpreted as suppressing parents’ freedom of speech.

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President Biden

image

 

Along with other Democratic personalities (Obama, Harris, Abrams, et. al.), President Biden swept in to rally support for McAuliffe.

His cameo reminded voters that McAuliffe is inextricably intertwined with him and his policies … policies that 77% of Americans think have the country moving in the wrong direction.

McAuliffe dreamed of a similar picture showing Youngkin and Trump joined at the hip … but his wildest dreams never materialized.

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Randi Weingarten

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McAuliffe literally closed out his campaign by middle-fingering parents concerned about their children’s education.

At his final campaign rally, McAuliffe showcased his education alter ego, Randi Weingarten … President of the American Federation of Teachers President.

Weingarten personifies the clout of teachers’ unions (over parental involvement) … and, is probably the person who bears “the most responsibility for many school systems’ total abdication of responsibility to families during the COVID-19 pandemic.” Source

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Bottom line: Youngkin was a strong candidate who ran a great campaign  … but he might not have prevailed without some help from McAuliffe’s “friends”.

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P.S. And, don’t forget that Facebook and Twitter banned Trump on social media … essentially silencing him during the campaign.

Power to the parents!

November 3, 2021

Majority of Virginians love their kids more than they hate Trump…
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McAuliffe hasn’t conceded (yet), but all major news outlets (including AP, NYT, CNN and MSNBC) have declared Youngkin the winner.

Youngkin’s margin of victory 2.1%, buoyed by 57% of suburban women who turned the page on Trump and voted in the best interests of their children by reasserting their parental involvement in education.

image

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Northern Virginia

Last week week, we spotlighted the Northern Virginia counties (Fairfax and Loudoun), reminding readers that:

In 2020, Biden walked away with a 10 point statewide win … easily carrying the predominantly Black precincts in southeast Virginia (Richmond, Virginia Beach) … and crushing Trump in Northern Virginia (Fairfax County by 40 points, Loudoun County by 20 points).

And, we predicted:

If Youngkin slices, say, 10 points off the GOP disadvantage in Loudoun County (narrowing the gap from 20 to 10 points) and Fairfax County (from 40 to 30 points) … then Younkin very likely pulls off an upset.

Well, here’s what happened…

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Fairfax County

In Fairfax County, Youngkin did, in fact, cut the gap by 10.1 percentage points … from 40% to 29.9%.

image

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Loudoun County

Ditto in Loudoun County, where Youngkin narrowed the gap 9.5 percentage points …  from 20% to 10.5%.

image

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Bottom line: Youngkin crushed McAuliffe in the vast majority of Virginia counties, turned some blue counties red, and made the necessary inroads in Northern Virginia.

click for the NYT interactive map
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VA Gov Race: Final Polls

November 2, 2021

Just for the record…

The 538 (Nate Silver) poll-of-polls is weighted by “quality of the poll” and recency has Youngkin up by just under 1%.

image

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The RCP poll-of-polls has Youngkin up by 1.7%

image

> Neither candidate breaks the magic 50% level

> The 3 most recent polls average Youngkin up by 44%

> Dropping the Fox Poll cuts Youngkin’s advantage to .4%

Reminder: in 2020, liberals praised the Fox News stats crew for calling Arizona early on election night.

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The Trafalgar Group — right-leaning, rated “A” by 538 for reliability, most recent poll — has Youngkin up by 2.3%

image

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Averaging the 3 above sources give Younkin about a 1.5% advantage.

If 1.5% is the over/under, I’m betting the over (way over)

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Reminder: Fairfax County is Deep Blue, heavily populated with gov’t employees & contractors, and always posts results late … so, Younkin supporters shouldn’t do touchdown dances prematurely.

Biden touts:“America is back on the world stage” but …

November 1, 2021

A couple pictures are worth thousands of  words to the contrary…

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First, let’s set a benchmark.

At the end of G20 Summits, there’s a group photo (aka. “family picture”) taken of the attending world leaders.

Below is the family pic from the 2018 G20.

Note the guy in the red tie (circled in yellow).

Yep, that’s President Trump standing in the front row, close to the middle.

Keep that image top of mind.

image

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Now, lets fast forward to this year, 2021.

image

Note the open spot in the front row near the middle (the yellow box).

Hmmm.

Now, note the “world leader” standing to the far left in the photo (red arrow and circle)

Who can that be?

Let’s zoom in.

image

OMG: It’s President Joe Biden.

> Distanced from the “power center” of the front row.

> Appropriately positioned at the far left in the picture.

> Literally separated from the pack of other world leaders … barely even on the world stage

Joe may think that he’s led America back, but world leaders may be sending another message:

Sometimes, it’s better to be respected (feared?) than it is to be liked (being pushed around while handing out freshly printed, borrowed dollars).

Hmm.

Still More: Northern Virginians will decide next week’s election…

October 29, 2021

Education gets the headlines, but vax mandates may be the determining X-factor in next week’s gubernatorial election.

Here’s why & how…
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In a prior post, we highlighted the importance of Northern Virginia counties in national and statewide elections … especially this year, with McAuliffe vying with Youngkin for governor.

As James Freeman puts it in the WSJ:

Given the growth of the Beltway swamp, Virginia’s largely government-dependent voters now regularly vote for the leftwardmost major-party candidate in statewide elections.

Northern Virginia (NOVA) has aa large population with a commanding presence of government employees, federal contractors and an assortment of governmental leeches (e.g. lawyers, lobbyists, consultants).

image_thumb[5]

Usually, they’re a lock for big government and liberal Dem candidates.

But, this year, I’m wondering if these usually reliable government-dependent voters might sit out this year’s gubernatorial election or, god forbid, cast their secret ballots for Youngkin.

Yesterday, we posted that education issues (e.g. curriculum and “social environment”) are front and center … and may work to Youngkin’s advantage.

Today, let’s hit another potential X-factor: vaccine mandates.

In this case, it isn’t just about “vax or not” philosophy … it’s about the impact on and reaction of a couple of hundred thousand likely voters.

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The Federal Employees’ Mandate

On September 9, Biden ordered that all Executive Branch employees and all government contractors that conduct business with the federal government must be vaccinated.

Note: More than 1 million unionized postal employees were exempted from the order and “accommodations” were expected for legitimate health or religions reasons

There was to be no option for weekly testing for those impacted by the Executive Orders.

Get vaccinated. Period.

At the time, Biden indicated that Federal employees would have  75 days to comply. Source

Later clarified, Federal employees were given until Nov. 22 to be fully vaccinated in accordance with Biden’s mandate, Source

That deadline is bearing down on unvaccinated government employees.

How many?

Let’s run some numbers…

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DC area gov’t-related employment

Northern Virginia (NOVA) has aa large population (over 2 million)  with a commanding presence of government employees, federal contractors and an assortment of governmental leeches (e.g. lawyers, lobbyists, consultants).

How many of them are there?

As of 2017, the federal government directly employed 364,000 people in the D.C. area.

While Uncle Sam is the largest single employer in the region, D.C. is a very white-collar town, with “professional, business and other services” being the largest employer by industry.

All told, 960,500 area jobs fall into that category.  Source

Let’s update to 2021 and round up … and call it 1.5 million government-related employees … living in DC, Maryland and, oh yeah, Northern Virginia.

Let’s assume that they are spread evenly across the 3 locales.

That puts about 500,000 government-related employees living in Northern Virginia … all subjected to Biden’s vaccine mandate!

That’s about 1/4 of NOVA’s population (around 2 million) …  which is probably a low side estimate …but let’s go with it.

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How many vaccinated

You may have noticed that the Feds are reluctant to disclose how many of “their own” have been vaccinated.

Back in May, a congressional committee asked Fauci and  directors from the  CDC  and FDA how many of their employees were vaccinated.

Fauci said “a slim majority”, the FDA guy said “about the same”, and CDC Director Wolensky had no idea.

See: Fauci says slim majority of NIH employees have been vaxed

Surely that number is higher now.

Let’s assume that the number is 60%

That leaves about 200,000 unvaccinated employees living in Northern Virginia.

How many of them are pissed off?

By definition, all 200,000 have demonstrated vaccine hesitancy. Evidenced by the fact that they haven’t voluntarily gotten vaccinated.

What percentage of them are pissed off that they’re being forced to take a shot that they don’t want?

Let’s assume that it’s 50-50. … with half (of the 200,000) getting jabbed to keep their jobs and “moving on” … and  with the other half either pissed that they had no practical option and complied … or standing strong and facing termination.

That leaves about 100,000 government-related employees  living in Northern Virginia with a Biden placed chip on their shoulder.

Maybe they jump ship on the Dems this time.

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So what?

For reference, about 500,000 Northern Virginians voted in the 2017 gubernatorial election.

In stats-speak, that makes 100,000 votes  statistically significant.

Haircut that number in half and you still get the 10 point NOVA shift that alone vould propel Youngkin to victory.

That’s a material X-factor, but, it’s being obscured by the power of the education issue.

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Bottom line: In this tight race, and given the education and vaccine X-factors, the Northern Virginia counties (Loudoun and Fairfax) are likely to determine the election.

My bet: Youngkin wins decisively.

More: Northern Virginians will decide next week’s election…

October 28, 2021

Education is one of the  x-factors in next week’s gubernatorial election.
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In a prior post, we highlighted the importance of Northern Virginia counties in national and statewide elections … especially this year, with McAuliffe vying with Youngkin for governor.

As James Freeman puts it in the WSJ:

Given the growth of the Beltway swamp, Virginia’s largely government-dependent voters now regularly vote for the leftwardmost major-party candidate in statewide elections. 

For example, in 2020, Biden walked away with a 10 point win over Trump … easily carrying the predominantly Black precincts in southeast Virginia (Richmond , Virginia Beach) … and crushing Trump in Northern Virginia (Fairfax County by 40 points, Loudoun County by 20 points).

image_thumb5_thumb

We mused: If all non-NOVA counties vote along recent historical patterns and Youngkin slices, say, 10 points off the GOP 20 point disadvantage in Loudoun … and 10 points off its 40 point disadvantage in Fairfax Counties … then Younkin very likely pulls off the upset.

Sounds like a heavy lift, but it may be possible because of  2 electoral X-factors: education and vaccine mandates.

Today, let’s dig into the education issue…

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The Education X-factor

Unless you’re permanently glued to CNN-MSNBC you know that education has emerged as a hot-button issue in the VA gubernatorial election.

Initially, the central issue was the lack of in-person schooling during the pandemic … with many parents pushing to get their kids back in school.

Then, peering through the remote learning  window, parents got exposed to and engaged in their kids’ education. For many, it wasn’t a pretty picture.

Now, many parents are “concerned” about curriculum changes (e.g. CRT and “equity math”) … and schools’ “social experience” policies (e.g. masks and gender-mixed teams and bathrooms).

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Ground Zero

Loudoun County is ground zero for educational unrest.

In a flashpoint case, a self-proclaimed “gender-fluid”, biological male has been convicted of sexual assault for entering a girls’ bathroom wearing a skirt and sexually assaulting a 9th grade girl.  Source

The school board claimed no knowledge of the situation when confronted by the girl’s father … who was subsequently arrested.

But, an email trail revealed that the school board had been apprised of the situation but had taken no action, save for transferring the perpetrator to another school … where he/she is alleged to have committed a  similar crime.

Parents were outraged.

The parents’ level of “concern” got them labeled “domestic terrorists” by the National School Boards Association …  and put on an FBI watch list by AG Merrick Garland.

The NSBA subsequently admitted that: “There was no justification for some of the language included in the letter” … and they apologized “for the strain and stress this situation has caused”.

AG Garland has yet to retract his order and hasn’t told the FBI to stand down.  Source

Former President Obama — stumping for McAuliffe — called parents’ concerns “fake cultural issues”

That insensitive wisecrack energized Loudoun County parents  … and,  their children

Evidence: Walk-outs at several Loudoun County high schools.

image5

Specifically, the Washington Post reports that “More than 2500 students from at least 20 schools, including Riverside High School, Briar Woods High School and Lightridge High School, took part in walk-outs

For them, the issue is very real …a nd resonating.

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

Calibrating the Concern

While Loudoun County (the fastest growing county in America) has gotten most of the headlines, parents’ concerns are also evident is Fairfax County (large population, immediately proximate to DC).

The evidence:

“Enrollment in Fairfax County’s public schools continues to dip, having now fallen more than 10,000 students since the onset of the pandemic.” Source

That’s a loss of about 5% of Fairfax County Public Schools’ student body, as parents move their kids to private schools (pricey and parochial) … or opt to home school them.

Those 10,000 or so parents have already voted once with their feet.

How many share their feelings?

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Bottom line: The education issue isn’t as former President Obama calls it: “a fake cultural issue”.

It’s real,  it’s emotional and it’s relatively broad-based in Virginia … even in Dem-friendly Northern Virginia.

We’ll see how that plays out next week.

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Tomorrow, the other NOVA x-factor vaccine mandates

Northern Virginians will decide next week’s election…

October 27, 2021

.. and, there are two X-factors that may sway their gubernatorial votes.
=============

Today, let’s set the context…

In a couple of recent marquee elections, GOP candidates were leading on election night as vote tallies rolled in … only to be swamped when the vote totals from Northern Virginia  got posted.

That was the case in the 2020 presidential race.

The vote totals were pretty even in prime time.

Trump was hanging in, then: boom!

Northern Virginia  votes were posted and Biden walked away with a 10 point statewide win … easily carrying the predominantly Black precincts in southeast Virginia (Richmond, Virginia Beach) … and crushing Trump in Northern Virginia (Fairfax County by 40 points, Loudoun County by 20 points).

image

You see, Northern Virginia (NOVA) has aa large population with a commanding presence of government employees, federal contractors and an assortment of governmental leeches (e.g. lawyers, lobbyists, consultants).

Usually, they’re a lock for big government and liberal Dem candidates.

As James Freeman puts it in the WSJ:

Given the growth of the Beltway swamp, Virginia’s largely government-dependent voters now regularly vote for the leftwardmost major-party candidate in statewide elections.

It makes complete sense.

Why would elite government-dependent voters bite the hand that feeds them?

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

But, this year, I’m wondering if these usually reliable government-dependent voters might sit out this year’s gubernatorial election or, god forbid, cast their secret ballots for Youngkin.

Cutting to the chase ..

The polls are saying that Black support for Biden still very high, but waning (from over 80% to under 70% in many polls)… and there’s little enthusiasm among Blacks for McAuliffe (think: turnout).  That’s why Obama, Harris, Abrams, Booker are all appearing in campaign cameos.

The many rural red counties are a lock for Younkin, but turnout may be an issue since Trump isn’t on the ballot (despite what Obama and McAuliffe are chanting).

So, it all boils down to Northern Virginia.

If Youngkin slices, say, 10 points off the GOP disadvantage in Loudoun County (narrowing the gap from 20 to 10 points) and Fairfax County (from 40 to 30 points) … then Younkin very likely pulls off an upset.

Sounds like a heavy lift, but it may be possible.

Why?

Because of  2 electoral X-factors: education and vaccine mandates.

I’ll cover these electoral X-factors separately, tomorrow and Friday…

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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image

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.”

image

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

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.

image

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).

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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?

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

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

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.

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

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.

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

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.

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

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

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.

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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.

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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?
================

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.”
==============

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

image

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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

image

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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.

image

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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.

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

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?

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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 …

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

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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.

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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).

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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 …

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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.

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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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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.

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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.

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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…

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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”)

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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”.

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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.

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Analyzing that data, we concluded:

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

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

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

OK, let’s move the ball forward…

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The case for boosters

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

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

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

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

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

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

Those are pretty compelling numbers in favor of booster shots…

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But, Pfizer’s numbers differ

Here’s an interesting twist to the story…

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

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

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Source

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

Think about that for a minute, though…

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

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

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

Hmm.

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CAUTION

Don’t draw any hard conclusions yet!

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

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DISCLAIMER: I’m not a medical professional or scientist — just a curious, self-interested guy.  So, don’t take anything that I say or write as medical advice. Get that from your doctor!
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Thanks to DF for pointing me to the Pfizer data

 

How good is your covid math?

September 23, 2021

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

Often, the CDC has relied on data from Israel.

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

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

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

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Is that good news or bad news?

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

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

Read the rest of this entry »

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

September 22, 2021

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

Paraphrasing his basic point:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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For the record:

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

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

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

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

The CDC isn’t doing it…

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

September 21, 2021

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

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

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

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

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

A presidential variant: A majority disapproving of job performance.

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

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

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

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

Some specifics offered up  to support the point:

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

More generally, NBC’s Todd observed:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Whoa, Nellie.

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

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

Maybe they put a ceiling on his disapproval numbers…

FBI Report: No “insurrection” on Jan. 6

September 20, 2021

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

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

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

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

In other words, the FBI concluded found:

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

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

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

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

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

Turley concludes:

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

But it was not an “insurrection”.

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

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

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

September 16, 2021

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

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

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

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

Let’s dig a little deeper…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, what about the risks?

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

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

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

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Those are just the immediate negative vax reactions.

What about the longer term risks?

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

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

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

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

So, what?

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

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

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

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

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

That’s how risk-benefits behavioral economics works.

Again, it’s completely rational…

Vaccine hesitants: Real dumb or really smart?

September 15, 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Most revealing

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

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

Hmmm.


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