Archive for May, 2022

My stress-reducing weekend.

May 31, 2022

I don’t like to get personal, but…

It has been a couple of high stress weeks (months?) for everybody, given runaway inflation, a diving stock market,  out-of-stock baby formula … and, of course, last week’s school tragedy.

So, it was with enormous personal relief that I had a stress-free Memorial Day weekend (save for picking between the pepperoni and cheese pizza).

The essence of the weekend formula:

First, no TV news … and almost no internet (save for fact-checking disputed word-spelling and sports bets).

Specifically, the only TV “look-ins” were the NCAA Women’s Lacrosse Championships … only Netflix was a PG-friendly comedy … except for Wordly (usually played in small groups), no video games … nobody glued to their phones.

Key point: no TV or internet news.

Amazing how liberating from stress that is…


Second ingredient: family!

We’re very lucky to have 8 wonderful grandkids … ranging from 1-1/2 to 13 … with 3 hovering around the 2 year-old mark.

Note: Their parents are pretty great. too.

My most time spent was sitting on the beach watching  the cousins playing together in the water.

Most active(?) time was fishing off the dock with the kids.

Maddie (9) caught 5 fish and had a big one get away.


Note: I never dreamed that I’d be bonding with my grandkids by fishing — an activity that I’d never done until they coaxed me into it.


The “lucky guy” moment to remember: boating with the 5 oldest grandkid-cousins.


Yes, I do know how lucky I am and I cherish all these moments.


Honorable Mention: While family and a TV blackout were the primary stress-reducers, I’d be remiss if I didn’t give a shout-out to Mike’s Hard Lemonade.  Cheapskate that I am, I’m hustling to reverse-engineer Mike’s recipe. Any ideas?

WSJ: “When young men snap”

May 26, 2022

The recurring cause of mass shootings.

Earlier this week, I posed the question: How much stress can Americans endure before cracking?

My central thesis: My point: Escalating stress levels are evident … and spreading like wildfire across geographies, demographics, and age groups.

I ended by asking: Where’s the breaking point — individually and collectively? … and, What will “the great break” look like?

Mine was a cosmic-level question.

Then came the tragedy at Robb Elementary School which made the question very real, and very specific.

Dem politicos immediately seized the opportunity to call for stricter gun control laws.

GOP politicos called for more police and “hardening” school access.

IMHO, the WSJ hit the nail on the head in their editorial Young Men, Guns and Guardrails which argued, in part:

The problem of how to stop mass shootings by disturbed young men is one of the hardest in a democratic society.

Stopping mass shooters like the one in Uvalde, Texas, will be harder than passing a law.

The societal challenge is anticipating when a young man — and it is nearly always a young man — will snap.

Today’s young killers … are typically from middle-class families.

They  with access to smartphones and X-boxes.

Their deficit is social and spiritual.

The rise of family dysfunction and the decline of mediating institutions such as churches and social clubs have consequences.


My take:

Two of the most disparaged social institutions in America these days are religion , which provides a moral compass …  and the nuclear family, which traditionally provided youngsters with nurturing, moral support and a grounding in right and wrong.

Now, actualizing the mantra that Hillary Clinton coined that “It takes a village”, there’s a reliance on “the  village” … an amorphous array of institutions, individuals and values that muddles mores and liberate parents from their  responsibilities.

When “right & wrong” are muddled, there is no moral clarity.

When  “the village” is responsible, nobody is responsible.

And, when “the village” fails us, we’re screwed.

And, we wonder why things are going haywire…

Biden promises “an incredible transition” from fossil fuels…

May 25, 2022

Translation: Suck it up and pay at the pumps.

Let’s go to the verbatim:

When it comes to the gas prices, we’re going through an incredible transition that is taking place that, God willing, when it’s over, we’ll be stronger and the world will be stronger and less reliant on fossil fuels when this is over.

Here’s the video:


Gotta love it when Biden goes off the teleprompter and blurts the truth.

> What most people surmised: not only does he not care about the spike in energy costs, his handlers have convinced him that it’s a good thing since it’ll force people to buy $60k EVs, ride “safe” subways, and lace-up their walking shoes.

> The cost is certain and immediate — especially to lower and middle-class Americans — and the hypothetical benefits are disputable and, at best, decades off.

See 16 Reasons why I’m lukewarm on climate change … and Greater threat to the planet: Putin or climate change?

> But, it’s worth the certain pain since “we’ll be stronger and less reliant on fossil fuels when this is over.”

> Biden’s caveat: “GOD WILLING”


That makes me feel a lot better, Joe.

How much stress can Americans endure before cracking?

May 23, 2022

Or, aggregating the question: How much stress can America endure?

Recently, I’ve noticed a couple of trends.

Practically everybody I know has gotten sick in the past couple of months … some Covid, but mostly prolonged colds and intestinal “issues”.

And, everybody seems stressed out.

Think those 2 “indications” are related?


Stress factors

Inflation is gnawing at everybody and forcing hard choices.

Every trip to the grocery store is what a friend euphemistically calls “an unfulfilling experience” … with noticeably higher prices (every week), smaller packages and empty shelves.

The gas price spike may be the straw that will break the economic camel’s back … with neon signs every couple of miles reminding people that prices are are out of control


Housing costs

Next up will be housing costs.

Last week, I chatted up the Amazon Prime driver who was handing me a package.

He said he loves his job, loves living in the area …  but just had his rent bumped up to $3,800 a month.

That’s almost $50 grand a year, sports fans.

My bet: He’s not making much more than that driving the truck … if he’s even making that.

The driver frowned when I opined that the sky-rocketing real estate prices of the past few years still haven’t fully made their way thru the system … and higher interest rates will eventually be passed through to rental rates.


Retirement nest eggs

For awhile, our retirement nest egg sheltered us a bit .. making all of the above inflation effects annoying, but not sleep shattering.

But, a 20% drop in the stock market has quickly deflated financial cushions and pushed a lot of retirees into the inflationary pool (cesspool?) with everybody else.


Social pressures

Then there are the “social issues”.

Many people have residual Covid fears — still being stoked by Fauci & Friends — and have anxieties when going to sporting events, restaurants or even weddings & funerals.

Understandably, nobody seems eager to head into crime ridden urban centers for a night of entertainment.

The lockdowns took a toll.

Many (most? all?) companies are having a hard time coaxing employees back to the office (and getting productivity back on track).

Parents are legitimately concerned about their kids’ education.

As one soccer mom put it recently: “My daughter is dumber now than she was 2 years ago.”

Charge that to virtual schooling … and changed curricular emphases in the schools … less reading, writing and arithmetic … more “social awareness”.

A case on point…

From a trusted source: Girls at one local middle school try to avoid using the school’s (“girls”) restroom ever since a gender-fluid, biological male started using their facilities.

If they can’t “hold it”, they make restroom stops a group activity.

And on … and on … and on.

My point: Escalating stress levels are evident … and spreading like wildfire across geographies, demographics, and age groups.

Where’s the breaking point — individually and collectively?

What will “the great break” look like?

Geez, it’s hard to be optimistic…

Musk tags Biden: “Anchorman”

May 19, 2022

It would be funny if it weren’t so true … and so sad.

Remember when Trump tagged Jeb Bush as being “low energy”?

Those 2 words effectively ended Bush’s well-funded, well-staffed run for the presidency.

That gets us to Musk’s musings about Biden.

In less then a minute, Musk shredded Biden … saying out loud what we’ve all been thinking.

Referencing  the classic comedy “Anchorman”, Musk opined that the real president is whoever loads the teleprompter … in effect, labeling Biden as “Anchorman”.

Flashback: In “Anchorman”, Will Ferrell plays Ron Burgundy –  a buffoonish. clueless TV newsman — who simply reads whatever shows up on his teleprompter … with often shockingly  hilarious results.

Here’s the 1-minute clip … well worth watching.


Musk’s shots-across-the-bow:

  • “It’s hard to tell what Biden is doing to be totally frank.”
  • “The real president is whoever controls the teleprompter. The path to power is the path to the teleprompter.”
  • “I do feel like if somebody were to accidentally lean on the teleprompter, it’s going to be like ‘Anchorman.’
  • “Biden is being held captive by the “Squad”, unions and trial lawyers — unlike Barack Obama, who was quite reasonable”
  • “The Trump administration, leaving Trump aside, there were a lot of people in his administration who were effective at getting things done.”
  • Biden’s administration, doesn’t seem to get a lot done. It doesn’t seem to have the drive to just get stuff done. That’s my impression.”


Musk’s observations are an “Emperor’s new clothes” moment.

Next time you see Biden at a podium or on the fake oval office set, just think of Ron Burgundy.

Then, things will make a lot more sense.

Elon may have rung a bell that can’t be unrung…


Again, the 1-minute clip is well worth watching.

Biden: “Don’t blame me, blame the Pandemic and Putin”

May 18, 2022

“And, by the way, it’s a global problem, not just a U.S. problem.”

In a prior post, we channeled an analysis done by the the San Francisco Fed (FRBSF) that concluded:

In 2021, a relatively “normal” level of inflation (around 2%) was evident   in the major OECD countries — Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, and the UK, but…

During the same period, inflation was more rampant in the U.S.  Specifically:

During the 1st 3 quarters of 2021, U.S. core CPI grew from below 2% to 4.7%.

In contrast, the OECD average increased at a more gradual rate from around 1% to 2.2% (over the same period).


That clever analysis by the FRBSF demonstrates that:

In the 1st 3 quarters of 2021, about 80% of the U.S. core inflation rate increase is statistically attributable to factors specific to the U.S. That is, only about 20% is attributable to globally common pandemic effects.

We ended the prior post with a question…

So, what are those specific factors?


Well, the FRBSF analysts took a statistical whack at that question, too.

Their underlying analytical logic focused on fiscal stimulus programs in the U.S. and the OECD countries:

One way to get a read on this tangle of support programs is to directly measure disposable personal income in each country.

This measures the amount individuals have left to spend or save after paying taxes and receiving government transfer payments.

It is a relatively comparable measure across countries that incorporates the overall magnitude of net pandemic transfers

And, the answer is…


Real disposable personal income for the OECD countries increased only moderately during the pandemic (2020 & 2021).

But, there are 2 obvious spikes in the amount of disposable income that Americans “enjoyed” during that same period:

Specifically, the two peaks in U.S. disposable personal income reflect the CARES Act, signed into law (by President Trump) on March 27, 2020 … and the American Rescue Plan (ARP) Act, signed (by Biden) in March 2021.

Both Acts resulted in an unprecedented injection of direct assistance with a relatively short duration.


OK, let’s overlay the above 2 charts…


The visually obvious conclusions that can be drawn:

1. The Trump era stimulus (CARES Act) appears to have been absorbed by the economy … with transfer payments (e.g. stimulus checks) largely offsetting lost wages … hence little impact on inflation in 2020.

2. But, the Biden ARP stimulus (passed with no GOP votes) appears to have literally broken the inflationary camel’s back … by infusing an unnecessary (and excessive) level transfer payments in the U.S. economic system … igniting a rampant surge in inflation (that was not comparably realized in OECD countries).

And, keep in mind, that this analysis was pre-Putin’s Ukraine invasion.


Bottom line: Sorry, Joe …  your excessive stimulus program — coupled with your war on domestic oil & gas production — account for the lion’s share of our current inflation woes.

Man-up and fix the problem!

Biden: “Inflation is a global problem!”

May 16, 2022

“Don’t blame me, blame the Pandemic and Putin”

OK, I paraphrased the 2nd quote a bit, but that’s the gist of his inflation speech last week.

Today, let’s look at the Biden’s lead assertion … that inflation isn’t isolated to the U.S. … it’s a worldwide problem.

He implies — and sometimes says — that’s proof positive that his policies have nothing to do with the problem.


True, inflation is evident in the major OECD countries — Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, and the UK — but there’s a “but” … and it’s a big “but”.

The economic research group at the San Francisco Fed (FRBSF) recently published an analysis that concluded:

Before the pandemic, U.S. core CPI inflation remained, on average, about 1 percentage point above the OECD sample average.

Early in 2021, however, U.S. inflation increasingly diverged from the other countries.

U.S. core CPI grew from below 2% to  4.7% (in Q3, 2021).

In contrast, the OECD average increased at a more gradual rate from around 1% to 2.2% (over the same period).


First, a couple of technical points:

  • For data comparability, the FRBSF analysis focuses on the core CPIwhich excludes energy and food.
  • Restricted by the timing of data availability, the FRBSF analysis only runs through the 3rd quarter of 2021 … all before Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.
  • Since 2021-Q3, the year-over-year core CPI has increased from 4.7% to 6.2% … and, including food & energy, the year-over-year inflation number is over 8%

Those points notwithstanding, the FRBSF analysis is quite revealing.

  • During 2019, pre-pandemic, the core inflation rate hovered around 2% in the U.S.
  • In 2020,  the U.S. core inflation rate actually dropped to about 1.5% … lower than the pre-pandemic rate.
  • Post-Biden’s inauguration in early 2021, the U.S. core inflation rate increased from 1.5% to 4.7% in Q3, 2021 … an increase of 3.2 percentage points.
  • During that same period, the average OECD core inflation rate increased from 1.5% to 2.2% … an increase of .7 of a percentage point.

Bottom line: Given a U.S. core inflation rate of 4.7% … and using the 2.2% OECD average as a baseline for “global inflation” …  only about 20% of the U.S. core inflation rate increase since early 2021 is statistically attributable to common global inflation pressures (.7 percentage points divided by 3.2 percentage points equals 21.8%).

Said differently, about 80% of the U.S. core inflation rate increase since early 2021 is statistically attributable to factors specific to the U.S.

Sorry, Joe.


Next up: So, what are those specific factors?

Biden: Greatest job creator … blah, blah, blah.

May 12, 2022

Here’s a handy de-coding chart for you…

Below is the Fed chart of total non-farm employment going back to the start of the Trump administration … with a couple of defining milestones.

click chart to enlarge

(A) Employment was 143.2 million when Trump took office.

(B) Prior to the Covid lockdowns, total employment reached 152.5 million … an increase of 9.3 million

(C) The Covid lockdown cut employment by 22 million … down to 130.5 million

(D) In the  final year of the Trump administration, about 12 million jobs were regained … pushing employment back up to 142.5 million (which was 700k lower than when Trump took office)

(E) Currently — after a about a year of Biden — employment is at 151.3 million … up 8.8 million since his inauguration ,,, but still 1.2 million lower than the pre-Covid level


My take

(1) Seems reasonable to credit Trump with about 9 million jobs created during the “normal” period preceding the Covid pandemic.

(2) Less reasonable to tag Trump with “causing” the destruction of 22 million jobs during the Covid pandemic … true, he OK’ed the lockdowns … but, reasonable to argue that the job losses were transitory, i.e. regainable once the pandemic passed.

(3) To that last point, during Trump’s last year, about 12 million of the Covid-related job losses were regained (i.e. not “created”)

(4) Since Biden’s inauguration, another 8.8 million jobs were regained from the Covid drop … pushing employment up to 151.3 million … still more than 1 million shy of the the nation’s pre-Covid employment level.

So, is Biden — as he claims —  the greatest job creation president ever?

Those are the numbers … draw your own conclusion.

Pew: 38% believe that “human life” begins at conception…

May 10, 2022

… and thus, they believe that a fetus is a person with rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Some interesting survey data from Pew

Let’s start with the overall context.

Should abortion be legal in all or most cases?

While there has been a recent upward trend in the percentage of Americans who think that abortion should be legal in all cases, the current percentage is now the same as it was 25 years ago.


Similarly, the current percentage of Americans who think that abortion should be illegal in all cases is now the same as it was 25 years ago.


Does human life begin at conception?

Probably not coincidental to the above findings, the “illegal in all cases” percentage is practically identical to the overall percentage of Americans who believe that “human life begins at conception, so a fetus is a person that has human rights” to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.



The question of when human life begins is central to the abortion debate.

Of the 44% of Republicans who do not think that life begins at conception (100% minus 56%), 86% agree that abortion should be legal in all or most cases.

Among Democrats, 77% do not think that life begins at conception …. 80% think that abortion should be legal in all or most cases.


It’s likely that the 20% of Dems who do not think that abortion should be legal in all cases are those in the 23% who think that life begins at conception.


Note that the percentage of Democrats thinking that abortion should be legal in all cases has trended upward in the past 15 years … the percentage of Republicans thinking that abortion should be legal in all or most cases has stayed constant over the same period.


What about mother’s health and rape cases?

While percentages are higher among Democrats, a majority in both political parties agree that abortion should be legal when a mother’s health is threatened … and in rape cases.


Note: There are varied interpretations of “threatens the woman’s health” … ranging from serious disability or death … to minor depression or lifestyle changes.


What about unhealthy babies?

A slim majority thinks that abortion should be legal in all cases when the baby is likely to be born with severe disabilities or health problems … an additional 25% thinks that “it depends” … only 1 in 5 firmly rule it out.



Bottom line

The question of when life begins is central to where people stand on the abortion issue.

Reminder: Hillary Clinton, in a classic Freudian slip, acknowledged of “unborn persons deserving rights” … and President Biden, has recently referred to “unborn children”.

Draw your own conclusions…

Maher: “Ending Rowe v Wade won’t set the U.S. back 50 years.”

May 9, 2022

And, a few other shots across the narrative’s bow.


On his show last week, Maher — a usually reliable darling of the left — opined:

Pro-choice protestors’ claim that ending Roe V. Wade would send U.S. abortion rights back 50 years is ‘factually inaccurate.’ 

The ruling is not ‘settled law’ and it would not have the drastic impact pro-choice defenders believe it would.

‘Most abortions now, even when you go to a clinic, are done with the pill’. 

The pill. And pills are easy to get in America.’

‘So, you know, for the people who say we’re going back to 1973, we’re not. That’s just factually inaccurate.’

More specifically, Maher confessed:

I learned things this week that are pretty basic things that I did not know about abortion.

Like in Europe, the modern countries of Europe — way more restrictive than we are or what they’re even proposing.

If you are pro-choice, you would like it a lot less in Germany and Italy and France and Spain and Switzerland.


Here are the facts that support Maher’s claim:

14 weeks is the cut-off for “abortion on request” for practically all Europen0an countries.

Maher noted that the majority of the U.S. still has more abortion freedoms than a lot of countries in Europe, where they set a shorter time-frame on abortion limits



P.S. Maher also claimed that most pro-lifers are women.

Gallup’s numbers don’t support that claim:


Gallup: 49% "pro-choice", 47% "pro-life"…

May 6, 2022

… with partisan and regional skews.

Let’s stick with the numbers…

For the past 15 years or so, roughly an equal number of people have self-identified as “pro-choice or pro-life..

In its most recent polling, Gallup pegs the split at 49%  pro-choice, 47% pro-life … within the margin of polling error … and tracking with respondents’ views on “moral acceptability”.



So what to do?

About 1 in 5 (19%) think that abortion should be illegal in all circumstances … that’s about 40% of the pro-lifers.

About 1 in 3 (32%) think that abortion should be legal in all circumstances … that’s about 60% of pro-choicers.

But, a near majority (48%) — made up of some pro-lifers and some pro-choicers — think that abortion should be legal “only under some circumstances (e.g. rape, incest, health of mother).



Spinning the numbers

Both pro-lifers and pro-choicers try to lay claim to the 48% who think abortion should be legal in some cases.

Pro-lifers emphasize that roughly 2 in 3 80% (19% + 48%) favor restrictions on abortion.

Pro-choicers emphasize that 80% (32% + 48%) are in favor of allowing abortions … neglecting the part about some restrictions.


The partisan divide

No surprise, abortion views vary by political identification.

About 3 in 4 Republicans (76%%) think that abortion is morally acceptable.

But, about 2 in 3 Democrats think that abortion is no harm, no foul.

And. of course, Independents are split down the middle with 51% thinking that abortion is morally acceptable.



State to state

Gallup acknowledges that abortion views on morally acceptability and restrictions varies state-to-date … but doesn’t provide polling numbers.

Seems reasonable to expect that the bluest  West Coast and coastal Northeast states are pro-choice and favor fewer restrictions (if any).

And, it seems reasonable to expect that the redest Heartland and Bible Belt states lean pro-life … and favor restrictions (some total).

So, the question boils down to: Is either group entitled to force its views and laws onto the other group.

Good luck forging a consensus on that question…

Irony: Abortion debate heats up right before Mother’s Day…

May 4, 2022

That’s among many head-scratchers…

Listening to pundits on both sides of the abortion issue following the the leaked Supreme Court document, I’ve been struck by a couple of head-scratchers.

Let’s start with…

> “Happy Mother’s Day” … surely, the timing was motivated by politics but, coincidentally, it hit in the week running up to Mother’s Day.


BTW: To be politically correct, should we be saying “Birthing People’s Day”?


> Women’s Rights … We’re in a new age of gender ambiguity and fluidity … with a SCOTUS appointee saying that one need be a biologist to to define “woman”.

If we can’t pin down “woman”, how there be “women’s rights?”.

Shouldn’t it “people’s rights”?


> “My body, my choice” …. that is, unless you’re talking about vaccine mandates.

Strikes me that many in the pro-choice contingent were among the most ardent supporters of vax mandates.



> “An unborn child” … In his extemporaneous reaction to the leaked document, President Biden remarked about decisions “to abort a child”.


The media is just playing the comment to be another case of Biden’s sloppy tongue (and thinking).

Apparently, they forget that in 2016, addressing the abortion issue, Hillary Clinton declared that “the unborn person doesn’t have constitutional rights” — like the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of justice. Source: NYT

Did she say “person’?

I see a pattern here…


> “Rule of Law” … When protesters breached the Congressional Halls on January 6, it was broadly and understandably condemned by most people as violating the Constitution and “rule of law”

But, when a leaker violates the SCOTUS process — trying to “motivate the base” and intimidate  Justices before a final vote — it’s a case of ends justifying means.

Situational ethics?


> Misinformation… For the past week, the chatter has been about the need for a Federal “Misinformation Panel”.


The leaked SCOTUS opinion draft clearly states that the proposed ruling does not “make abortion illegal”. It simply relegates abortion decisions to the states.

And, it makes clear that abortion is fundamentally unique issue in that  “abortion destroys . . . potential life”.

So what?

Other issues — such as the right to interracial marriage, the right to obtain contraceptives, the right to engage in private, consensual sexual acts, and the right to same-sex marriage — do not “involve the critical moral question posed by abortion.”

Therefore, the draft abortion ruling would not apply to or set precedent for the other flashpoint issues.  Source

Of course, that hasn’t stopped Pelosi, Schumer, et. al., from hitting the air waves bellowing that the proposed ruling would jeopardize those other issues.



I could go on, but this is making me dizzy…

Fail: Getting reimbursed for Covid in-home test kits…

May 2, 2022

But President Biden promised…

Flashback to January when Covid was running rampant.

Belatedly (as usual), President Biden announced a 2-pronged “bold” program to get “free” Covid testing kits into the homes of all Americans.

Prong #1: Distribute 500 million testing kits via the USPS.

Prong #2: Require all insurance companies to reimburse for kits purchased at retail.


We previously posted about #1 — the “free” test kits that Joe was going to send right to my mailbox.

For the gory details, see:

Here comes the USPS … with 500 million free test kits

Hey Joe, Where are my test kits?

Joe says my free test kits are in the mail…

In a nutshell…

At the time time of Joe’s announcement (mid- January), nasty cold & flu symptoms were hitting my family. We wanted to test for Covid but didn’t want to stand in a line with other potentially contagious people.

On the first possible day (Jan.18), I ordered our gov’t supplied test kits … promised delivery in 7 to 10 days.

They finally arrived in mid-February, long after our family symptoms had passed …and as the Covid rampage was starting to wane.



Being a belt & suspenders kinda guy,  I backstopped Joe’s mail program with prong #2 and bought some test kits at Costco … expecting, since Joe promised, that I’d be reimbursed by one of my 3 health insurers (Medicare, Blue Cross & Shield, UHC – Rx).

The good news: the Costco supplied test kits arrived in the mail a day or 2 later.

The rest of the program (the reimbursement part) was, as I largely expected, a complete train wreck.

Let me explain…


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