Wednesday, February 26, 2020

The Confidence Game

Our lives are based on confidence. We have to believe in ourselves but we also have to believe in others. We have to believe that we have a future. We have to believe the other guy is going to stop at the red light. We have to believe that the water we drink is not polluted
Our economy is based on confidence. An investor has to believe they are going to get a return on their money. A person opening a business has to have confidence that they have a product or service that someone wants. A customer has to feel safe in shopping for or using a product.

Without confidence, not much happens.

The biggest reason the United States became the greatest country known to man is because of confidence.

Our Constitution provides people the confidence that they will have the individual freedom to pursue their dreams.

They have the confidence that they have certain inalienable rights that will not be infringed by the government.

They have the confidence that their property rights will be respected.

Those in the United States have also generally enjoyed confidence in their safety and security that few others in the world have enjoyed.

When confidence breaks down, bad things happen. It can also happen fast.

We saw it right after 9/11.

We saw it with the mortgage crisis and market meltdown in 2008/2009.

If people are not confident in their safety or security, or start to fear the future, that mindset becomes self-fulfilling.

We have seen it in the stock market this week.

Last week we were hitting record highs. This week saw 2,000 points shaved off the Dow in a few days.

Did that much change between last week and this week? We have been hearing about coronavirus (now being called Covid-19) for most of the year. What changed? Things were under control last week but perhaps they are not this week? CONFIDENCE.

There is no man that knows more about the importance of confidence than Donald J. Trump.

He is singularly driven by confidence. He knows how important that mindset is to achieving anything. That is why you often hear him refer to things as the best, the greatest, or it was just plain "YUGE"

Trump does not allow negativity or lack of confidence anywhere near him or to permit anything that does not convey confidence to pass his lips. He knows how important it is for people to believe in the positive to build confidence. There is nothing more important in his mind.

Trump understands branding and at its essence a brand is about confidence. It is knowing you are going to get exactly what you expect. It is knowing you can rely on it. It is knowing you can be confident in it.

This is why I am interested in seeing how President Trump will deal with the Covid-19 situation.

It is a tough situation for Trump because he knows he has to inspire confidence. However, he also knows that it could spin out of his control. It is unnatural for Trump to speak pessimistically. He will avoid it at almost all costs if you observe him closely.

Trump has to thread the needle on the issue by talking confidently about the proactive steps that were taken to limit travel into the United States early (taken earlier than most other countries) and the low number of cases we have seen to date. However, he also has to acknowledge that there is some unknowable risk. When he does this he will inevitably also reiterate his confidence in our country and the fact that we will respond as necessary. He will always default to optimism and confidence. It is his natural state.

The one thing Trump knows for sure is that if he does not speak confidently he will definitely have a problem because it is then just a small step where public confidence is quickly lost. It doesn't take much and the economy quickly goes over a cliff.

People quit traveling. (Are there any people anywhere who have not already cancelled a cruise or are thinking about it? How long before people avoid all foreign travel? How many cases in the United States would it take for air travel to contract substantially?)

People quit shopping. (Auto sales in China were down 92% in the first two weeks of February compared to last year.)

People quit eating out, going to the movies and bars.

People quit going to sporting events, concerts and other large gatherings of people.

All of this may happen and more if the virus is not contained and there is nothing Trump can do about it. It will be disastrous for the economy if it comes to that. Look no further than what China is going through.

However, if Trump starts talking like it is inevitable we are going to start seeing things like this tomorrow. Trump knows that for sure. That is why he is going to keep speaking confidently. You can count on it. He did not get where he is today without knowing how important confidence is.

That is why Trump made VP Pence his point man and he surrounded himself with a host of medical and infectious disease experts at his press conference. It is also about portraying confidence.

In the end, our lives are built on a confidence game.

It is really unnerving when you stop and think about it. The small difference that mindset can have on our life. All lying within each of our minds.

I guess that is why most of us don't stop and think about it very much.

I can assure you Donald Trump is one who thinks about it a lot.

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

How Many Really Know Bernie?

Bernie Sanders seems to have all of the momentum heading into the Democrat primary in South Carolina this Saturday and Super Tuesday following close behind a few days later on March 3.

South Carolina is not considered a good state for Sanders with its high percentage of African American voters which have not favored Bernie in the past. Two-thirds of Democrat primary voters in South Carolina are expected to be African American. Hillary Clinton beat Sanders by 47 points in South Carolina in 2016. An unexpectedly strong showing there, followed by a large delegate haul on Super Tuesday, could put Bernie in a commanding position for the Democrat nomination .

That prospect seems to be causing great alarm among the Democrat establishment who are seeing their party effectively taken over by an avowed Socialist.

What I find interesting is that while Bernie seems to always a high level of energy and enthusiasm among his faithful supporters, the question remains just how great that support is within the general electorate.

For example, Sanders is drawing 29% support in the latest Real Clear Politics poll average of Democrat voters nationally. He has gotten about 28% of the vote in the first three primary states to lead the field. However, he is a long way from getting majority support in the Democrat party right now let alone being able to also attract Independents in a general election with his socialist views.

I have to wonder as well how many voters really know Bernie?

I mean, really know him and understand what he wants to do to the United States of America.

I believe there is good reason for traditional Democrats to be concerned about what Bernie could do to their party.

For those that don't know Bernie, let me give you a little background.

First of all, even though Sanders is running for the Democrat nomination for President, he does not consider himself a Democrat. He has never run for any office he was elected to (Mayor, Congressman, Senator) as a Democrat. He refers to himself as a Democrat Socialist.

Sanders earns his reputation as a Socialist honestly. Until he was age 40 he never had a steady job or paycheck. Of course, when he got a steady job it was a government job---Mayor of Burlington, Vermont.

Investor's Business Daily provided some useful background on "Bernie Sanders, The Bum Who Wants Your Money" in an editorial in 2016.

Sanders spent most of his life as an angry radical and agitator who never accomplished much of anything. 
One of his first jobs was registering people for food stamps, and it was all downhill from there.
Sanders took his first bride to live in a maple sugar shack with a dirt floor, and she soon left him. Penniless, he went on unemployment. Then he had a child out of wedlock. Desperate, he tried carpentry but could barely sink a nail. “He was a shi**y carpenter,” a friend told Politico Magazine. “His carpentry was not going to support him, and didn’t.”
Then he tried his hand freelancing for leftist rags, writing about “masturbation and rape” and other crudities for $50 a story. He drove around in a rusted-out, Bondo-covered VW bug with no working windshield wipers. Friends said he was “always poor” and his “electricity was turned off a lot.” 
They described him as a slob who kept a messy apartment — and this is what his friends had to say about him

Further, you begin to understand that very few people really know Bernie when looking at the results of a recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll which showed Sanders with a double-digit lead among all candidates for the Democrat nomination and a 4-point lead in a general election matchup with Trump.

However, in the same poll voters were asked about seven different characteristics for presidential candidates and whether they would have reservations or feel uncomfortable about a candidate with that characteristic.

What were the three things that voters would be most concerned about in a candidate for President?

  • A combined 67% say they have reservations or are "very uncomfortable" with a candidate being a socialist.
  • 57% have reservations/are very uncomfortable with someone who had a heart attack in the last year.
  • 53% have reservations/are very uncomfortable with someone who's older than 75.

Of course, all of these describe Bernie Sanders. He is an avowed socialist who had a heart attack last fall and will be 79 years old if he is elected President.

For context, that survey also found that only 14% had any reservations about voting for a woman and 27% had some reservations about electing a gay or lesbian candidate.

Do you see a disconnect somewhere?

How could this be?

Most likely it is that many, many voters do not know much about Bernie other than he has been portrayed as "cool" and "hip". They may have also heard he is going to fix health care or student loans and make the rich pay more in taxes.

However, many clearly do not really know who Bernie is. Most voters just do not start paying close attention until a month or so before the general election.

How crazy is "Crazy Bernie"?

Let's start with the fact that Bernie says he wants to file criminal charges against executives of fossil fuel companies. In other words, he wants to put the people in jail who provide the fuel to warm your home, charge your cell phone and power your car.

He wants to totally eliminate private and employer-sponsored health insurance and replace it with a single government program which he calls Medicare for All. He claims it would require no premiums, no deductibles and no copayments. Of course, current Medicare has all three and private insurance is still necessary to supplement Medicare because of the gaps in coverage. Medicare as it is today is headed for insolvency. Would Medicare for seniors also be "free"? How could it not be if everybody else is getting "free" coverage? Where is the money going to come for all of this?

He wants to implement a Green New Deal that would cost trillions and trillions of dollars.

He says he will eliminate all student loan debt and make college free. He says that he will pay for this with a "small tax" on Wall Street. However, did you know that there is more student loan debt today than the entire GDP of Russia?

He says he is going to abolish ICE and our Customs and Border Patrol. What do you think happens if you have free health care and college for illegals and you also have an open border?

He wants to raise income taxes on anyone making more than $29,000 per year. I can guarantee this will not be the only taxes that will be raised or enacted on the working men and women of the country if Bernie has his way.

Not only does he want to raise the income tax of the wealthy he wants to effectively confiscate their wealth. He says he wants to establish a new wealth tax that would slowly eliminate the wealth of entrepreneurs like Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates to the tune of 8% per year. After ten years, the government would take most of what they accumulated over their lifetimes.

These proposals are not just crazy, they are literally insane.

Bernie's supporters like to say "Feel the Bern".

The reality is that Bernie wants to burn the United States of America to the ground with his proposals.

How many really know Bernie?

Very few.

Feel free to send this blog post to those who really need to know Bernie.

It will assuredly be the only truly free thing they will ever get when it comes to Bernie Sanders.

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Three Simple Rules

There continues to be a lot of talk about poverty and income inequality in the United States. It is a popular topic among Democrats running for President despite the strong economy. There is no disputing the fact that the rich have a higher share of the country's income and wealth than they did 40 years ago. For example, the share of income of the top 1% went from 8.3% of total income in 1981 to 21% in 2019.

In my view, the largest drivers in this trend have been the impacts of technology, international competition and illegal immigration. Technology has put a premium on education and those with the rights skills and education have been able to drive their incomes upwards. Technological advances and increased economic freedom have also affected income equality. People like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs created fantastic new products that increased both productivity and our quality of life. However, the information age spreads money around much differently than the manufacturing age we were in 40 years ago.

Manufacturing spreads income in a much broader swath in an economy. For example, you used to need to pay a lot of workers to make a ton of steel or build an automobile. You only need a couple of computer programmers today to develop a video game that might sell millions. For example, the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 game that was released in 2011 grossed $1 billion in the first 16 days it was for sale.  Instagram's entire company had only 13 employees when it was sold to Facebook for $1 billion.

International competition has also put enormous downward pressure on the incomes of those with fewer skills and lower education levels as this labor pool is now competing with China, India, Mexico and other emerging economies.

Therefore, in relative terms, the demand for unskilled labor has fallen while the demand for skilled and educated workers has increased. These both have contributed to income inequality. The overall trend has been exacerbated by millions of poorly educated illegal immigrants who have entered the country the last 40 years and have further depressed wages in the lowest income categories.

This chart, that was developed by the American Enterprise Institute, puts the income inequality issue into a little better context.  Looking at this chart you can see the tremendous impact that demographic factors have on income.  I might add that most demographic factors are individual choices. You have no control over when you were born, or who you were born to, but choices are made about graduating from high school, going to college, marriage, children born out of wedlock and the like.  These choices are also not fixed over a lifetime and certainly are not fixed from generation to generation.

Some people may have a greater advantage at birth than others. However, all people in the United States have a greater opportunity to change their situation than almost anywhere else in the world. Why else do so many people immigrate to the United States other than the freedom and opportunity it provides?

The first thing you notice in looking at the chart is those that are in the highest fifth of U.S households have earned that status by working.  In fact, 2.10 is the mean numbers of earners in the top quintile of households. There are a lot of two earner families in that top quintile. There might also be a recent college graduate living in the basement. The lowest quintile only has .40 earners per household.

Only 4.2% of these well-off households have no earners. These are not people clipping coupons, they are working and earning a living. 77.5% of these households are working full-time. On the other hand, 63.0% of those in the lowest quintile had no one in the household with any earnings at all. Only 18.9% of them are working full-time.  No one is going to get rich on government programs.

77.4% of the high income households are married compared to only 16.7% of the poor.

83.3% of the households in the lowest quintile are single parent families or singles. Only 22.6% of the households in the top quintile are. There are substantial economic advantages in being married. Two cannot live as cheaply as one but they can live more cost effectively than two singles. That is an economic fact.

It is no surprise that education stands out as a key demographic factor.  Only 1.6% of the highest earners failed to graduate from high school but 22.2% of the poor failed to get that basic educational attainment. This is despite the fact that a free high school education is available to everyone in the country.  On the other hand, 67.0% of the richest Americans have graduated from college.

As you can see, in most of the selected characteristics there is a direct demographic correlation that corresponds with moving up the income scale whether it is number of earners per household, marital status, work status or education.

In order to address the issue of income inequality in this country we need to spend more time on trying to pull people up from the bottom than by trying to penalize and push people down from the top.  After all, if you look at the data, it appears that most people at the top got there by simply doing a few things right. Getting a good education, working hard, getting married, avoiding out of wedlock births.

The liberal-leaning Brookings Institution has studied this issue extensively and it states that if you want to avoid poverty and join the middle class in the United States, all you need to do is follow three simple rules...

Complete high school
Marry before you have children
Work full time

If you do all three, your chances of being poor fall from 12% to 2% and your chances of joining the middle class or above increases from 56% to 74%.

We hear a lot about income inequality and income redistribution from Democrats. How often do we hear them speak about these three simple rules? It seems that we should be hearing about individual responsibility in equal measure to poverty and income inequality if we are to do anything about it.

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Trivia Thursday

I marvel every day at the information that is available to me that someone somewhere has been kind enough to put out there on the internet.

It seems only right that I share some of the more interesting stuff I see with you.


The average age of CEO's that were hired by Fortune 500 and S&P 500 companies in 2005 was 46.

The average of CEO's hired in 2018 was 58 signaling an overall trend of companies hiring CEO's with more maturity and experience.

I thought it was particularly interesting that the CEO's hired at age 46 in 2005 would be age 60 in 2019---almost the same age as the 58 year old newly hired CEO's are today.

It does not appear that the Baby Boomers are willing to allow many Gen Xer's to become CEO's.


Countries with the most left-handers.

Do you think there might be a cultural bias against left-handed people in Asian countries?

Who was the greatest Japanese baseball player of all time? Ichiro Suzuki. Batted left. Threw right.

Did batting left-handed give him an advantage honing his batting skills growing up in Japan?

Shohei Ohtani of the LA Angels who is known for his dual skills pitching and hitting also throws right and hits left.

The Cincinnati Reds just signed Shogo Akiyama from Japan to a $21 million three-year contract. He also throws right and hits left.

Do you see a pattern with top Japanese baseball players?

Mothers and Grandmothers

This factoid is from the book, "Fewer, Richer, Greener" by Laurence Siegel which makes the case as to why the world is a much, much better place than it has ever been and there is every reason to believe it will get better in the future if we continue to believe in free markets and free minds.

More 20 year old Americans today have a living grandmother than had a living mother in the year 1900.

That is pretty incredible, especially when you consider the average age of birth my mothers has risen over the last 100 years or so.

All bets are off if Bernie Sanders and similar Socialist thinkers are given the power to change our political and economic system. Why is it that they call themselves progressives? It seem the system we have been following is what has fueled progress like this.

Presidential Pardons and Commutations

A lot has been made of the fact that President Trump announced this week that he had commuted the sentence of former Governor Rod Blagojevich (D-IL) and pardoned former San Francisco 49er owner Ed DeBartolo, New York Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik and financier Michael Milken.

Many Democrats and those in the mainstream media said this shows that Trump has no respect for the rule of law. They say it is another example of his "abuse of power".


Let's compare how many pardons and commutations that Trump has given in his first three years in office (including those this week) with his recent predecessors. The average per year for each President is included in parentheses. You can go here for a complete list of all pardons and commutations given by all Presidents.

Trump              26   (8.7/yr)
Obama        1,715   (214.4/yr)
GW Bush       200   (25.0/yr)
Clinton           459   (57.4/yr)
GHW Bush      77   (19.3/ yr)
Reagan           406   (50.8/yr)

If Trump is abusing his power what do you call what Obama and Clinton were doing?

By the way, if you are keeping score, the Democrats above averaged 181.2 pardons and commutations per year. The Republicans 30.8 per year.

Trump is the lowest by far compared to any Democrat or Republican.

Proving once again, context is everything when assessing anything.

Bottled Water

Isn't it interesting that in a country where the number of people who say they are concerned about the environment and fossil fuels has increased continually over the last 30 years but are the same people who increasingly drink water out of plastic bottles in which it takes 17 million barrels of oil per year to make those bottles for the American consumer.

Sunday, February 16, 2020

On From New Hampshire

The New Hampshire primary is over and I thought it was a good time to assess the race for the Democrat nomination for President.

At one point there were 25 Democrat candidates in the race.

The field has been winnowed to 8 even though only two relatively small states have voted. Of course, after what happened with the Iowa caucuses, it is unclear how much we can even trust those results.

Here are the Democrats remaining in the race.


Jerry Yang, Deval Patrick and Michael Bennet all dropped out after New Hampshire's results came in.

Donald Trump

I will get into my observations of the Democrat race below but not before noting the performance of Donald Trump in New Hampshire.

Trump has no serious competition for the GOP nomination as the incumbent President. However, I found it astounding the numbers of voters who turned out to vote for him anyway.

It is similar to the astonishment I still get in seeing Trump pack these huge arenas for his campaign rallies night after night. I have been following politics for a long time and it is not easy to get many people off of their couch to attend a political rally let alone vote in a primary that means nothing.

Somehow, someway, Trump gets people to turn out and show up.

Look at Trump's vote in New Hampshire's GOP primary compared to other incumbent Presidents running for a second term for their party's nomination.

Credit: Fox News

The graphic above is when 87% of precincts were reporting. Trump's final vote count was just short of 130,000 votes.

There is a long way to go to November but Trump is in a much better position in 2020 than he ever was in 2016.

Even after Trump won in 2016 there were a lot of doubters among Republicans as to what kind of President he would be.

Those doubts have all but disappeared except for the most strident never Trumpers among traditional Republican voters.

Someone I know recently said this about Trump which I think is true for a lot of Republicans in 2016.

"I held my nose and voted for Trump in 2016. However, I would crawl across a room of broken glass to vote for him again in 2020."

The Democrats

At this point the race appears to be narrowing down to four names---Sanders, Buttigieg, Bloomberg and Klobuchar.

Who is missing from that list?  Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren. It was barely two months ago that these two were leading the polls. The speed of their demise has been breathtaking. However, their failure at the polls has not surprised me. Voters can render harsh verdicts. Both Biden and Warren had weaknesses to begin with. Those weaknesses further revealed themselves as voters looked at both of them closer.

Warren had a "truth" problem going into the race with her discredited claim that she was an American Indian. I was surprised she was able to rehabilitate herself such that she was even able to be a credible candidate at all. However, Americans are generally a forgiving people. They will give you a second chance. Warren's problem is that she seemed to have a consistent problem with being truthful. Voters seem to have figured it out and abandoned her for Bernie.

I never thought Biden would ascend to the White House. For me, it was just a question of when he would implode. I just could not determine whether it would occur in the primaries or in the general election. I wrote this about Biden last Fall when he was far and away the odds on favorite to be the nominee.

Biden is 77 years old and, if elected, would be the oldest President to ever be sworn in at age 78. He is gaffe-prone and you have to think that this alone will be his undoing at some point. He also has the entire specter of his son Hunter's behavior hanging over his head. Hunter earned millions by serving on the board of a Ukranian gas company while his father was VP but now claims he has little money to pay child support for a child born from his relationship with a DC stripper? Biden is the strongest candidate in the field? If he is, it is only because the rest of the field are so far left that good old Joe looks pretty good in comparison. That is hardly the stuff of a strong candidate to challenge Trump. An important question--will Biden implode before or after the Democrat convention? I have to think it is inevitable.

Could Biden surprise in South Carolina with heavy Black support? It is possible but I think that will just delay the inevitable. It is hard to see how Biden recovers from here. He is looking like damaged goods. Put another way, he is trying to sell himself but he is beyond his expiration date. Voters are not buying him.

In many respects the Democrat race is shaping up somewhat like the 2016 Republican race when the most important thing was for a candidate who could beat Hillary or in 2012 when GOP voters were looking for the person who could beat Obama.

Similarly, the Democrat voters are looking for someone who can beat Donald Trump. By a nearly 2:1 margin, voters in New Hampshire said it was more important to select a candidate who could beat Trump than someone who agreed with them on the issues, according to an NBC exit poll.


The problem for establishment Democrats is they don't think that their frontrunner right now, Bernie Sanders, can beat Trump. This is despite the fact that Sanders appears to be the only one in the Democrat field that seems capable of exciting some voters.

This is not dissimilar to the views that establishment Republicans had about Trump about this same time in 2016.

Seeing Sanders leading the field right now is also not a surprise to me. I wrote this about Bernie in April, 2019 as the Democrat field was just starting to come together.

At this point I would think Bernie Sanders has the best chance for the nomination. He has been through this before. He starts the race with the biggest fundraising operation. There are also a lot of supporters who believe he was cheated out of the nomination in 2016 by the DNC. However, in the end, will Democrat voters nominate a 78-year old unabashed Socialist (he is not officially a Democrat in the Senate) as their nominee?

That still remains true today. In fact, this race now looks like it is Sanders or whichever of the other four candidates can separate themselves and get this down to a one-on-one matchup with the Socialist Bernie.


Mayor Pete Buttigieg has basically matched Bernie's vote and delegate totals in the first two states. He has come the furthest in this campaign from the beginning.

Of course, it remains to be seen whether voters are really ready to elevate a 38-year gay Mayor from a city of 100,000 population to the highest office in the land? 

However, being the "fresh face" has generally been more important than experience and competence with Democrat Presidential primary voters in the past. Look no further than the Obama vs. Hillary race in 2008. Or Democrat candidates like McGovern, Carter, Dukakis and Clinton. It even applied to JFK who bested old hand Hubert Humphrey in 1960.

Will history repeat itself in 2020?


Bloomberg has not even officially been on any ballot yet. He got in late and he has put most of his focus on Super Tuesday in addition to spending mountains of money.

The New York Times reports that Bloomberg has already spent over $400 million of his own money on his campaign. To put that in context, Trump spent about $66 million of his money between the primary and general election campaigns in 2016.

Bloomberg has spent almost $25 million on Facebook advertising alone since January 1, 2020.

Advertising Analytics estimates that Bloomberg has already spent over $300 million on tv, radio and digital advertising.

He is paying new staffers $72,000 per year and provides three meals per day and receives an iPhone 11 and a MacBook Pro on the first day of work. Many of his staffers are quitting other campaigns to join his.

It has been said that money talks in politics. Bloomberg is in the conversation for the nomination due to that money with the hope that he can be the Bernie alternative.

There has never been anyone that has thrown so much of his money around in a political race. Bloomberg is just not buying advertising and staff. Bloomberg has funneled huge sums into the campaign coffers of Democrat officeholders and liberal causes the last several years. For example, Bloomberg spent $110 million in 2018 to boost the efforts of 24 candidates who are now in Congress. You can be sure that all the cash that has been spread around will insure that there will be little criticism of Bloomberg from any Democrats. No wants to bite the hand that feeds them (or will possibly feed them in the future).

If there is one truth in politics it is that "money talks".

Bloomberg's fate will be determined Super Tuesday. If he can't finish 1st or 2nd on that day after spending all that money and placing such a big bet on Super Tuesday it will probably be hard to convince people he is viable.

Bloomberg cannot be counted out for the simple reason that he appears willing to bury his opponents under the piles of money he is putting into the race. If I have to bet on one person to be left standing to challenge Bernie it is Bloomberg. The money is the reason.


Amy Klobuchar is the fastest riser in the Democrat race. She was dead in the polls for six months and has suddenly caught fire in the last two weeks. I attribute her rise solely to the fact that many Democrats are desperately searching for a Sanders alternative. She is more moderate than Bernie and Buttigieg, she is younger than Sanders and older than Pete, and at age 59, is about the right age to be running for President. She is also a woman which makes her very attractive as an alternative to three men and as an adversary for Trump this fall. She also is not a billionaire which should be helpful in a Democrat primary.

She shares the same problem with Buttigieg and Bloomberg. They are unlikely to be able to beat Sanders if all three of them are splitting up the anti-Bernie vote. Three is too much of a crowd and one or two of them needs to fall by the wayside for any of them to beat Bernie.

The Numbers

Winning the Democrat nomination on the first ballot at the DNC Convention is complicated by the fact that the Democrats do not have any "winner take all" states. Delegates are apportioned to any candidate garnering at least 15% of the vote in a state's primary.

Therefore, the longer the field stays large and the vote is split, the less likelihood that any candidate will have enough pledged delegates to gain the nomination.

If no candidate gains the majority of pledged delegates on the first ballot, then the Democrats allow the "Super Delegates" to vote. This is a change from the past when these party big wigs voted on the first ballot. This is one of the reasons Hillary was able to beat Bernie in 2016.

We should know a lot more about how the numbers are coming together over the next month. By March 17, 61% of the pledged delegates will be decided. This is more front-loaded than in past years as the delegate-rich California primary has been moved up from June to March 3 (Super Tuesday). Texas is the same day as are 12 other states.

This is the Democrat primary calendar with the delegates in play over the next month.

Credit: Wikipedia

I think the odds are better than 50/50 right now that no candidate will have the pledged delegates heading into the convention. I say that thinking that Sanders will be in it to the end. There are at least 15% committed Socialists in the Democrat party in every state who will show up to vote for Bernie and send him money along the way.

Lack of funding usually ends the dream for most candidates but that will not end the Bloomberg campaign. He only gets out if he feels he has absolutely no chance and also sees that he is actually helping Sanders by staying in. One other candidate will likely go the distance with Bernie (Buttigieg, Klobuchar or Biden (miracles can happen).

In that scenario Sanders might never get 50% of the vote in any state's primary while his competitors each gain 15% -20% in every state and accumulate delegates as well.

This is very similar to what Trump did in March in the 2016 election. He rarely got above 40% in the vote but the GOP transitions to "winner take all" contests later in the primary calendar which gave Trump the delegates to avoid a contested convention. Even with that added benefit, Trump only had a slight majority of delegates when he got to the RNC convention.

Should Bernie be worried that he may have the most pledged delegates heading to Milwaukee but he will leave there without the nomination?


Remember that Bernie does not admit to being a Democrat. He calls himself a Democrat Socialist or Progressive. He officially represents Vermont in the Senate as an Independent. He is not real popular with the Democrat party big wigs.

Sanders got pushed aside in 2016 and it is not going too far out on a limb for me to suggest that they could do it to him again.

Fasten your seatbelts. We could be on our way to a really wild ride as the Democrats move on from New Hampshire.

Friday, February 14, 2020

Cupid Connections

On Valentine's Day it seems appropriate to write something about love.

The foundation upon which love normally grows is mutual attractiveness. That special spark that ignites a relationship that ends in love.

The most interesting factoid I learned in 2019 is the massive difference between how men rate the attractiveness of women compared to how women rate men. I wrote about it here.

This is how men rate the attractiveness of women based on research by the online dating site

Compare that to how women rate men.

The popular narrative is that men are sexist pigs when it comes to judging and rating the attractiveness of women. According to it is the women who are the most critical judges imaginable when it comes to rating the attractiveness of the opposite sex.

Men broadly rate women on something closely resembling a perfect distribution. A few 9's and 10's and 1's and 2's. A lot in the middle. With women, almost no man measures up on the attractiveness scale and a large majority are absolute bottom dwellers.

It makes you wonder how a woman ever finds a man she believes is attractive?

What is a man (or woman) to do if they think they might be lower on the attractiveness scale and are interested in finding love?

I wrote the following blog post almost five years ago. I wrote it in July. It seems a better fit for Valentine's Day.

Sound advice on what you need to know about making yourself more attractive in the eyes of the opposite sex.

Share this blog post freely with your single friends who are looking for cupid to make a connection for them.


Hope for Non-Hotties
(originally published July 15, 2015)

"Water always seeks its own level"

"Birds of a feather flock together."

You have heard these idioms over the years to describe the tendency for similar people to associate with each other.

Positive people attract other positive people. Conversely, misery loves company. Negative people seem to gravitate to other negative thinkers. High quality finds high quality and low quality inevitably finds something similar as well.

The same can usually be said about the physical attractiveness of couples. Good lookers attract good lookers. Average looks usually ends up with an average mate. It seems to be the natural order of things.

But not always.

There are times when water does not seek its own level.

Or as a friend said to me upon meeting my wife, "You really out-kicked your coverage with her".

John Tierney recently wrote about the science behind "mate value" in The New York Times.  The research indicates that people with high mate value insist on comparable partners and they usually get equivalent value in return when looking at looks, education and social status.

That pattern also occurs in married couples: Attractive, well-educated, high-earning people tend to marry people like themselves. In fact, economists say that this growing trend of “assortative mating” is a major cause of income inequality, because a household with two high earners makes so much more money than a household with two low earners (or only one earner).

However, researchers were most interested when this did not occur and there was a mismatch of "mate value". For example. Mr. Darcy ending up with Elizabeth Bennet in Pride and Prejudice.

Jane Austen describes Mr. Darcy as tall, good looking and with a "noble mien". On the other hand, Elizabeth is initially seen by Mr. Darcy as "tolerable but not handsome enough to tempt me." A bigger problem for Mr. Darcy was the fact that the Bennet family was decidedly of a lower social and economic standing.

So what about the science? Is there something beyond the superficial in our decisions about assessing the value of potential mates?

To investigate, psychologists at the University of Texas at Austin asked students to rate the romantic appeal of their opposite-sex classmates.
At the start of the semester, the students pretty much agreed on who in their class was most desirable. But when they were asked again three months later, after spending a semester in a small class together, their judgments varied widely on who was hot and who was not.
“Perceptions of mate value change the more time that people spend together,” said Lucy Hunt, a graduate student who published the study last year with Paul Eastwick, an assistant professor of human development and family sciences.

In short, the more familiar one becomes with someone, perceptions of attractiveness change. Some 10's become 7's and some 5's become 8's. Conversations, common interests, wit and wisdom all make a difference.

What I find most interesting in the research is the strong influence that familiarity has on the perception of attractiveness. In my years of working in branding and advertising, familiarity has the same effect in making a product or service desirable. This is based on the simple principle that the human brain generally feels safest and most comfortable with those things that they are most familiar with. The effect seems to be at work in determining "mate value" as well.

Familiarity drives favorability.

Further research by the psychologists at UT-Austin and Eli Finkel of Northwestern University seems to bear this out in a recent study on "mate value" among married couples. The longer you know someone, and the more familiar they are with you before you begin dating, the better you are going to look to them. (Assuming what is inside of you equals or exceeds what is outside).

Some of the couples had been married for five decades; others had been dating for just a few months. Some had known one another for a while before starting a romantic relationship; others had started dating as soon as they met. After being videotaped talking about their relationships, all were rated for physical attractiveness by a group of judges who viewed each partner separately.
When the ratings for partners were compared, there was a clear pattern based on how long the people had known one another before they had begun dating.
If they’d begun going out within a month of meeting, then they tended to be equally attractive physically. But if they’d been acquaintances for a long time, or if they’d been friends before becoming lovers, then someone hot was more liable to end up with someone not so hot.

Therefore, if you have your eye on someone "outside of your league", do not despair.

Make yourself visible.

Stay in their line of sight,

Become a familiar friend.

Let them see you for who you really are.

Keep in mind that time is really your ally, not your enemy. Each tick of the clock increases the odds that the beat of their heart will be for you in the end.

There is hope for non-hotties everywhere if you remember these lessons.

By the way, for the record, I first dated my wife within a week of meeting her.

Perhaps I didn't out-kick my coverage after all?

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Weighing the Benefits and Risks of Vaccines

I predict that one of the biggest political issues of this decade will be whether government can mandate that children (and potentially everyone else) must be vaccinated against certain diseases.

This issue is already gaining momentum in a number of liberal states where Democrats are pushing legislation to outlaw any kind of exemptions (personal belief, religious etc) on vaccinations in order for children to be able to attend public schools.

There is little doubt that vaccines have had an enormous impact in the prevention of serious and deadly diseases.

Smallpox plagued humanity for centuries. 1 in 10 children died from smallpox in France and Sweden in the 18th century.

It was a scourge in the American colonies at the same time. Here is a graph that shows the incidence of the disease in Boston before and after the introduction of the smallpox vaccine in Boston in 1800.

Smallpox continued to plague a good part of the world until a global vaccination program was initiated in the 1960's. The disease was officially declared eradicated in 1980.

Vaccinations against smallpox stopped being given in the United States in the early 1970's. That is why you only see this vaccination scar on people over the age of 50 who were born in the United States. It is generally on the upper left arm.

Credit: Medical News Today

Vaccines had a similar effect on polio which claimed many deaths as well as paralyzed many more around the world.

Polio has been considered eradicated in the United States since 1979 but the disease is still seen in undeveloped countries elsewhere in the world.

However, despite the good that vaccines have done, they are not without risk. As I have written before in these pages, every time a medical intervention (tests, immunizations, prescription drugs, surgery) is undertaken you are taking a risk. That risk is generally worthwhile because it will make you better in the long run. However, you could end up in worse shape because of the intervention.

Unfortunately, I have seen the adverse effects of vaccines in stark detail with close personal friends. Their perfectly healthy and normal 5-month old daughter suffered a devastating vaccine injury from a DPT shot. She has never been able to speak or care for herself in any way. She is profoundly autistic with little functional abilities and requires around the clock care. The lives of our close friends were irrevocably changed forever 35 years years ago.

It is heartbreaking all these years later to remember what the mother told us.

"I saw the needle go in and I immediately saw her eyes roll back into her head. I knew in that instant that our little girl was gone."

If anyone tells you that there are NO harmful effects from vaccines they are not being truthful. Our friends fought and won a gigantic lawsuit against the vaccine manufacturer. Most will have no adverse effects from a vaccine but some will be injured. Some will be permanently disabled. Some will even die. It is a fact. Injecting vaccines into a human body, like any other medical intervention, requires balancing the potential benefits with the possible risk.

The lawsuit that was brought by our friends and others back in the 1980's caused the pharmaceutical industry to go to Congress and threaten that they might stop making and developing vaccines if they were to continue to be subjected to lawsuits from those that were injured by the vaccines they manufactured.

This resulted in the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act that was signed into law in 1986 that created a federal no-fault system for compensating vaccine-related injuries and deaths and provided immunity from any lawsuits being brought against pharma companies. The compensation is funded by a "tax" on the vaccines. The pharma companies pay nothing into the fund.

Since that time over $4.2 billon has been awarded for children who have been injured or died from vaccines. The law also requires that any adverse events related to vaccines be reported to a centralized data repository called the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) and a Vaccine Information Statement (VIS) be provided to the recipient, parent or guardian of anyone receiving a vaccine with a description of the disease involved and the "risks and benefits" of the vaccine.

I understand that advancements in medicine are constantly evolving but I can't help but wonder if the fact that the pharmaceutical companies have been exempted from any liability in the development of vaccines since 1986 has had anything to do with the dramatic increase in the recommended vaccine schedule for children since that time?

Baby Boomers grew up as children and probably only were immunized according to a very limited schedule.

My children, who were all born before 1986, had a recommended immunization schedule that included 24 doses of various vaccines which they all received.

The schedule as of 2018 looked like this and includes 72 total doses. Note that 21 of these immunizations are recommended before 6 months of age. It seems more are added each year.

Many pediatricians suggest today that all of these are necessary. In fact, a good number of pediatric practices will not even allow your child to be in the practice unless all immunizations are up to date.

Why is this?

A lot of doctors honestly and strongly believe in the benefits of all these vaccines. In addition, doctors are under a lot of pressure by the CDC to report vaccination rates in their patients. Very few doctors want to take a public position counter to the CDC despite what they might personally believe. For example, I know of doctors who defer some vaccinations for their own children.

Some pediatricians receive financial rewards from insurance companies where their compliance rates exceed a certain level. There is also no denying that giving vaccinations also brings money into the practice. Of course, a sick kid with the flu also brings in money so I think the financial angle by vax critics is overstated.

Most people trust what their doctors say and do what they recommend with no questions asked. After all, the docs are the experts. What else is there to do? If questioned, most doctors will claim that vaccines are safe and there are no proven links with autism or other adverse long term effects.

Of course, overlaying all of this is the uncomfortable fact that as vaccination rates have increased so have the rates or autism and children with chronic conditions that we did not see 50 years ago.

We are told that there is no correlation or causation. We are told that the thousands of parents who cite vaccines as the reason for their children's disability or autism do not know what they are talking about.

Autism was virtually unknown when I was growing up in the 1950's and 1960's. There were no special education classrooms. Today every school district in America is dedicating millions of dollars to special education programs.

It has to be something that was introduced to the environment or into children's bodies in the last 50 years, doesn't it? What other explanation is there for it?  Some say that it is caused by greater sensitivity and awareness to the issue. That surely is part of it. However, does that explain this massive increase alone?

We have gone from 1 in 10,000 in the 1970's to 1 in 59 children being on the autism spectrum today and no one can tell us why that is?

For boys, it is even worse. It is now 1 in 34 boys.

In the meantime, due to the fact that pharma companies have no liability for vaccine injuries there is not much incentive for them (or anyone else) to do the research and studies to find out if there is a possible link.

One pediatrician in Oregon opened his medical records to an independent study of any link between vaccines and autism in his own practice. Paul Thomas has practiced pediatrics for over 30 years in Beaverton, Oregon and he says he became more cautious about vaccines (most specifically MMR) when he saw several troubling cases of autism in his practice.

Thomas does not require parents to vaccinate and he also does not discourage it. He actually recommends a modified schedule which he calls the "Vaccine-Friendly Plan" which he wrote a book about. The key element of the plan is to utilize a slower evidence-based schedule that specifically calls for no more than one shot containing aluminum at a time. Aluminum is used in many vaccines and is suspected by some to be associated with autism.

Thomas recently commissioned an independent pediatrician, neonatologist and informatics expert to pull the data from the 3,345 patients born into his practice since 2008 for the study.

Out of 715 unvaccinated children, just one was diagnosed with autism. (1 in 715)

Out of 2,629 Vaccine-Friendly Plan (alternative schedule), just six were diagnosed. (1 in 438)

Compare those to the 1 in 59 number above and it does make you wonder doesn't it?

This background may also allow you to better understand why some parents may want to more carefully weigh the decision on whether to vaccinate. Does the benefit truly justify the risk in all cases?

As I have done more research on the subject of vaccines, I have to say it has raised a lot of questions in my mind that I had not previously considered. I also do not understand why it is that anyone who might ask legitimate questions is immediately labeled an anti-Vaxxer.

For example, consider the HepB vaccine that is recommended to be given at birth. Hepatitis B is only transmitted from the mother to the child or through sex and infected needles. What is the purpose of giving this vaccine to a newborn baby whose mother does not have the disease? Does it really have to be given at birth?

I also don't understand why legislatures in states such as California, Oregon, New Jersey and New York are so intent to take away the rights and freedoms of parents who might to want to more closely question the risks compared to the benefits of certain vaccines.

For example, New York wants to mandate that every children born after January 1, 2009 must receive the HPV vaccine and an annual flu shot.

Gardasil, the best known HPV vaccine, has resulted in over 60,000 injuries and 500 deaths according to VAERS. Moreover, the latest data shows that HPV (which is the virus which is said to later cause cancer of the cervix) has been effective in controlling the virus in young women but it is still an open question whether that means that cancer rates will fall over time.

The head of immunizations for the UK Health Service recently said this about the HPV vaccine.

"Due to the long time period between initial HPV infection and development of cancer, it is not possible for trials to use cervical cancer rates as a way to measure how effective HPV vaccines are".

In effect, the trial is being done right now with young women and men who receive the HPV vaccine. It may prove to eliminate the disease. However, in the meantime, there are short term costs in injuries and deaths. Is that cost worth the benefit? Nobody really knows.

Does anyone know enough right now in order to mandate that vaccine?

In addition, the flu vaccine is often ineffective for the current year's strain. If a flu vaccine is mandated for children would you be as comfortable if it was also mandated for you each year? Have you been vaccinated against HepB yourself?

The push by some states to push for stronger mandates on vaccinations has now led to at least one state pushing back the other way.

A bill introduced by the House Majority Leader in South Dakota would eliminate all vaccine mandates in the state that already are in existence. It would provide total individual freedom on this and other medical decisions in South Dakota.

Does a total vaccine exemption make any more sense than a total vaccine mandate?

The entire vaccine question is like many other issues that we see debated every day in the United States.

Where do individual freedoms end and the public interest begin?

We see it on the abortion issue. When does the public interest to protect life override a woman's right to choose?

We see it on gun rights. When does the individual right to bear arms have to be restricted in the public interest?

How do we weigh the competing interests between individual rights and the public interest?

It may be an easy call to mandate vaccinations when you are dealing with a highly contagious disease that has the potential to kill millions.

However, what if we are talking about diseases like measles, chicken pox and the like that a large part of the population has endured in the past with relatively small effect? Or a virus that may cause cervical cancer at sometime in the future where the risk increases substantially the more partners you have over a lifetime?

You also have the question of why it is that, if vaccines are protective and effective, why are those that are not vaccinated considered a threat to those who are vaccinated?

I don't know the answers to most of these questions.

I do predict that the question of vaccine mandates is going to be a big issue in the next decade.

My advice to you is to get better educated on the issue.

Ask more questions of your doctor and read and understand the benefits and risks of what someone wants to put into your body or that of your child or another loved one. There are real benefits in vaccines. However, there are also risks.

Understand that there has been little research on the longer term side effects of many vaccines because there is not enough incentive for anyone to do it. I understand the reasons why the 1986 law was enacted but the unintended consequence may be that no one really has skin in the game to answer some of the tough questions posed above. Pharma companies may have also directed more resources to vaccines for the simple reason that they are more profitable than other products because they bear no liability if things go wrong.

It is also clear that when it comes to vaccines there is a lot more talk about their benefits than there are about their risks. Should there be a more balance conversation on the subject?

If we are going down the road of stronger mandates everyone needs to better understand, and be able to weigh, those risks.

Sunday, February 9, 2020

Bookstraps, Billionaires and Brains

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is at it again.

Last week she made headlines by saying that the idiom about someone pulling themselves up by their bootstraps is a myth. She called it a Republican talking point and a cruel joke to suggest that people in the United States have the opportunity to better themselves and get ahead. She further wondered where the idiom came from because she said it is physically impossible for anyone to pull themselves up by their shoelaces or bootstraps.

Of course, she is missing the point. When it is said that someone has "pulled themselves up by their own bootstraps" it is an acknowledgement that they have overcome steep odds and impossible circumstances to succeed by their individual effort and willpower.

One would have to use that term to describe AOC's own rise in the political world. She was a 28-year old bartender who defeated a 10-term Democrat for her House seat who outspent her 10:1.

"Pulling yourself up by your bootstraps" is a myth and cruel joke? AOC did it herself. The fact is that achieving an impossible dream is easier to achieve in the United States than in any other nation on the face of the earth.

Why else do millions and millions of people from all over the world want to come here?

AOC also claims that 60% of the wealth in the United States is inherited.

AOC, like most Millennials, believe this falsehood. In fact, a recent study found that 72% of Millennials believe that most millionaires inherited their wealth. 52% of Baby Boomers do as well.

However, the same study found that only 21% of millionaires received any inheritance at all. Only 3% of those millionaires received an inheritance of over $1 million.

It is interesting to note that a detailed academic study on the subject found that 21% of the general population also receive an inheritance at some point. Therefore, millionaires are no more likely to receive an inheritance than any other group.

That study also found that inheritances actually are more meaningful to low income groups than they are higher income groups.

While it is true that richer households do receive greater wealth transfers than poorer ones, as a proportion of their current wealth holdings, wealth transfers are actually greater for poorer households than richer ones. A related finding is that even though white households receive larger wealth transfers than African-Americans, a higher fraction of the wealth of the latter (about a third) comes from wealth transfers than that of whites (about a fifth). Low income households and the young and old (particularly, households age 75 and over) also receive a higher share of their wealth from transfers relative to other groups.

The research indicated that if all inheritance transfers were prohibited by the government, wealth inequality would actually increase! This is exactly the opposite of what AOC and Bernie Sanders would have you believe. This same study also found that about 23% of total wealth in the country was inherited---a long way from the 60% number that AOC quoted.

Why is AOC so wrong in thinking that most wealth is inherited?

The simple fact is that people who inherit money most often don't know how to turn it into more money. They are better at spending it than earning it. They also don't have the same appreciation for how hard it was to earn the money that their heirs did.

Consider the words of Cornelius Vanderbilt who was the richest man in the world when he died in 1877.

Any fool can make a fortune. It takes a man of brains to hold onto it after it is made.

Commodore Vanderbilt was prescient. When he died he left the bulk of his wealth to his son, William H. Vanderbilt ,who doubled his father's fortune through smart management of the family's railroad business over the next decade.

However, William died in late 1885 and it appears that brains were not inherited in equal supply to the wealth that was passed down to the next generations of Vanderbilts.

The Vanderbilt fortune was worth $200 million in 1885. That is equal to over $5 billion in today's dollars.
Within 20 years no Vanderbilt would be among the richest people in America, and 
When 120 of the Commodore’s descendants gathered at Vanderbilt University in 1973 for the first family reunion, there was not a millionaire among them.

The story of the Vanderbilt family falling from fortune is told in the book Fortune's Children: The Fall of House Vanderbilt that I recently saw reference to in an excellent blog post by Nick Maggiulli.

How did the Vanderbilts burn through that rich inheritance?

Maggiulli listed three obvious reasons there were no millionaires left in the Vanderbilt family after a couple of generations got their hands on the patriarch's wealth.

  • They spent money like no one else
  • They sold assets at the worst possible times
  • They never bought an income producing asset

If you need one more fact to show how misguided AOC's view is on where wealth comes from in the United States consider the top 7 names on the Forbes 400 list of the wealthiest Americans.

Credit: Forbes

Not one of these people inherited any substantial wealth. Moreover, I would suggest there are a few bootstrap stories among them.

In fact, Jeff Bezos' mother was a 17-year old high school student and his father was a bike shop owner when he was born. Bezos worked as a short order cook at McDonald's when he was in high school.

Gates dropped out of Harvard after two years. His father was a successful attorney in Seattle but Gates was a billionaire many times over before his mother passed away in 1994. His father is still alive.

Buffett's father ran a successful investment firm and was a Congressman but Warren Buffett was already wealthy in his own right before his father passed away in 1964.

Of course, most people know that Zuckerberg, Page and Brin all were billionaires before they reached the age of 30. Brin was an immigrant from Russia.

Ellison was born to an unwed Jewish mother in 1944. He was given up for adoption to his aunt and uncle when he was 9 months old. He attended the University of Illinois for two years but dropped out after his adoptive mother passed away. Larry Ellison did not inherit any wealth.

What should you take from this?

If you are to inherit anything it is better to have your parents pass down brain power, ambition, a strong work ethic and values rather than wealth.

What should you take from what Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez says about this subject or most anything  else she talks about?

If I can paraphrase a little from Cornelius Vanderbilt.

Any fool can be elected to Congress. It takes some brains after one is elected to prove you are not one.

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Beware the Narrative

We live in a headline dominated world supported by 10 second sound bites and 280 character tweets.  Most people never get beyond the superficial to see the substance of anything. In fact, a majority are probably not even getting to the surface of most issues, let alone any depth.

Facts have been replaced with narratives that politicians use to support the worldview that they want you to believe. Those narratives ignore facts and instead rely on a story that is told over and over again so as to make everyone believe it is the TRUTH.

Of course, mainstream media and Hollywood are often complicit in promoting the narratives of the liberal left because those narratives are consistent with their own worldview.

The goal is for you to believe the narrative and not consider the actual FACTS.

There is no better example of a narrative than that involving global warming and climate change. We hear it all the time. Our climate is changing like it never has been before. It is getting warmer. Arctic ice is melting. The oceans will rise. Large cities will be under water. Millions will die if we don't do something. Every catastrophe that happens around the world is used to prove the narrative. Fires in Australia. Drought in Africa. Warm temperatures in January in New York.

I have challenged the climate change narrative innumerable times in these pages with actual facts. Despite what you hear in the narrative, the science behind the theory of man-made climate change is far from settled.

I follow Tony Heller of who is a trained engineer and scientist who posts valuable perspectives on historical trends on weather and climate. Heller posts fact-based data and history on what has actually occurred with the weather rather than a narrative based on speculation.

For example, here is Tony's recent chart to put this year's "warm January" fact in context. Yes, January in the United States was warmer than average this year but the overall average trend in January temperatures has been down over the last 105 years.

Credit: @Tony_Heller

This downward trend has occurred despite a continuing increase in man-made carbon emissions over those 105 years. Something does not add up with the narrative.

How about arctic sea ice? This is what Al Gore said about arctic sea ice in 2007.

The ice cap is falling off a cliff. It could be completely gone in summer in as little as 7 years from now.
                                        -Al Gore, Nobel Peace Prize Speech, December, 2007

This is what the arctic ice cap looked like a year after the date when Gore was warning that it could be gone. I included this image in a blog post in which I wrote about a number of inconvenient truths involving Gore back in 2016.

This is a recent graph that shows the arctic sea ice extent that Tony Heller published comparing 2020 to recent years. Note that there is more arctic sea ice today compared to other recent years.

This is why you hear a narrative rather actual facts when it comes to climate change.

You also see the narrative in place with the attacks on the 2nd Amendment. We hear that ownership of guns needs to be restricted and the narrative reaches a fever pitch whenever a mentally ill person uses a rifle to kill people in a mass shooting.

You may hear that nearly 40,000 people die from firearms annually. It is unlikely that you hear that about 2/3 of that number are suicides. You never hear that there are generally less than 400 people murdered by rifles in any given year in the United States. That is killings by all rifles, not just so-called assault weapons. That number also includes all those mass shootings that get so much attention in the narrative.

By comparison, in 2018 (the most recent data available), 672 people were killed by the use of "fists, feet and 'other personal weapons'." Is this ever included in the narrative?

Nevertheless, due to "the narrative", Walmart, Dick's Sporting Goods and other retailers have ceased selling rifles.

Abortion is another issue in which the narrative is utilized. The narrative says that there is no issue more important issue for women. We are told that government funding of Planned Parenthood is critical for vital women's health issues. We are now even being told that abortion should be legal up to (and possibly even beyond) the birth of the child.

According to Planned Parenthood's most recent annual report (2018-19), it performed 345,672 abortions. To put that number in context, there were 3.8 million births in 2018 meaning that the number of abortions performed by Planned Parenthood is about equal to 10% of all births in the United States. During the year Planned Parenthood received $617 million in taxpayer money representing about 38% of its budget.

Planned Parenthood does provide birth control information and contraceptives as well as breast exams (no mammogram services) and pap smears. These are high volume but low cost services. These services are also a convenient political shield for Planned Parenthood to argue that their funding should not be cut because of these "vital women's health services". However, these health services are not what produces most of the money that comes in at Planned Parenthood---that money is for what is called abortion services in the annual report.

The other fact that is not widely none, or ever mentioned in the narrative, is that the pro-life movement has been very effective itself in challenging abortion with its own narrative.

I was surprised when I saw this recent graph that tracks the number of abortions per woman in the United States.

Beginning in 2014, the abortion rate has actually dropped below the level it was when Roe v. Wade was decided in 1973. In fact, abortion has been on a downward trend since 1980 when the election of Ronald Reagan helped to elevate the pro-life movement in the national consciousness. There are fewer abortions today per 1,000 women when abortion has been "legalized" at the federal level than when it was an individual state issue.

When have you ever heard that?

Of course, the biggest narrative that has been playing out every day over the last three years involves Donald Trump.

How many times have you heard this narrative?

Donald Trump is a corrupt, unhinged, racist man who colluded with Russia to steal the 2016 election in order to enrich himself.

That narrative led to the appointment of a Special Counsel who was appointed to investigate Trump. Despite spending $30 million and having a team of 19 attorneys (most of who had histories of donating to Democrat candidates) they found absolutely no evidence of any collusion with Russia by Trump or anyone else on his campaign and no evidence to support a charge of any obstruction of justice.

This led to another narrative. Donald Trump is a corrupt, racist man who abused his power as President by attempting to influence the 2020 election by having Ukraine investigate a political opponent by withholding foreign aid and obstructing Congress when it tried to investigate him.

We have now just gone through another four months of an impeachment inquiry, a partisan impeachment in the House with not one Republican vote supporting the articles and an acquittal by a majority of the U.S. Senate on both counts in the impeachment articles.

We are already starting to see the beginning of another narrative. The Senate's acquittal of Trump is now being referred to by Democrats as illegitimate because it was not a fair trial because no witnesses testified before the Senate. However, this ignores the fact that 17 witnesses testified or were deposed before the House Impeachment panel whose testimony (along with 28,000 pages of documentary evidence) was considered and included in the Senate trial record.

The Democrats also fail to mention the fact that the witnesses that President's defense team wanted to call during the House impeachment inquiry were not allowed to testify. Is that what is called a fair trial to begin with?

Make no mistake, Trump uses his own narratives.

"It was a perfect phone call."

"We are building a big, beautiful wall."

"MiniMike", "Sleepy Joe" and "Pochahontas".

Of course, Trump does not have the mainstream media megaphone on his side to amplify his narratives so he  has to use Twitter.

I know many Trump supporters wish he would use Twitter less. However, Trump would have difficulty getting his narratives out there but for his use of Twitter. I have come to accept that is the reality of taking on the Washington and media establishment.

Beware the narrative from whichever source it comes from.

Strive to understand the underlying facts and reality and the context that surrounds the issues.

The best way I know to do that is with a steady diet of BeeLine---the shortest route to what you need to know.

Do your friends a favor and also share it with them. There is a long season of narratives ahead of us.