Thursday, July 23, 2020

Random Ruminations

A blog post of random ruminations to help provide some additional context on what is going on in the world.

Face Masks

Are masks the answer to preventing the spread of Covid-19? We are now told that is the answer. I can guarantee when the cases start to wind down we will be told it was because of the masks. Will that really be true?

Or is there a natural up and down movement of the virus that generally plays out over a 2-3 month period when it attacks an area. Note how remarkably similar these curves are in various countries.

Do you see a similar pattern in the Northeast states?

If this pattern holds true it suggests that we are probably close to the peak in the current hot spot states of Arizona, Florida and Texas.

Look at the chart below that compares mask compliance and daily cases of Covid-19 in different countries around the world.

It is difficult to discern a consistent pattern.

For example, Vietnam and Finland have widely divergent use of masks and both are reporting no cases.

Very little mask use in Scandinavian countries and a lot in Asian countries. Denmark and Japan is another interesting comparison as is the Philippines and Australia.

Population density may be at play here as well.

I can't help but wonder if face masks were the answer why weren't we told that they would allow us to avoid the lockdowns in March, April and May?

How have the Scandinavian countries brought daily cases down while specifically avoiding any mask protocols or mandates?

California instituted a mask mandate on June 18. It has been over a month since that order went into effect and daily cases have almost tripled. Considering that Covid-19 has an average incubation period of about 5 days it would seem that if masks were effective there would have been some slowing of the spread of the virus. There is no evidence of that.

Daily New Covid-19 Cases in California

Flu shots

Early on in the Covid-19 pandemic I saw some research that indicated that those who had been vaccinated against the flu this year seemed to be more vulnerable to Covid-19. I had not seen any more about that until I came across this interesting analysis.

It seems countries with high flu vaccinations rates for those over age 65 have experienced the highest death rates per million.

This got me thinking as well that nursing homes have some of the highest vaccination rates for the flu because of concerns for the elderly.

Is this coincidence or is something else going on here?


To put this in further perspective, the Rvalue representing the correlation coefficient for this data is .7299.

Statisticians would consider that a "high positive" correlation.


Balanced against this is the fact that most hospitals require all employees to get flu shots every year as a condition of employment. I have not heard that hospital workers have been disproportionately affected by Covid-19 despite being in a high risk environment. Why not? Lower age? PPE?

Investment Returns

Most individuals focus on the returns of the stock market because that is what they hear about the most in the news.

However, the fact is that an investment in long-term corporate bonds over the last 20 years would have produced much higher investment returns than stocks over that time period.

This is all a function of the dramatic decline in interest rates over the last 20 years as lower interest rates caused the prices of bonds to increase.

Unfortunately, there does not seem to be much more room for interest rates to fall further from where we are today.

When interest rates start to rise that light blue line will be inverted from what you see above.

I am sure that you have seen the following legal disclaimer that mutual funds and other investment products have to provide in their marketing materials.

Past performance is not an indicator of future results.

It was never truer than today with regard to bond returns.

However, those last 20 years have been unbeatable for bonds.

Mortgage Payments

There has been no place that lower interest rates has had a bigger effect on American consumers than in mortgage payments.

Mortgage rates are at all-time lows.

30-year rates are now below 3% in some areas of the country. 15-year rates are below 2.5%.

This chart by Ben Carlson puts this into further perspective.

Since 2000, the median sales price of an existing home is +90%.

Inflation is +54%.

The monthly payment based on a 30-year mortgage is up only +8%


I had a couple of mortgages in my lifetime at between 8.5% and 10.75%. Some Baby Boomers paid 12% or more in the early 1980's.

Millennials may complain about their student loan debt but they probably should be putting everything in perspective. It will never get much better than this in borrowing to buy a home.

Single Millennial Women

I wrote a blog post "What Is It With Millennial Women?" a few weeks ago asking the question as to why single, white Millennial women made up such large numbers in Black Lives Matter protests.

I still don't know the answer.

However, if you need further evidence that the BLM movement could not exist without these women consider these two photographs I came across recently.

How many young, white women are in this picture?

Also consider this image of a young woman who is "confronting" the police in Portland, Oregon.


I ask again. How do you explain it?

Is this really about Black Lives Matter or is it about something else?

Suzanne Venker is a relationship counselor and coach who is an op-ed contributor for The Washington Examiner.

She has some perspectives on the topic I had not previously considered.

Venker believes that these young women (and others) just want to belong.

People often think of peer pressure as something teenagers experience. In fact, peer pressure is just as prevalent among adults. It's the reason ideas spread like wildfire. People jump on board with what everyone else is doing or thinking for one simple reason: They want to belong.
Have you ever wondered how Adolf Hitler managed to convince so many people to commit evil acts? Or how cult leaders such as Charles Manson or David Koresh could get so many people to do what they told them to do and to believe what they told them to believe? The need to belong is just that fierce and strong, particularly for vulnerable folks who feel lonely or misunderstood.
It's happening right now with the Black Lives Matter movement. It's not about the fact that black lives matter, with which no sane person would disagree. A simple search of their own website will tell you its goals: to "disrupt the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure" and to "foster a queer‐affirming network."
But doing research or thinking critically about any idea or movement is threatening to what so many people want. These folks aren't interested in the truth. They don't want the facts. What they want is to belong.

Is there any group today that feels more lonely, is more misunderstood and wants to belong than young, single, college-educated white women? Many have no man in their life. There are no children or likely prospects that marriage or children will occur soon due to the imbalance between male and female college graduates. They live in rental apartments in large cities leading hectic, anonymous lives with little sense of community and huge sums of student loan debt.

I published the chart below three years ago that I found in The Washington Post that shows the imbalance between male and female college graduates ages 22-29 in various U.S. cities. Is it a coincidence that Portland and Minneapolis have been at the center of the BLM movement?

Portland has 156 women for every 100 men among college grads age 22-29. Minneapolis has 143.

Fairfax, Virginia is considered a top 10 city for women on the dating scene but it still only has 80 men for every 100 women. Atlanta is 5th best and only has 90 men for every 100 college grad women.

I have written about the imbalance of male and female college graduates several times over the years in these pages and warned of the potential impacts that it might have on relationships as well as society as a whole.

You can read two of these here and here.

Are we seeing some of those effects now?

Venker outlines the plight of these women in another op-ed.

In the last week alone, I've spoken with three millennial women (who reached out for coaching) who are all in the same boat: They're up to their eyeballs in debt, having gotten degree upon degree due to the pressure they felt from their parents and the culture to do something big with their lives. To not let their intellect go to waste. To not worry about finding a man to marry or even having children because, well, they have bigger fish to fry.
These women aren't just in debt — they're crestfallen. All they want is to have a family of their own, but they've been so conditioned to believe marriage and motherhood constitutes a lesser life that they don't dare admit this desire. I can't tell you the number of single women who tell me they'd give up their career in a hot second for a husband and kids.
That's the crux of the problem for the women who reach out to me: They were taught that their value lies in what they do, rather than in who they are — that if they don't live their lives the way men live theirs, they are failures. And it's tearing them up inside. One woman broke down after admitting she has spent a decade getting two degrees she doesn't even want.

I have no idea if Venker is right. However, it is additional food for thought because what we are seeing with single, white Millennial women is very difficult to explain.

Context is everything when assessing anything. When you see or hear anything these days think about the context around the issue. You cannot understand anything without putting everything in context.


  1. Hi Mr. Beeken, My parents and brother have mentioned your blog to me and I like to read through once in awhile as a way to better understand viewpoints that are different from my own. You're certainly a prolific writer.

    I wonder if I can offer insight about "Single Millennial Women"? While I'm not sure that a) they're single b) this group is truly overrepresented BLM protests, I'll offer an alternative explanation.

    Could it be that women are more likely to be in helping professions (e.g. education, healthcare, counseling) and therefore witness both personal and systemic racism more than other demographics? And that these experiences have allowed them to see injustice and feel called to act?

    I can't speak for anyone but myself, but in my life this is true. My work in education has given me a lens to racism that I probably wouldn't have had otherwise. If it's true that "Single Millennial Women" are protesting at a higher rate than other demographics, I wonder what they've seen and experienced in their lives and how these factors have prompted action.

    To me, this is a more likely explanation than young women are without families and seeking a sense of belonging.

    Thanks for reading my perspective and please reach out if you'd like to discuss. - Grace

    1. Grace, thanks for the comments.

      I certainly think your thesis is very much a possible explanation. I doubt there is one simple answer. It is undoubtedly a combination of a number of factors. I suggested a couple of others the first time I wrote on this subject.

      However, if your thesis is correct, why is it that only younger women are primarily involved? It would stand to reason that the longer that someone has been in a helping profession the more they had witnessed personal and systemic racism over their careers and the more they would be motivated about it if what you say is true.

      Could it be the fact that older people in these helping professions might have more perspective? While things are not perfect they understand that tremendous progress has been made over the years.
      Perhaps you might concede that it may also have something to do with the fact that older women may be putting a higher priority in being home with their family than marching or protesting?

      They are all questions without good answers. I just posed the original question in that the makeup of BLM protests that I have seen is so obviously slanted towards young, white women. That is even true in comparison to the numbers of Black protesters of any age or sex.

      I appreciate your comments and your interest.

      As you should know from reading BeeLine I am particularly interested in putting issues in context through facts and data. I am always interested in anything that does that to help inform my readers. Feel free to forward anything that furthers that conversation.

      Thanks for reading.