Sunday, September 27, 2020

A Pivotal Week

A pivotal week lies ahead in the Presidential race.

The first debate is scheduled for Tuesday night.

President Trump and Joe Biden will go head-to-head for a large television audience with Chris Wallace moderating the debate in Cleveland.

Incumbent Presidents have typically performed poorly in the first debates during most Presidential races.

You may recall Barack Obama being described as having an "off night" when he debated Mitt Romney in 2012 or the questions that were raised about the mental faculties of Ronald Reagan in his first debate with Walter Mondale in 1984. Romney picked up 4.4 points in the polls after the first debate in 2012. Reagan saw his lead fall by 3.6 points in 1984. However, in both cases the incumbents rallied and won re-election.

Various theories have been advanced for why this has occurred. Some argue it is due to the fact that the challenger has been "challenged" more in the year leading up to the debates. They have have had more practice debating and have been challenged more by the media. It is said that the incumbent has gotten soft in not being in the fray to the same extent the challenger has.

Others say that merely having the challenger on the same stage with the President elevates the stature of the challenger in the eyes of the voters.

There is little question that there will be a lot of eyes on the debate this week. Forbes predicts that the debate audience might approach 100 million viewers. That viewership has only been reached 11 other times in television history of which 10 were Super Bowl games. The other program was the M*A*S*H finale in 1983.


With the pandemic curtailing campaign rallies, a polarized political climate, the ratings spike of newscasts, the lack of original programming content on competitive cable networks, an unpredictable president who constantly courts media attention (including expected complaints about the moderator and format) and recent debates setting TV audience records, the 2020 debates could average 100 million viewers, joining ten Super Bowls (including this year’s) and the M*A*S*H finale in 1983 to reach that audience threshold.


Forbes fails to mention one other factor in its analysis.

Viewer interest in determining whether Joe Biden is up to the task of being President of the United States is going to be strong. There is still a substantial question hanging over the candidacy of Joe Biden. I wrote about it in my last blog post when I asked , "How Worried Should We Be About Joe Biden?" 

Will Biden be able to go toe-to-toe with Trump on the debate stage? Biden has long been known for gaffes, will he slip up on the biggest stage ever? Can Biden give voters the confidence that he has the drive and durability to be President of the United States in these challenging times?

The schedule Biden has been following does not suggest that he has it. 

Consider this tweet from The Hill reporter Joe Concha.



 


This is all at the same time that Trump is flying around the country speaking at large rallies while also nominating a new Supreme Court justice and brokering Middle East peace agreements.

Biden's recent interview with MSNBC also should not inspire much confidence that Joe has it together ahead of the debate.

Watch Biden as he is thoroughly confused and needs MSNBC anchor Stephanie Ruhle to bail him out. Pay particular attention to the look on Ruhle's face as she listens to Biden. She closes her eyes as if to say to herself, "this is our candidate and this is a nightmare."

Click here if your browser does not play the video.



This article from RedState details some other strange things that came out of Biden's mouth during that interview. 

Here is another example from last week where Biden was addressing the United States Conference of Mayors virtually, in which he said he said he had gotten to the Senate "180 years ago." 

Remember what I wrote recently about problems with numeracy being a warning sign of dementia?

Click here for the video if the video below does not play in your browser. 




Joe Biden has a tremendous opportunity to lay these concerns to rest with a solid debate performance just as Ronald Reagan did in the second debate in 1984.

However, a performance like those above in front of 100 million people would be very damaging to the cause of the Democrats.

There are many voters who don't pay much attention to politics. However, they know what they see and hear.

That is why the debates are a pivotal point in the race. Donald Trump and Joe Biden both have a lot riding on their performance Tuesday night with that gigantic audience that will be further amplified by social media. 

Love him or hate him, Donald Trump is a known quantity for most voters. Presidential debates present much more opportunity for the challengers to capture swing voters. On the other hand, there may be voters who don't like Trump personally but are they willing to risk their lives, livelihoods and liberty on someone who presents themselves like Biden did in the two clips above? That is asking voters to make a very big BET.

Making any change involves risk. That is a fundamental trait in most human beings. People tend to prefer the known versus the unknown. That is why incumbents have an advantage in most elections. Familiarity drives favorability. That is why so much is spent on advertising and most people think that their hometown is the best place to live.

I can guarantee there will not be a better show on tv than what we will see on Tuesday night.

Count me in as one of the 100 million that will be watching.

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

How Worried Should We Be About Joe Biden?

It is often said that the weight of the responsibility of being President of the United States ages the officeholder.

Here is a comparison of what Barack Obama looked like when he took office in 2009 and when he left office in 2017.




Here is George W. Bush eight years apart in 2001 and 2009.





If Joe Biden is elected, he will be the oldest President to ever sit in the Oval Office starting on his first day in office. He will be older when he begins his term than Ronald Reagan (the oldest yet to serve) was when he left office after two terms.

The longer the current campaign goes on it seems there are more and more questions about the mental abilities and faculties of Joe Biden.

The limited campaign events that Biden does are very controlled and orchestrated. He almost never takes any questions.

For example, this is Biden's calendar for September. On 8 (red marks) of the 22 days in the month Biden's campaign has called a "lid" on the day to the press before noon indicating he would not make any public appearances or be taking any media questions that day.


Source:https://twitter.com/alec_sears/status/1308408738315931658/photo/1


When he has campaigned it has been very limited and very isolated.

For example, yesterday Biden flew to Wisconsin for a one hour event, took no questions, and immediately flew back to Delaware.

To make matters worse, Biden had his face mask on upside down, botched the Pledge of Allegiance and referred to the fact that 200 Americans had died of Covid-19 when he gave his speech. The day before he claimed that 200 million had died of the virus.

Why was he even wearing a mask when he was giving a speech with almost no one in the room?







He also did a tv interview with Telemundo yesterday in which it appears that he had a teleprompter to the right of the interviewer to assist him in answering the questions.









Ask yourself first, why would any news organization allow this?

Check out the video clip for yourself.

Notice how Biden is clearly looking to the right of the interviewer as he answers the question.

He makes his first point and then says "I lost that line" and turns back to the interviewer.

The interviewer looks as if he is covering for Joe when he says "We can talk you and I on that." Isn't the interview supposed to be for the viewers' sake?

Notice how Biden also says he would suspend deportations for the "first 100 days of my campaign" when he clearly means his administration. 

This is just another example where Biden appears confused and is unable to handle himself without having a teleprompter or some type of notes to get through an interview.

What is most troubling to me in observing Biden is his inability to deal with anything to do with numeracy.

This is something we have seen time and again with Biden.

As I mentioned above, over the weekend he suggested that 200 million would die of Covid by the end of his speech. There are 328 million people in the United States. Two-thirds have died of Covid?

The next day he suggested it was 200.

Last week in Michigan he said that over 6,114 members of the military had died of Covid. The actual number is 7.

In February in a Democrat debate Biden said that 150 million Americans had died from guns. In June he claimed 120 million had died from Covid-19.




Let's be clear that everyone can misspeak and make verbal mistakes.

However, what is concerning about Joe Biden is the consistent pattern we are seeing particularly involving numeracy.

Most people who make these kinds of gigantic numeracy mistakes quickly realize the error and correct themselves.

This generally is not what we are seeing with Biden.

For example, he states 200 million Americans have died on one day and 200 the next day without seeming to realize the mistake he has made.

Experts in gerontology tell us that lack of numeracy is a gigantic warning sign for dementia.

It is usually one of the first warning signs.  That’s why the elderly are particularly vulnerable to financial scams. That is also why financial advisors have problems with elderly clients and want family members involved who have a Power of Attorney. 

Early dementia elderly also very often lose the ability to fact-check themselves. 









The paper above which was published in 2012 in the Neuropsychology Journal of the American Psychological Association points out that patients with degenerative brain lesions often make synctactic errors when reading or writing numbers.

In reading and writing numbers, three types of errors were identified using the Deloche and Seron classification (1982): (a) syntactic errors, which consist of the wrong assembly of the elements in the number string, for example, number “905” read as “nine thousand and five” or the spoken number “thirty thousand and 27” written as “327”

In reading numbers, most errors made by patients with degenerative lesions were syntactic (42.3%), followed by omissions (29.04%), lexical (17.0%), and subdivisions (11.6%).


Could this explain how Biden could read 200,000 on a teleprompter and say 200 million one day and 200 the next? That would be a classic syntactic error.

I don't know but it seems to me to be a question worth asking.

Many people are also not aware of the fact that Biden twice had brain aneurysms repaired surgically in 1988. The first one was fairly large, a centimeter in size, and was leaking.  His doctor, Dr. Neal Kassell, has stated publicly that Biden is in excellent shape.

American Thinker magazine did an article on Joe Biden's mental lapses in August and cited some of Biden's medical history as well as providing perspectives from several doctors about Biden.

One was Dr. Marc Siegel who has been a medical consultant to both ABC and Fox News who pointed out that people who have had aneurysm repairs have a significant risk of cognitive impairment long-term.

"VP Biden in 1988 had two aneurysms repaired surgically before the modern, most modern techniques came in. Studies have shown that there's up to 50 percent cognitive impairment long-term following those aneurysm repairs," he said.

"Also a matter of public record, former VP Biden has atrial fibrillation, which is an irregular heartbeat. He's on blood thinners for that. A major study called the Swiss Atrial Fibrillation Study came out about a year ago. Over 1,200 people studied. They found three percent per year, even if people were on blood thinners, ended up having silent strokes. And guess how silent strokes present — they present usually with cognitive impairment with faltering, with inability to think clearly." ...

Atrial fibrillation also coincides with dementia, according to Hugh Calkins, MD, FHRS, FACC, FAHA, FESC, the Catherine Ellen Poindexter Professor of Cardiology and director of the electrophysiology laboratory and arrhythmia service at Johns Hopkins University.

"There are many studies showing an increased rate of all types of dementia in patients with [AF]," he said last year to Neurology Advisor.


As someone who has seen loved ones deal with cognitive issues later in life I am personally very concerned about Joe Biden based on what I have seen. If he is dealing with mental decline I don't understand why his family has allowed this to get this far. 

As an American, it is deeply troubling if we have a candidate for President who may be in a condition of cognitive decline. This is especially true given the enormous challenges our nation faces right now. If there was ever a time when this country needed strong and determined leadership it is in 2020.

In this election every American is literally putting their life, livelihood, liberty and the legacy of the country on the line with their vote. 

That is an awfully big bet to make on a 78 year old man who seems to have trouble  knowing the difference between 200 and 200 million in a country of 328 million people.

Are we seeing strong and determined leadership, if in the middle of a campaign six weeks before the election, the candidate is still spending most of his time in his basement and he rarely takes an unscripted question from the media?

The first Presidential debate is scheduled for a week from today. 

Joe Biden has proven to be an able debater in the past. After all, this is the third time he has run for President so he has a lot of experience on the debate stage. He also participated twice in Vice Presidential debates. Biden has been in politics for almost 50 years. He has much more experience on a political stage than Donald Trump.

However, it will be Joe Biden who people are going to look at most closely in that debate.

How worried should we be about Joe Biden?

That debate might give us an idea. Biden can lay to rest a lot of the questions I have posed above with his performance on that stage and the two scheduled debates that follow.

Will he be able to do it? Will more questions surface?

We will see.

My advice is to pay particular attention to anything dealing with numeracy.

Sunday, September 20, 2020

The Supreme Court Curveball

Who would have expected anything less in 2020?

We have seen the House impeach a President in an election year.

We have seen a pandemic and unprecedented government actions in response to it.

We have seen those government actions lead to enormous economic consequences.

We have seen protests, riots and insurrection in the streets. These have not occurred due to the economic lockdowns but are supposedly due to institutional racism in cities that Democrats have controlled for over 50 years with police departments that are led by minorities.

We have seen a peace accord signed by two major Middle East Muslim countries with Israel that we were told four years ago was impossible to achieve.

We have now seen the death of a liberal icon on the Supreme Court 45 days before a national election.

Of course, that election is still to come as are another three months in a year that will be written about centuries from now in the history books.

What more do we dare expect for the rest of the year?

More specifically right now many are asking what will be the effects of the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the national election?

Democrats are already apoplectic about the death of Ginsburg and the fact that the Constitution provides the power to the sitting President to appoint a replacement with the advice and consent of the U.S. Senate.

All you have to do is scan social media and you will quickly see threats of riots, threats to "burn it down", threats to pack the Supreme Court and threats to march to to the residences of Republican politicians to threaten them in their homes if the President and Senate do their constitutional duty.

In fact, Nancy Pelosi has even threatened to impeach President Trump again in order to delay a vote on the Supreme Court nominee if she has to.

Why would the death and possible replacement of one unelected jurist cause so much angst and anger?

I wrote about this over two years ago when Justice Kennedy retired and President Trump had the responsibility to appoint a successor.

This was a typical response at that time.



We saw they really meant it with the charade and circus that the Democrats put Brett Kavanaugh through during his confirmation process. 

Why is the Supreme Court everything for Liberals? 

I thought the Constitution was everything in The United States of America.

The Democrats know that without the Supreme Court "making law" they have little hope in realizing their progressive ideals. They have generally failed in establishing any of their agenda through Constitutional means. Most everything they care about in the last 30 years did not come from legislation or constitutional amendment but by the opinions of five Supreme Court justices. Look no further than abortion and gay marriage as prime examples. Or the affirmation of the constitutionality of Obamacare.

That is why the Supreme Court is everything to Liberals. Every new appointment to the Supreme Court that President Trump makes puts their agenda at risk. They know that they do not have the support of the necessary majorities of American voters to support and extend their progressive agenda. They do not want to follow the Constitution to get there. Our Founders wanted a clear consensus before we made radical changes to the rules that governed us. The Democrats simply don't want to wait and do the heavy lifting necessary to get what they want.

Democrats are adamant that the President Trump should not nominate a successor to RBG and the Senate should not confirm any new justice until after Inauguration Day in January, 2021.



The problem with this argument is that the American people already had their voice recorded. They elected Donald Trump with the understanding that he would serve a four-year term. They also elected the current sitting Senators in 2014, 2016 and 2018 who would provide the necessary advise and consent on any nomination during their six-year terms. Everyone knew when those votes were cast that there were likely to be Supreme Court vacancies that would need to be filled. 

Much is being made of the fact that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell did not allow the Obama nomination of Merrick Garland to proceed to replace Justice Scalia in the last year of the Obama presidency.

However, that involved a situation in which the President and Senate were of opposing parties. The precedent strongly supported waiting for an intervening election. This article by Dan McLaughlin in the National Review explains that precedent.

The norm in these cases strongly favored holding the seat open for the conflict between the two branches to be resolved by the presidential election. That is what Republicans did in 2016. The voters had created divided government, and the Senate was within its historical rights to insist on an intervening election to decide the power struggle. Had there been no conflict between the branches to submit to the voters for resolution, there would have been no reason for delay.

In almost all cases involving a split in the parties in control of the Presidency and Senate the nominee was not confirmed if a nomination was put forth. This shows it was a waste or time and effort to proceed with a vote on the nominee when there is that division of power.



  

On the other hand, when the White House and the Senate were of the same party there is a very consistent record of nominations being made and being confirmed.




In total, there have been 29 vacancies created in the Supreme Court during election years. There has not been one time that the President has not made a nomination. Not once in American history.

It is fair to observe that most of this precedent dates back in time. Some might argue that Supreme Court appointments did not carry the weight that they due today. However, that makes my point above. Why has the Supreme Court become everything? It is because the Democrats have made it everything and it was never supposed to be that way.

Of course, the reality is that one does not need to look at historical precedent to decide what President Trump and the Senate Republicans should do with the decision to replace RBG.

All one has to do is ask what the Democrats would do in a similar situation?

There is no doubt about that.

A Democrat President together with a Democrat Senate would not think twice about nominating and confirming a Supreme Court Justice in these circumstances. 

In fact, Joe Biden stated this clearly in 2016 when he was arguing that the Merrick Garland nomination should be considered and voted on even with a Republican majority in the Senate. In fact, he stated they both had a constitutional duty to do so even if if was months before the election. The same Joe Biden had argued in 1992 the exact opposite as this Newsweek article points out.





Former Vice President Joe Biden declared in 2016 that if he were chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee he would push ahead with the nomination of a Supreme Court justice "even a few months before a presidential election."

Biden penned a New York Times op-ed in March 2016—just weeks after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia—which accused Senate Republicans that year of neglecting their "Constitutional duty" by stonewalling President Barack Obama's Supreme Court nominee until after the November general election. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell cited a so-called "Biden rule" as justification for delaying Merrick Garland's nomination, pointing to a 1992 Biden speech that demanded President Bush wait until after that year's election to appoint a Supreme Court replacement.

When you have been in Washington for 47 years it is difficult to keep you stories straight and not get raised on your own pitard.

What do I think is going to happen with the nomination and what will the effects be on the election?

The only thing I know for sure is that President Trump will nominate someone for the opening on the Supreme Court. He will stay true to his constitutional duty.

It will almost assuredly be a woman.

I have doubts whether the Senate will actually hold a vote on the nomination before the election.

The calendar seems to suggest that is unlikely.

The average time from nomination to confirmation for the last 9 justices has been 79 days. The fastest process was for Ginsburg at 50 days. On Tuesday, we will be 42 days from election day.

You can make arguments on either side as to whether this Supreme Court vacancy will be more helpful politically to Republicans or Democrats coming this close to the election.

Some argue that the threat to the ideological balance in the Court will motivate more Democrats to vote for Biden. That turnout will benefit the candidate that few Democrat seem excited to vote for rather than just vote against Donald J. Trump.

There are others who say that this is exactly what is needed to bring any reluctant GOP voters to the polls for Trump. They may not like everything about Trump but they know how important that Supreme Court seat is in blocking the liberal agenda.

There is one school of thought, that seems to be shared by several Republican Senators (Collins, Murkowski), that it is "not fair" to proceed on a vote before the election. Those who think this way seem to think that holding off will be viewed more favorably by Independent voters.

At one time I might have seen merit to that argument. However, that assumes that the other side would be fair-minded as well. That time is well past with the Democrats. We saw that clearly with the Kavanaugh nomination. The Democrats long ago forgot about anything to do with "fairness" in protecting themselves and advancing their interests.

It does not matter who Trump nominates, the Democrats will savage the nominee. They are not interested in any level of fair play. It doesn't matter if it is before the election, post-election or if Trump win re-election.

There are a number of advantages to moving now.

First, there is no guarantee that Trump will win or the Republicans will retain the Senate. Moving forward now may be the only time they can move forward. It would be foolhardy to not attempt to get their nominee to the Court confirmed while they can.

Second, it introduces another big issue in the campaign which means there is less media time to be spent on Covid, the economy, Russian collusion or whatever else the media would like to hang around Trump's neck. There is little downside for Trump in this regard as they are going to hammer him anyway. However, on this one he may win BIGLY.

Third, it puts the Democrats on the defensive. They can complain a lot about this but they don't control the agenda around the nomination. Trump has the power to nominate who he wants and the Republicans control the agenda and timetable for hearings and the confirmation vote in the Senate. There is little the Democrats can do but whine and complain.

Who is Trump going to nominate?

The names that you hear most often are Amy Coney Barrett, Barbara Lagoa and Joan Larsen. They are all Circuit Court of Appeals judges who went through the confirmation process fairly recently and presumably  have been investigated and vetted pretty thoroughly

If I was advising Trump I might suggest that he do something unconventional to throw a further curveball at the Democrats.

I would recommend that Trump put three names forward to the Senate and ask for their "advice" on the potential nominees. Trump would say that he is comfortable with any of the three but wants the Senate's input before making a final nomination. The nominees would each make the obligatory visits to the Senators for interviews and there also might be a limited public hearing with each.

In doing this Trump would specifically say to the Democrats that they may have issues with one of these but they certainly cannot be fair-minded by having a problem with all three. It places Trump in a position that is flexible and open to advice and the Democrats further on the defensive.

Having three real possible nominees would also mean the Democrats could not concentrate all of their "firepower" on one nominee. If they treated all the nominees like they did Kavanaugh it would be pretty obvious to any fair-minded American voter what game was being played.

It will be interesting to see how this all plays out.

To this point, I have not written very much about the 2020 election. 

A big reason for that is that it has been very hard to really assess where the election stands with so much going on in the country this year.

Back in July (100 days before election day) I wrote this.

It is almost impossible to predict what is going to happen in November considering what is going on in the country right now.

The pace of events is overwhelming. In fact, it would not surprise me if we have yet to see what historians will later point to as the most consequential issue in this election.

Ginsburg's death and the looming confirmation battle is just another example.

However, even considering this, the most consequential issue may still lay ahead.

There are still six weeks to go.

Thursday, September 17, 2020

What About The Human Race?

You can't go an hour within the current news cycle without hearing about racism, inequality and racial injustice.

The loudest voices about racism seem to come from states like California, Washington and Oregon where we have seen protests and riots for several months.

The fact is that California actually has enshrined in its state constitution this passage that was adopted in 1996 which was referred to as the "California Civil Rights Initiative" when it was approved by the voters in the state.


“The state shall not discriminate against, or grant preferential treatment to, any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin, in the operation of public employment, public education, and public contracting.”


It was modeled after the 1965 Civil Rights Act and was intended to promote a race-neutral society in California where all people were treated fairly and equally. 

In my last post I wrote about the emerging trend that seeks to eliminate all standardized testing based on the argument that they are somehow discriminatory. Never mind the fact that standardized tests were originally adopted to level the playing field and eliminate subjective bias in college admissions, job placements and professional certifications. 

I was interested to find out that there is actually a ballot initiative in California this November to repeal the "California Civil Rights Initiative" language in the state constitution. The initiative is Proposition 16.

In effect, those who have put this on the ballot do not want equal rights. They don't want merit-based decisions on who gets a job or who gets into college. They actually want to have a society that allows discrimination and preferential treatments based on race, color, sex or ethnicity.

If you read the mainstream media you might be led to believe that such a provision would be sponsored by a a bunch of far right-wing conservatives who support Donald Trump.

You would be wrong.

This ballot initiative to amend the California Constitution was actually sponsored by leading Democrats in the state and is endorsed by Democrat Governor Gavin Newsom.

This is clearly an attempt to legalize preferential race-based discrimination and affirmative action that is the antithesis of equal justice and rights under the law.

Martin Luther King, Jr. famously stated that he had a dream that his children would one day live in a nation where they would not be judged by the color of their skin but the content of their character.

Dr. King spoke about that over 50 years ago. Think about all the energy and effort that has been put into turning that dream into a reality.

After over 50 years is this the legacy of Dr. King? 

Those who claim to be "civil right activists" are giving up on merit, character and hard work being those things we judge people on?

"We just want our share based on our race whether we have earned it or not. We also don't care if our share comes out of others who have worked hard and demonstrated their own merit."

Is this the measure of character that Dr. King had in mind over 50 years ago? They truly want color, ethnicity or sex to be the most important measure? Isn't that where we were over 100 years ago? 

Affirmative actions programs were first initiated in the early 1960's but they did not gain my attention until the the late 1970's when a young white man in his early 30's named Allan Bakke was denied admission to medical school at UC-Davis despite the fact that he had a better academic record and test scores than almost all of the minority applicants that had been admitted under an affirmative action program.

Bakke brought a legal action against the university and his case was ultimately decided by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1978 which ruled that the minority quota admissions program should be struck down and Bakke admitted. However, the Court did not go so far as to rule that race could not be considered among other factors in admission decisions.

The U.S. Supreme Court has revisited the issue of affirmative action several times over the last 40 years but has generally continued the basic principle in the Bakke decision that outright quota programs are illegal but that race may be considered among a number of factors in order to fulfill a goal concerning the "educational benefits of diversity" in admission decisions.

In the 2003 Supreme Court decision of Grutter v. Bollinger the court allowed the University of Michigan's affirmative action program to continue but the majority specifically stated that such programs should not be considered permanent.

"The Court takes the Law School at its word that it would like nothing better than to find a race-neutral admissions formula and will terminate its use of racial preferences as soon as practicable. The Court expects that 25 years from now, the use of racial preferences will no longer be necessary to further the interest approved today." 

That was written 17 years ago.

Does that mean that affirmative action programs of any type only have 8 years of life left in them?

Even without considering the limited use of affirmative action that is allowed now, how does California believe that it can allow outright quota programs based on race in that the U.S. Supreme Court has already ruled that these are illegal?

Has the lack of race-based affirmative action kept minority students from attending state universities in California?
 
Californians for Equal Rights (which is the organization opposing Prop 16) states that there are 3 times as many Blacks and Hispanics admitted to state universities today as there were in 1994.

There has also been a 78% increase in underrepresented minorities graduating from the state university system over that period.

California's Board of Regents also recently dropped standardized testing in its admission decisions claiming that such testing was racist. However, a recent study showed that standardized tests actually resulted in more minorities gaining admission than they would have otherwise.

The regents of the University of California spoke as one when they unanimously scrapped the Scholastic Aptitude Test in a virtual meeting last month. “I believe the test is a racist test,” said one regent, Jonathan Sures. “There’s no two ways about it.”

But the regents’ decision flouted a unanimous faculty-senate vote a few weeks earlier to retain the SAT for now, after a yearlong study by a task force found the test neither “racist” nor discriminatory and not an obstacle to minorities in any way.

The 228-page report, loaded with hundreds of displays of data from the UC’s various admissions departments, found that the SAT and a commonly used alternative test, ACT (also eliminated), helped increase black, Hispanic and Native-American enrollment at the system’s 10 campuses.

“To sum up,” the task force report determined, “the SAT allows many disadvantaged students to gain guaranteed admission to UC.”

So how could the liberal governing board of a major university system reject the imprimatur of its own liberal faculty researchers and kill a diversity accelerator in the name of the very diversity desired?

The answer: The urgency of political momentum against the tests proved irresistible and swept away the research and data.


All of this seems designed to to make the most important factor in admissions decisions to be whatever the liberals want it to be. 

We are often told that affirmative action programs are intended to just provide a little boost to allow minorities to gain a small advantage.

How true is that statement?

Althea Nagai, Ph.D., for the Center for Equal Opportunity recently completed a study on how far affirmative action went before California voters put the Civil Rights Initiative in the state constitution and the U.S. Supreme Court questioned the race-based preferences at the University of Michigan in the Grutter case.

Blacks were being admitted into Cal-Berkeley with median SAT scores of 960. It was 1040 for Hispanics.

Whites had to score 1290 and Asians 1300 to gain admission.

A small boost?



The median SAT scores at the University of Michigan showed similar results in 2005.




When you look at how this translates to the odds you will be admitted, you can see how disproportionate and disparate the inequality is.

Controlling for other factors, odds ratios showed Michigan awarding a great deal of preference to black over white applicants (more than 70 to 1) and to Hispanics over whites (roughly 46 to 1)Michigan also gave whites a small preference over Asians.

 

To provide some context, in-state students in Michigan receive about a 1.05x odds advantage to be admitted to UM over out-of-state students controlling for other factors.

70x and 46x better chances for minorities compared to .05x for in-state vs. out-of-state students?

It does not get much discriminatory and disparate than that.

All in the name of diversity?

If the NFL determined who made their rosters with similar thinking they would no longer consider 40-yard dash times or how much an athlete could bench press. They would also allocate a set number of roster positions to those that played in the Ivy, Patriot and Mountain West conferences and cut back those who played at Alabama, Ohio State or USC.

Of course, there remains the question as to whether putting individuals in positions where they are in over their heads is really in their best interest.

Well-regarded African American economist Dr. Thomas Sowell argues that affirmative action programs aimed at promoting diversity actually do more harm than good for minorities. After all, it easy to see that putting someone in an NFL game that is ill-equipped could hurt them. It is harder to see that in college or high school admission decisions.

Minority students admitted to institutions whose academic standards they do not meet are all too often needlessly turned into failures, even when they have the prerequisites for success in some other institution whose normal standards they do meet.

When black students who scored at the 90th percentile in math were admitted to M.I.T., where the other students scored at the 99th percentile, a significant number of black students failed to graduate there, even though they could have graduated with honors at most other academic institutions.

We do not have so many students with that kind of ability that we can afford to sacrifice them on the altar to political correctness.

Such negative consequences of mismatching minority students with institutions, for the sake of racial body count, have been documented in a number of studies, most notably "Mismatch," a book by Richard Sander and Stuart Taylor, Jr., whose sub-title is: "How Affirmative Action Hurts Students It's Intended to Help, and Why Universities Won't Admit It."

There was a time when people of color did not get a job, get into college or get into a game because of their color.

That was wrong

However, it does not follow if someone does not get into college, get into college or is placed under arrest today it is because of their color.

Everything and everyone is not racist. 

Our problems are not going to be solved by turning back the clock 50 years as California wants to do.

Let's quit defining people by race, color and ethnicity.

Let's also stop infringing on other's rights to get what we think are our rights.

All of this is making us forget that which we are all apart of and we all share together---being a part of the human race.

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

How Low Do We Set The Bar?

Standardized tests have come under increased attack over the last few years.

Some college and universities have announced they are no longer going to use SAT or ACT scores in the admission process in order to "enhance diversity" and to "level the playing field".

I find that interesting in that standardized tests were first introduced to do just that.

After World War II, aptitude tests gained increased favor with both business and education due to their wide use in processing hundreds of thousands of military recruits into the right roles in the War effort. For example, my father was a recent high school graduate at the beginning of World War II. He was working in a washing machine factory as he did not have the money to even think about going to college. However, he was assessed with high intelligence and trained as a cryptographer after he joined the Army. He told me that he was one of the cryptographers who passed the top secret message to drop the atomic bomb.

Business used the tests after the War for hiring for management positions based on whether someone had the aptitude to succeed rather than simply focusing on a college degree. It was the same reason that the Armed Forces used aptitude tests. Quite simply, in those days only 1 in 10 went to college. If someone did not attend college it most likely had nothing to do with their ambition or intelligence. They simply did not have the financial resources to continue their education.

The use of standardized tests leveled the playing field. It did not matter if your father wasn't a bank president or you did not go to a boarding school. It only mattered if you had the smarts to succeed.

Interestingly, a Supreme Court case in 1971 (Griggs v. Duke Power Co.)  ruled that jobs-based aptitude tests were potentially discriminatory as they could cause "disparate impact" when used by employers to assess and predict the performance of workers for promotion and advancement. As a result, a college education became the "default" for determining who would get on the management track and college became the only ticket for future advancement. High school graduates were left out in the cold no matter what their abilities might be.

The use of the SAT and ACT tests began being used extensively in college admissions decisions for similar reasons after the War and their importance grew after the Griggs decision. Admissions into the Ivy's and other top schools that were historically based on family connections and the East Coast boarding school they attended became democratized through the use of standardized tests.

Using a standardized test that measured one's aptitude for college work leveled the playing field. It allowed schools to find overlooked talent who may not have had all the advantages of the prepsters on the East Coast. It did not matter if you hailed from Michigan, Montana or Mississippi and did not have  the same access to a quality high school education that the affluent had. The SAT showed whether you had the ability to do the work. The SAT also allowed admissions officers to objectively compare a student from the Choate School with students from Chillicothe, Ohio and South Central LA.

You can therefore argue that standardized testing has been one of the biggest factors allowing deserving, overlooked people to be recognized and receive opportunities to get ahead in the military, business and education over the years. This led to millions being elevated in their class status in the United States.

In fact, it would be difficult to point to anything else that has had a bigger impact on improving class mobility and opportunity for deserving people over the last 75 years.

What is interesting is that the argument for doing away with these tests today is to "enhance diversity" and "level the playing field."

That seems particularly ironic in that standardized tests were introduced in order to "enhance diversity" in the first place. They were introduced to identify talent and aptitude without regard to anything else--family background, wealth, race, religion or gender.

We now have to get rid of these tests to do the same thing they were introduced to do?

College admissions at the most selective universities have been using affirmative action policies for a long time to skew who gets admitted if academic performance and standardized test scores do not get them the balance they prefer.

For example, a 2013 Harvard study found that without affirmative action Harvard would be 43% Asian, 38% White and .7% Black. 

This is the actual ethnic diversity breakdown at Harvard.


Source: https://www.collegefactual.com/colleges/harvard-university/student-life/diversity/chart-ethnic-diversity.html


The Department of Justice recently charged Yale University with violations of the Civil Rights Act after a two-year investigation. Yale was ordered to submit a plan by September 15 on how it plans to modify its affirmative action practices to comply with the law.

 A key finding of the DOJ  investigation was that “Asian Americans and whites have only one-tenth to one-fourth of the likelihood of admission as African American applicants with comparable academic credentials.” 

It will be interesting to see if Yale moves totally away from standardized testing in their response. After all, if you don't have this objective standard it is harder for someone to point out that you are admitting someone without "comparable academic credentials." 

The arguments against standardized tests are now starting to extend to professional examinations such as the bar exam

Here is one such argument from someone with the New York Civil Liberties Union that believes that the New York Bar exam should be done away with forever.

I know something about the subject of standardized tests. I have taken more of them than most people on this earth.

I have taken the PSAT, SAT, ACT, LSAT, the Multistate Bar Exam and the CPA exam.

Some argue that aptitude tests are racist. However, these tests are designed to assess whether you have the abilities to succeed in college, law school, medical school and the like. They have continued to be used because most of the studies I have seen suggest that there is a pretty good correlation between those that do well on those tests and those who successfully complete the coursework. 

When you get to professional exams, like the bar exam or CPA exam, the tests are not measuring aptitude, but knowledge.

How is that racist?

It is very similar to the arguments that I have also heard that somehow mathematics is racist. Seattle public school students are being taught (who would ever guess?) that US math education is racist, is used to oppress people of color and the disadvantaged, and has been used to exploit natural resources. It is argued that this "Western Math", developed by the Greeks and Europeans, has culturally appropriated what might have been approaches that other cultures might have used in their mathematics. For example, the Aborigines might have called the degrees in a circle something other than degrees. 

I am not making this up. This is somehow the reason that minority children as a whole have lower math test scores than whites?

I went to three years of law school. Everyone in my class was taught the same case law and the same legal principles. One of the most popular and highly respected members of my class was an African American. He studied the same courses that I did and took the same tests. 

The same thing with the CPA exam. When I took it we were tested on Accounting Practice, Taxation, Auditing and Business Law. It was based on what I knew about these subjects.

Is it racist if someone doesn't know the law or important accounting principles that they are supposed to know? These exams were instituted to protect the public by insuring that people who practiced in these professions had met certain minimum objective standards.

Where do you draw the line?

Low SAT scores but allow admission into college anyway.

Low LSAT scores but allow admission into law school.

Not capable of passing the bar exam or CPA exam but anyone who graduates is still allowed to practice as an attorney or CPA? How about applying the same rule for doctors as well? Or pharmacists? Or a professional engineer?

Don't get me wrong, I am not saying that these standardized tests are perfect.

Three or four of my law school classmates failed the bar exam the first time they took it and they were good students and smart people.

They are not alone.

Hillary Clinton failed the bar exam the first time she took it.

Michelle Obama did as well.

As did Kamala Harris.

Franklin D. Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, Jr.  were two others who failed the bar exam.

However, how low do we set the bar?

It seems there are many who want to set it lower and lower.

Unfortunately, there seem to be fewer and fewer who recognize that the better answer might be to raise people up rather than setting the bar lower.

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Actors On A Stage

Politicians are nothing more than actors playing a role on a stage.

They perform their role based on what they believe to be the expectations of the audience.

I have believed this for a long time. This view is also shared by a long-time politician I know who was in the game for a long time and should know.

If you understand this you can make much better sense of what is going on in politics.

The first thing you have to understand is that a politician is NOTHING unless they are elected. They only have power if they hold office. They cannot hold office unless they get more votes than their opponent.

Therefore, a politician is ALWAYS going to be focused primarily on gaining (or retaining) that power.

That power can only be obtained from the votes of people. The people are sovereign in our system. Their power is absolute.  Unfortunately, too many people don't believe it. The simple fact is that politicians have no power unless the people provide it.

That is why politicians are like actors on a stage. You are not seeing a person on that stage that is telling you what they really think. You are seeing a person on the stage who is reciting lines based on what he or she thinks you want to hear.

Remember Barack Obama in the 2008 campaign who told us that marriage was between one man and one woman. Remember Hillary Clinton in the U.S.Senate who was in favor of building a wall on the Southern border? Was that an act or was the act later when they later reversed their positions? 

If politicians are actors playing a role it is therefore hardly a surprise that Ronald Reagan was so effective on the political stage. There was no one better at delivering a line or and being able to say it with such genial sincerity. 

Donald Trump came to politics from a different part of the entertainment industry. Yes, he made a lot of money in real estate but he drew attention to his projects based on understanding how to promote his properties and building his brand.

Trump also had years of experience in playing a "role" on his reality tv show, "The Apprentice".

What you get with Trump is probably more authentic than 99% of politicians. However, make no mistake he is also playing a role.

I have no doubt that Trump would have never agreed to locking down the country over Covid if he was not an actor on a stage. His instincts screamed at him this was not the way to go. However, he knew the audience was not going to buy it. That was particularly true knowing there were media critics who would have made sure that their audiences did not buy it.

This brings us to Joe Biden.

Here is a man who has been an actor on a stage for 47 years.

If there is anyone who proves my point that politicians are actors on a stage it is Joe Biden.

He has spent a lifetime in politics delivering lines he thinks the audience wants to hear.

The problem with Biden is that has a long history of changing his "act" for the audience as he believes it has changed over the years.

Biden also has a habit of embellishing and evading the truth with the lines he recites on stage.

For example, Joe Biden knows that voters are not looking to elect someone from the bottom of their class. Biden ranked 76th out of 85 in his law school class. He told voters in 1987 that he ranked in the top half of his class, was on a full academic scholarship and had graduated from college with three degrees. None of these were true but that was much a better "act" than the truth.

You can view news reports of this episode here from the 1980's.

Biden dropped out of the 1988 Presidential race after it was discovered he had plagiarized phrases and mannerisms of a British politician in his speeches. To make matters worse, when this occurred it was also revealed that Biden had also been charged with plagiarizing a paper in law school. It seems that the script that Biden may not even be original.

Everyone feels sympathy for Biden losing his wife and young daughter in an auto accident shortly after he was elected to the Senate in 1972. However, over the years that horrific episode in Biden's life must not have been bad enough to gain the sympathy he wanted from his audience. Biden has stated on the political stage that the accident was caused by a drunk truck driver who broadsided his wife's car that terrible day.

However, that is not what happened.

Now-retired Delaware Superior Court Judge Jerome O. Herlihy, who oversaw the investigation as chief deputy attorney general, told Politico, “She had a stop sign. The truck driver did not.”

In 2008, he (Biden) told the Post that rumors about alcohol playing a role in the accident were “incorrect.”

At age 77 the problem for Biden now is that he has been on that political stage for almost 50 years and he seems to not realize that all those years playing to different audiences is catching up to him with contradictory statements. 

Today he knows that he cannot be elected without winning a huge majority of the Black vote.

However, he once was an outspoken critic of school busing programs and desegregation efforts.

He was the original author of the 1994 crime bill that stiffened criminal penalties, provided funding for an additional 100,000 police officers and construction of more prisons in order "to take back the streets."

Watch this video of Biden on the Senate floor in 1993 advocating for that bill and ask yourself where is this man today?

Biden has said during this campaign he thinks money should be "redirected" away from the police.

He refuses to criticize the radicals that have taken over the streets.

Has Biden changed this much over the years or is everything an act?

Biden is even claiming to some audiences now that it is Donald Trump wants to defund the police. That claim is absolutely laughable.

During the Democrat primary Biden was pretty clear when questioned by liberals that he wanted to ban fracking.

He is now says that anyone who says he wants to ban fracking is lying.

Last week Biden was asked about his vote for NAFTA in 1993. He said he was really against NAFTA after he voted for it.




He blamed the problems with NAFTA on the Bush administration saying it did not keep its commitments on the treaty.

The only problem with that is that NAFTA went into effect January 1, 1994 under the Clinton administration. George W. Bush did not take office until 2001--seven years after that. Any commitments were made by Bill Clinton and the Democrats. Looking at the clip above from 2007 it does not appear Biden had a problem with NAFTA six years into the Bush administration.

Joe Biden has been a politician his entire adult life. He was elected to the Senate when he was 29 years of age and took office weeks after the minimum Constitutional age of 30. That means he has been acting on the political stage for close to 50 years.

When you do something that long it gets hard to discern the difference between the "role" and "reality".

It is also apparent that age is doing Biden no favors in that regard right now.

More troubling is that we really don't know if Biden the actor has really become nothing more than Biden the puppet.

Who is writing his scripts for the teleprompter?

Who is orchestrating his policies?

Is Joe Biden really capable of discharging the duties of President of the United States? 

It does not appear so in his campaigning thus far.

For example, this weekend Donald Trump made several stops in Nevada, did a rally in Reno Saturday night and then had three more stops in Las Vegas on Sunday. Trump is going to California on Monday to survey the damage by the wildfires and doing another rally in Arizona on Tuesday.

Biden did not leave his home the entire weekend that I could see.

Is he up to the job or does he just want the role?

Who is really pulling the strings in all of this?

I understand that acting is a part of American politics.

However, I am not sure we have ever gotten this close to possibly electing a  real, life puppet for that large stage.

Thursday, September 10, 2020

It Will End When We Stop Counting

I am often asked when will it end?

When will we take off the masks, gather in restaurants, attend concerts and the theatre and have our children back in school?

I don't know the answer to that.

I do know that it will not occur until we stop counting and reporting cases and deaths every day.

As long as every case and every death is reported daily there is no hope of returning to normal.

It is impossible for the human brain to operate normally if it is being told that there is something to fear whenever they turn on the television, listen to the radio or check their social media feeds.

Consider everything that has been in the news over the last few weeks just concerning Covid-19 cases among college students.

Here is an example of a report within the last day involving the University of Wisconsin.



UW-Madison is moving all classes online and quarantining students in two of its largest dorms for at least the next two weeks, the most significant step by the university to curb a COVID-19 outbreak that has surpassed 1,000 infections in mere days.


Like most universities, Wisconsin has a Covid-19 dashboard that meticulously documents every case and test involving Covid-19.

It is updated daily.

Here were the number of positive cases as of September 9 as reported on that University of Wisconsin-Madison dashboard.

Note how small the faculty and staff cases are compared to those of the students. 


Source: https://smartrestart.wisc.edu/dashboard/

There is not once hospitalization reported on that dashboard.

Here is the Notre Dame dashboard. Notice that 94% of all student cases are reported as having already recovered.


Source: https://here.nd.edu/our-approach/dashboard/

This is the University of Dayton dashboard. It tells a similar story. Almost 1,200 cases since late August but almost 1,000 have already recovered


Source:https://udayton.edu/coronavirus/case_dashboard.php


In fact, Andrew Bostom has been tracking the cases at a number of colleges. This list is not all inclusive, and it is based on data from a couple of days ago, but he has yet to find one hospitalization in the cases at any of these colleges.




It is often said in business that "what gets measured, gets managed".

The same principle applies with Covid but it should more appropriately be said, "what gets measured, unsettles the mind."

What might be the effects if every college student who got drunk was reported daily? Or those tested positive for venereal disease? Or those who had the seasonal flu? Or had another strain of coronavirus---the common cold?

I know of nothing else in my experience that gets measured and reported in this way and is splashed across the media every day.

The closest comparison that I can come up with is what you see reported after an airplane crash or a natural disaster like an earthquake, hurricane or tornado. However, these counts last a couple days rather than six months.

The reporting on Covid-19 is much like seeing reports on an airplane crash every day for six months.

Think for minute if every automobile accident and every fatality were reported every single day.

There are over 6.7 million police-reported auto accidents each year. That is over 18,350 per day according to the latest data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

An average of 3,300 are injured in auto accidents every day.

92 die on average every day.

Would you be as willing to get in your car every day if you heard those stats on the radio every morning?

What about if every heart attack or stroke and every death from cardiovascular disease was reported every day?

There are 1.5 million of those every year according to the CDC. That is more than 4,000 per day.

800,000 deaths result from cardiovascular disease each year. 

That is almost 2,200 per day.

Do you think that if this was reported in the same manner as Covid-19 has been reported there might be a lot more people living healthier lifestyles?

What about if every abortion performed in the previous 24 hours was reported every day?

There are over 800,000 abortions performed annually in the United States according to the Guttmacher Institute which is the "independent research arm" of Planned Parenthood.

Planned Parenthood performed almost half of that total alone (345,672).

That works out to about 2,200 abortions per day in total in which almost 1,000 are done per day by Planned Parenthood.

Would there be as many people in support of abortion if they heard these facts every day?

To put all of this in context, the U.S. average daily death count from Covid-19 over the last 7-day rolling average is 730.

That is less than 1/3 of those who died of cardiovascular disease. It is also only 1/3 of the number of abortions being performed every day in the United States.

Since the CDC officially started tracking Covid-19 in February, 1,894,447 million Americans have died from all causes. 91.7% of those deaths did not have Covid-19 on the death certificate as even a contributing factor, let alone the major cause of death.

Even for those 85 years of age and older, less than 10% died of something even partially related to Covid-19 according to the CDC. Over 90%+ died of another cause.

In those between ages 0-24, there have been 35,642 deaths from all causes since February. 377 have listed Covid-19 as a contributing factor. 98.9% died of something else. It needs to be remembered as well that there are 104 million in that age group in the United States. The means the chances of someone dying from any cause in that age group since February was .000343. For Covid it is just 1.1% of that number.

Of course, we never hear about that "something else". All we hear about are Covid cases and deaths.

Seeing where we are today reminds me of a blog post I wrote in late March in which I cited an interview with a pulmonologist in Germany, Dr. Wolfgang Wodarg, who was arguing at the time that the biggest reason that Covid-19 was getting the attention it was had more to due with the fact that there was a test for it and the politicians and media had gotten involved. Without that, all of this would not have gotten any where near the attention it has.

His view of the Covid-19 crisis is that it is an example of the scientists and virologists getting the attention of the government and politicians such that the hype has vastly exceeded the virological frame that should have surrounded it. He says this would have never been considered anything extraordinary if it had not crossed into the political and media realm.  He is not seeing anything much different than he did in any flu season in his career.

Wodarg makes the point that each year coronaviruses generally have made up 7-15% of respiratory viruses. Interestingly, the testing that has been done so far nationally (over 400,000 cases) is running right around that percentage range in testing of those with symptoms in the United States.

We now have done over 84 million Covid-19 tests. We are now doing almost as many Covid-19 tests each day as we do in an entire year for the seasonal flu.

It is a little harder to compare the positivity number we were seeing in March to the cases today since many more people are being tested that have no symptoms when almost all people being tested earlier had some type of respiratory symptoms. However, positive cases are running at about 5% of all tests right now and this undoubtedly includes a lot of false positives. The New York Times recently reported that 90% of all confirmed cases might disappear if a less sensitive PCR testing protocol was utilized. Many tests seem to be picking up trace DNA material that is not indicative of a contagious virus in the body.

Seeing all this might explain a little better why the Obama administration stopped testing for H1N1 flu in 2009 and ceased counting individual cases.

Have you ever heard of the old adage, "out of sight, out of mind"?  President Obama and Vice President Biden were clearly familiar with it.

Sharyl Attkisson of CBS News reported this in 2009 about H1N1 testing.

In late July, the CDC abruptly advised states to stop testing for H1N1 flu, and stopped counting individual cases. The rationale given for the CDC guidance to forego testing and tracking individual cases was: why waste resources testing for H1N1 flu when the government has already confirmed there's an epidemic?

Some public health officials privately disagreed with the decision to stop testing and counting, telling CBS News that continued tracking of this new and possibly changing virus was important because H1N1 has a different epidemiology, affects younger people more than seasonal flu and has been shown to have a higher case fatality rate than other flu virus strains.

CBS News learned that the decision to stop counting H1N1 flu cases was made so hastily that states weren't given the opportunity to provide input. Instead, on July 24, the Council for State and Territorial Epidemiologists, CSTE, issued the following notice to state public health officials on behalf of the CDC: 

"Attached are the Q&As that will be posted on the CDC website tomorrow explaining why CDC is no longer reporting case counts for novel H1N1. CDC would have liked to have run these by you for input but unfortunately there was not enough time before these needed to be posted (emphasis added)."

 

What do you think the reaction would be if the Trump administration did something similar?

We all know the answer to that.

I am not saying that we shouldn't count every case and every death. They are all important. However, so are the drug deaths, vehicle deaths, cancer and infant deaths we have every day in every year. What is missing right now is the context of Covid compared to everything else.

How then will it all end?

People must feel confident before things can return to normal.

However, how can people feel confident when they are inundated every day with numbers without any context and they are told they are going to die if they don't wear a mask? And every trip to the store and every virtual school session reinforces that narrative.

It will not end until we stop counting.

The counting will also most assuredly not stop anytime before November 3.

That is something you can definitely COUNT on.

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Things That Make You Go Hmmm-9/8/20

A few random observations about Covid-19 and its effects that make you go hmmmm.

USA vs. Europe New Daily Cases

One of the constants about Covid-19 from the beginning is that when experts have told us something there is a good chance it will soon be proven wrong.

For example, it was not long ago that we were told that Europe had shown us how to manage and contain the virus.

This is the headline from The Denver Post exactly one month ago.




However, daily cases in the United States are now about half what they were a month ago while cases in Europe have tripled or more over the same time span. The result is that new daily cases in Europe have recently been running higher than in the United States.





Spain and France are now seeing more new cases than they did in March and April. The good news is that deaths, as we have seen in the United States, are not following the case trend.






Have you seen this reported anywhere in the mainstream media?

Unemployment

One thing that has surprised me is how quickly jobs gains have returned in the wake of the economic lockdowns. There is a long way to go but we were clearly very fortunate that the economy was so strong when the pandemic hit.

In fact, it is almost hard to believe that the unemployment rate in August, 2020 at 8.4% is almost the same as it was in August, 2012 (8.1%).





If you follow the mainstream media you would also not realize that President Donald Trump now has a higher approval rating (51%) than President Obama did at the same point in his Presidency according to the Rasmussen Tracking Poll.



Source: https://www.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/politics/trump_administration/prez_track_sep07


What Is Going To Happen In The Housing Market?

Despite the fairly rapid employment gains, it is clear that many people are living on the edge right now. The Covid-19 economic lockdowns have disproportionately affected those in the bottom half of the income scale. It continues to amaze me why Democrats, who claim they are most concerned about income equality, are so adamant about continuing the economic lockdowns.

In 29 states, 40% or more of renter households are at risk of eviction.


Credit: Bloomberg.com


A Pew survey out this week shows that 52% of young people between the ages of 18-29 are now living with their parents. 

This is the highest level in history.


Source: https://www.thedailyworld.com/news/record-52-of-young-adults-living-with-parents-amid-pandemic/#:~:text=A%20record%2052%25%20of%20Americans,now%20back%20in%20the%20nest. caption





The residential housing market is also showing signs of stress. A surprising statistic is that there are already more home mortgages 60-89 days past due than at any point since 1999. This includes the Great Recession period of 2008-2010 when so many mortgages went into default.




It is not just renters and middle income homeowners who are under stress. High income homeowners are also under strain in that government assistance is not available at the same level as it is for others. This is evidenced by the fact that in June we already were seeing 11.8% of all jumbo loans (generally mortgages of over $500,000) in forbearance. This was more than double what it was just two months before.

If we are to recover from the pandemic we cannot allow the housing market to go into free fall. We saw the compounding effects of that in the 2008-2010 financial crisis. 


Money in the Bank
 
A glimmer of hope for the economy's recovery is the cash savings that has been accumulating in bank accounts since the beginning of the pandemic. This is a result of both government payments under the CARES Act as well as reduced consumer spending.

Deposits in checking accounts increased by $1.5 trillion between April and the end of July.


Credit: Bloomberg.com



Aggregate personal savings soared as there were few places for people to spend money.


Credit: Bloomberg.com


Balances on credit cards also dropped. 


Credit: Bloomberg.com

Look at how all of this translated to excess savings calculated on an annualized basis for the months of April-June.


Credit: Bloomberg.com



What does this tell us?

First, it reveals how interconnected our economy is. The lower half of income earners depend on the spending of the upper half of income earners for the money they live on. If higher earners are not eating out, buying clothes, going to concerts and games. remodeling their house, traveling and spending their money a lot of people don't have jobs. 

The government can try to fill that hole but there are practical limits to doing that. Extra unemployment or a stimulus check can only go so far. 

The reality is that if those higher earners catch a cold, the rest of the economy is going to have pneumonia.

Second, there seems to be a good deal of dry powder in the form of savings and cash to fuel a recovery if we can get past the fear of the pandemic and return to some form of normalcy.

That excess savings could translate to an additional $100 billion or more of consumer spending per month over the next year to spur growth if confidence can be restored.


Percent of Those Home Schooling Has Doubled in One Year

This stat makes you wonder what the public school teachers' unions and public school administrators are thinking? They truly are undoing themselves by opposing the reopening of schools in many parts of the country.

10% of K-12 students are now being home schooled. Their parents have pulled them out of school and have taken over the job themselves.

Will they go back after this school year is over? The answer to that question might mean the loss of billions of dollars in school funding. Once parents get used to the idea it might be difficult to get those students back in a public school classroom.


Source; Gallup


What I found particularly interesting is that more students are now being home schooled than attend both private and parochial schools COMBINED!


Is a Vaccine the Answer?

We still keep hearing that a vaccine is the only way that public confidence is ever going to be restored.

Many politicians have stated that they will not fully open their jurisdictions until a vaccine is available. For example, New York City Mayor DeBlasio has already stated that indoor dining in the city will not be allowed before June 1, 2021 and that assumes a vaccine will available by then. 

If that is the case, how was public confidence restored after the Spanish Flu Pandemic? No vaccine was ever produced against that virus. What about other pandemics in history? How did anything ever get back to normal without vaccines?

There are hundreds of companies seeking to develop a vaccine or other therapeutics. This by itself shows the power of capitalism and the free enterprise system. 




The question remains as to whether any vaccine will be effective and will it be safe so it helps in the near term?

Consider the timetable that it took to develop other major vaccines in use today.




This would suggest it is a tall order to believe that a safe and effective vaccine can be developed for Covid-19 in less than one year. This is even taking account of the fact that some of the work has been leveraged off of previous efforts directed towards a SARS vaccine that was never completed because the virus died out.

I found it interesting that in a recent Barron's article on Covid-19 vaccine development it was stated that 750 investors and 350 biotech and pharmaceutical professionals were recently surveyed and roughly 70% said they would wait at least six months after any emergency use authorization by the FDA approving a Covid-19 vaccine before they would take the vaccine themselves. Many said they would wait a year.

A recent CBS poll found that just 21% of voters say they would get the vaccine as soon as it is possible. That had fallen from 32% in late July.

This suggests to me that the fact that a vaccine is available still does not mean that people are going to be rushing to take it. 

On the other hand, Joe Biden said yesterday that he would take a Covid-19 vaccine tomorrow if it was available and approved by the FDA and CDC.




I am a bit confused as to how President Trump is undermining confidence in the vaccine? Trump has been the person who has pushed the strongest for it and supported its development with billions of federal dollars.

Make no mistake, Biden only said this because his VP pick, Kamala Harris, stated several days ago that she would not trust any vaccine developed under the Trump administration. 

The statement by Harris clearly must not have polled well. Liberals are not known to be anti-vaxxers.





I guess Harris also neglected to consider the thousands and thousands of government doctors and scientists (most of which are Democrats) at the FDA and CDC who are big Democrat and Biden supporters politically. They will ultimately be the ones with the responsibility to determine if it is "safe and effective". It will not be Donald Trump.

I understand why politicians like the idea of talking about a vaccine. It seems like the easiest way to regain public confidence and return to normalcy. It is the simplest message to provide hope to the public.

However, my personal view is that placing faith in a vaccine as the ultimate answer to Covid-19 is a mistake. I have written before that it seems to me that President Trump has been spending too much time listening to Dr. Fauci, Bill Gates and big pharma interests who seem to think that vaccines are the answer to any health issue. In the end, he may regret placing too much emphasis on this "solution".

As I stated in an earlier post , all of this talk about vaccines might actually be holding us back from returning to normal sooner rather than later.

It was recently suggested that people would be more likely to return to normal activities if they thought that a vaccine was not a realistic possibility in the near term. 

Simply stated, people are willing to sacrifice now with the hope that it will end soon with a vaccine. However, if you told people not to count on a vaccine there would be a totally different mindset. People would have to get on with their lives and make the best of it. There would be no other choice.

Throughout history this is what people had to do in dealing with pandemics. It was not possible to close most businesses, shut down schools for months, have colleges only do remote learning, work from home and buy what you need to live online. You did the best you could but you could not stop daily life. Everyone knew that the alternative would be far worse.

Just a few more things that make you go hmmmmmm.