Tuesday, June 29, 2021

New Email Delivery Method for BeeLine

I write BeeLine on a Blogger platform that is supplied and supported by Google.

Google, through its FeedBurner affiliate, also provided a service whereby readers could receive my blog posts via email subscription or RSS feed.

Google recently announced that FeedBurner would no longer support email subscriptions and RSS feeds for any blogs as of July, 2021.

I researched a number of options and concluded that follow.it  (https://follow.it/) had the best combination of services to support BeeLine as well as providing my readers a convenient method of continuing to receive each new blog post into their mailbox as they are published.

If you are an email subscriber to BeeLine you should receive today's blog post through the traditional service (Feedburner) and from the new service (follow.it) as all current, valid and confirmed email addresses have been converted over. This duplication will only occur once.

After today, the traditional Feedburner will be discontinued and you will only receive BeeLine emails facilitated by follow.it

If you are not a subscriber or did not receive a follow.it email of this blog post, you can go to the upper right hand corner of the blog website (https://beelineblogger.blogspot.com/) and subscribe.

(This is not available on the phone version of the website unless you scroll down to the bottom of the most recent blog post and click on "View web version".)

You will get a email asking you to confirm your subscription within a minute of signing up. Make sure that you confirm that you want the subscription. If you do not receive the email, check your spam folder.

The new follow.it email service gives subscribers more flexibility on a number of dimensions.

One example is it provides you the ability to set the delivery time that you would like to receive your email and it also makes it easier to share BeeLine content with others.

You can do this by clicking on the "Share" button at the end of the email which allows you to share BeeLine's content easily with others in a number of ways.

Thank you for your support of BeeLine.

All of my readership is generally attributed to word-of-mouth recommendations from my readers.

BeeLine readership continues to expand. All of that growth is organic. I don't actively promote or advertise this blog. New readers almost always come from one of you passing it along to someone else.

If you enjoy BeeLine, please pass a recommendation on to your friends and family. I enjoy writing it but it is a lot easier to sit down, research and write when I know more are reading my blog. 

We are in a time when it is difficult to separate facts from narrative. I remain committed to providing you with facts and data to allow you to put the things you hear in the proper context to make up your own mind about what to believe...and what not to believe.

I sincerely appreciate your interest and trust that the new email delivery system will allow more readers to enjoy and share my research insights on the issues of the day. 

Sunday, June 27, 2021

Container Inflation

One of the great innovations of the 20th century was the sea/land container that is used for international shipping.

Credit: https://www.veconinter.com/blog/post/types-of-shipping-containers-and-their-use/204

The concept of the modern intermodal shipping container was the brainchild of a former North Carolina truck driver by the name of Malcom McLean who went on to own a trucking company.

His “big box” idea, which has revolutionized cargo handling worldwide, came to him in 1937 while he waited most of the day to deliver cotton bales on his truck to a pier in New Jersey.

“Suddenly it occurred to me: Would it not be great if my trailer could simply be lifted up and placed on the ship without its contents being touched?”

De Haas goes on to explain that the subsequent development of container shipping in the 1950s and 1960s was largely an American affair featuring McLean. 

Boxes similar to modern containers had already been used in rail applications. What was new in the revolutionary ideas presented by McLean was the belief that efficiency could be vastly improved through intermodal containers and his perseverance in making it happen.

McLean converted the World War II tanker Potrero Hills to a ship capable of carrying containers and rechristened her the Ideal X. She made her maiden journey on April 26, 1956, sailing from Newark to Houston carrying 58 metal containers and 15,000 tons of petroleum.

McLean grew into shipowning with his company Sea-Land. Initially the containers were loaded on their chassis, but later the chassis was left behind, enabling containers to be stacked.

90% of international shipping now utilizes shipping containers. They are indispensable in international trade. Almost anything you buy that has been manufactured overseas will have gotten to you by way of a shipping container. 

Based on the rental costs of these containers, you are likely to soon see higher costs for any of those items you buy as prices to rent them have soared recently. It is yet another indication, as I wrote recently, that inflation may be in every American consumer's future.

Here is the Drewry World Container Index for the week of June 24.

It increased 15.9% in the last week alone. That is also 4x what it was a year ago.

Source: Drewry World Container Index

However, look at the spot prices for containers from Shanghai to New York and Los Angeles.

Prices from Shanghai to New York surged 39% in the last week alone. The increase from Shanghai to Los Angeles was up 34%.

Note that the price to rent a container to send goods from LA to Shanghai is only $1,000. A pretty clear example of supply and demand. There is a lot coming in from China. There is not much going back.

What is causing the price increases?

China goods have been in demand from the United States and Europe as consumers started buying coming out of the pandemic. At the same time, China (where 90% of all shipping containers are made) was not making any new containers during the pandemic. In the United States, ports have not been able to get enough workers to return to work and it takes time to train new workers. In the meantime, ships and containers have been building up in U.S. ports.

Ocean carriers that own or lease most of the containers in use are aggressively trying to get boxes back to Asia from the U.S., according to Ken Hoexter, a transportation industry analyst at Bank of America in New York. But the current tightness in transportation markets will continue at least through the middle of the year or later, he said in an interview last week.

The shipping industry is trying to play catchup but the combination of extremely low inventories, port congestion in the U.S., increasing consumer demand, the lack of any downtime in China during the curtailed Lunar New Year and now the Biden administration’s $1.9 trillion stimulus package will extend the shortages, he said.

It appears that it is going to get worse before it gets better.

Here is someone on Twitter stating they were quoted $20,000 for a shipping container. They were paying $3,000.

It appears to me that everyone should be bracing for price increases on any products that are imported. Increases of this magnitude simply can't be absorbed by the importer.

I would guess as well that most of the price increases as a result of these shipping cost increases will hit just as we head into the Christmas buying season.

You might want to shop early this year.

What are the goods that will be most affected by the increase in shipping costs?

Anything that is imported, particularly those items from China and Asia which we rely on in which there is no significant American competition.

High value, low weight items like computer chips, phones and computer parts will not be affected as much as lower value and/or heavier products like furniture, clothing, toys, small tools, electrical appliances etc. The high value, low weight items more typically can be shipped via air freight. The latter categories rely on those shipping containers.

In addition, many of the manufacturing and electrical machinery parts for U.S. businesses are shipped in those containers from China. These are the largest dollar import categories coming from China. The shipping container issue may also end up resulting in disruptions in other business categories much as we have seen with how the computer chip shortage has impacted the automobile manufacturers.

The shipping container issues is another reminder of the risks of long supply chains that extend to China.

It seems like I remember that we had a President at one time who warned about an over reliance on China.

Many people may soon feel the costs of that reliance in much higher costs.

The sad fact is that so few will even understand what is happening to them.

You can bet they will be told that it is Trump's fault.

Thursday, June 24, 2021

The Elephant In The Room

Violent crime is on the upswing across the United States.

The Biden administration knows it has a problem. That is one of the reasons Biden and Attorney General Merrick Garland had a media event yesterday to address the problem of violent crime.

The narrative seems to be to blame the increase in violent crime on the pandemic, Trump and the Second Amendment.

I even heard an ABC reporter claim that the surge in violent crime had been going on for four years under the Trump administration.

Is that true?

Violent crime in the United States has generally been trending down since 1993.

Reported violent crime rate in the United States from 1990 to 2019

In fact, violent crime started to increase in the 2014-2016 in the second Obama/Biden administration before the downward trend resumed during the Trump administration in 2017-2019.

The "report" that violent crime was increasing during the Trump years is demonstrably false.

It is true that violent crime spiked in 2020.

However, violent crime did not spike coincident with the beginning of the pandemic.

The spike did not begin until June.

What happened at the beginning of June? 

Is it a coincidence that this was the same time that the Black Lives Movement gained traction as well as calls to "defund the police"?

Is it fair to blame this on Trump?

Is it fair to blame this on guns? I can tell you that there were about the same number of guns out there in 2020 as there were in 2019. The increase in homicides is also not due to assault rifles and the like. Most murders are the result of handguns. Most of the murders are also taking place in cities that have the strictest gun laws in the country.

Here are the murders in New York City in 2019 and 2020 as reported by the NYPD in its year-end report for 2020.

Murders for 2020 were up 44.8% compared to 2019.


Interestingly, the NYPD revealed in the same report the number of hate crimes in NYC in 2020 compared to 2019.

Recall that the media narrative has been that President Trump fueled hatred towards Asians by calling out the Chinese Communist Party for its role in causing the pandemic.

Hate crimes against Asians in NYC increased by 33% in 2020 vs. 2019.

The number of such incidents went from 3 to 4!

However, compare that to anti-Semitic hate crimes.

They increased 44% during the year from 119 to 233.

Source: https://www1.nyc.gov/site/nypd/news/p0106a/overall-crime-new-york-city-reaches-record-low-2020

In fact, there were more hate crimes against Jews in 2020 than all the other groups combined!

How often have you heard about this?

Here is the data on shooting incidents in Portland, Oregon which has been at the center of many BLM, Antifa and "Defund the Police" protests from 2019 to the present.

When did the spike occur? It started in June, 2020.

Source: https://www.portlandoregon.gov/police/81203

The violent crime numbers look just as bad in many other big cities almost all of which are liberal, leftist bastions.

Consider the surging crime statistics in 2021 on top of the surge in violent crime these cities experienced in 2020.

Can Biden continue to blame this on the pandemic?

Trump has been gone since January.

In his speech yesterday Biden says he will institute a "zero tolerance" approach to take on rogue gun dealers. 

Source: https://news.yahoo.com/biden-lays-plan-combat-gun-220130103.html

"If you willfully sell a gun to someone who is prohibited from possessing it, if you willfully fail to run a background check, if you willfully falsify a record, if you willfully fail to cooperate with the tracing requests or inspections, my message to you is this ... 'We'll find you and we'll seek your license to sell guns."

That is well and good. 

However, does anyone seriously believe that taking away a gun dealers license to sell guns will make any difference at all in the violent crime in our cities?

Does Biden really think that the guns being used in these crimes were purchased from gun dealers who were licensed to begin with?

In the meantime, Biden talks incessantly about the January 6th "insurrection" at the Capitol that did not involve one person carrying a firearm.

Has there ever been an insurrection in history in which no one brought a weapon to the coup?

Biden has also avoided condemning any of the violent acts of last summer involving BLM and Antifa and likes to skirt the issue of defunding the police by talking about the need for police reform.

All the while, almost all of those who perpetuated violence on America's streets over the last year have not been prosecuted.

In Portland, 90% of those arrested have had their charges dropped.

Is it any surprise that when no one is held accountable for their crimes it just emboldens more people to commit crimes?  

This is the fundamental belief behind the "broken windows" theory of policing that Mayor Rudy Giuliani introduced in New York City that led to a dramatic decrease in crime in the 1990's in that city.

That theory basically held that having a no tolerance for small crimes and disorder would have major impacts on larger crimes.

It was a huge success until it was undermined by those who claimed it was overzealous and "racist".

I couldn't help but think of that example today as word came out that the New York State Bar Association had suspended Giuliani's license to practice law because he allegedly made "false and misleading claims" about election fraud in 2020 while representing Donald Trump.

Seriously? A lawyer is suspended from practicing law by advocating for his client utilizing sworn affidavits, videos and statistical analysis? 

If this is not bad enough you might recall the news about two attorneys from Brooklyn last summer who were arrested after firebombing a police car during the BLM riots in NYC.

What were the sanctions against them by the New York Bar?

They have been offered a plea deal for the criminal charges but have until July 1 to consider taking it.

If Joe Biden is looking to implement a "zero tolerance" policy there are plenty of areas that he should be looking at.

Taking on rogue gun dealers. Have had it. I am all for it.

However, that is like being worried about a mouse in the basement while a rogue elephant is rampaging through your house.

When is Joe Biden going to start recognizing and doing something about the elephant in the room?

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Filibuster Flip-Floppers

If you watch the news you have seen the Joe Biden and the Democrats are unhappy with the Senate rules regarding the filibuster.

Today the Democrats were unsuccessful in ending a Republican filibuster of H.R. 1 which is titled the "For the People Act of 2021".  It should be more appropriately called the "Democrat Election Fixing Act" in that it would take almost all election powers from the states for federal offices and put them under the control of the federal government. 

It would liberalize and institutionalize all the voting problems we saw in the 2020 election. It would provide for automatic and same-day voter registration. It would require all states to have expanded early and mail-in voting. It would limit the ability of the states to remove voters from the voter rolls. It would limit the ability to have voter ID. It would provide for federal funding of Congressional races with small donations being matched 6:1 with matching funds.

Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez let the cat out the bag in an interview on CNN recently when she said that it was critical that H.R. 1 become law because Democrats “cannot rely solely on the wish of winning elections.”

Source: https://www.independentsentinel.com/aoc-admits-without-hr-1-dems-cannot-rely-solely-on-the-wish-of-winning-elections/

Notice that she said nothing about making elections more honest or fair for everyone. Her only concern seems to be to fix it so that the deck is always stacked in favor of the Democrats.

It just so happens that the campaign funding provision would also benefit AOC to the tune of about $6.7 million in federal funds in the next election cycle. What a coincidence!

What is most interesting is the same Democrats who now oppose the filibuster were ardent supporters of it in the past.

You might call them the filibuster flip-floppers.

For example, as recently as 2005 when Joe Biden was a Senator, he gave a speech on the Senate floor forcefully defending the filibuster rules. He said that ending the filibuster would be a mistake.

"It is not only a bad idea, it upsets the constitutional design and it disservices the country," Biden’s speech said. "No longer would the Senate be that ‘different kind of legislative body’ that the Founders intended. No longer would the Senate be the ‘saucer’ to cool the passions of the immediate majority."

In 2005, Biden valued the filibuster, lamenting what might happen if it were eliminated: "Senators would start thinking about changing other rules when they became ‘inconvenient.’ Instead of two-thirds of the vote to change a rule, you’d now have precedent that it only takes a bare majority. Altering Senate rules to help in one political fight or another could become standard operating procedure, which, in my view, would be disastrous."

I guess Biden no longer values the incentive for the more deliberate and consensus-driven process that the filibuster rules are designed to facilitate.

Senate Democrat leader Chuck Schumer has also been vocal about the filibuster.

However, he did not seem to share the same views when he was leading the Senate Democrats in opposing the agenda of Trump and the Republicans in the previous Congress.

There have been 67 cloture motions to end debate in this Congress thus far regarding filibusters.

In the last two years of the Trump administration the Democrats used the filibuster 328 times. It was used 201 times in the first two years of Trump's term. 

Source: https://www.senate.gov/legislative/cloture/clotureCounts.htm

The filibuster was never used more than in the those two years and it was all the work of the Democrats. Here are the numbers going back to 1981.

Source: https://www.senate.gov/legislative/cloture/clotureCounts.htm

The fact is that the filibuster has been used by both parties in the Senate with increasing regularity in recent years. The Republicans used it to slow down the Obama agenda and the Democrats used it to stifle Trump's plans.

You can argue that is exactly what the Founders intended. They did not want laws being passed that reflected what might be passing passions. They wanted to insure that our laws would reflect consensus of thought and stand the test of time.

How could this be the case on strict party line votes as we have seen with so many proposed laws the last few years?

Those supporting the filibusters are being called "obstructionists".

What happened to the idea that our elected officials should be looking for common ground and that attitude should be applauded and not denigrated?

There does not seem to be much hope for that with the filibuster flip-floppers in Washington.

Thursday, June 17, 2021

Too Old?

The Washington Post seems to be concerned about the ages of United States Senators.

In a March 5, 2021 opinion commentary Kathleen Parker argued that the Senate was showing its age and that term limits should be considered to bring more youthful perspectives to that elected body.

The average age of a United States Senator in the 116th Congress is 62.9 years. This compares to an average age of 57.6 years in the House of Representatives. That is a five year difference.

These are the ages of the current Senators who are over 80.

Diane Feinstein (D-CA)  88 (as of June 22, 2021)

Richard Shelby (R-AL)   87

Chuck Grassley (R-IA)   87

Jim Inhofe (R-OK)         86

Patrick Leahy (D-VT)    81

The terms of Shelby, Grassley and Leahy end in 2022. Feinstein's term expires in 2024. Inhofe was just re-elected and his term expires in 2026.

Shelby has announced he will not seek re-election. Leahy has indicated he will seek a ninth term next year. Grassley has not yet announced his plans.

The Founding Fathers of the United States clearly wanted the Senate to be the "senior" body in the legislative branch. It was fully intended and expected that its members would be older than in the House of Representatives.

The intent and rationale that the Senate was established in the manner it was are detailed in Federalist Papers #62 and #63. The Founders wanted Senators to have more life experience and they wanted it to be a more deliberative body than the House.

These are direct quotes from Federalist #62 written by James Madison.

The qualifications proposed for senators, as distinguished from those of representatives, consist in a more advanced age, and a longer period of citizenship. A senator must be thirty years of age at least; as a representative, must be twenty-five. And the former must have been a citizen nine years; as seven years are required for the latter. The propriety of these distinctions is explained by the nature of the senatorial trust; which requiring greater extent of information and stability of character, requires at the same time that the senator should have reached a period of life most likely to supply these advantages.

It is interesting to note that the minimum age set in the Constitution for a Senator is 5 years more than for a member of the House.

Look again at the difference in average ages of Senators and House members in 2021.

It is exactly 5 years. 

Yes, there are a few Senators that look to be past their prime. However, aren't the voters in Vermont, California or Iowa in the best position to determine whether their Senator is able to represent their best interests in the voting booth?

It is also interesting to note that the Constitution as it originally was written left it to the state legislatures in the various states to elect Senators from their states. Direct election of Senators did not take place until after the 17th Amendment was ratified in 1913.

I have to believe that if this provision was still in place it would be much more likely that older Senators would not retain their seats. 

It should be noted that while the average age of our elected representatives has gotten older over the years, so has the average age of Americans.

In the early 1800's the average age of a Senator was 50 years of age. The average age of the American public was less than 20 years of age. This made the average Senator 2.5x older than the average citizen.

Today the age gap is much smaller. In fact, The Washington Post highlighted this fact in a chart about ten years ago.

Source: The Washington Post, 2014

The age ratios in 2021 are almost exactly the same as they were in 2011.

If Senators are getting older it is because everyone is getting older.

It also is the case that Senators are actually closer in age to their constituents today than they were at the time of the nation's founding.

It is not coincidental that the Senate is subject to these types of criticisms when liberals are not getting their way as we are seeing right now in our senior legislative body on voting rights, infrastructure, tax increases, packing the Supreme Court and the filibuster.

How often do we hear that the Senate is out of step or its rules are outmoded? How often do we hear that it is "not fair" that the smaller states have the same number of Senators as the larger states? How often do we hear that the Senate is subverting the will of the people?

Of course, the Founders anticipated all of this. In fact, they designed the Senate to work exactly this way. It is another example of their brilliance in constructing our method of governance.

First, it must be remembered that the Founders objective was to create a United STATES of America. Those states were considered to be independent and sovereign states bound together in a common league. The people received their voice in government through proportional representation in the House. The states were to receive their voice at the federal level in equal representation in the Senate.

From Federalist #92.

The parties however unequal in size, ought to have an equal share in the common councils, it does not appear to be without some reason, that in a compound republic partaking both of the national and federal character, the government ought to be founded on a mixture of the principles of proportional and equal representation. 

In this spirit it may be remarked, that the equal vote allowed to each state, is at once a constitutional recognition of the portion of sovereignty remaining in the individual states, and an instrument for preserving that residuary sovereignty. So far the equality ought to be no less acceptable to the large than to the small states; since they are not less solicitous to guard by every possible expedient against an improper consolidation of the states into one simple republic.

The Founders also believed that it was important to have a legislative body that would also not get swept up in the passions of the moment. 

They might have been thinking about a House that wanted to rewrite all the elections laws or to pack the Supreme Court.

The necessity of a senate is not less indicated by the propensity of all single and numerous assemblies, to yield to the impulse of sudden and violent passions, and to be seduced by factious leaders, into intemperate and pernicious resolutions. Examples on this subject might be cited without number; and from proceedings within the United States, as well as from the history of other nations. But a position that will not be contradicted need not be proved. All that need be remarked is that a body which is to correct this infirmity ought itself be free from it, and consequently ought to be less numerous. It ought moreover to possess great firmness, and consequently ought to hold its authority by a tenure of considerable duration.

It has become a popular narrative on the left to deride the Founders as a bunch of old, white men who were not interested in anything beyond preserving their privilege and perpetuating a racist society.

Of course, this narrative omits the fact that the Founders of the United States initiated a system of self-governance by the people that became a model for the rest of the world. It gave the People the power to control their own destiny like no other nation in the history of mankind.

Our Founders, through that Constitution, has also allowed us to enjoy the longest period of governmental stability in the world. None of the other nations who participated in the G-7 this week have had longer lasting governmental systems in place than the United States. The same goes for other countries that were not there, such as China and Russia.

As much as we want to think that we have evolved as people, when reading Federalist #42 and the other Federalist Papers we can see we have not changed one iota.  Our Founders understood our flaws, fallibilities and failings. Even more importantly, they understood that combining these human weaknesses with someone who wielded the power of government was particularly dangerous.

Our Constitution was intended to provide the protections for us to survive the "bad actors" and the "bad times".  Our Founders could not prevent them from taking office but they designed a system to limit their individual power through checks and balances

Leftists always seem to want to find fault in our Constitution. They like to say it is old and outdated.

They would be wise to focus on the genius in the document and learn to work within its construct.

There has been no better governing document in the history of mankind.

The only thing that is old is hearing them complain about it.

Sunday, June 13, 2021

America Is Back?

Joe Biden says that America is back.

This is how The Washington Post Daily 202 reported about Biden's trip to the G-7 Summit in Europe.

President Biden carried two messages to Europe this week: A confident declaration that “America is back” and a fretful warning that the world’s democracies face internal and external threats unlike any since the Cold War.

This is how Politico reported on the same Biden message.

Source: https://www.politico.com/news/2021/06/09/bidens-message-as-he-lands-in-europe-americas-back-492720

America is back?

I am trying to figure out what objective facts support that statement.

Crude oil prices are up 95% in the last year.

Gasoline prices are up 56% over the last 12 months. That is the highest annual percentage increase since 1980. Most of the increase has come in 2021.

Source: https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/GASREGW/

What has Biden done about it? Cancelled the authorization for the Keystone pipeline and made it much more difficult to do any oil and gas exploration or drilling in the United States.

The consumer price index was up 5% for the 12 months ending May 31. However, prices were up 1.4% in just the last two months. That is an annualized rate of 8.4%.

Our southern border is being overrun by illegal immigrants.

Illegal border crossings have increased by 674% in the last year.

Source: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-9670359/Illegal-crossings-rise-fourth-month-row.html

You can see the numbers yourself from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) website.

Compare 2020 vs. 2021.

The surge COINCIDENTALLY took place right when Biden took office.

Keep in mind these numbers also only show the illegal immigrants who were apprehended. Who knows how many more snuck into the country undetected?

The number of small businesses open in the United States has declined by 39% since January, 2020.

Source: https://tracktherecovery.org/

More troubling is the fact that the number of small businesses that have closed has increased over 10 percentage points since election day, November 3, 2020.

This is despite the fact that two rounds of stimulus payments were paid since that time.

Source: https://tracktherecovery.org/

Could it be that the stimulus payments and the enhanced unemployment benefits in those Biden and Democrat-driven bills have actually accelerated the demise of these small businesses because of the inability to find employees?

As of the end of April, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that there were a record 9.3 million job openings in the United States. This is the highest total since this statistic was first tracked beginning in 2000.

How is it that we have so many job openings but employers are now saying that they can't find anyone who wants to work?

The United States is facing a $3.1 trillion budget deficit for the 2021 fiscal year according to the most recent estimates.

However, Joe Biden has proposed a budget that would have $6 trillion in spending and produce a budget deficit of $3.7 trillion next year. Yes, that means that projected revenues in the budget only account for 38% of spending. The balance will be further federal debt and money printing.

The Biden budget also included the important change in language wherein all mothers are now to be described as "birthing people". 

Source: https://news.yahoo.com/biden-budget-proposal-replaces-mother-213406794.html

We are looking at $3.7 trillion deficit and the Biden OMB is spending time on "important" issues like this?

America is back?

Does it look like that to you?

If we are back, it seems like someone put the ship of state in reverse.

Thursday, June 10, 2021

The Road Not Taken

In January 2020, just as we were beginning to learn about the pandemic in China, I predicted that it would be difficult to ever get credible numbers on cases in that country.

I wrote this on January 30, 2020 questioning the reliability of what we were told about the number of cases reported in China.

No one knows if this data is reliable. How many cases are there that are not being reported? How much can the Chinese be relied on to be completely truthful on what is the real story?

The key statistic that I want to keep my eye on are the reported deaths from the virus. Those numbers will undoubtedly tell us a lot more about the effects this virus will have on mankind.

The death rate from the flu is around 1 in 800 cases. More importantly, most people have had the flu and recovered, so it does not produce the fear that an unknown virus can cause.

So far, the death rate from the coronavirus is running at around 1 in every 50 cases (2%). Of course, that assumes the denominator (the number of total cases) is as accurate as the count on the deaths (which I assume is more accurate). That is a lot scarier than a normal case of the flu.

It is a year and a half later and there are still a lot of questions about the reliability of the numbers.

It is still difficult to get a reliable number of the total cases we have had in the United States.

The CDC reports that the official confirmed case count is that 33.2 million Americans have been infected with the virus.

However, this count only includes those that were tested.

How many others had the virus and were never tested?

I know scores of people who have told me that they had something that resembled Covid (fever, cough congestion, tiredness, loss of taste and smell) but were never tested. A fair number of those were in late 2019 or early 2020 before we even knew Covid was here.

The CDC  estimates that only 1 in 4 Covid infections has been officially reported.

It puts the estimated number of total infections at 115 million (thru March 31).

Source: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/cases-updates/burden.html

That would be slightly more than 1/3 of the population of the United States.

Through March 31, 2020, there had been about 551,000 reported Covid deaths.

That works out to an IFR (infection fatality rate) of about 0.5%.

That is 1/4 of what the early reports were coming out of China.

However, it is also 5x what we typically see in annual deaths from the flu. Covid is clearly much more deadly than the seasonal flu.

Shortly after the lockdowns were instituted in March, 2020, I stated that I was most interested in seeing what the excess overall deaths were from Covid.

I said this because it was clear from the beginning how much the death burden was skewed to the elderly.

The question in my mind was how many of these deaths would have resulted from other causes anyway and whether locking down the under 65 population made sense considering the enormous economic and social costs that would result.

This is what I wrote on March 23, 2020 (about halfway through the 15 days to slow the spread campaign).

It seems to me that the excess mortality number is the most important data point in all of this. It is especially important as the President and others have to look more critically this week at the trade-off between our public health and our economic health.

Perhaps total deaths is not a number that we have routinely collected or monitored on a daily basis across the United States. It probably is a number than gets reported from death certificates in the various states on a monthly basis to the CDC.

Even if we have the number on a daily basis it probably lags a couple days compared to deaths because of the lag in getting the death certificate signed and filed.

However, I am a numbers guy. I think President Trump is one as well.

If I was sitting in his chair I would be demanding to see the total death numbers across the United States every day and compare it to the numbers that were projected before all of this started in order to determine the excess mortality number from Covid-19 in real time.

We need better data than what I am seeing. I would also not want to get this number a year from now and find out we destroyed the economy by not having the right data when we needed it.

Is is over a year later and we now have those numbers.

Did we make the right call in locking down the economy and our schools?

Here is summary of 2020 deaths versus 2019 deaths per CDC data.

This analysis breaks out reported Covid deaths in 2020 and then subtracts that number from total deaths in 2020 to get a number for non-Covid deaths in 2020. Each of these numbers is then compared to 2019 totals.

Credit: https://twitter.com/COVIDData3/status/1397763443621572610/photo/1

The first thing that is interesting in looking at the data is that total deaths for children 0-4 was actually lower in 2020 than in 2019 even in the middle of a pandemic.

Why is this?

Is it due to the fact that Covid is less fatal to children than the flu that essentially disappeared in 2020?

Is it due to the fact that parents kept a closer eye on their children during the lockdown.?

Consider as well that this decline occurred even though children were not going to the doctor for well child visits and getting vaccines for other diseases for a good portion of the year.

Overall there were 533,458 more deaths in 2020 than there were in 2019 (+18.7%).

However, only 384,179 of these deaths during the year were attributed to Covid. For context, there were 3,388,140 deaths from all causes during 2020. Therefore, 89% of the deaths during 2020 were for something other than Covid. 

That means that there were also 150,000 other excess deaths attributed to something else than Covid.

We also know that the Covid death total is probably overstated. How many listed as Covid deaths died with Covid rather than from Covid? 

For example, Alameda County in California recently revised its Covid death totals down by 25% due to this reason. Counting a motorcycle accident death as a Covid death when the decedent tested positive post-mortem is not a Covid death nor should a pancreatic cancer death count in someone who was given one month to live before they tested positive for Covid.

Source: https://www.foxnews.com/health/california-county-cuts-covid-death-toll?yptr=yahoo

If you reduced the national Covid death totals by a similar percentage to what Alameda County did, the 533,000 excess deaths during the year would split about 288,000 Covid and 245,000 non-Covid.

This also makes Covid with a IFR that is still higher than the flu but no where near what we were led to believe the mortality was from Covid in March, 2020.

Speaking of mortality, here is another interesting chart that shows the mortality statistics for the United Kingdom since the beginning of the pandemic.

Credit: https://twitter.com/OutsideAllan/status/1401932302347812864/photo/1

One interesting stat in this chart is to look at the last two columns that show the probability of death by age group comparing all causes vs. with Covid.

The odds that an 80-84 year old dying from any cause in the UK since Covid began was 1 in 13. It is 1 in 61 with Covid.

The odds that a 10-14 year old would die from any cause was 1 in 11,187. The odds with Covid---1 in 392,785.

Tell me how it is justified to approve a vaccine for emergency use for children considering these numbers.

This is an emergency for children of these ages? 

In addition, what about the 150,000-250,000 non-Covid excess deaths in 2020 in the United States?

What was the cause?

It is particularly interesting in that these non-Covid excess deaths are particularly prevalent in those in the age 15-44 age groups.

The most obvious answer is that non-Covid excess deaths in these age groups are lockdown related.

Suicides? Drug abuse? Delayed treatments for cancers and other serious conditions?

For example, Dartmouth College had three suicides among its freshman class this year.

Three! These students were the cream of the crop. Why?

Source: https://www.vnews.com/Dartmouth-students-respond-to-deaths-of-classmates-40583109

What is the societal cost of the deaths of so many young people during 2020---not due to the virus but our public health response to the virus?

It is clear now that in addition to the economic cost of the lockdowns there was also a huge human cost in populations that were not very vulnerable to the virus.

There was another alternative.

Sweden chose a different public health response. It elected to protect the elderly and vulnerable populations as much as they could but to allow the rest of the population to carry on as normally as possible.

Where is Sweden on its excess deaths count?

Here is a graph showing excess deaths in Sweden since 2017 compared to baseline deaths.

Sweden's excess deaths increased by about 10% in April-May, 2020 and by about 5% in late 2020 and early 2021. However, in other periods over the last 18 months, Sweden has had lower than expected deaths.

Here is a closer look at deaths in Sweden comparing the 2017/18 flu season with 2020/21. For context, in the 2017/18 flu season Sweden only had excess mortality that year that was half of Europe.

Sweden has not had more deaths per million this flu season than it had in 2017/18.

Credit: https://twitter.com/TTBikeFit/status/1402945028008329217

Here is a comparison of excess deaths in Sweden versus the United States and United Kingdom.

Dr. Anthony Fauci and others said that Sweden was making a colossal mistake in its approach to Covid.

What would one say today?

There was another road that could have been taken. 

It was a road far less traveled in 2020.

Who made the colossal mistake?

“The Road Not Taken"

by Robert Frost

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,

And sorry I could not travel both

And be one traveler, long I stood

And looked down one as far as I could

To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,

And having perhaps the better claim,

Because it was grassy and wanted wear;

Though as for that the passing there

Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay

In leaves no step had trodden black.

Oh, I kept the first for another day!

Yet knowing how way leads on to way,

I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.”

Sunday, June 6, 2021

Why Do They Have To Mislead Us?

 You may have seen or heard headlines like this late last week.

The CDC was out with a study on Thursday that seemed to claim that we were seeing a "troubling" increase in hospitalizations of teenagers for Covid.

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky called the data "troubling" during a press conference on Thursday.

"In the month leading up to the recommendations of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines for teens and adolescents 12 and older, CDC observed troubling data regarding the hospitalizations of adolescents with COVID-19," she said. "More concerning were the number of adolescents admitted to the hospital who required treatment in the intensive care unit with mechanical ventilation."

Walensky said the report's findings "force us to redouble our motivation to get our adolescents and young adults vaccinated."

Let's take a step back and look at this "troubling" increase in context.

This is the most recent CDC data on hospitalizations from Covid.

The top line shows total overall hospitalizations per 100,000 population.

The bottom line shows the rate for those in the 12-17 age group.


Source: https://gis.cdc.gov/grasp/covidnet/covid19_3.html

There was an increase in hospitalizations in teens in the March/April period but this also occurred in the overall population.

Vaccinations for those ages 12+ (Pfizer vax only) were not authorized until May 12. By that time the hospital rate for teens was already heading down.

What is even more interesting in looking at the underlying data accompanying the CDC study are the details surrounding the hospitalizations. Bear in mind the CDC only looked at detailed data in selected counties in 14 states between January 1-March 31, 2021 for its study.

There were 376 hospitalizations of children age 12-17 in the study.

However, only 204 were admitted to the hospital with Covid symptoms. The remaining 172 (46%) were admitted to the hospital for something else and must have tested positive for Covid in the hospital.

Source: https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/70/wr/mm7023e1.htm?s_cid=mm7023e1_w

Of the 172 who were admitted to the hospital for other reasons, 76 were psychiatric admissions for medical care.

That is an astounding number which says a lot about the effects the lockdowns and school closures have had on teenagers. It is over 3 times the number of hospitalizations for trauma in this age group.

Source: https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/70/wr/mm7023e1.htm?s_cid=mm7023e1_w

In addition, 71% of the teenagers admitted with Covid symptoms had more than one underlying medical condition. 36% were obese. 31% had some form of chronic lung disease.

Source: https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/70/wr/mm7023e1.htm?s_cid=mm7023e1_w

This seems to suggest that those that were admitted to the hospital with Covid had other significant underlying health conditions. Healthy teenagers are not being hospitalized with Covid.

It is true that the Covid symptom cases resulted in more ICU admissions.

However, more of those admitted for non-Covid symptoms ended up on mechanical ventilation than did those with Covid symptoms.

Interestingly, those admitted with Covid symptoms had shorter average hospital stays (2.4 days) than those who had no symptoms at admission (3.2 days).

Source: https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/70/wr/mm7023e1.htm?s_cid=mm7023e1_w

It is important to also note that there was not one death reported that was associated with these hospitalizations.

Looking at all of this data in context, does this look "deeply concerning" or "troubling"?

Would it be fair to say that the CDC statements with regard to the underlying data is misleading?

Why was it done?

It was clearly done to scare parents (and the teenagers themselves) in an attempt to increase vaccinations in this age group with a vaccine that is only available to them under the an emergency use authorization.

It is also interesting that at the same time that the CDC in the United States was stating that  hospitalizations of adolescents with Covid was "deeply concerning" and "troubling" the European CDC came out with a similar report in which it said this.

Hospitalisation remains a very rare outcome for adolescents,with no indication of increases in either hospitalisation rates or the proportion hospitalised among this group

One of the most important ethical considerations in medicine is that patients should always be given the ability to have informed consent when considering any medical intervention.

This is what the American Medical Association has to say about informed consent.

Every medical intervention has benefits...and risks.

There is little doubt that the CDC and our government has worked very hard to inform people of the risks involving Covid-19 and the benefits of the vaccines.

However, they have done little to put the risks of Covid in context, especially for the young.

They have also worked hard to diminish any risks associated with the vaccines.

Is the information being provided on the subject of Covid and the vaccines such that it can be stated that "well-considered decisions about care" are being made?

For example, take a look at the myocarditis/pericarditis cases reported to the VAERS website (vaccine adverse events) by age from the Covid vaccine.

Source: https://www.openvaers.com/covid-data/myocarditis-pericarditis

Looking at how skewed these cases are to the young does it raise any question in your mind about increased risks to teenagers and younger children from the vaccine?

Bear in mind that 12-15 year olds were only first authorized to have the vaccine as of May 12. These numbers in VAERS as of May 28 are almost exclusively those in the age 16-18 age group.

Let's look at the benefit/risk equation.

I calculate that approximately 4 million in the 16-18 age group have had at least one dose of the vaccine.

139 adverse events specifically have been reported for myo/pericarditis thus far in VAERS for those between 6-18 years of age. Almost all of these are in the 16-18  age group.

That is a rate of about 3.5 per 100,000.

What is the highest rate of hospitalizations we have had this year per 100,000 from Covid among 5-17 years olds?

1.3 per 100,000 (the week of January 9, 2021).

Perhaps the hospital rate would be higher if we had the numbers just for 16-18 year olds. However, this data should clearly show that there is a substantial question about the advisability of aggressively promoting the use of an emergency use vaccine on teenagers and children.

Does the risk of the vaccine justify the benefit?

What justification is there for the Director of the CDC to use misleading data to promote vaccinating teenagers?

What justification is there for Governors and others to be offering million dollar prizes, free college, ice cream and other incentives for those who agree to be vaccinated?

When was it ever necessary to do anything like this to convince people to take the small pox vaccine, polio vaccine or other vaccines? These vaccines were also APPROVED. They were not authorized only for emergency use.

Shouldn't the benefits be self-evident?

Why do they have to mislead?

If they are willing to mislead about this, what more have we been misled about?