Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Boosting What Exactly?

I check the New York Times Covid map and dashboard every morning to see the current trends.

The overall national trends have been promising since we reached the Omicron peak in cases in mid-January.

The 7-day average of new reported cases are down 96% from the peak.

Source: The New York Times

New cases nationally are 9 per 100,000.

However, what I found interesting in the data today was comparing the recent trend in cases in those states (and territories) which have higher than average vaccination rates compared to those states which were lower than average.

16 of the 20 states or territories with the highest average daily cases right now have higher than average vaccination rates (shown in green in the far right column). Only 4 states that have lower vaccination rates are on that list.

Source: The New York Times

The fully vaccinated states also undoubtedly have the highest percentage of their populations boosted.

Compare that with the states that have the lowest daily case rates right now.

Of the 15 lowest case rate states right now, only one (Utah) is vaccinated at a rate higher than the national average.

These states (and territories) all have daily case rates per 100,000 that are less than half the national rate.

Source: The New York Times

How can this be?

I don't know but it seems that more people in positions of power should be looking for answers.

Is it possible that the vaccines are actually making people more vulnerable to the virus?

Data from Ontario, Canada seems to suggest that may be the case.

Those boosted and fully vaccinated are seeing higher case rates right now than those unvaccinated.

The boosted also appear to be more vulnerable than those with two doses.


A similar situation is being seen in the UK.

For those 18 years of age and older, Covid cases per capita are higher in the boosted and fully vaccinated than the unvaccinated during weeks 8-11 according to the UKHSA weekly report.


Of course, we are told that the vaccines are really meant to prevent serious illness and death so it is misleading to look at cases.

However, I continue to be amazed at the daily deaths in Israel compared to when each of the vaccination programs were introduced in that country.

Is it just a coincidence that cases and deaths surged in Israel right after Israel introduced the vaccine, the booster and the second booster to its population?

The timing is simply remarkable when you look at it.

Was it just bad timing? Was it bad luck?

I don't know but it seems that there ought to be more questions being asked.

Are those questions being asked in the United States by our public health experts?

It does not appear so.

In fact, the FDA and CDC recommended today that everyone age 50 and older should get a second booster shot.

However, this is being done without going through the standard review process that includes an advisory panel of outside experts who typically make the final recommendation.

Health officials made the decision without calling meetings of either the FDA’s or CDC’s advisory panels of outside experts, which typically vote to recommend authorizing vaccines and for which groups they should be made available. The move will leave the administration open to criticism that it is skipping steps in the scientific and regulatory review process.

I thought everything was supposed to be about the science? 

I am not the only one confused.

So is this well-respected doctor.

Why would anyone question whether a vaccine that was formulated two years ago against a virus that has mutated into different variants be concerned that it might not be particularly effective against a current strain?

However, that is only the half of it.

What if that vaccine booster actually makes someone more vulnerable to the new strain?

The data suggests that might actually be the case.

Does anyone who is supposed to care...actually CARE?

Monday, March 28, 2022

The Most Difficult Question In The World

How big is the universe?

Why do I exist?

What is truth?

In the past, these are the types of questions that were considered to be among the most difficult to answer.

It seems that is no longer the case.

We are now being told the following is one of the most difficult questions in the world.

"Define what a woman is."

We had a nominee to the Supreme Court testify last week when asked that question that she could not do so because she was not a biologist.

Never mind that you could ask a 3-year old to correctly identify a man and a woman with absolutely no difficulty.

However, USA Today reporter Alia Dastagir reports that science says there's no simple answer.


"A competent biologist would not be able to offer a definitive answer" ???

"Scientists agree that there is no sufficient way to clearly define what makes a woman" ????

"With billions of women on the planet, there is much variation". ???

Reading this "journalism" I wonder how do we even know there are billions of women on the planet if we can't define what makes a woman to begin with?

You also have to wonder how a Supreme Court justice is going to rule on a case that comes before her that might involve infringement of a woman's rights?

For example, women are specifically mentioned as a protected class under the EEO laws.


It would seem that biology can very clearly define a woman. 

Hasn't it started from the moment of birth for thousands of years when someone at the delivery states "It's a girl" or "It's a boy"?

These days we don't even wait for the delivery. The gender can be determined before birth.

How is that possible without biology and science?

Are we now saying that all those gender reveal parties are just a poor excuse to have a party?

Yes, there are extremely rare instances where a chromosomal abnormality may make determination of the genetic sex of a baby complex.

It is also true that nobody can determine how someone "feels" or how they "identify".

However, that is a state of mind.

We have seen Elizabeth Warren state in the past that she identified as a Native American.

A DNA test later showed that you would have to go back at least six to ten generations to find any Native American ancestry in her genetic makeup. That would make her at best 1/64, and at worse, 1/1024 Native American.

Many, many Americans of European descent have more Native American blood in them than Warren.

You also may remember the case of Rachel Dolezal, the white woman who identified and saw herself as Black. The problem was that she was a Caucasian from birth. She just "felt" like she was Black.

The human mind is very powerful. It can make us believe many things that are not true. 

When it comes to transgender issues the thing I find interesting is that all of the work done today is to deny the biology and accept how the person "feels" or "identifies".

Medical interventions are focused on attempting to alter the biology. (Testosterone levels, gender reassignment surgery, etc)

That was not always the case. The prevailing medical opinion for centuries was represented by the views of Dr. Paul McHugh who was the psychiatrist-in-chief at Johns Hopkins University who believed that transgenderism was a "mental disorder" and sex change was "biologically impossible."

It used to be established medical practice in transgender issues to work on treating the mind rather than attempting to change the biology of the body.

Somehow these views did not make it into the "reporting" in the USA Today story.

In 1979, McHugh, as the psychiatrist-in-chief at Johns Hopkins, put a stop to all gender reassignment surgeries at the hospital based on his findings that almost all transgender issues involved mental illness. Many elite medical centers followed suit.

However, over the last 15 years much has changed. Science has been ignored because of politics. 45 gender clinics have opened across the country catering solely to children with transgender issues. Are we to believe that this has all resulted from genetic errors? Are we to believe all of these transgender issues just suddenly materialized out of thin air over the last decade or so?

McHugh at age 90 still believes transgenderism is a mental disorder even though he is now attacked regularly by the LGBT community. His own hospital has reversed course due to the political environment and is once again doing gender reassignment surgeries.

Science has not changed. However, the politics has.

That is how a question that a 3-year old has been able to answer for thousands of years has now become the most difficult question in the world.

It also brings to mind a famous quote attributed to Abraham Lincoln ( I have seen the quote also using a sheep, calf or horse).

Was Abe wrong?

Friday, March 25, 2022

Prohibition Redux?

An interesting study was cited in The National Review this week.

This study was not sponsored by some obscure no-name organization.

The study was done by researchers at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, a division of the National Institutes of Health.

Yes, the same NIH that employs Dr. Anthony Fauci.

Here is the headline of the study.


Alcohol-related deaths increased 25 percent from 2019 to 2020, with alcohol-related deaths among adults younger than 65 outnumbering deaths from Covid-19 in the same age group in 2020, a new study found.

Alcohol-related deaths, including from liver disease and accidents, increased to 99,017 in 2020, up from 78,927 the year prior, according to the study performed by researchers with the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, a division of the National Institutes of Health.

While 74,408 Americans ages 16 to 64 died of alcohol-related causes, 74,075 individuals under 65 died of Covid-19, the study found. The rate of increase for alcohol-related deaths in 2020 (25 percent) was greater than the rate of increase of deaths from all causes (16.6 percent).

This is in addition to 93,331 drug overdose deaths that the CDC reported for 2020 almost all of which were in the same age demographic.

That was 30% higher than in 2019.


Therefore, government data shows there were more than 160,000 deaths from drugs and alcohol in Americans under age 65 compared to 74,000 Covid deaths in 2020.

It will be awhile before we know the complete numbers for  2021 but I fear it may be worse.

Looking at the data, which is the larger public health crisis?

However, Tony Fauci and the CDC were spending all of their time arguing that people needed to be locked down, masked and vaccinated from Covid while completely ignoring any and all adverse effects of their policies.

Did they do anything to attempt to address this problem?

Despite the fact that the data has consistently shown that those under the age of 65 (most particularly those under age 50) had very minimal risk from Covid, the greatest burden of the Covid policies were placed on the working age population and children.

The argument was that while these groups might have lower risks from Covid, the lockdowns, mandates and all the rest were necessary to protect more vulnerable family members and the society at large.

Covid was a societal problem that transcended the individual and potentially affected others so government has to intervene for the greater good.

However, what I find interesting is that these are the same arguments made by the Temperance movement that led to Prohibition in the early years of the 20th century.

The argument for banning alcohol was not primarily based on protecting the drunkard. It was based on the adverse effects that alcohol had on society at large. It contributed to domestic issues, broken homes, child neglect and abuse, poor health, crime, debauchery and degeneracy. The argument was that by eliminating alcohol society would be improved substantially.

Of course, history shows that Prohibition was an utter failure.

It was found to cause more unintended consequences and adverse effects than alcohol did alone.

If our "public health experts" were truly concerned about the society at large, and considering Covid deaths compared to drug and alcohol deaths, why aren't they advocating a return to Prohibition?

Why do many of our politicians want to liberalize drug laws?

Does anyone dispute the immense harms to society from drug and alcohol abuse that goes well beyond the deaths shown above?

The list of harms would closely resemble those that led to Prohibition.

Prohibition 100 years ago required a constitutional amendment which necessitated votes of 2/3 of the members of both the U.S House and U.S. Senate and ratification by the legislatures of 3/4 of the states.

In the meantime, our public health experts and politicians have instituted their own Prohibition (lockdowns, mandates, edicts) over the last two years almost totally through emergency powers and bureaucratic actions.

There has been almost no legislative approval for anything that has been done at the federal or state levels.

At times it is hard to comprehend the disconnect between facts and reality and logic and reason in almost every aspect of public policy today.

Did something happen to the U.S. Constitution?

It seems that those who are supposed to be bound by it have just decided to ignore it. 

Wednesday, March 23, 2022

Are You Better Off?

"Are you better off than you were four years ago?"

Ronald Reagan used that line when he debated Jimmy Carter during the 1980 Presidential campaign.

The voters decided they were not better off.

Reagan won 44 states in a 489-44 the electoral college vote landslide.

Since that time it has become a popular question that political pollster ask voters.

For example, Tipp Insights recently asked the question of voters as to whether, compared to a year ago, they were better off financially.

This is the headline of that poll.

If you are an objective observer of what is going on in the United States this should not come as a surprise when you consider all of the problems listed in the sub-heading above.

However, look at the breakdowns of that poll by political affiliation.

More Democrats state they are better off financially today than they were a year ago.

29% better off vs. 26% worse off with 42% saying they are about the same.


Contrast that with Republicans (11% better off vs. 56% worse off) and Independents (17% better off vs. 48% worse off).

It makes you wonder if all of us are living in the same world.

I reported on a similar poll question in 2019 that asked voters whether they were better off at that time compared to 2016 before Donald Trump became President.

Remember those pre-Covid days when real wages were increasing, gas prices and inflation were low and African-American, Hispanic and women's unemployment were all at record lows?

In that poll more Democrats stated they were worse off (35%) vs. better off (27%).

By contrast, Republicans stated they were better off by 80% vs. 6%.

Independents said they were better off by 54%-20%.

Source: Quinnipiac University Poll, May, 2019

Is there a better example of how politics has come to color the views of so many no matter the facts involved?

You can see the political bias from Republicans and Democrats in both polls.

However, is it not also clear that the Independents seem to have views that probably conform most to actual reality?

If that is the case, the Republicans seem to be living much closer to reality than the Democrats.

It truly makes you wonder what world some of these Democrats are living in?

If you are concerned about your country right now or struggling with inflation, high gas prices, supply chain issues or anything else there seems to be an answer for you.

Declare yourself to be a Democrat.

All is good. Never been better. Not a care in the world.

Calm seas. Blue skies. Bright sun.

Joe Biden, Kamala Harris and Nancy Pelosi are in charge.

What, me worry?

Monday, March 21, 2022

The Coming Price and Wealth Squeeze?

There are many things to be worried about in the world today.

One item on that list is the possibility that we could be heading into a period of stagflation.

Inflation usually presents itself in a prosperous period. Demand outstrips supply which results in inflationary pressures on a broad range of the prices of goods and services. The good news is that most people have jobs and money in their pockets despite the rising prices.

Stagflation also involves inflation but occurs at the same time that there is slow or declining economic growth and the unemployment rate is increasing.

Stagflation is the worst of all worlds. Rising prices at the same time that people have less to spend.

It is no fun. I was around in the 1970's when we last experienced it.

Where I sit today I foresee there could be an even worse world than stagflation.

Combined with stagflation, my fear is that we could see an even worse situation with a price squeeze in which prices on things that people need to live (food, gasoline for transportation, energy to heat and cool their homes) are rising at the same time that we see the asset price of stocks, bonds and homes declining. 

Stagflation combined with that type of price and wealth squeeze would be an economic calamity of gigantic proportions. 

We already know about the damage that inflation is having on the American people.

Consider these price increases over the last 12 months in selected commodities that directly affect the lives of Americans each day.


Then consider how much the asset prices of stocks and houses have increased over the last two years propelled by the easy money policies of the Federal Reserve.

The total monetary base has increased 78% in the last two years which has fueled increases in asset prices for stocks and housing.

Increases in the stock market and housing prices have a positive wealth effect. Increases in these asset prices make people feel richer and history has shown that this wealth effect makes people more willing to engage in consumer spending which is a real driver of the economy.

The S&P 500 is up 94% over the last two years. Coincidentally, the market bottom over the last five years was reached on March 20, 2020, exactly two years ago just as the Covid lockdowns were in their initial stages.

S&P 500 Index

The NASDAQ composite is up 102%.

NASDAQ Composite

The NASDAQ 100, which includes many of the companies in the tech area that have benefited the most from the dislocations of the pandemic (Amazon, Google, Apple, Microsoft, Apple, etc), is up 106%. This index is up 169% in the last five years.


Yes, these stock index increases are all being compared to market lows two years ago when there was a lot of fear and uncertainty about the future.

A lot of those tech names developed broader and more entrenched market positions in the last two years.

However, are those asset prices sustainable in an environment with higher interest rates that gives investors more attractive options to invest their money than we have had the last several years?

What about housing prices?

This chart shows increase in housing prices nationally on an annual basis calculated each quarter since 2019.

Prior to 2020 we were generally seeing increases averaging 5%-6%.

In the last two years this increased from the 10% range in 2020 to 16%-18% in recent quarters.


In many areas of the country, price increases have been much higher.

Increases in housing prices have made many people feel wealthier just as the stock market has.

However, let's put that in context by comparing it to incomes.

The median full-time worker in the United States earns $50,000 per year.

The price of the median-priced home increased by $53,000 last year.

Those increased home values has made every homeowner feeling a little wealthier.

However, the Federal Reserve now actually owns $2.8 trillion of mortgage debt on its balance sheet through mortgage-backed securities. Before 2009, it did not hold any mortgage debt.

The Federal Reserve actually holds almost 25% of the mortgage debt in the country.

Is this sustainable in any way?

The wealth effect makes everyone feel good except those who want to buy a home and can't afford it.

Someone on Twitter put it this way. 

If have been in the market to buy a home, you have not been competing with other homebuyers. You are competing with a printing machine.

It is all great until it isn't there any more.

A large reason for this has been the very low interest rates which the Fed made sure were kept low.

House prices are very sensitive to interest rate hikes.

Each increase in mortgage rates prices more buyers out of the market and reduces demand. This inevitably puts pressure on house prices.

The value in people's houses or the balance in their 401(k) account does little to pay the bills right now.

What happens if those things that people need everyday to live continue to increase at the same time that the assets they own are declining?

This would put many in a price and wealth squeeze that might come on top of stagflation.

Inflation in those things people need everyday. 

Deflation in the values that make up most people's wealth (stocks and houses).

That would be an ugly combination.

Let's hope that this is not the next worry that becomes a reality.

Friday, March 18, 2022

Safe and Effective?

It was exactly two years ago---March 16, 2020---that public health authorities and President Trump announced that the United States was embarking on various lockdown restrictions for "15 Days to Stop the Spread" of Covid.


Let's take a look at what has transpired over the last two years with particular emphasis on how "safe and effective" the Covid vaccines have been in stopping the spread of Covid and limiting severe illness and death.

The vaccines were introduced in December, 2020 about nine months into the pandemic. At this point they have been in use for approximately 15 months.

Have the vaccines been "safe and effective" as we have been told?

Let's first take a global view by comparing the year before the vaccines were widely available (March 16, 2019 to March 15, 2021) with the year after they were were widely used.

Let's first look at cumulative confirmed Covid cases worldwide since the beginning of the pandemic.

(For this purpose I am actually using March 2, 2020 as the start date for this purpose as this is when Our World in Data starting tracking Covid cases).

Confirmed Covid cases globally in the second year of the pandemic (after vaccines were available) have actually been 1.82x higher than in the first year.

Let's look at the United States.

Confirmed cases have been 68% higher in year 2 of the pandemic compared to year 1.

So much for "15 Days to Slow the Spread".

This clearly shows that the vaccines have been a total failure at preventing infection and transmission which is supposed to be the primary objective of any vaccine.

Of course, vaccine advocates say that we should ignore the failure of the vaccines to prevent disease ("No one ever said the vaccines would prevent anyone from getting Covid") but argue they are highly effective in preventing serious illness and death.

So what about deaths?

Have the vaccines prevented deaths globally?

What are the global numbers comparing Year 1 and Year 2 of the pandemic?

There have been more Covid deaths worldwide in Year 2 than Year 1.

There were about 20% more deaths in Year 2 than Year 1.

We have seen a small amount of improvement in the rate of deaths in the United States in Year 2 compared to Year 1.

However, deaths are still only down about 20% compared to Year 1 despite 80% of adults in the United States having been vaccinated and with 100 million booster doses administered.

This may prove that the vaccines were somewhat effective but it also may be due to improved Covid treatment protocols as doctors learned more about the disease.

It certainly does not suggest that they have been "highly effective".

For more evidence of that consider countries such as South Korea, Vietnam, Iceland, Australia and Hong Kong which hardly had any Covid deaths in Year 1. All of these countries also have higher vaccination rates than the United States.

Year 2 has been a different story despite the introduction of the vaccines.

Deaths are 9x higher in the past year in these five nations than they were in the first year of the pandemic.

How does this support a claim that the Covid vaccines are "highly effective"?

What about the claim that the vaccines are "safe"?

"Safe" compared to what?

You would think the measure of safety would be in comparison with other vaccines we have used.

For example, in the Swine Flu epidemic of 1976 a national mass vaccination program was instituted to prevent spread of the disease. In the Fall of 1976, public health authorities began widespread vaccinations.

I was one of the individuals who took that vaccine.

Within weeks there were reports of adverse effects. The most common was Guillian-Barre syndrome which involves temporary paralysis. By January, 1977, 362 cases of GBS had been identified out of 45 million persons who had received the vaccine. The incidence of GBS in vaccinated people was judged by the CDC to be four times more likely in vaccinated as in unvaccinated people.

In the 1970's that was enough for the vaccine program to be suspended.

362 reports of adverse events resulted in the vaccine being pulled from the market. 

The definition of "safe" seems to have changed in the intervening years.

At this point, the Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System (VAERS) which is the primary system in use in the United States to look for signals involving adverse events in vaccines, has received over 1 million reports about the Covid vaccines.

Through March 4, 2022 there had been almost 1.2 million adverse events related to the Covid vaccines reported to VAERS.

It is generally understood that actual adverse events are many times higher than what is reported to VAERS. I have seen estimates of an underreported factor as low as 10x and as high as 100x.

25,158 deaths had also been reported as possibly being linked to the vaccines as of March 4.


How do the 25,158 deaths reported to VAERS associated with the Covid vaccines compare to deaths in other years from all other vaccines?


This is considered "safe"?

Some argue that there is no "proof" that a report to VAERS means that there was a direct causal relationship between the vaccine and death or injury. It might just be a coincidence.

Yes, that is possible.

However, consider that most of the deaths reported to VAERS associated with the Covid vaccines were just a few days after the jab.


That would seem to be a whole lot of coincidences in the VAERS data.

Are the vaccines safe?

As I have written before, there is no medical intervention that is completely safe.

Any medical intervention requires you to balance risk with the expected benefit.

I stated from the time that the vaccines were first deployed that the risk/benefit equation was different for everyone. The vaccines probably made sense for an 80 year old nursing home resident. They made no sense at all for a healthy 5-year old.

When the vaccines were first being extensively rolled out in January, 2021 I wrote a blog post "Are You Going To Get The Vaccine" in which I wrote.

The only thing I know for sure is that the media and the "experts" have painted the most negative and dangerous narrative they could involving Covid-19. They are also portraying the vaccines in the most positive light they can.

Neither narrative should be trusted. The risks of Covid to most people is a much smaller than most are led to believe. At the same time, the benefits of the vaccine are much less and there also can be real risks attached to these vaccines that should not be overlooked.

The truth undoubtedly lies somewhere in the middle but it is next to impossible for the average person to decipher what it is. 

My advice to anybody is to do as much research as you can. Don't take anything you are told at face value. Make sure you understand the risks and benefits of the vaccines. 

I still believe this is accurate.

However, 15 months later we have a lot more information and data in order for each person to be able to determine if the vaccines are safe and effective and to make an informed choice should they be asked to take a fourth shot.


There is only one thing that I believe to be absolutely true.

More people who chose not to be vaccinated are comfortable with that decision now than of those who took the vaccines.

That in itself may speak volumes of how "safe and effective" the vaccines are judged to be two years after "15 days to slow the spread" was first uttered in Washington.

Wednesday, March 16, 2022

The China Virus

One of the great mysteries of what some refer to as the China virus is how Covid has had so little reported effect on the country of origin.

Other than the deaths that were reported in the early days of the pandemic in Wuhan, China, it has been a mystery of how the most populous nation in the world has escaped the worst parts of Covid.

Cumulative reported deaths in China barely register on this chart compared to other countries and regions in the world.


Covid deaths in China are .4% of the overall world rate per million.

They are about 1/1000th of the cumulative death rate in the United States.

Is China being honest with their numbers? How has this been possible?

Are we about to arrive at a point that China can no longer claim that it escaped the wrath of Covid?

Take a look at Covid deaths in Hong Kong right now.

How can Hong Kong (which has 85% at least partially vaccinated) be seeing this many Covid deaths right now and China is unscathed?

Hong Kong is now seeing daily deaths per capita that are almost 4 times as high as the United States experienced at its peak in January, 2021.

The surge has come despite the vaccines and after two years in which Hong Kong pursued a "zero Covid" strategy that included aggressive contact tracing, compulsory testing, border controls, and strict rules on travel and gatherings.

It all now appears to be for naught and Hong Kong is finding that not having a reservoir of natural immunity in the population is dangerous to the long-term health of its citizens.

Some argue that Hong Kong finds itself in this position because the vaccination rate for those over age 80 (the most vulnerable of age groups) is lower than for younger ages. I have seen reports that indicate that less than 50% of this demographic was fully vaccinated. This is exactly the opposite of what you would expect. 

Is this due to a particular distrust of the Chinese Communists by the older generations in Hong Kong who really understand the difference between freedom and totalitarianism?

I have not any explanations that make any more sense.

Since March 1, Hong Kong has had 3,500 deaths in a city with a smaller population than New York City. That would equal 150,000 deaths in the United States---in two weeks.

The numbers in Hong Kong suggest that China could be on the brink of a massive Covid surge or could even be in the early stages of a large outbreak.

For example, The New York Times reported on Tuesday that there are signs that Covid cases are rising in China.

Yesterday, outbreaks led to the closures of many theaters and restaurants in Shanghai, while several large factories — including a major maker of iPhones — suspended production. The shutdowns could ripple across the global economy, exacerbating goods shortages and inflation.

If Hong Kong is having trouble dealing with Covid, China could be facing bigger problems from Omicron. Its vaccine (Sinovac) is considered even less effective than the mRNA vaccines, it would seemingly have little natural immunity in its populace and its health care system is vastly inferior to what is found in Hong Kong.

War in Ukraine and Covid possibly sweeping China and disrupting production in that nation is not likely to be good for the U.S. economy which is already struggling with good shortages and inflation.

 It is unlikely we will ever get the real truth about anything that is happening in China.

We still don't know how the Covid pandemic will end.

However, would it not be poetic justice that the virus that started in China had its last final surge in the country in which it began?