Monday, August 31, 2020

Conspiring Thoughts

"A good conspiracy is unprovable. I mean, if you can prove it, it means they screwed up somewhere along the line."
--Jerry Fletcher (Conspiracy Theory)

Alex Berenson touches on a question that has been nagging me for months.
 Has the perverse behavior by public health and political actors across broad geographies been scripted, or has it resulted from unplanned cooperation among various factions that suddenly recognized common opportunity?

I used to think the latter. But the persistent, coordinated nature of the movement increasingly finds me seriously considering the former.

Sunday, August 30, 2020

Fill In the Blank

You must explain
Why this must be
Did you lie
When you spoke to me?
--The Clash

Follow Alex Berenson's train of thought here and fill in the blank. Public health agencies are classifying deaths as COVID caused by matching deaths with CV19 case records...
...but inaccuracy of the diagnostic tests overstate the true infection level...

...which means that the number of people who have truly died from CV19-related causes is ____ than officially reported.

Saturday, August 29, 2020

California Totalitarianism

Relax said the night man
We are programmed to receive
You can check out any time you like
But you can never leave

The governor of California has put out a new, completely arbitrary 'blueprint' that dictates (quite literally) which businesses can operate in the state.
All based on case counts. Why these thresholds? Why not focus on severity?
The California version of socialist totalitarianism.

Friday, August 28, 2020

Legislatures Stirring

"Splash four!"
--Lt Pete 'Maverick' Mitchell (Top Gun)

One of the biggest head scratchers during this pandemic has been the abandonment by state legislatures of their duty to represent the people through open discussion and debate of any proposed government-sponsored public health countermeasures. Instead, state legislatures have stepped back and permitted governors to rule with dictatorial power.

Perhaps things are changing. Colorado House leader is suing the governor over statewide mask order.

Better yet, Idaho House votes to end state emergency (which governor has used to justify discretionary rule) immediately.
Let's hope that a little stirring turns into some big splashing.

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Saturation Bias

Every single day
Every word you say
Every game you play
Every night you stay
I'll be watching you
--The Police

I wonder this myself. It seems the media has pulled out all stops on this one. No pretense of objectivity.
Perhaps the market for bias has become saturated.

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Lincoln and Tariffs

It was a shakedown cruise
And now we're sending out the news
There ain't no victory at sea
Unless it's mutiny
--Jay Ferguson

These pages have occasionally considered the myths surrounding Abraham Lincoln, often with the help of Professor Tom DiLorenzo. In this article, DiLorenzo discusses how Lincoln's position on tariffs helped vault him to the presidency.

By the 1850s, the world was largely moving away from mercantilist policy. Protective tariffs were being eliminated across Europe in favor of free trade. By 1857, the 15% average American tariff was the country's lowest import tax rate of the nineteenth century. The subsequent Confederate Constitution outlawed protectionist tariffs altogether.

Leaders in Northern states, however, were reluctant to surrender wealth gained from decades of cronyism afforded by the American System. They wanted to continue tariff protections as well as government funded 'internal improvement' projects. They also lusted for a central bank controlled by politicians similar to the Bank of England.

Lincoln was the ideal presidential candidate for the going institutionalization of the American System. He was a devout protectionist who, through his railroad industry connections, could wire himself into influential industrialists and media moguls in the North to get out the protectionist vote.

Two days before Lincoln's inauguration, his predecessor James Buchanan signed the Morrill Tariff bill into law which legally raised tariffs on some imports by 100%+ and hastened Southern secession proceedings.  The South, you see, had already borne the brunt of protective tariffs for many years. Being primarily agricultural producers, Southern states had to purchase manufactured goods either from the North (where protectionist tariffs permitted higher prices on domestic goods) or from producers abroad (whose goods were being taxed at exorbitant tariff rates). Consequently, Southern standard of living was being compromised whenever American tariffs were imposed on imported goods.

Lincoln would subsequently sign ten more tariff-increasing bills over the course of his presidency.

In his first inaugural address, Lincoln stated that it was his 'duty' to collect the newly implemented tariffs. He promised that, in one of the more thinly veiled threats uttered in presidential history, there would be no 'invasions' or 'bloodshed' as long as states dutifully collected the requisite tariff fees on imported goods. He subsequently imposed naval blockades on several Southern ports, including Charleston, to ensure tariff collection.

We know how that worked out.

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Real Super Spreader

I bet you're wonderin' how I knew
'Bout your plans to make me blue
--Marvin Gaye

Hard not to recognize truth in this.

The real super spreader of this virus has been the media.

Monday, August 24, 2020

False Case Counts

Yeah there's a storm on the loose
Sirens in my head
Wrapped up in silence
All circuits are dead
--Golden Earring

As predicted by some, lots of false positives showing up in pro sports CV19 testing. Of course, they have the resources to get more tests.
Everyday people, however, usually get just one test. And false positive or not, that record goes into the official case count data base.

How many case counts being reported are the result of testing error?

Reinforces the lunacy of using case counts to assess pandemic severity.

Sunday, August 23, 2020


And baby I'll rule, I'll rule, I'll rule, I'll rule
Let me live that fantasy

Suppose a viral epidemic hits a state ruled by a dictatorship. What would the dictatorship do in response?

Compare that to the measures taken by many states supposedly ruled by republican form of government.

What is the difference?

Saturday, August 22, 2020

Good Graphic

I've been looking so long at these pictures of you
That I almost believe that they're real
I've been living so long with my pictures of you
That I almost believe that the pictures
Are all I can feel
--The Cure

Nice graphic that visually compares case count (top series) vs severity count (bottom series).
Obvious question is why should policymakers be focused on case counts--particularly those based on diagnostic tests with considerable error?

Friday, August 21, 2020

Two Trillion

Come out of the things unsaid
And shoot an apple off my head

Apple (AAPL) becomes first $2 trillion stock. After the sell in March, AAPL has put on a trillion in market cap.
btw, $2T represents about 10% of annual US GDP pre-corona.

no position

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Zero Tolerance

Who would be the fool to take you
Be more than just kind
Step into a life of maybe
Love is hard to find
--Culture Club

On the back of a Red's announcer being quickly suspended (and perhaps worse) for language used when he thought he was off mike, I am once again reminded of the irony associate with so-called 'zero tolerance' policies for using words deemed 'offensive' by particular groups. The logic goes something like this:

Diversity is good.

Differences between groups should be tolerated.

However, if you use language about those groups that differs from ours...

...then that won't be tolerated.


Zero tolerance policy is juvenile folly.

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

The Real Sickness

"If you listen real close, you can hear them whisper their legacy to you. Go on...lean in. Listen. You hear it? Carpe...Hear it? Carpe...carpe diem. Seize the day, boys. Make your lives EXTRAORDINARY."
--John Keating (Dead Poets Society)

As Tom Woods observes, the real sickness out there is not a virus. It is "irrational, fact-free response."

Life has been gifted to use by God, along with the freedom to live it. No one else is entitled to your life.

If some people want to live locked in their homes until they die, then they are free to do so. But they are not entitled to strap others in with them.

Shed the sickness of irrationality. Choose reason and be free.

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

History is Rhyming

Then you say
Go slow
I fall behind
The second hand unwinds
--Cyndi Lauper

The Twitter analyst army continues to ask questions that the credentialed 'scientists' (and I do use that term loosely) should have already answered. e.g., "How does do CV19 patterns compare to past virus onsets?"

Comparisons to recent seasonal virus case counts in Germany. Answer: similar.
Comparison to 2003 SARS in US states. Answer: similar. Also SARS fits the latitude/seasonal pattern.
History is rhyming.

Monday, August 17, 2020

Lockdown Stringency Analysis

Neal Page: He says we're going the wrong way.
Del Griffith: Oh, he's drunk. How would he know where we're going?
--Planes, Trains & Automobiles

Although Twitter can devolve into a cesspool of negativity and ad hominem back biting, the CV19 situation has revealed that Twitter provide a platform for an army of analytical talent to share exceptional work. Here's another example, this one studying the relationship between lockdown stringency among EU nations and CV19 morbidity. I've pulled some of the graphics from the thread for viewing here.

First, the cumulative stringency index estimated for various EU countries. There are several stringency indexes floating around. All of them involve scales aim at rating the intensity of authoritarian measures implemented. This particular scale sums daily stringency ratings to get a cumulative total that can be applied against measures of dependent variables summed over the same time period.

Next, CV19 deaths/million population for each country. If lockdowns were 'working,' then one would expect a negative relationship between lockdowns and virus deaths. Here, not only is the relationship not negative, it is weakly positive, suggesting that more intense lockdowns result in more deaths. R-squared clocks in at 0.138, which not all that bad for a 'macro' study. This result echoes findings from other work discussed on these pages.

Finally, stringency vs change in GDP. Here we find a negative relationship as expected (i.e., the more stringent the lockdown, the larger the decline in GDP). Solid R2 of about 0.487.

Would be interesting to see this analysis applied to US states.

Sunday, August 16, 2020

Alles fur Sicherhiet

--Men Without Hats

"Be safe." Perhaps the most common salutation uttered over the past few months.
Not once have I heard, "Be free."

Yet, history suggests that those who trade vital freedom for a modicum of near term security are neither free nor safe in the long run.

Be free.

Saturday, August 15, 2020

Filled With Awe

Who is this that comes forth like the dawn
as beautiful as the moon
as resplendent as the sun?
--Sg 6:10

We celebrate the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary today.

"Blue Madonna" (Carlos Dolci, 1616-1687)

Am once again filled with awe.

Friday, August 14, 2020


"You know where this comes from--shaking hands? It was a way of showing a stranger that you weren't carrying a weapon in the old days. You offered your empty right hand to show you meant no harm."
--Dr Ellis Cheever (Contagion)

The data suggest that most people face more risk of being killed by driving to work or by being struck by lightning than from CV19. According to some people, that doesn't matter because, unlike those other sources of risk, the virus is contagious. Therefore, extreme measures are required to mitigate the risk.

This train of logic is...derailed.

Let's do a couple of things upfront. First, let's define 'contagious' as an illness than can be spread from one person to another from either direct or indirect contact. Second, let's set aside the constitutional issues that such a definition presents to someone who wants to restrict individual freedoms due to the prospects of contagious spread. Among other things, those issues include demonstrating beyond doubt that a person has a communicable illness, that this person will imminently infect others, that an infection, if it occurs, is likely to result in a mortal condition for the recipient.

That burden of proof, btw, rests with the accuser, and must be proven for each individual whose liberties are being threatened. Stated differently, a 'class action' decision that restricts the liberties of a large group of people based on sweeping generalizations about the contagious nature of a virus are invalid.

That's a tall order right there. But let's set the constitutional problems aside for now and ponder the logic--that the contagious nature of CV19 somehow nullifies traditional risk assessment.

An obvious question out of the gate is this: What makes CV19 unique in this regard? We've had contagious diseases before. The seasonal flu is contagious. If the response is that CV19 is more contagious than the seasonal flu, then the question becomes this: At what level of contagion does the need for extraordinary measures kick in? What is the rationale that demonstrates why CV19 defies traditional risk assessment and requires extraordinary measures that weren't necessary previously?

That's a tall order as well.

Finally, consider the construct of contagion itself. In a general sense, contagion can be seen as the spread of something bad or harmful. People are exposed to contagion in this sense every day. When driving, for example, a person could be operating a poorly maintained car (e.g., worn out brakes, under-inflated tires) or distracted while at the wheel (e.g., texting on phone, not concentrating on road) which increases the likelihood that they could 'spread serious injury' to others.

If people routinely assess the risk of contagion on the roads, then why are they incapable of doing so in the case of contagious illness?

Thursday, August 13, 2020

More Seasonality Evidence

Strange voices are saying
What did they say?
Things I can't understand
It's too close for comfort 
This heat has got right out of hand

Another interesting graphic suggesting seasonality and geographic influence on CV19 patterns. The graph shows deaths as % of population sorted by latitude. Consistent w geographic patterns suggested in previous pages (here, here, here).

Louisiana sticks out as an outlier as it exhibits a pattern similar to northern states. A reasonable explanation is that many northerners visited New Orleans in March for Mardi Gras which seeded an outbreak with a shape more consistent with temperate climates.

Note that all southern state mortality curves are now trending down.

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Subsidizing Lockdowns

Jacob Moore: You know what moral hazard is, Ma? You know what that means?
Sylvia Moore: No.
Jacob Moore: It means that once you get bailed out, what's to stop you from taking another shot.
--Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps

Why would so many blue states and localities push for long term lockdowns when these measures would surely crush their main stream of resources: tax revenues? The answer seems obvious. They calculate that their behavior will be subsidized.

And now House Democrats are trying to make it happen.

Textbook moral hazard.

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Masks, Filters, and Folly

Evey Hammond: Who are you?
V: Who? Who is but the form following the function of what, and what I am is a man in a mask.
Evey Hammond: Well, I can see that.
V: Of course you can. I'm not questioning your powers of observation. I'm merely remarking upon the paradox of asking a masked man who he is.
Evey Hammond: Oh...right.
--V for Vendetta

In the medical sense, a 'mask' is a filter. It is put over the mouth and nose to catch undesirable matter in inbound and/or outbound air flow. Two primary factors dictate the effectiveness of a filter.

One is mesh size. Think of a window screen. The larger the space between the cross hatched screen material, then the greater the likelihood of bugs getting through. Smaller mesh keeps out more bugs, but at the cost of air flow and problems with cleanliness.

The other is thickness. Rather than comprised of just a single screen, many filters are essentially multiple layers of screen that are slightly offset in order to trap more airborne matter. Think of a furnace filter. A two inch thick filter traps more dirt than a one inch filter. Once again, the tradeoff is that airflow and cleanliness are compromised.

A virus is a microscopic particle. Only filters with ultra small mesh size and/or ultrawide thickness would have a chance at snagging something so small. If people were to wear such masks, then breathing would almost surely be deterred, and the masks would be difficult to keep clean for any length of time. Consequently, health problems for mask wearers are almost certain to surface.

A mask mandate that were truly grounded in 'science' would have demonstrated the filtration effectiveness of masks with a specific mesh size and thickness without health concerns. And it would require masks that met those specifications.
That is not what we have. Anything wrapped around your face will do. Even fabric with holes.

This really tells you all you need to know about the purpose behind forced masking.

Monday, August 10, 2020


Daniel 'Rudy' Ruettiger: I'm sorry I never got you to see your first game here.
Fortune: Hell, I've seen too many games in this stadium.
Daniel 'Rudy' Ruettiger: I thought you said you never saw a game...
Fortune: I've never seen a game from the stands.
Daniel 'Rudy' Ruettiger: You were a player?
Fortune: I rode the bench for two years. Thought I wasn't being played because of my color. I got filled up with a lot of attitude. So I quit. Still not a week goes by that I don't regret it. And I guarantee a week won't go by in your life that you won't regret walking out and letting them get the best of you. Do you hear me clear enough?

Because they have been unable to keep pro sports on the sidelines, authoritarians are seemingly pulling out all stops to cancel the college football season. Reports are circulating that the Big Ten and Pac 12 will announce cancellations tomorrow.

Statists have an edge here, since higher ed is tightly coupled to the same highly charged institutional field where socialist disruptors have been exerting influence.

However, people are pushing back. College players, families, coaches, athletic depts, politicians are using the hashtag #WeWantToPlay to symbolize their resolve to play this fall.
This morning, Florida governor Ron DeSantis said that not only should the ACC and SEC play this fall, but schools should actively recruit players away from schools in conferences that decide to shut their programs down. Would think they would collect a fair number of recruits.
This is quickly escalating to something much greater than fall football. Should people triumph and claw back the season from the corona crowd, institutional pressures for CV19-related compliance could weaken considerably.

Sunday, August 9, 2020

Libido Dominandi

And baby I'll rule, I'll rule, I'll rule, I'll rule
Let me me live that fantasy

During a class discussion of the consequences of government intervention in production and trade, a student once exclaimed in frustration, "Why can't they just leave us alone?"

The answer: libido dominandi--the lust to dominate. The desire to control others. Particularly via the strong arm of government.

There are few more powerful forces of evil.

Saturday, August 8, 2020

Theories of Viral Response

"I hate losses, sport. Nothing ruins my day more than losses."
--Gordon Gekko (Wall Street)

As strange as the past few months have been, there are actually theories that help explain the unusual behavior of people and policymakers. These pages have been documented a few. Let's review some of them here.

Social identity theory. Behavior of out-group members is criticized while behavior of in-group members is largely given a pass. Because leftists tend to be, by definition, more collectivist, we should expect in-group/out-group norms to be more prevalent among those on the political left. Helps explain division of CV19 discourse and policies along political lines.

Institution theory. Institutions are rules and norms that exert pressure for sameness and compliance. Pressure for 'isomorphism' can be classified in one of three types: coercive (laws, regulations), normative (customs, common practices), mimetic (imitating behavior of others). Mimetic isomorphism is particularly prevalent in uncertain times--which helps explain quick spreading policies such as lockdown and mask wearing.

Agency theory. Agents are supposed to work on behalf of their principals, but often pursue their own interests at the principals' expense--particularly when principals are unable to monitor/assess agent work. Helps explain behavior of public health officials as well as efforts to manipulate data to hide error.

Resource dependence theory. Entities are rarely self-sufficient. Instead, they must trade with others to obtain resources necessary for survival and growth. Larger resource providers exert more power over smaller dependents. Helps explain why sectors highly dependent on government funding, such as health care, are likely to fall in line with CV19 policy mandates.

Threat rigidity theory. Facing conditions of threat, individuals, groups, and organizations tend to do two things. One, they restrict information processing channels to reduce information overload and to economize attention on lessons learned from dealing with past threats. Two, they tighten control processes by centralizing decision making authority. These actions combine to rigidify response to threat. Creative solutions are shunned in favor of customary responses that worked well to quell previous threats. When the nature of the threat differs radically from previous episodes, then failing to consider novel responses results in a reinforcing loop of maladaptive behavior. This theory, coupled with the next one, says much about collective response to a new virus.

Fast and slow thinking. People posses two decision making processes. System 1 is emotional and reactive. Instead of deliberately processing information which takes time and effort, this 'fast thinking' processes makes snap decisions. The vast majority of decisions are made using fast thinking processes. System 2 is rational and data driven. It collects evidence and deliberates before deciding. This slow thinking process--the truly rational one--is rarely used. It is easy to surmise that most people have been engaging their fast thinking system 1 brains when making sense of the CV19 pandemic and associated policy responses.

Transaction cost economics. Econ 101 assumes that exchange is cost-free. In reality, 'transaction costs' accompany trade. Search, contracting, arbitration, translation, regulation. The higher the transaction costs, the less likely people trade on the market (outsource) with other specialists. Instead, they will pull more activities in-house (insource) and diversify. Higher transaction costs associated with CV19, particularly those imposed by regulation (mask wearing, hand washing, sanitizing, spacing), are keeping people from trading with each other.

Prospect theory and escalation of commitment. You plan out what seems like a great strategy. You begin implementing it. But it doesn't work. What to do? Rather than cut your losses and change course, you will be prone to keep going and perhaps even escalate your commitment. A key reason: loss aversion. People hate losses more than they like gains. This theory says much about why officials are unlikely to reverse failing CV19 policies.

My sense is that these threads could be woven into an interesting theory of viral response.

Friday, August 7, 2020

Opting Out

We can dance if we want to
We can leave your friends behind
Because your friends don't dance
And if they don't dance
Well, they're no friends of mine
--Men Without Hats

Currently, when people choose to 'opt out' of an activity, it is commonly assumed that they are doing so for safety reasons. They are afraid of becoming infected with the virus or of transmitting the virus to others.

This is undoubtedly true in many cases.

However, it is also true that some are opting out because of the oppressive regulatory environment that they would face by opting in. Freedoms are being restricted. Transaction costs are rising.

In Galtean fashion, if some players are not permitted to operators freely, then they won't take the field. Instead, they'll look for a different game.

Thursday, August 6, 2020

Latitude Attitude

Can't you hear
Can't you hear the thunder?
You better run
You better take cover
--Men at Work

Another seasonality-based visual analysis of three 'hotspot' countries south of the equator. What do they have in common?

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Golden Reorientation

People talking
They're saying that you're leaving
So unhappy
With the way that you've been living
--John Waite

Gold closed yesterday at over $2020/oz. Record high. It is up another $25 this am.

Silver making hay too. Up over a buck this am to ~$27. Miners moving in sync. Pan American Silver (PAAS) now more than a triple from March lows.

Using terms from punctuated equilibrium theory (Gersick, 1991; Tushman & Nadler, 1985), after a long period of convergence, it feels like reorientation is underway.


Gersick, C.J.G. (1991). Revolutionary change theories: A multilevel exploration of the punctuated equilibrium paradigm. Academy of Management Review, 16: 10-36.

Tushman, M.L. & Romanelli, E. (1985). Organizational evolution: A metamorphosis model of convergence and reorientation. In L.L. Cummings & B.M. Staw (Eds.), Research in organizational behavior, vol. 7: 171-222. Greenwich, CT: JAI Press.

positions in gold, PAAS

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Reported vs Occurred

Help, I'm stepping into the twilight zone
Place is a madhouse
Feels like being cold
--Golden Earring

We've discussed the manipulation of death counts using the backdating approach previously in the long train of CV19 data corruption. Here is a nice analysis of recent Florida data.

The blue bars represent the day the deaths were reported by the health dept...and the media over a recent four day. The yellow bars represent the date those deaths actually occurred.

If you merely follow the headlines, then you're being led to believe the CV19 deaths have been spiking higher over the past few days. In reality, only 37% of those reported deaths actually occurred during those four days. The rest occurred days, even weeks back.

This is epic misrepresentation of the situation. The data manipulation going on here is despicable.

Monday, August 3, 2020

Functional Expertise

"Jo, talk to the doctors. Find out everything there is to know about lactic acidosis."
--Lt Daniel Kaffee (A Few Good Men)

Nice point here. Determined minds are capable of developing high degrees of proficiency on a subject in a short amount of time.

One does not have to be a credentialed 'expert' to develop functional expertise.

After all, if lawyers are capable of doing it, then it is within the grasp of anyone.

Sunday, August 2, 2020

On the Marx

It happened one summer
It happened one time
It happened forever
For a short time
--The Motels

Back in March a statement like the one below would have seemed hyperbolic.

Not anymore.

One of the few explanations left standing for correlated authoritarian actions worldwide is that socialist factions are banding together to exploit what, in their minds, is sudden opportunity to advance an agenda created long ago.

Saturday, August 1, 2020

How High?

So can't you see me standing here
I got my back against the record machine
I ain't the worst that you've seen
Ah, can't you see what I mean?
--Van Halen

What sectors obtain large fractions of their overall revenues from the state?

Government itself and its associated agencies
Military contractors
Education, including public K-12 and higher ed
Health care

Resource dependence theory posits that organizations will be prone to comply with the wishes of large resource providers.

Stated differently, when the state says "Jump," the above sectors say "How high?"